My Three Top Preaching Books That Inspire

The weekly proclamation of the Bible in the church can have a wearying effect on the preacher over time so that he can find himself needing to be refreshed and revived in his duties. These three books that I have chosen to highlight inspire the reader to be a faithful expositor. These are the kinds of books that you can’t read for very long and not feel the desire to step into a pulpit and preach your heart out. I give them to you in no particular order.

Between Two Worlds by John Stott (Amazon)

John Stott has a way with words that both informs and inspires. Listen how he describes the need to for the preacher to be immersed in the text he is preparing to preach:

“Sooner or later the time for more concentrated preparation arrives. What should the preacher do now? Read the text, re-read, re-read it, and read it again. Turn it over and over in your mind, like Mary the mother of Jesus who wondered at all things the shepherds had told her, pondering them in her heart (Luke 2:18-19). Probe your text, like a bee with a spring blossom, or like a hummingbird probing a hibiscus flower for its nectar. Worry at it like a dog with a bone. Suck it as a child sucks on an orange. Chew it as a cow chews the cud.”

Between Two Worlds, p. 220

For me, the best part of the book is summarized in the title. Stott masterfully explains how the preacher’s job is to be the bridge between the world of the Bible and the modern world we live in. We do this through the faithful study, explanation, and application of the Bible. This concept is simple, but one that too many expositors fail to understand or accomplish. When this truth is grasped it will excite the man of God as he realizes that God is going to powerfully use His Word to minister to those that are gathered on Sunday to sit under his preaching.

Preaching: How to Preach Biblically by John MacArthur and the Faculty of The Master’s Seminary (Amazon)

This book was originally published under the title Rediscovering Expository Preaching, and it has had a massive impact upon the conservative evangelical church whether it knows it or not. Not only did many pastors read this book and become inspired to dig deeper in their preaching, but many men became convicted when they recognized that they were ill-equipped to carry out the ministry they believed they were called to do. The result was that many of them left their churches to pursue proper training in the necessary skills for preaching that they did not have. Many others read the book while still undecided about ministry and were drawn to go and get training to become an expository preacher.

When I was a seminary student several of my classmates were impacted by this book and pointed to it as the main reason they came to seminary. Years later as a professor, I was still encountering this as a somewhat common reason that men were influenced to be trained. The ripples of the impression that this book has had will only be fully known in eternity.

Because the book was written by several professors, each chapter is written from the point of view of the expertise of each man. The chapters introduced the skill set of each scholar but are presented with the pastoral warmth of seasoned men who have many years in the church as well as education.

The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper (Amazon)

In this small book Piper demonstrates that truly powerful preaching is that which is done for the glory of God alone. This emphasis is a needed antidote in a narcisisstic age that is drawn toward ear-tickling preaching. Drawing on the lives of great preachers of the past and his own journey, John Piper shows that the only help that this world needs is for the man of God to faithfully point it to Christ.

While not truly a book on how to preach, this book aids the pastor who may find that over time his ministry and preaching has drifted toward the rocky shores of man-centered theology. Piper helps the preacher look into the ascended glory of God and see that his task is much more than filling Sunday mornings with a self-help speech for thirty minutes. True Christians hunger to hear from God and to see Christ exalted. God has ordained the act of preaching as the means by which their souls will find satisfaction. 

My Top Three Practical Books on Preaching

Last week I asked for you to send me any questions that you might have that I could answer in future blog posts. One question asked about my top three favorite preaching books. Since I love preaching, and spent 12 years teaching the subject at a seminary, I have amassed quite collection of books on the subject, making my task a lot harder.

So instead of trying to whittle down my top three from my collection, I thought that I would pick my top three in different areas of focus. Today I want to share with you my favorite books in the area of preaching mechanics. These three books excel in the nuts and bolts of preaching by making the process simple and taking out the highly technical language by instead approaching preaching from the practitioner’s point of view.

Here are my top three practical preaching books, in no particular order, along with a link to them in Amazon to make finding them easier.

12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill (Amazon)

Funny enough, this book was never assigned for my preaching classes while in seminary, nor was it on any recommended reading lists. As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of this book until I was given it as a gift from my pastor, who is also the author of the last book. This book is gold. It is so helpful that I made it a required reading book in my preaching clinic class and constantly was asked by students why they weren’t required to read this book earlier.

McDill has set up his book as a practical handbook with an essential skill being presented in each chapter along with a worksheet to help the expositor develop the skill they have just learned. Although it is good to read through the whole book, you will find that it will be a book you come back to over and over again as you seek to strengthen or develop in a particular area of weakness in your preaching.

Preaching That Changes Lives by Michael Fabarez (Amazon)

This book excels in teaching how to make a sermon proposition and outline much more applicational and helpful to the congregation. Very often seminary students that have no experience preaching will come out of seminary with skills in biblical languages, exegesis, hermeneutics, theology, and other technical skills (which they need), but struggle with how these fit into a sermon without overloading the congregation with unnecessary and technical details.

Fabarez teaches the reader how to think through the sermon as it relates to the listening audience. This should lead to a sermon outline that is both faithful to the text as well as points to what the text is calling the listener to do. For those who don’t believe that the preacher should make application of the text in their sermons, the forward by John MacArthur might help overcome their resistance.

Preaching with Passion by Alex Montoya (Amazon)

Pastor Alex Montoya taught at The Master’s Seminary for many years in pastoral ministries and taught several courses in Expository Preaching. This book is largely constructed from the framework of his preaching class notes.

Dr. Montoya is pastoral and practical in his book, seeking not only to instruct pastors who may have lost their passion in preaching, but he also aims to set the newer preacher’s heart aflame with practical discussions on what makes a pastor have passion, what kills his passion, and how passion can be developed in a sermon without it being a phony show or emotionally-driven using wonderful illustrations from his many decades of pastoral ministry.

Now its your turn. What have been your most helpful preaching books with this practical focus?

Book Review: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind


Review: God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, David W. Saxton

Many areas of modern evangelicalism are devoid of deep thinking on biblical matters. It isn’t uncommon to hear Christians speak of the need to set aside doctrinal differences in order to foster a sense of unity. Although I am all for biblical unity, there can be little unity when there is no consensus on biblical truth. And it is this very issue that begins to show our need for a massive return to biblical meditation upon the Word of God and doctrine.

Saxton’s book takes twelve short chapters to uncover the largely lost discipline of biblical meditation in hopes that this much-needed excercise will be brought back as a mainstream practice in the Church.

In chapter 2, entitled “Unbiblical Forms of Meditation,” Saxton wisely warns of the counterfeits that masquerade as the genuine article. Roman Catholic spirituality, mysticism and contemplative prayer are especially important because of the current emphases that have promoted these practices and their accompanying works through the Spiritual Formation movement. Along with these the author briefly examines TM (transcendental meditation), yoga and Far Eastern religious ideas of meditation before moving on in chapter 3 with a short study not the biblical idea of meditation.

Saxton shows that he is very familiar with the Puritan’s wisdom on this subject, and he demonstrates their warm practices and wisdom throughout the book. One of the highlights of reading this book is all of the thoughtful quotes from the Puritans that are included within which serve to allow them to teach us the how and what of biblical meditation.

If I were to mention any negatives about this excellent book it would be just two. First, the chapter which defined what biblical meditation is (ch. 3) was a bit anemic in regards to the amount of biblical evidence and study given to it. I understand that this book was about the Puritan’s practice, but I was hoping for more than a very glossed over treatment of the biblical texts. Second, I found that this book read more like a compendium of Puritan wisdom with the author weaving it all together with a few sentences and phrases. When Saxton does find his voice, it is clear that he has absorbed much of the language and phrasing of the Puritans himself and so writes in an engaging manner that made me wish he had done so throughout. The final concluding chapter was closest to this idea and it was to me the most enjoyable as far as readability and smoothness.

Overall this book is a blessing to the Church and I pray that it will not only be read by many, but that it will become a practical handbook that engages more believers in the regular practice of biblical meditation.

[God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation, David W. Saxton (Reformation Heritage Books, 2015)]