It was very exciting to see the 2,500-seater Caird Hall in Dundee extremely crowded on Sunday when I had the joy of preaching to believers from 31 churches across the city and beyond.
I also enjoyed renewed fellowship with Dave Robertson, who now pastors the church once led by Robert Murray McCheyne, as well as having excellent time with Craig Stocks, the leader of City Church Dundee, our Newfrontiers plant there. It was Craig who interviewed me for the Dundee For Christ magazine and his interview follows:
Q: Terry, we are delighted to be having you in Dundee for Resurrection Day 2009, what is it that attracted you to Dundee?
A: I look forward to coming to Dundee for Resurrection Day 2009. When I first came to Edinburgh, having read about the Covenanters, I was thrilled to stand on that hallowed ground and I am delighted to come into the city always associated with Robert Murray McCheyne and the great Christian heritage that he represented. I look forward to celebrating Jesus with you.
Q: Tell us how you became a Christian.
A: I first became a Christian when my sister, who had left home and was living in London, met a Christian. She came home to Brighton one weekend and asked if she could speak to me. She told me she had become a Christian, which amazed me because I thought we were all Christians. She told me she had been born again, a phrase that I had never heard. Before the evening was out I was kneeling, receiving Christ into my life. I was 16 years of age and initially made a very poor attempt at following Christ, but when I was about 20 God spoke to me strongly through a sermon, which caused me to nail my colours and try to follow Jesus wholeheartedly.
Q: What is your ministry background? Have you always been a Bible teacher and International conference speaker?
A: I began to attend a Baptist church which was led by a great Bible-teaching pastor. He gave me a love for Scripture and directed me to excellent books. Gradually I found that God was helping me to become a Bible teacher and gradually that sphere of teaching has grown. I began to speak at conferences and Bible Weeks, initially in the South of England and then increasingly widely within the UK and then subsequently internationally. I never dreamed that that development would take place but I have had the privilege of preaching now in many nations and I think actually in every continent.
Q: You have on occasion courted controversy, and taken a bold stance on, for example, the baptism in the Spirit and the doctrine of the church. You were also prominent in the recent controversy on penal substitution. Why do you think it is important that we engage in these debates? Doesn’t it cause division in the church?
A: My commitment to the Scripture has sometimes led me into some controversy. This has always been with an attempt to contend for the faith. It’s important to contend without being unduly contentious! Some truths have become controversial in their time. There seem to come seasons in church life when issues become controversial. Martin Luther made the point that a good soldier is involved where the battle is actually raging, and sometimes one has been involved in battles over doctrines of importance because they are too important to yield ground on.
Q: Perhaps “in spite” of your clear stance on certain issues, you have been making friends and getting involved with churches across the evangelical spectrum, I even saw an article by David Robertson about you in the Free Church magazine. What motivates you to try and work across the evangelical churches?
A: Nevertheless, it has always been my desire to build strong relationships with people across the Christian spectrum and we have worked very hard to make friends with God’s people wherever they are happy to meet. Each year, I gather leaders from the various church streams in the country and we enjoy excellent fellowship. I am very committed to my own family of churches, which we call Newfrontiers, but am not foolish enough to think that God is only interested in us. It’s always a pleasure to meet believers in all kinds of settings.
Q: You have authored a number of books. I found particular encouragement from God’s Lavish Grace. Can you fill us in a little on how you think teaching on grace should affect us, and why you felt strongly enough to write a whole book on it?
A: I have enjoyed writing books. I never thought I would write at all. At school I did not excel in writing and I think my former English teacher would have laughed if he had heard that I intended to write. God’s Lavish Grace has been one of my more recent books and highlights the vital theme of Grace. It is so possible for us to revert to a legalistic kind of religion that robs the gospel of its wonderful freedom. Following my own years of initial backsliding, I became a very zealous Christian but often that zeal was tinged with condemnation and the constant feeling that I had not done enough to please God. When God first spoke to me about His grace, it was so wonderfully releasing that I felt like the early disciples who could not believe for joy that Jesus was risen. God’s grace changes everything and I am so grateful that my book God’s Lavish Grace has been widely used and translated already into several languages. Next year it will be published in Japanese as I speak at a big pastors’ conference in Japan.
Q: What do you believe we need to do to see Dundee and Scotland won for Jesus?
A: I believe that God is committed to the local church as the agent for world evangelisation, and I do pray that He will bless the many gospel-preaching churches across Scotland and continue to raise up more.