Thursday, October 02, 2008

Blogging in the name of the Lord: Tim Challies

First in the hot seat for this new series interviews is uberblogger....

Tim Challies

GD: Hello Tim Challies and welcome to Exiled Preacher. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

TC: Thank you for doing this little interview! I’m a pretty boring person so there is not a lot to say. I am a married father of three who lives in Oakville, Ontario (a suburb of Toronto). Though my training is in history, I am currently self-employed as a web designer. I run a blog called Challies.Com and a book review site called Discerning Reader. I am the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment.

GD: Why did you start blogging?

TC: I began back in 2002. My parents and siblings had recently moved from the Toronto area down to Atlanta and I began a little web site so I could post pictures of my children for the benefit of my family. One day I got it in my head to write an article and to post it on this little site (again, for the benefit of my family). Another article or two followed this one. From there Google and the other search engines worked their magic and other people encountered the articles. Soon others began reading the site and I learned that I enjoyed writing articles. One thing led to another; the pictures of the children came down and more articles went up. The rest, as they say, is history.

GD: What kind of things might an uninitiated reader find on your blog?

TC: In the course of an average week a reader might find links to other interesting articles and sites, one or two book reviews, and four or five articles dealing with any number of subjects. I do not plan the blog days or weeks in advance, so what comes out every day is just what is on my mind that morning.

GD: What have you found most enjoyable about blogging?

TC: The most enjoyable aspect, and this may sound hopelessly selfish, is that it challenges me to constantly be learning and growing. If I were to stop reading the Bible, if I were to stop reading good books, I’d very quickly run out of things to say. So the blog keeps me constantly seeking to learn, to grown, and to apply.

GD: Yours must be one of the biggest evangelical blogs around. Phil Johnson of Pyromanics called you, ”The World’s Most Famous Christian Blogger”®. Any hints for perennial underachievers like er, me?

TC: I think the best thing bloggers can do is to focus on creating good content. There are many tricks to driving readers to a blog, but it is far more difficult to create dedicated, day-by-day readers. To do this you will need to focus on creating very good content—the kind of thing that people will want to read on an ongoing basis.

GD: Oh, so it's content that counts. I was kind of hoping that you'd share some of the tricks. Now, is there any truth in the rumour that Adrian Warnock "discovered" you?

TC: I’ve heard this rumour too. I have quite a poor memory but that memory includes nothing about Adrian discovering me. If anything I think “The Passion of the Christ” found me. I wrote a very early review of it that was read tens of thousands of times and which drove a lot of traffic to my site.

GD: What does your family think of your blogging habit?

TC: I’ve asked my wife what she thinks of it and she assures me that it has been a good thing in my life. And my children are convinced that I’m famous because I have a blog.

GD: Your book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment came out earlier this year. What's it all about?

TC: The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment is a book that looks to the Bible to seek what God teaches on the subject of spiritual discernment, a term I define as the skill of understanding and applying God's Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong. Written for the general reader and in a way that is suitable for a wide audience, the book teaches people to think biblically so they might act biblically. It appeals for discernment, teaching the importance of this discipline and applying it to the lives of Christians.

GD: Name three of your top Christian favourite authors. Why so good?

TC: I try to read very widely but have not been reading seriously for all that long. Hence I have not had time to come up with a long list of favorite authors. Having said that, I do enjoy the books from some of the usual suspects—R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Mark Dever and others like them. Their books have always challenged me and I have benefited greatly from them.

GD: What is the most enjoyable non-Christian book that you have read recently?

TC: I do try to read quite a few non-Christian books. It is too easy, I think, to focus exclusively on Christian books. I have greatly enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s two books (The Tipping Point and Blink) and have little trouble recommending them. I think Christians who read too little outside of the Christian genre are missing out. There are some great books available beyond the bounds of the Christian bookstores.

GD: Who was the most influential figure in your theological development?

TC: My parents were by far the biggest factor in my theological development. Though very new Christians when I was born, they spent a year at L’Abri and there they gained a very solid theological grounding. They passed this on to me and to my four siblings, all of whom are committed believers in Jesus Christ.

GD: What is the most helpful work of theology that you have read in the last twelve months. It is a must read because....

TC: I suppose this would be Overcoming Sin and Temptation by John Owen. It is a difficult read but one that is very rewarding. Owen challenged me in the way I understand sin and challenged me to dedicate every effort to overcoming it. He showed that we cannot simply stand back and wait for the Spirit to sanctify away our sin, but that we must join with the Spirit in this work. Ask around and you’ll find multitudes of Christians who can attest to this book’s power and influence in their lives. That book is being challenged by Jonathan Edwards’ The Religious Affections for top spot, but I’ll withhold further comment until I’ve finished it.

GD: Good choices there. What would you say is the biggest challenge facing evangelicalism today?

TC: This is an issue to which I’ve given a lot of thought, but an issue which is remarkably difficult to answer. Still, the issue that has continued to trouble me for several years now is the sufficiency of Scripture. There was a time when Christians were rejecting the Bible as infallible and inerrant; today, though, it seems that Christians are affirming those traits while perhaps tacitly denying its sufficiency. The question for the church today is whether we will really allow the Bible to guide our faith and practice or if we will let other factors and other philosophies guide us. When we play up other factors we necessarily downplay Scripture.

GD: Tell us your top three songs or pieces of music.

TC: I listen to a lot of music and my top three songs may well vary from week-to-week. Recently I’ve been listening to the three CDs by Sojourn and have been greatly enjoying several of those tracks. I’ve also been enjoying the latest CDs from Sovereign Grace Music and have found several favorites on those albums as well.

GD: Lastly, which blogs do you enjoy reading most and why?

TC: Because I seek to point people from my site to others, I read (or at least skim) quite a few other blogs (probably 100 or more). Among my favorites would be Justin Taylor’s “Between Two Worlds” (Justin provides a good roundup of interesting new stories), "Boundless Line", Al Mohler’s blog and a quite a few that wouldn’t be of any interest except to friends and family.

GD: Well, thanks Tim for dropping by for this little chat. See ya!


Jonathan Hunt said...


Guy Davies said...

Not everybody I interview is a famous as you, Jonathan.