Skip to main content

Reading habits, pt. 1

My dad used to say, "Leaders are readers," and I've found that to be very true. The most influential people in my life are people who read continuously. In my own ministry, I know it's critical to keep growing in knowledge, reading comprehension, and effectiveness with words - three things that will never occur if I don't read.

In November, I was interviewed by a student at Cal Baptist University about my reading habits. It was part of an English project he had to complete, interviewing someone in the field he wants to go into (pastoral ministry). It was good for me to think through these questions and even caused me to adjust some of my reading habits. Today through Wednesday, I'll post his questions and my answers...

1. What kinds of professional materials do you read?

There are three kinds of materials I normally read. We might call them (1) instant content like blogs, websites, the local newspaper, magazines, denominational newsletters (2) contemporary research and analysis like what is found on some websites and in journals (3) and in-depth content found in books either in print or on my computer.

I follow many blogs and read through every issue of The Family Handyman, World Magazine, and our local newspaper, The Hi Desert Star. I also look through SBC Life, On Mission, and The Master’s Seminary Journal when it arrives, though I don’t read these cover to cover. Last year, I subscribed to The Briefing and The Founders Journal also but discontinued because I found I just couldn’t keep up on them all.

I read and consult many other books, journals, magazines, etc. on an “as needed” basis. Some journals and reference works are available online, while others I own on computer. For example, I own the Journal of Biblical Counseling CD-Rom (.pdf format) and have volumes 1-10 of The Theological Journal Library (Libronix) and use these when I’m researching a particular topic or Scripture passage.

Apart from The Family Handyman magazine, nearly all of my reading relates in some way to ministry, whether in refining my theology, studying for sermons, staying aware of current issues and events, sharpening my preaching, addressing pastoral issues, looking for illustration material, etc. I can only think of one book I’ve read in the past year strictly for pleasure – The Unforgiving Minute, by Craig Mullaney. It was a memoir about an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. And even that had some uncanny parallels to ministry!

A. Who publishes/sponsors it?

There are many different publishers, including book and magazine publishers, theological schools, the SBC, and many other Christian and secular businesses. The list of publishers is quite diverse. Most of my Christian reading is very theologically conservative. Some of my favorite book publishers are Crossway, P&R, Holman, Baker, and Moody.

B. How often does it come out?

Multiple times a week – blogs, local newspaper
Twice a month - World Magazine
Monthly - Family Handyman, the Clarion Inland Empire Association newsletter, California Southern Baptist newspaper
Semi-annual - The Master’s Seminary Journal

C. How does one find it (via subscription, online, etc.)?

It takes a long time to learn which authors, resources, websites, schools, publishers, etc. are reliable and which ones are not. I’m still learning, but I’ve found a lot of good material through my pastoral mentors, college and seminary teachers, and just good old-fashioned word of mouth.

Blogs – RSS feed
National news and current events – and
Newspapers and some magazines – subscription and delivery to my home
Encyclopedia Britannica – available online
Websites – is one of the best
Magazines and Journals – some of these I own on CD-ROM; others I access through a local library database called EBSCOHost.
Books – I buy most of my books through either Amazon or To know which books are best I would recommend starting out with these websites:

Try to get familiar now with resources in your local library, personal library, digital library, and online. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, respectable scholarship cannot be done simply through Google. Learning how to research now will become invaluable later. A great book on this is The Survivor’s Guide to Library Research by William B. Badke.

It’s also important to start developing a good filing system now. I use a combination of a filing cabinet, folders in Microsoft Windows, and a Microsoft Access database to file quotes, stories, articles, etc.

D. Who is the primary targeted audience?

It varies, but a lot of my reading is geared toward those who are pastors or at least somewhat theologically educated.

(To be continued tomorrow)


  1. Stephen, you might want to consult my much updated version of The Survivor's Guide to Library Research: William Badke, Research Strategies: Finding your Way through the Information Fog (3rd ed.). Bloomington, IN:, 2009. More info at

    While less theological, it details research in a high-tech environment.


  2. Thanks for letting me know about this 3rd edition. It sounds great. Your approach to research is outstanding.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that…

A review of the HCSB Study Bible

Today, I finally had a chance to browse through a copy of the new HCSB Study Bible.

The HCSB Study Bible is 2272 pages long (plus a few maps). As expected, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. It ranks well and rivals the ESV in both exegetical accuracy and literary quality. Some of its unique features are:
Its translation of yahweh as "Yahweh" (instead of LORD) in the OT when referring to the personal name of God (e.g. Ex. 3:15)The translation of doulos as "slave" instead of "servant" or "bondservant" in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1:1)The translation of christos as "Messiah" in the New Testament, whenever referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16)Capitalized pronouns when referring to GodThe use of contractions in direct discourse (e.g. "let's go" in Mark 1:38)A wonderful feature called bullet notes (small bullets next to key words that may be unfamiliar, poin…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…