Ministers Must Read Books

Mike Focht 2/9/2024

The aged Paul, in prison and soon to be a martyr, asked Timothy to bring his books because he felt it wise to spend time reading even though he knew his days were few. For the faithful minister, there is no completion to the command to study and show yourself approved. Our study is a lifetime project. A lifetime of study through reading has its difficulties, to be sure, but overcoming what would distract us from our calling to give ourselves wholly to prayer and the ministry of the Word is one of the differences between a faithful and unfaithful minister.

   By way of practical appeal, I would encourage every minister to aim to read at least seven books a year that are not part of his typical Sunday morning sermon preparation. These books are necessary additives to our Biblical commentaries and historical helps. Seven books is a reasonable goal and will shape a well-rounded minister quickly.

   If you feel you don’t have the time, you must make time. Start small. Pick a one-hour slot in your week and set it apart for this noble work. I would also recommend that it is not late at night as most of us are tired then. Read for an hour after dinner on Mondays or Saturday mornings. That will be a good start.  

   Here are my recommendations on what type of books the seven should be: 

1) A book on prayer. If any Christian, let alone a pastor forgets this part of his ministry, he will surely fail in short order. We all need constant encouragement to grow as prayers. 

2) A spiritually devotional book. If the fire on the personal altar dims, the light of truth may be clear, but little warmth will reach the people we minister to. We all need constant encouragement for our love and pursuit of our Savior. 

3) A book on pastoral ministry. Getting tunnel vision and thinking we are alone or unique in our service is very easy. This type of book will help refine us, challenge us, and remind us what we are about. Undoubtedly, there will also be necessary encouragement as we remember that all pastors are imperfect followers of the Perfect Shepherd. 

4) A book on doctrine or theology. Our knowledge of God and God’s truth should continually be widening and deepening. Even books outside our particular doctrinal stances can be helpful to relate to our congregations, other brothers and sisters in Christ, and sharpen our personal views. The options here are nearly endless. I recommend studying whatever doctrine God is stirring in your heart or a doctrine you know you will soon be teaching in your church services. 

5) A book on heaven or hell or both. People sometimes act as if heaven is purely speculative and so, by inference, unimportant till we die. They also act as if hell is taboo, unreal, or offensive. The reality is that there are no two realities that should shape the mind, goal, and heart of our ministry more than the eternal realities of heaven and hell. We desperately need a constant reminder of our eternal destinies! I fear heaven and hell are much more on our Savior’s mind than ours or our people’s. 

6) A book that is an old Christian Classic. There is a reason that some Christian material has lasted for hundreds or thousands of years. Those types of books have stood the test of time because they are timeless in their value. Most of what is written today will be gone in the next ten years, let alone the next hundred. You and I have the privilege of being taught by the greatest and most spiritual Christians from the ages, and if we don’t take advantage of that incredible honor, we are prideful fools. 

7) A Christian biography. It may be a missionary, pastor, worker, etc. Still, it is a healthy reminder to see the faithfulness of God in lives beyond the Bible, to remember that those we minister to may be used powerfully, and to see that our ministry is not the only thing God is doing on the face of the earth. It is also encouraging to be prompted by the lives of faithful saints to pour yourself out for the cause of Christ and never look back from the plow. 

   I would encourage you to buy these seven books right at the beginning of the year and keep one of them with you at all times. When you have a spare moment, take it out and redeem that time for Christ by faithfully reading. If you use a weekly hour and your spare minutes here and there, you will be surprised how fast you can plow through the material. You will be shocked at how much sound doctrine you have taken in in a few years. These topics may not be our favorite thing to read (I don’t know anyone who likes reading about hell), but even in our study, we are called servants, not self-pleasers.

   So, if you didn’t know where to start your reading, I hope this can be a helpful structure that will bless you and those who hear you! Remember Paul’s exhortation to Timothy: Meditate on these things: give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.