What Book on Preaching Would You Recommend above All Others?

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.)

What Is Textual Criticism, and Why Is It Necessary?

The Bible was written at a time when the means for sharing documents were far different from the technology we have today.

When the church in Thessaloniki received a letter from the apostle Paul in the mid-first century, the believers there would have read it aloud in their gatherings, and then devoted followers who recognized the value of Paul’s words would have produced handwritten copies of the letter to pass around to a wider audience. By the end of the first century, Paul’s letters were being copied as a collection.

Copying manuscripts

Hand-copying of the Pauline corpus continued through the centuries, until Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type in fifteenth-century Germany. With some variation, this process of repeated hand-copying happened with every book in the Bible—the New Testament books in Greek, and the Old Testament books in Hebrew and Aramaic.

In addition to these original language manuscripts, Christians translated their sacred texts into other languages. The Old Testament documents were translated into Greek, Latin, Coptic, and Syriac, and the New Testament documents were translated into Latin, Coptic, and Syriac, followed later by Gothic, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Slavonic, and Arabic. The Bible was repeatedly recopied within each of these languages. Further, Jewish and Christian scholars quoted the sacred texts in their own writings, which others also copied and translated to dispense and preserve.

Textual criticism: comparing manuscripts

This proliferation of hand-copied texts resulted in thousands of manuscripts, no two exactly alike. Textual criticism is the discipline that guides scholars in establishing what the authors of the Bible wrote. This is especially important for those who value the Bible as God’s Word. While most Christians may never study the original languages or engage in advanced textual criticism, the work of textual critics enables us to know with confidence what God has said through the human authors.

The word “criticism,” which today often connotes negativity, derives from an older usage, meaning “to analyze or investigate.” Textual criticism involves analyzing the manuscript evidence in order to determine the oldest form of the text. Such analysis also reveals historical evidence about the transmission of the text, scribal habits, theological biases, and more. Biblical scholars engage in this discipline, as do scholars in the broader field of literature. For example, the writings of most ancient authors, such as Plato or Shakespeare, may be published as a “critical edition,” in which scholars have sifted through manuscripts to identify errors that may have crept into the text and to determine the author’s original intention.

Because the original biblical manuscripts (called autographs) have not survived, we must depend on handwritten copies, none of which agree with each other 100 percent. The task of the textual critic is to resolve variations in the readings of these ancient manuscripts by identifying and “removing all changes brought about either by error or revision.”1

When successful, textual criticism results in the best representation of the Ausgangstext, or the ancient form of the text that is the ancestor of all extant copies, the beginning of the manuscript tradition.

Are our translations accurate?

Though there are thousands of variation units in the text of the Bible, the text is remarkably reliable. Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke says the most recent critical edition of the entire Old Testament (BHS) has no significant variation in 90 percent of the text. Of the thousands of instances of variation in the Bible, nearly all of them concern spelling, word order, synonyms, and other elements that do not affect meaning at all. Those variation units that affect the meaning of a biblical text are found in the footnotes of any good English Bible. Even these variants do not affect doctrine or theology.2

***

This excerpt is adapted from Textual Criticism of the Bible by Amy Anderson and Wendy Widder.

All Your Discount Options on Logos 8, Clearly Explained

It’s official: the Logos 8 launch discounts are ending February 7. Log in to see your savings. (And if you don’t know what all hullaballoo is about with Logos 8, watch this video.)

You could save up to 40% on Logos 8 if you buy before February 7, so here’s the lowdown on all your ways to save.

Sign in

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Your discounts are automatically calculated based on what you already own, so sign in before you start shopping, and you’ll see your purchase price on every option.

But if you want the deets, here they are:

New to Logos: 10% off

If this is your first time buying a Logos base package, take 10% off whichever base package you choose. It’s that simple.

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Upgrading to Logos 8: 25% off

For your very first Logos 8 Complete Upgrade, you get 25% off. So that applies if you’re upgrading from older versions of Logos to Logos 8 for the first time.

For subsequent additions (e.g., adding Logos 8 Gold Reformed on top of Logos 8 Gold Standard), take 10% off.

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Academic discount: up to 40% off

Are you faculty, staff, or a student? You could save up to 40%.

There are a lot of ways your discounts could shake out, so the best way to see your discount is by logging in.

But here are a few routes your discount could take:

  • Faculty upgrade: 40% off all things Logos 8. (And if you’re also a Faithlife Connect Essentials subscriber, make that 45%)
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Explore your academic discount. Note: these discounts will remain in effect indefinitely, even after the launch celebration, as they are part of the Logos Academic Discount program.

Faithlife Connect subscribers (pre-launch): up to 30% off

If you subscribed to Faithlife Connect Essentials or higher before 10/29, you could enjoy these discounts:

  • New Purchaser: 15% off Logos 8 Complete Upgrade
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5 Highlights in the New Eerdmans Theology & Biblical Studies Collection

Hang around seminary libraries long enough and you’ll start to recognize certain publishers.

And you’ll start to reach for their books more and more.

Eerdmans is one of those. They were a consistent publisher in my bibliographies all throughout Bible school and seminary, so much that I had the publishing city memorized (Grand Rapids). [Read more…]

Why Did Jesus Choose to Live in Capernaum?

Quiet Capernaum (Kfar Nahum or “Nathan’s village”) wraps around the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s surrounded by lush, rolling hills that invite easy living—likely the reason a large number of Jews migrated there from Jerusalem after returning from Babylon.

[Read more…]

How to Turn Your Sermon Audio into Transcripts Instantly

Since many of you are preachers and teachers, you may be interested to know that Faithlife Sermons now offers automatic sermon transcription.

Faithlife Sermons is a sermon resource and database for preachers and teachers, where you can find sermon illustrations, sermon art, outlines, and other resources. [Read more…]

How to Open One Guide Section at a Time

As you well know, our Logos Bibles and books contain a lot of information. Fortunately, our software also comes with a powerful search engine allowing us to retrieve most any data we need. With the release of Logos 8, searching became easier with the addition of search templates!

For example, let’s say we want to locate the passages in which Pilate is questioning Jesus. We know they’re in the Bible somewhere we just don’t know the exact location and we’re not quite sure how to find them. [Read more…]

The Names of God for the Needs of Our Hearts

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah’s magnificent prophecy spans not only history, going from creation (e.g., 42:5) to eternity (e.g., 9:7), but also geography, with an interest ranging between God’s own people through all of humanity (e.v., 2:2). Containing both words of hope and horror, its key theme is God himself, who is referred to hundreds of times.”

Zondervan Illustrated Bible Background Commentary on the Old Testament

In the first chapter of Isaiah, God expresses his dissatisfaction with the sacrifices Israel offered (Isaiah 1:11–16).

On the outside, they are doing exactly as God asked: they sacrifice rams and bulls, fat and blood, lambs, goats, and incense. They honor the Sabbath. They have a system for remembering when to feast and celebrate what God has done (Isaiah 1:14).

But God says their sacrifices are meaningless.

“I have had enough . . . I do not delight . . . bring no more.” Quantity is not the issue. Quality is. And it’s not a matter of extravagance. Their elaborate prayers use their lips and their hands (Isaiah 1:15) and look great on the outside (Matthew 6:5), but there is no heart behind them.

Sinful hearts

Other religions made sacrifices to their gods because they believed they were feeding them. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary says, “Popular Israelite religion frequently forgot that God was not actually fed through sacrifice and sought to manipulate him through such offerings.”

They forgot why they were making sacrifices. They thought they had to feed the God who created the world. But God wasn’t dependent on the Israelites and their sacrifices. They were dependent on him. As the Faithlife Study Bible says:

An increase in offerings is meaningless without a change in attitudes. The sacrifice fundamentally represented Israel’s relationship with Yahweh, by which Israelites acknowledge dependence on Him. There was no point in going through the motions if they’d abandoned that dependence—either through idolatry or pride in their self-sufficiency.

The sacrifices were meant to be an external symbol of an internal process: repentance (Isaiah 1:16–20). The FSB says “God calls for inward repentance after condemning the empty efforts of outward observance.” They were cleaning the outside of the cup, while filth festered on the inside (Luke 11:39).

The Names of God

The system God established for dealing with sins had been abused for too long. The death of innocent animals was not enough for guilty humans to see the error of their ways (Hebrews 10:4). The status quo wasn’t working. Isaiah called for change in the present, and pointed to a bigger change in the future (Hebrews 10:10).

Isaiah 9:6 introduces Israel to powerful names for a son who was yet to come. Wonderful Counselor. Mighty God. Everlasting Father. Prince of Peace.

The people of Israel didn’t crack open their New Testaments to John 3:16 and say, “Hey, that’s Jesus!” They looked to the current line of David for an immediate answer—someone who could live up to these prophetic titles.

The Faithlife Study Bible reminds us that “the prediction of a future ideal Davidic ruler point ultimately to the Messiah, but immediate hopes for Judah’s future would have been directed at the Davidic line, continued through Hezekiah.”

But there was a problem. Some of these titles could only be attributed to God. No man could measure up to names like “Mighty God”—that’s blasphemy (John 8:58–59). As he so often does, God had a different plan than man.

Mighty God

People can’t overcome sin by their own power. The sacrifices which were once acceptable to God had become useless buckets on a sinking ship. God needed to intervene, or the world would drown in sin.

No matter how mighty God made a man, man could never escape sin and death (Romans 3:23). Christ overcame both in his death and resurrection, making a way for man to overcome both through him and him alone.

Wonderful Counselor

People couldn’t find their own way out of sin, either. They had not the wisdom.

They needed a Wonderful Counselor, someone who could give them the wisdom they needed to truly repent (James 1:5, Hebrews 2:18). Christ not only gives us wisdom by the Spirit through the word, he is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

Everlasting Father

With Abraham, Israel was entitled to an earthly inheritance, but then what? As goes the earth, so goes the inheritance.

But through their Everlasting Father, they had an eternal one to aspire to (Hebrews 9:15, Romans 8:16–17).

Prince of Peace

And to abolish the old sacrificial system which put a bandage on their sin, Israel needed the Prince of Peace to restore them to God perfectly and once-and-for-all (Ephesians 2:13–18, Philippians 4:6–7; Hebrews 10:1-18).

The Christmas season is a time to celebrate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “For to us, a child is born, to us, a son is given.” Remember where that son came from (Galatians 4:4–5), and glorify God for providing the sacrifice to end all sacrifices.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. – Galatians 4:4–5


This is a revised version of a post that originally appeared in 2014. 

Talk to Us: Take the Logos Talk Survey

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Wipf & Stock Bundles up to 80% Off

In the 1990’s, John Wipf and Jon Stock noticed that new academic research was growing more and more unaffordable for the average person, and that essential classic studies in Bible and theology were slowly disappearing from print. So they founded Wipf & Stock Publishers to provide scholarly and pastoral research at affordable prices.

In just two decades Wipf & Stock has become well known for its wide range of reprints, including works by some of the most important names in theology, biblical studies, and church history [Read more…]