Reading Slowly is Good For Me


If you're like me, you're already thinking about all the things you're hoping to read in 2018. Perhaps you missed something this year that you're planning on covering in the first quarter of next year or maybe you've already got your preorders in to Amazon for those books coming out some time over the next 12 months. 

In 2017, I did something different. (Aside from reading for my doctorate), I read about as slow as I ever have. For me, slowing down has been a challenge but has turned out to be so rewarding in very practical ways.

A few years ago, I was working as a church planter and college professor. Both of these responsibilities required a lot of reading. I pushed myself to read a few books a week and sometimes a book a day before heading into work. While that discipline was fruitful in ways regarding covering more content; there were other ways that I wasn't growing. It was like drinking from a fire hydrant. I was soaking wet but still thirsty. Something needed to change. I needed a different approach. I needed to slow down with reading, ministry, and life in general. This post is on reading so I'll stay on topic.

I've realized that nothing about my real life can be microwaved – especially my own maturity as a child of God. Simply consuming more content will not produce the character that God requires. That is the work of the Spirit, applying the message of the gospel, in the context of the local church.

Anyways, this year, I've consumed far less and have grown far more than I thought I would. In my aim for far more thoughtful reading and reflection, I could sense roots growing deeper. Besides, what's the point if I know what so-and-so said about a subject when I don't even know my own self?

Here's a few things that I noticed about myself when it comes to reading more reflectively rather than for the sake of covering more literary ground:

1) The pressure was off. Historically, I had felt the unnecessary pressure to soak it all up and with all the new books that come out everyday I felt overwhelmed. I was like a soggy dish towel with a whole stack of dishes to still work through. Not ideal. Embracing a more reflective approach to reading afforded me the opportunity to view stopping to pause, think, jot notes down, and pray as water and sunlight on the seeds of good content. 

2) I retained more of what I read. The fact that I'd read less left more room in my already busy mind (I'm a husband, daddy, pastor, author, and full-time party animal) for things to actually stick. 

3) Real change happened. I found myself hungry to go back throughout the day and mull over what I'd read earlier. I noticed several times that I could recall with better accuracy what I'd been reading. When information goes to application, that's a win. 

Anywho... here's 11 books that I thoroughly enjoyed. Half of these were rereads! :)  I haven't finished Barnes', yet. Drew and I are reading that one together. It is so very good. 

A Theology of the Ordinary by Julie Canlis

Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity by Eugene Peterson

The Pastor: Memoir by Eugene Peterson

Invisible Ink: A Practical Guide to Building Stories that Resonate by Brian MacDonald 

The Wind Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami

Secrets in the a Dark: A Life in Sermons by Frederick Buechner

The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting and Ancient Vision by Gerald Heistand and Todd Wilson

The Pastor as Public Theologian: Reclaiming a Lost Vision by Kevin Vanhoozer and Owen Strachan

The Pastor as Minor Poet: Texts and Subtexts in the Ministerial Life by Craig Barnes

Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense by N.T. Wright

The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ by Flemming Rutledge