The Ten (Best) Books on Preaching
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones insisted preachers are born, not made. Despite forgoing seminary training himself, Lloyd-Jones founded the London Theological Seminary in 1977. The good doctor earnestly contested in his day: the greatest need in the church is the need for preachers. Preachers are born, gifted, called, and compelled to proclaim God’s Word in the power of the Holy Spirit. What resources do preachers have to work with, as they learn to preach? What should preachers read? Or maybe the better question is, “Who should preachers read?”
As a pastor, I have discerned men who have a calling to preach God’s Word. I like to encourage these young men with books on preaching. I have also noted some who wish to preach, but who are not gifted, nor called. There are books on being a preacher that will help them realize they are not called of God to be preachers. If you know a young man who should be looking at the ministry of God’s Word, you may wish to share this list of books with him. You may also wish to gift one or more of these books to encourage your pastor.
These are ten books on preaching, which have greatly blessed me. I hesitate to call them the “best” because I probably should be listing at least ten more from my library, but I do not have space to do so here. I also marvel when I discover a great book on preaching I did not know existed. Therefore, “best” is elusive, but here is a list of the books on preaching which helped me immensely:
Haddon W. Robinson — Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages (Baker, 1980). This has been the standard textbook in many seminaries since it was first published. There is a good probability, if your pastor is evangelical, he has this book in his library. Every prospective preacher should read this book first, and this is why I have it first on my list. It is an easy to read, instructional guide to sermon preparation and presentation.
Bryan Chapell — Christ-Centered Preaching (Baker, 1994). Written from a Reformed perspective, this book is a great complement to Robinson’s textbook. This was the first book on preaching given to me by my spiritual mentor, when he noted the preacher in me. It was also the first book on preaching I gifted to my pastor. The expository preaching method is emphasized. When it comes to “how to” books, Robinson and Chapell’s are the best.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones — Preaching and Preachers (Hodder & Stoughton, 1971). When I feel the urge to re-read any of the preaching books in my library, this is the one I go back to most. Lloyd-Jones presented a series of lectures at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and those lectures became this book. Whereas Robinson and Chappell have written technical works, Lloyd-Jones puts five decades of preaching experience into these chapters. He captures nuances about preaching philosophy and style easily missed by a less experienced man of God. This book oozes wisdom for the preacher, from the most important preaching reformer of the 20th century.
Steven J. Lawson — Famine in the Land: A Passionate Call for Expository Preaching (Moody, 2003). Lawson is my favorite living preacher. He comes from a Reformed tradition in the south, and his ministry, One Passion, based in Dallas, is designed to encourage training for preachers. Lawson is a great preacher, and he loves every aspect of preaching. It is as if he received the torch from Lloyd-Jones and carries it for this generation. The book is compact, and very rich in content. In it, Lawson pleads for preachers to employ the expository preaching method. If you are suffering under the topic du jour thematic preaching so prevalent, today, this is the book to give your pastor. Clean, used copies of this book are currently in good supply in the Christian used book market for about $6-$7.
William Perkins — The Art of Prophesying (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002). If your book on preaching is still in print four hundred years after it was first published (A.D. 1606), you might be a Puritan. The so-called “Father of Puritanism” wrote this work to a generation that would subsequently be recognized as some of the best preachers in the history of the church. The best aspect of this book is the soul searching chapters on the call to ministry. Perkins shines the scrutinizing light on those who feel the desire to preach. Got a young man of God in the process of preparing for ordination? This is $7.00 well spent from the Puritan Paperback collection, from the publishing house founded by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. — He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World (Moody, 2008). Mohler addresses the topic of expository preaching in our postmodern culture. This follows John Stott’s argument for preaching to modernists in the 20th century. The book is an apologetic for the expository preaching method against skeptics, who prefer technology, gimmicks, conversations, and fireside chats. Mohler covers the essential topics with regard to preachers and preaching and offers an updated argument for preaching the old fashioned way.
Don Kistler, General Editor — Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea for Preaching (Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2002). When the best Reformed expository preachers get together and make a collective plea for preachers to hold down the fort, you know you have a problem with preaching in your day. Addressing the essential topics, this book reminds me of the rebuilding of Nehemiah’s wall. Every man secured his location, and with his weapon in one hand, he built up the wall of Jerusalem with the other. Expository preaching is an assault weapon on the gates of hell. It is also the tool designed to build up the body of Christ. Together, these men of God from various denominations join together to exhort the reader to join them in the battle and the building up. Contributors include: Mohler; Boice; Thomas; Beeke; Sproul; Armstrong; Ferguson; Kistler; Alexander; Piper; and MacArthur.
John R.W. Stott — Between Two Worlds: The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century (Eerdmans, 1982). The best writings are timeless, like the Puritan Perkins. Stott, like Mohler, takes the time-tested method and addresses the 20th century church. Some of the engagement seems a bit dated because of the issues of culture in the last century, but there is a rich reward for those who read past the address to Moderns. Stott, like Lloyd-Jones, held a prominent pulpit in London. If one reads the clean and detailed chapter/sub-topic outline at the beginning of this book, he will surely want to read this book. If he reads this book, he will be blessed.
John MacArthur, Jr., Editor — The Shepherd as Preacher: Delivering God’s Word with Passion and Power (Harvest House, 2015). Like Feed My Sheep, here is a collection of papers on the subject of pastoral ministry, as it pertains to preaching. What I like best about this book is how the authors take a specific text of the Bible, which pertains to preaching itself, and expound it for pastors to see the importance of preaching. Next to Famine in the Land, I have given more copies of this book away than any of the others. It is like getting the A-Team together and holding a pep rally for preaching the Word. I love how the authors are able to take the characters of the Bible and turn them into preaching pastors. This book is encouraging in a number of ways. If you sense your preacher may be struggling from the pulpit, this is the book for him. The A-Team will fire him up. Contributors include: MacArthur; Dever; Lawson; Sproul; Pennington; Holland; Montoya; and Mohler.
Jason C. Meyer — Preaching: A Biblical Theology (Crossway, 2013). Anyone who follows the pulpit ministry of John Piper must be worthy of our attention. Meyer may be a name unknown to my reader, but this book was a total surprise. I was in a Christian bookstore in Pasadena, probably dragging a bit, which is usually when I buy random books on preaching for a pick-me-up. This book picked me up. The biblical theology aspect is what sets the book apart from the ones listed above. A biblical theology is a walk through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It follows one topic the whole way. Looking at preachers and preaching this way was truly fascinating. After the preaching tour through the Bible, Meyer makes his argument for telling the story of the Bible in the spirit and pattern of the preachers of the Bible.
In summary, you have a list of good books on the subject of preaching. There are similarities and differences in how the authors approach the subject. As noted, this is hardly an exhaustive list. I simply went to my library and asked myself, “If I wanted to read ten books on preaching, today, which ten would I pull off this shelf?” I picked the ten, and as I was walking away, Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students fell on my foot like a concrete block. It was like a prompt from heaven to remind me of the words of the prophet, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”
David E. Norczyk
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 5, 2021