3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On Evangelism

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). So every couple of weeks I suggest three books a pastor should read on a given topic, hoping they will serve his ministry. Check out my past suggestions here.

One of my Endeavors for 2014 is to grow in personal evangelism. God appears to use two things to stir my soul in the practice: relationships (people who are faithful to show it) and reads (people who are faithful to teach it). Here are suggestions on profitable works for the pastor’s personal evangelism:

511NcvN64-L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God by JI Packer. A timeless work on a timelessly thorny issue. Packer deals with two common questions related to personal evangelism and the sovereignty of God: “If God is in control of everything, can Christians sit back and not bother to evangelize? Or does active evangelism imply that God is not really sovereign at all?” With typical eloquence Packer gives a biblical “no” to both questions, and ably shows how sovereignty fuels our evangelism.

41xJpDdSNxL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Gospel and Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever. Dever wanted a resource to use in discipline Christians in personal evangelism, so he wrote this book. Clear and cogent, short and substantive, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism will encourage diligence in sharing the good news. His chapters on “Why Don’t We Evangelize?” and “How Should We Evangelize?” are unusually pointed.

9781871676952mThe Soul-Winner: Advice on Effective Evangelism by Spurgeon. By any measure, Spurgeon was one of the most effective and passionate evangelists of all time. The Soul-Winner is a collection of addresses the Prince gave to encourage all who would win souls to Christ. He writes, “Soul-winning is the chief business of the Christian minister; indeed, it should be the main pursuit of every true believer.” Amen. Sit and learn from a master evangelist.


Marks of the Messenger by Mack Stiles. I heard Stiles say once that it’s rare for a day to pass when he doesn’t share the gospel with someone. That’s a man I want to learn from and Marks of the Messenger is his best book to date.

Tell The Truth by Will Metzger. A God-centered and truth-saturated manual for personal evangelism, characteristics that unfortunately are rare in the genre.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On the Church

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). So every couple of weeks I suggest three books a pastor should read on a given topic, hoping they will serve his ministry. Check out my past suggestions here.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to get to the topic of ecclesiology, but rest assured, it isn’t because the matter is of little significance. In actuality, few studies in theology are as vital to a pastor’s ministry as study on the purpose, nature, and mission of Christ’s body. Here are three suggestions for reading on the church:

41qoweUfkEL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Church by Edmund Clowney. This is one of the finest entries in IVP’s fine “Contours of Christian Theology Series.” With biblical sensitivity and theological clarity Clowney gives the pastor a solid footing on which proper ecclesiology can stand. His characterization of the local church as “a colony of heaven” is paradigm shaping for membership, discipline, worship, and discipleship. He writes, “The church is called to serve God in three ways: to service him directly in worship; to serve the saints in nurture; and to serve the world in witness” (117). Helpful and illuminating in all the rights ways.

41M1GJY4WPL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The Glorious Body of Christ by R.B. Kuiper. From 1933-1952 Kuiper was Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary. The final five years of his labor saw him contribute monthly articles to The Presbyterian Guardian on “The Glory of the Christian Church.” The lectures were first printed as one volume by Banner of Truth in 1966 and the book has yet to go out of print; it’s already been reprinted twice in the 21st century. And for good reason. The chapters are, in my estimation, as precise and concise as you will find in any ecclesiological book. I’ve used this book with interns and pastoral candidates and their feedback has universally been, “I wish I had known about this book. It’s so helpful!”

51nxFXnHfBL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Deliberate Church: Building Your Ministry on the Gospel by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander. The Deliberate Church is, for me, one of the finest and most expansive books on practical ecclesiology available today. Divided into three parts (Gathering the Church, When the Church Gathers, and Gathering Elders), the book covers everything from faithful pastoring to membership and discipline to the regulative principle to how a healthy elder meeting is run. Dever views DC as the conclusion to an ecclesiological trilogy that began with 9 Marks of a Healthy Church and PolityThis one is a one-stop shop ot challenge, encourage, and sharpen your ecclesiological convictions.


The Church of Christ: Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 by James Bannerman. Beeke says, “James Bannerman’s ‘The Church of Christ’ is the most extensive, standard, solid, Reformed treatment of the doctrine of the church that has ever been written.” I can’t say it better.

What is the Mission of the Church? Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom, and the Great Commission by Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert. A narrow slice of ecclesiology to be sure, but the subject matter is oh so timely.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On The Trinity

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). So every couple of weeks I suggest three books a pastor should read on a given topic, hoping they will serve his ministry.

Few areas of theology are as simultaneously difficult and useful as that of our Triune God. The difficulty comes from the sheer mystery of it all. The usefulness comes from its far reaching application to the church’s worship and life together. I think we can all agree that studying the Trinity is of utmost importance for a pastor. Such study provides balance in his understanding of the godhead, protects him from theological reductionism (eg. Christomonism), and aids his faithful proclamation of salvation accomplished and applied.

Here then are three suggestions for reading about the deep things of God:

41YuP66JciL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves. I know of no other 130 page book containing the stunning depth and wit as this one. Reeves argues that God as Father must be the starting point in our doctrine of the Trinity and then proceeds to show how this overflows into our view of the Son and Spirit. Delighting in the Trinity offers up biblical and historical sensitivity with an unusual freshness that will cause the soul to explode in doxology. I have had read this book with dozens of men and it has received a surprising amount of unvarnished praise. I don’t hesitate to include it among the best books I’ve ever read.

41tyFre5-oL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship by Robert Letham. For me, Reeves has the best “short-ish” book on the Trinity and Letham has the best “long-ish” one. In over five hundred pages Letham does exactly what the subtitle heralds: evaluate the Trinity in Scripture, history, theology, and worship. Letham’s writing is clear, if weighty – you might find yourself making good use of the glossary. Those savvy with historical theology might quibble with his immediate jump from Calvin into the 20th century, but it would be a small quibble indeed. This heavy read leads to a happy heart.

51HDSDXPK7L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Our Triune God: A Biblical Portrayal of the Trinity by Peter Toon. Our Triune God is a Trinitarian primer is aimed to aimed at the person in the pew. As such, it is rigorously clear, profoundly biblical, and unshakably orthodox. The prose isn’t as lively as Reeves or Sanders, but it’s truth is accessible and satisfying. Toon’s work will help make sure you have a healthy, biblical, and clear formulation of the trees which make up the forest of Trinitarian doctrine.


De Trinitate (On the Trinity) by Augustine. Sure, reading Augustine is akin to a 300lb theological deadlift. But he has a pivotal place in the development of Trinitarian doctrine for a reason.

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred SandersSanders has great fun extolling evangelical Trinitarianism; I bet you’ll have great fun reading it.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On Elders

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). Check back through the archives to see my suggestions on pastoral ministry, preaching, and prayer. Here are my offerings on the topic of elders:

41EHMHxLkAL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Shepherds After My Own Heart: Pastoral Traditions and Leadership in the Bibleby Timothy Laniak. If you aren’t familiar with the “New Studies in Biblical Theology” series edited by Don Carson, this would be a great introduction to a great collection. It can be easy to glean all your understanding of elders from the familiar New Testament texts, but to do so would mean you’d miss out on a treasure trove of truth in the Old Testament. Laniak will help you see the full sweep of shepherding in all of Scripture and make pointed application to contemporary pastoral ministry.

41hsuMz9d6L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church by Timothy Witmer. Witmer’s book, for me, is the undisputed favorite when it comes to the work of an elder. The first part of the book condenses Laniak’s work, but the real value is found in his four-part matrix of shepherding as: knowing, feeding, leading, and protecting. Clearly grounded in Scripture and overflowing in practical wisdom, this book will either encourage or blow up your current shepherding paradigm. And trust me, the encouragement will be sweet and the explosion will be awesome.

41nsAFBy0HL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Finding Faithful Elders and Deacons by Thabiti Anyabwile. In 2 Timothy 2:2 Paul says, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” This work will help current elders obey that command as they identify and train future elders. Thabiti takes each biblical qualification for deacon or elder, defines it, and then offers sound advice for how you can see if that qualification is present in a man’s life. For example, when thinking about the requirement that elders be hospitable Thabiti encourages, “Note those men who seem to make a ministry of greeting everyone at church . . . Note the men who help those in need . . . Does the man open his home? . . . Remember that homes are not the only place to show hospitality . . . Does he accept invitations to hospitality?” I have probably seen more fruit from this book in personal discipling relationships than any other.


Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch. The prose is dry, but the exegesis on all the relevant texts is super helpful.

The Elder and His Work by David Dickson. An older work on elders from a Presbyterian perspective, but this would be quite useful for elder training.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read on Worship

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). I recently suggested three books every time-strapped and budget-strapped pastor should read on pastoral ministry, preaching, and prayer.

In light of my post “Preaching Pastors as Worship Pastors” it seems wise to let the next installment of “3 Books Ever Pastor Should Read” be on the topic of worship.

41anShWMyZL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship. This is a Festschrift in honor of James Montgomery Boice, a man who loved to worship. Eighteen different chapters are offered under four parts: 1) The Bible and Worship, 2) Elements of Biblical Worship, 3) Preparing for Biblical Worship, and 4) Worship, History, and Culture. Lig Duncan’s two chapters alone are worth the price of the book as he answers the question “Does God Care How We Worship?” with clarity and power. He helpfully encapsulates Reformed worship as being simple, biblical, transferable, flexible, and reverent. Other chapters of contemporary importance are Rick Phillips’ work on The Lord’s Supper, Terry Johnson’s discussion on singing the psalms, and Bob Godfrey’s evaluation of worship and the emotions. This book covers an astonishing amount of ground on the topic of worship and every chapter drips with biblical conviction. A most invaluable addition to your library.

41NOBZWpRYL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship by David Peterson. Peterson’s seminal study on worship must be reckoned with. He defines worship as “an engagement with God on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible.” He then moves on to show the nature of worship according to the Old and New testaments. He talks of worship in the New Covenant primarily as service and edification, thus he minimizes – somewhat unfortunately – the worshipful nature of a congregation’s public gatherings. He understands this reality, but in some ways is reacting against the Australian milieu in which he writes. Petersons’ tone is irenic and responsible, I don’t know of another resource that will so ably provide a pastor with the biblical foundation for understanding worship.

41BD8kstwuL._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper. I bought this book thinking it would be a decent addition to the conversation on worship, but oh how I underestimated Cosper! He brings together the best of all that has been published on worship and then puts his Cosper-like curve on the subject. The “One, Two, Three” framework he offers is quite useful: worship has one object and author (God), two contexts (gathered and scattered), and three audiences (God, the church, and the watching world). Every pastor and church member should read chapter nine,”Sing, Sing, Sing,” which offers uncommon wisdom on the topic and rightly challenges Christians to move from being a critic to a participant. An excellent work not to be underestimated.


Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell. The prose is dry and the structure is one of a textbook. Yet, Chapell’s historical sensibility and clear grounding in Scripture will help every pastor examine his church’s liturgy.

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin. The book is directed mostly toward music leaders, but Kauflin’s wisdom is always a joy to hear or read.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On Prayer

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). I recently suggested three books every time-strapped and budget-strapped pastor should read on pastoral ministry and preaching. Here are my offerings on the work of prayer:

51MSDBHfD2L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and His Prayers by D.A. Carson. Carson says, “The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better” (15). One of the foundational steps in knowing God is “spiritual, persistent, biblically minded prayer” (16). To help Christians know their God and pray to their God Carson walks through Paul’s prayers in his epistles. Each chapter provides rich commentary on an individual passage and wonderfully wise application to prayer. The great takeaway from this work is to saturate your prayers with clear, biblical concerns. Carson’s encouragement on pages 34-35 to those who pray publicly is worth the price of the book.

41PMhfBjy+L._SY344_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_BO1,204,203,200_A Method for Prayer: Freedom in the Face of God by Matthew Henry. If Carson convinces you to offer prayers saturated with Scripture, then Henry will show you what Scripture saturated prayer can sound like. Henry’s “method” is adoration, confession, petition, thanksgiving, and intercession. The numerous examples provided on each kind of prayer are excellent tools to sharpen public and private prayer. The Christian Heritage edition of this book includes a discourse on “how to spend each day with God,” where Henry writes, “The life of communion with God, and constant attendance upon him, is a heaven upon earth.”

mbJRr26Uc8VP6l5kIFDEDNgThe Secret Key to Heaven: The Vital Importance of Private Prayer by Thomas BrooksThe Secret Key (originally published as The Privy Key) finds Brooks expounding on Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” From this verse he gathers his main doctrine, “That closet prayer or private prayer is an indispensable duty.” Few books have had such an immediate impact on my life and ministry as this one. It might do the same for you.


The Complete Works of E.M. Bounds on Prayer by E.M. Bounds. This volume contains eight different books from Bounds on the subject of prayer. You need only read “Power Through Prayer” to find your conscience powerfully pricked unto devotion in prayer.

Leading in Prayer: A Workbook for Worship by Hughes Oliphant Old. This is more of a resource on public prayer, but a vital one for any pastor that regularly pray before his congregation.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On Preaching

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). Last week I suggested three books on pastoral ministry that every time-strapped and budget-strapped pastor should read. Here are my offerings for that most essential duty of ministry, preaching:

41aOmdoo-sL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. In 1969 Lloyd-Jones traveled across the pond to deliver a series of lectures on preaching at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, which were published as Preaching and Preachers in 1972. “The Doctor” still has great relevance for preachers more than forty years later. Lloyd-Jones writes from the presupposition that preaching “is the primary task of the Church and the Christian minister.” It’s here that you find the timeless declaration that preaching is, “Logic on fire!” Also, the chief end of preaching “is to give men and women a sense of God and His presence.” You won’t agree with everything the good doctor thinks, but I promise he will make you think about preaching and preachers in a challenging way.

51+9sj57iqL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Between Two Worlds: The Challenges of Preaching Today by John Stott. In this book Stott manages to cover an incredible swath of material. He covers the history of preaching, contemporary challenges to preaching, theological foundations for preaching, and practical considerations for preaching. In other words, there is something for everyone in this book! Of particular help are his chapters on preaching with “Sincerity and Earnestness” and “Courage and Humility.”

41YcnBUV4+L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_Faithful Preaching: Declaring Scripture with Responsibility, Passion, and Authenticity by Tony Merida. This book sure seems to fly under the radar in discussion on preaching resources, but Merida is useful on so many levels. The book is broken down into four parts: 1) Trinitarian Convictions for Expository Preaching, 2) How Busy Pastors Prepare Christ-Exalting Expository Messages, 3) Watching Our Life and Doctrine, & 4) Preaching the Gospel in Our Generation. I enjoy how Merida interacts with relevant sources while remaining accessibly warm in presentation and wise in application. This book will encourage any seasoned preaching in his ministry and give any young preacher sound practices to employ.


The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. The only reason this book isn’t in the top three is it’s brevity; it comes in right around 100 pages. Buy it, read it, and preach the greatness of God.

Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching by Peter Adam. Another lesser known book. You need a strong theology of preaching and this book offers you one.

3 Books Every Pastor Should Read: On Pastoral Ministry

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:

512DYED3F0L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_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.

51utElkT1IL._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_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.

41hsuMz9d6L._SY346_PJlook-inside-v2,TopRight,1,0_SH20_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.