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The Pastor as a Writer

Every pastor ought to be writing, even if that is only a daily journal. What you write will outlive what you say. When you put matters of the heart onto paper they get clarified and crystalized. I find it helps me write things down. I am a good public speaker. I preach well. I extemporize well and shoot from the hip well. But charisma will only take you so far. You cannot build eternal values into the lives of believers by making it up as you go. God's people need permanence. They need a compass to guide them. They need you to put your valuable counsel in print.

I am not referring to writing to be published. I'm not talking about you writing a book. I am referring to the valuable discipline of mind and heart to articulate your thoughts and prayers in written form so that it can be readily examined, evaluated and remembered. I began journaling years ago. Every year I buy a half-sheet spiral notebook with collegiate lines (I write small) that will serve me for that year as a place for my daily prayers and thoughts. It is my journal. My wife and I have an agreement that our journals are off limits to each other. They are private thoughts to God and self. They are not meant to be public declarations. Many times I express my deepest struggles, temptations and even my angry moments addressed to God. It is a good discipline. I now have filing cabinet drawers full of 25 years of journals that I can turn back to to see my spiritual journey.

That is one level of writing. It is spontaneous, unedited, raw and most of all FOR MY EYES ONLY.

There is another level of writing that goes beyond the private journal and that is notes for your sermons. I don't mean the outline you may publish in the bulletin for people to follow. I mean addendums to your sermon that enhance, clarify and expand the application. These I call "HANDOUTS" Much of what I have published on my www.PrayerToday.org web site has been the result of those hand out helps given to my church family to help them grow. More than 30 years ago I did my first hand out on the six steps of prayer. Several former parishoners approached me recently to show me that they still have that crude handout in their Bibles and use it every day as their prayer guide. WOW!!! That little hand out will last much longer than the effect of my sermon on prayer.

Since the evolution of the Internet it has become easier to get information into the hands of many people at once at little or no cost. I got into the Internet scene in the early days when CompuServe was about the only e-mail service around, even before AOL. (Back then we paid for each e-mail by the size of the message - wow, we have come a long way!) I believe every church and every pastor ought to have a web page where he can post vital information, inspiration and invitation to the church family and beyond. A for years I posted my audio sermon online using RealMedia, then Mp3's came along and it got even easier. So, since 2006 all of my sermons (the good, the bad, and the ugly) get posted online for the world to enjoy or endure. This is not writing but it is a way to get more miles per gallon for the effort you put into your sermons. Today I get e-mails from missionaries, men serviing in the military overseas, college students who graduated and moved away, families that moved away from our church and even from members from former congregations I served who weekly continue to enjoy my pulpit ministry. That is a wonderful form of communication, not writing, but putting permanence to your hard work in communicating the Gospel of Christ.

Over the past serveral years I have had church people request my sermon outline, quotes, and lists I may have given orally from the pulpit. So I decided that it was time to post MY SERMON NOTES online. Now that is a scary thing to do. My sermon notes are not professional writings and they are not edited (and I make lots of mistakes) and they may not be exactly the outline I follow in a particular sermon. But it gives people a chance to expand on the message preached. You see I prepare a lot more information than I deliver in 40 minutes on a Sunday morning. I always over prepare. My sermon quiver is full of arrows so if the Lord should prompt me to change directions of a message I can do it because my mind has been totally saturated in the subject far beyond what I could deliver in one message. SO, I POST MY NOTES ONLINE along with the Power Point that I use in the sermon. I have had wonderful feedback from this from many different source who appreciate knowing their pastor posts his sources, his study habits, and many other thoughts on the passage being preached.

I am not suggesting that everyone do as I have done. But I want to encourage every pastor to consider writing down important notes and practical applications to their messages. If your message is a message from God then shouldn't it be written down! All of the prophets wrote down their messages. For me it is one way to be sure I "think through" what I am saying and not just shoot from the hip every Sunday. Start small with a periodic insert in the bulletin that gives some practical helps from the sermon you preached. Even a list of God's promises on a half sheet bulletin insert can be tremendously helpful to your people.

In conclusion, I believe every pastor with a word from God ought to write it down. Whoever you are, wherever you are, and to whomever you preach -