Tim Challies recently argued that Christians should also read in the mainstream, which, with a few cautions, I heartily agree with.

I then received an email from a friend who, had been “forced” into reading about a subject that he would not normally have chosen to research. Amazed at how refreshing and stimulating he had found the experience, he suggested that preachers (and their sermons) would especially benefit from wider reading. He wrote:

Theological reading is usually a specific type of reading, and once you’ve reached a certain level of theological competence, and as long as you are inclined to remain orthodox, your brain forgets what it’s like to be suddenly and massively expanded or changed. New discoveries are made, no doubt. But these are discoveries made along the same well-worn paths; not in some distant land.

Imagine a man who spends hours every day reading and researching, who collates these thoughts into reasoned and passionate discourses every week; a man who undoubtedly derives great good from what he reads, and yet a man who has completely forgotten what it feels like to reach the top of a hill and discover a completely and radically new vista before him; a man who’s thinking has been circling within a relatively small box for decades, never venturing beyond it’s walls. It’s terrifying.

If that man wants relief from his moribund thoughts, there seems to me only two options: a heresy or a hobby. Either he determines to discover a radically new theology or he sets out on a journey through some other intellectual landscape he’s never seen before. My guess is that a fresh infusion of thoughts formed in distant lands will improve his sermons immeasurably. And it is, of course, much to be preferred over a fresh infusion of heresy!

  • jarn

    or a fresh infusion of suffering. nothing like suffering to improve sermons. there is nothing more didactic than a season of suffering in distant lands.