Our time is precious. Yet, it seems there is never quite enough time to accomplish all you desire to do in a given day, week, or year. In a vocation like pastoring, like many others, the list of “to do’s” is never ending. In the end, however, we will make time for the things that matter most. Hopefully, a committed and daily time with the Lord through scripture reading and prayer makes the list. In addition to this, hopefully, family is a high priority. Your family is your first ministry, not your church, you know. Beyond these, your health and exercise should be a priority. You see my point. Time is running out as more is added to the list, and we haven’t even gotten to the “block and tackle” ministry tasks: sermons, oversight, visitation, etc. Yet, I want to briefly give an appeal for you to make a more concerted effort to make reading a top priority in your life and ministry.
1. Your Ministry Will Benefit
When I say your ministry will benefit, I am primarily speaking to your preaching and teaching ministry. I can personally sense a noticeable difference in my ability to craft sermons, develop content, and even preach with greater confidence. Others have noticed the same. I also seem to finish work quicker and with less delay during the writing process. Perhaps it is because I often read theology, and my recall is heightened to different aspects that help me develop material. Perhaps it is simply because my mind is filled with “more,” so it is more natural for thoughts to flow. Whether I am reading theology, practical helps, history, or leadership material, I have found my ministry is simply better when I am engaging in the works of others.
2. Your Church Will Benefit
In many ways, this flows from the benefits of a better ministry. Nonetheless, I have found that often what I read doesn’t remain with me but spreads to others. This happens certainly, through preaching and teaching, but it also happens through conversations as well as through the intentional investment in the lives of others. One of the primary callings of the pastor is to lead the church in equipping others (Eph 4:12). Pastor, commit to being the lead disciple-maker in your church. One way you can do that is by forming a study group. For us, this happens on Tuesday morning, and we study the sermon text from Sunday. Consider meeting with other men within your church to encourage and disciple them throughout the year. In every case, I make an intentional effort to pass along books I’ve read to others. Beyond this, I make a point to give books away to our members throughout the year on Wednesday Nights or as I hear of needs within the church.
3. Your “self” Will Benefit
Last but not least, you will personally benefit from reading. Obviously, it would be difficult for your ministry or church to profit before you have benefited yourself. Yet, beyond the professional or spiritual benefit, you will likely benefit in other personal ways as well. Reading has a way of shifting our focus away from the stress or worry of the day. I have found that often writing sermons can be hijacked by a surprise or difficult meeting, challenging ministry situation, or just the time of day. Reading is often the way that I refuel and refocus. It allows me to separate just enough to relax, remain productive, and sometimes remain sane. This benefit goes beyond the office and proves beneficial for my personal life as well.
I will say, the most profitable reading any pastor can do is to read the scripture, not just for sermon prep, but devotionally as well. If you aren’t reading the scripture, don’t bother adding anything to your reading list. Beyond the Bible, I have found other supplemental readings to be incredibly beneficial. I hope you will consider making a more intentional effort to read more.
The past few years, my doctoral work has dictated my reading list. I am now focused on the project writing phase of the program at Southern Seminary, so much of my reading will be centered on Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church). Beyond that, in 2022, I have a goal to study in more detail the 2nd London Confession of 1689 (an early Baptist Confession of Faith). Thus, much of my reading will be centered around covenant theology, Baptist history, and doctrine. Our church leaders will also be reading through Mark Dever’s - 9Marks of A Healthy Church.
You may be asking, “How will you get that done?” First off, I may not finish all that I set out to accomplish. Yet, all that I do read will only happen through an intentional and concerted effort to read. One practical way will be in replacing the phone in my hand, typically scrolling through social media, with a book that will fill my mind with useful knowledge. You have time, more than you think. Make the most of it. Make a commitment to read more for yourself, your church, and your ministry.