John Hendryx Interviews John Samson, Pastor of King’s Church
John Hendryx Interviews John Samson, Pastor of King’s Church
Occasionally ReformationTheology.com would like to do interviews of those in the community who will be contributing to the content of the site or others in Christ with whom we have doctrinal solidarity.
John Samson is the pastor of King’s Church, a Reformed Baptist Church in Peoria, Arizona. John, originally from England, was a thorough going Arminian and pastored a word of faith/charismatic church up until the year 2000. Changes since then can only be described as “dramatic.” John now fully embraces the TULIP, the Five Solas and divine monergism in regeneration.
John is both big-hearted and brilliant, a first class teacher and writer. From 2005 to 2021 he was a regular contributor at the reformationtheology.com website. John speaks at churches and conferences and has authored two books “Twelve What Abouts – Answering Common Objections concerning God’s Sovereignty in Election” and “The Five Solas – Standing Together, Alone” both of which are available through Solid Ground Christian books.
We met over the Internet quite some time ago and have developed a warm friendship in Christ. John's presentation of the historic faith, and his application of it in contemporary evangelicalism, is characterized by tender pastoral care and a firm commitment to the truth; qualities, unfortunately, often out of balance in many contemporary pastors.
I asked John for a biographical introduction, and then I asked questions about his ministry, his take on Reformed Theology, the radical changes that took place in his own life and ministry, and the state of evangelicalism today.
I was born and raised in Chester in England. My father was a Baptist Evangelist and yet I never really grew up in Church. My Dad used to travel extensively to preach, and that meant that my mother and I seldom went with Dad to Church. That was until my Dad became the pastor of a local Church.
I remember being extremely bored with Church as a child and was far more interested in soccer (called football over in England). I wanted to be a pro-soccer player. My favorite part of the Church service was the benediction. I was so glad when it all was over!
I remember seeing my Dad reading and studying his Bible (I was probably around age 9 at the time) and thought to myself “that looks so boring to me, spending hours with a book that’s so hard to read, in language I cannot understand. You’ll never catch me doing that.”
One Sunday night, when I was 14, my father did ask me to go with him to hear an Evangelist preach. His sermon was on the second coming of Christ. I remember him looking at the crowd, but yet it seemed that his gaze was focused on me, as he said “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” My first thought was “how does the preacher know of my sin? How does he know I am a sinner?” Like a bolt from the blue I realized my lost condition and that I would be embarrassed with shame if I had to stand before God in that condition. An appeal was made for salvation and I responded by raising my hand, walking the aisle, signing the card provided - but more than anything I just knew of my need for Christ to be my Savior to hide me from the fierce judgment of God. When I later returned to my seat (after around 15 minutes in a counseling area) my father still had tears streaming down his face. I think it was the first and only time I saw my father cry. Some time later he told me that my parents had been praying earnestly for my salvation for many years.
I then started attending the church on a regular basis, but as I look back, one of the biggest changes in my life was evident in my love for Bible study. I would spend all my allowance money on Bible teaching cassette tapes. I just couldn’t get enough. I would spend 3 or 4 hours every night learning the Scriptures and hearing Bible teaching. That same passionate desire for the Word of God is still present in my life today.
1. How did you begin down the road toward Reformation Theology?
I have to say, coming to travel down this road has been an unexpected journey for me.
I have been in full time ministry since completing my Seminary training in June of 1987, and was fairly confident that my knowledge of the Word was sound.
Then one day I received a flyer in the mail from Ligonier Ministries informing me that Dr. R. C. Sproul was coming to do a Friday night and Saturday morning teaching in Scottsdale, Arizona. This was in November in the year 2000. That was only a short distance for me, living in Phoenix. I had never heard Dr. Sproul in person, but had been greatly impacted by seeing his teaching videos on the Holiness of God some years before.
As I looked further at the flyer my heart sank when I saw the subject he was going to be focusing on “Chosen by God - the biblical doctrines of election and predestination.”
Honestly, I thought, “how silly that a man of that caliber would spend his energies articulating an idea so way past its sell by date.” I was in two minds as to whether to go or not. I wanted to hear Dr. Sproul, but not on that subject. Any other subject would have been better as far as I was concerned.
Well, I finally decided to go, but sat on the back row so I could leave quickly without interrupting folk around me. I stayed for the first session and thought “yes, he has a point. I can’t fault what he is saying, but I have many scriptures that would refute his conclusions.” However, I was intrigued that there was nothing in what I heard that would be easily dismissed.
Then the conference included a question and answer session on the subject. This proved to be invaluable for me, because many of the questions I had were raised, and, I had to admit, were answered from Scripture, in their proper Biblical context.
I was immediately alarmed by this, as I came to understand that this whole issue required a lot more research than I had previously thought. I left the conference unconvinced, but bothered enormously that I had heard no scripture taken out of context. Being absolutely honest with myself, I had to admit that it was my assumptions about certain texts that were guilty of that exact charge.
Knowing that I needed to believe what Scripture taught on the subject, I ordered much material, and began my research. It is never pleasant to examine firmly held traditions, and I felt that this was especially so in my position, when I had taught other things at various times in my ministry. No one wants to admit the possibility that they may in fact have been wrong.
I have to say that it took more than a year of researching the issue in depth, before I realized that there was a consistent and clear Biblical doctrine of election and predestination. I also came to see that in order for me to believe what the Bible taught in this area, I had to dispense with my traditional understanding.
I was as surprised as anyone to emerge from this self-imposed theological study cocoon as a five point Calvinist. Yet that is what happened. And I look back and see the whole thing - the desire to study this and examine firmly held beliefs (I have found many do not wish to do this), and the ability to see the truth - as a work of God’s grace in my life. How gracious it is that God opened up my eyes to see these things.
2. What is your vision for your church?
The vision can be summed up in four words “Reaching, Teaching, Training and Sending”. We desire to make, mature and mobilize disciples of Christ. This includes sending people back into their homes to be better husbands and wives, better children, better single people, and better business people, now they are disciples of Christ; but it also means sending folk out to both the local culture and around the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. There’s a big world out there that desperately needs the Gospel. Our aim is to do our part in fulfilling the great commission “locally focused and globally minded.”
3. John what are your theological distinctives? You mentioned that you were a credo-baptist, a five point Calvinist, etc...but what about other things?
After much unbiased observation and reflection, I firmly believe that Liverpool is the greatest soccer team in the world! Please don’t let the fact that they have lost their last 6 home games persuade you differently.
Hermeneutics: Covenantal or Dispensational (or other)?
I was raised as a dispensationalist, but would describe myself as covenantal now.
Apologetics, Presuppositional, Classical, Evidential? or a blend of them? If so which is more prominent?
Presuppositional, but I certainly use classical and evidential arguments.
Eschatology: Dispensational Premillennialism, historic premillennialism, amillennial, postmillenial?
I heard someone answer a similar question to this by saying "that's a pre-post-erous question, and I am not going to answer you." That's very funny, but I do think the question still needs to be answered. So much of the Bible is prophetic in nature (both in fulfilled and as yet, unfulfilled prophecy). If we as Bible teachers are to teach the contents of the Bible, we will need to teach on these prophetic passages. We can't just say to God, "I don't teach on prophecy - sorry!" Yet when we do teach it, we must do so within some theological framework. As I have related, I had some thoroughly ingrained traditions in my soteriology that blinded me to the clear teaching of Scripture. As Dr. James White says so well, "those most blinded by their traditions are those who don't think they have any." Going through the process of seriously evaluating my soteriological traditions and holding them up to the light of Scripture, I have seen the need to self-consciously review all my traditions in a number of different areas. That's especially true in regard to church government issues and eschatology. Though raised as a dispensational premillennialist (which was what I was first exposed to as a Christian), I describe myself as amillennial now.
4. Which people have been most influential in your growth in understanding?
Certainly regarding the Doctrines of Grace, I would say: Dr. R. C. Sproul, Dr. James Montgomery Boice, and Dr. James White. John, your website at www.monergism.com helped me enormously too. It was so valuable to read some of the greats in Christian history on these issues. It remains a “go to” place for me today also.
5. What books by contemporary writers are you now reading?
This month I am reading Carl Trueman’s “The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self” and Matthew Barrett’s new book “Simply Trinity”. Both are outstanding and desperately needed in the contemporary church world.
6. Which classic Writers have been influential?
Jonathan Edwards remains a titan, though I do find him difficult to read.
Calvin’s Institutes (of course) - not many books written today will be read 400 years from now, but I read John Calvin today and still marvel at his exegesis of Scripture.
C. H. Spurgeon sermons remain especially helpful to me
7. What do you think of the Church Growth movement?
Many of the writers of Church Growth books have a genuine desire to bless the Church. I think we would be silly if we thought we could learn absolutely nothing from these folk. Some of our churches are not sensitive to anyone - either God or people! It doesn’t hurt to provide signage and adequate parking. It doesn’t hurt to improve the building. We’re not being more faithful to God by sticking with a drab looking sanctuary. God is not going to say, “Well done thou good and boring servant! You’ve been boring with a few people, I’ll make you boring over many!” Some of the things said by the Church Growth movement need to be heard by everyone.
However, I feel they start off in the wrong place when they start with the felt needs of man. This results in the dumbing down of the Gospel, and the glory of God being marginalized.
Our biggest need is God. He is always relevant.
We don’t need to make the Bible relevant. It already is. But we do have to show its relevance to people.
The Gospel is not about us feeling good about ourselves, getting acquainted with our inner child or finding purpose to life. We do find purpose to life through the Gospel and that is to live for the glory of God. But the Gospel itself is about being put right with a God who has every right to throw us into hell for the cosmic treason we have committed.
I preached in one Church in England (name and place withheld) and asked “how many of you have ever heard a sermon on the love of God?” All raised their hands.
Then I asked, “how many of you have ever heard a sermon on the wrath of God?” No one raised a hand. Not a soul. Of course, I remedied that over the next 40 minutes or so!
I say this because we can’t understand the biblical Gospel without reference to the wrath of God. In the Gospel, God sent His Son to save us from His own wrath (Romans 5:6-10). We are saved by God from God, for God.
The reaction that I find from people today (in the Church) when I preach such things is “Pastor, we’ve never heard anything like this before.” Of course, they mean those words to be uplifting to me. They want me to know that what I am bringing is new and out of the ordinary. But inwardly John, I weep when I think how far the church has moved away from the biblical Gospel.
The Reformation Solas need to be thundered from our pulpits once again - We are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone, based on the Scriptures alone, all to the glory of God alone.
I believe our task today is to re-evangelize the Church with the biblical Gospel. How can someone be said to believe the Gospel if in fact they have never heard it John? I don’t know.
I once heard this illustration – It is September 10th, 2001, one day before the Twin Towers in New York fall. You have been given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to all on the 10th floor of one of the Towers, knowing that within 24 hours, all the people you preach to will be back the next day for what they think will be a normal, average day of work. However, somehow, God has made it clear to you that all will die the next day. Every one of them! But here’s the deal – you are not allowed to tell them that. You are not to tell them that you know this is their last full day alive. Your assignment is simple: preach to them the final sermon they will ever hear.
Question: Knowing this is the situation, will you change or alter your Gospel message in any way?
Thinking about what you would say, ponder this thought. If you would have to adjust your message - if you have to change it in some way from “God loves you just the way you are and has a wonderful plan for your life” then your original message is not the biblical Gospel. And how could you say that? You couldn’t say that. There’s no way you could say that! In fact, you know that His plan is that every person in your audience will die very soon.
Having a commitment to the biblical gospel means this - nothing would need to change in terms of content. You speak, as you always do, as a dying man to dying men with passionate zeal and urgency, knowing that there may well be those in front of you who will not live to see the next day. That’s quite a thought isn’t it?
The illustration should provoke much soul searching in the preacher. The Biblical Gospel does not change and never needs to change. It needs no adjustment to become “relevant” to the audience. It IS relevant, always. In fact, it is all our man made gospels that need to conform to the biblical one to be pleasing to God.
If anyone preach any other Gospel… you fill in the blank! (Gal. 1:6-10)
8. What do you think Spurgeon, Edwards or other Puritans would have to say about it?
In reading their writings, I would have to say that they would view the Church Growth movement as sub-Christian or even anti-Christian.
9. What do you think is the most neglected truth/doctrine/practice of the Christian faith today?
With regard to doctrine in the church today, I would say the truth about the character of God. Preachers have emphasized the love of God, and rightly so. Yet other Divine attributes have been sorely neglected.
When we are choosing food at a buffet, we take the food we want to eat and we leave the rest to one side. Sadly, many have this buffet style mindset when it comes to the attributes of God. It’s very much as if we're saying, "I'll take the love, but I'll just walk on by the holiness and sovereignty, thank you."
Of course, we have no right whatsoever to do this. In fact, this is rank idolatry. It results in us making a god in our own image - a god who doesn't actually exist. The God of Scripture is the only God who really is, and He is holy, sovereign, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, infinite, just, and righteous (and many other things too); as well as a God of love and mercy.
Most unbelievers out there have no fear of God at all. We used to speak of people being "God fearing," even if they were not born again. We hardly use that phrase at all in our day. The concept of a God who is to be feared, has, by and large, been lost in society.
I lay the blame for this at the door of the church. Unbelievers are not lying awake at night with fear of being exposed to the judgment of God. Why? All they've heard from the church is "God loves you just the way you are." But the Bible says that the wrath of God is on all those who do not believe (John 3:36), and that comes from the same chapter which gives us "For God so loved the world..." (John 3:16) Both the love of God and the wrath of God are very biblical concepts.
10. Can you give us your Church web site address?
I also maintain a blog site at www.effectualgrace.com
11. Can you leave us with a current favorite quote of yours?
Yes, and thank you John for this opportunity to answer these questions. I hope they are an encouragement to your readers. I am so very aware of the Lord’s mercy in bringing me out from a very dark place. I am a testimony to the fact that no one is beyond His reach.
The quote is by Pastor Jeff Wiesner:
The Father's love is more tender than I feel.
Christ's atonement is more sufficient than I trust.
The Holy Spirit is working in ways I do not see.
Scripture is more living and active than I confess.
My justification is more secure than I act.
My sanctification is slower than I wish it was but more sure than I suppose.
My trials serve my good in ways I cannot comprehend.
Sin is more deceptive and destructive than I fear.
The local church is more essential than I treat it.
Christ's return, my bodily resurrection, and the world to come will be more blessed than I hope.
12. How would you sum up the biblical gospel in a few minutes?
I have put this on a video.