MY FOUR FAVORITE AND MOST RECOMMENDED BOOKS ON PASTORAL MINISTRY
I’ve been asked by other preachers through the years for any recommendations I might have of books that would help a man be a better preacher and pastor. I find it commendable any time a preacher indicates this kind of desire to improve himself as a minister.
Of course the Bible is the ultimate resource and authority on all thing pertaining to the ministry (as is the case relative to anything else). But, there are other books, aligned with biblical truth, that can be used in a supplementary way, to the great profit of a minister and those to whom he ministers. I am going to mention four of these that have been, for as long as I can remember, at the top of my list of recommendations.
The Minister as Shepherd
By Charles Jefferson
The Minister as Shepherd by Charles Jefferson (1860-1931) is a small book of only around 160 pages that exemplifies the truth that big things often come in small packages. I read it for the first time over forty years ago, shortly after I was called into the ministry. I believe it established some things in my heart and mind about ministry that have stayed with and helped me ever since. I’ve read parts or the whole of it again and again during these many decades, and it continues to stir me up to the great work that God called me to do as a pastor.
On page 136 of one edition of The Minister as Shepherd, Jefferson refers to an inscription that he saw on a solitary grave at the foot of the Apennines Mountains that said, “He was a good man, and a good guide.” These are my sentiments concerning this author. I’ve always been grateful for the sheer providence of God that brought this book to my attention so early-on in my ministry.
The Reformed Pastor
By Richard Baxter
My original copy of The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (1615-1691) in probably the most highlighted, underscored and filled-with-marginal-notations book in my entire personal library of over 5,000 volumes. This book is literally falling apart now, and is held together by a rubber band. Needless to say, I cherish it. Why? Because it has done me so much good for so long. I can't recommend it too highly to others.
Charles W. Eliot (1834-1936) once said, ““Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” Certainly these are my sentiments regarding The Reformed Pastor. No book made a greater impact on me at the commencement of my ministry than this book. It did much to shape my mindset towards, and fundamentally established the course I would follow relative to, the pastoral office. This book has been and remains, a mighty good and valued “friend” to me, and is probably overall, the best book of its kind that I’ve ever read on the ministry.
The Christian Ministry
By Charles Bridges
It isn’t an overstatement on my part to say that The Christian Ministry, by Charles Bridges (1794-1869) has proven an invaluable help to me throughout my ministry. And with no intent to denigrate any course of formal training, I would assert that this book did at least as much to instruct me in and for the ministry as any combination of Bible College or seminary courses probably would or could have.
The Christian Ministry fills in a few gaps relative to ministry not dealt with either at all, or as thoroughly, as the other three books recommended here. An example of this is found in the material covered under Part II, entitled, “General Causes of the Want of Success in the Ministry,” and Part III, entitled, “Causes of Ministerial Inefficiency Connected with Our Personal Character.”
I can't recommend this book enough to preachers. Whether young or old, newly started, or veterans in the pastorate, I find it incomprehensible that any preacher could read this book and not be affected positively and helped immeasurably at a number of different levels in his ministry..
The Preacher: His Life and Work
By John Henry Jowett
The Preacher: His Life and Work, by John Henry Jowett (1864-1923) is fourth from the top on my list of books that I believe should be given priority in the reading of any man who wants to be a better preacher and pastor. It has been, and over the span of four decades continues to be a blessing to me in all the ways that are important to the ministerial success of a pastor.
The first sentence in the Introduction to this book begins with the words, “Jowett was a pastoral preacher.“ John Henry Jowett was not only a pastoral preacher himself, he was also one who knew how to define what this means. He knew how to explain how a man develops as a pastoral preacher, and how, day by day, he demonstrates in his life and his work that he is a genuine pastoral preacher.
What is true of the three books already recommended is true of The Preacher: His Life and Work. It is a truly great book that should be read and reread by all those aspiring to be, and those who already are, serving as pastors. There are very few books like this one in terms of its ability to, and the likelihood that it will, inform and inspire a pastor for his work,
Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) said, “A few books well chosen, and well made use of, will be more profitable to thee than a great confused Alexandrian Library.” I have given a “few” books my highest recommendation here. Obviously, I think these are the very best, and should be read first, but there are others that are well worth any time or money invested in them. Here are a few suggestions listed in the order in which I think they should be read:
Lectures to My Students, Charles Haddon Spurgeon
An All-Round Ministry, Charles Haddon Spurgeon
The Pastor as God’s Minister, Earle G. Griffith
Confident Pastoral Leadership, Howard Sugden and Warren Wiersbe
Preacher Talk, Herschel Hobbs
Shepherding God’s Flock, Jay Adams
Criswell’s Guidebook for Pastors, W. A. Criswell
Pastoral Theology, Patrick Fairbairn
The Pastor-Preacher, Quayle and Wiersbe
The Pastor, His Qualifications and Duties, Hezekiah Harvey
Pastoral Problems, W. B. Riley
By the way, I think that it would be time well invested for non-preacher church members to read some of these books. Why? Because it will help them to understand how much is involved in the work of the ministry. This knowledge will help them to better appreciate the labors of their pastors and to pray for them accordingly. Reading some of this material will also help church members to be more discerning and better able to evaluate men who may be candidates at some time or another to serve them as a pastor.