My Favorite Books on Preaching

January 9, 2014

A young man recently asked about my favorite books on preaching. That’s an interesting question because over the years my list of favorite books has actually narrowed. Before we moved from Tupelo to Dallas, I gave away most of my books to a pastor who had almost no books in his library. The books that remain with me are ones that have stood the test of time.

I much prefer books on preaching by pastors who preach all the time. While I think the homileticians have a lot to teach us, I have gained more from reading books by men in the trenches who crank out sermons week after week. Most of these books fall into that category.

That said, here are my favorite books on preaching:

Letures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. They called him the «Prince of Preachers” during his long pastorate in London. I love reading and rereading his wise advice to his students. Warren Wiersbe said every pastor should read the chapter called «The Minister’s Fainting Fits” once a year.

Between Two Worlds by John Stott. In this book theology and history join with cultural sensitvity to produce preaching that bridges the gap between the Bible and the modern world. Stott worked out his view of preaching during his fruitful ministry at All Souls Church in London. 

Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson. Besides being a distinguished homiletician, Haddon Robinson is also widely regarded as one of the best preachers in America. Plus he was one of my preaching professors at Dallas Seminary. So there you go. He wrote the seminal book on the «Big Idea” method of preaching.

Design for Preaching by Grady Davis. I read this book because Haddon Robinson made us read it. Didn’t fully appreciate it when I read it 45 years ago, but I hadn’t preached much back then. I now regard it as the best book I’ve read on how sermons actually work.

Freshness in Preaching by Bruce Mawhinney. The title doesn’t even hint at how unique this book is. This is a book on preaching written as a novel. A wonderful book to give to a burned-out pastor who feels like his preaching has dried up.

Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A masterful discussion by a master preacher. These lectures were given at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia in 1969, a year after the close of MLJ’s ministry at Westminster Chapel in London. Additional essays by Ligon Duncan, Tim Keller, John Piper, Mark Dever, Bryan Chapell and Kevin DeYoung bring the book up to date.

Preaching? by Alec Motyer. The newest book on my list and also the shortest. The «?” in the title tells you this book is different. Some books on preaching make it all seem rather academic and dull. Motyer writes with verve and zest and actually makes preaching seem (dare I say it?) fun. I loved this book!

Walking With the Giants by Warren Wiersbe. I know this isn’t a book on preaching exactly, but that doesn’t matter because Dr. Wiersbe brings these great preachers to life in a series of biographical essays. I met Charles E. Jefferson in these pages, and G. Campbell Morgan, and Alexander Whyte, and William Sangster, and a host of others. I lost the book jacket years ago, but the book survived every purge of my library because I enjoy it so much.

Inside the Sermon, edited by Richard Allen Bodey. Thirteen preachers discuss how they prepare messages and then offer a sample sermon. The preachers range from Herschel Hobbs to Stuart Briscoe to J. I. Packer and Leighton Ford. Each man does his work in his own unique way. This book reminds me that there are many ways to prepare and preach good sermons.

Heralds of God by James Stewart. A ringing endorsement of preaching by one of its finest practitioners. Stewart covers the Preacher’s World, Theme, Study, Technique and Inner Life. He will make you glad to be a preacher.

Saying It Well by Chuck Swindoll. More than any other book on this list, Chuck Swindoll shows how his view of preaching has been shaped by his life experiences. Since preaching ultimately must be truth conveyed through human personality, Swindoll examines his own life to share with us how God shaped him into the man (and the preacher) he is today. This book will encourage you in the lifelong task of preaching God’s Word.

What other books on preaching have helped you?

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My Favorite Books on Preaching

April 27, 2010

As a follow-up to my message on What I’ve Learned About Preaching, I decided to rummage through my library to find the most helpful books I own regarding preaching. Over the years I’ve read quite a few books on the topic, though not nearly enough to make me any sort of specialist. My standard of evaluation for books on preaching is really quite simple. If I get at least one useful idea from a book, something I can actually use in my own preaching–an idea, a thought, a new approach, a new way of thinking about how to preach, a pithy quote, a new perspective–then the book has been useful to me. 

With that said, these are the most valuable books I’ve read on preaching:

Design for Preaching by Grady Davis. When I took homiletics from Haddon Robinson at Dallas Seminary, he required us to read this book. It’s one of only a few books from my seminary days that I still keep close at hand 35 years later. Davis helps me think clearly about preaching as the development of a central idea.

Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson. He wrote this book based on his many years of teaching seminary students. Later he revised and updated it. Helpful in many ways, not least because Dr. Robinson preaches what he practices.

Preaching With Freshness by Bruce Mawhinney. Easily the most “fun” book on preaching I’ve ever read. That’s a low bar to get over because many books on preaching are dry as dust. Written as a fictional tale, the book shows how a discouraged pastor revives his own ministry by reviving his sermonic skills. 

Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon. Though written in the 1880s, Spurgeon’s wise advice stands up very well in the 21st-century. The chapter on “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” is worth the price of the book.

Walking With the Giants by Warren Wiersbe. Sorry to see that this book is not in print. Some publisher should rectify this because Wiersbe is always worth reading. Here he introduces us to a galaxy of leading evangelical preachers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Great stories, well told. 

Between Two Worlds by John Stott. No one does a better job of explaining how the preacher can connect the ancient biblical text with the challenges of the modern world.

Preachers and Preaching by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Here we discover the sermonic technique of a man whose preaching filled a downtown London church for decades. Lloyd-Jones makes you believe all over again in the immense power of preaching to change lives.

Inside the Sermon, edited Richard Allen Bodey. Thirteen noted preachers discuss their methods of preparing messages.  

Many other books deserve mention but these are the ones I keep close at hand. What books would you add to that list? 

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