July 8, 2008
Formation via Fiction
What church leaders can learn through literature.
This is a highly unscientific observation, but I stand by it: In my scouring of bookshelves in pastor's studies and church libraries, I regularly find volumes from the corporate world about how to be an effective leader and efficient administrator; studies from the humanities about human psychology and sexuality; and manuals from the financial and legal sectors about budgeting, zoning, and liability issues. What I seldom, if ever, find is fiction. And I think that's a shame.
For much of their history, many evangelicals have considered novels to be either immoral or simply a waste of time. (To be fair, there are a good many novels that are both.) But good fiction (an entirely subjective category, I admit) can help a minister better understand the people to whom he or she is ministering - people struggling with doubt, addictions, or questions about calling and vocation. Here's a list of a few novels I think every minister should read, along with a few reasons why.
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde - a great look at how a person's spirit can be tormented by secret sin.
Wealthy and conceited Dorian Gray wants to be young forever. He commissions an artist to paint his portrait. Then wishes that his portrait would age and bear the evidence of his dissipation and loose living, but that he would stay young forever. He gets what he asks for. His struggle with sin is powerful (and never explicit, by the way).
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