Books
are to the preacher what meat is to the Atkins diet. I’ve simply never known
a really effective preacher who was not also an avid reader. In fact, most of
the great ones are reading all the time.

That’s
why every year in the January-February issue of Preaching,
we offer a special focus on books. It’s important for preachers to be able to
sift through the thousands of titles published each year to be able to identify
the ones which will be most valuable to their lives and ministry. We aren’t
able to include all the good ones that are available, but we work hard to recognize
and share some of the most important books released over the past year.

As
an editor and preacher – a dangerous combination if there ever was one – I spend
most of my days (and often nights) working with words, either reading them or
writing them. I always have at least one (and usually two or three) books going
at a time: one or more at the office, one by the recliner, one by the bedside
table, one in the car for my treadmill time at the YMCA, and so on. Allow me
to share some of the books which made the most impact on me this year. I know
such lists are usually a “top ten,” but I just couldn’t stop at ten.
So sue me. (Click on a title for more information or to purchase from Amazon.com)

The
Divine Conspiracy
(Harper San Francisco) by Dallas Willard has been
available for about five years now, but I had never read it until this fall.
Now I suspect it’s one of those I’ll re-read before long. Willard shares wonderful
insights on spiritual formation. This is a book any preacher (or believer) will
read with profit.

Another
book that’s been around for several years is A
Godward Life
(Multnomah) by John Piper. This book includes 120 brief
readings and meditations designed to help the reader in his or her “quest
to savor the supremacy of God in all of life.” This is one of those books
so filled with wisdom that practically every reading lights a fire (and a sermon)
in my mind.

Hero
for Humanity: A Biography of William Wilberforce
by Kevin Belmonte (NavPress)
inspired me with its tale of the bold, faithful Christian leader who helped
lead Britain to outlaw the slave trade. Wilberforce is a model to which we should
point young Christians as a demonstration of how God can use one person to change
the world.

Gettysburg
(Houghton Mifflin) by historian Stephen W. Sears isn’t the first book I’ve read
on that climactic Civil War battle, but it is a well-written reminder of the
price our nation paid to eradicate the evil of slavery from our midst. Sears’
well-written narrative puts the spotlight on the bravery of individuals who
made a difference on the battlefield and in our history.

Persecution
(Regnery) by David Limbaugh was an eye-opening (and at times frightening) recounting
of the way in which our culture has shifted at many points toward an anti-Christian
bias. Those who think the term “culture wars” is overblown haven’t
read this book.

I’m
always looking for books that will help me work more effectively; the only problem
is that most of them want me to change something. One of those which persuaded
me that change may not be so bad is Getting
Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity
(Penguin Books) by
David Allen. It is filled with helpful ideas that will make me more productive
if I ever get around to doing them.

Of
course, much of my reading focuses on homiletics, and a number of excellent
books on preaching hit my reading list in the past year. In addition to our
book of the year (see page 14 of this issue), 360-Degree
Preaching
(Baker) by Michael Quicke, some of my favorites were The
Passion-Driven Sermon
(Broadman & Holman) by Jim Shaddix, Preaching
That Changes Lives
(Thomas Nelson) by Michael Fabarez., and Preaching
With Bold Assurance
(Broadman & Holman) by Hershael York and Bert
Decker.

Finally,
one of the most enjoyable books I read this year was Seabiscuit
by Laura Hillenbrand. In a beautifully-written tale, the author shows how an
unlikely band of people achieved more than any could have individually dreamed.
Who could have guessed that a story about a racehorse could be so fascinating?

Now
that 2004 is upon us, I’m looking forward to a whole new batch of great books.
As the T-shirt slogan says: “So many books. So little time.”

_______________

Michael
Duduit is the Editor of Preaching magazine.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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It’s that time of year, when a pastor’s thoughts turn to calories.

OK, it’s not that we really want to think about calories. It’s just that with the arrival of the holiday season – that hectic period from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day – it’s the rare pastor who doesn’t face the challenge of Christmas calories. If it was just the Thanksgiving dressing and pumpkin pie – and by the way, please pass another of those delicious rolls – we could work it off by mid-December. But starting the first week of December, every Sunday School class, organization, task force and power group in your church will be having a party – and they wouldn’t dream of not inviting the pastor. (Well, actually the power group that’s trying to get you fired might invite you anyway, but please don’t drink any of the punch.) So figure at least one added pound per party.

Yet for many pastors, those extra ten pounds by January 2 won’t be all they have to show for their church’s holiday spirit. Of greater concern than the pounds will be those heartfelt gifts provided by thoughtful members of your church – each of whom will be carefully checking your office and/or wardrobe to be sure their gift is on proper display.

From the ugly Christian bookstore ties to the six “What is a Pastor” wall plaques for your office wall, the Christmas gifts you receive are almost guaranteed to be of little practical value. (With the exception of that fruitcake, which will make a sturdy doorstop for many years to come.)

So as a public service to pastors everywhere, we are offering a list of appropriate pastoral gifts. Feel free to pass this along to deacons/elders, print it in the church bulletin, put it on the church web site – whatever it takes.

The Top Ten Ideal Christmas Gifts for Your Pastor

10. A whole week at a favorite conference without being called home for a funeral.

9. An entire Sunday without a single complain about the temperature, music, or sermon.

8. A year’s subscription to Preaching magazine.

7. A gift certificate good for a free car wash, lawn mowing, or similar time-consuming chore.

6. A large velvet painting of Elvis. (You’d be surprised what those things will bring on E-Bay.)

5. A pass allowing the pastor to skip the next Youth Lock-In, Senior Adult Square Dance, or other church social event of your choice.

4. A two-year subscription to Preaching magazine. (Beginning to see a pattern here?)

3. A standing ovation after the pastor’s next sermon.

2. An entire, uninterrupted day off – out of the office – with no calls, questions, pages, complaints or email spam.

1. A free membership at Weight Watchers, to undo all the damage from the holidays!

_______________

Michael Duduit is the Editor of Preaching magazine.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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