Monday, May 09, 2011

Read Any Good Books Lately? - Austin

I spoke at the Church Library Association of Ontario Spring Conference in Orillia on Saturday, May 7th. I felt I communicated effectively for the most part. Yet one concept, cut from my notes because it was poorly articulated, somehow demanded expression. My words on that issue proved clumsy and inadequate. That has compelled me to wrestle with it a bit more.

As a church librarian I have the joyful privilege of connecting people with wonderful resources collected over the years. Many truths are timeless, but somehow find fresh expression every few years. Many truths that seemed self-evident a generation ago must be expressed in new language for this generation to grasp. And perhaps most significant of all, knowledge of the Bible, common even among people who did not embrace its message a generation ago, has become more and more rare within the church itself. Most North American churches have many people in their congregations who have not and do not read their Bibles. The most careful, Bible-centered preaching cannot bridge that gap. All the accumulated wealth of biblical truth found in a wonderfully stocked library cannot bridge that gap. A librarian's skill, with intimate knowledge of the collection, cannot bridge that gap.

Sometimes I feel an almost aching need to shout at people as they come in to our library: "Ignore every book on these shelves. Sit down with your Bible. Get to know it. Then come back."

Sometimes I feel the need to shout to myself: "Put down that book. Turn off the computer. Spend time in the Bible for itself alone. Quit pretending the eight translations within one step of your computer, drawn from often as you write -- are read for their own message. Take time to draw closer to God. Hear Him. Know His voice."

My reading time has dwindled with eyesight problems. How much priority do I put on God's Word within that now limited time? Some questions prove much more comfortable to ask of others. As I have celebrated small improvements in my eyesight over the last three months, my reading has increased once again. Yet I cannot claim to have gone oftener to my Bible. So I dare not challenge others without challenging myself. As a librarian, caretaker of wonderful resources, I MUST remember that these are a supplement to Bible knowledge, never a substitute. I MUST remember that for myself as well as for those I minister to.

I believe strongly in inspiration for today's writers, myself included. I am convinced God speaks through the words His followers wrestle with and commit to print. Yet the inspiration of the Bible is -- I am fully convinced -- somehow of a higher nature, with a necessity and an authority far beyond anything I have ever penned.

Is there a way, in a well-stocked church library, to point people to the Bible and ask one simple question. . .

Have you read any good books lately?


Peter Black said...

You raise a very important issue here, Brian.
Perhaps prospective buyers and readers of Christian faith-based books need to know that the greater their knowledge of the biblical scriptures, the better equipped they will be to read such books with a discriminating and discerning eye, and the greater will be their delight when encountering truth presented in engaging language.

Donna Mann said...

Brian: Your statement about 'timeless truth finding fresh expression every few years' is so true. I think I'll put your sentence on the bottom of my emails to initiate thought about expressing truth in new language. Thank you for your creative thought.

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