There’s no shame in admitting it: we’ve all found ourselves reading a crazy bad book. I’m not talking crazy bad as in poorly written (though there’s that, too). No, by “crazy bad” I mean the sort of junk that’s typically at the top of the sales charts in Christian bookstores but bears little resemblance to biblical Christianity. Jesus Calling, Your Best Life Now, The Shack, Crash the Chatterbox1… Stuff like that.
There’ve been a few times when I’ve found out someone I know has been reading a crazy bad book and my reaction… well, it probably wasn’t what it should have been. Rather than being a rational human being, my response tended to be of this variety:
(I’m not saying it was right, I’m just saying it’s what happened.)
Now, when friends are reading crazy bad books, should we be concerned? Yep, absolutely. If we’re not, we’re probably not the best friends in the world. But what should we do, since grabbing the book out of your friend’s hands and setting it on fire probably isn’t the best solution—unless you don’t really want to be friends with that person anymore, that is.
Rather than the “smash and grab” approach, I recommend a different take, which is to do as the Bible encourages: correct with gentleness and patience (2 Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 4:2). Here are a few recommendations as to how to do this well:
1. Check yourself (lest you wreck yourself). This point could also be titled “take a deep breath and count to ten”. Reacting in the moment is always a bad idea as I know firsthand (but that’s a post for another time). Take a second, count to ten, do whatever you’ve got to do in order to not run into a situation with guns blazing. (This also includes praying, so no, I didn’t leave it out of the list.)
2. Know your facts. Don’t give your friend a carefully prepared research brief. Just make sure you’re not running off of hearsay. If you’ve got concerns about Jesus Calling, for example, you could grab a copy from the library, and/or do a bit of research, giving preference to the feedback of trustworthy sources (aka, reasonable human beings) over the guys who are angry about everything and everyone. All the time. Forever. In life. This can save you a lot of grief later on (trust me).
3. Be honest about having questions and/or concerns. Don’t be dishonest. Don’t pretend that you’re curious about the book because you might want to read it because your friend will see through that. Tell the truth—that you’ve heard some questions raised about whatever book is being read, and you’re curious about what your friend is learning from it. At this point, you might find out there’s no issue at all. They might be reading the book simply because a well-meaning friend recommended it to them and they know it’s whack (as is what happened when a woman loaned Emily a Kenneth Copeland book once).
4. Ask thoughtful questions. Not, “Don’t you agree that this thing on page 104 is whack?” since that’s whack, too. Try the “help me understand” approach—ask things like, “Can you tell me what’s appealing to you about this book?” and “what are you learning from it?”
5. Hold your tongue before responding. This is your second-chance to check yourself lest you wreck yourself. Listen carefully to what’s being said since your friend’s answers will probably reveal more than he or she expects. If you’re listening well, you’ll probably find the thing you actually need to address, which might have nothing to do with why they’re reading this super-bad book in the first place.
I realize this isn’t terribly groundbreaking, and it’s not as fun as wild overreactions. But it’s worth doing, especially when you learn you have no cause for concern or you get the opportunity to see someone won over with a gentle word (Prov 25:15).