May 30, 2005
(Ventura, CA) Ė Books sales and book influence are two different factors. While bestseller lists identify the books that generate the greatest revenue, a new survey by The Barna Group, conducted among a nationwide, representative sample of Protestant pastors, shows that the most influential books often fail to reach the bestseller lists. Thatís one of several key findings drawn from the list of books that pastors say have influenced them the most in the past three years. The survey also found that a relative handful of authors have the most consistent influence on pastors, and that a dozen or so books have had the most widespread impact during that time frame.
When pastors were asked to identify the three books that had been most helpful to them as a ministry leader during the past three years, more than two hundred different books were listed. However, only nine books were listed by at least 2% of all pastors; just ten authors were identified by at least 2% of pastors, and just three categories of books were named by at least 10% of the church leaders interviewed.
Most Helpful Books
Two books emerged as the most helpful of all: The Purpose Driven Life
and The Purpose Driven Church
, both written by Rick Warren. Purpose Driven Life topped the list, with one out of every five Senior Pastors (21%) naming it as one of the most helpful books they have read in the last three years. The larger a pastorís church was, the more likely the pastor was to include this book among their top three. Demographically, the book had twice the appeal among pastors born during the Baby Boom generation as among pastors from the Baby Bust cohort.
Not far behind was The Purpose Driven Church, an earlier volume by Pastor Warren that was listed by 15%. Its appeal was pretty consistent across all pastoral segments except Baby Bust pastors, among whom only 3% included this book among their top picks.
The rest of the list of invaluable books was a broad selection of more than 200 other titles. Only seven additional books gained recognition from at least 2% of pastors Ė and each of those seven publications was chosen by 2%. Those books were:
Most Influential Authors
- Whatís So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey
- Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- Wild At Heart by John Eldredge
- Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels
- Spiritual Leadership by Henry Blackaby
- Next Generation Leader by Andy Stanley
- 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John Maxwell.
Although the numerous books cited by pastors were authored by dozens of writers, there were only ten authors who were listed by at least 2% of the pastors interviewed. Not surprisingly, Rick Warren was king-of-the-hill in this listing, as his books were mentioned by 30% of the pastors. John Maxwell was the runner-up, with books listed as among the most helpful by 5% of pastors. Five writers were mentioned by 3% of the nationís church leaders: Henry Blackaby, Jim Cymbala, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, and Phil Yancey. The other influential authors were George Barna, John Eldredge and John Piper, each of whom was mentioned by 2%.
Another outcome of the research concerned the authors who had the greatest number of influential books listed by pastors. Six authors stood out as having multiple volumes that have helped large numbers of pastors. Researcher George Barna, who had ten influential books identified by pastors, headed the list. Following him were Max Lucado and John Maxwell, with nine books each; Charles Swindoll and John MacArthur, each with six books; and Phillip Yancey, with four acclaimed books.
Most Useful Types of Books
When the books designated as the most helpful were categorized, there were three types of books that pastors found to be most profitable. A majority of pastors (54%) listed at least one book regarding discipleship or personal spiritual growth. Books about church growth, congregational health or ministry dynamics were the next most prolific, listed by 23% of pastors. Leadership books were equally valued, identified by 22%. No other category was cited by at least 10% of the sample.
Less influential types of books included those about theology (9%), evangelism and outreach (6%), pastoring (6%), and prayer (5%). Books regarding charismatic perspectives (5%), trends and cultural conditions (4%), and preaching (3%) also generated noteworthy interest....