Reading is an essential discipline for the pastor, indeed for any Christian who is able. A few years ago when invited to speak to a group of college students who aspired to the pastorate, I told them (what had become a common line for me), “If you do not like to read, reconsider your calling.” This may sound strong to some, but surely the pastor must be one characterized by much reading of the Scripture at least. Then, if we take seriously the calling to expound the Word of God to the people of God in the sight of God, we will, out of sheer humility and knowledge of our own weakness, desire to read the considerations on the text by others more knowledgeable and more godly than ourselves. Yes, reading- good reading, diligent reading, much reading- is essential for the pastor.
Therefore, I will make a few points of recommendation concerning reading. Much more could be said here, but I will make a start. First, John Piper’s essay, “Brothers, Fight for Your Lives” (in Brothers We are Not Professionals) is brilliant and encouraging in many ways. His encouragement simply to set aside 20 minutes a day for reading and his calculations on what you can accomplish with that have been very helpful to me. Jim Eliff’s essay, “An Argument for Learning,” is also very helpful.
More articles could be listed, but let me conclude with some other specific things that have been helpful to me. During my doctoral work, I began trying to review every book I read. This arose from the desire to capture the thoughts and insights gained from reading. It is discouraging to read something and later not be able to remember what you thought you had learned. This reviewing has become a very helpful discipline. Now, of course the level of reviewing varies- and some have slipped by without recorded comments. Some books receive a thorough review while for others I simply summarize and give the key thoughts which have been stirred in my mind.
Lastly, I have begun keeping a file of quotes from each book. I simply save them in a computer folder titled, “Book Notes.” This has helped me to make use of these gleaned gems in future work. Also, these lists of quotes have often been useful items to share with others. These ideas are ways I seek to make the most of my reading, squeezing optimal use of the effort. May these reflections from my journey encourage you in your own reading.