7 Helpful and Overlooked Books for Preaching

by Paul Lamey

My mentors in ministry constantly emphasized: “be a student of your craft.” The nurse, car mechanic, and the pastor share something in common, along with many other vocations. They are students and practitioners of their callings. The expositor is both a student and a teacher. The pathway to expository preaching is lined with books, so we give some of the weightiest attention of our vocation to reading.

However, not just any books will do. Since “The sermon, not some leadership philosophy or management scheme, remains the prime means of pastoral direction and hence the pastor’s paramount responsibility . . . The sermon is the best frontal assault on imaginations held captive by secular stories that promise other ways to the good life.”[1] Therefore pastors, be a lifelong student and practitioner of expositional preaching. Read books on preaching that will encourage, refine, and shape your work so God’s glory is reflected through the clear proclamation of His Word.[2]

In a previous post, I suggested that preachers should read helpful books on expositional preaching. To that end, the following books are ones I believe are not only immensely helpful but often overlooked on many suggested reading lists and preaching course outlines. Additionally, there are many excellent titles not listed here, but these fill gaps that I believe are missing or easily glossed over. By reading one book every 2–3 months the pastor could read all the suggested books.

J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012). 

Why is a book on hermeneutics on a list of preaching books? The message of the sermon must be grasped at the interpretive level, so the meaning of the passage is understood and then emphasized by the sermon. Expository preaching and sound hermeneutics go hand in glove. Many preachers run quickly past meaning to supposed “relevance” without taking the time to grasp what the Spirit intended. Accompanied with the very helpful workbook, this is an excellent resource, using either as a refresher or introduction to the discipline of hermeneutics. This is one of the key resources that are required in our church’s leadership training.

Christopher Ash, The Priority of Preaching (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2010). 

This is a simple and concise treatment of good, biblical preaching. This is a helpful book for pastors new to expository preaching. One significant highlight is Ash’s appendix entitled “Give God the Microphone!” in which he clearly outlines a solid defense for consecutive, expository preaching.

Alec Motyer, Preaching: Simple Teaching on Simply Preaching (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2013).

This book provides the reader with the opportunity to sit at the feet of a great biblical scholar who has spent his life expounding the text of Scripture. His insights are wise, carefully measured, and warmly pastoral. This is a grandfather of expository preaching to whom you should listen.

Dale Ralph Davis, The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from the Old Testament Narrative Texts (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2007).

Davis is a master of expounding OT narrative. Many are familiar with his excellent expositionalcommentaries of OT books, especially those that concentrate on narrative portions. The Bible is mostly narrative; yet, many preachers struggle to expound this Spirit-given genre. Davis is a great entryway to understanding how to preach narrative with effectiveness, paying close attention to the original context while drawing out its theological relevance.

Michael Fabarez, Preaching That Changes Lives (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002).

Application in preaching is one of the most misunderstood and, ironically, misapplied disciplines. The great Welsh preacher, Geoff Thomas, has rightly noted, “Preaching that lacks application is the bane of the modern Reformed pulpit.” Most good preaching books say something about application, yet Fabarez’s work is largely dedicated to helping the expositor “through the matrix of application” (xiv). He builds on J. I. Packer’s dictum that “Preaching is essentially teaching plus application,” showing preachers how to preach in such a way that spurs life-change.

Scott M. Gibson, editor, Preaching the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006).

In recent years, there have been renewed efforts to shed more light on preaching the OT. While preaching the “older testament” offers unique challenges, expositors should recover a robust dedication to its messianic message and abiding relevance. This is an edited volume dedicated to Walter Kaiser with eleven different contributors each shining light on various OT genres.

John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric (Carlisle, Penn.: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982).

The influence of the biblical theology movement as formulated by Vos and extended through the redemptive–historical preaching of Clowney is still being felt. One of the weaknesses of this development has been a hesitancy to move beyond indicative statements in preaching (e.g., “Christ died for our sins.”) to imperative statements (e.g., “Go and sin no more”). Some have gone so far as to label the latter “moralism” ignoring the fact that such statements are made by Christ. The imperative of preaching “emphasizes the responsibility of man and the application of redemption” (148).  Preaching that focuses on the imperative (what to do) to the exclusion of the indicative (what is true) is not biblical preaching, and Carrick makes a solid case to this end.

Posted in Preaching