February 19, 2021

Good Book Club

I spent Valentine’s Day weekend surrounded by more love than I expected.

My husband bought flowers, and we spent the day together doing some of our (new, pandemic) favorite things, and it was a wonderful day. The surprise came on Saturday afternoon.

The Daughters of the King, a churchwide organization of women committed to a Rule of Life and a path of faithful discipleship, held a “Conversations with Daughters” meeting. The topic: the Good Book Club and the Gospel of Mark. They had encouraged their 20,000 members to participate in the Good Book Club and wanted an opportunity to come together to talk about the experience and the message of the gospel. They asked if I would participate, and even though I don’t love Zoom meetings on Saturday afternoons, I accepted the gracious invitation. And goodness am I glad that I did.

Nearly 160 people showed up for the conversation from all across the church. For some, this was their sixth time to participate in the Good Book Club, having made their way through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Romans. For others, this past session during Epiphany was their first experience, and for some, Saturday’s conversation was the first they’d heard about it. But despite various levels of interaction, the women held in common a hunger for the word of God and a love for Jesus. In breakout sessions and a Q&A period, the sentiment was universal: we want to read scripture. We need to read it. God is calling us to read, reflect, and respond.

After having served as project manager for six iterations of the Good Book Club, with tens of thousands of participants, I see this as the lesson that comes through most clearly. People are hungry for God’s Word. Starving. Our job as leaders is to offer the invitation, to create resources that are accessible and engaging, and to support and encourage people on the journey.

As leaders, how can we meet these needs? How do we respond?

First, we lead by example. We read the Bible ourselves. Maybe we’re a part of a study group, perhaps we start each staff meeting with a short Bible study, or maybe it’s an individual devotion. How we incorporate daily scripture into our lives doesn’t matter nearly so much as actually doing it. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned in reading through each of these books. And even though I’m a lifelong Christian, before the Good Book Club, I had only read through a handful of books: Job, for a high school English class; Philemon, which, c’mon, doesn’t really count; and Exodus, with my colleagues. These days, I can sometimes best my seminary-trained husband at Bible-related Jeopardy questions, which appeals to my competitive streak. But way more importantly (obviously!), I can feel a transformation in my spiritual life. The stories of Jesus are at my fingertips instead of tucked away on a shelf. When I’m parenting or dealing with grief or facing a difficult decision, I have on quicker recall what Jesus said about a similar situation. The words of God are part of my regular meal plan instead of a special diet. I read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest. And I am changed.

Second, we invite others to join. In theological circles, there’s much conversation about the true end of the Gospel of Mark. It appears that the original ended with the women fleeing the tomb, saying nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. The ending that we’re most familiar with has Jesus telling his disciples to “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” While there is much to discuss about which ending was intended, I think the important point is that even with the shorter ending, we hear the words, “go, tell.” That is our calling and commission. To go and tell others about Christ. How do we do that? By word and deed, and by the Good Word, the scriptures themselves.
I invite every congregation to focus (at least) one of their formation times on reading directly from scripture—and while following the lectionary is one approach, I suggest trying reading a book from start to finish, straight-though. I’ve found that it gives me context to know what stories precede and come after others. The continuity of one reading into another has taught me new things about God and the different relationships in the Bible. And when I’ve reread a passage or a book, I’ve learned something new. God always has more to say, if only I’ll listen.

Here’s the challenge: As this session of the Good Book Club comes to an end, how will you move from following a program to creating a practice of reading scripture? How will you embed yourself in the word of God so that you can, with confidence, grace, and love, go and tell?

This blog is part of a series for the Good Book Club. Learn more about the Good Book Club here.