Banned book at church

Bill and I have been attending a small church for the last 9 months or so. Small churches typically don’t drown their members’ schedules in lots of programs and meetings and busywork. This congregation is especially sparse, programming-wise. Besides Sunday services and a wee youth group, there was some kind of once-a-month women’s meeting that did…something, but I have no idea what, and a women’s Bible study that met this spring to explore the book of James. (Let the reader note – I didn’t participate in either of those women’s “ministry” offerings.)

I was surprised to get an e-mail note to the women of the church that read:
Ladies Book Club
Book Choice: The Secret by Rhonda Byrne
Instructions: Please purchase/borrow the book, before the start of the first session please read
the Forward, The introduction and the first two chapters.
For the second session please read chapters 3 – 6, the following session read two chapters.
This will be an open forum to express your views and feelings on the book, and gain insight from everyone attending. I hope it will be a fun and interesting time! This group is open to all of the women (of the church) & whom ever they wish to invite.

(If you’re unfamiliar with Oprah’s most recent fave book, author, pastor and professor Donald Whitney has a fair and non-hysterical review here. )

I give the context for the invitation to spend some of my summer evenings with the ideas found in The Secret and the women of this troubled church because this has left me in the unpleasant position of Bad Cop, questioning both the “why” of this book choice as well as asking whether the elders at this church reviewed the book before giving the OK to the woman who initiated this book group. (Aw, come on. You already know what the answer is.)

If there was a sense that this church was interested in exploring the intersection of Biblical truth and pop culture, I might have fewer questions and different concerns. But I have seen no evidence of this in the kind of teaching the church proffers on Sunday mornings, the kinds of outreach (none) the church does, or the kinds of things the women typically discuss amongst themselves. I am trying to figure out what itch The Secret scratches for the women of this church, and why they’re willing to spend time with this book instead of something that might spark some spiritual growth among them. I am also realizing that the trust issues (old scars) I have when it comes to church leadership have been scraped open a bit with the announcement of this book group.

How funny that I, a writer who reads widely in my areas of passion as well as a reader who encourages others to read books and blogs with which they’ll be challenged or even disagree in order to shape their hearts and minds would become Bad Cop when it comes to a book group.

BUT its not just a book group. It’s a book group AT CHURCH. If I wanted to learn about The Secret, I’d watch Oprah or go to a discussion group at Barnes and Noble. But I don’t.

I want Jesus….

What do you think about this? Am I wrong in my concerns? If so, why?

* * * * * * *

And just to lighten my mood on this depressing topic, I’m posting a picture of 3-1/2 year-old grandson Gabriel.

See? I feel better already.

:)

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About Michelle Van Loon
  • pastorkes

    Seems like it all comes down to the “why” of the choice of book. If it’s meant to be a time to pick apart a scandalous book (last month’s pick, The DaVinci Code) that seems sort of obvious and pointless. If it’s a full on embrace of the book (Oprah: Second In Wisdom Only To Jesus), that’s scary too.

    However, if it’s simply “the world is going to be reading this book, and we should be discussing it as Christians” I think that is a pretty healthy choice.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Thanks for the comment!

    Right now, from a bit of conversation I’ve had about this, it is more like “embrace” than “shred” or “discuss”.

    So you’re right. That one is scary.

  • JoAnna

    Hi. I just followed your link from a comment on thefightspot and find this to be an interesting post. Aren’t we supposed to be different and separate from the world? Yes, I am well read as well and yes, I did read DaVinchi Code to find out for myself what all the hub-bub was all about. Would I recommend that to others? Different question entirely! Bluntly, it seems to be a false prophet/ spirit of antichrist kind of thing to me. Why bring stuff in that is not wholy pointing to Jesus, our Lord and King? If the idea is a ‘book club’ more than a ministry group… then read Redeeming Love or something. All in all, I think you should stand your ground… just be covered in prayer and let the Holy Spirit lead (which I’m sure you will).

  • Lisa

    I’d be disturbed too if my church encouraged members to read “The Secret” or similar works. I’m reminded that Satan is a master of deceit and does his best to make us fall for imitations of Christianity rather than the real thing. Hopefully your concern will resonate with the elders and cause a change in the selection.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    The “book group” choice did not happen in a vacuum at this church. When we got there, we saw some hopeful signs of Life, but the loss of a visionary pastor as well as a long-time associate pastor in the last few months have exposed a deeply-rooted sleepyness among a vocal, comfortable majority.

    Prayer is the only thing that will wake up this group. It’s the only thing that wakes us up, and keeps us awake.

    Thanks to you, Joanna and Lisa, for your encouragement in this.

  • Anonymous

    It is a shame that a woman who didn’t participate in the church would be so upset about a book another woman picked to discuss. The email doesn’t seem to be a “ministry” book but something a woman (presumably) chose to read and explore with anyone who was interested. Maybe next time you’ll be open-minded enough and extend a little grace to ask the woman who was organizing this “why” instead of making assumptions.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Thanks for writing. I actually did try to contact the woman organizing the book group with my questions, but never got a response from her. And in the end, the group was cancelled due to lack of interest from other women at the church.

    You’re right about earning a right to speak by being involved, rather than sitting on the sidelines. I did try to get involved at the church in other areas besides women’s events, but I certainly hear and understand your concern about a critic who just sits to one side in judgement, rather than participating.