Every pastor should have one thing in common, both personally and professionally: a passion for reading. I know of no other profession or vocation where reading and staying current with the culture is more vitally important than the modern day pastorate. This means we do a whole lot of reading! (I am assuming that those of you who are reading it do in fact read.) I want to give you some observations that I have gleaned through the years about reading profitably.
One of the things that I learned early on in my ministry is the danger of becoming too narrow in my reading. For example, it is very tempting for some pastors to read nothing but books on theology. Obviously, reading books on theology and theologically oriented materials would be a given for any pastor.
However, I believe that pastors should constantly be reading books that are varied in both topic and perspective. I also understand there is a fine line between being so broad-minded that convictions can fall through the mental cracks that are formed and being so narrow-minded that new perspectives cannot break through the walls that are built. Nevertheless, with the information explosion that we have experienced in the last twenty years, it is simply imperative that pastors take time to read and use that time wisely to expose the mind to as many different fields of knowledge as possible. I make this statement with one conviction in my heart–all truth is God’s truth.
As a practical example I will share with you my own reading habits currently and some things that I am reading and have just recently read. I’ve always had the philosophy to keep several books going at the same time (that may not be your style – you may want to only read one book at a time). Frankly, I have mental ADD at times and I get bored pretty quickly with only one book. Also, I make sure, however, that I try to finish at least 4-5 books in a very timely fashion. Just looking at some of the books that I am reading now they include a book by Gordon MacDonald entitled, Who Stole My Church?, The River of Doubt–a book about Theodore Roosevelt’s almost fatal journey into the Amazon jungle, Forgotten God by Francis Chan (kind of Holy Spirit 101 type of book), In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day by Mark Batterson (I recently saw Mark at a Catalyst Conference and told him I’ve never know anyone who could write an entire book about one event in scripture that only took maybe two minutes!) and Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll.
I have just bought two books that I am about to read. One is entitled Love Is The Killer App by Tim Sanders (what a neat title), a book about winning business and influencing friends and an unusual book called Under The Covers and Between The Sheets – which is the inside story behind classic characters, authors, unforgettable phrases and unexpected endings. This ought to be chock-full of great illustrations that nobody else will know about!
Beyond that, if it fits your budget, I would strongly encourage every pastor to buy a Kindle or iPad with iBooks. The types of books that I load on my Kindle are what I call “fun reading books.” Those are books that are just what they sound like – fun reads that may not help a whole lot in my ministry, but would be enjoyable. I’ve got every type of book on here from Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell (one of those brilliant thinkers of our time) to another book on the Secret Service just published that is a fascinating read on how the Secret Service really works. You get the drift.
I strongly encourage you, if you are not reading like you should–Start! If you are reading too narrowly broaden your horizons and make sure you have some kind of system where you can file the great stories, illustrations, quotes, statistics, etc., that you find in books to use at a later date. Remember, you may have a book in your library, but you don’t own it until you can retrieve from it what you need when you need it.