Preaching has been a part of worship services ever since God’s people began gathering to worship him – even before Jesus walked this earth. Through preaching, God declares his truth to his people. Therefore, every pastor should invest time and energy in developing their ability to preach.
Below are five excellent books on preaching, many of which are assigned in seminary and Bible college classes throughout the U.S. Rather than creating a definitive list of the top five books on preaching, though, we have selected five that look at homiletics from different angles.
This Week’s Recommended Books on Preaching
- Homiletics: Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chappell
- Old Testament: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sydney Greindanus
- New Testament: Preaching the New Testament edited by Ian Paul and David Wenham
- Church History: The Art of Prophesying by William Perkins
- Practical Theology: Why Johnny Can’t Preach by T. David Gordon
Homiletics: Christ Centered Preaching (Bryan Chappell)
Synopsis: A standard textbook on expository preaching, useful for both novice and experienced preachers.
Christ Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon by Bryan Chappell (former President and current Chancellor of Covenant Theological Seminary) is a standard textbook on expository preaching. It is intensely practical, taking students through the steps of preparing and delivering a sermon. Throughout all the steps, students are encouraged to focus their sermon on Christ. The chapters contain a number of helpful diagrams and the appendices provide additional practical advice.
We’ve read Christ Centered Preaching multiple times and heartily recommend it to anyone who preaches regularly.
Old Testament: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Sydney Greindanus)
Synopsis: Greindanus shows how preachers can deliver sermons from the Old Testament that focus on Christ, a skill every preacher should have.
In Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method, Sydney Greindanus (Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Calvin Seminary) holds two premises. First, every sermon must focus on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Second, pastors should regularly preach from the Old Testament. Greindanus’ book shows how Christ can be preached from the Old Testament by looking at the Old Testament in first its original historical setting and then in light of the New Testament.
We’ll be consulting Preaching Christ from the Old Testament for our next sermon series in the Old Testament.
New Testament: Preaching the New Testament (Paul & Wenham, ed.)
Synopsis: A good resource that helps pastors write sermons from the various genres of the New Testament.
Preaching the New Testament, edited by Ian Paul and David Wenham, is a collection of essays from some of today’s leading preachers. As with any book that multiple contributors write a chapter for, there is some unevenness to the book as a whole. Within it, though, are some excellent chapters on how to preach the narratives of the New Testament. Chapters address the different genres within the New Testament, and help preachers create sermons from the infancy narratives, Sermon on the Mount, miracles, parables, ethical teachings and more.
Many homiletics classes discuss how the New Testament narratives should be related to churches today, a topic that this book takes up. This is why we’ll be reading Preaching the New Testament and expect to see it become required reading in homiletics classes at seminaries.
Church History: The Art of Prophesying (William Perkins)
Synopsis: A brief manual on Preaching from an excellent Puritan preacher. Everyone who preaches should take an hour to read this work, which is available online for free, even if they are not a fan of the Puritans.
William Perkins (1558 – 1602) was one of the best Puritan preachers. The messages he delivered at Cambridge influenced his Church, his town and a movement long after his death. The Art of Prophesying is Perkin’s manual on how to read and preach the Bible. (For the Puritans, ”prophesying” was the proclamation of the Bible, which is different from how others use the term today).
The Art of Prophesying will help anyone read the Bible, but it is especially useful for ministers who derive sermons from the Bible’s passages. It explores what “prophesying” (preaching) is and what the Word of God is, but it also has many practical points for preachers to consider when preparing a sermon.
Perkin’s summarizes his approach at the end of the book in four brief points:
- Reading the text clearly from the canonical Scriptures.
- Explaining the meaning of it, once it has been read, in the light of the Scriptures themselves.
- Gathering a few profitable points of doctrine from the natural sense of the passage.
- If the preacher is suitably gifted, applying the doctrines thus explained to the life and practice of the congregation in straightforward, plain speech. (Perkins, The Art of Prophesying)
We’ve read Perkin’s The Art of Prophesying and love it. Who better to learn preaching from than one of the best preachers of the Puritans, who were known for preaching? The book is available online for free and takes less than an hour to read.
Practical Theology: Why Johnny Can’t Preach (T. David Gordon)
Synopsis: Gordon explains why pastors are unable to preach, mainly because our ability to communicate has been altered by the media. He does not provide a great solution, though.
We have mixed feelings about T. David Gordon’s (Professor of Religion and Greek at Grove City College) Why Johnny Can’t Preach. The book has a strong thesis, which Gordon convincingly develops: The average pastor (“Johnny”) cannot preach a good sermon. Ultimately, Gordon says pastors are unable to preach, because the media has influenced how we communicate.
We wholeheartedly agree with Gordon’s complaint (partly because he develops a strong argument), but Why Johnny Can’t Preach does not provide a satisfactory solution. Gordon points out the problem, but falls short of overcoming it.
We’ve read Why Johnny Can’t Preach, but will not consult it again. It is worth skimming, if you want to know why sermons are so pathetic today, but you will have to think about a solution yourself.
(This is the second post in our series “Recommended Reading.” For more book suggestions, check out Books for Seminary, the first post in the series).