Any minister who has ever moved from one home or office to another knows the scourge of every ministerial move: packing and unpacking the books.
My move from Louisville to Birmingham at the beginning of 1987 included with it the obligatory transfer of my ministerial library. My wife suggested an alternate arrangement for my books, but I assured her that I would, indeed, read them one of these days. (Fortunately, I was blessed with an understanding spouse who has finally quit sighing loudly every time I bring a new book home.)
Each time I move, I do go through the shelves carefully, selecting an armful of volumes I can sell at the local used bookstore; by the time I am done in such places of temptation, I usually bring home two armloads for every one I sold.
This move the books filled more than 40 cartons, and I determined (as each of us does once or twice in his life) to unpack them in a logical, orderly way that would insure the ready accessibility of each volume whenever I needed it. I promised myself a system.
It is one thing to pack 40 cartons of books with the best of intentions; it is quite another thing to carry through on those intentions when you can’t enter the kitchen for the book boxes stacked there. Potential systems quickly succumb to greater priorities, like hunger.
Once opened, boxes of books seem to defy simple organization. The same book often seems appropriate for several “theme areas” I may have chosen. For example, what do you do with a book that explores theological themes in the New Testament and contains superb preaching material? Does it go under “Theology” or “New Testament” or “Preaching Resources”? (In my library it went under the wobbly leg of my desk. Can I help it if it was the correct size?)
Then there’s the problem with authors. It seems highly inflammatory to place Clarence Macartney right alongside Harry Emerson Fosdick, doesn’t it? The very thought of allowing Luther and Erasmus to coexist on the same shelf caused my bookcases to shiver. And should I put my pre-millenial, post-millenial and a-millenial volumes on the same shelf? How ecumenical can a bookcase be and still maintain its doctrinal integrity?
The major post-move difficulty was the realization that some bookshelves apparently escaped someplace between here and Nashville. That’s the only reason I can fathom for why there are now more books than shelves. It seems that my bookshelves disappear faster than socks in a dryer.
So I’m making a belated New Year’s resolution: from now on, I’m not buying any more books. Nope, not another one. Zondervan, Broadman, John Knox Press and the rest will just have to find someone else to provide those cost-of-living increases for their staffs.
How am I going to do it? Well, just yesterday I saw a great new book on self-discipline, and …

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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