Recently, we tweaked our pastoral internship program for this year to focus more on pastoral theology than trying to cover the whole gamut of a seminary education (church history, systematics, biblical theology, exegesis, etc.). To that end, we choose to highlight twelve categories of thought and practice that seem especially important to pastoral ministry. I know not every category below is technically “pastoral theology,” and obviously this isn’t anything like an exhaustive list. But these are some of the books I’ve found most helpful in pastoral ministry.
1. General Pastoral Ministry
Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students – One of my favorite books of all time. I reread chapters often.
D.A. Carson, The Cross and Christian Ministry – Destined to be a classic exposition of the gospel-centered nature of our calling.
Ajith Fernando, Jesus-Driven Ministry – An honest and challenging look at what spiritual leadership really looks like.
R. Kent Hughes, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome – I read this early in ministry; a good idea.
John Piper, Brothers We Are Not Professionals – I can’t think of a Piper book that moved me more than this one.
Guy Prentiss Waters, How Jesus Runs the Church – He’s almost certainly thought about church polity more than you have.
James Bannerman, The Church of Christ – He’s possibly thought about church polity more than anyone ever has.
Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church – A great blueprint for church reform and revitalization.
Jonathan Leeman, The Surprising Offense of God’s Love – Deep and long, but worth the effort. Very practical and heartfelt.
Philip Ryken, City on a Hill – I wish more people knew of this little gem.
Alexander Strauch, Biblical Eldership – Best exegetical overview of eldership around today.
Colin Marshall and Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine – Will help you keep the main thing the main thing.
Timothy Laniak, Shepherds After My Own Heart – A biblical theology of the shepherd imagery. At least read the last chapter.
Timothy Witmer, The Shepherd Leader – A practical guide and biblical exhortation to actually know and care for the flock.
David Dickson, The Elder and His Work – Our elders are reading this right now. Good primer on elder care.
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor – You don’t have to follow all his methods to be impressed by Baxter’s care of souls.
J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership – A wealth of examples, heroes, and anecdotes.
Larry Osborne, Sticky Teams – Will save you from being stupid.
Alexander Strauch, Meetings that Work – Will save you from being boring.
Mark Dever, Deliberate Church – You’ll be prodded and poked to think more carefully about what you do and why you do it.
5. Biblical Interpretation
D.A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies – The book everyone needs to read and no one wants to be in.
Robert Plummer, 40 Question About Interpreting the Bible – Great overview of the doctrine of Scripture and hermeneutics.
David Helm, One-to-One Bible Reading – Helpful primer on discipleship.
John Stott, Between Two Worlds – A well deserved classic; every preacher should read this at some point.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Preaching and Preachers – By far, my favorite book on preaching.
James W. Thompson, Preaching Like Paul – Not sure if Thompson is an evangelical, but this book is full of eminently good sense.
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching – Will make your preaching better by making it bigger.
D.A. Carson, ed., Worship by the Book -Introduction to worship from three different perspectives, with an excellent summary essay from Carson.
Philip Ryken, ed., Give Praise to God – Introduction to worship from the perspective of the regulative principle.
Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Worship – I don’t know of any church whose services could not be helped by considering the things in this book.
Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship That is Reformed – There is more to being Reformed than you might think.
Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters – Eminently balanced, gospel-centered, and practical.
Harold Best, Unceasing Worship – A wise, creative, insightful writer. Will make you think.
Michael Emlet, CrossTalk – Biblical counseling applied.
Paul Tripp, Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands – The best manual on how to get started with helping people change.
David Powlison, Seeing Through New Eyes – Counseling in action on the printed page.
David Powlison, “The Pastor as Counselor” in For the Fame of God’s Name (p. 419-42) – Great introduction to and appeal for biblical counseling over against secular models.
Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism – Straight thinking of the evangel and evangelism.
Mack Stiles, The Marks of a Messenger – A theology of evangelism by one who really evangelizes.
Randy Newman, Questioning Evangelism – Get to the gospel by asking questions; sound like Jesus.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Evangelistic Sermons – Wonderful examples of exegetical, evangelistic preaching.
Paul Miller, A Praying Life – The best book on prayer to actually make you want to pray.
David Hansen, Long Wandering Prayer – I always like books on prayer that feel freeing.
Hughes Oliphant Old, Leading in Prayer – A manual filled with beautiful examples to use or emulate.
11. Church and Culture
David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant – Every pastor should read at least one David Wells book. This is the last, so a good place to start.
James Davison Hunter, To Change the World – Helpful corrective to Christian triumphalism.
D.A. Carson, Christ and Culture Revisited – Nuanced, careful, balanced.
David Hesselgrave, Paradigms in Conflict – The chapter on sovereignty is not great, but the rest of the book raises some of the most critical issues in contemporary missiology.
P.T. O’Brien, Gospel and Mission in the Writings of Paul – Read whatever he writes (that goes for O’Brien and Paul)
Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What Is the Mission of the Church? – Extremely important topic.