This virtual interview with Gordon’s founder was created by matching our questions for A. J. Gordon with passages in several of his many books on the Church, on mission, and life in the Spirit.
STILLPOINT: You are known for many things, including being the pastor of the Clarendon Street Church in Boston and revolutionizing that congregation towards enacting the works of the Holy Spirit. How would you define your work ethic in achieving this outcome, or what would you say drives you to keep up such a high energy level for your church?
Adoniram Judson Gordon: I would rather aim at perfection and miss the mark than aim at imperfection and hit the bullseye.
SP: This seems like good practical advice to live by.
A. J.: Nothing’s really practical except what’s spiritual, and nothing is spiritual unless it’s practical.
SP: Certainly from a practical point of view, your teachings were an encouragement and a call to action for many in your congregation, empowering them to live out their lives for
Christ. What can you tell Christians in this century about how this was achieved?
A. J.: Regardless of the century, whenever there’s been a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, whether that be in a single heart or in a large group of believers, inevitably what follows is a fresh undertaking to spread the gospel among the people in the world who have not yet heard it.
SP: You have written much on the subject of evangelism and inspired many to share the gospel, giving little regard to one’s social or economic background. What’s your secret for crossing these and other boundaries?
A. J.: I don’t care what your occupation is—you may be a carpenter, a blacksmith, a sales associate, a business executive—your first business is to give the gospel to those who have not heard it. My hope is that we consider this our main concern in life.
SP: It could certainly be seen as one of your many main concerns. Were you unaware of how your message affected people in your congregation and beyond?
A. J.: I don’t know about that. But I do know that if we fully serve the Lord, the majority of the good we do happens in such a way that we are unaware of it happening. Service overflows from us.
SP: How would you say people have responded to this attitude of service? Or rather, what is your vision of how the Church can truly serve others?
A. J.: Many Christians get cold warming themselves by the world’s fires. I go to Christians of wealth and ask for money, and they say, “My money is so tied up that I can’t spare it.” I want to see the Church of God able to say, “My money is so tied up that I can’t spare it for the movies or the club; it’s tied up for Jesus Christ; it’s under consecration.”
SP: Imagine if the Church gave itself over to this and other kinds of holiness. The world could be radically different if more people consecrated not only their money but their lives too.
A. J.: In Germany a man was once so holy that the neighbors called him the “God-intoxicated man.” We want a God-intoxicated Church.
SP: You have been a champion for many things, not least of all education, as evidenced by your formation of the Boston Missionary Training Institute, which today lives on as Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. What would you say is most important for students to keep in mind as they work toward their degrees?
A. J.: You can’t grow in grace unless you become more knowledgeable; and you can’t become truly knowledgeable unless you study the Scriptures every day. The Word of God has this rare attribute of being able to minister to every element of our being, nourishing our minds and stirring up our devotion; giving us food for thought and captivating our emotions.
SP: Does it ever bother you then, when you see students sometimes sleeping in your classes?
A. J.: Sometimes we’re most awake toward God when we’re asleep toward the world.
Matt Schwabauer, the creator of this interview, is an actor, singer, writer and world traveler/explorer. His travels include a recent mission trip to Guatemala. He graduated from Hope College in 2006, where he earned a B.A. in theatre and creative writing. He joined the Gordon community in 2007, where he serves on staff in the Design Center.
A. J. Gordon’s “responses” were selected from North Field Yearbook; For Each New Day (Revell, New York, 1896); How Christ Came to Church (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, 2010); and Grace and Glory (Howard Gannett, Boston, 1880). Some slight modernizations in style were made to the selected passages.