WHY BOOKS ARE NOT GOING TO DISAPPEAR and
WHY YOU NEED TO BE A READER and
WHY YOUR CHURCH NEEDS A BOOK TABLE !
Recently there have been dire predictions that reading books was going the way of the land-line phone, the typewriter, and other devices we once used and many depended upon BUT ARE BECOMING RARE. It is said that with the modern I-phone and its knock offs, and their various apps, that no one will be reading books soon.
And people can drag out evidence like the demise of BORDERS BOOKSTORES which filed for bankruptcy as seeming proof. And rumors have swirled for some time that Barnes & Noble Booksellers is not so healthy either. Some point to the explosion of the sale of E-books by AMAZON and various internet book dealers. You can read John Piper, Jerry Bridges and the ESV Study Bible on a tablet or on your phone so why buy the paper book.
Biblical Christianity is a religion of the book. God has chosen to reveal Himself through nature (but Romans 1 says that our sinful natures botch the interpretation). God has chosen to reveal Himself in history (to Abraham and his descendants in the O. T. and to believers in Christ, Jew or Gentile, ever since).
He pre-eminently has revealed Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1). Our Lord could rightly say that if you want to see what God the Father is like, take a long, hard look at the Son. He who has seen me has seen the Father. God has also revealed Himself in His written Word. Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles were inspired as they took pen to paper (or velum or papyrus) and infallibly and without error recorded the words of God.
Old Testament and New Testament believers have always been people of the book. The book read by a rabbi aloud and memorized by the folks in synagogue and then meditated upon and memorized. The Old Testament encourages literacy and reading of God's Word however one can get it. The New Testament also, coming into the 1st century Roman Empire, encourages believers to be Bible knowers, through reading, hearing read, hearing preached, memorized and meditated upon.
When the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Protestant Reformation revolutionized Europe, people were encouraged to have a "Berean spirit"(Acts 17:11) and check on whether the preachers and evangelists were really teaching God's Word accurately. Protestants became pre-eminently people of the book.
When Protestants (Anglican, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, Bible churches, etc) have been healthiest was when they were Bible centered.
The rise of "Bible churches" in the 20th century came about because of the perceived decline in Bible reading, Bible preaching, Bible hymnody, and biblical principles in the local churches and long standing denominations. As in the times of the 1st century Pharisees (Matthew 15:1-9) and the Middle Ages, churches and whole denominations were man-centered and tradition trumped the Bible. Do you the reader of this Blog know that in the Roman Catholic religion, a Catholic laymen does not even have to know what he or she believes about Christ and the Bible's way of salvation! They have only to trust that their local priest, the representative of the "true Church" knows the truth and by "proxy faith", what he believes is what they believe! How far from the Bible's account of true religion.
To avoid losing the biblical notion of a "Berean spirit" that knows the Scriptures and lives upon the Scriptures and checks what is being taught against the Scriptures, we must be and remain knowledgeable Bible readers, Bible studiers and Bible meditators! Psalm 1, Psalm 19 and Psalm 119 are enough to convince a CHristian that he or she must hide the Word of God in their heart and feed upon it constantly.
Beyond reading one's Bible, we should thankfully appreciate that God the Holy Spirit has not left Christ's Church for the past 2000 years but at various times and in various ways has given great gifted Bible students to the church to build it up in its holy faith. To refuse to read anything but the Bible is a denial of Christ's promise to always be with His church and always give the Holy Spirit to His church. A growing Christian begins to learn about the gifted authors Christ has given His church.
A humble Christian might think himself/herself too simple to read "the great men" or the "mighty heroes" of the faith. That would be exactly wrong! One reason why the great authors are great is that they know the truth of God's Word AND can communicate it so that people can understand what they write. A faithful reader soon learns that Calvin and Spurgeon, Thomas Watson and Jerry Bridges, J. C. Ryle and Elizabeth Prentiss, Martin Luther and Elizabeth Eliot are great because they have something important to say and say it well.
While the average adult reads little after graduation from high school, Christians are not like "average adults". Christians are people of the Book. The average adult reads only to solve problems (hence the "How To" sections of local bookstores). Christians read to know Christ and understand His Word. We have more glorious motives and the indwelling Holy Spirit to impel us to read.
How can we help Christians get started at reading more? By giving them books to read that will thrill and build up and inform and challenge them. When people discover the wonders available through reading, you are making progress! What could be offered them to help them? Let me suggest starting a BOOK TABLE in your church. If you are not he pastor, get the pastor's permission before you start. Those entrusted with the oversight of Christ's local flock, the pastors and elders, ought to have ultimate oversight of the BOOK TABLE. They can weed out any books which are not appropriate for your local congregation and which not not make for the health of the congregation.
WHAT KIND OF BOOKS TO HAVE ON A BOOK TABLE ?
EVANGELISTIC AND APOLOGETIC BOOKS (for unbelievers and people with questions about the faith)
John Blanchard, ULTIMATE QUESTIONS;
Evangelical Press--available in many languages.
John Stott, BASIC CHRISTIANITY; IVP--classic
evangelistic treatment for half a century.
Peter Jeffery, SEEKING GOD; Evangelical Press
John Blanchard, IS GOD PAST HIS 'SELL BY' DATE:
Evangelical Press--various chapters deal with
various questions unbelievers have.
C. S. Lewis, MERE CHRISTIANITY; various
publishers--a classic piece of evangelism and
E. H. Andrews, WHO MADE GOD ?;
Evangelical Press--deals with apologetic
questions touching on science and the faith.
INTRODUCTORY LEVEL BOOKS (for new Christians and people new to the Reformed faith)
Peter Jeffery, ALL THINGS NEW--what happens
when a person is born anew?
" " , WALK WORTHY--basic steps in the
" " , STAND FIRM--spiritual warfare (from
the Puritan and Reformed perspective)
Stuart Olyott, THE GOSPEL AS IT REALLY IS (The
Book of Romans Simply Explained); Evangelical
THE BASICS OF THE FAITH (solid doctrinal books
that people can build their Christian lives upon)
Jerry Bridges, THE GOSPEL FOR REAL LIFE;
NavPress--the atonement and all Christ
accomplished for His people
Jerry Bridges, TRUSTING GOD; NavPress--the Biblical
and Reformed doctrine of providence applied to
Jerry Bridges, THE PURSUIT OF HOLINESS;
NavPress--the best starter book on the biblical
doctrine of sanctification.
Jerry Bridges, THE GREAT EXCHANGE; NavPress--
the profoundly important doctrine of justification
followed through the New Testament--the
believer's sins are imputed to Christ; Christ's
righteousness is imputed to the believing sinner
(2nd Cor. 5:21, et. al)
Jerry Bridges, THE BOOKENDS OF THE CHRISTIAN
LIFE; NavPress--the twin truths of justification
and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit
applied to the Christian's everyday life.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, THE CROSS; Crossway--what
Jesus was doing on the Cross and why He had
Cesar Malan, THE CROSS: WHERE ALL ROADS MEET;
Evangelical Press--an outstanding historical
account of an evangelistic and apologetic
conversation between an unsaved religious man
and French Reformed pastor Cesar Malan.
R. C. Sproul, THE HOLINESS OF GDD; Tyndale
A. W. Pink, THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; Banner of
Truth--two classic that should be read at least
once by every Christian.
James Packer, CONCISE THEOLOGY; Tyndale
James Packer, EIGHTEEN WORDS; Christian Focus
James Packer, KNOWING GOD; IVP
James Packer, KEEPING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS;
James Packer, EVANGELISM AND THE
SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD; IVP
James Packer, GOD'S PLANS FOR YOU; Crossway
A classic evangelical and Reformed theologian's
gold mines of good theology.
DOCTRINAL BOOKS PERTINENT TO YOUR CHURCH
(books on the sacraments, or hymnody, or church
Your church's CONFESSION OF FAITH
Copies of your church's hymnal should be available
for purchase so that laymen and their families
can sing at home in private and family worship.
T. David Gordon, WHY JOHNNY CAN'T SING
HYMNS; P & R--how pop culture has captured
so many churches and what to do about it.
HERE WE STAND; P & R--the original addressed
given at the formation of the Alliance of
Confessing Evangelicals--participants include
Mike Horton, Sinclair Ferguson, Robert Godfrey,
James Montgomery Boice, R. C. Sproul, and
Joel Beeke, THE FAITHFUL CHURCH MEMBER;
Evangelical Press--a fantastic little booklet that
covers most everything. Also a great review for
old time church members.
Earl Blackburn, JESUS LOVES THE CHURCH AND
SHOULD YOU; Solid Ground Christian Books--a
easy read that speaks to the heart of the
importance of the church to God and His plans.
Should be read by every church member.
BIOGRAPHIES AND CHURCH HISTORY OVERVIEWS
(Past believers whose lives inspire greater devotion to Christ; surveys of how the church has developed from the book of Acts to today)
S. M. Houghton, SKETCHES FROM CHURCH
HISTORY; Banner of Truth--well-written and
well-illustrated; it is a history book that gets
John Hannah, OUR LEGACY; NavPress--how has
Christ taught His Church over the centuries?
How have the churches and its leaders wrestled
with the Scriptures and the doctrines it contains?
FIVE PIONEER MISSIONARIES; Banner of Truth--
stirs the blood and enlarges the vision for the
spread of Christ's glory throughout the earth.
Roland Bainton, HERE I STAND (The Biography of
Martin Luther); Hendrickson--still the best for
most people. Shows you why there needed to
be a Protestant Reformation and how God
worked in Martin Luther's life.
John G. Paton, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN G.
PATON; Banner of Truth--gospel truth is stranger
than fiction and far more inspiring. One of the
truly great missionary biographies by the man
who lived it.
Courtney Andrson, TO THE GOLD SHORE; Judson
Press-the amazing missionary biography of
Adoniram Judson, the first American foreign
missionary. Incredible but blessedly true.
Arnold Dallimore, GEORGE WHITEFIELD; Crossway
Arnold Dallimore, SPURGEON; Crossway
Two men who have become household names
(or should be) among Reformed Christians--and
Iain Murray, HEROES; Banner of Truth--why
Christians need heroes and a sample of little
known but great heroes/heroines.
Erroll Hulse, WHO WERE THE PURITANS?;
Evangelical Press--great short introduction to
the "Redwoods" of the Christian life. James
Packer called them this because the "tower over"
lesser groups of believers.
BIBLE STUDY HELPS
Philip Ryken and Leland Ryken, RYKEN'S BIBLE
HANDBOOK; Tyndale--in my view, the most
helpful small Bible handbook.
ESV STUDY BIBLE; Crossway--thousands of helpful
notes and hundreds of pages of informed studies
to help the diligent Bible student. (Generally
Calvinistic without being covenantal and
REFORMATION STUDY BIBLE (ESV)--formerly known
as the NEW GENEVA STUDY BIBLE when it was
keyed to the NKJV version. More thoroughly
covenantal, Reformed and Puritan in its notes.
Contains the peerless theology blocks of study by
James Packer (which were later separated out
and became the book CONCISE THEOLOGY).
NASB STUDY BIBLE--the notes from the NIV STUDY
BIBLE were adapted to the New American
Standard version. Broadly Calvinistic and
generally very good notes of general Bible
SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES; IVP--an outstanding
tool that has stood the test of over a half
century of usage. Slightly updated. Takes the
reader through the entire Bible by asking
questions of each section and paragraph. By
answering the questions, you are studying and
learning God's Word.
Mark Deckard, HELPFUL TRUTH IN PAST PLACES;
Christian Focus--selected excerpts from Puritan
classics that bear on our trials and troubles
today. Hear Thomas Watson, Jeremiah
Burroughs, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen,
John Bunyan and others as they counsel you
how to live as a Christian in your trials.
Richard Bennett, THE VALLEY OF VISION; Banner
of Truth--wonderful, heart searching and heart
warming collection of prayers from giants from
Elizabeth Prentiss, STEPPING HEAVENWARD; Solid
Ground Christian Books--a 19th century classic
made available to the 21st century churches. I
would make it mandatory reading for every
woman and teenage girl in my church if I could.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION (ITS
CAUSES AND CURES); Eerdmans--a 20th
century classic that should be read and mastered
by every believer.
Doug Kelly, IF GOD ALREADY KNOWS, WHY PRAY ?;
Christian Focus--outstanding encouragement
Undoubtedly you have your favorites which should be included in the above list. But I have included these because I personally have profited from them and used them with others.
Read for your life. Teach your people to read for their lives by exposing them to the best Bible helps and Christian classics. Form reading clubs and read books together. Discuss the great issues of the Bible and your faith. If we give up reading and thinking for ourselves, and have no true depth in our CHristianity, we will soon become easy pickings for mindless religion that does not even require one to know what they believe, just trust that your priest knows the truth and trust him. God help us from becoming like that now or ever!
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin