Captivated by Jesus: An Interview with Matt Miles

Matt Miles is the director of Jesus Collective and a paragraph in the description of the network states that it is for those who ‘resonate deeply with Jesus-centred values and have a high value for scripture, regardless of context, label, or background’. This says a lot about Matt and his organisation, but you can read all about it at

Please note that this is a transcript of the actual interview we had with Matt and that we have kept editorial changes to an absolute minimum to retain the feel and tone of the conversation.

Lance Peppler: Welcome to the captivated by Jesus series on the truth talks podcast. My name is Lance Peppler, and the son of the regular host of the podcast, Dr Christopher Peppler. 

As part of the Captivated by Jesus series, we are interviewing church leaders from around the world. Today we’re joined by Matt Miles, from Toronto, Canada.  So to introduce Matt,  he’s the executive director of Jesus Collective. And the Jesus Collective, which I hope you look up and you search for on the internet,  is a relational network of Jesus centred leaders and churches. He is husband to Fiona, dad to Jessica, (I’ve also got a daughter called Jessica), and lives on the east side of Toronto. He’s passionate about advancing the Kingdom, growing disciples, and giving more visibility to the life-giving and life-changing Jesus-centred Way.

To begin the interview I’d like to start by reciting a poem, or in this case, a song. And it’s a very popular song,  “Jesus be the Centre of it all”, by Israel and New Breed.

Jesus at the centre of it all
Jesus at the centre of it all
from beginning to the end
it will always be it’s always been You
Jesus, Jesus.

Nothing else matters
Nothing in this world will do
Jesus, you’re the centre and everything revolves around you
Jesus you

from our heart to the heavens
Jesus be the centre
It’s all about you
Yes, it’s all about you.

So welcome to the podcast, Matt.

Matt Miles: Thanks, Lance. It’s great to be here. And I love that song. What a great way to start things off.

Lance: Yes, one of my favourites as well.  Matt, thank you so much for joining us.  Can I start by asking you, how did you become a believer? How did you encounter Jesus?

Matt: Yes, you bet, and I’ll warn you, my answer isn’t that exciting or dramatic.  I grew up in a Christian home, here in Ontario, Canada, in southern Ontario. So I had the privilege like some of us have, of inheriting faith, from a family that loved God and loved Jesus.  I was a part of the Anglican Church growing up, my parents are still part of the Anglican Church. Now it was a beautiful church background. So I kind of had to grow into the clothes that my family gave me spiritually, appreciated the chance to do that, and I don’t have a particular moment in time.  I’ve often envied people who have that moment in time when they can point to where they began to follow Jesus. Like I said, I kind of grew into that, over time, like a lot of people.

In my early adult years, I had a very deep encounter with Jesus that really changed my perspective on him being the centre of the universe, but also my faith and in my life. And that was profound for me. And that’s really just continued ever since. So, you know, that’s kind of how I became a believer through inheritance, but really started to get to know who Jesus really was, I think in my early adult years, I haven’t looked back.

Lance: And could you talk to us about that encounter?

Matt: Yes, I think what happened for me there, Lance, you know, wasn’t overnight. It’s something that takes time. But I started to realize that Jesus is, wow, this is a scandalous god-man. Here he is scandalously and radically welcoming, relational, peace-making and invitational.  There’s so much about Jesus that isn’t just the flannel board, soft character, that some of us are raised to believe he is, and there’s so much about the church that we’re tempted to centre on that isn’t actually consistent with who Jesus is, and his vision for the kingdom on earth and the church. And so not only was I starting to reorient my understanding of who he was, and, and kind of wind down some of the perceptions I had about who he was, and replace them with more accurate understandings, but I was also starting to see what it meant to put him at the centre of everything and how that really just changes the game entirely on my view of who God is, but also who I am and then what churches are and how we relate to the world around us.  All those things start to change when you start encountering and experiencing the love of Jesus and meeting him as a person and God. So that’s it; everything changed when I started to see him that way.

Lance: Fantastic, Matt. And so to the second question that I’m going to ask you which is again focused on you.   You’ve said, you know, you had this encounter over a period of time. What do you think of Jesus now, and I’m asking for both an intellectually and an emotional perspective of Jesus?

Matt: I think one of the things that’s so cool, and this one I’ve learned from one of my theological mentors, here in Canada, if you look at the teaching of Jesus, it bears the mark of the miraculous, it fits our needs holistically as human beings and as a population of human beings, so perfectly. Everything from the pragmatic and practical needs that we have for safety and security. But maybe to where you’re getting with your question a little bit, also our relational needs, our emotional needs, our needs for, you know, esteem and value and worth. His teaching is a perfect fit for who even science would declare we are as humans and what our needs are. I love that Jesus is both sensitive to our need for evidence and rationale.  I mean, we see that all through his life on Earth, if not, throughout Scripture entirely, you know, the way he interacts with Thomas, the way he points back to the prophets, he does not dismiss our quest for understanding and our quest for running a ramp of reason before we’re ready to take a leap of faith. You know, Jesus Himself models what it means to be sound in our routing in Scripture and yet, it’s our whole self that he’s interested in speaking to, and he’s inherently relational.

I love the fact that the Trinity already, since the beginning of time is modelling love in and amongst itself and is modelling an inherent relationship, which is what God’s DNA is. And so I love that Jesus isn’t just sending us on an intellectual exercise, although he’s also not dismissing that, but He’s inviting us into relationship with himself. He’s inviting us into a transformation that permeates deep down into the soul and then though our lives.  Practically in the way we actually move and talk to others and relate to others. It’s so comprehensive, so accessible, regardless of how we’re are programmed as an individual, and it fits his teaching and his life. His DNA just fits who we are so perfectly.

I love to that he’s a God who loves questions. That’s something else I learned in my encounter with being Jesus centred.  He’s not interested in erecting a fence and measuring who’s in or out, he’s interested in moving people towards him.

That happens through questioning and the pursuit of relationship and to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, not because we’ll ever attain it perfectly, but because a relationship develops along the way, as we pursue understanding. I think he models that, I mean he invited Matthew as a tax collector, a sinner, into his discipleship ring because he knew what it meant to draw someone to himself on a pathway of understanding and relationship.  He models the intellectual, the emotional, the relational, quite frankly, perfectly and comprehensively.  I love that Jesus is brilliant.

Lance: Thank you so much.  Matt I’d like to draw the conversation towards the local church, the bride, and I know you love the church, and your organization is doing fantastic work in churches.  I want to ask you almost another introductory question, hopefully, a very easy question for you to answer, and it is, what do you believe the role of Jesus is in in the local church and every church? What role does he play?

Matt: Yes, it should be such a simple answer.  I think, honestly, he’s the cornerstone. And you know, that’s not just a trite answer.  But if we’re building our church foundation around anything other than Jesus as the central stabilizing mechanism, then we’re missing the point.  He told us, he gave us this teaching, right? If we’re building our house on anything but the rock it’s gonna wash away, and we, you know, we’ve kind of put all those parables and teachings into some cute little basket. But the reality is they contain really profound and simple truth, right?

If the local church isn’t orbiting around Jesus, and empowered by a spirit that points to him, if we want to use kind of like a solar system analogy; if you’re trying to build a solar system, so I hear, the middle of that solar system needs to be big and strong, because it’s what keeps the planets in orbit. And that’s the road you just got to plan for the church. He’s got to be at the centre of the solar system, if it’s going to orbit well, around him and then he also becomes that means, and he becomes the source of teaching. In terms of the ethics and the way we live out and bring the kingdom on earth, and he becomes the filter through which we interpret scripture, and he becomes the reason why we can unite as family even in our differences, because we’re tethered to something other than a creation theory or a health theory. We can talk about a bit of that later.  So He’s the cornerstone for the local church. And if we try to substitute anything else there, we’re off the path. 

Lance: I agree fully. Thank you so much.  My next question is a little bit more tricky.  I’ve heard other responses during other interviews that we shouldn’t criticize the church, but, and it’s a very general question so forgive me, if you look at the church, in Canada, America, across the world, do you think Jesus has that place? Do you think He is the cornerstone of the majority of churches in the world and the centre of churches around the world?

Matt: Yes, such an important question. I mean, if we asked a lot of Christians, would you consider yourself Jesus centred as a church or as an individual? I think a lot of them would answer Yes. And you know, what, if I give them the benefit of the doubt, which is how I want to live, and how I want to think and treat other people and churches, I think they mean it.  That’s an authentic answer. At the same time, I think, to your point, it is important as a kingdom family to be introspective, and self-aware, and constructive in our discussion with one another about the fact that he’s probably not actually at the centre in a lot of instances. It’s tough to generalise, because there are beautiful examples and I think it’s important to say that around the world there are truly Jesus centred communities and churches, and they all look different. By the way, none of us has cornered the market or should think we do exactly what it means to look Jesus centred in our context. Right. So this isn’t about judgment. And I don’t sense that in your question. Yeah, yeah, let’s get to the point. I do agree. I think it’s important to name  humbly and with a learning posture that we’re observing that there are large portions of the church that just appear to have placed other things at the centre. And people will often say, what do you mean, and I think it’s things we’ve placed, e.g. politics, at the centre, meaning we’ve started a conversation there. And then we’ve tried to fit Jesus into our politics, or we’ve placed the institution of the church at the centre. Or we’ve even placed things that Jesus loves and cares about, like justice is a great example, and we can get a bit confused and put justice at the centre. And kind of invite Jesus into our conversation about justice as someone who maybe can help us move that cause forward, that’s ever so slightly different than placing Jesus at the centre, of fixing our eyes on him. And then immediately, we care about the things that he cares about, like justice, but we approach them so differently tethered to Jesus, not trying to bring him along and advance our cause that’s superior to him, right. So even good things like justice we put at the centre or things like the Bible, there’s one to talk about! The western church, and particularly the evangelical mainstream church, often even will talk with language, like we’re, we’re Bible centred, Bible churches. And you know, there’s a lot of layers of the onion to peel back here. But we love our Bibles.

Our Bibles are an amazing, inspired and useful tool, to do what? To point us to Jesus. But if we read our Bibles, without placing Jesus at the centre of the Bible, and without using him as a lens through which to filter the beauty of Scripture, we’re missing the point.

And even Jesus told us if we do that, we’re missing the point, he told the Pharisees, you’re looking through the Scriptures for truth, but you’re forgetting that they actually point to me, that’s the whole point here. So when we place the Bible at the centre, what we oftentimes do, we give ourselves permission to pick and choose things that have context that suit our agenda, or that fit the image of God that we would love to perceive. And we reduced Jesus to a bit player in a plot, as opposed to the central point of Scripture through which the rest of it is understood. So maybe that’s gone beyond your question.

But I think those are some real examples of ways we have not actually centred on Jesus as the church. And we should have this conversation, we should be challenging one another in loving ways to say, what does it really mean to place Jesus at the centre of the church and encourage one another and not just in deconstructing the ways we haven’t done that, but in what it looks like to do that, and painting a pathway for churches to actually put him back where he belongs in the centre.

Lance: Matt, my next question is an extension of that. If there are churches, and some would say quite a lot of churches, that have different things at the centre and I can’t help imagining what the church would look like, you know, across the world if the majority of churches place Jesus at the centre so you didn’t have the minority of churches doing that, but the majority of churches would do that.  I want to ask you, do you have any thinking about how that would influence society, the world and the churches that do this?  Do you have any thoughts on that? Or do you think it wouldn’t change dramatically?

Matt: Love this question. I think everything would change!  I’m not just trying to be dramatic, like Jesus is that big of a deal. This is that important of a conversation we’re having. It’s not just some abstract little nuance of Christianity, we’re talking about here, everything would change. So here’s some things: I think, unity, the kind that Jesus prayed for in John 17, which apparently he seemed to think would be our biggest, most important apologetic to the world, right? He says, when you’re united, people are going to see what God’s love looks like. Okay, so if a church centres on Jesus, and has the possibility of uniting around him, even in our differences, I think that becomes the most powerful antidote to the polarization that is crippling the world in this cultural moment right now. So there’s a change right there as the world starts to see, not a judgmental body of people that’s trying to morally police the universe and doing that very poorly. But rather, it’s a bastion of unity, not where no one cares about anything. That’s not the point. It’s not just a fuzzy environment where anything goes, but it’s a point where we unite around Jesus and people start to feel drawn into that.

So I think that’s what one answer is, I think what would start to change is people would see that unity is possible in our differences because we’re not just fighting for causes.  We’re uniting around a person that’s bigger than our differences. I think for churches to be centred on Jesus, their whole teaching and theological paradigm would change.

If churches started to teach through the lens of Jesus, that frees us up from a house of cards, theology, that’s centred on things like atonement theories, sexual ethics, health theories.  I mentioned creation theories before all of which, by the way, matter deeply in the pursuit of knowing God and understanding who he is on all these different topics and realities is important.  But it frees us up to walk towards him, through learning and listening to one another, as we understand these different realities, rather than holding up our house of cards, based on a particular understanding of all these things that, quite frankly, don’t necessarily have anything to do with the centrality of Jesus. You know, my faith doesn’t hinge on a particular creation theory. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about understanding that and learning of who God is through that, no, but my faith starts and ends with Jesus and it frees me up to pursue these other points of understanding in a very different way. So I think that would be a radical change for churches right there.

I think discipleship changes Lance, if we as churches focused on Jesus at the centre.  Now discipleship isn’t about policing that fence I mentioned earlier in what we might call a bonded set environment where it’s all about setting who’s in and out based on our characteristics, or what we believe, etc. Now, discipleship changes, because you and I can walk together as brothers and sisters in Christ in a way where we’re not just so focused on convincing each other what the right answer is, and conducting one another, through this, you know, miss misunderstood meaning of accountability that is often applied in the church.  But instead what we’re doing is we are inviting one another, with Jesus together and actually trusting that he’s going to be the one that transforms us the way that he wants to. That, to me is a profound difference in what discipleship means and how it looks in our communities.  It creates a much more welcoming, compelling invitational environment for people to encounter the person in love of Jesus as opposed to be morally policed in a church environment. And lo and behold, that actually is what leads to transformation and that’s becoming more like Jesus anyways, which is the whole goal. So I think discipleship changes radically under the question you asked.  I guess as I’ve been saying, I think, naturally, the church just becomes a more welcoming and compelling and invitational place to people on the margins as well.

If we centre on Jesus because people start to sense invitation the way that Jesus intended it in the parable of the banquet, for example, like we start to create a table where other voices and people who have been excluded and marginalized are welcomed.  And we’re not threatened by that.  We’re so threatened often as Christians that don’t have Jesus at the centre, we become threatened because we have an ideology at the centre, we have, you know, a particular agenda at the centre.  And when people don’t agree with that, then we get threatened.  But when Jesus is at the centre, we don’t need to be threatened.  And so I think unity happens, it’s an antidote to polarization.

I think the way we teach changes, I think the way I think changes, I think the way we disciple people changes, I think the way we invite marginalized people into our community changes, and there’s way more than that, but there’s some of my thoughts on that. Yes, it’s a beautiful question, what would happen if churches centred on Jesus? I think everything changes.

Lance: I love that answer, Matt.  My next question is, you mentioned early on about the Trinity and unity and love between, you know, God, the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.  I would like one of the things we are looking at and trying to investigate to be what role does the Holy Spirit play?  I would love to think that the Holy Spirit would bless and be really involved in a church that focused on Jesus.   I’m not necessarily talking about revival here although I think a lot of people, including me, would love to see revival. But I’m just thinking, will the Holy Spirit bless a church that is focused on Jesus. The second part of that question is, how does that look? If your answer to the first question is yes, you know, the Holy Spirit would really bless a church like that, then what would it look like?  What would the blessing of the Holy Spirit in a church like that be? Do you have any answers to those two questions?

Matt: Those are great questions.  I love that we’re talking about the Spirit Lance, because sometimes, and I understand this, sometimes people who hear a conversation about Jesus centricity like this one, they ask a very good question, which is, so what are you saying about God the Father and about the Holy Spirit? Are you diminishing the importance and relevance of the Trinity with this obsession with Jesus?  I think it’s a really important point to orient ourselves to what we mean by placing Jesus at the centre, visa a vis the Trinity. When we do that, when we put Jesus at the centre, we see the Holy Spirit which Jesus Himself reminds us is His Spirit.? The Spirit is referred to in a number of ways; the Spirit of God, but it’s also the Spirit of Jesus.  It puts the Spirit in its rightful place as one who points us to Jesus.  The Spirit reminds us who Jesus is, and of course, the Spirit imparts on us gifts and has other important roles as part of the Trinity.  So the Spirit is blowing us to Jesus.  When we get to Jesus, what does Jesus say we see, he says, we see the exact image and replication of the Father. So in that sense, placing Jesus at the centre is this perfect orientation and honouring of what the Trinity was designed to be in all of its parts.  It doesn’t mean it’s just Jesus and we don’t talk about the Spirit and the Holy Father. So anyway, I use that as a preface because I think it gives a bit of a foundation for your question, if so, will the Holy Spirit bless a church like that?  Yes, I think that is what the Spirit is trying to do is blow us towards Jesus and point us towards him.  So I think the Holy Spirit is cheering when we centre on Jesus and saying – this is my work, my work – as the Spirit is to have you be oriented towards Jesus, not be a distraction over here.  That’s like, hey, guys, look at me.  I’m the Holy Spirit. Don’t forget about me while you’re worshipping Jesus, because we both need airtime. He’s like no, I’m trying to point everybody to Jesus so yes, I think the Holy Spirit is almost like an indecipherable that you can’t parse out.  Jesus centricity and the blessing of the Spirit as one in my mind, because as I said, if we see the Spirit as pointing us to Jesus as one then he’s celebrating, and blessing churches that are centred on him, and I think what we’d see Lance, we’d see real transformation of people, and transformation of communities.  Like if we actually think about that word transformation, for a minute, without just kind of letting it go by and not stopping on it, like, I think we would really see that as the Holy Spirit blesses our churches He is changing lives.

Actually transformed people fall in love with Jesus, not just academically and intellectually.  But he’s a living Spirit. And he’s renewing our minds. He’s transforming us through the renewing of our minds.

If the Holy Spirit blesses the church, that means there’s a whole bunch of people who are allowing him to take the keys of driving our minds, which of course, sounds dangerously offensive in a culture where we don’t want anyone to be our Lord. But it’s healthy when the one driving your mind, and with the keys, is God who has your perfect interest in mind and who loves you, and who loves everyone. That’s the only person I want to give the keys to my mind. So I think what happens, Lance, when the Spirit blesses churches, a whole bunch of people start giving him the keys to their minds and our hearts. And he starts moving us towards Jesus in ways that are just transformative individually. But then, as a consequence of that, our communities transform around us like a national transformational change. Yeah, different than before, when the Spirit gets involved. It’s not just a better version of ourselves.  We’re not trying to paint the kingdoms of the world with Jesus coloured paint. That’s not his mission.  The Spirit helps us point to Jesus in a way that’s transformative. I also think, maybe a slightly more practical answer to your question.

What would happen if the Holy Spirit blesses his church? I think we would see conviction on some of our leadership that isn’t Spirit led. In Jesus centred, we would see leadership systems that are patriarchal or that have unhealthy power dynamics at play, we’d see those start to yield to a Spirit-led version of what it means to lead our communities as servants the way Christ served the church.

So I think there’s a big conversation we could have is, what would it mean for church leadership if the Spirit was really present and living among us and had the keys to our church community to point us to Jesus to drive it towards Jesus?

And I think, you know, no conversation about this subject is complete without talking about gifts. Right. It’s not just ticking the box.  I mean, I think it is part of your question, I think is, if the Spirit is blessing a church, what we’d see happening is these gifts that God has given all of us being dusted off and being lifted out from the cracks that they’ve fallen into. And lifted out from the lies we’ve all been told about how we’re not good enough, we need to look more like that, we need to accomplish this in order to be useful, and we need to have this position in a church in order to contribute.  We’d see the smoke of all those lies clear away and the gifts that the Spirit has given us, be used to advance his kingdom in powerful ways.  You know, I find it interesting when I ask in church groups – okay, everybody, let’s talk about what gifts you have. How comfortable are you naming them?  You know what, my heart breaks sometimes because I see people immediately fall into this position of oh no I don’t have gifts.  I can’t talk about gifts, that I would be too proud. If I talked about gifts, or I’m not good enough to talk about my gifts, I think, oh, gosh, I think God’s looking down on us right now saying, guys, I’m giving you through the Spirit, a whole bunch of gifts, but you need to be self-aware about them, if you’re going to use them come on.  Like, it’s a good thing to acknowledge what gifts you have to use in the church. So I think we got a whole bunch of gifts lying around that are not being used and could be put into use to build the kingdom.

I think if the Spirit, blesses the church, those gifts would start to glow again in the people of the church, and would just be used to help build the kingdom. So there’s some thoughts on the Holy Spirit.

Lance: Incredible. Thank you so much Matt.  The last question that I’m going to ask you, potentially the most difficult one of all, so be ready, is that now we have a Christ centred church, and the Holy Spirit is blessing the church, I just wanted to know, are there things that church leaders can do to almost cultivate this and to make it happen? Are there things that the church can do to make their church more Jesus centred?  During the worship, the worship of Jesus, how can that be done to really accentuate and focus on Jesus, or the preaching, or other areas of the church?  Does the church need to be on fire with the leaders focused on Jesus which fires up the people to be transformed?  Or is it transformed people who come and fire up the church? What advice can you give to church leaders to make their church more Jesus centred and Jesus focused?

Matt: Yes you’re right. That is a tough question here. I thought we were through all the hard questions. But it is an important one.  Because if we’re not asking how the rubber hits the road on this, then what’s the point? Right, so yeah, I think it’s a great question. And you know what, I think Jesus has a way of being bigger than our perspective on any one methodology.

My first answer, although it’s probably potentially the most abstract, is that a church needs to really submit to Jesus as Lord, and the leaders of the church need to submit to Jesus as Lord first.

Now, again, that could sound obvious, but we have been held captive by an incomplete gospel. In so much of the church for so long, that understanding Jesus as Lord is sometimes a lost point. We have overemphasized Jesus as saviour. And by the way, I’m all on board with Jesus as saviour. Just to be clear, it’s a key central part of the gospel, save the cards and letters, everyone.  Yes, that’s absolutely true. But there’s more to the gospel than Jesus is Lord. In fact, we hear in Scripture, when we accept Jesus as Lord, we get him as saviour as part of the package.  If we say with our mouth that Jesus is, what? is Lord, right, so I’m starting here, I guess, Lance, because I think if we’re trying to transform a church to be Jesus centred, and we haven’t actually submitted to him, the one who’s Master, as opposed to just treating him like the one at the front door handing out tickets to heaven for when we die, and that our life here on earth doesn’t matter. You know, we’re never going to become a Jesus centred church if our perspective on the gospel hinges on salvation as an insurance policy against going to hell. That’s just not enough. That’s not enough of a cornerstone to build a Jesus centred church.

So as leaders, we have to start with an understanding of the gospel that is truly full and complete and understands what Jesus meant when he said to bring the kingdom on earth as in heaven.  If we don’t see that as central to our mission, the rest of the answers to how do we become a Jesus centred church?

I, I don’t know that this matters so much. So it starts with a theological foundation. And I’m not trying to get academic and heady. I just think it is our understanding of who God is. Any of us who are leading church communities, if we don’t start with that and commit to orienting a gospel around Jesus’s lordship, how will it ever be extended to permeate into us to becoming a Jesus centred church, right.  So I think leaders need to commit to that transformation themselves. And as a practical note, I would say and we’re doing this with a lot of churches, start with you and your team. If you’re in church leadership, not because you’re in the ivory tower, and you have power over others. No, start with your own process of submission to Jesus’s as Lord, then get together with your team, and start going on a journey of defining what the gospel is, and in Jesus centred terms start building a foundation of how we see God through Jesus, how we interpret scriptures through Jesus and how we’re about to shape a community that can be diverse around Jesus. And that doesn’t mean that leaders have to get it perfect before they can start the journey. But my point is, if leaders aren’t committed to that kind of transformation in the Lordship of Jesus, who are leading a church community, it’s going to be very difficult for the whole body to get excited about that. I would do practical things like I would commit to starting to teach through the Sermon on the Mount, even if that’s a challenging thing to do. God is going show up if we just start saturating ourselves in Jesus teaching and his character,

I believe, even if and as we’re on a journey, and we don’t understand fully he’s going to show up if we just commit to those basics. So those are a few practical things. I mean, we could say here’s the tricks and tips and tools but again, if you don’t believe that God looks like Jesus and that his Lordships is at the centre of the gospel, the tricks and tips and tools, are pointless.

Lance: Yeah, we definitely don’t want like a three or five or seven steps to doing this. We don’t want a formula for sure, because Jesus is too wild and too unmanageable.  Matt, it’s been so wonderful to speak to you.   Hopefully, you know, I’m going to carry on following what you’re doing. And I advise and encourage everyone to do so.  Matt, could you close in pray for us?

Matt: I’d be honoured to do that.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, what a joy, what a joy.

Just talking about and diving deeper into what it means to place you, Jesus, at the centre of everything.

Just naming that you are the first to last. You are wonderful and mighty and beautiful. You’re alive. And you’re our Lord. And that is good news. Jesus, compel us in our own lives and in the lives of the communities that were part of, to continue fixing our eyes on you.

Holy Spirit, blow us towards Jesus and draw us in, unite us in our differences in this polarizing (z’s or s’s?) moment in time, Jesus, that we may be a light to the world in the darkness.

Thanks for giving us hope that all of this is possible through you and through the local church.

 We love you. We love you.

And I’m just so grateful for the chance to hang out with my friend today.

Will you bless their ministry, and I’m grateful for this time together.

In your name we pray, Amen.

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Captivated By Jesus, An Interview with Alexander Venter

Lance and I are very pleased to start the Captivated By Jesus series by presenting an interview with Alexander Venter. I have known Alexander for well over twenty years and have observed him to be a genuine follower of Jesus with the ability and experience to present the importance of the centrality of  Jesus.

Alexander has been in the ministry since January 1975 and has gone on to plant and pastor churches in Zimbabwe, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Soweto.  A formative scripture for Alexander is Matthew 13:44,  “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. When a person finds the treasure, they joyfully go and sell all that they have in order to buy the field to explore and share the treasure. His passion is to make the treasures of the kingdom available to all who want to follow Jesus in the hope that the Holy Spirit will use them for spiritual formation towards Christ’s likeness and effective life and ministry in God’s kingdom. His life mission is to follow Jesus and make followers of him, learning to live a life of love just as Jesus left us.

If you want to know more about Alexander and access his many books and teachings then just click on this link:

In this interview, Alexander shares with us

  • How he became a believer,
  • How he loves Jesus,
  • The role of Jesus in the church, and
  • The impact on the church and world if Jesus was made the centre and focus of the church.

Here is the transcript of the interview. The next post will be the audio, TruthTalk version.


Alexander Venter: Thank you so much. I really appreciate it, Lance, and lovely to be with you and all your guests. Thank you.

Lance Peppler: Thank you very much for joining. So Alexander, I’ve got a set of questions that I’m going to ask all the people that we interviewed during the series, and the first one is how did you become a believer?

Alexander: Well, I was raised in a non-Christian home, we didn’t go to church. And my folks were basically, I would guess, agnostic.  Although my father’s Afrikaans, and came from a traditional Afrikaans church background, but we weren’t active church members. So I didn’t really know much about Jesus, until at school at high school, at Cambridge High School in London, this young guy in my class, David Gornitzky, who is currently a pastor in East London, spoke to me about Jesus.  I was sitting there and I had to ask him all sorts of questions as to who this man was.  It took about six months of him talking to me about Jesus and then they invited me to the First Baptist Church youth meeting in East London and Uncle Rex Mathie was the pastor, the senior minister at First Baptist churches, East London.  One Friday night, he preached to all the youth, and I just felt the prompting and my heart, it’s time to give my life to Jesus.  So I raised my hand when he asked for those who want to do give their lives to Christ and he prayed with me. That was a massive turning point.  So it was the seventh of June 1968.  A weight lifted off my shoulders, and I felt, inwardly, somehow clean, and different and excited, and my journey with Jesus began.

Lance: Fantastic. Thank you, Alexander. Now, the series is about Jesus. Can I ask you when I mentioned the name Jesus to you? How did that make you feel? What do you think of Jesus? Both intellectually and emotionally?

Alexander: Well, great question. Before I became a follower of Jesus, if you had mentioned Jesus to me, in my young, teenage years, I probably would have been very indifferent, and perhaps a little curious, but now, after all these years, since 1968, of basically being a follower of Jesus. Now, if you mentioned Jesus to me, emotionally, it just makes me all warm, and soft and tender inside, where I just have such a deep sense of respect, and admiration for that young man from Nazareth, the young, 30-year-old Rabbi Jesus of Nazareth and who is has risen and alive by the Spirit in me.

So emotionally, I just relate to him and love him, honour and respect them. And intellectually, I really am so engaged with Jesus who lived 2000 years ago, and in terms the men of history, Jesus, the historical Jesus, living in his context was such unbelievable presence of mind with a deep sense of identity and destiny, in God’s kingdom, to bring God’s kingdom and salvation to Israel.

And with all that he went through, so intellectually, I am just pursuing the studies of the historical Jesus, to get to know him better. And as intellectually, one is, is so deeply stimulated by this man, through the Gospels and other literature, that the more I know him intellectually, and understand them in his context, the more emotionally, I cannot but fall in love with him, and admire him at ever-deeper levels.

Lance: That’s amazing. Fantastic, thank you.   So part of the interviews that we’re doing is looking at Jesus and his role in the local church. Now, you’ve been a church planter and a pastor, for many years, like you mentioned, January 1975. And so, Alexander, what role do you think Jesus has in the church in general, what is his role?

Alexander: Well, Lance, I would say, the role that Jesus ought to have in the local church is the role that Jesus does have in the local church by default.  The role that Jesus ought to have in the local church, biblically, is that He is head over the church. And because he is head of the church, the church has been bought with His precious blood, and he is risen and ascended into the heavens.  As the head of the church, His Holy Spirit is Lord within the church, in the church, and Jesus is Lord over the church. So, therefore, Jesus should be the centre, the heart, the heartbeat, and the mind of the church, and by the autonomic nervous system, as it were of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of Jesus in the church makes Jesus central to the church giving us the mind of Christ, and the heart of Christ, the compassion of Christ. That is what ought to be but, in my estimation, and evaluation of contemporary Christianity, and generally in local church, is that is far from the case.

We live, I think, with a lot of mixed wheat and weeds, and a lot of mixed theology and mixed practices of local church where Jesus is not really the centre.  The Holy Spirit is also not really the coordination of the indwelling presence of God in His Church.  We don’t really exercise the mind of Christ. We don’t exercise the heart of compassion and mercy, of grace, that Jesus exercises.  There’s a lot one can talk about in terms of what we could say is the experience in local church today versus the biblical vision of Jesus and His Church. 

Lance: I wanted to ask you that, Alexander. Why do you think that is? It seems obvious that Jesus should be the centre just like you’re explained. Why do you think that isn’t the case? Why do you think that a lot of churches don’t have Jesus at its centre?

Alexander: Well, I think that we, obviously, all are broken human beings. We are sinners, saved by grace declared to be saints, through the blood of Christ. So we live in this, this eschatological or Kingdom tension of sinners that are saved and we sayings that are not yet perfected. And this tension means that we have all sorts of mixed motives still and brokenness unresolved in our lives.  The church is a divine organism, instituted by Jesus through His death and resurrection and infilled by the Holy Spirit, but it is equally also a very human and earthly institution.  So this divine reality of the church, born of Christ and the Spirit, and the very human reality of broken human beings that make up the church and form it and lead it and create policies and structures, and have meetings, that I think, for me accounts for this, this very mixed experience that we do have. So, therefore, depending on local leadership, and local philosophy of ministry, how local leaders do church, that for me, largely determines whether Jesus is actuality in real terms, centre of the church, or he is the centre and the life of the church, or whether he is marginalised to different degrees and in which ways he is marginalised, is as an example of unresolved ego needs in leaders. I mean, that is a lot of posturing of personality, and selfish ambition.

Often churches are built around not the dynamic of the invisible presence of Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit but the dynamics of church that are both around the personality, the charisma of the preacher, and to an extent of the service-oriented type, church, to meet the needs of the people and all sorts of other dynamics of so-called human excellence, that draw people and make church function.

So Lance, just briefly for me, if I had to put it this way, in the book of Revelation, chapter 3:20, Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea and he says – “Behold, I stand at the door knock, and if anyone hears my voice, I’ll come in, and I will sup with them.” Jesus is writing to a church through John, the Revelator.  He is writing to that whole church and he says, essentially, to put in modern terms, ‘He says, hey, you guys, on the inside there, Can anyone hear me?  This is my church, I’ve bought this church with my blood, it belongs to me, it doesn’t belong to you elders, or to you people, let me back into my church, if you open the door, and it may come back into my church, and give me the reins of my church, and let me rule and reign, and lead this church and be the centre of the church, then we will come near together, shared life with a trinitarian life in the power of the Spirit, and the kingdom will full this church and overflow through this church, into the world around it being a fundamentalist, the fundamental catalysts for change in the world around it.”.

So I think we’ve locked and marginalised Jesus. And in many churches, Jesus is standing outside the church and knocking trying to get back in. And the church continues business as usual, because it’s bolted on every other dynamic, other than the manifest presence of Jesus, church, local church, or to be such that if Jesus is not manifestly present, everything collapses. And we should face reality, and close church and go home and have coffee. Why?  Because church is about the reality of the indwelling presence of the king.

Lance: You say that Jesus should be the centre of the church. It’s easy to say that, but I think more difficult to actually implement. You have been a pastor in South Africa. I’m presuming that you’ve always tried to have Jesus as the centre of the churches that you’ve been the pastor of?  How have you tried to do that?  What have you put in place to try and make sure that Jesus was at the centre of everything that happened in the church, from the worship to the preaching to all aspects of the church?

Alexander: Again a very penetrating question, because when it gets to practicalities, one could list a lot of things. But I guess the longer I’ve planted in pastor churches, and the more I understand and know Jesus personally, the more I’ve come to an understanding, to continually hold up the vision of Jesus before the people. So through my preaching and teaching, and the diet, that are feed into the church, I watch what I teach. I try to avoid teaching my pet doctrines. I try to avoid teaching kind of esoteric, interesting motivational stuff, but continually come back to holding up the vision of Jesus consistently before the minds of the people that they see Jesus ever more clearly for who he is. The more clearer we see Jesus progressively, the more deeply we fall in love with him.  The more meaningfully, we are transformed into his image from one degree of glory to another. So for me, a primary thing of leaders, I have always said, from the Great Commission, where it says when they saw Jesus on the mountain, and Matthew 28, is when they saw Jesus on the mountain, he told them to go, when they saw him, they bowed down and worshipped him. So the clearer we see Jesus, the more it just draws from us, deeper levels of surrender, in true worship, and then we collaborate with his authority, because he said, “All authority is given to me go and make disciples”. So for me, it’s seeing Jesus and upholding the vision of Jesus, then it is making disciples of Jesus.

Church is not to make church members, churches, not to make converts, churches to make passionate, disciplined learners of Jesus. 

I can only make disciples to the extent I myself am a disciple. So spiritual authority in real terms are not notional terms, as a theological idea, but in real, tangible terms.  Spiritual authority operates to the extent I myself, am a disciple of Jesus, I can point people to Jesus as the centre and the heartbeat of their lives, and of the finances, of their sexuality, of their thought life, of the work-life of their marriage and family, and Jesus as the centre of the church.  I can only impart that which I am becoming personally, by having Jesus the centre of my own heart, and life and marriage and leadership, and philosophy of ministry, as a senior pastor, so that for me, also then converted to worship, our worship around me, myself and I.  So the feel-good gospel of Western therapy is a lot about ‘How do I feel?’  ‘Was worship nice?’, and we measure things by feelings of wonderful, warm, fuzzies.  The gospel, we preach as a self-improvement. Where worship must be focused on Jesus, and His needs, and my healing relies on Jesus, and his glorious kingdom, and all that he has done for us.   So I’ve worked with worship teams, to focus on Jesus, I’ve worked with sermons to keep coming back to and focusing and refocusing on Jesus. And then also, I think, through lived life, and spiritual practices.  So the corporate prayer meeting, corporate worship, corporate ministry, to the poor, all the motivation is to keep pointing to Jesus, and hopefully, together listening to Jesus and his agenda for the church, because Jesus has a dream and a calling for each local church, and the extent to which the leaders truly listen to Jesus by His Holy Spirit, and implement the vision God has for their church, then I believe it will be Jesus focused, and Jesus centred and less leadership focused and leaders centred.

Lance: That makes sense. I want to ask you, Alexandra, another question around that, and maybe from your experience of leading churches, has the Holy Spirit applied his blessing on a church and enabled a church in, just like individuals that are Jesus Centred?   I guess the question I am asking is do you think that the Holy Spirit would be more active and pour more of his power on churches that are focusing on Jesus?  That’s the first part of my question.  The second part is, how do you think that actually looks like when the Holy Spirit is blessing a church?  Have you seen that play out in churches that you’ve led?

Alexander: Yeah, look, I think that the Jesus expressly taught in John 14 to 16, before he was crucified, that he was departing, so that he could give the Holy Spirit to live in them.  He continually said that when the Holy Spirit comes, the Holy Spirit will not speak of himself or herself.  In the Old Testament, this Spirit of the Holy One, in Hebrews, is consistently feminine and in the Greek New Testament is neuter. It’s neither masculine or feminine. In the context we understand. So, therefore, when I refer to the Spirit as He then it is also She.  But that’s just as an aside, the Holy Spirit that comes from Jesus will speak of Christ and glorify Christ and bring us the things of Christ and reveal the things of Christ to us.  So if we truly lift up Jesus, Jesus Himself said, ‘If I am lifted up, I will draw people to myself’, and I assume that is by the power of the Spirit. So the more we lift up Jesus in worship, and the words in our worship, and all glorifies him, and not ourselves or our needs, or whatever, the more we preach and teach Jesus and lift them up.  Then I think that the Holy Spirit just automatically is poured out.  Jesus said that ‘when I’m lifted up, and I ascend, then I will pour out the Spirit upon you.’

So the more we glorify Christ and lift them up, the natural consequence is the outpouring of the Spirit with great joy.

Speaking in tongues like at Pentecost, I believe that the gift of tongues was a joyful overflow of the kingship of Jesus, his coronation in heaven. The coronation of Christ at the right hand of the Ascended Christ at the right hand of the Father, was manifest on Earth, with this intoxicating, new one of overflowing joy in all different languages to reach all nations, with the good news that Jesus is king.

And Jesus reigns he rules and reigns over sin, and sickness and demons, and death, and pain and poverty and injustice, and his kingdom has come, it is coming, and it will come. 

And so, for me, what it looks like, practically, is that in Paul’s theology in Galatians, when he speaks of the fruit of the Spirit, as love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, long-suffering, self-control, etc, he uses the singular fruit of the Spirit, which is the character of Christ. So when we lift up Jesus and make him Centre, the evidence of the Holy Spirit is filling the church and using the church. For me, it is this fully character of Christ, and the fully orbed grace of Christ, the gifts of the Spirit. So you have the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is the character of Jesus, and then the gifts of the Spirit, the charisma, charisma of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of Christ, the character of Christ and the power of Christ, by the Spirit. So gifts of healings, faith, miracles, discerning of spirits, knowledge, wisdom, all of the gifts of the Spirit together with this qualitative Christ’s likeness. This is progressively is evident among Christians in the local church, love, people of love, joy, peace, patience, that then just overflows for me. And the mark, the ultimate fruit or ultimate mark, of a truly spirit full, Christ centred church is missions and sharing the gospel.  People come to Jesus. And then actually we become agents of change in the community around us both where we are in Johannesburg, where you’re then starting in South Africa, then Africa and then to the uttermost parts of the earth. So I think they are very clear.

Fruit are characteristics that we can point to by saying this church evidently has Jesus relatively at the centre, and is a truly because Jesus is at the centre.

It is a spirit-filled church, because of these following characteristics that we see. And it’s holistic. It’s not one dimensional, you know, dawns  and closings. I think some people think if we make good as the centre, then it’s all about just Jesus in me and my forgiveness of sins to get me a ticket into heaven. And it’s this personal evangelical gospel of Jesus and me. But it’s not. It’s a holistic gospel that includes justice. It includes forgiveness of sins. It includes healing of the emotions, as well as healing of the body.  It includes church planting, and missions and social transformation. It is a holistic gospel, or holistic engagement, for holistic transformation, not only of the individual but of the church and the community and the nation.  That, for me, is the mature result of a truly Jesus centred church that will then be a Spiritual church.

Lance: Wow, wonderful. And, Alexander, since you’ve been a pastor, you know, from 1975, like we’ve mentioned, have there been times when you were the pastor of a church that you’ve specifically seen the holy spirit being poured out more than others? And maybe, could you give us an example and recount some examples of when you’re where the pastor, and how you’ve seen the Holy Spirit part on the church that you’ve been a pastor off?

Alexander: Thank you, Lance, I’m happy to do that. So I would say what comes to mind is that, if I look back on the years of ministry, which has been 46 years of full time, church, planting and pastoring now, and there clearly, there have been different seasons of the Holy Spirit, breaking through being poured out in fresh and new ways. And I could describe one or two of them. But what I have learned over the years is that when the Spirit breaks through and stuff starts happening, the temptation or the danger becomes that what is manifest that what starts happening and taking place, becomes the new thing, that then we build our church practices around, and then we justify theologically.  It becomes our new little idol that we worship, as opposed to remaining Jesus focused and centred, and living the Holy Spirit, who is the wind of God, the breadth of the resurrection, that blows here and there, with no waste coming from within always going. But those who are born of the Spirit of the people of the wind, who feel the wind, moving this way, then moving that way.

For me, the only predictable thing about the Holy Spirit is that he or she is unpredictable.

Yeah, because we’re in my ministry experience, the Holy Spirit broke out in the early 80s, within my own heart, and among friends around me.  We were taken into Soweto, out of a deep conviction of being born under apartheid, as white people on the side of privilege and power, and the need to go and find our black brethren and sisters, and reconcile with them in a profoundly, deeply divided hateful society in the early 1980s.  So for 12 years, I was involved in Soweto, when I look back on that I tell you Lance, that can only have been a real move of the Holy Spirit. Because it was what we did was beyond our natural ability, beyond our natural protection, there were so many situations in which I saw the evidence of the sovereign hand of God.  On the other hand, the Spirit when he moves, it’s manifest injustice and social engagement, for transformation. But on the other hand, I’ve had seasons of healings, and wonderful manifestations and signs and wonders of the Spirit.  Once again, in retrospect, way beyond my own level of faith, my own experience as a pastor, and sometimes I would stand and people would be crying, and crying out to God.

I’d be looking around and scratching my head and saying, Lord, I don’t understand but I just know it’s you. And it’s beautiful and wonderful. And I’m not going to put my fingerprints on it.  I’m just going to stand back and let God be God. 

So I’ve learned that the spirit moves in different ways at different times. But the danger in church life is when we make this healing, healing move of the Spirit, the thing that begins to define the church, and we have to be extremely careful, Jesus and the kingdom is the lens through which we see all the holistic dimensions of the gospel.  If you make the one part, the whole, then you become a social activist church, or you become a Healing Church, or you become a spiritual, spiritual formation church or holiness church, or you become an evangelistic church, or you become a church-planting church because you make the one dimension into the hole, and then you actually lose it.  It’s no longer Jesus focused solely be Jesus focus, they still hold all the different aspects of the gospel intention, and let God be God, and the spirit moves this way, then that way, then this way, then that way, according to what is needed at different times in the life of the church.

Lance: Wow. Yeah, that’s absolutely, absolutely helps.  The last question, Alexander is, and I’m trying not to put my own thinking into these interviews, but maybe I, from my experience when I go to churches, a lot of people are there, as sort of spectators and often just came to church and not being involved intimately with worship and pushing out and trying to, you know, reach out to Jesus and experience Jesus.  The last question is, what do you think churches could do that are actively trying to, you know, be Jesus focused? What can they put into place that can encourage their people to worship Jesus and experience Jesus in the services?

Alexander: Well, again, it’s a good question. I think, for me, your question assumes an expression of church that needs to perhaps be commented on. So New Testament wise, the essential gathering point of the church was in the homes. And then the home churches used to gather together in Solomon’s portico in the temple in Jerusalem as a public celebration or gathering of the small groups. They broke bread from house to house.  Paul in Corinthians speaks about the church in the home and the public gathering. So when we meet on Sundays as church, it’s more of a passive experience of the people, because it’s a larger meeting of 100, 200 or 500+ people. And so worship is facilitated from the platform. But how then to get people to engage in that worship, I think we can mix worship up to get our people actively engaged, they’re not passively receiving.

And so perhaps, in worship, is to try different things, where people just pause, and for two, three minutes, turn around with twos and threes around there, and just pray for each other as an act of worship, and then re-engage in worship, or read a scripture, I think there are ways and means to engage the people more actively in public worship. But obviously, the ideal is home church, because in home church, you have eight or 10 people in a lounge, weekly, or bi-weekly. And to worship together requires everyone to participate and to share and to gather around God’s word and to share a word and ask about each other’s lives, and then to pray for each other and encourage each other. That is very much people participation.

So for me, the ideal is discipling people by active, incremental participation in into small groups.

And then the gathering of the small groups in the bigger congregation limits active participation, although if we think creatively, as past as leaders, we can draw people out even in the public service into more active engagement. So one last comment is that I’ve been with Vineyardsince 1982. And when it came to after the preaching, teaching time, I, I used to sometimes open it up for comment if need be or Q&A, to get some feedback and some participation, which was very unusual and could be controversial. Secondly, when we had when we prayed for people for different needs, I didn’t do the praying upfront as the man of God, but we invited people in the congregation to pray for one another. There are different needs and so we did it in different ways. But we tried to open up the environment, from sitting looking at the back of someone’s head as a spectator to what’s happening on the platform to turning around and engaging people around either through praying for each other little discussions, small group discussion around the sermon, where I give two or three questions and circuit break up into small groups and discuss these two or three questions around what I’ve taught this morning. So there are creative different ways to get people engaged, even in a larger crowd context on a Sunday morning. So my dear friend, I hope that that helps.

Lance: It definitely does. So to end this interview, and it’s really been fantastic. Alexander, would you mind closing and pray for us? Can I ask you to do that?

Alexander: I would be honoured to do so. And again, Lance, thank you for this opportunity to be with you. So,

Lord Jesus, King of kings, Lord of lords, and especially the head of your church, we honour you, we exalt you, and we lift you high. Because, Lord, You are the reason for our living. You’re the reason for our believing. And you’re the reason, Lord for, for the existence of church. And so we receive you, Jesus, by your art poured Holy Spirit, into your church, into our minds, our lives, our bodies, and local church, and please, Jesus, have your way. We give the church back to you. We hear your knocking at the door, and we go to the door, we open the door, the local church and we say, Jesus, we hear your voice. You are welcome. Come into this church, which is your church board with your blood. And Jesus be in charge. Have your way. Do what you want to do with this church. Please, Lord, we need you. We need you more than we would ever realise. Your church needs you, Jesus. Come by your Holy Spirit. And fill your church again, I pray in Jesus name. Amen. Amen.

Lance: Alexander, thank you for joining us today and thank you for all the years for helping us to love and be in love with Jesus. And obviously, you haven’t stopped yet. You’re very, very involved store. And thank you so much for being involved in this captivated by Jesus series. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much, Alexander.

Captivated By Jesus, An Interview with Alexander Venter Read More »

Retaining an Apostolic Approach to Church Life

I co-authored this article with my M.Th student Malcolm Black and we published it in the SATS Conspectus in March 2008.

This article briefly examines the current return to apostolic Christianity in various parts of the world and references three earlier Christian movements that came into existence at approximately 100-year intervals, beginning with the Methodist movement in the 1700s, culminating with observations of a current apostolic movement that began in the early 1980s, known as New Covenant Ministries International, in an attempt to ascertain how they embraced early apostolic principles.

The article highlights the strengths of several movements but also makes observations about how these movements lost their initial effectiveness by becoming institutional and, in many cases, forfeited their initial vision of impacting the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We examine possible reasons why these movements lost their fervour and discuss possible ways of how current movements could learn from their mistakes not only maintain their spiritual fervency but sustain their vision and momentum of reaching the nations with the gospel to succeeding generations.

HERE is the full article.

Retaining an Apostolic Approach to Church Life Read More »

Perceiving God’s voice: divine guidance for everyday believers


I co-authored this article with my M.Th student Hugh Goosen and we published it in the SATS Conspectus in May 2015.


Vagueness exists amongst Christians with regards to what it is like to experience divine guidance practically. This problem is aggravated by conflicting perspectives on the will of God, whether or not His will is discoverable, and how Christians are to go about seeking it. This article seeks to reveal what we can reasonably expect to experience when God speaks by considering (1) perspectives on the will of God and its discoverability, and (2) the levels of awareness and certainty of divine communication as evidenced by select biblical characters. The article shows that the ways in which Christians experience divine direction are as unique and varied as each individual relationship with God is unique and varied. It shows, furthermore, that we should have, as our primary concern, a focus upon fostering a deep and intimate relationship with God, out of which direction and instruction will naturally and invariably flow. Finally, it shows that the primary way in which God communicates with us today is by means of the subtle and unobtrusive guidance and direction of our hearts and minds by the Holy Spirit.


HERE is the full article


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What it Takes to Lead a Seminary



I wrote this as the introductory chapter in the book Priorities for Evangelical Theological Education published by SATS Press in 2020


The Lord led me to establish the South African Theological Seminary after I had been pastoring the Lonehill Village Church in Sandton for nine years. For the first four years of its existence, my small team and I set in place the legal, institutional, and biblical foundations for the seminary. In August of 2,000 Reuben van Rensburg joined us and six years later took over from me as the Principal. I continued for another nine years as Chairman of the Board until June 2015. Therefore, I have had about twenty years either doing the job of Principal or working closely with Reuben – so I feel reasonably qualified to comment on ‘what it takes to lead a seminary’.


HERE is the full article

What it Takes to Lead a Seminary Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.