I don’t know a lot of pastors who put the pen to the paper as often as they put feet to the pulpit. But I wish there were more. Pastors ought to write, not to be published, but because it’s part of pastoring in the 21st century. Here’s why:
1. Writing is thinking. John Calvin quotes St. Augustine in “Institutes”, saying: “I count myself among those who think as they write, and write as they think.” It’s no coincidence that great pastors have written great works. Writing is possibly the best way to think. Good writing is good thinking, and vice versa. Pastors need to think well. Jonathan Edwards wrote for 2-3 hours a day, not to publish, but simply in order to think carefully about a given topic. Clear room in your schedule to write, pastors; it’s like a daily/weekly working out for preaching and teaching.
2. Writing leaves a legacy. Do you want your legacy to endure? Do you want to continue to make an impact long after your time on earth is through? Put your thoughts on paper. You may not be a published author, but there are a myriad of ways for pastors to publish their own works and give a gift to their congregation that will last for generations. Writing is like making an investment – it might not seem immediately rewarding, but the long term eternal benefits can explode with time.
3. Writing is daily discipleship. What if I told you there was a way to personally speak to each one of the members of your congregation every day? With modern technology, there is. When pastors write, they are investing in the minds of their congregation, taking time daily to disciple them and transform their minds. There’s really no good reason for a pastor not to take hold of this incredible opportunity.
4. Writing is missional. Jesus told us to “go” and make disciples. It’s hard for a pastor to get out of the counseling office or the study, but it’s not hard to write up a blog post that your congregants can share with their unbelieving co-workers. Between Twitter, Facebook sharing, WordPress, Diggit and the 100 other sharing devices out there, writing gives pastors an opportunity to instantly communicate with thousands of people they weren’t able to otherwise.
5. Writing is a Spiritual Discipline. Writing isn’t just for the sake of others, it’s for you. Writing helps pastors to meditate on scripture deeply; to penetrate the depths of God’s word in new ways; to increase in knowledge and instruction and in discipline. Great spiritual men of the past kept journals, not for publication, but for personal holiness. Writing is a unique way to engage in self-reflection and meditation upon the word of the Lord.
6. Writing Aids Decision Making. Not sure what decision to make about the budget? Weighing the pros and cons of switching to the ESV Bible in the pews? Not sure how to present your vision at the next elder’s meeting? Do what your elementary school teacher said, and write it out. Write out the pros and cons; have a discussion in your mind with yourself. Of course, you’ll need to have discussions with your leadership team to crystalize decisions, but writing helps you to have a clearly articulated idea that can be molded and shaped by any given committee.
7. Better Writing = Better Speaking. You may not remember every line you wrote, but writing out sermons, even if you’re a note-free kind of guy, does something special for the mind. Words and phrases from the paper pop into your mind during preaching, and you’re able to articulate your thoughts in refined, compelling sentences you couldn’t have thought up on the spot. Eloquence isn’t the point, of course, but penetrating gospel truth is communicated in language; it’s the responsibility of the pastor pastor to master that medium.