7 Thoughts on Better Reading

2 things have surprised me in ministry: the amount of travel and the amount of reading.  Good pastors are good readers.  Books and articles provide inspiration for sermons, guidance in counsleing, support in loneliness or ministry challenges-- ya gots to read!

Maybe I'll write about travel later -- but today I just wanted to comment briefly about reading in light of a recent video interview with Tony Reinke (see it here).  This blog post is just to get you to watch his 10 minute video and for me to write a few things down. Here are some quick lessons I'm learning:

  • It's okay not to read a book cover to cover.  My time in literature classes left me feeling that an author's words are to be treasured.  If I missed any of them, I might miss the author's artistic vision.  But the old adage that "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."  Some books may go into more detail than I need, so I just use the stuff that's helpful and move on.  Many books -- especially those related to counseling and pastoral care -- have a lot of memoir/anecdotal type filler that can be skipped to get to the application at the end.  Please don't tell my old English professors.
  • Fiction Enhances Truth. Sometimes I feel like I'm wasting time by reading fiction or escaping into a paperback.  Fiction has its place at the end of a long day, slowing down one's mind before bedtime. Good fiction can make our appreciation of the truth more refined.
  • Books Provide Structure.  Many of my sermon series last 6-8 weeks.  Whether I'm preaching topically or exegetically, finding a couple of books, textual introductions, or journal articles helps me know where to start and what big themes will translate well to a weekly 30 minute talk.  The sermons are mine, but a day or two of research primes the pump.  At a personal level, a stack of books from the library on photography, bicycles, or ultralight hiking helps me to know where my natural limits are and how much money I'm not willing to spend!
  • Read With a Pencil, Not A Pen.  I mark up most of my theology books.  That way, I can skim them again next year when I'm planning teaching series or just need a refresher in my thinking.  Any way, I can use a pencil when I'm laying down or to jot a quick hash mark.  With a pen, I have to bear down, hold it a certain way, etc.  With pencil, I use it more frequently and have more helpful margin notes in the end.
  • Poach Syllabi for Booklists.  There are too many books out there!  When there's a subject I'm interested in, I can find College or Seminary course syllabi online and get a good idea of the books I need to be reading myself. I can pick a handful and not waste time reading every review on Amazon, etc.
  • Wikipedia Is Not Evil.  Have you read Good to Great, The 4-Hour Workweek, or Tipping Point?  All are very interesting books and will make you save time and be a better boss -- but you can also get the basics elsewhere on the web so you can have more time to read Calvin's Institutes.
  • Who Needs a Kindle?  I had some extra cash last year and really thought hard about a Kindle, Nook, or similar.  But then I looked at the total cost of buying 10 used books and 4 magazine subscriptions and decided it wasn't worth it.   I like to read at Krispy Kreme and not worry about leaving my book at the table.  I carry a magazine in my luggage or on a bike ride to the park.  I like to pass along my Popular Mechanics to dad or World to my wife... you get the point.  


  1. Update: I got a Kindle for Christmas. I'm now a believer. I'm sorry for doubting you, Jeff Bezos.


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