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Secondhand Discipleship

October 6, 2009

SHand.001No matter how many words you use, people will still misunderstand you.  You may misunderstand this post.  Authors of books (including God) are often misunderstood, even though they have taken hundreds or thousands of pages to communicate their ideas.  In an effort to better understand and comprehend the thoughts of great thinkers, writers, theologians, and philosophers, let me offer a simple challenge.  Instead of reading a few thoughts by as many authors as possible, read whatever you can get your hands on by a fewer number of them.  You may even want to re-read some of what you have already read.  When you read large percentages of what an author has written, you will gain a fuller understanding of their thoughts and their application in your life.

In the interest of (the sought after) clarity, let me say that this should probably not apply to those whom you disagree with at a fundamental level.  While it is valuable and responsible to read and interact with those whom your thought differs from, it is often a waste of time to invest a great deal of time, energy, and money in doing so.  I would suggest this as a starting place: pick three authors who have already influenced your life and set out to read the bulk of their work.

I call this “Secondhand Discipleship” because it allows you to be discipled, in a way, by those whom you will never have the chance to meet.  Men and women who have been dead for hundreds of years can still have a profound effect on your life.  The catch is, it really only works when you invest some serious time.  You would not have one conversation with someone and never talk with them again, but consider them a mentor.  In the same way, you would never listen to one speech someone gave and say you have been discipled by them.  But, you would say that you have been mentored or discipled by someone you have met with for years.  You could say that about someone you have talked to dozens or hundreds of times.  The same thing can be true of reading.  I will never meet (this side of Heaven) many of the people who have greatly influenced my life, but I have gotten to know them through their writing and it has been of tremendous benefit to me.  I thank God for their Secondhand Discipleship.

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