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?
- Gracebooksonline.com: $10.39
- CVBBS.com: $11.54
- Christianbook.com: $12.99
- WTSbooks.com: $15.51
- Amazon: $15.99