All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives. Proverbs 16:2 HCSV
On more than one occasion, I have participated in a purge of my library. There are just some books I can’t afford to keep around anymore. From my perspective, they aren’t classics and the information is attainable online.
In that process, I came across several books that were published over 40 years ago by Broadman Press, the publishing arm of the Baptist Sunday School Board (now LifeWay). These books were little 5×7 hardbound editions with blue or grey covers. There were even a few but very few with red covers. A few weeks ago I found a massive set of these little books in a Missouri church library.
These little books were most often used in a dinosaur-ish program on Sunday nights called “Training Union” or “Church Training.” Some of our faithful Pathway readers remember those studies. Through those studies, they learned powerful insights that shaped their understanding of God at work in and through their lives and about how to be a solid churchman or churchwoman.
Some of the little books were January Bible Study guides or Bible study “light.” Whoever thought you could do a serious Bible study of Romans in 120 pages? No one. But the books were like skipping a flat rock across the surface of a pond. They gave you an overview of the Bible book you happen to be studying in January.
Most of the books offered insights directed at methods and information about how to be a more effective follower of Christ. It was an attempt to train a generation with the practical aspects of church life. Some of the books offered insight on developing an evangelistic Bible study group or caring for someone who was grieving or Biblical stewardship or how to be an effective leader in your local church.
Someone might say those little books may have been for a previous generation but our Southern Baptist churches desperately need some help in training people who belong to our churches about the mechanics of church life. The good news is that Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, has been doing that very thing.
What goes around, comes around.
You may be familiar with some of his little books to help churches such as Simple Church, The Unchurched Next Door, Autopsy of a Deceased Church or I Am a Church Member. Each of these little works offer insights for those who don’t want to do a heavy study but need help with “doing church” in this generation.
Just this week, I received an advanced copy of a new book, I Will: Nine traits of the outwardly focused Christian by Thom S. Rainer. The book is scheduled for release right after the Southern Baptist Convention in June. With challenging content and anecdotal stories, this book tackles the struggle believers often face with belonging to the community of saints called the local church. Church life is community life and sometimes it is joyous and sometimes it is challenging.
“I Will” is a simple journey through what it takes to be part of the body of Christ. Rainer acknowledges that part of the problem many church members face is an attitudinal problem. He says that without the right attitude, “we submit to legalistic guidelines. We become frustrated. We burn out.” The overarching problem is that we often serve anyway with a sack full of unfulfilled expectations of people and church leaders. This is a powerful lesson that changes the motivation of the heart.
Right after his appeal for an attitude of gratitude in a church member’s life, Rainer then unpacks seven key disciplines of faith and concludes with an appeal. He appeals to the church member to be an instrument of God that promotes “a movement of revival in our churches.”
This kind of insight is brand new for some believers. For others, especially our seniors, it is teaching we’ve learned before. Whether we are mature or new in Christ, we need to adjust our attitude from the plague of individualism to being humble, grateful members of God’s forever family. We need to move from “I am” to “I will.”