Conversation with Justin McKitterick
Justin McKitterick is one of our seven TES campus pastors, having served as the Pastor-Teacher of Grace Community Church in Jacksonville, Florida since 2011. Below is a brief conversation we had with Justin about training for pastoral ministry
Why are you committed to expository preaching?
God is knowable and He has made Himself known through the revelation of His Word. His Word is both personal and propositional and has been clearly revealed so that we can know God accurately. A right view of God’s Word demands faithful exposition. People do not need to hear personal opinions, speculation, or cultural ideas about God. They need to hear what God has clearly revealed about Himself. I want to know God intimately and accurately and I am committed to expository preaching because people need to hear truth about God accurately so that they can know Him intimately as well.
What do you believe are the benefits for a pastor if he has a thorough understanding of Hebrew and Greek? What do you think are the potential limitations without a grasp of the original languages?
I am very grateful for the great English translations we have today that are both accurate and clear in conveying biblical truth. But like any translation, they have limitations. We want to know God accurately and therefore we want to understand as precisely as we can exactly what he has clearly revealed in His word. This demands the study of the original languages. Lexical and syntactical clarity is necessary to understand the author’s intended meaning and to enjoy the precision in which the Lord inspired every word and every sentence found in Scripture. Without knowledge of the original languages, one will always be limited in accuracy and precision of God’s revealed Word.
The benefit of knowing the original languages is first personal. I have the great joy and privilege of communing with the Lord through His Word and knowledge of the languages greatly enrich this study. And as a pastor who preaches I hope to be able to share the riches of what I learn so that others are encouraged in deeper knowledge of God as well.
What is it about church-based seminary training that you find most compelling?
The church is God’s chosen design for the Christian life. We equip, edify, fellowship, worship, and share life together as believers. Pastors are called to lead, shepherd, and equip the church to the glory of God in accomplishing this beautiful plan for the church. By God’s design the church needs leaders, and by God’s design the church is called to train, produce, and affirm these leaders. The training of men is an expected ministry of the local church. Seminary is a wonderful tool for the equipping of men in order to help the church accomplish what the Lord has designed. Therefore, for men pursuing ministry, the full integration of their training in the life of the local church is the most effective way to prepare them to be pastors. The academics of theology, the languages, and pastoral ministry were never meant to be separated from church life. A church based seminary allows for the full integration of what is learned in the classroom to be applied in the context of a local assembly. Ultimately it is an entire church that trains a man for ministry, not merely a degree from a seminary.
Why do you think so many pastors struggle to take the truths they learn in the exegetical process and craft them into a compelling expository sermon? Why is it so difficult to go from text to sermon, from exegesis to exposition?
The exegetical process is labor intensive. Studying in dependence upon the Holy Spirit takes work to make sure one accurately understands the authorial intent of the passage. But the work of preaching does not end after the exegesis is done. The process of putting together an expositional message is also labor intensive. Discerning what and how to explain the truth one has studied is also challenging. Some abandon exegesis and therefore end up preaching personal ideas. This is not biblical exposition. Others simply teach their exegetical notes without connecting the truth to the contemporary audience. The difficulty of exposition is not only clearly explaining the text of Scripture but showing the timeless truth that impacts us today.
If you could compel young pastors to embrace one conviction prior to entering a life of ministry, what would that be?
Humility—Humility before God, humility under the Word of God and humility before people. Pride is so pervasive in the human heart and it has numerous ugly manifestations. Arrogance, impatience, anger, fear of man, self-pity, self-righteousness, the desire for praise and the lust of greatness contaminate the human heart. All are rooted in pride.
The humble heart joyfully trembles before God and His Word! The humble heart has an audience of one, the Lord Jesus Christ! The humble heart surrenders to truth and is not blown around by cultural relevance, the opinions of man, the praise of man, or the criticisms of man. The humble heart seeks to please the Lord in faith and trust the Lord to work through the faithful ministry of the Word. The humble heart treasures Christ and seeks to imitate Christ in interacting with both believer and unbeliever.
What is the greatest threat to a person’s hermeneutical approach to Scripture?
There are several threats that affect a person’s understanding of hermeneutics. Certainly there are dangerous intellectual influences such as theological liberalism, postmodernism, or cultural relativism that warp one’s hermeneutics. But at a more foundational level, arrogance is the greatest threat to one’s hermeneutics. When a person places himself as judge of God truth instead of surrendering to God’s truth, one’s hermeneutics will always be distorted, which will lead to a distorted view of God at best, or more often, a wrong view of God altogether.
This arrogance is manifested in many ways. For example, when inerrancy is denied, the character of God is questioned, His Word is questioned, and one’s approach to studying scripture becomes subjective. Other examples include elevating experience over Scripture, elevating tradition over Scripture, reading one’s feelings into Scripture, determining what the passages means to “me,” and many others. At the root of all of these issues is an unwillingness to simply surrender to what the text says as revealed by a historical grammatical approach to Scripture. When we don’t allow the text to say what it says in its own context, we are approaching God and His Word with arrogance.