A lot of people read. Harry Potter books don't sell at 250,000 an hour for nothing. The growth of the publishing industry and the rate at which books are sold in general is pretty astonishing.
Similarly, the popularity of book reading groups is hard to miss. They are all over the TV. Oprah made the idea freakishly common, then the Today Show added one as did Good Morning America. You read the book on your own and then discuss them with local groups and on the internet.
Book reading groups are also in nearly every city and neighborhood in the country. You can look for them meeting in your local bookstore, public library, or coffee shop, and they are advertised in many of these places while meeting in another location, like someone's home.
This has led some organizations to start aiding these groups because it helps their business. For example, Barnes & Noble has a book club section of their website that offers help on starting reading groups at B&N stores and learning how to run a reading group.
And all of this tells me a couple of things. I'm restraining myself to these two ideas, but I hope you will add to them.
First, people are hungry for more than just reading. They want some sort of community and desire to share common experience. We were built for community as the special creation of the God in triune community. It's no wonder people are finding it through books which draw us into experiences that often ring true to our own and desires we were made to desire. I believe C.S. Lewis said, "We read to know we are not alone." Reading groups push that experience beyond books themselves and on to the very communities in which we live. In that sense, books not only help us know we are not alone, but connect us to people who share life and experience with us. Reading can create community.
Second, books and reading groups provide us with a great way to get to know our neighbors. To read and meet with a group can be a fantastic part of missional living. Often we find it difficult to start gospel conversations because we don't know people very well, or because our conversations are rather superficial. But reading groups are already dealing with issues of life and death, truth and fiction, myth and reality, love and hate, revenge and forgiveness, and so on. We get think and talk with those who need Christ about the deepest of emotions and most difficult life questions because books tell us stories about ourselves.
If Christians will get out of our foxholes (where we are shooting at the culture) maybe we will be able to build relationships with people in our communities who love to read. We need to find where people meet and join with them.
A word of caution. We also need to be careful not to find every slightly open door and start vomiting Jesus all over them so that they will hope we don't show up the next month. We need to respect the group time, share honestly about the book which should naturally lead us to speak in redeeming ways, build relationships that grow outside the boundaries of the group and will lead to much more than book lust.
We also need to start creating reading groups of our own. I don't mean Left Behind groups where we try to pawn off our "Break Glass In Case of Rapture" post-rapture kits. I don't mean groups of just Christians. I mean start groups reading and meeting with people around us. Start one on your street, at your coffee shop, or wherever makes sense for you and your community.
How else can we make reading a part of missional living?