I Need To Stay Intellectually Hungry (So I Gave Away 3/4 of the Books in My Library)

Here’s a picture of what REMAINS of my personal pastoral library…

A few months ago I gave away of 3/4 of the books in my personal library. Books are the lifeblood of any spiritual leader, so I was pretty surprised during a recent prayer time when I felt the spirit’s nudge to “clean this place out.” And yes, this is what was LEFT.

I believe the nudge to clean my library out was more than an effort on God’s part to simply create more shelf space. I’m pretty sure it was the spirit’s prompting to take stock of the ideas that had influenced me up to this point in my journey and, to begin, both literally and metaphorically, to make room for new ideas.

I approached each book in my library with one simple question: “Has this book so profoundly influenced me that I can see myself reading it 2-3 more times and sharing it with other people?” If the answer was no, it went into the “give away” pile.

Here were a few things that crossed my mind as I did this:

1. Besides biblical study and language resources, I quickly learned that I had purchased two kinds of books over the years: timeless books and quick-fix how-to books. Books I’d throw in the timeless category were books like Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald and Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration by Warren Bennis; both books that continue to speak into my life years after they were written. Quick-fix how-to books all focused on the latest church fad to come down the pike.

2. The empty shelves have become symbolic for me. When Lisa came to my office at the end of the day she looked around and said, “What happened here?” I said, “Time for something new.”

I love looking at the empty spaces on the shelves around me. Unlike the days when books were shoved on top of one another into every available space, the empty spaces give off this fresh smell of intellectual and spiritual hunger, the kind of aroma I first sensed when I started out in ministry.

I needed this.

I always want to stay intellectually hungry and presume that there’s so much more for me to learn. In fact, I truly believe that I will learn more in the last 40 years of my life than in the first 40 years. The empty spaces symbolize that for me.

How about you?

What could you do in your life and area of passion that would symbolize the need to keep growing?

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • http://jonstolpe.com Jon Stolpe

    I think reading is a big key for me. I have been keeping a list of “to read” books in the back of my journal. The list literally grows every day.

    Now the problem…I need to narrow the list down. I’m a slow, deliberate leader, and my time is limited. So I need to find more time, learn to read faster, or narrow my list.

  • http://joeboydblog.com Joe Boyd

    Good post Brian, but I can’t help thinking that what you really need is a Kindle :)

    • Brian Jones

      Got one :)

  • http://billgrandi.com bill (cycleguy)

    I love to read. I have tried to purge my library and even offered it free to people but had no takers. More and more are going to online and Kindle-type. I prefer a book in my hand. :) This is a good guide. Perhaps another stab might work. I do need the shelf space.