By Joy Allmond
“Read or get out of the ministry.”
That’s what 18th-century theologian John Wesley once famously said. Does that still hold true today?
Pastor and author Tony Evans would say yes.
During a recent “5 Leadership Questions” podcast, Lifeway Leadership Director Todd Adkins and Lifeway Christian Resources Senior Vice President Eric Geiger talked with Evans about what today’s church leaders should be reading—and why.
“Reading is essential for a number of reasons,” said Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas.
“One of them is because it broadens your horizons. It informs you of not only of what you think but what others think—who may or may not agree. But at least you need to, in ministry, scratch where people are itching.”
Evans said he reads about local, national, and world affairs, since it’s important to be in the loop regarding the concerns of the people in his congregation, those who download his sermons, and those who listen to him over the airwaves.
“I read economics. I read politics. I read social critique. I read the newspaper. I read the blogs. I read anything and everything I can get my hands on that’s relevant to the audience to whom I’m speaking,” he said.
Evans said one book he would recommend to church leaders is Between Two Worlds, John Stott’s book on preaching, because “the preacher has to reach back to the world of Scripture, and forward to his contemporary audience, and he must do both with integrity and honesty.”
And for the ministry leader who hasn’t had the discipline to read, it’s never too late to start, said Evans.
“After you’ve read your Bible, read your newspaper or go online to read the news,” he said. “That, at least, is keeping you up to date with what is happening in the world.”
Evans says this is critical because pastors, Sunday school teachers, and other church leaders tend to approach their worldview differently from their audiences and congregations.
“We come from the Bible to the people,” he explained. “But the people are coming from the world to the Bible. And we must respect their starting place as different from ours. That will affect how they hear what we have to say.”
And that’s how, Evans says, leaders can develop what he calls a “practical theology.”
“When the Bible was written, it wasn’t written as a systematic theology; it was written as a biblical theology,” he said.
“That means it was written by a certain person, at a certain time, in a certain place, to a certain people, for a certain purpose. And it was relevant when written. I try to consistently and constantly connect these two worlds in way in which people will always see how the Word of God relates to them today.”
He also urged anyone who teaches Scripture to any size audience to keep the relevance without compromising what has been written: “The moment you lean wrongly one way or the other … you will miss what God has called you to do from a leadership role.”
JOY ALLMOND (@joyallmond) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.