How Leaders Can Read More

Reading_in_Practice_MALeaders are readers. As leaders, we hear and know that phrase well. But reading takes time and discipline that sometimes we just don’t have enough of. We have a list of books we want to read, but our schedules are so packed we don’t know when we will ever have time read them. For some of us, we just struggle with the discipline of sitting down long enough to read a few pages of a book much less an entire book. But if leaders want to be better leaders than they need to be readers. I want to share a few tips on how you as a leader, or as someone who may just wants to read, can read more books.

Make an effort to read at least 30 minutes a day. In college I had a friend who would read books left and right on top of his required reading for classes. At the time, I was struggling just to keep up with what I had to read for classes and the thought of reading books outside of that seemed impossible. One day he told me how he did it. He said he simply makes himself sit down for 30 minutes a day and read. Sometime he may go over that, but he would make himself read for at least 30 minutes. It sounded simple enough so I gave it a shot. To my surprise it worked! So much so, I still use this principle today. I have a sticky note on the wall near my desk in my office that says “30 min a day” to remind me. Leaders are usually very busy people, but reading 30 minutes a day is manageable and not hard to do. Give it a shot! You will be surprised at how many books you can work through if you read at least 30 minutes a day.

Understand the different ways you can read. There are many ways you can read. I recently have started trying to understand more about this and the different ways to read. What helped me was a recent article I ran across on Tim Challies site entitled “7 Different Ways to Read a Book.” I have learned the value in not reading every book the same. Based on the book and why you may be reading it, you may have to change up the way you read it. I would encourage you to look over the seven different ways you can read a book from the Challies article and apply that to your reading.

Always have a book with you. This is another tip I picked up in college, but this one came from one of my professors. He was teaching a class on Acts and part of the required reading he assigned was a commentary on the book of Acts. You normally don’t sit down with a commentary and read it cover to cover. But for this class we were required to do just that. The commentary he had us read was a pretty technical commentary so it was a pretty heavy thing to read through. He knew it was not an easy assignment and it would take a long time. Right after he told us about this assignment during the first class he said the key to reading a lot is to always have a book with you. He told us how he would always be carrying a book with him so even if he had a 5 minute window of time he could read. I applied that and finished that commentary quicker than I thought I would have. I still do this as well today. It’s a simple thing many people often don’t think about. Carry a book with you and pull it out when you have a few minutes here and there.

Reading is an essential part of growing as a leader. However, reading takes time and discipline. I have found that making time to read each day for at least 30 minutes, understanding different ways to read, and always having a book with me has helped me not only become a better reader, but has helped me read more books.

How to Have a Effective Quiet Time

If you want to see growth in your Christian life, you must commit yourself to what we sometimes call “spiritual disciplines.” In 1 Timothy 4:7, Paul says to “train yourself for Godliness.” This isn’t just “try harder” and “try to be Christ-like”. This is a command to intentionally, whole heartily, give all of yourself to growing in holiness. It’s a call to enter into the process of sanctification that God is currently doing in you through the Holy Spirit.

But before we move forward and talk about the spiritual discipline of quiet time (you may call it devotions, Bible reading, etc.) we need to understand one thing about spiritual disciplines. It’s not the spiritual disciplines that sanctify you. Doing your quiet time doesn’t necessarily make you a better follower of Christ. Spiritual disciplines are the channels God uses to sanctify you. So doing a daily quiet time is a way you can expose yourself to God’s Word and a channel that He will use to make you more like His Son. Spiritual disciplines create conditions where God’s grace and sanctifying work can flow through you.

So what about quiet time? I believe one of the most important spiritual disciplines you can have in your life is a daily time where you read God’s Word and apply it to your life. Here are are a few thoughts on how to have a daily, effective quiet time:

Get a system. Don’t just open up your Bible and read the first verse your eyes see. Find a system that takes you through God’s Word in an organized fashion. If you don’t have a good system in place you will quickly stop doing your quiet time. There are many systems out there, but the one I use and recommend is Word of Life’s Online Quiet Time. It’s a daily quiet time system that take you through books of the Bible as well as a few Psalms each year. It’s totally online and it even has an iPhone app! It also allows you to keep a prayer journal and set up accountability (click here to check it out).

Find a consistent time. Once you have a good system that works for you, find a consistent time each day to do your quiet time. Having a time set aside each day will help you gain consistency in doing your quiet time. I have done mine at various different times through the years. At one time I did them in the middle of the day and at one time I was doing them in the morning. Currently I do them at night. Find a time that works best for you and stick with it.

Use study helps. Having a copy of God’s Word is excellent, but grab a few study helps to help you dive deeper into God’s Word. I would suggest getting a solid commentary that will go along with your Bible reading. I would suggest using the Believer’s Bible Commentary, Bible Knowledge Commentary (Old & New Testament), or the Wiersbe Bible Commentary. I have found these to be some of the most helpful commentaries and they offer a good balance between exposition and application.

Have accountability. If you want to get serious about your time with the Lord, ask someone to keep you accounatble. Ask them to check up on you regularly and especially ask about your time with God. Make sure they ask you are you doing them as well as what you are learning.

These are just a few thoughts on how to have a consistent quiet time. As I said earlier, it’s not a command from God to have a daily quiet time, but it’s a way we expose ourselves on a regular basis to God’s Word so He can shape us into the image of His Son!

Freebie: “Stronger” Ebook by Alvin Reid

It’s been a few weeks since I have shared a Friday freebie on my blog, but today I have a good one for you! Today I am sharing Alvin Reid’s new ebook called Stronger: A Practical Guide to Physical and Spiritual Discipline. In this ebook, Reid will help you see the importance of discipline and will help guide you to in being more physically and spiritually disciplined. Discipline is huge! If we are going to be effective as Christians and leaders in the Church, we must live disciplined lives, both physically and spiritually.

I have always been a big fan of Alvin Reid and love what he is doing in the world of student ministry and leadership. Awhile back I posted a book review of his book Raising the Bar that you can check out by clicking here. If you have not ever read any of his stuff, this ebook is a great place to start. Check out his website for more of his content as well as a few more ebooks.

Click here to download Stonger: A Practical Guide to Physical and Spiritual Discipline

The Hardest Person to Lead

In leadership, the hardest person to lead is not other people, but it is ourselves. We can see that even Paul faced the frustration of trying to lead himself well. In Romans 7:15, Paul says, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Even though Paul faced the struggle of trying to lead himself well, he knew the importance of leading himself well and what was at stake if he did not. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, Paul says, “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” We too, need to understand the importance of leading ourselves well and realizing what is at stake if we do not.

Personal commitments determine the direction I lead myself. The direction I lead myself determines how I lead others.

From the statement above, we see that personal commitments is the starting place of leading ourselves well. The results of leading ourselves well is being able to lead others well. In order to lead yourself well, you must be committed to six things:

1. Commitment to love Christ supremely (Matthew 22:37). In Christian leadership, it’s easy to fall in love with the work of Christ more than the person of Christ. We must make sure we love Christ more than everything, even ministry! Our commitment to love Christ supremely is the foundation and driving force to all other commitments. Without it we become legalistic.

2. Commitment to unwavering integrity (Proverbs 10:9). Is there an area of your life, if brought into light, would damage your testimony? In his book, Being Leaders, Aubrey Malphurs says that people don’t follow ministry’s mission or vision statement for very long, they follow you. Personal integrity is the foundation to leadership.

3. Commitment to live a disciplined life (Proverbs 6:6-9). One of the most neglected areas of many Christians life’s, especially Christian leaders, is physical discipline. We focus so much time on”spiritual disciplines,” which are important, we neglect physical discipline. We don’t take care of ourselves physically the way we should. We must commit to spiritual disciplines and physical disciplines.

4. Commitment to having a teachable spirit (Proverbs 19:20). Part of leading yourself well is being able to stay teachable. Once a leader a leader stops learning and growing, their leadership will level out. Leaders must intentionally seek Godly counsel, surround themselves with leaders who are better than them in certain areas, respond graciously to criticism, and read good books.

5. Commitment to personal accountability (Proverbs 27:17). You cannot lead yourself well alone. You cannot remain focused spiritually alone. You cannot live a holy life alone. You need accountability in your life! Who in your life asks you the “hard question”” or will tell you the honest truth? Awhile back, I wrote a post called “How Leaders Can Prevent Moral Failure BEFORE it Happens” and in that post I said one of the best ways to prevent moral failure in leadership is to have accountability in your life. The leader who does not have accountability in their life is asking for the enemy and their flesh to destroy their leadership position.

6. Commitment to push outside of your comfort zone (Matthew 14:29). Often, leaders tend to settle. Leaders must have a God-sized dream for their ministry or organization. A good question to ask yourself to see if you have a God-sized dream or not is this: Do you have it all figured out, or does your dream push you to your knees in prayer?

It’s important leaders take these commitments serious. Until leaders learn how to lead themselves well, they will always struggle at leading others well.

I do not take credit for the majority of these thoughts. Majority of this post comes from a workshop lead by Chris Finchum at a recent Word of Life Associate School Conference. You can find Chris on Twitter @chrisfinchum.