The Importance of Reading

John Wesley required the early Circuit Riders (preachers) to read regularly.  One of the preachers complained that he did not have the habit of reading.  Wesley had little patience with a lack of inquisitiveness and laggardly learning habits.  He is reported to have replied, “The good brother will either develop the habit of reading or leave the ministry.”

Those who know me well know that I am a self-confessed book-a-holic.  Science Fiction is my mind candy.  Deeper theological work is my study.  In recent years I have made a point to read books on leadership.  (I highly recommend Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage.  We are working through implications and insights gained from this book in both the Cabinet and the Bishops’ TMF Conclave.)

Early in my ministry I received some wise advice from a number of older (and very much wiser!) colleagues.  They include but are not limited to: a) read at least one biography a year (don’t always read on religious figures); 2) read one book on preaching a year; 3) occasionally challenge yourself with writers and theologians you know you don’t necessarily agree with; 4) the reading or lack of it will show up in your preaching 6 or 7 months later.

On my blog site I regularly update it with those books that I am reading (usually about 6 times a year or every other month).  Currently I am slowly reading my way through Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age.  It was the winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize.  It is a very deep read, some 800+ pages, and expensive. (Check it out of the library and see if you really want to work through it before purchasing!)  Over Christmas break I listened to Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants.  (It was fascinating and a lot of fun.  And by the way, yes, listening to an Audio Book counts!)Books-and-iPad_sm

The third book on my current list is written by one of our own, David Alexander, who currently serves as Directing Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Mansfield.  It is an excellent book for those searching for a faith and questioning faith perspective.  I heartily recommend it to pastors and lay leaders as a book they might want to give to seekers.

I asked David to give me a couple of brief paragraphs on the book and where you could get it.  He writes: “The Deep End is organized around some of the most difficult questions that I believe every person of faith must wrestle with at some point in their journey. They are questions I have grappled with in my own journey. In my work as a pastor, these are questions that people ask me all the time. And while the whole notion of pursuing these questions can be a bit unsettling, I’m convinced that this pursuit is precisely what propels us further on our journey.

You can find The Deep End on Amazon at this link [http://amzn.com/B00HB8H7CI]. Quantity discounts for churches interested in using the book for classes and small groups are also available by emailing me directly. [davida@fmcm.org].”

I’ve got some new books I’m starting on (a part of my disease is that I am always reading more than one book).  I am 62 pages into Alister McGrath’s (former Oxford scholar now at the University of London) Mere Apologetics: How to Help Seekers and Skeptics Find Faith.  So far it is a superb reworking of the differences between apologetics and evangelism.  He lays out how they relate and yet are distinctly separate.  Even more importantly, McGrath offers concrete help in understanding how to engage in apologetics in a post-modern age.  I commend it to you!

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