Friday, October 01, 2010

Flashback Friday: Reading is Fundamental

***Originally posted March 2nd this year. Reposted in light of the Pew Forum poll showing that atheists and agnostics know more about the basic tenants of our faith and world religions than Christians. I was going to dedicate a whole (and original!) post on the subject, but as others cover it just as well as I could. Get Religion does a terrific job looking past the headlines to break down what the Pew Forum poll results really mean and points out the obvious: atheists and agnostics have those beliefs (or lack thereof) for a reason- they’ve done their homework. Does that make us blind followers, then? Matthew Paul Turner snarkly considers this in his response. Either way you slice it, from the serious to the snark, we have a Biblical Literacy problem. Christianity Today recently had a feature titled, "Why Johnny Can't Read the Bible" that I encourage you to check out. I also want to point you to a recent Barna survey that is more depressing than the Pew poll. Keeping these in mind, maybe we need a Read Across our Churches Day?***
Today is National Read Across America Day. Celebrated on the birthday of Dr. Seuss, events are held all around the country to "motivate children to read." A worthwhile event and a noble goal.

The American Christian Church needs something like this. Maybe not your priest/pastor/evangelist dressing up as the Cat In The Hat for the Sunday sermon. But something needs to be done in the Body of Christ to encourage reading and studying. Charles "Tremendous" Jones has often been quoted saying, "You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read." Reading was so important to the Apostle Paul that he asked Timothy to "come to [him] quickly" and bring his "scrolls, especially the parchments" while he was believed to have been in prison (2 Tim 4:9,13) While this most likely at least included Scripture, it was just as likely it included Rabbinic teachings given Paul's education. Paul also taught that the Bible is "useful... so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16-17)

Our reading shouldn't be limited to the Bible however, though as a Body we sadly fall short in this area. The number of Christian books are limitless, some of course better than others. It is always worthwhile to see someone else's perspective on a subject you hold near and dear. I encourage you to find a niche that appeals most to you- history, biographies, theology, apologetics, etc and dig in. Sally Stuart's Christian Writers' Market Guide lists 166 different categories of books. If you can't find something you like, well you're not really trying. It is important to remember though, that books should compliment, not supplement, your Bible study. This is a lesson I have had to learn the hard way a year ago as I felt myself spiritually withering away even though I was reading about a book a month. I was convicted listening to a lesson that reminded me that spiritual books should never take the place of the Word of God. So I have recommitted myself to my Bible study and any book I read is intentionally tied to a specific Bible study.

Not only do we have Read Across America, but it is also almost exactly a month before Easter. If you observe Lenten fasts, you may have given up chocolate or Facebook. Some also add spiritual disciplines to their fasts. If you're taking this season to dig deeper into your Bible study or read that spiritual book gathering dust on your bookshelf, amen! If not, don't fret because there's plenty of time. Many devotionals are written for a month's worth of study so now is a perfect time leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
With that in mind, here are some recommendations keeping to the theme of Easter: Calvary Roadby Roy Hession, He Chose the Nails by Max Lucado, The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey, Praying the Names of Jesus by Ann Spangler, Thirty Days at the Foot of the Cross edited by Tom and Sheila Jones, and Your Jesus is Too Safe by Jared C Wilson.

Happy reading!


Anonymous said...

hey ff.
what are you up to today?

i think i'm having a flashback!

i'm in the sand box, see, and i the shade of a really nice old tree....then mom calls me in for lunch.

Fatha Frank said...

Hah! It took me a second to get that, flashback... :) just grabbed some coffee and a donut and about to dig back into Mere Churchianity. I haven't read tour post yet, I don't want to cheat!

herbhalstead said...

I agree - we need to get back to reading the Bible and books that help us grow - we need to embrace lifelong learning as a mode of worship - I blogged about this subject this morning, but not as directly as you do here, using Philippians 1:9-10

Anonymous said...

well, you won't get much from my mc post. it is a mish mash, i must say.

though maybe God will make something good of it! :-)

Fatha Frank said...

Actually, Herb, I really liked how you laid it out. Yours was a good point. We need balance- we can't all just be theologians with book-smarts, but no street-smarts. All the knowledge in the world means nothing if we're not doing something with it. That's my struggle. I'd rather close myself off in a room and read than step outside and minister to someone.