20 Reasons to Read (Good Christian Books)

January 8, 2007

“So what did you do over the holidays?” In any honest answer, I always have to include “reading.” Yes – like many pastoral colleagues – I am somewhat obsessed with books.


My Christmas holidays confirmed it. Looking forward to a book free zone for a few weeks, I still managed to turn the pages. In the end, I concluded Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R Kent Hughes and ploughed my way through three other books (Daniel Doriani: Putting the Truth to Work; Gaius Davis: Stress; Karl Graustein: Growing up Christian).

And I’m still hungry for more. I’ve just started Anchor Man by Steve Farrar, whilst John Owen’s Overcoming Sin and Temptation and Andreas Kostenberger’s God, Marriage and Family sit on my shelf like two pieces of choice steak.

What is wrong with me? Why is it that I find books so helpful? The fact is that many Christians (including some pastors) don’t seem to. At the very least, they need some convincing.

So I’ve drawn up a list. As I’ve pondered it, here’s some of the reasons why I read books and why I think you should too.

A couple of qualifications before I get started. Firstly, I remain convinced that reading Scripture is primary. Let me also add that I’m mainly talking about Christian books and most certainly good Christian books. Tell me what you think…

20 Reasons to Read (Good Christian Books)

1. You will grow in your knowledge of God, yourself and the world around you
2. You will gain a better understanding of the bible, the book of books
3. You will broaden your English vocabluary, helping you to express similar truths to your congregation in fresh ways
4. You will have an improved imagination and actively engage your mind in a way that probably won’t occur when watching TV
5. You will be able to sit at the feet of some of the great Christian teachers and minds over the centuries (even if you have few ‘living’ teachers to assist you)
6. You will be forced to cease from incessant activity and think
7. You will receive a historical perspective on current problems and spot present day blindspots
8. You will have some of your questions answered and confront other questions you hadn’t even thought of
9. You will be able to practically apply Paul’s command to think upon “wholesome” things
10. You will develop a sense of how arguments are constructed and be able to weigh both strong and weak arguments
11. You will enjoy spiritual input during the week, not just on a Sunday (if not a pastor)
12. You will (if a pastor) be able to enage with other issues beyond this week’s text, thus broadening your perspective.
13. You will be able to mull over a subject. You will be able to put the book down to think, chew over a sentance or re-read a paragraph. You will be able to exploring an issue at length, rather than brush over a topic too quickly
14. You will be better prepared for the task of evangelism, after reading clear presentations of the gospel by great communicators
15. You will be better prepared for the task of discipleship, having a good way to open up discussion about Christian life issues (what are you reading?)
16. You will be made aware of how Christians interpret and apply Scripture differently in various cultural contexts
17. You will gain information for your ignorance, inspiration for your weariness, and insight for complex problems
18. You will be better equipped to lead in your church, marriage and family
19. You will be stimulated, as in a good conversation, to new lines of thinking
20. You will be drawn to worship God, especially when the book centres on God not man

So…what are you reading?

(Note: article has been amended from 21 reasons to 20, since several kind readers have pointed out a duplicate reason)


  1. Hi Colin,

    I quite agree with your enthusiam for reading and the benefits that it brings.In addition to your catergories of the Bible and good Christian books I think there is a further category worth considering.

    In my opinion there is great benefit to be gained from reading books that you are not going to agree with and hence are unlikely to be either classified as good or Christian. For example, the God Delusion by Dawkins is currently being reccommended to some church apprentices. Such books help us understand the people who we are trying to reach and how their worldview has been influence by popular reading. Books that we are going to disagree with also force us to ask ourselves difficult questions about why we do not agree, and how we would try to explain that to others.

    The blog looks good, keep it up.


  2. You are right. I don’t read nearly enough!

  3. colin,
    i have greatly appreciated and benefited from your blog in its first week. looking forward to more in the days ahead. well, you can ask my wife about my obsession with books. I am comforted a bit in reading andrew bonar’s diary where he more than once mentions a concern that he might be too taken with his books. a balance to be had. anyhow, currently working through the deliberate church, treatise on earthly-mindedness, Holy Spirit (ferguson), and a scottish christian heritage. looking forward to our next uccf/cu meeting.

  4. Jonny, I take your point about there being value in reading secular books. With regards my post, since not all my 21 points would usually relate to secular works (eg. 14,15,16 & 21), I deliberately took a narrower perspective.

    My own take on secular reading is that it should be first of all measured. One reason being that our time is limited. Another that the best way to get at error is have a clear idea of truth. So on this latter point, a believer who reads 9 secular books to 1 Christian title may not be as critically aware as one who reads half and half, say.

    Secondly, reading of secular work should be critical. For younger Christians, especially, I’d always recommend having a good review from a Christian perspective to hand, just to give some pointers.

    One question I do find interesting is whether Christians should read every popular secular title with a religious connotation (eg. Da Vinci Code; The God Delusion). I’ve heard arguments either way. Some argue that we should read them for the sake of evangelism. Others, that the arguments are usually so poor that its almost a waste of time. With regards the God Delusion, I decided to listen to a few talks by Alistair McGrath which took much less time and gave me a feel for the main points and problems with it.

  5. Good thoughts. You have shown some excellent benefits to be gained from reading. In the past I have structured some of my reading by season. I spent my summers reading more secular works like biographies, histories, and the occassional fiction book. I found that to be a change of pace that was refreshing. Last summer I read biographies of Tolkien, Cicero, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln and I was amazed at the number of sermon illustrations I was able to find.

    During the rest of the year I rarely read entire secular books for fun. I do read reviews on secular books and listen to talks as Colin suggested.

    Right now I am working my way through Grudem’s Systematic, one I hear a lot about but have never read. I find the exercise of occassionally reading books like that to be helpful in revisiting doctrines which I might arrogantly think I have “nailed down.”

    Reading things like the Da Vinci Code and the God Delusion have never been a priority for me. However, I must admit I am thankful for those who do read them and then give me an orthodox review. I suppose I should pull my own weight and read them for myself but I just can’t seem to make them climb the reading list to the sacrifice of others.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Sorry for the long comment.

  6. A great new book to add to the pastor’s shelf:

    Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bible by Timothy S. Laniak.

    This is a biblical theology of the pastorate. It’s the latest volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology (NSBT) series. I’m reading it right now and I’m benefiting much. It’s slow going in places, but if the reader is patient there is much to glean from this book.

  7. “So…what are you reading?”

    Non-work reading: presently, Iain Murray’s A Scottish Christian Heritage (2006), and Doug Harink’s Paul Among the Postliberals (2003); recently finished Peter Toon’s biography, God’s Statesman: Life and Work of John Owen (1972). Next? Not sure yet. 🙂

    Keep reading!

    SHALOM, David Reimer

  8. David, I’ve heard good things about “A Scottish Christian Heritage.” Would you recommend it?

  9. Hi Colin:

    This is, I think, the sixth or seventh of Murray’s books I have read. I love his writing – it consistently enriches my mind, warms my heart, and challenges my thinking. Having said that (!), I don’t think this is among his best, although the standard remains high.

    I’m not sure quite why I have that sense about it. My feeling at the moment is that, given his approach, the narrative element is “bitty” – unlike his great biographies, or even my personal favourite, Revival and Revivalism. Still, it’s well worth a read, especially for anyone living in Edinburgh!

    I’ll look forward to reading your review of it here in due course….

  10. Colin,

    Great post, brother! Thanks for this. These are some excellent reasons to “take up and read.” Thank you for your insight. Just a little note: reason #10 and #17 are the same reason.

  11. Thanks. Will pass this on to my 12-year-old son, a vociferous reader. Also, you might like to check the spelling on your list. Found four errors: sentance, centres, enage, and vocabluary.

    God bless.


  12. Hello,
    I have been writing book reviews on a wide variety of books. Recently I started a blog for my Christian book/DVD reviews. If you would like to check out what I have been reading, watching, reviewing, check out my blog.

  13. Excellent list. I have found reading broadens my knowledge and helps me to write more than I have before.

    Thanks for the encouragement

  14. […] 14 January 2008 reading Colin Adams has written from a pastor’s perspective in ‘20 Reasons to Read (Good Christian Books)’ (Unashamed Workman, 8 Jan 2008). However, it is not just for pastors to read, as there are many […]

  15. It is not too late to join Timmy Brister’s Puritan Reading Challenge and read some good books.

  16. […] Reasons to Read Good Books Colin Adams suggests 20 reasons to read good Christian books.  […]

  17. Colin
    I am intending to use your list of good reasons (slightly edited but properly credited) in a forthcoming edition of ‘In Writing’ the magazine of the Evangelical library in London. I trust this will be okay. Please let me know if there might be a problem or if I cna give you any more detail. good to meet you albeit virtually.

  18. colin
    i am so happy with your writings about, continue doing that and God bless.

  19. hello
    i’ve learn a lot with your writhings,and i also enjoying to read it…God bless.

  20. […] … here are 20 good reasons to read good Christian books. This entry was posted in Manhood/Womanhood, […]

  21. […] … here are 20 good reasons to read good Christian […]

  22. lovely! please keep up! am also book obsessed! I love this particular phrase “God centred books”. I have a mind to share God focused authors to those who love novels and literature of various genres. this is quite encouraging. thank you.

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