One popular ice-breaker question goes like this: "If you could have dinner with one famous person, living or dead, who would it be?" The supposition is that this person would be someone you find fascinating and would like to learn something from. Well, I find a way to have that dinner. It's just spread out across 365 consecutive days. Each year, I choose one author and read all of his or her works. People I share this with love the idea. So, I wanted to talk about why I do this and the benefits I've found that lie within.
I haven't been at this long. I started only two years ago. This will be my third year. The first year, I took an easy one - Tim Keller. I say easy because his writing is current and fits with the modern ear very well. His books are easy to find and easy to read. He's still publishing like crazy, so two years removed I haven't read all his works anymore. But at the time, I had.
What I discovered in doing this was that I understood Keller's way of thinking. I saw the totality of his ministry philosophy and communication style. I saw the nuances of his theology and the beating of his heart for post-modern, individualistic, intelligent-but-unbelieving, urban people. That helped me see how one man (one of the most important pastors of our generation, in fact) sees and interprets the world in light of the Bible. Keller knows how to preach to the heart, and if I am ever going to be able to do that with any skill at all, I want to see the works of a man who has done it for so many years.
This past year, I read through Francis Schaeffer's works. Crossway published a five volume collected works. I found it at a used bookstore for $15. I have no idea which fool put that there! What Schaeffer gave me was a knowledge base that extended beyond my education. His understanding of art and philosophy taught me to see the secular world as a cry for God. He showed me how to use cultural idols as a gateway to a gospel presentation. He showed me the beauty of community and the importance of clear, biblical teaching for all times and for all people.
This year I'm reading John Bunyan. I'm three books in and my heart is bursting from the wisdom of God from his pen. Bunyan understood the importance of the cross. He knew the role of faith. He knew the love of God. He felt his need for a Savior. His writing shows. His pastoral heart beats for the revelation of the glory of God. I've found a new friend.
This is one of my favorite annual rituals because I can crawl inside of one person's mind and see what they see. I can get a fuller understanding of God's purpose and intention in one life and see how their ministry, which is so effective, was built, sustained, and expanded. Aside from the knowledge both Keller and Schaeffer impart, I see the love of Jesus and the life of spirituality both men live(d). Through their writings, I witness the grace of God at work. I see the love of Jesus bursting forth from the pages. I see his glory.
It's like having that dinner every day for a year. You've had time to talk about all kinds of different issues. You begin to think like them in some ways, and know what they mean when they say certain things, and can see the world through another set of eyes. Reading an author's collected works achieves this same thing. I have never met either Keller or Schaeffer, but I consider them both friends.
So, to alter the question just a little bit, if you could read any one author's collected works in 2017, who would it be?