Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Confessions of a Bibliophile







When I was ordained into the ministry, I began the process of collecting books of all kinds that are commonly used by preachers in preparation of sermons, lessons and Bible studies. Now, some 43 years later I have amassed quite a collection of ministry related books, magazines, and lesson materials. Though I haven't counted the individual books in my library, I have nearly 140 linear feet of shelf space in my office for books and an additional 50 linear feet in bookshelves at home. That's a pretty good collection of books, and it represents years of ministry related expenses probably representing thousands of dollars in purchases.
Now that I am nearing the end of my time in pastoral ministry, I am becoming increasingly aware of changes in attitudes among ministers about maintaining large libraries of books.  My younger cohorts at our church tend to cull their shelves of books on a regular basis. Occasionally, they give some of them to me, and I appreciate that gesture, but I also wonder why it is that the love I have for paper books doesn't seem to be shared by some younger ministers.
Naturally, I am aware that these days books are available in electronic formats on various brands of e-readers. I have my own first generation iPad with 5 different electronic readers loaded on it. I also have dozens of books not taking up shelf space anywhere. Furthermore, I've noticed that electronic books are cheaper than buying paper versions of the same book. But on the other hand, it is not as easy to loan out an electronic book purchased on line unless you share a certain brand of reader with another family member.
More recently, I've heard sad stories of retired ministers who can't give away their books to anyone and are forced to throw them away or donate them to charities. While I don't mind others inheriting my books, I admit to a sad realization that others may not be so likely to place the same value on my books that I have had over the years. Especially, the books I collected over 40 years ago are now looked upon in some literary circles as dated and out of touch with ministry issues of today.
So, what should I do? My wife has already warned me not to even consider bringing all those books home to take up space in our house. I must come up with a different plan than turning rooms in our home into storage shelves for old books. So then, what about this idea? In our church we have a couple of boys who aspire to enter the ministry. One of them is a junior in Bible college, and the other one will soon go to another preacher training school from which I graduated so long ago. I have asked the boy's parents If I could begin donating my books, a box at a time, to these boys so they can start out with ministry libraries of books I have found useful through the years. Thinking back to my Bible college training days, I know I would have been thrilled with such literary largesse. I love to read, and I plan to keep reading as long as my eyes can make out the words on the page. I remember hearing John Maxwell say, "Five years from now, You'll be the same as you are now except for the people you meet and the books you read." I plan to enrich my life on both counts and to do all I can to share my library with others who can see the treasure between the covers and reap the benefits of reading excellent and timeless books.