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.
Somebody believed in you or at least trusted you enough to give you a ministry in the church. While I cannot remember each pastor I had as a kid (we moved every few years), I can remember the sense of encouragement to serve by being trained and released to do ministry in the church even as a young person. Here are a couple of highlights that I remember (thanks Twyla Kuntz for posting something like this on Facebook):
Age 9 – altar boy (I can’t believe they let me play with fire in church)
Age 12-13 – peewee Bible quiz coach (I can’t believe they let me coach kids)
Age 14-17 – kids church worker with 50 kids (I can’t believe I was brought in for crowd control)
Age 17-20 – youth sponsor and speaker (I can’t believe they let me preach and teach)
So how were you invested in as a young person? Who are you training and supporting as they grow up and follow whatever God would lead them into for life and ministry? Take a chance on a kid. Sure it might seem scary (I mean WHO in their right mind would EVER trust me with fire in a church…and I’m talking about present day, let alone when I was a kid 😉 ). You just never know what God will do in that kid’s life.
Originally posted by me at bluechippastor.org on April 16, 2013
As I was preparing for teaching the Senior Seminar – Ministerial course this semester I spent some time just reading, praying and meditating on Paul’s brief time with the Ephesian elders on his trip to Jerusalem (Acts 20.18-38). I like to jot down thoughts as they come at me and these are some of the pastoral thoughts I see and hear from the apostle that offer a reminder to me of my responsibility in pastoring and my call to pastors-in-training. While they are not intended as either comprehensive (or even necessarily belonging to the intent of the text from Luke) I believe they offer some bit of wisdom in considering this calling. And so I shared these words with my students last night as preparatory for their final ministerial course and the move toward pastoring.
Work with humility for the Lord
Offer your broken and costly service
Preach the Lord Jesus boldly
Be led by the Spirit
Guard yourselves and the flock committed to you – feeding and shepherding them for good and against false teachers
Entrust yourself and the church to God
Do not be greedy, but work hard in order to give
Give yourself to prayer with (and for) the church
Embrace the church as family
I pray that I indeed live up to such a high and holy calling and faithfully fulfill all the Lord has put into my hands to do. May he keep his Church. And may his Church know the fellowship of his sufferings and the joy of his life-giving victory.
Reading a student’s paper tonight, I was struck by a statement Leonard Sweet (always thoughtful and provocative) made about the potential that we (particularly ministerial training institutions) might be training pastors for a ministry that no longer exists…
Reading a student’s paper tonight, I was struck by a statement Leonard Sweet (always thoughtful and provocative) made about the potential that we (particularly ministerial training institutions) might be training pastors for a ministry that no longer exists (found in his forward to Edward H. Hammett’s, “Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture” [Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2002.], p.x).
I have often wondered if we are failing to adequately prepare ministers for the kinds of issues and situations they will face. Perhaps we have landed on certain models of and content in ministerial education that fails to address the needs of our contemporary world.
Some questions in my mind:
Are we properly addressing the issues of healthy sexuality? Singleness and marriage?
Are we considering how the church of tomorrow can and should function to give proper worship to the Lord in contextually relevant ways?
Are we equipping students as disciples to make disciples rather than simply hoping they will be discipled and hoping along the way they might figure out how to disciple others?
Are we encouraging and developing theologically and imaginatively rich ways of “doing church” that are both rooted in the Church historic and universal, but culturally sensitive?
Are we training in ways of communication to further the modes and manner of effective discipleship and evangelism?
We often seem to get locked into one way of conceiving of how things should be done. It can be difficult as well when we who are educators might have served in ministry some years prior to our service as professors. This can at times mean we no longer think creatively or in culturally relevant ways because we are not being pushed to do so by “living in the trenches” of the pastoral vocation. On the other hand, sometimes ministers (and educators) can become consumed with the latest trendy ministry models and tools all the while still failing to effectively evangelize and disciple (themselves and others).
What are your thoughts?