10 Books Every Pastor Should Have in Their Library


The following lists were compiled by David Fry and Johnathan Arnold for a discussion on the Holy Joys Podcast. These lists include books that David and Johnathan use with some regularity or would not want to be without in their pastoral libraries, but they are not a list of books that pastors should begin with.

David’s List

  1. The Book of Common Prayer (1990 Oxford ed. for The Episcopal Church)
  2. 52 Standard Sermons, John Wesley (but preferably the 151 sermons in the BE).
  3. The Methodist Hymnal (1928 MEC ed.)
  4. A Compendium of Christian Theology (2nd ed.; 1875-1876 3 vols)
  5. Institutes of Christian Religion, John Calvin (McNeill ed.; 2 vols.) 
  6. Systematic Theology, Thomas C. Oden (1987-1992; 3 vols)
  7. From Irenaeus to Grotius: A Sourcebook in Christian Political Thought, Oliver and Joan O’Donovan (1999)
  8. The Imitation of Christ, Thomas a Kempis
  9. A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley
  10. The Apostolic Fathers, Michael W. Holmes (3rd ed.)

Johnathan’s List

  1. 1662 Book of Common Prayer — John Wesley wrote, “I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. … the language of it is not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.” The 1662 BCP is arguably the “standard” edition, it’s what Wesley used, and it’s the basis of the Sunday Service of the Methodists in North America.
  2. Collection of Creeds, Catechisms, and Confessions  — The BCP has the three Creeds and the 39 Articles, but I can’t imagine being without the Westminister Standards, the Belgic Confession, and the Heidelberg Catechism. I refer to them frequently and use excerpts in my preaching and teaching. 
  3. William Burt Pope’s Compendium of Christian Theology (2nd ed.) — Every Methodist preacher needs a great Methodist systematic theology, and my top choice is Pope’s Compendium. Interestingly, Thomas Oden points to Pope as a model of the ecumenical method which he employs in Classic Christianity. Richard Watson’s Theological Institutes deserves an honorable mention (see the reprint by Lexham Press). 
  4. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (ACCS) — If I could only have one commentary, it would probably be this one: 29 volumes of selected notes from the church fathers on Scripture, edited by Oden. In Logos Bible Software, it’s regularly $25 per volume or $500 for the whole set, but watch for sales! I got the whole set for only $286.
  5. Wesley’s Standard Sermons — Kenneth Collins and Jason Vickers edited The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey. It’s 60 sermons in total—the 44 that Wesley approved and the 8 more of the North American collection, plus 8 more that are chosen to address contemporary needs. The text is from the Bicentennial edition of Wesley’s works. Each sermon is preceded by a brief introduction and outline. Wesley’s Notes on the Bible get an honorable mention, since I consult them frequently.
  6. John Calvin’s Commentary on Scripture — Jacob Arminius thought that Calvin’s commentaries were the best since the church fathers. Obviously there are places that I don’t agree with Calvin, but his writings show careful attention to the text and are surprisingly warm, beautiful, and pastoral. He speaks constantly of the love and mercy of God in Christ, and of the necessity of Christian holiness. Calvin’s Institutes deserve an honorable mention.
  7. Collected Homilies of John Chrysostom OR Collected Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus — I couldn’t decide which one. John is arguably the greatest preacher to ever live, and I consult his sermons more often than I do Gregory’s; however, Gregory is something of a personal favorite. The Fathers of the Church Patristic Series has a volume with 19 of Gregory’s orations, including his five theological orations. Gregory’s theological poetry also gets an honorable mention, since it’s beautiful and theologically rich devotional material.
  8. Thomas Oden’s Classic Christianity — Oden cites constantly from the church fathers and Reformers, so there’s a wealth of historic Christian teaching and it’s a good launching off point for further study.
  9. A Wesleyan Hymnal — Most important for Wesleyans is the Wesleys’ great hymnal, A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People called Methodists. Randall McElwain writes on its significance in his article “A Pilgrim’s Progress: The Wesley Hymnbook as a Manual for Spiritual Growth.” Our church uses the new hymnal from Seedbed, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise, which has many Wesley hymns. Note: I also wouldn’t want to be without a metrical Psalter. I use A Metrical Psalter: The Book of Psalms Set to Meter for Singing by Julie and Timothy Tennent. It’s set to familiar hymn tunes, so it’s easy to pick up and use with the local church. It’s great for persnonal devotions and our small group sings a Psalm every Wednesday.
  10. Gregory the Great’s Pastoral Rule — The most important pastoral treatise of the patristic era. Gregory addresses the calling, character, lifestyle, and preaching of a pastor. I recommend the edition in the SVS Press Popular Patristic Series. You can also read it for free online at newadvent.org.
Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold
Johnathan Arnold is a husband, father, and aspiring pastor-theologian, as well as the founder and president of holyjoys.org. You can connect with him on Twitter @jsarnold7.