The Preacher as Writer

 |  January 6, 2017

Should a preacher be a writer?

I hesitate to say “yes,” simply because I do not want to add another burden to a pastor who is already overwhelmed with the demands of ministry. To say that all preachers or pastors should be skilled in the craft of writing risks generalizing the pastoral role without giving sufficient attention to the gifts and limitations of each person’s calling.

But every pastor is a communicator. We traffic in words. We study the Word of God, and we deliver a message from God’s Word to God’s people on a regular basis—primarily in the moment of preaching, but also in the well-timed word at the bedside of someone who is sick, at the altar during a marriage celebration, or at the graveside next to a grieving family.

Not all pastors are writers, but all pastors are communicators, and the preacher who desires to please the Lord should care about excellence in communication.

Where might writing fit into a preacher’s overall mission of communicating God’s truth?

First, a preacher should care about where communication is taking place. The preacher should think like a missionary: where can I go to proclaim the saving grace of Jesus Christ?

Communication is happening everywhere. Yes, the pastor’s focus must be on preaching, but surely there are other places where we can communicate the truth of God. If your congregation is active on Facebook or Twitter or on personal blogs, then the preacher who thinks like a missionary will want to be present in those spheres, offering wisdom and truth from God’s Word wherever people are listening. Writing can extend the preacher’s message from the church to the computer, from the pulpit to the phone.

Secondly, a preacher should care about when communication is taking place. Writing can serve to extend the ministry of a preacher. The entire congregation is rarely present every Sunday morning. Some workers may be volunteering in the nursery; some members may be out sick; others will be on vacation. Delivering central truths from your sermon through writing online or in your church newsletter will help others engage with the truth of God’s Word in different forms. Writing can extend your ministry.

Third, a preacher should care about what communication is taking place. The danger for the preacher who writes is a lack of discipline and focus. In this case, writing no longer extends the ministry, but hinders it. Perhaps it is an overemphasis on certain political issues, or being too vocal online about personal or congregational struggles. Whatever the case, a lack of discipline can detract from the preaching ministry, leading one’s writing to undercut rather than reinforce the message. The “what” of a pastor’s writing should match the “what” of a pastor’s preaching, at least at the foundational level, even if there are some topics you may address in writing that you would not address in a sermon, and vice versa.

Finally, a pastor should care about the how of communication. Writing out a sermon manuscript, even if you don’t preach from it or read it in the pulpit, can help you economize your words and gain clarity in your speech. Writing for online use can help crystallize your thought process.

But make sure the how of your writing doesn’t undercut the what of your message. Write with excellence. Write with the right tone. Find someone who writes better than you who can edit your work or give you honest feedback. Writing is a craft, and it deserves attention.

Many preachers can and should consider writing. As we consider ways to minister in a world that desperately needs the love and truth of Jesus Christ, we should be open to extending our communication of the gospel into the form of writing.


ABOUT: Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources and has served as managing editor of The Gospel Project. Trevin also serves as teaching pastor at Third Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, TN. He regularly contributes to news organizations, including The Washington Post, Christianity Today, and The Gospel Coalition. 

Category: Blog Post

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