Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Reading as a Ministry (Part 2)

I talked about how I view Reading as a Minstry a few weeks back as it's been something that has been on my mind for awhile. I originally meant it to be a one-post deal, but then you all started leaving comments and sharing your thoughts and so I relabeled that post "Part 1." I have no idea how many times I'll talk about it. It might depend on how much you decide to talk about it.

To reiterate what I said the first time, I think that reading is a ministry in two ways:

1. As you read you should be discerning what is truth and what is untruth and applying it to your life. As you make practical applications of what you've read, you will be changed as will the lives around you. In other words, what goes in must come out. What will be it? Will you read quality or fluff? Whatever goes in, will come out.

2. By reading worthy books, you will be able to make good recommendations to others. Theoretically speaking, the person you've spoken to will take the book of your suggestion, read it, and make his or her own applications (see the #1 reason to view reading as a ministry). It's a circuluar concept.

In response to the first post, Barbara H. left a good comment worthy of some consideration and before I go any further in discussing this particular form of ministry, I want to address what she said.

Barbara said, "I have seen, though, on Christian message boards where someone will say they talked to so-an-so about a problem and "all they wanted to do was throw books at me." I was shocked. I never feel that way when someone recommends a book. I know sometimes we need a more immediate answer, but usually in such a conversation I'll share whatever the Lord lays on my heart to say and then recommend a good book that goes further on the subject." (She did go on to summarize her comments to also say, "But whether we recommend a specific book or share what we learned by reading one, what we read does make up the thoughts and illustrations we can share with others. I hadn't thought of it in terms of ministry, either, but it is that."

I was so glad you said that, Barbara, because I think it is easy for avid readers to want to push books all over people. I mean, we know the glories of reading, right? So naturally we want to share. It IS, as another commentor said, "our bent." I know that there are so many times where I want to tell someone, "Oh, if you'll just read this one book . . . !" I'm sure they'd find the answers that they'd need and then they would hear "my" advice through the words of another author - someone they don't know - and I get off scott free (essentially)!

Not everyone is a reader. (And that is an entirely different discussion that I'm going to desperately try to make myself avoid! Ha!) When we know that someone is not a reader, it does us little to no good to try to tell them about any particular book. The chances of them actually sitting down and spending time in the company of a wise (or otherwise!) author is slim to none. If we recommend a book instead of taking the time to communicate face-to-face then we may have lost the ability to truly minister to the person all together. We have to know the audience to whom we are speaking. We must listen to their needs and address them as accurately as possible. I totally agree with Barbara on this.

Women like to talk, right (as is pictured so accurately in the cartoon below!):

We need to be ready to TALK and not just "throw books" as one person complained. Still, we should be reading for ourselves, tucking away nuggets of truth, so that we can share what we have learned for ourselves. (In other words, you wouldn't have a conversation with someone and constantly be saying, "Well, as C.S. Lewis said..." or "as Jane Austen pointed out...." or "as Jules Verne handily illustrated..." although you can say all of those things. However, if your entire conversation was pieces of OTHER people's thoughts and conversations, then you make a boring conversationalist and an ineffective minster of any sort at all!) What goes in, comes out. Take truth in and make it your own in thought, word and deed. Learn to share from your heart, not just the quotes in your head!

And even this leads me back to my original statement: in order to minister well one must be discerning. You must know why you are reading what you are reading. You must be thinking about what you read. You must hold books up and examine them in the light of scripture. You must discern what is truth and what is not. Particularly as a Christian reader, you have no right or excuse to NOT pursue truth because someone died in order to give it to you. The price of truth is high. The journey is difficult. But it is something to find great joy in.

It is a job, a responsibility and a delight to be a discerning reader. To be discerning, to develop that ability, is something to strive towards.

As you discern and sort through books, distinguishing the worthy from the unworthy, you will grow in wisdom and knowledge. With practice and study you will grow to learn what has merit and what does not. Some books ARE worthy to be read. Some books are not worthy at all. Do you right to make the call as to what is worhty and what is not? That sounds so arrogant, doesn't it? But I would suggest that you not only have the right but the responbility. Again, what will be helpful (as a Christian) to figure out which books are worth the time and which are not? Scripture. (Note: I'm not saying that books are "bad" or "good" because I think if I used those terms we'd start focusing on reading personalities and likes and dislikes and those things must be factored in. But even after the factoring has been done, you should still be left with a list of books that are worth people's time and those which are not.)

Reading is a priviledge. It is a responsibility. And by and through it you can find new and exciting ways to minister to other people whether you think you can or not. You never know what God will use to touch another person's heart. It could be a book, directly read. Or it could be you, someone who has read and can relate truth on a personal level - straight to the heart of the matter.


Ronnica said...

If it didn't look weird, I'd stand up and applaud you right now. Great post! I have nothing more really to add.

That cartoon made me laugh!

Barbara H. said...

I was reading along and then was surprised to see my name pop up! I appreciated your thoughts on this.

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