about a week ago, i read chris seay’s new book, faith of my fathers. yeah, we published it, and i worked with chris quite a bit two years ago on the original concept; but i’d never read it. now that i’m not the publisher at ys, i don’t/can’t read all of the 35 – 40 books we publish each year.
let me start right off by saying i enjoyed it and recommend chris’ book (surprising, i’m sure, since we published it, that i would say that). but it’s not what i thought it was going to be; and it’s not what i remember of the original concept. the book was developed for our emergentYS line (which is going away, as most of you know, in early 06). the book was to be a bridge-building book between generations — and on that, it delivers. in the final throes of development, zondervan and us (i wasn’t involved in this decision) decided to pull the emergentYS logo off of the book, and just publish it as a regular ol’ book. this was a wise choice, as the book has very little to do with the emerging church.
it’s a warm look inside a ministry family — 3 generations-worth. and it captures their conversations about various topics word-for-word. this has great strengths and some weaknesses. it’s feels very real and unscripted, though it’s laid out like a script. the reader gets to be an eavesdropper on a mostly interesting conversation, but occasionally it feels like a family dinner where you don’t get their jokes or aren’t interested in their family stuff — it’s their family stuff.
i can totally see giving this book to my dad, or other older ministry-type peeps — almost as a gift of respect. the book spends much, much more time talking about being a pastor in the 60s, 70s and early 80s than it does about today. and the tenderness the seay boys (chris’ two brothers are part of the discussion also) have for their grandfather (called pop or papa throughout – “aw, that’s sweet”) saturates almost every page. i’m saying this as a good thing; but not knowing the guy, this borders on making the book feel like a tribute to papa, created as a family document.
i do think there’s value in younger ministers reading this book. it’s easy to be clueless about the issues pastors had to wade through thirty or forty years ago. and this light, quick read can be a friendly reminder that it’s not just an empty scriptural mandate to honor those older than us, there’s real value in it.
there are a handful of sections where the discussion gets a bit dicey, and those are fun — though the reader can end up feeling a bit voyeuristic, hoping it gets even worse, waiting for papa to knee one of “the boys” in the groin or something. or even for some really nasty name calling!
there was one thing that bugged me: it’s male-ness. now, it just so happens that the five family members in the discussion are all men; and i can’t blame their family for that, really. it just is. and i don’t see the value, given the set up, of importing a female pastor into the mix, or re-writing their family history to introduce grandma (oh, sorry: “noni”) in as an aimee semple mcpherson prop. this is a real family history. but it felt to me like the male-thing went beyond the reality of history. the section on “ministry, kids, and a wife: the balancing act” kinda wigged me out a bit. i suppose mysogenistic is way too strong a word, and i know lisa seay, chris’ wife (but that’s another story), and she is a strong capable woman — certainly no stereotypical demur pastor’s wife. there just didn’t seem to be any acknowledgement or awareness that “pastor = men” could be a cultural artifact reflecting the fact that these five pastors are all texas baptists. i dunno; i just get the sense that my wife woulda been pretty hacked if i’d written that chapter.
all this to say: nice book. not fantastic! buy now! run out this second! you MUST read this! but nice book. funny thing is i’ll likely give away more copies of it than most books i read, because i can think of so many who would really enjoy it.