My first expe­ri­ence with a book club of sorts was more like a boot­camp. It hap­pened over 25 years ago, when, much to my delight, I found myself serv­ing as one of the open­ing acts for the beloved Chris­t­ian record­ing artist, Rich Mullins, on a 63-city tour.

Rich was enor­mous­ly gen­er­ous. I would lat­er learn that there is a cer­tain hier­ar­chy to almost all tours, an appro­pri­ate and respect­ful def­er­ence to the head­lin­er. Typ­i­cal­ly, an open­ing act’s sound is qui­eter, the lights less bright. Every­one fol­lows these implic­it rules. Every­one except Rich, appar­ent­ly. Every night he wan­dered out on stage, usu­al­ly bare­foot (so he would­n’t dis­ap­point the fans who had come to count on his shoe­less-ness), to intro­duce me to his audi­ence, com­mand for me their atten­tion, and kind­ly ease me into the spotlight.

Along­side this open-hand­ed­ness, how­ev­er, Rich insist­ed on a sim­ple but demand­ing rule: If you want­ed to be his friend, he had a list of cer­tain books you were required to read. He was not nego­tiable on this.

That’s how the Brother’s Keep­er Tour became, for me, the Rich Mullins Book Boot­camp. Over the three-month tour, I worked my way through Rich’s list. Dako­ta by Kath­leen Nor­ris. John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. There was a third book — the title eludes me now — set in the pio­neer west. And then, the fourth and most impor­tant title in the Mullins canon: Ortho­doxy by G.K. Chesterton.

I was only a few pages into Ortho­doxy when Rich charged into the green room one night to read one of his favorite sec­tions aloud, strug­gling to get the words out over his guf­faws. Huh,” said one of the play­ers in Rich’s band. I’ve been try­ing to read that book for weeks and I didn’t real­ize it was funny.”

Ortho­doxy, writ­ten in 1908, is tru­ly as wit­ty as it is pro­found. But for me and a bunch of the oth­er raga­muffins in Rich’s orbit, we need­ed help to real­ly get Chester­ton. It’s like­ly we nev­er would have dis­cov­ered Orthodoxy’s rich­es with­out both the insis­tence and the guid­ance of a friend who had learned to love it well. That’s the poten­tial mag­ic of a book club — whether one joins vol­un­tar­i­ly or is conscripted.

These days, it brings me much joy to help over­see the Ren­o­varé Book Club. This year, which hap­pens to be the twen­ty-fifth anniver­sary of Rich’s pass­ing, one of the four books of the sea­son will be Ortho­doxy.

While the Ren­o­varé Book Club selec­tion process is com­mit­tee-based and rig­or­ous, I con­fess I cam­paigned for Chester­ton with unabashed­ly biased vig­or. It makes me smile to know that the hun­dreds of folks in the Club this sea­son will be, at least indi­rect­ly, ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the Rich Mullins Book Boot­camp.

You are warm­ly invit­ed to be one of those ben­e­fi­cia­ries. Let me tell you just a lit­tle more about the titles we’ll be read­ing from Octo­ber to May:

Book One: Seek­ing God: Find­ing Anoth­er Kind of Life with Dal­las Willard and St. Ignatius, writ­ten by South African pas­tor and author Trevor Hud­son. In this just-released book, Hud­son draws upon his close friend­ship with Dal­las Willard and his long expe­ri­ence with the Igna­t­ian spir­i­tu­al exer­cis­es to invite us into trans­form­ing, real-time encoun­ters with the risen Christ. It’s pow­er­ful stuff, and we’re thrilled that Trevor him­self will be facil­i­tat­ing our jour­ney through the book.

Book Two: Ortho­doxy, by G. K. Chester­ton. In a 2015 piece in The Atlantic, James Park­er describes Ortho­doxy as a mas­ter­piece of Chris­t­ian apolo­get­ics … onto­log­i­cal basics retailed with a bliss­ful, zoom­ing friv­o­li­ty, Thomas Aquinas meets Eddie Van Halen.” Ren­o­varé staffer and Chester­ton afi­ciona­do Jus­tine Olawsky will help us get the jokes and mine the treasures.

Book Three: Learn­ing Humil­i­ty: A Year of Search­ing for a Van­ish­ing Virtue by Richard Fos­ter. This book comes out in Decem­ber, just in time for the third slot in our sea­son. Using the Lako­ta cal­en­dar as a frame­work, Fos­ter pro­vides us with a look into the insights he gath­ered from sources rang­ing from Native Amer­i­can cul­ture to Julian of Nor­wich to Scrip­ture to per­son­al friends. Richard him­self will be facil­i­tat­ing our read­ing, along­side his friends Bren­da Quinn and Bob Fryling.

Book Four: The Nar­ra­tive of Sojourn­er Truth, by Sojourn­er Truth and Olive Gilbert. First pub­lished in 1850, this book gives us access to the pow­er­ful faith, per­spec­tive, and expe­ri­ences of Sojourn­er Truth, an African Amer­i­can preach­er, abo­li­tion­ist, and women’s rights advo­cate. Ren­o­varé team mem­bers Tina Dyer and Grace Pouch will guide us through this remark­able nar­ra­tive and its asso­ci­at­ed history.

We begin Octo­ber 3rd, and reg­is­tra­tion is open now. (In fact, if you reg­is­ter by Sep­tem­ber 9th, you’ll get Ear­ly Bird Pric­ing.) Mem­ber­ship in the Club includes week­ly pod­casts and exclu­sive resources from the authors/​facilitators, online com­mu­ni­ty, and the option to join or start an in-per­son or video dis­cus­sion group.

In the spir­it of our old pal Rich, we sure do hope you’ll join us in the Club.

Pho­to cred­it Rose­mary Capanna.

Text First Published September 2022 · Last Featured on Renovare.org August 2022

📚 The 2022 – 23 Ren­o­varé Book Club

This year’s nine-month, soul-shap­ing jour­ney fea­tures four books, old and new, prayer­ful­ly curat­ed by Ren­o­varé. Now under­way and there’s still time to join.

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