The Minimalist Pastoral Library: 19 Book Recommendations for Those Starting Out

There are a million books on ministry out there. What few books will help you the most, right away?

If you are just starting to build your library, this list will point you in some helpful directions. If you have a growing library, perhaps a recommendation or two will reveal a title that you haven’t read yet.

This list includes the books that I use the most, have impacted me the most, and have helped me the most. Each list is in no particular order.

6 reference books to buy immediately

Here are some good “go-to” books for sermon prep, besides commentaries on individual books of the Bible.

1. Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, by Beale and Carson.

2. Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible, ed. by Vanhoozer, et. al.

3. New Bible Dictionary, ed. by I. Howard Marshal, et. al.

4. IVP Bible Background Commentary on the OT, by Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas.

5. IVP Bible Background Commentary on the NT, by Keener.

6. New Bible Commentary, ed. by Wenham, et. al.

7 ministry books to read early in ministry

Or, even better, read them before you start your first post in ministry. These seven books have been most helpful for me in developing as a prophet, priest, and king (i.e. a preacher, shepherd, and leader).

1. Preaching and Preachers, by Lloyd-Jones.

2. Getting Things Done, by Allen.

3. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, by Tripp.

4. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, by Lencioni.

5. Christ-Centered Preaching, by Chapell.

6. Lectures to my Students, by Spurgeon.

7. Biblical Eldership, by Strauch.

6 big books on biblical, historical, and systematic theology to start plodding through

These tomes have impacted my theology the most.

1. Institutes of the Christian Religion, by Calvin.

2. A New Testament Biblical Theology, by Beale.

3. Reformed Dogmatics, by Bavinck.

4. Historical Theology, by Allison.

5. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible, by Dempster (this one’s actually not so big).

6. A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament, by Leithart (not so big either).

What did I miss? Share what you would include in your minimalist library in the comments!


  1. Great choices!

    Perhaps consider:

    The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. Churches that move forward face conflict in one way or another. We live in a fallen world. Read this and teach on it BEFORE conflict. It’s tough to teach on conflict when you’re in the midst of it.

    The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges. This is such an excellent book on growing in grace.

    Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders.

    Derek Kidner on Psalms. There are scads of great commentaries. This is only one. But Kidner is succinct and helpful and affordable. Every pastor should preach Psalms. This is a commentary every pastor can afford.

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Thanks for the additions, Chris! I probably should have thrown in “Unpacking Forgiveness” too!

      • Thanks Eric. With no false modesty, I think Ken Sande’s book is a good place to begin.

        I was thinking through some of the books available from Tripp, Powlison etc. So many great resources are available.

  2. My husband LOVED The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter that he discovered in Seminary. 😉

  3. I agree with the recommendations above- Tripp, Powlison, Sande- all good. Most of Eugene Peterson’s and Dallas Willard’s writings have helped me grow as a pastor. Four of my favorites are Abraham Heschel’s “God In Search Of Man”; Marvin Wilson’s “Our Father Abraham”; Craig Barnes’s “The Pastor as Minor Poet”; and especially David Peterson’s “Engaging With God: a biblical theology of worship” as this is something you will certainly be doing for the rest of your life. Happy library building.

  4. A book I have found interesting and helpful in my preaching and writing is Dictionary of Biblical Imagery with Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III as editors.


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