Author Interview with James Petty

This week’s author interview is with James Petty. He is the author of new release, Act of Grace: The Power of Generosity to Change Your Life, the Church, and the World. He is also author of Step by Step: Divine Guidance for Ordinary Christians, Priorities: Mastering Time Management, and Guidance: Have I Missed God’s Best?.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

Brief Bio: I was reared in Greensboro NC by an ardently Christian set of parents. I was the oldest of four boys and graduated from Greensboro High School (now Grimsley HS). I spent most of my spare time in High School training for the swimming team, helping to lead a Youth For Christ chapter, and playing trumpet in the band. I obtained a physics degree from Wheaton Collge, with a lot of studies in philosophy. I had doubts about my faith and so enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia where my faith was renewed. In 1968 some students began doing evangelism at U. Penn and we found ourselves with a group of converts which resulted in an “on campus’ church. I pastored there for 12 years. Then spent the next 22 years as a staff member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation as a staff counselor and Director of Development. I retired from there in 2003 to begin a public foundation (Children’s Jubilee Fund) to assist low-income city families with gaining access to the many Christian schools serving the urban community. In 2015 I retired again and moved to Wilmington, NC to write. This has also given me more time to pursue interests in apologetics, fishing, boating, and swimming. See the end of this post for a more in-depth look at my life.*


  • When did you first want to write a book?

I wanted to write a book because of a message that burned in my bones. So I wrote Step by Step in the late 90’s to broadcast the message that God’s positive will for us is found through wisdom and discernment worked in us by the Word and Spirit of God. I argued that this was the NT model for guidance – even though God often spoke directly to prophets, apostles and others.


  • Which writers inspire you?

Non-fiction writers who participate in bringing about a “paradigm shift” in thinking and or practice. Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Kuyper, Van Til (Frame), Steve Monsma, Tim Keller. Also Marx, Darwin, Satre, Camus, Dawkins, Sean Carrol.


  • What inspired you to write about this topic in Act of Grace?

As a development officer and then Foundation executive, I have seen the tremendous untapped capacity of the world wide Christian community to address the curses of poverty and ignorance of the gospel. I wrote Act of Grace to motivate and guide Christian leaders to buy up this opportunity for God’s glory and the advancement of his will on earth.


  • Do you have a favorite author? Who is it and why?

John Frame: Because he articulates in clearest ordinary language the teachings of Scripture in answer to the questions that arise when we read the Bible.


  • Favorite sport to watch? Why? Favorite sport’s team?

Philadelphia Eagles and Sixers. In my 50 years in Philly I became an adopted Philadelphia lover.


  • Favorite animal? Why?

Swordfish: Because it powerful, beautiful, swims deep, is hard to catch and is good to eat.

*Here is my fuller story:

I grew up in Greensboro, NC in a strong Christian home and church (Westover Church). I knew and believed the gospel from a very young age. In high school my Christian life, though active, was dry and consisted of certain “behaviors and the attempt to maintain a clean conscience.” This continued during my four years at Wheaton College. By my senior year my childhood faith was shaken and I was convicted to seriously seek God, not just from the emptiness of the religious behaviors but also for the basic intellectual questions that were now stumbling blocks to my faith. I determined to attend Westminster Seminary, not to prepare for ministry but to seek answers to my questions. I was influenced to attend there by Ed Clowney and the reputation of Cornelius Van Til. There in March of my first year God met me in a powerful way. I repented of my unbelief and my presumed autonomy from God. God answered my intellectual doubts and questions, and I experienced true Christian joy for the first time as I finally understood who God actually was.

During the last three years in seminary I gave myself passionately to understanding this now thrilling faith. I also met the love of my life – a visiting master’s student from Covenant Seminary. With her and some other WTS friends, we began to do evangelism at the University of Pennsylvania and in my junior year (1968) took the lead in beginning a church oriented to reaching students from the “counter culture.” The church plant became a self-supporting particular church in 1970 and I was ordained in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and pastored there until 1982. These were the years of the Jesus movement and with the help of other leaders in the church we saw scores of men and women in their 20s come to Christ and be joined to the church — which by this time numbered about 150 souls. In 1976 this led to the formation of a daughter church (Grace OPC) in Southwest Philadelphia under the initial leadership of Rev. Tom Corey — a former elder at Church of the Redeemer who became the church planter.

The two churches were prospering spiritually and biologically with many weddings and the resultant births. That raised questions about how we as young couples would educate our growing horde of children in a large urban city with a school system often destructive of the education of less wealthy children. In 1978, after much prayer and sobering discussion, and with the encouragement of some friends, I was led to take the lead in forming what is now know as The City School – a community based Christian K-8 school and continued as its volunteer board chairman until 1993. The school opened with 67 students at 42nd and Baltimore Ave with Paul Miller as founding principal. It is now a K-12 multi-site school with 400 students.

The stress of pastoring Church of the Redeemer and chairing the fledgling school in 1978-79 forced me to come to grips with some of my limitations in pastoral leadership and native energy. Health problems resulted in my being granted an unpaid 9 month sabbatical for spiritual and physical renewal. Marsha and I spent the time at the NC coast and after some recovery I did a life changing study of and wrote a report on, Principles of Diaconal Ministry. This report to the General Assembly of the OPC brought me face to face with issues of mercy/justice ministry that would impact me for the reminder of my career. Based on this new vision for involvement with the poor, in addition to chairing the City School board, I also accepted a position as a founding board member of the Center for Urban Theological Studies. Under the leadership of Bill Krispin CUTS provided credentialed bachelor level training to urban church leaders who lacked access to college level training as well as access to theological and biblical training. This drew me into partnership with urban church leaders from the African American churches of Philadelphia. These relationships became large part of my “education” regarding racial matters in the church and a source of precious wisdom and support in the work of the Lord in urban contexts. I served on the board of CUTS for much of the period of 1978 to 2014 and saw the college graduate 650 church leaders, many of whom became preeminent kingdom initiators in the years that followed. In 2014 CUTS became a part of Lancaster Bible College and thankfully continues to fulfill this educational mission to this day.

In 1980 I returned (from sabbatical) to Church of the Redeemer on a half time basis and Tom Corey was called as the new full time pastor. I also transitioned to a half time position as a pastoral counselor at the newly hatched Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation, associated with Westminster, and found a resonance with that kind of personal ministry.

In 1982 I resigned from the associate pastor position at the Church of the Redeemer and for two years worked half time to lead the effort to raise the funds for a headquarters building for CUTS. I received generous support from family and friends so that I could wade into the new waters of Kingdom fund raising. After successfully purchasing the needed building and doing initial renovations, in 1984 I accepted a full time position at CCEF as staff pastoral counselor and within two years became their first Development Director, while maintaining the counseling practice  begun in 1980. The development and counseling work at CCEF would occupy me for the next 20 years. I would have the joy of seeing CCEF grow to raise over $1,000,000 annually from a highly committed base of donors and the launching of an annual conference ministry (formerly the Alumni conference) that would prove to be a major touch point with the larger body of CCEF students, counselees, pastors and donors. The counseling practice evolved into a Christian conciliation practice based at CCEF and is continued today through a number of private practitioners in the Philly area. In 1997 I also tried my hand at theological writing – publishing Step by Step, a book on the theology of divine guidance.

In 1993-1996, I and a group of urban Christian leaders struggled with how to make Christian schools viable and accessible for lower income city families. Our school was forced to dramatically raise tuition in order to survive, significantly reducing enrollments. Out of this struggle a new ministry was launched –Children’s Jubilee Fund. It was begun to open the door to Christian schooling for lower-income urban children. I agreed to chair the board for this new venture and in 1997 we raised $25,000 from two donors and began to make grants to five Christian schools for low income families wanting to attend their schools. By 2003 (without any professional staff) we were only raising about $60,000 benefitting about 50 students.

The needs were much greater that this and so in 2003 I accepted the challenge of leaving my full time job at CCEF and becoming the first Executive Director of Children’s Jubilee Fund – working partially at my own expense, in order to launch the work. That has been the ministerial focus of my work through 2014. It has involved learning about the challenges for low-income urban Christian parents, educating suburban Christians and enlisting contributions for our scholarship fund. God graciously blessed the work and the strategic plan with steady increases in scholarship income to about $1,000,000 year in 2014. I retired in 2014 as the Executive Director but remain on as a volunteer consultant for leadership transition and Planned Gifts.

In 2015 I moved to Wilmington, NC to be near children and grand children and am now active in helping to establish Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Wilmington NC. The church appointed me to lead its capital campaign and chair the newly formed mercy/justice team at the church. We are working to engage our new church with the realities and needs of urban ministry here in Wilmington, NC. I am also blessed to be able to continue my theological writing ministry with a second book on the theology of generosity, Act of Grace.


BOOK HIGHLIGHT — The Urban Face of Mission: Ministering the Gospel in a Diverse and Changing World

The Urban Face of Mission: Ministering the Gospel in a Diverse and Changing World by Harvie M. Conn and others

384 pages | $19.99 | Paperback | Released: 2002


How do we sing the Lord’s song in “the strange land” that is now the 21st century? How do we take appropriate account of where and when we are without compromising the “old, old story of Jesus and his love?”

Harvie Conn pressed these questions while teaching missions for twenty-six years, and this volume, written by former colleagues in his honor, does the same. Contributing chapters are: Paul Hiebert, Raymond Bakke, Roger Greenway, Samuel Escobar, Charles Kraft, William Dyrness, and others. The volume begins with a previously unpublished essay by Conn on missions and theology.


Table of Contents

1. Mission, Missions, Theology, and Theological Education by Harvie Conn

Part 1: The City’s Role in Mission

2. Urbanization and Evangelism: A Global View by Raymond J. Bakke

3. The Church and the City by Manuel Ortiz

4. The Social Sciences: Tools for Urban Ministry by Susan S. Baker

Part 2: The Challenges of Globalization

5. Missions and the Doing of Theology by Paul G. Hiebert and Tite Tienou

6. New Patterns for Interdependence in Mission by Samuel Escobar

7. Diversity in Mission and Theology by William A. Dyrness

8. Generational Appropriateness in Contextualization by Charles H. Kraft

Part 3: Social Issues and How to Address Them

9. The Church and Justice in Crisis by Clinton E. Stockwell

10. Doing the Word: Biblical Holism and Urban Ministry by Mark R. Gornik

11. Jesus’ Words to the Canaanite Woman: Another Perspective by John S. Leonard

Part 4: Leadership Development to Meet New Challenges

12. Getting David out of Saul’s Armor by Roger S. Greenway

13. Seminaries: Time for a Change? by Edna C. Greenway

14. An Inquiry into Urban Theological Education by Glenn B. Smith

Part 5: God’s Message to the Nations

15. African Theology from the Perspective of Honor and Shame by Andrew M. Mbuvi

16. The Power of the Gospel in Korea (1882-1912) by Sung-Il Steve Park



“Harvie Conn’s prophetic voice continues to be heard through his own writings and through the ministries of the countless colleagues, friends, and students that he influenced. Read this book, which both honors and continues Harvie’s ministry to the church.”

Tim Keller

“Important essays by a wide range of scholars who share the late Harvie Conn’s passionate commitment to loving the whole person the way Jesus did.”

Ronald J. Sider

Author Interview with Paul Engle

This week’s author interview is with Paul E. Engle, author of new release, When God Draws Near: Exploring Worship from Seven Summits.

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

I grew up in New York State where both my father and my grandfather were pastors. After high school I earned degrees at Houghton College, Wheaton Graduate School, and Westminster Theological Seminary. Along the way I funded my studies by working in various jobs: warehouse handler, construction laborer, mail carrier, janitor, and gas station attendant on the New York Thruway. Thankfully these jobs were a quickly passing phase. Over the years I have had the wonderful privilege of pastoring churches in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Illinois, and Michigan as an ordained minister. Along the way I have also taught as a visiting instructor and professor (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, New Geneva Theological Seminary, Knox Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Dallas Theological Seminary.) I continue to be involved in teaching church leaders in the Philippines, Romania, Egypt, Uganda, Cuba, Israel, and East Asia. My passion is to equip pastors and church leaders in parts of the world where little training is available and then to see them soak up the teaching and share it in their churches. Another way the Lord has opened up doors to serve pastors and lay people is through writing. When God Draws Near is book number nine.

The Lord has given me a wonderful wife as my partner in ministry. We now live in North Carolina and have two grown daughters, two son-in-laws, and five grandchildren. Hobbies? International travel always gets the adrenalin pumping. Thankfully my wife shares my love for travel and together we have visited 95 countries with plans to reach 100. Also I’ve been an avid biker for years. Having spent most of my life in cold climates, I am living the dream in North Carolina, being able to ride my Cannondale practically year-round.


  • What inspired you to write this book, about this topic?

The subject of God-centered worship has been a keen interest for years, beginning with my D. Min. studies at Westminster Seminary. I’ve planned and led thousands of worship services, taught classes on the doctrine of worship to people in multiple churches, and trained church leaders in Africa, Europe, Asia, and North America. Feedback from students has helped shape the new book. A recent revisit to mountain sites in Israel made the topic come alive for me in a fresh way. The more I taught on this subject of worship and saw the responsiveness of people the more I began to experience a burning desire to put this in writing to share with a wider audience. This passion kept motivating me to persist through the long process of getting a book ready for publication. P&R Publishing has been a great team to work with on When God Draws Near. I like to sing their praises.


  • What do you hope folks will gain from this project?

Let me suggest several benefits I hope my readers will receive from reading and studying this book:

  • Reading When God Draws Near should give readers a fresh appreciation for how God made his presence known through the centuries of biblical history when his people assembled for worship. It provides a big-picture overview of God’s plan that begins in the Garden of Eden and ends with the new heaven and earth. Along the way we visit 7 biblical mountains.
  • Reading this book should give a renewed sense of the presence of God when readers attend church services. All-too-many people attend church but don’t worship. Readers should come to view worship with its invisible spiritual realities as the highpoint of their week, an appointment to meet with God.
  • An appendix gives suggestions on how to personally prepare for attending a worship service.
  • Some readers may find this a good resource for their small group, or Bible study, or Sunday School class. Each of the 11 chapters includes discussion/reflection questions.


  • Other than the Bible, do you have a favorite book?

As you read this book you’ll see numerous references to the writings of C.S. Lewis, especially his Narnia Chronicles. I’m also fond of the writings of A.W. Tozer, Greg Beale and many others whose works I digested in preparing to write this book. Working with Dr. Ed Clowney as a faculty mentor in past years at Westminster helped set me on a path of loving biblical theology and what it adds to one’s understanding of worship. So this is quite a challenge to answer this question and single out just one favorite book. But if pressed to do so I would probably select J.I. Packer’s classic book Knowing God. What a stimulus to worship that book has been in my life!


  • Do you have a favorite quote? What is it and why?

I could easily select one of the epigraphs at the beginning of chapters in my book. But there’s also a quote in the middle of a chapter on p. 19 that is especially meaningful to me. I first discovered it when I was pastor of a church in New England decades ago. In connection with studies at Westminster I spent time searching through the stacks of the library at Yale University. I came across a biblical theology written decades ago by William Nicholls in which he made an assertion that stood out on the page and has stuck with me through the years. “Worship is the supreme and only indispensable activity of the Christian Church. It alone will endure . . . into heaven, when all other activities of the Church will have passed away.” That so impacted me that I decided to focus my studies on worship recognizing its eternal value.


  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The best books often come from authors who are deeply passionate about their subject. They can’t imagine not writing the book and pursing publishers until it is under contract. So I’d probe an aspiring author to find out what topic gets them most excited, what topic has opened up doors for teaching, what topic shapes their choice of books to read. Very likely that is the topic they should write on. It takes that kind of focused motivation to see a project through to publication. Of course authors would do well to have a unique twist on the subject and if possible a strong unifying metaphor that pervades the book.


  • Favorite flavor of ice cream?

How did you know about my love for ice cream? If offered any flavor other than Bubblegum and Watermelon, I’d gladly consume it. But since developing a dairy allergy in recent years I’ve had to be more discriminating. Thankfully a new gelato store opened up locally, selling dozens of flavors, all homemade and all dairy-free. My favorite flavors are chocatella and coconut, so I usually splurge and treat myself to a scoop of both.


  • The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia? Why?

I consider both books and movie series wonderful entertainment as well as artful conveyers of Christian truth. But I guess I’d have to choose the Narnia tales as my favorite. I was first introduced to them back in seminary when I attended a debate on the “Death of God” movement at the University of Chicago. The defender of orthodoxy scored a winning repartee in the debate with a Death of God theologian when he quoted from the Chronicles of Narnia. I went home that night and started reading the series which I had previously dismissed as just a children’s series. Later as a father I delighted in reading the Narnia books to both daughters who loved them as much as I did. Readers will note that I quote extensively from the Chronicles of Narnia in my book.


How can readers discover more about you and your work?

When God Draws Near: Exploring Worship from Seven Summits


Author Interview with Marvin Olasky

This week’s author interview is with Marvin Olasky. He is the author of our new release, Reforming Journalism. He is also the author of Prodigal Press, Revised and Updated: Confronting the Anti-Christian Bias of the American News Media. 

  • Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, family, job, personal interests, unique hobbies, what you do in your spare time, etc.

Originally Massachusetts, but mostly Texas since 1983. Married for 43 years. Four sons, four daughters-in-law, five grandchildren. Happily, my job as WORLD editor/writer is also my hobby, so I work a lot but it’s also play.


  • Other than the Bible, do you have a favorite book?

Favorite novel: Jose Gironella’s The Cypresses Believe in God.  Favorite non-fiction: Shelby Foote’s The Civil War.


  • Do you have a favorite movie? What is it and why?

The Great Escape (1963), The Right Stuff (1983), Field of Dreams (1989). Striving against obstacles physical and psychological.


  • How do you deal with writer’s block?

The way pilots dealt with the sound barrier: fly through it because it doesn’t exist. When blocked, leave your suite and do more street-level reporting.


  • What has been the best compliment given to you as an author?

“I love your book. I read a page every night before I fall asleep.”


  • Favorite sport to watch? Why? Favorite sport’s team?

Baseball, because at a ball park there’s lots of subtle action, and when watching on television it’s slow enough that I can read, edit, or answer email without missing much.  Red Sox.


  • Favorite food?

Grapes, raspberries, and banana with peanut butter. On special occasions, a steak.


  • Tea or coffee?

Neither, if caffeinated, because if you rarely drink it and you’re on a flight across the Atlantic or Pacific, you can drink a cup and easily stay up all night.


How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Buy Now

Reforming Journalism:

Prodigal Press:

  • On sale from P&R for $3.00!


Glenna Marshall — Five Ways Suffering Shaped My Writing

The Promise Is His Presence: Why God Is Always Enough by Glenna Marshall

“A truly refreshing read that has forever changed my perspective on suffering.”

—Sara Wallace, Author, For the Love of Discipline and Created to Care

“I commend this book to all those who are seeking the secret to experiencing the nearness of God in the darkest of places.”

—Brian Croft, Senior Pastor, Auburndale Baptist Church, Louisville

“A discovery of new and more meaningful ways that God is always near and good and faithful and kind and enough.”

—Kristie Anyabwile, Editor, His Testimonies, My Heritage

“I found a fellow sojourner and was reminded of a faithful shepherd in The Promise Is His Presence.”

—Gillian Marchenko, Author, Still Life: A Memoir of Living Fully with Depression