John Alan Turner

Writer, Theologian, Consultant, Speaker, Teacher

Reading Christianly (Part Six)

This will be the last post in this series, but I didn't want to move on to something else before mentioning what has been perhaps the most convicting thought I've had in quite a while. We've talked about reading and listening to sermons in a particularly Christian way. I've suggested that the goal of such reading should be the same as the goal of the Christian life -- which is bringing glory to God by becoming more and more like him, especially in my ability to love and be loved by God and others.

I've stated that reading and listening should be done with that end in mind, allowing the text (whether it is the Bible or some other spiritually formative material) to reveal something about God and assist me in my desire to grow in love. I believe such a hermeneutic would eliminate a lot of the bickering and divisiveness Christianity currently experiences. Here, at last, is a way for Calvinists and Arminians to read one another without feeling the need to get all bent out of shape. The Piper-ites and the Bell-eons can listen to and with one another, rather than simply listening at one another.

If those choose to.

Which, sadly, I doubt they will.

But love believes all things, so I will continue to hope towards that end.

And that brings me to my final and perhaps most challenging point: Reading and listening themselves must become an act of love for the Christian.

As I read an author or listen to a speaker, I'm trying to get myself out of a judgmental posture and ask myself, "How would I read this if I loved the author? How would I listen if I loved this speaker?"

I am an author and a professional speaker -- that's what I'll put on my tax form this year. And I have to say: getting up to speak in front of a group of people is one of the most nerve-wracking endeavors imaginable. A close second would be actually sitting down and putting your thoughts on paper for people to read. I am vulnerable when I do that. I am especially vulnerable to criticism immediately after I'm done. And, having worked with pastors and preachers from Seattle to Orlando, I know that I am far from alone.

There are books I disagree with. There are speakers who spout error of all kinds. There is a time for healthy disagreement and even confrontation and rebuttal. But I have been humbled and convicted by God about the way I read and the way I listen. All too often I listen for a chance to disagree, confront and rebut. I sit, like Simon Cowell, listening for the mistake, hoping they're off-key so I can appear witty, intelligent and superior.

I'm not rooting for the speaker.

I'm not loving the author.

And that -- most assuredly -- is not reading Christianly.