An interview with Alan Hoare
Your upcoming book focuses on the church in Philippi, what first captured your attention about Paul’s letter to the Philippians?
I guess that the first thing that attracted me to this book was Paul’s own comments about them. He writes at the beginning of his letter, ‘I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.’ (Philippians 1: 3-5) The church had been planted by Paul, and they had remained so faithful in their support for him throughout all his travels and trials. At the end of his letter, he writes, ‘you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.’ He held them dearly in his heart (1:7), yearned for them (1:9), loved them and longed for them – they were his crown and joy (4:)
I truly think that, of all the churches he planted, this was his favourite church.
Why do you think it’s important that we continue to study and try to understand the Bible?
For me, the Bible is far more than a religious textbook. It is the living word of God that transforms us into Christlikeness, challenges our personal world views, and actually feeds our souls. Through it we learn to recognise and hear the voice of God. As we immerse ourselves deeply and consistently into all the scriptures, our spiritual roots are plunged into the life of God, and we become strong and mature in our faith.
I love the story of Lucy and the wardrobe in C.S. Lewis’s book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.’ As Lucy pushed deeper into the wardrobe, she found herself in the wonderful land of Narnia where there was a totally different world in a seemingly unending and different timeframe. I liken that wardrobe to the Word of God. As we penetrate into it, we find ourselves being absorbed and affected by the kingdom of heaven, with all its characters and values.
What advice would you give to someone who is keen to study God’s Word but doesn’t know where to start?
My advice would be to get hold of an easy-to-read version, the New Living Translation, for example. I would then find a time and a place where you can be alone with God for a while. You will have to work on this. I would then open the Bible and pray that the Holy Spirit will start to teach you. Be prepared to have a lot of your perceptions changed. Ask God questions about what you are reading, and make some notes of what you are beginning to learn.
I would start by reading the four gospels and the book of Acts, over and over again, until you get a pretty good picture of who Jesus is, what he did, and also what the early church did. I would then venture into the letters of the New Testament, which bring much more light on the big picture.
After that, I would start to add Proverbs where you find wisdom for godly living, and Psalms, where you find prayerful honesty and words of worship.
From there, you can begin to venture into the rest of the Old Testament which will give you the big story of the people of God, and the first hints of the coming and work of Jesus. You won’t understand everything at once, but as you give yourself to it, over the years, the full impact will be felt. And you never stop learning. The Bible constantly yields truths after truths.
You’ve been involved in leading ministries in the past, what do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing church leaders today?
I think that the biggest challenge facing leaders today is a postmodern mindset that distrusts text, dislikes boundaries, and fuels relativity. The phrases ‘this is how I see it’ and ‘these are my feelings’ seem now to rule supreme over and against the clear teachings of scripture. Everyone has a viewpoint on the Bible, not realising that the Bible has a viewpoint on us! Everything now is turned towards ‘my own personal view of God’. I also think that much of social media, (and I am a Whatsapper and a Facebooker) has eroded attention span and the ability to think deeply. We have now become so deeply existential – believing that each experience will lead to another more significant one. Mass advertising has contributed to this fostering boredom with the old and the relentless search for bigger and better. Much of this has crept into church life.
‘My Favourite Church’ is available to buy in October. If there’s one thing that readers take away and remember from your book, what do you hope it would be?
A deeper love for Jesus, a deeper love for the church, and a deeper love for the bible, resulting in a stronger desire to read it, and feed from it yourself.
Finally, do you have a favourite bible verse?
I have three! And they are all from Psalm 119.
The first is found in verse 18, ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.’ The second is found in verse 130, ‘The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.’ The third is found in verse 165, ‘Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
The disciplined and loving reading of the Bible produce the seeing of wonderful things, imparts understanding, and grants deep peace and strong stability.
About the Book
Through 100 daily readings, in-depth study and practical application, Alan Hoare takes us through Paul’s letter to his “favourite church” – the church in Philippi. As he demonstrates how to systematically read and apply scripture, you will find yourself eager to start digging out the incredible riches and treasures found in the Word of God, not only on the surface, but also just underneath.