Yesterday, I wrote about why we give away free books in our church service. You can read that here. Despite ours not really being a reading culture, I was keen to try and get our people reading good material and discipling one another with it. I saw Mark Dever doing this at Capitol Hill Baptist Church and he encouraged me specifically to do it regardless and not be inhibited by that culture. In the end, there are some good things that will result even if people don’t read as much as they might.
Long before we were doing this in the church, we did try giving out books to our local community. During the lockdown, we put a book box outside church and put three different evangelistic/apologetic books into the boxes. So, in a similar vain to yesterday, I want to offer some reasons you might want to give free books out to your community.
Tells your community you want to speak to them
Even if people don’t take any of your books, the simple act of having a book box with free books for your community to take tells them you want to communicate with them. They can see that you have something to say to them. Admittedly, they might not know what that is (or care what that it) but it makes clear to them you want to speak to them.
Tells your community what you want to say to them
Again, even if nobody actually takes any books, the title normally conveys something about the book. For example, our community is over almost exclusively South Asian Muslim. So, we gave away free copies of Your Questions Answered: A Reply to Muslim Friends by E.M. Hicham. Just the title of that book tells them that we want to answer the questions our Muslim neighbours may have about Christianity and that we consider them friends. They may not take the book, but if they even see the title they will get that much. Similarly, we gave out Urdu copies of Ultimate Questions. This conveys that we want to communicate to people in their own language and that we want to answer their questions. These are just two examples of what we have given away, but other things we have put in our book boxes convey other things again. Minimally, the titles of the books communicate something to your community.
Gives people access to apologetic and evangelistic material
Whether people take the books or not, it gives everyone who walks past your building access to evangelistic and apologetic material. If somebody is interested in the case for Christ or reasons to believe, they will see they can access these things from outside your church. If you change the books in there regularly, you may find people coming back to pick up new material as it goes in. If people want answers to their questions or more understanding, it is available to them easily this way. Putting a book box outside your church gives people easy access to gospel material that they might not otherwise access.
Allows people to quietly access the gospel
Some people are shy. Some are embarrassed. Some have cultural baggage. All of these things make it very difficult for some people to wander into church buildings. They can make it even harder for them to come up to a living, breathing Christian and ask them anything. Having a book box outside your church allows shy, embarrassed people with cultural baggage to quietly pick up evangelistic material and read it quietly. They may not feel able or ready to come in, but they can nonetheless access the truths of the gospel.
Provides a stepping stone for people coming into church
Whilst the Lord can save people by whatever means he wills, often coming to faith is a process. Some people may not be ready to step into a church, but they might be willing to take a book. As they take one, and then maybe quietly return and take another, the Lord may be working in their heart. As he works in them, this may be means he is using to draw people to himself and bring them to a point of being able to come into the church. Through reading what you put outside, people may grow in confidence about what they will hear inside.
It is simple, cheap and easy
It bears saying, many churches are time and money poor. Perhaps your church feels at capacity with the evangelistic activities it is doing. Maybe you don’t have many people to commit to more work. Sticking a book box outside your church is cheap, easy and doesn’t really require any man-power. All that is required is a stack of books being refilled whenever the existing pile runs down. There is nothing hard about it, doesn’t need anyone to man it, it runs itself. Whilst it probably shouldn’t be the start and end of your evangelistic ministry, it is a simple and effective thing to do that costs very little and requires almost no man-power at all.