Since launching the new theme last week, I’ve spent some time browsing through the older posts. I was extremely encouraged as I read the few interviews I have conducted, so I decided to highlight them in the sidebar and top navigation bar for the benefit of new visitors to the blog.
To pique your interest in reading (or re-reading) the interviews, here are several excerpt from the interviews.
J. Ligon Duncan III
Some ministry leaders share a common frustration; their congregation and/or those in their Bible study express a desire verbally to read God’s Word and pray; yet, they confess that they just never get around to it complaining they are too busy. What advice would you give someone who is desperately trying to convince those Christians under their guidance as to the importance of studying God’s Word and of prayer?
First, be patient. Second, preach the word from the pulpit with fervency, clarity and power, and let the prime means of grace do its work. Third, emphasize the importance of a weekly prayer meeting. Fourth, invite a core group of potential leaders in the congregation to study the Bible and pray with you, weekly and personally. Meet as a small group and do a Bible survey, and lead them in prayer. Model for them how to do it. Make them take part and be active participants. Watch the contagion spread among them for the study of God’s word and prayer in the church, homes and their personal lives. Let them become recruiters and encouragers of others to study the word and pray for themselves. Fifth, in the course of your teaching/preaching the Bible in the local church, spend time explicitly and specifically on explaining why it is important for Christians to study the word and to pray, and how one ought to do it. Sixth, get your people to read good books about Bible study and prayer (John Blanchard, “How to Enjoy Your Bible,” Don Carson, “A Call to Spiritual Reformation,” Matthew Henry, “Method For Prayer,” “Ryken’s Bible Handbook,” etc) [affiliate links].
You will be speaking at this year’s Gospel Coalition National Conference. Joining together to proclaim the essentials of the gospel is an important endeavor; however, given the recent surge in more cross-denominational gospel events, do you think there is a chance the denominational distinctives, which each denomination believes to be Biblically based, are at risk of fading into the background and/or being replaced by the doctrinal distinctives of the loudest or most ‘popular’ speaker/s at such events? If you agree; what suggestions do you have to ensure this doesn’t occur?
Yes, I think that there is a very real risk right now of denominational distinctives being downplayed, or fading, or being replaced. Partly, this is because evangelicalism is increasingly “post-denominational” especially at the level of the local church. One thing this means is that members do not feel especially tied to denominations or denominational distinctives, and this in turn tempts ministers and church leaders to be indifferent to those distinctives in the name of church growth.
I think this indifference is a huge mistake. One of the things we have tried to say loudly through the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and Together for the Gospel is that our unity is in the truth, even on points where we differ. What we mean by that its that we all care deeply about the truth, we are united about the central truths of the Gospel, and we think our distinctives are important, even and especially where we differ from one another in our views.
In other words, we are united around, not “mission plus a doctrinal minimalism” but rather around doctrinal maximalism (within which we will rigorously and respectfully both agree and disagree, all the while promoting a robust confessionalism) and the Gospel message and biblical means.
James R. White
This year, like every year, there are many young men completing their studies and preparing to enter the ministry. If you knew your answer to this question would be your final parting words to them, what book, other than the Bible or anything you may have published, would you recommend they read as it has had such a profound effect on you and your ministry?
I would say I would encourage them all to read and ponder Sproul’s The Holiness of God [affiliate link]. The man who has a handle on the holiness of God (and hence his own sinfulness) stands upon firm ground in withstanding the winds of difficulty in the ministry. As to final parting words, “Stand firm, hold fast, act like men, find in your service to Christ your greatest treasure, love God and His truth supremely.”
One source states that “Islam is the fastest growing religion and the second largest religion in the world” with growth of “over 235 percent in the last fifty years.” How should the church and Christians in general respond to such statistics?
Well, with understanding, first. Almost every group I deal with makes such claims. There are many Muslims coming to know Christ. That’s a fact. At the same time, how do you determine a “real” Muslim from a cultural one? Many Muslims are so merely out of tradition, just “going with the flow” so to speak. So while Islamic expansion is a reality that must be dealt with, at the same time we need to be realistic. It is true that, for example, Muslim immigrants in France are having 4.56 children/woman in comparison with the native French population only have 1.5. However, the second generation is only having half as many children, as they become culturally impacted. So we need to be concerned, yes, but we need to be realistic as well.
Daniel R. Hyde
These questions are in regard to Hyde’s book, Welcome to a Reformed Church: A Guide for Pilgrims [affiliate link].
You spend an entire chapter discussing Covenant Theology. You note that the “concept of covenant” is what “unifies all the acts in the ‘greatest drama staged’” (p. 52). For those still exploring Covenant Theology, can you please provide some examples of how a belief in Covenant Theology makes a Reformed church practically different on any given Lord’s Day compared to other Protestant churches?
Yes, our covenant theology is eminently practical. After all, a covenant is the means whereby God has drawn close to his people since the Garden. Basically, covenant theology is practiced in our worship. In a covenant God speaks in grace and his people respond in gratitude, and we follow that pattern in our liturgy, as God speaks in the call to worship, and we respond in song, etc. Covenant theology also informs our preaching. We view the congregation as a covenant people, meaning, it is a mixed assembly. Thus the preacher must never tire of preaching repentance faith, the necessity of conversion and regeneration, all while he proclaims Christ through his text.
At the end of your chapter titled, “Justification: Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone” you state, “This is a story we must hear and learn over and over again” (p. 86). Could you please expand on this statement?
The gospel is for sinners. Christians are sinners. I trust readers can make the conclusion. It’s always fascinating to listen to what’s being preached in churches. In many, the gospel is assumed to be believed so it’s on to the more important matters of practical Christian living: being a good mom, caring for your finances as God wants you, etc. In others, everyone is assumed to be an unbeliever so the constant refrain of God’s love and the necessity to come forward in an altar call is heard. In others, preaching becomes a doctrinal lecture. Well, I find Paul so fascinating in this discussion. He desired to preach Christ and him crucified, he wrote of justification over and over again, and he used that doctrine as a source of comfort and ground for the Christian life.
Did you enjoy the interviews? What Q and A stands out as significant to you? If I had the opportunity, who would you like to see my interview in 2011?