Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Wesley on Reading

A few fellow pastors have said to me, "Oh, you must love research!" Although I'm probably being sensitive, this annoys me. I feel like I'm being pigeonholed, and I feel like they're being a little anti-intellectual, as if true pastors care more for people than for books.

You don't have to call it "research," you can just call it reading and thinking. Finding time for reading is maddingly difficult in the parish, but it's a matter of organizing one's time as best as one can (knowing that plans for the day do go awry). Reading is a pretty essential habit to develop, and not only reading but reflecting on the things one reads and putting ideas and reflections together into sermons or, in my case, short study books. In turn, preaching and instruction is done to help people!

Today I found this quote from John Wesley, from a letter written to John Prembroth on August 17, 1760. The quote came from a blog: The blogger's source is an editorial by J.B. Chapman in The Preacher's Magazine (Vol. 6, No. 1, January 1931). I haven't checked the works of Wesley to verify the quote, but I know that Wesley said similar things on other occasions.

"What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety, there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a petty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you in particular."

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