There are two modern problems that affect those of us who want to read. The first is the social media. As you know, social media, can be very distracting but I don’t think that is the thing stopping us from reading. The thing that stops us from reading anything substantial is the overwhelming amount of articles and blogs that we can read from our news feeds. Unfortunately these the articles and blogs (except for this one of course!) are usually quite shallow and don’t really help us all that much. But if we read them we feel like we have acquired helpful information and it may have taken away our desire to read something more substantial. The second modern problem is the sheer amount of books there are to read. It seems like guys like N.T Wright, Don Carson, Tim Keller and John Piper have written a new book every other week that a blogger or a friend tells us we “have to” read. And this is not to mention all the other books that seem to be written by lesser known authors. And if you take account of books on our bookshelves that seem to look at us and say “You bought me three years ago at the conference and you still haven’t read me!” as well as those books we bought because our college lecturer, who has a brain the size of a dump truck and seems to have read everyone on everything, said we should buy and read them that we still haven’t read yet, we are overwhelmed. Where do we start? What should we read?
Here are four words of advice on this topic:
1. Don’t care what people say you should read
We all want to be seen as on the cutting edge of stuff and one of the ways we do this is by having opinions on the latest issues. That means we buy the books we have been told that we “should read” in a vain attempt to be current. I see this in my own life too. When John Dickson brought out his book “Chicks Can Speak Good in Church Too” (I pretty sure that is that title but I could be wrong) I bought it and read it. Why? Because I wanted to be in the know. My mind was settled on the issue (and I didn’t find myself persuaded by Dickson or our favorite ranga theologian Michael Bird’s arguments) and so I read the book because of my corrupt heart desiring the approval of men. I realized this and when the book that responded to Dickson called “Why John Dickson should stick to writing about Jesus and stay off Facebook” (once again I may not have the title of the book exactly nailed) I chose not to read it. I have decided I am not going to read to keep up with the Jones’ and if there is a book I have been told is a must read I am going to think about my goals for reading and see if that books helps me achieve those goals. If it doesn’t I am not going to read it. This means that I don’t feel pressured to buy the latest and greatest books and read them because everyone says I should.
2. Read for fun and for growth
Can I be honest? A lot of the theological books around today are not fun or inspiring. reading them can feel like the intellectual equivalent of eating dry weetbix, good for you but not an enjoyable at all. Now reading theology is important for christian leaders and I do a fair bit of it but if reading is not fun you won’t do it. For me reading about basketball, leadership, great men and women and our world from a sociological/philosophical perspective is fun and so I make sure I read those books as well as theology. And when I read theology I am more likely to read a theologian or pastor who I enjoy reading than one who is merely orthodox. So I not only read to grow my abilities, theology and leadership I read for fun.
3. Give yourself reading challenges
This year I have decided to give myself a reading challenge which is to read a book by C.S Lewis and a book on prayer a month. Before the start of this year I had never read a book on prayer or a book by C.S Lewis cover to cover and I have decided to challenge myself to grow in prayer and read Lewis. Can you give yourself a challenge this year? Where are you weak? Maybe you need to read some more on the Holy Spirit? If you are why not try to read a book a term on the Holy Spirit or on a significant area of theology? Maybe you need inspiration. If you do, why not try to read biography a term this year? How can you challenge yourself to read more and make the task or reading not just something you do passively but something you do to achieve a goal?
4. Vary up your reading
I cannot read on one topic no matter what it is for more than one book. Maybe you can, but I can’t. So what do I do? I vary up my reading. Last month I started off by reading Michael Jordan: The Life by Roland Lazenby. Then I read The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis. Once that was finished I read A Praying Life: Connecting With God In A Distracting World by Paul E. Miller and then finished off the month by reading Churchill by Paul Johnson. In one month I read two biographies, a book on prayer and a fantasy/theology book on eschatology. I can honestly say that I wasn’t bored reading this month partly because all these writer are excellent and partly because I read different books on vastly different topics. If you are anything like me you will need to vary up what you read. I promise you if you read a theological book and then a book on leadership and then a biography and then a book by a non christian about an aspect of our world you will be much more likely to keep reading then if you read a theological book followed by another theological book followed by another theological book. Also if we read just theology our world becomes all about theology and we can forget that there is a world outside with real people in it that need this theology delivered to them in a practical, helpful and inspiring way.
So what are you going to plan to read over the next week, month and year?
You may also like: