We must learn to borrow from the world of books for the benefit of the world of people, while gleaning from the world of people what can only be gained from the living for the benefit of others to whom we minister.
Like so many pastors I know, I have long had a love affair with books. Books are the best of friends, smiling down from where they sit on the shelf––urging you to come and spend time with them. “A good book,” as one has put it, “is like a good friend. It will stay with you for the rest of your life. When you first get to know it, it will give you excitement and adventure, and years later it will provide you with comfort and familiarity. And best of all, you can share it with your children or your grandchildren or anyone you love enough to let into its secrets.” There is incalculable benefit to living in the world of books. Charles Spurgeon once famously explained, “The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own.”1 However, the pastor (or congregant) who is an avid reader faces peculiar dangers. It is altogether possible to isolate oneself in the world of books. Although literary negligence is a tragic characteristics of modernity, those who love to read are susceptible to the negative impact of lingering too long in solitude with their books.
In his Thoughts on Preaching, J.W. Alexander sounded an important warning for those (especially ministers) who spent the better part of their time in their studies. He wrote,