Please tell us about a time in your life when God spoke to you most vividly and personally through the Bible. Which passage was it and what did it mean to you at the time?
When I was in my mid twenties just a few years after having become a Christian, I agonised over my sense of calling to ministry, but at the same time wondered what I should do in terms of work. With my first child having arrived, and with the offer of work and a career in the city of London, that seemed to take pull against that calling, I remember praying and asking God to speak to me clearly. I read that day 2 Thes 3:7-13
We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” 11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.
It was one time I remember hearing God speak clearly to me, that as a husband and father the most important thing for me at that time was to work as well as I could at what opportunity God had put before me. God would direct and open up any calling he had on my life. At the time I couldn’t see how that work and a calling to pastoral ministry went together, but they did. That career enabled me to pay off student debts, and buy the house my wife and I still live in and from which we planted the church that we now lead full time.
In recent years what has helped to keep the Bible fresh for you?
Studying academic theology has been a privilege and consolation for me. With all the challenges that the Church and Christianity is facing in our rapidly changing world, it has been a privilege to read, talk, write and think about those challenges theologically. Exploring those challenges within a Church plant and community, has led me back again and again to the bible. Finding how others in scripture and history struggled to live faithfully in a changing world has brought the bible alive for me, more than ever. With all increasing ways we imagine and measure life, and form identity, the bible has become an even richer and necessary authority in my life.
What does your regular practice of Bible reading look like?
It varies throughout the years. Sometimes I go through a period of memorising bible verses, other times I read the bible in long stretches on it’s own, other times I read books and passages with commentaries, sometimes I read through it with daily bible readings, and then at times I use various catechisms to pray my way through it.
What would you say to a Christian who is struggling to read the Bible?
Consider the bible for what it is, a collection of ancient books that it will take a lifetime to read and engage with. You can be put off by that challenge or consider it an invitation into something that is far more than the sound bite twitter feed engagements we have with much of life. We can gain much from just reading the bible on our own, but it is meant to be read with others, listened to with others, shared and lived out in community. The bible is a story to locate our life stories in with others, to be the story that determines our constructions and assessments of life. It will be hard at times, but at others the most amazing experience we could ever have. Consider reading the bible and invitation into an apprenticeship that lasts a lifetime.
What is your prayer for the Biblefresh initiative?
That with the myriad of choices we have over resources for lifestyles and the making of our identities, that ‘bible fresh’ will help us turn to the bible to understand ourselves, the world around us and discover the riches within it for making a life with others.