For those of us who have been sovereignly called to the preaching ministry it is not a vocation but a consuming passion. The work of study never ends and the building of a preacher’s library is never complete. As I type these words I am finding that this present assignment to list five resources which should be at the preacher’s disposal is a much more difficult task than it appears on the surface. Of the many scores of books on preaching in my personal library to identify just five is virtually an impossible task. Therefore, the following is my own feeble attempt to name five volumes that during the decades of my own preaching experience have been indisposable.
THE BIBLE. This should be obvious. Preaching should begin and end with the text of scripture, the Word of God. There are many wonderful study Bibles available today. The best of these, in my opinion, is the Criswell Study Bible. It is always in arm’s reach on my study desk. It is by far the best resource for succinct and analytical answers to the so-called problem texts of the Bible.
THE GREEK TEXT. In the early years of my pastorates, it became inconceivable to me that if I was called to preach God’s Word and we had the original language in which it was first written at our disposal, that I would not make the effort to have a working knowledge of it. I remember well as a young pastor (post seminary) getting Gresham Machen’s NEW TESTAMENT FOR BEGINNERS along with his accompanying teaching tapes and going over and over that text book in the early hours of the mornings for months. Then, for the next few years seeking to work my own way through a Greek text each year. There are a world of helps available on the Internet in this day and age like THE BLUE LETTER BIBLE which can aid those with word studies who are not proficient in the Biblical languages.
PREACHING AND PREACHERS by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. While there are many outstanding volumes on the art of preaching today by the likes of Vines, MacArthur, Keller, Mohler, etc., this is a volume I reread every summer of my pastoral life. This classic, time honored, volume by “The Doctor” emphasizes the attitude of the preacher more than the art of preaching itself. It is weighted more on the side of spiritual preparation than sermon preparation. This is what makes it so engaging and, at the same time, so encouraging. It was my joy during the decade of the 1980’s to preach every August at his Westminster Chapel in London. What George W. Truett once said of B. H. Carroll, the founder of Southwestern Baptist Theological seminary, could well be said of Lloyd-Jones, “The pulpit was his throne and he occupied it like a king.”
THE PREACHER’S PORTRAIT by John R. W. Stott. I shall never forget the day I read this small book on preaching and was awakened to the awesome responsibility of being a “steward of the gospel.” The preaching ministry is a sacred stewardship that is entrusted to us. Paul regarded himself and his preaching companion, Apollos, as “stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). We are merely stewards of Christ’s gospel. It is not our message, it is His! When we awaken to the reality of this metaphor we will begin to see that we don’t supply our message by our own human ingenuity, we are supplied with it by divine inspiration. This is another of those volumes that I made a practice of rereading each year.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS by John R. W. Stott. I have struggled with myself to avoid using two books by the same author but, in my own experience, it is impossible to do so. Every young preacher in this modern age must read this volume. Stott warns here explicitly of sacrificing “revelation on the altar of relevancy.” In a world where we are splitting atoms, transplanting organs, and experimenting with genetic engineering, the world just may be more interested in wanting to know if this book, the Bible, written in an ancient Middle Eastern culture has any relevancy today. It is the preacher’s task to be culturally relevant but to make certain we never sacrifice the divine revelation in the process. There is a “new trendy gospel” propagated by some preacher’s today that would not be recognized by our apostolic fathers who saw themselves as stewards of the “New Testament gospel.” The New Testament gospel teaches self denial; the new trendy gospel teaches self fulfillment. The New Testament Gospel is centered in Christ and His plan of redemption; the new trendy gospel is centered in man and his need for happiness in life. Our New Testament gospel, has always been…and will always remain….”the power of God unto salvation to all who will believe.”
(O.S. Hawkins is the former pastor of the First Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the historic First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. He presently serves as President/CEO of GuideStone Financial Resources. Visit oshawkins.com for FREE book down loads and other ministry and leadership resources. Follow @oshawkins on Twitter.)