One Thing I Did Right in Ministry: “I Started a Book Table”

I have seen good books supplement the ongoing preaching and teaching ministry of the church

“I often recommend books both publicly and in private conversations. When someone takes my recommendation I try to follow up in a few weeks to ask what they think of the book, what they are learning or if the book has raised any questions for them. That has led to some very fruitful conversations and opportunities for ministry.”

 

One of the first things that I did when I became pastor of the church I now serve was to start a book table where good books at discounted prices were made available to our congregation. Through experience in the previous church I served I had learned that those who read, lead. Even with limited opportunity to distribute good books (I was the Assistant Pastor) it became evident that a book thoughtfully recommended could be instrumental in the spiritual development of Christians.

Within a few weeks of preaching my first sermon in my present church I purchased a handful of small books and started recommending them to our membership. Among that first batch was Words to Winners of Souls by Horatius Bonar and David M’Intyre’s The Hidden Life of Prayer. My goal was to start small and devotional—to provide books whose content was obviously relevant and easily digestible. I had benefitted so much from good books that I wanted to share the blessing with others.

A man in the church who understood the value of good books helped underwrite the cost of the next set and within a matter of months we had a table full of good titles for sale as a fixture in our foyer. Within a year or two, the “Book Table” became a line item in our budget and the church adopted a policy that if anyone who wanted one of the books but could not afford to pay, he or she could have it in exchange for a promise to read it.

I often recommend books both publicly and in private conversations. When someone takes my recommendation I try to follow up in a few weeks to ask what they think of the book, what they are learning or if the book has raised any questions for them. That has led to some very fruitful conversations and opportunities for ministry.

Fruitful does not always mean easy however. On occasion I have had members and prospective members get upset by a book. Once a deacon stormed into my study on a Sunday morning and threw on my desk a book I had encouraged him to read the week before. He declared loudly enough for several other people to hear, “If that book is true, then I am not a Christian!” What tome evoked such a response? Walt Chantry’s Today’s Gospel, Authentic or Synthetic. That deacon and I had many hard conversations after that. We discussed the nature of saving faith, true repentance and the new birth, among other things. That book helped establish a biblical framework for such talks.

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