Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1968
NUMBER 38, PAGE 4-5a

Give Heed To Reading


"Till I come, give heed to reading, to exhortation, to teaching." These are the words of Paul to Timothy. We think it not without significance that he listed reading ahead of both exhortation and teaching. It is a sad fact that occasional over zealous followers of Paul and Christ have at some sorrowful times in history reversed the order, seeking to exhort and teach without the proper background in reading and study. The result has always been sad, often tragic. For reading is essential to anyone who would try to be an effective teacher of others. Reading is that one quality which, more than any other, makes the difference between civilized man and brutish man. The former partakes of the accumulated wisdom of the ages, the latter knows only that which can be handed down by tradition and word of mouth.

It is absolutely required of a preacher or teacher of the gospel that he "give heed to reading." We have received many requests through the years for a brief list of "recommended readings" for the teacher. Probably no two men would compile the same list; but, at the same time, there are some books which, undoubtedly, would appear on nearly every list. Some months ago we asked Brother Robert H. Farish of Austin, Texas, who has been on the staff of editors for Gospel Guardian for many, many years to compile a list of "basics" — that is, those books which in his judgment are bare minimum of what should be found in the Christian's library. We publish his list this week. There is not a single "dud" in the number. While many, many other titles might be chosen by other men, no informed student would be able to fault a single one of the list Brother Farish presents.

Information is the very life blood of an effective program for the advancement of truth. While one can create a lot of excitement and sound and fury by promotionism and high pressure advertising, the real accomplishments and solid advancements come only when informed brethren give their time and effort in teaching others. "And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."

It is at this very point that the pressures of modern society are most often felt — particularly by faithful gospel preachers. Over and over we hear them lament, "I simply do not have the time to study that I feel I need." Which reminds us of a little story we saw in Guthrie Dean's bulletin (Fort Smith, Arkansas) not long ago: "The story is told of a certain preacher in a little farm town, who would run to the railroad station every afternoon to watch the fast express train roll through town. It seems that this preacher did all the preaching for the local church, printed a weekly church bulletin, had a Sunday morning radio program, was the first the members called on when someone got sick, had to push the personal work program of the church, had to head and push the benevolent program of the church, and had to oversee and push anything else that the church did in order to get anything accomplished. And when the members told him how embarrassed he made them by running up the street like a mad-man every afternoon to see the train roar through, the preacher replied: "Nothing's going to stop me from seeing that train. It's the only thing moving in this town that I'm not having to push!!"

And Brother Dean's comment was quite in order: "Seriously though, a preacher is sometimes put in a rather precarious position. If the church sets up no program of work, the preacher gets the blame because the church does not grow. If the preacher makes suggestions as to what can be done to help the church grow, one of three things is apt to follow: (1) either he is accused of trying to run the church; or (2) he is ignored; or (3) the church agrees to what he suggests — and puts him in charge of seeing that it gets done!"

All of which makes it well nigh impossible for the busy preacher to "give heed to reading." But without reading he soon finds himself turning into an errand boy and a general handyman instead of the effective teacher and instructor that he ought to be. There are two or three of the books on Brother Farish's list which are out of print. For one, "J.D. Tant - Texas Preacher" is not now available. We hope to have it back in print within a few months. But most of the others are easily found. The Gospel Guardian Company carries most of them in stock, and can quickly supply anything in print. Books are a preacher's tools; they are the tools of every effective worker for Christ, whether preacher or teacher, man or woman. They are as necessary to his work as are the hammer and saw to the carpenter, the wrench and pipe cutter to the plumber.

F. Y. T.