I love to read and always have. Since the summer is here, I’ve had the opportunity to pick up a few books from my very long (non-seminary
related) reading list. Once again, I’m finding myself challenged, stretched, and sometimes uncomfortable, but arising with a deeper faith and stronger conviction to stay on the battle field for this important work of ministry in which I can partake.
When reading, I sometimes wrestle for many hours with a small portion of text; I cross reference with scripture, concordance, a dictionary or thesaurus, legitimate internet websites, and pull other books off the shelf that relate to the topic of consideration, and no I do not agree with every thing that I read in any one book by any one author.
Some may wonder, “Aren’t you concerned about taking in too much information?” One young lady recently asked me, “Has your seminary studies caused you to doubt the Bible?” My response to her, “No, my faith is now stronger because the reading has caused me to wrestle with what it is that I believe and why I believe as I do.”
From my experiences, it has not been the learning, but rather the lack of learning that is dangerous. Interestingly enough, CNN recently
published a post on their Belief blog titled, “Actually, that’s not in the Bible.”
The article included several statements that the average person (and I’m sure many Christians) believe are in the Bible, but are actually not there.
My husband and I talk frequently about such lack of knowledge. For example, no where in the Bible does it state that hallelujah is the highest form of praise. Yet, you can hear the expression across many pulpits and contemporary gospel songs of today. Recently we have discussed words that are not in the Bible, like evangelism and Holy Ghost (not sure where this one originated either). The point is that people are easily led astray but what they don’t know or what they do not accurately discern.
The Apostle Paul had a concern for the young church of Colosse, that they would not be led astray by false teachers and false beliefs.
He stated his purpose as an Apostle as this:
That they be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may
have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may
know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may
deceive you by fine-sounding arguments (Col 2:3-4).
I have read many fine-sounding arguments! Yet, I approach my reading I this manner:
Prior to reading –
- Pray for discernment and wisdom (This is the work of the Holy Spirit.)
- Keep my Bible on hand (for quick reference). The Bible is my final authority.
- I approach the reading with the understanding that I could possibly be wrong in my initial beliefs…and this begins the struggle.
I read, reference my Bible, and take lots of notes. Check out my post: Retaining What You Read.
After my reading –
- I review my notes (along with the referenced scriptures)
- I complete a Book Net-out (summary). (Details also included in previous link.)
- I make reading lists (if the author has quoted someone, or footnoted a resource, I check it out if I am interested. This also helps me discern whether or not I agree with the author’s assessment, interpretation, and research conclusions)
- Decide what to do. Sometimes “doing something” simply means sharing the challenge: talking about select portions of my reading with friends (or sometimes teaching the material to others).
The point is that I never read just for the sake of reading alone. I read with a purpose.
I’m convinced now more than ever that we need to raise the standard of learning in the church (not just head knowledge, but also
addressing matters of the heart, and how we authentically live out the gospel’s message).
One of the books that I enjoyed reading for seminary is Discipleship of the Mind, by James W. Sire, where he states:
“Every Christian should know a little bit about almost everything; some Christians should also know a lot about many things; others should strive to know all there is to know about a very few things.”
Notice that he does not state that some Christians should know a little bit about anything, or as the old folks would say in South Carolina
“a lot about nothing.” It is important for all Christians to be continuous learners so that we strengthen our faith and are better for our journeys.
For me, it is worth the struggle.
What do you see as a major struggle of the church right now? Have you noticed a lack of learning in your local setting? How can we encourage
reading and reverse this trend in the church?
© Natasha S. Robinson 2011