In partnership with our friends at 9Marks, we recently released the First Steps series—a set of nine books to help new believers grow in their faith. I asked Mike McKinley—who contributed to the series—several questions about his book Believe: What Should I Know?
1. To start, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am originally from suburban Philadelphia in the U.S. I’ve been married to Karen since 1997, and we have five kids . . . from college-aged down to 8 years old. I have been the pastor of Sterling Park Baptist Church outside of Washington, D.C. for the past 15 years.
2. Your book Believe: What Should I Know? walks new believers through the core doctrines of the Christian faith. Can you outline, broadly, what those things are, and how you sought to structure this book specifically for those new to Christianity?
Sure. The book starts with understanding what the Bible reveals about God himself. There’s a chapter on God the Father, one on God the Son, and another on God the Holy Spirit. Those doctrines are foundational to any believer’s faith, and any misunderstandings in those areas will result in a deformed walk with Christ.
From there the book moves on to address some topics that are important but often misunderstood, such as: angels and demons, the return of Christ, and the significance of Jesus’ sacrifice. The hope is that the book will serve as a guide to get a new believer off to a solid start and protect them against some of the weird false teaching that is floating around out there.
3. When people in your community first come to faith, what are some of the most commonly held misconceptions about God? As a pastor, how do you seek to correct these?
Most people vastly underestimate both God’s love and also His holiness. They can’t imagine that God could really love them as He does in Christ, and they also can’t imagine that sin is as serious as it is. I usually seek to correct both of these by reading through the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. I do this with seekers and also new believers. So much of what Jesus did and taught highlights God’s holiness and love in ways that challenge our assumptions.
4. Which chapter was your favorite one to write and why?
Probably chapter 6, on the atonement and election. There is no greater joy as a pastor than seeing someone begin to grasp what the cross means for them.
5. Let’s say a new Christian has just finished your book. What are two things you’d especially want them to take away?
First, as a big principle, I would want them to understand that the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. Contrary to popular conception, we are not free to imagine our own ideas of God. It doesn’t matter what we think God should be like. What is important is what God says about Himself.
Second, I would want them to understand how great our salvation is—election, justification, adoption, glorification—these theological terms contain so much fuel for joy when we understand them properly!
You can order the First Steps series here, currently at a steep discount thanks to our friends at 10ofthose.
Watch this space for further interviews with other authors in this series.