We live in a day when many or perhaps even most people limit their reading to quick reads about the most current events. In some ways that is understandable. The amount of material and subjects coming at us on a daily basis through Facebook, Twitter, online news feeds, blogs and other sources can be rather overwhelming.
But if all we read are soundbite tweets or brief posts about only the latest breaking news or the hottest contemporary topics, we end up impoverishing ourselves through the limited focus and extent of our reading. Many truly-significant subjects require book-length rather than blog-length development to adequately address them. In addition, numerous people, events, and perspectives of the past are so important and enlightening that we can gain great benefit by reading at length about them too. And, in fact, we’ll be the losers if we don’t do so.
Those of you who kindly follow my writing blog know that it usually features “Perspectives” aimed at promoting interest in and benefit from historic Christian biography. Regularly I share short biographical sketches that I trust are interesting and spiritually profitable for our readers. But in this brief Perspective I’d especially like to encourage us as Christians to read full, book-length historic Christian biographies as part of our reading regimen. Here are four quick reasons why:
1. For our own spiritual profit and encouragement. As we read the life stories of great men and women of the Christian faith we are inspired and instructed in our own living and service for the Lord Jesus. Their outstanding examples encourage and challenge us in all areas of our personal and public lives, modeling how to integrate our Christianity into every aspect of life. I join those who testify that, after Scripture, Christian biography is one of the most beneficial and encouraging types of reading we can do to strengthen our spiritual lives.
Many contemporary believers have become discouraged and lethargic in their Christian lives and service just now, due to disheartening, deflating personal and ministry circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic and other difficulties in their life-situations. Without exception extraordinary Christians of the past faced extreme difficulties that needed to be overcome or simply worked around (though not removed). Their examples of unremitting faith, perseverance, diligence and dependence on the Lord through such adversity provide us with much-needed encouragement for such a challenging season as the one we find ourselves in presently.
2. To gain fuller knowledge of some of the truly outstanding servants of Christ in the history of the Church. There’s a primary reason why certain Christians in history have had books (sometimes many volumes) written about them—because their Christian devotion, service, vision and fruitfulness truly were extraordinary. Their personal lives, perspectives, public ministries and accomplishments were viewed as so remarkable, inspiring and beneficial that others were careful to preserve their life stories in biographies.
To me it doesn’t make sense for us to ignore altogether the lives and ministries of such devoted, capable servants of the Lord who were so mightily used of Him. Nor does it seem we should be content with nothing more than a short online summary of their lives. Rather, we do well to read full accounts of at least some such individuals, so as to gain much fuller understanding, appreciation and spiritual profit from their exceptional lives and service. Of course we won’t be able to read a full-length biography on every great Christian who has been written about. But we can at least make a point to read and benefit from a number of such biographies as we progress through life.
3. To gain a more-informed perspective on Christianity in the past and present. Christian biography is a great and enjoyable way to learn Church History. Reading straight history can sometimes be a bit daunting. But as we read accounts of notable Christians of the past, we often also learn much about the age in which they lived and served. While we’re enjoying their life story, we’re simultaneously learning (without even needing to work at it) about the society and Church of their day. As we read about Christians in different eras, we gain a much fuller understanding of God’s powerful work throughout Church History. We also become acquainted with incredible trials and triumphs of Christ’s Church in the past about which we otherwise would remain oblivious. We learn that the Church of the past had both greater successes and failures than we previously realized.
Acquiring a fuller historic understanding of the Church helps us to better understand and evaluate the Church today. We’ll comprehend how we got to where we’re at. We’ll see that many of our current spiritual blessings and successes have come at least in part from the faithfulness and sacrifices of outstanding Christians who labored diligently and capably before us. We’ll be encouraged to see that we’ve learned from and overcome some of the mistakes of the Church in earlier generations. But we’ll also be convicted and humbled to realize that in other ways the modern Church has declined noticeably compared to the fervency, commitment and fruitfulness of the Church at some times in the past. And the good example of the earlier Church in those regards will help show us the way to recovering the ground that has been lost.
4. Simply for enjoyment! Well-written historic Christian biography makes for very enjoyable reading. We get drawn into the interesting, compelling story of a person’s life, and we want to keep reading to find out how things turned out for him or her. We become interested or even fascinated in the remarkable ways the Lord used such individuals for His glory and the good of countless people. We find ourselves gaining so much inspiration and benefit from a person’s life that it’s a joy and a privilege to continue on with a full consideration of his or her ministry. I often enjoy one biography of a person’s life so much that I end up reading a second or third account of his/her ministry because I’m eager to learn more about how God used him/her.
I hope for all these reasons (and other benefits to be gained) you’ll get started right away reading a book-length historic Christian biography. Perhaps you already know an exceptional Christian whose life story you would like to read. Maybe you’ll be interested in reading one or more of the book-length Christian biographies I’ve had the privilege of writing (as described at my writing website www.vancechristie.com). Or perhaps some of the shorter Perspectives I’ve posted on various other individuals will pique your interest in reading more about them. Often I’ve recommended quality biographies that others have written about them.
Happy, profitable reading to you!
Copyright 2021 by Vance E. Christie