We are excited to have a new contributor to the Gospel Alliance New England Blog. Owen Strachan is a husband, father, blogger, author and systematic theology professor. Yet what is unique about Owen, and why we are excited to have his voice here on the GA blog, is that Owen has a deep passion and love for New England and the people of New England. The reason for this is that Owen grew up in Eastern Maine and went to college at Bowdoin College, about 40 minutes north of Portland, Maine. We figured we would allow Owen to introduce himself a little.
Josh Cousineau- Thanks for doing this and for being part of what we are doing here in New England. Let our readers know a little about where you are now and what you are doing.
Owen Strachan- I very much appreciate it, Josh. For 22 years I was a Mainer; now I am a Mainer-in-exile. I live in Louisville, Kentucky where I teach at Boyce College, the undergraduate college of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I teach all courses in systematic theology and church history and love it. I am a member of Kenwood Baptist Church and am married to Bethany. We are the happy parents of two sweet children.
JC- Owen, I would love for you to share a little about your life, where you grew up, how you got to where you are now, and what you are doing.
OS- I grew up in Machias, Maine, on the east coast. It’s unspoiled country, though just an hour from Bar Harbor. I went to school in the Machias public school system from K-12 and attended the First Baptist Church of East Machias. During the summer, I went to Camp Good News and heard the gospel preached. Because my parents were faithful Christians who immersed me in the church and other Christian environments, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. At some point early in my life, God seized me and saved me. I knew very few Christians in my hometown; it was hard to be a believer in my small public high school. But the Lord preserved me and led me to Bowdoin. Despite being incredibly secular, Bowdoin brought me into contact with a number of vibrant Christians, including many dear saints at Berean Baptist Church in Brunswick. It was during college at a school that has a gay and lesbian studies department that I became a serious and joyful follower of Christ.
Following graduation in 2003, I went to Washington, D. C., where I interned at Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I then went to Southern Seminary for my MDiv. I met my wife during that time, graduated in 2007, and went to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. At TEDS, I managed two academic centers, co-wrote several books on Jonathan Edwards, and welcomed a child into the family. In 2010, I was called to teach at Boyce, so for the next year and a half I balanced full-time teaching and PhD work. I graduated from TEDS in December 2011 and am now in the process of returning to full-scale brain functioning.
JC- What, if any, impact did growing up in New England have on your life?
OS- It had a tremendous impact on me. Though I sometimes wished I lived in a city instead of a small town, Maine shaped my understanding of the world. It is beautiful, rugged, isolary, and independent. The people are tough but often kind. They are also far less religious than our forefathers were. I didn’t appreciate what a natural gift God had given me in allowing me to live minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. Now, I pine for it. I loved so many things that Maine afforded me: the excitement of the high school basketball tournament (I played in the Eastern Maine tourney on two Class D playoff teams), the incredible skiing, the hiking trails that are found everywhere, the local culture that other places try to create but is a natural feature of many New England areas, and the pride that comes from being tough in the midst of very cold weather.
JC- From the outside looking in, what makes you excited about what Jesus is doing in New England?
OS- Efforts like the GA, NETS, NECEP, and TGC NE are all deeply encouraging to me. It’s thrilling to see Acts29 plant churches in the region. Beyond the many local churches that may not be huge but are faithfully and vigorously proclaiming Christ, I’m so glad to see fellow believers targeting two particularly needy mission fields: 1) New England cities and 2) the many elite college campuses sprinkled throughout the region. I’ll say a quick word about the second, because there’s a good deal of press on the first. Many of our larger schools have established ministries. But schools like Bowdoin, Amherst, Colby, Bates and Williams desperately need strong churches and on-campus efforts that can bolster the faith of the few evangelicals that attend them. I know of a great work at Bowdoin, for example; the ministry is reformed, expository, and discipleship-focused. Now we just need more young church planters and revitalizers to target the NESCAC schools and other New England colleges.
JC- What would be a word of encouragement for those who are in ministry in New England?
OS- My study of church history has shown me the value of a God-shaped ministry, one that takes its parameters not from the culture but from the Word of God. In America, we are trained to feel inferior for being small. If we’re embattled, if we’re not growing by leaps and bounds, then we’re culturally trained to feel inadequate. I in no way want to excuse passivity, laziness, or a lack of vision. But God seems in Scripture to delight in the small. Israel is small as a nation; David is small as a king; the kingdom is likened to a pearl in a massive field. In God’s hands, and in God’s eschatological economy, though, these small things will be shown in the last days to be great.
So the two words of theologically-driven encouragement that I can offer are these: first, find your ministry expectations and goals in the Word of God (fidelity and constant commitment to the glory of God shed abroad in this world being paramount); second, persevere in a spirit of enjoyment. Your work may explode in terms of numbers. Your motivation, though, is not numbers. It is the glory of God. Evangelize hard, pray hard, preach hard, and then rest in God. He is our confidence.