That pile of books

  • Marty Sweeney
  • 8 November 2017

There is a pile of books on my shelf. It is a pile that keeps growing and growing. I’m not sure what to do with it. It makes me feel guilty every time I look at it.

Wait. You think it is the pile of unread books, don’t you?

Well, to be fair, I could be talking about that pile. But I am not. I’m referring to my pile of finished books. In God’s kindness, I like just about every one of these books I’ve read. In fact, I like each one so much that I feel terrible that they may just sit there. I’ve read them, but I don’t want to think of them as ‘finished’.

I’ve been thinking through how to apply disciple-making principles to my pile of read books. My friends in Sydney taught me “Never let the teaching that goes in to you terminate with you”. It isn’t as catchy, but I’m running with a thought along the same lines: “Never let the book you just read lie dormant on your bookshelf”.

Now, I could apply this simply by thinking about who I should give the book away to, and progress would be made if I followed through on that thought. However, I don’t think that is enough. I think the pile of read books represents countless ways I could get the truths from these books into the hearts and minds of other people. That’s why I’ve developed a list of questions to ask myself during and after reading a book that help me apply its ideas to my own life and think about who else could benefit from them. Here are a few examples:

  • Is it worth keeping this book to re-read?1
  • If so, who could I read it with? Why?
  • How could I get someone to read this book with me? What would I say to persuade that person? How would it work (e.g. meeting twice per month over coffee)?
  • While reading this book with that someone else, how should I talk about some of the key points? What does that person need to really hear?
  • Once my friend has read this book, what could I do to encourage him or her to also read it with someone else?

As I’ve started to apply this to the books I’m reading, and talking about this process with others, I’ve noted some key points:

  • I don’t have to agree with every point of the book. In fact, disagreements about some secondary points often form the basis for great discussions with another person.
  • The book doesn’t need to fit everyone. I just finished a book on sanctification that I found tremendously helpful, but I do know that for some people it certainly would not be as beneficial.
  • I’m trying to regularly read an evangelistic book. This helps me think through ways to engage with non-Christians. Also, to the point of this blog post, It nudges me to think through who I could read the evangelistic book with. 

When you think of your read-book pile, I encourage you to think outwardly. In other words, don’t just consider what books to consume. Consider your reading of faithful Christians books as a time when you are thinking and reading on behalf of someone else. Most likely that person has no-one else thinking about him or her that way. 

I hope you see the power of this mindshift regarding your pile of finished books. It serves as a good way to use your resources—certainly with respect to the money and time you invest in the book. But, more importantly, in terms of your precious time as a disciple-making disciple. You read as a disciple (learner) and disciple-maker at the same time. Who doesn’t need that kind of efficiency in life?

1. I realize that some books are helpful reference books.