Published Jul 05, 2022
“Seriously? No possible way,” was my first response to the request for this column on books pastors must read. I have read thousands of books and it’s impossible for me to pick one that every pastor needs to read. So, permit me instead to advocate for a kind of reading—along with some favorite books to get you started.
For the past few years, most of my work-related reading has focused on leadership and evangelism—my primary vocational passions. But within those subjects, a particular genre has been important to my personal and professional growth—biographies.
Reading biographies is fascinating because of the interesting discoveries about prominent and influential people. But more than that, reading biographies has shaped my perspective on God’s providential ways of working with and through people in three ways.
First, Reading biographies has shown me how God uses flawed people. One of my mistakes as a younger leader was to dismiss other leaders who made mistakes (and fear of making too many of own mistakes). It’s astounding, however, how God uses flawed people to do amazing things. Good biographies record the good, the bad and the ugly of a person’s life. All leaders are a mixed bag of strengths/weaknesses and positives/negatives. And yet, God uses them anyway—getting the best from them despite their worst qualities.
Second, Reading biographies has taught me to be more resilient. Many leaders have experienced devastating setbacks. From lost elections, to failed businesses, to deaths of spouses or children—many leaders have been beaten down by life’s circumstance. But they persevered and their resilience allowed them to make a significant impact. In many cases, the character formed through their most difficult struggles was essential preparation for future effectiveness.
Third, Reading biographies has also lengthened my expectation of the time it takes for dreams, ideas and goals to come to fruition. My impatience is legendary! Biographies lay out an entire life—from formative family constellations to end of life reflections. Seeing that panoramic view has helped me have a broader perspective of my overall life trajectory.
With so many stories out there, where should you start? Here are five books which have become favorites. Pick one and immerse yourself in it this summer.
- George Whitfield: George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century (Arnold A. Dallimore)
- Eugene Peterson: “Burning in my Bones” (Winn Collier)
- Martyn-Lloyd Jones: The Life of Martyn-Lloyd Jones (Ian H. Murray)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Eric Metaxas)
- Alexander Hamilton: Alexander Hamilton (Ron Chernow)