John Stott On Reading


A few years ago I picked up John Stott’s The Cross of Christbut have only read bits and portions of it. I also have read some of his commentaries, but now that I have found his Problems of Christian Leadership I can honestly say I have read a John Stott book front to back…even if it was only 95 pages long.

The little book was a great book to read if you are a pastor, or if you are aspiring to be a pastor. But I thought I would share a couple thoughts that Stott wrote about reading:

A Different Take On Devotions

John Stott, at least for a period of his life, used the popular M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan. He was introduced to it by Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, so by nature he had to give it a try. He loved that the plan started on the “four great beginnings of scripture” (pg 40), Genesis 1 was the birth of the universe, Ezra 1 was the rebirth of a post-exilic Israel, Mattew 1 was the birth of Christ, and Acts 1 was the birth of the church.

But the facet of most interest I gleaned from Stott’s reflection on the M’Cheyne plan had to do with his process. Stott said:

“My practice is to read three chapters in the morning and one in the evening. In the morning I try to read just two and study the third.”

I found this to be infinitely practical when it comes to wading through the sometimes laborious, four-chapter prescription of M’Cheyne. This is something that I am going to give a whirl moving forward.

A Pastoral Reading Calendar

Stott says there tends to be two poles when it comes to a pastor and reading. One is that the pastor rarely reads, “that goal is too low.” The other is that some pastors (particularly ones whose seminary prescribes it) who spend the whole morning, every morning in study, “that goal is too high.”

His solution:

“We need a realistic goal, and I say to pastors that every pastor could manage one hour of reading a day. In addition we ought to manage a morning, afternoon or evening every week, that is to say, a longer period of about four hours. On hour a day and one session a week is about ten hours in the week.”

Per Stott’s calculations this reading schedule would amount to one book a week, which would end up being fifty or more books a year. Stott thinks this is a reasonable target, but acknowledges that it is only his recommendation.

For those who don’t know where to start reading, and have always struggled with it, we live in a great age when it comes to reading. Try to find a couple good blogs (I may suggest the Gospel Coalition, IX Marks, and Transformed to name a few), and commit to read 2-3 articles a day. With our phones and tablets, we can punch these out while we eat lunch, sit in a waiting room, or take a little extra time on our bathroom breaks. But what starts as articles, will grow into books, and minutes will grow into hours.

Good luck and good reading.