P&R Publishing, 2016. 256pp.
Christian Living/Personal Growth/Personal Bible Study
Hungry is two good books in one. Rondi Lauterbach wants her readers to feed their souls with Christ by ingesting the Word of Christ so she spends the first half of her book whetting our appetites and the second half showing us how to gain spiritual nourishment from the Scriptures.
Part One is a mini-theology of spiritual hunger. Lauterbach reminds us just how deep our cravings are and the twisted lengths to which we’ll go to find soul satisfaction. Spiritual hunger is a good God-given thing, but it has become corrupted and cursed and needs to be rescued. Jesus Christ has come as the Bread of Life. He is more than enough to feed our souls. Rondi says, “Bring your hungry to his plenty.”
Part Two is a mini-class in Christ-centered Bible study. Continuing to exploit the biblical metaphor of food, Lauterbach lays out a simple recipe for reading, analyzing, understanding, and applying the Scriptures. She compares it to eating a well-prepared meal–preparing the cook, prepping the right ingredients, gathering the right tools, taking the right shortcuts, actually consuming the meal, and also sharing it with others. Because of her clear, sweet, readable, friendly writing voice this extended metaphor rings true and never feels forced.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
Hungry will encourage Christian women (Lauterbach’s main audience) to pick up their Bibles once again. My wife Heather scooped this book up and she gobbled it down. Heather felt as though Rondi was speaking directly to her like a happy older friend from church who understands the heavy pressures of life on Christian women yet has learned how to carve out time in the Word and draw out its savory sustenance.
Heather says that most books on Bible study unintentionally heap condemnation on the ladies who read them. They set up unrealistic expectations of what Bible intake will look like in practice, and when ladies fail to meet that standard, they give up in shame. But Rondi sets up her readers for success, while serving up meat instead of milk.
Rondi’s chapter on shortcuts, for example, argues that we all need them because “we’re always bumping up against our limits,” but the real question is which shortcuts are the good ones that we can take without sacrificing anything important? She offers eight things to look for in any passage that will zoom readers to finding Christ on every page (four about God and four about us).
For me personally, the chapter on application was the most significant. Rondi points out that application (eating) is not just “what to do” but a transformation of who I am. Food changes us. I know in my head that Bible intake should not lead to moralism or legalism, but this chapter helped me to see and feel it more clearly. When I’m truly nourished by something, it gets digested and metabolized, and I am not the same person I was before eating. I am energized and changed.
But, as a pastor, my favorite chapter by far was the last one where Lauterbach reminds her readers that we aren’t supposed to just study the Bible on our own. We need the church. I don’t know of another book on Bible study that seriously mentions the role of preaching and lifts high the importance of hearing the word of God together. Rondi shows the dangers of individualistic Bible study and encourages her readers to feast on Christ at the table set by faithful expositors in the community of the redeemed.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
This review was contributed by Matt Mitchell, pastor of Lanse Evangelical Free Church, Lanse, PA.