Thanks again to John Fea for pointing me to an interesting article. In this article Karen Spears Zacharias discusses a run-in with a book store manager who doesn’t read. As odd as that sounds, his explanation is that he’s also a pastor. What?! Karen talks about how odd she finds this, and offers this perspective:
I can count on one hand the number of pastors I’ve sat under in my lifetime that I know were avid readers. I remember them because their preaching had a depth and a substance that all others lacked. One of my favorites, Dr. Herb Anderson, would quote poetry from the pulpit. That was always a magical moment. It helped that Dr. Anderson lived in a university town. He had a lot of professors in his audience. They expected their pastor to be well-read. But out here in rural America where hardy people live and vote, pastors are more likely to quote a bumper sticker than they are to recite a poem they’ve memorized.
I might not be able to do much better, but I can say that both of the pastors I have sat under for extended periods were avid readers, and it showed. The first pastor I remember was my dad. From the time I was two months old until I left for college (and over the summers after that), my dad was my pastor. This gave me a unique perspective, of course. I’m not sure that my dad was a big book quoter, but he sure was (and is) a voracious reader. I never knew my dad to be anywhere without a book to read. Often, he was reading two or three books at a time. He would be reading about church growth, or some other pastoring topic. He would also have a mystery, or other fiction book going as well. This book was generally taken everywhere we went, and a spare moment of waiting became a chance to read a few more lines, or maybe a page. He also was known to read general non-fiction books just for the fun of it. A lack of knowledge in a particular area was sufficient reason to pick up a book about it and learn more. When we learned we were moving to Lancaster county, PA, he quickly read several books about the Mennonites and Amish so that he could understand the culture of the area in which he would be serving (he is a United Methodist Pastor, but knew he would have people came from that background).
From him I learned a love of books, and the value of knowing a little bit about lots of things. That has fed into one of the things I love best about being a statistician. I get to learn a little bit about what is the cutting edge of research in a variety of disciplines without having to pay for lots of different degrees and classes! I also like to think critically about what I believe, and not just take what one person says as a substitute for personal thought. I like to read things from a variety of perspectives, and figure out what I agree and disagree with in an informed manner. This is a skill that I find missing in a lot of the people I talk with, especially Christians. This is sad, and I hope that I can set just as good an example for my kids as my dad did for me!
Now, my wife and I attend Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church (affectionately known as McBIC). Our senior pastor, Layne Lebo, leads a staff that has a deep appreciation for the Bible, but also for reading in general. It is rare that there are not quotes included in the sermon, and often from more than one author. Our staff frequently recommends books in their weekly email communication with those who choose to be on the email list, and many weeks offer a book give-away for the first person to respond expressing interest. It is nice to attend a church that expressly encourages its congregation to read and think. They want the people of the church to be reading Scripture, to be sure, but also to be reading and interacting with what other believers are thinking and discussing. This thoughtful Christian life can be very rewarding. I don’t want to be a lazy Christian.
Is this really as rare as Zacharias seems to believe? I would hate to think that I am just “lucky” to have grown up in that kind of household/pastorate, and then naturally felt drawn to this church where that is also the case. I pray that as people of The Book, we would value the thought and work required to interact with other Christians who have taken the time to clearly write down their thoughts and articulate their arguments. In a world of Twitter, this is a much needed skill. I will make sure that my kids understand how important this is to me, and, in my view, to authentic Christianity. How are you accomplishing this with your kids? Please comment below, I would love to hear what others do to instill this. My kids are young, my oldest just learning to read, and I would be grateful for hints that I can store away to help continue to build this love of reading into them!