Spirituality and Reading

Tommy Sparger has a good blog on “Self-Feeding:  Taking personal responsibility for your spiritual growth.” His plan encourages believers to read 1 Psalm, 1 chapter in Proverbs, and 1 chapter in the gospels. He also wants Jesus followers to journal their insights from their reading and pray.

Don’t misunderstand me. Each of these items may help one grow spiritually. I find no fault with these activities or suggest that Sparger is wrong. However, his blog led me to some sacred questioning. In spite of pastors’ yearly challenge to read the entire Bible during the year and to practice a daily quiet time,  few Christian take the message to heart. One survey found that only 16% of Christians read the Bible daily.  I asked some well educated men over the weekend what they were reading. Few in the group read anything other than work-related documents. I recall a study that said 10% of Christian books are read by men (those are mostly ministers) and the other 90% are read by women. The fact is, men are not readers and many women are not either.

How much time does it take to do Sparger’s plan? Is this realistic? Was this an expectation of the early disciples, since the Bible was not available to the masses? Has this been a spiritual practice handed down through the centuries or is this a fairly recent expectation?

I’m not trying to give Christians an out for reading God’s Word, but out of sacred curiosity I pose the following questions.  Have we limited spiritual growth to reading? How do we help a generation get connected to God if they are not readers? What are your reactions or experiences?

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7 responses to “Spirituality and Reading

  1. I like Tommy and his blog a lot. This is a great guide, but it is a lot to bite off. Both time wise and personality trait wise. I think of my father-in-law who is not a reader or writer. Yet, he deeply spiritual and can be profoundly tuned into God.

    If we look at Jesus’ modeling it was prayer, solitude, and knowing the scriptures of old.

    Paul doesn’t talk much about knowing scripture, but does talk about knowing God- How did he expect us to know God if we didn’t walk the streets with him 2000 years ago? Not a rhetorical question- I’m serious – How are we to know God?

    Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God. I want eternal life. I want abundant life- what ever that entails; wealthy or poor, comfortable or not.

    I have large amounts of guilt because I don’t read my bible very often. I do have conversational prayer with God quite a bit throughout my days, but not much quiet time in solitude. I do think a lot ABOUT God, but it’s mostly questions and pondering.

    I see the mystery and wonder of God in lots of books that I do read that are not religious books. Reading a great book right now called Da Vinci and the 40 Answers. It points to the creator all through it.

    I think I learn the most about him and experience him more through my small group than any where else. Hands down.

    How did people who lived before the printed bible get to know Jesus? Did following Christ look that much different a couple of hundred years ago?

  2. Daryl,

    Great idea, but I too am concerned about the amount of time a man will give to this type of reading plan. The insights I have received from men in the past several churches I’ve served seems to give less than 30 minutes a day to any spiritual activity.

    I would say Tommy’s plan is a good 1 to 1 1/2 hours especially if you are reading multiple chapters and journaling.

    I find in hard sometimes to spend an hour a day and I am a pastor. Although most of my time these days are spend more on director responsibilities, administration, organizational leadership, staffing, etc…

    Since I do not teach weekly, preach, and in the past year not traveled or spoken at conferences I have less need for research and teaching prep which decreases my amount of time in the scriptures over previous years.

    I can only imagine how tough it is more men who are not spiritual inclined or have a spiritual partner who is holding them accountable for daily time in the Word.

    Seems to me this is a perfect time to leverage as many social media tools as possible to keep nuggets of Truth in front of men who are constantly on the go.

    Just a couple of thoughts. Hope it helps.

  3. Daryl,
    This is the very conversation I was having with our men’s ministry leader yesterday. We’re not having but a few sign up for a men’s conference (actually two regional events, one in Houston, one in DFW). We were discussing men not reading or really involved in Bible studies (like Beth Moore); how Robert Lewis Men’s Frat., attracted the most attention; but it does not have any take away to really do; not in-depth.

    Blanchard: “Leaders are readers, and readers are leaders” statement is not even true from what I can tell. Most of the “leaders” I’m around are not even readers, but we consider them leaders; seminaries ask us to read books that are not even “today” and most of the guys aren’t reading them, they are just purusing and getting by (I’m certain I am being extreme in my commentary, and harsh against men).

    This is the reality I see. I do not know of many men; outside of ministers; that will pick the Bible up and just read it. I’m working on a conference topic for ACE right now, “spiritual practices of leaders” and trying to connect the difference between practices we as ministers are involved in and what lay leaders are involved in (knowing there should truly be no difference at all); but understanding the reality (especially where men are concerned) there is a difference; a huge chasm from what I see.

  4. Great discussion and topic. Thank you to Tommy AND Daryl, two men that always make me ponder my relationship with my Creator.

    I have to agree that I need to read my Bible daily to know Jesus better and I have started that more (However, I think Paul wrote about the fact that even those without God’s word can find him and his truth in Creation if they seek it…). I find that when I am in real need of God’s heart (AKA I can’t handle something all by my wonderful self) that I seek His will more. The way I do that… through scripture, solitude and prayer. My life is the same with any other discipline, I have to need it for some reason to do it (how weak the flesh is).

    I have to add that Beth Moore, typically a female audience writer, is on to something with her studies…. they revolve around scripture memorization… To do this I have to work on the same passage repeatedly for weeks (and it has to be short). Once it is there though, it is stuck. Having said this, I feel I have very little scripture memorized nor do I read my bible in an entire year…. somewhere about Leviticus I always give up on all the laws and fall asleep. Thankfully Jesus said, when asked what were the most important laws out of the numerous Torah laws, that Loving God first and then Loving your neighbor second was best (thanks for the cliff notes Jesus… it is like you knew there would be me later on who needed them).

    I wonder often, being raised in the church, if life long church attenders or those who find Christ later in life (and may have more thirst than those of us same old same olders)… makes a difference? (Just throwing it out there).
    Great discussion!!!

  5. P.S. I wonder if it is generational issue? Those of us MTV, sesame street, Atari generations (and younger) all are ADHD driven (fast food, fast forward through commercials etc…) and my need multimedia (Nooma like or music) and short scripture memorization just to get there? Just a thought…. see… this is getting me thinking.

  6. Okay, I’ll bite. Yes, I think this is a lot of reading for most people, especially with demanding jobs, family responsibilities, etc. I believe reading/meditating/studying Scripture is very important for spiritual growth, but I think before this is really fruitful someone more mature needs to walk with them and explain things to them. Maybe read through a book with them and answer their questions. Do we really expect those who are not mature to read on their own and understand it all? I think we who have gained some understanding need to read along with them. When Paul planted churches, he spent some time with them laying the spiritual foundation.

    Here’s what I’m getting at: we need to help people build their relationship with God so that they will eventually make their own plans for reading on a daily basis. Once they understand the foundation of their faith in Christ, they will be more likely to pursue spiritual disciplines. Expecting spiritual disciplines before the relationship is built seems a bit in the wrong order to me. As a relationship grows, being together occurs more naturally and frequently.

    Rather than giving someone the one-year bible, or a plan to read x number of chapters a day, perhaps we should ask them to read a book with us (maybe in a week) and then discuss it. I just talked to a guy in my small group the other day who had a question about Revelations. Easily resolved, but what he thought it said would have really distorted his faith. I was sure to encourage him to continue asking questions when he didn’t understand something.

    If you want to have healthy self-feeders, you need to teach them where the good food is, otherwise they’ll eat anything they can get!

  7. I love Kerry’s statement: “Seems to me this is a perfect time to leverage as many social media tools as possible to keep nuggets of Truth in front of men who are constantly on the go.”

    As a woman who is constantly on the go, it is the short email devotional in my inbox or the quick Twitter thought or the Facebook scripture that gets my attention and centers my thoughts on God for a few minutes several times a day. Is this generational (see Terri’s post)? I’m a baby boomer, so maybe not.

    I’m a reader, but I’m busy, and I believe that I come to know God at least partly through serving people (referring to Brian’s question). I learn as much from the people I spend time with as I do, sometimes, from reading.

    We can come to know God, I think, and grow spiritually, through lots of venues and pathways–nature, people, troubles, movies, books, work, prayer, long walks, reading scripture—if we seek God we will find God, and I think that holds up in a myriad of ways.

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