I was tagged in a Facebook note. My good friend Gibby did a "10 + 10 most influential books" list and that got me to thinking of the books or articles that have influenced me greatly over these past ten years. Rather than just list them, I thought I'd use this as an excuse to do some self-reflection (and perhaps you'll find it interesting too) so I'm going to divide up my "most influential books" into a handful of different posts so as to be easier on my bloggy readers.
Let's start with three books from the world of the theater that have influenced my ministry greatly. It may seem strange to you that books on theater-craft can help a minister, but there you have it. By way of general explanation, I find concepts related to the creation of healthy acting ensembles to be applicable in team ministry settings, since ministry is more like art than business or science (not to mention the fact that both ministry and drama have a common crazy glue: conflict). Below, a further explanation:
-Impro by Keith Johnstone has influenced me a lot. I have particularly used ideas inspired by the chapter in this book that deals with “Status Transactions” to illustrate the complexity we encounter in the many subtle power-plays that people make to gain the upper hand in everyday interpersonal relationships. I find the many insights that come from looking deeply at everyday status transactions and their motivations to be indispensable when it comes to managing conflict. Because of this, ideas presented in this chapter form the backbone of much of the team building work I’ve done.
-I have also been influenced deeply by a book called A Practical Handbook for the Actor by Melissa Bruder, et al. There are quite a few concepts discussed in this book that I find helpful in life (in general) and ministry (in particular). The concepts include Defining the Nature of Action, Keeping the Theater Clean, The Magic If, The Test of an Action, and Responding Truthfully to the Given Circumstances (among others). If you’re curious what these concepts are and how they apply to spiritual development, just ask and I’ll see if I can write some about it.
-One final book on acting that has influenced me alot is titled On Method Acting by Edward Dwight Easty. In particular, this book helps actors learn to concentrate and relax. Of course, concentration and relaxation are important skills for anyone, really, so (again) a book on acting really can teach us a lot about life and spirituality. More specifically, I have found the techniques of Sense Memory and Affective Memory to be useful in helping people tap into greater spiritual sensibilities. Both of these types of "memory" can help one develop greater emotional and spiritual health and awareness. In fact, I recommend using Sense Memory in reading Scripture with greater imagination, since creativity is an underused faculty by most of us when it comes to reading the Bible. I have also found concepts in this book useful in that it teaches that certain physical sensations/recollections can effect specific emotional/spiritual states and vice-versa. This truth has led me to believe that spiritual formation can follow a dual trajectory—that of inside-out and outside-in (we needn’t think either/or about this).
Well, there you have it: three books on the theater that have helped me as a minister. Who woulda thunk it, eh?