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Becoming Better Readers


During a recent trip to China , I was invited to spend some time with some friends who live there. They asked me questions that ranged far and wide, but here we talk about how to become better readers.


What tips would you give for someone wanting to be a better reader?

Tim: In terms of reading, I think where a lot of people get hung up is thinking they need to really digest a book all the way, that they can’t just read it quickly and take an idea or two, but that they failed as a reader if they haven’t really deeply engaged with the book. And really where a lot of people are confused, I think, is that they believe the value of the book can only be measured by what they remember about it later on. So if they can’t pick up a book and just give this full version of, here are the contents, here’s what I learned from it, here’s how I applied it to my life, then it’s been a waste of their time reading it. And so a lot of people read a little bit and it’s just, it’s too much for them, they get discouraged.

I think the great value in a book is what happens while you’re reading it. The same is true of sermons. I’m sure you know as a pastor, if you judged your ministry by what people remembered of your sermons afterward, you might not judge yourself as a great pastor. But if you can believe that God is working as you preach the Word and that whether people can tell you your three points, a minute or a year later, is really irrelevant. God’s at work in that moment. Well, in the same way, a good Christian book, you’re drawing people to the Word, you’re teaching them. I think that’s changing you in the moment. So the more you read, the more opportunities you’re having to be changed. And what I love is when you share an idea, you write an article or you give a sermon or you’re talking to someone conversationally and you’re just, you’re saying things and only later do you realize, I’m plagiarizing that author. I didn’t know I knew that from that author. I didn’t mean to just regurgitate his words, but somehow that got into me, it changed the way I think. And you know maybe in eternity we’ll get some accounting of all our knowledge or something. I think we’ll see that those things we don’t know we got from that book, worked within us and changed us and did that slow work of transformation within. So, really, just read.

Pastor: Yes, that’s really helpful work. That’s really, as I mentioned to you, something I’d love to press out into our congregation more, is just more reading of books. I mean, you’re in a big city. Toronto’s a big city, people are busy. Tips for busy Christians on carving out time for this in their schedule?

Tim: I think we’re very spoilt today in that we have more books than ever. And more ways of getting those books than ever. It’s just, we spent a fair bit of time on the metro today and just noticed that every single person is looking at their phone for the entire duration of the ride. You just think about that time alone, if you were to use that to listen to a book or to read a book, either a paper book you throw in your bag or one you’re reading on your phone or on a Kindle or something. Just that time alone, if you’re reading in snatches of 15 minutes, you’ll get through a good number of books over the course of a year. So, a lot of it just comes down to the discipline of finding those little windows of time.

So, in a city like Toronto or a city like this one where you’ve got to just work hard to survive, right, you don’t have a lot of leisure time. You’re either going to work or coming home from work, or you’re actually working, that’s just what it takes to live here. I understand you don’t have hours at a time where you can just sit and read. But if you use those little pieces of time to get through a couple of paragraphs or a couple of sections, or a chapter here and there and just believe in the process, believe in the real benefit to you over a long period of time. That’s really all it takes. You can get through some really significant material that way. And again, don’t think that it only counts as reading if you’re underlining and highlighting. There’s times to deeply engage with the book, absolutely. There’s not that many books that are really worth that, but there are some. But still, just reading, getting ideas in, allowing your convictions to deepen, that’s absolutely invaluable.

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