A Reading Life is a blog series focused on the literature that has shaped my life and call to ministry. Find the introduction here.
One of the ways you can tell someone is going to be a minister or go into ministry is if, as a child, that person has an affinity towards the holy. Some future ministers play church, while others pretend to facilitate the Lord’s Supper instead of playing tea time. For me, I always gravitated towards the Bible, even when I could not understand it.
When I was growing up, I always had a Bible close to me. It was on my nightstand. I had a children’s version of an NIV (still being published!), with pictures throughout. One year I wrapped my sister’s Bible for Christmas and gave it to her as a gift. When she opened it and saw that it was her Bible, I said I got it for her because I hadn’t seen her read it. That was telling!
That NIV stuck with me until I reached high school and really dug deep into God’s Word. I committed my life to Christ more fully when I was 16. I purchased an NIV Study Bible, popular back then. At the age of 18, I purchased a Word in Life study Bible, which ended up being too big to do anything useful. My youth pastor, my primary mentor at the time, gifted several of us with a Serendipity Student Study Bible that I still use to this day for the middle-school Sunday school class I teach every week at church. It has my notes from high school in it.
College required the Annotated Oxford Student Study Bible (NRSV), and my love for that particular Bible has been well-documented. I am on my fourth Oxford NRSV, and I recently purchased a small one for funerals and preaching. My Associate Pastor, retiring and cleaning out his bookshelf, gave me an Oxford RSV Annotated Bible, a real gem (more on that in a future article on hand-me downs).
Study Bibles aside, my love for the Bible took off in college. I spent hours reading the Bible every night in my student carrel. It was my main source of nourishment, and that carried on to the rest of my life. I am currently reading through the Bible all the way through again, but not in a rushed manner–I read it devotionally and spiritually, praying through every verse. I accompany the reading with a devotion from F. B. Myers My Daily Homily when I can.
I cannot help connecting my calling to ministry with my love of the Bible. I went into ministry because of my salvation in Christ, but I majored in religious studies because I wanted to learn everything I could about the Bible. Even to this day, I purchase introductions to the Bible, namely the Old Testament, just to learn everything I can about it. I get frustrated when I attend conferences or pastor’s studies and I do not learn something new. If you are going to lead a study or conference for clergy, make sure you have at least a couple things in your material that are fresh or hot off of the scholarship press–we’ve heard it all, and I don’t need another rote lecture, thank you very much.
The Bible continues to shape my world, as it has shaped the world around us. And for all of the reading I do, spiritual or otherwise, it is the Bible to which I always return. You cannot replace reading it for yourself, experiencing the Spirit’s whisper in its pages, and having a daily practice of meditating upon its principles and precepts.