Publications

Recent Publications

Aging: Growing Old in the Church

Release date: April 2020

Seasoned pastor and church leader Will Willimon excels at creating thought-provoking, accessible books for working pastors and seminarians. In Aging, he takes a theologically rich look at numerous aspects of growing old.

Drawing on Scripture, literature, current research, and his experiences as an aging adult, Willimon reflects on aging as a spiritual journey. He explores the challenging realties as well as the rewarding joys of growing old and shows pastors how to help their congregants grow old gracefully
and in good Christian hope. Willimon also offers practical advice on helping church members as they encounter retirement, aging, caring for the aging, loss, bereavement, and finding faith in the last quarter of life. This eloquent, delightfully Christian perspective on aging will be of interest to all who care for aging souls—not only pastors but also chaplains and other ministers in hospitals, hospices, and extended care facilities.

Will Willimon has carried the faith throughout his entire life, and here he offers an incredibly touching, poignant, and compelling account of growing old, experiencing God in new ways, and finding hope in the life that Jesus offers. A must-read for Christians of any age.

Jim Wallis, New York Times bestselling author, president of Sojourners, and editor-in-chief of Sojourners magazine

[A] bracing sermon of a book. . . . Besides his thoughtful theology, Willimon offers practical suggestions for what Christian churches can do for aging people and their caregivers, and prompts the aging with ways they can serve. Older Christians, those who attend to the elderly, and congregations in general will find this to be a valuable pastoral resource.

Publishers Weekly starred review

Stories by Willimon

Release date: February 4, 2020

Throughout the ages, storytelling has proven to be the best way to engage people and illustrate a principle or theory—one that is so much more memorable than merely presenting statements of belief. No one knows this better than Will Willimon, a master storyteller known for his riveting, edgy, witty, and provocative stories and parables about human nature and Christian faith.

In Stories by Willimon, readers will recognize themselves, friends, and loved ones in the insightful stories of joy, agony, thankfulness, greed, trust, fear, healing, suffering, laughter, weeping, yearning, irony, hatred, and love. And preachers will find illustrative and meaningful materials to support their sermons.


Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership

Release date: February 4, 2020

In this addition to the new Working Preacher Books series, prolific author William H. Willimon makes the compelling case that two key pastoral tasks–preaching and leadership–complement, correct, strengthen, and inform one another. Preaching is the distinctive function of pastoral leaders. Leadership of the church, particularly during a challenging time of transition in mainline Protestantism, has become a pressing concern for pastors.

This book shows how the practices, skills, and intentions of Christian preaching can be helpful to the leadership of a congregation. It will also show how leadership is an appropriate expectation for sermons. In preaching, pastoral leaders can help a congregation face its problems and coordinate its God-given resources to address those problems. Sermons can be an opportunity to articulate, motivate, and orchestrate God’s people in doing God’s work in the church and in the world.

Leading with the Sermon includes chapters on why pastors must be leaders, why preaching is such an essential task in telling the truth about the gospel, how preaching makes better leaders, and how better leaders make better preachers.


Accidental Preacher

In this book one of today’s best-known Christian leaders recounts—with his signature wit and humor—memorable moments from his rich and full preaching life. A personal and vocational memoir, Will Willimon’s Accidental Preacher portrays the adventure of a life caught up in the purposes of a God who calls unlikely people to engage in work greater than themselves.

Beginning with his childhood in a segregated South and moving through his student years, Willimon gives candid, inspiring, and humorous testimony to his experiences as a seminary professor, rural pastor, globe-trotting preacher, bishop, and popular theologian and writer. Above all, he shows how God has constantly had a call on his life.

By turns poignant, hilarious, and thought-provoking—but always irresistibly engaging—Accidental Preacher is sure to join the well-remembered, classic memoir of our time.

If I believed in bishops, I’d want one like Will Willimon—flawed, fearless, and wickedly funny. So I am relieved to say that his memoir in retirement is no more and no less honest than his preaching has been. Accidental Preacher reveals a real human being who has been consistent in his commitments to Christ, the church, and the truth, since childhood, but then gives us the quirky backstory on how he came by all that energy and honesty.

Lilian Daniel, preacher and author of Tired of Apologizing for a Church I Don’t Belong To

Willimon is one of the least obvious persons I have ever known. You might think that his sense of irony means he does not take anything seriously, but then, as this memoir makes clear, Willimon’s life is determined by his love of God and, God help him, the Methodist church. The joy and humor at the heart of this memoir not only make it a wonderful read but also indicate how Christians can live well as resident aliens.

Stanley Hauerwas

It is all here in this compelling memoir: Will Willimon the storyteller, the wit, the sage, the prophet, the pastor, the preacher. But most of all, we encounter Willimon the servant of the church and the unrelenting follower of Christ. This is the story of how, out of the South, with its monuments already crumbling, and out of a family challenged to its core, comes an eloquent and bold proclaimer of the gospel. As Willimon himself would say, “Only God and only the church would pull a stunt like that.”

Thomas G. Long

Faith and Leadership did an interview with me about the book and God’s habit of calling.

I also did a podcast interview with Crackers & Grape Juice inspired by the book.

Purchase from Eerdmans


Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism

Effective 21st century preaching demands a more perceptive understanding of both race and Christian faith.

How do pastors of white, mainline Protestant churches preach effectively in situations of racial violence and dis-ease? Even though you long to address contemporary social crises, how do you know where to begin when it’s simply not possible to relate to black pain? Who Lynched Willie Earle? uses the true story of pastor Hawley Lynn’s 1947 sermon, a response to the last lynching in Greenville, South Carolina, to help pastors preach on race and violence in America, inviting and challenging the church to respond.

Purchase from Abingdon Press


Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love

Here is a distinctively Christian way to engage the so-called “outsider” and “stranger.”

Tolerate one another. Wait. Isn’t that supposed to be love one another? It’s one thing to genuinely love people who are more or less the same as we are, but what about those who are not only strangers, but people who live completely different lives? Reliable spiritual guide Will Willimon invites you to look more closely at the gospel’s command to love—because to genuinely love those considered to be “Other” may be the hardest thing for people of faith to do.

“This gutsy, biblically rich, theologically searing book by Willimon gigs everybody’s sacred cow. Not only is the one whom Christ loves Other but God is Other. The ground beneath us shakes the walls that divide us. If you are holed-up happy with people who look like you, don’t read this thing. It will screw up your world.”

Tex Sample, Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers Professor Emeritus of Church and Society, Saint Paul School of Theology, Leawood, KS

Purchase from Abingdon Press


The Holy Spirit

“Come, Holy Spirit!” is the first and last prayer of the church, our only hope in life and death.

Do you realize what baptism really means? Through the Holy Spirit we become part of the Body of Christ! The work of the Spirit is often thought of as “inspirational,” but it’s more than a personal experience and this book challenges some of those individualistic and subjectivist accounts. You’ll come to understand that the Holy Spirit is who God is and what God does as the Trinity. And you’ll learn how to prayerfully embrace this gift that created the church and become empowered to live out holy love and friendship in the world.

Hauerwas and Willimon are among the most reliable teachers of the church. Ours is a time when faithful teaching is urgent in the church that is compromised, bewildered and domesticated. This study by these trustworthy teachers on the Holy Spirit is a robust affirmation of the way in which core claims made concerning God’s Spirit matter concretely in the life of the church. This book is an invitation to fresh learning, to repentance, and to the recovery of missional nerve.

Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

Purchase from Abingdon Press


Incorporation

Hope Church—its clergy and its people—are quite a congregation, an unforgettable cast of saints and sinners. While serving a heavenly realm, they also have their feet plainly planted in the muck and mire of the real world. Here is an Easter story of ordinary folk caught in the gracious grasp of an extraordinary God. In this rollicking, hilarious, sometimes pathetic, fast-paced, and always entertaining journey through a month of Sundays at Hope Church, we meet a wild cast of characters in church people surprised to be the body of Christ. Sex, violence, greed, grunge, lust, and lies—all in church! Saints and sinners all, caught within the embrace of a God who refuses to make proper distinctions.

In Incorporation Will Willimon offers a fascinating fictional expose of the underside of the American mega-church. Seasoned ministers in this corporate church world are opportunists intent on crowd-pleasing performances that advance their careers. When inevitable missteps expose their manipulative ways, like their counterparts in the corporate world of business, protecting the corporation becomes their prime concern. But reckless ambition leads to compromises that bring about a final tragic accounting. There is still God after all.

Douglas Alan Walrath
author of Displacing the Divine: The Minister in the Mirror of American Fiction

Imagine a contemporary variation on Trollope’s Barchester Towers, set in a small American town with a big church called Hope, where both clergy and parishioners are energetically engaged in those all too human emotions–ambition, greed, lust, jealousy, pride–and ungodly shenanigans–drunkenness, adultery, criminal malfeasance–that make the lives of sinners so often more entertaining than the lives of saints. Imagine a touch of madness and mystery and the chance for grace. Imagine the narrator of this novel has a keen sense of irony and humorous insight into his cast of characters. You don’t have to imagine the result. Just read Will Willimon’s irrepressible Incorporation.

Michael Malone
author of The Four Corners of the Sky: A Novel

Purchase from Wipf and Stock


Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question

As a church leader, it’s easy to make the wrong move and find yourself in a bad position.

“What to teach; How to teach; What to do,” were the three questions Wesley employed at his first conferences.   In sixty previous books Will Willimon has worked the first two. This book is of the “What to do?” genre.

Many believe the long decline of The United Methodist Church is a crisis of effective leadership. Willimon takes this problem on. As an improbable bishop, for the last eight years he has laid hands on heads, made ordinands promise to go where he sends them, overseen their ministries, and acted as if this were normal.  Here is his account of what he has learned and – more important – what The United Methodist Church must do to have a future as a viable movement of the Holy Spirit.

Witty. Pointed. Courageous. This book is written with a theologian’s intellect, a pastor’s heart for the church, and a passion to pass on the faith to a new generation.

Janice Huie, Retired Bishop of The United Methodist Church

Purchase from Abingdon Press


Pastor: Revised Edition

Ordained ministry is a gift of God to the church—but that doesn’t mean that it is easy.

Ordained ministry, says Will Willimon, is a gift of God to the church—but that doesn’t mean that it is easy. Always a difficult vocation, changes in society and the church in recent years have made the ordained life all the more complex and challenging. Is the pastor primarily a preacher, a professional caregiver, an administrator? Given the call of all Christians to be ministers to the world, what is the distinctive ministry of the ordained? When does one’s ministry take on the character of prophet, and when does it become that of priest? What are the special ethical obligations and disciplines of the ordained?

Pastor: Revised Edition explores these and other central questions about the vocation of ordained ministry. It begins with a discussion of who pastors are, asking about the theological underpinnings of ordained ministry, and then moves on to what pastors do, looking at the distinctive roles the pastor must fulfill. The book also draws on great teachers of the Christian tradition to demonstrate that, while much about Christian ministry has changed, its core concerns—preaching the word, the care of souls, the sacramental life of congregations—remains the same.

Ordained ministry is a vocation to which we are called, not a profession that we choose. To answer that call is to open oneself to heartache and sometimes hardship; yet, given the one who calls, it is to make oneself available to deep and profound joy as well.

We continually need a refresher course on what it means to be a pastor, and Willimon’s revised book is the perfect response. Biblical, historical, theological, and timely, it will yet again inspire those who seek to understand this holy calling.

Karoline Lewis, Luther Seminary

For anyone who is working out ‘with fear and trembling’ what it means to be in ministry, this book is a gift. Solid theology with a profound understanding of scripture for this ministerial calling.

Tony Campolo, Eastern University

Purchase from Abingdon Press


Thank God It’s Thursday

Thank God It’s Thursday is the prequel to bestselling author Will Willimon’s highly successful, Thank God It’s Friday. Following the book of John, Will Willimon focuses oPrintn Jesus’ teaching of his disciples prior to his own death but also before their own hour of decision. The climax of the Gospel is when Jesus pours out his life on the cross—surely an enactment and demonstration of the power of God’s self-sacrificial love.

So to sustain and fortify his followers for the difficulties ahead, Jesus prepares them by teaching and offering sacraments of self-giving, through which they (and we) experience the grace and presence of the risen Lord. This book can equip Christians to face their hardships as they humbly serve with the promise of God’s abiding presence already made good by his outpouring of sacrificial love. Written with the clarity, depth, and insight that are Will Willimon’s trademark, this book offers afresh the challenge and grace of the message of the Resurrected One.

Click to buy Thank God It’s Thursday from Abingdon Press

The Best of William H. Willimon: Acting Up in Jesus’ Name

He’s been called a contrarian, a provocateur, and a few other things we can’t say in print. He’s also been called one of the twelve most effective proclaimers of the gospel in the English-speaking world. He’s been a pastor, a chaplain, and a bishop. But ask William H. Willimon how he sees himself, and he’ll tell you it’s as a preacher and a truth-teller. He has pursued that passion for preaching the truth of God in over sixty books.

Gathered in this volume are Willimon’s best writings on what it means to be a faithful Christian, and a faithful preacher of the Christian gospel, in today’s world. All the themes that so enliven his writings–the gospel’s refusal to be co-opted by the culture, the strangeness of Christian faith, the centrality of the preached word of God–are present here. Whether you’re a long time Willimon reader or are encountering him for the first time, you will find inspiration and much food for thought from this, one of God’s most “peculiar prophets.”

Purchase The Best of Will Willimon 

All Publications

Sole Author

  • Lord of the Congaree: Wade Hampton of South Carolina. Columbia, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1972.
  • Between Two Advents. Lima, Ohio: C.S.S. [Clergy Services and Supplies], 1978.
  • Eating with Jesus: Biblical Background on the Lord’s Supper. Leaflet 6. Graded Press, 1978.
  • The Gifts of God for the People of God: Theological Background on the Lord’s Supper. Leaflet 7. Graded Press, 1978
  • Saying YES to Marriage. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1979.
  • Worship as Pastoral Care. Nashville: Abingdon, 1979.
  • Word, Water, Wine, and Bread: How Worship Has Changed over the Years. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1980.
  • Remember Who You Are: Baptism, A Model for Christian Life. Nashville: Upper Room, 1980.
  • Integrative Preaching: The Pulpit at the Center. Nashville: Abingdon, 1981.
  • The Bible, A Sustaining Presence in Worship. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Judson, 1981.
  • The Way. Nashville: Graded Press of the United Methodist Publishing House, 1981.
  • The Service of God: Christian Work and Worship. Nashville: Abingdon, 1983.
  • What’s Right With the Church: A Spirited Statement for Those Who Have Not Given Up on the Church and for Those Who Have. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985; New Orleans: Insight, 1998.
  • (Lesson analysis with Charles M. Laymon) The International Lesson Annual, 1984-1985, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984.
  • (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1985-1986, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1985.
  • Sighing for Eden: Sin, Evil, and the Christian Faith. Nashville: Abingdon, 1985.
  • (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1986-1987, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986.
  • Promises of Marriage: A Guide for Couples Seeking Advice While on the Brink of Matrimony, or for Couples Renewing Their Love. Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1987.
  •  (Lesson analysis) The International Lesson Annual, 1987-1988, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1987.
  • Acts. Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. Atlanta: John Knox, 1988.
  • Clergy and Laity Burnout. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989.
  • Making Disciples: A New Approach to Confirmation. Confirmand’s Journal and Mentor’s Guide. Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota: Logos, 1990.
  • Making Disciples: A New Approach to Confirmation. Coordinator’s Guide. Inner Grove Heights, Minnesota: Logos, 1990.
  • (Lesson analysis with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1991-92, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.
  • Good-bye High School, Hello College. Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1992.
  • (editor). The International Lesson Annual, 1992-93. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1992.
  • (editor). The International Lesson Annual, 1993-94. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1993.
  • Advent/Christmas: Interpreting the Lessons of the Church Year. Proclamation 5, Series B. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993.
  • (editor with Patricia P. Willimon). The International Lesson Annual, 1994-95. Lesson Analysis by Pat McGeachy. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
  • The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1994.
  • On Your Own But Not Alone: Life After College. Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1995.
  • Calling and Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life. Nashville: Abingdon, 2000.
  • Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.
  • (editor) The Sunday after Tuesday: College Pulpits Respond to 9/11. Nashville: Abingdon, 2002.
  • A Peculiar Prophet: William H. Willimon and the Art of Preaching, edited by Michael A. Turner and William F. Malambri, III. Nashville: Abingdon, 2004.
  • Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the Seven Deadly Sins. Nashville: Abingdon, 2005.
  • Sermons from Duke Chapel: Voices from “A Great Towering Church.” Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.
  • Conversations with Barth on Preaching. Nashville: Abingdon, 2006.
  • United Methodist Beliefs: A Brief Introduction. Louisville: John Knox, 2007.
  • Who Will Be Saved? Nashville: Abingdon, 2008.
  • A Guide to Preaching and Leading Worship. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox, 2008.
  • This We Believe: The Core of Wesleyan Faith and Practice. Nashville: Abingdon, 2010.
  • Preaching Master Class: Lessons from Will Willimon’s Five-Minute Preaching Workshop, edited by Noel Snyder. Eugene: Cascade, 2010.
  • The Best of Will Willimon: Acting Up in Jesus’ Name. Nashville: Abingdon, 2012.
  • Bishop: The Art of Questioning Authority by an Authority in Question. Nashville: Abingdon, 2012.
  • Incorporation: A Novel. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2012.
  • Incarnation: The Surprising Overlap of Heaven and Earth. Nashville: Abingdon, 2013.
  • Sinning Like a Christian: A New Look at the 7 Deadly Sins. Nashville: Abingdon, 2013.
  • Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love. Nashville: Abingdon, 2016
  • Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry, Revised Edition. Nashville: Abingdon, 2016.
  • I’m Not From Here: A Parable. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017.
  • Who Lynched Willie Earle?: Preaching to Confront Racism. Nashville: Abingdon, 2017.
  • Accidental Preacher: A Memoir. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2019.
  • Aging: Growing Old in Church. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2020.
  • Stories by Willimon. Nashville: Cokesbury, 2020.
  • Leading with the Sermon: Preaching as Leadership. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2020.

Collaborative Efforts

  • (with Patricia Willimon and Hoyt Simmons) Turning the World Upside Down: The Story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke. Columbia, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1972.
  • (with John H. Westerhoff, III) Liturgy and Learning Through the Life Cycle. Akron, Ohio: OSL, 1980.
  • (with Harriet Willimon Cabell) Family, Friends, and Other Funny People: Memories of Growing Up Southern. Orangeburg, South Carolina: Sandlapper, 1980.
  • (with Charles M. Laymon) The International Lesson Annual, 1984-1985, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1984.
  • (with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1988-1989, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1988.
  • (with Pat McGeachy) The International Lesson Annual, 1991-1992, edited by Horace R. Weaver. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1991.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) Preaching to Strangers. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1992.
  • (with Patricia P. Willimon, eds.) The International Lesson Annual, 1994-95. Nashville: Abingdon, 1994.
  • (with Thomas H. Naylor) The Abandoned Generation: Rethinking Higher Education. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1995.
  • (with Thomas H. Naylor) Downsizing the U.S.A.. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1997.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) Resident Aliens. Tokyo: Kyo Bun Kwan, 1999.
  • (with Martin B. Copenhaver and Anthony B. Robinson) Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1999.
  • (with Stanley Hauerwas) The Holy Spirit. Nashville: Abingdon, 2015.

Video Tapes

  • “What’s Right With the Church,” set of three tapes, Argus Communications, One DLM Park, Allen, TX, 75002.
  • “A Charge to Keep,” United Methodist Publishing House, P. O. Box 801, Nashville, TN, 37202.
  • “Why I Am A United Methodist,” United Methodist Publishing House, P. O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202.
  • “The Search For Meaning,” United Methodist Publishing House, P. O. Box 801, Nashville, TN, 37202.
  • “From Text to Sermon,” Logos Productions, 6180 Carmen Ave., E. Inver Grove Heights, MN 55075, 1996.
  • “Unlocking the Mystery of the Text” Logos Productions, 6180 Carmen Ave., E., Inver Grove Heights, MN, 55075.

Audio Tapes

  • “On A Wild and Windy Mountain,” set of four audio tapes, Christians Listening, P. O. Box 87 Van Wyck, SC 29744.
  • “With Glad and Generous Hearts,” set of four audio tapes, Christians Listening, P. O. Box 87, Van Wyck, SC 29744.
  • “The Laugh Shall be First,” Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1990.
  • “Resident Aliens,” Abingdon Press, Nashville, TN, 1990.

3 thoughts on “Publications

  1. Just finished “Sinning L Ike a Christian”. Never has so little taken so long to say. The book reflects pomposity, and presumption on the part of the author. He delights in using unnecessarily large words when simpler words would suffice and includes digs and barbs on at least three occasions about the country’s political leaders in power at the time of writing . I may not agree with them, but I would not include my personal distaste or show such blatant smarmy disrespect for them in a book about sin unless I was trying to prove the point that this book fails so dismally to make.

    Liked by 1 person

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