Karl Barth, the famed and influential German theologian, was quoted as saying, “One must do theology with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other.” I suggest that just as Barth stated that theology has a dual quality of biblical and world education, so should our view and execution of leadership. One of the main tools of effective and successful leaders is reading. Preachers have to be readers because preachers are essentially called to be leaders. The role of the preacher is not just to feed but to also lead. The Bible reminds us as people who are called to work in the gospel vineyard to work “with upright heart he tended them, and guided them with skillful hand.” (Psalms 78:72, NRSV) Let’s explore further the importance of reading when it comes to leadership of the preacher.
Reading gives us space and opportunity to expand our personal development. Ministers of the gospel, as all leaders should be, are always in a state of constant evolution. Reading allows for leaders in any capacity to be introduced to different ideologies, concepts, and ideas. This happens outside of the pulpit and can take place with literature that is not necessarily spiritual in nature. I believe versatility and balance is necessary in order for preachers to develop a worldview as well as perspectives based on biblical principles.
Reading expands our knowledge base to sharpen our gift and skill sets. Preaching, like other gifts, is an art. For the preacher, the gift is the ability to preach the gospel effectively. The proper response to receiving the gift is making sure that one develops and hones the gift with which we have been entrusted. Like any good doctor or lawyer, preachers are also called to stay current, relevant, and knowledgeable in the area of their particular expertise.
Reading diversifies our ability to communicate efficaciously. At its core, preaching is about sharing information, inspiration, and instruction. The influence and impact of the preacher is largely dependent on the ability of the preacher to communicate. Reading allows the preacher to be introduced to impactful communication methods. These methods are crucial to lead not only the congregation but church staff and the community as well.
Reading facilitates the pathway that matures our leadership potential. As stated before, preachers have a gift, specifically in the art of preaching. However, there should never be a moment when preachers stop growing in their respective roles. I have heard it said that most good leaders were born as such. I must concede that, I too, have met some great preachers and leaders who make what they do look natural and simple. Yet I later learned that they all said it took hard work to develop what myself and others thought came naturally. A major pathway for this maturation is reading. Reading can move us from potential to performance.
Lastly, reading by the preacher builds the trust of those who we are called to lead. Leadership is about trust and influence. Those who we are called to lead notice when we are growing. They can perceive when our development directly effects their progression, not just individually but also corporately. I say this all of the time, “Preaching grows people; leadership grows churches.” So preacher, get to reading to be the best leader God has called you to be.
Charles Goodman is the pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia.