Here are three jewels on the ministry. Some are more well known than others, but all are 5-star volumes. Several of these were reprinted by Baker in a series called “Notable Books On Preaching.” If you ever see one of them at a used book sale, by all means pick it up.
1. The Preacher: His Life And Work by J.H. Jowett
Jowett was an incredible preacher and this volume made up one of the famous Yale Lectures On Preaching (1911). When I first read this over 10 years ago, the realization came to me just how truly the ministry was work. Particularly, he laid bare the vital truth that preaching is work. Sermon preparation should be intense work. Anything less is unbecoming our great task.
His opening chapter puts the importance of our calling in its proper place. Next, he tackles the perils of the preacher. Listen carefully as he speaks of “deadening familiarity with the sublime.” I personally believe this is one of our greatest dangers. In the next chapter on “The Preacher’s Themes” with its emphasis on “feed my sheep”, he points out that we are both responsible and accountable for this very thing. How honest and careful we must be in this task.
When he discusses “The Preacher In His Study” he said things like: “We must make the businessman in our congregation feel that we are his peer in labor.” He in no way meant that in show, but in reality. When he gets done you want to roll up your sleeves and run into your study and get going.
He goes on to cover our work in the pulpit itself as well as in the homes of our people. When you read these classic volumes on the ministry, you will find an emphasis on being in the homes and lives of the people you pastor. The idea that all visiting should be about getting new people in the church would horrify the old masters who took seriously their role as shepherd.
This is a must-have volume!
2. A Minister’s Obstacles by Ralph Turnbull
This volume is a perfect follow-up to Jowett’s The Preacher: His Life And Work. Mr. Turnbull wrote this book in 1964 and it was incredibly influential and for good reason. You will notice how widely read he was in the great books on preaching before him. It is no surprise that he edited Baker’s “Notable Books On Preaching” series.
His chapter titles alone will grab you. Consider “The Specter of Professionalism”, “The Vice of Sloth”, “The Dry Rot of Covetousness”, “The Bane of Jealousy”, and “The Paralysis of Pride” among others. The contents are as convicting as the titles.
He had so many great things to say. I marked in my copy how he even broached the subject of moodiness in preachers and how we must guard against it.
This is a great volume!
3. A Minister’s Opportunites by Ralph Turnbull
A worthy sequel to his A Minister’s Obstacles. It is set up the same way, but in positive terms. The titles are as riveting and the subject matter needed. He begins with “The Certitude of Vocation.” Again, he wants us to see the task before us. I love what he said here: “If the ministry degenerates to a ‘job’ with demands of monetary returns for services rendered and a tendency to unionize conditions and terms, then the peril of being the hireling and not the shepherd is obvious.” That still speaks to our day.
When he addresses “The Stewardship of Time”, he distinguishes the Father’s business and busyness. He challenges us to self discipline and hard work. I love his discussion of study and books, though not everyone gets into that subject as I do.
His chapter on “The Power of Ambition” is worth the price of the book. He coaches us to avoid “dreams of grandeur and aggrandizement.” He cautions against being “content with externals and to be careful as “success is a catchword of our secular age.” Thirty years has only deepened the problem.
Not quite as influential or good as his earlier volume, but it is worthy acquisition.
Happy hunting on the used book sites!
MORE IN THIS SERIES ON MINISTRY BOOKS:
You can find all posts and books reviewed in this series in the Introductory Post.