Tim Challies (pronounced CHALL-eez) did not start blogging back in 2002 because he wanted to become one of the most popular Christian bloggers in the world. He was just doing it to share pictures of his kids with family members.
But then photo sharing eventually turned into daily posts about the Christian life, and 13 years after he started Challies.com, he has become a powerhouse in the Christian blogging world (not to mention the fact that in the meantime, he wrote three books, co-founded a publishing company, works as a pastor, and is raising three children with his wife, Aileen).
Tim was the first Christian influencer we interviewed a year ago in our popular Five Questions series. And in this follow-up interview, Tim talks about things like how to pick a good mate, why women don’t publicly read Scripture during his church’s services, and what Christian men can learn from the Ashley Madison debacle.
- You speak very highly of your wife, Aileen, and the way she supports you in your ministry. What kinds of signs should a single person look for in finding a mate who will grow into a good marriage partner?
One of my observations when I see people dating today is that many of them are prone to massively overthinking the whole issue. They have entire philosophies and theologies of dating and relationships, and somehow it all seems to hinder the actual task of finding a spouse. Obviously there is something to be said for thinking through these things, but somewhere and somehow it can go overboard.
I was 19 when Aileen and I began to date, and I very quickly knew I wanted to marry her, which we did at 21. What did I see in her? I saw compatibility. Of course, there was attraction and fun and all the rest; but mostly I saw that we were compatible, that we loved to do things together, that we were capable of working together, that we loved to host events together, that we thought about the world and about life in very similar ways. More than anything else, I urge single people to look for someone who is a committed Christian and someone they simply enjoy being with. In most cases, that is enough. They can build the rest from there.
I should point out that for all the compatibility between Aileen and me, we are not exactly similar. She does not read a lot of blogs and does not spend much time on social media. If she ever ends up speaking at the front of a room it is because she has been dragged there. She hasn’t quite gotten around to reading (or finishing, at least) any of my books. She’s far more likely to immerse herself in a novel than in whatever I am reading. So even while we are compatible, we are not identical. And vive la différence!
- You once wrote about the seriousness with which public Bible reading is treated at your church and said, “We consider this a teaching ministry, which means that it is a ministry reserved for men.” I’ve never heard of a church with this practice. Are women allowed to lead music at your church, and if so, can they lead songs that come straight from Scripture?
Every church has to grapple with difficult texts. We all have to determine which parts of the Bible are bound by the context in which they were written and which are transcultural. At Grace Fellowship Church we have had to grapple with this when it comes to the public reading of Scripture.
We have a part of each service dedicated to reading an extended portion of the Bible. We formally bracket this time with statements like, “Listen as I read God’s holy Word,” and, when we conclude, “This is the Word of the Lord,” to which all the people reply, “Thanks be to God.” We understand this as a formal time of teaching in which the Scripture reader is publicly teaching God’s Word to the congregation. For that reason we regard it as something God reserves not for men, but for men who are qualified to teach (if you’re interested in learning more, do read the article).
When it comes to music, women serve by singing, playing instruments and running the soundboard. The actual leadership of the music we, again, reserve for qualified men since we see it, too, as a teaching role. But women participate fully and freely under their leadership, including singing songs that are drawn from Scripture.
With all of that said, this reflects our understanding of some difficult texts for which there is a variety of understandings. I believe each church has freedom to determine what they believe here and to proceed accordingly. It is certainly not an issue of primary importance.
- What’s a key lesson you want Christian men to take from the Ashley Madison hacking debacle?
I will be honest: The Ashley Madison debacle threatens to make me ashamed to be a man. I hate to say it like that, but I find it greatly disheartening that so many men would express their sinful desires by signing up for this kind of service.
I want men to understand that our sin is causing women to lose their confidence in us. That is true even of Christian men. And through it all, we are giving women every reason to doubt us. We all know that young men are gorging themselves on pornography, and now we know that older men are lustfully pursuing affairs through sites like this one.
Who can blame women for becoming increasingly disillusioned with men? Men, if you take anything else from the Ashley Madison situation, take this: Repent of your sin and pursue holiness and godliness. Through the Holy Spirit you can — for the good of yourself, your marriage, your family and your church, you simply must.
- You minister to a lot of pastors through your blogs, and I assume you hear from them pretty often. What’s a need you repeatedly hear from pastors that might surprise their congregants?
That’s a good question, and I had to think about it for a little while. I tend to hear from pastors when they are dealing with very complicated situations. Pastors most often find themselves helping people, and people are endlessly complicated. The need I hear from pastors is the need for wisdom to deal with all of these complexities.
I suppose life and ministry have always been complex, but somehow our fast-paced, always-on, digital world seems to have made it more so than ever. Pastors who love their congregations work hard to gain wisdom and to bring it to bear on difficult situations. So make it a point to pray for your pastor. Pray for him often and pray for him fervently. You may be surprised at just how inadequate he feels as he faces many of the challenges of his position.
- Canada is about a decade ahead of the United States in these major, sexual culture shifts. What advice do you have for Americans who are shell shocked as they realize they’re being forcibly moved to the margins?
One of the unique complexities of Canada is that we tend to make these major cultural shifts ahead of America, and yet the shifts often do not really play out here until America has caught up. When Canada makes the change it shows that the culture shift is coming. When America makes the change it shows that the culture shift has come. In some ways it takes America to motivate Canada.
We have had legalized gay marriage for a decade now, and, on the whole, it has not made much of a difference to the lives of Canadian Christians. I do not know of a pastor who has faced substantial difficulty because of his stance on the issue. I do not know of bakers who have been sued for refusing to bake wedding cakes or florists who have been sued for declining to provide flowers.
It is possible that these things have happened, but I haven’t heard of them. Some of this may represent the generally passive Canadian personality, and some of it is simple math: We have only one tenth the population of the United States. Yet now, ten years later, I am anticipating that more people will see the example from the other side of the border and begin to imitate it.
So I don’t really have much advice because we have not yet been forcibly moved to the margins. I suspect that this will happen now at roughly the same time and at roughly the same pace in both of our nations and in many others as well. We are going to have to learn together how to exist in a society that now regards Christianity as a great liability rather than an asset.