Today, I’m honored to chat with Tim Challies, who really needs no introduction. Tim maintains the blog, challies.com, one of the most widely read evangelical blogs. Tim is a voracious reader, whose book reviews have helped shape evangelical thought. He’s the author of The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment and Sexual Detox along with the forthcoming The Next Story (April 2011). He blogs every day at www.challies.com. Tim also worships and serve at Grace Fellowship Church and edit Discerning Reader. He is also the cofounder of a new publishing venture, Cruciform Press. Tim is also a web designer and conference speaker.
1) When you began blogging at the turn of the century, did you have any idea of the widespread influence God would give you?
No, I certainly didn’t. I set out to do nothing more at challies.com than post pictures of my kids on the Net so my parents and siblings could keep up with life on the northern side of the border (since they had all moved to the US of A a year prior). It came as rather a shock after I wrote an article or two that people began to read them and enjoy them and even to ask for more of them. And it came as an even greater shock when the number of readers continued to climb from ten a day to hundreds and then thousands. It is certainly nothing I even considered before it happened. Once it did happen, I had to move from a posture of resignation to a posture of embrace–something that actually took me several years. I think that was a healthy process to go through since it really taught me that I need to look at this strange phenomenon as something to be stewarded for God’s glory. And that is what I seek to do now, day by day.
2) I’m amazed at your output. You regularly produce substantive content on your blogs, you write books and e-books, you speak, and you’re launching a publishing company. Do you just not sleep?
3. I enjoy sleep and try to get at least 7 – 8 hours of it every day. I’m no Carson or Mohler here, able to work morning, noon and night. It is actually quite rare for me to do any substantial work outside of my usual office hours of 8 to 5. What I have done is try to keep my life simple, which frees me from having to spend 10 to 12 hours a day in an office or commuting to and from it. My wife and I chosen a lifestyle that allows us to live in a small house (I don’t know how big our home is, but it’s under 1000 square feet and is, quite literally, the cheapest home in our town), allows us to have a single car, allows my wife to be a home maker, and so on. Because we’ve kept our cost of living down, I haven’t had to work quite as hard to earn enough to pay our bills and keep food on the table. And that, in turn, has freed me to focus on things like blogging and book writing that, while they do provide some income, are not ever going to make me rich.
3) You review a ton of books every year. I’m guessing you’re flooded with books from publishers, etc. How do you sort through them and decide which ones to read?
3. Yes, I do receive quite the flood of books. Just looking at the stacks beside me I can see that I received 21 in the past 2 days, though that’s probably a little higher than usual). It does leave me with the chore of sorting the good from bad. It’s usually quite simple to filter out the worst of the worst (they immediately get thrown away), but a little bit trickier to sort the gold from the silver, if you get my meaning. What I tend to do is choose books that look like they will be interesting, well-written and compelling to the readers of my site. I tend to give away most of the books that I do not review, simply because I do not have room for all of them. The walls in my office are already lined with books and there are more on the floor than there should be. The real challenge for me is to make sure I am reading books for my own edification and not just reading them as a means to the immediate end of tearing off a quick review.
4) You’re first book, The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment. When you hear the word discernment, instinctively we think of a sort of nitpicky legalism. But you say that every believer should be discerning?
The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment came out of a time when I was wrestling through what it really meant to be discerning. As you say, many people understand discernment as a habit of those who are always looking for something to complain about. And I suppose there’s an undeniable connection between discernment ministries and people who are constantly picking fights and complaining about the Christian world. I addressed these people in one of the book’s chapters, though I’m not so sure that many of them listened. I don’t think you’ll find my book on the suggested reading lists for most discernment ministries. I see discernment as an integral ministry within the church and one that is positive, not negative, within the life of a local body. It’s to our shame that the word has been co-opted by those who cast it in a negative light.
5) You have a new book coming out in a few months, The Next Story, about living virtuously in a digital world. This seems like such a needed book as Christians in our generation grapple with just how to redeem technology for the Kingdom.
Yes, I do have a new book coming out in April of 2011. In fact, I’m taking a break from editing it to complete this interview. Now you didn’t actually ask a question here, so I’ll go ahead and create one. I think the greatest Blue Jay in history must be Roy Halladay. I know that many people will disagree with me and point to George Bell or Carlos Delgado or Roberto Alomar or any number of other guys. But Halladay gets my vote because he was a product of the Toronto system and pitched here for most of his career. It was here that he really grew up and here that he became the Cy Young winner (though I’m guessing he picks up another one this year). So he was a Toronto guy in a way someone like Alomar never was (even though Alomar was an integral part of those two World Series victories in ’92 and ’93). So yes, there are good arguments to the contrary, but I’ll stick with Halladay. Giving him up to Philadelphia this past off-season was a harsh blow. I think it will be a long, long time before Toronto sees another guy like him.