Top 5 Books for Worship Leaders on Pastoring in 2022


Almost a year ago I wrote a post called “Worship Leader” or “Worship Pastor”? Our Language Tells on Us

In it I argue that we should aim to be worship pastors and not just worship leaders.

Our function – making theological and spiritual decisions on behalf of the congregation – is pastoral, and even if you’re not called “pastor” or treated like a pastor you should approach the tasks of your job as a pastor. 

Today’s post is the counter-topic to last week’s post on worship leadership: the top five books I’d recommend to worship pastors on pastoring.

Full disclosure, these are not all explicitly on “pastoring,” per se. Each is on a subject directly related that I’m convinced can help you think and act pastorally in your position. These books have been incredibly formative for me! My hope for you is that you will read at least a few of them on your journey too. 

 

Book #1: The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson

 

Truthfully, I could have put a dozen or more of Peterson’s works in here. I read this one at a time when I was asking questions about my own calling and vocation and it was catalytic to me. Eugene’s aim is to call pastors back to the heart of their calling which is “to introduce people to the real world [kingdom] and train them to live in it.”

Like the title suggests, Peterson believes that for pastors to train people to live in the kingdom of God they must first learn to be contemplative – unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic – in their own lives and their posture with people.

This is counter-intuitive and certainly not “practical” but what Eugene introduces the reader to is a way of being that brings healing and restoration to people, the church. I can’t resist sneaking in a second recommendation, Eugene’s memoir, The Pastor, for those of you who prefer biographical writing. 

Quote: “The pastoral task with words is not communication but communion – the healing and restoration and creation of love relationships between God and his fighting children and our fought-over creation.” 

Click Here to go to The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson

Book #2: Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

 

Bonhoeffer is a fascinating figure and was a brilliant theologian. Known primarily for his opposition to Hitler and untimely death in 1945, just days before he would have been liberated as a POW by Americans, Bonhoeffer wrote theology that was deeply shaped by his experiences in the American South and Nazi Germany. As I wrote about The Spirituality of the Psalms in the previous “Top 5 Books” blog, this is the shortest, yet most spiritually demanding book on the list.

This book will challenge many of your ideas about what Christian community is supposed to look like; at least it did for me.

In Life Together, Bonhoeffer addresses believers with the intention of shattering our “ideals” for the sake of our “life together.” If we’re to be faithful pastors within our local churches it is imperative that we learn to envision and hope for the right kind of community that the Spirit is at work building. If we don’t we’ll cultivate homogenous communities that look like us and appeal to our own needs and desires. This is not our call. Our call is to be hospitable places for the Spirit to draw “all men” to Jesus. 

Quote: “Certainly, serious Christians who are put in a community for the first time will often bring with them a very definite image of what Christian communal life should be, and they will be anxious to realize it. But God’s grace quickly frustrates all such dreams… By sheer grace God will not permit us to live in a dream world even for a few weeks… Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it should be in God’s sight.” 

Click Here to go to Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Book #3: Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

 

I’ve read this one at least three times – and I don’t reread many books. And I didn’t read because it was riveting prose, but because I’ve found that the more I engage with people I need what this book has to offer: emotional health.

Pete states his thesis quite clearly. He says, “It’s impossible to be spiritually mature, while remaining emotionally immature.” Ouch.

Autobiographical in nature, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality (EHS) was birthed out of Pete’s pain and sudden awareness after years in ministry that he was indeed emotionally immature and it was hurting his family and his church. When I first read this I realized that for the majority of my life I had lived emotionally immature… and was unaware. And that’s a dangerous combination.

EHS is the foundation work in a series of books and video studies that are brilliant for small group study, but I recommend starting here. Read slowly and participate with the prayers and reflection questions throughout the book. It’s one thing to read a book on emotional health. It’s an altogether different approach to allow the book to read you in the presence of the Spirit who can bring wholeness and healing.

Quote: “When people have authentic spiritual experiences – such as worship, prayer, Bible studies, and fellowship – they mistakenly believe they are doing fine, even if their relational life is fractured and their interior world is disordered. Their apparent ‘progress’ then provides a spiritual reason for not doing the hard work of maturing.” 

Click Here to go to Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero

Book #4: The Resilient Pastor by Glenn Packiam

 

This book released earlier this year! Full disclosure, Glenn is a fellow pastor at New Life Church and, well, one of my bosses. But Glenn is a brilliant scholar and thoughtful pastor. This truly is invaluable work stemming from extensive research, most of which was done in 2019-2020… just prior to, you know, a global pandemic. The calling of the pastor has never changed, but the tasks and the ways in which they function in society is changing rapidly.

In this book Packiam addresses four challenges facing pastors and four challenges facing the church with responses – not answers or “tips for success” – that can guide us into fruitfulness and faithfulness in a rapidly changing world. 

Quote: “If Christian hope is resurrection, we are saying it is something other than progress… Progress draws the line of human history up and to the right. Resurrection does not emerge from possibilities that are latent in a corpse. At the moment of death, all potential ends and all possibilities cease. But resurrection says, ‘This is not the end.’ It is a voice calling from beyond, not from within.” 

Click Here to go to The Resilient Pastor by Glenn Packiam

Book #5: Evangelical, Sacramental, & Pentecostal by Gordon T. Smith 

 

This title will either be intriguing or off putting as most of our churches are decidedly one of the three, not even attempting to blend them.

Smith’s argument is that the Church was intended to be all three and that invitation still stands. The difficulty is that each of the words, as proper nouns, has come to be associated with a specific “stream” of the church that is loaded and known for its extremities rather than its essence. Smith goes into Scripture and Early Church history to show how these three were all present in the beginning. His provocation is not that we should leave our denominations in an attempt to “do church” in a new radical way, but that wherever we are – Baptist, Presbyterian, Assemblies of God, non-denominational – we should be seeking the grace of God in its fullness; as we embrace each of these traditions: evangelical, sacramental, and pentecostal this is what we find.

After reading this book I made substantive thoughtful changes to the way that I led worship, put song sets together, and approached the Sunday morning gathering. I believe our congregation is more healthy because of it. 

Quote: “All three, taken together, are the means by which the benefits of the cross are known and experienced. The three – Spirit, along with Word and sacrament – are then the means by which the intent of the cross is fulfilled in the life of the church, the means by which we abide in Christ as Christ abides in us.” 

Click Here to go to Evangelical, Sacramental, & Pentecostal by Gordon T. Smith 

 

As a Worship Pastor you may not feel like you have much decision-making power within the church and are wondering why reading about “the church” would be meaningful.

But as one of the most prominent leaders, you have an immense amount of influence.

It is my hope that you are convinced that your role is indeed pastoral; even if you’re not titled as one. You are making theological choices as a shepherd in your congregation, meeting with people, and quite literally putting words in their mouths to sing to God and one another. Having a well-rounded theology of corporate worship, the church, and what it is to be a pastor will only help you guide people into more faithful worship.

 

 


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