Q&A with J.D. Greear (Essential Christianity)

J.D. Greear is the pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He’s the author of several books, including Just Ask and Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart. J.D. is married to Veronica, and they have four children. Follow J.D. on Twitter here.

10 Quotes from Essential Christianity

To purchase a copy of Essential Christianity or view more information about Essential Christianity, click here.

Q&A with J.D. Greear

Evan: Who is Essential Christianity written for?

JD: I had two basic audiences in mind when I wrote this. I’ve compared it to John Stott’s Basic Christianity, in that it was a very accessible book for the thoughtful unbeliever. It’s not a book about sports or movie stars, so it’s going to mean they’re already a little bit motivated when they read it. They want to know what’s there. It’s for someone from a very secular background, with secular questions, but who has at least a desire to know what historic, ancient Christians have believed.

It is a book that attempts to be supra-institutional—that is, it goes beyond the institutions and gets to the core. It’s for those that desire an authentic, real, pure faith.

I talk in the first chapter about the value of deconstruction, because there’s a level of legitimacy raised by the current trend of deconstruction. I start there, where many people are, and say, “Hey, the objections you have are legitimate. But maybe the gospel, rather than adding to the problem that leads to deconstruction, is the solution that leads you out?” This is where the book of Romans comes in. This ancient book represents the earliest treatise on the gospel, an exhaustive explanation of Christianity. If we begin there, we can get around all the institutions that have caused such trouble.

Evan: Why is it important for churches and believers to focus upon the essentials of the faith?

JD: The first reason is that the gospel is incredibly relevant and necessary for believers. As I often say, the gospel is not just the diving board off which we jump into Christianity—it’s the swimming pool in which we swim. It’s not simply the entry point into the Christian life; it’s the entirety of the Christian life. It’s impossible to know those essentials too well.

And if we want to go deep on the gospel, we can’t do much better than the book of Romans. This is the earliest Christian treatise on the gospel we have. This ancient book provides the very first attempt to capture the essentials of the Christian faith in one place.

The gospel is the only thing (other than Jesus) in Scripture that is called “the power of God.” It answers our deepest spiritual questions as well as gives motivational fuel for tired Christians. Whether you are looking for a simplified and clear explanation of Christian essentials or if you’re looking to grow deeper in your passion for Jesus and your commitment to his kingdom, the gospel is the answer.

There’s another reason we should focus on the gospel essentials, and it’s a bit more related to our current age. A lot has been written recently about “deconstruction.” That’s an extensive, multi-layered conversation. But I believe this book—not just Romans, but Essential Christianity—can help provide a way forward for those who are doubting and beginning to deconstruct their faith. Because each chapter is framed by a question and one key word, it resonates with the questions people are actually asking today.

I’ll offer one more reason—evangelistic effectiveness. Believers need to know these gospel essentials so they can help others see the gospel for what it is—and, God willing, call them to believe, too. A friend of mine (who was not a believer at the time) said that Paul’s line of reasoning in Romans is “surprisingly relevant” for those who aren’t sure about Christianity. After all, Paul himself started out a hardcore skeptic—the idea of the resurrection of Jesus was just as outrageous to him as it might be to you. It may be a wild notion for you to consider that a first-century writer can meaningfully speak to your 21st-century questions and problems. But, if nothing else, Romans proves (to quote my seeking, not-yet-believing friend again), “The fundamental anxieties and questions of the human condition have not changed in 2,000 years.”

In Romans, the apostle Paul shows us how to experience the gospel as power now—power in our trials, doubts, struggles, and questions.

The book of Romans is the greatest gospel presentation in history. And we all need to hear it.

Evan: What do you hope readers will take away from Essential Christianity?

JD: I hope they will feel drawn to Christ. I hope they will feel more confident about understanding the essentials of the Christian faith. I hope they’ll feel more bold in sharing it with others. All in all, I hope they’ll sense, “I get what this is all about because I’ve gone back to the bedrock. And I’ve built myself a more firm foundation, onto which the rest of the Christian life can be built.”

One of the metaphors I use in the book is this image of a flower: If the soil is healthy and the seed is good, then the flower just grows naturally. I think that’s what will happen here: I’m basically cultivating the soil and making sure the seed is planted right so that all the flower and fruit of the Christian life can grow naturally.

The Christian life is not something achieved by discipline, which weary Christians know all too well. They are always feeling like they’ve got to do something else or become something else in order to become better Christians. And because there’s always more out there, they struggle with guilt and weariness. That way leads first to weariness, then to resentment of God, and finally to Christians distancing themselves from him. But essential Christianity focuses not on what we must do, so much as what Jesus has already done. And the change follows organically.

J.D, thank you so much for doing the Q&A! I hope this book is beneficial for many. May the Lord bless your family and The Summit Church for His glory!

Evan Knies is an elder of North Hills Church in West Monroe, LA. He is husband of Lauren and father to Maesyn. He is a graduate of Boyce College and Southern Seminary.

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