Wednesday Recommendations: Favorite Brennan Manning Books

There are so many Brennan Manning books and none of them are anything but life-changing. With that said, here are a few of my favorites if you are new to Brennan’s work.

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out– This is Brennan’s key book.  I think that most of what he says in his other books is basically found here.  His other books just dive deeper into certain elements of this book.  The heart of the book is the heart of Brennan’s work–that God loves you like crazy.  We are all ragamuffins before God.  We are sinners desperately in need of God grace and able to do nothing to gain God’s grace.

Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God– In this work Manning talks about the defining characteristic of a Christian faith– trust in God.  This is not just an emotional reliance on God but a total dependence on God’s grace for everything.  What does it mean to live a life of trust?  To live without anxiety?

The Importance of Being Foolish: How to Think Like Jesus– This is a book about changing the way we think.  This may make us do things that seem foolish to the world.  Power becomes unimportant.  Wealth becomes unimpressive.  In the end all that matters is the love of our Fathe

Reflections for Ragamuffins: Daily Devotions from the Writings of Brennan Manning– This is a daily devotional with clips from various of Brennan Manning’s books.  Get ready, because Brennan had a way of saying something even in a paragraph that could make you chew it all day long.

All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir– Brennan Manning died in 2013.  After his death I got his memoir on audio cd.  I found it so inspiring.  Manning was mistreated as a child.  He was an alcoholic and fell back into drink a number of times.  He tried to get to God by living in a cave, living with the poor, and teaching in college and seminaries. Through all the ups and downs he came to learn of God’s radical love and grace for him.


There are so many other good books by Brennan Manning.  Start one soon.

Wednesday Book Recommendations: Church Finances

Like most pastors I graduated from seminary knowing little to nothing about church finances and stewardship.  Unfortunately, this area is critical to leading people and leading the church.  Many churches are not in good financial shape.  This area is perhaps the most important area for seminary graduates to read about.  So here are a couple of good places to get started.
I was blessed early in my ministry to have gone to a workshop with author and consultant J Clif Christopher.  It was a one day workshop that blew me away.  I have shared what I learned there with many people, pastors, and sessions.  Christopher has written three main books on stewardship.  All three of these books should be required reading for pastors.

Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate: A New Vision for Financial Stewardship– This is Christopher’s dismantling of today’s stewardship practices.   In its place, Christopher paints a picture of church finances that is well thought out, mission oriented, and effective in today’s world.

Whose Offering Plate Is It?: New Strategies for Financial Stewardship– This book is a set of practical answers to questions spurned by the previous books.  He deals with things like how to get stewardship stories, deal with campaigns, and how to make stewardship a more open topic in the church.

The Church Money Manual: Best Practices for Finance and Stewardship
–  This is Christopher’s newest book, just put out a few weeks before this writing.  It is the most compact and accessible resource for all things church finances.  It is now my go-to recommendation to pastors and church dealing with stewardship issues.


After reading J. Clif Christopher’s stuff and deciding to take these issues more seriously in
my own ministry, I also decided to talk about stewardship and preach about stewardship more regularly.  Two books have been helpful in this regard.  First, Preaching and Stewardship: Proclaiming God’s Invitation to Grow (Vital Worship Healthy Congregations) by Craig Satterlee is a great resource for preaching stewardship sermons.  He gives a lot of examples and even highlights opportunities for stewardship topics throughout the lectionary.  The other resource that I have used is One Minute Stewardship Sermons by Charle Cloughen.  This book is great for taking advantage of the call to the offering.  This is a natural place in the service to shape the congregation’s views about money and stewardship.

For a final recommendation, Developing a Giving Church by Stan Toler and Elmer Towns is a good general overview of developing stewardship in a church.  It covers all the basic elements of healthy church finances and even includes some sermon ideas.


Favorite Resources for Writing Sermons

Today I am sharing some of my favorite resources for preparing sermons.  First, I should say that I am not a lectionary preacher.  You can check out my sermons at my sermon page or on iTunes and you will see my topics and texts vary widely.  That said, some of my favorite resources are Lectionary based.  I normally used listed below to find the text I am looking for.  Second, I should say that I do not make extensive use of commentaries. I do if there is a particular question or if I want to verify something I am seeing in the text. Early on in my preaching I found that I overused the commentaries and they clouded my own wrestling with the text.

Stitched Panorama

I like to begin my study of a text with The ESV Study Bible.  It has the best information on the basics of a text in a way that is not overwhelming.  It gives good introductions to the books and fits the texts within the larger themes of salvation history.

One of my favorite and most used resources for preaching is the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery.  I tend to preach images and metaphors and like to connect the threads of scripture with real life.  This book is the best thing on my shelf for doing this.   You look up a word like “water” and it will give you a long entry about water in ancient times, water in prominent Bible stories, and the use of water in Biblical metaphors.  I am in this resource weekly.

I have specific commentaries for specific books of the Bible, especially from the Interpretation Bible Commentary Series and The NIV Application Commentary.  My favorite commentary is Feasting on the Word, Complete 12-Volume Set.  For each text, it gives four columns of commentary- an exegetical, theological, pastoral, and homiletical perspective.  It is an amazing one-stop-shop for a great number of sermon ideas and illustrations.

I have two classic commentary sets that I often work out of.  I love to use Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible (Super Value Series) and Calvin’s Commentaries (22 Volume Set).  These are timeless resources and often point to the critical questions of the text.

There are also 2 websites that I regularly use for sermon study:

Text Week is a webpage that collects links to sermons, commentaries, ideas, images, and articles.  It is a great place to get a ton of information very quickly.  It is especially helpful on commentaries by the church fathers.  Since I am not a lectionary preacher, I use the scripture index to get to the texts that I want.

Working Preacher is a lectionary resource put out by David Lose and faculty from Luther Seminary.  It gives articles, pastor helps, and a podcast based on the lectionary.  It is always high quality information and helpful for preaching.  Please note that links to these resources are often posted to



Wednesday Book Recommendation: Books on Preaching

I love to preach and read a lot of books about preaching.  I though for this post I would recommend a few of my favorites.

Leonard Sweet’s book Giving Blood: A Fresh Paradigm for Preaching is the best preaching book I have read in a long time.  It helps show Len’s exceptional way of using Metaphor to bring Biblical concepts to life.  It has sections on creativity, finding and studying metaphors in scripture, looking at scripture more holistically, and putting yourself into your preaching.  The last section of the book gets very practical.  I especially learned from the chapter on handling criticism.  This book should be required reading for all preachers.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath.  This is a business book about why some ideas stick while other ideas and visions get thrown away or ignored.  It is very practical for understanding how to make sermons more memorable and impactful.  Their other book is also helpful for helping making people and organizations make changes.  It is called Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard.

I was forced to read the book The Four Pages of the Sermon: A Guide to Biblical Preaching by Paul Scott Wilson for a seminary homiletics class. I hated it at first.  Wilson suggests a structure of for sections: the problem in the text, the problem in the world, the answer in the text, and the answer in the world.  I thought this structure was too confining it at first, but over time I have found that it was an excellent format when I had a text and did not know what to do with it.

Eugene Lowry’s work is great on preaching in a narrative form including The Homiletical Plot, Expanded Edition: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form and The Homiletical Beat: Why All Sermons Are Narrative.  Lowry looks at the elements of story and talks about how they are needed for engaging sermons.  There needs to be conflict that is built so that people invest in the story.  At some point there is a turn when a new insight or piece of information is giving to move the story forward.

Fred Craddock has an approach to sermons in the same camp as Eugene Lowry.  He too sees the importance of seeing the sermon as a journey and including the elements of story. Craddock’s basic texts are As One Without Authority: Fourth Edition Revised and with New Sermons and Overhearing the Gospel: Revised and Expanded Edition.  His textbook on preaching is pretty technical and not really accessible.  If you are new to Craddock I suggest Craddock on the Craft of Preaching.  It is a series of lectures and workshops from his career including “Preaching as Storytelling” and “13 Ways to End a Sermon.”  It is a very helpful resource.

My last recommendation is a surprisingly insightful book.  It is called Preaching & The Emerging Church: An Examination of Four Founding Leaders: Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, and Doug Pagitt by John S. Bohannon.  Bohannon is a baptist preacher and professor of preaching who takes a look at the trends in preaching in the emergent church.  Bohannon critiques these four leaders but does so looking at underlying issues such as their view of scripture, perspectives on style, and their sensitivity to the postmodern world.  The book ended up challenging me to think about my own underlying views and to consider how they shine through in my own preaching whether I realize it or not.