Friday, September 6, 2013

8 Reasons Why Every Pastor Should Write

If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write. -Martin Luther

I have been blogging ever since I was in college. While preparing sermons and other talks for youth ministry, plus papers and other assignments for class, I was blogging about theology, culture, and politics. And though I have found myself going back and deleting a lot of terribly written and argued blogs, I consider the time, energy, effort put into the years of blogging worth it especially for my role as pastor.

One of the biggest struggles I had in seminary after becoming a pastor with the responsibility to preach at least three times a week was finding time to write papers. A single thirty minute sermon, in manuscript length, is comparable to most papers I wrote for my masters. This meant that every week I was writing multiple exegetical papers in verbal form. Every sermon was researched, organized, written down, and delivered.

Yet I continued to write, this blog along with my papers, and I still believe that writing as a discipline is part of the pastoral work. Here are seven reasons why.

1. You can't escape it.

Part of being a pastor is writing whether you like it or not. A hand written note in the front of a gift Bible for a new believer or a simple note to a suffering saint in the hospital goes a long way. Emails and Facebook messages abound. Add to it newsletters, church and ministry updates, recommendations for students, seminary assignments, etc. and a pastor simply cannot escape writing as part of his ministry. So if your going to write, learn to write well and utilize it as an asset rather than an unfortunate reality.


2. There is historic precedent.

Most of the great theologians of history whose writings remain influential were pastors or at least served as pastors for some time. The list is massive. Men like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John MacArthur, John Knox, John Stott, Anselm, Tertullian, Origen, and countless others. Chances are your favorite theologian pastor and present was/is a pastor.

These men understood that though preaching took precedent, writing was a central part of their ministry. But it wasn't only the giants that wrote. Common pastors and lesser known theologians of history wrote books, letters, catechisms, and articles throughout their ministry. The modern pastor is no different.


3. Writing helps us think.

Combined with regular reading on a variety of subjects, both from classic and modern writers, writing trains us to think deeper and better. The pastor is the one job that requires expertise in a host of fields including theology, finances, counseling, culture, ethics, law, and leadership. The pastor wears a lot of hats and being both informed and able to think more critically on the many issues and challenges we face is important.


4. Writings trains us to be more articulate.

It isn't enough to know the gospel as a pastor, we must be able to proclaim and explain the gospel to everybody in every setting at all time. Writing helps us do that. By writing on a variety of topics, the pastor will learn to be better at communicating to their audience.


5. Writings force us to be more engaged.

This is one of the reasons I had for getting into blogging. I am convinced that pastors must both know and be able to articulate the Christian worldview in light of current events. Writing forces us to be more than news junkies, but also to be able to explain to our congregation what is going on, why it matters, and what the gospel has to say about it.


6. Writing is eternal

With the internet, what one writes and posts online will be there legacy. Generations from now, people will still be reading some of Dr. Albert Mohler's blog posts. Just as we still read old books and research the archives of old newspapers, future generations will still hear our voice. Those who hear our sermons will pass away, but with technology our influence can continue.


7. Writing expands a pastor's sermons and ministry

Even pastors who preach for an hour each week do not say all that they would like to on a given text. Writing helps with that. Through my pastor's blog and even on this site, I interact more with a text, with commentaries, controversies, other sermons, books, and other resources. I can also recommend books and other resources and pass along anything I feel is necessary.

This is comparable with the average news show on TV. Before the rise of social media and the Internet, an anchor was on at a given time never to be seen until the next day. Now, the anchor and his/her team will encourage the viewers to join them on twitter and other social media outlets. They will also shoot additional material to put online. Pastors can do something similar with their ministry as well and writing makes that available.


8. The Laity/Theologian Gap

Pastors stand between two worlds and not just the one John Stott referred to in his book on preaching, Between Two Worlds. There, Stott describes the preacher standing between the world of the Bible and the world of the contemporary Christian. But that is not the only place where pastors stand between two worlds. To the average believer, theology is for the ivory tower types.  This misnomer has led many Christians to seek wisdom (how should I live) without knowledge (what is true). The pastor as preacher and writer has the responsibility to bridge that gap. Thus pastors must preach theology, teach theology, and write theology in an accessible way that is understandable. The pastor must lead his congregation to hunger for more truth.

This is what makes pastors so important. The pastor must be driven toward theological precision while at the same time sensitive to the needs of his congregation. Many of our churches are theologically malnourished and using a variety of formats to train one's congregation is wise. Utilizing the sermon to teach and writing opportunities is critical here. I personally have taken advantage of newsletters, blogs, books, articles, and other mediums to do so. Sometimes seeing it on a page/screen is as beneficial as hearing it from the pulpit.


CONCLUSION

The above eight points in no way diminish the importance of preaching for the pastor. However, in addition to a preaching ministry, each pastor should consider other means of proclaiming the gospel including, and especially, writing.

I would encourage pastors to either set up a blog or regularly contribute to their church website or newsletter. Link to it on various social media outlets especially wherever your congregation congregates online. Writing remains a wonderful training tool that pastors should take advantage of. We are called by God to speak and the pen still reaches a lot of ears.
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