There is reportedly an article coming out in a British Christian publication that features an interview with me. As is often the case, to stoke the fires of controversy, thereby increasing readership, which generates advertising revenue, a few quotes of mine have been taken completely out of context and sent into the Twittersphere. So, I thought I would put a bit of water on the fire by providing context.
Here are some of my unedited thoughts for British evangelicals, whom I love and desire to see be exceedingly fruitful as they contend for the gospel of Jesus in their country.
1. You are in a cultural context that is more non-Christian, and even anti-Christian, than even the most liberal cities in the United States. I’ve taught across Scotland, Ireland, and England. Each one is more difficult to reach than my hometown of Seattle, which is one of the historically least-churched and most secular-minded cities in America. I’ve said for years that Britain and Canada are more secular and difficult than the United States. So, for those pastors (especially church planters) working in some tough soil, thank you!
2. You have great pressure from the media and even some legal liability that can cause preachers and teachers to whisper their beliefs rather than proclaim them. This is unfortunate, but it's reality, not unlike the early church preaching the gospel in the face of the Roman Empire. More than ever, humble courage is required!
3. Please do not compromise on essential doctrinal issues. Please do not back down from the perfection, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture as the very Word of God. Please do not shy away from talking about sin and allowing your preaching and teaching to devolve into vaguely spiritual self-help principles. Please do not be ashamed of the foolishness of the cross, where Jesus died in our place for our sins enduring the wrath of God we deserve. Please do not be timid to call people to repent of sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, as apart from him there is no forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. And please do not deny the reality of a literal, conscious, eternal torment in hell, because people are going there and lying to them is not loving them!
4. Please ask yourself if your churches are doing all you can to reach younger generations so that the churches do not become museums telling of the days when people used to love Jesus, but rather remain missions where people continue to meet him as Lord, God, Savior, friend, King, and Christ!
5. Please earnestly ask if enough is being done to reach, train, and deploy godly, gifted men, especially young men, into the marketplace and ministry. As you look around your church this Sunday, ask if you see enough substantive Christian men to lead your church for the next few generations, and if not, sound the alarm that there is a crisis!
6. Please ask why there is a lack of courageous young Christian preachers heralding the word of God across Britain and beyond and why, when there are big events for evangelicals, a speaker often has to be brought in from another country to preach. Please pray for the next Spurgeon, and if you are a Christian leader, do all you can to, by the grace of God, provide opportunities to see those kind of preachers and leaders raised up to lead the cause of the gospel in your country!
Some Context for the Interview in Question
I have a degree in communications from one of the top programs in the United States. So does my wife, Grace. We are used to reporters with agendas and selective editing of long interviews. Running into reporters with agendas and being selectively edited so that you are presented as someone that is perhaps not entirely accurate is the risk one takes when trying to get their message out through the media.
With the release of our book, Real Marriage, we have now done literally dozens of interviews with Christians and non-Christians. But the one that culminated in the forthcoming article was, in my opinion, the most disrespectful, adversarial, and subjective. As a result, we’ve since changed how we receive, process, and moderate media interviews.
The interview in question had nearly nothing to do with the book or its subject matter, which in my understanding was supposed to be the point of the interview. My wife, Grace, was almost entirely ignored in the interview, and I felt she was overall treated disrespectfully. The only questions asked were about any controversial thing I’ve ever said in the past 15 years with a host of questions that were adversarial and antagonistic. It felt like a personally offended critic had finally gotten his chance to exercise some authority over me.
Things got particularly strange near the end of the interview. I was asked a question about, if a woman was the pastor of a church which that pastor’s husband attended, would that be emasculating to him. The question was asked in such a pointed way that it was odd.
At the end of the interview, I started asking questions of the interviewer. He admitted that his last questions were really about himself and his wife. Apparently his wife is the pastor of their church, he’s strongly committed to women as pastors, disagrees strongly with our complementarian position, and takes it to some degree personally.
He then admitted that he very much struggles to believe in penal substitutionary atonement—that Jesus Christ died in our place a substitute for our sins—and that he does not believe in a literal hell. In short, the reporter is a very liberal Christian, and on these issues I am not.
Subsequently, I am not surprised that after a very long interview, which took the better part of an hour, that I may be selectively edited and presented in a way that is not entirely accurate. In particular, the quote about cowardice may not fit all British men, but for men who misuse their authority to advance their agenda, it seems applicable.
It's All about Jesus
In the providence of God, I trust everything will sort itself out in time. The best thing is to not waste time blogging, twittering, and talking about me. I was not born of a virgin, have not lived without sin, and am not going to judge the living and the dead. Jesus is all that matters.