Today was the kickoff for our church’s year-old missional initiative: the book club.
It started off a year ago with only four to five people gathered in a wide, spacious room. The grogginess of an early morning meeting, as well as uncertainty (maybe as a new leader for myself), filled the space.
But now, I found myself standing amidst a bustling group of twelve, squeezed together pushing aside chairs and gathering in smaller groups on a futon in order to learn and share about books they wanted to read concerning faith.
And being able to witness that, my heart was full.
Especially after having a full day of meetings back to back, tired and exhausted from nonstop work, being able to experience people’s passion to learn and share their uncertainties of what they wanted to grow in faith rejuvenated my energy.
In fact, it reminded me of how I had started reading books with that same uncertain passion.
My intention behind the book club was initially sparked by two factors:
- The first was witnessing a library in the HMCC church of Ann Arbor during a mission trip. Seeing their church stacked with books that filled up over three books shelves was amazing, and also made me a bit jealous. I made a silent commitment that I wanted to see that in Austin.
_ The second was being able to read several faith books from that library over that same mission trip amidst a rough season of anxiety and questioning of my own faith.
Until that Summer, I had never consistently read faith books in my life.
I had occasionally listened to audiobooks over C.S. Lewis’s “Chronicles of Narnia”, with the occasional “Screwtape Letters”, but I had never sat down with a book and read it, chapter by chapter, to completion.
But I realized, (through the trials I went through), that my walk with Christ does not need to be alone. I discovered that I could walk with other Christ-followers, specifically authors, who are or had already walked faith.
In fact, some of these Christ-followers who have gone to Heaven are considered the greatest followers of all time (besides the disciples of Jesus):
C. S. Lewis
and so many more
As one of my friends would say, there are many great disciplers who may be dead, but by reading their books, you can learn and will be discipled by them in many ways, growing tremendously in your faith.
That was a game changer in my mind for books.
Not only the fact that I was learning different ways to:
Trust in God amidst my anxiety.
Face my pride with humility.
Be more faithful to the habits of grace.
Become fluent with the Gospel, not only for others but also for myself.
And live out transformative, patient-filled discipleship.
But I was also being discipled by some of the greatest men and women of faith.
Who wouldn’t want that?
And especially with the bulk of knowledge I gained from the three books I read that Summer that propelled me forwards in faith, I wanted others to be able to experience that during that Fall.
Especially since our church was small and was facing a tough season with transitions in leadership, I felt that rather than letting out church die slowly of thirst for a taste of discipleship (since there’s just not enough people), I felt that many people in the church had to experience being discipled through books.
And with that, this vision of other followers of Christ being able to learn, not only from the community and the Bible, but also through books came into play.
It has been a vision that has molded and shaped in many different ways and has weathered through tough times where I almost wanted to abandon the ministry.
Things like inconsistency in readings, the amount of effort put into announcements and emails for such little results, and even the weekly task of meeting up slowly seemed to whittle away at my mind as I felt a desire for the commitment to end once the semester was over, so I could be free.
In those moments, it felt like a burden rather than a blessing.
Looking back, it is God’s grace that I have stuck through with this.
But for now, God has given me a glimpse of where His heart is for this missional initiative.
Ultimately, we are not called to depend on our faith because someone else told us to. Or live out faith in religiosity.
That is not faith, but mindless religion.
Our faith is dependent on God, and just as He has chosen us, we must choose Him and take ownership of our faith.
And what better way to take ownership of faith, not only by reading the Bible and praying with God, but hearing the rumbling testimonies and passionate instruction of those who’ve walked in faith.
We must be discipled, not only by a biblical community, but also through the teachings and encouragements, praises and rebukes, and cries and echoes of God’s people who’ve blessed us with their ability to write pages upon pages of books for us to read, reflect, and respond in.
And with that, I’m excited.
I don’t know what God has in store for this book club.
I still have doubts over many things He has in store next semester for many of the peeps. Things like ownership, faithfulness, commitment, and even the format of how things will turn out for the book club. (I don’t know really what I’m doing ._.)
But one thing I’m certain is that I am not in control.
And this is not my book club, but God’s book club.
If anyone is able to turn people’s desires towards Him through reading the words of faith by others, it can only be Him.