Interview with the Exiled Preacher

10 07 2008

Anyone who frequents Double Usefulness on a semi-regular basis will know that a blog which I read and respect a lot is Exiled Preacher, written by Pastor Guy Davies. Primarily about theology and Christian ministry, it consistently carries thought-provoking articles about Reformed doctrine and practice.

A much enjoyed feature of Guy’s blog is his series of interviews ‘Blogging in the Name of the Lord’ with a variety of Christian bloggers. A major missing factor from these series, however, has been an interview with Guy himself. David Sky put some questions to him on one occasion, but the subversive little monkey didn’t hang around long enough to wait for answers! Last week I contacted Guy and asked him if he would mind me interviewing him for this blog, and he graciously accepted. I then wantonly plagiarised and crudely revised some of the questions which his interview series has carried in the past, and he even more graciously answered them. If I get enough interviews for a series I may entitle it ‘Blagging Off of Someone Else’s Blog’ or some other such derivative moniker. Anyway, down to the serious work of plagiarism:

1. Hi Guy, and welcome to Double Usefulness. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for inviting me. It seems a bit strange to be on the “wrong end” of an interview. It’s a lot more easy to ask questions than to answer them. I was born and raised just outside Newport in South Wales. I left school at 16 and worked for some years on the IT side of a local Steelworks. I was converted when in my late teens and soon after that felt a call to the ministry of the Word. I served as a pastor of a Dorset Congregational Church and now I am ministering in Wiltshire. I am married to Sarah and we have two children, Jonathan (13) and Rebecca (11). I enjoy reading, listening to music, walking in the countryside, cycling, blogging and drinking tea. But not all at the same time.

2. Where did you undertake your theological education, and what benefits do you feel it has brought to your ministry?

I studied at the London Theological Seminary from 1988-1990. I think that studying at LTS helped to broaden and deepen my understanding of the whole council of God. The men who taught at LTS, like Hywel Jones, Philip Eveson and Graham Harrison were model pastor-theologians and I have aspired to follow their godly example in my ministry. I also enjoyed having fellowship with other students from the UK and overseas. Amid the high seriousness of ministerial training there were some great moments of fun and hilarity. The Seminary’s emphasis of the importance of the Spirit’s empowering presence in preaching has had a lasting impact on my ministry. I pray that my preaching may not be in word only, but also in the Holy Spirit, power and much assurance. The little that I have known of this makes me long for more.

3. You are currently Joint Pastor of Penknap Providence Church and Ebenezer Baptist Church in Wiltshire. Could you share a little of the background of these churches, how you came to Pastor them, and what unique blessings or pressures a joint pastorate entails?

Both churches are members of the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches. We are also members of the local Grace Baptist association. Neither church is big enough to be able to support a pastor in its own right. The joint-pastorate arrangement began under my predecessor Tom Jeffries. The arrangement enables two small churches to pool their resources for the good of the gospel. I preach for two consecutive Sundays (morning and evening) at Penknap and then one Sunday (morning and evening) at Ebenezer. This pattern carries on throughout the year. We have a joint Bible Study/Prayer Meeting each Wednesday. This alternates between the churches, which are around are ten miles apart. The churches retain their independence, holding their own member’s meetings, which I chair. Twice every year we have a joint-officer’s meeting to consider areas mutual interest. Sometimes I feel that I am not able to do justice to either church especially when it comes to things like pastoral visitation. But I try to visit our folks as often as I can, particularly those who are unwell or have pastoral problems. It has been good to see the churches working together to bear witness to the gospel in our area.

I was inducted to the joint-pastorate in November 2003. Of course both churches had to offer a call, which made things interesting. We have known some encouragements over the years with several baptisms and new people coming along. But there have also been setbacks with members leaving us over things like hymn books and Bible versions. I have tried to focus the churches on two main goals: outreach and fellowship. We engage in regular evangelistic activities such as literature distribution, open air preaching, door-to-door work and children’s meetings. Promising contacts have been made, but we long to see conversions. In terms of fellowship, we need to be Bible-centred, Christ exalting churches where the presence of the Spirit is felt. Churches (not ours at the moment thankfully!) can often be fractious and difficult. We need to display more humility, love and consideration for other believers. Didn’t someone once say, “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”?

I don’t see revival as a panacea. Neither do I believe that we must batten down the hatches and hang on until revival comes. But we need a mighty outpouring of the Spirit to bring fresh life and power to the church in the United Kingdom. “Revive your work, O Lord in the midst of the years!”

4. Your blog Exiled Preacher has a strong focus on the study of theology. How important do you feel the continued reading of theology is to ongoing local church ministry?

Continued theological study is essential for Ministers of the Word. It is very dangerous to think that we can dispense theology once we have finished ministerial training. What is preaching (according to Martyn Lloyd-Jones) but “theology on fire”? To preach therefore we must have a good grasp of theology. Or rather we need to be grasped by the wonder and grandeur of the Bible’s witness to Jesus Christ. We should not only read books that will help with sermon prep. That is sheer professionalism. Reading widely and deeply in theology will give depth and freshness to a man’s ministry. Read the classics like Augustine’s Confessions, Calvin’s Institutes, the great Puritans and Jonathan Edwards. Aside from anything else, they will help deliver you from the tyranny of passing theological fads and fashions. Read contemporary theologians like John Frame, Donald Macleod and Kevin Vanhoozer. They will help you to relate biblical theology to today’s concerns.

I have to say that I simply love reading theology. What better subject could one wish to study than the being, works and ways of the triune God of the Gospel? I suppose that the blog is a way of sharing my interest in theological reflection from a pastoral perspective. On the subject of theology and ministry, I cannot do any better than quote the words of one of my favourite contemporary theologians, Kevin Vanhoozer,

“Both parts of the Great Commission, evangelism and making disciples, require theology. Theology is a form of the ministry of the Word; specifically, theology is a the ministry of Christian understanding. We need theology in our evangelism because theology is about preserving the integrity of the word, the message of the gospel an evangelist proclaims. We need theology in our disciple making because theology is about reminding us who we are and what we are to say and do as followers of Jesus Christ in this or that situation.

The world is filled with therapists and managers. What the church needs now is people who can (1) articulate from the Bible the truth about God, the world, and ourselves in terms that are faithful to the Bible and intelligible in the contemporary context (2) exhort their congregations to say and do things that corresponds to the truth of Jesus Christ as attested in the Bible.”

5. You work in a part time capacity for the Protestant Truth Society. Could you tell us what the society stands for, and what your role is within it?

The Society was set up by John Kensit to combat the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement in the Church of England. Our vision now is to remind the churches of the rich heritage of Reformation history and theology. With evangelicalism in danger of loosing its theological identity, we need the robust, scriptural theology of the Reformation more then ever. Also the churches need to be made aware of the Rome-ward direction of the ecumenical movement. In terms of practical involvement, I take midweek meetings and Sunday services on behalf of the Society. I also write for our magazine, Protestant Truth. In fact quite a few pieces published in the mag began life on my blog.

6. Given the obvious busyness of your ministry life, why is blogging important enough to occupy a percentage of your remaining spare time? What advice would you give to other Pastors/missionaries who are considering entering the blogosphere?

I’m not sure that blogging is really that important. I just enjoy doing it. Some pastor friends wonder how I find the time. But one or two of them seem to spend many precious hours on endless committees. I’m not a committee man. Neither am I a shed dwelling hobbyist who spends his spare time making a replica of the Titanic from spent matches. But I like to dabble in a bit of theology blogging. We should not to take blogging too seriously, which is why I sometimes try to subvert the whole thing with posts on my pet monkey David Sky and the Taffia: see here. My advice to anyone thinking about starting a blog would be as follows:

1) Make sure you link to Exiled Preacher (although I can’t promise to reciprocate).

2) Ignore friends and family who tell you that you are spending too much time blogging. What do they know?

3) Don’t feel obliged become a heresy hunter, trawling the blogosphere for errors and heresies to correct. You will find many and your comments probably will not change anyone’s mind on anything.

4) You don’t have to respond to every comment left on your bog, especially those from mutters and cranks. If you do so, it will only encourage them.

5) Only post if you have something worthwhile to say, unless you are really stuck.

6) Remember that if you were really any good at writing, you would be paid to do it properly.

7) If you do an interview, think of your own questions. Don’t pinch mine from the classic Blogging in the name of the Lord interviews – series 1, series 2 and series 3

8) Add pictures to your posts for those who find words difficult.

9) Do lists.

10) Can’t think of anything else….

7. Were you to devise an ideal means of men being encouraged into, and trained for, ministry what kind of model would you follow?

I would commend the London Theological Seminary. Its sole focus is to work in partnership with the churches to prepare men for the pastoral preaching ministry. See these interviews with Principal Robert Strivens and Principal Emeritus Philip Eveson.

8. What do you perceive as the greatest need within the modern evangelical church?

In my opinion, the greatest need of the church and the world is for Spirit anointed preaching. This is what lay behind the vibrant expansionism of the church in Acts. The Spirit’s empowering presence enables preachers to proclaim the Lord Jesus with boldness, liberty and life-transforming effectiveness. His presence makes preaching an event where the God of the gospel is encountered in all the fullness of his grace and power. There is nothing automatic about the Spirit’s work in preaching. We must make this a matter of urgent and persistent prayer.

9. What three pieces of music currently occupy top place on your CD stand/hard drive/iPod?

If I can name three albums rather than individual tracks, at the moment pride of place goes to some recent acquisitions namely, Silent Cry by Feeder, Viva La Vida by Coldplay and Age of the Understatement by the Last Shadow Puppets.

10. And in a final piece of ‘Blogging in the Name of the Lord’ plagiarism: What is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because…

A lot of these questions seem eerily familiar. I might as well have interviewed myself! Difficult choice, but I’ll go for Pierced for our Transgressions, by Jeffrey, Ovey and Sach, IVP, 2007.

Thanks for popping by, Guy. Eerily familiar indeed, but asked with a certain degree of panache don’t you think?