Gary Thomas (author)
|Born||October 24, 1961|
|Occupation||Author, speaker, and pastor|
|Subjects||Marriage, parenting, dating, and spiritual formation|
|Notable work(s)||Sacred Marriage
Gary Thomas (born October 24, 1961) is an American Christian author and speaker who specializes in marriage, parenting, dating, and spiritual formation. In 2010, he started serving as a Writer in Residence at Second Baptist Church Houston where he currently writes, preaches, and pastors. In his work with spiritual formation and relationships, Thomas has been acknowledged by his peers for his use of the Christian Classics (a group of famous Christian books written by monks, priests, and people of strong spiritual devotion) and integrating them with church history and scripture.
In 2000, Thomas published Sacred Marriage, which has since sold over 600,000 copies and continues to place on ECPA's Christian Best Sellers of the year list. Thomas is also the author of Sacred Pathways which has been quoted and cited by multiple time best-selling authors Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Andy Stanley. As a pastor specializing in Christian marriage and family life, Thomas' idea on relationships is that they are meant primarily to deepen our relationship with God rather than to make us happy. He teaches that relationships can only operate naturally and healthily when they are ordered primarily to God first, and each other second—and that only under this ordering can humans properly act towards each other and be completely fulfilled. Rather than furthering the "celibate" model of Christian spiritual formation—trying to mimic the spiritual practices of a monk or nun, even while married—Thomas has argued for family life as a primary arena of spiritual growth. Because of the contribution and success of his ideas concerning spiritual formation and relationships within the Christian community, Thomas has been considered an "expert" in his areas of Christian living and is often quoted by well-known Christian authors.
Gary Thomas was raised in Puyallup, Washington where he became a Christian at the age of 8.[clarification needed] During that time he was strongly influenced by his boyhood pastor, Eugene Boggess, to take his Christian faith seriously. In college at Western Washington University, his campus pastor Brady Bobbink furthered his Christian foundation.
At Western Washington University, Thomas received a BA in English Literature (1984). After undergraduate studies, Thomas went on to study at Regent College in Vancouver, B. C. where he studied under the influential Christian theologian Dr. J. I. Packer, and later received a Master's degree with a concentration in systematic theology (1988). In 2006, Thomas was awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon, in recognition of his contributions made in the field of spiritual formation.
Following from his speaking and published writing, Thomas has been heavily influenced by various other authors. These include Elton Trueblood, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, J. I. Packer, and the Christian Classics. His first work, Thirsting for God, is primarily a synthesis of wisdom he gleaned from the Christian Classics.
Pastor, teacher, and speaker
Thomas is a regular teaching pastor at Second Baptist Church Houston, the 4th largest church in the United States in 2013 with over 21,000 in weekly attendance. Thomas has regularly appeared on Christian television shows and radio programs such as Focus on the Family, 100 Huntley Street, and Family Life Today. Thomas has also spoken at many large Christian conferences such as the AACC (National Christian Counseling) conference, Billy Graham's Training Center (The Cove), where he is a regular speaker, and at numerous denominational and individual church events. Since 2000, Thomas has been speaking at his own Sacred Marriage Seminars and has now spoken in 49 states and 8 different countries.
Thomas is an adjunct faculty member teaching on Spiritual Formation at Western Seminary in Portland Oregon. He has regularly taken speaking engagements at various churches and colleges on topics covered in his books—marriage, parenting, dating, and spiritual formation.
Thomas is the author of 16 published books. His most notable works include Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, and Authentic Faith. According to Publishers Weekly, "Thomas himself shows great potential for becoming the Henri Nouwen of evangelicalism."
Sacred Marriage has been Thomas' most successful book with over 600,000 copies sold over the past 13 years. Thomas helped pioneer the thought of marriage as a primary arena for spiritual formation, approaching marriage not from a "how to have a better marriage" perspective, but rather as a spiritual discipline, designed to help us grow closer to God and deeper in our faith. Since 2000, Sacred Marriage has been revised and reprinted 56 times, now including DVD curriculum.
The prominent theme within Sacred Marriage is that "marriage is designed to make you holy more than it is to make you happy." Under this theme Thomas shows how one can turn both the blessings and the difficulties in marriage into an opportunity to grow in God. In it, Thomas shows through both scripture and experience that a relationship must be focused on God in order to operate properly and then goes about describing how to develop this type of relationship.
Sacred Marriage has received a large amount of praise among the Christian world by various well-known Christian authors and pastors. John Ortberg, author of The Life You've Always Wanted, said Sacred Marriage "gives wise, historically informed counsel to help couples not merely enjoy their marriage, but use their relationship to form Christ in one another." Kay Warren, wife of Rick Warren who is pastor of the 3rd largest church in America, Saddleback Church, and author of The Purpose Driven Life, said "I enthusiastically recommend it to couples contemplating, or who have already entered in marriage, as [Thomas] shows is the most powerful tool God has for molding and shaping us into the image of his Son."
Sacred Pathways is one of the most cited books by other evangelical Christian leaders on personal devotion, commended by such well-known leaders as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Andy Stanley. In it, Thomas attacks an asserted "one size fits all spirituality" that he said seeks to turn devotional times into "cookie cutter experiences", and instead explores nine different pathways or "spiritual temperaments" to describe how people relate to God in very different ways.
Bill Hybels, in Courageous Leadership, said "I would strongly recommend that all leaders make a place in their library for this profound and helpful book."
Rick Warren uses Sacred Pathways in one of his chapters in A Purpose Driven Life. "Gary Thomas noticed that many Christians seem stuck in a worship rut—an unsatisfying routine—instead of having a vibrant friendship with God, because they force themselves to use devotional methods or worship styles that don't fit the way God uniquely shaped them." Rick goes on to describe the nine pathways, and then affirms Thomas's contention that "there is no one-size-fits-all" approach to worship and friendship with God.
Les and Leslie Parrott base a section of their book When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages on Sacred Pathways, discussing how important it is to speak your spouse's spiritual language. In their words, "One of the single biggest stumbling blocks to spiritual intimacy in a marriage is a failure to understand and appreciate the other's spiritual language [Sacred Pathways] has helped us greatly in our desire to deepen our own level of spiritual intimacy as a couple. So much so, that we feel compelled to share the gist of its message with you."
Andy Stanley, in a DVD series called What's Your Style?, said "This is so liberating! I'm hoping this series will set you free...and that we will all find the common ground of truth and then allow God to show us how to apply and express those things through our different relating styles."
Reception among Christians
Thomas has found a niche within the Christian world of thought concerning marriage and spiritual formation. His marriage books pioneering marriage as a place for spiritual formation continue to make the ECPA Christian Best Sellers List even after 10 years of the book's first debut and have influenced a prevalent theme, that relationships can be used to bring us closer to God, in many of today's marriages conferences and sermon series. Thomas' introduction of the idea that different people have different temperaments and spiritual pathways in worship has become the theme of various church leadership conferences, different Christian leadership books, and other church's sermon series—including sermon series done by Second Baptist Church Houston, Saddleback Church, and North Point Community Church.
Dr. Ward Gasque said "Gary Thomas offers a refreshingly honest account of a biblically based faith. Already recognized as one of the more important younger writers on the spiritual disciplines, Thomas continues to draw our attention to important Christian themes that are frequently overlooked by contemporary believers. These are disciplines that are desperately needed for faithful Christian witness in the 21st century."
Though well received by most, Thomas has received criticism for his use of the Christian Classics. Certain groups have criticized his quoting of the Christian Classics because some of the classical writers had different ideas on doctrinal issues than evangelical-Christianity does. Thomas has defended his use of quotes from these writers by stating that he "reads writers for what is right about their works, not for what is wrong." Thomas states that while these writers may have different understandings of peripheral doctrines, they are experts in other areas of the Christian life that are unrelated to these doctrinal mistakes.
- Sacred Parenting
- Sacred Marriage
- Sacred Search
- Sacred Influence
- Sacred Pathways
- Authentic Faith
- Holy Available
- Pure Pleasure
- Every Body Matters
- Thirsting For God
- The Glorious Pursuit
- The Beautiful Fight
- Seeking the Face of God
- Devotions for Sacred Marriage
- Devotions for Sacred Parenting
- Sacred Search Couple's Conversation Guide
- Thomas, Gary. "About Gary Thomas". Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Klein, Chris (March 17, 2000). "Having faith in marriage". The Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Thomas, Gary. "Every Body Matters". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Religion In Review". Publishers Weekly: 32. January 8, 1996.
- Richmond, Donald (November 2005). "An Interview with Gary Thomas--Center for Evangelical Spirituality". The Anglican Missioner 4 (2): 8–11.
- "A Holy Different Perspective on Dating and Sex". Tri-State Voice. November 2008.
- Addington, Timothy (July–August 2003). "Sacred Marriage". Beacon: 15.
- "ECPA: Best of 2010: Top 50 Sellers". Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Warren, Rick (2012). A Purpose Driven Life. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310329336.
- Warren, Rick. "A Purpose Driven Life Sermon Series". Saddleback Resources. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Hybels, Bill. "Multiple Choice". Willow Creek Community Church. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Stanley, Andy. "What's Your Style?". North Point Church. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Editor's Choice". Newman Magazine: 64. May–June 2000.
- Dunavan, Naomi (April 29, 2006). "Lack of spiritual relationship can make marriage stale". Grand Forks Herald.
- MacDonald, Jeffrey (January 14, 2008). "Spiritual growth nurtured within". USA Today.
- Hybels, Bill (2002). Courageous Leadership. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310248231.
- "About Gary Thomas". Premiere Motivational Speakers Bureau. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "Second Baptist Church Media Center". Second Baptist Church. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Heffernan, Carol. "God's Design For Marriage". Focus On the Family. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- "Snapshots from the greatest sermon in history". Billy Graham Training Center. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "AACC American Christian Counseling Conference". AACC. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "The Western Front". Western Seminary. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- "The Western Front". Western Seminary Courses. Retrieved 12 July 2013.
- Thomas, Gary (2008). Sacred Marriage. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310296133.
- Ortberg, John (2002). The Life You've Always Wanted. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310246954.
- Warren, Kay. "Staff Picks--Kay Warren". Saddleback Resources. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- Thomas, Gary (2002). Sacred Pathways. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310242840.
- Parrott, Les and Leslie (2009). When Bad Things Happen to Good Marriages. Zondervan. ISBN 9780310867050.
- "SaddleBack Church Media Center". Saddleback Church. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "NorthPoint Messages (sermons)". North Point Community Church. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "54th Annual CBA International Convention". 2003.
- "Christian Book Award Overview". ECPA. Retrieved 17 July 2013.
- "ECPA Christian Book Award Winners". ECPA (Evangelistic Christian Publishers Association). Retrieved 17 July 2013.