I wish to write a few words about one of my favorite places—libraries. Whenever my wife and I go on a little trip, one of the places I like to stop at and look around in for a while, even sit down in briefly, is a library—typically city libraries or college libraries. (My wife even tells me to look the other way when I pass by a library, knowing I might want to halt there.)
The reason I like libraries is first, because I like books (not unusual for ministers) and second, because it gives me a glimpse into the community—its local history, sites, and interests. In the case of college libraries, they give me an insight into what they are teaching there.
A little browsing of their religious bookshelves will tell you very quickly whether it is theologically liberal or conservative; and whether it is Reformed or of another religious persuasion.
And that makes me think of some other libraries—specifically, church libraries and personal libraries. I have been in quite a few churches and like to look around a bit in them, including whether they have a library and where that library is located. In some churches it is off their fellowship hall, visible and accessible. In other churches, it is hidden—in a basement room, or in some small nook. That makes me wonder how much such libraries are valued and used. I have a feeling they are regarded by many people as not that important. Only a few members ever visit them, or take out a book.
They may have a section of children’s books, for children to take out and enjoy. Or they may have a fair number of popular Christian fiction books, which mostly women like to read. Or they may stock videos and CDs for children and adults to take out.
But one section, or portion of bookshelves, that is typically neglected contains religious nonfiction books: Bible commentaries and dictionaries, books on Christian doctrine or on Christian living, the family, ethical issues, evangelism and missions. Many of those books rarely get taken out, so it seems. Some are old and dated besides.
So, here I come to my point. God’s people need to cultivate a greater desire to read and learn from the numerous books available that will help us grow in our knowledge of the Word of God and how we must live in obedience to it in our secular age. We need to hunger for and be filled with knowledge that has eternal value. And church libraries are one good way to help us in that.
That must be true of our homes as well. We need the Bible above all, to be sure. But in addition, we need to have a shelf of books that provide further spiritual instruction—Bible commentaries and study guides and books that teach us and inspire us for Christian living.
The prophet Hosea wrote long ago, “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6, English Standard Version). God’s warning is applicable to our times as well. We live in an age where entertainment has become uppermost in people’s lives, including Christians’ lives. We often spend many hours watching television and movies, or sports and shows, or exercising in fitness centers, or having fun. But that does not make for strong Christians or churches. We need above all to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as Peter ends his second letter (2 Peter 3:18).
So visit your church library this Sunday, and build up your own home library, for your spiritual benefit. And by the way, check to see if your library also carries The Outlook. Better still: get it in your own home.
Rev. James Admiraal is a member of the board of Reformed Fellowship, Inc.