The first book I read many years ago by Craddock was simply entitled, Preaching. The one portion of the book I remember the most was chapter four: “The Life of Study.” His emphasis on study, not as the means to the end of writing a sermon, but as a way of life out of which sermons grow is a lesson I have never forgotten. He writes,
One of the reasons I think I have learned so much from Craddock over the years is because he did not separate his studious (scholarly) life from his devotional life. All too often that is exactly what clergy do, as if the deeply intellectual ponderments of the faith get in the way of the warm and fuzzy and simple devotional writings that Craddock said offered about nine calories a serving. Craddock’s work reinforced to me that it was OK to to devote myself to study and that scholarly work could and would draw me closer to Jesus Christ, which it has.
The founder of Methodism, John Wesley would have found a kindred spirit in Fred Craddock in reference to the life of study. Although he famously claimed to be a “man of one book,” the Bible, he was also clear on the necessity to read and study other materials as well. To his lay preachers who didn’t like to read saying they only needed the Bible, Wesley advised them to learn to like it or return to their former trade.
Craddock gets at Wesley’s counsel to learn to like reading with some his own direct and honest words:
Let’s look study straight in the face and call it what it is. Study is work, often hard work, and just as often having no immediate fruit in terms of solution to a problem, counsel to a parishioner, or message for next Sunday. Motivation has to be nourished by deep springs because frequently it is not the case that what we have to do can be transformed into what we want to do…. The work is hard, and sometimes accompanied by pain and fear….
One fears to plow through a new volume if there is a chance that a favorite landscape will be bulldozed in the process. One fears discovering a truth which will demand rethinking several views and changing the mind. One fears that somehow the knowledge will somehow negate the pleasures of naïvete.
Fellow preachers, let not our finished sermons each week be the end of our study. Let us all take some advice from our wise teacher Dr. Craddock, and let them grow out of the fertile soil of the life of reading and study.
The life of study will be a blessing to those who preach the gospel… and to those who hear it.