God has blessed me with the privilege of tutoring young ministers in their spiritual and ministerial growth. I’ve place these links here for young ministers or anyone wanting to improve in their calling.
One thing you need to know: A call to the ministry is a call to scholarship. Any decent minister will read, and read a lot. You’ll need to read history, theology, and science. Don’t skimp on the reading. God will call you, but you have the responsibility to do the work necessary to fulfill the calling. Never assume you know it all. Always assume you need to learn more. You do.
“Only God can create ex nihilo.” Dr. Robert Smith, Beeson Divinity School, at Pastor’s School, 2000.
Christian Leadership Center by Dr. Allen Ross, Beeson Divinity School. You should read the following:
- all the articles under “Biblical Archaeology” to get a decent background on biblical history.
- all the material under “NT Backgrounds” to learn more about the era of the New Testament. The New Testament events, including Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, happened in history. You need to know that history.
- all the materials under “Word Studies.” I’ve given some rudimentary instructions on word studies here.
The Church has used the lectionary since the beginning of Christian worship. For most of the Church year, I follow the Revised Common Lectionary. The site “Internet Monk” carried an excellent series on the Church year and why you should use it:
- Church Year Spirituality
- Church Year Spirituality: Living in God’s Story
- Church Year Spirituality: The Main Thing
- iMonk Classic: Do You Know What Your Church Is Doing Next Sunday?
I know many people will tell you, “Using a lectionary will hinder the Spirit.” I heard the same thing about church bulletins as I grew up in church. The lectionary will force you to approach Scripture as a totality rather than as a series of disjointed books and verses. I leave the lectionary only to preach through a book.
New Advent Yes, it’s Roman Catholic. Yes, you need to know that the Catholic Church is a true church that teaches the divinity of Christ and the need for salvation in His name. Use the encyclopedia on this site for information about Church history. You should start your sermon study on any sermon you preach by going to the “Fathers” section of this page and reading what the early Church believed about the passage on which you’ll preach. God may decide to say something to you He has never said to anyone else in 2,000 years of Church history, but I doubt it.
Christian Classics Ethereal Library After you’ve begun your research at New Advent, you should continue your research here. CCEL contains thousands of works on practically every passage you’ll use in the pulpit or in the classroom at church. You owe it to those you’ll teach to research the passage thoroughly before you present your sermon or lesson.
Accordance Bible Software for Macintosh The Bible software I use. Extremely flexible, powerful software that includes more modules that you can add later. Written for the Mac by Mac users.
Now’s a good time to tell you something about your tools. No craftsman can accomplish more than his tools allow him. Sermons require prayer and hours of study. You may complain about the expense of Accordance. I repeat: The craftsman’s no better than his tools. You’ll find Accordance is worth every penny you spend.
Every minister, regardless of denomination or tradition, should read works by several authors. Many in your congregation or class will have already read works by these authors.
- C.S. Lewis: Read everything you can find. You should especially read:
- Mere Christianity
- The Problem of Pain Note: I disagree with Lewis’ treatment of the origins of humanity in this book, but the book itself still stands as a masterpiece.
- A Grief Observed Lewis wrote The Problem of Pain more as an academic treatise, but he wrote A Grief Observed following the death of his wife, Joy. You’ll find no work more honest and raw than this book, but everyone who counsels people in grief should read this book.
- The Screwtape Letters What would a demon write about the Church? Lewis gave it the college try and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
- Miracles Do miracles still happen? If so, how do we explain them?
- Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer Lewis wrote this book to a fictional correspondent. Lewis’ words regarding prayer will strengthen your own prayer life.
- Allen Ross. Allen serves as Old Testament professor at Beeson Divinity School. Allen ranks as one of the top Old Testament professors in the Church today.
- Ken Mathews. Another professor from Beeson Divinity School.
- Gerald Bray. I took Church history under Dr. Bray. He wrote the textbook (literally) on the history of biblical interpretation (Biblical Interpretation: Past and Present). You owe it to yourself to read it, as well as anything else authored by Dr. Bray.
- John Calvin. Yes, I know. However, Calvin wrote the first Protestant systematic theology, and you owe it to yourself and your congregation to read it. You don’t have to agree with everything he says (I certainly don’t), but you’ll sharpen your mind as you ponder his words.
- St. Augustine. Every Christian should read St. Augustine’s Confessions. Don’t think you understand grace until you read Confessions.
- N.T. Wright. Wright has revolutionized studies of the work of St. Paul. You need to read his works.
Every minister needs either a good library or access to one. By a “good library,” I mean a library of history, theology, and science. You need works on these subjects, at least, to conduct proper sermon studies. I recommend at least the following:
- Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Ancient World: From the Earliest Accounts to the Fall of Rome.
- Susan Wise Bauer, The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade.
- R.K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament. Harrison’s work counts as a classic in Old Testament studies.
- Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity.
- Bruce Shelley, Church History in Plain Language.