Many of us who are pastors love what our ministry requires us to do – prayer, preaching, evangelism and pastoring people – but struggle with the challenge of the work involved and the nature of it. Preaching is hard work. Sundays come round with amazing regularity. And we are fallible people working among fallible people, who receive encouragement from many – and face discouragement from others, not all of it deserved.
Personally I find that the longer I go in in ministry (it’s twenty years since ordination this summer) the more I need to read books to keep me inspired and fresh. Some advocate only reading the Bible or books about it, but I read biographies (currently one on Whitefield, and one on Stalin for contrast), history, and classic novels, as well as books expounding the Bible (often the more ancient the author, the better). It all helps us to be nourished by the faith or wisdom of others, to sharpen our skills, or to understand our culture better.
I have several “favourite” books on ministry and preaching, but Charles Spurgeon “Lectures to my Students” is always arresting. I enjoyed this Spurgeon quote last week from Justin Taylor about the vital importance of reading books to our ministry, entitled “Paul was inspired, yet he wanted Timothy to bring him books to read!”
It is probably the nature of pastoral ministry (we’re too busy) that not many great modern books have been written by seasoned pastors passing on their hard-earned wisdom. I’ve read some Paul David Tripp before (a former pastor but not recently in frontline pastoral ministry). Here’s a not-entirely-positive review of his “Dangerous Calling” from just such an experienced minister, Paul Levy. I agree with the reviewer: we need books on ministry that are both realistic and encouraging to those who are in the trenches doing the work.
So what should pastors read? My top five favourites on pastoral ministry (apart from Spurgeon) would be:
The Art of Prophesying – lovely short work on preaching followed by two extended reflections on “The Calling of the Ministry”, by Puritan William Perkins
Preaching and Preachers – D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – preaching on fire!
Ordering your Private World – Gordon MacDonald – written out of the crucible of pastoral ministry
The Contemplative Pastor – Eugene Peterson – rich modern pastoral wisdom
Courageous Leadership – Bill Hybels – a unique pastor, and his best book, IMHO
And, erm, of course – the Bible. I hope that goes without saying.
Other suggestions on preaching and pastoral ministry?