I'm a pastor who writes, but I know I'm not alone. In fact, many, many pastors around the world supplement their teaching ministry with a writing ministry. God blessed me with a writing ministry before I assumed the pulpit at Gages Lake Bible Church almost four years ago, but it has only been enhanced as I've now got the perspective of a pastor and increased time in the Word of God.
But not everyone is sure pastors should write books. There are legitimate reasons perhaps. Maybe it takes time away from the ministry (though it doesn't have to). Maybe it confuses the vocational calling (are you a pastor or a writer?). I've had pastors tell me I shouldn't write another book. I've had pastors tell me I shouldn't stop writing.
I'm a bit biased, given my years in publishing prior to the pastorate, but I happen to think writing, in some form or another, is good for every pastor. Here's five reasons why I think pastors should write:
1) You join a long traditional dating back to the early church. You could argue that the first pastors were writers. James, whom many believe was the pastor of the church at Jerusalem, wrote the book of James. Obviously He was under the inspiration of the Spirit of God (and we are, most certainly, not). But perhaps James is a better book for us today because James wrote from the perspective of a pastor. Read Paul's epistles. They echo the heart of a pastor/church planter. And then you just continue the line from the Apostles thru the Church Fathers and to the Reformation and continue on through today. If pastors never wrote anything, our theological libraries would be 90% empty. We'd have no commentaries, no classics, no great works. We'd have no sermon anthologies, no great quotes from men like Spurgeon and Tozer to supplement our preaching. Check the commentaries you frequently use in your study. Yep, most of those guys were pastors. So, yes, I'm glad pastors have always been writers. I'd be stuck if they weren't.
2) You preserve God's work in you beyond your generation. Perhaps you won't be the next Wiersbe or MacArthur or Hughes. Maybe nobody would publish your exegetical thoughts as a commentary. Still, if you organize your writings and work, somebody in the next generation will benefit. It may be the intern whose notes you lend. It could be your grandchildren who will glean gospel truth from your study. You never know how God will use the work He did in you beyond your lifetime. Did Spurgeon know he'd be valuable resource, even in the 21st Century? Did Wesley and Luther and Calvin? Even though you're preaching is not creating something new--you're continuing the line of orthodoxy--you're unique perspective and God's unique shaping of your soul can inspire others in future years to pursue Christ. So write.
3) You inspire others in this generation
Again, not every pastor has the talent or time or desire to write full-length books or articles. But perhaps you might blog or even create a newsletter or something in which you can send short, Scripture-laden thoughts to inspire others. You never know how God may use you to inspire others in your generation. I have to say that I regularly read the blogs of several pastors and their work is valuable to my ministry. These are men who have some years in the ministry. They write with a keen sense of the calling that you can't find outside of pulpit ministry. Men like Ray Pritchard, Brian Croft, Jared Wilson, Paul Tautges, and others are helping this young preacher today. Most of the contributors to valuable content such as The Gospel Coalition or Leadership Journal are active pastors. Some young pastor or ministry leader might read a blog you wrote and find new direction. Some struggling young teen might be led to repentance and faith. Some single mother might find a dose of inspiration to get her through her day. Writing is a way you can use the study and prep you already do for ministry and extend it in such as way as to bless others in the body of Christ.
4) You find better clarity of thought
I find that writing helps me clarify my thoughts. In this way writing helps my preaching and preaching helps my writing. I happen to preach from a full manuscript (though I adlib and self-edit as I deliver). Completing a full manuscript takes extra time and much work every week, but it is rewarding because I feel that my thoughts are well organized before I get into the pulpit. Now that may not work for you, especially if you (unlike me) are good on your feet. However, you may consider doing what guys like Ray Pritchard have done and writing out your full sermon the week after you deliver it.
Getting words on paper really helps clarify your message and your thoughts.
5) You can better communicate with your own people
Let's face it, you can't say all you want to say to your people in a 30-45 minute sermon once a week. There are notes and research and study and application from every text that will stay on the cutting room floor. So something like a blog or newsletter is a way of communicating those ideas as well. Writing is also a great way to express ideas that may not fit into your message, but may be good for the life of your church. So you might consider starting a blog or using social networks like Facebook or Twitter or even creating a church newsletter.
There are a thousand other reasons why I write and why I think it's a good idea for pastors. These were just the five that made the most sense to me.
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). You can find more from Dan at his website DanielDarling.com.