Book Recommendations for a Pastor in Training

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.

Shawn,
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.
Rick

Grace Is Life

Today I had a student that I am mentoring who mentioned something I said in one of my classes: “Grace is life”. I had said this as part of my response to a student’s sermon addressing grace, but never defining it in any sort of substantial sense. It seemed taken for granted. I had offered that the preaching student consider “Grace is life”. I only briefly added to this a few comments about that life being the life of God in and for us. Then I moved on with the class. This student in my office, however, wondered just what I meant by it.
Being a dad I’m good at giving far more than someone asks for. 🙂
I opened with clarifying that for me this statement flows from my readings and reflections on the work of Karl Barth. I walked the student through the basic idea of God’s freedom for, to, through, and in (and even against) us. This, for me, is grace. God remains always free in his own self-giving. We find ourselves taken up into this in God’s own self-giving in Jesus the Christ. Here is Man given freely to and for God and to and for creation. Here is God given freely to and for God and to and for creation. And always and forever this freely flowing life of God is given in God’s own love for God and our being taken up into that movement by the Spirit of Jesus.
And then tonight as I sat down to do some evening reading I happened upon this statement by Barth regarding election that seemed related to my discussion with my student:

… in the name and person of Jesus Christ we are called upon to recognize the word of God, the decree of God and the election of God at the beginning of all things, at the beginning of our own being and thinking, at the basis of our faith in the ways and works of God. (CD 2/2 p. 99)

For myself (and I pray for my students as well), I find tremendous help in these ideas for pastoral care and praxis. Grace becomes both the opportunity and possibility of life … and that life is in God’s own life. What do you think?

A Day To Celebrate?

PicnicToday was my final worship service with the congregation I have loved and served for the last decade. And it was exactly the kind of day I wanted to share with my church family: our annual church at the lake.
We sang together, heard testimonies of healings, shared communion (although I accidentally forgot the grape juice at home, so we just used grapes instead 🙂 ), swam, played games, feasted, prayed over each other, and just enjoyed being together. This is the life of the church. Not simply “weekly worship services”, but where the community of believers share life together around the table of communion and celebrate our Great God and Savior who is Himself perfect fellowship: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I love my church family in Karlstad. I love my community.  This is the way I want to remember our life together. Enjoying each other. Laughing and crying. Playing baseball and praying in the Spirit. Singing God’s praises and soaking each other with water balloons (thrown in love, of course). Visiting around the tables filled with food. Celebrating with the cup (or at least grapes) and the bread of remembrance.
This is a day that will be emblazoned on my mind. A day stored in the treasury of my heart. A day for future reflection. A day to celebrate God’s grace and mercy and a family that is bound to one another as the very body of Christ himself.
This is the conclusion of a decade of ministry: life shared with both seasoned saints and the newly regenerated. Sharing life with those who have been in the Faith for nearly 70 years…and others whom I led through the waters of baptism only a few years ago. Children and parents whom I’ve led to Jesus feet. A widow whom I have visited regularly in her sorrows and consolations. Families I have worked to see restored to wholeness. Young adults I’ve watched mature and helped to grow in the Faith in the midst of their many struggles and questions.
It was a day to remember. A day to celebrate…in sorrow for the distance that will separate us…in joy for the things which God has done and will yet do.
Thank you Lord for my many days in Karlstad!

Another Blog Is Born

With all my new-found free-time (read with sarcasm) since graduation…I have started a new blogging venture with several fellow pastors.  The blog is titled: “Blue Chip Pastors” (you’ll have to check out the blog to discover the reason for the name) and it promises to offer pastoral discussions and insight into God’s work in the pastorate being enjoined by those simple enough to believe in the mass-market mentality of the pastoral office that we must practice this holy calling with great care and faithfulness (and not seek “branding” or salesmanship).  I know I’m looking forward to the posting of my fellow bloggers and will hopefully have a lot something to contribute to this important conversation.  You can check it out HERE and don’t forget to add it to your RSS feeder. 🙂