PROMOTING AND MOTIVATING READING HABIT AMONG MINISTERS OF THE GOSPEL AND SETTING UP OF SMALL LIBRARIES- A PAPER PRESENTED AT THE TRAINING OF LITERATURE EVANGELISTS DURING THE SECOND BOOK FAIR ORGANIZED BY JOYOUS INNOVATION SIXTY-SEVEN IN COLLABORATION WITH SUPB BETWEEN 23RD AND 30TH OF APRIL 2017 AT THE DIOCESE OF OSUN ANGLICAN COMMUNION ISALE ARO, OSOGBO OSUN STATE. BY SISTER CHRISTIANA ONOBUN
Reading is very fundamental to an individual’s success in the society. It is one of the basic language skills while others are listening, speaking and writing. Out of these skills, reading is at the centre of acquisition of general literacy. Reading was encapsulated by the Organisation for Economic Development-OECD (2003) as the ability to understand, use and reflect on written texts in order to achieve one’s goals, to develop one’s knowledge and potential, and to participate effectively in society.
A good reading habit will require the practice of reading regularly without thinking about it, unconsciously becoming a part and parcel of a man’s life (Smithies 2012). Hence, good reading habit has been conceived as positive in that it has the potency to contribute meaningfully to the growth, development and progress of an individual in all ramifications including the ministers of God. (Igbokwe, Obidike and Ezeji, 2012)
Reading books will not of itself guarantee success. Reading is only the key that opens the door to knowledge. Assimilating what you read, relating it to what you already know, and practicing it where you serve puts the treasure to work paying dividends. Readers are leaders only if they turn their learning into living. To change the metaphor, reading a book is like eating a meal; but if you eat and don’t exercise, you’ll get overweight, and you may die. Besides all the reading and study for messages, the pastor should constantly be reading books that will keep him stirred up, informed, and challenged.
Someone has said that nearly every pastor has a TV set, and would not think in these days of being without a car, but what about a library? In the early days of ministry the pastor should begin building his library and become an avid reader. He must keep up with issues and trends such that his preaching has modern application. The minister of the gospel must read to stay informed and on the leading edge of things. Many men of God keep ahead during the first years of ministry but then tire and lose the desire to read and study and keep ahead after a few years. The people you pastor should hear about where to stand on the issues from their pastor not from radio preachers and others.
It was John Wesley who pointed out that a lack of reading damages preaching and a pastor’s ministry. Without reading the preaching will be shallow instead of deep. Because of this, it will lack variety. If ministers are not pushing their thinking through reading, all sermons will begin to sound the same and they will ramble because they will have no direction.
John Wesley is almost cruel when he implies what kind of ministry a lack of reading will lead to. You will “be a trifle all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher.” Harsh words, but as I look at the Spirit-less and anemic Christianity of the West today, I wonder if this has happened to us. We trifle with church, and we superficially deal with the things of God, but we lack depth, because that depth can only come from reading. Reading is the only cure for shallow preaching and superficial ministry. Whether you like it or not, you must read. It is part of the pastor’s cross to bear. There is no other way to become a deep preacher.
It has been often said, “The call to ministry is a call to study.” Paul said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”(II Tim. 2:15) I believe that we do what our real interest drives us to do. The Minister of the gospel must make his interest the understanding of the Word of God. The call to preach is a call to study, understand, and exposit God’s Holy Word. This cannot be done without much reading. The apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Give attention to reading. Certainly Paul meant that the Word needed to be read much alone and studied. Also it has been noted that Ministers of the gospel are to read the following types and themes around spirituality, theology and leadership most frequently. Other popular subjects include prayer, history, cultural trends and church practice. Reading of biographies and business books.
As a matter of duty, ministers of God are always giving out, and if they don’t get input, they will dry up. To this end, Apostle Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy in prison. At the end of the letter he tells Timothy, “When you come, bring my coat, bring the books, too, and especially the ones made of parchment.” (2 Timothy 4:13. ) At the end of his life, while in prison, Paul wants two things… “I want my coat and I want my books.” Spurgeon commenting on this passage says ‘’He is inspired, yet he wants books. He has been preaching at least thirty years, yet he wants books. He’s seen the Lord, yet he wants books. He’s had a wider experience than most men, yet he wants books. He’s been caught up to heaven and has heard things that are unlawful to utter, yet he wants books. He’s written a major part of the New Testament, yet he wants books.’’ This underscores why ministers of God should cultivate the habit of reading
Oswald Sanders in his book Spiritual Leadership says. “The man [and woman] who desires to grow spiritually and intellectually will be constantly at his books.” A cursory look the biographies of both John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards. Both of them were intellectual giants. They stayed fresh by having a book continually while they were on horseback riding from event to event. Everywhere they traveled, they had a book. One of the drawings of John Wesley showed that while he was riding on horseback, he was with a book in one hand, reading, not even looking where his horse is going.