A group of about 35 people from our church are participating in a reading challenge this year. It is both exciting and challenging (obviously). The challenge has different categories where one chooses to read 1 book a month, 2 books a months, 4 books a month or 8 books a month through the year. I have no doubt everyone involved will benefit greatly from the reading, I mean what’s the worst thing that could come out of reading good Christian books!
Show me a growing, mature Christian and I will show you someone who is devoted to reading. The Christian faith is a faith of the book. So to be grounded in the faith, you have to read the book(s). This obviously means that you read the bible. There is no substitute for the bible, it is our only rule of faith and practice. The children are on to something when they sing “read your bible pray every day and you grow, grow, grow” and the opposite is equally true “neglect your bible forget to pray and you will shrink”. In other words, reading is not optional for the serious Christian particularly reading the bible. I always encourage two ways of reading and studying the bible. Firstly strive to read through the bible in a year, four chapters a day takes you through the whole bible. One of the things the audio bible has done is show us that it only takes 72 hours (3days) to read through the bible. The second is patiently studying a book of the bible chapter by chapter until you have fully exhausted it. I will warn you that it will take time and effort but you will be able to behold wondrous things from the word.
Dear Christian I also encourage you to read good Christian books. Christians past and present have written some great and helpful books to enhance our growth; Make the most of them. Obviously you cannot read everything that has been written, as Solomon says “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc 12:12). Not every book is worth the time. Some are pure gold to be treasured while some are chaff to be thrown in the fire.
Read widely but selectively. Read commentaries, study bibles and expositions of the bible. Commentaries are not just for preachers, they will add value to your understanding of the scriptures. Dig into the meat and bones of Christian doctrine, these are books that summarize what the bible teaches on topics (i.e. God, Christ, Holy Spirit, Church, Man etc.). Take time to read books on Christian living, these are books that deal with issues Christians face in everyday life. Read church history and biographies to learn from those who have gone before you. I would lastly recommend reading journals and magazines. These are published periodically and tend to be current with issues facing the church. Reading has to be intentional and not accidental.
With all this in mind the need for books becomes ever more urgent. Firstly make use of libraries you may have access to and read. Secondly develop your own library and buy books. Most of us have smart phones, computers and i-pads. Sign up with kindle and start buying e-books bit by bit, it is a cheaper and easier way to build a library. Make regular visits to book shops and buy books for yourself. Do not content yourself with borrowing! Dear Christian develop the discipline of reading so that you may grow in grace.