Looking for some must-read books for preachers because you are a preacher/pastor/church leader?
In recent years, I’ve made it a habit to crowd-source a list of must-read books to read through asking fellow preachers and church leaders.
You can find last year’s list here.
These books are not necessarily new books in 2021, but they are recommended books this year.
Additionally, these books for preachers aren’t all preaching books, but books that other preachers and church leaders find to be important for us to read.
When we read great books, we are opening ourselves up to grow. If we aren’t reading, we likely aren’t growing. So developing a steady reading habit and reading good books consistently is vital for our continual growth as pastors/preachers/church leaders.
In fact, getting my reading habits back up was one of my steps back toward health and away from burnout.
Must-Read Books for Preachers in 2021 (Recommended by Preachers and Church Leaders)
Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro
Wayne Cordeiro found himself paralyzed by burnout. He had been in ministry for 30 years, and 10 years after founding what is now the largest church in Hawaii, he found himself depleted. Wayne took a season out of his growing ministry to recharge and refocus on the truly important. He was able to get back in touch with his life, get back in proper balance, and re-energize his spirit through Christ in a way that propelled him forward to greater levels of service. Wayne first gave this message at a recent Willow Creek Leadership Summit, where it was the highest-rated presentation by those in attendance.
Pulling no punches, Wayne talks about the walls leaders must break through and how to move on with integrity. Included are ways to care for oneself physically and emotionally as well as spiritually.
Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders
The need for talented, vigorous leaders in the church cannot be overemphasized. Such times demand active service of men and women who are guided by and devoted to Jesus Christ.
With more than 1 million copies sold, Spiritual Leadership stands as a proven classic for developing such leadership. J. Oswald Sanders, a Christian leader for nearly seventy years and author of more than forty books, presents the key principles of leadership in both the temporal and spiritual realms. He illustrates his points with examples from Scripture and biographies of eminent men of God, such as Moses, Nehemiah, the apostle Paul, David Livingstone, Charles Spurgeon, and others.
Sacred Reading by Michael Casey
Examines the Western tradition of lectio divina (a spiritual and prayerful approach to reading the sacred texts) in order to help readers expand their spiritual approach to living.
Tempered Resilience by Tod Bolsinger
What type of leadership is needed in a moment that demands adaptive change? Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, is uniquely positioned to explore the qualities of adaptive leadership in contexts ranging from churches to nonprofit organizations. He deftly examines both the external challenges we face and the internal resistance that holds us back. Bolsinger writes: “To temper describes the process of heating, holding, hammering, cooling, and reheating that adds stress to raw iron until it becomes a glistening knife blade or chisel tip.” When reflection and relationships are combined into a life of deliberate practice, leaders become both stronger and more flexible. As a result, these resilient leaders are able to offer greater wisdom and skill to the organizations they serve
Confident Humility by Dan Kent
Almost all self-help books emerge from one of two flawed views of the self, and these mutually exclusive ditches are destructive. The Ditch of Smallness says that people are fundamentally bad and that humanity’s greatest spiritual threat is pride. The Ditch of Bigness says the exact opposite: people are fundamentally good, and shame is our greatest danger. Dan Kent presents a third view, a road between the ditches. He shows how the humility Jesus revealed offers the most accurate and freeing view of the self. Whereas shame and arrogance are dysfunction steroids (making our depression darker, our anxiety tighter, our addictions stickier, and so forth), humility, as Jesus teaches it, counteracts shame and pride, thereby subverting two major psychological forces that thwart us.Once we embrace this new way of seeing ourselves–how Jesus sees us–we begin to relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world around us in a way that allows us to overcome a whole host of vices and self-sabotaging behaviors. Furthermore, whereas the ditches both lead to powerlessness and passivity, humility as Jesus teaches it is empowering, fosters proactivity, and serves as a scaffold for true confidence.
Lead by Paul David Tripp
The church is experiencing a leadership crisis.
What can we do to prevent pastors from leaving the ministry?
For every celebrity pastor exiting the ministry in the spotlight, there are many more lesser-known pastors leaving in the shadows. Pastor and best-selling author Paul David Tripp argues that lurking behind every pastoral failure is the lack of a strong leadership community. Tripp draws on his decades of ministry experience to give churches twelve gospel principles necessary to combat this leadership crisis. Each of these principles, built upon characteristics such as humility, dependency, and accountability, will enable new and experienced leaders alike to focus their attention on the ultimate leadership model: the gospel.
Your Future Self Will Thank You by Drew Dyck
Your Future Self Will Thank You is a compassionate and humorous guide to breaking bad habits and growing your willpower. It explores Scripture’s teachings on how to live a disciplined life while offering practical strategies for growth based on the science of self-control. Whether you want to deepen your spiritual life, conquer an addiction, or kick your nail-biting habit, this book will help you get motivated, stay on track, and achieve your goals.
Sure, self-control is hard, but it doesn’t have to be that hard. Get the help you need to be freer, happier, and more productive. Your future self will thank you!
Loyalty and Disloyalty by Dag Heward-Mills
Loyalty and Disloyalty deals firmly with the fine line that distinguishes between the two attitudes, and talks about the defining moments we should all be aware of in our own lives, and the lives of those around us. This book is a roadmap for both leaders and followers. As leaders, we need wisdom to guide our sensitivities. Picking up disloyalty early on in those around us can prevent disaster later. Taking action swiftly and firmly is vital. As followers, we need to be keenly aware when our own loyalty to our shepherds is being diverted within ourselves. Though a primary requirement of God for leaders, very little has been written on this subject. In this book, Dag Heward-Mills outlines very important principles, with the intention of increasing the stability of churches. So relevant and practical is the content of this book that it has become an indispensable tool for many church leaders.
The Care of Souls by Harold Senkbeil
Drawing on a lifetime of pastoral experience, The Care of Souls is a beautifully written treasury of proven wisdom which pastors will find themselves turning to again and again.
Harold Senkbeil helps remind pastors of the essential calling of the ministry: preaching and living out the Word of God while orienting others in the same direction. And he offers practical and fruitful advice―born out of his five decades as a pastor―that will benefit both new pastors and those with years in the pulpit.
J-Curve by Paul E. Miller
Do we have the wrong map for the Christian life?
Life’s inconveniences, disappointments, and trials can leave us confused, cynical, and eventually bitter. But the apostle Paul traces out the path of dying and rising with Jesus―what Paul Miller calls the “J-Curve”―as the normal Christian life.
The J-Curve maps the ups and downs of daily life onto the story of Jesus. It grounds our journeys not in some abstract idea but in union with Christ and his work of love. Understanding our lives in light of the J-Curve roots our hope, centers our love, and tethers our faith to Christ.
Gentle and Lowly by Dane C. Ortlund
Christians know what Jesus Christ has done―but who is he? What is his deepest heart for his people, weary and faltering on their journey toward heaven? Jesus said he is “gentle and lowly in heart.” This book reflects on these words, opening up a neglected yet central truth about who he is for sinners and sufferers today.
The Unsaved Christian by Dean Inserra
What to do when they say they’re Christian but don’t know Jesus
Whether it’s the Christmas and Easter Christians or the faithful church attenders whose hearts are cold toward the Lord, we’ve all encountered cultural Christians. They’d check the Christian box on a survey, they’re fine with church, but the truth is, they’re far from God. So how do we bring Jesus to this overlooked mission field?
The Unsaved Christian equips you to confront cultural Christianity with honesty, compassion, and grace, whether you’re doing it from the pulpit or the pews.
Live Not by Lies by Rob Dreher
The New York Times bestselling author of The Benedict Option draws on the wisdom of Christian survivors of Soviet persecution to warn American Christians of approaching dangers.
For years, émigrés from the former Soviet bloc have been telling Rod Dreher they see telltale signs of “soft” totalitarianism cropping up in America–something more Brave New World than Nineteen Eighty-Four. Identity politics are beginning to encroach on every aspect of life. Civil liberties are increasingly seen as a threat to “safety”. Progressives marginalize conservative, traditional Christians, and other dissenters. Technology and consumerism hasten the possibility of a corporate surveillance state. And the pandemic, having put millions out of work, leaves our country especially vulnerable to demagogic manipulation.
In Live Not By Lies, Dreher amplifies the alarm sounded by the brave men and women who fought totalitarianism. He explains how the totalitarianism facing us today is based less on overt violence and more on psychological manipulation. He tells the stories of modern-day dissidents–clergy, laity, martyrs, and confessors from the Soviet Union and the captive nations of Europe–who offer practical advice for how to identify and resist totalitarianism in our time. Following the model offered by a prophetic World War II-era pastor who prepared believers in his Eastern European to endure the coming of communism, Live Not By Lies teaches American Christians a method for resistance.
Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers
A Movement Seeks to Redefine Christianity. Some Think that It Is a Much-Needed Progressive Reformation. Others Believe that It Is an Attack on Historic Christianity.
Alisa Childers never thought she would question her Christian faith. She was raised in a Christian home, where she had seen her mom and dad feed the hungry, clothe the homeless, and love the outcast. She had witnessed God at work and then had dedicated her own life to leading worship, as part of the popular Christian band ZOEgirl. All that was deeply challenged when she met a progressive pastor, who called himself a hopeful agnostic.
Another Gospel? describes the intellectual journey Alisa took over several years as she wrestled with a series of questions that struck at the core of the Christian faith. After everything she had ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Bible had been picked apart, she found herself at the brink of despair . . . until God rescued her, helping her to rebuild her faith, one solid brick at a time.
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink
An updated edition of the blockbuster bestselling leadership book that took America and the world by storm, two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War demonstrate how to apply powerful leadership principles from the battlefield to business and life. Now with an excerpt from the authors’ new book, THE DICHOTOMY OF LEADERSHIP.
Combat, the most intense and dynamic environment imaginable, teaches the toughest leadership lessons, with absolutely everything at stake. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin learned this reality first-hand on the most violent and dangerous battlefield in Iraq. As leaders of SEAL Team Three’s Task Unit Bruiser, their mission was one many thought impossible: help U.S. forces secure Ramadi, a violent, insurgent-held city deemed “all but lost.” In gripping, firsthand accounts of heroism, tragic loss, and hard-won victories, they learned that leadership―at every level―is the most important factor in whether a team succeeds or fails.
The Deeply Formed Life by Rich Villodas
During our chaotic times, discover five forgotten values that can spark internal growth and help us reconcile our Christian faith with the complexities of race, sexuality, and social justice.
Most believers live in the state of “being a Christian” without ever being deeply formed by Christ. Our pace is too frenetic to be in union with God, and we don’t know how to quiet our hearts and minds to be present. Our emotions are unhealthy and compartmentalized. We feel unable to love well or live differently from the rest of the world—to live as people of the good news.
Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger
Explorers Lewis and Clark had to adapt. While they had prepared to find a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, instead they found themselves in the Rocky Mountains. You too may feel that you are leading in a cultural context you were not expecting. You may even feel that your training holds you back more often than it carries you along. Drawing from his extensive experience as a pastor and consultant, Tod Bolsinger brings decades of expertise in guiding churches and organizations through uncharted territory. He offers a combination of illuminating insights and practical tools to help you reimagine what effective leadership looks like in our rapidly changing world. If you’re going to scale the mountains of ministry, you need to leave behind canoes and find new navigational tools. Now expanded with a study guide, this book will set you on the right course to lead with confidence and courage.
After 50 Years of Ministry by Bob Russell
Learn Ministry from One of the Best
When Bob Russell became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church, it was just 120 people meeting in a basement. When he retired forty years later, it was nearing 20,000.
Though Bob’s ministry was a clear success, he’d be the first to say it wasn’t perfect. In After 50 Years of Ministry he shares why. He reflects on the best of what he’s learned—sometimes the hard way—about ministry and leadership.
Replenish by Lance Witt
Every leader functions on two stages-the front stage or public world, and the back stage or private world. One cannot lead successfully front stage when one is completely depleted back stage. In a time when pastors are leaving the ministry in record numbers due to cynicism, disillusionment, weariness, and personal scandals, there is an urgent need for soul care in the private lives of leaders. Replenish helps leaders focus on the back stage, the interior life, in order to remain spiritually healthy. In a caring, encouraging tone, it will show pastors how to prioritize matters of the soul develop healthy spiritual practices address problems that lead to burnout create a healthy rhythm in their lives improve their people skills and the spiritual climate of their team develop better systems in their churches discover how to lead an unhurried life For the many ministry leaders who feel alone, in over their heads, or simply worn out, this book will offer welcome relief and a healthy way forward.
Ordinary by Tony Merida
What if the path toward an extraordinary life is becoming more ordinary?
Ordinary is not a call to be more radical. If anything, it is a call to the contrary. The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. Tony Merida wants to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.
The Language of God by Francis Collins
It has long been believed that science and faith cannot mingle. Faith rejects the rational, while science restricts us to a life with no meaning beyond the physical. It is an irreconcilable war between two polar-opposite ways of thinking and living. Written for believers, agnostics, and atheists alike, The Language of God provides a testament to the power of faith in the midst of suffering without faltering from its logical stride. Readers will be inspired by Collin’s personal story of struggling with doubt, as well as the many revelations of the wonder of God’s creation that will forever shape the way they view the world around them.
Faith for Exiles by David Kinnaman
Discover What’s Working and Find Hope
Negative perceptions. Church dropouts. Prodigals and nomads. It’s easy to get discouraged by all that’s going wrong when it comes to Christianity and the emerging generation. Yet what’s going right? In fact, signs of hope are springing up all around. In Faith for Exiles, the author of unChristian and You Lost Me unveils major new Barna research that uncovers what’s working–five practices that contribute to resilience. Enter the world of resilient young adult Christians and learn how they are sustaining faith. Finally, you can find hope in all that God is doing among young disciples today.
Reclaiming Glory by Mark Clifton
What is there about a dying church that brings glory to God? Mark Clifton’s convicting answer is “Nothing.”
Because a local church is intended to represent the work of God in a community, when that church “loses it saltiness,” not only is God’s work pictured as irrelevant in that community, but also dishonor and disrepute may well become associated with God’s name as a result.
In Reclaiming Glory, Clifton draws not only upon his own burden for revitalizing dying churches but also upon years of church replanting experience to offer passionate counsel for how to breathe new life into a dying church . . . all for the glory of the God who is building his church upon the immovable rock of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
In this revised bestselling book, Peter Scazzero outlines a roadmap for discipleship with Jesus that is powerfully transformative. He unveils what’s wrong with our current definition of “spiritual growth” and offers not only a model of spirituality that actually works, but seven steps to change that will help you experience authentic faith and hunger for God.
Peter Scazzero learned the hard way: you can’t be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. Even though he was the pastor of a growing church, he did what most people do:
- Avoid conflict in the name of Christianity
- Ignore his anger, sadness, and fear
- Use God to run from God
- Live without boundaries
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The two years before he wrote Crime and Punishment (1866) had been bad ones for Dostoyevsky. His wife and brother had died; the magazine he and his brother had started, Epoch, collapsed under its load of debt; and he was threatened with debtor’s prison. With an advance that he managed to wangle for an unwritten novel, he fled to Wiesbaden, hoping to win enough at the roulette table to get himself out of debt. Instead, he lost all his money; he had to pawn his clothes and beg friends for loans to pay his hotel bill and get back to Russia. One of his begging letters went to a magazine editor, asking for an advance on yet another unwritten novel — which he described as Crime and Punishment.
One of the supreme masterpieces of world literature, Crime and Punishment catapulted Dostoyevsky to the forefront of Russian writers and into the ranks of the world’s greatest novelists. Drawing upon experiences from his own prison days, the author recounts in feverish, compelling tones the story of Raskolnikov, an impoverished student tormented by his own nihilism, and the struggle between good and evil. Believing that he is above the law, and convinced that humanitarian ends justify vile means, he brutally murders an old woman — a pawnbroker whom he regards as “stupid, ailing, greedy…good for nothing.” Overwhelmed afterwards by feelings of guilt and terror, Raskolnikov confesses to the crime and goes to prison. There he realizes that happiness and redemption can only be achieved through suffering. Infused with forceful religious, social, and philosophical elements, the novel was an immediate success. This extraordinary, unforgettable work is reprinted here in the authoritative Constance Garnett translation.
A Church Called Tov by Scot McKnight
What is the way forward for the church?
Tragically, in recent years, Christians have gotten used to revelations of abuses of many kinds in our most respected churches―from Willow Creek to Harvest, from Southern Baptist pastors to Sovereign Grace churches. Respected author and theologian Scot McKnight and former Willow Creek member Laura Barringer wrote this book to paint a pathway forward for the church.
We need a better way. The sad truth is that churches of all shapes and sizes are susceptible to abuses of power, sexual abuse, and spiritual abuse. Abuses occur most frequently when Christians neglect to create a culture that resists abuse and promotes healing, safety, and spiritual growth.
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
In this stunning new book, Malcolm Gladwell takes us on an intellectual journey through the world of “outliers”–the best and the brightest, the most famous and the most successful. He asks the question: what makes high-achievers different?
His answer is that we pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and the idiosyncratic experiences of their upbringing. Along the way he explains the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, why Asians are good at math, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.
The Lego Principle by Joey Bonifacio
Love God. Love Your Neighbor. Jesus called these the two most important commandments of all time. When He said this, He was making something clear to His listeners then as He does now: in life, it all boils down to our relationships. Using the example of LEGO®, a company that has been transforming the way people play for more than fifty years, Joey Bonifacio shows you how to make a difference, one connection at a time.
Wikichurch by Steve Murrell
Jesus told His followers that He would build His church, and then He told them to go and make disciples. It’s that simple. We make disciples, and He builds the church.
But today we often get this exactly backward. We work hard to build our churches with programs and promotions while continuing to neglect the essential practice of discipleship. And we wonder why we struggle. In WikiChurch, Steve Murrell shows you how anyone can make disciples through the simple process of…
· Engaging culture and community
· Establishing spiritual foundations
· Equipping believers to minister
· Empowering disciples to make disciples
The Faith Once For All by Jack Cottrell
The Faith Once for All is a powerful and dynamic view on Bible doctrine. Doctrine is nothing less than food for the soul, nourishing and strengthening us within. Dr. Cottrell, utilizing his many years of experience as an author and teacher, provides a thorough and helpful examination of the Bible’s teaching on every major subject. This book is a valuable asset that will serve as the cornerstone of your biblical reference library.
Preaching Sticky Sermons by Brandon Kelley and Joe Hoagland
Preaching remains relevant even as America becomes less Christian. Preaching Sticky Sermons is a practical and accessible book for pastors young and old. Kelley and Hoagland reveal how to make your sermons stick. They focus on four main areas of creating a sermon: Preparation, writing, delivery, and evaluation. This book will help you write sermons that stick not only on Sunday but also throughout the week.
What About You?
So there we have it. These were all recommended by preachers and church leaders. Is there a book that didn’t make the list that you would recommend? Let us know by joining our Facebook group or send us a Tweet.
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