I recently read a list of recommended books on pastoral ministry from someone whom I greatly admire. While I have not read many of these books myself, I hope to be able to read them in the future. If you’re a pastor (or a prospective pastor) and you’re looking for a good book to read on your craft, I am sure you will be able to find one below, along with a brief blurb about the book from Amazon.
Also, please note that this list is not exhaustive. I am sure there are tons of other books on pastoring that could have made this list. The books here tend to be a little more theological in nature and are simply 10 books of a genre that is, by God’s grace, packed with many great options. Enjoy the books.
Recommended Books on Pastoral Ministry
1. The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter
“Richard Baxter was vicar of Kidderminster from 1647 to 1661. In an introduction to this reprint, Dr. J.I. Packer describes him as ‘the most outstanding pastor, evangelist and writer on practical and devotional themes that Puritanism produced.’ His ministry transformed the people of Kidderminster from ‘an ignorant, rude and revelling people’ to a godly, worshipping community. These pages, first prepared for a Worcestershire association of ministers in 1656, deal with the means by which such changes are ever to be accomplished. In his fervent plea for the discharge of the spiritual obligations of the ministry, Baxter, in the words of his contemporary, Thomas Manton, ‘came nearer the apostolic writings than any man in the age.’ A century later Philip Doddridge wrote, ‘The Reformed Pastor is a most extraordinary book…many good men are but shadows of what (by the blessing of God) they might be, if the maxims and measures laid down in that incomparable Treatise were strenuously pursued’.
2. Pastoral Theology in the Classical Tradition by Andrew Purves
“Too often pastoral care is uninformed by historical practice and is overly influenced by psychological theory and practice, according to Andrew Purves. At least one consequence of this is that it is often disaffiliated from the church’s theological heritage. Purves examines Christian writers from the past who represent the classical tradition in pastoral theology–classical in the sense that they and their texts have shaped the minds and practices of pastors in enduring ways. He reflects on texts from Gregory Nazianzus, John Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Martin Bucer, and Richard Baxter. He includes a brief biography of each author, introduces the major themes in the writer’s theology, and discusses the issues arising for pastoral work.”
3. Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson by D.A. Carson
“D. A. Carson’s father was a pioneering church-planter and pastor in Quebec. But still, an ordinary pastor-except that he ministered during the decades that brought French Canada from the brutal challenges of persecution and imprisonment for Baptist ministers to spectacular growth and revival in the 1970s.
It is a story, and an era, that few in the English-speaking world know anything about. But through Tom Carson’s journals and written prayers, and the narrative and historical background supplied by his son, readers will be given a firsthand account of not only this trying time in North American church history, but of one pastor’s life and times, dreams and disappointments. With words that will ring true for every person who has devoted themselves to the Lord’s work, this unique book serves to remind readers that though the sacrifices of serving God are great, the sweetness of living a faithful, obedient life is greater still.”
4. Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality by William Edgar
“FRANCIS SCHAEFFER was one of the most influential apologists of the 20th century. Through his speaking, writing, and filmmaking, Schaeffer successfully transformed the way people thought of the Christian faith, from a rather private kind of piety to a worldview that addressed every sphere of life. This volume—written by a man converted from agnosticism within days of meeting Schaeffer—is the first book devoted to exploring the heart and soul of Schaeffer’s approach to the Christian life, and will help readers strive after the same kind of marriage of thought and life, of orthodoxy and love.”
5. The Art of Pastoring: Ministry Without All the Answers by David Hansen
“Named one of the Top Ten Books of 1994 by the Academy of Parish Clergy! Hundreds of books, tapes, workshops and seminars promise to answer these impossible questions. Some offer a set of practical guidelines; others suggest a system or pattern to follow. Some stress various ministry functions; others feature case studies as models of success or failure. Some are helpful. Others are not. But in The Art of Pastoring, David Hansen turns pastoral self-help programs on their heads. He tackles the perennial questions from within his own experience.”
6. Church Government: A Treatise (Classic Reprint) by Alexander T. McGill
“God’s word is my text-book, and its lines referred to are quoted, for the most part, in full on these pages to save the reader time and trouble in pondering citations.i Certain words and phrases must be capital in such a book as this; they are used as keys continually to indicate the scope, design and distinctive nature of such a work. These are, in this case, representation, organization, private judgment, spiritual des potism, and the like. So, also, there must be some repetition of idea in the application of the same thought to another side of the main subject or a subsequent step in the same movement. Yet redundancy in this way will hardly be Observed when the reader’s mind is fairly occupied with the consecutive drift of an argument.”
7. Pastoral Theology: Essentials of Ministry by Thomas C. Oden
“Reconciling classical tradition with practice, Pastoral Theology will be a standard resource and reference in the field. Oden distills the best ideas of the two millennia of ecumenical Christian thinking concerning what pastors are and do. Pastoral Theology provides the foundational knowledge of the pastoral office requisite to the practice of ministry. It will be of interest to persons preparing for ordination in its review of key issues; at the same time, Pastoral Theology will appeal to all those who have considered entering the ministry, those who want to know more about what clergy do and why, and those ministers who want to review their ongoing work in the light of a systematic reflection on the pastoral gifts and tasks.”
8. The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson
“In The Pastor, author Eugene Peterson, translator of the multimillion-selling The Message, tells the story of how he started Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland and his gradual discovery of what it really means to be a pastor. Steering away from abstractions, Peterson challenges conventional wisdom regarding church marketing, mega pastors, and the church’s too-cozy relationship to American glitz and consumerism to present a simple, faith-based description of what being a minister means today. In the end, Peterson discovers that being a pastor boils down to “paying attention and calling attention to ‘what is going on now’ between men and women, with each other and with God.”
9. Reconstructing Pastoral Theology: A Christological Foundation by Andrew Purves
“In Pastoral Care in the Classical Tradition, Andrew Purves argued that pastoral care and theology has long ignored Scripture and Christian doctrine, and pastoral practice has become secularized in both method and goal, the fiefdom of psychology and the social sciences. He builds further on this idea here, presenting a christological basis for ministry and pastoral theology.”
10. Pastor: Revised Edition: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry by William Willimon
“Ordained ministry, says Will Willimon, is a gift of God to the church—but that doesn’t mean that it is easy. Always a difficult vocation, changes in society and the church in recent years have made the ordained life all the more complex and challenging. Is the pastor primarily a preacher, a professional caregiver, an administrator? Given the call of all Christians to be ministers to the world, what is the distinctive ministry of the ordained? When does one’s ministry take on the character of prophet, and when does it become that of priest? What are the special ethical obligations and disciplines of the ordained?”
Other Book Lists
If you’re looking for some more good books, here are a few links that will point you in the right direction.