I feel that the reading of books is personally a powerful aspect of my commitment to spiritual growth (not to replace or compete with the primary Spiritual Disciplines of Bible-reading and Prayer). However, like everything else in the Christian life we must be intentional about what we are doing. Growth in Christ never happens by accident. Sometimes it looks really confusing, but the seeds were sown and harvested, now I am not denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our growth. Nor am I denying the sovereignty of God in our spiritual lives, rather as a wise man once said, "we should trust God and keep our powder dry." Trust in the sovereignty of God should empower us and encourage us to strive to grow spiritually.
I think that this means that we should have a reading plan. I have combined the advice of John Stott and Albert Mohler personally and at the end of the post I will share my personal reading plan, not to exalt myself but simply to give an example of an intentional reading plan. John Stott says that every pastor should read for an hour every day, thus underscoring the importance of reading. Albert Mohler says that the pastor (I also think that this advice is helpful for all Christians) should read broadly and consistently in different categories.
I think we need to be careful to read toward our needs. For example, I read three books at a time, I have discerned three needs that I need to be addressing perpetually. I think that we need to have our minds informed and challenged. So I try to always be reading what I call a brain book. I also need to have my heart inflamed toward Christ. I call this my heart book, I try to identify authors and theme's that feed my soul (Christian biographies have proved especially powerful), we all need this in a continual manner. My last book is a book to keep my imagination alive, I am always reading a book of fiction or history to keep the old imagination alive and well. This is very important for a pastor, to stave off dryness or an overly academic air sneaking into the pulpit. I think that we also need to read toward our unique ministry calling. So if you are a pastor, read a book about being a pastor, the same for youth ministry or prayer ministry.
To get a little narrower, we need to read in different categories for our minds. As a pastor I have identified several categories that I must be reading in at all times, it functions as a rotation for my brain book. My categories are Theology, Biblical Studies, Church History, Practical ministry, Philosophy/apologetics, and the puritans.
Now in conclusion I want to explain why I shared so much of my personal reading habits. It's not because I think that mine are exemplary, far from the truth. I am really convicted about the need to be intentional in our reading habits, which is why I wrote this weird post in the first place, but it is also the reason that I shared so much simply to give an example of an effort to be intentional. The second reason is that I want you all to share your reading plan and give me some counsel on how I can improve.
Along these lines give a listen to the Mahaney, Harris, and Purswell. http://www.sovereigngraceministries.org/Blog/post/Leadership-Interview-Podcast-1.aspx