What does John Wesley say is important for growing as a preacher and getting better and preparing sermons? Reading.
John Wesley wrote this very powerful critique to John Trembath in 1760:
What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarcely ever knew a preacher read so little. And, perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep: there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with daily meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it: any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life: there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul: give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you; and, in particular, yours, &c.
I do not want to be a trifler! Of course, I wouldn’t have found this letter, and you wouldn’t be reading it now if you did not set aside time for reading :). Even so, John Wesley’s words are a great encouragement (or kick in the pants) to dig deeper in the Word, and words written about the Word.
At the beginning of our Men’s Bible study, we ask each person two questions: How has your reading been this week? How has your prayer life been this week? I have appreciated that encouragement and system of accountability.
What books have given your preaching and/or devotional life some added depth lately?