Sam Reader believes being a pharmacist prepared him to study and share God’s Word.
“Early on my dad taught me to memorize Scripture and value God’s Word,” said Reader, 32. “It wasn’t until later that I learned how to use it. Pharmacy definitely taught me how to study things because in pharmacy, you can’t just memorize this drug fixes that problem. You have to fully understand what causes that problem and fully understand how this drug works so that you know which drug works best for which person to fix what problem.”
Reader regularly teaches at Man Challenge at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus on Thursday and Saturday mornings. He finished pharmacy school in five years, though it normally takes eight.
“I spent five years of studying year-round, so I had the work ethic to know, ‘OK. I’m going to go study this concept in Scripture because I want to know it.’ Pharmacy school prepared me for studying God’s Word in a sense,” Reader added. “In terms of teaching, pharmacy taught me how to take complex material and communicate it in layman’s terms to a person at a consultation window at a pharmacy counter.”
Reader and his wife, Jessica, have two sons, Eli and Noah.
Why do bad things happen?
Reader was the youngest of three children growing up in a blue-collar family in Bullitt County.
He attended a variety of churches with his family over the years and started coming to Southeast in the early 2000s.
One of Reader’s siblings died shortly after birth, and when Reader was 15, his 18-year-old sister died in a car accident.
“That event changed the dynamic in our family massively,” Reader said. “Prior to that, it was very much, ‘Get your butt out of bed, we’re going to church; it’s Sunday morning,’ to, ‘Yea, I don’t feel like going either.’ My mom was like, ‘I have prayed every day for my entire life for God to protect my kids, and I’ve buried two. What’s the point of prayer?’”
Reader had trouble processing faith and the loss of his sister, so he decided to focus on his career and finishing pharmacy school at an accelerated rate.
“My focus went from being a kid and God is everything to … not understanding why bad things happen,” Reader added. “Throughout the entirety of my life, I have claimed to be a Christian, but I was a nominal Christian, meaning in the way that I spoke, the things I desired and how I carried myself in my relationships. People thought I was a good guy, but there was no distinction between my life and an unbeliever. I lived for achieving my next goal and milestone in life.”
After finishing school, Reader revisited his sister’s death and was reminded of the futility of life. His perspective changed to things that had eternal value.
“I was wondering, ‘Am I supposed to have enough faith to be healed? Am I not healed because that is God’s will?’ I didn’t understand that stuff or where I landed on it, so, for about a year, the Lord really put me in a season of isolation,” he said. “Everyone around me who was a believer didn’t want to talk about the questions I was asking. The wrestling forced me by myself in the Bible—just me and Him—and that’s what I needed. He gave me a sure foundation to stand on.”
God used that time to teach him core Biblical truths.
“God centered me. Out of all the denominations we had bounced around, I found footing in the Bible,” Reader said. “I found clarity, and what seemed to be scattered all over and opinion-based seemed very clear to me once I spent time in Scripture. I quit listening to people and listened to Him. That was formative for me.”
Reader attended Southeast for several years before he decided to get connected and attend Man Challenge.
“It is awkward at first,” Reader added. “I was the outsider at my table. I didn’t fit in with them, but I sat there for a full year and just observed how these men tried to follow Jesus imperfectly. It was convicting and encouraging to me. I so badly wanted to walk in and everybody tell me, ‘Yea, we gel perfectly.’ It was awkward and clunky, but just do it.”
The Readers began hosting small groups in their home, and Reader became a Man Challenge table leader a year later. He now helps build curriculum for Man Challenge and Disciple Development Groups.
“There are very few rogue agents in the Bible. I know of none that modeled the Christian faith in isolation,” he said. “Encouragement from people who know the authentic you, where you’ve fallen and continue to fall and yet they keep holding your arms up means more than lifelong friends who don’t really know you but can shoot the breeze and make you laugh.”