5 Questions on Christianity, life & books
1. How did you become a Christian?
The answer to this question is a little complicated. First of all, I had the great privilege of growing up in a Christian home. This doubtless laid some important spiritual foundations. I then made an adolescent profession of faith at a Billy Graham Crusade in my mid-teens. Finally, at the age of 19, after a couple of years in the wilderness, I was invited to church to hear an African preacher, Festo Kivengere. His simple but powerful gospel message broke through to me and opened my eyes to the love of Christ like never before. From then on, I’ve not looked back.
2. Who is or has been an influential person in your Christian pilgrimage?
This too is a hard question to answer – as God has used so many people to shape, challenge and encourage me along the way – pastors, teachers, friends, colleagues and, importantly, my wife, Claire. But in terms of deep and sustained influence, it’s hard to go past my father, Bruce. Not only was he a profound Christian thinker and a uniquely gifted preacher and teacher, but he modelled faithful and endurance, particularly through some long, dark seasons of immense hardship and personal loss.
3. What piece of advice would you give young ordinands going into ordained ministry today?
As someone who has been training ordinands for the last 16 years, you’d think I’d have a ready answer. But often the best advice is person specific – as some need building up and others need breaking down. But, of course, there are several common keys: feeding daily on the word of God, praying daily for the work of God, relying daily on the grace of God. And at all times remember this one simple biblical equation (which I first learned from Kent Hughes): God’s power plus human weakness equals God’s power.
4. Which is the best book you have read in 2021?
I’ve read a number of excellent new books this year. Here are a few of the standouts:
• Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies: A Manuel for Christian Dissidents (Sentinel, 2020)
• Helen Joyce, Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality (One World, 2021)
• Stephen McAlpine, Being the Bad Guys: How to Live for Jesus in a World That Says You Shouldn’t (The Good Book Company, 2021)
• Kathleen Stock, Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism (Fleet, 2021)
• Christopher Watkin, Gilles Deleuze (P&R, 2020)
But perhaps my favourite was this one:
• Sam Allberry, What God Has to Say about Our Bodies: How the Gospel Is Good News for Our Physical Selves (Crossway, 2021).
5. Why write a book on Music worship?
In part, to explain the connection between the “music” and “worship” – or, to be more precise, the purposes of congregational singing in the gatherings of God’s people and its importance for the response that God desires and requires of us. So, in Come, Let Us Sing I open up the various ways that singing enables us to praise God, pray to God and proclaim his word to one another. I also explore its capacity to integrate us personally (bringing mind, heart and body together) and unite us corporately – expressing and enriching our unity in Christ.