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. 

Is Your Worship Like Gold or Bronze?

Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked Him to jealousy more than all that their fathers had done, with the sins which they committed.” (1 Kings 14:22, NASB95)

He [Shishak king of Egypt] took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and he took everything, even taking all the shields of gold which Solomon had made. So King Rehoboam made shields of bronze in their place, and committed them to the care of the commanders of the guard who guarded the doorway of the king’s house.” (1 Kings 14:26–27, NASB95)

The demise of Israel came quickly after the reign of Solomon. Although one could argue that Solomon’s kingdom was the pinnacle of Israel’s fame, wealth, and honor, there can be no doubt that spiritually the kingdom was a shadow of what it was under David. Solomon may have had great wealth, and there is no doubt that he beautified the kingdom and made a glorious temple, but internally there was a rot that would eventually lead the divided nation into apostasy and exile.

In 1 Kings 14, Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, watched as all of the external signs of his father’s success dissipated right before his eyes. Through a youthful foolishness he lost ten of the twelve tribes in a rebellion, and along with these he lost the favor of the people. Instead of humbling himself and turning to the Lord, Rehoboam turned to false gods and idolatry, just as his father did through the influence of foreign women he married.

As a picture of how degraded Judah had become, 1 Kings 14:26-27 mentions the shields of Solomon. More than a mere passing note of interest, the shields are a visible lesson for all that will watch and learn. In his days as king, Solomon saw gold become so abundant that it was said that silver was as nothing (See 1Kings 10:14-29). To show off this wealth, he had 200 large shields of gold, each made from about 7 1/2 lbs. of gold. Additionally, he had 300 more smaller shields made from almost 4 lbs. of gold each. Together these shields would have been fashioned out of 2,625 lbs. of gold, which for Solomon was nothing since 1 Kings 9:14 states that one year’s worth of gold income was 666 talents, or about 25 tons (50,000 lbs.) of gold! What was the purpose of these shields? Together they acted as a visible symbol of Solomon’s great wisdom and wealth.

With that insight, 1 Kings 14:27 reveals a great truth. In the face of utter humiliation as a result of his outrageous idolatry, Rehoboam chose to put on the mask of a hypocrite instead of facing the truth with repentance and humble contrition. In Solomon’s days, silver was as nothing–how much less bronze! Now Solomon’s wayward son is grasping to keep up appearances. He has replacement shields made to cover the naked walls, but not of gold, which he no longer had. Instead they would be made of bronze. Why make these shields at all? With foreign invaders from Egypt stealing their wealth and ransacking the kingdom, you would think that Rehoboam would have been more concerned with greater issues. Instead, we find him seeking to make things look the same as they did during the days of his father’s reign. Bronze shields would appear gold-like, giving the impression that nothing had changed. But they had–massively, and to a greater extend than these shields alone. A cheap substitute had taken the place of the valuable. Instead of the precious worship of Yahweh, a fake and common worship had been swapped out as if they were the same. But they are not.

Instead of playing games with God, Rehoboam should have broke. He should have seen the loss of gold and prestige as an opportunity to go back to the basics of humble worship as his grandfather David had demonstrated. David, clothed in only a linen ephod danced before the Lord, not caring about anyone else but the pleasure of his God. May we be aware of this shift in our own lives and ministries as well, never replacing the gold of true worship with a cheap substitute, because God isn’t fooled. When God is trying to get your attention, don’t double down and act like nothing is wrong. Go to God.

Dealing Honestly with Criticism in the Ministry (weekend post)

Criticism is a hard thing to deal with. This past week as I was digging through some old files on my computer I found a file that I had labeled “problems.” I currently have a paper file labeled the same in my desk drawer where complaint letters are kept. Thankfully it doesn’t have too many letters in it…yet.

Going back to the other day, I knew that I shouldn’t open the file and look inside, but curiosity got the better of me and I did. Inside I found some letters from when I was a pastor in California. The memories of those occasions had mercifully faded, but the letters instantly brought back those difficult days.

Read the rest of the post here: Dealing Honestly with Criticism in Ministry