Good Leaders are Great Readers

It has been said that nearly every school of thought, or philosophy, can find its roots in one two places – Plato or Aristotle. These really old, dead guys have left their mark even 2,400 years after their deaths. Plato was interested in what things are, or the “IS”. Aristotle, his best-known student, was more concerned about how things work, or the “DOES”. While the two can never be totally separated, there can certainly be an imbalance one way or the other.

Jesus of Nazareth taught us that there doesn’t need to be any kind of fight between the “Is” and the “Does”. The Gospels are literally full of examples of teaching us both who he is and what he did. There was never a contradiction between the two.

A brief look at church history shows us that there has been swings between Is and Does. The Protestant Reformation or the Great Awakening would align with the first and many current ministry models look a lot like the second. I will suggest we can achieve a better balance by working on the discipline of reading.

Ministry by definition is “doing”; so far so good. But here exists a giant culture of doing what works. It is not good enough, however, to merely do well. We must be able to understand what the “does” “is”. For that, we need to be people of the book.


It probably goes without saying, but we must immerse ourselves in the Bible – daily! Our aim should not ONLY be what to do but also how to think. The Word of God is sharp and powerful and can penetrate the most stubborn of minds. Yes, there are very practical books like James (Aristotle would probably like that one!). But there are also deeply theological books like Hebrews where the author writes 9 ½ chapters arguing for Jesus’ supremacy before he gets to anything practical. (There’s actually a few places in Hebrews that would have really grabbed Plato’s attention. Feel free to ask me about them at TLC. I’m always up for a nerdy convo!)

Books from the Deep Well

There are plenty of titles out there that will help us with our particular ministry skills. These are important, but don’t stop there! Again, we want a good foundation of wisdom to know what it “IS” we are doing.

I challenge you to read something that is a bit over your head. You might want to try Augustine’s Confessions or Boethius’ The Consolation of Philosophy. They are both short and not too difficult. If you take my challenge, you will begin to see how ideas fit together. You will begin the process of learning to think better. Loving God with all our mind is good thing!

You might also try history, science, or even historic fiction. How about this…have you seen Ready Player One? Me too. You ought to read the book (it’s not that deep in the well) and ask what is the worldview there. Learning to read like that will open totally new horizons for you.

What about those who are die-hard Marvel fans? Read Homer’s Iliad! You will quickly find out that the idea of the flawed hero has been around for 3,000 years! Just sayin’.

Books from the Other Side

Some might be wondering why in the world I would suggest reading a pagan like Homer. Simple. Because it contains a worldview that is completely at odds with Christianity and it continues to be a force that drives many. Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer once said that the only to be able to speak truth into someone’s life is to first understand how they think. By daring to engage in material you know you don’t agree with, you will begin to understand that not everyone thinks like you.

You might want to consider picking up something like Kevin Roose’s The Unlikely Disciple. You will read the first-person story of an unbeliever who lives under the radar at one of the nation’s largest Christian universities…and what he thought about it! Fascinating.

Closing this Chapter

See what I did there ^^^. I love a good dad joke! Anyway, add a little Plato to your Aristotle. Don’t just ask “how”, also ask “why”. Take every thought captive for Christ (II Cor 10:5).

Please feel free to find me at TLC. I would love to talk books with you. I might even be able to help you begin your own journey.


The blog post was written by Andy Giessman, TLC Featured Speaker. To register for Teen Leadership Conference and National Youth Ministries Conference, visit the link.

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