In a class during grad school, I was assigned to read parts of the book Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Chambers. It’s a compact book about biblical principles of leadership that challenges, inspires, and encourages. Because the content was originally a series of lectures, the book retained the feel of the spoken word, which I really liked.
One of my favorite sections of the book was Chapter 13—“The Leader and Reading.” At the church where I work, serve, and worship, we place a high value on learning because we are taught that “all leaders are learners” and that effective leadership flows from a well-rounded, full life. It’s important for leaders to stay fresh and be knowledgeable about the world in which they live, and one of the easiest ways to do that is by developing the habit of reading.
As a bibliophile, I was drawn to this chapter for deeper insight on how spiritual leadership and reading are connected. Many of us claim to have no time for reading, but if one works 40 hours a week and sleeps 8 hours a night, that leaves 72 hours a week of “free” time! Yet, less than 10% of the population reads regularly. The leader who desires to grow spiritually and intellectually will devote time to reading. John Wesley was a passionate reader, mostly devouring books propped in the pommel of his saddle as he rode horseback up to ninety miles a day!
The chapter encouraged the reader to read books, but to choose books that “spark our impulse to service and lead us to God.” Books should also be read for intellectual growth, to cultivate one’s preaching and writing style, and to acquire new information. Leaders should choose reading material that will “feed the soul and stimulate the mind.” I appreciated that the importance of reading was recognized, but I think the value of fiction and literature was diminished by barely mentioning those genres and implying that more scholarly works are the ones that “lead us to God,” like historical works, biographies, and science. The point is to choose books and materials wisely and for their spiritual benefit, but I believe that I have found books to be spiritually beneficial that are not overtly Christian or didactic. Still, the chapter encouraged me to continue my pursuit to be an active reader while challenging my book choices. I have decided to alternate reading my beloved fiction novels with other kinds of books.
Reading 30 minutes every day is the equivalent of reading a book a week, four books a month, about 50 books a year, and 500 books in 10 years. If you were to read 500 books over the next 10 years, in a world where the average person reads less than a book a year, don’t you think it could give you a decisive advantage as you lead others?
It is easy to see why Spiritual Leadership is considered a classic study of the biblical principles of godly leadership. God has given every Christian gifts and talents that fit the mission to which they were called, and what distinguishes a great leader is the degree to which they develop those gifts. I found this book to be not only useful as I continue developing as a leader, but inspiring as well.