Brent Niedergall

A FEATHER IN YOUR THEOLOGICAL CAP

Tim Challies recently posted a slick 2020 Christian Reading Challenge. It looks like he has worked to refine this over the past few years, and it’s a great idea. Reading is an excellent use of time, despite whether or not you’re in a vocational ministry or academic setting. One benefit to this 2020 Reading Challenge is the tiered approach it offers. There are four levels of increasing voracity you can commit to: “light,” “avid,” “committed,” and “obsessed.” And another beauty of the plan is how much freedom you’re given to choose books even though you have some rails to help guide you. So, in following the advice to begin with the “light” challenge of 13 books, or a single book every four weeks, here is what I came up with for myself. (I’ve also thrown in a few inspirational quotations on reading for good measure.)

1. A BOOK RECOMMENDED BY SOMEONE ELSE

Rick Reed, The Heart of the Preacher
Challies recommended this in a review he wrote. It’s been sitting in my Amazon cart. 

2. A BIOGRAPHY

William P. Thompson, Always Abounding: Family Perspectives on the Life and Ministry of N.A. Thompson, Jr. 1899–1989
This was written by a respected professor from Bible college. He gave me a copy, and I look forward to reading about someone that meant a lot to him and his family. 

Better go without butter on your bread than without books.

W. B. Riley, Pastoral Problem, 40

3. A CHRISTIAN NOVEL

Marilynne Robinson, Home: A Novel
Fiction ranks lower on my list of priorities than it probably should, and I’m not sure if people would even consider this a Christian novel. Gilead was pretty good. And the idea to write this companion novel that offers a different perspective concurrent with Gilead is a neat idea. 

4. A BOOK ABOUT HISTORY

David Beale, Baptist History in England and America: Personalities, Positions, and Practices
I picked this up some time ago and have been meaning to read it. 

5. A BOOK TARGETED AT YOUR GENDER

R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of a Godly Man
Here’s another one I’ve thought about picking up. This would be a good pick to read a chapter at a time and periodically meet to discuss with a friend.

Leaders should always cut a channel between reading and speaking and writing, so that others derive benefit, pleasure, and inspiration

J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership, 108.

6. A BOOK ABOUT CHRISTIAN LIVING

Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices
It’s a “Puritan Paperback” published by Banner of Truth. I’ve already started, but I’m only in the second chapter.

7. A BOOK WITH AT LEAST 300 PAGES

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics Volume 1: Prolegomena
This is on theology too (see the next category), but I’m okay with double-dipping into this category.  

…good writers need good readers.

Douglas Wilson, Writers to Read, 12.

8. A BOOK ABOUT THEOLOGY

John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God
I’ve been chipping away at this one for a bit, but there’s still a long way to go. 

9. A BOOK FROM A “BEST OF 2019” LIST

Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Preaching as Reminding: Stirring Memory in an Age of Forgetfulness
Looking at a few lists, this is the possibility I was most interested in reading. Some of my choices are open to change.

10. A BOOK MORE THAN 150 YEARS OLD

Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
This is considered required reading for pastors (reformed and non-reformed alike). 

In the Bible we have a perfect library, and he who studies it thoroughly will be a better scholar than if he had devoured the Alexandrian Library entire.

Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 184.

11. A BOOK ON THE ECPA BESTSELLER LIST

Christian Standard Bible
I’m going to cheat a little on this category and choose from the Bible Translations Bestsellers. Nothing really caught my eye under the other categories, and it will be worthwhile to read through the Bible in a new translation. 

12. A BIOGRAPHY FOR CHILDREN OR TEENS

William T. Ellis, Billy Sunday: The Man and His Message
It’s on my shelf. I really don’t know all that much about Billy Sunday other than the fact he was a wild man in the pulpit.

13. A BOOK OF YOUR CHOICE

Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Light of God’s Love
We’re going to be reading through this book as a church staff, but it’s one I would choose to read anyways. My wife and I are slowly making our way through The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader at home. I’ll keep this on my desk to read at the office. 

Conclusion

These are just the choices I came up with for my own reading plan. The goal isn’t to promote these books so much as to simply promote the reading of books. Why not use these categories to help you stay on track with your reading? Ultimately, whether you decide to use some type of formal plan or not, consider setting some kind of goal to help you read more in 2020.

Doesn’t everybody already know that preachers ought to read a lot?


Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Reading for Preaching, 18.

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