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.

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.

Invest in Your Library

booksI 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

  1. Make your preaching library a priority. Readers are leaders. John Wesley said to his preachers, “Read or get out of the ministry.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Visit 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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? library
Originally published at on January 24, 2013.