Modern Christianity, at least in the U.S. and other Western countries, is based primarily on the written accounts of Jesus’s life contained in the four Gospels, along with the other texts contained in the Christian Old and New Testaments. The entirety of the religion is based on a collection of texts, a book.
Yet many Christians, especially of the evangelical Protestant variety, love reading the Bible but decry the “academic” study of the Bible, theology and church history and the dense academic tomes that accompany those disciplines. Why do “people of the book” seem to hate books so much?
In my experience as a Christian Studies major, I have heard many of my classmates complain about the reading assignments in some of our classes. Despite the helpful encouragement of our professors, my fellow School of Christian Ministries majors constantly whine and grumble about having to read a four-hundred-page book in two weeks.
To all my classmates, especially those who plan to become pastors, missionaries and other leaders in our churches, I would like to say: You need to stop complaining and start reading.
Reading is not just for the scholars and theologians; all Christians are called to meditate on God’s word and study the Bible. Yet why we do stop at just reading the Bible? Living in the U.S. in the 21st century, we have unprecedented access to vast academic resources about all manner of topics relating to our faith. All Christians should take the time to utilize these resources.
“I don’t like reading,” one might say. Then maybe you should reconsider your vocation, because if you are committed to ministry then you should be committed to learning about Jesus (who is primarily revealed to us through Scripture, a book).
“I don’t learn much when I read,” another might object. Well, unfortunately, gaining knowledge via osmosis has not been perfected yet so you are going to have to read. For the past 2000 years, every saint who came before us learned more about their faith primarily through studying the Bible and other texts related to the Bible and theology; I can guarantee you will learn a lot more from reading than you will from watching another minute-long Instagram clip by the latest trending young mega-church pastor.
Let us be thankful for the opportunities we have been given to learn about God and our faith from passionate academics who have spent their lives studying the subject they have written a book about. So again I say: Future pastors, missionaries and church leaders, stop complaining and start reading.