I have often said, “The call to pastor is a call to study.” Paul said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.”(II Tim. 2:15) I believe that we do what our real interest drives us to do. The pastor must make his interest the understanding of the Word of God! The call to preach is a call to study, understand, and exposit God’s Holy Word! This cannot be done without much study. The apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Give attention to reading.” I know he was speaking of the public reading of the Word there but certainly Paul meant that the Word needed to be read much alone and studied.
Someone has said that nearly every pastor has a TV set, and would not think in these days of being without a car, but what about a library? In the early days of ministry the pastor should begin building his library and become an avid reader. He must keep up with issues and trends such that his preaching has modern application. Very early in my ministry I devoured the Sword of the Lord and then paid for subscriptions myself to other papers that kept me informed about issues such as Christian View of the News by Norman Pyle. The pastor must read to stay informed and on the leading edge of things. Many pastors keep ahead during the first years of ministry but then tire and lose the desire to read and study and keep ahead after a few years. The people you pastor should hear about where to stand on the issues from their pastor not from radio preachers and others.
Warren Wiersbe aptly commented in On Being a Servant:
Reading books will not of itself guarantee success. Reading is only the key that opens the door to the vault. Assimilating what you read, relating it to what you already know, and practicing it where you serve puts the treasure to work paying dividends. It is tragic to open the vault and stand there empty-handed. Readers are leaders only if they turn their learning into living. To change the metaphor, reading a book is like eating a meal; but if you eat and don’t exercise, you’ll get overweight, and you may die.
Besides all the reading and study for messages, the pastor should constantly be reading books that will keep him stirred up, informed, and challenged.
Below are some books through the years that have helped me tremendously.
1. Things I Have Learned by Bob Jones, Sr. is a tremendous book regarding principles and character. It contains great illustrations, which will be used over and over again.
2. Books by A.W. Tozer particularly The Root of the Righteous and The Pursuit of God.
3. Spiritual Leadership by Oswald Sanders—must reading!
4. Books by John R. Rice particularly The Power of Pentecost and The Golden Path to Successful Personal Soulwinning. Find out who motivates you to soul winning for you will need motivating from time to time. Doctor Rice motivates me in that area.
5. John Maxwell’s two books on leadership Developing the Leader Within You and Developing the Leaders Around You. Maxwell is a neo-evangelical and these books must be read with a grain of salt but they are excellent on leadership. These books help with people skills, which are extremely important in pastoring.
6. Read anything you can get by G. Campbell Morgan. Many of his books are out of print but can be obtained used.
7. Anything by Charles Spurgeon will be useful. I believe a preacher should get into a habit of reading Spurgeon’s sermons. Spurgeon had a handle on Scripture like no one else I have ever read. He was a master illustrator.
8. Not Like Any Other Book by Peter Masters. I wish I had read this book much earlier in my ministry. It is excellent on biblical hermeneutics.
9. Anything by Vance Havner is helpful and inspirational.
10. Bounds’ books on prayer are great and will encourage your prayer life.
11. The Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (unabridged). This is a necessity.
12. Blue Denim and Lace and Strength and Beauty by Dr. Jack Hyles.
Wesley urged his preacher boys to spend five hours out of twenty-four in reading useful books. The pastor must make time to read and study and stay abreast. His main study of course, must be the Word of God and he must read books that throw light on God’s Word and help him with his understanding. You simply cannot be fresh and interesting in the pulpit without keeping your mind refreshed with good reading material.
This article was originally published in Pastoring Principles by Dr. Dan Reed.