Reading for the Common Good

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Recently I began reading the newest release of Christopher Smith, Reading for the Common Good: How Books Help our Neighborhoods and Churches Flourish. Thanks to IVP for a review copy! Smith is also the co-author of Slow Church.

The book, and its somewhat unique thesis, flows from the practice of Smith’s own church in Indianapolis. What’s the main premise?

In this book, we will view the local church as a sort of learning organization, in which both learning and action lie at the heart of its identity. We will explore the practice of reading – perhaps the most important component of learning in the twenty-first century—and consider how we can read together in ways that drive us deeper into action. (p17)

In reading for the common good, Smith and his church believe this practice plays a part in the ultimate goal of God reconciling all things to himself (Col 1:20). It seems a small part of such a vast work of reconciliation, and perhaps it is, but Smith believes his local church finds renewal through such reading. Thus, his church has embraced the exercise of “reading broadly as we seek to interpret Scripture and to embody Christ in our particular time and place: theology, history, urban theory, ecology, agriculture, poetry, child development, economics, fiction and more” (p17).

Many read for the purpose of knowledge, with that knowledge simply puffing them up (1 Cor 8:1). I know; I’ve been there plenty of times. But there is an intentional and deeply spiritual focus that can come through the discipline of reading, one that can genuinely transform us toward divine love that builds up.

Perhaps I’ll share more thoughts on the book in the future once I finish, but suffice it to say I am thankful for a book that considers how reading can be a truly transformative practice for our local churches and local neighborhoods.

Let’s read more together and, as Smith says, let it “drive us deeper into action.”

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