Interview with Alan Knox
Alan Knox is well known in the blogosphere as the publisher of the website The Assembling of the Church. Alan recently agreed to an interview with me about his life and interests. Here are the results. Enjoy! – DB
To begin with, Alan, would you please tell us something about your background and interests?
I was raised in a small town in Alabama, then studied Electrical Engineering at Ga Tech. I married my high school sweetheart, Margaret (actually, we met in the fourth grade). We have two children, a son and a daughter.
I made a profession of faith and was baptized in a rural Southern Baptist church in Alabama. I have served in various voluntary positions in churches in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina.
We moved from Alabama to the Atlanta area in 1999 due to job relocation. Then, in 2002 we moved to North Carolina in order for me to attend Southeastern Seminary. When I started seminary, I planned to finish as quickly as possible, then work as an education pastor, or something to that effect.
My plans changed as I began to study the biblical languages and theology. I noticed that some of my thoughts did not align with Scripture. Specifically, I became very interested in the church. I am now in the Ph.D. program at Southeastern Seminary studying Biblical Theology.
My other interests, besides my family, Greek and ecclesiology, include computers (I am a web developer) and reading.
I currently work in the Information Technology department of Southeastern Seminary, and I teach Greek adjunctively for Southeastern College. I am also one of the pastor/elders for Messiah Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC.
You currently publish a blog called The Assembling of the Church. How did you arrive at that name, and what is the purpose of your website?
I started the blog about a year ago. The name comes from Hebrews 10:24-25, a passage that is very interesting to me. It seems that Paul – I mean, the author of Hebrews – wants his readers to do more than simply meet together. Believers encouraging or edifying one another is fundamental to the life and health of the church.
The title of my blog also indicates the purpose of my blog. I use the blog as an outlet to discuss ideas as I am reading and studying. Specifically, I enjoy interacting with people concerning passages of Scripture that deal with the church.
In your study of ecclesiology, can you list some areas in which evangelical churches get it right? That is, areas in which you think churches are ecclesiologically strong?
Evangelical churches are right in their focus on the gospel. The church exists because of the good news of Jesus Christ: his death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and sending of the Holy Spirit. Churches must maintain this focus even as the believers move out into the world.
Also, evangelical churches hold Scripture in high regard. I would have no reason to study the church in the New Testament if I did not believe Scripture’s voice is important in this study. If Scripture does not give us an image of the church, or if Scripture’s description of the church is not normative for us today, then we are free to create whatever we desire to create and call that creation the church.
Finally, evangelical churches are correct in their approach to missions. This is related to my first point, but also different. The gospel is important for the church, but the church must also take the gospel with them as they go into the world. While we should care about people, and help meet their physical needs, we should also understand that their primary need is a restored relationship with God, which only comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In your opinion, what are the chief challenges facing evangelical churches in terms of ecclesiology? How and where can we improve?
This is a difficult question for me. I love the church, and I do not want to be a discouragement to the church. I do believe there are aspects (in general) of evangelical churches that tend to prevent believers from doing their part in the body of Christ (to paraphrase Ephesians 4:16).
First, the focus on Christian leaders and their gifts tends to diminish the recognition that all believers and their gifts are necessary for the health of the church. If the meeting of the church revolves around one or two people, then the Spirit is not allowed to edify the church through His various gifts, services, and manifestations, which He gives to the entire body, not just a few.
Also, it seems the church has become territorial and exclusive. Scripture demonstrates that there was much interaction between believers in one city and even between believers across the Roman empire. We have learned to become independent instead of interdependent.
Finally, we have become very lax in our language. We attach new definitions to scriptural words such as worship, ministry, service, and church. Then, when we read these words in Scripture, we read our new definitions back into our interpretations. One of my favorite quotes is, “We not only use words; words use us.” Now we cannot think of “worship” without thinking of music; nor can we think of “ministry” without thinking of employment.
You seem to be widely read. Can you suggest a brief list of resources (books, essays, websites, blogs, etc.) that might help others to think more biblically about the Body of Christ?
There are many books that have helped me understand God’s plan for the church. One of the authors that has been most influential in my life has been David Peterson. His book Engaging with God: A Biblical Theology of Worship, is excellent, as are several of his articles, including “Further Reflections on Worship in the New Testament,” Reformed Theological Review 44 My-Ag 1985, p 34-41. Similarly, Robert Banks’ Paul’s Idea of Community helped me understand how I might take an academic approach to ecclesiology. There are many other excellent books: Jim Peterson’s Church Without Walls, Wolfgang Simson’s Houses that Change the World, and John Hammett’s Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. I have also learned from many of the Greek patristic authors and the reformation authors. Many times their views of ecclesiology are not widely publicized. It feels strange listing these few books. There are so many books that have impacted my thoughts about the church.
Besides your website, there are many other blogs that I would recommend. Several of my friends are studying the church, living what they are learning, and blogging about it: maelandcindy.blogspot.com, lewayotte.blogspot.com, sharinginthelife.blogspot.com, and www.matthewmcdill.com. I’ve also had opportunities to interact with people online who are examining the church: www.theologicalmusingsblog.com, www.ceruleansanctum.com, and www.internetmonk.com. There are many blogging missionaries who always help me think about the church in different contexts: loveeachstone.blogspot.com, talesfrommiddleearth.blogspot.com, and rtbm.typepad.com. Finally, there are many authors and theologians who I have found helpful: www.theforgottenways.org, www.reclaimingthemission.com, and www.lifestream.org/blog. I probably read too many blogs, but I’ve found that many people are seriously considering the church and what Scripture says about the church.
Thank you very much, Alan, for taking the time to answer these questions. If someone has a question or comment for you, how might they best contact you?
The best way to contact me is through email. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 22, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.