Charles Swindoll, age 75, is nearing a time when most people enjoy retirement. But the seasoned pastor refuses to quit preaching, and a younger generation still looks to him as a model. In a recent LifeWay Research survey, Protestant pastors said that, after Billy Graham, Swindoll influenced them more than any other preacher. The chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary has spent more than 40 years as a pastor and contributed to more than 70 book titles. His preaching has been broadcast on more than 2,000 radio outlets worldwide.

Swindoll, also the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, recently began a 27-volume commentary series, starting with Insights on Romans (Zondervan). J. R. Kerr, a teaching pastor at Park Community Church in Chicago, spoke with Swindoll about his new book and his advice for young pastors.

You've written several practical, popular books over the years. What compelled you to begin the series with Romans?

This was a personal challenge, given my practical style, to pick up my pen and take on the New Testament books. I began with Romans because of its balance of doctrine and the Christian life and practicality. In it you have eight chapters of doctrine, three chapters that deal with the sovereignty of God in the life of Israel and the church, and the last five chapters have to do with practical Christian living—and, of course, that's right down my alley.

There's been a renewal of gospel-centered preaching, in which the focus is on the Atonement and making Jesus the hero. How would you respond to critics who say that story-focused preaching draws attention away from the gospel?

When you are giving people the gospel, you are giving them something to believe, and you have to set the stage for that. You don't just drive up and dump the truck and drive off. [You have to] create an appetite. For instance, when Jesus talked about a sower, he didn't provide a formula. Rather, he used something that people already knew about—a sower sowing seed—and probably pointed to [a sower] as he described what kind of seed and what kind of soil. I've given people something to believe when I bring them face to face with the truth as it addresses the needs of their lives.

Some of the best things to preach can be wrapped in story form. Of course, you are certainly always meant to be preaching Christ, just as you are always preaching grace, mercy, compassion, love, discernment, and wisdom. I think it can be a bit false if you set up a story just to shape it around the gospel. Not every text is a gospel text.

What advice do you have for younger preachers?

I want them to say, "I want to get serious about being a Bible preacher. I'm not going to fool around with a lot of entertaining stuff. I'm going to take people to the Word, and I'm going to keep it interesting. I'm going to go through the books of the Bible and subjects that are significant, and I'm going to pour myself into this as a regular habit of my life. I want to be known in 20 years as an expositor. I want to be able to take the Scriptures and help people see how relevant they are. I'm going to start with Romans verse 1 of chapter 1, and when I finish chapter 16, people are going to say, 'Oh my goodness, what have I missed half my life?'"

If I ever wrote a book on preaching, it would contain three words: Preach the Word. Get rid of all the other stuff that gets you sidetracked; preach the Word. Second Timothy 4:2 says, "Be prepared in season and out of season."

A mentor of mine, Ray Stedman, used to say, "Keep your finger on the text whether you are teaching it or applying it. Keep them with their eyes on the Word and tell them about Jesus." It's as simple as that.

How do you intend to spend the remainder of your years?

I want to preach till the last breath in my lungs runs out. Nothing is more bothersome to me than retiring. Weird things happen when you disengage; first you get negative, then you start telling people about your latest surgeries, and eventually you lose touch. I want to stay in touch.

Related Elsewhere:

Insights on Romans is available at and other book retailers.

Other recent book interviews include:

The Trouble with Twilight | Theology professor Beth Felker Jones suggests Christians should look for hidden messages in the vampire buzz. (February 19, 2010)
Breadwinners and Benefactors | Lynn Cohick argues that early Christian women were more active in public life than we might think. (February 3, 2010)
Why Gayle Haggard Stayed | She tells CT why she remained married to Ted Haggard—even after he suggested that she divorce him. (January 27, 2010)

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Insights on Romans (Swindoll's New Testament Insights)
Insights on Romans (Swindoll's New Testament Insights)
352 pp., 39.56
Buy Insights on Romans (Swindoll's New Testament Insights) from Amazon