I just received this e-mail from Jon, a twenty five year old worship leader who will soon be taking on a new position at another church.
One facet of your site that is always of interest is your list of books you are currently reading. In addition to your devotional Scripture reading, how much time in a week do you set aside for reading? Do you schedule reading time into your day? As I contemplate the different ministry responsibilities that I will have, my concern is that the time to read will be slim. So, any helpful suggestions from your own experience are greatly appreciated.
A while back I posted on the topic of musicians and reading books. Jon’s questions give me an opportunity to fill out what I wrote there.
I have friends who put me to shame by the number of books they read. C.J. Mahaney is one of them. He is constantly reading theology books as well as books on biography, history, business, sports, and more. I think Al Mohler reads between 5-10 books a week. And he seems to remember most of what he reads. Tim Challies is a voracious reader, and provides insightful reviews as well.
But even if I don’t read as many books as others, I read. If I’m not reading, I’m relying on my memory. Which seems to be decreasing daily. So I read. I once heard someone say that books don’t change people – sentences do. If I glean two or three sentences from a book that affect the way I think and the way I live, that’s time well invested. So I read. Books give me the opportunity to learn from and about godly, bright, insightful people I’ll never meet. So I read. What I know will always be dwarfed by what I don’t know. So I read. Books help me become more effective at what I do. So I read.
What I’m saying is that I know I’ll be learning by reading for the rest of my life. That compels me to find time to read. Even if reading seems dry at the moment, I know that at some point I’ll find something insightful, engaging, or potentially life-changing. Without the inner drive and conviction that there is always more to learn, I stop reading. And when I stop reading I usually find that I drift and/or become complacent.
Julie and I almost always read for 15-30 minutes at night before we go to bed, no matter how late it is. Those books can be any topic. I just finished The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia and started one last night called Where are They Buried? How Did They Die? by Tod Benoit. It’s a book I picked up years ago on a bargain rack. It’s a sobering reminder of the brevity of life and in many instances, the consequences of sin.
I read on vacation, sometimes during my devotions (if it’s a book that directs my heart to God’s Word), and sometimes during the day, if the topic of the book relates to theology. I don’t have a set amount of time I read each week. I just make sure I’m always reading something. I try to set a goal each time I read whether it’s a chapter, a certain number of pages, or until I can’t keep my eyelids open. I read to learn, to laugh, to understand, to appreciate, to grow, and to remind myself that God’s world is much bigger than I’m aware.
I underline everything that impacts me, and have started to dog-ear pages with quotes I want to remember. When I review the book, I’ll turn to those pages. That way I have a better chance of benefiting from what I’m reading. I probably forget 99% of what I read. But if I didn’t read books, I wouldn’t get the 1%. I don’t always agree with everything I read in a book. But I almost always find sentences that are helpful.
Here are a few of the sentences that have impacted me recently.
One striking find is that in every society of which we’re aware, music and dance are inseparable…It is only in the last five hundred years that music has become a spectator activity – the thought of a musical concert in which a class of “experts” performed for an appreciative audience was virtually unknown throughout our history as a species. And it has only been in the last hundred years or so that the ties between musical sound and human movement have been minimized. (This is Your Brain on Music, 251. Written by a non-Christian, this is a fascinating look at how music affects us.)
The multiple reinforcing cues of a good song – rhythm, melody, contour – cause music to stick in our heads. That is the reason that many ancient myths, epics, and even the Old Testament were set to music in preparation for being passed down by oral tradition across the generations. (ibid., 261)
God isn’t nice. God isn’t safe. God is a consuming fire. Though He cares about the sparrow, the embodiment of His care if rarely doting or pampering. God’s main business is not ensuring that you and I get parking spaces close to the mall entrance or that the bed sheets in the color we want are – miracle! – on sale this week. His main business is making you and me holy. (Your God is Too Safe, 33. While I don’t recommend this book wholeheartedly, Buchanan’s writing style is creative and often insightful.)
From the side of God, the worship of the church is the communion of the Holy Trinity with us his people. We are inclined to view worship as what we do, but if we follow our argument, it is first and foremost something the triune God does, our actions initiated and encompassed by his. (The Holy Trinity, 416. A comprehensive survey of biblical foundations and historical development of the doctrine of the Trinity.)
The Psalms do not explicitly reflect the full range of Trinitarian revelation, and so cannot be the sole diet of the church without truncating its worship. (ibid., 422).
Please feel free to leave thoughts on how you motivate yourself to read and anything you’ve found helpful in terms of scheduling time to read.
Update #2: Al Mohler posts helpful thoughts on reading .