Borrowing Brains: Favorite Ministry Books

So much to read, so little time. Which makes recommendations so helpful. So, what are the books (say 2-4) that have most affected your understanding of ministry? What was so good about them? What lasting influence have they had on your ministry?

(I’m thinking of books that address philosophy of ministry, or preaching, or evangelism, or shepherding, or the like. I’ll be asking for favorite Christian devotional books, Christian biographies, books on worship, and even straight fiction as well, in time. Just so you know.)

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27 Responses

  1. St. Paul, First Timothy. I know it sounds corny, but seriously. Paul’s first Epistle to Timothy forever etched in my mind the importance of the church in this age, the necessity of godly living backing up sound doctrine, and the centrality of the ministry of the Word and Christian doctrine in the church.

    John Gill, Body of Practical Divinity. Solidified for me the importance of following the Scriptures in Christian ministry.

    9marks.org. It is good to have an organization in our age reminding us of the importance of good polity and church government. (I never finished reading The Nine Marks of a Healthy Church; I didn’t like how popular it was in its approach.)

  2. The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges is the best by far that I have read.

    His opening paragraph is a classic in itself, “The Church is the mirror, that reflects the whole effulgence of the Divine character. It is the grand scene, in which the perfections of Jehovah are displayed to the universe….”

    There other quote that has stayed with me is this one, found in a footnote on page 190:

    “We may add, that so powerful is the influence of the Pulpit upon the Church, that the general state of the Church at any given period may be correctly estimated by the prevalent style of preaching.”

  3. Oh, and I should add Amusing Ourselves to Death, which convinced me that media communicate in certain ways.

  4. “The Spiritual Leader” by Paul Chappell. It has strong biblical content and advice on leadership. It strives to not only develop the leader but encourages you to develop others. I also like Jim Berg’s two books “Changed into his Image” and “Created for his Glory”. But those are much more for spiritual perspective, not as much for ministry. A good one for folks who are feeling called into ministry, but not necessarily pastors is “Gifted to Serve” by Paul Kingsbury. It goes through Romans 12 and outlines biblical evidence for a person’s individual spiritual gifts. “The Spiritual Leader” is available through Striving Together Publications or West Coast Baptist College. “Gifted to Serve” is available through Reformers Unanimous International or reformu.com.

  5. “The Deliberate Church” by Mark Dever was very thought-provoking and revolutionary in my thinking regarding ministry. I still refer to it often.

    Also, Dever’s “The Gospel and Personal Evangelism” is highly Gospel-saturated. It is a refreshing contrast to the “get them saved” approach that is commonly espoused.

    “On Being a Pastor” by Derek Prime and Alistair Begg is a great 310-page, in-depth, highly helpful book about the pastoral ministry. They cover issues of counseling, shepherding, studying, the pastor’s devotional life, his family life, etc.

    “Pastoral Ministry” by John MacArthur and various faculty members of Master’s Seminary provides a wealth of provocative material. The Gospel-centered emphasis of it impacted me and my ministry philosophy.

  6. Charles Bridges The Christian Ministry is a well that one can keep returning to year after year. I sometimes just open randomly to a page and begin reading. His section on preaching is classic.

    Pastoral Theology: The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office by Thomas Murphy. Very wordy at times, but another one that never fails to provoke me to more good works.

    Those are two on my list.

  7. As far as preaching goes I would give these 4:

    Christ-Centered Preaching (Bryan Chapell)–not only reminds us to keep Jesus the center of every message but practically shows how to do that.

    Spirit-Empowered Preaching (Art Azurdia)–much like Christ-Centered Preaching but Azurdia focuses on the necessity of the Spirit.

    The Supremacy of God in Preaching (John Piper)–reminds me that God is supreme in the act of preaching.

    Preacing to a Post-Everything World (Zack Eswine) if you read Christ-Centered Preaching this is a great follow up. In fact you almost have to read this with Christ-Centered Preaching.

    So many more that I could suggest but I think these have shaped my preaching more than any other books (except biographies and obviously the Bible).

  8. +1 on Bridges’ Christian Ministry

    Also, Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals and The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.

  9. The first book that comes to mind (without thinking twice) is The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter. This book ought to be required reading for first year “preacher boys.” I keep several copies of this book to give to visiting preachers / pastors.

    Here is a short list of other books that were most influential to my ministry (in no order of importance): Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders; Desiring God by John Piper; The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards; The Calvary Road by Roy Hession; The Preacher’s Task and the Stone of Stumbling by D. T. Niles; Reclaiming Authentic Fundamentalism by Doug McLachlan.

  10. D. E. Hoste, “If I Am to Lead” for his insistence that humility is at the middle of all genuine ministry as well as his emphasis on the importance of waiting on God.

  11. DM Lloyd-Jones, Preaching & Preachers as well as The Ministry as Shepherd by Charles Jefferson. Both were on Dr. Minnick’s top five pastoral recommendations. I have the other three and have yet to get to them. the Christian Ministry was a third. While the newer guys have good things to say, one should not neglect the older, proven men who were not cumbered down with the modern technologies to infiltrate their thinking. Okay, I said too much there. Happy reading!

  12. I would also add Stott’s The Preacher’s Portrait and Michael Barrett The Beauty of Holiness.

  13. I have found a recently published book to be very good: The Trellis and the Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. It is published by Matthias Media. I highly recommend it. It is great at getting us to focus on speaking the Word to one another and teaching our people to do so.

    The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever is very good and focusing on how to run a church theologically and philosophically, rather than pragmatically.

    In the area of Evangelism, Will Metzger’s Tell the Truth is a very good book. On the more practical aspect of evangelism I would also recommend Mark Dever’s: The Gospel and Personal Evangelism.

    T. J. Klapperich

  14. Very, very helpful, all. Thank you. Keep your thoughts or reactions on others’ recommendations coming. A few reflections (with links to MTC discussions, when applicable):

    * Ryan, your “duh-ism” about 1 Timothy is actually a necessary reminder. Thank you.

    * I’ve found the 9Marks books to be tremendously helpful on an overarching philosophy of ministry, especially focused on biblical essentials (expository preaching, discipline, etc.) vs. strategies. They’re great to read through with your leadership team.

    * I’ve not read Hull’s Disciple Making Pastor for a long time, but it was very instrumental in my Eph 4:11-12 view of the pastor as “equipper” vs. “doer.” It is seen in our perpetual emphasis on “Every Member Ministry” at TCBC. Along those lines, I enjoyed The Trellis and the Vine and don’t doubt that it’s the better of the two.

    On that topic, Bixby’s recent post on the pastor as member is excellent.

    * Speaking of leadership teams, Strauch’s two books on the Elder and the Deacon are both very helpful. David Dickson’s older manual for elders is also helpful…in a very convicting way.

    * As I recently posted, Piper’s God Is the Gospel has influenced by preaching, evangelism, and discipleship more than any other. I think it’s the best, most “boiled down” book by Piper.

    What is painfully obvious to me (both from this and from a look at my reading list for the last several years) is that I have relied heavily (almost exclusively) on modern authors. I very much need to amend that in my future reading. :-p Starting with Bridges, eh?

    (Note: I’ll add a post about books that focus on worship, so we’ll keep those separate.)

  15. Another: it probably goes without saying that Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students (when not addressing vocal techniques) is among the most helpful books regarding the call to ministry, pastoral discouragement, etc.

  16. Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders

  17. Yeah, I thought about Lectures but left it off. I think I read his positive affirmation of spiritualizing texts just a little too recently.

    I looked up one of his sermons Saturday in sermon prep because I thought I was picking up on a gospel-related biblical-theological strategy in a narrative. Figured if anyone had preached it before, it would have been Spurgeon. He hadn’t, but true to form was much further afield in his handling of the text.

  18. Definitely stronger on things like call and personal piety than on authorial intent. :)

  19. Oops. One more. Can’t resist.

    Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome will be, well, liberating, especially if you grew up in a setting with a misguided view of what faithful ministry looks like.

  20. One more I’ll add to the already excellent list of suggestions is “the New Reformation: Returning the Ministry to the People of God” by Greg Ogden. If you combine this with Bill Hull’s work, you will essentially find “The Trellis and the Vine.” I seem to remember Ogden being the first to use the term “organic” church vs. “institutional.” I found it to be foundational to my view of ministry back in my bi-vocational country church days.

  21. Here are five suggestions
    http://www.sharefaithblog.com/2010/07/books-pastor-read/

    I’m seconding The Trellis and the Vine talk.

  22. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul Tripp. Very helpful in the realm of counselling with a focus on getting to the heart of the matter.

  23. Trellis and Vine available in a great sale here.

  24. [...] P.S. I am aware that Chris Anderson at My Two Cents has asked a somewhat similar question in a recent post [...]

  25. Preaching and Preachers – Martyn Lloyd Jones
    Explore the Book – J. Sidlow Baxter
    Genesis and Romans – J. Montgomery Boice
    Dictionary of Theological Terms – Alan Cairns

  26. The Reformed Pastor. I’m surprised that hasn’t been brought up yet. Also, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by Packer really puts things in perspective. Re: 9Marks, don’t overlook the book on Evangelism. It’s small and a quick read but it packs a powerful punch!

  27. Though mega-churches are all the rage right now in America, the vast majority of churches remain small. Many of those small churches cannot afford to fully fund their pastors. This requires those pastors to have a second job. How does a man… work a job, lead a church and care for his family without having a heart attack by age 30? Having dealt with this issue for 17 years, I’ve written a book on how to develop leadership teams in a bivocational church. Buy a copy at the link below and show it at the workshop.

    http://www.crossbooks.com/BookStore/BookStoreBookDetails.aspx?bookid=58188

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