5. Begin a chronological list of every Bible message you teach or preach, noting text (or topic), date, place, occasion and attendance (estimate this latter figure). Again, this can be kept manually or on computer (but be sure and regularly back up and keep a copy remotely if you do). This list is valuable for a number of reasons—it will keep you from giving the same message to the same audience (I’ve done that before!); negatively, it will show you what subjects you have neglected to teach or preach. I did not start to keep such a list until the early 1990s when I began going to Romania (there it proved essential, since I speak so often in so many places—in some places just once, in others hundreds of times). Your list can also be consulted when you are looking for a message topic or text—in the nature of the case, I taught the same lesson to jail inmates about once every 7-8 months when I was active in that ministry, since there was constant turnover in the jail, and many Biblical passages are ideally suited for such an audience. When I was preparing for a Bible study at the jail and was stuck for a text or topic, consulting my list brought ideas immediately to mind.
And keep on file a copy of every outline you prepare, though I will admit to having trouble deciding how to file them—in Biblical order by text? In chronological order by date? In logical order by topic? A copy under each of these orders? Because I often have trouble deciding, many of my hardcopy outlines are conserved in a jumbled stack several inches thick.
6. Read well-selected periodicals. I receive about 8-10 periodicals (some monthly, some bimonthly, some quarterly), some I read all through, others just what interests me. Among those I read are The Biblical Evangelist edited by Robert Sumner; Acts & Facts from the Institute of Creation Research; Answers from Answers in Genesis; Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society; Biblical Archaeology Review; and a small handful of others. Let me also recommend to you “As I See It” which I edit and publish myself. It is impossible to read anything more than a small fraction of the flood of periodic literature, but reading from it selectively will help you keep current with trends and news, etc. By the way, I don’t read the daily newspaper, partly because its news is mostly stale, and I don’t like the leftist political slant of the local paper (I get most of my news electronically—television, radio, Internet). The newspaper can also be quite time-consuming. (G. Campbell Morgan never read the newspaper in the morning—he reserved that time for his ministry studies.)
7. Prepare a plan of what you currently think you want to do ministry-wise for the next 5, 10, 20 and 50 years (such schemes are always subject to revision and mid-course changes). And then write out the means necessary to reach these goals. Having specific aims, goals, or direction always motivates me to try just a bit harder and achieve a bit more.
8. Make it a fixed purpose in your heart that you will study and learn as opportunity presents itself (or as you make your own opportunity) Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin, plus one or two modern foreign languages (Spanish and German are both good, as would be French or Italian or Romanian—the list is endless!). Knowledge of languages, besides facilitating Bible study, will greatly improve your knowledge and mastery of English, and enhance your writing and speaking style. The older I get, the more I value my knowledge of foreign languages, and the more I see the need to expand it yet more.
9. Begin writing regularly—topical studies, technical research papers, devotional articles, etc. Then go back and revise, correct, improve, etc. (and keep a list of all your writings that get published). At first, you might find it beneficial to imitate the style of one or more good writers, as you develop your own style. The spoken word is ephemeral at best; the written word is more permanent. “The writing that men do lives after them.”
10. Keep a daily and an annual list of your Bible reading—I do this on a pocket calendar. In my case, I record any chapters completed, and the language read in (last year I read more of the Bible in Spanish, and Romanian than in English, and almost as much in German). At the end of the year, I compile the numbers and examine them. This will help you evaluate your Bible reading. Again, reading intensively (closely and carefully) is better than merely reading extensively (much, but not with attention). Not uncommonly, I may read the same Bible chapter four times in a single day, in as many different languages. This compels close attention, and yields a fuller understanding than a single reading, or even multiple readings, in English alone. It would also be worth your while over a period of years to read in their entirety four or five of the best English versions—NIV, NASB, ESV, HCSB, etc.—regardless of what version you regularly read from.
11. Begin a topical filing system for the collection of clippings, articles, etc. on topics that are likely to come up in your ministry or that interest you, and make a separate folder for each topic (my filing system, in some disarray, probably has 500-800 separate folders, maybe more, in half a dozen filing cabinets. I’ve been needing to up-date it, purge it of some extraneous stuff, and reorganize it, but how much fun would that be?).
12. Become “expert” in one or more areas that interest you—I myself have an above-average knowledge of Spurgeon, Baptist history, Bible versions, textual criticism, the American Civil War, Scientific creationism and apologetics, trees and grasses, agriculture and gardening, linguistics and Samuel Johnson. I have read and continue to read extensively in these areas. (On the other hand, I know next to nothing about counseling, church growth techniques, church administration, Oriental history and culture, oceanography, etc.)
In all of these suggestions, there is the common thread of progress in usefulness, growth in knowledge, efficiency in ministry, and avoiding that deadly sin of stagnation. This isn’t all the advice I have to give, but it is a start.
Doug Kutilek is the editor of www.kjvonly.org, a website dedicated to exposing and refuting the many errors of KJVOism and has been researching and writing in the area of Bible texts and versions for more than 35 years. He has a B.A. in Bible from Baptist Bible College (Springfield, Mo.), an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Hebrew Union College (Cincinnati; and completed all requirements for a Ph.D. except the dissertation); and a Th.M. in Bible exposition from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, Minn.). His writings have appeared in numerous publications including The Biblical Evangelist, The Baptist Bible Tribune, The Baptist Preacher’s Journal, Frontline, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and The Wichita Eagle. The father of four grown children and four granddaughters, he resides with his wife Naomi near Wichita, Kansas.