“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.” (2 Timothy 4:13)
As Paul got to the end of his life, he wrote to Timothy and asked him come but also to bring him some personal belongings including some books. Every preacher ought to be reading, and ought to have a library! I have been preaching since 1996 and pastoring since 2007 so I have had time to grow quite a large library and I have also seen a lot of preacher’s homes. Some preachers have more books than others. That is ok, we all have different needs. None of us think or study or preach exactly the same way. But we are preachers so I’d assume we preach. And if we preach we study and if we study we must read. If we read, we must have some books. I am convinced everyone can afford some kind of a library.
Warren Wiersbe once wrote (and I agree) “My books are my tools and I use them. I cannot afford to be a book collector; neither the budget nor the diminishing shelf space…permits such luxury….I enjoy my library…Better to have a few of the best books than to clutter your shelves with volumes that cannot serve you well…love your books, use them and dedicate all you learn to the service of Jesus Christ.”
Yet I have spoken to preacher’s who have told me that they cannot afford to have any books except what is handed to them. Maybe they are telling the truth, but I hardly believe that because those same preachers have televisions, new (or nearly new) vehicles, eat at restaurants, have nice suits, etc. I’m certain they could cut something out of their spending to get some good books and have a nice library.
Here’s my tips:
- Don’t buy new books. Used books are often a fraction of the cost and usually just as good. Shop thrift stores, yard sales, online sites like abebooks.com and Facebook Marketplace. Watch for churches that are disbanding and retiring pastors who may be selling their libraries. If you are a young preacher, and in the southeast Georgia area, come visit me. I enjoy helping out young guys who have a love for the truth. That’s how I got started. I remember being 16 years old, barely starting out and an older preacher gave me T.P. Simmons book A Systematic Study of Bible Doctrine. Another older preacher suggested I read John Gill’s Body of Divinity cover to cover, and I did. He called me the other day. I didn’t recognize his voice, but when I knew when he said “Brother David, you don’t know who this is do you? Are you still reading John Gill?” I appreciate men like that. My point is, if you don’t have an older preacher who can mentor you, seek one out. I guarantee you’ll make a good friend and learn a lot.
- Have a list. Rome was not built in a night and neither is a good library. Some of my favorite sets are not matched. I have the full 14-volume Romans set by Martin Lloyd Jones that I bought used one book at a time over a long period of time, but some of the volumes were published by Banner of Truth, while others were published by Zondervan. My goal isn’t simply to have books that look pretty on the bookshelf…my goal is to have a complete set, and that was the most inexpensive way of doing it.
- Mix digital and paper. I used to be of the mindset that a book is best when it is hardback and digital is inferior. The truth is, with the availability of laptops, cellphones, and tablets having digital books is very handy here in the USA. Kindle and Apple Books are two apps that come to mind. However, the past few years I have really been impressed with Logos Bible Software. They offer various packages to get started, numerous features and excellent integration. If there is a book or set of books I am needing (or wanting), I check to see what is the best price (or value) in print or digital and then purchase it that way.
- Do not buy books just for the sake of buying books. Just because something is listed as a good deal doesn’t mean it’s a good deal for you. You’ll learn real quick there are some books that are worth their weight in gold if you can get them, but there are others that aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Be strategic. A bookshelf that looks a little bare with some very good books is better than one overflowing of worthless books!
- If you have questions, feel free to ask. I have several years in the ministry and several thousand books at this point. Love to share my experiences and also I’m still learning.
God bless you as you study the Word of God.