At the Discipleship Explored DVD launch event I had the opportunity to sit down with Barry and ask him a few questions.
Here is a transcript of the interview…
Blog of Dan: What prompted you to write Discipleship Explored?
Barry Cooper: I think first and foremost it’s a biblical literacy problem which really troubles me, and troubles Rico as well, and I’m sure it troubles you. There’s a sense in which we’ve lost our nerve even as evangelicals about speaking up for the gospel.
We want to show that there is power in the gospel, power in God’s Word, to bring people to faith and to keep people going and living the faith. We want to try and restore people’s confidence in Scripture. So this is what we’re leaning on it with all our weight because we believe it’s the most loving, and most effective way to help people.
Blog of Dan: As you studied Philippians what were some of the things that struck you and challenged you to apply to your own life?
Barry Cooper: The big thing for that struck me is the way Paul talks about faith as a gift from God and in the same sentence he talks about suffering. Now that is so striking because we live in a comfortable environment where we plan our lives to avoid pain and discomfort. Paul is saying that suffering is gift. So if as Christians we try to avoid all sorts of suffering then actually we are missing out on a gift God wants to give us.
The other thing is that we are used to talking as evangelicals about repenting of our sins. Very striking is that when Paul gets into talking about his own righteousness, as a Hebrew of Hebrews, we see that actually we not only have to repent of our sins, we have to repent of our righteousness. Whether we’ve been a Christian for 6 years or 60 years we have this constant tendency in our hearts, whereby we default to a position of trying to manufacture our own righteousness.
For you and I, I guess the danger would be something like, okay, I’ve done my Bible reading for today, I’ve been to church, I’ve witnesses to someone, so that’s a good week. God looks at me different now to what He would have done had I not done these things.
Blog of Dan: Why should a church use Discipleship Explored?
Barry Cooper: I think if you’re a church that is already running Christianity Explored, it’s the obvious thing to do because you’ve already got people in a place where they are familiar with the format. It’s a tap-in, a no brainer.
If you’re not, Discipleship Explored is something that whether you’ve been a Christian a couple of weeks or you’ve been a Christian for 30 years for me, it’s just a great way in to one of Paul’s letters. Philippians is a short book, 4 chapters and we cover every verse.
I also think it hits those things which are so crucial to the Christian life. To be aware that suffering is not abnormal, so that you’re braised for it and you are prepared to receive it as a gift. To be joyful; it’s John Piper’s thing – God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. I long for myself and for other Christians to be so full of joy that we are signposts towards Christ.
Blog of Dan: What would your advice be to someone who has done both Christianity Explored and Discipleship Explored? Where would they go next?
Barry Cooper: I would say just read another book of the Bible. The reason we do these courses (which we work hard on) is to, as it were, kind of wean people onto Scripture. James is a great place to go. I don’t want people to be dependent on programmes or courses. I want them to be learning from the community they are part of. I want them to get excited about picking up a Bible and just reading a few chapters. That’s ultimately what we’re trying to cultivate – a real sense of expectancy as you come to God’s Word. You’re expecting it to change you. You’re expecting to be filled with the Spirit as you read it.
Blog of Dan: What’s next from the Christianity Explored team?
Barry Cooper: We’ve got Discipleship Explored English Made Easy edition in the works. This will be especially aimed at international students and those for whom English is a second language. Plus another thing that is hush hush (so I’ll keep it that way!). I suggested to him a youth Discipleship Explored to follow on from CY.
So last night I travelled up to All Souls Langham Place for the launch event for the Discipleship Explored DVD.
The format of the evening was simple: mingling, Rico Tice asking Barry Cooper a couple of questions, a showing of the two Discipleship Explored trailers and first two episodes from the DVD, then more mingling. It was good to meet fellow blogger Hugh Bourne and chat about ministry and what a blogger at an event like this looks like! (Jeans and trainers seemed to be the distinguishing mark last night!)
After the DVD showing I was privileged to sit down with Barry Cooper for 15 minutes or so and ask him a few questions which I will post in the next day of so, but in the meantime here’s are some of the questions that Rico asked him and my notes on the answers that Barry gave.
Rico Tice: Why Philippians?
Barry Cooper: Comment Dick Lucas made during a seminar on Philippians that ‘Philippians is a letter whose time has not yet come. But it’s coming!’. In our culture we are going to face more suffering for being Christians and Paul wrote Philippians to a church who was suffering.
Rico Tice: Why is each episode so short? (they are only 10-12 minutes long)
Barry Cooper: We want to get people into the Bible as quick as possible. I want to get off as quick as possible and people to open up their Bible’s because that is where God’s power is.
Rico Tice: Any memories from filming?
Barry Cooper: Answer given by a gravedigger at Highgate Cemetery who I asked whether there is life after death. Gravedigger answered ‘No afterlife’.
Rico Tice: What you doing now?
Rico Tice: Anything that has stood out in your time there so far?
Barry Cooper: You see Jesus throughout the Bible. You see Jesus walking off the pages of Leviticus. It is also wonderful to begin classes with prayer.