Saturday, January 06, 2018

On Pastoral Reading

I know many pastors. Some of you don’t read much. Perhaps you don’t read well. Perhaps the busyness of ministry and family inhibits your reading. Perhaps you have little interest in reading beyond what is necessary for sermon preparation and the occasional counseling issue. Others of you read a fair amount. I’ve seen your plans on Facebook. You’re going to read Bavinck this year. You’re going to read Calvin’s Institutes again. Perhaps you’re going to dive into the two-volume Banner of Truth reprint of the works of Jonathan Edwards. Or you’re going to read the collected works of John Piper in sixteen volumes that Crossway recently published. At any rate, you have plans for reading this year.

I would encourage those of you who read little to read more. Spend less time on social media. Maybe listen to fewer podcasts, and replace them with reading time. Spend some time thinking about how you spend your time. Surely time to read can be carved out for even the busiest pastor. Even ten pages of reading a day can get you through Calvin’s Institutes in five months. You can get through Bavinck in less than a year.

Whether you realized it or not, pastoral work is, among other things, reading work. You don’t know everything you need to know to be an effective pastor. You barely begin to lay a foundation for that in seminary. You consult the wisdom of the ages by reading. Take C. S. Lewis’s advice and read old books ( Maybe replace the latest Paul Tripp book with some dipping into Richard Baxter’s The Reformed Pastor. (This is not a hit at Paul Tripp. It’s just an example.) At any rate, read. Improve yourself as a pastor by reading.

Especially, however, read the Bible. It’s relatively easy to read theology and church history and not be particularly rebuked about your sins, or, for that matter, even particularly encouraged about your successes. If you read the Bible, you will regularly be rebuked for your sins. You will wade through Jeremiah and be reminded of your sins and the sins of your church (both local and denominational). But you will also be encouraged; you will be reproved; you will be corrected; you will be trained in righteousness. The more you read the Bible, the better you will know it. The better you know it, the more well-trained you will be in righteousness.

I hear men examined for licensure by presbyteries. It is disappointing to me how poorly most men do on the English Bible exam. That poor performance reflects poor preparation—not so much a lack of cramming before the final, but a lack of regular faithful reading of the Scriptures.

With all your reading this year, discipline yourself to read the Bible—prayerfully, attentively, meditatively. You’ll be pleasantly pleased at the end of the year not only with your own progress in righteousness, but with that of your church as well.


  1. A very good word, brother. Thank you.

  2. Was curious about whether Piper and Baxter were top choices. Seem to be somewhat controversial.