Over the course of my life, I have been a reader. I enjoy books and the learning process, and I have found that few things in life have benefited me as much as my time in good books and the truths I have extracted from them.
During and after college, I spent many hours reading technical journals, scientific literature, and books about science and creation. My undergraduate degree was in Biology and Chemistry, and to this day I have a love for the natural world. As my education and career progressed, I found myself reading books on education, administration, and business organization. My doctrinal thesis was about organizational drift and how both profit and non-profit institutions lose their way because of external and internal pressures and forces.
In time, my reading included a heavy dose of books on leadership, and how to effectively manage my time and myself. As our church and staff grew, team building, working with staff, and books about how to promote development in others occupied a fair amount of my reading time for a number of years. During those same years, Teri and I were raising a family, and my desire to be a good husband and dad led me to read more books on the family and home than I can count.
In any spare time I had, I loved to read about photography, which has grown into a great love of mine and has also proven very useful in our home and church. As my interests over the years have varied, I’ve read books, magazines, and articles on guns, hunting, motorcycles, and any number of other things that caught my attention at the time.
Of course, it goes without saying that over all these years the majority of my reading time has included the Word of God, which is my instructor and filter for everything else that I read. The Bible has influenced my heart, my thinking, and my worldview and informed my life exponentially more than all the other books combined that I have read. Added to this reading, there are untold numbers of devotional, doctrinal, spiritual discipline, and other biblically-based books that have been the source of insight, wisdom, and help.
As I have read through these books, I have made marks in most of them for future reference, and it would be fair to say that many of the books I have read have marked me as well. As I sit here and write this article, reflecting on the way my reading has changed me, a great number of principles, mantras, truths, and inspiration runs through my mind.
If I haven’t made the point yet, then let me just state it a little more clearly: I think there is great value and help in making good books a part of our daily routine and habits. It’s so easy in the busyness and press of the ministry to lose the heart and the time to read.
Naturally, we take the time necessary to read the Bible in order to be ready for our next sermon. And—no doubt—we benefit greatly personally during our preparation for preaching. However, I would like to advocate and encourage a kind of reading that is directed at making us spiritually and professionally more competent over the course of our lives. This should start by making our own personal Bible reading the most important thing we do every day, reading the Word of God, not for study or the next message, but just to allow the Lord to speak to our own hearts and souls, to be challenged and inspired by it and to reflect on where we are in our own walk with the Lord. The Word of God should be the primary source that governs our thinking, informs our opinion, and directs our steps, and that will not happen unless we take the time to read it daily.
I would also strongly encourage you to read good books on subjects that can challenge your thinking and cause you to grow. There are dozens and dozens of books, both secular and Christian, which have helped me greatly in life and in the ministry. Incredible ministry application has come from reading books on leadership and organization.
All truth is God’s truth, and I have found insight from a great number of helpful books that truly have been a blessing. I have found inspiration for our church in biographies, devotional material, and in scientific studies.
Over the years, I have asked our staff to review many books together on a variety of topics as a way of strengthening our skills and teamwork. Recently, our staff reviewed a book entitled The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. Achor is a Harvard professor who has studied the impact of how our attitude and spirit impact and influence our success in life. I don’t know whether this man is a Christian or not, but his research has led him to understand a host of biblical principles, which he has articulated in a way that has provided a rich resource of illustration and application for preaching and teaching. In reading the book together, our staff has been challenged in a number of positive ways to do our jobs with greater integrity and joy.
I believe my marriage of twenty-nine years is genuinely in a better place for the challenges, education, and inspiration Teri and I have received in reading books together. Over the years, after reading a good book on a subject I thought my children could be helped by, I have passed the book along. In time, the subject matter was discussed with a son or a daughter, and it provided a platform to discuss things needed in their life.
I could go on with examples of ways that reading good books over the years has been a blessing to me and has enriched my life and ministry. Let me just conclude with the challenge: If you have fallen out of the habit of reading or find yourself needing to grow in an area of life… of course, read your Bible as the primary source of spiritual life and inspiration. And, as you make time, read a book or two every few months as a discipline that holds the potential to greatly benefit and sharpen you.