At present, I’m reading John R.W. Stott’s Between Two Worlds, which is a book on preaching. In it, Stott argues that reading and study are essential to the work of the pastor. This is reading and study not necessarily directly related to the week’s sermon, and in addition to regular Bible reading and study. “The minimum would amount to this: every day at least one hour; every week one morning, afternoon or evening; every month a full day; every year a week. Set out like this it sounds very little. Indeed, it is too little. Yet everybody who tries it is surprised to discover how much reading can be done within such a disciplined framework. It tots up to nearly 600 hours in the course of a year.”
Almost two years ago I started the one-hour per day thing. I didn’t realize that Stott recommended the scheme. My thinking was as follows: “I’ve got lots of books on my shelf that I got thinking that I should read them some day. Some day does not appear to be arriving. I’d better make some time for theological reading.” Of course I read theologically before two years ago, but I read in a more haphazard way than I do now. I often had multiple books on the go and found I’d start a book and then picked up another before I finished. I found going back to a book and finishing it hard work. I did try things like the back-and-forth scheme I talked about last week, and that worked for some things. But I wasn’t really making a serious dent in the to-be-read pile. Thus the hour-a-day scheme.
What do I read in this hour every day, you might ask. Let me tell you! I’ve got four lists of books, one for each of the theological disciplines: biblical studies, theology, history, and pastoral theology. I read a biblical studies book, then a theology book, then a history book, then one from pastoral theology. The Stott book I’m reading is a pastoral theology book, thus I must have read a history book before that — it was Victorian England: Portrait of an Age by G.E. Young. Next up is a biblical studies book, Reading the Bible with the Dead. I’ve dipped into Reading the Bible with the Dead before, but not read it cover-to-cover. I keep my to-be-read lists short. They are not more than three books long at any time. When I finish a book and cross it off, I add another to the bottom of the list. That way I can adapt my list to what I’m interested in at the time, and as I acquire books.
Now that I’ve read Stott’s suggestion about a morning/afternoon/evening a week and a day a month, I’d like to try adding those in next. I’d probably read differently in those times than I do in my hour-a-day slot. Maybe those times would be for books that don’t easily fit into the categories I’ve set up, or biographies, or non-fiction in fields other than theology. Hurray for more reading time!