A few years ago, I was having lunch with a church member, talking about the importance of rest. During the conversation, we began talking about new hobbies and finding something to do that frees our minds to rest and relax from the normal grind of a typical work week. From that conversation, I decided my hobby would be reading. And if you’re around me enough, I’m going to try and make it your hobby in 2023 as well!
Reading is a year-long activity that can be done inside, outside, and even in the car (yes, listening to audiobooks does count as reading). When I graduated from Seminary, I would have been content with never reading a book again. In fact, for a few years, the only books I read were often commentaries. Occasionally I would pick up a book on the church or on pastoring but I had forgotten what it meant to read for fun. Now, I consistently read books on a wide variety of topics and genres and I find it incredibly restful.
Reading fiction books takes my mind away from the present world and into a different world, allowing my mind to remove itself for just a few moments from the anxiety and pressures of the day. Reading biographies helps me learn from men and women from different centuries and how they navigated their own lives. Reading subjects that help me grow spiritually and personally helps me be a better husband, father, and pastor.
Like any hobby, reading well for rest requires time, resources, and a plan. Allow me to share how I structure my reading.
I don’t just go to the library and choose a book based on its cover, though I have done this in the past. I follow a specific reading plan that keeps me from wondering what to read next. The plan I use comes from Christian blogger and author, Tim Challies. You can find the 2022 Reading challenge here. The 2023 reading challenge will be available soon. Here’s how the plan works:
The Christian Reading Challenge is composed of 4 lists of books, which you are meant to move through progressively. You will need to determine a reading goal early in the year and set your pace accordingly.
- The Light Reader. This plan has 13 books which sets a pace of 1 book every 4 weeks.
- The Avid Reader. The Avid plan adds another 13 books which increases the pace to 1 book every 2 weeks.
- The Committed Reader. This plan adds a further 26 books, bringing the total to 52, or 1 book every week.
- The Obsessed Reader. The Obsessed plan doubles the total to 104 books which sets a demanding pace of 2 books every week.
Under each section is a list of topics for you to follow. This allows you to read outside of your typical genre or give you a next step. It’s broad enough and specific enough to work within your interests. Here’s the list for The Light Reader:
- A book published in 2021 or 2022
- A memoir or autobiography
- A novel
- A book by a woman
- A book by a man
- A book published prior to 2000
- A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
- A book with an image of a person on the cover
- A book about a current social issue
- A book for children or teens
- A book about suffering
- A book about Christian living
- A book of your choice
Following this plan has allowed me to go from roughly 0-5 books a year to 100+ each year for the last few years.
To read at this pace, I’ve developed a few habits for my hobby.
- I read while I’m watching a sporting event on TV. Sports don’t require constant attention and the break in action allows for a few moments of reading.
- I listen to books through my local library when I’m in the car or mowing my yard or on a walk. These books are usually the bigger books like Providence by John Piper or D-Day by Stephen Ambrose.
- I read a book as part of my devotions. Usually a chapter a day from a book that draws my heart to Jesus. Currently, I’m reading Thoughts for Young Men by J.C.Ryle
- I read when I find myself waiting. Instead of scrolling social media, I have a book on my kindle app that I work through over time. Oil changes, haircuts, waiting for people to arrive for a meeting, and waiting to pick the kids up are all opportunities to spend a few moments reading a book.
Reading is also a hobby that doesn’t have to be expensive. The only books I purchase are books I plan to keep and use for resources. Which means, I don’t purchase any fiction books. The local library is an incredible resource available to all county residents. We go as a family every week, we’ve built relationships with librarians, and we’ve saved thousands of dollars (minus the late fees!) on books. Having a library card also gives you access to the Libby app to read via Kindle or to listen to the audiobook.
I also subscribe to Scribd. Scribd is much cheaper than Audible. An Audible monthly subscription usually gives you access to one book a month while Scribd has unlimited access to their collection at a cheaper monthly cost. The best part of audio books is that you can pick up the book you’re reading at home and continue it in the car! I did this a few times this year with a few fiction books.
For the year 2022, I hit 100 books again and I want to share with you my four of my favorite books from the past year.
Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
Many of us have seen the movie starring Tom Hanks but did you know it’s based on the details from this book written by Astronaut Jim Lovell, a member of the Apollo 13 crew? In Apollo 13, Jim Lovell recounts the details behind the entire Apollo program and the entire trip of the Apollo 13 mission. In April of 1970, just a few months after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert launched from earth for another mission to the moon. But due to a cabin fire, they never landed on the moon. Instead, they made a heroic trip around the moon and returned safely to earth. NASA has labeled the Apollo 13 mission as a “Successful failure”.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
In this book, Jon Krakauer dives into the history and structure of the Mormon Church. Founded on faulty lies and promoted by sexually perverted men, the Mormon Church grew in Western United States. From the Amazon Synopsis, “Defying both civil authorities and the Mormon establishment in Salt Lake City, the renegade leaders of these Taliban-like theocracies are zealots who answer only to God; some 40,000 people still practice polygamy in these communities.
At the core of Krakauer’s book are brothers Ron and Dan Lafferty, who insist they received a commandment from God to kill a blameless woman and her baby girl. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of this appalling double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, savage violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.”
Learning about the Mormon church helped me see how I could communicate the gospel with them more clearly and to also critically think through Religious Freedom issues in our culture. It was also a lesson on how easily it can be for people to pervert the teachings of Scripture for their own gain and for the satisfaction of their sinful desires.
Redeeming Your Time by Jordan Raynor
This has been the most helpful book I’ve read the last few years and I wish it was written years ago. Jordan Raynor’s book on “learning time management from the one who created time” has helped me better structure my week, my to-do list, and my priorities. I recommend this book to everyone!
The book looks at Jesus and how He navigated His time management while He was on earth. He knew His calling and therefore, He knew when and what to say yes or no to. He also looks at the importance of freeing your mind of to do list clutter. We know of the projects months down the road, but now is not the time to think about it. He helps create a system that allows you to put off for tomorrow the things that can wait.
Two things I learned from this book: 1) Do the things that take less than two minutes and do them now. (Need to send an email? A text message? Print something? Just do it. 2) Create a system for future projects. (This has helped me with upcoming events and for my sermon calendar).
Deep Discipleship by J.T. English
The first book I read in 2022 and probably the most impactful. It’s one of the reasons we held a “Gospel for Everyday Life” study over the summer. I love teaching others about the Bible. I love seeing people grow deeper in their knowledge of God. Deep Discipleship helped me think through how to see more discipleship in our church. Jesus gave his followers the mandate to make disciples of all nations. But today, too many people are being “fashioned” outside the churches. It’s time for pastors and leaders to take responsibility for training and growing believers who can be sent to gather in the harvest utilizing three indispensable elements: the Bible, theology, and spiritual disciplines.
Reading is a lost love in our day and age. We are inundated with so much television that we forget the wealth of books available to us! We also need to be warned of the desire of knowing everything (Ecc 12:12). But reading can be and is a restful and helpful hobby. Read a book in the coming year. Take the 2023 Reading Challenge with me. Read with your kids. Maybe you’ll learn something new this year or maybe, like me, you’ll rest from the anxiousness of this world and for a few minutes, find yourself in another.