As I’ve been preparing to take time off this summer for study and rest, I reached out to some of my friends and colleagues from TGC for advice on books to read on the topic of preaching. I specifically wanted books to help me improve as a preacher—not necessarily how-to books for the beginning preacher (although we need those too), but resources to help seasoned preachers get better. Here are the recommendations I received:
Alistair Begg: 1. Heralds of God by James S. Stewart. Wonderful example of “old school” 20th-century evangelical Scottish preaching. 2. Saving Eutychus by Gary Miller and Paul Campbell. A very practical look at the mechanics—pace, pitch, volume and tone. 3. The Christian Ministry by Charles Bridges. A classic on the context in which preaching takes place.
D. A. Carson: 1. Preaching as the Word of God: Answering an Old Question with Speech-Act Theory by Sam Chan (2016). 2. A Vision for Preaching: Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Ministry by Abraham Kuruvilla (2015). 3. Crossover Preaching: Intercultural-Improvisational Homiletics in Conversation with Gardner C. Taylor by Jared E. Alcántara (2015). 4. Preaching in the New Testament: An Exegetical and Biblical-Theological Study by Jonathan I. Griffiths (2017). 5. Expository Exultation by John Piper (2018). 6. Preaching Christ from the Psalms by Sidney Greidanus (2016).
Steve DeWitt: I’d recommend The Joy of Preaching by Phillip Brooks. Brooks’s book is as relevant today as ever (circa 1800s). He writes as a master-preacher passing on his wisdom to all who will hear and heed his humble example. The church needs more Brooks-style ancient-modern sermons proclaimed and heard with joy.
Dan Doriani: Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson.
Collin Hansen: The Religious Affections by Jonathan Edwards. Preaching is motivating Christians in godliness, and I don’t know anyone outside Scripture who understood human motivations and desires better than Edwards.
David Horner: Sometimes we need a taste of “old school,” so I suggest a look back with great promise to On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus, one of the founders of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Although many of his thoughts are outdated, the basics never go out of style. He can be read with much profit, even for the modern preacher.
Irwyn Ince: 1. If you’d like more exposure to the African American sermonic tradition, I recommend Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (Martha Simmons and Frank Thomas, eds). 2. I love Robert Smith’s Doctrine That Dances: Bringing Doctrinal Teaching to Life. 3. Herman Bavinck on Preaching & Preachers (James Eglington, ed.).
Tim Keller: 1. Alec Motyer’s little book Preaching?: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching. 2. And look around for all the various chapters and essays out there by Sinclair Ferguson. Thinking of his chapters in Logan’s The Preacher and Preaching (“Exegesis”), in Mohler’s Feed My Sheep (“Preaching to the Heart”), and his essay on “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.”
Julius Kim: If I can be so bold as to recommend my own book—Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is a primary textbook on the art and science of preaching for pastors and pastors-in-training that teaches you how to practice expository, Christ-focused hermeneutics, combined with gospel-centered, audience-transforming homiletics. It will guide you to: Discover the truth of the text according to the human author, Discern Christ in the text according to the divine author, Design your sermon with truth, goodness, and beauty, and Deliver your sermon in a way that keeps attention, retention, and leads to transformation.
Bill Kynes: This summer my associate pastor and I will be reading Let the Earth Hear His Voice by Greg Scharf. Greg has recently retired as professor of pastoral theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and in this book, he offers strategies for overcoming eight common bottlenecks in preaching. The book addresses beginning and seasoned preachers who want to overcome deficiencies that often hinder our effectiveness.
Ray Ortlund: I recommend the essay by Francis Schaeffer entitled “Two Contents, Two Realities,” included as an appendix in the book 25 Basic Bible Studies. Schaeffer gives us preachers the categories we need to shape our preaching and pastoring in such a way that we might, by God’s grace, for God’s glory, compel the attention of this generation. I firmly believe that nothing less will suffice.
Vermon Pierre: The only one I think I would mention right now would be Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons, 1750 to the Present (Martha Simmons and Frank A. Thomas, eds.). This is more for those who want a resource on primary sources on this to interact with thoughtfully. This is not necessarily an endorsement of every sermon in the volume! Indeed, the better sermons are at the beginning, featuring people like Lemuel Haynes and John Murrant and Richard Allen. I would recommend this volume more for those who are students of and practitioners of preaching who want to understand preaching as understood not just within their own theological tribe but beyond that.
Harry Reeder: 1. Preaching and Preachers by Martyn Lloyd-Jones—for conscience sake I have to recommend that book first and foremost. 2. Although he left his original premise, one of the older books by Haddon Robinson—Biblical Preaching—I found extremely helpful. 3. The one I would highlight since the two mentioned have probably been considered would be Preaching with Purpose by Jay Adams. His focus upon the “telos” of the text was ahead of the time for the “big idea” preachers of today. 4. Another book Jay Adams wrote on preaching was an analysis of the sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon called Sense Appeal in the Sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. 5. Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students and An All-Round Ministry are two more.
Philip Ryken: Godric by Frederick Buechner—inspiring short read, historical fiction on the life of a true gospel saint, worth reading also for its rich use of language and dynamic storytelling.
Tim Savage: What I’ve found most helpful in developing preaching content and delivery is reading the sermons of great preachers, especially those of Edwards, Spurgeon, and Lloyd-Jones. Pairing sermons with stellar biographies or autobiographies of these preachers (Marsden, Spurgeon, and Murray) has taught me more about preaching than I’ve received from other sources.
David Short: John Owen’s The Glory of Christ. It is an absolute feast.
Sam Storms: Piper’s Expository Exultation is the best book on preaching I’ve ever read.
Stephen Um: Schnabel’s work on the book of Acts (Paul, the Missionary) has been helpful, especially in pointing out Paul’s apologetic approach in speaking to a secular audience in Lystra (Acts 14) and Athens (Acts 17). He develops the idea of the “element of contact” and the “point of contradiction.” But what is helpful is that he points out that Paul engaged in apologetic judo when he used the “element of contact” as the “element of contradiction.”