A few weeks ago, a group of young women in the church gathered around a dining room table, cake and coffee at the ready, each with the same book in hand. We were meeting to chat about a book we had all read on Christian identity. This was the first meet up of our newly formed book group. Why have we decided to do this?
Go to any Christian conference or festival in the UK and you will likely find a well-stocked bookshop bursting with a wide variety of Christian books and resources for all ages and stages. People bustle around and can be seen leaving armed with a load of books to further weigh down their shelves. Or maybe you are one of those people who avoid the bookshop because you know the shelf is exactly where those books will stay. However we feel about reading a Christian book, it's good to recognise how incredibly blessed we are in the UK and across the Western world with written literature which can help us grow in faith, understand the Bible better and be encouraged, challenged and inspired.
I have more Christian books than I suspect I will ever be able to read, but this is not the case for the majority of Christians across the world, even for those in leadership. 75% of Christians now live in South America, Africa and Asia where there are few good resources available, and 85% of the estimated 2.2 million evangelical churches are led by pastors with little or no training (Source: The Gospel Coalition). They simply do not have access to books and other written resources and express a desperate desire for books to help them.
Yet so often I allow my Christian books to gather dust.
I don't say this to drive myself to read out of guilt, or to make anyone else feel bad. But it reminds me that my books are a gift brimming with spiritual food. We have a feast at our fingertips, so how can we encourage one another to take part and delight in the feast?
For most of us, busy lives and tiredness mean that taking time to chew over a Christian book is not at the top of our priority list. When we attempt to read one it can often be difficult to make it to the end. And that is why the book group formed. It is so much easier to stick with something when you take the challenge with other people. We can encourage one another along the way and know that we will meet to chat about the book, an incentive to keep going. But this isn't simply about getting to the end of a book so that another one can be ticked off the list. The book group is about women in a similar stage of life getting together to encourage, share insights, ask questions, honestly share struggles of the Christian life and grow in our understanding of God, his word and what it means to live in relationship with him.
We've read one book and had one meet up so far. There were a variety of opinions about the book, but that's ok, because the most important thing is that it got us talking about things that matter. Everybody had new things to think about as a result of reading the book and it was very helpful to talk these things through. We are now starting our second book all about prayer. It's difficult to fit in too many meet ups, but we hope to also 'discuss' electronically in between. Pray for us that we will grow as disciples, that we would be women who love to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from him, whilst encouraging one another. And if a deeper love for reading Christian books grows as a result, that would be a bonus!
If you are a woman in your 20s/early 30s and would like to join us please chat to me because you would be very welcome. If you don't fit that bracket, why not start up your own book group?!
Thank God for his gift of great Christian writers and the abundance of books we have available to us!