6 books for pastors that have invaluably served me as a steward of God’s people. As a pastor and information junky, I’ve searched far and wide for books that can be helpful to both my heart, life, function and intellect in ministry. It goes without saying that a life in the Word gets you all of that. I can’t tell you how many times after a hard deacon meeting, or a rough counseling session that I’ve gone back to my office and opened up to I Timothy and let Paul and the Holy Spirit counsel me.
However there is also gold to be mined out there that can revolutionize the way you think, feel and function in full time ministry. These six are books I’ve torn through not just once or twice but often as a constant resource and inspiration.
Feel free to add books you think are crucial in the comments.
6. LIFE TOGETHER by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Honestly, I could put just about everything by Bonhoeffer here. He is one of my top three favorite guys. I debated putting his book “Christ the Center” here as a number 7.
Especially when leading a church the issue of cultivating Godly community and a Godly culture of love and honor is always at the forefront of your vision. If it isn’t at the forefront, then you may want to reevaluate your present occupation. Because our job as shepherds is to create a context where the love and compassion of God is not just seen but felt.
Life Together lays out what christian community should look like Biblically. It isn’t a how to book, but gives the broad ethos of what Christian community is. It is absolutely the most essential book on christian community I have ever read.
And yes, I’m aware of my use of hyperbole there. 😉
5. Theology For The Community Of God by Stanley Grenz
Pastors are the theologians of their congregations. If you’re a pastor you don’t need a pep talk in that. The burden to be the theological answer man is evident both in helping people in Bible application and explaining to the elderly that Hymns are not actually canonical.
This book is the simplest yet most complex systematic theology book I’ve ever read. He takes the concepts I love reading about in the works of Moltmann or Baukham and articulates them in a way I can communicate them. Communicating the word of God with integrity whether in the pulpit or in my office to a couple in need is one of the great challenges of this job. Grenz’s book has been invaluable to me in my preparation for specific sermons and in the development of my personal theological constructs.
Other systematic theology books I utilize along with, but not as much as this one, are the volumes by Wayne Grudem and Thomas Oden.
4. Revival by Martin Lloyd-Jones
I love Martin Lloyd Jones. If I were honest, I could also comprise almost this entire list of his works. His “Studies in the Sermon on the Mount” book has completely fallen apart from use in my library. His volumes on Ephesians and Romans are bar none, and his 400 page book on John 17 “The Assurance of our Salvation” is one of my favorites. However this book, as a charismatic/ evangelical pastor, brings together in one place the theme in all of his works: God’s reach to us and how we can respond with a reach back to Him.
This book captures adequately how we respond to Jesus’ invitation in Mark 9 to see a greater level of breakthrough in the supernatural and in our ministries if we are willing to live a lifestyle of prayer. It’s not a requirement. It’s not an earning of a special kind of favor. Its simply accessing the maximum of what is offered to us through the life of Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Honestly I could spend an entire year preaching this book to my congregation and it would be a year of great fruit.
This book is a most own. Must read.
3. The Emotionally Healthy Church by Peter Scazzero
It’s hard to make a “6 must have” list without sounding hyperbolic about each one. But this book in many ways saved my pastoral career. I’m a very good leader, always have been. I’m great at casting vision, building constructs and infrastructure and plugging people into the places they need to be. I’m great at preaching about and contending for the things of God to be manifest in our lives. I’m great at seeing the big picture and seeing where we need to go, what it’s going to take to get us there, and calling those under me to work hard and labor toward the proper end.
However This book made realize one thing: I don’t love people well. Whaa?!? Can a pastor of a church really admit that? Absolutely. Admitting it is what causes us to allow the love of God to teach us to love well. I realized that I had gotten so good at ministry and treating people according to function, that I forgot how to care for people and treat them in ways that will help their hearts grow and be cared for.
Every pastor should read this book. Even if you are great at loving people, it’s about learning how to be healthy in how we spend our time on ministry, healthy in how we treat people, healthy in how we build our churches.
2. Why Revival Tarries By Leonard Ravenhill
I have read this book at least once a year for 11 straight years now. It never ceases to provoke me to lay my life down again for the sake of Christ and the Gospel.
Each chapter is less a work of prose, and more a transcription from the most spiritually provoking and inspiring messages about: prayer, the Word of God and contending to see the fullness of the holy spirit in this life that I have ever heard.
Excerpt: “Can any deny that in the modern church setup the main cause of anxiety is money? Yet that which tries the modern church the most, troubled the New Testament church the least. Our accent is on paying, theirs was on praying. When we have paid, the place is taken; when they had prayed, the place was shaken! In the matter of New Testament, Spirit-inspired, hell-shaking, world-breaking prayer, never has so much been left by so many to so few. For this kind of prayer there is no substitute. We do it- or die!” Enough said. Read it.
1. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
This is a book that I keep at least 10 copies of at all times. Anyone that wants to serve with me in ministry is required to read it. It’s a tiny book, takes about an hour to read depending on the speed in which you read. It is the absolute most valuable book on christian leadership I’ve yet to
find. I have read upwards of 150 books on christian leadership. This book trumps them all with no exaggeration for one reason: The emphasis is on how to serve people like Jesus in the midst of our own broken humanity. He puts the leadership emphasis on Christ to be the source of impact not ourselves. He tells us to resist the temptation to be relevant, so the Jesus remains relevant. He reminds us that we are only conduits for the love of God, and not the focus of ministry. He reminds us to lead people to Christ, not ourselves or our ideas.
Excerpt: “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self. That is the way Jesus came to reveal God’s love. The great message that we have to carry, as ministers of God’s word and followers of Jesus, is that God loves us not because of what we do or accomplish, but because God has created and redeemed us in love and has chosen us to proclaim that love as the true source of all human life.”