The following is an email reply I sent to one of my students regarding recommendations for books as he prepares for a couple of years from now to enter full-time ministry. I thought others might benefit from this as well.
Take note of syllabi. They often include such works we have found beneficial. While we will include other works there are some listed there that would aid you (depending upon the subject matter and your interest and calling).
Commentaries. I would encourage you to purchase and read several commentaries for each sermon series you do in ministry. There are resources to help in sifting commentaries that may be most beneficial and we’re all willing to make such recommendations as needed.
Preaching. I’d encourage you to just work through one or two (at least) books a year on some aspect of preaching. Find a friend to discuss these with and consider even buying a copy for them. Also, don’t forget to consider how you are applying what you read. 🙂
Theology. Find books on various aspects of theology to read and reflect on. Read classics and older works like Church Fathers who were both pastors and theologians: Tertullian, Augustine, the Cappadocian fathers, Ephrem the Syrian, etc. And read historical theologians like Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, etc…all of whom also had pastoral care in mind. And read contemporaries who do likewise like Eugene Peterson, N. T. Wright, etc.
There are numerous other things you shouldn’t ignore that I’m not listing like missions biographies and theologies, theological/bible dictionaries, high literature (like the classics), popular literature (I’m thinking whether fiction or non-fiction), pastoral care, classic devotional works (like Thomas a Kempis), etc. Read widely. Read well.
Acquire resources that will serve you for the long term rather than consuming only whatever seems fad-ish. And all of these are really things to particularly engage over a lifetime rather than simply to purchase now (you can’t afford it in money or time, but in the long run you will slowly gain what you should). I’d encourage you to engage any given professor you are taking classes from about any specific works they might recommend on that topic beyond the required readings. 🙂
Blessings on the journey.
As I look to the coming years and what the Lord might allow me to do, I like to plan ahead what I might be able to read. The types of things which give direction to my choice of books are the projects I’m currently working on (or interested in potentially working on) and, now that I’ve been teaching, those subjects which I have and will teach. For whatever it is worth, I always welcome reading recommendations (but know that my Amazon wishlists contain somewhere in the vicinity of 300+ titles already 🙂 ). So here are a few of the volumes I will be reading in 2016 to be “discipled” further in several areas. Hermeneutics
Bakhtin, M. M. The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981.
Bartholomew, Craig G. Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2015.
Ricœur, Paul. Interpretation Theory: Discourse and the Surplus of Meaning. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1976.
Ricœur, Paul. Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences: Essays on Language, Action, and Interpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981. Preaching
Alcántara, Jared E. Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015.
Witherup, Doug. Interrobang Preaching: A Renewed Homiletic for the Twenty-First-Century Church. NC: Witherup, 2014. Theology (just for fun)
Diller, Kevin. Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.
Isgrigg, Daniel D. Pilgrimage into Pentecost: The Pneumatological Legacy of Howard M. Ervin. Tulsa, OK: Word & Spirit Press, 2008.
Spencer, Archie J. The Analogy of Faith: The Quest for God’s Speakability. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2015. So what books are you scheduling to read in the next year to develop in specific areas of your life and calling?
I love books! It is no secret. Anyone who knows me knows that I love books. But here is the deal…as much as I love books, when I first began pastoring I told myself I just didn’t have the budget to buy books for preaching, counseling, discipleship, leading, pastoring, imagination-development, literary interest, etc. I bought into the lie that I’ve heard many other pastors embrace. Then one day it dawned on me: This is my life calling! Why would I NOT invest in it. So I’ve made a point since then to build a strong pastoral library (and actually read the books I buy 😉 ).
As I was reading the latest minister’s journal put out by the Assemblies of God I found this brief sidebar a helpful recommendation along the lines of which I’ve already mentioned, so I thought I’d share these “rules” for building a better preaching library…after all…EVERY pastor needs ongoing personal and ministerial development, and every church needs the same of their pastors.
Eight Rules For Building a Preaching Library
Make your preaching library a priority. Readers are leaders. John Wesley said to his preachers, “Read or get out of the ministry.”
Buy books that fit you and your ministry. Know yourself. If you do not have knowledge of biblical languages, do not buy technical commentaries. Buy books that profit you, not books that impress others. Books are tools, not museum pieces.
Read and use the books you buy. Some books will just be acquaintances, while others will become best friends. I have some books I have read one time; I have other books I read and then reread frequently. The latter books are good friends. I know them well.
Lead your church to work your book purchases into the church budget. A good preaching library will take money, but results in your wisdom and preaching (and your members’ growth) is well worth it.
Visit Amazon.com and used bookstores for great prices. I paid 35 cents for a sought-after book at a used book sale that retails new for $36.
Examine your current library. Do not just buy books that fit your favorite hobbyhorse theology. Where do you have holes in your library? Old Testament commentaries? New Testament commentaries? Prophecy? Spiritual warfare? Buy books that fill those holes.
E-mail 10 preacher friends and ask them to suggest the best five books they have read recently. Ask them why that book lit their spiritual fire. Then buy some of those books.
Be reading a book or two constantly. Paul, the older man, told Timothy to come to him and “bring the books.” I know a great preacher who took a briefcase of books with him on his honeymoon. (And yes, he still has a terrific marriage.)
THOMAS LINDBERG, D.Min, Cordova, Tennessee [Enrichment 18:1 (Winter 2013): 71]
I am intentional about purchasing commentaries that fall into a spectrum of categories (technical, pastoral, theological) as I preach through text series (not to mention other Biblical studies resources). I am also intentional to develop theologically (historical, systematic, dogmatic, Pentecostal, ecumenical, etc.). An area in particular that I know myself to be weak in is the trends and more popular writings (I often joke that I only read the books of “dead guys”)…so I’ve been intentional to ask around about what is actually considered “good” [i.e., useful] (by asking a few pastor-friends who keep up on such things and whom I see as trustworthy for such recommendations). I also follow numerous blogs, but doing so only orients me to what is happening in the wider world of literature and not to replace building a library that can be accessed any time in the future as need arises.
So what do you do to develop a library?
Originally published at bluechippastor.org on January 24, 2013.
I picked up a copy of a delightful children’s book at a rummage sale this last weekend: The Holy Spirit in Me by Carolyn Nystrom, illustrated by Wayne A. Hanna (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981).*
This small 30 page book (part of the Children’s Bible Basics) offers just about one of the finest summations of a Biblical (and practical) theology of the Spirit in succinct and simple terms. It is written about the person and work of the Holy Spirit as creator, inspirer of Scripture, anointer of Jesus, seal of sonship, the one Jesus’ baptizes his followers in, charismatic endower, indwelling keeper, sanctifier, helper, empowerer for witness to Jesus, reminder of what Jesus has done and said, enabler to love others, advocate in prayer, and producer of the life of God in us.
One example page states:
Ever since the day the Holy Spirit filled that room where people waited, He lives inside each person who believes in Jesus. He is God living in me. He will never leave me, and I will never leave him.
I was pleasantly surprised by this little book and think it a great introduction to small children on the role of the Spirit in the world and in their lives.
* The cover used is from the 1993 update that used Eira B. Reeves as illustrator.
I failed to post the update last week, but I read two books for weeks 4-5 of the Bookshelf Challenge. One is on the shelf, the other is only a digital copy so it could not be added to the shelf for the picture. 🙂
Sam Storms, Convergence: Spiritual Journeys of a Charismatic Calvinist (Kansas City, MO: Enjoying God Ministries, 2005). paperback (see my post about receiving it HERE)
Tremper Longman, III, Old Testament Commentary Survey (5th Ed.; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013). Logos digital edition. (see my review of this volume HERE)
Storms offers a fine testimony of his journey as a Calvinist theologian to understanding, appreciating and participating the continuation of the charismata of the Spirit. In the second half (after his story is told), he offers a number of theological issues worth consideration by both those self-describing as Calvinists and those self-describing as Charismatics (with the understanding that most often each group may in fact look with disdain upon the other). Overall this is a decent volume worth reading to begin the conversation toward a greater appreciation of the catholicity of the Church. Thanks again to my sister, Holly, for sending this volume to me for my birthday last year. I have been slowly reading it in a somewhat devotional manner (as opposed to many of the books I read).
Longman’s latest update to his review of Old Testament commentaries is always welcome. He offers his own rankings of various commentary series, specific volumes and authors. It is an incredibly helpful tool for pastors, Bible college, and seminary students as they work to build up a reference library of commentaries on various books of the OT. It was with great appreciation that Logos sent me a complimentary copy to review.
Sadly, I only added a single volume this last week.
Andy Stanley and Lane Jones, Communicating for a Change (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2006).
Stanley and Jones have done a wonderful job of communicating the need to be on point about preaching. This is an easy read and very practical for working toward owning your sermon as your own and being able to share it in a way that is both memorable and applicable.
I recently bought the blue-ray edition of Ben-Hur (1959) and we had a family movie night last night enjoying it. One thing, however, kept coming up. Cambria (8) kept commenting how badly she wanted to see Jesus’ face. If you have ever watched the film you will know that you NEVER directly see his face (or hear his voice).
We watch as shepherds and wise men arrive, but we never quite get a glimpse of the baby Jesus. We see him from a distance walking the countryside of Galilee. We hear about him from a neighbor that is bothered enough to confront Joseph about his son not working sufficiently as a carpenter. We get a peek from over his shoulder as he gives a drink of water to the recently enslaved Judah ben Hur and then face down a Roman centurion. We hear some of his teachings, acts and sayings in the mouths of others. We follow behind him on a hillside while thousands wait upon him attentively. He is hidden behind a Roman cross as he traverses the Via Dolorosa and as Judah takes opportunity to try to assist Jesus in carrying the cross. We even scan the onlooking crowds from behind him as he hangs on the cross and Judah looks on. Even his last words are only heard in the voice of Judah ben Hur. Not a glimpse of his face and no sound of his voice.
This seemed to particularly disturb Cambria (though my other children were also bothered). She wanted to “see” (and hear) Jesus. But that is not the story of Ben-Hur. It is entirely an oblique story of Jesus. One in which a faithful affluent Jew suffers the evils of empire and broken friendship, is miraculously preserved and restored, only to discover life is more than all of this. Life is found in the man he encounters only obliquely, yet who transforms his entire world. And this is our story. We do not (yet) see him or hear his voice directly. Now, we see in part and hear in part. We hear his voice in the voice of others. We see him only in passing even as we seek the more intently to gaze on him. We see his hands at work, we see the lives of others changed. We hear his words repeated by others. But we do not yet see him face to face.
And so it is with this wonderful classic film adaptation of Lew Wallace‘s novel which is rather fittingly subtitled “A Tale of the Christ” because ultimately the story of Ben-Hur is not really about him, but about Jesus.
And, from my perspective, this is the way our stories of redemption flow. Until that day when we will know him fully even as he knows us…
So here it is. I’m doing a “bookshelf challenge” for 2014. This means I will be doing a weekly photo update blog post where I intend to BRIEFLY comment on the books I’ve finished reading that week and including the updated photo of the bookshelf. I’ve only got three empty shelves to begin with (hopefully that suffices, but the one above can be used in a pinch 😉 ).
To my wife’s delight it will not be filled by simply buying more books, but by reading some that I already own that I haven’t read yet (not to say it won’t include newly purchased volumes…which it will 🙂 ). Happy reading all!
So I thought I’d share my Christmas break reading list:
Thesis Reading: God the Spirit by Michael Welker God’s Indwelling Presence by James Hamilton The Spirit of Life by Jürgen Moltmann
Lecture Prep: Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy Pentecostal Commentary on 1-3 John by Chris Thomas
Fun: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster Augustine the Mentor by Edward Smither
So what are you reading this holiday season?