GD: Hello and welcome, Colin. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
CA: Well first and foremost I'm blessed to be a Christian: I have known the Lord Jesus Christ in a personal way since I was five years old. Additionally, I am married to my treasured wife Nicki and am greatly blessed to have three children: Glen, Rebekah and Grace. What else can I say?... I'm from Scotland - born and bred - and spent the first 23 years of my life living in the Glasgow area. For the last five years I've 'defected' to Glasgow's ancient rival, Edinburgh, enjoying ministry with Charlotte Baptist Chapel. In my current manifestation, I serve the congregation as an Associate Pastor, a role which involves regular preaching and discipleship of university students.
GD: Your blog is called "Unashamed Workman". What prompted you to start blogging?
CA: Strangely, my wife. Months prior to UW's launch, she and some friends had kickstarted a blog (titus2talk) in relation to Biblical Womanhood. It looked like a lot of fun! One day Nicki asked me whether I had ever thought of starting a blog myself. Knowing that I could never sustain such an endeavour without picking the right subject, I decided to focus on preaching; something I'm very passionate about.
GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?
CA: Two things: personal reflection and interpersonal relationships. On the one hand, having to post something every day on the subject of preaching has disciplined me to continue thinking 'out loud' about the subject. Like most people, my tendency is to want to 'settle' with what I've already learned. In this regard, the blog is a preventative, as well as a productive measure. On the other hand, I really have enjoyed getting to know other believers (especially pastors) from all across the world. Already, the blog has established new relationships and created unlikely opportunities.
GD: What are some of the dangers of blogging?
CA: I think blogging could become a form of escapism, so that in an inordinate amount of time is given to it. I suppose this would be especially bad for pastors who might be tempted to flee the responsibilities of watching the flock, praying for and preaching to the sheep. a move that would lead to disastrous consequences. For this reason, I try only to read my blog-reader once a day and only write for a short 'designated time' (usually during my lunch break). I want to ensure it doesn't steal time at home, for example.
GD: What does your family think of your blogging habit?
CA: My wife is supportive, though in the earlier stages (when I was less thought through about time management) - I'm not so sure. Thankfully, my wife sees great value in biblical preaching, which I suppose makes a big difference...
GD: Where did you train for the Christian Ministry?
CA: Over the space of four years, I obtained a BA Theology (Honours) from International Christian College in Glasgow, a merger of Glasgow and Northumbria Bible colleges. However, I would also say that these last five years have been invaluable terms of 'practical' ministry training. There is only so much you can learn in the theoretical sphere.
GD: Very true. But what is the most important lesson that you learned from your studies?
CA: That rigorous exegesis must underpin biblical exposition. Learning to exegete biblical texts was one of the primary reasons I went to seminary in the first place. Beforehand, I could stand up and speak to people with an open bible, but I wasn't sure it was the bible I was actually teaching .
GD: Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?
CA: I'm not one of those who has a theological hero; though like many others I have enormous respect for the likes of Augustine, Calvin, Edwards and their ilk. In the modern day, John Piper has perhaps influenced me more than anyone else, particularly shaping my thinking with regards the doctrine of God, Reformed Theology, and complementarianism.
GD: Who has taught you most about preaching?
CA: Every preacher needs an 'expository model', who they can learn from first hand. In my case, that person has been Peter Grainger (the Senior Pastor of Charlotte Baptist Chapel). It has been a priceless experience to personally benefit from his ministry, but also watch and learn as he explains and apples biblical texts week after week. In my time at the Chapel, pastor Grainger has worked through (in whole) 1 Corinthians, Mark and Luke's gospel, Jeremiah, Philippians, the minor prophets (overviews), and James. From him I've learned many things, but perhaps most of all he has modelled gripping introductions, clear structure, direct and pastoral application, and above all gospel-earnestness.
GD: Do you use sermon notes when preaching or are you an extemporary preacher?
CA: I'm not ashamed to say that I would struggle to preach without notes - we all have different abilities - however in my case I aim not to 'read the sermon.' Obviously, we are there to speak to people and that involves good eye contact which all out reading precludes. For this reason, I prayerfully read through the manuscript two or three times prior to preaching, so that I know it fairly thoroughly. The greatest compliment I receive is when people say its not obvious that I'm using notes. On the other hand, if I have something that is sensitive to say, requiring careful wording, I may for a sentence or two rather obviously read my notes. Sometimes its more important to say things right than pass a 'communications' exam.
GD: As far as you are concerned, what is the most spiritually challenging aspect of the preaching ministry?
CA: Preaching the passage to oneself. It is 'relatively' easy to study the text, construct the outline, work out the application (for others) and then deliver the sermon to the congregation. In this, the preacher can be bypassed altogether. However it is much more profitable (and painful) for God's Word to speak to the preacher first, before applying that message to their flock. Normally the preacher then becomes a more authentic and able conduit for speaking the message. He ceases to lecture and starts to preach a Word that is changing his life. Yet because this approach requires my regular and humble submission to God's Word, it is challenging. Properly done, this practice 'breaks me' every week.
GD: Do you believe that Ministers need to seek the Spirit's empowering presence to make their preaching into an encounter with the living God?
CA: Well, yes - any Christian minister should wish to be filled with the Holy Spirit in the act of preaching! That said, I suspect there is a lot of foggy thinking about how this comes about. First, we find in Acts that Spirit-filled proclamation of the gospel followed fervent prayer. Second, since the Spirit and Word are closely intertwined, the Spirit-filled preacher must be a Word-filled preacher. (That is, we should not mistake relying on the Spirit in the pulpit for replacing rigorous preparation in the study). Finally, we should perhaps reflect on our own personal purity, specifically in relation to 'grieving the Spirit' in a way that would subsequently affect our preaching.
GD: If time travel were possible, which historic preacher might you like to hear and why?
CA: It sounds cliche, but probably Charles H Spurgeon. If for no other reason than to see and hear first hand what all the hype was about! I hear he was pretty good :)
GD: Apparently, yes. If you had to recommend three books on preaching, what would they be?
CA: Christ Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapel, The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper and Lectures to My Students by Charles Spurgeon.
GD: What is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months. It is a must read because....
CA: Just recently I thoroughly enjoyed reading through Pierced for our Transgressions, and the plaudits given to this book are well deserved. It is a must read because the heart of Jesus work on the cross - what has been historically called 'penal-substitution' - is coming under increasing attack in the days in which we live. Yet for all its critics, penal substitution is pervasively biblical and utterly necessary for our salvation to be achieved. Pierced for our Transgressions demonstrates this masterfully.
GD: PFOT seems to be a popular choice for interviewees here. Deservedly so. Now, tell us your top three songs or pieces of music.
CA: There's nothing like a thousand voices (well, almost!) singing "Oh for a thousand tongues to sing." As well as that wonderful song, I also love one of Charles' Wesley's other creations: "Jesus, the name high over all." Regarding songs of a newer vintage, I greatly appreciate the hymns of Stuart Townend and Keith Getty. I particularly like the words and music of "Oh, to see the Dawn" (This the Power of the Cross) and "My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness." Moreoever, despite its relative age (!) "In Christ Alone" remains a real favourite of mine.
GD: Some good choices there. "In Christ Alone" is a contemporary classic. Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?
CA: I guess I especially gravitate towards blogs that speak particularly toward pastoral ministry. Pure Church, Biblical Preaching, Pulpit Magazine, Church Matters, Expository Thoughts would be just some of my regular stops. Like many others, I'm in cyber-awe of Tim Challies, while Justin Taylor links me to everything.
GD: Well Colin, thanks for taking the time to drop in for this conversation. See ya!
Next up will be a head-banging English Presbyterian theologian. Guess who?