Interview with

Founder & Teacher,

Audio Transcript

2023 ends for us here in ten days, Pastor John. To close out one year and enter another, we like to set aside some time to look back on God’s grace to us over the past twelve months, and then to lay out some plans that we have for the twelve months ahead. That’s our goal today in this episode.

Obviously there’s no guarantee for our future, but we plan. We prepare, we resolve, and we labor toward future goals. And we do this because so many of you listening right now are generously invested in supporting our future endeavors. So, it’s good for us to talk about all of this with you, our partners in the work, and with those of you who may be listening and feel ready to become a partner with us. This is for you as well. Thanks for listening.

As we look back on 2023, start with a personal update. Just tell us how the year was for you personally and for your labors.

I have said this many times, Tony, and I’m going to say it again: God has been very kind to me in making me a part of the ministry of Desiring God. I feel the same way about being a part of Bethlehem College & Seminary, but Desiring God is where I spend most of my time. And I don’t take it for granted, because not every pastor who comes to the end of his pastoral work, like me, after 33 years at Bethlehem, can step into a ministry whose mission he loves with all his heart.

I love the mission of Desiring God. It is not an overstatement to say it is my life. We exist to move people to live for the glory of God by helping them to be satisfied in God above all else, especially in their suffering, by communicating the truth and beauty and worth of all God is for us in Christ, grounded in, governed by, and saturated with the infallible Scriptures. I love this mission, this life. And I love the dozens of utterly devoted people to the mission of Desiring God that I get to work with. So, that’s my dominant feeling as I look back over the year. That’s my update in a nutshell.

It was a thrill, it really was, to be with about forty of our global partners in Amsterdam earlier this year. I spoke four times, just to encourage them in their partnership with us in this very mission. God has raised up publishing ministries and online ministries around the world, in dozens of different languages, that share our passion for this kind of mission. We don’t own these ministries; we serve them. What that means is that anybody who supports Desiring God supports a growing global network of like-minded ministries.

New Podcast and Anniversary Edition

There really were two major initiatives this year that are — well, to me personally — just amazing. I’ll tell you why.

“I love the mission of Desiring God. It is not an overstatement to say it is my life.”

One was the launching of the new podcast, Light + Truth, five twenty-minute sermons each week. And what amazes me about this is the enormous planning and work it takes to make something like that come into being and stay in being. But even more, I’m amazed at the excellence of Dan Cruver’s editing and perfectly toned envelope around those messages each day. So thank you, God, and thank you, Dan. Light + Truth is remarkable, for those reasons at least.

The other initiative this year was the twentieth anniversary of the publishing of Don’t Waste Your Life. That’s a book (for people who don’t know) that I wrote twenty years ago. We celebrated that moment by spearheading the publishing of this edition in forty different languages. The ongoing global expansion of the ministry of Desiring God — in that, for example — is what I mean by being amazed.

Looking at Paul’s Letters

Of course, I spent most of my time in the year on Look at the Book. That’s what fills my day when nothing else is filling it. In the summer, I had this blitz of eight weeks where I did nothing else but that. My goal, as many people know, is to prepare these video episodes on all of Paul’s letters. I finished 1 Corinthians during that LAB blitz last summer, and I’m now well into 2 Corinthians, with only Romans to go.

Only Romans.

Only Romans to go, right? What a ridiculous word! So, obviously I need our friends’ prayers if I’m going to finish up 2 Corinthians, probably in 2024 sometime, if God gives me life, and then we move on to Romans.

Of course, this — Ask Pastor John — with you, Tony, remains a happy rhythm of life. I usually prepare on Tuesdays, and then we record on Wednesdays. It seems to me that after ten years with you, doing this, people never run out of amazingly difficult, perplexing questions about the Bible and life. As long as you and I have energy, they’re there, ready to ask their questions. I just think this podcast is as vital as it ever has been.

‘Ask Pastor John’ — the Book

And looking into the new year, APJ is going to be more vital than ever, I think. Because you have written a book based on the distillation of Ask Pastor John for ten years, which will be published next year. And I know our listeners really want to know about that book, because it is remarkable. I’ve seen some of the endorsements, which blow me away. Would you take the rest of our time and tell us about that book and anything else you see coming down the pike?

Honored to. The new book is titled Ask Pastor John: 750 Bible Answers to Life’s Most Important Questions. A big book, as you can glean from the title. It launches on March 5 from Crossway. People hearing about it for the first time ask me, “What is it, Tony? Why did you write a book about a podcast, especially when the whole archive is transcribed online, just a Google search away, for anyone who wants it?” Great question.

Well, over the years, friends and partners of ours — donors — would email me, asking about some pressing question that has come up in their life, their family, their church — asking me for an APJ episode that could answer a dilemma. And I would go to the archive, gather all the relevant episodes, and respond with an email that was basically a digest of all the episodes, and parts of episodes, that I thought could help answer a given challenge, all from different angles.

I think it’s easy to do a search, find one episode, click, listen — and then that’s it. You miss the other episodes and other angles. So, these little digests seemed to be useful for people who listen to the podcast regularly. I think we underestimate just how hard it can be to navigate a massive archive of over 220 hours of content, and growing by the week.

“We exist to move people to live for the glory of God by helping them be satisfied in God above all else.”

So, I collected all those digests into one document, and at some point I realized I could do this with the broader archive. I set aside two years of my book-writing time, and I identified our 750 most popular episodes, the ones that really seemed to resonate broadly with our audience. And I took those, summarized them, and organized them into one comprehensive guide, one huge digest, to help you find the episodes that you need when you need them. And all in one book that is significantly longer than Providence.

Way to go — longer than Providence. Love it!

Well, I wasn’t trying to win that comparison, but I do hope it’s a fraction as helpful as Providence.

Encouraging Endorsements

And from what I’m hearing, it might be. This is the first time I’ve ever sent out a book for endorsements, and everyone I asked agreed and delivered a glowing endorsement before the deadline.

That, to me, is a very good indicator that people want to get behind this project. Sinclair Ferguson likened it to Richard Baxter’s classic, massive book, A Christian Directory. What a comparison. And then Dr. Ferguson called the APJ book “one of those rare contemporary books that can be described as ‘should be in every Christian home.’” My jaw dropped when I read that. I mean, that’s an amazing endorsement of the book, but even more of your labors in this podcast, Pastor John, for a decade. A ringing endorsement.

And Kevin DeYoung, another friend of ours, said, “I can’t imagine any Christian who wouldn’t be helped by and fascinated by the hundreds of topics covered in this amazing resource.” Again, he’s talking about the podcast, which I have now tried to wrap my arms around, those 220 hours of audio recordings, into one guide you can easily thumb through and browse. Scanning on paper hundreds of popular episodes just reinforces the breadth and scope of this podcast.

And then our friend and avid APJ listener Joni Eareckson Tada — she’s listening right now, I’m sure. So hello, Joni.

Hey, Joni. We love you so much.

Yes, we do. She wrote, “As a podcast listener, I couldn’t be more pleased. Thank you, Tony, for compiling this encyclopedia.” So, if these endorsements are right, I have high hopes that this book will serve present listeners, to help them benefit from the archive, in 2024. That is my first prayer for the book: to help you who are listening to us right now.

My second prayer is for future listeners to the podcast, who are not listening right now, and who haven’t even started listening yet. Imagine that: there’s an audience of people who have never listened to APJ who will go online and listen to our content in the future. I want to help them to see the ground we covered in the first ten years of the podcast so that they can catch up.

So, those are my prayers. This is a book you can buy and hand to someone who has never listened to APJ. How powerful is that? Stay tuned. More on March 5.