Monday, March 21, 2011

Three Important Theological Books Every Lay Minister Should Own

Regular readers of my blog know that I am a big proponent of lay ministry. I believe that healthy churches are led by teams of lay leaders working in partnership with their pastors to provide for all the ministry needs in the congregations they serve.

For those leadership teams to be the most effective, lay people should be included in the teaching and preaching ministries of the church. If lay people are going to teach or preach only on rare occasions, such as once a year when the pastor is away on vacation, the selection of the text from which to preach might be based on a favorite scripture. But if lay people begin to teach and preach on a more regular basis, perhaps once every month or two, it becomes more of a challenge for those lay people to find a scripture text from which to base a sermon or lesson that is fresh, relevant and theological balanced.

Though lay people may not have as extensive a library as pastors, any lay person who aspires to preach with any degree of regularity should have at least three types of books in their theological library. Those three types of books are a concordance, a commentary and a Bible dictionary.

A concordance is a reference book that includes key words in the scripture. Each of those key words has the scriptures listed in which that word may be found. Many Bibles have a simple concordance in the back. However, a lay person who aspires to preach or teach regularly will want a concordance that is much more complete than what may typically be found in the back of a Bible. Some concordances have almost every instance of every word in the Bible referenced. These are the most helpful types of concordances for lay ministerse to use. Most concordances are based on a particular version of the Bible, so endeavor to find one that coordinates with whatever version is used most in the context of a particular local church. Lay ministers who do a lot of pulpit supply in a variety of churches may need a collection of concordances to help him reference key words from various versions of the Bible.

A commentary is a reference book that contains the scripture text first, followed by comments from a noted scholar about that text. The comments might contain an explanation of key words from the original language the scripture was written in. The comments might contain historical references to the culture that prevailed when the Bible was written. The comments might contain various ways the passage has been interpreted by others scholars through the ages. The comments will also contain the opinions of whoever wrote that particular commentary. Some commentaries can be found that cover the entire Bible in one volume. While those are helpful, it is better to invest in a commentary that has multiple volumes because it will contain far more information than a single volume commentary. Commentaries tend to lean toward the theological persuasion of whoever wrote it, so caution should be taken in selecting one that agrees with one’s local church. After a lay minister has gained a working knowledge of the Bible, it can be helpful to branch out and purchase some commentaries from viewpoints other than one’s home church, but this should only be done after the lay minister is well grounded in what he believes so that he does not become confused.

A Bible dictionary is a reference book that contains the names of people, places, customs and cultures found in the Bible. Much like a regular dictionary, a Bible dictionary will have a brief description of whatever term it is defining. This can be very helpful to lay ministers studying a scripture passage for the first time, especially if the passage contains names or places that he is unfamiliar with. Some Bible dictionaries have pictures, which help lay ministers visualize the person or place being described. Because archeologists are always discovering new things in the places where the events of the Bible took place, it is a good idea to purchase the most current Bible dictionary available.
Lay ministers may want to add other types of books to their library as time goes by, but having at least one good copy of the three types of books mentioned above will be very important in helping a lay person put together quality sermons and lessons.

This copyrighted material has been adapted from a chapter in the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett and should not be used for commercial purposes without the permission of the author. The book contains six easy to use lessons to teach lay people to work as a team with their pastor. Though the book is designed specifically for bivocational pastors, many fully funded pastors and lay leaders are finding it equally helpful.


  1. A couple of good resources for those of us who do most of our work via computer are "Bible Essentials" from AMG Publishers and E-Sword (free to download at Also, is a good source for a concordance as it uses multiple versions of the Bible.

  2. Lori Huntington DavisMarch 22, 2011 at 7:10 AM

    I like this.

  3. Sounds like three good books for EVERY Christian to own, not just lay ministers.

  4. Amazon has temporarily lowered the price on my book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church to $13.57. That is 32% off the regular price. It is a great time to pick up copies for your leadership team. You can read all about this book at this link: