Essential reading for Preachers

I try to read at least one book on preaching a year. I want to continue learning how to stay faithful to the text and continually rethink how best to stay connected to the culture. Here are some of the best books I have read over the years.

1. How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth- Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee

If you have never read a book on understanding the different biblical genres then this is a must-read. Fee and Stuart do a masterful job in helping us to ask the right questions of the right parts of the Bible. This book should be on every Bible students shelf. (there is a follow up volume to this book… but if you can only buy one this is the one to get)

2. Expository Preaching- Principles and Practice, Haddon Robinson, IVP (2001)

My favourite preacher’s favourite book as I was growing up: this book walks you through a method for preparing sermons. Some may find it slightly mechanistic but I challenge you to try it out as it may help you hone skills or add a new perspective to your preparation. You’ll need to supplement this book with others on engaging with culture. Nevertheless its a great book to start with.

3. Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley, Multnomah (2006)

You may wonder where it’s going in the beginning but stick with it. Andy Stanley hammers home a powerful message through a creative parable and then some practical wisdom. A quick read but one that will help you to focus your preaching and inspire you to think of ways to make your message stick in people’s minds and hearts. Andy is a great communicator so it’s a great chance to get the inside track on why he does what he does.

4. Gospel and Kingdom, Graham Goldsworthy, Paternoster

This is a gem of a book. It’s only a 100 or so pages but provides a helpful perspective on the key theme of the kingdom of God throughout the sweep of the Bible. Goldsworthy gives some useful handles on a gospel theme that makes both teaching a christian audience and evangelistic preaching from the Old Testament more faithful to the grand sweep of scripture. (It’s been a while since I have read the book and it was very helpful to me then but I am planning to have a re-read to see to what extent Goldsworthy is able to connect a social justice perspective to his kingdom theology). You can’t buy this book on its own anymore so the trilogy is a good place to try.

5. The IVP Essential Reference CDROM

If there’s only one thing you buy from this list – this is it! This CDROM packs a shelf full of great reference works onto your hard drive which means not only can you save the rainforest you can also save yourself a fortune. Most books you will want to read in print format – but to have some classic reference works available at the click of a mouse is brilliant. The folowing works are a fantastic resource in their own right and well worth buying in print if you are not a fan of computer based resources.

New Bible Dictionary (3rd edition)
New Bible Commentary (3rd edition)
New Dictionary of Theology
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and his Epistles
Old and New Testament background Commentary

What you get is top quality evangelical scholarship in the most user friendly format possible. It costs £100 which is amazing value as most of the books are £35 each in print. Thank you IVP!

6. The Power of Speaking God’s Word, WIlbur Ellsworth, Mentor

This is a very challenging book as Ellsworth argues that we must learn how to preach without any notes at all. I think its worth a read even if you don’t agree. He does have some helpful practical suggestions. Warning: you may never be able to preach or listen to a preacher who uses notes again after reading this book!

7. I believe in Preaching, John Stott, Hodder and Stoughton(1986)

John Stott is a legend in his own lifetime: here is some vintage wisdom for a master of his art. Packed with great nuggets of wisdom, some great stories and some clear biblical principles, this is a must read for all of us who want to teach God’s words. (This book appears to be out of print… but you should be able to find some second hand copies)

8. Preaching and teaching from the Old testament, Walter Kaiser Jnr, Baker(2003)

Many of us find it a lot easier to preach Paul’s letters than any other part of scripture. So what do we do with the difficult Old Testament narratives or the wisdom literature? This book from an Old Testament scholar and preacher challenges us to let the Old Testament speak. Worth a read if like me you need help avoiding all your sermons having the same flavour.

9. Setting hearts on fire, John Chapman, Good Book Company(1999)

There are so few books on evangelistic preaching but here is a work from a man who has spent his lifetime preaching to non-christians. You won’t agree with everything, you may find his approach slightly individualistic annd pietistic, but I challenge you to find a more passionate and more practical book on evangelistic preaching.

10. Michael Quicke, 360 degree leadership-preaching to transform a congregation, Baker,2006

This is my preaching book for this autumn. I have just got it and it looks fascinating. So far I like the line of thought between the connection between leadership and preaching. Some of us are great leaders but not so great preachers, some of us are great preachers but not so good at leading. Here’s someone keen to reconnect the two. I will keep you updated as I haven’t finished the book yet… watch this space.

11. Preaching and Preachers, Martin Lloyd-Jones (Hodder & Stoughton),1998

The Doctor as he was known by his friends and admirers shares his heart with the vision behind his incredibly effective ministry. There are some interesting cultural artefacts here: Lloyd Jones didn’t like the idea of recorded sermons for example. Lloyd Jones also believed preaching to be the highest calling anyone could be called to – which kind of undercuts Paul’s theology of the body. But nevertheless this is an important book to read. Prepare to be challenged!

12. Speaking God’s Words, Peter Adams, (IVP, 1996)

We need to know not just how to preach, but why we preach. Peter Adam provides a relatively user friendly theology of preaching in this work. It’s worth a read as thinking through the theology of preaching helps us to put safeguards on the practice of preaching. Pure pragmatism is not a great model for the preacher – so even if you disagree with this book thinking theologically about preaching is an important discipline to consider.

13. The modern preacher and the ancient text, Sydney Greidanus

This book takes Fee and Stuart’s work on genre to the next level. Griedanus helps us get into the heart of the biblical text and find ways to connect it with our contemporary situation. This is a fascinating book well worth a read.

Check out my top reads for theological students.

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