I am trying to become more disciplined in my reading habits as a pastor, and I’m curious what other pastors do to stay well-read. What percentage of your reading is from the Bible, and what percentage is in other types of books? How much do you read per day, per week? How much of your reading is geared toward spiritual books, theological books, practical books, etc.? Are there certain authors you read after more than others? Are there some books that you find yourself reading on an annual basis? Do you ever do any recreational reading?
Pastor Mark Brazee – Tulsa, OK
I believe that the best way to be disciplined in your reading is finding what works for you. For some, having a regular reading program seems to really work well; however, for me, just simply following what I seem to have in my heart works the best. Sometimes I find myself spending more time studying and reading, and other times I am stirred to give myself more to prayer.
The majority of my reading is the Bible itself though I do have a few books that I also read through on a regular basis. Years ago I heard someone say, “Find authors that minister to you and feed consistently on their books.” So, for many years now, I have a steady diet of F.F. Bosworth’s Christ the Healer, some of the John G. Lake books, and Oswald J. Smith books that fuel the passion for missions in my life.
As for reading additional books, I find that for myself the concept of the “spirit led life” seems to work best even in my reading. Sometimes I feel pulled to a book in my library that I might normally not be interested in at all. Without exception, I will run across something in that book that is just what I need for myself or for the pulpit.
I guess the greatest challenge for me at times can be to read and study for myself rather than always studying for my next service. But, if I follow the leadings of the Spirit, I am able to stay full myself, and the Holy Ghost can pull from my overflow. Then when I get up to minister, it’s not a sermon, but a message.
Pastor Tim Kutz – Bartlesville, OK
What a great question!
We’ve all heard the accepted adage: Leaders are readers. This really has to be true in the context of ministers.
First and foremost we must be consistent readers of the Bible. In considering, this please consider the following: A minister must first read the Bible as a disciple. That means a consistent devotional life. As pastors we are called to make disciples. That process included leading people to salvation in Christ but cannot and must not stop there. If we only get people saved and do not disciple them, we have not done the work that Jesus called us to do. The question remains then, can we effectively disciple people if we cannot be disciples? The life of a disciple of necessity begins with a daily, consistent reading of the Bible. This can be accomplished by a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year program, or systematic reading as led by the Spirit. This is also best accomplished at a set time every day. (Read The Power Of A Habit)
Secondly, as Bible teachers, we must separately study the Bible to receive “the Word” for our congregation. The time doing this, must by necessity be much greater than your devotional reading. If you want to be a minister that imparts truth in your teaching/preaching that makes people free, this must be a very big part of your life.
I personally believe very strongly in mentoring and being mentored. Whatever method you choose of picking a mentor or mentors, follow that up by reading everything they have written. And, if you want to exemplify their life and ministry in yours, a once over what they have written is not sufficient. To really get the same spirit that a mentor has, you have to read some of his or her works over and over. There are two or three books that I consider annual reads. There are another 10-15 that I must reread every 3-5 years. Since Kenneth E. Hagin is one of my mentors, I make it a practice to read The Believers Authority and How You Can Be Led By The Spirit Of God every year. Since I want to be used by God to bring physical healing in people’s lives, I read Christ The Healer at least once every three years. Since I want to be a person that can connect with anyone, I read Be A People Person by John Maxwell often.
There is another aspect of reading that too many people ignore. No one knows you like you! If you have a weakness in an area, or even one that you “have had,” but are seeming to gain victory over, I encourage you to read at least two books per year that speak to that subject, but one minimum! For example, if you struggle with offense, read the Bait Of Satan by John Bevere or Avoiding The Trap Of Offense by Pastor Kenneth W. Hagin. If you have in the past or are currently dealing with addictions, find books that speak to those and read them. If you don’t know what to read, email email@example.com and ask for a referral.
And then just as in life, every minister needs a hobby! I would encourage you to read for recreation also. I read three or four novels every year by select authors. I like Oliver North, Joel Rosenberg, Jeremy Jenkins, etc. Find who you like and do a certain amount of recreational reading.
Also, just a thought; for those who want to become better communicators, consider reading a page or two from the dictionary every day. Challenge your mind!
Another area that I believe every minister needs to address in their life is reading outside of the sphere of their theological influence. Whoever coined the phrase “eat the hay and spit out the sticks” was brilliant. A teachable spirit is a great prize to possess, and we need to learn from those that don’t agree with us. A source of enjoyment and betterment for me personally is finding books that I couldn’t agree with more and couldn’t disagree with more at the same time.
In all of your reading just remember that the thing that you put into yourself the most is the thing that will come out of you the most. That should answer the question of what you spend most of your time reading.
Pastor Guinn Shingleton – Terre Haute, IN
I can’t give an accurate percentage, but I can be approximate in the use of my reading time. I generally read in “blocks of time” rather than setting aside a certain time each day. If I find that I have 2 hours or more free, I will grab the current book I have been reading and try to finish it before going on to something else.
I find that being on a regular Bible reading program each morning helps to discipline me in my time usage. It allows me to get into the Word early in my day and I find that the Lord often speaks to my heart during these times. Most of my reading and study comes from the Bible with the aid of Strong’s, Vine’s, and commentaries. I will use quotes and passages from books I have read that are still handy on my book shelf. These are books that have impacted me over my forty-plus years of being a Christian and are by authors such as Rev. Kenneth E. Hagin, Reinhard Bonnke, Tony Cooke, Doug Jones, etc.
As a pastor I like to read books that challenge me to go to higher levels of my walk with God and not so much of “cheer me up” books. Some of these books would include The Believer’s Authority, Plans, Purposes, and Pursuits, Plundering Hell to Populate Heaven, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire (by Jim Cymbala), and others.
There was a time when I did more recreational reading such as the series that began with This Present Darkness, but now any additional reading I do is from internet articles that may address a spiritual situation in the church world or it may address current events that have spiritual implications. It doesn’t take much reading to discern that the world sees things much differently than the Christian sees things. However, like the Apostle Paul, it is important that we understand where the world is coming from so that we may effectively address those issues in love and with scriptural support.
Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
I’m certain that most people have become acquainted with this popular saying; Leaders are Readers. Reading is obviously a great discipline to develop that will provide strength in many, many areas of our life. If you simply consider the amazing amount of time, research and just plain old fashioned effort that is put into writing a great book, you realize what an incredible good deal it is when you make a book purchase. I’ve heard individuals suggest that they can’t afford to purchase certain books, and I’m amazed at what a great deal a book really is! Buying a book, in my opinion, is sort of like hiring the author to go to work for you without being expected to pay them a decent hourly wage. On top of that, the author does all the work and the reader usually takes credit for all the “good stuff” he pulls out the pages! I LOVE GOOD BOOKS!
I am consumed with passion for that which I’ve been called, so I rarely read material that isn’t related to ministry. I guess I can understand how some of my friends read all types of material that seems to have nothing to do with anything – reading is addictive. In my case, however, I’m just always looking for fresh ways to impart new thoughts and engage people in seeking God-Life.
I have found that I need The Word in my life every single day. I teach the church to study God’s Word and want to insure that I stay addicted to it, as well. So, the Bible is my first read every day. I’ve just made it a part of my daily routine. If I skip it—I refuse to let myself off the hook. To make certain that I never weaken this habit, I’ve enlisted a few other men in my world whom I’ve empowered to “check in” with me during the week. We’ve developed the habit of asking the question every time we communicate, “what are you reading today?” If we don’t see each other for more than a day or so, we send a text. We make a phone call. We do whatever we must to keep each other accountable to reading The Word! (AND we love to preach what we’ve read to each other).
In addition to that, I enjoy learning from other pastors. For example, Mark Batterson, a pastor in Washington DC, has written several books that have brought great insight and encouragement to me and my team. I’ve also learned that by locating a book that will impact my team, my team assists me in staying active in reading. Once I’ve read a great book I ask my leadership team to join me in reading it together. (So now I’m reading it AGAIN!) Even as we’re still reading one book, leaders will often begin to inquire about “what are we going to read next?” This keeps me searching and, therefore, READING.
If you’re struggling with developing a habit of reading…get some people involved and ask them to hold you accountable. It’s great way to bring others into your life and world AND the benefits of reading will produce great blessing in your life! Let me suggest starting by taking a few friends through the book In Search of Timothy by Tony Cooke. Not only will you get started with your new habit of reading, but you will be properly developing the team that will have the ability to keep you reading!
Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
Recently, I watched a video of a group of Chinese individuals receiving a Bible for the first time in their lives. Their reactions were amazing. One embraced his Bible with an affectionate hug. Another kissed the Bible while others with tears verbalized their appreciation with words I couldn’t understand but needed no interpretation. The scene reminded me of when I received my first New Testament and began reading in Matthew. When I got to Matthew 4:23-25, I fell to my knees and with tears in my eyes said “Jesus, I never realized how much you love people. You healed all these people because you loved them.” That day my life was changed forever.
The short answer is most of my reading time is spent on studying the Bible and spiritual books about the Bible. There are certain authors I read after more than others and there are certain books I read regularly to keep my faith strong. I don’t have much interest in reading recreational books for recreational purposes. I’d rather read books like Through the Storms, Qualified, or Life after Death by brother Tony Cooke. Books like these inspire faith and help people.
The long answer involves my concern about the attitude that exists today toward the Word of God. When I got saved in 1976, the hunger that existed for God’s Word was contagious. Bible studies were springing up everywhere. People were gathering in homes wanting to learn more about the practical application of God’s Word. People were on fire for the Word, myself included. I read books by Kenneth Hagin, E. W. Kenyon, F. F. Bosworth and others that inspired my faith and helped me learn how to apply the principles of faith to the challenges life brings our way. I couldn’t get enough of it. Little did I know that on June 25, 2001, my faith would face a parent’s worst nightmare. My son, Andrew, was born with 22Q11, DiGeorge Syndrome, Tetralogy of Fallot, a partial Thymus, an immune system comparable to a person with AIDS, no left pulmonary artery and his blood oxygen in the 40’s and 50’s. The prognosis was he wouldn’t live through the night. At 14 hours old, a heart catherization was performed and they said they lost him twice, but the good news was that they revived him and he’s still alive. The bad news as that he needed surgery immediately to install a BT Shunt to get more oxygen into his blood. They gave us two options. They could bring him to us and let us hold him until he died in our arms, or they could take him into surgery and let him die there. Thank God for the Bible. Thank God for books about the Bible that explain how Biblical principles work. Our son Andrew is now 12 years old. He received a creative miracle and grew a left pulmonary artery to normal size in nine months. His immune system was healed. Miracle after miracle took place and now Andrew plays on his sixth grade basketball team and you’d never know he was ever sick. At age six, he told us how he saw Jesus in heaven who told him He would give him a whole heart and make him big. We remembered how the doctor’s said they lost him twice but revived him. My wife and I could never express how thankful we are to those who gave of themselves despite the persecution to write books that educate God’s people with spiritual truths.
Paul told Timothy to preach the Word because he knew the Word has power to change lives, to restore marriages, to heal, to deliver and to make one wise unto salvation. As pastors and teachers of God’s Word, we must be passionate about God’s Word and transfer that same passion to all who hear us. The life we live, the walk we walk, the fight we fight and the course we finish all involve faith. Not intellectual knowledge of God’s Word, but faith in it. Imagine what marriages would be like if husbands believed in loving their wives as Christ loved the Church and as their own flesh! Imagine what families would be like if wives submitted to their husbands and children obeyed their parents out of reverence for God’s Word.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see people as passionate about God’s Word as that group of Chinese people who embraced it more than silver and gold? Job considered it more than his daily bread. Jeremiah found it and ate it. To him it was the joy and rejoicing of his heart. Jesus said His Word is eternal.
Today, our society views the Bible as if it were just another book. That same mentality has crept into the church. Let’s change that by getting back to the Bible and treating it as the authoritative, Holy Spirit inspired Word of God. Let’s live and preach it as if our lives depended on it, because they do! No other book could have saved our son’s life. No other book can produce faith in God that saves the sin-sick soul. Jesus said if we build our lives upon the solid foundation of His Word, the storms may come, but we won’t be devastated.
To the young pastor just starting out, build your ministry upon the eternal Word of God. To those like me—I’ve pastored over 34 years now—the work of God is the work of faith with power. Stay filled with both and transfer the same to those who hear you. Today, we see more passion for sports, activities and entertainment than for people being hungry and thirsty for God’s Word and the things of the Spirit. As God’s representatives, let’s chain our souls to the finished work of Christ and boldly declare it to those willing to listen.
Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI
Jim Rohn put it well when he said, “The major value in life is not what you get. The major value in life is what you become.” Your choice to read—and the choice of what you read—is all about what you are becoming! What you become on the inside will eventually impact every area of your life!
I set aside one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening for reading. This reading is outside of my normal study for sermon preparation. A great starting point would be to commit to read 30 minutes a day. I also always have an audio book or message playing in my car. You can turn your car into a university by doing this.
Pastor Dave Williams, my mentor and the previous pastor at Mount Hope Church, used to say, “Empty hearts are not filled by empty heads.” So you want to always be filling your head with great books, CDs, and podcasts.
I try and keep a steady diet of books that feed my spirit man along with practical books that will equip me as a leader. I’m very intentional about what I read. Reading is an investment of my time and I want to invest in things that I know will have a huge payoff in my life, family, and ministry. My reading will almost always link to the main priorities of my life: the man, the marriage, the ministry, friends, and finances. If it doesn’t equip me in one of those areas, I normally won’t take the time to read it.
There are a couple books I would recommend, that I’ve found are worth reading every year or at least every few years:
- Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge
- Visioneering by Andy Stanley
By choosing to grow in your reading habits you are setting yourself up for advancement and increase…enjoy the ride!
Pastor Rick Burke – Claremore, OK
Having a Kindle app on my phone and my iPad has made reading so much easier. Whenever I’m waiting I can take it as an opportunity to read and catch up on things.
As far as reading books and the Bible and personal study and sermon study, in many ways that has become something I’m blending. Right now when I find a book that helps me or stirs up a passion in me I will develop a series around it. Reading time varies from week to week. It could be as little time as 2 hours or as much as 10 hours.
I read factual books. I do very little recreational reading, but only because that’s how I’m wired.
I read after:
Andy Stanley, John Maxwell, Jimmy Evans, Tony Cooke (seriously), R.T. Kendall, Kenneth Hagin, Robert Morris, Rick Renner, and a variety of others depending on subject matter.
Pastor Mike Campbell – Algood, Tennessee
I believe in reading and especially as a leader. Reading is something that keeps us out in front of the crowd or at least with the front runners. I devote most of my reading time (60%) to daily Bible reading. I am a firm believer that nothing takes the place of reading the word for personal edification and inspiration as well as having a fresh word that is in season for our congregations.
I read an article or from book’s on biblical topics to help support my freshness for preaching also on a daily basis. Most of my personal reading of this nature (40%) is done at night. I generally sit in the family room and read while my family is reading, watching TV or whatever. I usually read for 1-2 hours per night on books and articles that support my biblical position, challenge my biblical position, or interest me and give me fodder to think about. I also read books on leadership to continue to sharpen my leadership skills.
Usually I read one or two novels yearly (fiction or biography) that are not biblical based. Truthfully Tom Clancy is my most favorite author outside of Christian authors and I have read all his books. I enjoy reading about spies, military ops and history. I do have favorites that I visit once per year to make sure I am on target. Every January I read Renewing the Mind, by Casey Treat and How You can be Led by the Spirit of God by Kenneth E Hagin. I also publish in my bulletin and in my quarterly publication that is sent out, some of the books I recommend to promote reading in my congregation. It has proven to be a good growth tool for our people. So whatever track you take as a pastor and minister on reading do not let it become the law and bring condemnation. When I miss out on reading due to a hectic day or whatever the reason I am not under bondage about not reading. I just pick it back up the next day.
Pastor Jim Dumont – Erie, PA
My attitude towards reading may appear to be somewhat radical. However, for me it has been the key to finding my identity and gaining a much deeper level of personal faith.
I have adopted a Bible reading plan that each day takes me through one to seven chapters of the Bible. Ideally I will read seven chapters, but most times the Holy Spirit draws my attention to a specific item and I stay there until I have gleaned all that is needful. Each chapter I read is from a different “genre” of writing which includes the Law, the Historical books, the Poetical books, the Wisdom books, the Prophets, the Gospels and Acts and the Epistles. As I read, I keep notes from my reading for each day. Often, during my reading, the Holy Spirit will speak to me and I will get a sermon title. I literally have in raw form hundreds of message titles with notes.
Reading from the entire Bible has helped to shape my mind more fully. I know that the New Testament is written to the church, however ALL scripture is profitable and I believe a lot of the modern day questions and controversies would be settled in people’s personal convictions if they continued to read the Bible in its entirety.
I have found consistent Bible reading to be the key to breaking away from always needing to “borrow” messages from other people. There is nothing wrong with gleaning from others. However, I personally believe the easy accessibility of sermon material on the internet has created some spiritual laziness and dampened the opportunity for ministers to develop in their unique style and calling. Recently the Lord gently reminded me that, “I am to be a voice, not an echo”.
My habit is to arise very early and spend a minimum of two hours in study. Some days I spend more and some days less. Additionally I will take advantage of time during the day as well as after dinner to continue to study. I use Logos Bible Software for all my reading. With this software I have plenty of resource material at my fingertips. Additionally, I keep a daily journal which tracks my daily reading so I know exactly where to pick up each day.
In addition, I have found practical and spiritual books to be helpful. I have allowed the Holy Spirit to direct me regarding reading other materials. I do some recreational reading but it usually comes in last place in order of priorities.
Pastor Stan Saunders – Chillicothe, MO
Reading is the primary way that I gain insight and wisdom. Of course I read the Bible daily. My son posts a daily liturgy for worship online at www.dailychapel.com. It includes prayer and Bible readings from the Gospels, the Psalms, Old and New Testament. I also read many Scriptures in association with sermon prep.
I do extensive research for every sermon. Developing a preaching calendar that broadcasts sermon topics and sermon series several months in advance allows me to read ahead for upcoming sermon material. In my early days of ministry I read many leadership books. I had so many leadership deficiencies that were holding me back from greater effectiveness.
Over the past few years I have been reading theology books by Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Pentecostal theologians. I have discovered immensely insightful thoughts on forgiveness, the lordship of Christ and the kingdom of Heaven. I read books on church planting and church growth. I read books about how to preach better sermons. I read business books, newspapers and magazines.
Being well read allows me to connect with big thinkers and community leaders. It helps me to converse with farmers, bankers, hospital administrators and business owners. Reading helps me grow and develop as a husband and father. Reading allows me to know things that I will never discover on my own. I only know what I know. I want to know what that author knows. I purposely read a few books that I think that I will disagree with. Usually I learn something useful from these books also. I am trying to reach people who now have opposing views from my own. Being well rounded in my reading helps me speak to those who are quite different from myself.
Finally, I always have a fictional book going. I read historical and western novels. Reading for pleasure helps slow down my thoughts and helps me get to sleep at night.
Pastor Virgil Stokes – Tucson, AZ
What a great question! The blessing of the day in which we live is the easy availability of so much information. Reading is a (the?) key to keeping mentally and spiritually fresh. I thank God for my tablet that allows me to carry multiple books and have access to blogs, articles and magazines world-wide. It has revolutionized my reading (and the size of my carry-on).
The Bible in its many versions is a daily staple. I am pretty compulsive, so I always follow a plan of some kind to keep me disciplined. I do like to vary the plan from time-to-time to keep myself engaged. Outside of that first hour of the day, the rest of my reading is varied.
First, I use the internet and social media to stay abreast of current events and ideas. I use Twitter as a newsfeed to follow folks I really like and to find related authors that they suggest. Second, I use a news compiler and aggregator, (actually more than one) to cherry pick headlines and give me synopses with the option to read the whole article. Right now, I like an app called “Newser.” There is an abundance of leadership and management oriented blogs that I follow to help me keep getting better at leading my people. I am pretty long in the tooth, so I try to find sites that are written by younger people to keep pushing myself. This new generation is an odd lot, but they are my labor force and my ministry’s future! The great part of these kinds of “techy” things is I can read an article anywhere, anytime using my phone or my tablet.
Second, I try to always have at least one book going that deals with “spiritual” stuff. I find many of the things written today to be a rehash of something I read thirty years ago, but I attempt to read something from our “faith” genre every few months to stay fresh. I follow the current writings of ministers I respect, and see what they are reading. I also love to read well-written commentaries that are not from our own crowd. They help me dig a little deeper on what I actually believe and why I believe it. Additionally, I usually have one leadership book going. I like to keep something next to my chair, my bed, and in the bathroom, as well as using my tablet to read on the treadmill. It keeps me alive.
As a youth, I was a great reader of mysteries for recreational reading. After I came to the Lord, I lost a bit of my passion for them. I still love mysteries, but now I read mainly real life stories or biographies. I began in the seventies reading a book called The Raven about Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre. It gave me great insight into the mind of an anointed preacher who got very, very far off the path. (Lord, keep us on track!) I found that the workings of the human mind fascinate me, so I read stuff along those lines for “recreation.” That is the one which is usually on the night stand.
A couple of books I would highly recommend are by Dr. Gordon Fee. He wrote a commentary called, God’s Empowering Presence that was life-changing for me. It is a verse-by-verse study of all the Pauline references to the S(s)pirit. Powerful stuff. He also wrote the current volume on 1st Corinthians for the New International Commentary on the New Testament. That is a big deal because he is Spirit-filled. I don’t know of another scholarly commentary on that book written by a Holy Ghost guy. Another life-changer is Repenting of Religion: Turning from Judgment to the Love of God by Gregory Boyd. All I could say was, “Wow!” He read my mail. He also wrote Is God to Blame?, an excellent mini-treatise on the problem of evil.
As for an annual read, the only thing I make it a point to do every year is re-read the pastoral epistles in one sitting during my annual retreat. If Paul thought it a good idea to write to these fellows with specifics on pastoring, I want to be sure to take advantage of his insights. I fast, ask the Lord to make me a better shepherd, and then I read. I find that after thirty plus years of this practice, there are still nuggets hidden there that help me immensely.
Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA
I’ve developed the habit the past several years of meditating in certain passages in every book of the New Testament nearly every day. This is my primary way of staying strong as a believer. From time to time I do read parts of The Believer’s Authority and What To Do When Faith Seems Weak And Victory Lost, both by Brother Hagin. Also as time allows, I read current books by fellow pastors and traveling ministers that I’m familiar with. When I’m doing research for a certain sermon topic, I do get out my other Bible translations and older faith books, and of course go back through the Bible to get refreshed and insight on a subject I’ve probably taught hundreds of times. The main thing is I try to stay so full of the Word that I always have an overflow to feed His sheep as well as meet the needs of my own family.
Pastor Jim Blanchard – Virginia Beach, VA
I think that one of the primary challenges of a pastor or ministry leader is to keep themselves in the discipline of personal growth and study through reading from great authors. Here are some suggestions along these lines that I hope are helpful:
- A primary consideration in reading is balance and time management. A pastor is more apt to be well read for personal edification and to have something of substance to minister to the people.
- A daily devotional is a great habit to keep; there are many great options. Just as a good breakfast is important mentally and physically, a good Word read and meditated upon is good for your spirit and soul to start your day.
- I recommend taking a class at your local college or university in your area of interest or profession either on campus or online to keep study habits sharpened.
- Reading for pleasure is part of the healthy balance and exercising discernment is necessary as many publications are not written from a Christian world-view.
- As you grow and mature in your calling, you will discover what works best to keep yourself well read and knowledgeable and what readings to shun or avoid.
May the Lord bless you and your family in fulfilling your calling!
Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
It is always important to read directly from God’s Word. We are encouraged to not let His Word depart from before our eyes. I like to read scripture passages before reading something from another source. After devotional time, then I like to look into other Christian resources. Kenneth Hagin’s books have been the most likely source for my reading in the past. He always has scripture passages in his books and then explains the scripture through personal experiences.
There are certain books that I have been led to reread more than once in a year. I almost never use commentaries. I like practical ministry, so I like to read after authors who give me information that I can use immediately.
Mini books are good to keep on hand. You can carry them in your pocket and read a portion as time allows. I like to read scripture in 2 or 3 translations. I usually read King James, Amplified and the New Living Bible. It gives me a well-rounded account of the original meaning of the text. Some people will say, “You can never read enough scripture each day.” God is not unreasonable. He doesn’t put unreasonable demands upon your time. Just be led by the inner witness of the Spirit as to how much to read each day and how many times to read each day. You will be just fine.
Pastor Duane Hanson – Saint Paul, MN
With all of the various aspects of this month’s question (percentages, per-week, authors, spiritual, theological, or recreational), it’s difficult to know where to start! Every one of these could be a whole subject, so I’ll stick primarily with the importance of reading the Bible. However, I do enjoy reading all kinds of books on subjects that interest me (history, current events, fiction, classics, etc.), but I’ve found that the majority of my reading feeds my spiritual life.
When I was first starting out in the ministry, I was struck by Paul’s advice to Timothy about his priorities, and the benefits of applying them to his everyday life.
1 Timothy 4:13-16 (KJV)
Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
It’s important to realize that the first thing on this list is reading! I doubt Timothy was visiting the local Christian bookstore and picking through the multitude of authors like we can today, or browsing the local library trying to find a good novel. Honestly, I have a huge collection of books in my library, many of which I still haven’t read from cover to cover. I’ve been guilty of buying books because of just one chapter that caught my interest. When I get a new book, I usually do a quick “speed read” of the whole thing. Once I’ve determined which chapters are relevant to the subject I’m studying, or for the message I’m preparing, I’ll get out my colored pens and markers and take more time to read, highlight and meditate on those parts of the book that really speak to me. Yes, I’m the kind of “reader” that sits and highlights all my books! (In fact, my wife will sometimes buy her own book because she finds all my “coloring” to be a distraction!)
There are certain books that I’ve read repeatedly when I’ve felt the need to brush up on an area. Years ago, when starting to read a new book, I developed the habit of writing the dates inside the front cover, and every time I would come back and read that book again, I would write the new dates inside the cover. Some of my books have multiple dates indicating how many times I’ve come back and read that book. Also, it’s always interesting to see what I highlighted during my previous reading, and what I highlight this next time around. I’ve found that there are whole sections of a chapter that have very few highlights from my first or second time through, but really stood out to me this time, and I’ve caught things I missed before.
I’m assuming Paul’s instruction to Timothy was primarily referring to reading the scriptures, and probably the letters Paul sent the various churches. More than once Paul left instructions for his letters to be read aloud to the churches.
Colossians 4:16 (MSG)
After this letter has been read to you, make sure it gets read also in Laodicea. And get the letter that went to Laodicea and have it read to you.
1 Thessalonians 5:27 (MSG)
And make sure this letter gets read to all the brothers and sisters. Don’t leave anyone out.
The advice Paul gave Timothy echoes what Moses told the leaders of Israel in his day. Moses instructed the Israelites to make sure the man they chose as their king was well versed in the scriptures. To those who desire to be in “leadership” and speak into the lives of God’s people today, this same principle should also apply to us.
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NLT)
When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the LORD his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.
As Christian leaders, I believe we should take the advice that Moses gave Israel, and understand that all the other benefits Paul mentions in 1 Timothy 4:13-16 are dependent upon our first having a working knowledge of what the scriptures say. Our “exhortations, doctrine, and gifts” should all be built upon the foundation of truth that we’ve read in the scriptures. As ministers, it’s vital that we purpose to “meditate upon” the scriptures, and “give ourselves wholly to them, that our profiting may appear unto all!” Paul intended that we “take heed” and “continue” in what we’ve been reading, so that we’ll be able to share it with “those who hear” us, and see the benefits of salvation extended into their lives.
Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
Pastor Jack Hayford said that he would try to read the Bible from different versions that he had in his home and office. In this way, he would catch new truths in well known, and often memorized, verses. I found this works.
There is no substitute for reading the Bible for personal devotions. But for practical applications and new perspectives, it’s important to read good Christian books.
- The Believer’s Authority, by Kenneth E. Hagin is a book my wife and I read annually.
- Christ The Healer, by FF Bosworth should be part of every minister’s library and read often.
- The Bloodline of a Champion, by Mark Hankins provides terrific communion messages.
- The Untapped Power of Praise, by Kenneth W. Hagin is one of the most inspiring books I own.
Recent books I loved reading that helped me a lot:
- Compelled by Love, by Heidi Baker. She bridges the gap between Mother Teresa and contemporary Christianity.
- They Told Me Their Stories – Azusa Street Revival by Tommy Welchel. Wow! This will make you want to pray!
- The Life Story of Lester Sumrall – great reading and motivating material that makes you want to dare to trust God!
- In Search of Timothy, by Tony Cooke is the best material for training workers in the church (ever!)
Reading other material? Yes! Forbes magazine provides good perspectives on entrepreneurship, economics, and current events. It helps you think big. A recent quote I liked was “Don’t try to be interesting, be interested.”
There are many other great books that should be on every pastor’s shelf but if you don’t have these, get started here.
Finally, listening to other minister’s messages is a good idea. I really enjoy the teachings on marriage on CD by Joe McGee. He makes difficult subjects hilarious.
Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, Texas
It’s been well said that good leaders are readers. But it’s also true that great feeders of people’s souls are readers. Over my twenty-nine years of pastoral ministry, I have read my bible daily the entire time. I have read the bible through thirty-five times during that time. In addition, I read or learn from others five hours a week. The reward of that investment is I never lack something I’m passionate about teaching.
Pastor Phillip Curtis – Franklin, IN
As a pastor of 34 years, I love what Brother Cooke is doing. Here’s a few things that I do. Feel free to touch base with me if you’d like.
I read different translations of the Bible which continue to give me fresh insight and understanding. I mostly use NKJV, Amplified, NLT and Wuest. I also read a variety of commentaries, such as Barnes and Adam Clarke, and Word Studies, such as Wuest, Vincent, and others.
I spend a great deal of my time in “spiritual and theological books” and books that I’ve already noted. Because of not attending Bible school, I’ve always been driven to teach myself the Word, and I do this by constant reading and writing. One practice that has helped me over the years is marking in my books. Underlining and making notes in the margin has been a big help in keeping me disciplined to read.
The authors that I read after the most are usually people that “dig into the Word”, such as Rick Renner or authors that tend to emphasize what God has mandated for my ministry. Also, Kenneth E. Hagin and others who deal with the authority of the believer, and also books that deal with the Person and activity of the Holy Spirit. As far as books that I read on an annual basis, one would be, The Believer’s Authority by Brother Hagin (this book changed my life). As for recreational reading, I enjoy resting my mind at night with a Louis L’Amour book. :-)