What Are the Best Books on Preaching?

If a young preacher stepped into your office asking for your best book on preaching, what would you suggest?

Before I go further, I ask that you would answer that question in the comments. With a little help, this post can be a wonderful resource for preachers looking to grow their craft.

Here’s how I would answer it—not as the seasoned preacher, but as the young one.

Below are the most formative preaching books and resources I’ve encountered over the years, almost all of them assigned to me by Bible college professors, seminary professors, and pastors.

I’ve grouped them by category and linked to the Logos resource where we carry them (publisher website when not). I’ve also ranked my top three from the list.

To learn the basics

Creative Bible Teaching (Gary J. Bredfeldt and Lawrence O. Richards)

This is the first book I ever read on preaching/teaching, and it remains a wonderful introduction to the basics of communicating biblical truth. It emphasizes preaching/teaching to people, not just preaching/teaching a truth.

To not be boring

Saving Eutychus (Gary Millar and Phil Campbell)

The humorous title says it all: this is a book about preaching sermons that keep your listeners awake. It’s authored by two men with disparate styles, but who share a passion for engaging sermons.

Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication, including the audio version (Andy Stanley)

Though I don’t share all of Stanley’s convictions, I do love his commitment to preaching one big idea clearly and engagingly. I read this book in Bible college, and it’s principles often tap my shoulder in the sermon writing process to say, “Clear the clutter. Say what you need to say, and say it in an interesting, personal way.”

To preach expositionally

Expositional Preaching: How We Speak God’s Word Today (David Helm)

This is my one book, the one I would hand to every preacher.

You can read it in under an hour, but you’ll refer to it over and over. I particularly enjoy the first chapter, where Helm describes several pitfalls of preaching. For example, “inebriated preaching”:

On those weeks when we have stood in the pulpit and leaned on the Bible to support what we wanted to say instead of saying only what God intended the Bible to say, we have been like a drunken man who leans on a lamppost—using it more for support than for illumination.

The other chapters guide you in applying context and theology to your preaching and then communicating it all as a cohesive whole to your particular audience. It’s the shortest yet most helpful book on preaching I know.

My ranking: 1st

Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Bryan Chapell)

There are dozens of books on expository preaching, but Chappell’s is the most thorough I’ve read. It’s meant to be a total guide to the craft, and I remember it as such.

Chapell also has Mobile Ed courses on the same subject.

To preach contextually

I would repeat here Expositional Preaching and also point to a ministry of Helm’s, the Charles Simeon Trust.

The Charles Simeon Trust (CST) trains men and women for biblical exposition, and one of their emphases is preaching with contextual awareness, namely the contexts of biblical theology and systematic theology—integrating both disciplines into expository preaching without flattening the meaning of a particular text.

You’ll find those same principles covered in Expositional Preaching, but you can delve deeper into them through the various offerings of the CST, including in-person workshops.

To examine yourself

Preaching and Preachers, 40th Anniversary Edition (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

Lloyd-Jones is known as one of the greatest preachers of the last century, and reading this book is like having him as a preaching mentor. Its perfect 5-star rating on Amazon is no surprise to me.

Preaching & Preachers is a compilation of essays based on lectures he gave to seminary students in 1969. It is less about the nuts and bolts of preaching as it is the commitments and character of preachers. Lloyd-Jones has strong but well-grounded convictions that will sharpen every preacher to their core.

My ranking: 2nd

On Preaching: Personal & Pastoral Insights for the Preparation & Practice of Preaching (H.B. Charles Jr.)

I had the honor of editing this book and later hearing H.B. Charles preach at a church retreat, and he’s the real deal. What I love about these essays is the attention Charles gives to the heart of the preacher and the personal anecdotes that make it an engaging read. Full of personal and practical insights.

To preach to skeptics

Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (Timothy Keller) — on sale this month

As is true with most of Keller’s works, there is an apologetic bent to this book that makes it stand out. I would call this required reading for any preacher, especially those preaching in more intellectual contexts.

My ranking: 3rd

Honorable mentions

These are books I’ve not read but that come highly recommended:

What are your favorites?

Please share your favorite book(s) in the comments below. As you can see from my list, most of my reading and training is in expository preaching, so I’m curious what’s out there for other approaches. (I would love to find a good book on the art of topical sermons.)

Comments

  1. Under ‘Examining Yourself’ I would Put: Heralds of God by James Stewart

  2. Expository Preaching Without Notes by Charles Koller
    This is an old book, and I see he has an updated book How to Preach without Notes in Logos, which looks like an expanded version of what I had.
    I had a speech class in Bible school that inspired me but didn’t help me know how to organize my talk. Then I had a preaching class with this book and the lights went on.
    Whatever other books you get, get this. I would call this the one essential book.

  3. William M. Matthews says:

    Let’s not forget the tried and true classics that have stood the test of time and proven themselves over the years.
    “Lectures To My Students” by C.H. Spurgeon and “How To Work For Christ” by R.A. Torrey.

  4. Dale Durnell says:

    Alas, none of my favorite sermon resources are available from Logos (although Craddock, Long, and Brown have contributed to or edited all or part of “Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching;” “Westminster Bible Companion Series;” “New Interpreter’s Bible;” and “Feasting on the Word.”
    One objective I have worked hard on is that the congregation I serve would see and hear God and God’s word and not just me and mine. While I *ALWAYS* “offer them Christ” (which sometimes means a few toes, including my own, get stepped on) I never intentionally force God’s children to feel worse when they leave than when they entered the House of The Lord. I learned long ago, from these resources and others of their ilk, to love God’s people into heaven, rather than scare the hell out of them.

    That having been said, and in a purely subjective order (my own experience) here’s my list.
    # 1 (a three-way tie – I would argue they are all a *MUST HAVE*)
    “The Witness of Preaching” by Thomas G. Long
    “Preaching” by Fred Craddock
    “The Preaching Life” by Barbara Brown Taylor
    # 4 (4th because the first three are all of equal value)
    “The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon As Narrative Art Form” by Eugene L. Lowry
    # 5 (although a little long in the tooth by now, it is still a favorite in my library and actually one that I would recommend to *ANYONE* just starting out in which case this would be number 4 and Lowry’s work would be number 5)
    “Creative Preaching & Oral Writing” by Richard Carl Hoefler

    I have relied on the wisdom of these outstanding resources in leading my congregations in inspiring and passionate worship.

  5. Nathan Parker says:

    Transformational Preaching by Dr. Michael Woods. One of the best I’ve read!

  6. I really liked this one: The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, edited by Haddon Robinson. However, its strength is also its weakness, perhaps. It is a massive book divided into sections, each section covering a different aspect of preaching. Each section has essays, some short and some long, by a variety of different contributors. The categories you list – all these and more are covered. Separate books, such as the ones you mention, would cover these aspects in more detail though – thus a weakness of the book. But it really did cover things well, I thought, and the variety of contributors was helpful.

  7. Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy is one that I found really helpful. It’s basically a book that helps you to legitimately point to Christ and bring the gospel out no matter what passage/genre you’re preaching from, as well as highlighting the importance of doing that for Christian living.

  8. Spurgeon’s “Lectures To My Students” is another great, challenging, and edifying read for preachers both young and old.

  9. Keith R. Stakey says:

    I don’t recommend any book on preaching.

    I recommend that the person have a clear and confirmed gift of the Spirit to preach; an impossible-to-escape passion to preach; be solidly anchored in God’s word; an awareness to wait until God has undeniably opened the door–then and then only go forward.

    As to books, read Spurgeon. Read others who were gifted (who were great first and foremost because they were gifted). I’ll put up any one of these kinds of genuine gift-and-called people in the pulpit any day of the week against all the book-learning systems and techniques ,this, that and the other.

    Sadly, apart from God shutting down the hour of opportunity for hearing the gospel in this country, most of the few “preachers” today haven’t got a clue about what it means to be a truly gifted and called preacher (and it’s the same with pastors and teachers). That’s why books are the poor crutch they are. What is needed more than all the books one can read is real, solid biblical training, discipleship and willingness to wait on God. God takes care of rest.

    One is not a preacher because of any book, learned technique or otherwise. Of course a book can be useful IF the person is already gifted and called; the book rides as passenger, as onlooker, merely a sprinkle on top of the cake. This reality, however, is almost dead in the church.

  10. Michael W. Varner says:

    I would recommend the following books:

    John MacArthur, Preaching: How to Preach Biblically;
    R. Albert Mohler Jr., He is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World;
    T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Preach;
    John Piper; The Supremacy of God in Preaching.

    I see these books as valuable assets for any young or “seasoned” Pastor responsible for proclaiming the Gospel of God each and every Sunday.

  11. Ellis Miller says:

    One of my favorite books is Deep Preaching by J. Kent Edwards. It’s well-worth the read for new or experienced pastors.

  12. Heralds of God has already been mentioned. James S Stewart.
    I found it a richly inspiring set of lectures, a reconfirmation of a call to preach for me.
    Verbum Dei by R F Horton is another – from an earlier generation than Stewart.
    A third in my ‘classics’ is In Christ’s Stead by A J Gossip.
    More modern and helpful
    Preaching. by Fred Craddock
    Preaching by John Killinger

    But, after reading one or two books on preaching, I found the most help was reading sermons – seeing how different preachers structured their messages, used the English language in telling, rich and varied ways, spoke to their time and beyond. Gossip, Stewart, George Duncan, F W Robertson, Austin Farrer, Buechner, W M MacGregor, many volumes of The Expositors’ Bible (which were sermon series stitched together as commentary – imho). So yes, find a book or two on the craft – but then, read/hear/see as many varieties as possible form as many practitioners as possible.

    • Matthew Boffey says:

      Ian, agree about the helpfulness of reading sermons! There’s a wonderful book of R.A. Torrey sermons called ‘How God Used R.A. Torrey.’ It was a joy to read not only because the sermons were good, but because it took me into the religious milieu and vocabulary of the day.

  13. Emlyn Williams says:

    John Stott’s I Believe in Preaching (Hodder) would certainly be on my list!
    There is a condensed version on Logos, The Challenge of Preaching.

  14. Anointed Expository Preaching by Stephen Olford

  15. Beegee Brown says:

    Between Two Worlds by John Stott

  16. OK, I already commented earlier. Just wanted to note. There are certainly a lot of really good books on preaching out there. I said, though, that I thought my recommended book was essential. There is a difference. A good book may not be essential.

    Charles Koller When I was in school, it was called Expository Preaching Without Notes. Now I think it’s just How to Preach Without Notes. I’m not emphasizing the preaching without notes part. It’s his organization of material that is critical. If you can’t remember your material, how can you expect your listeners?

  17. Ken Schaeffer says:

    First, and foremost, the Bible (maybe too obvious), but then I would recommend “Preaching the Creative Gospel Creatively” (Rossow).

    • Matthew Boffey says:

      Ken, agree on the Bible! I almost included Matthew and Acts because of the sermons in both.

  18. In my experience, Haddon Robinson’s book is the best on preaching. Andy Stanley’s is the worst.

  19. Matthew, thank you for this list. I’m adding some of them to my reading list for this year.

    BTW, Helm’s book is available in Logos at https://www.logos.com/product/166017/expositional-preaching-how-we-speak-gods-word-today.

    • Matthew Boffey says:

      John, you’re so welcome. And thank you for pointing out that Helm’s book is on Logos—not sure how I missed that.

  20. Terry L. Brown says:

    I’ve been blessed by all of the offerings made in this post. Some of them I’ve read, most of them I haven’t. I plan to get as many of them as possible. That said, a couple of resources that have really blessed me are:
    All Roads Lead to the Text by Dean Deppe
    Homiletical Handbook by Donald Hamilton

    I would be remiss if I did not include the work of my friend, H.B. Charles, Jr. in his resource, On Preaching!

    • Matthew Boffey says:

      Terry, thanks for your additions. Agree on H.B. Charles! I had the privilege of hearing him preach for a men’s retreat at my church a few years ago.

  21. Terry Lange says:

    The best book on preaching is Bruce Mawhinney – Preaching With Freshness

    This book has done more for my preaching than any other book