Saturday, November 9, 2013

2014 Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge

This will be the second full year I'll be hosting the Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge. I hope you'll join me!

The title of this reading challenge comes from Hebrews 12:1-2, which reads "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." (KJV) If the KJV isn't quite for you,

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NASB)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)
For an author to qualify for this reading challenge, they must be among "the cloud of witnesses".... in other words, they must be dead. I think it isn't always easy for readers to pick up Christian classics. Perhaps because it isn't always easy to know exactly where to start. Perhaps because people think that they will be difficult to understand--that the language will be too difficult, the style too complicated. Perhaps because people question if a book will still be relevant. I believe that there are some AMAZING, GREAT, WONDERFUL, MUST-MUST-MUST reads out there waiting to be discovered.

Examples of qualifying authors:
  • John Stott (1921-2011)
  • D. James Kennedy (1930-2007)
  • James Montgomery Boice (1938-2000)
  • Loraine Boettner (1901-1990)
  • J. Vernon McGee (1904-1988)
  • Corrie Ten Boom (1892-1983)
  • Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981)
  • Watchman Nee (1903-1972)
  • C.S. Lewis (1898-1963)
  • A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)
  • Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957)
  • A.W. Pink (1886-1952)
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945)
  • G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
  • R.A. Torrey (1856-1928)
  • Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
  • A.B. Simpson (1843-1919)
  • Oswald Chambers (1874-1917)
  • E.M. Bounds (1835-1913)
  • Andrew Murray (1828-1917)
  • Alexander Whyte (1836-1921)
  • J.C. Ryle (1816-1900)
  • Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
  • Charles Hodge (1797-1878)
  • Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
  • George Whitfield (1714-1770)
  • John Wesley (1703-1791)
  • William Law (1686-1761)
  • Richard Baxter (1615-1691)
  • John Owen (1616-1683)
  • John Bunyan (1628-1688)
  • Stephen Charnock (1628-1680)
  • John Flavel (1627-1691)
  • Matthew Henry (1662-1714)
  • Martin Luther (1483-1546)
  • John Calvin (1509-1564)
  • Brother Lawrence (1605-1691)
  • Thomas Watson (1620-1686)
  • Thomas Manton (1620-1677)
  • Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)
  • Saint Augustine (354-430)
So what "counts" for this challenge? Well, the goal is to get you acquainted with different authors. So any reading material will count: no matter the length. It can be an article of a few pages; an individual sermon or a collection of sermons; it can be a book of quotes by that person; it can be a biography or autobiography about the person; you might find full-length books available online, or individual sermons online. And of course it doesn't matter if it's a book-book, e-book, or audiobook.

So how do I find books? Some authors will still be in print. Others won't be. Plenty of qualifying books can be found at Amazon for Kindle or Barnes & Noble for Nooks. Plenty can be read online or downloaded as pdfs. 

A great place to begin might be Free Grace Broadcaster. They've got subject-themed newsletters with articles by various authors. Topics include "The Work of Christ," "Worship," "Heaven," "The Resurrection." 

I also recommend Christian Classics Ethereal Library

So how many books are required? 

If you're completely new to christian nonfiction (christian living, theology, bible commentaries, bible studies, etc.) then I'd like to challenge you to read ONE or TWO books. If your first attempt is too tough, or proving not-for-you, try again. Don't assume that just because one author isn't working for you, that no author will. 

If christian nonfiction is something you're comfortable reading, I'd like to challenge you to read four to six books for this challenge. 

What I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see is for people to share quotes from what they're reading. I'd love to see readers recommend books to one another. So while I'd never, ever require participants to write book reviews, if you have a blog, I'd love for you to share quotes occasionally with your readers and let me know about it. If you don't have a blog, you could always leave quotes in the comments here. (Trust me, I'd welcome some relief from spam comments.)

Sign up for the challenge by leaving a comment on the blog. If you want you can suggest an author that I've left off the list.

The dates for the challenge are January 1, 2014 to December 31, 2014.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Monica said...

Count me in! I have several on my shelf just waiting.

Unknown said...

Sounds great. I have some that fit already and love many of these like J. Vernon McGree.

Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic challenge! Count me in :) - Maggie @ An American in France

Book Dragon said...

Count me in. I'm going to need to dig to find the dead ones {snicker}. I do have access to material online that should fit right in with this.

here's my post

Starwood Quilter said...

Our pastor has been going through Hebrews with us every Sunday, so I am excited about doing this challenge with you. We just talked about the "great cloud of witnesses" today!

Lois said...

Very excited about this! Hoping to get in five books!

Anonymous said...

Hi Becky. I saw this at Joyful Reader's and plan to join in - I am working on a post about it now. I wanted to see if a book by L. E. Maxwell called Crowded to Christ (highly recommended by a former pastor) was ok as well as Traveling Toward Sunrise by Mrs. Charles E. Cowman, author of Streams in the Desert.

Anonymous said...

I'm in! I'm committing to reading four. I thought I had left a comment here before asking about a couple of authors, but I don't see it. One was L. E. Maxwell and the other was Mrs. Charles E. Cowman (she wrote Streams in the Desert but the book I have is a different title).

Lisa notes... said...

I'm only officially committing to two new ones (I've read a lot of "cloud of witnesses" authors already): G. K. Chesterton and Frank Laubach. But I hope to read more than that, especially in smaller doses. Looking forward to hearing what others are reading and seeing quotes! A great challenge. Thanks for hosting.

Susan said...

I'm joining in this one too! I have books by Andrew Murray, AW Tozer, EM Bounds planned: 2 by Murray, and 1 each by the others. Looking forward to it!

Lisa notes... said...

I thought I'd left a comment already too, but obviously not. ha. I'm in!

SusieQ said...

I would love to try this challenge. I love some of those authors you listed.

Unknown said...

Finished The Pursuit of God by Tozer

Unknown said...

Finished Genesis (three volumes) by J. Vernon McGee. Excellent, love starting out with Genesis every year. I think I will go to McGee's The Gospel of John commentary now.

Unknown said...

Finished by Dwight L. Moody. I enjoyed these easy to understand but deep Christian messages by D.L.Moody. I really will need to listen to it again soon because there was so much there. Any Christian can use the truths that are found here and any one seeking or questioning their relationship with God will find direction and peace.

Lisa notes... said...

Finished Frank Laubach's "Letters by a Modern Mystic." Great encouragement here to seek God in the ordinary moments of every day.

My review is here:

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Is it too late to join? I just picked up AW Tozer this morning.

Becky said...

Amy, it's never too late to join! Welcome!