Occasionally we like to do a group post here at PS23. As pastors, we are all constantly reading. Sometimes there is great value in hearing about what resources have had an impact on others. This post is asking the guys a simple question: what books would you recommend on pastoral ministry?
Stuart Scott’s pamphlet “From Pride to Humility” is a must read! The obvious answer to the question would be some book with a title containing “pastoral ministry etc” . . . But, ministry is serving and the rewards or product is the Trinity’s glory! Nothing threatens our work like pride. The church grows, we’re tempted to take credit. The church grows, others credit us. A church grows, we say attribute it to, “Oh, since he took over, the church has really grown.” The church isn’t growing, we attribute that our performance or another pastor’s performance. The danger in ministry is me. All the time. This great booklet can be a refresher and a year long study.
Paul Tripp’s Dangerous Calling is a must read. In pastoral ministry, there are few things more important than constantly checking your own heart. While we get that in terms of personal holiness, and whether we are sitting under our own preaching, Tripp offers an important caution and an essential rubric. The caution is that we must never mistake doctrinal knowledge for spiritual maturity, and with his counselor’s heart Tripp works through the many ways this error may manifest itself. And the rubric provides an important way to check our motivations in ministry, are we building God’s kingdom or our own? Whether you are years into your ministry, or contemplating seminary, this is a must read.
T. David Gordon’s “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal”
For a good three part series of what is involved in getting into pastoral ministry, every would-be pastor would benefit from Biblical Eldership by Alex Strauch (and the workbook that adds to it), My Heart for Thy Cause by Brian Borgman, and Exemplary Spiritual Leadership by Jerry Wragg. Strauch gives the theology of being a pastor-elder; Borgman’s work focuses more on the individual ministry of a full-time pastor; and Wragg writes of general principles of spiritual leadership in a rich series of concise, heart-piercing chapters.
To think through practical ministry structure and how to give good oversight to a church, The Trellis and the Vine by Tony Payne and Colin Marshall and The Deliberate Church by Mark Dever and Paul Alexander are great at challenging ministry assumptions and helping to raise issues for you to think through – whether you follow the same structure or not. They are great to read through with ministry leadership teams and aspirants, helping everyone to consider both why and how your church should “do church.”
Two books to read at the start of a time in ministry, and to repeat occasionally as time allows, are Practical Wisdom for Pastors and The New Pastor’s Handbook. These books both have very short chapters on a wide range of important ministry topics, and will remind pastors to correct the areas where they may have begun to drift.
Finally, for inspiration about the power of the gospel and the word of God, and for renewed motivation to labor hard in ministry, nothing is better to me than the first volume of Iain Murray’s biography of Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I’ve read it three times and come away each time encouraged and inspired!
Those are great recommendations. I too love Trellis and the Vine and The Deliberate Church to keep our ministries focussed. As a book for understanding the role and function of elders, I would highly recommend The Shepherd Leader by Timothy Witmer. Our elders worked through this book over a series of meetings. It chronicles the historical change from the perception of the role of pastor/elder as a shepherd to mainly a pulpiteer. Witmer then demonstrates how the pastor/elder must not only be a preacher but a shepherd to the flock. If you are a pastor/elder, have aspirations to the office, or an interested lay person, spend some time with Witmer’s book, you will be glad you did.