Books are some of the best friends a pastor can have. How to know which friends to have is quite difficult, for as the inspired Preacher said, “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). In an effort to serve time-strapped and budget-strapped brothers in ministry I am starting a, somewhat weekly, series called, “3 Books Every Pastor Should Read.” Here are my offerings for pastoral ministry:
The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges. For me, this is the best book ever written on pastoral ministry. Bridges’ dates (1794-1869) are too late to label him a Puritan in the historically defined sense of the term, but he is cut from the Puritan cloth in his view of pastoral ministry. The breadth of his work is astonishing as he leaves few stones unturned in relation the pastor and his ministry. Of particular help are his sections on “General Causes of the Want of Success in the Christian Ministry” and “Causes of Ministerial Inefficiency Connected with our Personal Character.” His wisdom on applying Scripture to various cases in pastoral ministry is timeless.
Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. Every Friday afternoon Spurgeon would address the students of his Pastors’ College and this book collects the cream of the crop. In it you’ll find the Prince of Preachers riffing on everything from watchfulness to prayer to preaching to gesturing in sermons. Spurgeon had the rare balance of gravity and levity, and Lectures will challenge any pastor to greater reverence and joy in his ministry.
The Shepherd Leader by Tim Witmer. When P&R published this book in 2010 I doubt the power at be could have known how well it would sell. It was Westminster Bookstore’s top-seller for 2010 (selling 6,000 copies in the first two days of availability) and ended up being P&R’s second most popular book of that year. This tells me that Witmer’s work filled a gap lacking in modern conversations on shepherding. The book is helpfully broken down into three parts, giving valuable teaching the principals and practices of biblical shepherding. His four-part matrix of shepherds “knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting” the sheep is the stuff on which faithful shepherding can grow.
The Cross and Christian Ministry by DA Carson. Kevin DeYoung said this book is destined to become a classic, and I couldn’t agree more.
Brothers We are Not Professionals by John Piper. This is Piper doing what he does best, biblical meditation that causes the soul to search.