I have heard many well-meaning Christians say that the only thing we need to read is the Bible. But, is this true?
God has not stopped revealing Himself and His nature to humans, so why should we stop writing about it? And if Christians are writing, shouldn't Christians be reading?
Christians should be reading well written books. We should be reading all types of books in all types of genres. And here’s why:
1. Reading helps us understand different cultures.
Christians are called to minister to the different cultures in our world, and even in our neighborhoods. That means we need to understand them. By reading books by and about people whose lives are very different from our own we can start to understand them. We begin to learn how to engage people who are different from ourselves. We begin to see similarities in our ways of life despite the vast differences. And then we can begin to approach ministry the way Christ did: meeting individuals where they are, meeting their needs, and relating to them.
2. Reading helps us to grow in our spiritual walk.
We cannot remain baby Christians forever. We must grow and mature. One way to ensure that we grow is to be discipled by someone we know. But what about all of the people we don't know who can bestow their wisdom and knowledge to us? The only way we will ever know what they have to say is to read their words. We live in a big world, but we can still learn from those outside of our immediate church family and sphere. We can know and understand other people’s journeys through our same struggles simply by reading their stories.
3. Reading helps us to gain a better understanding of Scripture.
Most of us will never be Bible scholars or even go to seminary. But, that doesn't mean that we can't get and use the knowledge of those who have. Most Bible scholars and pastors write about reading and interpreting different books or themes of the Bible. By reading their books we can gain knowledge and understanding of difficult ideas without ever having to go to a class or spend years researching.
4. Reading fiction helps us to understand human nature.
As humans we relate well to stories. They are just more engaging than a list of facts. By reading fiction we can understand things about human nature and the human psyche that are not always clear to us when reading non-fiction. I think it is because we begin to imagine ourselves as the characters in the story and we begin to feel what they feel. Then, once we have finished the book, we understand other people and their circumstances much better.
5. Reading helps to expand our mind.
When we read we allow ourselves to understand and know more. This opens our mind up to creative thinking. When we approach Scripture in this open state of mind we are more likely to receive knowledge that we may have been blind to in a more closed state of mind. Getting our creative juices flowing opens us up to creative thinking and learning.
As Christians, reading good books outside of Scripture actually helps us to know and understand Scripture better and equips us to live in light of the principles we learn in scripture to the people and cultures of the world.
Of course we have to be aware that not all books are good books. Some aren't well written and others just aren't good for us to read. Luckily we have many resources at our disposal, like reviews and samples, to help us choose books that are right for us individually. But, the most important thing is to read. Read as much as you can as frequently as you can and you will start to reap the benefits of being a well read Christian.