I hate getting the mail. Too often when I make it to the end of the driveway I’m rewarded with a couple of ads, a credit card offer and a bill. But every great once in a while an envelope stands out: a different colour, a little sturdier, my name handwritten on the front. Those envelopes make all the other mail days worth the walk.
I recently received one of these favourite pieces of mail. This note was from a dear friend who is one of my most faithful mail-senders, despite her busy life. I always enjoy reading her updates on what is going on in her world, her explanation as to why she thought of me and wrote, and especially her always uplifting, Christ-focused encouragements to me. But this latest card contained something different than the others. The three pages of the card were covered with a passage from a book she was reading, introduced with a simple greeting of “I thought this would encourage you in what you’re going through in this season”.
Her mission was accomplished—but in more ways than she may have originally intended. The words from her book that she had taken the time to write out encouraged me by reassuring me that God is indeed still in control even when things seem to be spiraling. The quotation shared the author’s experience learning this truth on another continent and in a different century. Because the author shared what she learned about God’s character in her story, and because of the faithfulness of my friend in taking the time to consider and share this with me, this truth about the steadfastness of God’s faithfulness despite our circumstances was handed down to me.
But in addition to that specific encouragement, she was doing precisely what I have been striving to do lately: use her reading to disciple others. Being on the receiving end of someone using her personal reading time as a tool to be thinking of and edifying others refreshed me in my endeavour to “read into discipleship” and prompt others to do the same.
Is writing out and sending quotations from a good book containing biblical truth considered discipleship? Maybe not if you see discipleship as a specific task or program for qualified Christians. But consider seeing discipleship as moving someone towards maturity in Christ by prayerfully proclaiming truth from God. When we understand it this way, we can see that bringing someone just one step further in that transformation by sharing biblical truth—in whatever form and length the situation allows—is indeed disciple-making.
This shift in our thinking can then change how we see even our personal reading time. If we are avid readers, we can work towards finding ways to read not just for our own good but for the good of others. If we are reluctant readers, we could find motivation and encouragement to read by seeing it as something we’re doing to build up the body. When it comes down to it, no matter where we land on the reader-meter, we can take one more step in finding ways to use our reading to disciple others.
We do this by asking ourselves questions such as: How can this help me demonstrate Christ’s love to another person? How can this book help me speak truth in love on this difficult topic? Who could I give this book to, or who could I read it with?
Once we’ve started considering these questions, we can find tangible ways to disciple those around us. Start conversations, recommend good books, ask a friend to read together, and use the resources at our disposal to bring people closer to Christ or to help them grow and mature as followers of Christ.
Let us not undervalue this incredible resource God has given us. Faithful authors from across centuries and throughout the world have provided a means of understanding God’s word and his world that we too often leave to collect dust on a shelf. Picking them up, listening, and sharing them with those around us can give us countless ways to make disciples as we go. Copying out an encouraging paragraph from a book to share with a friend is a great start, one we (and our fellow disciples!) won’t regret.