Skip to main content

The best way I can serve a church...

Earlier this week, Sovereign Grace posted an excerpt from a recent Leadership Interview. In it, C. J. Mahaney had this to say about the activity of reading:
...I would want to encourage pastors who I think might be tempted to view reading and study as selfish. I view reading and study as one of the most important ways I can serve the church. So it is not a selfish act for me to set aside this time. It is really the most effective way I can serve this church, by tending to my soul and by preparing for the various forms and expressions of ministry. The best way I can serve a church is by responding to the command to watch your life and watch your doctrine (1 Timothy 4:16). It is the example of a pastor over a period of years and decades that will make a difference in the life of a congregation. And therefore I want to guard my heart from growing familiar with the pastoral world, growing familiar with God’s Word, growing familiar with corporate worship, growing familiar when I am listening to preaching, growing familiar when I am taking communion, growing familiar with God. I want to guard my heart from that. And the best way I can do that is by attending to his Word and applying his Word to my heart on a daily basis. I think that is the most effective way I can serve those I care for and those I have been called to serve and lead.
Do we really believe reading and study are among the best ways we can serve our churches? And if so, how should we regulate our schedules? How do we set aggressive - yet realistic - goals for reading and personal enrichment? How much time should we spend in general reading versus preparing for next Sunday's sermon? What other ministries and activities should we decrease or delegate so we can devote ourselves more fully to our personal life and doctrine? Should reading time ever replace family time? These are issues I continue to wrestle through.

I'm reminded of the apostles' decision in Acts 6:4 to appoint "deacons" so the apostles could devote themselves to the priorities of prayer and the ministry of the word. I am compelled, too, by Ephesians 4:12, which says that the primary duty of the pastor-teacher is not the work of service, but rather the equipping of the saints. Yet it can be challenging to flesh these principles out practically at the local church level in a typical week. So many "good" things compete for our time.

I do spend a significant amount of time each week preparing for Sunday sermons, but I probably do not spend enough time doing "general reading." I once heard Al Martin classify "general reading" into eight categories. He said we should have regular exposure to each of these: devotional (e.g. Bunyan, Ryle); theological (e.g. Calvin, Owen, Dagg); biographical; historical; pastoral; polemical (refuting false doctrines and engaging controversies); technical (e.g. textual criticism, archaeology, seminary journals); and contemporary (both secular and religious). Blogs, newspapers, and magazine articles would mostly fall into the final category.

By God's grace, I would like to improve my general reading by (1) better balancing my book selections into these eight categories; and (2) being more purposeful in goal-setting, weekly scheduling, and daily discipline.

How about you? What guidelines have you established in your scheduling and study habits? How would you like to improve?

Fridays are often dedicated to practical church ministry issues. If you have a question or suggested topic for the future, please email me.


  1. I read a LOT. When doing sermon work, anything that connects with the text or subject needs to be digested. This includes: listening to sermons. Reading books. Commentaries. etc.

    It is comforting to hear that reading is not selfish. However, I am often too busy during the day to focus in on reading and heavy study. I'm a late nighter. Meaning that I do serious sermon work and study in the middle of the night. Seriously, you can drive by Palms Baptist at 2am on Thursday nights and I'm there. It's great. The phone doesn't ring, no crisis (and if someone does call... it really is a crisis).

    Often one sermon requires reading at least one book. This means planning sermons far enough in advance to secure study aids and read through books. Actually, for a sermon on Song of Solomon, my wife read the book and highlighted the important stuff. Often my wife does reading and lets me know if a book is any good or how much attention I should give it.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Herod who??

I must admit, I still get confused by all those Herods mentioned in the New Testament. To keep them straight, I find it helpful to read the biblical text with a genealogy of Herod's family at my side (here's one from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible).

Well, so much for simplicity. Even this chart looks more like an engineering schematic than a family tree. To boil it all down, there are four key members of Herod's family mentioned in the Gospels...

Herod the Great. This is the original Herod of them all. The very name sent shivers up the spine of ancient Jews. Son of Antipater, he was a cunning politician, ruthless dictator, and brilliant architect. He was responsible for constructing the temple mount in Jerusalem, fortress palaces at Herodium and Masada, and a harbor at Caesarea -- all which continue to astound archaeologists and engineers today. In addition to killing several kin who threatened his throne, Herod murdered all the young boys in Bethlehem at the news that…

A review of the HCSB Study Bible

Today, I finally had a chance to browse through a copy of the new HCSB Study Bible.

The HCSB Study Bible is 2272 pages long (plus a few maps). As expected, the translation is the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) version. It ranks well and rivals the ESV in both exegetical accuracy and literary quality. Some of its unique features are:
Its translation of yahweh as "Yahweh" (instead of LORD) in the OT when referring to the personal name of God (e.g. Ex. 3:15)The translation of doulos as "slave" instead of "servant" or "bondservant" in the New Testament (e.g. Rom. 1:1)The translation of christos as "Messiah" in the New Testament, whenever referring to the Jewish expectation of the Messiah (e.g. Matt. 16:16)Capitalized pronouns when referring to GodThe use of contractions in direct discourse (e.g. "let's go" in Mark 1:38)A wonderful feature called bullet notes (small bullets next to key words that may be unfamiliar, poin…

Restoring old photos of Israel

In his latest newsletter, Todd Bolen explains the painstaking process of restoring old photos to create the 8-volume American Colony and Eric Matson Collection. It’s a fascinating project that really makes you appreciate the end result. Here’s his full article…Shortly after producing a collection of modern-day photographs in the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands (initially released in January 2000), I began work on a supplementary collection that would peel back the recent layers of time to reveal the sites of the Holy Land before the changes brought by modernization.  The initial fruit of this work was the release of 8 volumes of Historic Views of the Holy Land in November 2004.About that same time, I learned that the Library of Congress was digitizing the G. Eric and Edith Matson Negatives.  Between 1966 and 1981, Eric Matson and his beneficiary donated this collection to the Library of Congress. But public access was limited and costly until 2004, when the first negatives were scann…