Books That Can Change Lives

On November 3, I was honored at the annual InterVarsity Fall Leadership Meetings in recognition of my 42 years with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and my upcoming retirement in February. About seventy key people from across the country in InterVarsity attended. After hearing some generous comments from Interim President Jim Lundgren and IVP Publisher Bob Fryling, they let me offer a few words. Here is what I said.


My first encounter with InterVarsity came in high school in 1968 when someone gave me a copy of a book by an American living in the heart of Europe. It was Escape from Reason by Francis Schaeffer. That was the beginning of a nearly 50-year journey for me.

I am

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so grateful for the ways I have been shaped and molded and guided by InterVarsity and the people in InterVarsity as a high school student in Minnesota reading IVP books, as a college student involved in a chapter at the University of Denver, as a campus staff member in St. Louis, and as an editor at IVP in Chicago.

But as profoundly as God has used IV in our lives, Phyllis and I are most grateful for how InterVarsity staff and students have touched our four children. As a parent, we have always prayed that God would bring other mature Christians into the lives of our sons and daughter, and IV did that for each of them. So on behalf of all the parents of all the students you and your teams are connected to, we say thank you for paying attention to the spiritual lives of our children.You are all heroes.

In addition to a word thanks, I also have a charge for you. One of the pivotal influences in the life of our daughter Susan was a book she read in college that set a course for her calling in life which she lives out today, fifteen years later, as a lawyer in Chicago doing advocacy work for children in very difficult circumstances. The book was Good News about Injustice, an IVP book given to her not by her father, but by an InterVarsity staff member.

Look back on your own spiritual development. I am sure if I talked to each of you, you could also name a book or two or three that has continued to have profound effects on who you are, what you are doing and how you do it. It may have been a book on evangelism or prayer or justice or mission or culture or community.

So my charge to you is this: Do not deprive your students of the grace that can come from a book that could change their lives. When Phyllis was an IV Area Director, she required each of her staff to make reading part of their annual goals, just 15 minutes a day. One staff complained and groused and objected that he was not a reader, didn’t like reading, didn’t have time to read. But Phyllis didn’t back down. Weeks later when they got together for a supervision visit she asked how the reading was going. He said, “It has transformed my ministry. Now I have something to talk to my students about.”

If you don’t read, your staff won’t read. If your staff don’t read, your students won’t read. Do not deprive your students of the grace that can come from a book that will change their lives.

Photo credit: Cindy Bunch

3 responses to “Books That Can Change Lives”

  1. Yes! “Just 15 minutes a day” is what I heard as a new staff member. That nicely got stretched. Congrats on your many wonderful years of serving the King through the gift and grace of excellent Christian books.

  2. David–15 minutes a day means 15 books a year is still a good rule of thumb. Thanks for your good words. Andy