The Pastor and His Reading: Why You Are the Key to Building a Church That Loves Books

At the last Desiring God Pastor’s Conference, Tony Reinke spoke on the topic of pastors and reading and also touched upon the larger topic of literacy from a Christian perspective.  Reinke defines literacy as “the act of reading books through a Christ-centered worldview, with the aim of discovering truth, goodness and beauty, leading to life change, pleasure and worship.”

I’ve posted a short into of his message below in order to whet your appetite for the full length message that can be found here.


A few years back a young man came to me, asking me for help with his reading. I said, “Sure, let me collect my thoughts, and we’ll meet at a coffee shop to talk.” We did. But that meeting started me down a path, and the questions kept coming to me, questions about reading that I needed to personally answer. That meeting led to me think about writing my thoughts out in a few pages, and that led to more and more thoughts that eventually led me to believe that a whole book could be written about a Christian approach to literacy.

My thoughts about reading the Bible spilled over into my thoughts on reading Christian books and theology, and that led me into thinking about what a Christian reader should be thinking when they open classic literature, or books off the bestseller list, or really any book shelved at Barnes & Noble.

The fruit of many months of asking questions — and trying to find answers — eventually resulted in my book Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books. It was in the process of writing that book that I came to discover how much I had personally assumed about books and literacy. But what really frightened me was what I most assumed in my life — and most overlooked in my life — and that was a proper theology of reading in the first place.

So this message this afternoon is part of what I discovered over those many months of rethinking literacy.

I want to divide this message into two parts. In the first half I want us to develop together a theology of reading. We only have time to look at some of the big pillar foundations under reading — but those few pillars are the critical ones. And in the second half of this message I want to look at the pastoral implications of what this theology of reading calls for. First half — theology. Second half — practical suggestions for pastors.

Hopefully this leaves some time for questions and answers at the end of our hour together.

These notes will be made available online later.

Here we go.


I’ll begin with a definition. What do I mean by literacy?

Literacy is the act of reading books through a Christ-centered worldview, with the aim of discovering truth, goodness and beauty, leading to life change, pleasure and worship.

As you will see in a moment, I do not make a hard and fast distinction between literacy related to Bible reading and literacy related to all other books.


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