I read an article recently which highlighted one of the lesser known aspects of a (good) pastor’s job description. Reading. Yes, reading is work. Yes, it is work that I really enjoy. And yes, it is a very necessary part of a healthy pastor’s schedule.
Each week, I am attempting to read broadly from news sites and current events to helpful blogs. Then of course there is Scripture, which encompasses my devotional reading as well as all of the Biblical commentaries and other sermon helps that I am working through as a part of my regular devotional life and weekly sermon preparation.
But then there are the books, which are my primary focus here. The way I typically plan out my reading encompasses the practice of reading several books at once, all from different genres or subject areas. So for example, I will often be reading one book on the subject of preaching, a second book on Bible study, and then a third work of fiction, and so on.
So, for those who are interested, what follows is a brief snapshot of some of the books currently on my nightstand and why they are there.
Preaching is one of those things that I never quite feel like I have “mastered” and I want to continue to get better. Now by “better” I don’t mean that I want to become more skilled at impressing people with greater communicative prowess. My desire to improve in the area of preaching is simply so that I can become more effective at pointing to Jesus. As a preacher I want to stand less and less in the way of others having a clear understanding of who God is and who He has revealed himself to be through the person and work of Jesus as His story is being told across the pages of Scripture.
Keller is a master, both at helping me see Jesus better for myself as well as helping me think through how to more effectively communicate Him to others.
Same reasons as above, with a slight twist. I am a white guy. Most of my experience in hearing other preachers is from listening to other white guys preach. This influence effects my understanding preaching, of Scripture and of the world.
I’ll put it this way; Over the past sixteen years of my being married into a Puerto Rican family, there are areas of life where my own cultural intelligence has benefitted from being exposed to and often challenged by my wife’s Latin culture. In other words, there are things I have seen and been exposed to that have been very good for me.
Likewise, reading preachers from differing cultural backgrounds is helpful for me and my growth as an effective communicator of God’s Word, because I am able to see the text and approach the text having benefitted from a particular “lens” that I would not otherwise had access to. Plus, H. B. Charles is simply an incredible communicator of God’s Word and I want to learn from him.
Sometimes I feel like I really stink at loving other people well. I am timid and introverted and my natural desire is to kind of stay to myself. (All great qualities in a pastor and church planter.) Bob Goff is pretty much the opposite of all that. He is one of those guys that loves and lives life with a freedom that almost has a hint of scandal to it. You know, kind of like Jesus. I really want to get better at that.
Plus, the stories this guy tells are crazy. If they hadn’t all been fact-checked by his publisher, I would tend to think he was making it up. Goff’s story is a pretty entertaining read… you know, when it’s not requiring me to repent over my lack of love.
Book 4: Deitrich Bonhoeffer: In the Midst of Wickedness by Janet and Geoff Benge
My fourth grade son had to choose a biography for his reading homework this month. So we went to our city’s amazing public library and I picked three options for him to chose from. You know you must be a pastor’s kid when you choose Bonhoeffer over Payton Manning or Abraham Lincoln. And I know it’s a “children’s book”, but because of who I’m reading it with, this might be the most important book on my nightstand right now.