??Preachers are communicators of ideas and, as much as we are devoted to the biblical text and are thus first and foremost students of the Scriptures, preachers are also avid readers of other material that will help us to be better thinkers, more knowledgeable teachers and more perceptive leaders. To that end, preachers are among the most ravenous readers of books and printed material.
Each year, publishers release thousands of individual volumes directed toward preachers and others who share the responsibility of teaching and leading the people of God. Even as the current economic crisis finds print media in a state of distress, preachers are not likely to surrender their attachment and dependence on the printed word. In the end, as in the beginning, preachers are, like Paul, those who again and again request “the books and the parchments.”
As would be expected, worthy books in the field of biblical studies take highest rank in terms of the preacher’s bookshelf. The past year has seen the release of a very significant number of excellent commentaries and works in biblical studies. Many of these are the fruit of accumulated decades of scholarship and work. In one sense, this generation receives the harvest of the previous generation’s toil in exegesis and exposition.
In terms of commentaries, the past year saw the release of three volumes in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. The volume title Ezekiel, Daniel (InterVarsity Press), edited by Kenneth Stevenson and Michael Glerup, brings together the fruit of patristic scholarship and commentary on these two important books of biblical prophecy. Readers will be fascinated to see how the earliest preachers in the Christian tradition struggled to understand the contemporary application of these two books of the Bible. In particular, the patristic interpretation of Daniel, often undertaken in the midst of events such as the collapse of the Roman empire, provides amazing insights.
Other volumes in the series recently released include a volume edited by Marco Conti, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (InterVarsity Press). As with the previous volume, this rather massive tome brings together a wealth of historical and theological material that
will be very helpful for the preacher seeking to understand these important Old Testament books and their place in the history of interpretation.
Finally, Quentin F. Wesselschmidt edited the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture volume on Psalms 51-150 (InterVarsity Press). Wesselschmidt, who teaches historical theology at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, has provided an incredible wealth of material from the Christian preachers of the church’s first century. Then, as now, the psalms are a primary focus of Christian worship and are, in essence, the first worship book of the church. Preachers will find this volume to be of tremendous value in terms of devotional, as well as theological and exegetical materials.
Other important Old Testament commentaries include 1 Samuel: Looking for a Leader by John Woodhouse (Crossway). Woodhouse, who serves as principal of Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, has contributed this volume to the “Preaching the Word” series edited by R. Kent Hughes, long-time pastor of the College Church at Wheaton. Now retired as senior pastor of that church, Hughes devotes himself to a ministry of writing, including the editing of this important commentary series. The “Preaching the Word” series is written by and for preachers and is primarily devoted to exposition. Woodhouse’s volume on 1 Samuel continues the proud tradition of this commentary series.
The other new volume in that series, 1 and 2 Peter and Jude: Sharing Christ’s Sufferings, is written by David R. Helm, who serves on the teaching team at Holy Trinity Church in Chicago. These important New Testament books offer great practical application, but are also concerned with the church’s responsibility to protect and to defend the faith against counterfeits in every generation.
Evangelical Press has released two volumes in its commentary series. Job by Hywel R. Jones would be helpful to preachers seeking a model of how to teach and communicate this important section of the Old Testament wisdom literature. We neglect so much if we neglect Job. As Martin Luther explained, Job is “as magnificent and sublime as no other book of Scripture.” Another worthy volume in the same series is released by Allan M. Harman. Harman, who teaches at Presbyterian Theological College in Melbourne, Australia, explains that the biblical narratives “are clearly intended, in the first place, to be a blessing to readers or hearers of the Bible. They enable us to visualize events, and think in concrete terms, rather than being faced with abstract propositions. The appeal to the mind in this way is important, and we should utilize these accounts to the full. The narratives are an integral part of the history of the people of God and hence part of our history.” That attitude informs Harman’s approach, and preachers will find his volume of value.
Similarly, Iain M. Duguid has written the volume Daniel in the “Reformed Expository Commentary” series (P&R Publishing). Duguid teaches at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and at Westminster Seminary in California. One of the unique contributions of this volume is Duguid’s Christological focus. Preachers who have looked to Daniel without such a clear focus on Christ will be both informed and inspired by Duguid’s approach.
James K. Bruckner has written the volume Exodus in the “New International Biblical Commentary” published by Hendrickson Publishers. R. Alan Cole, also of Moore Theological College in Sydney, has written a new edition of Exodus in the “Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries” series (InterVarsity Press). This series, long admired and much used by evangelical preachers, will continue to be useful for many decades to come. In the same series, Debra Reid has produced the volume Esther.
Duane A. Garrett of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary has written a most helpful book, Amos: A Handbook on the Hebrew Text (Baylor University Press). Garrett’s careful and expert study of the Hebrew text will be of great benefit to preachers who are most committed
Preachers will also welcome the revised edition of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan). The first volume, covering Genesis through Leviticus, has just been released, edited by Tremper Longman III, and David E. Garland. This volume, as its predecessor, deserves a designated space on the preacher’s bookshelf. Preachers looking for help in understanding the Pentateuch will find assistance in Leviticus: A Mentor Commentary by Robert I. Vasholz (Mentor). Vasholz, who teaches at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, is determined to present a Christian understanding of Leviticus that is relevant for the church today.
Preachers will also find considerable assistance and rich theological material in Leviticus in the “Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible” (Brazos Press). This new commentary series offers an explicitly theological interpretation of the Bible. The author, Ephraim Radner, who teaches at Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto, is well known as a theologian. With this volume, he makes a serious contribution to biblical scholarship as well.
Finally, preachers looking for assistance in the Minor Prophets will find encouragement in George L. Klein’s Zechariah in “The New American Commentary” series (B&H Publishing Group). Klein, who teaches at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, laments the fact that so few preachers give Zechariah careful attention. “It is a tragedy that a biblical book that influenced the Gospel writers so greatly, not to mention other portions of the New Testament, as much as any other Old Testament volume remains a closed book to so many in the church today,” Klein remarks.
Other commentaries in the Minor Prophets include Love Divine and Unfailing: The Gospel According to Hosea in the “Gospel According to the Old Testament” series (P&R Publishing). Written by Michael P.V. Barrett, this commentary presents an understanding of Hosea that is richly exegetical and deeply theological. Walter J. Chantry offers an incisive short work in Habakkuk: A Wrestler with God (Banner of Truth). As Chantry reminds preachers, Habakkuk reminds us all of the nature of genuine faith in a time of tremendous distress and trial. Clearly, this book offers rich material for expository preaching today.
In New Testament commentaries, two important volumes on Matthew have appeared. David L. Turner has written Matthew in the “Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament” (Baker Academic). This exegetical commentary series is important as a resource for preachers who are committed to substantial exegetical work in preparation for exposition. Turner’s commentary takes the literary structure of Matthew with great seriousness and will be of tremendous assistance to preachers seeking to understand recent scholarship in the first Gospel. Similarly, preachers will welcome Matthew in the “Tyndale New Testament Commentaries” series (InterVarsity Press). R.T. France, the author of this commentary, is a much-respected scholar among American evangelicals. As is true of Tyndale’s Old Testament series, this New Testament commentary series deserves the preacher’s attention.
Also released in the “Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament” series, Mark, by Robert H. Stein, represents a very significant contribution to evangelical scholarship. Stein, who taught New Testament studies for many years at Bethel Theological Seminary and at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a massive and most worthy commentary on the second Gospel. Stein’s commentary is an important contribution that should be high on the “want list” of any evangelical preacher.
John MacArthur, one of the most respected expositors of our era, continues his commentary series on the New Testament with the release of John 12-21 (Moody Press). MacArthur’s life project is an important contribution and gift to his fellow preachers, who are able to watch a master expositor at work as they follow MacArthur’s exposition of the biblical text. The particular credibility of this series lies in the fact that the commentaries emerge from MacArthur’s own preaching ministry at Grace Community Church in suburban Los Angeles.
Other significant volumes and biblical studies recently released include the publication of John Calvin’s Sermons on the Acts of the Apostles: Chapters 1-7, translated by Rob Roy McGregor (Banner of Truth). We can only hope that the Banner of Truth Trust will continue and extend this project in the translation and publication of Calvin’s sermons.
Preachers will also want to know of the publication of Paul Barnett’s volumePaul: Missionary of Jesus (Eerdmans), The Hope of Glory, a volume of meditations on Colossians by Sam Storms (Crossway), The Final Word: The Book of Revelation Simply Explained by Steve Wilmshurst (Evangelical Press), and Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel by Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain in the “New Studies in Biblical Theological” series (InterVarsity Press).
In terms of reference works, preachers will want to know of the release of Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings edited by Tremper Longman III, and Peter Enns (InterVarsity Press). This volume is a new and important addition to the massive reference works released by InterVarsity Press. These works, covering so much of the landscape in biblical studies, provide important material for preachers and serious students of the Bible.
At the very top of the list in terms of recent theological studies, we should note the release of New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ by Thomas R. Schreiner (Baker Academic). This massive theology of the New Testament is one of the most significant volumes in biblical theology to be released in many years. Schreiner’s work belongs on every preacher’s bookshelf and will serve to redefine and redirect New Testament theology for years to come. Schreiner’s keen theological understanding and exegetical eye are combined in this volume. Schreiner will help the preacher to understand the central message of the New Testament which, as he explains, looks first to God’s purpose to bring honor to Himself and, second, to God’s purpose to redeem us in Christ. As Schreiner notes, the New Testament “is radically God-centered.”
Similarly, preachers will celebrate the release of An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach by Bruce K. Waltke (Zondervan). Waltke, who has served for many years as a scholar of the Old Testament and a teacher of preachers, distills a lifetime of theological reflection and exegesis into this 1,000-page repository of learning. As Waltke explains, an Old Testament theology must represent “a critical reflection upon God’s revelation of His character and purpose.” Thus, any adequate Old Testament theology “reflects upon the content of the books of the Old Testament and upon the whole.” Given the massive scope of the Old Testament, an Old Testament theology such as this volume contributed by Waltke is of tremendous assistance to the preacher who would help the congregation to understand the Old Testament, both as a whole and in its parts.
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., President Emeritus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, has written a theology of both testaments in The Promise-Plan of God: A Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments (Zondervan). Kaiser, who has taught a generation of preachers, laments the fact that in our contemporary maelstrom, “we have frequently suffered for the loss of a universal framework of meaning for many of the great literary works, including the Bible.” Preachers will find Kaiser’s volume both stimulating and helpful.
Other worthy works in the field of theological studies include David F. Wells’ The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Eerdmans). Wells, one of the most insightful analysts of contemporary Christianity, sees doctrine shrinking and the church disappearing. He suggests that it is time that evangelicals remember what it means to be Protestant. As Wells explains, “Traditional Christian faith holds to the outside God who stands over against us. He is known not because we have discovered Him, but because He has made Himself known in Scripture and in Christ. We are not left to piece together our understanding of Him. He has unveiled and defined Himself for us. He has broken His concealment. He has come into view and has told us who He is and how we are to live.”
A similarly important volume is Christ & Culture Revisited by D.A. Carson (Eerdmans). Carson, research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has written this book because he is desperately concerned that Christians have lost any adequate sense of how to understand the claims of Christ and Christianity’s role in the culture. Carson revisits the famous typology proposed by the late H. Richard Niebuhr and then turns to offer his own very cogent and insightful analysis.
Pastors will find a model of apologetic presentation in The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller (Dutton). Keller, founder and pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, has written a book that has penetrated the secular market. Keller’s book is a great catalyst for starting a conversation. At the very least, it deserves a very careful reading and responsible engagement. Keller has also released a shorter volume, The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (Dutton). In this small volume Keller looks to the parable of the prodigal son in order to present the central message of Christianity to a postmodern culture.
G.K. Beale of Wheaton College Graduate School has produced a very insightful and helpful volume in We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (InterVarsity Press). Beale gets to the heart of idolatry and is able to explain and expose the biblical materials on idolatry in such a way that static interpretation gives way to a far more dynamic and deeply theological understanding of idolatry and its deadly threat to genuine faith.
Along similar lines, Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary California, offers an incisive critique of contemporary Christianity in Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church (Baker Books). Horton, who is often controversial and almost always worth reading, suggests that we are now experiencing an “American captivity of the church.” In such a church, we are distracted from Christ and the gospel and attracted to a feel-good spirituality that affirms, even if it does not transform. Horton’s book will challenge every preacher to a more substantial gospel presentation.
A significant volume of theological essays is offered in Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church, edited by Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington (P&R Publishing). Preachers will also welcome Engaging the Doctrine of God: Contemporary Protestant Perspectives edited by Bruce L. McCormack (Baker Academic). This volume pulls together essays by scholars such as Paul Helm, D.A. Carson and David F. Wright. As is often the case in multi-author works, readers will find more agreement with some essays and less with others; nevertheless, these multi-authors works present fertile ground for serious theological reflection.
The team of Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson has produced two worthy volumes dealing with contemporary controversies. In Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism (InterVarsity Press), Morgan and Peterson take on the rising popularity of inclusivism. They have edited these volumes, bringing together scholars with particular expertise in various questions related to their general theme. Their other volume, Suffering and the Goodness of God (Crossway), offers an incisive and serious look at the issue and challenge of theodicy.
Other significant theological works include Medieval Christianity: A People’s History of Christianity edited by Daniel E. Bornstein (Fortress Press), Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is? by Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger (Crossway), Things That Cannot Be Shaken: Holding Fast to Your Faith in a Relativistic World by K. Scott Oliphint and Rod Mays (Crossway), and Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence That Confirm the Christian Faith by Nathan Busenitz (Crossway).
Preaching and Pastoral Studies
Preachers are always looking for worthy works on preaching and the challenge of teaching and communicating biblical truth to the congregation. Preachers will want to know of the release of The Moody Handbook of Preaching, edited by John Koessler (Moody Press). This volume brings together materials from the faculty at Moody Bible College and others related to the larger Moody ministries.
Preachers will also enjoy Preaching to a Post-Everything World: Crafting Biblical Sermons That Connect with Our Culture by Zack Eswine (Baker Books). Eswine’s book is written with the hope that “God would raise up a generation of expository evangelists; preachers who understand the biblical exposition in missional terms; preachers whose hearts burst with love for sinners; preachers who no longer dismiss biblical exposition when they think of engaging culture; preachers who no longer expound the Bible with disregard for the unchurched people around them.”
Other works on preaching released in the past year include The Preacher as Storyteller: The Power of Narrative in the Pulpit by Austin B. Tucker (B&H Publishing Group). Tucker is convinced that the power of stories should be understood as part of the challenge of preaching to a postmodern age. He calls for expository preaching that includes storytelling and narrative—rather than calling for narrative preaching at the cost of exposition. Tucker understands the nature of narrative and story, and preachers will learn a great deal about both by reading his volume.
Two recently published volumes help us to understand the nature of preaching by looking to two of the most important models of preaching over the last few centuries. In The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth), John Carrick looks to Edwards as a homiletical model. Carrick’s volume must be added to the virtual library of works on Edwards that has been released in recent years. Nevertheless, the unique contribution of Carrick’s volume is to look to Edwards as a preacher, whereas most volumes look to Edwards as theologian, philosopher or shaper of the American mind. Carrick, who teaches both applied and doctrinal theology, sees the contribution of Jonathan Edwards as a living legacy that should be a great encouragement and edification to any preacher.
Similarly, Iain H. Murray has distilled the life of D. Martin Lloyd-Jones in Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace (Banner of Truth). In this volume, Murray does not merely recapitulate the story of Lloyd-Jones’ life, but he looks to significant aspects of Lloyd-Jones’ ministry and methodology. Murray also intends to correct some misunderstandings of Lloyd-Jones and to place this great preacher and expositor in the context of his times. Preachers who are looking to Lloyd-Jones as a model will also want to look at Murray’s two-volume work on Lloyd-Jones, previously released by The Banner of Truth Trust.
Other important volumes in pastoral studies include The Missionary Call: Find Your Place in God’s Plan for the World by M. David Sills (Moody Publishers). Sills, who teaches at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, previously served as a missionary in Ecuador and as president at the Ecuadorian Baptist Theological Seminary. In this important book, Sills does not present the missionary call in terms of a special assignment restricted to a handful of Christians. Instead, he suggests that every believer must find his or her place in Great Commission service. He does give particularly helpful attention to the long-term call to international missions.
Mark Dever, pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C., offers important counsel in Twelve Challenges Churches Face (Crossway). A skilled and faithful pastor, Dever suggests that churches often face challenges that are more deeply spiritual than they first appear. His list of challenges reads something like a list of deadly sins for the church, and his book should serve as both warning and encouragement for preachers.
Mike Abendroth offers insight in Jesus Christ: The Prince of Preachers (Day One). Abendroth points to the model of Jesus as preacher, suggesting that Christian preachers can do no less than seek to emulate the model of the Savior as preacher.
Brad J. Waggoner offers a significant distillation of research in The Shape of Faith to Come: Spiritual Formation and the Future of Discipleship (B&H Publishing Group). Waggoner is concerned to find out what is actually happening in churches in terms of the development of disciples. His book will discourage those who assume that churches are uniformaly doing well in this task, but will encourage others by demonstrating that congregations—and thus disciples in the making—are looking for serious biblical teaching, vibrant Christian fellowship, and a high-demand understanding of the gospel, rather than for the feel-good approaches commended by so many.
Practical advice is offered to ministers in a short volume that fills a gap in the existing literature. In Visit the Sick: Ministering God’s Grace in Times of Illness (Day One), Bryan Croft offers the kind of advice that should be passed down from one faithful pastor to another but seldom is. Pastors of long tenure and those just beginning in ministry will alike find this volume to be of genuine assistance.
Facing one of the greatest challenges now found both internationally and here in the United States, Patrick Sookhdeo offers a cogent analysis in The Challenge of Islam: To the Church and its Mission (Barnabas Fund). Sookhdeo, born in Guyana South America to a Muslim family, understands this challenge and offers the kind of analysis that seems all too rare in these days.
Entering into contemporary debates about worship, Bob Kauflin leaps over the mundane and miniscule and goes immediately to the heart of the matter in Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God (Crossway). I have met few persons who understand worship as biblically and comprehensively as Bob Kauflin. This book is, in my estimation, indispensable for preachers and church leaders who want to understand what worship is, biblically defined, and how music fits within worship—all this before one even considers so many of the controversies that mark today’s church and contemporary Christianity. As Kauflin makes clear, the problem with most approaches to worship is that it begins with taste rather than with theology. Kauflin reverses this and offers principals that will apply to every church, making it helpful in every congregational setting.
Finally, I will simply mention that I have released four books this year that I hope will be of encouragement and assistance to pastors. These include He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody Press),Culture Shift: Engaging Current Issues with Timeless Truth (Multnomah), Atheism Remix: A Christian Confronts the New Atheists (Crossway) and Desire and Deceit: The Real Cost of the New Sexual Tolerance (Multnomah). I, along with the other authors cited in this essay, will hope that these works serve the cause of Christ and encourage the church and its pastors.
Preachers are book people. It is just that simple, and this is simply profound. The preacher’s humility is, at least in part, based in the recognition that no one of us is sufficient for this task. Only Christ can make the preacher sufficient; but other preachers can encourage, edify, instruct and illuminate as the preacher seeks to understand his task and to fulfill the preaching ministry.
This past year has seen the release of more excellent volumes than can be mentioned in this article. Nevertheless, the preacher will do well to select several worthy books for the coming year and set a disciplined agenda for reading. Otherwise, the books may find their way onto the preacher’s bookshelf without ever making their way into the preacher’s ministry.
10 Books Every Preacher Should Read This Year
1. Thomas R. Schreiner
New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ (Baker Academic)
2. Bruce K. Waltke
An Old Testament Theology (Zondervan)
3. David F. Wells
The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World (Eerdmans)
4. D.A. Carson
Christ and Culture Revisited (Eerdmans)
5. Dennis E. Johnson
Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures (P&R Publishing)
6. G.K. Beale
We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Intervarsity Press)
7. Jean Bethke Elshtain
Sovereignty: God, State and Self (Basic Books)
8. Philip F. Gura
American Transcendentalism: A History (Hill and Wang)
9. Dan Tapscott
Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation Is Changing Your World (McGraw Hill)
10. ESV Study Bible (Crossway)
—R. Albert Mohler Jr.