Solomon wrote many proverbs to instruct his sons in the way of God’s wisdom (Proverbs 1:8). As the first one to turn to Christ in my family, I never received such instruction while growing up, so I initially sought it from older Christians. But I also found that reading has allowed me to sit at the feet of older, trusted saints from whom I can learn the truth, wisdom, and instruction the Lord has entrusted to them.
But, as pastors, we not only need to be readers, we need to encourage our members to be readers as well. Encourage your members to read in your personal conversations with them. Utilize your reading in sermon illustrations and applications. Provide a reading list for your members. Give your members books you want them to read. At High Pointe, we have certain books in stock all the time, and we give away some of these books throughout our membership process so that each new member will be on the same page with our identity and mission. On Sunday nights, we usually give away one or two books to our members that relate to the morning’s sermon. We ask that the person receiving the book read it, then pass it along to another member when they’re done.
But just getting our members to read may not be enough. They may need some guidance as to what to read and how to read. Allow me to provide some guidance as to how you may encourage your members to take up reading in order that they may continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ
Read the Bible first.
Since Christianity is a faith that is based on the authoritative truth recorded in Scripture, reading the Bible should be our highest priority. Jesus reminds us that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God (Matthew 4:4). The Word of God is food for our hungry souls.
Don’t assume your people know how to approach Bible reading. Provide some guidance. Reading plans can be helpful, but they sometimes prove discouraging to those who cannot maintain the pace. In your preaching, use a Bible translation that is easy for all to understand, and encourage your members to follow along in that Bible when you gather. Also, encourage your members to get together to read the Bible and pray on a regular basis. Paint for them what a culture of reading the Bible together might look like.
Read good Christian books.
As important as Bible reading is, it is not the only kind of reading Christians should be doing. Many faithful Christians have gone before us and have left an enormous legacy from which we can learn. Since people are fallible, we must always read such books with discernment.
Because even those of us who are readers tend to gravitate toward a favorite author or a particular genre or period of literature, we need to encourage one another to be well-rounded readers. After the Bible, all Christians should read . . .
- Christian Biography: Christian biography encourages us as we identify with those saints who have gone before us and recognize God’s grace working through feeble humans.
- Church History: Church history allows us to connect with the church of all ages. It also allows us to learn from the church’s past mistakes and humbles us when we think our ideas are original to us.
- Christian Theology: Every Christian must work out what he or she believes in accordance with the Scriptures. Reading theology helps us understand how the doctrines we believe affect all areas of life. Note: Popular pastors/preachers may not be the best source for theological reading. So, provide some guidance for your members.
- Culture and Cultural Issues: Unfortunately, too many Christians are ignorant about the cultural issues of our day. It is time that we become informed, so that we can give an informed, biblical response. Note: Read all perspectives so you speak intelligently on the issues.
- Christian Devotional Literature: Here, I don’t mean the devotionals that merely give a Scripture reference, add a heart-warming story, and are ever so popular. By devotional literature, I mean that literature which is anchored in God’s Word and makes us think great thoughts about God and challenges us to drink deeply from God’s Word.
- Christian Living: Every Christian should spend time reading about the issues where faith and life meet (courtship, marriage, parenting, personal finances, stewardship, etc.). Again, be careful with what is merely popular.
Read good non-Christian books.
It is foolish to think that we can learn nothing from non-Christians. After all, all truth is God’s truth. And because we are all created in God’s image, even unbelievers are hardwired to reflect God’s world in their lives and writing. From unbelievers, we can learn about their pains and sorrows, as well as their pursuits for meaning and joy. In addition, we can learn much about a variety of fields and professions. Of course, we must be discerning (Philippians 4:8). But here are some areas in which we can learn from unbelievers.
- History, Government, and Politics: It’s important to know history (ours and the world’s), lest we become, in C. S. Lewis’ terminology, “chronological snobs.” In addition, as Americans, our historical ignorance opens us up to repeating mistakes already committed before our time.
- Classic Literature: Reading classical literature, whether novels, fiction, poetry, memoirs, biographies, or autobiographies, will not only help us be better rounded individuals, it will also give us a common vocabulary and experience to share with our unbelieving neighbors and friends.
Let us encourage our members to be readers so they may become curious Christians who love to learn in order to grow in the wisdom of God and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.