Reading and Writing
Over the years I’ve done a lot of it. I can’t count the books, the articles and the various other items that I have composed. I always had a penchant for writing. In my first pastorate, I bought a Miller printing press; in order to bring it inside, I had to partially knock out a wall of the cellar. But in order to serve the church with something like a decent-looking presentation of printed material, it was worth the trouble involved. It beat mimeograph all hollow!
As I reflect on this fondness for print and publishing, I recognize that there is something more involved than mere production of materials that has driven me in this direction. God changed my interests from those of a youth who was caught up in everything else but books, and reading. Before my conversion, I can remember but one book that I read through stem to stern – Lefty of the Big League. ‘Why that?’ you ask. Because it was the only book sitting around on a shelf in my boyhood home. When bored, on rainy days, I read and re-read it. There wasn’t anything else available, but why complain? After all, reading was for boring times, and little else. ‘Well, what about school? Surely, you read there!’ No, in school it was the same. I hated reading assignments. I’d read the table of contents, skim over a chapter or two and write my report, never having read through the material at all.
Then it happened! In my last year of high school, at the age of 15, I was saved. Yeah, I skipped a year-and-a-half (that explains my ‘tender age’ that year). I was saved by reading. A friend, Milton Fisher (together with whom I recently wrote a commentary on Daniel) brought a book (of all things) to a gathering of fellows that used to take place daily around a corner fire plug. It was Emmett Fox’s The Sermon on the Mount. Milt pointed out the many fallacies in this liberal volume as he would read a line and say something like, ‘Listen to this – this guy doesn’t believe the Gospel.’ I shook my head in agreement, but hadn’t the slightest idea about what he meant. But I became fascinated with this word ‘gospel.’ So I dug out a little khaki-coloured New Testament that my father had brought home from WWI. It had been stored away unopened for years on a pantry shelf. Unbeknownst to my unsaved parents, and to my friends, I secreted it in my back pocket and carried it with me everywhere, reading whenever I could find time alone. I’d read it on streetcars when going to school, at home in my room, and at the Arundel Ice Cream store. Finally, after about two months of incessant reading, I understood what the Gospel was and, of greater importance, I believed it. I had been converted by reading – of all things! Following my conversion, I developed an insatiable desire to read. I read the Bible, I learned what Gospel tracts were, and read every one I could get my hand on. I found a Christian bookstore – Trustworthy Books – and saved my money to buy books from it. I came to love rummaging through old secondhand stores in their used book sections, and acquired much of my early library from them. Reading became almost an obsession.
Never one to do things the traditional way, right after high school, I went to seminary. That’s where the pastor of the church I joined after I became a Christian sent all ministerial students (during his ministry Pastor Smoot had forty men from the church enter the ministry). I needed to learn about my new faith – not about the many other subjects that college affords. I went to seminary the fall after I was converted. (How thankful I am for going to seminary before college!) I knew that there was a biblical character that had something to do with an ark, and another with a big fish, but half the time I’d get them confused. So that first year, deep into every night I read and read. I had to catch up with those who could sling around words like eschatology, pneumatology and the like – and understand what they meant by them! Books! Books! They were the answer. And it wasn’t a chore any longer to read them; indeed, it was a pleasure. The Lord had put a great desire into my heart to read. And so read I did – and sixty-some years later I’m still doing it. Reading made my ministry.
So, I suppose it was all that I owed to reading that made me conscious of the importance of writing and publishing materials that would help others as well. At any rate, I published my first book and have been writing and publishing things ever since. Just as reading became a joy, so, too, did writing. So, I want to encourage any of you who are writing that it can become as great a blessing to you as a writer as it is to others whom you may affect for good.
‘What’s wrong with you, Adams? Have you reached your dotage?’ Possibly. But that’s another matter. I’m not merely reminiscing. There is a purpose to all of this: namely, to encourage you – all of you who have anything to offer – to write. Who knows? This may be the beginning of a fruitful writing career for you! You don’t have to be well-known in Christian circles to be able to submit articles to a magazine. If you’re not completely sure about your style or other such matters, leave that to us – we’ll edit your material. Don’t selfishly sit on helpful information that might make a man’s ministry if he should read it. Think about reading – and writing. Has God put a liking for both on your heart? Then, send your manuscript to a magazine – today!
Taken with permission from The Journal of Modern Ministry, Volume 6, Issue 1 (Winter 2009), hitherto edited by Dr. Jay E. Adams, this being the final edition to be edited by him, the new editor being Kevin Backus.
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