10 Jul Faculty Friday Spotlight: Interview with Dr. Jerry Ireland
We recently interviewed Dr. Jerry Ireland, chair of the Ministry Leadership and Theology and Intercultural Studies departments at the University of Valley Forge (UVF), who has been busy creating resources and serving the Church in a variety of ways. He recently collaborated on a textbook called “Practicing Hope: Missions in Global Crises,” and has been part of a theology podcast started in January 2020 called “Sorry Not Sorry” with two other UVF professors, Dominick Garcia and Timothy Jackson. There are currently 11 episodes on topics relating to “Christianity and culture from a Pentecostal perspective” and can be found on both Spotify and Apple Podcasts. He also recently wrote an article entitled “Christ, Community, Crisis” for Influence Magazine, reflecting on the nature of the Church’s calling in a broken world, an excerpt of which you can read below before the interview:
“In virtually every area of life, our culture encourages us to consider what’s in it for us. However, we should think of the Church primarily in terms of what we have to offer the world. The Church exists for the world, but this truth often gets left behind in our hyper-individualized church approaches. Remember, it was for the sake of the world that Jesus came (John 3:16), and it is for the sake of the world He calls us together and sends us out. Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not coddle the already found. Perhaps this current crisis will push us toward realizing a less selfish version of ourselves.”
UVF: You’ve released some content recently about crisis, which is so timely. How does correct theology inform our response to crisis?
Dr. Ireland: When our theology is sound, our actions are not driven by the winds of fear or the ever shifting tides of cultural and social realities but are grounded in the unchanging nature of God. And as the writer of Hebrews says, “this hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).
UVF: What opportunities do you see for the Church amidst everything going on in the world right now?
Dr. Ireland: I think for a long time now the church has been slowly seduced away from its allegiance to Christ alone, through politics, through pseudo prosperity-gospels, and through various forms of idolatry to which we are all quite prone. I do believe that the current crisis offers hope for a purified church: a church more hungry for God and His presence. But to get there, we will have to listen to the Spirit as He brings conviction and then we must respond to what we hear. We will have to first acknowledge that we have let other things become more important to us than God and His purposes. And if we do that, then this could really lay the foundation for the kind of revival that our nation so desperately needs.
UVF: What advice do you have for our students getting ready for the school year during so much uncertainty?
Dr. Ireland: I’ve said before that our students who are dealing with unprecedented times on numerous fronts have given me extraordinary hope – for the future of the church and the future of our nation. They have shown an incredible capacity for flexibility and sacrifice – more than I think I would have shown. My advice to them: continue to press in to Jesus. This moment in history belongs to you and what you do with it will depend on how closely and fully you follow Him.
UVF: What verses or passages have been particularly helpful to you in this season?
Dr. Ireland: I have always loved and tried to hold on to Matthew 16:18, where Jesus told the disciples “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” In this troubling times, it may seem like the church has been sidelined and is unable to fulfill its mission. But that mission has never depended on comfort and ease, or on things being “normal.” Historically the church has flourished most not in the absence of difficulty but perhaps because of it. And while it’s wonderful that we get to participate in what Jesus is doing in the world, it’s always important to temper our sense of self-importance with the promise that Jesus is the one who builds the church, not us.