Why is this so, I wonder? So many women at my church have said to me that they really struggle to finish reading Christian books. They're great at buying them, but getting beyond the first few chapters is a big challenge.
I used to be like this. Someone would tell me a Christian book was really good, so I would go out and buy it. Then it would sit beside my bed, unread, or if it was lucky, with the first few pages read, and nothing more would happen. I thought setting up a Christian book discussion group might help me to finish reading some of the ones I had and encourage others to do the same.
This has had an inconsistent response. Sometimes numbers have been really good, other times much less so. Sometimes I think it's the book. We had a go at reading J.I. Packer's Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God last year. Very worthwhile reading but I did find it hard going and I think some others found the same. We only had a small number at that discussion as well.
But other times...I'm not sure. The book we read this time around (The Murder of Jesus) was a great read. And it wasn't too hard to get through. Once I started reading it, I finished it within a few days. There were a few cancellations for last weekend, due to health and transport issues. These things happen. But then, in typical fashion, I start to wonder if maybe it might be me. I start thinking about other groups I know about who are reading books (of the non-Christian variety) that don't seem to be having difficulty attracting numbers. I suppose that's what Satan is wanting me to think.
I don't think women avoid reading Christian books because they're too busy or time-poor to read. I enjoy reading and I know that if I really want to read something, I'll make time to do it. I do this all the time. The books that aren't the Christian ones look a bit more interesting so they often find their way to the top of the "to read" pile beside my bed. But they don't challenge me to change my life in any way, or to become more godly in my thinking.
Perhaps that's what lies at the heart of the problem. I sincerely hope it's not me that's stopping people from coming to Book Chat, although in the moments I spend wallowing in self pity, I feel like it is. What I actually think is that it takes discipline and effort to read a Christian book (and finish it). What I read is going to make me painfully aware of my sinfulness and how I need to change myself. That's hard and confronting to deal with. It's much easier to go to the group where I can have a good time talking about some other book that's good for now but less meaningful in the eternal scheme of things.*
Even though numbers weren't high last Saturday, the quality of the discussion was wonderful. I would have loved to hear what others thought of the book too. I often think that reading a book that links heavily to Scripture chapter by chapter in a Bible study group is something we should do more of.
So with all that in mind, next term we are going to read Barbara Hughes' book Disciplines of a Godly Woman. The link takes you to a review by Tim Challies who is a well-known evangelical blogger.
The word "discipline" is already putting me off a little bit. But that's what I think reading Christian books comes down to in the end. Discipline isn't easy. And it's only by God's grace that we can do it. It's much easier to pick up the other stuff on our bedside tables waiting to be read. But as Christian women, why wouldn't we want to be disciplined and to read something that helps us to live a more godly and less wasted life that matters for eternity?
*All this is not to say that we should only read Christian books. I think that reading both is a great idea and I do go to a group that discusses other books, which is really excellent too!