Among the many books written on the ministry, there are a few that simply have had a more enduring influence than others. Here are four titles that stand above the pack.
1. Lectures On Preaching by Phillips Brooks
Perhaps the most famous of the Yale Lectures and surprisingly good. Warren Wiersbe once said that “…every preacher ought to read (it) once a year for five years, and then once every other year for the rest of his life. What makes these lectures so valuable is that they deal with basic principles, not with transient methods. The preacher who is looking for shortcuts will not find them here.” Wiersbe was right!
His explanation that preaching is truth through personality is classic and accurate. Jewels abound from start to finish in this volume. In advising us he said, “No man ever yet thought whether he was preaching well without weakening his sermon.” Later he was speaking on courage and said, “Courage is good everywhere, but it is necessary here. If you are afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do something else.” He followed that with: “Be independent.” He also spoke of self-conceit and dealing with failure. Here is an example of another sparkling statement: “Failure and success to really working ministers are only relative. Remember that no man wholly succeeds or wholly fails.” I could go on and on!
I could not follow Brooks in all his theology, but this volume could hardly be better.
2. The Preacher And His Models by James Stalker
Another of the great Yale Lectures on Preaching is this powerful volume. Mr. Stalker took a different track than his predecessors by looking at the ministry through the ministries of Isaiah and Paul.
He has many great things to say. For example, he said, “…the outer must be preceded by the inner; public life for God must be preceded by private life with God; unless God has first spoken to a man, it is vain for a man to attempt to speak for God.” He reminds us: “Preaching is not merely the speaking of a man. If it is, then it is certainly not worth coming to church for. Preaching, if it is of the right kind, is the voice of God.” He teaches us well.
The idea is that we find our models in men in the Bible. It really works and this volume is a help.
3. The Glory Of The Ministry by A.T. Robertson
Subtitled “Paul’s Exultation In Preaching” and based on Paul’s statements in II Corinthians 2:12–6:10, this volume has been loved by many, especially Baptists. What is amazing is how well this volume doubles as a commentary on that section of Scripture in addition to being such a help to we who are in the ministry.
He has so much to say that truly inspires. He tells us how essential our private walk with the Lord really is. He said, “The only way to have permanent glory is to continue beholding the glory of the Lord. If we cease looking at Him, we cease to reflect His glory.” That is a secret of ministry we need not miss!
He writes powerfully about legalism and the “attraction of Christ.” He reminds us: “It is just because Jesus can save the worst of men that the preacher has the heart and hope to go on with his work.” On the other side he reminds too: “The vessel of clay is very fragile and is easily broken and destroyed.” He reminds us that the biggest portion of our pay comes in the next world. Pleasing our Lord is the passion of ministry, and we must never forget the Judgement Seat of Christ.
He explains success in Paul. “God is the worker and Paul is the coworker. That is his glory and the secret of success in the ministry”, he says.
I favor this volume over Stalker myself. It is a must-have volume.
4. The Preacher’s Portrait by John Stott
You wouldn’t think a book subtitled “Some New Testament Word Studies” would not be so gripping, but it is! It is a small book of barely over 100 pages, and only has 5 chapters, but what chapters they are. He discusses 5 roles the preacher fulfills according to the Scripture: steward, herald, witness, father, and servant. In those 5 things you have a great overview of the ministry.
He lays it out so plainly, yet with power. In describing the steward and how he is not a prophet he says, “The essential characteristic of the prophet was neither that he foretold the future, nor that he interpreted the present activity of God, but that he spoke God’s word.” This alone would fix what ails the ministry in many circles today.
There is so much more. This is another of the really great ones.
I pray you can have your ministry blessed and in turn bless those to whom you minister by securing these volumes and mastering their contents!
You can find all posts and books reviewed in this series here in the introductory post.