Do You Love Books More Than People?


The question, “What are characteristics of good preaching?” can bring many answers: a faithful handling of the Scriptures, relevant real-life applications, a clear communication style, and something that doesn’t put the congregation to sleep.

But how many people would include love for the congregation as one of the characteristics? Peter Adam shares the following in Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching:

“To be servants of the Word it is not enough to love preaching: we have to love people. To love preaching means that we are loving our own actions, that we enjoy the ministry we do. To call it a ministry is a deception, because we are not ministering or serving anyone but ourselves and our sense of achievement. To love effective ministry is not enough, to love success in ministry is not enough, to love achievement in ministry is not enough. We must love people well. Our ministry is a means to an end, and its only value lies in the extent to which it serves the people who hear us. Why else would we call it a ministry?”

Loving others well is easy enough to understand, but harder to put into practice. Loving the needy and hard-to-love people is by definition, well, hard. One helpful way to evaluate your love for people is to compare it with another love, as Adam does, “It is one of the curious features of those who take preaching seriously that they often love books rather than people.”

Zing! Love books over people?

Books may seem preferable because we can control them. They don’t bother us with problems or need special attention. Books are good, but they are a means to which we perform our duty of loving others by feeding our flock God’s Word. How do we know when our love for people is not where it should be? Adam asks pastors four questions:

  1. When you buy the next book, is it because you would love to have the book, or because you love your people and want to use this book to help in your preparation to serve them?
  2. When you pray for your preaching, do you pray that you will preach well, or that the people will hear and receive your ministry and that it will bear fruit in your lives?
  3. Are you praying for yourself or for your people?
  4. Are you praying for your own achievement or for their edification?

Those questions get to the heart of the matter and reveal a misplaced focus that can creep into the life of a minister.

What does a deep love for people look like?

While many things can be said, consider two Scriptural examples:

1.The Apostle Paul.
While we know that Paul loved books (2 Timothy 4:13), his epistles reveal that his love for those he ministered to was deeper and more profound:
• “For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.” 2 Corinthians 2:4
• “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. ” 1 Corinthians 9:19, 22b-23
• “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.” Philippians 2:17
• “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.” 1 Corinthians 16:24

2.The Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospels are peppered with demonstrations of the compassionate heart of Jesus when He saw lepers, widows, and people who are like sheep without a shepherd. His love even extended to those who nailed Him to the cross, as evidenced in His words, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). And of course the greatest action showing Christ’s compassion was hanging on the cross of Calvary, absorbing the wrath of God so we could have the opportunity to become redeemed children of God. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Paul and Jesus loved people. My charge for you is simple: Love people.

Let every action you do in ministry be done to love others for the glory of God. Praise God that you can preach His Word for the transformation of your people. Praise God that you can administrate for the flock God has entrusted you to care for. Praise God that you can set up chairs, vacuum the lobby, and print Sunday morning bulletins that will aide your people in worshiping God.

Like Paul, lovingly pour yourself out for your people. Like Christ, love those undeserving of love. As you make the conscious choice to love others, something strange will happen: you will begin to feel love for people that wasn’t there before. Love is an action, not just an emotion. When we put love into action, the emotions will follow.

As we love others in the Spirit’s power for the glory of God, people will see and experience the love of Christ through us–which is what true ministry is all about.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

All quotations taken from pages 162-164 of Peter Adam’s book Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching.

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Kevin Halloran

Servant of the Word. Husband. Blogs weekly at Anchored in Christ. Content Strategist/Trainer in Latin America with Leadership Resources International.