It’s comfortable for followers of Jesus to read inside our denomination/tradition. People who think like us, who draw the same conclusions make learning fun. But I think we can become too tribal with this, put our stake in the ground too quickly and use it to battle others, often unfairly.
I’m increasingly realizing the value of reading broadly and by extension, learning broadly. By broadly, I mean works outside of our perspectives. Actually, I don’t think I read broadly enough. But the more I do, I’ve recognized some characteristics about myself have emerged that reinforces the need to get out of the comfy box.
A lot of the books I generally read are on theology and Christian living for reviews; but as much as possible, I try to include some material to break it up with a few biographies, a bit of history, some fiction, some marketing books, and some sociology. Because I live increasingly in a Christian bubble—I work with Christians, I converse with Christians in a variety of ways, I primarily review books written for Christians—this is not only helpful, but necessary for me in order to have some sense of what’s going culturally and in other important spheres of society.
1. Going Outside the “Bubble.” As I pointed out above, it’s really easy for followers of Jesus to get caught in the “so-called Christian bubble” (in fact, studies indicate that the longer we’re Christians the less likely we are to have non-Christian friends). Reading more broadly keeps our minds sharp and allows us to understand something of the world outside of the Christian subculture.
2. Opportunities to Engage Others in Meaningful Discussion. Now, obviously, there are certain books we shouldn’t read. Books that profit no one except those looking to make a profit are worth no one’s time. That said, reading more broadly allows you to have another connection point with non-Christians that helps you to have meaningful discussions (whether at work, the gym, traditional or online book clubs or Starbucks) that can also lead to meaningful conversations.
3. Understanding and Enjoying God’s Common Grace. God has not reserved all the “good” ideas for Christian authors. In His common grace, God allows many non-Christians to have amazing insights into the human condition, given them tremendous literary gifts and fantastic storytelling abilities. If you’re not reading a little more broadly, you might be missing out on something really interesting.
I also wouldn’t confine this to reading books, but blogs as well as learning from others. If you don’t have friends outside your tribe, you really should. Take time and listen to what they have to say just for the sake of learning not to jump on them with correction. It does good to listen and maybe learn something along the way. I personally am grateful for those who have modeled this for me and taught me a little of what it means to read critically, and fairly.