Today a reader tomorrow a leader- Margaret Fuller
A reading culture
A reading culture may simply be defined as the practice (that is learnt) of seeking knowledge, information or fun about the written word. The simplicity of this definition, however, masks the ‘complexity’ of its practical aspect. From the definition, it stands out that a reading culture is not just an overnight achievement. It is rather a lifelong quest that takes discipline.
The art of reading is a primary issue in Christianity since we know that our faith in as much as it is related to God’s revelation in so many ways, it is primarily based on a written word inspired by God which is the Bible. We read the written word to get to know God even more.
My goal here is nothing less than providing a biblical basis of reading and also suggesting ways to cultivate a reading culture as Christian students.
Importance of reading as a Christian student
One of the points that strike us, and I think we ought to receive it enthusiastically, is that reading is biblical! It is not just any other practice; it is a Biblical practice. All the way from the giving of the Torah in Moses’ era to the apostolic era, reading has been embraced as a way of knowing God and understanding the main tenets of the faith professed.
One classical example is from Nehemiah 8:2
2So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from the daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all people listened attentively to the Book of Law.”
Hosea the prophet too reminds us of God’s statement “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). From this, I am strongly inclined to deduce that lack of knowledge and destruction are the two ends of the same snake, whichever end you grab, you’ll still grab a snake.
Let me say emphatically that this lack of knowledge is what is eating up the society these days. People no longer want to read the Bible and other relevant Christian literature for themselves, they want someone to interpret it for them; to interpret it in favor of their own thoughts. The so called prosperity gospels, postmodern relativism and humanism are the result of lack of knowledge about God and for sure, without seeking this knowledge of God, we are just embracing a naturalistic Christianity which Kenneth D.Boa in his Faith Has Its Reasons describes as a mere moralism, a philosophy of human self-improvement inspired by the idea of the divine.
However, I must pause here to amplify and qualify this point, lest we might misinterpret the idea of salvation. I am not advocating that salvation is by reading the Bible and other Christian literature or that our walk of salvation is only sustained by us reading. No, salvation is only by believing in Jesus Christ and acknowledging that he died on the Cross and has risen to reconcile us back to God. Faith, however, matures, when we subject ourselves to the message of Christ as Paul would put it in Romans 10:17 “consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.
Let us consider the following about the early apostles in line to our subject;-
2nd peter 1:5-6 “ for this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness, and to goodness knowledge,…..for if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”
Peter simply tells us that if we want to be productive and effective in serving God, we have to seek knowledge. This knowledge is found in the Bible and other appropriate Christian literature. But we must be cautious in attempting to seek this knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “the fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom”. That is, if we are to seek the knowledge, the foremost thing is the fear of God because He himself will teach us and guide us through this quest.
Paul advises Timothy in 1st Timothy 4:13;-
“Until I come devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, and to teaching.”
Paul himself had set an example by his great knowledge of the scripture. He could be seen, not once, engaging with the Jewish leaders on the eligibility of Christ. One of the classical examples on this observation is in Acts 17 where he is seen ‘arguing’ with the Stoic and the Epicurean Greek philosophers in Athens. He goes on even to quote Stoic poetic lines in Acts 17: 24-29 and the result of this, we know, he was very effective in leading the church to maturity in the word of God.
The second importance of reading is that it leads to intellectual maturity. Am sorry for giving quite a bulky information on the Biblical importance of reading. Early French scientist Jean De Lamarck introduced one of the renowned theories called the theory of use and disuse. Lack of reading makes our mind become ‘vestigial.’ Well, not that real vestigial per se, but in the sense that we lack the art of creativeness and innovativeness, our communication skills become poor and our cognitive engagement and social perception become dimmed.
The more we ‘use’ our mind by reading, the more we grow and the more we ‘disuse’ it by bypassing reading, the more we render it ‘vestigial.’
What to read
- The Bible is the primary source of all our literature. Paul says in 2nd Timothy 3:16 – “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
- Books that expose scriptures.
- Books that discuss contemporary issues e.g. homosexuality and trinity.
- Books that provide practical ministry/ career skills.
- Entertainment books I.e without warning, left behind.
- Biographies and autobiography.
Cultivating a reading culture
The following are very vital in cultivating the reading culture only if taken as serious as they ought to practically
- Develop a positive attitude towards reading – reading is not fun in the natural sense; it is something we have to develop a positive attitude about. I pray that just as David reached a point he totally delighted in the word of God and in the knowledge of God, we would get that conviction to delight in the word of God through the Bible and other Christian literature.
- Identify the area of interest and read books about that.
- Invest in good personal library.
- Exchange books with other readers and let them be the accountability partners.
- Always have a book with you wherever you go.
- Channel your thoughts as you read.
By OMERIO LAMECK