Spiritual Growth, Spines and Covers

Over the years I have recommended hundreds, if not thousands, of books. People regularly get in touch and ask for recommendations and it’s a joy to give them, it’s one of the reason this blog was started. But books, and the regular reading of books, isn’t enough. You can have the best argument on the page in front of you, you can be challenged and stretched so much, but if it stops there did it really impact you?

But we don’t only do it to ourselves, a lot of what some people call ‘discipleship’ is actually merely throwing a book in someones direction and hoping that ‘sorts them out’ or answers their questions. Don’t get me wrong I love books and reading and books can be helpful tools in discipleship, but they must be used well.

Spiritual growth isn’t dependent on the size of your library or your academic muscles. I’ve known men and women with little desire to read and who have no degree in theology but who are on fire for the Lord and are wise because they know Jesus. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come from having a massive library and countless degrees under your belt.

Spiritual maturity comes through people spending time with Jesus, it comes through living out the gospel and experiencing God.

A book is an invitation, not an end goal. It’s easy to treat book as downloads, you’ve gone through it then you toss it aside and it gathers dust on a shelf. But book are invitations to expand your mind, challenge your heart, consider the way you live and help you think about topics that are beyond your comprehension.

Thinking in terms of the Christian faith and theology, if our reading merely becomes about gaining head knowledge then we’ve missed the mark. All theology should lead to doxology (worship) and theology that doesn’t lead to a changed head, heart and hands says more about you than it does the doctrine.

There’s a difference between knowing about something and knowing something. Simply knowing about God is easy. One can know about God’s character and how He interacts with His people. One can know about what God has done throughout history to win a people for Himself. But if you KNOW those things your life will never be the same again.

Head knowledge is good, but it helps your spiritual growth and maturity most when it comes into contact with real people, real situations and real mess.

That’s why a pastor’s role is not to be stuck in an office for a whole week writing a sermon. Their role is to be in and amongst the people, helping both the preacher and the listener see how the Bible should impact our lives day to day and challenge our hearts and minds.

A book is an invitation to take the ideas, points, applications, philosophies, etc. and put them into practice. Don’t reduce your spiritual growth to a ‘have read’ book pile. Don’t reduce discipleship to a book club. Don’t make the Bible a theological text book that creates big heads but nothing more. Spiritual growth and maturity aren’t found being spines or between book covers, they’re found in lived experience walking with Jesus.

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