Jon Akin has been my pastor and a friend for three years and recently took a position with the North American Mission Board. His new role as NAMB’s director for Young Leader Engagement, will help to build bridges between younger pastors and the previous generation. “We simply want to connect the disconnected pastors and provide opportunities for younger pastors to see the value of being a part of this family we call the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention),” Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB said.
My first time listening to Jon, was at my place of work, Lifeway Christian Resources, at a Thursday morning chapel service. He had come to speak to us and brought along his worship pastor, Devin Black. I enjoyed the service immensely, and, as usual, told my wife about the chapel when I got home. I remember commenting how young he was, but also how good (theologically sound) he was. I was very impressed!
As my wife and I transitioned to a new church, we decided to pick Fairview. As the time passed, I can honestly say that I have been taught the Word, week in and week out. My misunderstandings about the Old Testament and how I looked at the stories there have been shifted. He has taught me how to read the Old Testament with Jesus in view, and not as disconnected character studies. Needless to say, I am deeply grateful for Jon, his family, and especially for how his dad, Danny Akin, modeled Jesus to them.
And so, I wanted to take a few minutes to share this recent interview with him…
Wes: For Christians who either avoid the Old Testament altogether, or approach it as a character study, what is the best approach to changing how they approach this portion of God's Word?
Jon: I would say there are several things you can do. First, you need to read texts like Luke 24, John 5, 2 Timothy 3, the book of Acts, the book of Hebrews, etc. and become convinced that the Old Testament is about Jesus because Jesus and the apostles say it is.
Second, you need to constantly read the OT through a NT lens (how do the apostles address the OT passage you’re studying or similar themes to your passage’s theme?).
Third, you need to read, read, read your Bible! As you do, God will begin to reveal these things to you.
Fourth and finally, there are great books to read that will help you down this path like Graeme Goldsworthy’s Gospel Trilogy, Peter Leithart’s A House for My Name, Edmund Clowney’s The Unfolding Mystery, etc.
Wes: What have the toughest challenges been for you as a pastor, in helping others see "Christ in all of Scripture"?
Jon: The biggest challenge for me is showing my people how this is the most relevant thing in the world for their lives. I love to study the Bible. I love theology. I can really nerd out studying an OT passage, but if I can’t answer the question, “So what? What does this matter for people’s lives?” then I’m not really shepherding my people. It has to be more than a classroom experience - preaching and teaching Christ has to be for the purpose of forming your congregation into the image of Christ. You can’t stop at the intellectual without getting to the practical. That’s been my challenge.
Wes: Why is expository preaching necessary and more helpful than just topical or textual preaching, and are there long-term consequences to not expounding the Word when preaching?
Jon: There are so many reasons that expository preaching should be the steady method of a pastor, but one main one that I will mention is it doesn’t allow you to avoid difficult or controversial topics that you may be tempted to avoid if you’re simply picking the topics you want to preach on. The long-term consequences of not preaching in an expository fashion is that a preacher can stick to hobby horses or things that he thinks are “most helpful” for his congregation but miss something his people need to hear. Also, in picking only what his mind thinks are the most relevant topics he might just miss topics the Spirit finds more important to a Christian’s development.
Many thanks to Jon for taking the time to answer these questions. I hope to post more of what I have learned under Jon at a later time.