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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Tuesday Morning Book Review || The Hit

bookEvery Tuesday morning, I review a book that I read recently. If you missed any, you can read past reviews here. This week’s book is The Hit (kindle version) by David Baldacci. It is the sequel to The Innocent

Here’s a quick synopsis from the author’s website:

Will Robie is a master of killing.

A highly skilled assassin, Robie is the man the U.S. government calls on to eliminate the worst of the worst—enemies of the state, monsters committed to harming untold numbers of innocent victims.

No one else can match Robie’s talents as a hitman…no one, except Jessica Reel. A fellow assassin, equally professional and dangerous, Reel is every bit as lethal as Robie. And now, she’s gone rogue, turning her gun sights on other members of their agency.

To stop one of their own, the government looks again to Will Robie. His mission: bring in Reel, dead or alive. Only a killer can catch another killer, they tell him.

But as Robie pursues Reel, he quickly finds that there is more to her betrayal than meets the eye. Her attacks on the agency conceal a larger threat, a threat that could send shockwaves through the U.S. government and around the world.

Overall, this is one of my favorite series by Baldacci. It’s not as violent as his other series, which is good for me. Although, The Camel Club series is still my favorite by Baldacci.

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.

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.