Note: This is the transcript of Mark Minnick - The SharperIron Interview | Part 1- “The Pastor and His Study,” posted May 29, 2006.
MALE SPEAKER: Welcome to the broadcast of SharperIron. This broadcast features news and ideas designed to convey a Christian worldview.
SHARPERIRON: Doctor Mark Minnick serves of the pastor of Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. He is not only a pastor to his congregation, but has become a pastor’s pastor to preachers around the world.
In addition to his pastoral ministry, he teaches at Bob Jones University, serves on the boards of Gospel Fellowship Association Missions, and the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, and serves as a member of the Committee on Bible Text and Translations.
Mark is a contributing editor to Frontline Magazine, where his First Partakers column encourages and challenges men in the ministry.
Pastor Minnick’s philosophy of ministry places a priority on serious attention to the precise, systematic exposition of the word of God, coupled with an emphasis on faithful, systematic community evangelism.
His passion is to seek and to display the Glory of God revealed, through the Bible, in the face of Jesus Christ.
SharperIron editor, Jason Janz, had the opportunity to interview Dr. Minnick. In part one of this interview, the emphasis will be focus on the pastor’s life and study. We hope it will be a blessing to you.
JASON: I’m here with Pastor Mark Minnick of the Mount Calvary Baptist Church and here to do an interview on SharperIron. Thank you, Dr. Minnick, for spending some time with us.
MARK: Jason, really glad to do it.
MARK: Thank you for the opportunity.
JASON: Can you explain to me a little bit about your call to ministry?
MARK: How it happened?
JASON: Yes, how it happened and how you became a pastor.
MARK: Okay, I was raised in a pastor’s home. And, it’s just really a little odd, that before I even knew the Lord personally and was regenerated, I had this sense that I was suppose to be in the ministry. I didn’t want to be.
And as a kid, you know, people would ask, are you going to be a preacher like your dad? And my, you know, response was just to recoil from that and say, oh no. You know, no I’m not going to be a preacher.
But in my heart I knew that’s what God wanted me to do. And finally, my senior year in high school was when I surrendered to it. Our family had grown up in very small towns in Kansas.
And so, the highest aspiration I had was to go to Canada and homestead some land and be a trapper and a hunter. And my senior year in high school, our family moved to Erie Pennsylvania.
For the first time in my life, I actually was in a youth group with some Christian kids and some of them were very fervent. And it really caused me to surrender my life to the ministry.
JASON: Great, and then you went off for training. Did you come here to Bob Jones?
MARK: I came to BJ, and when I went looking for schools, I wrote off to Wheaton, to Moody, to Kings College, to Hotan College, every Christian school I’d ever heard of. I had never heard of Bob Jones.
And a traveling evangelist cam through and he said you ought to write to Bob Jones, first I’d ever heard of it. So I wrote and I got the material back. And in the material there was a picture of some students standing on the campus.
And I looked at those kids and I said, that’s what I wished I looked like. Those kids look like they’ve got it all together. The kids I was hanging around with were Jesus freaks. Those were the days of the Jesus freaks.
JASON: You hang out with, you hung out with Jesus freaks?
MARK: I hung out with Jesus freaks.
MARK: And we would, we’d go down to the, down to Presqu’ile, on Lake Erie, Sunday nights, make a camp fire, sit around in sandals, strum guitars, sing It Only Takes a Spark to Get a Fire Burning.
But, believe me, that was a whole lot better than where I’d been in Kansas, you know. I mean, this was a big advancement for me, and real good.
But when I saw that picture of those kids, I said, now those kids, that, I wish my life was like those kids looked. So I applied and came, didn’t know one person on the campus, [inaudible] happened.
JASON: And you went on to complete several degrees. Can you briefly explain those?
MARK: I did a Degree in Bible, graduated in 75, Masters in Bible 77, and was a Graduate Assistant here teaching, preaching at the same time, and then a PHD in New Testament Interpretation in 1983.
JASON: Okay great. What about your family? Did you meet your wife here too?
MARK: Met my here, met her at a supper table my freshman year. She was from Texas, and her dad had literally told her she was not to date anybody who was from East of the Mississippi. And she was especially not to date anybody who was going to be a preacher.
MARK: And he really meant it. He was a good man, but he had some, you know, real strong feelings about that. But we, we honored her parents in every way that we could.
And they finally gave their blessing to the relationship and we were married in 1976. We have three daughters. My oldest is married to Nathan Crochet, who’s actually my office mate here and working on a PHD in theology.
MARK: And then I have a girl who’s 17 and a girl whose 14.
JASON: Okay, and how long have you been at Mount Calvary?
MARK: Started there as an Associate in 1980 with a man named Jesse Boyd, who is full time on the Bible faculty here. I was his associate for nine years. And then, in 1989, I left the full time Bible faculty here, took the church full time, and then I just, I’ve continued to teach part time here.
JASON: Okay, I read your church history. It has a pretty interesting history, Bootleg Corner.
MARK: Bootleg Corner, yes.
JASON: Yes, I mean are you still in that same general area?
MARK: Yes and we’re redeeming it. [Laughs]
JASON: Amen, Amen.
MARK: We’ve bought almost everything except, we bought almost everything except the actual boot of Bootleg Corner, and we’ve got our eyes on that too, so.
JASON: Oh great. Explain your, I mean I listen to your tapes quite regularly. And then you obviously speak around a lot. Explain your burden for pastors. How did that develop? Some describe you as a pastor to pastors.
MARK: Well, it probably started when I had the opportunity to be a graduate assistant here and teach preaching. And I came in underneath Dr. Richard Rupp, who was in charge of Ministerial Class, later on in his career.
But at the time he was the Homiletics Professor here. He taught at seven, if you can believe this, he gave the same lecture seven times.
JASON: In one day?
MARK: Well he would do it six times one day, one time the next day, but he had seven.
MARK: Every Ministerial Student came through took Dr Rupp, and he had seven sections of the same class and would give that lecture seven times. But I came in to help him grade papers and that kind of thing, initially. But that really got me into the arena of having good [inaudible] preparing for ministry.
And then I think secondly just being here in connection with a church, that had a lot of Ministerial Students coming to it. And so again, develop a network of relationships with guys that are in the ministry.
But maybe, also, because reading about preachers, their lives, biography, and sermons, had always been a hobby after I surrendered to the ministry. And so I would come up with a lot of stuff that I just had a passion to get a chance to say to somebody about preaching and preachers. In other words, this providentially would seem to open up places to do that.
JASON: Great. I read through most of the articles that you have published in Frontline Magazine over the last couple of years. And I think, I want to highlight some of those, because I think they can be a great help to some pastors. And I’d like to pursue in a few ideas more deeply.
And the first topic again, preaching. And you write, you seem to have a real passion for writing about it. You take Benjamin Keach message in a series of articles as an example of meaty, doctrinal message.
MARK: That one goes back a ways yes.
JASON: Yes, you say.
MARK: You remember that better than I so.
JASON: You say this, nothing about his sermons strikes you as light, shallow, or trivial. It’s weighty, but not oppressive. It is deep, but not difficult. And it conveys great importance with a pretentiousness.
Isn’t that hard to do for a preacher, to convey a deep message without just losing people in the process?
MARK: Yes, yes, it really, I agree, and you know, the founder of this institution said that simplicity was truths most beautiful or most exquisite garb. And I think we all recognize that. That the ability of someone to take difficult things and make them palatable, and understandable to the common person, is really a remarkable gift.
But I would also say that a lot of it just comes down to sweat. It’s a matter of working at it. You can’t make anything simple and understandable unless you have really probed it, and grasped it in its entirety, and know how to distill it down to the very essence.
MARK: And people, like Keach, have labored at that.
JASON: Would you say, like even in my preaching, I would struggle with it. To what degree would you actually study the text and the meaning in what you want to say, versus spending time actually working on the delivery? Is there a good barometer there to keep in mind?
MARK: Okay, okay, I personally have never worked on delivery, per say. Maybe it’s a reaction against a kind of a contrived, public speech that is artificial, and that has almost the flavor of acting connected with it.
JASON: Or maybe a better way to put it would be like, like Spindall [sp] would always say, I do half, half text, half application in the message. He owes, maybe he puts 11, or I’m talking about the time to put into the application of it.
MARK: Okay, you know Jason, that’s a really interesting question coming today, and I’ll tell you why. I’m part of a study group of pastors. In fact, we were just talking about that before the interview.
JASON: Oh, okay.
MARK: And the book that we just read is a Book of Servants, by Jonathan Edwards, that was just published last year. Robin Holman publishes it. And we analyzed these sermons.
We each took three of them and we analyzed them. And Edwards was using the very standard, puritan, homiletical approach of the day, which is to set forth the teaching of his text, and then to have two major components to his sermon. The first being the doctrine, which, you know, they could spin out.
MARK: Almost add in [inaudible] with points, and the second being the application. And in some cases the applicational section of those sermons is almost as long as the doctrinal portion.
JASON: Oh yes.
MARK: They go on for page, after page, after page, and here’s what we were talking about. And I’d never been in a context where I was talking about this with a group of preachers.
What we realized is that for him, for Jonathan Edwards, to have developed his application to the lengths that he did, he would have had to spend great amounts of time meditating to come up with those applications.
JASON: They give Charnock’s The Existence And Attributes of God, that the applications of the attributes are astounding, really.
MARK: And you think of the thought that would go into that. I would say we probably are really deficient today, even in fundamentalism with, we’re not deficient in application.
In fact, maybe one of our weaknesses has been that we’ve jumped application too quickly.
But, if, as fundamentalists, we were really carefully working through the doctrine, and we had a systematic grid, in which we were placing it, placing the Biblical Theology, and then we attempted to do application, the way for instance Edwards is doing it, or Keach was doing it, or you see a John Owen doing it, or a Richard Baxter, or John Flavel, the time that would be involved in that is, would be just phenomenal.
JASON: Great, Keach, in the message that you highlight, quotes from 36 different chapters in the Bible in this one sermon. And the very words of God comprise a significant [inaudible] content, you say.
This takes work. And it wasn’t even an expository message, it was a topical message. And there seems to be a reaction against topical preaching. Can you explain good, topical preaching as opposed to bad, topical preaching?
MARK: Yes, good, topical preaching is expository preaching in a multiplicity of text. There’s got to be a place for topical preaching, because the Bible itself reveals some themes in a primarily topical fashion.
Meaning, that you don’t have extended passages on that topic. Case in point, angelology. The Bible has a great deal that it says about angels. But you’re not going to find, you know, the third chapter of a certain epistle largely taken up with that. So to preach that revealed material, you’re not going to be able to go to lengthy passages working through the facts of applications of conformant. You’re going to have to pick up a multiplicity of text, all right.
But when those texts are handled they ought to be handled in the expository fashion. Meaning what? Meaning that you’re expounding those texts in a historical, in a literal, historical, pragmatical way.
JASON: Good, you obviously are burdened about preaching, and you probably have a pretty good read on where preaching is at. I know Dave Thorne has done some good work trying to promote expository preaching within fundamentalism. In your opinion, what is the current state of preaching in fundamentalism?
MARK: Wow. Well, like everybody, I can only answer that from the exposure that I have to it.
JASON: Do you think it’s better than it was ten or 20 years ago?
MARK: In some respects yes, I do think that the pendulum has swung to where we are leaving behind some of the strengths of preaching we heard ten or 15 years ago. And by that I would mean this, we are seeing a wave of men now, coming along, who really understand the necessity of a sound hermeneutic, that underlies and is the foundation for, I would say, even the outline structure of their sermons.
This is, this is excellent, and this has been so blessed to see. And there is more attention being given today to the rhetorical process of explanation within the body of the outline, versus a sermon that is primarily illustration and application.
The thing, however, that we can easily lose is the devotional thought, the very thing we were just talking about, the application, you know, because we only have so much time in which to preach, and we’re filling up the time with explanation. So, there’s little time left for application. So it’s work.
JASON: We’re hitting the mind, but the heart is…
MARK: We could have a tendency to leave that behind. And I, Jason I think there’s also this, the point at which every preacher catches. But you know, the old saying is, in a sermon, what you want to do is fly low or start, you know, start slow, fly low, rise higher, catch fire.
The point at which you catch fire is application. And we could see a trend toward the loss of passion in the pulpit that comes, you know, when the preacher now is really boring down, bearing down on his congregation with the finer points of this is what you have, this is the burden you have got to come to today, on the basis of this truth.
JASON: Good. I also pick up a reaction against some that, well maybe I should ask you this way. I hear much today of complaints of moralism in preaching, we were talking about application I think. I hear a lot of young guys popping up and saying that’s moralism.
And you do say that if a Christian were to preach a sermon that a Jewish Rabbi could preach, then that sermon is not Christian proclamation. That true preaching is Christo-centric. What is moralism and what are its dangers?
MARK: Yes, well I think, what I would be referring to, is the teaching of standards and Bible ethics. Ethical standards of behavior, apart from deliberately preaching those in the context of ones relationship to Jesus Christ. And the reason that I feel very safe in issuing that, at least for me and anybody that I talk to, issuing that kind of warning, is because of exactly what is going on in the epistles.
The epistles relate everything to being in Christ.
MARK: And that is the underlying relationship. And even the little phrase that undergirds everything in the epistles. Now I first stumbled, really, across that in a book by T. D. Bernard called The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament. And he develops that thought. And he actually justifies that being the underlying theme of everything, particularly Paul’s epistles, by just setting forth, over several pages, the examples of Paul’s use of this expression.
You know, wives obey their husbands in the Lord. Christians rejoice in the Lord. Children obey their parents in the Lord, or in Christ. Or what, Ephesians, chapter one, what God, the Father’s, doing in the church he’s doing in Christ, or by Christ, everything.
So in our preaching, we’ve got to tie back rejoicing, or fleeing fornication, or weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice, or everything we do, to the fact that you do this as a Christian and drawing on that relationship with the Lord. And it’s a matter of pleasing the Lord, and you just keep tying it back that way, got to do it.
JASON: Okay, is there an over reaction against moralism to the point where some guys are saying there’s no need for application, It’s going to turn into legalism. And does the pendulum swing too far, you think, sometimes?
MARK: Sure, yes, sure. Can, and you know what, what makes that point, makes your point is that, in the New Testament itself, you’ve got Paul having to deal with the different tendencies of the human mind.
With reference to the same, great, theological truths. And God, in his wisdom and providence, gave us letters in the New Testament, address the churches who have taken fundamental truth and run in the representative directions that a fallen human mind is going to go with that truth and distort it.
So on the one hand, you have the libertarianism reflected, for instance in the Corinthian church, where Christians… All right, here’s this liberty. And you got whole chapters in which Paul is dealing with them now about your liberty in Christ, what this means. When it comes right down, even to the, even to the beef steak on your table, and where that came from in the association.
And, on the other hand, you’ve got Galatians. And what does it mean to be justified by faith, than with reference to people who want to impose the law on you?
So the tendency, you’re talking about, to take truth, run with it too far in a certain direction, to where you run over the edge of a cliff. Or the way I like to put it is you drop off the knife edge. You know, all right doctrine brings you up on a knife edge to where, if you take a step, either side, you just, you just stepped into error.
And you see Paul reflecting that when he says things like, does this mean that, what I just taught, does this mean that, and he pulls you back from the edge by saying, in the King James, God forbid. [Inaudible] may it never be that you take that step with this truth. Logically, this truth leads to that step. But may it never be that you would take that step, because that actually is contrary to the character of God. Or that actually brings you into conflict with an equally valid truth somewhere else.
JASON: Great. We move into the preacher’s study here. I’ve listened to numbers of your sermons and it’s obvious that you have a good, study ethic. What are your study habits? Would you mind sharing those?
MARK: Yes, no I don’t mean I mind sharing them. You know, and so much of this depends on the individual man. So I just wouldn’t want, in any way, to try to set this up as a standard for anybody else. It’s, Lloyd Jones was the one who kept saying you got to know yourself.
MARK: You know, Jack sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean. And there’s a truth to that.
For me, my church allows me a day off a week. In our schedules at the church, that’s Monday for me. But what does that mean?
Well I could rake leaves on Monday, or I could do what I really want to do on Monday, which is not rake leaves.
So for me, Monday’s a study day. And it’s a study day not, it’s not sermon preparation, but for the most part, its things I want to read. That’s when I do some writing. And I just try to refresh my own spirit that way.
So I, on a Monday, if I really had my way about things and get to do what I want to do, I might be six or eight hours at my desk.
Tuesdays, for me, are administrative days, staff meeting days and I teach here at Bob Jones University. So it’s a day that I come in a teach. We typically try to have committee meetings on Tuesday nights. That’s when I try to set them up, missions, community building committee, that kind of thing. So Tuesday’s pretty well a wipe out in terms of any study.
Wednesday, almost the whole day is getting ready for Wednesday night. If I’m preaching, or right now, I’m doing some power points from the recent trip to Israel. And so that’s all day.
Thursdays, I do teach, and I might take a counseling thing. But, pretty typically, Thursday afternoon is locked out. And Thursday afternoon is when I try to get a start on one of the Sunday morning sermons.
I mean Sunday morning or Sunday evening sermons.
Friday is just nearly inviolable. I won’t do anything with anybody on a Friday. Get up in the morning, I mean it’s just all day, often it’s right into the evening almost until bed time.
Saturday morning is the same way. Saturday afternoon, I take totally off, just most of the time. Watch a ball game, do something with the family, rake the leaves.
You know, when you rake the leaves, rake the leaves.
And then Saturday night, again, I tell people in our church, you can’t die on a Saturday night. We don’t do anything at this church on a Saturday night. I don’t do weddings on a Saturday night. Spurgeon said he wouldn’t be willing to go to heaven on a Saturday night, if he had to come back and preach on a Sunday morning. So Saturday nights are inviolable.
And then Sunday morning, I get in three hours before the morning service. Sunday afternoon used to be a big time, I would get in two and a half hours on Sunday afternoon. We now have two evening services and one starts at four. So I have very little time on Sunday afternoon, but…
MARK: That’s how the week flows for me if I’m having a happy week.
JASON: Yes right, right. You do travels some so that definitely would be a problem.
MARK: Yes, that squeezes things, I’d say.
JASON: Todd Mathers says, and you bring this out, when you finish a paragraph of a sermon, I wish it might be a frequent practice with you to make a pause over it and get it into your heart.
JASON: Do you take time for sacred pauses in your preaching prep?
MARK: Yes, absolutely, although it’s not the deliberate thing where you say, okay now I’m going to do it.
MARK: I remember our former pastor Mr. Boyd. He talked about having a little study, in a little country town in Mississippi, when he first went into the ministry. And he’d be studying something, and it would grip his soul and he, the way he put it he said, I want to, it’d make me feel like I wanted to throw up the window and shout to the town, Hallelujah!
And you have those times as a preacher, and you just, you are floored at the goodness and the glory of God and that happens.
But in terms of getting it into my soul, that’s what’s going on Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon. That’s when, hopefully, the thing is finished, and I’m trying to soak it. Soak in it, and let it percolate down into my heart so I can really preach it.
And I’ll be frank with you Jason, I never have enough time to do that. I think most preachers feel that way. And that makes a huge difference in how I come into the pulpit, the amount of liberty I have.
JASON: Sure. You write on preaching on catastrophe to quote John Newton. He says, I read the newspaper that I may see how my Heavenly
Father governs the world.
JASON: Do we do a good enough Job of not only studying what Gods doing in the world, but also preaching that to our people [inaudible].
MARK: I would say that’s probably one of those areas that are getting sort of squeezed out now by our emphasis on exposition.
JASON: Right, because you, it’s hard to weave everything into your…
MARK: But I told our folks Sunday night, I’ve told them frequently, I hardly ever read the newspaper over the period of a week, at least our paper here.
But what’s, somewhere in those letters to the editor, or right there on the front page, there is not something really reflecting what, clearly, God is doing in the world, and peoples misunderstanding and misinterpretation of that.
MARK: In some cases, they’re blasphemy about it.
JASON: Sure, do you have about 20 more minutes?
MARK: Oh sure, yes. Well I mean, I try to capitalize on those. I’ll give you an illustration. There was a sermon, there was a sermon in the paper this week. That’s paid advertisement space.
MARK: And this church took it out, all right. You have a very arodiac educated man, and what he was trying to explain is the trinity. The whole sermon was about the trinity. What he taught was modalism. And he taught modalism, but using terms like, this is the orthodox position, this is the historical position, this is the position that you learned in conformation. But the guy taught modalism.
Now, as a preacher in a community, when I see that in a news paper, I want to call peoples attention to that. If nothing else, it helps my people understand that, when I am preaching on something that may appear to them to be esoteric as the trinity, folks, in fact, this has real relevance within the community that you’re living in and interacting with, because believe me, the guys on the other side of this theological issue, they’re articulating their views too.
MARK: And I would say this as well along that line, I may be kind of spinning out here, but, I think it’s really important you understand that the most important thing is not whether something is relevant.
MARK: The most important thing is whether it’s true. And we preach truth whether anybody thinks it’s relevant or not, because to God it is the most relevant thing we can be saying.