A few months ago, I emailed a bunch of older guys I know involved in Christian ministry. Admittedly, I’m a bit of a book hoarder - I own a bunch of books I haven’t read yet. But I really wanted some focused book recommendations for young preachers and church leaders.
I asked 3 questions.
1/ Apart from God's Word, what books would you recommend first to a young preacher?
2/ What are your all-time favourite books?
3/ What books are 'essential' to your library?
Thankfully, some good guys got back to me. Here are the (selected) results...
For Systematic Theology, I love the four Frame books in the Lordship series. I've got Bavinck and Grudem as well.
For Biblical Theology, my two go-to books are Leithart, A House for my Name, and Jordan, Through New Eyes. Not necessarily for the church bookstall and you won't agree with everything but hugely stimulating.
My favourite book on the Old Testament is Dumbrell, the faith of Israel, which has a useful intro to every Old Testament book.
Robin Weekes – Proclamation Trust
1/ The Priority of Preaching, Christopher Ash - this gets you clear on why preaching is God's timeless means of addressing God's people.
Preaching Christ in All the Scriptures, EP Clowney - we proclaim Him and this book is a great example of how to that from the Old Testament as well as the New Testament.
The Preacher's Portrait, John Stott - a classic
Preaching & Preachers, D Martyn Lloyd-Jones - another classic recently republished
2/ Knowing God, JI Packer - especially the chapter on adoption
Keeping the Heart, John Flavel
Christian Leaders of the 18th C, JC Ryle
Holiness, JC Ryle
The Great Game, Peter Hopkirk
3/ Good commentaries
Some good systematic theology books
Puritan works - especially anything by John Flavel
Rev Dr. Alan Mundan – Assistant Minister, Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle Upon Tyne, and Author
New Bible Dictionary
Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church
Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion
All of Calvin's commentaries (OT and NT)
J C Ryle - Expository Thoughts on the Gospels (seven volumes) - plus all of his published works
J Eaton, Psalms, T and T Clark, 2003 [brilliant!]
W H G Thomas, The Principles of Theology, 1930 (plus later reprints) [On the 39 Articles of Religion]
G J Cuming, A History of Anglican Liturgy, 1969
T Dudley-Smith, John Stott, 2 vols, IVP, 1999, 2001
J Stott, I believe in preaching, 1982
Matt Graham – former UCCF Staff Worker and Oak Hill student
I’m just getting into Bavinck, and really enjoying volume 2 on the doctrine of God. Frame on the Doctrine of God is very helpful (although he takes a different line on some things). Grudem is always a good starting place too.
Goldsworthy on biblical theology is good. He has one called Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics.
The Symphony of Scripture, Mark Strom.
Brothers We Are Not Professionals, John Piper, is challenging (in a good way!).
Calvin's Institutes are always heart warming.
In terms of other old stuff, I have also loved reading some Richard Sibbes.
The various IVP dictionaries are pretty useful in prep for sermons.
Any commentaries by Carson, Moo, Fee, O'Brien are all very helpful.
Luther on Romans, Mounce on the Pastorals, Motyer on Isaiah, Doug Stuart on Exodus.
I have a really useful book on an Introduction to OT prophetic books by Bullock.
Haddon Robinson on expository preaching is very useful.
Tim Lewis – Curate, St John’s Yeovil
One book I've recently found extremely useful is David Cook's 'Teaching Acts' which has a load of stuff near the beginning which is about handling the bible and preaching in general.
Others which I've found useful for preaching (aside from your standard commentaries [BST, Tyndale, PNTC, Focus on the Bible etc.]) have been Warren Wiersbe's series (he's done the whole bible, though I've used Philippians, Nehemiah and Genesis in particular).
At a recent PT conference I went on John Dickson was telling us all we ought to have a decent resource for the history of the first-second century on hand for our preaching.
My all time favourites would include (in no particular order): A Meal with Jesus (Chester); Knowing God (Packer); The Radical Reformission (Driscoll); Surprised by Hope (Wright); Generous Justice (Keller); J. Hudson Taylor (Steer); Embracing the Trinity (Sanders); Romans (Stott).
I find myself going to various books by Driscoll (and some of his buddies) when it comes to the cross/repentance/forgiveness because I think he grasps it very clearly and then is really helpful at applying it to life now.
Carson, Morris and Moo 'An Introduction to the NT' is extremely useful if you're wanting an introduction to the academic issues and background issues - I often read that first.
James Dudley-Smith – Rector, St John’s Yeovil
It’s good to be intentional rather than haphazard, because books are expensive, and take up space, so you don’t want to just buy the things that come to hand.
Carson on Matthew and on John
Kidner on Psalms and Genesis, Ecclesiastes, Ezra and Nehemiah, Proverbs
Davis on OT histories
All BSTs by Stott
Fee on 1 Corinthians
For preparation for preaching, I also find myself using quite regularly:
The NIV exhaustive concordance
Grudem’s Systematic Theology
The NRSV – NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English (an interlinear)
A good study bible for cross-references
New Bible Dictionary
The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (two big volumes)
I have (and occasionally use) the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament in 10 vols, edited by Kittel. This tells you about each Greek word in some detail. The set was given to me by Ian Barclay when he was downsizing!
Nick Howard – Evangelist, New York City
The Christ of the Covenants by O. Palmer Robertson [on how the Bible fits together / biblical theology / God's salvation plan. I'm more grateful to God for this book than any other Christian book]
ESV Study Bible [the Study Bible is a tremendously helpful resource]
A Call to Spiritual Reformation by D. A. Carson [best book I've read on prayer]
The Bondage of the Will by Martin Luther [on the practical outworking of God's sovereignty. The Westminster Press edition (Rupp and Watson eds), which also includes the work by Erasmus that Luther is responding to, is the one to get.]
Calvin's Institutes [get the 2 vol Westminster Press edition (John McNeill ed.)]
Christian Leaders of the Eighteenth Century by J. C. Ryle [they're not to be imitated in every respect e.g. treatment of wives but are hugely inspiring all the same. Should be read with Selina, Countess of Huntingdon by Faith Cook - absolutely superb. Ryle mentions the Countess in almost every chapter.]
The Priority of Preaching by Christopher Ash
Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller [helped me understand myself and the human race a whole lot better]
Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan [the images keep coming back to mind]
Knowing God by J. I. Packer [the chapter on guidance changed my life!]
Evangelicalism Divided by Iain Murray [it is so important to think critically about the (possible) misshapenness of the church of our day (without becoming cynical or bitter). This book - like the Bible - shows how great men can have serious flaws, but it does so with a thoughtful tone and avoids being a point-scoring exercise.]
- Joshua - 2 Kings by Dale Ralph Davis [these commentaries model how to engage with liberal biblical criticism, rather than pretending it's not there]
The Prophecy of Isaiah by Alec Motyer
- The King of God's Kingdom by David Seccombe