19 February, 2015 Gerry Straker
Reading is a great gift from God. We are people of the book, and in His kindness most of us can read God’s Word and also read and learn from the works of Christians in the past and present who have helped grow the Church.
At Church by the Bay in Morecambe, we recommend a book once a term and then have a book group to discuss it together. But we’ve struggled to get people to read Christian books: not because people can’t read, but because they don’t read.
The first book I recommended to the Church was Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul Tripp. A very helpful book, but most people didn’t read it. It was a mistake - I didn’t promote reading enough and the book was too long for many.
After a while I tried again, this time simple, short, carefully chosen books where the direct relevance is even more obvious, with the aim of drawing people into reading: Battles Christians Face and True Friendship by Vaughan Roberts; and Naked God by Martin Ayers. The people that read them loved them. But it was the same small group of people turning out each term for our book group. Even when I chose almost the shortest book possible Sacrifice by Simon Guillebaud and gave it away for free, it was the same.
At the same time, the people who were reading and coming to every book group could easily be stretched and would gladly by reading more.
And so this is what we’ve done to tackle both issues:
1. Book Group instead of a normal Bible Study
When we read Can I really trust the Bible? by Barry Cooper, we put the book group on a Wednesday night in place of our small groups. We hired a little hall we use sometimes and had people sitting round tables with their small groups. Group leaders helped get their groups along. We had a mix of input from the front and discussion round tables. More people read the book and came to the book group than ever before – it was a great book and we had a great evening. We are doing the same this term for Is God anti-gay by Sam Allberry.
2. Book Group Extra
Rubbish name I know, but we started a second group – by invitation only - for people who had read more deeply in the past who would relish being stretched a bit. I asked them to help me by encouraging others to read the termly Church book, and to commit to this new smaller group and read another book per term which would include practical theology, theological classics, doctrine and church history. We began with Lit! by Tony Reinke – a theology of reading, and practical help, which I thoroughly recommend and was a great place to start. This term we are reading On the Incarnation by Athanasius.
I’m sure more could be done, but this has been a good start for us. Maybe it will help your Church.