John’s church (Evangelical Quaker) and mine (Independent Christian Church) are very different, but one thing we share in common is the practice of reading and discussing books together. One way that this practice takes shape in John’s church is a monthly book club that is presently reading and discussing books that were featured in John’s book (co-written with Jordan Green and Dan Gibson) Besides the Bible: 100 Books that Have, Should, or Will Create Christian Culture.
Here at Englewood, we have a variety of settings in which books are read and discussed from classes during the Sunday School hour to small groups on weeknights to our on-going Sunday night conversation. I can think of at least three different books that groups are presently reading and discussing. The Sunday School class that I am in, for instance, has spent most of the last year working precariously through chapter drafts of the Slow Church manuscript (This morning, we counted the number of chapters that we had finished picking through and our pace was between 1-2 months/chapter!). This conversation has been an essential part of of the revision process for me, as it offered the opportunity to hear others reflect on what we had been writing, and find the parts that were appreciated and the ones that didn’t sit well with the readers.
For us at Englewood, books are one guide into conversation. (For those interested in our practices of conversation, and how we have been and continue to be transformed by them, I have told this story in my book The Virtue of Dialogue: Conversation as A Hopeful Practice of Church Communities). Conversation is not just idle chatter for us, but is a means of discerning and following Jesus together in our particular neighborhood; we are always seeking the next steps of our faithfulness together and book discussions are one tool we have found to stoke our conversation and to learn and grow deeper together.
Book discussions are a practice that pretty much any church could make room for within their life together. I would love to hear stories of how your church has been impacted by reading and discussing together (use the comments below to share: what books have made a powerful impact? How did you go about reading/discussing it together? How was your congregation transformed through the experience?)
If your church doesn’t read books together, may I make a suggestion? My little book, Growing Deeper in our Church Communities: 50 ideas for connection in a disconnected age was intentionally written to be discussed in churches. Each idea is presented in a very brief chapter intended to stir churches’ imagination and to spark conversation about possibilities. Discussing it would be a gentle way to begin to explore the practice of reading and discussing books together. AND today the book is FREE as a Kindle ebook (which, since the book is short, is not difficult to read with the Kindle app on a phone, tablet or laptop). DOWNLOAD a copy now and encourage others to do the same. [The regular price for the book, after today, is only $2.99, so we're not talking about a prohibitive expense if people are not able to download the book today].
I am very interested in hearing about the role books have played in your congregation…