I just need to vent a little today.
Seems like every few weeks I see a post or a blog that suggests reading fiction is a waste of time or at the very least not beneficial. Some of this I see because of what I do for a vocation as a Minister. It is not uncommon for me to be in a group and hear someone mention a famous preacher – there are many – who said they never read anything but religious books. Some will include business books, leadership, devotional, and history. The common theme being there is nothing to be learned from reading fiction and that it is a waste of time. If you want to be a leader and spiritual you must not stoop so low as to read a fiction book. I usually sit back and never say anything because I know I am outnumbered in my belief. I wait till the conversation moves on and then I ask if they ever watch ESPN. Then I am told how they need to relax and how they could not live without their ESPN. In my mind if you are going to limit the kind of books you read you probably need to give up ESPN as well. Nothing beneficial there – Hummmm. I let the conversation move forward. They never see the connection.
Don’t get me wrong. I read books that are devotional, leadership, prayer, and others. However, I also read fiction at night. For me reading is not just a way to improve my work life and spiritual well being; it is also how I relax and have fun. For some of us the way people view Sports is the way we view reading. I am not against sports. I love a good hockey game as much as anyone.
The question becomes can you be a leader, and spiritually mature if you also read fiction? My response is “YES!” Many studies have shown a correlation between reading fiction and improvement in brain functioning.
Here is a link to just one article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201401/reading-fiction-improves-brain-connectivity-and-function
It is also the key to remaining creative. I know this may not be a value for all organizations, but it should be. When you immerse yourself in a novel your imagination takes off. Studies have also shown that you are able to relate better to others, understand what they are going through, and it gets you to think beyond yourself. All of these are characteristics that Ministers need to develop. I will admit you need to filter what kind of fiction you read. You do not want to fill your mind with trash either.
I know that I am biased due to the fact that I love to read fiction and I write fictional short stories for fun. I think of the authors that have given us some much even in the Christian world such as C.S. Lewis, John Bunyan and others. There are spiritual overtones in many Russian novels. Many of the classical religious thinkers also studied literature. We called them “well rounded” at one time. Guessing that has gone out of vogue. Limiting yourself to only one type of book does not make you anymore spiritual. Abiding with the Father is the goal. Seems we are always creating markers that gives us a one up on the ordinary Christian.
I might as well come clean since I am confessing. I read and write poetry as well. Thankfully no one knows what to do with poetry. Thanks for letting me vent.