Leaders are Readers

Here’s a  post I recently wrote for the Heritage Seminary Blog.


One of my seminary profs, Dr. Howard Hendricks, was known for his pithy, memorable statements.  Here’s one of my favourites: “Leaders and readers.”  I’m convinced Dr. Hendricks had it right.  To be effective in ministry we must become life-long learners.  That means, among other things, remaining life-long readers.

At this point in the semester, I realize many seminary students are feeling buried by the reading load that comes with their courses.  If that’s your situation, pray for grace—not only to get through it but to get the most from it.  Our professors seek to select books that will shape students for Christ’s service.

Also, remember there will come a time when courses are finished, when assigned reading gives way to discretionary reading.  What should you be reading when the choice is up to you?

At the top of our reading lists, one Book should tower above all others.  For the rest of our lives, our primary, go-to book must be God’s Word.  Each day we should make time to read Scripture, communing with the God who reveals Himself in His Word.  Like Jeremiah, we should be able to say, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

bioWhat else should we read as we seek to lead? I would commend to you the biographies of Christian leaders.  As I reviewed the books I’ve read in 2018, I realized a good percentage of them were biographies of effective leaders.  These leaders served as pastors (Martin Luther), seminary presidents (J.P. Boyce), politicians (William Wilberforce), and missionaries (Jonathan Goforth).  Some of these leaders are still well-known today (D.L. Moody); others are often overlooked (John Broadus; Ernie Keefe).  Some of the biographies were short, easy reads; some were long and detailed.  But all of them inspired and instructed me on being a better leader.

John Piper, a champion for reading both the Bible and biographies, says it well:

Christian biography, well chosen, combines all sorts of things pastors [and other Christians] need but have so little time to pursue. Good biography is history and guards us against chronological snobbery (as C.S. Lewis calls it). It is also theology—the most powerful kind—because it bursts forth from the lives of people. It is also adventure and suspense, for which we have a natural hunger. It is psychology and personal experience, which deepen our understanding of human nature (especially ourselves). Good biographies of great Christians make for remarkably efficient reading. [1]

As I write this post, we are heading into the Christmas season.  So here’s a suggestion for your gift giving this year.  Why not give a well-chosen biography to someone you love?  While you’re at it, do yourself a favour and pick up a good biography for yourself as well. Remember:  Leaders are readers.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/brothers-read-christian-biography.  Accessed November 21, 20


List of biographies referenced (most are in the Heritage library!):

Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, by Eric Metaxas.
A Gentleman and a Scholar: Memoir of James P. Boyce, by John A. Broadus
William Wilberforce, by Stephen Tomkins
Jonathan Goforth, by Rosalind Goforth
Moody: The Biography, by John Pollock
Life and Letter of John Albert Broadus, by A.T. Robertson
God in the Midst of the Events that Shook Quebec; The Autobiography of Ernest Keefe, by Ernie Keefe

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