Jonathan Carswell on the Value of Christian Biography

Jonathan Carswell on the Value of Christian Biography

Nancy Guthrie interviews Jonathan Carswell

Transcript

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Voice over Music: Well I would argue every Christian should be reading biography. So if you’re a new Christian, start with biography. If you’re a professor in a seminary, you need to be reading Christian biography. Biography, obviously, they’re good good stories, everyone loves a good story and a page turner, but more than that, I think good Christian biography teaches us and shows us the Christian life with its ups and downs. The best biographies are those that show when people made a mess of their Christian life and God still used them.

Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach the Bible,” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach the Bible” is a production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracts. Learn more at crossway.org. I’m sitting today with my friend Jonathan Carswell. I first met him over on this side of the pond, where I am today in the UK. But Jonathan has also bought a house and he’s got a business going in the states and sometimes that brings him our way to Nashville, which we always love. But Jonathan, as I looked at your bio, you know, usually it is in sentence form, I actually found your Twitter bio, a helpful way to go at introducing you and who you are because, you know, it’s just kind of individual words, but they’re all significance in regard to you, Christian, number one. Number one. We’ll talk about how that came about in your life. Husband, husband to Felicity.

Jonathan Carswell: That’s right.

Nancy: We love Felicity, father to Rufus and Billy. Let me just tell you, the smiles on these two boys if you can look the smiles on these boys and it not make your day, something is sincerely wrong with you.

Jonathan: Try at 5:00 in the morning, but anyway.

Nancy: Yeah, bookseller. Yeah, Jonathan, do you call yourself owner? What do you call yourself in regard to your publishing company?

Jonathan: I just say I’m part of the team but…

Nancy: Oh, come on. Yeah, yeah. So 10ofThose publishing, so we’ll talk a little bit more about that. Then it’s interesting this comes last and you can tell me what that means. Liverpool fan.

Jonathan: Okay. So that’s football, so soccer for those in the states. Yeah, I’m a Liverpool fan, but it’s…

Nancy: What is that? Tell us about you.

Jonathan: I’m mad. I’m often disappointed. But yeah, I’m a Liverpool fan.

Nancy: Well, let’s start with Christian. Some people if they have any familiarity with the UK scene may know the name Roger Carswell.

Jonathan: Well, a couple of people may, but yes, so that’s my dad. He’s an evangelist and so he’s an itinerant evangelist. He would travel around, he’s not based just in one church, but he would travel around to churches, universities, anywhere really that would invite him. So today, as it happens, he was speaking at Eton, at the school, but just wherever, and would share the gospel winsomely and as clearly as he can, and yeah.

Nancy: So was he always doing that during your growing up years?

Jonathan: Yeah. So he was a school teacher, he was an RE teacher, religious education, but in his spare time, he was out and about. And then the year I was born, actually, he went full time as an itinerant evangelist. He lives by faith and travels around, and so that was the year I was born. I think probably when I was born, he wanted to get out. So he’s been doing that 30 odd years now. And he’ll be away for about 10 months of the year, not in one…

Nancy: 10 months a year?

Jonathan: Yeah, not in one block, but he’d go for two, three weeks, back for two, three days, away then for four or five days back. And that was normal really, so that’s how we grew up. So I’m the youngest of four. And so that’s all I’ve known, really throughout my life when I was growing up.

Nancy: Did you resent that?

Jonathan: You know, I never did actually. It was definitely hard. In some ways, it was like growing up in a single parent family. But he worked extremely hard to make sure that all four kids knew that he loved us. And incredibly he wrote to all four children, even when my siblings moved away for university, etc. He wrote to all four of us every day he was away.

Nancy: Serious?

Jonathan: Yeah, so he would write a postcard, an individual postcard to us and every day, we’d get it. And sometimes, it was just a short note, sometimes he would really cram it in. And so we all knew that he loved us, even though he was away. And when he came back, it was really special times, but it was hard when he was away.

Nancy: When did Christ become real in your own life and not just this thing dad does?

Jonathan: Yeah, so I knew the gospel inside out and we had it at home, and we went to Christian meetings, and so we knew the gospel inside out, all four of us. In fact, I don’t say this, because it’s… I’m proud of it, but a year before I became a Christian, I became a Christian at age 16 at a camp that was actually in Holland, it was a sports camp. But the year before, they asked me to give my testimony, just share how I became a Christian, but I knew I wasn’t a Christian. But I also knew I couldn’t say I’m not a Christian and save face for my dad, etc. So I gave my testimony. I knew the words to say and whatever, but it wasn’t real for me. But the following year, after a rugby injury, which really made me begin to think, you know, what’s life all about? I went to a sports camp. It was a cycling holiday in Holland, I couldn’t cycle, I sat in the back of a tandem for 10 days. But each night the gospel was explained, how Jesus came into the world to die for us, to rescue us, to save us, which I knew. But on the final night, sin was explained, again, in a way that I had probably heard many, many times, but the work of the Spirit was on my life. And I recognized that really, I needed a Savior and Jesus came to save and to all my wrong that… I was only 16, but there was plenty of it in my life, I knew I could cast on to Christ and he would remove it as far as the east is from the west. There’s been many bumps along the road in my Christian life, and yet I still cling to the fact that Jesus died for me. And so I’m right with God in heaven because of that. So, yeah.

Nancy: So as you emerge from young adulthood, what were your ambitions?

Jonathan: Yeah, so becoming a Christian really changed the whole direction of my life. I grew up in the city of Leeds in the north of England, but I really wanted to be a farmer. So from the age of eight, I rented a field from a local farmer and…

Nancy: Wait, wait a minute. From the age of eight, you rented a field?

Jonathan: Yeah, I am quite odd really, but yeah, I negotiated a deal with a local farmer. And so I had chickens and I would sell the eggs to my teachers and wherever I could.

Nancy: When did you go out to the field to get the eggs?

Jonathan: So on my way back from school, I might go and go feed them. I had some goats as well, but they were just for fun, really. But so I always wanted to be a farmer. And then when I became a Christian, that just changed things really. The following two years were just so significant in terms of spiritual growth and development. I then wanted to tell other people about Jesus, that’s really what I wanted to do and particularly young people, I think because I wasn’t messed up and so problematic that it would hit the headlines or anything, but I had issues and challenges as teenagers do. And I then just felt, well, I’d love to share the gospel with other teenagers. So I took a year out at our church and began sharing the gospel through the work there at a local further education college. And I thought, “Well, this seems good.” You know, I’m not massively academic, I’m dyslexic, so just studies were hard and so I applied for one course at the university and amazingly, I got in. And it was to study youth work and theology at Durham University. Just as an aside, about a term in, my tutor took me to one side and brought me into his study and said, “Jonathan, can you just tell me what you got in your exams before the university entrance?” And so I said and he said, “Well, that’s interesting. That’s what I’ve got here. We should never have accepted you here, but keep your head down and you can stay.” So I did my best to keep my head down and then I stayed, and God was just very good. And then, from there, I became a youth pastor In Northern Ireland for three years and that’s what I began doing. Yeah.

Nancy: Tell us what 10ofThose, how it began, what it was? What it’s become, at this point?

Jonathan: As I said, I’m dyslexic, I find reading really hard work. But once I became a Christian, I began reading Christian biography. And I’m from a family of where there’s books in the house, and my parents have written, etc. And so books are always a part of life. But while I was a youth pastor, as a hobby, on a Saturday, I began buying good Christian books in big numbers and then selling them to anybody who would buy them basically, with a desire to get good Christian books out there. There are lots of Christian books available, lots of them are not great. Many of them are harmful because they don’t hold to the Bible. But lots of them are really good and I wanted people to get the good stuff. So I began this hobby of selling books in tens and it was just a hobby, it was just really for that. But people would then say, “I’ll get 10 of those, 10 of those, and 10 of those.” And so that’s where the name came from. So over the next six, eight months, it began to grow and develop, to the point where my boss at church said, “Jonathan, you just can’t get pallets of books delivered to the church office anymore.” So I needed to then begin to think what was I going to do full time. I prayed about it. I felt the right thing was to sell the books.

Nancy: And so how did it grow from there? You were in Northern Ireland at that point?

Jonathan: I was in Northern Ireland at that point, and because of various things, I moved back to the mainland, back to England. And yeah, just began emailing out to people. We then got a website. We then started providing bookstores for conferences, And 10ofThose really is a retail outlet of the best Christian books that are out there.

Nancy: You’ve used this term, “good books,” and now you’re saying “best” and that some are “harmful.” So maybe before we go on with the story of 10ofThose, how do you define those things? Because I think a lot of people struggle with that.

Jonathan: It is really hard because there’s so much out there and how do you know what’s going to be helpful or not?

Nancy: Do you have a grid?

Jonathan: Yeah, we do. I mean, when it comes to 10ofThose, we pick which books we get on three levels. So first of all, does it hold to the Bible? So that is the primary thing. So J.C. Ryle had an amazing line, that he said, “Judge your books by how closely they stick to the Bible. Those that stick closely are good and those that are far away from the Bible, be wary of them.” And so that’s what we do. So we test them against the Bible. So we read what we sell to see whether it holds the Bible and if it does, great. The next thing then we look at is its accessibility. So is it readable? Is it well written? Is it enjoyable? Is the cover attractive? All these sorts of things which play a part in people reading. And then the other thing is cost. We want to get books out in a big way. And there are a lot of people out there that don’t know anything about the Bible, so we wanna get lots out. So they are the three things. But crucially, it must hold the Bible. Sure some books are gonna be a bit more expensive, all these sorts of things, but it must hold to the Bible. We don’t just want to sell it because it’s cheap or it’s well written, does it hold to God’s word? Because that’s what changes people’s lives. When books point people to Jesus, when books hold the Bible, that transforms a life. So I want to get those sorts of books into the hands of as many people as possible.

Nancy: I bet you have stories that you probably couldn’t tell on this podcast about talking with publishers about particular books they really wanted you to carry, that you determined, “You know what? It just doesn’t meet these criteria.

Jonathan: Yeah, there’s one that I don’t mind sharing because I think it’s always been a challenge. You know, in the integrity of our business, the integrity of our ministry is, do we sell things because we want to make money or do we sell things because we want people to discover Jesus? And I don’t know whether friends in the States will know, but there’s a guy over here called Steve Chalke, and it kind of kicked off all about substitutionary atonement. And he wrote a book which lots of people wanted to read because he writes very, very well and is engaging. And one particular church wanted to order a large number and we would have made a lot of money from it. And we said no, and I’m glad we did. It’s a dreadful book and a dreadful theology that he holds to.

Nancy: You know, that’s really interesting because I don’t remember when the book that I think you’re talking about came out, but I remember I was a member of some kind of book club or something, at that point, I can’t remember exactly how, and I saw this fabulous advertisement for that book. I didn’t know anything about it, but the ad made it sound so fabulous. And I bought it and it just kind of shows you marketing of Christian books can really work, but like you said, it’s a harmful book.

Jonathan: And that’s a really interesting point because on one level, we don’t want to be the thought police. We don’t want to, you know, have such a closed environment that people can’t think for themselves. But equally, people often don’t know what is good or bad and need help with the discernment of what to read, and we don’t always get it right. You know, we’re fallible as well, but we want to test it against the Bible. And so that’s what we do with all of our books. And those that hold closest to the Bible, we want to really get excited about this.

Nancy: I suppose some booksellers, I’ve heard them say, “Well, we carry this book because this is a book that’s being read by lots of people in the church.” And so, you know, church leaders need to have access to it to understand that their people are reading it. I suppose there’s a different mission.

Jonathan: Yeah, and that is an interesting point, you know, there’s been times where somebody said, “Well, we want to read this as an eldership team so we can engage with it.” And I can understand that. I would personally rather not profit from selling those sorts of books. I think that’s what people like Tim Challies and others who review books can be so helpful because you can save yourself from reading these things. When we have a limited number of books we can read, you can save yourself from reading these things and read their review, so you can engage with it. Also, we want to reach the masses with our books.

So 10ofThose are really trying to reach the average person in the church, who perhaps, pastors will want to engage with these things, but we want to protect the congregation from having to necessarily. And so we exist, really, for the average church member, I guess, to read good stuff. And it’s sad that the majority of people are not reading a lot of Christian books, they are reading a lot in terms of social media or whatever, but not necessarily Christian books. So when they do pick a book, we want them to have a place where they can go, where they know, “Okay, I don’t necessarily know this book, but I know the place I’m buying it from, and so it’ll hold to the Bible, so I can read it with confidence.”

Nancy: Your model is very different probably than what most people are used to. In the States, people have been used to historically, you know, the bookstore down the street, of course as you know, in the States, Christian bookstores over these years have been closing, closing, closing and even recently kind of the only Christian bookstores left with a lot of stores, have just announced they’re closing a bunch of stores. So you have a warehouse that you sometimes open, but the way you sell books online, you gotta sell online so 10ofthose.com, how else do you sell books?

Jonathan: Yeah, so we do a lot of events. So conferences and, you know, as we’re talking here, you’re speaking at a conference, we have what we call a pop-up bookstore here. But one of the biggest ways has been going to churches week by week, whether it’s mid-week for their Bible study, or on a Sunday for their church congregations, where we would provide a pop-up bookstore and bring a really good range. So say a church of 300 people, we might have 10, 12 tables. we’ll be there for their services on a Sunday. We’ll recommend four or five books in the service and the value of reading. So we may take three or four minutes in the service to say why people should be reading good stuff and then highlight four or five books. And with that, highlight books that they may get for themselves, but also be thinking about those who aren’t yet Christians, that maybe they could put a book into their hands evangelistically, maybe at Christmas or at Easter throughout the year. We found that’s a great way of getting resources out. People want to look and feel and open up the resources so taking books to places is helpful and worthwhile.

Nancy: Let’s say I’m a pastor, and I say, “I don’t know if I want people selling stuff in my church.” How do you interact with that pastor or church in regard to whether or not they’re gonna put in a 10ofThose pop-up bookstore?

Jonathan: Yeah, that’s a great question and we engage with that. So we will often say from the front, “If you don’t have the money or you can’t afford it or you don’t want to pay on a Sunday, but you promise to read it, just take it. We’d like to…”

Nancy: Do you really?

Jonathan: Yeah, we do. We normally then say we’ll overcharge somebody else and it will balance out. But our passion isn’t to make a lot of money and you know, buy a holiday home, our passion is to get good books into people’s hands. Now sure, we need to make the finances balance, but the Lord is very kind when that happens.

Nancy: So you began selling a lot of books, but then the company transitioned a bit and you began publishing. Tell us about that.

Jonathan: It was really interesting because one of our first books was just a little 48-page book. I’ll tell you who it’s by in a minute, people may know, but so our desire to publish wasn’t, “Great. Everyone’s publishing, we’ll join that as well.” It was really to publish things that others didn’t, so evangelistic resources at low cost so people could be giving out from a pound, buying it for a pound or $1 or $2, so that they could afford to give away, but also short books. So 48 pages, could read it in an hour, that sort of thing. And one of our first books was “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness” by Tim Keller, which people may have heard of. I heard it actually as a sermon initially, and it had a huge impact on my Christian life. I was struggling with quite a dark depression, which I had had for a number of years, and I heard this talk and it just transformed my Christian life.

Nancy: I can’t imagine you being depressed.

Jonathan: Well, it’s true. Yeah, the dark times were very, very dark.

Nancy: Were they? Yeah.

Jonathan: I think often people who can be bubbly and upfront often have dark times, but that that was true for me. But this was really to change my Christian life because he was saying, “We all so often compare ourselves against each other,” “I’m better than them or I’m worse than them.” And the message of the book really is, if we’re trusting in Christ, as it were, being to courts, the judges made His decision and His decision is we’re declared free. And that was so liberating for me, that I just sent an email to Redeemer and said…

Nancy: Oh, don’t give away your publishing secrets.

Jonathan: Oh, I don’t mind. I’m just delighted. I sense a generic email address saying,”Look, we’d love to just put this out in a little booklet.” And we printed 2,000, it went and it’s done half a million copies now.

Nancy: Oh my goodness.

Jonathan: Yeah. Yeah. So God’s been very kind. So our publishing began really through that and it’s grown. We’ve done a book with you, a children’s book. We just want to make the gospel accessible, both in terms of content, availability, and price, and that’s what we stand for as a publishing house. And so, whether it’s we’ve got a new one coming out with Matt Smithurst on how we approach our Bible readings so things like prayerfully and humbly, etc. So that’s coming out soon. It’s just a short book again, 48 pages with the idea that a whole church congregation could read it because it’s $2 or $3 and accessible, but gets people into the Bible, points people to Jesus.

Nancy: You mentioned earlier on that you enjoy reading Christian biography. I wanna spend some time talking about biography. I think any of us who’ve read biographies, a lot of times those are some of the most impactful books that we have ever read. I think of that for me, you’re just so moved, challenged by the way the Lord has worked in someone’s life and the way they’ve chosen to live their lives in response to Christ. So if someone says, “You know what, I just never have written much Christian biography. Give me the case for why maybe I ought to.” But especially, build a case for me as a Bible teacher. Why should a Bible teacher be at all interested in reading much Christian biography? Because we think, “Oh, I need to be reading such to be preparing my talks. You know, I need to be reading commentaries on whatever passage I’m teaching,” or whatever. So why should I read Christian biography?

Jonathan: Well, I would argue, every Christian should be reading biographies. So if you’re a new Christian, start with biography. If you’re a professor in a seminary, you need to be reading Christian biography. And I’ve got good people to back me up on that. I remember reading John Piper saying that he used to read Warren Wiersbe’s biographies of people and that really got him into biography. Biography, obviously, they’re good stories, and so everyone loves a good story and a page-turner. But more than that, I think, good Christian biography teaches us and shows us what a Christian life looks like, with the ups and downs. One of the dangers with biography is, people can be portrayed as, you know, they never did anything wrong and they just so saintly. The best biography is those that show when people made a mess of that Christian life and God still used them.

And so, I think everybody should be reading Christian biography. There’s an American called Ransome W. Cooper, who said this about biography, and I think it sums up why biography can help anyone in the Christian life, but particularly Bible teachers. He said, “The reading of good biography forms an important part of a Christian’s education. It provides us with numberless illustrations for use in our own service, we learn to assess the true worth of character, to glimpse a work goal for our life, to decide how best to attain it, what self-denial is needed to curb unworthy aspirations. And then, it’s crucial and all the time we learn how God breaks into the dedicated life to bring about his own purposes.”

So for a Bible teacher, biography gives you great illustrations to show what the Bible says about being a disciple for living for Christ, for sharing the gospel. You’ll get illustrations which will be great windows of light for your congregation as you preach or at seminary, you’re teaching to people. So, biography gives you those examples. Biography also shows us what the Christian character should be like. Well, if we’re Bible teachers, we want to be showing what the Bible says about Christian character and godliness. Biography giving a goal for people’s life, that’s why I think new Christians, young Christians should be reading it to see, again, what is the Lord setting out for what my Christian life should be like. Not that these saints whose stories are recorded are sinless, but even in their sin, we see how God works. Then, this crucial thing of self-denial, and ultimately, how God takes a life that’s dedicated to him to use for His glory. Seeing disappointment, seeing tragedy, seeing the struggles, the battle of the Christian life, seeing the joys of a friend coming to the Lord, whatever their story is, I think just seeing how God takes hold of that life and uses it for His glory, even when it doesn’t look like it. You know, Joni Eareckson, her story, read that, it’s remarkable how God uses what seems to be the most tragic of situations. And yet, the glory that’s come from her life is remarkable.

Nancy: It’s beautiful.

Jonathan: Those sorts of biographies I think are really precious and should be read by any Christian here.

Nancy: Well, why don’t you give us, let’s say your top five, okay?

Jonathan: Oh, wow, okay. [crosstalk 00:24:39]

Nancy: You know, not necessarily. I know you gotta… Yeah. Give us, as Bible teachers, five biographies that are gonna challenge us. Give us illustrative fodder for our teaching, but just bring us joy to read.

Jonathan: Well, there are loads and there are different books for different people at different times and seasons. So that needs to be remembered. I’ve got special ones, I’ve mentioned Joni Eareckson, I think Cameron Cole’s, “Therefore I Have Hope” is an amazing one. The “21 Servants” that Crossway have done, which is a collection. There’s loads of different ones, “The Hiding Place.”

Nancy: Oh, “The Hiding Place.” I pulled that out again a few years ago. It’s the kind, you know, many people have read a long time ago, like I did, but to read it now, an older adult and think about the realities of her life in that prison camp and the choices she made, and the way God met them miraculously.

Jonathan: There’s a remarkable line in that biography. So she was in a concentration camp, Second World War. There’s a remarkable line where she turns to her sister and said, you know, “I just can’t go on.” And Betsie says to Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” That’s why biography is so important, for lines like that. It’s a great story, but there’s great depth in the teaching.

Nancy: Don’t be tearing up on me, Jonathan Carswell.

Jonathan: I know, I know, sorry. Yes. Right. So the top five, well, what would I give…? The first Christian Biography I ever read was “A Man in Christ,” the story of Hudson Taylor, written by Roger Steer, who… Hudson Taylor started China Inland Mission, which is now OMF. He was from Yorkshire, which is where I’m from, the short chapters, so it’s very accessible. There were some Chinese names to get used to, etc. But that is a remarkable story of how this really, uneducated guy gave his life for Christ on the mission field. And he famously said, I think, “If I had 1,000 lives, I’d give them all to China.” The Lord used his life to reach China and beyond. So “A Man in Christ.” by Roger Steer, that’s outstanding.

One more recently, the story of a couple of Americans it’s called, “We Died Before We Came Here.” They had a bit of a messy Christian life, to be honest, and it’s one of the reasons I love the book. It’s published by Tyndale House, a bit of a messy Christian life, but they had a desire to share the gospel with Muslims. So they went to North Africa, doesn’t say where, and were there to reach Muslims there. It explains in the first chapter how Emily’s husband, I think Stephen his name, was murdered by Al Qaeda. And it’s the story of sacrifice and of loss. But actually, sacrifice and loss was before they even left because they knew they may never come back. And the sacrifice was dying to self to live for Christ. And Stephen ultimately gave his life to share the gospel. But strikingly, Emily and the kids are still out there sharing the gospel. And I cried a lot through that book, but also was deeply challenged of, “Okay, wherever I am in the world, have I died to self.” And yeah, that book was just very, very helpful in that sense.

Nancy: That reminds me of a line in Rosaria Butterfield’s book, “The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert.” And this was one of the most penetrating lines in that book to me when I read it probably back about 2012. And you know, she talks about coming out of this lesbian lifestyle coming to Christ. She’s starting to go to church and, you know, looking around the church, and I’ll try to remember the line correctly, she says something like that she wondered if anyone else felt the pain she did of dying to themselves every day. And I remember when I read that, I kind of thought to myself, “When did I let myself off that hook?” Because when she asked the question I thought, “I’m not sure I do. I’m not sure that I think about my life on those terms.” But for her, you know, coming into the Christian life, for her, she’s just, “That is the Christian life. I’m gonna need to die to myself every day.”

Jonathan: And that’s right, isn’t it? I mean, that should be the experience of every Christian, that we are dying self. Romans 12:1, “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as a living sacrifice.”

Nancy: Don’t be saying that, that’s the message I’m given in the morning.

Jonathan: Okay. [crosstalk 00:29:32] But that’s the message for every Christian, isn’t it? For Rosaria, whether the missionaries abroad or, you know, day to day, we’re all to live like that and die to self.

Nancy: What you got up?

Jonathan: Well, “Through Gates of Splendor” was a special one.

Nancy: How could anybody, yeah, go through life without having read that?

Jonathan: Yeah, yeah. If you haven’t read that, are you a Christian? [inaudible 00:29:54] But, yeah.

Nancy: And tell people what that is because I don’t mean to be condescending because, in this day and age, a lot of people would never have heard of it. I mean, you know, I’m in my 50s and so yeah, I’ve heard…

Jonathan: Well, it’s one of the reasons I want to promote biography for some of these old ones for a younger audience because they haven’t necessarily heard of these. But it’s a story of five guys who went to, not five guys in a restaurant, five guys who went, with their wives, to reach the Auca Indians, and Jim Elliot, and Elisabeth Elliot, and Nate Saint, and others, and ultimately, gave their life. And the story goes on as the Gospel is shared, ultimately, this tribe, most if not all, I think, came to know the Lord Jesus. But again, it’s one of sacrifice. But the teaching there that goes on through the telling of their story is one that’s informative and helpful and challenging, and almost one that we need to reread and reread because living sacrifices get off the altar, don’t we? And so yeah, that is well written, that helps, so it’s an easy read.

Nancy: It’s gripping.

Jonathan: It is gripping. Yeah, it’s a real page-turner. Another page turner would be, which, Ruth Graham Bell said, “Try this and see if you can put it down.” It’s simply unputdownable if that is a word, is “Evidence Not Seen” by Darlene Diebler Rose.

Nancy: I’ve never read that.

Jonathan: Oh, Nancy, right, I’m gonna have to send you a copy. It’s outstanding. It really is outstanding.

Nancy: Say the title again?

Jonathan: “Evidence Not Seen” by Darlene Diebler Rose. So it’s published by Authentic Media in the UK and HarperCollins in the U.S. Darlene Diebler Rosse was one of the first missionaries to New Guinea, and during the World War was captured by the Japanese. And maybe in some ways similar to “A Hiding Place” sort of story. But there are a few things that come through, God’s sovereignty, God’s goodness, God’s provision. And again, this attitude of, “My life is not my own,” which is seen in lots of different ways. First of all, her going as a missionary, but things like her prayer life in the concentration camp, remarkable, you know. I live in a comfortable situation and my prayer life is ropey at best. She was in the worst of situations and just loved talking with the Lord, and just things like that. But again, an absolute page-turner. Don’t start it at night because you just won’t get to sleep…

Nancy: You don’t wanna turn off the lights.

Jonathan: No, it is outstanding. I think that would be my favorite of all so…

Nancy: Okay. Then that’ll be my next read.

Jonathan: Yeah, I’ll send you a copy. What number are we on?

Nancy: Have we exhausted our list? I’m not sure.

Jonathan: I think we’re on four, are we?

Nancy: Okay, if you got one more for us.

Jonathan: One more. Well, this is very special because this lady has a special place in my heart really. The only other lady beyond my wife to have a special place and it’s the autobiography of Dr. Helen Roseveare, so, “Give Me This Mountain” and “He Gave Us a Valley.” When I was in Northern Ireland, Helen lived about four miles down the road. And so I called her up with battle and a brush Yorkshireman said, “Helen, how would you feel if I came to see you for an hour every week and you teach me the Bible?” And she said, “Absolutely, I’d love to.” So it’s actually a year and a half. We had nearly two hours every week and she just taught me the Bible. It was a real privilege. Yeah. So Helen Roseveare was a medical missionary to the Belgian Congo. And again, it’s a story of sacrifice and suffering. She’s a very intelligent lady. She studied at Cambridge University. She was converted under the ministry of Graham Scroggie. Some people may know his writings. Yeah, again, just the Lord, she just loved the Lord. When you talked about Jesus, her face would actually light up.

And a great line from her work, her writings and also in her speaking, she would say about suffering that she’d got to a point in her relationship with the Lord where she felt him, as it were, saying to her, “Helen, can you thank me for trusting you with this suffering even if I never tell you why?” And boy, I mean you’ve got to be somewhere in your relationship with the Lord for that to, one, thank him, not because He’s given you the suffering, He doesn’t give us the suffering, but thank Him for trusting you with it, even if he never tells you why. I just learned so much from Helen. Her love for the Bible and her love for Jesus. So as people reading biography who are teaching the Bible to others, Helen’s biography helped me see a love for God’s Word, which should and does lead to a love for Jesus. And He was clearly the one she adored. And it’s just evident through her life and through her Bible teaching. And I guess that’s a challenge for me as I talk to people about the Bible and speak and get books, etc. Is it about Jesus? Because it’s Jesus that transforms and changes lives. So as we open up the Bible, does that point people to Jesus? Yeah, so that’d be my… But there’s many others, so then…

Nancy: I know, we could probably go on and on, couldn’t we?

Jonathan: I do, I do.

Nancy: Well, tell people how they can find 10ofThose.

Jonathan: Bless you. Yeah, so you can find it online. 10ofthose.com, both in America and the UK and other places around the world as well. Our passion is to get good books that hold the Bible in people’s hands. And yeah, you may see us at conferences and churches, and places, yeah, yeah.

Nancy: And what are some things you’re working on right now?

Jonathan: So from the publishing points of view, with 10 Publishing, I mentioned Matt Smithurst’s book. We have also got the biography of Maud Kells ,Autobiography of Maud Kells coming out. She is a contemporary of Helen Roseveare and was out in the Belgian Congo. And she, I think, I’m saying this right, she’s 87. And a couple of years ago was shot by robbers. And she cried out to the Lord saying, “Please don’t take me yet, there’s so much more I’d love to do.” And He did, He saved her and bless her. She is back out in the Congo as a missionary.

Nancy: At what age?

Jonathan: Eighty-seven.

Nancy: Oh, my goodness.

Jonathan: Yeah. And so there are a couple of things, we’re doing a couple of books with you as well, Lord willing with the Illustrator and yeah, we just wanna get good stuff out into people’s hands that points to Jesus.

Nancy: Well, thank you, Jonathan. Thank you for being my friend. I love having you as a friend. I love watching your life and your radical trust in God to work through you in the world. Your love for blessing the world with good books. I love it that how much you believe in books and believe not just in selling them, but believe that books change lives, that God uniquely somehow uses books to change the lives of people in radical significant ways.

Jonathan: Bless you. Thank you for having me.

Nancy: You’ve been listening to “Help Me Teach the Bible: with Nancy Guthrie, a production of the Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracts. Learn more about Crossway’s gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.

Jonathan Carswell loves books. More than that, he loves putting solid Christian books in the hands of believers as well as those who haven’t yet come to faith. And his love for good books is infectious.

Most Bible teachers I know also love books. But sometimes we get so caught up in reading what we need to read to prepare that we neglect the genre Carswell thinks every Christian, and especially Bible teachers, needs to read: Christian biography. I asked Carswell—chief executive officer of 10ofThose—to pick his top five Christian biographies and share them with listeners of Help Me Teach the Bible. Since our conversation I read the one he said was his favorite page-turner, and it did not disappoint.

Books Mentioned in our Conversation:

Listen to this episode of Help Me Teach the Bible. And checkout the new TGC online bookstore.

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