Building a Professional Ministry Library On The Cheap

Yesterday I spent 10 hours in a meeting discussing training strategies for college ministers (most of whom come from secular colleges). While driving back I began thinking about the challenge a new minister without formal training faces in building a professional library. Books are expensive–the New International Commentary series on the Old and New Testaments retails for nearly $1,500 (OT, NT)! For some new ministers, building a quality library can seem so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to start.

Inspired by a similar example, I decided to compile a solid (although basic) ministry library for under $200 (I failed by eleven cents). I priced the books (used) on on 6/18/2004. Books are listed in rough order of importance within each category.

The Reference Collection — $102.85

  • NIV Exhaustive Concordance $19.35
  • Systematic Theology, Millard Erickson $29.99
  • The IVP Bible Background Commentary — New Testament, Craig Keener $13.95
  • Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli $5.99
  • Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament, H. Wayne House $10.15
  • Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament, John Walton $9.99
  • Multipurpose Tools for Bible Study, Fred Danker $13.43

The Personal & Professional Growth Collection — $97.26

  • Devotional Classics, Foster & Smith $6.65
  • How to Read The Bible For All Its Worth, Fee & Stuart $1.99
  • Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis $4.95
  • The Spirit of the Disciplines, Dallas Willard $9.60
  • The Challenge of Jesus, N. T. Wright $10.97
  • Prayer, Richard Foster $5.00
  • A Tale of Three Kings, Gene Edwards $3.85
  • The Pursuit of Holiness, Jerry Bridges $2.49
  • Exegetical Fallacies – D. A. Carson $8.99
  • Between Two Worlds, John Stott $9.00
  • The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman $0.97
  • The Purpose-Driven Church, Rick Warren $8.00
  • Christian Counseling, Gary Collins $10.50
  • Solution-Focused Pastoral Counseling, Charles Kollar $12.71
  • Take and Read, Eugene Peterson $1.59

Total Cost: $200.11 (excluding shipping & handling)

I tried to end each list with a book that would lead to more books, so that this would only be the genesis of a professional library…

I welcome suggestions for replacement volumes. What do you think important for a novice minister with little theological education to read?

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