Monday, June 23, 2008

How An Expositor Does All That Reading

If you do what I suggested in the previous article, that is to read sixteen chapters (or your amount) a day six days a week, it could require as much as an hour a day just to accomplish that. Now, busy pastors may already have become nervous just thinking about this. What about family, school, and community activities . . . and meetings, and visitation, and counseling, and building programs, and special events, and emergencies, and weddings, and funerals . . . and ministerium meetings, and conferences, and seminars . . . oh, and I forgot solving all the world's problems that are now unjustly dumped at the doorstep of the pastor (like AIDS, the climate, corrupt governments, finding all the heretics on the internet, etc.) , and on, and on, and on in a way that is more run-on than this sentence.

Of course, then there is also the demand of the rest of sermon preparation - focused reading in the book or passages you are currently preaching, exegetical work, reading commentaries (and articles, and other books, and theology, etc.), organizing your research, developing a preaching outline or format, collecting illustrations, maybe discussing it with your staff or others, thinking through your wording, maybe writing a manuscript . . .

Hmmm, did I miss anything? Could it be ? . . . oh yes, prayer !!!

I have found prayer to be the main feature in the development of right priorities and disciplines, and also in the understanding and conserving of what I read or study. There probably are numbers of things you are doing that just do not need to be done at all, and other things that should be done by other brothers and sisters in the Body or on your staff instead of by you. Remember, as you pray and prepare, the most loving and effective thing a teaching-elder/"pastor" can do is preach the Word. Keep Bible-reading, meditation, prayer, preparation, and preaching foremost among your priorities. This is how the expositor loves God and loves people. Remember 2 Timothy 2:15 ? Matthew 22:37-40 ?

In addition to my Bible-reading time, I also try to devote about another hour a day to other reading (commentaries; books - including "secular" and cultural stuff, fiction; articles, etc.). In addition, I try to devote either a morning or an afternoon each week to reading. Further, in addition, I try to devote a day each quarter to reading. And also, in addition, I try to devote the bulk of a week each year to reading. I do also get some other reading time in on the go - keep reading material handy for when you travel, wait for appointments, eat meals alone, etc. Most reading other than commentaries, Bible study, and theology, comes from the recommendation of others.

Let me close by recommending you read chapter five of John Stott's now dated but classic book on preaching, Between Two Worlds (Eerdmans, 1982). Chapter five is entitled, "The Call to Study". It will be worth your time - that is if you can make the time to read it !!