Top Ten Books Every Preacher Should Read
John A. Broadus. On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons. Vestavia Hills, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2004.
This work, on preaching by a Southern Baptist, stood without peer for generations. John A. Broadus, one of the original faculty members and later president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, based this book on lecture notes from his homiletics class (taught during the Civil War to a single student—who was blind).
This particular edition is a reprint by Solid Ground Christian Books of the original published in 1870. This work became the standard text-book on preaching for more than a century, having been republished over twenty times. In keeping with his title, Broadus deals with various components of sermon preparation (composition) and delivery. He is very pastoral in his presentation of the material; he doesn’t deal with the sermon in isolation from the local church. Broadus is very practical; he speaks to the weekly routine of sermon preparation in the ongoing cycle of ministry responsibility. However, he does seem to be a bit brief in dealing with some matters: e.g. sermon delivery. Broadus should not be faulted for this since one will search in earnest today for much material on sermon delivery. One will find an excellent presentation of truth by Broadus when he discusses the relationship between ancient rhetoric and preaching. Today’s preacher should invest in this resource, if for no other reason than it helps to bridge the gap in homiletical theory from the reformation to the modern era.
H.B. Charles, Jr. On Preaching: Personal & Pastoral Insights For the Preparation & Practice of Preaching. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more popular preacher today in the United States than H.B. Charles, Jr. Charles serves as the senior pastor of Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church in Jacksonville, FL. He regularly appears on the platform of many preaching and pastoral conferences across the nation. His works on preaching and pastoral ministry have increased his credibility and notoriety. On Preaching originated from a “preaching crisis” which he experienced a few years ago. Charles recorded his thoughts and impressions in a blog and later published them in this book. He reflects a great humility in his work, declaring himself “a fellow practitioner of preaching” rather than an expert.
The reader will find practical insight, wise counsel, and a record of best practices in this personal handbook on preaching. Moreover, Charles addresses the critical issues concerning a preacher’s character and heart in ministry. A companion volume by Charles has since been released entitled: On Pastoring: A Short Guide to Living, Leading and Ministering as a Pastor (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2016). This writer highly recommends this book.
Timothy Keller. Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Viking, 2015.
Timothy Keller, a likely modern-day disciple of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, is the founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York. He will soon retire to devote his full attention to writing and speaking about preaching and church leadership. Keller penned this work in order to articulate his vision of what contemporary preaching should be, rather than serving as a technical textbook on sermon construction. Keller’s theology of preaching saturates every chapter of the book. While addressing the need to preach the Gospel in a contemporary context, the author demonstrates his skill in nuancing the sermon in order to make it more appealing to his listeners and challenging to their numerous cultural myths.
Keller is at his best in distinguishing between the rich, transformative nature of Gospel preaching versus the shallow, unimaginative bromides of moralistic preaching. Accordingly, Keller champions a Christocentric focus in his preaching. It is no wonder that his church sanctuary rarely affords an available seat during his sermons. Keller’s preaching provides ample credibility for his writings. This work is worth your time in reading and digesting his insights in reaching a contemporary audience.
Abraham Kuruvilla. A Vision For Preaching: Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015.
Abraham Kuruvilla is emerging as one of the seminal thinkers on preaching today. As Professor of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary and a practicing dermatologist, Kuruvilla brings to bear his skills of serious reflection on homiletics and hermeneutics. In the chapters of the book, Kuruvilla unpacks his description of preaching: “Biblical preaching, by a leader of the church, in a gathering of Christians for worship, is the communication of the thrust of a pericope of Scripture discerned by theological exegesis, and of its application to that specific body of believers, that they may be conformed to the image of Christ, for the glory of God—all in the power of the Holy Spirit.” The remainder of the book explores the nuances of that description. Kuruvilla applies the speech-act theories of Paul Ricoeur to the words of the Scriptural text in that he explores how the writers of the biblical text do something with what they say (write). This process takes place in order to move the reader to inhabit the “world in front of the text.”
One significant take away for this writer is Kuruvilla’s concept of the text being “a stained glass window,” at which the reader looks (rather than a plain glass window through which the reader looks). Everything in the Scriptural narrative is carefully planned for the reader of the text. A Vision For Preaching would serve as a good lead-in to Kuruvilla’s earlier book—Privilege the Text: A Theological Hermeneutic For Preaching.
David L. Larsen. The Company of Preachers: A History of Biblical Preaching From the Old Testament to the Modern Era (2 vols.). Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998.
David Larsen served as Professor of Preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and pastored churches for more than three decades. He has authored several books and numerous articles. This two-volume set on the history of preaching provides an insightful, yet thorough, overview the consecutive eras of preaching in church history. Each chapter highlights a brief biographical and historical sketch of significant preachers who exerted a major influence in their respective eras. The first volume deals with preachers from the prophets of the Old Testament to the eighteenth century. The second volume moves from the latter eighteenth century to the contemporary era. Larsen does a masterful job in providing meaningful vignettes of information on selected masters of preaching, as well as offering a rich perspective on the various historical eras of the church.
The typical shortcoming of such an effort is that it sacrifices depth for breadth. Not every preacher in the history of the church can be covered in its pages. However, for a work which deals with preachers and preaching from a conservative perspective, these volumes have few peers.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Preachers and Preaching. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972.
Many would identify Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as the preeminent preacher of the twentieth century. This physician-turned-preacher was known for his thorough, if not meticulous, exposition of Scripture. He ministered at Westminster Chapel (Welsh Presbyterian) in London in the latter half of the century. Following the celebrated G. Campbell Morgan as pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, Lloyd-Jones embarked on a much heralded ministry which witnessed his commitment to the primacy of preaching. His multiple volumes of sermons on Romans and Ephesians, among others, demonstrate that he was a practitioner of expository preaching even before the term came into vogue.
This particular work is basically an edited transcription of his celebrated lectures on preaching that Lloyd-Jones delivered to the students and faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in 1969. The opening chapter is worth the price of the book; it provides a convincing apologetic on the ultimate significance of preaching in the life of the church. He argues that “the most urgent need in the church today is true preaching.” The remaining fifteen chapters deal with various aspects of the sermonic craft. As usual with any Lloyd-Jones’ work, there is a thoroughness and depth here which cannot be overlooked. A helpful 40th anniversary edition of Preachers and Preaching is now available, highlighted by essays of appreciation from such well-known preachers as Bryan Chappell, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Timothy Keller, and John Piper. Many would acknowledge this book as the most significant work on preaching in the modern era.
Hughes Oliphant Old. The Reading and Preaching of Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church (7 vols.). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. 1998.
The term magnum opus could be applied to this work. Hughes Oliphant Old penned these magisterial volumes from 1998 to 2009. The grandeur of their scope is equaled by their depth, a feat which is extremely difficult in such an voluminous undertaking. Old served as a pastor and as a member of the Center of Theological Inquiry. Old envisioned a series of volumes on preaching that would deal with the men and their moments in the epochs of church history, much in the mold of Larsen’s work. However, Old digs deeper. In addition to providing delightful biographies on selected preachers, he also offers lengthy excerpts from their sermons.
A pastoral emphasis flavors this work. Old focuses upon the concept of how preaching, as worship, serves the church. He begins with preaching in the Bible and then proceeds to the early church fathers in highlighting the doxological function of preaching. He maintains this process of analysis up through the contemporary era. Overall, Old identifies five genres of preaching that recur throughout the history of the church: expository, evangelistic, catechetical, festal, and prophetic. Today’s preacher would find much blessing in this work, not the least of which would be to envision the broader vistas of the Spirit’s work with regard to preaching and doxology.
Haddon Robinson. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 3rd edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.
Many preachers attribute a reformation-like moment to the publication of this work by Haddon Robinson in 1980. They trace the recovery of expository preaching, i.e. a return to the centrality of the biblical text in sermon construction, to the teachings of this book. It’s significance cannot be overstated. By his own admission, Robinson wrote his book in a quest to find the reason for the thirty-minute difference: “Some preachers preach for an hour and it seems like thirty minutes; others preach for thirty minutes and it seems like an hour. I wonder what the difference is?”
Robinson builds a case for expository preaching and then focuses upon the sermonic task of starting and staying with Scripture throughout the construction phase. He blends the science and art of sermon preparation with great nuance and skill. A singular contribution of the work lies in the area of sermon application, in attempt to answer the “So what?” question. Robinson is probably correct when he states that more heresy occurs in the application phase of the sermon than in any other. This book should probably be placed in the top tier of books on preaching that every preacher should read.
Charles Spurgeon. Lectures To My Students. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2011.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is remembered as “the Prince of Preachers.” Such a moniker should motivate us to study his works on preaching. One work that has stood the test of time is Lecture To My Students. The book’s chapters consist of the transcribed notes given by Spurgeon in his Friday afternoon lectures to the students of his ministerial college. The wit, wisdom, and wealth of Spurgeon adorn this volume. He defies the age-old stereotype that those who can do it (preach) can’t teach it and vice versa. He excelled both as a practitioner and teacher of homiletics. His sermons are read with profit today; his writings, including those on preaching and ministry, are still used by seminaries around the world.
Though first published in 1875, this volume presents truth that today’s preacher would find helpful. His teaching on the preacher’s prayer life would bless any contemporary preacher. There are some portions that many, at first glance, would classify as dated: e.g. a chapter on “The Minister’s Fainting Fits.” However, if one digs deeper in the chapter, one may find Spurgeon’s words to ring true: the great need for physical fitness among preachers, the sufficiency of God’s grace during physical illness, the reality of spiritual warfare, the surpassing victory through Christ that every true minister can expect, etc. Spurgeon reveled in being a preacher; he celebrated his calling to ministry. He encouraged others to do the same. This work is a monumental effort to do just that.
Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix. Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1999.
Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix have co-authored this “nuts and bolts” book on preaching. Vines has served for more than forty years as senior pastor of various churches, the last twenty-four of which at First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, FL. Jim Shaddix is Professor of Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. These men bring a wealth of preaching and teaching experience and knowledge to this work.
The book is divided into three major sections which deal with the tools and tasks of sermon preparation. An especially helpful section in the book is the chapter dealing with the analysis of the text, an integral part of the expository task. Many noble efforts in exposition often founder at this point in preparation. The authors’ practical help and wise counsel saturate this work. Definitions, step-by-step methods, charts and appendices provide much assistance in fulfilling the many tasks of the expositional process. A forthcoming, revised edition of this work will be released in June, 2017.
Karl Barth. Homiletics. Louisville, KY: Westminster Press, 1991.
Greg Heisler. Spirit-Led Preaching: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Sermon Preparation and Delivery. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007.
Abraham Kuruvilla. Privilege the Text: A Theological Hermeneutic For Preaching. Chicago: Moody Publishers. 2013.
Steven D. Mathewson. The Art of Preaching Old Testament Narrative. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2002.
Josh Moody and Robin Weekes. Burning Hearts: Preaching to the Affections. Scotland:
Christian Focus Publications, 2014.