You know the scene: The children in the garden next door are swimming and exuberantly playing their favourite summer game—yet again! Not that you begrudge them their pool fun, but their game involves the mindless (mind-numbing!) calling out by one person, MARCO! and the rest of the kids strategically repositioning themselves around the pool and in the water, chiming back, POLO! “Marco! Polo! Marco! Polo! Marco! Polo!” And so it goes on ad nauseam. Eventually, you find yourself involuntarily wondering about Marco Polo and his exploration, etc. Such is the effect of words on the psyche.
God uses such scenes for eternal benefit. It was this phrase in the title above, repeated as part of a mantra in a childish game by the kids next door (they were saying it in Latin—tolle lege, tolle lege—which means, “take up and read”), which caused Augustine of Hippo back in the fourth century, as a profligate young man, to take up his Bible in his depressed and sinful state. His eyes fell on Romans 13:13 as he opened his Bible at random. Being caught in sexual sin and a life of sensuality, it was the invitation to read (which he imagined had come directly from God), and then the subsequent rebuke communicated by the words of Paul in Romans 13:13, which led directly to his conversion and total moral transformation.
This heart-warming bit of biographical detail serves simply to introduce the subject that is often alluded to at BBC, namely the need for all Christians to be readers. Readers are thinkers. One cannot be a leader and exercise sustained constructive influence over others (which is precisely what the Great Commission making of disciples involves) without being a reader and thereby having one’s mind constantly stimulated and shaped by what you are reading. Mature and growing Christians certainly read their Bibles, but they also read other books.
Reading is hard work! Of that there can be no doubt. If you are a keen reader, reaching for a book at every opportunity, then you may be tempted to dispute that last statement. You may find reading to be nothing but pleasurable and entertaining. But the reality is that this pleasurable stimulation comes to a fit reader in the same way as running provides pleasure to a fit athlete. Until you are aerobically fit, running is painful. Running is torture for the unfit!
In order to help God’s people overcome their reading inertia, we have sought to put suitable books easily within reach of the family at BBC. Once a person gets engaged in what they are reading—either drawn into a line of reasoning or argumentation, or transported to a scene in their imaginations that has been unlocked and made colourful by words entering through their eye-gate—then reading becomes a productive pleasure. To assist people to gradually and progressively overcome their inability to sustain concentration as they follow words, comprehend them and get involved in logic and reasoned argument, or engage their imaginations, we have encouraged a book table ministry.
Pause for a moment and comprehend what this ministry involves practically, and has done for a number of years now. Every Lord’s Day, these books must be packed out for display, and then packed away again. Once a month the stock needs to be returned to Pretoria, to Augustine Book Room, and money must be accounted for. New stock is reissued. No profit is made by BBC through the sale of these books. New books are constantly being evaluated, and all needs are being catered for: academic reading, necessarily stimulation for the range of age-groups, and books that address current issues. Many of the books are acquired in order to be sold as gifts. Through it all, the motive is the glory of God as people are challenged and informed by truth. Eddy and Tina, who run the ministry (and others who assist them), are involved in a strategic ministry indeed! They are tireless in maintaining a ministry that invites few accolades, but one which serves the BBC body, and from which many benefit and find very convenient.
Having alerted you to some ministry realities you may have been unaware of, it simply remains for me to encourage you on three fronts:
First, are you making use of this ministry yourself? Are you not simply buying books, but also reading them?
Second, will you consider the strategic eternal value of giving a well-chosen book as a gift this Christmas, with the prayerful desire that the recipient will be nurtured towards greater reading habits?
Third, will you join us in praying fervently for a growing ability within BBC and beyond, to value the printed word and to grow in our collective ability to read and think?