It’s not every day you meet a seminary president who blends a scholar’s mind with a missionary heart and a love of sports. And somewhere between leading Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
(Wake Forest, NC), writing books, traveling the world to preach the gospel, training the next generation of pastors and missionaries, and watching ESPN, my friend Danny Akin took a few moments for an interview.
Thank you for your time, Danny. Please describe your morning devotions. What time do you wake up in the morning? How much time do you spend reading, meditating, praying, etc.? What are you presently reading?
People who know me know that I am not a morning person! In fact I think a good morning starts around 9:00. However, I normally get up around 6:45–7:00. My morning devotion is very brief but it fits who I am. I will pray to the Lord three specific texts of Scripture: Romans 12:1-2, Galatians 2:20 and Philippians 1:21. I ask the Lord that these Scriptures in particular would guide my thoughts and actions throughout the day. Further, I am wired in such a way that in the morning I engage the Lord in normal conversation as I am preparing to leave the house and go to whatever responsibility I may have. So there is conversation taking place over about an hour’s period of time. Some days that conversation is far more intense. I do not have a particular book that I am reading for morning devotion other than the Bible. I readily confess this is not an area of strength for me as I see things. It is an area of perpetual struggle.
What book(s) are you currently reading in these three categories: (a) for your soul, (b) for pastoral ministry, or (c) for personal enjoyment?
Currently I am reading several books as is usually the case. I have been reading a biography on the wonderful missionary Henry Martyn. Nothing has fed my soul like missionary biography. I am also reading the newest book by Tim Keller entitled Counterfeit Gods
, as well as a book on the wonderful Baptist preacher and theologian John Broadus. I am almost always reading a book on 1) missionary biography and 2) theology and 3) biblical studies. I have just finished reading Mark Dever and Michael Lawrence’s superb book on penal substitution and Mark Driscoll’s forthcoming book on doctrine. Both books were food for the soul as well as theologically informative. These are the kind of things that I read.
Apart from Scripture, what book do you most frequently re-read and why?
I have reread many times Francis Schaeffer’s book How Should We Then Live
. It radically transformed my way of thinking about the Christian life when I was a Bible college student, and I continually return to it for great encouragement to my soul and mind. I also have read repeatedly The Anabaptist Story
by William Estep. These faithful brothers whose lives were cut short have always been a challenge and encouragement to me so I have returned to this work on a number of occasions. Perhaps no book has been more of a blessing to me than To The Golden Shore
, the biography of Adoniram Judson. Each time I have read the book my soul has been lifted and my heart convicted with respect to my pathetic service to our Lord Jesus. Judson and his three wives are real heroes of the faith. My admiration for them cannot be put into words.
When you finish a book, what system have you developed in order to remember and reference that book in the future?
I mark every book that I read with both a highlighter and a pen. Then when I reread it, I am able to move through it more quickly, though sometimes I see new things the second time through that I missed the first time! I do not have any detailed system of referencing a particular book. Usually, I am able to recall what is there and go back to it. If it is something I deem especially significant, I will make a copy of that particular page and file it. I always reference any item so that I know the source. This is very important with respect to sermon notes. Of course, the books that I have forgotten, I have forgotten!
If you could study under any theologian in church history (excluding those men in Scripture), who would it be and why?
That is a very good question. I would love to have studied under Calvin but lived next door to Luther! I think Calvin would have been such a great blessing to my mind as well as my soul, while Luther would have kept me balanced and laughing! I would love to have sat under Augustine. What an incredibly brilliant mind. And of course, I would have benefited greatly to have studied with Jonathan Edwards or the Princeton theologians like Hodge, Warfield and Machen. I would also love to have studied under James Boyce and John Broadus. The fact is each of these men has greatly impacted my life through their writings. What an incredible privilege it would have been to actually have conversed with them and sat under their instruction in person. Perhaps in heaven, something like that will take place.
What single piece of counsel (or constructive criticism) has most improved your preaching?
I would say that being open to critique and criticism is the most important counsel I have received and could pass on. I am often fond of saying in my preaching classes, “What you say is more important than how you say it, but how you say it has never been more important.” What we say, the content exposition and theology of Scripture, must be of first importance. However, in the age in which we live, how we say it is crucially important. I believe it is a sin to make the Word of God boring. Therefore, we should both have something to say and we should say it well.
What books on preaching, or examples of it, have you found most influential in your own preaching?
Let me answer this question in this way. I believe good preachers listen to and read great preachers. My own personal approach to preaching has been greatly influenced by both the preaching and the writings of men like John MacArthur, Bryan Chappell, Ramesh Richard, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, John Piper, Alistair Begg, and Steven Olford. Their books, other writings and preaching have greatly shaped and influenced my own approach to the assignment of biblical proclamation. Each of these men has contributed significantly to my life in that regard. The fact is I have more than 5,000 cassette tapes and CDs of the preaching of these men. I continually go back to them for nourishment for my soul as well as insight in how to approach the biblical text. Let me add that in recent years I have been blessed by the preaching of Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Mark Driscoll, C.J. Mahaney, James Merritt, David Platt and Robert Smith.
To be continued in part two...