Tuesday, August 9, 2011

7 Questions with Mike McKinley: Author of “Am I Really a Christian?”

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to read and review Mike McKinley’s new book, “Am I Really a Christian?”.  I noted that McKinley does a phenomenal job of “walking the fine line between easy-believism and morbid introspection.  He does it with pastoral sensitivity, wit, wisdom, and engaging writing.”

Even in the midst of his wife giving birth to their fifth child Mike was kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions.  And he even manages to use awesome words like “canard” in the interview.

1. What motivated you to write this book?

Well, it's a question that comes up a lot in the course of my pastoral ministry. 

It's such a basic question.  Really, the book is about conversion.  We tend to focus so much in the church on getting people to convert that we don't talk very much about what conversion is and what it looks like in someone's life.  But a misunderstanding in that arena leads to problems in almost every other area of church life.

2. You probably could have gotten quite a few different people to write the foreword for such an important topic. I’m curious, why Kirk Cameron?

The book is not aimed at pastors or theologians, so it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to have a pastor or theologian do the preface.  It seemed like the themes of the books fit well with a lot of the themes of Kirk's ministry, and he is known and respected by Christians all over the country. 

Plus, my sister had a huge crush on him in the 1980's.

3. As I read through this book I could tell that you are a pastor. I’ve read books and heard sermons on assurance that seem to lack pastoral sensitivity. You seem to effectively walk that fine line between easy-believism and morbid-introspection. What were some of your helps in doing this? Do you have any pastoral experiences that either taught you to be more sensitive in your approach or also experiences that taught you to be more pointed?

The sensitive part is easier.  If you're a pastor, you're going to deal with people who love the Lord but struggle with assurance.  It's always a joy to point those people to kindness of Christ.  I always keep extra copies of Sibbes' A Bruised Reed on hand in my office for just such a purpose, and it seems like a go through a stack of them every year. 

But I've also dealt with a good number of professing Christians who are hardened in and even proud of their sin.  It's a sad kind of ministry, but love requires you to use the Bible a bit like a pinata stick.  You hope that God shows people their state and leads them to repentance.  

The old canard is that pastoral ministry requires you to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.  It's true.

4. In your book you list 5 things that the Bible says will accompany a true conversion. What if I get 3 out of 5?

The 5 things are:
1.  Belief in true doctrine.
2.  Hatred for sin in your life.
3.  Perseverance over time.
4. Love for other people.
5.  Freedom from the love of the world.

The Bible speaks of the absence of each of those 5 things in terms of being deal breakers.  So it may be that some of those things are stronger or weaker in specific Christians, but the total absence of any one of them is very concerning.

5. Some have suggested that books like this are not helpful because it causes true believers to doubt their salvation. It is their belief that we should never question our salvation. What is your response to that? (Really, I’m looking for what is your response to those in the free-grace-Lordship-salvation-is-the-devil camp).

The apostles Paul (II Corinthians 13:5) and Peter (II Peter 2:10) didn't seem to share that concern. 
My fear is that there are millions of people who are inoculated to the gospel because they prayed a prayer or were baptized when they were a child and received a false sense of assurance.  As a result, they never hear the call to repent and believe as directed to them.

So I guess I'd say that there are worse things than doubting your salvation.  Like thinking you're going to heaven and winding up in Hell. 

6. As an Eagles fan how excited are you about the upcoming season? How excited were you when you found out the Eagles had signed top free agent Nnamdi Asomugha?

Well, my heart tells me that this is our year.  But history makes me think that this is just another way for football to get my hopes up and then crush me.

I'm insanely excited about Asomugha.  I was sitting in the NICU with my newborn child when I got the text that they had signed him.  It was strange, my wife wasn't as excited as I was.  But when I explained that this meant we had three shut down corners and we could now dominate from our nickel defense, she understood.

7. Your book has been on the shelves for a couple months now. Many people have read it and you have probably gotten a good amount of feedback. Is there anything that you would change in a second edition?

I think I'd build upon chapter 9, where I talk about the role of the church in helping us determine whether we're Christians.  There's a lot more to say there than what I said.

8. This last one isn’t really a question. I just wanted to thank you for chapter 9. I think that what is lacking in many books on this topic is the relationship between assurance and the body of Christ. I would love to see somebody even build upon what you have written here. So, thank you!

Thanks.  I think people have really appreciated that chapter, and the credit goes to my good friend and editor Jonathan Leeman.  He read the first draft of the book and suggested that the role of the church needed to be much more prominent.  He was correct, I think.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions.

If you think this book may be helpful to you or a friend you can buy it for around 10 bucks.

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