You will never regret any extended time given to memorizing God’s word — especially when it’s the passages that come up again and again as particularly useful in the Christian life and in ministering to others.
These are ten that will prove especially useful for pastors and Christian leaders, but we think this is a good list for all Christians as well. See which ones you already know. Put a little polish on those, and perhaps tackle a new passage or a few you don’t yet have to memory.
It’s one of the Bible’s best-known texts, and one of the most wonderful for steadying our own souls and others’ in the Good Shepherd (Psalm 23:1;John 10:11–18), in life’s best times and toughest.
is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
1 CORINTHIANS 11:23–26
“You will never regret any extended time given to memorizing God’s word.”
However frequently our churches celebrate the Table (the more often, the merrier, it would seem), here’s the passage many pastors (should) recite in public more than any other. Speaking these “words of institution” with your eyes graciously scanning the congregation, rather than reading from a Bible or piece of paper, can make for a powerful moment in the life of the gathered church.
I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
Hopefully the Great Commission is such an important text in focusing the mission and direction of our individual lives and especially our corporate life together, that you’d have this one ready to go at the drop of a hat. The generals and commanders should have this mission plan put to memory.
Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
This psalm of confidence in God as our refuge and strength — a very present help in trouble — can be deeply comforting personally, but in particular in consoling others in the midst of life’s most difficult circumstances, whether it’s at the bedside, or in the hospital, or at the scene of the tragedy. When you’re called on unexpectedly to say a word of comfort about the nearness and unshakable strength of God, it’s hard to beat a gentle but confident reciting of Psalm 46, chased by a short prayer tailored to the trouble at hand.
Any good short list of passages to memorize cold needs a good Christological anchor text, about Jesus’s objective work for us and outside of us. It’s easy to gravitate toward the more subjective texts that may feel more immediately applicable to our posture of heart and outward actions. But Christianity begins with Christ’s objective accomplishments, not the subjective application to us, essential as it is. And Colossians 1:15–20 may be the most power-packed six consecutive verses in the Bible for forming and shaping a distinctly Christian worldview. This is a potent little stick of dynamite to have hidden in your heart (along with Hebrews 1:1–4 and Philippians 2:5–11).
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
“God’s generals and commanders should have the Great Commission inMatthew 28:18–20 put to memory.”
Here’s the good-as-it-gets subjective passage to complement the great objective accomplishments inColossians 1:15–20. This is where we want to live daily, and lead those who are following us, “count[ing] everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of Knowing Christ Jesus
my Lord.” Even though the world, the flesh, and the devil almost constantly keep us from extended experiences of what Paul describes here, we love our tiny tastes and glimpses — and desperately want to keep realigning and recalibrating our heart-life, and our church, with this emotional North Star.
Whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For hi