The people's voice of reason

It Looks Good On The Shelf

One of the ministry traditions I grew up with is that older ministers would often give us younger ministers a treasured book—either one from their libraries or a copy of one they found encouraging.

I think this tradition is all but over now.

Many of us older pastors have tried to give away portions of our libraries we’re not using now, only to find that the “young bucks” don’t value books like we do. Research suggests the typical pastor in my day acquired a library worth $50,000 or more. I think that’s true since we bought commentaries and study materials a few at a time over 30 or 40 years of ministry.

But younger pastors have been raised in the Internet era. I must say, it’s easier to find information online than digging through textbooks, but my generation loves to hold books in our hands and have even been known to use pen and paper as we study!

I saw some ornate books lately at a used bookstore. They had gilt edges and beautifully decorated spines. It reminded me of the time an older minister who was a mentor gave me a beautiful book. And I remember what he said, “This book may not help you, but it will look good on your shelf!”

I think his comment, though spoken in jest, speaks in the same way to the heart of Christian commitment.

One occupational hazard in the Christian life is only looking good. We sit in the same class and on the same pew, we dress up and we say “amen” when appropriate. All of this is fine, but it’s also true that most of our lives (six days out of seven) are lived outside the four walls of the church. It’s to the outside world we’re called not just to look good, but to do good, to help others and to honor the Lord.

The late Robert Schuller gave this as one reason he wished to build a glass church.

“We won’t hide behind stained glass, but as we worship, we’ll see a world outside in need,” he said.

My wife and I visited the Crystal Cathedral many years ago when the Southern Baptist Convention met in Los Angeles, and I must say, it was breath-taking. But whether we’re in a glass church or one built of brick and mortar, what Schuller said is true. We can never substitute the optics of looking good for the biblical command to share the love of Christ with those around us who need to hear.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, we’re redeemed for a reason: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,” (Ephesians 2:10). -30-

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is



Reader Comments(0)

Rendered 07/17/2024 07:07