Pretty Preachers

February 28, 2006

Lig, Mark and Al have served us big time with their personal examples and excellent posts on the importance of reading and study for pastors. It should be obvious to all of us by now that consistent, substantive, strategic reading is simply not optional for a pastor. I have yet to meet a pastor who is growing in his knowledge of God and his effectiveness in pastoral ministry, who doesn’t read consistently. Where there is an absence of reading, there is normally the presence of decline and deficiency in one’s soul and ministry.

John Wesley had this concern for a particular pastor he had visited. Wesley observed the distinct absence of growth and fruit as he spent time with this pastor and listened to him preach. So here was the caring, courageous and wise counsel Wesley gave this man:

“What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is, want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. “

So, what does Mr. Wesley prescribe as a remedy for this serious condition of soul and ministry?  “Reading only can supply this.”

It sounds like Wesley would be very appreciative of all that Lig, Mark and Al have written, at least on this topic.  He went on to write, “Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for you life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher.”

I am assuming you don’t want to be “a trifler all your days.” And I’m assuming no one reading this blog wants to be “a pretty, superficial preacher.” Sadly, it appears to me that the American evangelical landscape is filled with these kind of pastors and authors. I wish it were not so. And I hope I’m not one of them.  By the grace of God, let it not be said of any one of us that there has been no discernable growth in the past seven years (or even the past year).  May we do whatever we can to avoid being called “a pretty preacher.”

This can be prevented, but only by reading. John Wesley got it right, “there is no other way.” In my laziness, I have often wished there was another way. But there isn’t. 

Now, if you’ve lost the taste for reading, here is the good news: an appetite for reading can be restored. “You may acquire the taste which you have not,” Wesley encouraged, “what is tedious at first, will afterward be pleasant.” But discipline always precedes the restoration of a voracious appetite for reading. And in my experience, a plan for reading and study will make all the difference. Momentary inspiration won’t suffice or sustain.

Who isn’t inspired reading this stuff?! But for inspiration to result in transformation there must be specific application. So, in our next conversation, I will address the importance of a weekly, monthly, and yearly plan for reading and study–so that none of us will ever be called  “a trifler all your days ” or worse yet, “a pretty preacher.”