Last month I had the opportunity to review a great book by Joe Thorn titled Note to Self. I found the book immensely helpful and one that I plan on purchasing a few copies of to hand out to people who may find it helpful. Joe was kind enough to answer 7 questions for me about his book, his beard, and his church.
1. I love the idea for this book. It’s almost like selling your personal journal but it is so much more. Where did the idea for this book come from?
It’s a habit I’ve worked on for almost 20 years through journaling. A few years ago I posted a couple posts on my blog titled, “Note to Self.” Someone from Crossway saw those posts and asked if I could write a book in the same vein. I was excited to do it, and working with Crossway has been amazing.
2. Who is the book written for?
In one sense it is written for any Christian who wants to explore what it means and looks like to “preach to themselves.” It is definitely suited for a broad audience. It’s been great to see young and old, men and women, responding so positively to it. In another sense I wrote it for myself and the church I pastor. The people of Redeemer are always first in my heart and attention in ministry.
3. For a few years now I have been working on training students to preach the gospel to themselves. One of the obstacles that I run into (especially for baby Christians–like many of our teenagers) is that their lack of expansive gospel knowledge makes this discipline difficult. When trying to apply the gospel to certain situations in their lives they often give blank stares and “uhmmm, baby Jesus” type of answers. Any tips? How do you help those that are newer believers grow in their ability to preach the gospel to themselves?
It’s important to understand the gospel itself, and it’s myriad of applications and implications. I think it’s helpful to see the gospel as what God has accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Christians need to be able to unpack what Jesus did in each of these aspects of his redemptive work. From there we can begin to apply his work to our various needs, experiences, desires, temptations, weaknesses, frustrations, fears, etc. What this really calls for is a commitment to grow in a Christ-centered systematic Theology. And, we are all growing as theologians. It takes time. So start wherever you are, learn from others who are farther along, dwell long in the word of God, stay hungry, and stay humble.
4. You pastor at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL. Tell us a little about your church and share with us one of the coolest things that you see the Lord doing in your church at this time.
We started Redeemer Fellowship almost 5 years ago. This is the healthiest church I have even been a member of, and it’s a true honor and privilege to serve the people as Lead Pastor. Most recently we have had to move to two Sunday services to handle the number of people and our small space. Our goal is to return to a single service once we get the space issue figured out. What has been so encouraging in all of this is how everyone at Redeemer is stepping up to sacrifice and serve in new and necessary ways so that we, as a church, can function well and carry out the mission Christ gave us. We have amazing leaders and volunteers God is using to do it all, and I have so little to do with most of it.
5. Is preaching the gospel to yourself an exclusively personal discipline? Or is there a way that this discipline can also be exercised corporately?
Well, by definition it is a personal discipline, but it certainly yields fruit that benefits the entire congregation, as we minister to one another out of what God is teaching us. If we are to exhort and encourage one another, this should be growing out of what we have been saying to ourselves. And while preaching to ourselves is something we do personally, we often do it together while sitting under the preaching of God’s word.
6. You have started a new blog called Bearded Gospel Men. What is your inspiration for this new website?
Haha. Honestly, I started that blog as a venue to get the beard nerdity out of my system. No one really wants to hear me blather about pogonotrophy, so I started BGM to keep it all in one location. I think I finally have it worked out. The beard is going strong, but the blog is fading. maybe someone else will take it over for me.
7. Personally, what are your beard goals? Apart from preaching the gospel to it, do you have any beard growing tips?
My goal is something of the mid range Knoxian longbeard. Some depictions of the Scottish Reformer have his beard hitting his stomach. Other have it hitting the bottom of the chest, which is, for now, my goal. But, it’s just a beard, so I’m not taking it too seriously.
Tips? Stop shaving is a good place to start. Be patient. It takes time, months to get somewhere. Stay committed. If you’re going long you will go through some rather unruly stages. In the end, any facial hair is better than none. So grow a handsome ‘stache, goatee, or a full beard. But don’t grow anything unless you are first willing to live as a man.
Check out Joe’s progress:
Thanks to Joe for conducting the interview. May the Lord bless your beard growing but more than anything may he bless your walk with Christ and your ministry!
Stay tuned to Borrowed Light as tomorrow we will give away a copy of Joe’s book Note to Self.