The Importance of New Perspectives

I once heard Mark Driscoll say that if your book shelves looked like you just bought out some publishing house then you may have too narrowly limited your sphere of influence. What he meant was if all your resources are from the same publishers, same authors, same perspective then you may be limiting your perspectives on a host of things (theology, Scriptural interpretation, ministry, life, etc.). This happens often for people who come from a particular theologically strong denomination or system of belief. The problem of this, of course, is that we begin to take for granted that everything said within our system, our affiliation, or by our favorite authors is true. We also very easily miss out on great teachings, experiences, and practices from others. Multiple perspectives serve us best.

For example take the work of business author Malcolm Gladwell. His aren’t the books you find on most pastor’s shelves (though this is changing thanks to the promotion of guys at Catalyst), but in them pastors can find much application for their ministry. I just recently finished reading his book “Outliers” (reflections on this book are forthcoming) and was amazed at the some the implications for church ministry that could be drawn. What I have found is that reading outside of my specific discipline has brought me fresh perspective. Books that have nothing to do with pastoral ministry, not really even with Christianity, have contributed to new ideas for how to serve the church and impact my world.

I have also benefitted from reading works from different theological perspectives than mine. The danger again is that we can take for granted that everything said from within our perspective is true, and we can easily become mentally lazy by not doing the proper Biblical work to sure up our defense and interpretation. If you want to be able proclaim with the first Protestants that we are alway reforming and being reformed by the word of God then it will mean regularly challenging ourselves. I recommend reading intelligent authors from different theological camps (don’t just read the crazy guys that you can brush off, but read the smart, scripturally sensitive authors). This opens up some fresh ways of thinking about doctrine and practice, as well as challenging you and I to get back to scripture to sure up our beliefs.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and one of the best ways to prevent it is to read widely and diversely. Get out of your literary comfort zones and try something new and challenging. The honest truth is that by reading from only one perspective your pretty much just going to hear the same thing over and over again (infact I read two books on church ministry this summer alone that said the same thing, in fact the one author quoted at length the other, talk about a waste of time). The goal, of course, is not simply “new”. In fact anything completely new is usually dangerous. But fresh perspectives on the old and true should always be welcomed. You may not always agree with it, but at least you will be thinking.

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