DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Reading for Growth

Written by: on September 3, 2015


I will be the first to admit that when I saw that I was assigned a book entitled, How to Read a Book, I was a little frustrated.  After all, I am a highly skilled and highly educated man who has read plenty of books. Certainly, this would be a waste of time and energy to read such a book. The thought that our professor has certainly lost his mind crossed my realms of thought once or twice.

I begrudgingly dug into a book that I thought would be pointless, and as I dove into the book, I realized how often I do not absorb the information that is found within the pages that I read. The bait was set and I was hooked when he began discussing active reading and stated, “The art of reading on any level above elementary consists in the habit of asking the right questions in the right order: what is the book about as a whole, what is being said in detail, is the book true in whole or part, what of it?”[1] While this may seem overly simplistic to some, it really revolutionized the way I approach any text.

Too often, I believe leaders busy themselves with completing the task of reading, so that they can seem erudite and sophisticated. However, the highest level of reading, syntopical, ignores the volume of written material that a reader can cover and instead drives the reader to discover how to make, “the books read serve you, not the other way around.”[2] This is a significant change in what I was always taught.

While I do believe the axiom that readers are leaders and leaders are readers, I believe that my growth has been stunted because my focus has always been on volume. As I have read Van Doren’s and Adler’s work, I have discovered that while I did grow reading the volumes of information over the years, my growth quite frankly has moved at a snail’s pace. The struggle of combing through pages mindlessly trying to absorb the information did not serve me well, rather I was a slave to the author. At times, reading seemed painful and a frustrating process, but I did it so that I could feel educated with the scores of books I read, yet internally I knew that I cursed the dreaded process, and I was not growing by leaps and bounds.

Growth must be the purpose of reading. As stated by the authors, “It serves to keep our minds alive and growing.”[3] A human being can continue to see robust growth in their mind as long as they are engaged in reading, but not just mindless reading. It would be reading that is actively engaged in the process absorbing the information that produces growth. To discover that my reading for reading sake method was keeping me in a fruitless state is liberating. Applying the discipline of reading well may be laborious at first, but in the end, it will provide exponential growth in the future.

While I still believe that any leader must be a reader, I believe that the reader must read well in order to lead well. After all a leader’s aim should be growth and not volume. How to Read a Book will help a challenge a leader to dig deeper in his reading, but in the end, the effort will be worth the work.



[1] Adler, Mortimer, and Charles Van Doren. How to Read a Book. New York, New York: Simon and Schuster, p.52.

[2] IBID, 329.

[3] IBID, 361.

About the Author


Jason Kennedy

I am a pastor of a thriving church in Grapevine, Texas. With two little girls (5,8), and a wife that is a medical doctor (family practice), life is non-stop.

7 responses to “Reading for Growth”

  1. mm Marc Andresen says:

    Jason, you sight that Adler wants us to ask the right questions in the right order. For you, which question(s) is/are the most helpful to further your understanding of a book?

    • Marc,
      Obviously all questions build upon each other. However for me, the one that gives me the most insight is “What is being said and how?” While I do this in studying the scripture, I often fail to do this in other books. I read quickly to get volume in, but I would rather decrease the volume and digest more clearly than read the volume. I think question 2 forces a reader to slow down.

  2. mm Colleen Batchelder says:

    Jason, great post! You truly conversed with the pages and sought to find answers within Adler’s text.

    “Growth must be the purpose of reading.” I completely concur.

    What would happen if the church, as a whole, read for the sake of growth? Would we see men and women changed? Many churches are decreasing in number, because leadership is decreasing in their pursuit Christ. We want revival. We want restoration. However, we desire change to occur within the walls of the church, before allowing change to infect the walls of our heart. We preach. We practice. We build churches that are cities on a hill. However, we’re burnt out and bored with reading through page-after-page. How many leaders have encouraged the church to meet a devotional goal, rather than attain a devoted lifestyle? We turn through the pages and read through the outline. We check off our time with God and move on. What are ways that the church, as a whole, can grow through study? Are we doing a disservice by approaching scripture as a devotional check list? How many problems in ministry could be averted if pastors were given time in their schedule to grow through reading?

    • Colleen,
      Your questions point to a passion of mine. I believe the word does the work through the help of the Spirit. Instead of teaching people what to read, we teach them how to discover the truths of God. I believe that the church must return to “equipping the saints” and not give them a temporary experience that does not last. I also believe that many pastors do not pursue growth because they have “been called” and “have the spirit.” Pastors need to focus on Paul’s command to Timothy: study to show yourself approved as a workman. Growth must be a primary factor for any pastor. If the pastor refuses to grow then their is a trickle down…the congregants do not grow internally and therefore the church will not ultimately grow.

  3. Aaron Cole says:


    You opening paragraph had me laughing out loud! You are crazy funny. However, I thought much of the same when I saw the book on the reading list. I agree with you that books are here to serve the reader and not the author. Although this is simple, it is a perspective changer. Keep writing! I love your sense of humor!


  4. Claire Appiah says:

    You have discovered this little book entitled How to Read a Book, by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren to be a wealth of information about reading in particular and life in general. Unless one is reading primarily for entertainment, reading that does not promote growth is futile. Your statement that, “growth must be the purpose of reading,” is in accord with the authors’ statement that, “the art of reading is for the sake of increased understanding” that takes a person from knowing less to knowing more ” (Adler and Van Doren 1972, 10).
    They emphasize that a person becomes a skilled reader by the quality of books they read, not the quantity of books. The objective is to read material that challenges or stretches the mind so that learning can occur. The best books not only enhance reading skills but also teach life principles (Adler and Van Doren, 339-340). On page 343, do you agree that the Bible is of the caliber of book they describe as one that, “You discover on returning that the book seems to have grown with you? You see new things in it—whole sets of new things—that you did not see before. Your previous understanding of the book is not invalidated; it is just as true as it ever was, and in the same ways it was true before. But, now it is true in still other ways, too.”

  5. Jason,

    So saying you have read a book to impress your peers is not the same as digesting that book completely?

    Have you read this book? How often do you get that question and yes you own that book, but have you really read it?? What if we start to have a conversation about that book? Will it show really quickly how little you have picked up from it?

    You helped to raise all those questions from your post. I want to understand what the author is saying so this book has helped me to reconsider at least how I read and how I ingest others thoughts.

    Great to be on this journey with you. Shane says hello!


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