By Chuck Lawless
If you’re a church leader, whether laity or clergy, I know you’re busy. I get tired just thinking about non-stop meetings, prospect visits, member ministry, lesson and sermon preparation, e-mails and phone calls, community responsibilities, reading, and dozens of other tasks – not to mention personal spiritual disciplines and family priorities.
With this much to do, who has time left to read the newspaper every day? Even when we have access to the news via the Internet, the time required for a full reading is still not insignificant.
Think about, though, these reasons for reading the news:
- We need to know the world God loves. Because He loves the world, we need to know that world. In today’s paper, I read of Ukraine, Russia, Venezuela, Syria, China, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Switzerland, and Myanmar. Get a map, and locate these countries. Find out what unreached people groups are there. It’s all God’s world, and He died for all. To know only our part of the world is too self-centric.
- Missionaries live in much of that world. Missionaries often live in volatile places. They go there under God’s call, believing and trusting we are praying for them. As you read the news, let that news drive you to prayer on behalf of missionaries in those areas. I assure you they long for it. If you suspect missionaries may not be there, ask God to open a door there.
- That world lives among us. You know this reality: internationals live beside us, work with us, take classes with us, and attend church with us. They most often know the news of their countries of origin. Sometimes they have family in difficult situations. Our ignorance of those realities simply because we do not follow the news is poor pastoral leadership.
- Others in your church and community are reading the news every day. They may, in fact, be leaders in your church or city. Perhaps their job requires their reading the news, or maybe they just want to be informed. They can speak intelligently in many circles. When we cannot join them in the conversation because we’ve ignored the news, we limit our ministry opportunities.
- The news moves us outside our local Christian bubble. Read the “local news” section of your paper, and you might learn something you need to know as a Christian leader in your community. For example, I read today that the local Muslim leadership in my city sponsored an event this weekend to share their faith with residents. I will now seek to learn more about the size of the Muslim community, and I will pray with more focus and fervor – as a result of reading the newspaper.
- Even evil people need prayer. I am hesitant to name names here, as all of us are sinners in need of the gospel. It’s easy, though, to read the news and label our enemies as evil. We are quick to condemn and reject those who commit sins that are not ours. Without ever compromising a call to righteous judgment, however, we are still to love our enemies and pray for them (Luke 6:27-28). Reading the news will challenge you to do so.
- The news provides relevant and current applications for our teaching. All who teach God’s people are continually challenged to help others see how the gospel applies to life. Entire websites are devoted to providing sermon and teaching illustrations, but those illustrations are often dated or overused. The news can provide contemporary illustrations (as in today’s feature story in my city’s paper – a story of a man who has trusted God through a horrendous illness).
- Reading the news will challenge you to keep learning. Consider into how many areas reading the news will take you. Politics. Geography. Economics. Business. History. Vocabulary. Sports. Weather. Religion. Media. Relationships. Arts. Advice. Vocations. Health. Medicine. Science. Language. And the list could go on. God has given us a brain to use as we do ministry, and reading the news will stretch that brain every day.
- We are reminded of the urgency of the gospel. The news is about life, from the weekly birth announcements to the daily death notices. It’s about people – people we minister to, people we are trying to reach, people who have never heard of Jesus. It’s about the effects of human sin, including pride in our accomplishments and depth in our wickedness. It’s about a world that needs the message of Christ.
Read your Bible first every day . . . but then read the news through gospel, Great Commission lenses. You will look at the world differently.
As a Christian leader, what other benefits do you get from reading the news?