Martin Luther and Life Long Learning

On Finding and Reading Many Books by an Author
Life Long Learning, Note 11

Here is an insight from Martin Luther that I first gained from Bobby Clinton about 20 years ago. It was very rewarding to see this same "gem" goes back a lot further in history.

Martin Luther quote, reading authors intensively

From Bobby Clinton I learned about finding "Core Authors" to become mentors. What Clinton understood was that a wise and deep immersion into the mind, thinking, heart, soul, perspective of an author takes time. It means you must read as many books as you can by an author. As you read a variety of books by an author, two things happen.

First you begin to discover the breadth of that author. New ideas and themes are covered that flesh out a higher altitude understanding of the author.

Second, you go deeper on themes that are important to the author. For most authors return to those same themes even when they are writing new books. They provide more insights about their core themes. Authors themselves grow in their knowledge. As they continue to write, they give us the latest on how they understand the things most important to them.

I already had a tendency toward this. When I find a favorite author - I had the tendency to read as much as I could by that author. I did that even as a teenager who loved reading science fiction and fantasy novels. When I found an author I liked - I read EVERYTHING available by that author.

With Clinton's guidance - I simply became Highly Intentional and more strategic about doing this. For every area of interest - I have core authors and I read as much as I can by them. i also re-read their books to revisit and re-engage the conversation. Here are a few of my core authors.

Peter Kreeft is by far my man. I love him. Ravi Zacharias is another. I have read most of the books by both authors.

While there are far too many to mention, here are a few of my Top Picks.  Eugene Peterson! Gary Thomas. Ronald Rolheiser. Henri Nouwen. Thomas Merton. Richard Foster. Dallas Willard. Timothy Gallagher. Philip Sheldrake (one of the most insightful writers there is on the subject)  I better stop now...

Jonathan Edwards. John Calvin. David Wells. Alister McGrath (also my favorite church historian). J.I. Packer (right now I am reading his excellent, Keep In Step With the Spirit). And a more recent favorite from a decidedly different camp - Roger Olson. There are others, but I tend to read more widely in theology and keep aware of many different authors instead of following Clinton and Luther's advice.

Again too many to mention since I have about 700 volumes on leadership. But here are a few. And at the VERY TOP OF THE LIST is Jim Collins. He is huge for me. Patrick Lencioni. Marcus Buckingham. Bobby Clinton (love his stuff, even though it can be dry... it is brilliant). Peter Drucker ( I am a raving fan of The Man). Warren Bennis.

Parker Palmer. I often disagree, but I will read everything he writes - he is that good. Jane Vella is another.

Core Authors:
C.S. Lewis is by far (especially right now) an enormous shaping influence on me. For about 18 months I have been immersed in Lewis. Every month I read a book by Lewis and I read a book about Lewis. While I have always loved C.S., my understanding and appreciation has soared. And, to go back to Luther - I find Lewis has seeped into my soul. I am being shaped by him in powerful and profound ways. I am quite content to say I am a disciple of Lewis and I am now a better disciple of Christ as I follow one of Christ's choice servant/sons - C.S.

Seth Godin is another. So is Malcolm Gladwell and Guy Kawaski. 

I am now on a Dietrich Bonhoeffer kick...although I have to be careful, for I am going to be in Lewis for at least another year. So i am restraining myself somewhat on Bonhoeffer. But because I read a lot, I will read several books by Dietrich and several about him. My interest in Bonhoeffer was aroused by a re-reading (after 20+ years) of the classic - Life Together. It blew me away. I then turned to read Bonhoefer on the Christian Life by Stephen Nichols (another of the volumes in the great Crossway Books series - Theologians on the Christian Life - very worth getting into these books. I picked up a new book - Bonhoeffer as Youth Worker: A Theological Vision for Discipleship and Life Together. And I plan on getting another copy of The Cost of Discipleship and reading it before the year is over.

Whenever I read core authors - I read as much of their own writing as I can...and I read some of the best books about them.

I am an avid reader. 
Reading is my hobby and my vocation.
I read over 150 books every year.

I am NOT a speed reader, although i read at a good pace. Every book I read is thoroughly marked up, with copious notes in the margins and in the back pages. I tend to blog quite a bit, and journal also, about the things I am picking up from my immediate reads.

So I know my own interests, habits, choices and capacities are those of most people. However, I am constantly encouraging leaders to be life long learners. Reading is a valuable part of life long learning. 

And immersion / deep reading of Core Authors is an absolutely invaluable part of life long learning. Through this they soak into the marrow of your soul and the DNA of your spiritual life. They shape you and you become a contemporary (and innovative shaper) of their wisdom. In one sense, they become the giants on which you stand. Through their writings, you actually see farther than they did.

Who are Core Authors for you?
What are you currently reading?
How are you using their wisdom in your life and ministry?

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International