Read. Books. Faster.

READ

Something surprised me while walking through the “Christian Living” section of a local bookstore. There was almost nothing for men. Of the dozens of titles sitting on the shelves, most were marketed towards my wife. It didn’t take long on Google to figure out why. Seventy-five percent of people who buy books are women.

So, since you’ve made it this far, I’m going to assume that you are either

  1. A woman, or
  2. Someone who values reading

For years, Godly authors have helped close the distance between what I know in my head and believe in my heart about Christianity (the faith gap). And, by the end of this post, I hope to further your commitment to read and offer ways to do it better. Perhaps it will inspire you to point others towards a love for reading, and help close their own faith gaps.

BOOKS 

Despite the statistic mentioned above, I know a lot of men who are well-read. They are also (not coincidentally) influential leaders. Sharp books shape people who shape people.

“The man who never reads will never be read. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.” – Charles Spurgeon

While articles or blog posts help and are (at very least) a good starting point for non-readers, books influence people for decades. And, if you’re slow to start one, there are ways to get past the first hurdles:

  1. Set a goal. Commit to read one before 2016 ends. (The next section will help)
  2. Read with a friend. The added accountability and different perspective makes finishing a book much easier.
  3. Make time. Create space in your schedule to read. Take advantage of small moments as well (lunch breaks, sitting in a waiting room, Saturday morning coffee).

FASTER

If you’re a dude, ten bucks says you skipped all the way down to this part. Honestly, I’m just glad you’re still here. So, how can we read books quicker? On average, I read four or five books per month and have become increasingly efficient by doing four things:

  1. Flip through the whole book in one sitting to get an idea for overall content.
  2. Read the preface carefully. Mortimer J. Adler taught me this in How to Read a Book. There are good clues in the preface that will lead you to discover everything the author intends for the journey ahead.
  3. There are moments when it’s okay to mine for concepts rather than read every single word. With leadership and development books in particular, I’ve found that the devil is not in the details. It’s usually in the sub-headings and chapter conclusions.
  4. Read more than you do right now. This is the best way to become a more proficient reader.

Some Good Books:

The most valuable ones I’ve come across were recommended by friends. Here are some of them in various categories (any of which could be read in less than 6 weeks):

Spiritual Growth

The Line of Faith: 40 Days to Deeper Dependency
Bill Elliff
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Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols
Brad Bigney
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Leadership

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Die and Others Survive
Chip & Dan Heath
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What’s Best Next? How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done
Matt Pearman
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Felt Needs

Zeal without Burnout: Seven Keys to a Life-Long Ministry of Sustainable Sacrifice
Christopher Ash
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God + Politics: Jesus’ Vision for Society, State and Government 
Mark Dever
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Fiction

Underground Airlines
Ben Winters
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“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
– Joseph Brodsky

 

Winner or Winsome – Which One Are You?

When having a conversation, it’s easy to sniff out which of the two you’re engaging. One seeks to be right. The other persuades one to think rightly. Our focus tends to drift toward becoming winners rather than winsome.

Winners don’t want to talk. They want to tell. And, unless we happen to share their soapbox, we don’t care to listen. A lot gets said, but little changes.

Winsome people, on the other hand, have a way of thinking rightly and helping others to do the same. These people shape culture and change the world. It’s not because they are better communicators. Winsomeness is not the same as eloquence. Instead, it’s a matter of the heart.

Words reveal our heart. Each one, however articulate it may be, separates the winners from the winsome. I’ve found it helps to check my heart often to see which one I’m becoming.

There are three qualities that define the winsome:

  1. SECURITY
    This is not the same as confidence. It’s easy to fake confidence. Be aggressive or loud or demeaning. Don’t budge an inch and people can justify it as “confidence.” Security speaks in softer tones. There’s no battle to prove her intelligence (partly because she doesn’t claim to know everything). Hurl all the questions or criticism you want. Security knows that, if what she believes is true, it can withstand them.
  2. LOVE
    Ideas change the world. As a pastor who is convinced that the Gospel of Jesus has the power to save, I am passionate about truth. But it is never to be divorced from love. Paul told the church that, even if they had a martyr’s passion, it is useless without love (1 Corinthians 13:3). Before every conversation, comment or tweet, we should ask ourselves, “Is what I’m about to say coming out of love?” If you’re unsure, read 1 Corinthians 13 or John 15. Both are helpful passages on how to love people well. Loving people are winsome people.
  3. LEARNING
    It requires humility, patience, and hard work to learn. This sort of wisdom is described in Scripture as “pure, peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). Winsome people are able to simplify or expound upon their worldview appropriately. Because they are diligent to learn, they can give clear and respectful answers for the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15).

You will never be able to win everyone. That’s why the Apostle Paul said he became “all things to all people” in order to win some (1 Corinthians 9:22). That’s the essence of winsomeness. Doing whatever possible to help others think rightly.

This world has enough winners. So, stand secure. Love people like Christ. Stay teachable.

In other words, be winsome.