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I am a college student, and God has called me into full-time ministry. Since then, I have been trying to soak up every resource I can to help sharpen my skills in ministry, whether it be reading books, listening to sermons, or talking to elders/pastors in my church. What are some good resources that you can recommend that helped you in preaching?
–Zack, Jackson, TN
I was a 19-year-old college freshman when I sensed God calling me to be a pastor. I prayed for you today and really appreciate your eagerness to study and learn in order to prepare for what God has for you. The key to a life of teaching is a life of learning. For a preacher/teacher, learning has to be an act of worship primarily undertaken to grow to be more like Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to the Scriptures. The fruit of ministry comes from the root of life with Jesus and his people. That being said, here are some suggestions.
1. Read biographies of preachers and books on preaching
My favorite outside of Scripture is Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Learning about how preachers managed criticism, health, family, etc. is helpful. Sadly, some of the best preachers were the worst husbands and fathers (such as John Wesley and A.W. Tozer). The goal is to always be a godly:
- Pastor and preacher
If these priorities are out of order, you’ll end up preaching against idolatry, but, ironically, ministry will become an idol, and you’ll lay your family on the altar to sacrifice them to your god. Meanwhile, the church will reward you rather than rebuke you, because people love being their pastor’s idol.
For books about preaching, Bryan Chapell’s book Christ-Centered Preaching is a goldmine. If I had to recommend one book on preaching, Dr. Chapell’s would be it. Other good books include Preaching Christ in All of Scripture, by Edmund P. Clowney, and Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, by Graeme Goldsworthy. Haddon Robinson has also published a great deal on preaching and has multiple books to choose from.
2. Listen to sermons, but don’t listen to any one preacher too much
To be honest, other than being in a conference and hearing another preacher now and then, I do not listen to many preachers. As a new Christian, there were some preachers I listened to a lot and learned a great deal from. But the more you listen to the same preachers, the more you parrot them rather than find your own style, voice, cadence, tone, humor, pacing, etc.
Think of preaching like playing music. New musicians will learn chords and then start playing their favorite songs, but the goal is not to be a world-class cover band, but rather to start creating original content.
3. Get a copy of Logos Bible software
I am a huge proponent of Logos. Nothing compares. It beats any print library by a mile. I have a large print and digital library, and I find I use Logos more than anything.
I love that Logos allows me to have commentaries, theological journals, language helps, and every imaginable kind of Bible reference in a searchable format on my laptop, ready to go anywhere I want. The cloud feature lets me access this digital library, even from my phone. Logos is also much cheaper than buying print books, and it’s worth every penny.
4. Bookmark bestcommentaries.com
This website is the best place to go to find out which commentaries are the best to buy for whatever book or topic you’re studying. This will help you avoid wasting time and money on bad books.
5. Learn a little from a lot of people
No one Bible scholar or teacher is an expert in everything. It’s okay to have some go-to favorites, but remember that you will be best served by learning from those who have developed particular expertise in a focused area of study.
For example, I really appreciate the New Testament work of Peter T. O’Brien, Leon Morris, and Don Carson. John Sailhamer is amazing when it comes to the Pentateuch of the Old Testament. In the area of systematic theology, no one can touch Wayne Grudem. In the area of spiritual warfare, Clinton Arnold has done more New Testament work than anyone. These are but a few examples off the top of my head. Get to know the experts in genres of literature, books of the Bible, and areas of particular study.
Hopefully that will keep you busy for a while!