The Pastor’s Kid: An Interview with Barnabas Piper

the-pastors-kid Being a pastor's kid (PK) is not something most of us can relate to, and yet the PK is someone we cannot avoid. PKs live in a world different from ours, a world where their family's every move is under intense scrutiny. But even if we're not a PK, it's important to understand the unique difficulties they face.

Barnabas Piper has written a book, The Pastor's Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, hoping to use his experience to encourage PKs to trust in Christ and to seek community in the midst of public and private struggle. It is also an instructive book for those of us who want to love our pastor's kid better.

Barnabas was kind enough to answer a few questions for GCD, and I hope it will encourage you to buy the book.


BRANDON: What made you feel like this message was the one to turn into a book?

BARNABAS: I was reluctant, at first, to write a book from the perspective of PKs. I doubted whether it would connect with enough people and wondered if it might seem whiny or navel-gazing. But as I corresponded with PK after PK I heard the same stories and perspectives over and over again, and they meshed with mine almost perfectly. I saw a persistent need and consistent desire. After I wrote a couple articles on being a PK the responses flooded in—each one hit a nerve. I saw a clear void in resources speaking to and for PKs both to encourage them and help their parents too.

BRANDON: Pastors have the unique expectation of discipling everyone in the church at the same time, in some form or fashion. How did this affect your dad (John Piper) in discipleship at home with you and your siblings?

BARNABAS: My dad was always a preaching pastor. His calling was to preach and his gift was to preach, and he was uniquely gifted at it. For him, discipleship of the church was primarily in consistent faithful exposition of the Bible. It was similar at home, just without the booming voice and gesticulations. He exposited and applied scripture. It was a strength and a weakness. The consistent pointing to God’s word laid a foundation for understanding, but it sometimes fell short of feeling personal and relational. There are dads, especially pastors, who use scripture verses like a magic cure for every ailment. My dad was not one of those.  He was never trite in his use of verses and he didn’t proof text to make a point. Sometimes, though, I just wanted normal conversation and connection and his default was digging into the Bible.

BRANDON: Pastor's kids often carry the unfair weight of being expected to be perfect because of who their dad is. How can people in the church help pastor's kids feel more "normal"?

BARNABAS: The short answer is “treat them like you do all the other kids.” PKs get singled out for misbehaving and even small indiscretions get noticed and reprimanded or reported. Where one kid might be called out Sunday School for being a distraction the PK  will have his mother or father called about the same sort of incident. PKs often get singled out to answer questions in Sunday school even if they don’t want to or don’t really know the answer. In fact, not knowing isn’t really allowed either. It creates an expectation of perfection, or at least a faking of it. Last, let them ask questions, doubt, wonder, explore, and find faith. Too often faith is expected of PKs and what is actually there isn’t a relationship with Jesus but a recitation of what is expected.

BRANDON: What advice would you give pastors seeking to better disciple their own kids?

BARNABAS: Converse, don’t ever preach. Relate, don’t always council. Connect with your kids over what they enjoy and over what you enjoy. This means have a hobby that can be shared (not just reading or studying). Listen, don’t always teach. Sometimes they need to be heard and to know you care. Show them you enjoy being with them. And admit to your sins, not just to being a sinner, but to actual sins. Then ask their forgiveness. These kinds of actions create an atmosphere of trust, respect, and openness. Such an atmosphere is where faith is worked out, questions are more safely posed, and a real relationship with Jesus can be exemplified and developed.

BRANDON: What advice would you give pastor's kids struggling with the pressures they face?

BARNABAS: Trust somebody. Find one or two friends. (You don’t really need more than that.) No they might not totally understand, but they care. It will help you process your struggles to talk through them. You’ll begin to see the holes that exist in your life that only Jesus can fill.

Then look for Jesus. Sure, you’ve heard all about him for your whole life, but go look for him. What you see may differ greatly than the impression you have of him. He’s not your daddy’s boss. He’s not a killjoy or a judge. He’s not an angelic, halo-wearing, choir boy. He is profoundly powerful, gracious, loving, and present. What find see when you look for Jesus is that you find him. He will introduce himself to you in a way that is so real that all those pressures and challenges and issues become something that may still hurt but are manageable and secondary.

Brandon D. Smith is Executive Director of Gospel-Centered Discipleship and serves in editorial roles for The Criswell Theological Review and The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. He is also Editor of Make, Mature, Multiply: Becoming Fully-Formed Disciples of Jesus. He is proud to be Christa’s husband and Harper Grace’s daddy. Follow him on Twitter: @BrandonSmith85.

United: An Interview with Trillia Newbell

UnitedMy friend Trillia Newbell has written a needed and helpful new book called United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity. In United, Trillia explores the importance of pursuing diversity in the church by sharing her own unique experiences growing up in the South and attending a predominately white church. She champions the theology of diversity throughout the book through the Scriptures providing compelling reasons to pursue diversity. She was gracious enough to allow us to interview her today.

Brandon Smith: You write in United about your friendship with two girls of other ethnicities. How do you think the friendship, accountability, and discipleship helped you feel a part of your local church?

Trillia Newbell: There is something unique about really getting to know someone. We can walk into the doors of our churches and never build deep friendships. I was thankful to have met Amy (white) and Lillian (Chinese) early on. We decided to begin meeting together every other week to do accountability. The Lord used those girls in profound ways. First, it was so nice to have friends. When you are in a new place, as a new Christian, it can be scary to navigate your place in the church. But having friends like these helped ease that tension. Second, we had older women to bounce things off of and then we also had each other. We could ask pointed questions and pray for one another. It was a rich season of fellowship which taught me how to engage in fellowship with other members of the body.

B: You became a Christian in your 20's. Tell us about your conversion. How important is evangelism in the pursuit of diversity?

T: I was sitting in a hotel room with another gal when she popped open her Bible. I was there to lead a cheer camp and she was my assistant. We had never met each other before but the Lord had divinely appointed this meeting that would change the whole course of my life. I remember putting up a guard and asking her what she was doing. She said she was going to have a quiet time. By the end of that time I was sitting on her bed and we were both crying while she shared the gospel with me.

It took two years and two broken engagements before I finally submitted and committed my life to the Lord. He was faithful to draw me to himself and to save me. It was and remains amazing to me. But what if my friend, who is white, had decided not to share with me because I am black? What if she shrunk back in fear because of our ethnicities? The gospel transforms the way we think of ethnicity. The gospel empowers us to share cross-culturally because it is the Good News that all need to hear. Jesus charged the disciples to make other disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). This mindset is important to the pursuit of diversity because we could find ourselves otherwise reaching out to only those like us. God paints the beautiful picture of disciples of all nations, all tribes, and all tongues. He most often uses his people to accomplish this goal.

B: How important do you think discipleship is as churches seek to pursue diversity?

T: Perhaps you or your readers have experienced this…a person comes to your church for a little while but after a few Sunday’s they stop showing up. We might assume that they decided they didn’t like the teaching or worship. Maybe. But I wonder if they got to know anyone? I would wonder if anyone said hello and then invited them to lunch or showed some sort of hospitality and interest beyond a “Hello.” Discipleship typically starts with relationship and relationship begins with intentional care. In other words, we have to pursue one another first and then we have the opportunity to teach one another the Word. But there is almost no doubt that if we begin to pursue one another and teach one another then we will build churches that reflect the Last Days.

There isn’t a guarantee, of course. But I do think it’s worth the effort. God gives us a picture in Titus 2 of what it could look like for the whole church to be involved in discipleship. I think this model helps us to build into each other and build the church. I am confident that if I didn’t have people who genuinely cared for me during my early days attending my old church, I would not have stayed. I’m sure of it. But because there were people who showed love, care, and interest, I stayed and built relationships and was discipled.

B: You've shared often that United isn't so much about diversity as it is about love. Could you explain?

T: When people hear the word diversity there is a temptation to automatically put up a guard or to assume we are talking about quotas. It is a bad assumption but one that I completely understand. The word diversity has been politicized and causes many to cringe at its sound. But the Church is made up of people, made in the image of God, equal in fall and redemption. We aren’t talking about, as C.S. Lewis puts it, mere mortals. This is why the pursuit of diversity in the church is about love. Jesus came and died for the church, for His bride, for people. John 13: 6, God so loved the world that he gave his son, isn’t a cliché, it is the glorious truth of the gospel. Diversity is about building a church that reflects who Jesus died for: all nations, tribes, and tongues. And we pursue this because Christ first loved us. And we pursue others because he has called us to love our neighbor as ourselves.


Trillia Newbell (@trillianewbell) is a wife, mom, and writer who loves Jesus. She is the author of United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (Moody).

Eternity Changes Everything: An Interview with Stephen Witmer

In Eternity Changes Everything, you claim that, for Christians, a passion for our future in the new creation will affect our lives in the present. Why? Because we’re human, and humans inevitably live toward the future. The philosopher Peter Kreeft says we “live by hope. Our hearts are a beat ahead of our feet. Half of us is already in the future; we meet ourselves coming at us from up ahead.” I think he’s right. Just ask any school teacher whether an approaching summer vacation stays in the future. Of course not! Kids get restless and rowdy in the weeks before, because their future is impinging on their present. The future often gets to us (in our thoughts and feelings) before we get to it (in our actual experience).

Check out how all the practical exhortations of Romans 12-13 are framed by the call to not be conformed to “this age” and the call to “know the time,” that “the day is at hand.” When we’re living, and what we’re living toward, shapes how we’re living.

I was blown away when I read something George Marsden wrote in his biography of Jonathan Edwards: “If the central principal of Edwards’ thought was the sovereignty of God, the central practical motive in his life and work was his conviction that nothing was more momentous personally than one’s eternal relationship to God…He built his life around disciplines designed constantly to renew that eternal perspective.” Marsden then goes on to give some remarkable advice to those who want to better understand Edwards’ writings. He says if we think something Edwards has written seems harsh, difficult, or overstated, we should ask the question: “How would this issue look if it really were the case that bliss or punishment for a literal eternity was at stake?” My first response to reading Marsden’s advice was to wonder whether the life to come is so foundational to my thinking that it could serve as a key for people who want to understand who I am and what I say. I hope my life doesn’t make sense apart from the reality of the new creation. There’s a big problem if it does.

So, where do you see a need for improvement in how Christians think about the new creation?

Too many of us have bought into the wrong-headed notions of our culture. The other day in the children’s section of our local library, I saw a book on Heaven by Maria Shriver (yes, the Maria Shriver). The Heaven in this book is a place of fluffy clouds and disembodied existence. And that’s normal: Heaven is often thought of as solitary, static, and boring. In 2007, Starbucks printed on their paper cups some wickedly funny and surprisingly insightful lines from Joel Stein, a columnist at the Los Angeles Times: “Heaven is totally overrated. It seems boring. Clouds, listening to people play the harp. It should be somewhere you can’t wait to go, like a luxury hotel. Maybe blue skies and soft music were enough to keep people in line in the 17th century, but heaven has to step it up a bit. They basically are getting by because they only have to be better than hell.”

Of course, the Heaven Stein describes isn’t the biblical portrait of Heaven at all–it’s our modern, misconceived notion of Heaven. Some recent books–such as Randy Alcorn’s Heaven and N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope–have been really helpful in explaining the biblical teaching on Heaven, as well as distinguishing the present Heaven (where we go when we die) from the future new creation, which is a renewed creation in which we’ll live an embodied existence forever. The new creation will be an incredibly exciting place to live, and it will be great above all because God is there. We get God…forever. Yet, sadly, I’ve spoken with people who have been Christians for many years who don’t understand this biblical teaching about our ultimate future.

If we understand the greatness of our ultimate future in the new creation, and begin to long for it, how will this affect our living in the present?

It’s going to create two impulses: we’ll become more patient in waiting for the new creation, and simultaneously, we’ll become more restless in longing for it. That sounds like a contradiction. It’s not.

Why not?

Well, we often have this experience in life. When we’re convinced that something really, really good is coming to us, that certainty simultaneously lengthens our patience and heightens our restlessness. If you know Thanksgiving dinner is going to be absolutely fabulous, you’ll start anticipating it well before it’s on the table and on your plate. The smells emanating from the kitchen will make your mouth water. But–at the same time–because you know dinner will be phenomenally good, you won’t snack on Doritos. Who wants to fill up on junk food when turkey, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce are on the way?! You’ll be patient.

Christians lived in a permanent and productive tension. We are a restlessly patient people, and that’s biblical. In Romans 8.23-25, Paul says the certain, glorious hope of the new creation makes us groan restlessly and wait patiently.

Why, and in what ways, do Christians fail to wait patiently for the new creation?

Two words: prosperity gospel.

We’re children of our culture, and most of us realize that our culture has a massive problem with waiting. The Dunkin Donuts in my town actually times their employees to the second on their drive-thru service so that customers get their donuts and coffee as fast as humanly possible. None of us are immune from this impatience. Have you ever exclaimed in dismay that your internet search took longer than two seconds? I have.

The radical impatience of our culture affects Christian theology and practice. I look around the Christian scene today and grieve at the huge influence of the prosperity gospel. There was a report in The Atlantic a few years ago that said 50 of America’s 260 largest churches preach a prosperity gospel. Apparently, 66 percent of Pentecostals and 43 percent of ‘other Christians’ think that God will bless the faithful with material wealth. Have they read Hebrews 10.34?! What the health and wealth teachers are telling you is that the new creation is available now. Their teaching is deeply flawed eschatology. The Scriptures reveal to us a God who often makes his people wait. There’s a whole biblical theology of waiting that the prosperity teachers completely miss.

Of course, we can’t just point the finger at the health and wealth teachers. In the course of writing this book, I was convicted of the personal, mini-prosperity gospels I create for myself by daily expecting good health, plentiful finances, friendly neighbors, and obedient children. I recently replaced the catalytic converter in our car (expensive!). Now the “check engine” light is on in our other car, indicating the same problem. How will I respond to that? Will I expect the new creation now, and grumble that I still live in an age where things fall apart and cars need repaired? Or will I be thankful to own two cars, and cheerfully patient for the coming age, when they’ll run forever (or be unnecessary).

Why, and in what ways, do Christians fail to yearn restlessly for the new creation?

We’re not restless enough for the new creation because–as I’ve said–we think it’s going to be boring. One long worship service. Or a millennia-long harp solo. Moreover, we’re not restless for the future because we’re absorbed with the lesser pleasures of our present. God has given us a future the size of the new creation. We shrink it down to the size of a long weekend or a Facebook page or a promotion at work. We settle for far less than God plans to give. Because we invest all our emotional energy and passion in our immediate future, we have none left for our ultimate future.

Christians of our generation do not spend nearly as much time thinking about our eternal future as did Christians in previous times. The Puritan Richard Baxter said that as he grew older, he meditated more frequently upon the “heavenly blessedness,” and that he preferred to “read, hear or meditate on God and heaven” more than any other subject. Stephen Nichols says that Jonathan Edwards was “consumed by heaven.” Are we? How much time in the last month have we devoted to reading about, praying about, longing for, the new creation? I wonder if, for most of us, we’d have to say it was less than five minutes.

What fruit does a restless longing for the new creation bear?

For one thing, it allows us to die well. I’ve been at enough deathbeds to know that if you’re not confident and excited about what’s coming next for you as a Christian when you die, you’re going to die clinging to this life rather than embracing the life to come. It’s really sad to watch people go that way, with their backs to God’s future. Christians with a passion for the new creation will die facing forward.

Restlessly longing for Heaven also allows us to live well. Richard Baxter said that the mind will be like what it most frequently feeds on. That’s so insightful. If you become absorbed in some mindless reality TV show, you’ll tend to become as flat and shallow as it is. But if you feed your mind on heaven, your soul will begin to look heavenly. For Baxter, heaven was more than a comfort when things in this life were tough–it was also a reality that produced present obedience and strengthened him against sin and temptation. I can testify to the latter in my own life. I remember vividly a time several years ago when my longing to see God in the future (Matt. 5:8) saved me from serious temptation. God’s promised future trumped inferior, sinful promises.

Final question: will too much focus on the new creation make Christians less engaged with this present world? Is there some truth in the old saying about being so heavenly-minded we’re no earthly good?

No, it’s exactly the opposite. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next.” Amen! A paradoxical Christian life of restless patience produces yet another beautiful paradox: we need this world less and love it more. And that love moves us into the world with fearless, fruitful productivity. But you’ll have to read the book to get the full story on this!


Stephen Witmer is the author of Eternity Changes Everything: How to live now in the light of your future (Good Book Company). He is the pastor of Pepperell Christian Fellowship in Pepperell, MA and teaches New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Follow him on Twitter: @stephenwitmer1.

Total Church, Leadership, and Mission

  *Note: This interview is transcribed from a Skype conversation in 2011 and reposted here.

For anyone who has planted a church or feels called to do so, there are not many better resources than the work of Steve Timmis. Steve is the Director of Acts 29 Western Europe and an elder at The Crowded House. He has also co-authored several books on the church including Total Church and Everyday Church. Steve was kind enough to spend some time with me and offer his wisdom to our readers.


BRANDON SMITH: Total Church has impacted myself and many church planters. What is the story behind your writing this book with Tim Chester?

STEVE TIMMIS: We were getting some requests from publishers to tell the story of Crowded House, but we didn't want to do that because we didn't want to present Crowded House as being a model or any kind of example. We didn't want to set it up like, "Aren't we great?" What we decided to do was to write a pretty robust ecclesiology but to earth it with our own experience at Crowded House.

I've been doing church this way for years, like decades. I had a man come up to me in Sydney, and I recognized him straight away - he had been in a church I'd pastored when I was like 25 (and I'm no longer 25, as you can see). He says, "Timmis, you're just a one-trick pony. This is exactly what you were talking about doing 25 years ago!" At one level I was slightly hurt, because I hadn't come up with anything inventive. But one the other hand, I was encouraged that the core - and it's definitely changed - but that the core theology, rationale, Christology, ecclesiology, missiology... that was forged way back then.

My principle influences have been Francis Schaeffer, the Dutch Reformers like Kuyper shifted my theology in a big way. I read Calvin's Institutes when I was very young, and got a lot of my ecclesiology from the Evangelical Anabaptists of the Reformation period. Jonathan Edwards and John Owen have been big influences, as well.

B: I had heard you say awhile back that many times it takes guests of the Crowded House some time to get comfortable around your church because of how tightly knit you are. What is it about your church that would make guests feel out of place at times?

S: It would be Christians who would feel a certain sense of disconnect. We tend do church differently than most people, because our leading edge is our "gospel communities" - living life-on-life together on mission is what is distinctive. Most churches struggle to live that out. Just today, I was coaching a senior minister at a large, solid evangelical church and some of the stories that he was telling me is that guys from his church would find it very odd at the Crowded House because of the emphasis of living life-on-life together on mission.

So, when people come and visit from elsewhere, they often comment on how I cope with people always popping in and hanging out at my house and people end up staying. For a lot of Christians, it's just weird.

B: My wife went on a mission trip to England recently, and she told me that she'd never been to such a spiritually dark place. How is your church model particularly working in England? Is this church model of life-on-life more effective in that culture?

S: English people are very private, and so in a lot of ways it's quite counter-cultural. My conviction is that if human beings are made in the image of God, and God is in community, then community is something that is part of our identity as human beings. They might be afraid of it and are undoubtedly are putting all sorts of management techniques that aren't right and godly to satisfy that desire, but it's there. So there's something that is inevitably attractive about the model. I think missionally it's very effective.

B: What are some practical ways that church leaders can encourage their people to actually want to go out and be missionaries in their context?

S: Fundamentally and ambiguously I'd say that it's a gospel issue. If they are averse to the very idea (and there's a difference between that and just being afraid of the experience), then they aren't understanding the gospel properly. Church leadership is all about creating a culture at it's very core, so leaders are responsible for creating, nurturing, and developing that culture. If the recognized leaders aren't doing that, then they aren't leaders whatever their title.

I think there are four principle areas to do this if you have a reluctant congregation, which many men have:

1) Preach it faithfully and biblically. You've got to show that this identity isn't just "my thing" or a "new trendy thing" but that it's core to gospel purpose. I find it quite helpful to use aphorisms or sound bites with substance that help people grasp biblical truth memorably. You have to preach it consistently and publicly from "house to house" to quote Paul in Acts 20.

2) Pray and sing for it. Not just the individual leader only, but he's got to shape the whole prayer life of the church around it. Corporate prayer meetings have got to be missional and you've got to rehearse and pray the gospel out. Even in terms of singing, we've got to sing missionally. Prayer and singing are great ways to capture the affections, and so leaders have the responsibility to put a lot of effort in creativity in those two areas to make sure that we're not only informing peoples minds, but that we're genuinely seeing their hearts captured by the gospel and captivated by Christ. To love Christ is to want to speak of Him and desire His fame. If we don't want to do that, then we don't truly love Him.

3) Model it. You've got to show how the gospel has captured your heart and stimulates your affections and that you're talking about Jesus and commending the gospel to people faithfully and engaging in people's lives. One problem is that leaders love talking about theory but they don't practice it in their lives. They talk about the church, but the reason why their church is institutional is because their leader tends to live institutionally. He lives like a professional, a person with an 8-6 job rather than a person who sees his identity wrapped up in the community of God's people.

4) Build structures. You've got to structure the life of the church around it. I think one of the dangers of the so-called "organic church movement" that we've sometimes been associated with is that it just doesn't appreciate the necessity of structures. All life needs structure - just look at the human body. Build structures that demonstrate and celebrate the centrality of gospel living for the life of the church. Where you put your money, effort, energy, resources, where you release people... they've all got to continue to hammer on that theme.

B: What is your opinion on how elders and church leadership should be structured in a church that is really trying to be missional?

S: I don't buy into the "first among equals" idea; I really believe in a collegiality of leadership where in particular areas one person will take the lead. What I try to do with our eldership, and we have eight in our gathering here, is to keep reiterating the vision and articulating it in different ways and engaging with them as best I can in different contexts. I am very content, not with power, but with influence. I do want to persuade people and be influential, but I can live without institutional power. Then, when the leadership has the same thought in mind, you've got to make sure that it filters through to the different leaders who are engaged with the people. You've persuaded the leaders, and they're persuading others. So, when we come to any big decision we don't just say, "We've decided this, do you agree?" because by the time we've presented it, it's filtered through the life of the church.

My principle strategy for that is generally to have absolutely as much as possible in the open forum. I encourage leaders to talk about things at the leadership level. I'm not talking about personal pastoral issues, but in terms of vision and our whole sense of our direction and who God wants us to be because I think that's the way that people become persuaded. So when it comes to making formal decisions, all the issues have been addressed and all the battles have been fought. We want to be as open as possible, and a value for me is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians, that we don't do anything in secret but that everything is out in the open. Our default is to talk about it openly. Sometimes you can't, but that's our default. For us, a lot of this is going on all the time so that people are aware instead of dumping ideas on them and asking them to approve of it.

B: Do you hold to a strictly elder-led model, or more of an elder-congregation idea?

S: We're definitely elder-led, but my conviction about being elder-led is that you've got to have people persuaded. I'm not a congregationalist, but unless the people are behind it and sign off on it in terms of people being committed to it, then you can make all the decisions you want but it won't do you any good. Leaders have got to persuade. So, if someone pushes back, I won't just accept that, I'll go after them in hopes of persuading them. I want all leaders to be persuasive for the sake of mission, for the sake of the fame of Jesus, for the glory of God.

The Pastor's Justification

pastors justification We're excited to have Jared at GCD today to discuss his newest book, The Pastor's Justification, which deals with the struggles that pastors regularly face.

_ BRANDON SMITH: It seems like you've written or contributed to a few books a year over the past few years. What does the writing process look like for you?

JARED WILSON: I am a sadly undisciplined writer but not because I don't write. I find myself not having to schedule writing time week to week, mainly because I can't not write. It just comes out, and always has since I was a kid, actually. My book and article projects are largely deadline driven, so I ramp up my focus time on particular projects the closer I am to something being due. But week to week, most of my project writing is done on Wednesdays and Fridays. Wednesdays is also when I write the bulk of my Sunday sermon.

B: After so many books centered on believers and their relationship to Jesus and the gospel, what led you to writing a book specifically for pastors?

J: The calling and office is so peculiar. Pastors certainly don't need a different gospel or a "bigger" gospel than the laity. The same gospel works for all of us, and is eternal enough for any person. But I think many pastors get so preoccupied in giving advice, counsel, ministry, etc., they neglect to feed themselves. The statistics of pastoral burnout and depression are sobering and revealing. I wanted to take a shepherding approach to shepherds with this book, helping my brothers apply the security and confidence and humility that comes in Christ's finished work to their specific calling and tasks. We lack for lots of resources in that department. Many books for pastors are for the ministerial toolkit. I wanted to write one for the ministerial heart.

B: The description for the book begins with: "Ministry can be brutal. Discouragement, frustration, and exhaustion are common experiences for all church leaders, often resulting in a lack of joy and a loss of focus." What are some major themes that you try to capture in the book?

J: The first part of the book is a general exposition of 1 Peter 5, addressing aspects of the pastor's character and calling. The second part of the book is a general exposition of the 5 Solas of the Reformation tradition, applying these hallmark truths to the pastor's vocation. The biggest themes addressed in every chapter and both sections are the pastor's sense of confidence and security, which is the result of his trust for fulfillment and satisfaction. Those big themes impact all the little matters, from a pastor's daily devotions to how much time he spends with his family or how he spends his money, each of which (and more) is discussed in the book.

B: As a pastor yourself, what part of the book did you need to hear the most?

J: Every iteration of seeking the approval of God, not men. This is tough for pastors of every kind of church, small to big and every point in between, and I've been on both ends of the shrinking and growing church spectrum, but speaking personally, it becomes more difficult to seek God's approval rather than man's as I have led a growing church and as I've begun navigating a public ministry of writing and speaking.

B: What is the greatest encouragement you can give to struggling pastors?

J: God sees, God knows, and God will vindicate you. You are totally loved, totally approved, and totally justified in Christ. _

Jared C. Wilson (@jaredcwilson) is Becky’s husband and Macy and Grace’s daddy, and also the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont and the author of the books Gospel Wakefulness, Your Jesus is Too Safe, Abide, Seven Daily Sins, and Gospel Deeps. He blogs almost daily at The Gospel-Driven Church.

[You can order The Pastor's Justification on Amazon.]

Living Like a Narnian

  LLAN coverAt the upcoming C.S. Lewis-themed Desiring God National Conference, Joe Rigney (@joe_rigney), Assistant Professor of Theology and Christian Worldview at Bethlehem College & Seminary, will deliver a message titled, "Live Like a Narnian: Christian Discipleship in the C.S. Lewis Chronicles." Birthed out of this passion and message is a new book, written by Joe, with the same name: Live Like a Narnian. We invited Joe to GCD today to talk about his new book and the motif of discipleship in Lewis's works.

Brandon: What led you to write Live Like a Narnian?

Joe: Three things. The immediate cause was being invited to speak at the Desiring God National Conference on the topic next week. The idea for the book had been banging around in my head since I taught a class on Narnia a few years back. The conference invitation gave me an excuse to get it on paper.

Second, I've been noticing over the last few years how often I use quotations and scenes from Narnia when shepherding and mentoring college students. For whatever reason, they often come to mind whenever I have a student with a particular problem sitting in my office, and so that set me to thinking about whether it's a good thing to use Narnia in this way.

And finally, the result of that last question was my own recognition that the Narnian stories have been a deep means of grace for me in my own spiritual growth. As I say in the book, I have met the living God in my reading of Narnia, and my affections for Jesus have been stoked and increased by my time there. I've received the same sort of grace and encouragement through them that I have received through sermons, small group accountability, devotional books, and theological tomes. Lewis's stories certainly aren't the equivalent of Scripture, but they have been used by God to allow the truths of Scripture to appear to me in their true potency (which is exactly what Lewis intended).

B: What does it mean to live like a Narnian?

J: "Live like a Narnian" is a riff on a phrase used by Puddleglum in The Silver Chair. It's essentially my way of summarizing all of the good, true, and beautiful qualities that are expressed by the kings, queens, fauns, good dwarfs, centaurs, badgers, mice, and moles of Narnia. Whether it be bravery, courage, sacrifice, honesty, repentance, tactfulness, glad-heartedness, or humility, the Narnian stories have given lively and concrete pictures of these qualities, and I've found them becoming a part of me as I've breathed Narnian air.

To put it in more traditional terms, to live like a Narnian is to faithfully follow Jesus Christ. It's to be a disciple of the High King above all kings, and to emulate and embody his ways in the world in which we live.

B: In the book, you talk a lot about character, actions, and obedience. What does Narnia teach us about these things?

J: Let me mention two basic lessons (which I unpack in much more detail in the book). First, Lewis vividly shows that our trajectory really matters. Our direction determines our destination. When it comes to the grand voyage of life, we are embarked, and we are heading somewhere. Sooner or later, we're bound to end up there. Lewis shows us (through characters like Edmund) that we might not like the destination at the end of our road. This ought to move us to examine where we are making small compromises, where we are sowing small seeds of sin that will grow into big trees that will bear bitter fruit. As Paul reminds us, God is not mocked; we will reap what we've sown (Galatians 6:7).

Second, Lewis demonstrates the truthfulness of a statement by one of his heroes, George MacDonald: "Obedience is the opener of eyes." Oftentimes, we want to negotiate with God, withholding our obedience until he gives us a fuller understanding of the circumstances that we find ourselves in. But this is not the biblical way. We come to see more clearly through our obedience. Or, to put it the way Jesus did in John 7:17, "If anyone's will is to do God's will, he will know whether the teaching is from God." This sort of truth has massive implications for how we respond to seasons of doubt and depression. It's easy to use our own spiritual dryness as an excuse to commit sin. But sinking deeper in the mire is the surest way to stay there. In The Screwtape Letters, Lewis reminds us that the cause of Devil is never more in danger than when we Christians look around upon a universe from which every trace of God's presence seems to have vanished, and we ask why we've been forsaken, and then we obey anyway.

B: You have an interesting chapter dealing with "the peculiar majesty of women." Could you explain this phrase a little?

J: Lewis loved the fact that men were men and women were women. He gloried in the distinctions between the sexes, the way that our Wise God has made us to be different but complementary. The chapter on Narnian queens is my attempt to celebrate this 'peculiar majesty.' As the son of a mother, the husband of a wife, and the friend of numerous women, I find the bright glory of femininity to be almost ineffable, and it leaves me feeling a bit shy, like Adam must have felt when he woke and saw Eve for the first time. It's a strange sensation, and one that I expect most husbands understand at an intuitive level. Lewis, I think, does a wonderful job of depicting (though only as an outsider) the gracefulness and grandeur of women: their intuition, their feminine courage and loyalty, and the beauty of glad-hearted submission and strength. These are not popular virtues in our day, and Lewis recognized that appealing to our imaginations by showing us what womanhood (and manhood) look like has a particular potency.

B: How can C.S. Lewis teach us about discipleship?

J: I regularly have students come into my office who are struggling through a time of spiritual dryness. Often they've recently had a period of tremendous growth, or the Lord has done a great work and set them to fighting their sin in new and fresh ways. Inevitably, they hit that spiritual wall and the temptation is to think that something is going badly, that the pain and difficulty shows that they're doing something wrong.

Well, Lewis has a great scene in The Horse and His Boy in which Shasta, the main character, has been racing across a barren desert with little sleep and no food in order to warn the king that an army is approaching his castle in order to mount a surprise attack. In the midst of this, he and his friends (a girl and two horses) are chased by lions, and the girl is wounded. They make it to a hermit's house who welcomes them in as the horses collapse. The hermit then turns to Shasta and tells the exhausted boy that he must run, run, run in order to warn the king. Shasta is dismayed, but turns and obeys. The narrator makes this extremely wise and perceptive comment, which encourages me (and usually) my students: "Shasta had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one." In other words, when things get hard after a season of growth, this is a sign that we've been promoted, that God is giving us his "Well done, good and faithful servant" speech, that having been faithful in little, God is putting us over a little bit more.

B: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

J: In the end, I hope that people come away from the book with an eagerness to live life to the fullest, to follow Jesus with gratitude and humility in their hearts. I hope that they are awake to the wonder of the world, to the enchantment that hangs over every nook and cranny of God's creation. I hope that biblical truths like humility and sacrifice and grace and forgiveness and light have are more vivid and concrete, and that their souls are enlarged, their minds expanded, and their hearts are filled with love for Christ because they seem him more clearly in and through Narnia and the great Lion at the center of those stories.


Brandon Smith (@BrandonSmith85) is Director of GCD, Associate Editor of The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, and Director of Communications at Criswell College. He is proud to be Christa's husband and Harper's daddy.