I am always encouraged and challenged by conversations with godly brothers who have been following the Way longer than I have. I have asked a few such men the Lord has placed in my life to consent to a brief interview concerning their pursuit of godliness through personal devotion and the local church which will be posted here periodically over the next few weeks.
The first brother I would like to introduce to you is Dr. Walton Padelford, University Professor of Economics in the McAfee School of Business at Union University, and elder at Christ Community Church in Jackson, TN.
1. Could you describe how you came to faith in Christ?
I believed in Christ as a young lad under the influence of my mother and father and my local church.
2. Could you describe your call to ministry?
I was involved with my vocation of teaching economics and the call of God sort of developed over time. I began to be more seriously involved in discipleship when I was around 26 years old. I began to read Scripture every day and pray. One thing led to another and ministry opportunities opened up for my wife and me. This eventually led to some evangelism opportunities overseas with Campus Crusade for Christ, my wife and I learned Spanish in which I still teach Bible and preach. One never knows what kind of ministry the Lord will open up.
3. Could you describe your personal devotional time (what time of day, what it consists of, whether or not you pray according to a list/schedule for various people, use a Bible reading plan, etc.)?
I read the Bible and pray in the morning, early. My Bible reading has at times been systematic (a book at a time, or reading through the Bible), and sometimes I have followed no plan, but may spend time in the Psalms. I particularly love the Psalms and Proverbs. Right now, I have a prayer book with some classic prayers from some of the church Fathers, some Scripture and the names of everyone in my local congregation (I am one of four elders). I have divided the names into four sections and try to pray for one section of individuals per day.
4. Which two or three books outside of the Bible have had the greatest impact on you? Are there any authors from the past or present of whom you would recommend we read all their works? Why?
The Cost of Discipleship and Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I would recommend those two plus Life Together and Ethics by Bonhoeffer. I find him always challenging and refreshing. I started my theological journey with Arthur Pink, particularly his commentary on the Gospel of John and commentary on Hebrews. Very strong stuff. You might not agree with all of it, but strong and biblical. Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, and Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers by Christopher Hall. These are very good at explaining the viewpoint and methodology of the Church Fathers–Patristic theology. I believe that this is a refreshing antidote in our day of “anything goes” evangelism and cultural appeasement by the Church.
5. Because the Puritans are of special interest to me, is there any Puritan work which you have found to be particularly helpful? Why?
The only Puritan I have read in recent memory is John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. I find Owen some difficult to read, however the preface to The Death of Death by J.I. Packer is worth the price of the book.
6. As a pastor, do you have a particular strategy for continuing to study and learn? When do you do this? Why is this important to you?
I am one of four elders in my local church. I am always reading something, and I plan to continue. I am working on a large project now. If I ever finish I think I would like to try to read much of Karl Barth.
7. What do you find to be the most discouraging and the most encouraging in your ministry, leadership position, or walk with Christ?
The most encouraging thing in my walk with Christ is the real relationship that exists between us. When I pray, there is someone there rather than just talking to myself. This relationship is a constant source of encouragement for me.
8. If there was one word of advice, encouragement, or challenge to pastors, what would it be?
For young pastors, I would say continue your own theological reading and study. Do your own work in Scripture and your own exegesis. Consider at least some of the time preaching verse by verse through some book of the Bible. This will force you to deal with sublime issues as well as problem / controversial issues. Stay with the Scripture. It continues to change our lives and will also change the life of your congregation.