(This post was originally published on the Baptist Churches of New England’s blog on March 6, 2023. You can find it here.)
The Christian who is not growing intellectually is like a book whose many pages remain unopened and unread. Like the book, he may be of some value, but not nearly as much as if he had chosen to sharpen and develop his mind.Gordon MacDonald
Excellent thoughts have been captured and communicated by means of the written word throughout history, and life-changing, culture-shaping wisdom is just waiting to be picked up off the shelf. But no one is born knowing how to read, much less how to read well; the practice is a dying art. Many who wish to grow in this area feel unsure how to go about it. Though I can’t claim complete mastery, here are a few tips and resources that have proven particularly helpful along my own journey of literary discipleship.
Advice from John Piper:
“I love encouraging people to read weighty, worthy, readable Christian books. I have said many times, Read! Read! Read! But beware of wasting your time on theological foam and suds. Read rich doctrinal books about the One who called you to His glory and excellence (2 Peter 1:3) … Let me stress at the outset that I don’t think reading many books is important—not for the average person anyway. Reading good books—solid books, non-sudsy books, substantial books—is really important. And reading them well.”
Pastor John’s exhortation to be both choosy in the bookstore and diligent in the study is pure gold.
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
Yes, this is really a book. And it’s a useful book, too, for anyone with a serious desire to learn.
Along with numerous reviews and an extensive recommended reading page, Pastor Tim keeps a running list of Kindle book deals for Christians, which he updates daily.
Tool: A Reading Journal
Once you start ingesting worthwhile content, you’ll need a way to document it. Copying significant takeaways into a notebook can solidify new insights and provide a valuable record for future reference.
Suggestion from Mike Mason:
“A wise teacher … once recommended to me that rather than reading many spiritual books, I should choose one and simply follow that one, reading it over and over and working it into my life.”
If you’re facing overwhelm, ask the Lord how He desires to grow you in this season. Then pick a single good, solid, meaty book on the topic and apply Mason’s approach.
Pointers on Finding Time:
Dedicating fifteen minutes of your daily lunch break to reading will amount to 91 hours over the course of a year. Or try a different tactic: fill the tedium of commutes, showers, and housework with audiobooks (yes, those count!) and you’ve painlessly reclaimed a significant chunk of your schedule.
May I say a hard thing here?
Lack of time is often less an issue than the mismanagement of it. Most of us are trading influence for entertainment. Anyone who intends to leave a mark on the world will have to sacrifice some temporary fluff. As corny as it sounds, leaders are readers. According to this post, Timothy Keller reads three books a week; Charles Spurgeon read six books a week; Don Carson reads nine books a week; and Albert Mohler reads seven to ten books a week. The best minds shaping our faith aren’t binge-watching Netflix.
Wow, this seems like a lot of effort. Granted. But the more intentional we are in expanding our capacity to think, the better we can love God, serve His kingdom, and engage His mission. What could be more important than that? Grab a book, friends—let’s get reading.
Note: My foundational assumption here is that you’re already absorbing Scripture on a daily basis. Even the best books were never meant to replace regular Bible intake. If you must choose one or the other, go with the Word every time.
Very good advise from a person I personally know and understands the importance of filling your heart and mind first, with the Word of God then covering it with authentic and solid food for thought. And she also throws in the fun stuff too. Thank you Kass!
Haha. Thanks, Pops! Love you.
I always enjoy your blog posts! I find great information worth considering and investigating. Thank you for encouragement and wisdom.
Thank you so much, sweet Colleen! Happy Wednesday!