*A version of this post was first published at www.thomrainer.com.
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 if you do it via a webpage? However, think about these reasons for reading the news:
1.We need to know the world God loves.
Because He loves the world, we need to know that world. Get a map, and locate the countries you read about in the paper. 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.
2.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.
3.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.
4.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.
5.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. Watch for opportunities for your congregation to do ministry or support the community in prayer.
6.Even evil people need prayer.
It’s easy 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.
7.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 and relevant illustrations.
8.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. God has given us a brain to use as we do ministry, and reading the news will stretch that brain every day.
9.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.
Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.