Pensées Pastorales

Pensées Pastorales

with Rev. Dennis Yam

Books: Boon and Bane

The pastoral ministry dictates that, the academic world requires that, and I believe that every believer must be a reader. We must read to be informed as well be transformed.

Just before 2018 concluded, Christianity Today honored Christian authors on its annual “Book Awards.”[1] Upon going through the list, how I’d wished that we’re in a country that allows us to easily access those titles. There’s a good reason to acquire them for the awards are given in various categories of Christian discipline that includes Apologetics, Biblical Studies, Children and Youth, Pastoral Leadership, and many more. One title that stands out that deserves to be read is, Subversive Sabbath: The Surprising Power of Rest in a Nonstop World by A.J. Swoboda. Yet I still have to get hold of a copy.

We ask the question do we need them? My quick answer is certainly! The pastoral ministry dictates that, the academic world requires that, and I believe that every believer must be a reader. We must read to be informed as well be transformed.

The bigger question lies in how are we to be able to read all those titles in a very hectic world. Yes, books are a boon for it can help us well in our ministry and personal growth. Yet on the other hand, many would lament together with the Preacher who exclaimed, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”[2] But that should not deter us from cultivating the discipline of reading.

Allow me to suggest a few ways to improve our reading skills: read fast and read slow. There are titles that you want to get over as fast you can. You don’t need to read every word, or sentence, or chapter. Read to be informed. Yet, we also need to read carefully and reflect well.

Read Four Books a Week
This statement may seem challenging, even insurmountable; but it can be done. You can even read six books a week!

It is common knowledge that the whole Bible can be read in 70 hours, give or take two hours: or just over 52 hours for the Old Testament and 18 hours for the New Testament.[3] The assumption is you are reading the texts aloud (you read faster silently).

So how does this boil down to reading books? This is a challenge to read up to 52 books a year or even more. A month ago, I received a copy of Tim Keller’s The Prodigal Prophet, a book on Jonah. Within days, I just gobbled up all that he has to say regarding Jonah. It was both informative as well as transformative. However, there are books that you wish you can read more carefully; thus spending an hour or two a day, you can read as many books as you want to. The secret is the “15-minute reading block method.”[4]

For example, Mark Jones’ God Is is about 75% bigger than a novel. In 15 minutes, I can read about 12 pages. With 200 pages, I can finish the book in just 16 days! Right now, I am also reading Wane Grudem’s Christian Ethics. The book itself is heavy (literally, with hardcover), around 1,100 pages and 75% bigger than God Is. In 15 minutes, I’ve read 8 pages; the whole book, 135 days!

Once you start this regimen you can expand your reading to the following.

  • Leadership/Ministry:
  • Devotional:
  • Theology:
  • Apologetics/History:
  • Biography/Fiction:

Just add your preferences, and you’re on a journey of being informed and getting transformed. All you need is 15 minutes for each book.

[1] “Christianity Today’s 2019 Book Awards,” Accessed December 15, 2018.
[2] Ecclesiastes 12:12b (ESV).
[3] If a person spends an hour a day reading the Bible, he/she will accomplish it in less than three months; and only five months if he/she reads half an hour a day, etc.
[4] The idea is from

Books: Boon and Bane