10 Books Every Church Preacher Should Read
I love preaching. Over the past seven years I have spent one week of my holiday preaching, and another listening to preaching. Whenever I travel, I invariably spend the car journeys being inspired by preaching podcasts. I also love reading sermons – many church leaders have turned their sermon series into books and so I lap up as many of those as I can. I also try to read at least one book a year on preaching in order to learn to be more faithful to Scripture and more relevant to our culture. The following are the best books I have read in recent years. I don’t endorse everything they teach, but each one has prompted me to rethink an aspect of my preaching.
If you are a preacher then why not read one of these before you plan your next sermon series? If you’re a member of a congregation, you could even buy your minister one of these as a Christmas present…
1. Preaching with variety, J. Arthurs, Kregel
This is a terrific little book that will challenge preachers to make sure they let the genre of the Bible passage they are preaching on shape the way they preach. Too often we stick a Bible text into our preparation process and out comes a generic three-point sermon that could actually be based on any number of passages. But a sermon on the Psalms should sound and feel different to a sermon on a chapter of Romans. This book will help to inspire more variety in our preaching by paying more attention to Scripture.
2. I believe in preaching, John Stott, Hodder
This is a classic book by veteran Bible teacher Dr John Stott. He presents an apologetic for the place of preaching in the life of the church. With preaching often getting a battering both from inside and outside of the church, it will restore your vision and fire up your confidence.
3. The Power of Speaking God’s Word, Wilbur Ellsworth, Mentor
This was the book that challenged me to be free of scripted notes when preaching. The simple challenge of the book was, “If you can’t remember your sermon – how can you expect anyone else to.” This short book will challenge you to make preaching more meaningful both to you and your audience.
4. Making Sense of God, Tim Keller, Hodder
This is a brand new book from Tim Keller, who is one of my favourite preachers. Keller’s own book on preaching is good, but I have included this book as he models how to unpick the assumptions many sceptics have about the Christian faith. I firmly believe that one of the key roles of preaching is to help equip the church to faithfully witness to the gospel in our increasingly sceptical culture. One of the vital things that preaching must do for our congregations is equip them to speak up for Christ wherever they are. Keller is an excellent model for this and this book will help you to do the same.
5. Lectures to my Students, CH Spurgeon, Banner of Truth
It’s a blast from the past but Spurgeon is often known as the Prince of Preachers and offers some vintage wisdom here. Spurgeon would regularly preach to audiences of more than 6,000 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and this book is warm, challenging and often very funny. He’s also the master of the pithy one-liner. Here are two of my favourites: “Many preachers are at home among books but quite at sea among men,” and “Better abolish pulpits then to appoint men who have no experiential knowledge of what they teach.” It will inspire and challenge you. Enjoy!
6. Almost Christian, Kenda Creasey Dean, OUP
Preachers need to connect with the whole church. The exodus from the church of so many young adults – and the growing number of young adult churches – mean that many of our churches have a missing generation. As millennial Christians are rapidly becoming an endangered species, it is worth investing time in understanding the issues around their engagement with the church. Kenda Creasey Dean’s excellent Almost Christian offers a brilliant snapshot of how young adults are being formed in the faith and the need for a rethink of their spiritual formation. We must reform our preaching if we are going to help equip young people with a real faith that will last a lifetime.
7. Preachers and Preaching, D.M. Lloyd Jones, Hodder
Lloyd Jones’ systematic expository preaching shaped a generation of conservative evangelicals. You might not agree with all he has to say – for example, he was opposed to the recording of sermons because it might encourage people to listen to the word of God in an irreverent way – but you will not fail to be impressed by the sense of gravity and awe he brings to preaching.
8. Thank God It’s Monday / Fruitfulness on the Frontline, Mark Green, SU
The good people at the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity have been helping the church to think about what it means to live for Christ at work. Mark Green’s little book Thank God It’s Monday is a must read for preachers, as too many of us are detached from the ordinary lives of working people and so too often is our preaching. The follow up Fruitfulness on the Frontline takes the ideas one step further and is excellent too.
9. Reaching Out without Dumbing Down, Marva Dawn, Eerdmans
Preaching normally takes place in the context of a worship service and so this challenging book forces us to take a hard look at the extent we have turned our worship services into celebrity-based, pop-cultural froth. This book is as important now as when it was written in the 1990s as some current church-planting trends are in danger of forming an unholy alliance with contemporary culture at the expense of the gospel. This book is not an easy read as Dawn raises some pointed questions that we must face if we are going to be faithful to Scripture and connect with our culture.
10. Setting Hearts on Fire, John Chapman, Matthias Media
Young Timothy was told to do the work of an evangelist and he was also given a solemn commission by Paul to preach the word of God in season and out. Too often evangelistic preaching lacks biblical substance and biblical preaching lacks an evangelistic edge. John Chapman’s challenging book on evangelistic preaching will help us hold these two elements together.
Dr Krish Kandiah is a theologian, author and the founding director of Home for Good. He is also the executive producer of ‘Books for Life’, a new initiative to encourage the church to recapture reading as a spiritual discipline. Find out more at www.booksforlife.uk, and follow him on Twitter @krishk.