8 Ways to Know Your Reading is Too Limited


I love books. This isn’t a secret if you’ve been around my blog for a long time. You can see what I’ve read recently here and read my book reviews here. When I meet other leaders and pastors, at some point what they are reading comes up. I get some funny looks from some guys about what I read, as I don’t always read books written by Christians or books from my theological stream. Which made me think about how many leaders limit themselves in their reading, much to their detriment.

So, here are 8 ways to know if you are limiting your reading.

  1. Every book you read is from your camp. There are a lot of crazy theological ideas out there, so you need to be wise about what you read. But the reality is though, you don’t know everything and you certainly don’t have the bible and every theological idea all figured out. I don’t either. It is good to read authors who believe differently than you so that you can be challenged. I disagree on almost every theological point with Rob Bell and Brian McLaren, but their writings have forced me to ask good theological questions and made me stronger for it. Now a short note, if you are new in your faith, this isn’t a good idea as you don’t have the foundation to question yet. If that’s you, ask your pastor or a respected Christian for some book recommendations.
  2. Every book you read has bible verses in them. You should read some books by authors and leaders who don’t follow Jesus. There are great leadership and living ideas in books that have no bible verses in them. You should read health books by people who think we evolved from monkeys. One of the reasons is to learn how to communicate, but also to see what people who walk through the doors of your church believe.
  3. Every book you read confirms what you already believe. This is similar to the first one, but if you put a book down and are not challenged in your faith or leadership, you wasted your time.
  4. You finish every book you start. I get asked a lot why I don’t write negative book reviews. Every book you review you say that you like is what I’ve been told. The reason? If I don’t like a book by p. 40, I put it down. Life is too short to read a book you don’t like or aren’t being challenged by. If it’s poorly written or boring or not challenging, it’s off the list. Don’t feel the need to finish every book you start or to read every chapter of a book, they may not all be relevant.
  5. Books don’t challenge your heart. Similar to point 3, but you should be challenged. You should find ways to improve your preaching, leadership skills or your faith, being a spouse or parent. If not, put it down. If a book does not put the magnifying glass up to your heart and life, it isn’t worth the time.
  6. You never read a novel. I love novels. I love novels about spies or lawyers in particular. Throughout the year, I stop my reading list and pick up a novel. Some of my favorite authors are Dan Brown, Daniel Silva, John Grisham and David Baldacci. Baldacci’s Camel Club series is still one of my favorites. Every pastor should read at least 1 novel a year just to give their brain a break.
  7. Every book you read is for a sermon. You should read books that have no application in a sermon. It also sometimes happens that you are reading a book that you discover something that will work in a sermon, that’s great too. If you are doing a series on marriage, you should be reading a book on money or grace just to keep growing in other areas.
  8. Every book you read is by a pastor. You should read books by CEO’s, bankers, doctors, trainers, money managers, scientists, not just pastors or speakers.

What would you add to the list to know if your reading list is too narrow?

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Links I Like

Links I Like is a collection of blogs, articles and books I’ve come across recently and thought they were worth sharing. Click here for past Links I Like

Links of the Week

  1. Luke Simmons on the Sermon starts in the parking lot. Great reminder on how everything we do as Christians and a church matters.
  2. How do you overcome the “morning after preaching hangover.” Helpful for pastors.
  3. Dustin Neeley on Using an iPad in ministry:  Should I use my laptop or iPad? and How I use my iPad in ministry.
  4. Bob Franquiz on The power of one good idea.
  5. Dave Bruskas on How to preach on hell.
  6. 5 ways to make sure your kids hate church.
  7. Ron Edmondson on 10 myths people have about the church.
  8. Teenagers and sexting.
  9. A theological conversation worth having.
  10. Perry Noble on How to stay passionate.
  11. Scott Thomas on the 4 phases of raising boys.
  12. Dave Bruskas on Parenting daughters.

Links of the Week

  1. Acts 29 on 10 things that keep churches from being on mission.
  2. Jonathan Dodson on How to NOT be missional. Great thoughts, there is so much confusion over what being missional means and doesn’t mean.
  3. Tim Challies helpful review of Brian McLaren’s new book and Kevin DeYoung’s even more helpful review. I definitely recommend you read thess reviews before buying Brian’s new book (Challies is the shorter of the two, but both are worth the read if you are thinking about buying the book).
  4. J.D. Greear on People are the mission.
  5. What pastors can learn from Steve Jobs. This is something everyone who teaches, preaches or communicates needs to read. Wow.
  6. Craig Groeschel on how to know if your messages are too deep, too shallow, too creative and too long.
  7. Elliott Grudem on Why bother with lent.

Links of the Week

  1. Barack Obama’s transition website (they update what is happening, what their thinking, new things happening during the transition)
  2. Tim Stevens on Schedules and balance
  3. Jonathan Dodson on Engaging culture
  4. Tim Keel on Spiritual disciplines for couples
  5. Tony Morgan on Empowerment vs. Delegation
  6. Brian McLaren on Christmas gift ideas
  7. Craig Groeschel on Running an effective meeting
  8. Ben Worthington & John Piper on Why Calvinism is so negative (great video)

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • Great night tonight, felt a little weird but overall an a great night
  • Love speaking on the gospel, the core message of the Bible and the kingdom of God
  • Lots of great conversation and feedback tonight, great questions during the Q & A time
  • Love stretching the way people think
  • The band was great tonight, really a great feel in the room
  • For more reading on the gospel, check out what Scot McKnight, Tim Keel and Tim Keller wrote about it
  • Some great books on this topic are Brian McLaren’s The Secret Message of Jesus & N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus
  • Had someone walk out tonight, always interesting when that happens
  • I am loving this series
  • Busy day tomorrow, I have several meetings before the Steelers game @ 2pm
  • Next week will be crazy, I have to get my school stuff done by Friday, work on details of Paul’s move, write a few sermons as I am speaking at some other churches in the coming weeks, good times
  • I’m beginning to wonder what down time is, looking forward to a slower season
  • Here is a great video of Brian McLaren talking on why Jesus came to earth
  • Getting closer to playoff time in my fantasy leagues, but I’m still going strong (10-0, 9-1, 7-3)
  • Don’t miss the special showing of “What would Jesus buy?” next week right after church. We’ll have food and childcare so you don’t to worry about those things
  • Getting my haircut this week, definitely something I need
  • Next week I’m talking about why Revolution exists, so if you’re curious why we exist, don’t miss it (go for a sneak peek on our mission and target)
  • I got a lot of requests tonight for my notes, so here they are
  • This book is kicking my butt right now, really eye opening
  • Looking forward to some time with the kids tomorrow, love that
  • We had too many questions tonight to get to them all, so I will answer them on this blog during the week and would love some feedback when I post them

Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, & a Revolution of Hope

We’re in the middle of our series Becoming… and one of the books I read was Brian McLaren’s book Everything Must Change. This book is everything I have come to expect from Brian’s book. It will stretch my thinking, frustrate me, make me mad, I’ll disagree with him, but at the end of the book, I’m glad I spent the time reading it. I have said numerous times, even though I don’t agree with all of this theological beliefs, Brian McLaren is one of the guys who has influenced my spiritual journey the most because of how much he has challenged me and made me think. I think more pastors should read his books with this mindset instead of looking for things they disagree with. Now, I’ll step off my soapbox and get back to the book.

The premise of the book is centered around two questions:  1) What are the biggest problems facing our word; 2) What does Jesus have to say about those problems? These are huge questions, but pressing questions in the world that we live in. If you would take a rough look at the world around us, many Christians are living in a way that says Jesus has absolutely nothing to say about the world we live and the problems we face.

He starts off by asking, “When I was a pastor, people often asked my opinion on hot-button issues like evolution, abortion, and homosexuality. The problem was that after discussing those issues in all their importance and intensity, I couldn’t help asking other questions:  Why do we need to have singular and firm opinions on the protection of the unborn, but not about how to help poor people and how to avoid killing people labeled enemies who are already born? Or why are we so concerned about the legitimacy of homosexual marriage but not about the legitimacy of fossil fuels or the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (and in particular, our weapons as opposed to theirs)? Or why are so many religious people arguing about the origin of species but so few concerned about the extinction of species?” It just keeps moving from there. What Brian points out and what I have felt for a long time is that we zero in our “hot button” issues and everything falls by the wayside. We all do this. He asks, “Why hasn’t the Christian religion made a difference commensurate with its message, size, and resources? What would need to happen for followers of Jesus to become a greater force for good in relation to the world’s top problems? How could we make a positive difference?”

One of the things I am excited about with the Becoming… series is that we will be partnering with churches in Tucson for something called Advent Conspiracy. We will be raising money to give away to people in Tucson, as well as in the third world to build wells for clean drinking water.

Here are a few things that jumped out:

  • Jesus’ message is not actually about escaping this troubled world for heaven’s blissful shores, as is popularly assumed, but instead is about God’s will being done on this troubled earth as it is in heaven. So people interested in being a new kind of Christian will inevitably begin to care more and more about this world, and they’ll want to better understand its most significant problems, and they’ll want to find out how they can fit in with God’s dreams actually coming true down here more often.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the message of the kingdom is not focused on how to escape this world and its problems by going to heaven after death, but instead was focused on how God’s will could be done on earth, in history, during this life. We describe God’s kingdom in terms of God’s dreams coming true for this earth, of God’s justice and peace replacing earth’s injustice and disharmony.
  • “No problem can be solved from the same level of conciousness that created it.” (Albert Einstein)

You can tell in this book that Brian has spent a lot of time with Jim Wallis as this book reminded me a lot of God’s Politics. This book is definitely worth reading, in an election year or not. I think that thinking Christians should check this out, wrestle through it and try to discover the answers to Brian’s questions.


“The Bible’s purpose, we assume, is to explain how to go to heaven, to legitimize certain religious institutions, to define in detail universal timeless truths, to provide a detailed timeline for the end of the world, and so on. But based on that assumption, there appears to be a lot of junk revelation in there, a lot of extraneous material about history, agriculture, economics, art, ethics, and “earthly” things, extra stuff that doesn’t really matter in relation to getting souls to heaven. So, what might we discover if we become willing to question that assumption? Then we could test an alternative hypothesis:  that the Bible instead is the story of the partnership between God and humanity to save and transform all of human society and avert global self-destruction. Perhaps if we read the Bible afresh from this perspective, a lot of the supposed filler will suddenly come alive with new importance and meaning.” – Brian McLaren in “Everything Must Change”

Do you agree?

Books I’m Reading for “Becoming…” Series

Here are some books I am reading for our next series Becoming…