Danny Akin has put together an expanded and updated list of books for building your theological library. This thing is a beast at 47 pages long, but we are all indebted to Dr. Akin for his diligence in this. I appreciate the quote below from his website.
Books are to the minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ what tools are to the carpenter: the essentials of the trade. A call to ministry is a call to preparation, and the building of a ministry library is a must, not an option.
Pastors, make use of this tool from Dr. Akin to build your own toolbox for ministry. In addition to this, I’ve found two great companions helpful in selecting commentaries for my preaching. D.A. Carson’s New Testament Commentary Survey and Tremper Longman’s Old Testament Commentary Survey.
If this still isn’t enough, here is a pdf from the Masters College on building a solid theological library, and here is a suggested list of the first 500 books for Bible Expositors.
But, then again, maybe you are reading this as a lay person or Bible study leader just looking for the basics. Mark Driscoll has a great list here that you may find beneficial.
I am preaching through the book of Daniel right now and have collected several commentaries and resources that I have found useful through this process. The list below can serve as a resource for any of you looking to study this book of OT prophecy. Some of you may also have some other resources you would recommend, please feel free to do so. I have given the star rating from Tremper Longman for those titles that he has rated in his excellent resource for purchasing commentaries, Old Testament Commentary Survey.
- Daniel in the Word Biblical Commentary***. This commentary is technical in many places, but very detailed and expansive for close and careful exposition. Problematic are his very liberal perspectives in places, especially his contention that Chapters 1-6 are fictitious.
- Daniel, in The Preachers Commentary****. This volume is written by Sinclair Ferguson, a great pastor, theologian, and preacher. His pastoral heart comes out in this book comprised primarily of sermons on Daniel.
- Daniel, in the Geneva Series***. Edward J. Young has written this classic commentary on the book that has proven to be invaluable to me in this series.
- Daniel, in the Reformed Expository Commentary. This book is a collection of sermons by Iain M. Duguid, but it has been very helpful in making applications during my sermon prep. This volume is very readable.
Daniel, in the Tyndale OT Commentaries
****. This volume by Joyce Baldwin, like all of the Tyndale commentaries, is concise and to the point, but very beneficial. The background information in the introduction is very helpful.
The Lord is King: The Message of Daniel
****in the Bible Speaks Today series. Ronald Wallace has given us a strong and conservative look at Daniel that takes the prophecies of the book at face value and holds to a traditional dating for the book.
- Daniel in the NIV Application Commentaries. This volume by Tremper Longman fits well in the NIVAC series. It is evangelical, approachable and applicable. If you can only have 2 or 3 Daniel Commentaries, this should be one of them.
- The Handwriting on the Wall by David Jeremiah. Dr. Jeremiah’s book is simple and approachable, but gives another look at Daniel from a very pastoral and relatively popular perspective.
- Naming the Elephant, by James Sire. I throw this in only because it is a book on worldview and in the book of Daniel we see worldviews clashing constantly. I’ve found this book very helpful in sermon prep for this series.
On this site, we have often lauded the values of reading and books. In fact, in my own life, I would definitely consider books and reading to be one of my great and favorite pastimes. With summer comes time for many of us to dig in and read on vacation and at other times. In fact, Al Mohler has posted his summer reading list today.
For most people, they need the encouragement to pick up more books and to read more than they do (in fact, for many folks, the encouragement should be read anything). In light, however, of our strong encouragement to read and to spend time in books, many of us would all do well to take note of the biblical advice.
Ecclesiastes 12:12 warns,
Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Certainly reading and learning has great value, and there is no substitute for study. However, balance is necessary in all things and books and learning should primarily be a means to an end and not an end in and of itself. Your reading should affect your life and the way you live, but by all means, do not let it control your life. There is much ministry, work, and living to do. Your reading should make you better, but by all means, do not let it take you away from your ministry, work, parenting, spousal, and other responsibilities.
The Gospel in Human Contexts by Paul Hiebert. Hiebert’s book is written with a focus on international missions, but in the glocal we find ourselves in today, cultural anthropology and missiological focus is needed as much in the Christian West as in the far East.
What then is the relationship between the gospel and human contexts? The first principle is that the gospel must not be equated with any particular human context, not even the biblical cultural context: gospel versus culture. The gospel is distinct from human cultures. The second principle we need to keep in mind is that the gospel must be put in specific sociocultural contexts for people to understand it: gospel in cultures. The third principle to guide us in understanding the relationship of the gospel to human social and cultural contexts is tha tthe gospel is transformative–gospel transforming culture.
The Trellis and The Vine by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne. Marshall and Payne have written a book that hits at the heart of what many in the pastorate know to be true. As much as we love our sermons and as necessary as they are, sermons are not enough. Ministry has to be personal and one-on-one and we must create a culture that enables and allows this kind of ministry.
If the real work of God is people work–the prayerful speaking of his word by one person to another–then the jobs [in the church] are never all taken. The opportunities for Christians to minister personally to others are limitless.
Conversational Evangelism by Norman and David Geisler. The Geisler’s encourage approaching evangelism, not as a one-time event, but as a relational process that leads toward conversion. Conversational evangelism is much more difficult to learn than simply using a tract or perhaps the Romans Road, but in a post-modern and post-Christian world, the conversational approach to evangelism is necessary if the church is going to impact lostness.
It was common 30 or 40 years ago to use a simple tract to share the gospel with others, especially on college campuses. Many baby boomers were won to Christ back in their youth because someone shared the gospel with them in this way. Today it is much more difficult to reach people by just sharing a simple four-point Gospel presentation.
Westminster Bookstore (P4P’s favorite bookstore) is currently having a great sale on the excellent Pillar New Testament Commentary Series. Until March 9th, they are offering an Extra 10% off of EVERY Pillar volume when you purchase 2 or more. The price automatically adjusts when you place the books in your shopping cart. That comes out to 44%-55% off of retail, depending on which commentaries you choose. AND only $1 Shipping. Happy shopping!
Below I have listed my top ten books of 2010. Because I had trouble choosing my favorite, I have opted to not enumerate the list. I would be more than happy to recommend any of these books and to answer any questions you have regarding their content and my impressions of it.
- The Professor and The Madman, by Simon Winchester. This book traces the development of the Oxford English Dictionary throughout its storied history and reveals that one of its most prolific contributors was a clinically insane Civil War surgeon convicted of murder. A great read!
- Death By Love, by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears. By far, one of the best books on the atonement that I have read because it is approachable by both clergy and laity.
- Christless Christianity, by Michael Horton. John Frame took Horton to task and wrote a rather scathing review of this book, but I think Frame missed the mark. I agree with Trevin Wax that this is a prophetic and important book worthy of your attention. I personally feel it to be one of the most important books I read this year.
- Crazy Love, by Francis Chan. I initially rejected this book because it was so popular, but after picking it up I was incredibly blessed and challenged by Chan.
- He is Not Silent, by Albert Mohler. Though I am a huge fan of Dr. Mohler, I didn’t have high expectations of this work based on his other books that have amounted merely to collections of essays and articles. He is Not Silent, however, was a surprise for me and for that reason makes the list.
- The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I know, I should have read this before now, but do I really have to explain why it made my list?
- Counterfeit Gods, by Tim Keller. Even though it has received a lot of attention, I am not convinced that this book has received the attention it deserves. I believe it may be the most important book for the church released in 2009. It is concise and approachable and idolatry is a sin that must be confronted in our society. I have recommended it widely.
- Christianity and Liberalism, by J. Gresham Machen. Read old books, they might even be the best books you’ll read this year. Machen’s classic is as important for the church today as when it was written nearly 90 years ago.
- The Big Picture Story Bible, by David Helm and Gail Schoonmaker. Because I am a pastor and a dad, I am concerned with teaching children the Word of God. The Big Picture Story Bible has enabled me to begin laying the groundwork for a solid biblical theological foundation in my children.
- Jonathan Edwards and the Ministry of the Word, by Douglas A. Sweeney. This is another book published this year that I have not heard much about, but It is a wonderful treatment of Edwards and his ministry. Though not exhaustive by any means, it is a great read and gave me tremendous insight into the greatest pastor-theologian if the North American church.
What are you reading? Do you have a plan? I used to read very indiscriminately (which is better than not reading at all) until I was challenged on this issue. I now try to read a little more widely and to read with particular focus in mind. I read leadership, theology, history, and even fiction. I find that the more I read, the more I am reading, the easier sermon prep flows because I am writing out of my reading and research, not trying to read and research so that I can write (as a side note, I also keep a file of quotations from my reading that can be accessed from this site by clicking on sermon illustrations above).
So, right now I am reading with a few things particularly in my mind.
- Current and future sermon series. I know that I will be preaching through the book of Daniel early next year so I have several commentaries on the book of Daniel for my perusal as I begin laying those sermons out. Also looking at a series on the Seven Deadly Sins and hope that Driscoll’s Religion Saves will offer some good resources on that.
- Doctoral Work. In January I start my first Ph.D. class and have already ordered my books and began reading them. I know that I have to have them finished before class in January and I know that books on writing and research are not high on my enjoyment list, so I started them early in order to pace myself.
- The Reformation. I have a particular affinity for the Protestant Reformation and so I have a couple of books that have been on my shelf waiting for October (or Reformation Month as I like to call it). One is a gorgeous 1846 copy of a book called the Life of Luther that my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. I also know that I am preaching a revival through the five solas of the reformation this month, so reading in this material will give me fresh illustrations for those sermons.
- Personal Growth/Accountability. A pastor friend and I have started a weekly accountability meeting and we are reading together. Right now, our book is Leaders that Last (which is a great book that I have read before and would recommend to you).
- The Lord Of The Rings. This is purely for enjoyment.
What are you reading and why?
I was excited to read this book as a pastor because I always want to know what I can do to help our church to move forward and staffing is always a difficult issue to deal with. Staff Your Church For Growth is a book that pastors should read early in their ministry because it gives great insights for the ways that staffs should be organized by balancing certain gifts and personalities against one another.
For instance, visionary leaders often need to be balanced with staff members who are organized managers.
Staff Your Church for Growth is also valuable as a resource to guide churches and pastors in hiring staff. The charts and tables included in the book show where and when to hire staff and the book serves as a strong reminder that staff should be hired both in response to current and past growth but in anticipation of future growth as well. A church needs to plan and structure to be at the next level now or the next level will never arrive.
McIntosh also has some stark weaknesses in this book, however. I was disappointed in the professionalization of ministry in this book. Professionalization is a temptation in ministry that seems to be running rampant today, but rather than speaking to this issue, McIntosh does much to perpetuate the idea that ministers are primarily employees rather than servants of the Most High God.
For instance, on page 121, McIntosh lists five factors that pastors must answer for staff members:
Why are we here?-Mission
Where am I going?-goals
How am I doing?-Feedback
What’s in it for me?-rewards?
What happens when I need help?-support
In a book about the church that purports to give a great deal of emphasis to the team approach to ministry, this list is very ego-centric. Of the five questions above, four include singular pronouns. In other words, the ministry approach supported here is a ME ministry rather than a God-glorifying ministry.
Obviously this book has much to offer and should be read, but the temptation to professionalize ministry should be avoided at all costs. The author and publishers would do well to revisit these issues and make this book an even more valuable asset to the church and to church leaders.
I heard and read alot about Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be), long before I ever actually read the book. In all honesty, though I am interested in the subject matter (that of the Emergent Church Movement), I had my doubts that the book could live up to the hype.
I was wrong.
This is a phenomenal book. Kevin DeYoung is a great writer and his research into the subject of the Emergent Church Movement shows through the pages he contributes. And, if DeYoung is a great writer, Ted Kluck is not lacking either. Not only does he show his perspective from a non-clergy position, he shows himself to be well informed and passionate about the subject.
DeYoung’s major contribution is his academic approach and his pastoral insights. Kluck, as a sports-writer, writes about the emergent movement with the same kind of wit and narrative that would fit well in ESPN the Magazine. This style of writing and the alternating chapters mean that you will be mentally strained in some of the reading, bu the next page my prove to be an embarrassment because it makes you laugh out loud in the airport (that’s what happened to me).
In the writer’s reaction to the Emergent Church, one of their most telling observations is that many in the Emergent Movement are seeking from Christians and the church something that Christ never promised to deliver.
But we should not expect somethign God has not promised, especially when He has promised the opposite. Jesus said the poor would always be with us (John 12:8) and wars and rumors of war would continue to the very end (Matt. 24:6). This doesn’t mean we are pro-poverty warmongers. But it does mean that wars wont go away just because we follow the secret message of Jesus.
Kluck and DeYoung point out that there are things to be learned from the Emergent Church Movement and remind their readers that most leaders in the movement are at least sincere in wanting change. Sincerity, however, does not equal truth and Why We’re Not Emergent reveals many errors within the Emergent Church Movement.
If you are interested in the Emergent Church, this is a MUST READ!