A Conversation With Alan Knox : Interview Series, Pt. 5

Recently, I had the great privilege of interviewing one of my favorite bloggers, Alan Knox. Alan maintains the site "The Assembling of the Church", a blog that focuses on all things ecclesiological. Below is the conversation I had with Alan; thought provoking to say the least. Take a few minutes to read the interview and to visit his site. Enjoy!

Michael: Alan, thanks for taking the time to interview. If you would, please say a little bit about yourself (e.g. Where you’re from, currently living and some of the things you have going on in your life at present).

Alan: Thank you for asking to interview me, Michael. My life "story" is not that exciting - at least probably not to other people. I was born in Alabama, and lived there most of my life. I met my wife in the fourth grade, although she didn't become my wife until much later. Even in Alabama, ten years old is a little young for marriage. I went to college at Georgia Tech, where I received Bachelors and Masters degrees in Electrical Engineering. I worked in engineering for almost 10 years before moving to Wake Forest, NC to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. I've received an MDiv from SEBTS, and I'm currently in their PhD program working under David Alan Black in Biblical Theology. I work as a web developer, and I also teach Greek adjunctively at Southeastern College at Wake Forest. Margaret and I have been married 19 years (this January), and we have two children: Jeremy, 14 (Saturday), and Miranda, 10. I'm also one of the elders for Messiah Baptist Church.

Michael: How and why did you choose SEBTS?

Alan: Before we moved to Wake Forest, we were attending a mega-church in the Atlanta area. My plan at that time was to graduate and find a job as a minister of education in a church. Our pastor recommended SEBTS. I honestly did not look at any other schools. After I graduated with my MDiv, I did look at other schools. By this time, I was not planning to make a vocation of working in the church. (I'm hoping to support myself and my family by teaching at the college or university/seminary level.) Someone that I respect very much suggested that when I look PhD programs, I should choose based on the PhD mentor that I would work under. I talked with several different scholars, and decided that I wanted to continue working with David Alan Black. While I've been in the PhD program, I can tell that I made the right decision.

Michael: You mentioned Dave Black, whom you occasionally speak of on your blog. What is it like studying under him?

Alan: It is difficult to describe how much Dave Black has influenced me, mainly because of the many different mediums through which he has impacted my life. I love the simplicity with which he writes his books, even on difficult subjects. I've read several of his books multiple times. Similarly, in the classroom he always stretches his students, expecting them to do a little more than they think that they can do. I have come out of each of his classes learning more than I thought I would. He treats his students as individuals, getting to know them and their abilities. So, he is able to stretch each student as they need it. Also, personally, whether in his office or in his home, he is always gracious and kind. If I were to look ahead into the future and see myself as a professor, I would hope that I would demonstrate the same scholarship in writing, concern for my students, and love and graciousness in dealing with people.

Michael: You might be interested to know that last year, Asbury Theological Seminary moved from the standard Mounce grammars, to Black’s. Anyways…So, what is your dissertation focused on and how did you arrive at that topic?

Alan: At SEBTS, we choose a "field of study" for our PhD work: Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, or Applied Theology. There are also a few cross-area concentrations. I chose to study Biblical Theology which is a cross-area concentration between Biblical Studies and Theological Studies. I chose this field primarily because of my interest in ecclesiology. I am studying the meeting of the church in the New Testament - thus the name of my blog, The Assembling of the Church - and applying this to today's church. I started thinking about the meeting of the church in an MDiv class called Theology of Worship. I was required to write an essay on my own personal theology of worship. As I studied worship, I realized that I placed most of the emphasis on the times when the church met together. However, when the NT authors discussed worship, it was in the context of the believer's entire life. So, I begin to study the purpose of the meeting of the church. If the church in the NT did not meet specifically to worship, then why did they meet?

Michael: Fascinating stuff! You mentioned your blog, so, let’s change subjects for a moment and talk about blogging. I want to ask you first, How and why did you begin blogging?

Alan: Well, I started reading blogs a few months before I started publishing my own blog. Friends would send me links to blog posts, and I would read them. I would frequently return to the blogs that I enjoyed. When I was accepted into the PhD program, I was looking for an outlet for my studies. I decided that blogging would be a good outlet. In blogging, I hope to present some of the things that I'm studying and interact with others on the same topics in order to learn from them. Also, blogging can be part of a life of discipleship. So, I write about the church, about some of my experiences, and some things that, hopefully, encourage my readers toward maturity in Christ.

Michael: Your blog is a pretty unique site because it focuses mainly on the subject of ecclesiology. Now, this might seem like a broad or even loaded question but what would you say, from an ecclesiological standpoint, has been the biggest change in the Church since its beginnings (positive or negative)?

Alan: Wow... that is a broad question. On the positive side, the church is more widespread now than it was 2000 years ago. It would seem that the church today has the very real possibility of proclaiming the gospel to every person on the earth. Of course, that assumes that the church and every believer is proclaiming the gospel. On the negative side, the church has become more institutional and fractured and less relational and united in the last 2000 years. I think this negative aspect is one of the reasons that we are not proclaiming the gospel to every person on the planet today.

Michael: These are some great insights, especially the part about “institutional and fractured”. You have been blogging about unity lately; I’ve enjoyed those posts. If you would tell us a little bit about the community of believers you congregate with regularly and some of the ways that they are interested (if they are) in creating and maintaining unity.

Alan: As I mentioned previously, I am part of Messiah Baptist Church. In many ways, we are like other local churches. One of the things that makes us distinct is that we recognize that we do not agree on everything, even when it comes to the nature of the church and its leaders. However, we also recognize that God has brought of us together, and we are attempting to live together in spite of our differences. We've learned that its important to talk about our differences, but even more, its important to consider the other person's opinions and desires. Thus, on Sunday morning, our meetings do not look exactly like I would want them to look - and I'm fine with that. I know that there are elements that some people would like to see on Sunday morning that I wouldn't necessarily want to see. But, if I am considering them before myself, then I will make decisions as a leader that takes them into account. Also, besides the community that I gather with on Sunday mornings, I also recognize that I need to learn to live in community with the other believers that God has brought into my life. This includes my believing coworkers, my neighbors, my friends, my family, and others. These are my brothers and sisters no less than the people of Messiah Baptist Church. I am still learning in this area, but our family has taken a few steps towards living in community with them. Specifically, we have started spending more time with our neighbors, even attending "church services" with some of them.

Michael: Let’s get back to blogging. One of the other things I like about your blog (and another thing that makes it unique) is that you are incredibly positive. I’ve also noticed that this has really rubbed off on the majority of your readers (at least, the ones who reply). Would it be correct to say that this encouraging atmosphere has its origins in your understanding and emphasis on ecclesiology? If so, could you say a bit about that?

Alan: Thank you for those kind words about my blog and my response to commenters. I am so grateful for the tone and the encouragement that I receive from those who comment on my blog - even and especially those who disagree with me. This may sound strange, but I enjoy reading the thoughts and opinions of people who disagree with me. I probably learn more from them than from people with whom I agree. As to the origins, I hope that its the Spirit of God changing me and that this change is being reflected in the way that I interact with other people. Certainly in my studies of the church, I have seen the scriptural emphases of unity, considering others as more important, accepting one another, loving one another, etc. I guess if I cannot demonstrate these characteristics on a blog, then it would be nearly impossible for me to demonstrate them in real life.

Michael: Well, let me ask you another question: A number of my readers do not have blogs. What encouragement and advice would you give to someone who has been thinking about starting a blog or may be starting one soon?

Alan: I do not think that everyone should have a blog, not because they do not deserve to publish a blog, or because they have nothing important to say. Instead, blogging takes time and it requires the blogger to write. Some people do not have the time, nor the inclination to write. If someone is thinking about starting a blog, I would suggest that they start the blog but keep it private, and that they write a couple of blog posts even if they remain in draft stage without publishing them. If a person is able to write a few blog posts a week for a month or so, then they are probably ready to blog. If not, then blogging may not be for them, or it may not be the right time to start. Several people who read and comment on my blog do not publish their own blogs. I appreciate all of them, and I've learned and grown through their comments.

Michael: Back to the Church. There are a number of different ecclesiological movements going on today: The Emergent Movement, The New Monasticism Movement, The House Church Movement, Reclaiming Liturgy, etc. Painting with a broad brush stroke, what are some of the pros and cons of the various movements out there?

Alan: Thank you for allowing me to paint with a broad brush stroke here. In this interview, I'd rather not get into the pros and cons of each of these movements. Generally, I'm excited about many of the movements, primarily because each movement emphasizes something about the Christian faith that needs to be emphasized. We need to think about culture, and practice, and tradition. These are all important, and all believers need to think about these. The cons of these movements is that they tend to fragment the church, creating an "us vs. them" culture within the church. Instead, I would love to see people within these various movements working together. Interestingly, I think that the so-called "missional movement" is doing that. In fact, the idea of being missional is bringing the church together more than any ecumenical movement.

Michael: Alan, before I ask my last question, I want to thank you again for taking the time to interview. Now, I always ask this question (or one similar to it) at the end of my interviews: If you could own only 1 book, in addition to the Bible, what would it be and why?

Alan: This has been a fun interview, Michael. You ask very good questions, beyond the questions that I am normally asked. However, I don't know how to answer this last question. I love books and I love to read! My favorite gifts are books. I suppose, if I could only own 1 book, I would pick a multi-volume set, perhaps the NICNT or the NIGTC. If that were not allowed, then I would pick a very long book that I haven't already read, such as Gibbons' The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire - the unabridged version, of course.

Once last time, I'd like to thank Alan Knox for taking the time out of his busy schedule to chat. Please, make sure you check out his blog. Bookmark it, add it to your feeds or include it in your page readers, just be sure to read it.


  1. Michael,

    Thanks for the interview! I had a good time talking with you.


  2. Fantastic interview. I enjoyed reading it. The only thing that I could have enjoyed more was having a cup of coffee by a fire and hearing it ...

    Thanks for the insight.

  3. Jeff,

    I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview and that it was edifying to you. Thanks for the comments. Be sure to continue visiting Pisteuomen, in the meantime, I check out your site too.