Jesus Creed

A couple of posts and a couple of e-mails separate from the blogsite lead me to make some suggestions on what pastors should read. I’ve been asked what I think pastors should read, but I make these suggestions with some trepidation because I am not a pastor. So, see this as a conversation from a professor of Bible and theology to those who see their vocations in pastoral terms.

Above all, a pastor’s vocation, fluctuating from one place to another, is to pastor the people to whom he is assigned (by God and denominational leaders). Pastoring does not mean that pastors ought to know everything and be able to do everything and be everything to everybody all the time world without end.

I do not believe the pastor’s primary responsiblity is to read all day long so he or she can look smart and cultured on Sunday morning. It is to pastor, and that must be the first and most important thing. But, friend, you must take care of your heart, soul, mind, and strength — and many find that to take place by personal stimulation and physical exercise.

There are some who need to study less and love more and some who need to love less and study more.

So, here’s a kick-start to a conversation:

1. Read the Bible daily — and say your prayers. Study the Bible; read your commentaries.
2. Keep up with the current church discussion by reading magazines like Books and Culture, Christianity Today, Christian Century, etc.. These magazines will lead you to important books that are coming out. You may have to choose one and only one.
3. At least once a year read something about one of the Church’s great figures — like Peter Brown’s biography of Augustine or the new one on Augustine by James O’Donnell.
4. Know your denominational issues by reading your denomination’s magazine.
5. Try to keep up with political and intellectual trends by reading magazines from different viewpoints. I’ll tell you what I read just to figure out what is going one from different angles: I read The New York Review of Books, Commentary, and The London Review of Books. These magazines will lead you to books to read, and try to limit yourself to what you know you will actually read.
6. Read something of personal pleasure: I read The American Scholar. It comes out four times a year. I love essays and this is nothing but essays, and sometimes it is on things that bore me to tears and I skip those. But, more often than not it gives me something to think about.
7. Read some blogs.

Finally, lest this look like a mountain of work imposed on pastors by some egghead professor, let me put it like this: for the sake of God’s work in this world, love God, love others, and be the best pastor you can be. And part of that means being a good theologian.

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