Remember the kid in elementary school who
was teased for reading too much? You know, the girl with thick glasses
who didn’t care if she was picked last for kickball because she was too
engrossed in a new book. She’d sit alone at recess, lost in a vivid
world that came alive in her imagination with every page turned.
Fast-forward 30 years, and it’s funny how
the tables can turn on “bookworms” like her. They’re typically the ones
now leading corporate boardrooms, arguing federal court cases and
pioneering new technologies. Finance expert Dave Ramsey says a common
thread among the world’s most financially successful people is their
discipline of reading a book almost every week.
I’m not into measuring success by your
salary or your profession. Nor am I saying all kids with insatiable
appetites for reading end up geniuses. But it’s undeniable that books
are powerful, positive life-shapers. In a day when dozens of other media
offer more instant gratification, and in an era in which the digital
tsunami has drastically altered our cultural landscape and
intelligence—for better or worse—books still matter.
Why must I state what’s been a given for
hundreds of years? Because when you can carry entire libraries in your
pocket (God bless smartphones), you begin to take for granted the power
of a single book. That’s exactly what’s happening today, and sadly, we
are forgetting that, amid the onslaught of “access anything, anywhere,
anytime” information, books can still change things as nothing else can.
There are countless examples of this, but
I can’t think of one better suited to highlight in the context of this
magazine than David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade. In
late April, the Christian world mourned the sudden loss of this
spiritual giant (whom we pay tribute to in this issue), yet his legacy
will remain through his written words. Wilkerson’s powerful 1963 account
of how he risked everything to show God’s love to gang members in New
York City (particularly in Brooklyn and the Bronx) has affected millions
around the world—and is still as riveting today as it was back then.
Sure, reading habits may have changed since Wilkerson penned his first
book, but the spiritual value contained on those printed pages has not.
I was reminded of this when I visited
Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., to write this month’s cover story and
saw firsthand what a “revival culture” looks like after 15 years of
passionately pursuing God’s presence as a community of believers. Bethel
isn’t just a revival culture, it’s a reading culture too.
Everywhere I went, people were talking about books by Bethel leaders.
Why? Because those books carry the DNA of the church, which in turn, is
the very DNA of the Holy Spirit moving there.
We’ve highlighted those and other books
throughout this issue not as a generic reminder for you to read more.
Instead, I hope they whet your appetite to open their pages and—as only
books can do—have your life changed.