In an article in the March/April 2016 Outreach magazine, Ed Stetzer, of the Baptist publishing house LifeWay, talked about the value of keeping well-read as a church worker. “The books we read and allow to influence us hold great importance,” he said.
He explained how reading Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis as a teen intrigued him enough to read more of Lewis’ profound theological works and helped him to become a Christian writer. “Lewis made it OK to love Jesus and have a brain,“ Stetzer realized.
Setting aside time to delve into the works of well-known Christian writers past and present is essential for anyone in church leadership. Reading people like Timothy Keller or Andy Couch can inspire us in our own writing, preaching, interacting and planning. Keeping in mind the foundations of faith as expressed by Christian apologists helps us to see past the nitty-gritty of balance sheets and attendance levels and remember that our call is simply to speak the truth of Christ in love and to serve those around us, no matter how many or few that might be.
My reading list is currently heading into Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, In the Face of God by Michael Horton, Crazy Love by Francis Chan, The Dangerous Act of Worship by Mark Labberton and Speaking Christian by Marcus H. Borg. (You will no doubt be hearing more from me on these books in the coming weeks and months.)
I look forward to my time with each of these authors, much as I would with a good friend over coffee after church. These books open my mind and heart to the highs and lows, the joys and struggles of being a believer in Christ in what is becoming a very secular society. Knowing that authors are wrestling with some of the same spiritual dilemmas that gnaw at my soul is refreshing and rewarding and provides me with a depth of understanding that only helps to grow my faith and make me more capable of discussing my beliefs with real, live people I meet at the coffee shop or wherever I might be.
Time is limited for a church worker, to be sure, and reading a good book might seem like a luxury we just don’t have the schedule for, but, in fact, taking the time to read books like these is actually a part of what it means to be a worker for Christ. As with anything in life, it is always good to be a lifelong learner, as they say, and not just fall back on memorized phrases from confirmation and call it a day.
St. Paul encouraged lifelong learning when he wrote to the church in Thessalonica, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing” (2 Thessalonians 1:3). For church workers, I posit, that includes developing a good Christian writer reading list.
Here is some places to go to get started: