What do you read on the mission field?
"Leaders are readers."
A good friend and pastor taught me this philosophy several years ago. I took it to heart. I, therefore, try to make it a habit to read something besides the Bible for 15 minutes each day. In fact, I literally have a task labeled that verbatim. It's a discipline I look forward to each day. Sometimes I read only 5 minutes. Other days I'm in a book for an hour or more. It just depends on the day's tasks.
This discipline has become especially important to me while on the mission field. The reality is, we are not getting the consistent corporate worship experience we got in the States; Sunday AM, Sunday PM, Wednesday PM and other fellowships and accountability groups/meetings. Therefore, we've had to supplement.
We're thankful for our church partners here in Japan. However, we're still feeling our way through the Japanese language. So, we do what we can each Sunday we gather and then supplement as I'll describe below.
The objection I've heard from people is: "I'm just not a reader."
I can understand that to an extent. People's school experiences where there were reading requirements rather than material you wanted to read is a big turnoff to potential readers.
I could go on about all the advantages of making reading a discipline, but I'll quickly address the major one - especially for us as Christians. The Bible is a book. Let's be careful not to look over that.
So, what are the advantages of reading?:
Fresh voices speaking truth into your life
Being exposed to another side's perspectives/arguments on a matter
Solidifies your own arguments, positions and views
It keeps your mind sharp
It's a reprieve from thumbing through social media and keeping up with the Joneses in that realm
Here’s one thought you may have. You read the Bible. But it's a stretch to go above and beyond that. Let's consider this.
How much time do you spend on social media reading posts about someone's cat, their cup of coffee or political rants?
Could we not reassign those "empty reading calories" to say...a book?
Here’s another potential thought many have. Maybe you're thinking the whole concept of a book is boring and unengaging. Here's two other routes I've used and have found effective and enjoyable:
Audio Books (AudioBooks and Audible are the two most popular apps)
Amazon Kindle App
Here’s another thought. Maybe even then it's hard to engage with the content. At the very least, here's another avenue of reading and some of my favorites quick reads/listens to follow:
Blogs (Tim Challies, Gospel Coalition, Crossway, A Life Overseas)
Journals geared toward a specific discipline (Japan Harvest)
Podcasts/Talk Radio (Dad Tired: And Loving It)
And yes, I listen faithfully to sports radio. These outlets, too, keep me abreast on the sports world that I am not able to view live in Japan.
Okay, maybe you want to be a reader but you're not sure where or how to start. I'll offer the way I choose what to read, however this is not gospel. This is just one way. And to preface, I'm not an overly fast reader. In the 15 minutes I set aside each day to read, I usually get through 8-10 pages - depending on the font size, depth of content, etc. So, here we go:
Stage of Life: About every 2 or 3 books, I try to read something relevant to my stage of life. For us, it's young marriage and parenting littles. Recently I've read and recommend Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tripp) and Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys (James). I also do my best to read 1 or 2 articles a week related to marriage. A good vlog in this area is Jefferson Bethke's. You can find his information on FaceBook.
Vocation: About every 2 or 3 books, I try to read something related to our vocation. It's always good to keep a sharp mind in your field. I just finished a book called Wounded Tiger (Bennett) which provides the historical narrative of the Pacific War between the US and Japan and how God used these events to draw many Japanese to Himself. Very interesting! I also try to read books related to missions in general - not necessarily specific to Japan.
Voices of Our Generation: I also try to incorporate a book here and there on someone within the Christian community who has a good pulse on culture, hot topic issues and how to live out the gospel amidst these areas. A few authors I enjoy are Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, John Piper, Eric Mason and Mark Driscoll (listen to his new stuff - excellent!)
Non-Religious: I try atleast once a year to read a book that's popular, yet somewhat relevant to our work. I really enjoyed the book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (Heath). This book was especially helpful when raising support for Japan. I firmly believe non-Christians can add just as much value (and more at times) to readers.
Recurring: There are just some books, sermons, blogs, resources that I turn to once/year. Even though I've read/listened to them before, they are timeless reminders of things I've been exposed to that have been particularly formative in my life. Right now, I'm feasting on my training materials from Mission Training International - a required course we took in our pre-field ministry. So good!
I truly write from a heart that desires to share the benefits of incorporating reading as a discipline. I, by no means, have it all together or believe one is more spiritual if one reads or doesn't. It's not a right or wrong issue - though it may be hard to believe that in spite of my passionate views of reading. But, I believe someone is missing out a great deal if reading isn't part of their life.