Read. Please, pick up a book and read it. We, as a people group, are not the most literary people in Christendom. Most of us are big on “go and do” and not so big on “read and think.” I would like to challenge you to read more. It helps to have a plan, and I am pleased to share with you the sorts of books I read and why I read them. I find them to greatly enhance my service of Christ Jesus in sport, my life as a man, son, husband, father, and grandfather.
1. Read your Bible. (Duh.) “The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.” Psalm 119:130 Your Bible will neither give understanding nor light unless you unfold its pages to read. I recommend a simple devotional reading plan, supplemented by more intensive study. I also recommend reading from various translations to keep things fresh and to gather insights from different translators. I particularly enjoy reading The Message translation devotionally.
2. Theology and Christian Living books. There is wisdom and insight to be gathered from these books; get some. I owe a debt I can never repay to the friends I made in my twenties as they introduced me to C. S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Oswald Chambers, John Stott, Brother Lawrence, and other good authors. Later in my adulthood I began reading authors like Phillip Yancey, Eugene Peterson, Os Guinness, G. K. Chesterton, and others. Regardless of your level of scholarship, you and I both stand to learn from these authors.
3. Psychology books. These books help us to think differently. They help us to understand people and why they do what they do. Just recently I read, Deep Work and found it to be remarkably helpful to my own thinking and personal disciplines. Other books (decidedly non-academic) like Emotional Intelligence 2.0, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, Mindset by Carol Dweck, and Soul Keeping by John Ortberg (read last weekend), and several books by Malcolm Gladwell have also been very insightful. My mentor says, “Psychology is a good tool, but a terrible god.” Keeping this in mind brings perspective to my reading of psychology books.
4. Sports biography books. These books allow us inside the lives, minds, and hearts of people in the sporting world. Often, these are very insightful and occasionally quite painful to read. Among the best I have read are: The Man Watching by Anson Dorrance, Open by Andre Aggasi, Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson, and several by John Feinstein (not all are biographies, but all are helpful). This is especially true for those of us who find our service of sportspeople a little cross cultural. If you did not grow up as a competitive athlete, you may find the people you serve quite odd. These books can unlock their mentality for you.
5. Leadership books. Whether they want to be or not, sportspeople are leaders. Coaches want to be leaders, but they often don’t know how. To read leadership wisdom equips you to serve them well and loads your mind with a bank of knowledge they can access. We are leaders by our very nature. Let’s sharpen our leadership swords with some good reading. I suggest these as a starting point: Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney, Leaders Who Last by Dave Kraft, Courageous Leadership by Bill Hybels, Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, and Legacy by James Kerr. “We are all leading, and we’re leading all the time. The question is whether we are doing it well or poorly,” is a quote from Chris Lowney’s Heroic Leadership and it is directly on point.
6. History books. It is of tremendous help to anyone serving Christ to understand the context in which he or she is serving. Reading the history of a team, a club, a community, a region, a nation, a continent, or the entire planet is key to understanding the people and how they view their world. This sort of reading has been transformation to my service when I travel abroad. Reading books on Central American, Cuban, Ukrainian, and Eurasian history were profoundly helpful to the development of ministry in those regions.
7. Culture. These books are of great value as one seeks to ride the stormy waves of societal change. Over this weekend I will turn sixty-one years of age. It would be so very easy to retreat to the culture of the 1970s and to become the curmudgeonly old dude, but I refuse. To have any grasp of societal and cultural changes I must read about it. Books like Millenials, Hillbilly Elegy, Outliers, Soul Tsumami, A Cup of Coffee at the Soul Food Café, and others have transformational to how I approach cultural matters.
8. Business Management. If you think strategically or analytically, the authors of these books have something to say to you. Among my favorite authors in this genre are: Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, and Jim Collins. Some of my favorite titles are: The Starfish and the Spider, Good to Great, Great by Choice, Originals (read in April), and others.
Do yourself a favor, read a book. Do those you serve a favor, read a book. Whether you do it old school via paper and ink, or on your portable electronic device (I read on both), read a book. Commit to learning for a lifetime. For what it’s worth, I read faster and with greater comprehension at 60 than I ever did at 20, 30, or 40.
By reading good authors, we welcome mentors into our lives from across the centuries. I regularly receive counsel from John Stott, Francis Schaeffer, C. S. Lewis, Oswald Chambers, Brother Lawrence, and other brilliant men of God who have passed from the earth years, decades, or centuries ago. Read.