In the midst of the ever-changing strategies and methods of church growth “experts” and spiritual gurus, I often find myself captivated with thoughts regarding what I could do better or what new thing we need to try to reach people for Christ. I believe, or at least I hope, that my motives in doing so are in the right place, but I cannot help but wonder how much more beneficial it would be for me to put down the latest book, grab my favorite book, place my elbows on either side of its leather binding, and prayerfully read it without interruption. Now, please do not hear me to be suggesting that there is no place for other books in the life of the pastor. I have a study and an office full of wonderful books that help me. My point is that I just cannot shake the reality that as a pastor I am called to be mastered by a particular book that is totally sufficient to fit me and the members of Christ’s church for the work of ministry. In other words, though other books are helpful, they are still expendable. There is simply no silver bullet or overnight formula for reaching the world for Christ. Books that promise such results are arrogantly presumptuous (James 4:13-17). Coffee shops are great. Good music is wonderful. Assimilation ministries are helpful. However, God’s Word changes lives. There is simply no substitute.
When I look back over my short ministry as a pastoral intern for five years and a senior pastor for seven months, the best times have been when I was spending large portions of time studying and meditating on God’s Word. It impacted the way I prayed. It impacted the way I parented. It impacted the way I preached. It impacted the way I personally discipled others. It impacted the way I pastored. It affected my whole person. Sure, it was not the easiest work. It is much easier to read an uninspired document and dispense with the material that is found to be unacceptable. Yet when you come to the Word of God, this living and active book, you do not stand in judgment over it or shape it, instead, it speaks with divine authority and clarity re-shaping you.
For me, I am coming to realize more and more that the most needful thing for my personal walk with Christ, my marriage, my children, and my calling is to be a servant of the Book.
1 Timothy 4:13-16
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.