I’m a guy who loves to read in my spare time (whenever that happens to come in ministry life). This year I have come across a few duds when it comes to quality books, but there have also been quite a few great books that I would highly recommend. So take a look at my Top 5 from 2014 and maybe grab one to read for yourself:
1) Seeing Words and Saying Beautifully by John Piper
I reviewed this book not too long ago, but it is worth mentioning again. On the surface, it seems like it is a book that is geared toward pastors and anyone else who teaches God’s Word. However, Piper places a burden of responsibility on all believers in that we have a massive responsibility to tell of the wonders of God. By looking at the lives and work of George Herbert, George Whitfield and CS Lewis, Piper reveals that displaying God’s wonder can come from expressing beauty through poetry, preaching and talking about doctrine. This is worth a read and it even closes with a prayer that I have found myself using often before I step into the pulpit:
May the Lord Jesus Himself protect me from self-exalting, Christ obscuring eloquence. May He grant me a humble, Christ exalting poetic habit of speaking His wonders – from the simplest in His world to the greatest in His Word – in words of joyousness, honey sweetness, golden fitness and gracious saltiness. May He do it so that I myself may first taste, then tell.
2) To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain by Matt Chandler
We live in a world that is stressed, depressed and frustrated. In this book, Chandler faithfully studies through the book of Philippians and points us to a joy that is greater than our circumstances. That joy, as Paul unfolds in Philippians, is found in Christ alone. He unfolds God’s Word clearly and even cleans up misconceptions held by the American church, including with one of the most popular verses in Scripture:
Do you see how Philippians 4:13 is not about chasing your dreams, following your passion, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, accomplishing anything you want with God’s help? It is instead the testimony of those who have Christ and have found Him supremely valuable, joyous and satisfying.
To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain is incredibly faithful to Scripture and is a great read for anyone – from teens seeking to grow in Christ to pastors wanting an edifying and convicting read.
3) Family Ministry Field Guide by Timothy Paul Jones
It is no secret that modern youth ministry is broken. The church keeps losing students in their transition from high school to college and few seem to know how to deal with the situation. Family Ministry Field Guide offers that the problem is that youth ministry is trying to function outside of the Scriptural mandate of the discipleship for youth. The modern American church has placed teen discipleship in the hands of youth pastors, whereas Scripture places discipleship in the hands of parents. The church must be a parents greatest resource for parents and parents must be the greatest spiritual voice in their student’s life. Jones does an excellent job of diagnosing the weak spots of modern youth ministry and he offers great advice for youth pastors and for parents. This is a must read for any parent or pastor.
4) Creature of the Word by Matt Chandler
Two Matt Chandler books in my Top 5? Yup. Honestly, I had Creature of the Word on my bookshelf for a LONG time but never got around to it. I had always loved and respected Chandler’s preaching but once I read To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain, I knew that I had to read this book ASAP. Creature Of The Word is not a ground breaking and original work, but it is immensely helpful in reminding the church what the bedrock of every ministry should be: the Word. Chandler says, “Your foundation should not be unique. It must be the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus, which is received, not developed or achieved.” This is such an encouraging book for anyone involved in ministry on any level.
5) The Passion Driven Sermon by Jim Shaddix
As a pastor, I have read a TON of books on preaching. But this is by far, the most challenging and practical book on preaching I have ever read. The Passion Driven Sermon gives an array of challenges to the preacher but one challenge stands above the rest:
A preacher’s call to preach is rooted in his call to Christ, and his call to Christ is rooted in a quest for the glory of God.
Shaddix calls pastors to not be as intent on the method of delivering the sermon as he is the source. Root your sermon in the wisdom of God and not the wisdom of man. In doing that, God gets the glory and not the preacher. One of the most unique things that this book offers is applications not just for pastors but for those who sit in the pews. As Shaddix says, “Weekly sermons should be driven by a passion for the glory of God. A passion jointly possessed by both pastor and people.” A great read for pastors and for congregants that listen to pastors on a weekly basis.
So what about you? What were your best reads of 2014? Leave some titles in the comments below.