I love to read, love books and actually read/use the books I purchase. I’m picky and ruthless with them, too. If I come across a good one, it becomes a cherished possession. If it doesn’t do anything for me, it becomes fodder for the Half Price re-sale stock. My “used to own” library is easily twice the size of my current holdings so I’ve made enough mistakes to learn a little.
I say all that to say this – I continue to be dismayed at the sort of stuff I see fill up most of the shelf space in Christian bookstores. There is gold to be found on occasion, but you sure have to move a lot of dirt to find it! But all the more troubling to me is how I see and hear many Christians decide what they’ll spend their money on for spiritual counsel. I overhear their comments as they select a book to buy or as they ask a clerk what to get. “Oh, now that’s a good title!” “Hey now, that guy has a huge church so I know this has got to be good
reading!” “Is it on sale?” “Are very many people reading this?” “Is this fun to read?” Etc.
Scary. Very scary.
There’s a better way. Much better. And here it is. Forget the title. Avoid the bargain bin. The size of the church says nothing about the size of the mind. Ask the clerk nothing. Don’t look for a subject, but look for an author. And here’s some advice as to authors . . .
Drink in the thinkers and truly spiritually-minded authors. Trust me – pick up anything written by Marva Dawn, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson or Dallas Willard you’ll clear out some of the not-so-spiritual weeds in your heart.
But what about those cobwebs in your brain? It’s like your car – it’s not going anywhere if the engine is running, but the transmission is still in neutral. People like John R.W. Stott, Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright will help you get it in gear, make you think and make you glad you did. And people like Tony Campolo will help you get your brain in gear and challenge you to make real-life application with what you believe.
Did someone say thinking and application? That sounds a lot like preaching. Two of my favorite writing preachers are Barbara Brown Taylor and William Willimon. They never cease to amaze me with their practical insight into believing, living and giving of yourself over to being a follower of Jesus.
Some authors preach with their pen, rather than a pulpit. Frederick Buechner and Philip Yancey come immediately to mind – the former for the more ethereal of you out there and the latter for the lot of us who are more “show and tell” oriented.
And don’t ignore the dead guys, either. Though Thomas a ‘Kempis kicked off 500+ years ago, but he’s still as fresh in print today as he was in 1450. Dietrich Bonhoeffer laid it all on the line as a martyr. Martyrs deserve more than just a listening ear. C.S. Lewis will feed your mind like no one else.
Those are just a dozen or so names, but majoring in those authors will be of far more value to you than a house full of bindings by _______ (fill in the blank with just about anyone you want to name).
So, go forth and read – but do so with wisdom, not promiscuity. May God give you the strength to turn aside from the 75% shelf and the grace o find the gold amongst the clods.