DIY: Discussing a Book You’ve Never Read — And Don’t Need To

Recently the PS23 men discussed the books our flock recommends to us. All of us are encouraged to hear our peoples’ desire to study and know Christ better. Yet each of us lives with one simple reality: lack of time. Now, one book recommendation from you may not be much. In fact, it may be only 100 pages and a 30 minute read while eating Oreos dunked in milk . . . Oreos . . . eat them . . . back to blog. images100 pages is not very much. But what if your book recommendation accompanies three other people? Now, at minimum, we’re talking 400 pages. Books still cost money, so now there is a financial request too. Now, you may buy me the book (thanks, I’ll take it), but reading the book cannot replace sermon prep, Bible study prep, counseling, ministry, prayer, family time, sleep, or coffee time. Some weeks I do well to even pick up a “not required for sermon prep” book. Leader, there is good news. You don’t have to read the book to minister to someone, redirect heresy, or join in the discussion. This is something I learned after working in a Christian bookstore for close to five years. [1]

images-3The point of talking about a book with someone in your ministry is to talk about the subject material with the person. I don’t know everything, but I know enough about almost any book’s topic to ask questions, look at Scripture, and communicate about the topic. If we’re students of Scripture, we’ll encounter information covering “everything under the sun” in our study. Therefore when someone says, “I just read this book and you have to read it;” I turn the discussion toward the topic, not the book itself. I try to direct the discussion to Scripture. Why? Because books are just opinions. Scripture is truth. Always remember a book is simply an opinion printed by a company who believes they can profit on the work. Where the author accurately portrays biblical truth, the book is valuable. When he / she misses truth, it is just wasted paper.

So how do I discuss a book without reading a book? Simple.

By asking some questions:

First, who wrote the book? This is really helpful, especially if you know the author. If it’s a John MacArthur title, then I know the content will stem from biblical analysis regarding the discussion. If it’s Joel Osteen, I know the content will miss the gospel. (What if it’s Joel Osteen? — we’ll get to this question down below).

Second, what was the book about? This is really the key question. Maybe you’ve never read Trusting God by Jerry Bridges and four different women in church suggest you read this book but the next eight weeks are too packed to integrate this book into study. [2] “Jerry Bridges is reliable, what is the book about?” “It’s about God’s sovereignty.” Okay, great, here is your starting point. Hopefully, as an elder / leader we know enough about God’s sovereignty to have this discussion.

Third, what did you learn? and Fourth, Was there anything you found troublesome or confusing? Again, listening carefully to her answer should allow you to discuss and minister to her. In most cases, what she learned encourages, challenges, or convicts her. Take this opportunity to minister. Answer questions and encourage biblical discernment.

images-4Fifth, see if new lessons can be instantly put into practice . . . challenge him! Maybe he just read a work on serving the body and you only see him as he walks in late and leaves early. Challenge him to get more involved and spend more time getting to know the church. Use and imitate recent lessons.

Finally ask, “Would you want to read another book on the same subject?” More than likely, we’ve already read a book or aware of similar books regarding the subject. Encourage him or her to read another book. Fan the flame of studying and use this opportunity to recommend a better book.

Now, this leads to a follow up issue. What if the book read is horrendous? bad theology? . . . What if it’s Joel Osteen? I ask a few questions. First, is this a new believer? Second, is this someone I have influence and we trust each other? If this is a new believer, instead of blasting the book and author, I realize he probably does not have depth and discernment. After going through the above questions, I ask him if he would be interested in reading another book just like it. If so, I know my recommendation will cover similar material with more biblical basis.

sponsor_osteen-whitestripsFor example, I used to have people come into the bookstore asking for Forty Days of Purpose by Rick Warren. “No, I’m sorry, we don’t have this book. Are you looking for this particular book for specific reason or looking for something with similar content?” Usually, 99% of the time, the person wanted similar content and would consider another book. This gave me opportunity to recommend Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life, MacArthur’s Found God’s Will, or DeYoung’s book on God’s will. A few times, the person returned and said, “The book you recommended was a lot better than Warren’s book, thank you.”

If the person asking and I have a good, trusting relationship I might be a little more open, but would still recommend the book and praise him or her for reading and seeking to study to know the Lord better. Even when someone reads a bad book, I think credit should be given for attempting to study to know the Lord.

Lord willing, we’ll find time to read the book recommended. But if not, allow the book recommendation to fuel ministry and a good discussion. I pray this is helpful. If I’ve missed anything or you do something differently, feel free to leave a comment.

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[1] CAVEAT! Now, in general, it’s always best to read an author’s work in order to critique the book and the specific argument. I have a theory on who wrote Hebrews, someone who sounds so much like Paul, I call him Paul. However, this doesn’t mean I can accurately engage in a work proposing Luke as the main author since I cannot engage the details of his argument.

[2] Publishers know women account for 70% of all Christian book purchases.

 

This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Discussions, Ministry by Jason Vaughn. Bookmark the permalink.
Jason Vaughn

About Jason Vaughn

Jason is a graduate of the Master's Seminary and the pastor of Cornerstone Las Vegas, a Grace Advance church plant. He loves Christ, his wife Kyla, sometimes his kids :), the church, missions, people, and coffee. You can also follow him on his personal blog at shepherdthesheep.com.