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4 Things You Get Wrong about Reading Christian Books

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  • Published Oct 13, 2017

I read a LOT of books. A few years ago, I started stacking the books I finished, and seeing that pile grow kept motivating me to read more and more. I read a variety of books, but always have at least one book on faith going at all times. There have been many I’ve loved… but then there have been books I couldn’t finish, didn’t like, or had strong emotional reactions to, and I’ve found myself wondering why. What was happening in me that was causing me to be so frustrated or bothered by the books I was reading? What was I doing wrong?

Kristen Wetherell asked this same question in her recent article “The Wrong Way to Read Christian Books” for Revive Our Hearts. She confesses to feeling “everything from prideful offense at these books, wanting them back on the bookshelf, to embarrassment, as I fight a sense of defeat.” She goes on to wonder why, saying “these are rock solid books. Faithful books. God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-centered books, many of which have stood the test of time. So what is my problem?”

There are some key problems with the way we as Christians read books, especially Christian books. As you read through this list, consider the ways you engage with reading, and be open to adjusting your thinking about books and their material.

Here are four big problems with how we read:

  1. We forget the Gospel. The good news of Jesus Christ changes everything-- “even the way we read books,” Wetherell says. When we read books that convict us or challenge us, often we can get discouraged by all the ways our lives and our faith aren’t seeming to measure up. “I forget that I’m free in Christ to enjoy good gifts like books since my identity is in Him, not in my accomplishments or abilities (Gal. 5:1),” writes Wetherell.
  2. We forget the purpose of books. We often treat books simply as entertainment, information sources, or mini accomplishments when we finish reading. “The goal of reading is communion with our Father, made especially clear through books that exalt God’s gospel and apply His Word,” says Wetherell. “If our purpose in reading is to enjoy communing with God through the help of His Spirit, He will use even it to transform us into Christlikeness.”
  3. We forget no human is perfect. No author will achieve perfection through the books they write. When we read, we must remember this, and actively think through what we are reading to discern for ourselves with the guidance of Scripture what is true and right. Reading this way invites us to engage more thoughtfully with books and ideas, as we consider the ways we might disagree, bring our life experiences into our perspectives, and wrestle with the information presented to us.
  4. We forget “the beauty and goodness of the Spirit’s conviction.” The beautiful thing about conviction by the Holy Spirit in our lives is the way it draws us closer to the heart of the Father and transforms us to look more like Jesus. Often though, what we read comes across more as condemnation than conviction, leaving us feeling guilty and ashamed. “Rather than fixing my eyes on Jesus, the One who fulfilled such exhortations and all God’s commands on my behalf (Rom. 5:19), I look at myself and only see my sin and failures,” writes Wetherell. “Rather than thanking God for the beautiful gift of His Spirit’s conviction, I give way to discouragement and shame. And this takes me back to the first point—I’ve forgotten the gospel! So I preach it to myself again.”

Do any of these resonate with you?

I know I’m often prone to forgetting the true purpose of books-- it’s helpful for me to remember that while books are helpful tools for understanding Scripture and the Lord more fully, they are not perfect sources and they are not ultimate truth! As we read, may we pray to be more open to the Spirit’s convictions, discerning, and thoughtful, letting the words and ideas move us closer to true Christlikeness and wholeness in God alone.

Tell us: what books have helped you most in your Christian walk? Share them with us in the comments!

Photo credit: Unsplash

Publication date: October 13, 2017

Rachel Dawson is the design editor for