On Reading and Preachers

There’s a great discussion going on over at the Together for the Gospel blog regarding the importance of reading in the lives of that blog’s contributors. It got me thinking about my own reading habits and how much good Christian literature has influenced my own Christian life and ministry. In that vein, I’ve a few questions for the contributors of this fair blog:

1. C.J. Mahaney asserts, “I have yet to meet a leader who is growing in personal passion for God and godliness, and effectiveness in pastoral ministry and preaching, who doesn’t have a voracious appetite for reading.” Do you men find your own experience agreeing with this observation? Is there a vital link between the success and effectiveness of one’s pulpit ministry and his reading appetite? If so, in exactly what way does such a heavy reading diet impact our sermons?

2. Tell us about your own reading habits: Favorite authors/works, your reading schedule, etc. How do you find time to juggle your extra-textual reading with an already busy preaching, shepherding, administrating schedule?

3. Can you suggest any helpful strategies for effective reading that will supplement pastoral ministry? What kinds of things ought pastors to be reading in addition to their normal intake of textually related materials (the Bible, commentaries, grammars, other exegetical works, etc.)? What about material that is not distinctively Christian?

4. Do periodicals play any role in your regular reading? If so, which ones do you recommend and why?

5. Tell us about your library. What encouragement can you give to the young pastor about how to plan and build an effective ministry library?

6. Is it important to you to cultivate in your congregation a healthy appetite for reading good Christian books? If so, how do you go about accomplishing that goal?

We eagerly await your feedback!

P.S. The library photo above was borrowed from Paul Lamey’s post from yesterday (1/31/06) at Lameworldview , marking the 114th anniversary of the death of the great “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.


6 responses to this post.

  1. I agree with C.J. The freshest and most thoughtful thinkers are most often heavy readers. (Then again I have met those who are heavy readers who are just about as ignorant as they come). Periodicals aren’t in my diet unless blog are now considered periodicals. I look at over 50 per day.
    Right now biographies are the staple of my diet. I was devouring theologies over the last several years (systematics and specific doctrines). Now I am intersted to see how those doctrines came into play in these gentlemen’s lives.
    I have a book with me at all times! You never ever know when you could have a minute or two to read.
    I encourage new pastors to build their library over the long term. While it is nice to look around and see a lot of books, over the long haul it is very tiring to move books that you have grown disinterested in.
    I am always handing out books to those in my congregation who show any interest at all in what I am talking about. One lady told me last month, as she handed me back the 5th book she has borrowed in 6 months, “I took the first book from you because I felt sorry for you when no on eresponded to you r offer. Now I can’t get enough of them!” That was a nice affirmation!
    Reading plays such a big part in my sermon prep because I have a tendency to think much more highly of myself than I ought to think. When I see how much clearer and deeper others go I am humbled!

  2. Chris:

    FYI: Your link to “Together 4 the Gospel” takes you to the picture not to their site…


  3. Thanks, Campi. It should be all ironed out now.

  4. 1) I’ve found that the more I read the more sensitive to the text I become, and of course my teaching ministry benefits from that. I also have found that by reading more broadly I’m more in touch with my church family as it’s trained me to interact with different perspectives respectfully. The other upshot of that is that I have more credibility when I do disagree with someone on important issues.

    2) My reading habits: I buy good dictionaries! Among others I copy and read out of the Dictionary for the Theological Interpretation of the Bible, the New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, The New Dictionary of Theology, all of IVP’s Bible Dictionaries, the Anchor Biblic Dictionary etc. Often those who have written books on theological or exegetical topics have first written articles in these sorts of works, and it saves a lot of time to get the gist of their projects by reading them there first. Book reviews are also great (not as substitutes for reading the book, but for getting the idea of what positions exist on various biblical topics). Making a list of books that I’d like to read and try to get through them in a year has been helpful. I’ve tried to force yourself to write a few lines (or maybe even a short personal review) about what I’ve read so that I can think through it before moving on. I also pick a hobby horse every year to confine my reading (i.e. this year it’s 2nd Temple Judaism, next year it’s hermeneutics, etc). Another helpful tip is to try and read a lot of multi-author works so that I can overhear the debates in various issues instead of just getting one side (i.e. the Scripture and Hermeneutics Series).

    I confess to always taking a book or an article with me to the bathroom! Even though it’s easy to get frustrated or impatient with how much is out there to read (Ecc. 12:12), I am so thankful to have a job where learning, growing and being challenged are actually part of my responsibilities!

    3) I guess I would suggest the above, as it’s worked for me! In addition to those things, take advantage of the great free on-line resources! Early Jewish Writings and Early Christian Writings have tons of free text and commentary for non-canonical literature, the Perseus Digital Library Project, Religion Online and Review of Biblical Literature are some great places to start.

    4) I only get JETS and Biblica (free online), but I’m looking into subscribing to something different this next year just for kicks – any suggestions?

    5) I’d agree with those who’ve said to start with reference works in the area of surveys, language, history, grammar and theology.

    6) Yes! We have book studies and even a book club that meets to discuss theology, literature and devotional books. So far in our book club we’ve read Stanley Hauerwas’ Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, Cornelius Plantinga’s Engaging God’s world and Albert Camus’ The Stranger. We’re slated to read Yancey’s “What’s So Amazing About Grace”, G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, and Brent D. Laytham’s edited volume: “od is not . . . Religious, Nice, One of Us, an American or a Capitalist”. Great opportunities for discussion, critique, mutual sharpening and building one another up.

  5. Um, Chris, could you please update YOUR OWN BLOG (this would be in bold if I were more technologically proficient) so I can see how you are doing in your estrogen, I mean, wonderful home of females? Or give our number to Christy so we can chat? Thanks!

  6. Oh, sorry- great article, too!!!–>

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