I not only love to preach, but I love to study preaching. In this blog post, I want to share with you the five most important works on preaching that I have ever read. This list is not the end-all-be-all list of preaching books. I’m sure that many who read this post will disagree on some points, and that is okay. This blog post is about the books that have impacted my preaching the most. However, I would love to hear from you regarding the books that have impacted your preaching.
Before I jump to my list, I feel obligated to at least mention some of the standard works in the field of homiletics that every preacher must have in their library. So, in no particular order, here are some of those works:
- J.C. Ryle’s pamphlet, Simplicity in Preaching,
- John Broadus’ book, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons
- D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book, Preaching and Preachers
- Haddon Robinson’s book, Biblical Preaching
- Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix’s book, Power in the Pulpit
- Charles Koller’s book, How to Preach without Notes
- John MacArthur’s book, Preaching: How to Preach Biblically
- Brian Chappell’s book, Christ-Centered Preaching
- John R.W. Stott’s book, Between Two Worlds
With these standard works mentioned, here are my top five works on preaching:
In this tremendous book, Eswine explains how to prepare and craft sermons to engage a growingly postmodern culture. The most helpful point for me is how Eswine guides the preacher to intentionally think through how the changeless and timeless truths of God’s word overlap with the needs and experiences of the ever-changing culture in which we all live and minister. Personally, I believe it is pastoral malpractice for a preacher to not think through the implications of God’s truth for the circumstances and experiences of his audience. To this day, I have found no other book as complete or as helpful as Eswine’s book on matters of preaching God’s truth in an engaging manner.
No other living pastor/theologian has impacted my life or ministry more than John Piper, and this work is no exception. Piper has dedicated the entirety of his redeemed life to “spreading a passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all people in Jesus Christ.” In brief, this book is a treatise on how expository preaching should aim to expose the audience to the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. When the proclamation of the glory of God is the aim of the sermon, lives are changed as people behold the glory of God from “one degree of glory to the next.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Goldsworthy insists that all biblical preaching be explicitly Christian preaching. In other words, “the center and reference point for the meaning of all Scripture is the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ of God.” Based on Christ’s own understanding of the “law and the prophets” their testimony to Himself (Luke 24:27), Christian preachers must take their cues from Jesus and the apostles who followed him. Like Paul, Christian preachers should resolve to know nothing else but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Yet, this should not lead to the relegation of preaching to New Testament texts only. The grammatical, historical, and canonical context of the Old Testament can and should be preached in view of the person and work of Christ. Goldsworthy charts a faithful course for the preachers who seeks to honor God’s Word as a testimony to Jesus.
Many preachers and congregations have a poor understanding of the significance of literary genre and the biblical text. In such cases, anachronistic readings of scripture are prevalent. Greidanus, however, pulls the preacher out of the mire of such awful readings and back into the ancient text. Dealing with the difference between ancient historiographic and modern expectations of historical accounts, Greidanus points the preacher to the intentionality of the biblical author as revealed in the author’s compositional forms. When a preacher begins to see the composition of scripture, especially in the historical narratives, as being shaped by a theological purpose instead of a desire to produce an unbiased newspaper-like report (which is never truly unbiased), the right questions start to be asked and the right answers start to be obvious. If a preacher is struggling to understand how to approach certain portions of the Bible for preaching, I would tell them to start here.
Any time I hit a dry patch in my preaching, I return to this book. Overdorf is simply phenomenal on homiletical matters. In this particular book, he not only covers how to articulate different applications of the biblical text for different audience members, he also helps the preachers think through the theological coherence of the application. The result is that a preacher is able to avoid those applications that may appear to “preach,” but in fact actually contradict other key doctrines in scripture. If a preacher is struggling with sermon applications, I would dare to guarantee that this book would help them more than they could imagine.
Well, that’s it so far, but I would love to hear about other books that have impacted your preaching ministry. Feel free to share your recommendations in the comments!