Read Much, Read Widely, Preach Better

Neil Plantiga offers abundant helpful advice to improve your reading and preaching.

Neil Plantiga encourages all pastors to develop and maintain a practice of reading widely, in particular, because reading can help their ministry of the Word communicate more effectively (Cornelius Plantiga, Jr. Reading for Preaching: The Preacher in Conversation with Storytellers, Biographers, Poets, and Journalists). 

Every preacher wants to be effective in the ministry of the Word, and reading can help, not only by supplying a rich trove of illustrative material, but in giving insight to the human condition, helping pastors to grow in wisdom, improve diction and storytelling, and speak more pointedly and sympathetically to the needs of their hearers.

Reading widely can help preachers be more attentive to the world, and hear the needs of people more clearly. Most of all, reading is a way to increase in wisdom, as we discern the grace of God in the stories, issues, and situations that confront not only us but those we serve as well.

This is a book about preaching, mostly, but Dr. Plantiga provides ample illustration from his own reading to bolster his argument. He says, “What’s as important as good things to read is taking the time to harvest, store, and retrieve striking sources in an easily searchable database… Sometimes it’s a pain to do – and particularly when your tired – but even five items stored per week will soon enough build into an impressive and supportive treasury, ready and waiting for the day you need it.” He argues the necessity of creating and maintaining such a database (he uses Pro-Cite), and I could not agree with him more. “The comfort in having a database full of juicy stuff is that when the day comes to preach on, say, compassion (‘Clothe yourselves with compassion…’) you already have insights, stories, observations, so that not only you but also your sermon can get clothed with compassion.”

His final words summarize the argument of his book: “Do you think you simply don’t have enough time to read? But what if a program of general reading would measurably strengthen your preaching? What if, like Eugene Peterson, you begin to schedule reading periods as sermon prep time? What if some of the things that otherwise take your time can be delegated while sermon prep time cannot? Sunday sermons remain, for most of us, the biggest ministry of the week to most congregants. Wouldn’t that make sermon preparation time a top priority? Along with whatever strengthens it?”

'Nuff said.


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