Why Better Preaching Starts With Better Reading

Most people would say that they love a good book, but I fear we’re losing the discipline of reading in our culture today.

In our ever-increasing pace and the all-consuming busyness of our lives, more people are turning to social media blurbs, podcasts and headlines for their information.

Doesn’t it seem like fewer people are willing to invest the time to dive into a good book today?

If you’ve noticed this too, you’re not alone.


A Pew Research Center study in 2018 found that nearly a quarter (24%) of U.S. adults admit to not even partially reading a book in the last year. And yes, that includes audiobooks too!

It’s like we graduate from school, and no longer forced to read, we graduate from reading too.

Don’t fall into the trap of lazy learning. As much as I love podcasts, like YouTube, and tolerate social media, there’s no substitute for solitude and a good book.

Even with the rise in popularity of audiobooks, there’s something about the slow, sometimes hard work of reading a text that works your brain and stimulates your thinking unlike anything else.

While some studies declare that there’s basically no difference between reading and listening to a book, that’s not entirely true.

Most of these studies are based on how well people test in remembering stories, which I hope we can agree should be easier to remember than the information in a textbook.

So I’m more inclined to believe studies such as one 2010 study that found that students who only listened to a podcast recording tested worse than those who read the text.

Listening to something is intellectually stimulating, but the work is done for you. Your mind can drift and the speaker will keep speaking.

Watching something is great. You can learn a lot from visuals, but again, your mind can drift, and the movie continues to roll.

But with reading, you have to focus. You have to understand what you’re reading.

And in those times when your mind drifts and you get to the end of the page without a clue about what you just read, you have the option and obligation to go back, read, and reread it again if that’s what it takes to make sure that you fully understand it.

Reading books today is like going to the gym and putting in the work. Listening to books today is more like going to the gym and someone else does the work for you.

I’m not against a good audiobook or podcast, or whatever. But the point is that you need to read.

Other options are great. I use them and love them. They make good substitutes, but substitutes are never better than the real thing.


Have you ever heard the pastor who tells and retells the same old stories, quotes the same passages of Scripture and preaches the same stale sermons over and over again? Chances are they have poured everything out without putting enough back in.

They’ve become so busy in the storms of ministry that they’ve neglected their duty to be well-read. They need more time in God’s Word (first and foremost), and also the words of others.

Preachers who don’t read are like jars low on water; eventually, they have nothing left to pour out.

If you are preaching every week, how can you expect to pour out thoughtful, stimulating and well-informed messages to your people over and over again if you are not putting anything into yourself?

Great preaching is often the result of great reading. You aren’t the expert on everything, but you can consult the experts on anything.

You don’t have to do all of the original research yourself. Reading allows you to learn from those who have already done the research.

When you read the Bible regularly, your sermons become fresh with the insights that the Holy Spirit has given you.

When you don’t read regularly, you have nothing left to serve.

If that isn’t enough to entice you to make reading more of a priority, there are other benefits too. For example, a Yale study on reading found that the average person who reads books lives 23 months—nearly two years—longer than those who don’t read.

So reading improves your memory, strengthens your preaching and prolongs your life. Not a bad trade for a few moments a day with a good book.

What will you be reading?

Read more from Brandon Hilgemann »

This article originally appeared on ProPreacher.com and is reposted here by permission.

Brandon Hilgemann
Brandon Hilgemannhttp://propreacher.com

Brandon Hilgemann is a pastor, the founder of ProPreacher.com and the author of Preaching Nuts & Bolts: Conquer Sermon Prep, Save Time, and Write Better Messages