I have just been trying to sort out my bookshelves…….yet again!! Apart from anything else, they haven’t been dusted properly for ages and I do feel I should be able to get rid of some of them, but very rarely do! I am a book hoarder…… I readily admit that. When we opened our church library a few years back, I really did have a big sort-out and lots of my Christian books (along with the book shelves they had been on at home) ended up in the church library. At least then they were readily accessible to others and still close enough if I should want to “dip into” any of them again.
Do you read Christian books?
There are so many to choose from that it is difficult to know where to get started…whether you want a book of prayers for your own or small group use, a daily devotional, a commentary on the Bible (or any individual book within it), a true story of someone who has come to Christianity for the first time or a story of how the Christian faith has helped people to face unbelievable crises. Then there are the fictional, yet Christian books, which bring us to a greater awakening of our own faith and the more studious tomes, which explore Christianity in its many facets from many viewpoints.
I suppose some people might tell you to browse on the internet if you’re looking for a Christian book to read, but I am still convinced that choosing a book has to be done with the volume held in your hand!! I take myself off to The Methodist Book Shop in Hanley or Lichfield Cathedral Book Shop or try aChristian Book Shop or cathedral whilst I am on holiday. There’s nothing that can take the place of handling the books, looking at illustrations, reading snippets to see whether the book is actually right for you…….just getting a feel for what the book is about and what the author set out to do.
I do also admit to being a member of a Christian Book Club, where I can keep abreast of what is new on the market and read other people’s views on new books. “Reform”, “Magnet” and “Ichthus” magazines all have book reviews within their pages. It’s also interesting to chat to other people about the Christian Books they are reading. That brings me to another point about reading and sharing Christian books…….
I don’t know how Wm Paul Young’s recent best-seller, “The Shack” affected your congregation, but a certain section of our congregation were buzzing for weeks. At one point in time there were ten of us all reading it at the same time, not to mention those who had already read it and those who read it after!! It created quite a stir. For those who know nothing about this book, let me say briefly that it is a work of fiction, which wrestles with the timeless question: “Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?” It also helps us to wrestle with our understanding of the Trinity in an unbelievable manner. As one reviewer wrote: “This is the most heart-warming, inspirational story I have read in decades. If you only read one book in the next year…….read “The Shack””…….and I add: then talk to someone else who has read it!!
And that is exactly what we did at our church! We met together over five or six sessions to talk about the book…….how it had affected us, what we agreed or disagreed with, how it built up our faith, how it shed new light on things we had accepted unquestioningly for years and many more topics. As another reviewer comments: “The beauty of this book is not that it supplies easy answers to gruelling questions, but that it invites you to come in close to a God of mercy and love, in whom we find hope and healing.”
But enough of that one book! What it did inspire us to do is to find other books we could share with other people at a one-to-one level or in a group. Our most recent group read was Mitch Albom’s “The five people you meet in heaven.” Publishers Weekly comments: “Simply told, sentimental and profoundly true, this is a contemporary fable that will be cherished by a vast readership……. like Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, it reminds us of what really matters here on earth.”
We vowed to keep up our reading and our talking about what we have read and on the following Sunday two of us turned up at church with books we thought we could read. Imagine our amazement when we had both arrived with the same book: “Heaven is for real”, the true story of a four-year-old boy’s near-death-experience. Coincidence or ?????
If you want to explore theChristian faith even more, why not pick up a book and read? You don’t have to agree with the writer or with the person you talk to about it, but it may cause you to think a little more about the faith you have, the God you worship, the Jesus you follow and the Spirit which makes its dwelling within you.
If you don’t want to go out and buy a book, then call in at Trinity Church and browse in our library until you find something you fancy. (You could get in touch and come and help me clean my bookshelves, where you might find a book you would like to explore!!)
Whatever you decide, I encourage you to…….
Get reading, get reading, get reading, get reading, get reading…….