An Interview with Kevin DeYoung
Posted On March 20, 2018
Last week during the Ligonier National Conference, RBC student Isaac interviewed Rev. Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, N.C., and associate professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, N.C. Rev. DeYoung is author of many books, including Just Do Something. Below is an excerpt from their interview.
Isaac: Thanks so much for meeting with us. First, as a pastor and as a theologian, what is the benefit of theological study for those pursuing vocational ministry? What is the benefit of theological study for those who aren’t necessarily pursuing vocational ministry?
Rev. DeYoung: I’m a huge proponent of theological education and regarding vocational ministry, some people could ask, “Well, there’s stuff on the internet, we have access to a lot of books and podcasts, and there are so many resources, why would I need formal theological education?” But there’s really no substitute for being in a classroom, for having the discipline, for having to write papers, and doing all those old-fashioned things. I think one of the great benefits is you know the resources, you know how to use them, you feel equipped to use them.
I find among even the most gifted folks who maybe haven’t had the opportunity to do theological education, there are certain avenues of study that can be closed to them, or certain areas of theological inquiry that are unfamiliar to them. The exposure is so important, it exposes you to more ideas, more people, breadth— and if you think about vocational ministry, you want not just a reservoir that’s going to be able to nourish you for months or the next five years, but that’s going to be a sustaining pace in ministry for a lifetime, for decades. So the more that we can put into that reservoir, in terms of theological education, the more we’ll have to give over the long haul.
And for those that are not going into full-time vocational ministry, we still want to know our Bibles. We still want to be able to understand the Scriptures well. All of us are of course called to ministry, some in a more formal way, some in more organic ways, but all of us need to rightly handle the word of God. All of us are theologians whether we realize it or not; it’s a matter of wether we’re going to have good theology or bad. The more we can take advantage of the resources and opportunities out there, the better.
As a pastor, how would you counsel college students in your congregation who are studying at an institution but having a difficult time getting plugged into the local body of Christ? What words would you offer to them as far as wisdom and encouragement with that?
For thirteen years, I was at University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Mich., which was a church founded in the 60s to reach out to college students. That was really our bread and butter, the main part of what we wanted to do. This may not help college students exactly, but if you take a step back, people ought to be thinking when they make their college decision, “Is there a local church that I am going to be fed in?” If there’s not, I would say you’re looking at the wrong college, no matter how much you like their sports teams or no matter what kind of scholarships they are giving, you don’t want to go somewhere and feel like I don’t have a church for four years to be a part of.
Now, for those that are already in college, I think you need to set yourself on a trajectory that is going to mean a lifetime of faithful ministry, and that may mean that it would be better to get an A-, or heaven forbid, a B+ or something, in college and be a vital member of your church. I think college students often think they get a free pass from church during these four years, and they may think, “I’m away from home, I have really important things to do, maybe I’ll kind of show up on Sunday.” When I was in college, I sang in the church choir, I did boys brigade, I went to Sunday school, I did morning church, I did evening church. Some churches are really good at gearing things towards college students and welcoming them, and others the student would have to try a little bit more. We’ve encouraged students to become a member or an associate member, as they’re going to be there for several years of their lives. A 17 year-old-student going into college, he’s going to live a fifth of his life in this place, so why wouldn’t he be committed to a local church?
For someone that is new to theology, what books would you recommend?
I’m going to forget so many good books… not saying this because I’m at the Ligonier Ministries conference, but I think R.C. Sproul’s book Everyone’s a Theologian; I’m always looking for mini-systematic theology books, that one’s a good introduction people could benefit from. Knowing God by J. I. Packer, is a classic. That would benefit a lot of people.
I would recommend someone really dig deep into one of the historic Reformed confessions. There are lots of good resources, I wrote a book on the Heidelberg Catechism The Good News We Almost Forgot, it doesn’t need to be that, but there’s lots of good books on the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the Westminster Shorter Catechism, these are the books that have defined and sustained a generation. So, I would look at that.
And I would also encourage someone, whether a new believer or someone just getting into theology, if they think, “I can’t handle the real big stuff.” That’s just not true. When I was just getting into theology as a freshman in college, I read a few little books, then I thought, “I’m going to graduate to something bigger,” so I grabbed John Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion. Now a lot of it was over my head, but I just set a pace —5 pages a day over the course of a year, and I read through it. So, I would say don’t be afraid of trying. Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology is rich. Calvin is actually a lot easier to read than Edwards, much less philosophical. Boy, I’m mentioning all the big, bold books. John Murray’s Redemption Accomplished and Applied is great primer. J.C. Ryle’s Holiness would be inspirational and also great on distinguishing justification and sanctification. There are so many good books.