Dr. James Patterson is a University Professor and Associate Dean of the School of Christian Studies at Union University in Jackson, TN. Dr. Patterson earned a Masters of Divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. At Union, Dr. Patterson was my professor in Old Testament Survey and Great Texts and Theologians, an excellent course in historical theology. He was also a faithful fellow member of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, TN, where he still serves as a deacon.
1. Could you describe how you came to faith in Christ?
When I was 10 years old, I responded at a summer camp to a gospel call and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I was later baptized in my home church after completing a discipleship class with the pastor.
2. Could you describe your call to ministry?
As a college student at a secular, state university I came to a realization during my sophomore year that the Lord was calling me to “full-time Christian service.” At that point I began investigating seminaries and eventually enrolled at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Late in my seminary experience I sensed that the Lord was directing me to a ministry in Christian higher education, so I went on to Ph.D. work in church history.
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 prefer mornings for my major devotional time. My prayer includes a list of people and organizations that I pray for regularly, our church prayer sheet (distributed Wed. evenings), and the daily list of missionaries in Open Windows. I have a Bible reading plan–I simply work through the Bible, chapter-by-chapter. I also use the daily devotional reading in Open Windows.
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?
I have been influenced by C. S. Lewis, esp. Mere Christianity, Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, Luther’s Bondage of the Will, Calvin’s Institutes, Edwards’s Religious Affections, J. I. Packer’s Knowing God, and several books by David Wells (e.g., Above All Earthly Pow’rs). I think that it is better to sample several Christian authors than to try to read any single writer’s entire corpus.
5. Because the Puritans are of special interest to me, is there any Puritan work which you have found to be particularly helpful? Why?
Richard Baxter’s Reformed Pastor is helpful for those in pastoral ministry. I consider John Bunyan to be in the Puritan tradition, and recommend Pilgrim’s Progress and Grace Abounding. Several of John Owen’s books are worthwhile, including The Death of Death.
6. What is your role in the local church right now? Why is it important to you to take part in this?
I am active at Englewood Baptist as a deacon, Sunday school teacher, and ESL tutor. I have served 2 consecutive terms as deacon chair at a time when the church was transitioning from a retiring pastor to a much younger pastor. I consider the local church to be the real center of what God is doing in the world and thus a very high priority for me.
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 discouraging thing is church people who are not really committed to Christ or the local body of believers. The most encouraging thing is the significant number of people that I fellowship with at my church who are truly clued in to the kingdom.
8. If there was one word of advice, encouragement, or challenge to pastors, what would it be?
Preach the Word responsibly, conscientiously, and consistently and let the chips fall where they will.