Friday, March 14, 2008

A book table!

When I am attacked by gloomy thoughts, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They quickly absorb me and banish the clouds from my mind.
~~Michel de Montaigne
As you may have picked up, I love to read. More than that, I love books, and what they represent: accessibility to knowledge and understanding of subjects that are unknown or less known than we want them to be.

Someone once said, "There is no such thing as a learning congregation without the pervasive habit of reading." Getting good books into the hands of the people in our congregation strikes me as one of the most helpful things I can do as a Pastor. It represents an extension of the teaching ministry of our church, opens doors for further discussion on a variety of important topics, and affords congregants an opportunity to fortify themselves and their faith with sound instruction.
Read not to contradict and confute, nor to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.
~~Sir Francis Bacon
Toward this end, our Session has determined to set up a book table in the education wing of the church facilities where good books will be provided at affordable prices. Some books have already been purchased and made available; others will follow in the coming weeks.

Why sell books at church? A book table offers two unique benefits to our congregation. First, it enables me, as Pastor, to exercise discernment on behalf of the congregation by choosing which books may, at this particular point in time and in the face of the circumstances immediately facing us, are relevant and needed for growth and encouragement. Not everyone is familiar with authors, publishing houses, and topics enough to be as discerning as they need to be for the investment of time and money into a book. As a Pastor trained for ministry, I am in a better position to make initial judgment across a wide array of topics, presenting to the congregation a selection of options. (In other words, it allows me to exercise what one friend called my "spiritual gift of bibliography!")

Second, it increases the accessibility to good books for our congregation. The closest Christian bookstore for many of us is a good distance away. Further, we are more mindful of spiritual things while involved in church activities than we are at other times. Our book table increases access in both proximity and mindfulness for our congregation. It also makes more accessible books related matters that may come up in sermons, classes, or in individual counseling. Having these books ready-at-hand makes it possible to extend the impact of our church's teaching and counseling ministries.
In the case of good books, the point is not how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.
~~Mortimer Adler
Philippians 4:8-9 encourages us for what our minds should dwell upon. Reading good books is a certain practice that helps us to think about "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable." The apostle Paul himself was a model of commitment to reading (even toward the end of his life asking Timothy to bring him his scrolls in 2 Timothy 4:13), even though he apparently struggled with his eyesight. Thus, when Paul says in Philippians 4:9, "whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me," he clearly meant also a life committed to reading.

We, too, might take up this example. It is my prayer, and that of our congregation's leadership, that reading might be a tool that God uses to teach and grow His people of Hickory Withe Presbyterian Church. As Les Parrott said, "A congregation that doesn't read is missing one of God's greatest means for providing personal and spiritual growth" (Serving as a Church Greeter, p. 49). May God bless our congregation as readers.
Reading is a basic tool in the living of a good life.
~~Mortimer Adler

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