Theology books? Who’s got the money?

So the other week I wrote about theology books and my goal of reading 15 within the next year. In preparation for starting the list I checked out how much this would cost me. I have a kindle so I am looking to get as many in ebook format as possible.

I totaled up all of the costs and it came out to $139.42. It’s honestly less than I thought it was going to be, but nonetheless it is still a decent amount of money to spend on books. It’s even more than that if you buy them as paperbacks (which is not necessary since Amazon has a free software program to read ebooks on your ipod, ipad, smartphone or computer if you don’t mind reading them electronically). I wanted to find a way to reduce the cost for me and for anyone looking to dig deeper into theology. I found a website ebookfling.com that allows users to lend and borrow ebooks to/from other users. You can borrow any book that another user has made available for 14 days and if you need longer than that you can borrow it an unlimited number of times. Think about it like a virtual library. You borrow an available book until the due date. If you didn’t finish you check it out again until you are finished.

I immediately check out the books I plan on reading and I was severely disappointed. There were only two of the books that I wanted to read that I didn’t already own and only two of them are allowed to be lent. Some publishers or authors do not allow their book to be lent for obvious reasons, but there were two books that I can borrow. The problem is, only one of them has been available for me right now because no one has said they have the other book.

Here is what I am thinking. Don’t we want to have as many people reading theological books as possible? What if we all went on this site and made every book we weren’t currently reading available for lending? What if every author and publisher would allow the lending of their books? It wouldn’t kill the profit margin because libraries have been doing this for a long time, so don’t worry about that. What it just might do is encourage more people to dig deeper into the Bible.

My plan is as soon as I am done reading a theology ebook I will make it available on ebookfling that way anyone who wants to read it can borrow it for free. Maybe there is another way to help get theology books to the masses, I just don’t know it. If you do, please feel free to share as I would love to be able to save money and still read these books.

Theology books? Who’s got the time?

Last November I was in Colorado at my orientation for Greater Europe Mission. There were 12 of us total, 5 couples and two single guys. I quickly realized that I was on a whole different level than these guys. I don’t mean that to sound like they were better than me or I was better than them, but it was obvious that our training levels were vastly different. I had a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Childhood Education from Bowling Green State University and a Master’s in Educational Technology from the University of Florida. Every other guy in our group had at minimum been to a Bible college and some of them had been to seminary as well.

For the most part this wasn’t too obvious, well that is until we had conversations and oh yeah when someone busted out a Calvinism joke. I still have no idea what was so funny. Throughout the week I realized that I didn’t know much about church history and that I have never really gotten to in depth in the Bible either. So i asked two of the guys for a list of “must-read” books on church history and theologians. They gave me a list of several books that I should check out and I immediately put it in my iPod for reference later. That note is still stored in my iPod and I have done exactly nothing with it.

Earlier this week I came across a blog about reading theology books and why no time is no excuse. I definitely recommend you checking it out, but here is a short summary of what the blogger quotes from a John Piper sermon called “Get Wisdom.” He says if you read 250 words in a minute for 15 minutes a day you will read 5475 minutes in a year and 1,368,750 words. He then says that the average page in a book has between 300 and 400 words so you would end up reading 3,910 pages in that year. Depending on how big the books are you are looking at reading between 13 and 20 in a year.

15 minutes a day is totally manageable so I decided to start doing that, as soon as I am done with my current book, and see how well that goes. I am aiming for 15 books within the next year so I decided to make a list of 15 books that I could read. Some are theology, some are church history and some are biographies just so I could add some variety. Here they are in no particular order in case you are curious or want to comment on them:

1. Church History in Plain Language – Bruce Shelley
2. Questioning Evangelism – Randy Newman
3. Speaking of Jesus – Max Stiles
4. Amazing Grace – Eric Metaxas
5. Introducing the Missional Church: What it is, Why it Matters, How to Become One – Alan J. Roxburgh
6. Life with God: Reading the Bible for Spiritual Transformation – Richard J. Foster
7. Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture – Michael Frost
8. God’s Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting – Arthur Wallis
9. Rescuing Ambition – Dave Harvey
10. Branded – Tim Sinclair
11. From the Garden to the City – John Dyer
12. Buck-Naked Faith: A Brutally Honest Look at Stunted Christianity – Eric Sandras
13. Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy – Eric Metaxas
14. Commentary on Romans – Martin Luther
15. Institutes of the Christian Religion – John Calvin

Picture from http://windconcernsontario.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/induced-confusion/

goTandem.com, a pack of tools for your spiritual growth

If you are a friend of mine on facebook or twitter you may have seen a comment from me about trying out this new website that is geared towards helping people in their spiritual growth. The service bills themselves as the following: “If spiritual discovery is a journey, then goTandem is the pack of tools you’ll need for the trip. We’ll equip you with everything you need to be the person you want to be, and we’ll do it every day.”

Let’s start with the video that Tandem uses to introduce themselves to you.

 

 

Let me go over what the service offers and then give you my opinion of it. When you first sign up you have to share some basic information like name, location, how many times you read the Bible last week, e-mail and phone number (not required). Once the basic information is done you fill out a spirituality questionnaire (only one non-multiple choice, don’t worry I don’t think you can fail) that asks you questions about your beliefs like “What do you think happens after death?” and “How well do you know the Bible?” The questionnaire takes around 10 minutes to complete and the only painful part about it is when you realize that you would like to change what you are doing, but that’s why you are using Tandem in the first place, right? Once you are done with the questionnaire Tandem takes you to the subscriptions page where you decide how involved you want Tandem in your life. There are many options. There are five options they give you to choose from. They are: “Encourage Me” phone call, “Hear from God” non-topical phone call or e-mail, “Respond to Him” non-topical text or e-mail, “Take a Step Closer” topical e-mail, and “Relate to Others” topical e-mail. I’ll explain each in more detail later. For each of these options they ask you to choose specific times to receive these and what days as well. Once you are done making those selections is takes you to the dashboard where that days e-mails are displayed for you to check out. For each subscription you can go into your account and make a comment to share with the Tandem community, make it a favorite to look at later when you need an extra pick-me-up or write a journal entry for your own private thoughts.

Alright here are my thoughts. I know you have been reading this blog with baited breath for me to give you my thoughts, so here they are. I have been a member of Tandem for just over a week now and so far I like it a lot. Well, I hope you liked my review, that’s all……….Alright so I guess I can get a little more detailed in what I like about the program and what things I think could be improved. I’m going to break it down into Love, like, not-so-excited about and dislike just to break it down a little.

Love it!

1. The variety of ways of contact. Phone call, text and e-mail make this usable for just about everyone. The best thing about the variety is that they are each optional too. You don’t have to have the phone calls if you don’t want them, or maybe you are still not a big fan of texts, either way you can choose what you want.

2. The Encouragement phone call (completely optional). I had my first one last Thursday and at first it was a little strange since a stranger was calling me, but it ended up being very nice. I answered the phone and the guy on the other end sounded like he genuinely cared about my spiritual growth. He asked me how many times I read the Bible in the last week, what he could pray for me about and then he literally prayed for me right then. There was no judgement and I truly believe he is praying for me this week, maybe even right now. That’s cool to think!

3. The randomness of it all. I chose to be contacted at random times. I don’t know how random it is, because I don’t pay attention to things like that, but it seems like sometimes I am getting a text with a simple verse and question (makes you think about the verse) right when I need it. I got a text while at a men’s breakfast that was from Romans 12:5. It said “With Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.” Then it asked “So you act like that? It was perfect timing. I’m sitting in a room of over 200 guys trying to be better men and we were talking about mentoring and being mentees with other men. It was so cool to get this text at that moment, reinforcing what the Christian community should really be about.

Like it

1. The e-mails are brief for the most part. That allows my short attention span to read it right away and not wait for later (we all know what that means sometimes).

2. Some of the e-mails are topical specifically geared towards me based on my answers in the questionnaire, but not all of them are. I like that because I don’t want to be inundated with e-mails only on specific topics. The non-topical e-mails and texts are kind of like opening the Bible to a random page and reading whatever is there. It doesn’t always hit home, but when it does it is oh so nice!

3. The Bible reading e-mail is nice because if I missed the phone call or wanted to hear it again the e-mail has a link to the audio so I could theoretically save it forever.

Not-so-excited about it

1. The journal and comment parts don’t get me too excited, but honestly I think that is just me. I am sure some of you would love to journal about some of the entries. It’s just not my thing.

2. Linking Tandem to Facebook or twitter so you could share comments or your journal entry would be pretty nice. That way, if you wanted to, you could share with other people what you are learning. I guess I could use copy and paste to create a note on Facebook, but sometimes I’m just lazy and would rather click a share button and have it done for me.

Dislike

1. The Bible reading phone call is nice overall, but if I miss the call and want to hear it on the voice mail sometimes it cuts out the very beginning. Not a huge deal, but I had to have something I disliked, right?

2. The only other thing I dislike is the lack of community beyond the comments. Honestly I am not sure if I would like more community, but it would be interesting to see something where you could have conversations with other people who are maybe on the same topical e-mails as you or something to that effect.

Overall I like Tandem. Like I said, sometimes the texts, e-mails or phone calls seem to come at the right time or have the right verses and words for whatever I am dealing with that day. The bottom line is that Tandem does what it says it is going to do. It helps you get in the Word on a daily basis which I know is something I struggle with sometimes. If you are like me, then try it out. The worst that could happen is you absolutely hate the service then you deactivate it and look for something else that meets your needs. The best that could happen is you love the service and continue daily to grow closer to God. There is definitely more of an upside than a downside.