8 Ways to Know Your Reading is Too Limited

book

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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Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • What a week
  • I got back Thursday from a few days at a preaching conference in Reno and hit the ground running on my sermon
  • It was an unbelievable conference
  • You can read my notes from it here
  • I preached yesterday on John 3:16
  • One of the most well known, beloved verses in the Bible that most people do not believe is true
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • I have been loving preaching through the book of John
  • I wasn’t sure how I would like as I’ve never preached through a gospel before and it’s a different genre of Scripture from what we’ve done in the past
  • But it has been awesome
  • After church yesterday we had 60 people in our house for a meeting about our final fundraiser for our adoption
  • We will be working on the home of a widow and through that we are hoping to raise 9-15K for travel expenses to Ethiopia and other expenses
  • I was blown away by the amount of people who are willing to help us and give up time and raise money with us
  • It is humbling to think about all the people who have helped Nehemiah join our family and this child as well
  • I’m excited about this week as the last few have been crazy in our house and this is a slower week
  • Definitely in need of that
  • I have lunch today with my accountability partner, which is always a helpful time
  • If you as a leader or man don’t have someone who can ask you hard questions and challenge you, you will never be who God created you to be
  • It is really helpful to have this
  • I’ll blog this week about how a pastor finds this person as it can be difficult
  • Over the weekend I almost finished Dan Brown’s new book Inferno
  • So good
  • Definitely more like Angels and Demons than The Lost Symbolwhich I think is a good thing
  • I’m really excited about our church starting Financial Peace University this Tuesday
  • This made a huge impact on Katie and I and I can’t recommend it enough
  • You can sign up for the class here

Monday Morning Mind Dump…

mind dump

  • Yesterday was our first time meeting as a church on Mother’s Day and it was a lot of fun
  • Seeing all the families getting their free family pictures was so cool to see
  • It was awesome to see some people that our leaders have been praying for take their first steps with Jesus yesterday
  • It never gets old to see someone take communion for the first time and to take next steps of seeing Jesus make them new
  • I preached from John 3:1 – 15 on a very old idea of “being born again” but really sought to make it fresh
  • It was a really weighty topic heading into the day
  • It was one of those days where as a pastor you feel like you are battling for the people you are preaching to
  • If you missed it, you can listen to it here
  • Here’s the song the band did to set my sermon up
  • It was the perfect song to set up where we were headed for the day
  • Pretty excited that Dan Brown’s new book Inferno comes out tomorrow
  • I love his books
  • Yes, they are usually heretical and often times inaccurate historically, but they are cool novels
  • If you want some good, cheap kindle books, check out this list of ones that are on sale now
  • I’m excited for next week as we’re looking at the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 and how that reveals God’s love for us personally, but also how that reveals God’s plan and purpose for us as individuals and as a church
  • We had a busy week of family and friends over this weekend, so I’m looking forward to some downtime
  • I’m also excited this week to learn from some mentors on the topic of preaching
  • Everything I keep reading says that when a church grows from 250-1000, it is largely because of the level of preaching
  • Hoping to continue to grow in that area
  • And apply some of what I learn next weekend in my sermon
  • Should be good
  • We are getting closer to unveiling what we hope will be our final fundraiser to bring our Ethiopian child home
  • We need to raise 9-15K
  • Stay tuned for ways you can be involved in that

Saturday Afternoon Book Review || The Racketeer (and Why Pastors Should Read Novels)

On most Saturday afternoons, I share a review of the most recent book I’ve read.To see previous books I’ve reviewed, go here. This week’s book is The Racketeer (kindle version) by John Grisham.

Here’s the plot:

The book is about a federal judge’s murder and an imprisoned lawyer who has inside knowledge on the details of the murder.

Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fawcett has just become number five.

Who is the Racketeer? And what does he have to do with the judge’s untimely demise? His name, for the moment, is Malcolm Bannister. Job status? Former attorney. Current residence? The Federal Prison Camp near Frostburg, Maryland.

On paper, Malcolm’s situation isn’t looking too good these days, but he’s got an ace up his sleeve. He knows who killed Judge Fawcett, and he knows why. The judge’s body was found in his remote lakeside cabin. There was no forced entry, no struggle, just two dead bodies: Judge Fawcett and his young secretary. And one large, state-of-the-art, extremely secure safe, opened and emptied.

What was in the safe? The FBI would love to know. And Malcolm Bannister would love to tell them. But everything has a price—especially information as explosive as the sequence of events that led to Judge Fawcett’s death. And the Racketeer wasn’t born yesterday . . .

Nothing is as it seems and everything’s fair game in this wickedly clever new novel from John Grisham.

It was vintage Grisham. Not as good as my favorite Grisham novel, but still really good.

Which brings me to another point: why pastors should periodically read novels. 

As a pastor, I am constantly reading. The old adage that “leaders are readers” is true. Any leader who is leading a large organization that I’ve ever met, is a reader. But with reading theology, sermon prep, and leadership books, my brain gets tired. It is nice periodically throughout the year to read biographies, memoirs or novels. Books that have no connection to being a pastor or a sermon. Some of my favorite authors for this besides Grisham are David Baldacci (the Camel Club series is fantastic), Andrew Britton and Dan Brown.

Saturday Night Mind Dump…

  • Really hard to put into words what tonight was like
  • We had our highest attendance ever!
  • Let’s see if we can top that next week
  • It is crazy to see what God has done in 1 year at our church
  • Got to baptize 3 people tonight, that never gets old
  • One person posted some pics on facebook
  • There are also some pics on Revolution’s fan page
  • Loved seeing all the first time guests tonight
  • We’ve had over 30 in the last month
  • Unbelievable
  • Got to preach with Katie tonight and share a lot of our journey, but more specifically her journey
  • Really proud of the work she has done
  • If you missed tonight, you can listen to it here
  • Next week we’ll get into the 1 thing that can kill your marriage before and after it starts
  • You don’t want to miss that
  • Forgiving people and working through hurts, pain and wounds is a really hard topic to work through, but so crucial to actually living life
  • Too many people settle and decide to carry burdens and hurts they shouldn’t
  • We had people write down those hurts, wounds, bitterness, anger, etc. on a piece of paper and then rip while doing a prayer exercise
  • It was a powerful way to end the night
  • I loved Paul’s thoughts on the first year of the life of Revolution
  • Here are 15 ways to improve your marriage and 15 ways to destroy your marriage
  • If tonight struck a chord with you, here is a list of books that would be worth checking out
  • We also had a handout on the next steps table that is a very practical exercise when it comes to forgiveness, you can download that here (this is taken from Neal Anderson’s book Steps to Freedom in Christ)
  • Really getting sucked into Dan Brown’s new book The Lost Symbol, hoping to finish it tonight, we’ll see
  • Having lunch this week with Craig Coulter who is a pastor on the Northwest side, he’s been a huge help since we moved to Tucson, always get a lot out of our time together
  • Wiped out right now, here is why I look forward to Sunday mornings at home
  • Finished a great book that is a must read for any pastor
  • It was crazy tonight as Katie and I were talking to realize how far we have come in our journey
  • Our small groups start this week, if you want to get plugged in, send an email to Dave LePeau
  • Hoping for a strong showing from my fantasy football teams tomorrow, I’m 0-2 in the league with a bunch of pastors
  • Unbelievable to me that Penn State can’t beat Iowa, you can’t figure out how to beat the same team that kills you every year
  • But I am feeling really confident about my Steelers against the Bungles tomorrow
  • Mark this on your calendars
  • October 31 we are doing Hallowiin at Lincoln Park
  • This is going to be a huge event and a great way for us to serve and love our city
  • If you are interested in helping or donating stuff, please contact Jennifer Ingram
  • I’m blown away by what God is doing at Revolution right now
  • Excited to be a part of it
  • Revolution, come next week ready to see God do some awesome things, it is going to be a HUGE WEEK!

Links of the Week

  1. Mark Driscoll on Building a theological library. This is a great place to start to learn how to read the right books on theology, the Bible, books of the Bible, etc. I get a lot of my information from these resources for my sermons.
  2. Mark Batterson on Staff transitions. I’ve been on both sides of good and bad staff transitions and transitions matter, for the individual and the church they are coming to or leaving from. Great insight into how to make those smooth for everyone and how the kingdom wins when they go well.
  3. Scott Thomas on Characteristics of good preaching. Great list on what makes a good sermon, good preaching. Definitely worth checking out if you preach on a regular basis. You can always get better at it.
  4. The folks at Westminster Bookstore have helped set up a remarkable website with serious reflections on the kinds of scientific and religious questions raised by the Dan Brown blockbuster Angels and Demons. (HT: John Piper)
  5. Paul Ingram on Stewardship of influence. Great thoughts on what comes with leadership and the stewardship side of what is expected of the influence you have.

Angels and Demons

movie poster

The book by far is Dan Brown’s best book, so I was very excited to see the movie.

If you haven’t read the book, you will love the movie.

If you have read the book, you will really like the movie.

It is definitely a hard story to bring to the screen, but I thought some of the changes they made should not have been made, but then, I’m not Ron Howard. But without reading the book, you wouldn’t know.

But it is definitely worth seeing, really entertaining.

What I Do to Rest

One of the things that God has been working on me recently is in the area of rest and re-energizing. I think this is something that everyone stinks at. But specifically pastors and leaders, because there is always something else to do. There is always another meeting, another phone call to make, another person to meet with, another sermon to write, all of them good things and needed things. What gets lost in the midst of that is meeting with God. Bill Hybels put it great, “Pastors can get so busy doing the work of God that they miss the work of God.” That is so true.

Recently, I have struggled with letting go of things, hurts of my own, the hurts of others and being able to move forward past things. It boiled down to resting and being with God. Life gets so busy that we forget to Sabbath, to be with God and let him renew us.

But who has time for that?

I am not going to spend time trying to convince you to Sabbath or to rest, if you don’t want to do that, my list won’t help. But if you are at the place where you need some rest, here are some ideas:

  • Take a nap. It’s amazing how spiritual it can be to sleep. When we sleep, we are helpless, we are telling God, “You are in control.” Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.
  • Read a book. For me, I love to read, but leadership and ministry books often don’t energize me, they make my mind work. So when I want to rest, I read novels. My favorites are John Grisham, David Baldacci, and Dan Brown.
  • Spend time in the Bible. We read too many books about the Bible or what the Bible means instead of reading the Bible. I always like to go to the source instead of getting the cliff notes.
  • Exercise. This is proven to not only be healthy, but reenergizing. Take a walk, a run, a hike, a bike ride, whatever. Get out and get some air and get some blood moving.
  • Have sex. Obviously this only is a good idea if you are married, but we all know how this can help with re-energizing. Enough said.
  • Watch something. Sometimes you need to be taken into another world and get your mind off whatever. Watch something stupid and laugh. I like old SNL episodes. Cowbell, motivational speaker, you get the idea.
  • Have some friends over. This can be a great reminder of what matters and that there are people out there who love you and want to be with you. As a pastor, this is crucial.
  • Listen to a sermon. Especially if you preach for a living, listen to someone else. Listen to someone outside of your tradition. I love listening to T.D. Jakes and E.V. Hill. I wish I could sound like that.

Learning to rest is a spiritual practice, it is one of the best ways that God works through us. Whenever I find myself getting off vision in my leadership or finding myself not hearing God’s voice that means I need to rest and get away.