Many pastors I know have a love-hate relationship with reading and writing. We love reading and we hate that we can’t read more. For the most part, that’s across the board: though there are exceptions, most pastors love reading soul-invigorating, heart-stirring, theological-reflection-inspiring books.
Writing, on the other hand, creates a little more of a divide. While some pastors seem to find all kinds of time to write (some even blog everyday, and write books on top of that!), other pastors can’t seem to scratch out the time, and others just don’t want to.
Lately I have been reflecting on the pros and cons of writing in the life of a pastor as I try to discern whether or not God is calling me to do more of it. Because I haven’t been convicted of my need to write I hardly ever make any time for it. And yet, I always seem to sense a unique blessing in my spiritual life and a help to my pastoral ministry when I devote more time to writing.
But is that just feeling-level hoogly? Am I just putting too much weight in sentiment and what I feel when I write? Is my writing what will really benefit the people of Grace Fellowship Church the most? Those are tough questions. That’s why I’m so thankful that in the most recent edition of Themelios Peter Schemm Jr. has taken the time to write-out some very convincing reasons why pastors should write.
In his very helpful article, Schemm answers at least three questions that I think every pastor would do well to think through for himself:
1. Why would I write when I’m no Augustine or Luther or Calvin or Lewis? Will anyone care?
Surely this is one of the first things I have to work through in my heart. I’m no Sproul or Piper or Challies. Why write when it’s unlikely I’ll get published and even more unlikely that anyone will read what I write, even if I did get published? Schemm answers in two ways:
I am not suggesting that every pastor ought to publish journal articles and books. I am suggesting that pastors write. Writing is a spiritual discipline that holds promise for all pastors. This should not, I think, be said of publishing.
And then he adds:
None of us will likely have the influence of Augustine or Luther or Bonhoeffer. But our writing still matters. It matters because it can help us to make progress in our own hearts and minds.
2. So what is the benefit to me that will overflow in blessings to others?
That is a crucial question. With schedules that are already jam-packed, it’s a tough sell getting pastors to take on another time commitment. But Schemm does an excellent job addressing this question. He indicates that writing, simply ‘as an exercise in pastoral ministry’ will have the following benefits, which are both personal and formative:
- depth of mind
- clarity of thought
- pace of life
- quiet and solitude
- the ministry of words
- a life of prayer
In his essay, Schemm details how writing helps in each of those ways. I found myself nodding along in agreement with each. When I have been careful to devote myself to writing, I have found these very things to be true in my own life.
3. But aren’t there more important things to do?
Writing is great, and the personal benefit is great, but in light of the state of the world and the number of perishing souls and wounded sheep out there, aren’t there more important things for pastors to be doing?
“If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun” (C.S. Lewis). The same is true for us as pastors. If we postpone our search-waiting for things to settle down and life to be normal again-we will never begin. Pastoral ministry has never been normal. It never will be. It is precisely for that reason that we make the time to write anyway. We write because, for us, the search has begun. And through writing the search continues. We write because it is a formative discipline for the good of our souls.