Archive for February, 2006

Reading and Preachers (pt 2)

Here is some free advice from a young pastor to any other young pastors. I hope some of this will help.

When I was younger I use to buy anything that was on sale (if it were theologically “solid” of course). This meant buying all of CBD’s super-sale items. Items like Spurgeon’s 5 volume preaching set for $25; Luther’s 7 volume works for $50; The Early Church Father’s 38 volume set for only $199; etc, etc.

For most of us, shelf space evidentially becomes an issue (sometimes a big issue). I have 6 very large built in bookshelves (in my pastoral office) and I am already running out of space. I realize now that just because something is “solid” and “cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy it. If you are not going to reference a set very often it may not be worth your shelf space. Fair?

Also remember that when you move (and many of us pastors move quite frequently), that books are heavy, expensive, and hard to move. The more books you have the more expensive your move will obviously cost (trust me I know).

Another lesson I learned along the way was to stop buying so many Christian inspirational/help books (for lack of a better word). Books like “the Pursuit of God,” “Knowledge of the Holy,” “the Puritan Paperbacks,” “101 Greatest Sermons,” most of John Piper’s books, Christian biographies, etc. are all great resources. These books help to keep the fire blazing but also require a lot of free reading time. Most Pastors I know have hundreds of books that they’ve never even read.

Some of those books were probably unnecessary purchases. Instead of buying every good C.J. Mahaney book that comes out why not read the ones on our shelves first?
Commentaries and other theological reference works are much better investments in my humble opinion. Even though you do not use every one, all the time, they are very helpful in the preparation of any expository sermon. I have invested the majority of my money in recent years on commentaries, theology sets/books, and certain key reference works (like TDONT). Many men are buying computer software sets to help offset the problem I mentioned above. I am more of a book guy but to each his own.

Setting aside money in the church budget to purchase key books for the church library is a good idea. Highlighting new books in the church bulletin is one of many ways to encourage your congregation to read more good Christian books. Many Christians spend more time reading blogs, Sports Illustrated, and fluffy Christian books (like “the Prayer of Jabez”) then they do reading anything of real value (let alone there bibles). Selecting good books for your church library is one way to help your congregation grow spiritually.

One more tidbit, as a new pastor be careful not to throw out all the old books in your “new” church library (not that I know this from experience). :) It will be very tempting to eliminate every Larry Crabb, James Dobson, Bruce Wilkinson, and Gary Ezzo item the moment you walk into your current churches library. Resist the urge! Some old timers bought those books with their last medicare checks, if you know what i mean? In time you will probably be able to get away with purging the old library with new (more biblical) books.

Take care,


Piper on “post-modern” as “pre-modern”

Justin Taylor reports from the Bethlehem Pastor’s Conference here. Today John Piper said the following while speaking on William Tyndale. Thoughts anyone?

“It is ironic and sad that today supposedly avant-garde Christian writers can strike this cool, evasive, imprecise, artistic, superficially-reformist pose of Erasmus and call it “post-modern” and capture a generation of unwitting, historically naïve, emergent people who don’t know they are being duped by the same old verbal tactics used by the elitist humanist writers in past generations. We saw them last year in Athanasius’ day (the slippery Arians at Nicaea), and we see them now in Tyndale’s day. It’s not post-modern. It’s pre-modern—because it is perpetual.”

A place to start

Chris, reading ideas seem to be the flavor of the month in the blog world (see Chris Pixley’s post below). Nevertheless, these are really good questions, I will take a shot at a few of them. I hope you won’t mind my responding in a post since this is probably too long for a comment.

I know preachers always say this but our first love in reading should be the Scriptures. Too many times I have been able to rattle off a list of books I’m reading only to be far too deficient in the only book that really matters. I have truly made a conscious effort to increase my Bible intake with the goal of reading through Scripture about three times a year. The other change came when I read a few books by Hughes Oliphant Old on worship and prayer (I have come to cherish anything he has in print…much on preaching too). Learning to constantly ask the Lord to “open my eyes that I may behold wonderful things form His law” has meant everything in my study. Along these lines, Matthew Henry’s “A Method of Prayer” was huge in transforming my prayer practice, especially as it relates to ministry of the Word.

Outside of Scripture I’m reading T. H. L. Parker’s “Calvin’s Preaching.” I’m also making my way through LOTR and Augustine’s “Confessions.” In the way of periodicals and journals, I subscribe to The Master’s Seminary Journal, The Journal of Modern Ministry, Reformed Quarterly, Time Magazine, ESPN, U. S. News and World Report, World, Forbes, The Week, and National Review.

Building an effective ministry library is like owning Google stock, it’s expensive and you can never have too much of it. As a “general rule” I only purchase commentaries and resources on whatever I’m teaching at the moment. Yes there are always exceptions but this is where I try to focus my attention and budget. In preparing for sermons, the books I turn to most are TDNT, BAGD, TWOT, ISBE and whatever commentaries I can find on the particular study. At the moment that means a lot resources on the Sermon on the Mount and the Minor Prophets.

On Reading and Preachers

There’s a great discussion going on over at the Together for the Gospel blog regarding the importance of reading in the lives of that blog’s contributors. It got me thinking about my own reading habits and how much good Christian literature has influenced my own Christian life and ministry. In that vein, I’ve a few questions for the contributors of this fair blog:

1. C.J. Mahaney asserts, “I have yet to meet a leader who is growing in personal passion for God and godliness, and effectiveness in pastoral ministry and preaching, who doesn’t have a voracious appetite for reading.” Do you men find your own experience agreeing with this observation? Is there a vital link between the success and effectiveness of one’s pulpit ministry and his reading appetite? If so, in exactly what way does such a heavy reading diet impact our sermons?

2. Tell us about your own reading habits: Favorite authors/works, your reading schedule, etc. How do you find time to juggle your extra-textual reading with an already busy preaching, shepherding, administrating schedule?

3. Can you suggest any helpful strategies for effective reading that will supplement pastoral ministry? What kinds of things ought pastors to be reading in addition to their normal intake of textually related materials (the Bible, commentaries, grammars, other exegetical works, etc.)? What about material that is not distinctively Christian?

4. Do periodicals play any role in your regular reading? If so, which ones do you recommend and why?

5. Tell us about your library. What encouragement can you give to the young pastor about how to plan and build an effective ministry library?

6. Is it important to you to cultivate in your congregation a healthy appetite for reading good Christian books? If so, how do you go about accomplishing that goal?

We eagerly await your feedback!

P.S. The library photo above was borrowed from Paul Lamey’s post from yesterday (1/31/06) at Lameworldview , marking the 114th anniversary of the death of the great “Prince of Preachers”, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

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