There is just something about the start of a new year that creates a new paragraph in our minds. Fundamentally there is very little difference between December 30th of one year and January 2nd of the next, but for us it truly does feel like the turn of a new page. For that reason we tend to make goals or find things that will help give guidance and direction to that New Year. For the past several years I have been intentional in setting reading goals for a new year. John Wesley used to recommend that his preachers read five hours a day. This speaks to the importance placed on learning, and I affirm the importance of reading.
In 2020, I will no doubt read several books, but I want to be thoughtful in some of the books I will read. As this New Year begins I have picked three specific books to read in the year. I picked these three books for specific reasons and I think these reasons can be a good guidance for the kind of faith goals we make in a new year.
The first book I plan to read is Hero Maker by Dave Ferguson and Warren Bird. This is a church leadership book. The book promises “five essential practices for leaders multiplying leaders.” It seeks to teach how to go from trying to be the hero of the church to being the one who makes heroes out of others. This is an area where I can grow in, and that is why I have chosen this book. It does not matter how practiced we are at something we can always learn more. This is true for faith-based skills as well. We can always improve in how we study the bible, approach God in prayer, share our faith, or (in my case this year) provide pastoral leadership for a congregation.
The second book I plan to read is Global United Methodism: Telling the Stories, Living into the Realities. The book has multiple contributing authors. For the most part my Christian understanding is really framed in a Western and American context. However, the United Methodist church is a global denomination. The complete experience of what it means to be Methodist and apply Wesleyan theology is greater than the Indiana Conference or even the United Methodist church in America. This book will expose me to new voices and new perspectives that are different than my own. This is important because if we do not expose ourselves to different ways of thinking, then our worldview and understanding tends to shrink. We eventually get to a very narrow focus that ultimately puts God in a box. Even if in the end we cannot agree with new viewpoints, it is still important to be exposed to them and to challenge our own way of thinking.
The final book I am setting the goal to read in 2020 is Forgotten God by Francis Chan. This is a book I have already read. However, by the time I get to it in 2020 it will be close to eight years since I first read it. This book is about the Holy Spirit, and how we have tragically neglected that aspect of God. I am going to read it again, because its message is still needed. I am also reading it again because eight years is a long time. My faith has grown over that time, and it is worth revisiting this book in light of that. It is worth remembering that we sometimes forget and need reminders. This is why I am going to re-read this book, but it is also true in our faith. We need to constantly remind ourselves of where we have been and what we have learned because doing so can lead to revival.
I think these three books will be a great help to me as I get started in 2020. Even if you are not a reader, you can still set similar goals for this New Year. In your spiritual life, consider setting a goal to do something that develops a skill, challenges you, and interests you. Setting these kinds of goals is a great way that we can nurture ourselves to be better disciples.