Earlier this year I fell back into my old trap of devouring theology, and I can sense it happening again. I was hungry for books on house church, mission and emerging church. I read about six books on these topics in six weeks. I had this sense that if I could cram some more into me, it would do me good. Like eating healthy food.
But reading books – and particularly theology – is not like eating food. It doesn’t do you any good if you haven’t understood it fully, engaged it, discussed it with others, started living what insights it brings you to.
Slow reading is the way to go. Slow reading means getting the ideas into your head and into your heart. Praying over it. Writing about it. Talking to others about it. Quoting from it. Thinking of ways to put the good stuff in practice. And then going back to the start of the book and reading it again until you’ve done it all.
I should be selective, though. I don’t want to do that for every book that comes my way. But often a book comes along that seems to have the mark of a prophet about it. Someone who has a message from God for the world… or at least me. That’s the book I should read slowly and appreciate.
Earlier this year when I went on a binge, I suddenly stopped. I’d read all these exciting ideas thinking I was on the cusp of a transformation. But nothing happened. I didn’t manage to start a church which shared the insights of Wolfgang Simpson, Frank Viola and Joel McComiskey. I hadn’t tried to live one before I’d rushed off onto the next.
So anyway, I could feel the temptation returning yesterday when I got excited about a book again – Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. It was making a lot of sense to me, it was getting me passionate about the gospel… so I wanted to read it quicker… I wanted to get onto his next book… and that’s when I realised I had to fight down my instincts and read slowly.