What I Have Read First Year As Pastor

It has been a year! Last year the Lawson home packed their bags and headed north from Georgia. We are so thankful for God placing us in Emporium, Pennsylvania! We love these mountains, our neighbors, new friends, and especially the members of Faith Baptist Church! When people down south ask how we are settling in, I always share that the love and respect I receive from our church family is more than I could ask for. Faith Baptist, you bless us immensely! We are thankful for you in a myriad of ways!

Below is a post for me. Maybe it will interest you. I have recorded the books I have read my first year as pastor. I hope to look back to this list in the years ahead and see what peaked my interest the first year. If you are at all interested to see what I have read, than take a look. 

Martin Luther. Luther’s Works, vol. 26 & 27, Lectures on Galatians. ed. Jaroslav Pelikan and Walter Hansen. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1962 &1963. | vol 26. 492 pp. $29.75.(hardback), vol 27. 441 pp. $34.00. (hardback)

Many have claimed these two books are Martin Luther’s magnum opus. I am not well versed in Luther’s works, but I can testify to the profundity stored within its pages. Due to the 500th year anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I thought it fitting to preach through the book of Galatians. Luther’s insights offered more than I could have hoped. His robust theology, historical insight, pastoral care, and humor benefited my soul and sermon preparation. Both volumes I have filled with highlights and notations. I highly recommend this set to pastors, theologians, and seasoned Christians interested in serious thinking. If I were to rate this work between 1 to 5 starts, I would have to give it an 8!

Stuart McAlpine. Asking For Pastors. Washington: McAlpine Partners 2016. 60 pp. $5.00. (paperback).

This book is gold! McAlpine’s conviction is that pastors need prayer. I wholeheartedly agree with him! The intention of this work is to encourage intercession for the ministers who care for God’s people. Building his argument, McAlpine shares many of the common responsibilities, challenges, thoughts, and struggles the everyday pastor experiences. The author applies a mature balance in his writing. He shares the humanity of pastors, yet never belittles the pastoral office. Scripture teaches that pastors, though far from perfect, are to receive respect. First Timothy is a great example of that truth.

The book is filled with amazing quotes from Augustine, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, J. I. Packer, and other notable heroes. This is an enjoyable and easy read. It is short, the author is easy to follow, and the reader is given an inside look into the life of an ordinary pastor. I highly recommend this for pastors, their wives, and faithful members of a local church. Pastors would serve their ministry well to place this resource into the hands of members committed to prayer!  

R. Albert. Mohler. The Prayer That Turned The World Upside Down: The Lord’s Prayer As A Manifesto For Revolution. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2018. 125 pp. $13.59. (paperback)

I was not expecting to love this book as much as I do! My favorite portion in the entire Bible is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Because of my affections for this portion of Scripture, I have read several serious commentaries on the Lord’s Prayer. Mohler’s approach is not immersed in technical analysis and theological rhetoric (which I often enjoy). He targets a wider audience by leaving behind cluttered jargon. With that stated, I found Mohler’s observations requiring that I read much slower than anticipated. His insights and wisdom corrected more than my thinking. My focus was not that I merely retain knowledge, but that my heart receive holy instruction. 

In Emporium, several ministers are on a small service rotation at Guy and Mary Felt Manor Nursing Home. During my assigned Sunday afternoons I have used Mohler’s book as our devotional. The seniors hold a special place in their hearts for the Lord’s Prayer. They are right to do so! Because of their love for the prayer, I plan to use Mohler’s book as a guide for following devotions at the nursing home. I recommend this book to everyone. Only drawback is the high price tag. I would hope to see the cost come to $8.00.

R. Albert. Mohler. The Conviction To Lead: 25 Principles For Leadership That Matters. Bloomington, MN: Bethany House, 2012. 224 pp. $9.04. (paperback)

I love reading critical commentaries over books on leadership. The topic has never gained my interest. I recognize that is not healthy—being that I am a pastor. Pastors are to lead, and they are to lead well. Because of this I picked up the book. What Mohler is able to accomplish in this book truly astounds me. He assembled a manuscript on leadership which I honestly enjoy! I believe I will give this work a read every other year!

The key attribute which separates this book from other leadership material is the word “conviction.” Mohler writes to a broad audience of Christian leaders and exhorts them to lead from a foundation built on conviction. For those who love reading on leadership, I highly recommend this work. The principles listed may be applied to more than pastors. Those in the secular workforce will also find this book beneficial. 

Lecrae Moore. Unashamed. Nashville: Broadmand & Holman, 2016. 256 pp. $16.63. (hardback)

Though it is difficult at times, Amber and I try to read together. This one caught our eye for a number of reasons: we both are intrigued by reformed hiphop, we find the critique of Lecrae’s popularity odd, and we are seeking role models in the Black/African-American community for our son. Lecrae is a hiphop artist once known for his Christian albums. Controversy has ensued over the choice to be less expressive of his faith in recent albums. This book is telling of where Lecrae began, where he is now, and what he hopes to become.

This is a very interesting book. I appreciated Moore’s perspective of social issues. Further, I find his testimony very powerful. I would recommend a number of young adults with rough backgrounds to give this book a read. He is a bit controversial for some. Is he a figure I want for my son to look up to? Time will tell. For now Zebulun can hear all about the African Patristic, Athanasius!  

Stephen J. Nichols. A Time For Confidence: Trusting God In A Post-Christian Society. Ann Arbor, MI: Reformation Trust, 2016. 152 pp. $10.00. (paperback)

I read it but remember very little. It happens. When you read four or five books at a time things get jumbled. I enjoyed his telling of Nero’s construction of the Gold House and the significance of Paul’s testimony among the centurion guards.  

Paul Powell. Shepherding The Sheep In Smaller Churches. Nashville: Bivocational & Small Church Leadership Network, 1995. 128 pp. $ free gift. (paperback)

Powell is a minister who holds a passion for small rural churches. I am a pastor of such a church, thus I was gifted with this short read. Powell offers helps concerning practical problems. What I gained from this read is a better affirmation of what I believe. In areas I agree with Powell, he adds further reasons why I believe what I believe. In areas where we disagree, he confirms why I prefer a different approach or belief. 

The greatest contribution of this book is Powell’s willingness to think outside of the box and follow with action. I found myself being challenged to think differently on evangelism, counseling, and preaching with a commission to act. I am thankful for this book because of that. I recommend this book for lay pastors. 

Vaughan Roberts. Transgender. A Talking Points Book Series. U.K.: The Good Book Company, 2016. 80 pp. $3.99. (paperback)

Our culture’s understanding and treatment of sexuality is undergoing a revolution. As a pastor it is essential that I know and remain current in LGBT issues. Roberts offers a helpful introduction to transgenderism. The author is gentle towards those who question their gender and identity. His tone in writing models a godly example of compassion and holiness. Though he rightly sees transgenderism as incompatible with the Bible, he loving explains why. The strengths which I benefited most from this work are the terms and definitions, research, testimonies, and references provided in the index. 

Readers that are not wanting to enter into an academic exchange can pick up this book and receive a gentle introduction. Because this is such a controversial topic, the book is a great resource for the church. It does not compromise God’s good design, nor villainize those identified as transgender. Further, it correctly applies the gospel in an area of emotional and physical confusion. Highly recommend this read for pastors, councilors, church members with loved ones transitioning, and those outside of the church. 

R.C. Sproul. The Holiness Of God. Crawfordsville, IN: Tyndale House Publishers, 2010. 265 pp. $free gift. (hardback)

I am embarrassed to admit I have never read one of Sproul’s books before this. His passing of late 2017 stirred my interest in reading The Holiness of God. The focus of the book is on the attribute of God’s holiness. Sproul has voiced on many platforms that humanity’s greatest shortcoming is our ignorance of who He is. When Sproul encourages his readers to think on the topic of who God is, he presses forward with an in-depth study of the mystery of God’s holiness.

This work is one that cannot receive too great an endorsement. Humanity’s greatest pursuit ought to be understanding who God is and how He desires to be known. Created beings made in the very image of God cannot understand much of anything without a knowledge of the Creator. This book explains what it means when God is described as holy, explains humanity’s fallen condition, and points to the reconciliation of Creator with creature through Christ. If you are able to read, I am unable find a good reason why you would not want to read this work!

Charles Wingard. Help for the New Pastor: Practical Advice For Your First Year Of Ministry. Phillipsburg, NJ: R&P Publishing, 2018. 144 pp. $12.99. (paperback)

Honestly, I was not interested in this book because of the title. My eyes scanned the cover and I thought this must be a “How to Pastor for Dummies” sort of ordeal. I was wrong—yet at the same time right. Wingard writes with more than three decades of pastoral experience. I have one-thirtieth of his experience. This book often left me humble and thankful for the words of wisdom offered. I wish there were more chapters to this book. 

An added bonus for myself was the glimpse of Presbyterianism from Wingard. He has served in the PCA and OPC (conservative) branches of Presbyterianism. Though my convictions are baptistic, I appreciated an inside look into Presbyterian life and practice. This is a very helpful book for pastors during any stage of ministry. Also recommend this read for those considering pastoral ministry. 

For those still reading, I hope you find one of these books interesting!

In Christ by His Grace,

Pastor Daniel Lawson

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