What They Don’t Teach You in Seminary: Resources

Shortly after beginning my current pastorate, I realized that I have been learning more being in ministry than I ever did while in seminary.  And while I look upon my seminary days with deep gratitude, there are some things that I missed in seminary.  To be fair, any seminary will forget (or not have time) to teach you, certain things.  Today I will begin an intermittent series of “lessons I’ve learned that I wish I would have known sooner” blogs.  And I begin with this admonition:

Don’t buy an entire set of commentaries.  Even though there are great sets of commentaries out there, I would highly recommend NOT buying the entire set.  Rather, buy two to five great commentaries as you are preparing to preach through a series.  There are a few reasons for this:
  1. Unless you are buying a set from one author, the series of commentaries will have different scholars for different books.  This could cause problems if the commentator on Matthew is really solid, but the commentator on Ephesians is far enough off that you feel like you wasted money on the purchase.
  2. Unless you plan on preaching through the entire Old or New Testament, you are just wasting money.  If you plan on preaching Colossians, then Ruth, then 1 Peter, then Habakkuk this year, you don’t need a commentary on the other 62 books.  Rather, invest in two to five commentaries that you know will be good.  If you don’t know which are the best, visit http://bestcommentaries.com, which has peer reviews of more reformed commentaries, or visit http://www.ligonier.org/blog/top-commentaries-on-every-book-of-the-bible, in which there is a brief overview of the best recommendations for any book.  Tim Challies also has an intermittent series dedicated to the most recent commentaries.  The point being: don’t waste your money.  Invest in the best.
  3. If you think that you must have an entire commentary series from one author, rethink that idea.  Its easy to be captivated by such minds that can pump out massive amounts of information, but beware of becoming nothing but a mini version of that person.  It is not helpful for you or for your people if all of your information comes from one person.  Remember that the only rabbi you are to become like is Jesus.
My bookshelf is full of commentaries on books that I, as of now, have absolutely no plan on preaching through.  How would my sermons be if I saved that money and invested in two to five really good commentaries for what I was preaching through?  Don’t make the same mistake that I did: don’t buy sets of commentaries.

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