An Indispensable Habit to Leading

I was asked to write a short article about my reading habits by our local association. Here it is with a couple of bonus comments at the end.

“I’m not a reader” – I’ve heard this from a fair number of pastors and those training to be pastors over the years. My response is, “You should become one for the sake of your call, the care of those you’re leading and for the lost culture God has placed you in.”

I know it can be hard to cultivate a habit of reading. I know because I am a natural procrastinator (in other words, I fight against the cutests of the deadly sins- SLOTH).

In order to regularly move myself into this habit I take some time each week and a few minutes each day to pray about the condition of my heart, my head and my hands. I ask God to help me discern this week/day which area of my life do I need to spend some extra time on as He shapes me. In this way I prepare myself to read a little each day as a means of putting to death sin in me and bringing my thoughts captive to Christ.

This is why I have at least three books I am reading all the time. One dealing with personal spiritual life (Heart- Your Call- becoming a healthy disciple), one for ministry insights (Head- Leading Others- growing in ministry competency) and one to equip me to navigate the world in which I live (Hands- Evangelism – my need to become an effective missionary and ambassador of Christ in the highly secular environment I live).

This is also how I evaluate what books I will read next. I keep three lists of potential books I’d like to read. They fall under those three headings. I try to keep these lists to a max of ten books each. If I am going to add one- one has to come off (either by reading it or by process of elimination). Some of these books get covered in readings I may be doing with others (spouse, elders, Missional Communities, staff).

Lastly, at least one of these three books has to be from an author who has been dead for more than 100 years. Which usually means I am reading at least one book above my intellectual ‘pay grade’. If I find it too difficult for me to comprehend or wrestle with on my own I will often buy the audio book along with the hard copy. I find if someone else is reading it to me I can use my limited brain power to wrestle with the concepts. 

BONUS COMMENT: I love fiction! That is one genre that I don’t have to force myself to read. For the last few years I have used my audible subscription to cover a lot of my fiction cravings. I tend to try and listen to Pulitzer Prize winning historical fictions, over just the common action stuff I really like. Doing that teaches me to recognize good writing over just writing.

TRY THIS: I have found my social media scrolling taking over greater chunks of my rest time and mental space (I refer to this as ‘junk rest’. It has the same mental results as a steady diet of junk food); I recently felt convicted, when I feel a need to pick up my device to scroll that I commit to picking up a book that focuses my mind on something more meaningful instead. This has made a tangible difference in my rest and over all emotional health.

BONUS ARTICLE: My friend Darryl Dash has some great thoughts on how reading helps us deepen over the long haul. I found this to be really wise and helpful advice.

Thanks for reading,

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