Discouraging Words

Last week I had the opportunity to sit in on a local pastors conference. The topic was the Resurrection of Christ. An appropriate topic for the week before Easter no doubt. I was encouraged and educated by the apologist who spoke with the local ministers. But I was also discouraged quite a bit by a few things. I don’t want to be a pessimist all the time. But I was just discouraged by some of the words of the local pastors. One was the sarcastic fear of the speakers latest book: a volume of 718 pages total. That is a large volume no doubt. But a reasonable read for men who boast with their Master’s and Doctoral degrees who have been entrusted with the souls of scores of the Good Shepherd’s sheep. I wish pastors weren’t afraid of reading. I don’t believe it to be a divine calling to immerse oneself in 700 page monographs hour after hour. But the minister of God should joyfully embrace the parchments and study to show themselves approved. The Lord has called us to love him with our minds and this calling is a high one for those who are Overseers.

Pastors, please don’t be afraid of books. Read for the sake of your sheep. Read for the sake of your family. Read for your own sake. Most importantly, read for the glory of God.

Besides the fear of big books from a room full of Baptist pastors. (I point that out on purpose. We Baptist can learn a lot from our Presbyterian Brethren when it comes to reading and writing. Working at a book store I find that the people who read the most tend to be Charismatics not Baptist. We’re people who love talking about ‘the Book’ but don’t read it or books about it often enough.) A retired minister was talking to me about the books that were at the conference when he said, “Good thing I’m a retired pastor I don’t have to read the hard stuff any more.”

That was like an emotional kick in the groin to a young guy like me. My heart just sank in sadness. I can’t imagine being allowed to live that long and serve in ministry for decades only to stop having a desire to read. Especially when your studies shouldn’t just be a means as to get puffed up, but as a means of worship and edification. At what point do we get so full of the knowledge of the glory of Christ that we just need to stop reading the hard stuff; especially if one still preaches/teaches the gospel as a retired minister? It just broke my heart to think being old and retired means retiring your mind to the worship of the Lord.

I know I’m not going to figure everything out in this lifetime, but I sure don’t want to give up on learning more and attempting to figure a lot more of it out. I’m going to spend a lot of time in a book with more than 700 pages time and time again. I’ll read some books of more than 700 pages from time to time. I’ll be sure to read many volumes that don’t come close to that number of pages. The subjects I’ll read might be easy, might be hard, some might prove valuable and other vanity. Nevertheless, I pray to God I never out grow my need to grow in the gospel, including the hard things therein.

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4 thoughts on “Discouraging Words

  1. I’m going to challenge you a bit on this one. You’re right – reading is good, it’s very beneficial in a lot of ways (both spiritually and physically…as science is telling us). As a pastor I can empathize with the sentiments of those pastors in that room. The typical pastor works about 60 hours a week – inside that work time they are usually reading anywhere from 200-600 pages of books (bibles, commentaries, external resources, etc) just for their Sunday morning/evening sermon. Then there is an incredible pressure on pastors to keep up with every ‘hot’ Christian book that hits the shelves – which a new one seems to come out every week. I can’t begin to count the number of times a week I hear, “have you read _________???? You HAVE to read it!!!!” Also during a typical week a pastor has countless ‘counseling’ sessions with people. (I put counseling in quotes because sometimes they’re official sessions, and sometimes they are impromptu, casual conversations in which the pastor realizes his role to counsel) All of these things are awesome – I truly love what I do, and I think the majority of pastors do. But, our brains get fried….they get fried very badly. And then the emotional burden we carry every week is large as well, and that takes its toll. So by the end of the day when we come home, we’re spent…..and most of us come home to families who very much desire our time and attention (as they should). So at 9 or 10pm we really don’t have a huge desire to pick up a 750 page book and start working our way through it….we’d much rather spend some rare quiet time with our wives or just shut our brain off and veg in front of a movie.

    Now, don’t get me wrong here….I’m not giving this sob story for pastors. None of us begrudge what we do…in fact, I feel incredibly blessed that I have the opportunity to serve God and man the way that I do. Literally feels like a dream come true. But in order to truly understand why a pastor would have a ‘sarcastic fear’ of such a large book, you really need to walk a week in their shoes.

    Not to mention that some people (like yourself) have a disposition towards academics and reading, while others just simply aren’t wired that way. The body is many parts that makes up the whole. Some of those parts are passionate about and talented in academically minded things. Other parts have a disposition towards compassion more so than other parts. Etc and so on. For instance….getting my seminary degree I decided I didn’t want to take 30 credit hours of Hebrew and Greek. It’s not my strong suit and I’m not overly passionate about those languages. I know friends of mine who very much are passionate about that though – and they’re brilliant and they’re pursuing doctoral degrees in those areas. I get to benefit from their disposition in those areas without have to dedicate years of my life to it…because they’ll write books that I can then go and read during my 200-600 pages a week of reading for sermon preparation.

    And worship is about the heart, not the physical action that overflows from the heart. So the act of reading a book in itself isn’t worship. In fact, for someone who would do it begrudgingly and with bitterness, the act of reading would be the opposite of worship. Some people worship God by walking through nature. Some people worship God through music. Some people worship God through acts of service. Some people do a mixture of those things. The truth is though that their isn’t just one way to worship God (but there is only One way TO God). So I can’t judge a person who worships God differently than I do.

    But, after all that, I DO think your blog is a good admonition. It’s definitely good for all of us to “check ourselves” and make sure we’re chasing after God with all of our hearts, minds, body and soul.

    We NEED to hang out….we should talking about this over a pipe with some good cavendish tobacco!

    • If people are reading a book about God begrudgingly and with bitterness, the solution is not to put the book down. There is obviously something wrong if they aren’t enjoying reading, because to read theology books are to learn more about God. And, as a Christian, it’s not just a privilege, but our duty to know and learn all we can about God.

      My dad was a pastor until I was 20. So, I know the scoop from the inside. I know pastors work WAY more than sundays and wednesdays. I know what it’s like to wish my dad was home to watch a movie with us or go to dinner, etc etc etc. I know what it’s like to have people stop by the house and interrupt a movie already in progress to talk to my dad. We have many unfinished movies. So, I know all about it. But I also no that this is no excuse. There are men working secular jobs, HARD secular jobs for just as many hours as pastors work, and there are many of those men who come home and read. Because family is number two. Your rest? Number two. Etc.

      The pursuit of holiness and desire for God should come first in a Christian’s life. You don’t read in order to manifest this in physical action, you read because that’s what you desire to do most. THAT is where you learn about God, whether you have a natural disposition towards it or not. Naturally, we have no desire for the things of God anyways. God chose the Bible, a book, to tell us all we need to know about Him. So, as Christians who want to know God more than anything, we read. Read the Bible and books about the Bible. Singing a song or walking through nature does not teach us about Jesus, that is what the Bible is for. That is the way to know God and His will. So, if there is a Christian who doesn’t desire this, or wants to downplay the importance of reading, there is a major problem.

      Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Tim. 2:15

      Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. -Acts 17:11

      Blessed is the one
      who does not walk in step with the wicked
      or stand in the way that sinners take
      or sit in the company of mockers,
      2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD,
      and who meditates on his law day and night.
      -Psalm 1:1-2

    • “And worship is about the heart, not the physical action that overflows from the heart.”

      I’d love it if you would clarify this statement. It seems to me that when worship exists in the heart that actions would certainly follow. Our actions prove our worship and love.

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