The official name is the Directed Reading Course in Biblical Studies, but affectionately nicknamed by the students as “Ron’s Reading Course.” And it bears it’s name well. The number one reason I would recommend three months of eight hours a day of reading to anyone is for the chance to glean from Ron Smith’s wealth of wisdom from over 30 years of personal studies and teaching, and his passion for seeing young people engage with God’s Word. He invests not only time in making sure you are on track with your reading and still understanding it all, but he invests of himself in the success and welfare of you the student by being available. Our generation longs for someone to mentor them, someone who they can look up to with respect, but finds everyone (including themselves) too busy to do what it takes to answer their heart cry. Ron, on the other hand, makes himself present and it’s up to you to chose the extent of your learning. when I would tell people here at YWAM Lakeside Montana that I was taking the Directed Reading Course in Biblical Studies, all of them who had previously done it did two things: one, praise it outspokenly, and two, tell me to take advantage of the discussion times with Ron to ask as many questions as possible. Many of these people still meet with him once in a while over coffee or by the lake to ask as many questions as possible.
The reading course had a rather unexpected outcome for me. Ask a classmate of mine and they might tell you they found renewed energy in their personal bible reading, or delighted over Vishal Mangalwadi and Nancy Pearcy’s exposé of how Christian believers working with God have transformed our societies for the better. Personally, the course awoke an insatiable hunger to read…and keep reading. And I have a dictionary to thank for that.
Part of the reading course includes the reading, cover to cover, of two dictionaries, one a Bible Dictionary and the other the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. By the time I had covered the letter A and B I pleaded with God to download all the articles and definitions from C to Z miraculously in my memory without having to read one more word.
Strangely, God didn’t fancy my request. What happened may be better yet: I catalogued in my subconscious a ton of reference points that became useful later on, when, for instance, I wanted to look up some of those big words or proper names Francis Shaeffer employs in his volumes as if he expects his reader to be a like-minded cognoscenti. I would remember seeing something of the sort in the Dictionary of Theology, thumb to the word entry and re-familiarize myself with, for example, existentialism as defined by an outside source other than Shaeffer to give context as to why he felt he could attack the philosophies of Heidegger or Kierkegaard. To this day I still refer to my hard copy of the Bible dictionary before beginning a new book of the bible or when there’s a character I want more context on.
I found out that all of this cross-referencing and further reading developed in me a desire to pursue my learning outside of the required work. It expanded my horizon to fields of studies I never thought of exploring before. There’s so much to discover out there, and I come away from this course with a resolute belief that God invites each and one of us to be lifelong learners, students with questions of how and when and why and how it all weaves beautifully under His mighty hand.
Maybe three months of intense reading like what the Directed Reading Course offers is not for you, but reading in general will always be as accessible to you as picking up a book off a shelf at your local library or downloading one on your kindle. You’ll see, the more you read, the more questions you walk away with, questions to wrestle with with God and motivating growth. And the more you read, the more you’ll keep wanting to.
By Pascale Chancey