There is much to commend in Peter R. Schemm Jr.’s article, “The Writing Pastor: An Essay on Spiritual Formation” in the recent issue of Themelios, but I especially found this passage thought-provoking:
One practice for learning the ministry of words is the simple act of copying the Scriptures. It is an ancient and personal habit that pastors have employed because of its intrinsic value. It is a way of seeing, hearing, and learning God’s Word. For example, Luther warns that it is not enough to recite a passage of Scripture a few times and think it now mastered: “[Y]ou should meditate, that is, not only in your heart, but also externally, by actually repeating and comparing oral speech and literal words of the book, reading and rereading them with diligent attention and reflection, so that you may see what the Holy Spirit means by them.” He then adds, “His command to write, preach, read, hear, sing, speak, etc., outwardly was not given in vain.”
For Luther the act of writing or copying the Scriptures, along with reading and speaking them, expresses the external Word, apart from which the Spirit does not work within us. The Spirit of God employs the external form of the Word to effect internal change. When it comes to spiritual maturity, then, Luther thinks of these habits that employ the “literal words of the book” as invaluable so much so that he cautions,
“And take care that you do not grow weary or think that you have done enough when you have read, heard, and spoken them once or twice, and that you then have complete understanding. You will never be a particularly good theologian if you do that, for you will be like untimely fruit which falls to the ground before it is half ripe.”
Who among us wants to be “untimely fruit”? The way to maturity and ripeness in pastoral ministry comes through regular habits that keep the very words of Scripture in front of us. Writing and rewriting the “literal words of the book” is one such habit. It is a sacred use of words that fosters the ripening of our ministries in biblical and theological maturity.
I typically cut-and-paste Bible passages from the ESV.to service (which also provides a simple URL-shortener for linking to specific Bible passages), but this is a great argument for taking the time physically to type out every word of Scripture that I’m referencing.
Writing God’s Word is one more way to touch, interact with, and listen to every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It’s worth the time.