William S. Plumer On Pastoral Writing -- By: Ryan M. McGraw
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William S. Plumer On Pastoral Writing
In this article, Ryan McGraw uses William Plumer as a paradigm to illustrate the principle he set forth in the previous article.
Most ministers of the gospel could benefit themselves and the church by doing more writing. Many assume that ministers who write are in a higher caste, beyond the province of the common pastor. However, the Southern Presbyterian theologian and pastor, William S. Plumer, set “doing good with the pen” within the scope of pastoral theology.1 All ministers share the same set of gifts and qualifications for their office, yet not all ministers have the same degree of gifting within that office. And yet, all ministers may extend their usefulness and do at least some good through the use of writing, and congregations should allow their pastors to do so as a part of their calling. Plumer sets forth five categories of pastoral writing, to which I shall add two more.
The first category is what Palmer calls “epistolary writing,” or writing letters. “Letters are among the most powerful means of influencing mankind.”2 “Under the guidance of inspiration, the apostles have set us an example of this kind of writing.”3 Plumer referred to John Newton as an excellent example of a man whose letters were not only useful to their original recipients, but to posterity. However, the most useful form of letter writing is that which is highly tailored to
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the addressee and his or her peculiar need. “Letters have one advantage over all else we write. They are always read.”4
This second category, “periodical press,” is equivalent to periodical magazines and theological journals. This audience is broader than mere letters, but is still somewhat limited in scope. Through writing useful articles, the minister extends his ministry beyond his endeavors in the pulpit. Moreover, many articles will easily arise from the minister’s studies for the pulpit. Plumer did not add much detail concerning this form of writing.
“Tracts And Small Books”
The third category Plumer lists is that of tracts and small books. “He who succeeds in writing one good tract has not lived in vain.”5 “There are several living men whose thoughts are before the community in millions of pages, because they have written five, ten,...
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