Last month, Andy Stanley published his newest book, “Irresistible.” For some, this book is being viewed as highly controversial. Without going into too many details of the book, Andy states, in short, that proclaiming “The Bible says so and that settles it” is no longer enough for churches in today’s culture.
I pre-ordered the book, and it’s the next on my list to read. I don’t know if I agree with Andy yet or not. But I’m going to find out. Even if I don’t agree with it in the end, it’s vital for me to read it. And it’s vital for you, too.
While I fully understand it’s human nature to fill your life with people, books and media that agrees with you, that doesn’t make it beneficial for you. But that can be difficult. Especially with books. After all, reading is a pleasure and a time-consuming one. Why bother reading something you dislike?
While there are all types of books for us to enjoy, at some point, we should read something that requires us to evaluate and truly think. And if all you ever read are books where you already support the conclusion, how much thinking are you actually doing?
I believe it’s vital that we, especially as spiritual leaders, should do our best to read books that we may not agree with in part or their entirety with topics that deal with life, theology, and the world around us. Even if you are going to disagree with them.
Here are four reasons why you should read books you might disagree with.
1. It’s Helps Refine What You Value
What you value defines who you are. How much you emphasize that value determines how you live your life. You can find value in eating healthy, but if you don’t emphasize that value, you won’t change your eating habits. When reading books that you might disagree with, it can help you refine what values matter the most to you. Even more, it can strengthen or restrengthen those values in your life.
For example, I read a book this year that dealt with the racial issues in America and, specifically, what it means to raise a white child in it. I disagreed with some of the author’s conclusions, but it refined my value of racial equality. And I will choose to emphasize that value so that real change continues to happen in my life when dealing with racial issues while living in a southern community. I can’t value everything, but what I do value must be shown in my life. Reading a book that values things I don’t helps refine that.
2. It Measures Your Growth
As you develop as a pastor, leader, and individual, the way you process media or the written word changes. Just think about how you read the Bible. How much of your perspective of scripture has changed in the last five years? Ten years? Now think about what will change in the next five or ten years. It’s the same thing with reading something you might disagree with. It allows you to measure your growth. Especially if you reread something from years ago. And it’s crucial you see growth. It’s essential that you process thoughts differently as you grow.
3. You’ll be More Informed
A pastoral mentor in my life once said, “Even though I may have different theological beliefs than some of my fellow ministers, the fact I have enough knowledge of their beliefs gives me a foundation to interact and find common ground in our professions.” When you read a book you might disagree with, you learn. You may discover one thing or many things, but you will learn something. And it will help you become a more informed person.
In our culture today, it’s so easy just to say, “You’re wrong, I’m right, and I don’t want to have a conversation about it.” But what if you did? What if you had enough knowledge of a person’s belief or thought process actually to converse? Even if you disagree. Imagine having a civil discussion where you’re on opposite sides and walk away on opposite sides, but you actually talked and heard each other. When you’re more informed, this can happen naturally and far more often.
4. You Might Actually Change Your Mind
You don’t know everything. And you’re probably okay with that. After all, there isn’t anyone who knows everything. However, it’s harder to admit we might not know everything about the things we know. That someone could bring something new to our mind or challenge an already-held belief and actually be right. But when you venture out and read something you might disagree with, this is a possibility.
Wouldn’t it be a great thing to happen? If we were challenged and grew in knowledge about something, we once misbelieved? If we would be open for that to happen? It can become very easy to close our minds to different concepts foreign to our own, but when we do open that door, it is always worth it.
Don’t misunderstand me. I read books all the time I know I’m going to like. And I’m still challenged by them. But, every once in a while, I have to pick up one I know is going to be tough to find common ground, thoughts, or beliefs.
Every single time, I’m glad that I did.