Westminster Seminary California
Recommended Pastoral Reading, pt. 2

By Revs. Andrew Compton and Shane Lems

In our last post, we recommended books that had to do with the faith and life of the minister of the word.  In this post, we give our recommendations on homiletics resources.  Again, we realize there are more good homiletics books than these; these are simply some that have been helpful in our own ministries.

Edmund Clowney, Preaching and Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961).
I first read this book when I was in my early twenties.  I can still remember Clowney’s discussion of how not to preach the David and Goliath story (1 Sam. 17).  This biblical discussion of what preaching is all about very much molded me as a young man following the call to pastoral ministry.  This reminds me: I should read it again!

William Willimon, Conversations with Barth on Preaching (Nashville: Abigdon Press, 2006).
As a Reformed minister, I seriously object to some aspects of this book on preaching (specifically the Barthian view of the Word and revelation).  However, some insights in this book floored me.  For example, consider these words of Willimon: “We cannot preach as if this subject matter of our preaching were at our disposal or under our control…the Word of God is not a commodity we pedal” (p. 157).  This book would be good for a pastor who would like a strange but fascinating angle on preaching.  Or, for a smaller dose of Barth, see his Homiletics.  You’ll love to hate it and hate to love it!

Preach the Word ed. Leland Ryken and Todd Wilson (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007).
This book is a collection of homiletics articles written in memory of R. Kent Hughes.  Contributors include David Helm, J. I. Packer, Leland Ryken, Philip Ryken, and Don Carson, among others.  The topics covered include hermeneutics and preaching, narrative and preaching, pastoral preaching, expository preaching, and the challenges of preaching (among others).  I especially enjoyed Leland Ryken’s chapter on the Bible as literature and how it relates to preaching; I also appreciated Carson’s chapter on the challenges for the 21st century pulpit. 

Terry Johnson, Leading in Worship (Oak Ridge: The Covenant Foundation, 1996).This book is not a book on preaching specifically; it more broadly covers the topic of standing behind the pulpit – or leading in worship (as the title says).  It really is a book for pastors that discusses and explains liturgy – from Sunday morning and evening to baptism to the Lord’s Supper to funerals and weddings, Johnson covers it all.  This is a great help for pastors who want to get into the rhythm of biblical and historic Reformed liturgy, which has everything to do with the sermon.

Martin Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1972).
I’ll never forget how I ended up with this book.  It was given to me by an elder after one of my first sermons as a young pastoral intern.  He gave it to me as a nice gesture to say, “You really need some help with your sermons!”  Thankfully, the book was helpful and I learned from it.  Some parts of the book aren’t applicable today, and some parts I don’t agree with, but it is one of those homiletics books that Reformed ministers should work through at some point in their ministry (I’d recommend sooner than later).

As an additional note, Zondervan republished this volume as a “40th Anniversary Edition” in 2011.  The new edition includes added subheadings and editing updates by Kevin DeYoung. There are also additional essays reflecting on Preaching & Preachers by Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Mark Dever, Bryan Chapell, and others.

David Buttrick, Homiletic (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987).
If I’m not mistaken, this book used to be the “bible” for homiletics in mainline churches.  I read through it near the end of seminary and found many parts of it to be helpful and applicable.  However, some areas were disappointing.  I’d recommend this book for pastors who want to study a different form and style of preaching.  The book is quite lengthy, so it is not for someone who wants a quick and light read.  But it will help the pastor who wants to improve his preaching.  The parts he disagrees with will make him think while the parts he appreciates will benefit his own sermon writing and delivery.

Samuel T. Logan (ed.), The Preacher and Preaching: Reviving the Art in the Twentieth Century (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1986).
In our last installment, I drew attention to this volume as it contains several chapters about the Pastor’s Christian life.  Relevant to this post, 13 chapters cover the work of preaching, divided into (1) Message Content, (2) Message Form, and (3) The Manner of Preaching.  Sinclair B. Ferguson’s chapter “Exegesis,” and Donald Macleod chapter “Preaching and Systematic Theology” are especially profound.  The following chapters give excellent insight into the mechanics of preaching: Glen C. Knecht, “Sermon Structure and Flow,” David A. Dombek, “Reading the Word of God Aloud,” and Gwyn Walters, “The Body in the Pulpit.”  This collection of chapters is a fine addition to the pastoral library.

Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007).
Dennis Johnson’s book on preaching is a wonderful application of redemptive-historical hermeneutics to homiletics.  Johnson surveys the homiletical field, drawing attention to the variety of methods used by Reformed preachers.  From there, he makes the case for “Apostolic, Christocentric Preaching,” defending it from the New Testament itself and showing how this approach reflects the strong points of various homiletical methods while avoiding their pitfalls.  Part 2 is an excellent practicum, even including various notes from Johnson, describing how this method preaches some particular biblical texts.

Hughes Oliphant Old, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
This 7-volume set is a magisterial survey of church history, focusing exclusively on how the Bible was preached from the early church until today.  It is easy to focus exclusively on our own times and our own communities, forgetting that Christian pastors from other times and other places have also brought God’s word to bear in the lives of their own congregations.  Hughes Oliphant Old’s survey provides an excellent opportunity to learn from those who have come before us.  A fine feature in volume four is that Old not only gives significant background about a number of preachers during the Reformation and post-Reformation periods, he analyzes several representative sermons by those preachers.

Examples of Sermons/Printed Sermons
Reading good homiletical texts can go a long way in helping one to gain skill in preaching, but reading good sermons is a way to tighten the connection between theory and practice.  We have found the following collections dealing with various topics to be particularly edifying and instructive:

• James Montgomery Boice & Philip Graham Ryken, The Heart of the Cross (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1999).
• John Calvin, Songs of the Nativity: Selected Sermons on Luke 1 & 2 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 2008).
• Bryan Chapell (ed.), The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help From Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).
• Iain M. Duguid, Numbers: God’s Presence in the Wilderness (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006).
• Martin Luther, The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther (Baker edition).
• Raymond C. Ortlund, Proverbs: Wisdom the Works (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2012).
• Klaas Schilder, The Schilder Trilogy (3 vols; Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1979).
• Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1994).

Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive.  Indeed, it is hardly sufficient!  We only hope that it draws attention to the existence of books like these with the hope that pastors will seek them out and incorporate them into their own homiletical study regimen – for God’s glory and the good of his church.