The Grand Story of God’s Work: An Interview with Michael Lawrence (Part 2)

Michael-LawrenceDr. Michael Lawrence is the author of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry, which you can get for free through the end of the month. Lawrence holds an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a PhD from Cambridge University; he has served as associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and more recently as pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, OR. This is the second part of a two-part interview—if you missed part one, catch up here.

The title of your book invites the question, what does biblical theology have to do with the life of the church?

Everything. If biblical theology is essentially a reading strategy—a way of reading the Bible as a single book telling a single story—then the answer to that question is the same as the answer to “What does the Bible have to do with the life of the church?”

Of course, these days, too many evangelicals assume that the Bible has very little to do with the life of the church. We turn instead to methodology, best practices, media, structures, cultural exegesis, and music, to name just a few. We assume that if we master these things, the church will grow. There’s no question you can grow a crowd through all sorts of methods. But the church is not merely a crowd; it’s the bride of Jesus Christ. And Jesus nurtures and cleanses his bride through the Word.

As I’ve heard David Helm say many times, “God does his work through his Word, in a world gone awry.” I think that’s exactly right. And it’s because I believe passionately in the sufficiency of the Word for the life and growth and health of the church that I think biblical theology is at the heart of what we do as church leaders.

Does systematic theology play into the life of the church as well? How do biblical and systematic theology relate?

Systematic theology is incredibly important to the life of the church. I spend an entire chapter talking about that, and then another chapter thinking through how systematic and biblical theology relate to each other. If biblical theology tells us how God said what he said, then systematic theology summarizes what God said and applies it in our lives. If we don’t understand how God said it, we’ll get our summary wrong. But if we never summarize and apply, what’s the point? I’m a pastor, not an academic with boundaries to draw and defend, so maybe it’s easier for me to call a ceasefire between the two disciplines and think about how they work together in ministry.

Who are some of the authors who have most influenced how you do theology?

The five men I dedicated my book to all had a profound impact on me in seminary: Meredith Kline, David Wells, Rick Lints, Scott Hafemann, and Gordon Hugenberger. In some ways, this book is an attempt to give to others what they first gave to me. Since then, I’ve read quite a bit more. I’ve been hugely influenced by Geerhardus Vos. I’m constantly edified by the work of Graeme Goldsworthy, Richard Gaffin, and Edmund Clowney. I think Ligon Duncan is one of the finest practitioners of biblical theological preaching alive today. And the work Vaughn Roberts has done to make biblical theology accessible to lay audiences is superb. But I still come back again and again to the combination of self-critical cultural exegesis and careful biblical theology that my Gordon-Conwell professors taught me. I was privileged to sit under them.

Can you tell us a bit about 9Marks?

9Marks is a parachurch ministry that grew out of Mark Dever’s passion to encourage pastors and local churches in healthy gospel growth driven by a profound conviction of the sufficiency of the Scriptures. It has since grown into a chorus of like-minded pastors and writers, each of whom, in their own distinctive setting and voice, seeks to remind and encourage us that Christ loves his church and that he’s given us, in his Word, the resources we need to feed and lead and grow it.

9Marks hosts a number of conferences and workshops each year, both in DC and in various other locations around the world. There’s a small paid staff in DC. There’s a fantastic, resource-rich website. And of course there are books. But really it’s a band of brothers scattered far and wide, who together are committed to not only building biblically healthy churches, but also encouraging other pastors to do the same.

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Get Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church free through the end of February! And don’t miss your chance to win the entire 9Marks Series.

The Grand Story of God’s Work: An Interview with Michael Lawrence (Part 1)

Michael-LawrenceDr. Michael Lawrence is the author of Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church: A Guide for Ministry, which you can get free through the end of February! Lawrence holds an MDiv from Gordon-Conwell and a PhD from Cambridge University. He has served as associate pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and more recently as pastor of Hinson Baptist Church in Portland, OR.

Can you tell us a bit of your story?

I was born in Texas, grew up in South Carolina, and went to school in North Carolina, Boston, and Cambridge. My wife, Adrienne, and I met at Duke, we’ve been married almost 24 years, and we have five children ages 5 to 17. I went to school to be a medical doctor, but while I was in college, God got ahold of my life and propelled me into ministry, much to my family’s initial disappointment. (They’ve since gotten over it!) Three and a half years ago, we moved from Washington, DC, to Portland, OR, when I became lead pastor at Hinson Baptist Church.

From the brief bio above, you can see that, before the move to Portland, I’d lived my entire life (after Texas) within an easy drive of—if not within sight of—the Atlantic Ocean (or the North Sea). Neither my wife nor I have family west of the Appalachian mountains! So we certainly weren’t looking to move west. But Tom Schreiner, who’s from Oregon, encouraged me to take a look at Hinson. And with the blessing of the elders at Capitol Hill Baptist, where I’d served since 2002, we made the move in 2010. Honestly, it felt like moving back to the UK, in terms of both weather and culture. We went through culture shock all over again. But we’re so glad the Lord has brought us here.

Who did you have in mind when you wrote Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church?

I grew up in a typical Southern Baptist church in the deep south. As a result, I grew up knowing all the Bible stories almost by heart. But no one ever told me how to put all those individual stories together into one grand narrative of God’s work of redemption in the world. That didn’t happen until I got to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. So when I wrote this book, not only did I want to encourage seminary-trained pastors like myself to put biblical theology to work; I wanted interested lay leaders of all kinds—Sunday school teachers, lay elders, small group leaders, women’s ministry leaders, etc.—to benefit from it. The book is really for anyone who finds themselves teaching or applying the Bible to others in the church.

Why is it important that Christians know how to do biblical theology?

Whether they realize it or not, Christians are doing biblical theology all the time. They’re relating the OT to the NT, Israel to Jesus and the church, the Law to the gospel. That’s the work of biblical theology. So if you’re going to be doing something anyway, if it’s inescapable every time you pick up your Bible and read it, then I think you should know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, then it’s not that you won’t do biblical theology—it’s simply that you’ll do it badly, or even incorrectly. The Scriptures are the power of God for salvation. Therefore, we don’t want to misapply the Scriptures. We don’t want to misinterpret the Scriptures. Biblical theology is essential.

What drove you to write this book?

Can I say Jonathan Leeman? There’s nothing like an editor who believes in your project to drive you along! In fact, ever since I sat through Meredith Kline’s course on OT hermeneutics, I’ve had a passion for biblical theology. And after years of practical ministry, both in parachurch and local-church settings, I was convinced that this way of reading the Bible was crucial to faithful, fruitful ministry. Too many times I’d misapplied Scripture, or watched others do so, for no other reason than that I’d never been taught how to put the Bible together as a single story.

Too many times I’d taught moralistic lessons, or watched others do the same, because I had never been taught how the OT points forward to Christ and finds its fulfillment in him. So, I suppose, once I was introduced, I had the zeal of a new convert. I really want people to know how to read their Bibles, and this is the way to do it.

For the past three years, I’ve been preaching from a biblical-theological perspective in a church filled with older members who had always been taught that the OT was a book for and about the Jews, past and future, with little more for them as NT Christians than moral examples and a few messianic prophecies. I can’t tell you how encouraged I am as a pastor to have elders tell me how they feel like I’ve given them back the other half of their Bible, and how excited they are to find Jesus there!

There are a lot of books on biblical theology that examine various arcs of the Bible’s storyline, from scholars like Tom Schreiner, Desmond Alexander, G. K. Beale, and others. How does your book differ?

I’m not really trying to do biblical theology in my book, so much as give people the tools to do it themselves. In the middle section, I do tell the entire arc of the story from five different theological and thematic perspectives. But those are meant more as examples than as thorough treatments of a single biblical theological theme. Instead, my goal is to introduce people to the key concepts that biblical theology uses, relate those tools to two other sets of tools—exegetical theology and systematic theology—and then show what a difference biblical theology makes to our preaching, teaching, counseling, missions, and ethics. It’s a deeply interdisciplinary book, designed not to give you a biblical theology, but to encourage you to discover and use biblical theology for yourself.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the interview!

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Get Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church for free during the month of February! And don’t miss your chance to win the entire 9Marks Series.

The Online Experience with Knox Theological Seminary

Knox LogosToday, biblical education is more accessible than ever before. Knox Theological Seminary and Logos Bible Software have teamed up to offer several enriching degree programs in a distance-education format: you can earn your Doctor of Ministry or master’s degree from a well-respected, accredited institution, regardless of where you are.

But starting a new educational endeavor can be daunting; you might not be sure what to expect. Here’s a taste of what it’s like to take a master’s-level online class from Knox.

A carefully chosen curriculum

Knox offers an exemplary faculty, with world-class scholars in every area of study. These experienced educators will lead you through all sorts of material in a video-lecture format. Each week (or module) will have a handful of lecture videos, often 30 minutes in length. The videos are helpfully edited so that you don’t have to sit through irrelevant course announcements or other material—instead, you’ll get the meat of the content, taught by leading scholars in the field.

The readings are carefully chosen and thoroughly relevant to the lectures and assignments. Assigned textbooks are, more often than not, available from Logos; your online professor will make note of it when they are. For readings that are not yet in Logos, you’ll usually get a PDF or online article of the assigned portion, making it easy to complete your assignments.

Interactive coursework

Assignments tend to fall into three categories: forum posts and responses, quizzes, and papers. All three categories are simple to turn in—with the upload submission format, you don’t have to worry about your paper getting lost in a professor’s junk-mail folder!

The forum discussion posts are short, engaging pieces, designed to both interact with the material and facilitate discussion with your classmates. You’ll post a couple such articles per eight-week class, as well as several graded responses to your fellow students’ articles.

The quizzes and tests tend to be predominantly multiple-choice—though essay questions are common in midterms and final tests—and are simple to accomplish, review, and submit.

A unified community

In each online class, there’s a thriving community of students seeking to glorify God through their studies. The discussions are lively, and students tend to connect deeply with one another, sharing life and ministry stories, praying for each other, and going far above and beyond the assignments to engage the material together.

Find the degree that suits you

Knox has teamed up with Logos to offer the Master of Arts in Biblical and Theological Studies (MABTS), the Master of Arts in  Classical and Christian Studies (MACCS), and a Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program, with three tracks available. These degrees will strengthen your ministry as well as your spiritual life; plus, with Logos forming the backbone of the curriculum, your studies will be connected directly to the world of biblical scholarship.

Learn more about the MABTS, the MACCS, or the DMin, and start furthering your education and ministry today!

Further Your Ministry Without Putting It on Pause

Improve Your Ministry with Mobile EdAs Christians, we’re all called to ministry in one form or another. Whether it’s formal work in the church or love and support for someone who needs them, ministry is a huge part of who we’re called to be as followers of Jesus. But how do we do it in a biblical, God-glorifying way?

A biblical education can go a long way toward providing the skills we need to serve those around us. But if you have a family, a job (in or outside the home), or other responsibilities, how can you get this important education?

A new way to learn

Logos Mobile Education is your answer—it’s a new way to study, learn, and grow. There are many courses available that you can start on immediately, and dozens more coming in the near future. They’re all taught by world-class scholars and professors in a format that goes with you wherever you are.

Each course has personal video lectures, helpfully enhanced with on-screen text and broken into small, cohesive segments. These courses make it easy for you to study, whether you have five minutes or an hour. The videos are paired with searchable, highlightable transcripts featuring learning objectives and further readings. This makes your lectures more than just a one-time learning experience: they become reference material you can come back to again and again.

Start learning with Mobile Ed today

Get started with our Bible and Doctrine Foundations Bundle, which contains nine courses designed to help you grasp the basics of doctrine, the flow of Scripture, and even how to use Logos for your studies. And don’t forget to pre-order the Elyse Fitzpatrick Bundle, which gives you three courses on counseling and personal development:

With these practical courses, you’ll begin equipping yourself to better understand God and his Word and to make a deeper impact in the lives of those around you.

Get Logos Mobile Education, and start learning today.

Mobile Ed: A Commitment to Lifelong Learning

Mobile Ed First LookLearning should never stop. A good biblical and theological education sharpens the mind, illuminates God and his character through his Word, and provides the tools we need to better love and serve the church. That’s why we’re so excited about Logos Mobile Education. Logos Mobile Ed is uniquely positioned not only to deliver world-class lecture content in a useful and innovative way, but also to give students the ability to, with a click, delve into whole new worlds of background information, infographics and illustrations, cross-references, and all manner of reference materials.

A first look at the Mobile Ed courses

We’d like to give you a glimpse of Mobile Ed, and how using it can practically and immediately benefit your ministry, your family, and your faith. This video will walk you through an overview of Mobile Ed and the features and tools that surround the courses.

Advancing the standard of theological education

Mobile Ed meets you where you are—it’s available on your desktop computer, on the web, and on your mobile devices. In a traditional course, you’re only as good as your notes. But with Mobile Ed, you always have the lectures and transcripts with you, and they’re searchable, to help you find what you’re looking for without wasting any time. If you’re not a Logos power-user, don’t let that stop you! Each course includes video tutorials on how to dig even deeper using Logos’ tools, features, and resources.

Start learning!

There are quite a few courses available now, with many more coming soon. You can jump into Mobile Ed right away with the Bible and Doctrine Foundations Bundle, and pre-order other courses that will be here soon. Here’s what’s available:

Get started with Logos Mobile Education today!

How to Engage with Art and Culture

Daniel A. SiedellAs Christians, how do we engage with art and culture? Whether we try to avoid it and remain unstained by the world, or we press into it in an attempt to redeem it for God’s glory, we all have to ask ourselves this question. So, what passages of Scripture help us answer it, and how do we interpret them and apply them today?

Dr. Daniel A. Siedell, visiting professor of Christianity and culture at Knox Theological Seminary, is teaching a Doctor of Ministry class in March addressing this exact topic. If you’re currently enrolled in Knox’s DMin program, or if you would like to further your education and begin your studies, this is well worth your time. You can apply by visiting DMin.me or, if you’re already a Knox student, register by emailing the registrar.

Dr. Siedell has sent us a letter to share with you, inviting you to take this remarkable class:

Dear prospective Christ & Culture student,

I feel your pain. The world of art and culture is indeed confusing and intimidating. St. Paul tells us to be as innocent as doves and as wise as serpents and to dwell on all that is good. And yet we are surrounded by cultural artifacts—movies, television shows, paintings, literature, music, and a host of other images, objects, and events—that may or may not be “good” and worth dwelling on, and we worry that we will lose what’s left of our innocence, not to mention that of our children or our parishioners.

But are art and culture always something to be avoided? Must we always keep them at arm’s length? So much of what we hear and read about art and culture inside and outside the church is negative and polemic, so it’s easy to get the impression that the arts and culture should simply be avoided if they cannot be used as tools for communicating what we think are Christian virtues.

But what about those paintings, novels, comic books, films, and songs—those artifacts of popular and high culture—that move us, that attract us, that describe us? As Christians, how can we justify our interest in, and perhaps even love of, them—especially if they don’t seem to offer an explicitly Christian message, or perhaps they even challenge it?

Join me at Knox Seminary the week of March 10 and we’ll devote a week to thinking and talking about art, culture, and theology from every conceivable perspective. But we’ll also experience art—we’ll explore what happens when we listen to music, look at a painting, read a novel, watch a film, and listen to a poem. In short, we’ll explore how to listen to works of art and culture. We’ll take this week to let art be art, to let it breathe as an aesthetic experience that opens us to God and to the world, in ways that just might surprise us. And we’ll think about how our experience of art and culture can help us understand vocation, deepen our pastoral work, discipleship, counseling, and parenting, and even help us understand preaching and the proclamation of the Gospel itself.

But ultimately, in listening to art and culture, we’ll discover what it reveals about ourselves—about who we are before God and our neighbor.

I look forward to spending the week with you.

Grace and Peace,

Daniel A. Siedell, PhD

Join Dr. Siedell and other brothers and sisters in Christ as they engage Scripture and art, and discover how God intended us to relate to the expressions of the world around us. Apply today, or request more information at DMin.me.

Preaching in Cultural Context: An Interview with Dr. Leith Anderson

Dr Leith AndersonWe recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals. Dr. Anderson will be teaching one of Knox Theological Seminary‘s courses in January.

1. Please tell us some of your story and describe your time as a pastor.

My father pastored a large church in metropolitan New York City for 33 years, so I grew up in the church and in the parsonage. When I became pastor of a small-town church in Colorado, it was really different—a community of about 20,000 and a congregation of 100-plus. I had to learn a different culture. Then I became pastor of Wooddale Church in suburban Minneapolis, with another culture to learn. As the congregation grew into the thousands, the church culture began to change.

2. Please describe your upcoming course at Knox, “Preaching in Cultural Context.” What are some of the course objectives?

Just as missionaries must learn and adapt to new cultures and languages, so native preachers must learn and adapt to changing subcultures in their homeland. This course will study the theology of culture, how to analyze cultures, and how to preach in culturally relevant ways while remaining biblical.

3. With shifting demographics in America, what do you see as the biggest issue facing the church and its task of communicating Christ in this culture?

There are lots of issues, and they’re changing all the time. The challenge for preachers is to avoid preaching to a generation that died 50 years ago, to preach in today’s terms, and to stick with the Bible in our teaching.

4. What do you hope this class will accomplish? 

The class will compare the cultures and preaching of fellow students in ways that will make us all better preachers in our own cultures.

5. How does what you’re teaching in this class reflect what you’re seeing in the broader Christian spectrum as president of the National Association of Evangelicals? 

Through the National Association of Evangelicals, I get to know an amazing variety of churches, preachers, denominations, and organizations across America and beyond. I am amazed at the good God is doing in the USA and around the world. While there are always problems, I see this as the best of times, filled with opportunity. I look forward to everyone in the class seeing God’s amazing blessings and getting excited about seizing the opportunities of our generation.

6. What are some of the key thinkers and writers on culture who have influenced you?

Over half a century ago, Richard Niebuhr wrote Christ and Culture. It’s a classic on the different approaches Christians take to understanding how we view culture in every place and time. At the other end of our generation are today’s newspapers, magazines, movies, television, and videos, which are expressing the changes in current culture.

7. What do you hope a student will take away from the class?

Students will go home with a deeper understanding of their theology of culture, a fuller engagement with the distinctives of people in their own community, and an excitement to be part of what God is doing through their own churches and communities.

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Further your education. Further your ministry. Apply today to earn your DMin with Knox Theological Seminary and Logos Bible Software.

3 Reasons to Attend Seminary

Today’s guest post is from Dr. Samuel Lamerson, professor of New Testament at Knox Theological Seminary.

I come from a fundamentalist background in which believers are often distrustful of higher education. On a number of occasions, I’ve had church members ask me, “Haven’t you been in school long enough?” or “Aren’t you afraid of coming out of school a liberal?”

This distrust of education has a social history in the US, and it’s still felt in certain denominations and areas of the country. If you’re not sure about higher education, why should you think about attending seminary?

I offer three reasons:

  1. Attend seminary because you are called. When the Lord has given us a task, he also equips us for that task. That is the very foundation of the Reformation view of “vocation.” If God has called you to be a teacher/preacher of his Word, it’s beneficial have proper training.
  2. Attend seminary because you recognize the need. Very few of us would feel comfortable being diagnosed by a physician who was “self-taught” with no credentials. The truth is that he or she might be a great doctor, but there is no way to be sure without proper testimonials. If we think that learning about the body is important for a physician, shouldn’t we also think that learning about the Bible is important for a minister?
  3. Attend seminary because you listened. One of the greatest gifts that I have been given in life is the counsel of wise brothers and sisters in Christ. Before you attend seminary, ask the advice of a few people who you trust. (Try to include at least one person who has attended seminary.) Listen carefully to what these counselors tell you. Often, those who are around us (our family, our close friends) know our gifts better than we do ourselves. Pay special attention to this advice, and weigh it against your own sense of calling.

I loved my time in seminary (at Knox and at TEDS). It was a wonderful season of growth and learning for me. The same may be true for you if you attend seminary for the right reasons.

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Learn more about earning your DMin from Knox Theological Seminary with Logos, and start furthering your education today.

4 Questions to Ask Before Pursuing Your DMin

Logos Mobile EducationDeciding to pursue your DMin requires a lot of consideration. Here are four questions you should ask yourself before going back to school:

1. Do I have the time?
A Doctor of Ministry is a rigorous degree, requiring many hours of study and coursework; it can be difficult to fit this into an already-busy schedule. If you’re working or in ministry full-time, it’s worth considering a distance-education model, like that of Knox Theological Seminary. You’ll better balance your time, without losing inflexible hours sitting in a lecture hall and commuting to and from campus.

2. Am I currently serving in ministry?
Some have described a DMin as a less-rigorous version of a PhD. In reality, this doesn’t hold water; a PhD is a research or academic degree, whereas a DMin is a professional degree. One might compare the DMin to the medical field’s Doctor of Medicine degree, which is designed for surgeons and physicians practicing in their fields. Likewise, a DMin is specifically aimed at those currently serving in ministry, who can practically apply what they’re learning as they study.

3. Do I meet the educational requirements?
You need a master’s degree to be accepted into a DMin program. A Doctor of Ministry makes a wonderful addition to an MDiv or other master’s focused on biblical studies and theology—it builds on the master’s degree’s technical foundations to provide deeper insight and further application. See Knox Theological Seminary’s requirements for their DMin students.

4. Can I afford it?
Any education is an investment, and we’re called to wisely steward not just our time, but also our money. We must ask ourselves if adding another financial burden is a wise use of our resources. Thankfully, a Doctor of Ministry from Knox Theological Seminary and Logos is very competitively priced, not to mention flexible. With low monthly payment plans, you can pursue your DMin without sacrificing other investments. See the tuition options for Knox’s DMin program.

A DMin to meet your needs

Knox Theological Seminary has partnered with Logos Bible Software to offer an outstanding Doctor of Ministry program with rigorous study and world-class professors, fully integrated with Logos Bible Software.

The Knox Doctor of Ministry is:

  • Flexible: With week-long intensive sessions offered several times a year, you’ll work in a cohort model to complete the majority of your studies from wherever you are—you don’t have to uproot your family and leave your ministry.
  • World-class: The professors at Knox are the best in their fields. You’ll learn under such renowned scholars as Haddon Robinson, Bryan Chapell, Bruce Waltke, and Jim Belcher.
  • Practical: The Knox DMin courses are designed to offer you, the worker on the ground, practical training and guidance to benefit the ministry in which you serve. This isn’t a theoretical research degree—it’s designed for you, where you’re at.
  • Affordable: With monthly payments as low as $230, you can be a wise steward of your money and still pursue an education to bless your spiritual life and your ministry.

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Further your education. Further your ministry. Apply today!

Preaching Revelation: Learn from an Expert

Dr. Warren Gage headshotDr. Warren Gage, professor of Old Testament and senior advisor to the president at Knox Theological Seminary, will be teaching a one-week intensive class in Bellingham, WA, October 14–18. Dr. Gage would like to formally invite you to attend:

Join us in Bellingham, Washington, next month and learn to preach Revelation as it was intended: namely, as a great encouragement to the people of God to persevere through suffering in hope of the heavenly city. To that end, it gives us the two most magnificent visions of Jesus in all the Bible. We see him in his heavenly splendor, coming to John of Patmos with a glory that causes John to fall at his feet like a dead man. We see the Son of man coming on a white horse of victory as the fulfillment of all prophecy at the head of his heavenly hosts of armies. These visions of Jesus transformed John, and he wrote them with the intent that they should transform us! [Read more...]