Reading is always important for believers and ministry leaders, but with events canceled and sports missing from our lives because of the Coronavirus pandemic, this is an especially great time to read. And to read more than we normally read. Instead of passively streaming more hours of movies and shows, actively read more during this season. Some of my favorite quotes about reading capture reasons why we should, to quote Augustine, “take up and read.”
John Wesley famously said, “Read or get out of the ministry.” He believed that reading from multiple disciplines was important for the minister. By reading we learn about God’s general revelation, how our culture thinks, and how to formulate ideas and communicate those ideas to people.
Descartes is credited with saying; “The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest people of the past centuries.” By reading books of great theologians, we connect to the history of our faith and learn from their wisdom. Through reading, it is almost as if you are sharing a very long meal with Augustine, Lewis, Bunyan, Pascal, etc.
Thomas Aquinas warned, “Beware of the person of one book.” By reading broadly we are able to broaden our perspective and our ability to connect with people who think differently than we do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped, “If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.” We are developed through our reading, so choosing to not read is choosing to stagnate our mental growth.
But it is not only mental and social growth that occurs through reading. John Piper suggested reading great authors, such as John Owen or Jonathan Edwards, to help one read the Bible better (link). We grow spiritually when we interact with godly leaders whose writings stir our affections for the Lord.
People who know that I love to read often ask me my approach to reading, so here it is. Here is how I have been reading for the last twenty years, averaging two to three books a week.
1. Set categories you want to read.
The categories I choose change at the beginning of every year, when I set them, but I always have 4-5 categories in which I am reading. Examples would be: Christian Classics, Theology, Leadership, Culture, and topics related to upcoming teaching series.
2. Choose books wisely.
After you have categories set, keep filling those categories with good books. Get them ordered before you need them. Have the books sitting on your desk inviting you to open them. For example, when I knew I was going to teach a series on the seven deadly sins, I had ten different books ordered on evil, sin, and the seven deadly sins. I chose them based on the authors and the endorsements. And I intentionally chose some from different theological tribes so I could see how others handle the topics.
3. Plan time to read.
Know when you are going to read and go for it. I read a bit every morning and then a few nights a week I will read longer sessions.
4. Mark the books up and note key learnings and quotes.
The reason I never switched to digital books is because I want to fiercely mark up each book, spill coffee on it, fall asleep in it and slobber on it (ok, too far). In the back of each book, I write notes and put the page number where more information on those notes can be found. So, I can walk into my office and go to the back of each book and see where learnings, quotes, and thoughts were captured in the book.
I am so thankful for the gift of reading. It is not one we should take for granted. And we get to read thoughts about God, writings that point us to Him, words written that explain and nudge us to the pure and faultless Word of God!
Now is a great time to read. And here is a practical step for you. Though March Madness is cancelled, my alma mater, is still giving away books this March. Southern Seminary is giving away hundreds of books for #SBTSMadness. If you enter to win their giveaway, you’ll win a free download of the Sermon on the Mount Study Journal by Jonathan Pennington. Click here to participate in SBTS Madness.