Chapter 5

Planning a Personal Christian Library

Of making many books there is no end. Ecclesiastes 12:12

Imagine that you are exiled all alone on a small, deserted island. You are given the privilege of taking your Bible and ten other books with you. Which ten books would you choose?

   Answering that question is more than an intriguing party game. It addresses our acquaintance with the world of books,

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our areas of reading interest, and especially the values we hold. How many of the ten books would be theoretical and how many would be practical? How many would help us survive physically and how many would be geared to our intellectual and spiritual existence?

The Pyramid Principle

   Behind these questions is a fundamental thought: You would want to choose books that you could read over and over again. Returning once again to How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren ask us to imagine our reading choices as a pyramid of books. At the broad base of the pyramid are millions of books that have been published that we will never read or need to read. If we read them at all, it would be for amusement or information.1 Skimming would be quite adequate, and we would never return to these books because they add little to our knowledge or skills. Most contemporary novels fit this category. Exceptions for me would be Charles Sheldon's In His Steps and Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment. After a gap of a few years, I enjoy reading them over again.

   Above the base of the pyramid and at a second, narrower level are books that teach us how to read and how to live. Adler and Van Doren suggest that one book in a hundred might fit this category. "These are good books," they write, "the ones that were carefully wrought by their authors, the ones that convey to the reader significant insights about subjects of enduring interest to human beings."2 Consequently, these books are worth reading once, analytically and in depth. When you have finished, you are grateful for their contribution to your understanding, but you know that you have

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grasped the essence of what the author has to offer. Occasionally, you might return to one of these books to locate a quotation or recapture an idea, but there is no need to reread it. In fact, if you return to one of these books and begin to reread it, Adler and Van Doren say that you will find "less there than you remembered."3 Such a test will help you identify the books at this level.

   For me, most of the best-sellers in Christian and secular literature fall into this category of books, which are worth one reading and contain a few good ideas. I read them to remain aware of what others are reading, but they don't qualify as top choices for my personal library. Usually, I skim them in the bookstore or check them out of the library. With one quick reading, they have served their purpose.

   As the pyramid continues to rise and narrow again, Adler and Van Doren envision a much smaller number of books — less than one hundred — that cannot be exhausted by one reading. To distinguish this category of books, go back and begin to reread them. Instead of finding less than you remembered, you will find that the book has "grown with you." Perhaps this is only a way of testing our intellectual and spiritual growth over time, but it is also a credit to the depth of the book, whose treasures cannot be mined with one reading. The Word of God itself is our prime example. Job wrote about the depth of God's wisdom, which can never be exhausted by human searching. Each time we return to the Word of God, we find ourselves exclaiming, "I never saw that truth before." Though we sense that the Word has grown with us, in truth, we know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened our mind so that our spiritual growth is evident by new insights into God's revelation.

   Using this criterion, we understand why so few books qualify for reading and rereading. Few authors have the depth of mind and spirit to bring us back to their books time and time again. Those who do are writers of Christian classics. Although St. Augustine's Confessions was written in the fourth century,

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the insights are timeless and the book is recognized in both the religious and secular worlds as a profound search into the deepest recesses of human personality and spiritual character. When rereading the book, one exclaims, "I never saw that truth before!"

   Each of us has our own list of Christian classics. In my case, Dr. James F. Gregory, my spiritual and intellectual mentor, bequeathed to me in his will two books that had helped shape his great mind and gentle spirit. One was a leather-bound and gold-edged edition of Thomas à Kempis's Imitation of Christ; the other was C.S. Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy. I have read these books several times and even now anticipate reading them again. Why? Because I grow with them and they grow with me each time I engage in communication with the authors.

   Returning to the intriguing question, "If you were to be exiled all alone on a desert island, which ten books would you take with you?" we now know the basis for making this decision. We should select books that we can read more than once and that grow with us. No two persons will have the same list, and every one of us will find it difficult to limit our choices to just ten. Once we have made our selections, however, we will have reached the peak of the pyramid.

The Pyramid Plan

   Using the pyramid principle as a general guideline, we can think more specifically about building a personal Christian library. Whereas the first pyramid we discussed included all the books that were ever printed, and our choices among those books depended on their value for teaching us how to read and how to live, our second pyramid involves only Christian books, and the choices we make depend on the value of the books for helping us understand the faith and grow spiritually.

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   The core of the pyramid is made up of ten tiers of books, beginning with the foundation of Bibles and rising to books that stretch the mind with Christian thought. The facia of the pyramid is made up of special collections that contain "authors of choice" and "subjects of interest." A brief description of each of these tiers in the pyramid along with a word on the finishing touches will give us a working plan for building a personal Christian library.

   I. Bibles

   The Scriptures are foundational to a Christian's personal library. Everyone has his or her favorite version, but one version or translation is not enough. At the minimum, we need two or three different Bibles to broaden our perspective on the Word. I rely heavily on the New International Version of the Thompson Chain Reference Bible, which has a thumb index in the pages to help me quickly find books of the Bible. My collection also includes the New King James Version, the Revised Standard Version, and the more contemporary translations of the Living Bible and the Message. Seldom do I refer to a text without comparing the language in a different version or translation. Invariably, I discover a deeper richness in the revelation.

   II. Biblical Reference

   When reading and studying Scripture, we should use reference sources such as biblical handbooks, commentaries, and concordances. Of course, there is no substitute for reading the Bible for ourselves and letting the Word speak to us through the mind of the Holy Spirit. But at the same time, multiple errors, ranging from theological heresy to behavorial sin, can result if we filter the Word through our own perceptions and senses. We need the check and balance of

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Christian leaders and scholars who have commented on the meaning of the Word throughout history. Again, at the practical minimum, a personal Christian library should include a Bible dictionary, handbook, and concordance. The Holman Bible Dictionary is a standard reference source, and Halley's Bible Handbook is a proven text. We should choose a concordance that defines and locates common words throughout the Scriptures and matches our basic study Bible. In my case, the NIV Concordance, which complements my NIV version of the Thomson Chain Reference Bible, is an invaluable resource.

   One set of biblical commentaries will bolster the reference section of a personal library. Choosing commentaries is a major decision because they range from intricate scholarly texts to expository helps for a layperson who teaches, writes, or counsels from Scripture. A centerpiece in my library is The Communicator's Commentary published by Word and edited by Lloyd Ogilvie. This is a biased choice because I wrote four of the commentaries in the collection. Pastors and laypeople, however, continue to compliment the series for its practical help in the exposition of Scripture. While I am not a biblical scholar in the strictest sense, my library also includes the Word Biblical Commentary series, which offers a more analytical and critical interpretation of the scriptural text. In between these two extremes, I find much help in the paperback collection of The Bible Speaks Today, with J.T. Motyer as Old Testament editor and John Stott as New Testament editor.

   When all is said and done, our choice of a commentary series depends on our purpose in Bible study. If we want a resource for individual study and teaching, an expository commentary will serve us well as our first choice. When we advance in our study or teaching, a more analytical and critical commentary collection will add new depth to our understanding of the Word.

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   III. Biblical Study

   Reading the Word of God is a discipline in itself. Certainly, there is value in reading the Bible for ourselves with an open mind and heart. We cannot forget, however, the story in Acts about the Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the Scriptures while traveling from Jerusalem back to his home country. Philip, the apostle, appeared in the chariot beside him and asked, "Do you understand what you are reading?" The Ethiopian answered, "How can I unless someone explains it to me?" (Acts 8:30-31). Philip, then, became his teacher, helping him understand what the Scriptures meant and how they applied to him as a person. The Ethiopian's belief and baptism attest to the value of that teaching-learning experience.

   We, too, need some basic helps that teach us how to read, understand, and apply the Word of God to our life and experience. Years ago, Henrietta Mears wrote the book What the Bible Is All About as an outgrowth of her teaching through which she led many to Christ and nurtured them in the faith. More recently, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart have added another resource worthy of a place in our library under the attention-getting title How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth.

   Serious readers of Scripture will also benefit from Robert Traina's Methodical Bible Study in which he teaches the principles of discovery when reading the Bible in English. His teaching reminds us again that the Scriptures are like a many faceted diamond. Each time we turn the gem into the light and see its beauty from another perspective, we realize that the Bible is the Book of Books because no matter how many times we read it, the truth can never be exhausted.

   In addition to a book (or books on how to study the Bible, we should consider separate studies of the Old and New Testaments. Usually, these books resemble classroom textbooks, but not in the sense that we need a professor to help us understand what we read. The Message of the New Testament by

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F.F. Bruce and Old Testament Introduction by William Lasor, David Hubbard, and Frederic Bush are basic books for advanced readers.

   Keep in mind that a personal Christian library cannot be built by formula. Books on Bible study are essential to the library, but each category contains biblically sound and readable books from which we may choose. Pastors, teachers, and friends who are readers are a ready source for good recommendations. By following the guidelines in the chapters "How to Choose a Christian Book" and "How to Judge a Christian Book," however, we can make the final choice.

   IV. Christian Devotion

   The natural step after Bible study is the category of devotional books, which assist us in our spiritual development. Three categories make up this section of our collection. First, there are books for daily devotions throughout the year. Although not marked out for 365 days of reading, Thomas à Kempis's all-time classic The Imitation of Christ lends itself to daily reading. For depth of spiritual insights, the volume still stands alone. In a more contemporary setting, Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest has become one of the most widely read devotionals, helping to satisfy the thirst for spirituality and hunger for holiness among Christians. Earlier generations read Mrs. C.E. Cowman's Streams in the Desert and E. Stanley Jones's The Way in response to those same needs. Each and all of these books are worthy additions to a personal Christian library.

   Books on prayer represent the second category in the devotional section of a library. Several books on prayer are highly recommended for Christian readers. Among these, A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie, With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, Prayer: Conversing with God by Rosalind Rinker,

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and Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home by Richard Foster are first choices for a smaller, personal library.

   Daily devotions and spiritual discipline are like two sides of the same coin. Without one, we don't have the other. In recent years, many people have reemphasized spiritual discipline as essential to Christian life in an undisciplined age. Once again, we have multiple choices for books in this field. Reaching back a generation or two, we are privileged to find Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. Bonhoeffer wrote his book as a Christian struggling to be faithful to his Lord during Hitler's regime in Nazi Germany. Even though we may have the freedom of democracy, Bonhoeffer's insights will challenge and convict us. Also from a past generation are the still-timely insights of A.W. Tozer's Pursuit of God and W.E. Sangster's Path to Perfection. To the credit of our contemporary authors, we have potential classics in Richard Foster's Celebration of Discipline, Dallas Willard's The Spirit of the Disciplines and Eugene Peterson's A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Two or more of these books, both classical and contemporary, will make the library section entitled "Christian Devotion" commended to all.

   V. Christian Inspiration

   Each of us needs models and mentors for the development of our Christian life. Although there is no substitute for having direct contact with a mentor, the books we read can also be influential in shaping our character and our conduct. As a boy, for instance, my father was my model and mentor. But I also discovered other heroes through autobiographies and biographies. Through my reading, I shared the adventures of Daniel Boone, the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln, and the vision of Christopher Columbus. During my high school years, I was profoundly influence by Dag Hammarskjold, as he shared his faith in the difficult role of secretary general of the United Nations in Markings. As a budding journalist, I identified

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with Eric Sevareid's story of his life under the title Not So Wild a Dream. Slowly, but surely, I became an avid collector and reader of autobiographies and biographies. It was Elton Trueblood, however, who taught me the value of entering into the sainted lives of Christian men and women who showed how to live and lead in times past. He recommended that I read St. Augustine's Confessions and Blaise Pascal's Pensees. Later, his recommendation was reinforced when another of my mentors, Dr. James F. Gregory, president of Spring Arbor College, bequeathed to me Surprised by Joy, the autobiography of C.S. Lewis.

   The shelf of autobiographies and biographies in my personal library now holds a special collection for me. That shelf contains the most influential books of my life: Here I Stand by Roland Bainton, This Freedom — Whence? by John Wesley Bready, A Song of Ascents by E. Stanley Jones, Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot, Just as I Am by Billy Graham, and, of course, While It Is Day by Elton Trueblood. These books have permitted me to identify so completely with great servants of God that my own Christian character has been shaped and shamed by them. While recognizing that autobiographies and biographies are a highly personal choice, no library should be without at least a few of them. For inspiration in reading, they are essential.

   VI. Christian Living

   Our faith is more than belief and experience. We must also demonstrate our faith in the bump and grind of daily life and relationships. No one claims that living the Christian life is easy. In fact, C.S. Lewis said that his difficulties began when he became a Christian. We identify with this truth and seek help from books on such crucial topics of Christian living as personal growth, interpersonal relationships, sex, marriage, and family matters. It is no surprise that books in this category have made up the majority of sales of Christian publications

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in the past three or more decades. A personal Christian library should reflect this need, but on a highly selective basis related specifically to issues with which we must deal. Still, there is a core of basic books in this category to which we can turn for help time and time again.

   Since the introduction of relational theology in the 1960s, books on personal growth for Christians have flourished in the marketplace. The Taste of New Wine by Keith Miller led the way and is still relevant today. Other books of note that address Christian living and personal growth include Discovering God's Will in Your Life by Lloyd Ogilvie and Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. Advance reading will take us to two classics that should be in our libraries: The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis and The Meaning of Persons by Paul Tournier.

   A word of caution is needed as we read and buy books that address personal and interpersonal issues. Many authors have become enamored with the findings of modern psychology, theories of human development, and techniques of psychotherapy or counseling. Christians are often tempted to buy into these popular ideas and apply them directly to personal Christian growth without checking the theories against biblical theology. For example, many Christian books extol the virtues of "self-actualization" in personal development. Although the teachings of Jesus include the promise of "self-actualization," it is always combined with the paradoxical idea of "self-sacrifice." Without applying this biblical balance, supposedly "Christian" books can actually be vehicles for teaching the heresy of half-truth. The key is to choose books in this field that begin with biblical truth and build on that foundation rather than use the Scriptures to sanctify human theory.

   Christian books address the full range of family relationships, from dating to divorce and from birth to death. If the volume of books in this field is indicative of our needs, the Christian family is one of the most beleaguered of our primary institutions. Beginning with such a fundamental text as Sex for Christians

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by Lewis Smedes, following through with a help such as How to Lead Your Child to Christ by Luis and Pat Palau, helping young people in dating by reading I Loved a Girl by Walter Trobisch, advising newly married couples with Letters to Karen and Letters to Philip by Charlie Shedd, addressing married life with Elizabeth Achtemeier's The Committed Marriage, and taking on the task of Christian parenting with the counsel of James Dobson in Dare to Discipline, we see the range of reading that is before us. These books, however, represent a solid foundation for family development.

   As startling as it may seem, statistics show that Christians are no more exempt from personal and interpersonal problems than their secular counterparts. This reality accounts for the fact that Christian buyers have made best-sellers out of such writings as Healing for Damaged Emotions by David Seamands, Forgive and Forget by Lewis Smedes, Where Is God When It Hurts? by Philip Yancey, and Rebuilding Your Broken World by Gordon MacDonald. Many more biblically and psychologically sound volumes are available to help us with individual problems. When Our Parents Need Us Most, a book that I wrote for children who are care givers for elderly parents, is an example of a book that meets a special need in family relationships. Together, through our reading, Christians can communicate with each other and learn from the experience of others.

   VII. Christian Understanding

   Spiritual growth is a matter of mind as well as heart. In 1 Peter 1:13 we read, "Prepare your minds for action." Mental preparation, therefore, is another spiritual discipline that we must cultivate. Although we may resist the exercise, unless our minds are stretched, we will not grow. In this section of books in our personal library, therefore, we need to include readable works on biblical theology that help us understand what we believe and companion texts on church

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history that tell us how we relate to Christians through the ages.

   A solid cornerstone for the section on Christian theology is made up of John Stott's Basic Christianity, J.B. Phillips's Your God Is Too Small, and A.W. Tozer's The Knowledge of the Holy. Philip Yancey has also given sound and readable theology in his books The Jesus I Never Knew and What's So Amazing about Grace? Maturing Christians will not shy away from time-tested works on theology such as Knowing God by J.I. Packer, The Cross of Christ by John Stott, and The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard.

   The subject of church history may conjure up the old idea from high school that history is as dry as dust. It need not be. In fact, we need to remember the countering truth that those who refuse to learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Contemporary Christians whose faith is contaminated by the secular influence of self-interest may especially need the corrective of church history. Bruce Shelley meets that need in the content of his book Church History in Plain Language. After reading this book, many will discover an unexpected thirst to read more. Mark Noll's Turning Points, Donald Dayton's Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, Earle Cairn's Christianity through the Centuries, and especially Kenneth Latourette's Christianity through the Ages will not only satisfy that thirst but add to the motivation to keep reading. Until we know from where we have come, we cannot know where we are going.

   Our Christian understanding would be deficient without a perspective on the nature of the church and the meaning of worship. Because both of these areas are subjects of debate today, we need a biblically based outlook on these issues. Books on the church, or ecclesiology, include The Community of the King by Howard Snyder, The Body by Charles Colson, and The Company of the Committed and The Incendiary Fellowship by Elton Trueblood. To catch a glimpse of the growing church today and the emerging church of the future, we can

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read The Purpose-Driven Church by Rick Warren and A Church for the Twenty-first Century by Leith Anderson.

   Changes in Christian worship have been even more dramatic than changes in the church itself. The tension between traditional and contemporary patterns is so great that some observers allude to "worship wars." By reading such books as Robert Webber's Worship Is a Verb, Jack Hayford's Worship His Majesty, Warren Wiersbe's Real Worship, and Marva Dawn's Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, we can contribute to the solution rather than the problem. Because our worship tells the world what we believe about God, a personal Christian library is not complete without books that guide us to the truth.

   VIII. Christian Witness

   Up to this point in our pyramid plan, the recommended books have focused on personalized aspects of Christian growth and understanding. Although the internal development of Christian character is a never-ending task, it must not become an end in itself. Following the command of Christ and his example to us, we are to "give ourselves away" by introducing others to our Savior and sacrificially serving their needs.

   A personal library should reflect that outward thrust, beginning with our witness to the world. Although Paul Little's life was cut short by a tragic accident at the peak of his ministry, he left us the legacy of his book How to Give Away Your Faith, which should be an anchor in this section. Rosalind Rinker also gave us encouragement for personal evangelism in her book You Can Witness with Confidence.

   To see the Great Commission in full scope, add Robert Coleman's Master Plan of Evangelism along with John Stott's Christian Mission in the Modern World. Other authors have added a contemporary touch to witnessing based on proof of effective results. Examples include Bill Hybels and Mark Mittelberg's

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Becoming a Contagious Christian, James Kennedy's Evangelism Explosion, and Joe Aldrich's Lifestyle Evangelism. Likewise, George Hunter's book How to Reach Secular People customizes Christian witness to the realities of the age in which we live.

   IX. Christian Action

   An effective Christian witness must be both personal and social. Throughout the history of the church, there has always been tension over a Christian's role and responsibility as a social witness, especially when government and politics are involved. The tension mounts as new moral issues of a rapidly changing world crowd the social agenda. More often than not, we find ourselves reacting to the items on this new agenda rather than anticipating them. The lag between practice and principle will inevitably continue in the future with the increasing speed of technological advancements and social change. Still, we cannot ignore our responsibility as believers to remain alert to these issues, seek biblical solutions, and take risks for the causes of justice and mercy.

   More than fifty years ago, Carl F.H. Henry led evangelical Christians back into the social arena with his book The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Sherwood Wirt urged another positive step forward with The Social Conscience of the Evangelical, and David Moberg, the sociologist, called us to biblical social action when he took the title for his book Inasmuch: Christian Social Responsibility in the Twentieth Century from Matthew 25, which portrays the final judgment when we are called to accountability for our ministry to the poor, the prisoner, and the stranger among us.

   Later volumes in Christian social action are equally memorable. In the midst of racial crisis, the legendary John Perkins wrote Let Justice Roll Down. In response to our Western affluence, Ronald Sider chose the convicting title Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, and when the abortion issue heated up,

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Francis Schaeffer and C. Everett Koop toured the nation to promote their book Whatever Happened to the Human Race? In more general terms, but still pungent in truth, Rebecca Manley Pippert urged Christians to come Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World. Tom Sine built his appeal for Christian social action on a biblical analogy in The Mustard Seed Conspiracy, and Tony Campolo addressed the conscience of Christian youth with his book You Can Make a Difference.

   There is no lack of books on Christian social action, nor is there a lack of controversy surrounding them. In this section of our library, we need a basic volume or two on Christian social responsibility that also has biblical credibility. We need to learn that there are two sides to Christian social action: justice, which usually involves the legislative, legal, and executive systems of society, and mercy, which most often involves relief from suffering for individuals and groups. The truth may be difficult to hear, but we cannot ignore the social facet of our faith. Rather than limiting our reading to books with which we agree, we will find that mind-stretching and soul-searching volumes will both broaden our perspective and keep us humble.

   X. Christian Thought

   As the pyramid plan unfolds and rises, the subject matter of the books may seem more complex and intimidating. This may be true of many books with ominous titles that address such subjects as apologetics and ethics. A number of books have been written, however, that a lay reader can both read and understand. These books, too, are essential for a personal Christian library because they represent three important dimensions of faith: embracing our faith within a thoroughly Christian view, defending our faith in everyday conversation, and affirming our faith in moral decisions and ethical conduct.

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   When seeking to understand and embrace the Christian worldview, there is no better book than Harry Blamire's The Christian Mind. For those who might think that biblical faith is strong on things of the Spirit but weak on things of the mind, the corrective is John Stott's pocket classic Your Mind Matters. Other books worthy of a place on our library shelves are Mark Noll's The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and Greg Boyd's Letters from a Skeptic.

   In the field of ethics, lay readers will find practical application to daily living in Lewis Smedes's Mere Morality and Richard Mouw's Uncommon Decency.

   Standing alone at the peak of the pyramid in the section on Christian thought is C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Close behind is Elton Trueblood's A Place to Stand. Even though these books were published in the second half of the twentieth century, they have already stood the test of time and have lasting value. Whenever the best books of the twentieth century are mentioned, Mere Christianity is at the top of the list. Trueblood's book, as well, is recommended as a definitive statement of faith.

Finishing the Pyramid

   Like the ancient pyramids of Egypt, our pyramid needs the finishing touch of smooth facia over the rough building blocks of stone. "Authors of choice" and "subjects of interest" give our library the finishing touch of our own personal signature.

   Authors of choice represent a special collection of books that especially resonate with our own mind and heart. Like the signature of an artist on a painting, these books put a personal stamp of character on our library. Each of us has had the experience of reading a book that especially contributed

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to our spiritual growth and shaped our Christian character. In response to that book, we vow to read other books by that author. As a result a special collection is born. We search for other books by the author, buy them whenever possible, read them more than once, and quote from them freely. Authors of choice can be detected in the sermons of preachers, the lessons of teachers, and conversations with friends.

   Earlier I mentioned my collection of books by C.S. Lewis, Elton Trueblood and Henri J.M. Nouwen. If asked the question, "Which Christian authors have had the greatest influence on your life?" I would name these three. Lewis's autobiography, Surprised by Joy, set the tone for my Christian life, Trueblood's The New Man for Our Time provided me with a model for a Christian scholar, and Nouwen's In the Name of Jesus showed me how the spirit of Jesus Christ defines the character of Christian leadership. Books by these three authors are the signature collections in my personal library.

   Authors of choice often serve as conversation starters among Christian readers. Just the other day, for instance, a retired businessman drove me to the airport. We immediately found that books were a common interest, and within minutes we knew we were brothers in Christ. A chord was struck at the mention of Henri Nouwen's name. From there, we talked about spiritual insights we had gleaned from Nouwen's writings. Too soon, we arrived at the airport, shook hands and vowed to keep in touch. Within a matter of days, we had exchanged mail. I sent him a quote from Nouwen that he had lost, and in turn, he sent me a copy of a Nouwen monograph I had missed. An author of choice led to a meaningful conversation and a continuing relationship.

   Every Christian reader will benefit from collecting books that speak to subjects of interest and put a finishing touch on his or her personal library. It is good to be a generalist when it comes to reading, but it is also good to be a specialist in certain subjects so that we can contribute the gift of our understanding in communication with the body of Christ or in witness

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to others. A subject of particular interest may come from any one of the sections of the pyramid. From prayer to ethics and from Bible study to church history, our conversations are enlivened and our classrooms are enriched when each member of the body brings the gift of a special perspective to the table.

   You can now build your pyramid of books. By selecting volumes for each tier in the structure, your library will be under way. A library developed according to the pyramid principle of choosing books that you would want to read more than once and designed according to the pyramid plan of selecting books in a range of subjects will give you a well-rounded resource for Christian reading. Most important, your personal library will contribute to the singular goal of Christian reading: that we will be men and women of God, perfectly equipped for every good work.

Chapter Six  ||  Table of Contents