Monday, January 03, 2005

Review: Read a Book

How to Read a Christian Book: A Guide to Selecting and Reading Christian Books as a Christian Discipline by David L. McKenna (Baker, 2001, pb)

There’s an old saying that is as true for books as it is for precious metals: “You have to move a lot of dirt to find a little gold.” American Christians are awash in Christian literature, most of it, but most of it isn't worth the paper it’s printed on (or the electricity it takes to display it). So why read? And if you read, on what basis do you choose your books? What’s hot? What has an interesting title? What’s on sale?

And be honest - do you deliberately try to read across the spectrum of Christian thought or do you munch on only one or two of the faith food groups (are you like this - "I'll take a plate of devotions and a side order of biographies, please. Hold everything else.") Truly, what most of us need is a good plan if we're going to stay healthy and find the gold. We need a diet plan and a map.

Enter David McKenna and How to Read a Christian Book. McKenna writes with two kinds of Christians in mind: (1) those who are reading more and more Christian literature, but who are honestly enjoying it less and (2) those who are just plain reading less - which, when lumped together, accounts for the lion’s share of the market, I’m afraid.

In this book, McKenna lays out a three-year reading plan geared with the average Joe or Jane Christian in mind. The pace is very doable with a different book to read over the course of a month for the space of three years. The books selected are sanely chosen and a balanced, varied diet is in mind since the selections grow up out of twelve categories of thought:
January - devotions/prayer
February - autobiography/biography
March - Bible study
April - spiritual discipline
May - evangelism/missions
June - the family
July - theology
August - church/worship
September - Christian living
October - social issues
November - church history
December - apologetics/ethics
The reading plan makes room for growth, too, in that as the reader works their way through these twelve categories each of the three years, each successive year’s reading is a bit deeper. Selections were limited to books written within the past fifty years (a double-edged sword criteria in that it cuts out some “classics” that should have made the grade, but insures some degree of increased readability and immediate relevance for beginning or shy readers). The reading schedule for year one follows:
January – My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers.
February – Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliott
March – Understanding the Bible by John Stott
April – Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
May – How to Give Away Your Faith by Paul Little
June – How to Lead Your Child to Christ by Luis & Pat Palau
July – The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey
August - Worship His Majesty by Jack Hayford
September – Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands
October – Let Justice Roll Down by John Perkins
November – Church History in Plain Language by Bruce Shelley
December - The Body by Chuck Colson
I wish something like this book had been available when I first became a Christian - it would have saved a lot of dirt work I've done through the years. There probably was something similar around, but I just didn't know about it - that's one reason I'm telling you about this book!

This book would make a fine gift to a new Christian right after they have their two first library additions, a good Bible and an exhaustive concordance. It would also make a perfect starting point for structure to those who have been rather haphazard in the approach to Christian growth through reading. And for those who have given up reading, well, who knows, there may be hope yet and this book is inexpensive enough to gamble on the possibility, for while this book isn’t gold, but it is a serviceable treasure map that will lead you to some of the best spiritual food available.