10 Questions with Tim Challies
Tim Challies is no stranger to Credo Magazine, having contributed to some of our past issues. But in the most recent issue of the magazine, “The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a Triune God Makes All the Difference,” Challies has joined us for our 10 Questions interview. In this interview Challies talks about how he came to know Christ, some of the challenges when it comes to the pastorate, the importance of expository preaching, the ever-evolving world of technology, and much, much more. Just a little about Tim. He blogs at challies.com. He is also a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. He is the co-founder of Cruciform Press and the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment (Crossway), and The Next Story (Zondervan).
Here is the beginning of the interview to get you started:
Tim, how did you come to know Christ?
I had the immense privilege of being raised in a Christian home. My parents were born and raised in secular Quebec and both came from unbelieving families. They first encountered the gospel as university students and after professing faith were introduced to the Pentecostal tradition. A short time after they got married they traveled to Switzerland and were introduced to Francis Schaeffer and L’Abri. This also opened their eyes to the Reformed tradition and they were captivated by its emphasis on truth and on the knowability of God. They never looked back.
I was raised in the Presbyterian and Dutch Reformed traditions, memorizing the Bible and catechisms from a young age. I mark my conversion sometime around fourteen or fifteen, though it may well have been much earlier. It was in my mid-teens that I began to experience both the desire for and reality of greater independence. I began to understand that the choices I was making would prove whether or not I was a Christian. I began to ask myself whether I really believed in the Christian faith or if I was just following along behind my parents. One evening from this period is particularly vivid. I was in my bedroom, reading a Frank Peretti novel (of all things) and listening to a Christian rock album when I began to weep and to pray, expressing to the Lord that I wanted to be his and to live for his glory. This was either the moment the Lord saved me, or the moment that I began to take seriously a commitment I had made as a child.
You are a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto. What is the most difficult part about being a pastor and what advice can you give to other pastors?
I am “the other” pastor at Grace Fellowship Church—not the one who preaches every week, but the one who does the other things. I focus on discipleship and mentoring, coordinating our small groups, and so on. I have been doing this for a couple of years now after rather unexpectedly finding myself being asked to enter into full-time ministry.
Pastoring is a joy and a privilege, and occasionally a sore trial. The aspect I have found most difficult is carrying the burdens of so many other people. As a pastor I am entrusted with other people’s greatest griefs, the things they might not dare to tell anyone else. The pastor knows what his people fear, he knows what they love, he knows the deep burdens they bear, and he bears it all with them. This affords him unique opportunities to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. Today I battle insomnia and I count it no coincidence that my inability to sleep began just at the time that I was called to ministry and began to carry the weight of so much pain and sorrow.
My advice to other pastors (and do keep in mind that I am still quite new to pastoring) is to regularly meet with other pastors. Paul Martin, my colleague at Grace Fellowship Church, has been both a dear friend and a mentor; his wise and patient counsel has prevented me from more pastoral disasters than I can count. Julian Freeman who pastors one of our church plants is another friend who has answered many of my ignorant questions. At least once a month I meet with a room full of pastors to discuss stresses, challenges, and triumphs. I can’t express how much I value these times and these men.
Do you practice expositional preaching and why is this type of preaching so important?
I suppose I do. I learned to preach by being put in front of a group of people and being told to preach to them. I don’t think of what I do as expositional preaching simply because I have never seriously considered an alternative. This is the only kind of preaching I’ve known, the kind I’ve had modelled to me, and therefore, the kind I do, or attempt to do. Mark Dever’s terse summary of expositional preaching has been a helpful question for me to ask of my sermons: Is the point of the passage the point of the sermon?
I preach expositionally because I am very aware of my tendency to preach what is most urgent to me in place of what a passage actually says. Expositional preaching sets the boundaries of my preaching, ensuring that I can preach no more and no less than what the text allows. It reigns me in, it keeps me focused, it keeps me preaching God’s Word rather than my own mind.
Read the rest of this interview today:
The Trinity and the Christian Life: Why a triune God makes all the difference
One of the dangers every church faces is slipping, slowly and quietly and perhaps unknowingly, into a routine where sermons are preached, songs are sung, and the Lord’s Supper is consumed, but all is done without a deep sense and awareness of the Trinity. In other words, if we are not careful our churches, in practice, can look remarkably Unitarian. And such a danger is not limited to the pews of the church. As we leave on Sunday morning and go back into the world, does the gospel we share with our coworker look decisively and explicitly Trinitarian in nature? Or when we pray in the privacy of our own home, do the three persons of the Trinity make any difference in how we petition God?
In this issue of Credo Magazine, we have brought together some of the sharpest thinkers in order to bring our minds back to the beauty, glory, and majesty of our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But we do not merely want to see him as triune, but recognize why and how the Trinity makes all the difference in the Christian life. Therefore, in this issue Fred Sanders, Robert Letham, Michael Reeves, Scott Swain, Tim Challies, Stephen Holmes, and many others come together in order to help us think deeper thoughts about how God is one essence and three persons, and what impact the Trinity has on who we are and what we do as believers.
Matthew Barrett, Executive Editor