One of the great under-rated aspects of the Christian life is reading. After all, a disciple is a learner- a student.
I think everyone understands that we should read Scripture, often and deeply. But, truth is, few actually do it. In 2013 RNS did a survey in which they found that only one in five Americans were regular readers of Scripture. This is a statistic that seems to bear up well as Biblical literacy seems to be declining across our nation.
I think every believer should have a Bible reading plan. No matter your reading appetite, or how slow or how fast you read, every one should plan out their reading. Whether you have only 5 minutes, or one hour, you can plan what you are reading. Without a doubt, we should be in the Word of God regularly. It is essential, I would even say primary, of first priority, and indispensable.
But, I think we need to read other books, too. Reading books is important to growing in competencies associated with disciple-making, and in responding to false doctrines of this present age. Think of reading as another avenue of mentoring, like meeting with another believer to sharpen one another. When you read a good book, you are given access to the mind of another believer who has himself been formed by the wisdom of generations of believers that went before us. Living the Christian life is a community project, and the Christian community spans thousands of years. Reading is a way of tapping into the Christian community at-large.
I am personally indebted to many whom I have never met because I have been greatly helped by reading books written by godly people from centuries gone by. I have read Christian biographies that inspired and challenged me. I have read books on books that showed me what to read. I have read the writings of the Church Fathers that left me reeling in confusion. I have read Baptist History tomes that showed me how shallow my theology truly was. I have read devotional works by Puritan authors that performed true heart surgery on this heart of flesh. I have learned much from very practical works that have helped me to be a better teacher and disciple-maker. I have even learned from authors I disagreed with because they helped me distill my own thoughts, and clarify my own views.
I understand that not all books are good or helpful, but many are. That is why I try to make many helpful books available to our church. I often joke that my spiritual gift is giving away books. I rarely buy just one copy of a book. I typically buy in pairs or threes, planning to have someone join me in reading. And, I do that because I know how much books have helped me. And, I enjoy reading books with other people. If you have a ministry area you are interested in, chances are I already have a book for you, or I can research for recommendations.
I want to encourage you to start by picking up one of the free books we make available, or buy one of the smaller, easy-to-read books from our book stall, then set a reading goal to read a chapter a day, or three chapters a week. The point is, read something. Develop the habit of reading and growing. Learn to keep a note of helpful insights or questions that come to mind. Figure out how to share things you are learning, or discuss questions you have with other believers. And, if you really want to encourage your pastor, ask him for recommendations, and then read them!
I leave you with a quote from John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, responding to a preacher who didn't read:
"You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. O begin!
Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: What is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way."
Free books at the Information Station:
Rediscover Church: Why the Body of Christ is Essential by Collin Hansen & Jonathan Leeman
Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney