5 Books Every Pastor Should Read, Outside of the Bible

Here’s a list of 5 books I would encourage every pastor to read, outside of the Bible:

classic library

1. The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes

2. A Call to Prayer, JC Ryle

3. When I Don’t Desire God, John Piper

4. The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges

5. The Holiness of God, RC Sproul

Question: Pastors, what other books would you encourage fellow-pastors to read?

5 Encouragements for Bi-Vocational Pastors

I’m a bi-vocational pastor.

In my particular case, this basically means that I’m an associate pastor who doesn’t receive his compensation from the local church, but by another means. I have two vocations: pastoral ministry is one, and Healthcare / IT recruiting is the other.

Bible & BriefCase

I’m very blessed to love my job and love the work of ministry. Monday through Friday, the majority of my day is spent working at Provisions Group, a Nashville-based Healthcare / IT staffing and consulting firm. A large portion of my weekends, then, and several evenings a month, are devoted to ministry.

The Bible and The Briefcase

I haven’t always been bi-vocational. In Knoxville, for nearly 8 years I was a full-time pastor with a local church in the area. In the fall of 2012, I re-entered the business world, moved back into my previous profession of healthcare recruiting, and relocated to the greater Nashville area in order to help plant Redeeming Grace Church in Franklin, TN.

Over the past 2 years, I’ve reflected a great deal on the beauty and benefits of bi-vocational ministry (I’m also aware of many of the challenges that exist).

I know I’m not the only one. On our particular pastoral team, 2 of the 3 pastors are bi-vocational. I’ve also interacted with a number of pastors in recent years who are serving their local churches while working full-time jobs, and I’m always encouraged to hear their stories of God’s provision and enabling grace.

With that said, I feel a strong call to bi-vocational pastoral ministry, and I have a growing heart for encouraging my fellow bi-vocational pastors.

Here are a five encouragements I would share with my fellow bi-vocational pastors:

1. God has uniquely positioned you for service in the community and in the church

Don’t forget that there are so many benefits to being bi-vocational. For one, you have the built-in platform of constantly living and working with people in the world, and this holds wonderful opportunities for the gospel. You also have the joy and privilege of contributing to the building of your local church both in terms of your time and your personal finances (Not receiving compensation for the work of ministry is a gift to your local church, and every financial contribution you make through your tithes and offerings is a gift, as well). God is using your service to build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18).

2. Do whatever it takes to get your soul happy in God, consistently

At every turn, you are likely pouring out your soul in service to others. Because you can only give what you have stored up in your heart to give, you need the continual replenishment that only comes by the Holy Spirit through communion with God, feasting on the Word, and pouring out your heart to God in prayer and faith. It’s not selfish to take time for your own soul to be replenished and nourished. It’s essential for effectiveness in bi-vocational pastoral ministry. So, do whatever it takes to get your own soul happy in God. Your family, your employer, and the church you love will all be grateful and will benefit from you as you receive fresh grace from God.

3. Make sure to take care of your family first

No amount of influence in others’ lives is worth sacrificing those closest and dearest to you. If you are married, God has blessed you with a gift in your wife and He has called you to love her as Christ loves the church – to nourish and cherish her and lay down your life for her good (Ephesians 5:25). Sometimes this love will involve saying “No” to the endless needs, desires, or demands of others. Again, that is not a selfish thing; instead, it’s a right ordering of priorities. (To be sure, some seasons will involve greater sacrifice from the family, but if the family begins to feel like they are receiving nothing but left-overs, something is askew). Love, enjoy, and care for the family God has blessed you with.

4. Wherever you are, be all there

This is a helpful phrase for me to remember. Road signs instruct us not to text-message others while we drive, because statistics have shown that it can lead to serious accidents. When we drive, we need to be fully-engaged. In the same way, to serve effectively in this calling, we need to be fully-engaged in whatever it is we are doing at the moment. Multi-tasking is very hard for a bi-vocational pastor. When we’re at work, we should work hard for our employer. When we’re at the dinner table, seek to be fully-engaged with the family. The same goes for doing the work of ministry. Ultimately, it can be an expression of trust in the Lord when we give ourselves to what is immediately in front of us and entrust the rest to God, knowing that He works on behalf of those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4).

5. Enjoy the grace of God

Finally, my encouragement to bi-vocational pastors is to enjoy the grace of God. You are on an amazing ride and a wild adventure. God knows your limitations. He knows when you’re weary. He knows when you feel weak – And He still delights to use you, even you, for the advancement of His wondrous gospel and the glory of His Name. Your labor in the Lord is not in vain. “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10). Be strengthened and be encouraged. Thank you for what you do.

Question: If you are a bi-vocational pastor, what encouragement would you have for other bi-vocational pastors? If you are not a bi-vocational pastor, is there a bi-vocational pastor that you know who may benefit from this discussion? (Please feel free to leave a comment below, or forward this post along).

A Review of The Book “God Took Me By The Hand” by Jerry Bridges

Over the 4th of July holiday weekend, I visited a local bookstore and picked up a copy of Jerry Bridges’ new book God Took Me By The Hand.

God Took Me By the Hand

For many reasons, I have been greatly anticipating the release of this particular book. As I sat down one early morning to read it over the holiday weekend, I was not disappointed. A rare experience for me, I actually read the entirety of the book in one day. I simply could not put it down.

Why I Am Personally Grateful for Jerry Bridges

Mr. Bridges is 84 years old. He’s been walking with the Lord for over 65 years. There is a wisdom, grace, and spiritual maturity that comes from one who has been walking with Jesus for so many years. I’ve met Mr. Bridges personally and have been impacted by his humility, his reverence for God, and his personal appropriation of the goodness of God and the gospel of grace. I’ve heard him teach several times, and the simplicity and profundity of his teachings and writings have greatly impacted my spiritual life over the years.

On my bookshelf, among others, are the following books:

Bridges

    The Pursuit of Holiness
    The Practice of Godliness
    The Discipline of Grace
    Transforming Grace
    Trusting God
    The Joy of Fearing God
    The Transforming Power of the Gospel
    The Gospel for Real Life
    The Fruitful Life
    The Bookends of the Christian Life

So, what makes this book unique from all the others?

God Took Me By The Hand is, in my view, the most personal of all of Mr. Bridges’ books. The book is actually structured as a personal recounting of the providence of God in Mr. Bridges’ life.

Mr. Bridges writes,

“When I was seventeen years old, it seemed as if God took me by the hand and said, ‘Come with Me.’ And for more than sixty-five years, God has, as it were, continued to hold my hand and lead me in the path He has marked out for me… There have been lots of times when life has been hard and discouraging, but through it all, I see God’s hand drawing me along the path He ordained for me before I was born… The purpose of this story, then, is to explain, illustrate, and exalt God’s providence… so that believers will come to recognize and appreciate more of God’s work in their own lives” (pages 11-12).

Following this structure, the book gives the reader a sensation as if he or she is sitting in the living room with Mr. Bridges, enjoying a cup of coffee and conversing around the glory of God’s providence displayed throughout his years of walking with Christ.

Mr. Bridges describes four physical defects and deformities he was born with (e.g. he was cross-eyed, with an underdeveloped right inner-ear, and he had abnormalities in his breastbone and spine among other physical difficulties he coped with throughout his childhood and adult life). He sees the providence of God in it all:

So I was born physically exactly the way God wanted me to be and to parents who were poor, uneducated, and socially isolated, all because that was the plan God ordained for me before I was born. But if you fast-forward my life to the present, you have to be amazed at what God has done for a cross-eyed, partially deaf boy growing up in poverty alongside the railroad tracks… Furthermore, all that God has done, He has done solely by His grace” (Page 17-18).

Throughout the book, Mr. Bridges describes the circumstances leading up to his conversion, his entrance into the US Navy, his providential passing of naval hearing test (through a make-shift hearing exam administered through a naval officer), his introduction to the Navigators, his conversion to Christ, and his invitation to write and teach.

In the account of his life, suffering is intermingled with joy, and hardships are mixed in with God’s blessings and grace. As I read the book, I found myself reviewing the 37 years of my own life and thanking God for His quiet providence that led me to Christ and to where I am today. I also found myself wondering at what the future may hold as I continue to walk with Jesus. It definitely had a comforting, encouraging, strengthening, and inspiring effect on my own soul.

For any Christian seeking to grow in their faith and awareness and appreciation of God’s providential working in their own lives, I highly recommend God Took Me By The Hand.

Like me, you may not be able to put it down.

Question: Have you read God Took Me By the Hand, and if so, what effect did it have on your own soul? What other books by Mr. Bridges have you read, and how have you benefitted from them?