Hi. My name’s Brent. And I’m a Christian book-a-holic.
(Diner patrons respond, “Hi, Brent!” You all also have a cup of bland coffee and tremendous amounts of support & empathy. Smoking is allowed out back on the patio.)
It started as a kid. My mom made sure there were plenty of books around starting with Dr. Suess and moving on from there to Hardy Boys and whatever else I’d sit and read. Mostly it was biographies of professional athletes through middle school. And whatever high school assignments of great literature we were supposed to plow through. I did most of those, actually. Didn’t appreciate ’em. But I read ’em.
At university I was in religion, psychology and philosophy a lot and I got to read fascinating stuff. I’d later supplement that reading with boring my fraternity brothers to death with all sorts of big-picture questions. My book dependency got so bad that I read all of Francis Schaeffer’s books for my senior thesis. I also accidentally wound up with a minor in English because I took so many literature classes as electives.
Anyway, it continued at seminary where we figured out that we were reading roughly 10,000 pages in a 15-week semester. At one point, it was so bad that my wife wondered if she and my daughters were “in the way” of my learning and suggested I find a way to…
…find a bit more balance between my family life and my seminary pursuits. After that discussion with my wife, I had a seminary professor describe what she might’ve been feeling as me “having an affair with books.”
Like many of you, I wound up reading a lot for my job. It could be a book about the latest trends among Christian teenagers. It could be a book about the state of the church. It could be a book about theology. It could be a book about a book of the Bible. It could be a book about church history. It could be a book about the history of youth ministry. Anything like that. But those were just the gateway books.
Don’t even get me started on commentaries. They were my crystal meth of books. Whether they were on-line or on my shelf, after I’d studied a passage I was teaching, I could spend hours pouring over what scholars thought about that particular passage and hardly notice the time. Most people don’t know that a good pastor will spend about 30 minutes of preparation for each minute of “sermon” time. In other words, it should take around 20 hours to get ready for a sermon. The ones worth their salt do that, anyway. Keep in mind this is usually in addition to the seminary training you had as well as any previous times you studied the passage. The ones worth their salt start with a “clean sheet” to prepare a sermon over a passage they’ve taught maybe 5 times before because if ain’t fresh and new to you, well it ain’t gonna be fresh and new to the people hearing it, man.
So, it’s easy to justify that much use, right?
But I think one of the unintended consequences of all that professional reading and such is that I cared about the wrong things:
I cared more about what George Barna said about the state of my students than what Christ said about them.
I cared more about Donald Miller’s spiritual walk than my own.
I cared more about what Rick McKinley said about the Kingdom than what Jesus said about it.
I cared more about what Halter & Smay said about fixing the church rather than what Paul did.
I cared more about what Frost & Hirsch said about ministry than what Christ did.
I cared more about what Martin Luther did than what Christ did.
I cared more about what Dr. Constable said about a passage than seeking what Christ wanted me to get out of a passage.
My world became mired in Christianese and jargon and trends and methods and frankly I’m realizing that my worldview became pretty myopic. Parochial, even.
And I think it’s best to re-focus on Scripture for a while.
I feel like I ought to be focusing on the things Jesus focused on. The people Jesus focused on. From His point of view and the view of people around Him and working through Him. Without any outside sources tapping me on the shoulder and hinting at what He was up to.
Sure, I’ll still be reading. I love it. It’s a lot like eating and breathing and exercising to me. In fact, But it’ll be more to broaden my own horizons and explore new terrain. You can keep up with those in the widget on the left.
But the Christian Book Detox of 2011 has begun. Wikipedia describes detox as the “purging from the body of the substances to which a patient is addicted and acutely under the influence. The process of detoxification aims at lessening the physical effects caused by the addictive substances.”
In this case, I don’t think I want them to be acutely under their influence, and maybe I can lessen their mental effects on me and free up some of my own thinking. I’ll let you know how it goes.