(A while back, talented writer Brannon Golden gave us a chart that clearly laid out the awesomeness of specific types of serving. Now he’s back with sharp look at our penchant to p.s. the Bible when it comes to the list of books we read. Long live the guest post. Hope you enjoy.)
A few months ago, I was visiting with a guy from our church who became a Christian about a year ago. Before that, he had spent something like the previous thirty years of his life practicing devil worship. I was just a little intimidated. (True story.) We were talking about the Holy Spirit, so of course I asked him if he had read The Shack, and he shook his head no. “In fact,” he said, “the Lord has me reading only His word right now.” And I thought, “How adorable. This little guy is so new to The Game, so fresh. He just has no clue how this works.”
I don’t think I could seriously consider myself a “believer” if I hadn’t prayed that God would expand my territory, just like that guy Jables. The only way I know of to learn that kind of thing is to read a book about it. How else could I learn how to pray in just 28 days? That’s less than a third of the time it takes to do P90X! And I don’t know how I’d fight my everymanly-battles without lassoing those old mustang thoughts of mine into the old corral. I’ve often wondered how those delightful people from the early church managed to keep themselves unstained by this world. But then I remembered that there was that huge library in Alexandria, Egypt. People were probably coming in there all the time, like, “Hey man, has that new scroll Your Worst Life Was Yesterday come in yet? No? Well I wanna reserve a copy. Will I get an email when it’s in?”
My wife Kendra works for our church, and part of their success is that they read (and even also sometimes apply) all sorts of principles from business and other books. In fact, when Kendra discovered her strengths, it was very helpful to our relationship for me to learn that Ideation is her number one. Previously, there were times I would feel a little sheepish when it would occur to me, “You know, Kendra, that’s literally the 218th insanely great idea you’ve come up with…today.” It made me wonder why she married me, and I kept nosing around looking for secret life insurance policies she had taken out on me. I never found any, but I can honestly tell her, “Because of you, I never stray too far from the sidewalk.”
And why are all these management principles floating around anyway, if not for us to effectively apply to ministry? Certainly the Holy Spirit can speak to us however It sees fit, whether through a secular book or some other donkey. (I used to only refer to the H.S. as “He,” but ever since The Shack, how can I really be sure? And I certainly don’t want to offend H/er/im—I’m pretty sure that’s the unpardonable sin.) There are just so many good, dare I say, even great, models that we can learn from. I mean, just imagine the Relevance quotient of grabbing some of the headlines these guys do. I’ve had Getting Things Done for two years and recommended it to several people (although I’ve only made it up to chapter five myself—I keep starting over from the beginning).
Please don’t misunderstand me. The Bible certainly has its place of due honor in my life. I’m all about firing off some heavy revvy from James: “You know, Nick, the tongue is a fire, setting your life on fire with the fires of hell. But it’s also a rudder, like on a ship. Kind of fire-rudder, if you will…” And it’s certainly not beneath me to work in an analogy about the intricacies of Melchizedek’s lineage during a casual conversation about which restaurant chain has the best bacon cheeseburger. Knowing scripture is the only way I can put all those other books in their proper context.
A few months ago, I asked some acquaintances involved in ministry to tell me some good books that I could read—like big, important, seminary-level works. I ended up with a list of about 15 or so, tomes like A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God , C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, and even Lee Strobel’s The Case for Christ. Since then, I’ve been dutifully, methodically slogging through my list, and I’ve really learned a lot about how I think about God, life, the universe, and everything.
Then just recently I heard Francis Chan in an interview, and the guy asked him what sorts of books he reads to keep himself challenged and fresh. I leaned slightly forward in my chair with smug anticipation. He answered, “You know, I’m not much of a reader,” and he laughed. “At least not things besides the Bible. There’s still so many challenging things in there that I know I should be doing that I’m not yet.” I worry about the future of their church. But a book I read once said that when I feel like worrying, I should pray instead. I thought that was pretty good advice. So I’ll pray for them. And maybe send them my copy of Cost of Discipleship.
Random haiku disclaimer:
Jon’s book drops Spring 2010
I will buy a case
What are you reading?
And what is God showing you through it?