Frequently, new pastors or recent seminary graduates ask me “What should I be reading in the area of preaching?” I usually interact with a few questions to learn about what homiletical education they’ve had, what kind of preaching they do and what they perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses. That way I can “prescribe” more precisely for the present needs. Nevertheless, I have found myself turning again and again to many of the same sources.
Hence, the following short annotated bibliography of books represents my recommendations for preachers to read following their initial seminary courses in preaching. The list offers only a start on a good reading program in homiletics.
This bibliography comes as one teacher/preacher’s opinion, so remember to practice Proverbs 15:22. As will be obvious, I practice and teach expository preaching, so the list develops primarily from that tradition.
I have arranged this list of “first reads” in five categories: (1) primers (usually used as first textbooks), (2) general works on preaching, (3) works that deal with specific aspects of preaching such as application, illustration or delivery, (4) genre- related works (how to preach in a specific biblical genre, such as narrative or prophecy) and (5) reference works.
Within each category, the books are listed in a suggested order for reading. The books in the “reference” section below probably will not be helpful as a single reading, but will prove very valuable in trying to locate people or topics or to “jog the memory.” (In such a brief list, it is impossible to list every valuable work. Therefore, exclusion of a particular work does not imply a lack of endorsement. Likewise, inclusion on the list does not imply that the book should not have been read previously as a text book.) I recognize, of course, that pastors must read widely and in areas other than preaching, but for those who want to improve their preaching practice or thinking about preaching, here’s where I believe you should start.
Primers are those books that serve as an “introduction to preaching,” or “here’s a philosophy of preaching and how to do it.” Robinson, Haddon W. Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980).
This is still the preaching primer of choice! No book offers a better walkthrough of the process for preparing and delivering expository sermons. Robinson provides the steps to sermon preparation and delivery from exegesis to “preaching so that people will listen.” No recent book has been used more broadly as a textbook in Bible colleges and seminaries. Moreover, the work has been translated into several languages.
Richard, Ramesh. Scripture Sculpture: A Do-It-Yourself Manual For Biblical Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995).
With a somewhat different vocabulary, Dr. Richard follows Robinson’s philosophy of preaching by offering a manual on exposition that highlights the purpose of the sermon as the critical bridge between text and sermon. The method has been taught successfully to tens of thousands of pastors internationally.
Grant, Reg, and Reed, John. Power Sermon: Countdown to Quality Messages for Maximum Input. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993), 198 pp.
Drs. Grant and Reed present a creative eleven-step model, following Robinson’s approach to expository preaching, with numerous new insights. Their work provides a “checklist” to insure accurate exposition, exposition that is relevant to the listener and grounded in the biblical text.
Chapell, Bryan. Christ-centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994).
Dr. Chapell leads the pack as both a homiletician and preacher. His excellent book provides principles for expository preaching, guidelines for the preparation of expository sermons and numerous helpful concepts such as preaching to the “fallen condition focus.”
Robinson, Haddon W., ed. Biblical Sermons: How Twelve Preachers Apply the Principles of Biblical Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1989), 264 pp.
This sequel to Robinson’s Biblical Preaching provides ten examples of expository sermons based on Robinson’s paradigm. Dr. Robinson then analyzes each sermon and interviews each preacher. The book offers great promise for hearing from some of the masters “why they said it like that.”
Miller, Calvin. Spirit, Word and Story: A Philosophy of Marketplace Preaching. reprint, (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996/1989).
Here is Calvin Miller’s approach to preaching. His approach is biblical, though not really expository. The book unites the role of the Spirit, the Word and the story of preaching to inform but not extinguish preaching’s mystery. A section on preparation and delivery concludes the volume.
Vines, Jerry and Shaddix, Jim. Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 391 pp.
Part of this recent work serves to reprint Jerry Vines’ previous works on sermon preparation and delivery. This volume includes numerous fresh insights, however. Warren Wiersbe comments on the jacket, “This book is an encyclopedia of practical and useful material for the serious preacher, but it reads like a fireside chat.
Liefeld, Walter. L. New Testament Exposition: From Text to Sermon. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), 177 pp.
Written by a New Testament scholar rather than a homiletician, the book offers much value in matters related to working with the biblical text. The book also develops an entire section on the subject of applying the text and deals with sermon structure and preaching from difficult texts.
General Works
General works cover the basic elements of the subject of preaching, much like a good primer does, but they do not necessarily offer one approach to or method of preaching. They inform our thinking about and theology of preaching, which, in turn, informs our practice of preaching.
Stott, John R. W. Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1982), 351 pp.
Stott’s work surely is destined to become a classic. As the title and last section of the book suggest, Stott pictures preaching as “bridge-building” between the ancient world and the modern world. Though an excellent “first read” for preachers, the work unfortunately provides little if anything on how to cross the bridge.
Greidanus, Sidney. The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co.).
As the subtitle suggests, this scholarly work deals well with matters of hermeneutics as they relate to homiletics. The work begins with an overview of biblical preaching and its hermeneutical foundations. The majority of the work includes chapter-by-chapter instructions for preaching from various biblical genres. Professor Greidanus’ book is used widely as a text book, and rightly so.
Hamilton, Donald L. Homiletical Handbook. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 207 pp.
As a handbook, this volume presents concerns related to the overall homiletical task and then what Dr. Hamilton refers to as “homiletical techniques.” One of the volume’s most valuable contributions is the last half of the book, a “Homiletical Treasury.” The treasury includes numerous examples of preaching through various ages. The examples are interspersed with principles of homiletical theory that provide an inductive learning value for the preacher.
Miller, Calvin. The Empowered Communicator: 7 Keys to Unlocking the Audience. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 218 pp.
Here’s more from Calvin Miller’s delicious pen. Building upon his philosophy of marketplace preaching (see: Spirit, Word and Story), Dr. Miller provides seven principles to preaching that are audience focused and connect with listeners.
Keith Willhite and Scott M. Gibson, ed. The Big Idea of Biblical Preaching: Connecting the Bible to People. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998).
This book serves as a festschrift to honor Haddon Robinson and provides an apologetic for Robinson’s approach to expository preaching. Additionally, the book clarifies some interpretive issues and offers assistance in areas such as application, illustration and structure of the sermon.
Adams, Jay E. Preaching With Purpose: The Urgent Task of Homiletics. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982).
Adams’ work brings to focus the crucial issue of the centrality of purpose. The book deals with preaching’s overall purpose as well as specific purposes of specific sermons.
Throughout the book, Dr. Adams relates the matter of purpose to various elements of preaching such as delivery, storytelling, evangelism, audience analysis, the biblical passage and other concerns well worth the reading.
Specific Aspects of Preaching
The works in this section go “inside” the sermon to consider specific elements of preaching. Thus, these works are much more narrow in scope, but offer more in a specific concern than general works can provide.
Kuhatschek, Jack. Applying the Bible. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990).
Though not a preaching book, per se, this small work presents a case for Bible study (and thus preaching) that leads to application. The book also gives excellent advice for applying specific elements of preaching, such as biblical commands, examples and promises. A reflective chapter on the limits of application also is helpful.
Chapell, Bryan. Using Illustrations to Preach with Power. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992), 223 pp.
This is absolutely the best work on the value and use of illustrations for preaching. The book is not a collection of illustrations, but rather a philosophy of illustrating. An appendix includes an excellent brief survey of the contribution of communication theory to preaching, and in particular, illustrating.
Grant, Reg and Reed, John. Telling Stories To Touch The Heart. (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1990). 131 pp.
Drs. Grant and Reed have provided a useful tool on the value of including and a means to include heart-tugging stories in preaching. The book moves from the basics of how to choose stories, to how to use them and tell them well. The work includes five biblical stories as examples that are nearly “ready to preach.”
Wiersbe, Warren W. Preaching and Teaching with Imagination. (Wheaton, IL; Victor Books, 1994), pp.
This work presents a practical guide to creativity in preaching with the scholarly substance to support the instruction. Dr. Wiersbe really did his homework on matters such as metaphor, language usage, imagination and creativity. In 1995, Dr. Wiersbe and Victor books collaborated to produce a complementary anthology, entitled Developing A Christian Imagination: Creative Resources for the Christian in Ministry (286 pp.). Henderson, David W. Culture Shift. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 155 pp.
As Scott Gibson comments on the cover, “Henderson has captured well the burgeoning generation of men and women who desperately need to hear about the Savior.” This book is as thought-provoking as it is intended to be. Henderson offers very little practical directions or strategies for speaking to a shifting culture, but the book is excellent reading to prod thinking about the role of culture in preaching, or a theology of culture.
Adams, Jay E. Truth Applied: Application in Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990).
Adams’ brief work argues for the necessity of application in preaching. One chapter discusses the sticky issue of the Holy Spirit’s role in application and then the remainder of the book relates application to sermon introductions, conclusions, examples, formats and knowledge. Though brief, this is one of the few books on application in preaching and it provides needed guidelines.
McDill, Wayne. The Moment of Truth: A Guide to Effective Sermon Delivery. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1999).
Dr. McDill presents a valuable insight by stating and defending that “The sermon is a presentation in time of a sequence of thoughts centered in a single biblical idea.” The book then develops this thesis by considering God’s plan for preaching (theology and definitions), the value of knowing the audience, preaching style and presentation and a description of “the preaching moment” (motive and stance).
Willhite, Keith. Relevant Biblical Preaching Without Dumbing Down: Ten Strategies Toward Communication Relevance in Expository Messages. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2000, forthcoming.) c. 140 pp.
This book builds upon numerous calls for relevance in expository preaching by offering ten strategies for “how to” achieve relevance with the audience without sacrificing biblical content.
Genre-related Works
Klein, George L., ed. Reclaiming the Prophetic Mantle: Preaching the Old Testament Faithfully._(Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 315 pp.
Professor Klein’s work unites hermeneutics and homiletics toward a faithful proclamation of Old Testament passages. Recognized scholars from biblical studies and homiletics provide thirteen chapters that inform three sections: (1) Preaching from Different Old Testament Genres, (2) Moving from Old Testament to New Testament Truth and (3) Bringing It All Together.
Pratt, Richard L. Jr. He Gave Us Stories: The Bible Student’s Guide to Interpreting Old Testament Narratives. (Philipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1990), 493 pp.
As the book’s sub-title suggests, the work focuses on interpretation, but there is much value for the preacher. Dr. Pratt covers three specific areas: (1) preparation of, (2) investigation of and (3) application of Old Testament narratives. By uniting hermeneutics and homiletics he offers a wonderful guide for a genre often considered challenging to preach.
Larsen, David L. Telling the Old Old Story. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1995).
David Larsen’s fluent pen has done it again. Though this work is probably not the best “first read” on narrative preaching, it will provoke sermon-changing reflection on Larsen’s four sections: (1) our sources, (2) our skills, (3) our subjects and (4) our summons.
Reference and Theology of Preaching
Piper, John. The Supremacy of God in Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 990), 119 pp.
This brief book packs a wallop. In just over 100 pages, Dr. Piper does not present an exhaustive theology of preaching, but a very accurate biblical theology that calls for a focus on preaching that is God-centered, yet aims for changed lives. If you can read no other book on preaching this year, read this one.
Stott, John R. W. The Preacher’s Portrait. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1961), 124 pp.
In this brief book Stott delineates the core of the New Testament’s theology of preaching by offering five New Testament word studies of terms used to describe the preacher. Originally, the manuscript for this scholarly work was presented as the 1961 Payton Lectureship at Fuller Theological Seminary.
Larsen, David L. The Company of the Preachers. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1998).
Dr. Larsen has provided a very intelligible “first read” on the history of preaching. He moves through the centuries of Christian preaching with description and evaluation. Succinct evaluations and comparisons provide genuine interpretive history rather than a cursory glance.
Duduit, Michael, ed. Communicate with Power: Insights from America’s Top Communicators. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).
Dr. Duduit has assembled twenty-five interviews with some of America’s top communicators, most of whom are preachers. Almost as enticing as biography, the interviews provide surprise after surprise of useful insights. It’s like sitting down with the best over coffee and asking “how do you do that?”
Duduit, Michael, ed. Handbook of Contemporary Preaching. (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 605 pp.
This handbook is a useful tool that discusses, at chapter-length, fifty different aspects of preaching including the theology of preaching, creativity in preaching, ethics, history, methods, preparation, delivery, human needs and much more. Contributors include Calvin Miller, Paul Borden, Albert Mohler, Jr., Timothy George, Al Fasol and Lloyd Ogilvie, among others. This is an excellent work to have on the shelf when you wonder about “this topic,” or “that topic” in preaching.
Willimon, William H. and Lischer, Richard, ed. Concise Encyclopedia of Preaching. (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1995), 518 pp.
Though entitled “concise,” this encyclopedia is the most comprehensive single-volume reference work on Christian preaching available in the English language. Its scope ranges from the technical tasks of sermon preparation to thoughtful essays on such topics as narrative preaching, African-American preaching, style and prophetic preaching. The nearly two hundred contributors to this volume represent Protestant and Catholic pastors and homileticians from around the world, as well as leading voices in theology, rhetoric, history and biblical studies.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Listening to the Giants: A Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1980), 362 pp. and Wiersbe, Warren W. Walking with the Giants: A minister’s Guide to Good Reading and Great Preaching. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976), 289 pp.
Wiersbe’s two volumes present a collection of brief biographies based on Dr. Wiersbe’s vast reading of biography over decades of his ministry. Walking includes nearly one hundred pages of annotated bibliography on “Classic Books on the Ministry.” Many of the preachers in these two worthy volumes are well known, such as Spurgeon and Parker, but several are “lesser-knowns.” All of those included offer valuable lessons from their examples.
Wiersbe, Warren W. and Perry, Lloyd. The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers._(Chicago: Moody Press, 1984), 325 pp.
This handbook gives a brief (98 pages) historical survey of the history of preaching to provide what the authors call “a chronological perspective.” The other three sections of this work of choice reading provide a “rhetorical perspective,” a “biographical perspective” and an “illustrational perspective.”

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