If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re a novice reader of Christian books. That’s okay! Seriously, The Hatchet is the only book I recall reading before I came to faith in Christ. This means I read a total of ONE book from the time I was born to the time I was eighteen years old (that’s kind of humiliating. . . . I know!). But I wasn’t interested in reading. I was all about myself, baseball, working out, television, and Call of Duty.
This all changed about eleven years ago during my freshmen year of college. In 2010, while I was at Faulkner State Community College in the little town of Bay Minette, Alabama, God decided to graciously call me to Himself through faith in Christ. In other words, I became a Christian. And as a new and ignorant follower of Christ, I began reading books.
I read ten to twelve books the first couple of years of my Christian life (some of which were really bad—I remember reading Heaven is for Real and The Shack—praise the Lord for increased discernment!). And for the last nine years or so, I’ve read anywhere between thirty to fifty books a year. So, even though I’m not a very impressive reader of Christian books, I’ve consistently read a decent number of books over the last eleven years. And my aim in this blog is to give novice readers of Christian books some helpful advice.
1st – Read Good Books
We “are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14). We have a limited amount of time here on this vast, beautiful earth, so we don’t have time to read everything that’s been written. To be honest, with the ample responsibilities that we have, it’s really not even a good idea to spend most of our time reading books.
So, if we’re going to spend some of our brief lives reading books, and we should, then we need to make sure that we read good books. As a matter of fact, we should carefully choose the books we read like we choose the friends we hang out with. Here’s a few easy ways to do this:
- Read books that are recommended by trustworthy Christians.
- Read books that reputable Christian scholars wrote in their field of expertise.
- Read books that have impacted Christians for centuries.
- Read books that are historically proven.
- Read books by a Christian author you’ve grown to love.
2nd – Don’t Finish Bad Books
You may not have thought about this, but books have been published every single day. . . . for thousands of years! It’s mind boggling to think about how many books are out there. I remember walking into the library at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and being overwhelmed by the amount of Christian literature shelved in there. I was dumbfounded when I thought about the small percentage of Christian books I’d be able to read in my life. Just imagine how I’d feel if I walked into the Library of Congress—a library containing over 170 million works!
And trust me, all these books aren’t good. As you strive to strictly read good books, you’ll discover that some of the books you thought would be good are actually bad. When this happens, don’t try to muster through it so that you can check that book off your list. Just put the bad book down and start another book that you think will be good. Honestly, why waste countless hours reading a bad book when there are so many good ones out there?!
3rd – Quality over Quantity
For a long time, I thought that the quantity of books I read was more important than the quality. I’d finish any book I started because I wanted to make sure I read a certain number of books in a year. I’d also gravitate away from larger books because I knew it would take me longer to read them . . . which would then cause me to read less books throughout the year. This was spiritually immature thinking (looking back, I was being pretty legalistic—as though God’s approval of me increased based on the number of books I read)!
I no longer have this thought process. I’ve learned that the quality of the books we read far outweighs the quantity of the books we read. The return of perusing a lengthy, historically proven book is way better than the return of reading many short, unproven books. For example, reading Spurgeon’s Lecture to My Students and Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry is more valuable that reading every present-day book on pastoral ministry out there (and there are some really good contemporary books on pastoral ministry out there!).
4th – Read to Learn
It’s so easy to think that a well-stocked library leads to a well-furnished mind—that a vast amount of reading entails vast amounts of learning. This, though, couldn’t be further from the truth. Simply reading a book doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve learned what the author is teaching.
Instead, it is important to digest the material we read so that we can really wrestle with the information the author is trying to teach us. We don’t simply want to be parrots that repeat what the writer says. We want to think and meditate on the material to such an extent that we’d be able to converse with the author about the arguments he’s making. Essentially, we want to read to learn, not read to read. And as we do this, let us keep in mind that one book mastered is better than a hundred books skimmed. Here are some ways to do this:
- Pause and reflect on profound sentences, paragraphs, and chapters.
- Write reviews on what you read.
- Evaluate the authors arguments with the Bible.
- Read numerous books on the same topic.
- Don’t be obsessed with finishing books. Let your curiosity push you to read all types of material on the same topic.
5th – Use What You Read
All learning, especially the accumulation of Christian knowledge, should lead to application. Some books will lead us to thank God. Others will encourage us to begin practicing a discipline that we’ve long forgotten. Others will motivate us to strengthen our marriages and our parenting. And other books will help us have rock solid biblical arguments against unbiblical teachings. So don’t just let the knowledge you gain through reading lie dormant in your mind. Insofar as the author is using biblical truth to impact you, make good use of what you read. Here’s how this might look practically:
- Read books with other people.
- Teach, if you have an avenue to teach, on what you read.
- Talk about what you read with other people throughout the week.
- Neatly summarize what the author was hoping to get his/her readers to do, and, insofar as it’s Biblical prudent, strive to do it.
- If the book is really good, buy an extra copy and give it to a friend.
A Final Word
As you become more intentional in reading good Christian books, never forget to spend time mastering the Bible. The Word of God is more valuable than gold. The fact that most of us have it within arm’s reach is astounding. With that said, be sure to visit all kinds of good Christian books, but make sure you live in the Bible.