Reading habits, pt. 1

My dad used to say, “Leaders are readers,” and I’ve found that to be very true. The most influential people in my life are people who read continuously. In my own ministry, I know it’s critical to keep growing in knowledge, reading comprehension, and effectiveness with words – three things that will never occur if I don’t read.

In November, I was interviewed by a student at Cal Baptist University about my reading habits. It was part of an English project he had to complete, interviewing someone in the field he wants to go into (pastoral ministry). It was good for me to think through these questions and even caused me to adjust some of my reading habits. Today through Wednesday, I’ll post his questions and my answers…

1. What kinds of professional materials do you read?

There are three kinds of materials I normally read. We might call them (1) instant content like blogs, websites, the local newspaper, magazines, denominational newsletters (2) contemporary research and analysis like what is found on some websites and in journals (3) and in-depth content found in books either in print or on my computer.

I follow many blogs and read through every issue of The Family Handyman, World Magazine, and our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star. I also look through SBC Life, On Mission, and The Master’s Seminary Journal when it arrives, though I don’t read these cover to cover. Last year, I subscribed to The Briefing and The Founders Journal also but discontinued because I found I just couldn’t keep up on them all.

I read and consult many other books, journals, magazines, etc. on an “as needed” basis. Some journals and reference works are available online, while others I own on computer. For example, I own the Journal of Biblical Counseling CD-Rom (.pdf format) and have volumes 1-10 of The Theological Journal Library (Libronix) and use these when I’m researching a particular topic or Scripture passage.

Apart from The Family Handyman magazine, nearly all of my reading relates in some way to ministry, whether in refining my theology, studying for sermons, staying aware of current issues and events, sharpening my preaching, addressing pastoral issues, looking for illustration material, etc. I can only think of one book I’ve read in the past year strictly for pleasure – The Unforgiving Minute, by Craig Mullaney. It was a memoir about an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. And even that had some uncanny parallels to ministry!

A. Who publishes/sponsors it?

There are many different publishers, including book and magazine publishers, theological schools, the SBC, and many other Christian and secular businesses. The list of publishers is quite diverse. Most of my Christian reading is very theologically conservative. Some of my favorite book publishers are Crossway, P&R, Holman, Baker, and Moody.

B. How often does it come out?

Multiple times a week – blogs, local newspaper
Twice a month – World Magazine
Monthly – Family Handyman, the Clarion Inland Empire Association newsletter, California Southern Baptist newspaper
Semi-annual – The Master’s Seminary Journal

C. How does one find it (via subscription, online, etc.)?

It takes a long time to learn which authors, resources, websites, schools, publishers, etc. are reliable and which ones are not. I’m still learning, but I’ve found a lot of good material through my pastoral mentors, college and seminary teachers, and just good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Blogs – RSS feed
National news and current events – and
Newspapers and some magazines – subscription and delivery to my home
Encyclopedia Britannica – available online
Websites – is one of the best
Magazines and Journals – some of these I own on CD-ROM; others I access through a local library database called EBSCOHost.
Books – I buy most of my books through either Amazon or To know which books are best I would recommend starting out with these websites:

Try to get familiar now with resources in your local library, personal library, digital library, and online. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, respectable scholarship cannot be done simply through Google. Learning how to research now will become invaluable later. A great book on this is The Survivor’s Guide to Library Research by William B. Badke.

It’s also important to start developing a good filing system now. I use a combination of a filing cabinet, folders in Microsoft Windows, and a Microsoft Access database to file quotes, stories, articles, etc.

D. Who is the primary targeted audience?

It varies, but a lot of my reading is geared toward those who are pastors or at least somewhat theologically educated.

(To be continued tomorrow)


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