Friday, June 22, 2007

Blogging in the name of the Lord: Andrew Roycroft

This is part of a series of interviews with Christian bloggers. In the hot seat today is....

GD: Hello and welcome, Andrew. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
AR: My name is Andrew Roycroft, I’m 29 years old, and am a native of Northern Ireland. My wife Carolyn and I have been married for four years, and we live and serve the Lord in Co. Armagh. For the past five years I have been serving as Pastor in Armagh Baptist Church.
GD: Your blog is called "Double Usefulness". Please explain.
AR: One servant of God who has really blessed me through his ministry is Geoff Thomas. His preaching and writing are warm, intelligent, and deeply devotional. One of the most helpful insights Geoff has shared in writing is this principle of 'double usefulness'. To me it basically means maximising your activities so that the greatest number of people can benefit from what you are doing. Thus if I read a book which really blesses me, then I can review it online for the encouragement of others; if I go to a good conference I can share some insights that have encouraged or challenged me etc. The great thing about this is that it saves me having to do any original thinking, but still makes it look like I have something to say!!
GD: It's certainly better to be doubly useful than doubly useless! What made you start blogging?
AR: I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself in writing, and so the discovery of blogging has given me a forum to do just that. My first blog was a travel journal of a sabbatical trip to Peru which our friends and families used as a prayer resource while we were away. This gave me the bug for blogging and thus I set up ‘Double Usefulness’. Primarily I wanted to create an easily updatable resource that the members of Armagh Baptist could access for articles etc, but have found that the benefits go far beyond even that.
GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?
AR: I love the interactivity of blogging, as well as the way in which it establishes contact with a community of people who share the same interests, priorities and concerns. It has become an arena of fellowship for me, as well as giving me a place to share my thoughts (for what they’re worth). Now when I read the paper or go through different experiences I don’t simply think of how these things could be used to illustrate sermons, but also what I could write about them on the blog.
GD: What are some of the dangers of blogging?
AR: I think the time investment is the greatest danger. As you know only too well pastoral ministry is exceptionally busy, and it would be so easy to pour the rest of my free time into writing my own blog or reading those of others. That time is crucial for reading, and for relaxation with my wife. I have to constantly keep a tight rein on how much ‘blogging time’ I put in – and I don’t always succeed in that! I think another danger is the temptation to take things too seriously – a blog is a blog, nothing more, nothing less. I think some folks forget the hobby or amateur element to blogging and begin to believe that they are writing a serious online theological journal! There are a few blogs which could claim that, but I think that most (and certainly my own) need to be approached with a sense of humour and perspective.
GD: Wise words! You trained for the ministry at the Irish Baptist College in Moira. Did you enjoy your time there?
AR: Immensely. My one regret is that my studies have been conducted part time in conjunction with full time pastoral ministry, and so I perhaps haven’t experienced the community element of theological education as much as I would have liked. Both Carolyn and I, however, are going back to Bible college next year and will be studying full time – Carolyn on a missions course, and me on an MTh – and so we should get that more rounded experience then.
GD: What is the most important lesson that you learned from your studies?
AR: Undoubtedly how little I know. Theological education thus far has given me a key to the library, but I feel that I’ve barely reached the shelves yet.
GD: What does your wife, Carolyn think of your blogging habit?
AR: Because she’s kept busy in her teaching post as well as church ministry, she doesn’t get much time to read what I write. But I think she enjoys the fulfilment I get from it, even though it means I can be a little distracted at times!!
GD: Er...yes. Describe your call to the pastoral ministry.
AR: As I was studying English at university I began to sense an overwhelming call to serve God with my life in a full time capacity. As time passed my conviction of heart was that this would be in the ministry of God’s Word, but I wasn’t sure in what context. I prayed about the issue a lot privately during my postgraduate year, and asked the Lord to guide me. Completely independently of my heart convictions, the elders in the Church of which I was a member (Newtownards Baptist) approached me and asked me to consider becoming their Assistant Pastor. It was an issue which they had been praying over for some time. After a few weeks of sustained prayer on the issue it became clear that it was most certainly God’s will, and I took up the role of Assistant in September 2000, moving on to a full pastorate in Armagh in September 2002.
GD: Interesting to hear of the way that the Lord was working in you and the elders of your church. A call to ministry should usually be recognised and affirmed by the local church. In your experience, what are the most enjoyable and the most difficult aspects of being a pastor?
AR: Undoubtedly the most enjoyable aspect is the exposure to, and proclamation of, the majesty of our God. I’m continually confounded by the marvel of God at work by His Spirit through His Word, whether from the pulpit or in the privacy of members’ homes or hospital wards. The privilege of handling Scripture and applying it closely to my own life and to those of others is unspeakable. The most difficult aspect for me is finding a balance in the various aspects of the work: i.e. getting enough time for sermon preparation/hospital and home visitation/administration as well as having personal moments simply to repent, rest or rejoice in the presence of God.
GD: The balance thing is difficult. Making time for personal communion with God is so important. We are Christians before we are Ministers. You recently announced that you and your wife hope to become missionaries in Peru. Tell us how you became convinced that the Lord was leading you in that direction.
AR: This has been an incredible journey for us. We have sensed God speaking to us in His word for over two years on this issue. My father passed into the presence of the Lord in October 2004, and this forced us to rethink a lot of things in our life and ministry, not least of which was the direction God would have us take for the future. As we have read and prayed together we have become convinced that the Lord wants us to serve Him in Peru. The sense of call which we have experienced has been so clear and compelling that for us to have waited any longer in taking this step would have equalled disobedience. It has been a painful decision as I am leaving the pastoral ministry of a church which we both love, not mention our families – but we are so encouraged and blessed to have heard God’s voice so clearly. When we approached Baptist Missions and described what God had been saying and doing in our lives they were able to share that they have been praying for workers to minister in the specific areas of service in Peru that we have been burdened for. Our God truly is the Lord of the harvest!!
GD: Exciting times! May the Lord continue to guide you as you seek to do his will. What are your top three songs or pieces of music?
AR: Working Man’s Blues Pt.2 by Bob Dylan, Queen of the Slipstream by Van Morrison and When Love Came Down to Earth by Stuart Townend.
GD: Interesting choices! Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?
AR: Without doubt John Brew, a missionary with Baptist Missions in Peru. I first met John in July 2000 and he introduced me to Reformed literature. His book recommendations, wise counsel, and humble scholarship have moved and inspired me since.
GD: What would you say is the biggest challenge facing evangelicalism today?
AR: In Western Evangelicalism, an acceptance of the mediocrity of our experience of God. I know that there are manifold theological trends threatening to undermine issues as crucial as the atonement and the nature of evangelical identity - but at the grass roots level apathy seems to be the big killer. I think that most individual believers, and many churches, have a very poor sense of Christian history and revival, and perhaps have come to believe that the insipid, second-priority Christianity of our generation is the norm. We need a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, a fresh fear of God, a heart stopping encounter with His majesty, glory and grace. I think we have made the seed-choking deceitfulness of riches, which Jesus described, into a lifestyle choice - and that is a tragedy.
GD: Very thought provoking and challenging answer. We certainly need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit upon the evangelical churches of our day. Now, what is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months? It is a must read because....
AR: O. Palmer Robertson’s Christ of the Covenants. While his style and content are fairly elementary, this book has clarified and illuminated so many issues for me. I was brought up in a dispensationalist background, and this book has helped me to articulate in theological language the Reformed convictions that I came to independently through my reading of Scripture. Mind you, Christopher J. Wright’s The Mission of God is currently proving a serious contender for that crown, but then again it would probably be cheating to mention two books!!
GD: Yes it would! Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?
AR: My first ports of call when I go online are normally: Gary Brady’s ‘Heavenly Worldliness’ (interview Series 1 here) for its brilliant mixture of serious biographical/theological reflection and whimsical projects like the ‘Bloggy Man’ and ‘Favourite Puns’. Michael Jensen’s ‘Blogging Parson’ (interview Series 1 here) is also a challenging and intellectually stretching read. Geoff Thomas’ ‘Glog’ (interview Series 1 here) has been a firm favourite, although I wish he’d update a little more regularly. Your own ‘Exiled Preacher’ (trying to avoid any flattery) is superb. I enjoy your engagement with theological issues, as well as your sense of humour. Finally, I had developed a penchant for the musings of a certain theological monkey – David Sky (interview here) – but he was the victim of a horrific crushing incident (here) and hasn’t blogged in a while. I’m sure many other bloggers also mourn his demise.
GD: You are too kind. As you mentioned him, David Sky is slowly recovering from his dramatic accident. He's asked if I will do an interview for his blog, but I'm not sure, he can be a very cheeky monkey! Anyway, thanks for dropping by for this chat. It's been great talking to you.
Who will be next man to sit in the coveted "hot seat"? Has it always got to be a bloke? There are some female theobloggers out there, you know.


Gary Brady said...

Thanks for that Guy. And thanks andrew - clearly a man of taste. I ntoe you are an English grdaute - now it all makes sense!

Gary Brady said...

As yuo btho konw teh atcaul odre of teh lttrse is nto ipmorpant

Guy Davies said...

Have you spotted some archetypo Eixled Preachre mistakse?

Alan said...

Tehy do say tghouh taht you hvae to get the frsit and lsat leertts in the rghit pacle for it to raelly wrok wlel.