What Can We Do? The Ten “P’s”
Now what can we do to encourage and promote the reading of sound, spiritually-edifying literature, particularly among the next generation?
1. Support the Preaching
Deliberately we begin here. Were I not a preacher but a cobbler, I would still begin with preaching, as every Reformed man should.
Pray for the seminary, support the seminary, pray for the minister, see to it that the young people attend the preaching, see to it that young people have a regard for preaching in their own congregations and elsewhere.
What does preaching have to do with reading? Romans 1:16 authoritatively states that the preaching of the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” The power of God unto salvation! The salvation of which Paul speaks is to be understood in the broadest sense. It includes the work of the Holy Spirit, who takes that word of Christ and plunges it deep into the hearts of young people to transform them, renew their minds, and give them a hunger and thirst for the living God and therefore for growth in doctrine. God-glorifying, cross-magnifying, soul-edifying, life-giving, biblically-faithful, Spirit-energized preaching is not a power, but the power of God unto salvation. It kindles in hearts love for God that wants to know more of Him, and that through reading. The best thing you can do to support and encourage reading among the new generation is to support and encourage preaching, because it is God’s power unto salvation.
When that preaching sets forth the wonder of God’s covenant and His faithfulness to it in Christ, God is pleased to use that word to make an eighteen-year-old man go home and pull from his shelf The Battle for Sovereign Grace in the Covenant to behold what God has done through controversy. When the preaching sets forth the wonder of grace in Jesus Christ crucified, as that comes to expression in so many ways in so many different kinds of texts, God uses that preaching to strike a chord in the heart of a sixteen-year-old girl, so that she goes home and she wants to read that book of meditations by her bedside, which she has left untouched for two months. When one in the preaching cries unto the cities of Judah, “Behold your God,” God uses that to work in the heart of a young person to say, “Show me more of my God! Show me Christ!” He goes home, picks up a book, and reads, and reads. Poor or no preaching is reading’s enemy. Support God’s power unto salvation: Preaching.
2. Plant Seeds
Planting seeds refers to the activity of all those parents, family members, unmarried persons, teachers, and officebearers who have an impact upon the life of young people. Let the whole environment in which we live include attitudes, behaviors, and words that are as so many seeds. The heart of the young person is the field. The plant that sprouts up is the reading of a book. The seeds that go into the heart and produce reading are our attitudes, behaviors, and words.
If we who have an influence in the lives of the young people do not read, do not read good books, do not even get the Standard Bearer or other RFPA publications as a bare minimum, or if we dismiss them; if we do not love the truth and have an appreciation for the heritage God has given to us as churches and convey that in attitude and behavior and words; if we do not go to Bible study, or if we do go to Bible study but talk about how bad it is; if we spend more time fidgeting with our gadgets and socializing online than we do openly communicating with our young people in any serious way; if we never talk to our children about spiritual things and are not open to their concerns; if we do not have time for family devotions that include reading, discussion, singing, and prayer, then we are walking around the young people with a big tank of toxic, plant-killing spray hosing down the fields of their hearts, and it would take something just short of a miracle to get them to read solid literature for their spiritual growth.
However, when we who have an influence upon young people plant seeds through attitudes, behaviors, and words that are God-glorifying and covenantally-directed, God will bring plants. We do! He does! When we love and openly speak of our love for God, the church, and our precious heritage as churches; when we read, and the children get used to seeing us reading, or at least having open books and magazines on the table; when we bring books into the home, and reflect on books; when we read to our children, even as they get older; when we are in the van on a long trip and start talking about what we read in a biography of some godly mid-west farm girl in the world-war years, or when the teacher takes a few minutes before class and talks about an article he was reading on a father of the Afscheiding and all of the sacrifices made for the truth at that time, we are planting seeds. Plant seeds! May God bring plants—young people reading.