Better to Form Characters than to Compile Volumes

I commented recently on the importance of recognizing the eternal importance of the quiet, weekly work of the local church. In keeping with that theme, I confess that it is easy for me to equate success and significance in service to Christ, not with how faithfully you are praying for and visiting the members of your church and preparing for sermons, but with how many articles and books you have published, and how many people outside your community know your name.

The following is a quote from B.B. Warfield, one of the greatest theologians of his time and a widely-published, widely read author. He is a towering figure on the landscape of church history, a man of whom anyone reviewing the body of work he produced over his lifetime would undoubtedly deem to be “significant.” But here, upon the death of a far lesser-known colleague at Princeton Seminary, preacher-professor George Purves, Warfield graciously points to the eternal significance of his life spent in Gospel ministry.

“Reflecting on the fact that Purves wrote few books, B.B. Warfield commented, ‘We are, perhaps, prone to overestimate the relative importance of books: Litera scripta manet. But the ‘winged word’ of speech moves the world; and it is better, after all, to form characters than to compile volumes.'”

From David Calhoun’s Princeton Seminary Volume Two: The Majestic Testimony (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1996), 186.

From an eternal perspective, it’s more important as a pastor that I spend this morning studying Genesis 2:4-25 for this Sunday’s sermon to 55 or 60 people than it is for me to publish something that will make my name known somewhere across the country. It is more important that I think hard about the order of worship for Sunday, and how I will have a conversation about the Gospel with the person I will be visiting this afternoon that my people may be more conformed to Christ, than it is for me to rise to prominence in the Southern Baptist Convention or the broader Evangelical world. The quiet, week-to-week, face-to-face work of the ministry to real people in a real local church is where real significance in Christ’s Kingdom is found.


About Eric Smith

Sinner saved by the grace of Jesus, husband of Candace, father of Coleman and Crockett, West Tennessean, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church, student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
This entry was posted in Christian Life, Chucrh History, Pastoral Ministry, Preaching and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Better to Form Characters than to Compile Volumes

  1. Wonderful, convicting, encouraging word! Well put!

  2. Eric Smith says:

    Thank you, brother. I love that Warfield quote!

  3. Devin Maddox says:

    BB Warfield, for whom Benjamin Dockery is named.

  4. Eric Smith says:

    Really? Or are you just trying to get me ‘all riled up’ this morning? You know I love those old Princetonians.

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