Interview with Thabiti Anyabwile

Article by   April 2008
  1. Thabiti, I want to welcome you to the ref21 blog and I look forward to your insights and contributions. Tell us briefly a little about yourself and your family.


I grew up in North Carolina, the youngest of eight children.  Attended N.C. State University, where I met an extraordinary young woman named Kristie at freshman orientation.  In something of a mystery, she decided to become my wife almost seventeen years ago.  We have three children and live in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands where I have the other amazing privilege of serving as senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman.  I enjoy jazz--the classic, straight-ahead stuff not that light Kenny G nonsense--basketball, chess and checkers, reading and writing.


  1. You have a fascinating conversion story.  Can you share it with us, briefly?


The Lord saved me from His wrath and to His glory about 12 or 13 years ago.  I had been for some time a practicing Muslim and a real enemy of the cross.  In college, I'd say I was something of the campus Saul. 


One year during Ramadaan, up early in preparation for prayer and the fast, I was reading the Qu'ran and had a settling awareness that what I was reading could not be true.  I could not reconcile the Qur'anic claims that the Books of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the Gospels were true with the claim that Jesus was not the Son of God and that salvation was not by faith in Him.  The more I read the less coherent Islam became.  The more I committed myself to faithful observance, the more aware I became that I was not righteous at all.


I left Islam and for about a year wandered between agnosticism and atheism.  Christianity was never an option.  I assumed that all religions were equally false.  Near the end of that year, my wife and I miscarried our first child.  That was hard providence.  The Lord humbled us deeply. 


While sitting at home depressed, I "happened" across a pastor on television preaching through the book of Timothy.  At the time I would not have been able to explain it, but the words of the Scripture had life.  I watched his show faithfully and eventually learned his church was in the Washington, D.C. area.  My wife and I drove up from N.C. one weekend to attend the church.  That Sunday, the pastor preached from Exodus 32.  It was Law and gospel, and by God's indescribable grace, my wife and I both came to saving faith that Sunday morning.



  1. You are about to appear at the Together for the Gospel conference. What was it like?


That must be one of the most humbling privileges of my life!  Everyone one of those men at the conference are heroes of mine.  MacArthur is one of the first expositors I ever heard.  Sproul taught me theology through Renewing Your Mind radio.  Mark taught me to love the church.  Piper forces me to exult in Jesus.  C.J. models such humility and joy, and Lig's scholarship is exceeded only by his graciousness.  And who is more courageous than Al Mohler? 


Then there is this funny-named guy "Thabiti Anyabwile."  It's a privilege to serve with them and to count them friends.  I am deeply grateful to God for the opportunity to learn from them and to labor with them for the gospel of our Lord.


  1. As you think about today's church (let's narrow the field to reformed churches) what do you see as the issues of greatest importance?


Preaching the gospel with clarity and power.  Faithfully teaching the whole counsel of God that the Lord's people might grow into maturity.  Cultivating by prayer, teaching and dependence upon the Spirit the kind of love in our congregations that mark Christians out as Christ's disciples (John 13:34-35). 


  1. Are there things happening in the church today that give you encouragement for the future?


The recovery of biblical exposition excites me greatly.  It's thrilling to see men commit themselves to the Scriptures, to humbly depending upon God's word, and to watch the Lord bless His word in the lives of His people. 


The amount of quality things being published encourages me.  I trust the Lord will use it to define the trajectory of His church for generations to come.  I'm especially encouraged at the growing number of reformed African American writers who are helping to spread robust biblical truth in those quarters of the Lord's vineyard.


  1. I'm hoping that at least one of our new bloggers brings a better taste in music! Are you a fan of Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath?


Oh, that's hilarious!  Man... I'd have to go with Black Sabbath because at least they have "Sabbath" in the name.  If it's not Parker, Coltrane, Davis, Brown, Stitt, Tyner, Rollins, Jamaal, or the like, I'm afraid I'm not much use to the blog.  I'm digging a number of the young Reformed holy hip hop artists--Curtis Allen, Shai Linne, Timothy Brindle, Christcentric, etc.  But beyond that, I sing because I am a Christians not because I'm musically literate!


  1. What is it like to live and minister in the Cayman Islands?


The Lord has wonderfully blessed me in giving me this group of saints to love and shepherd.  The people here love the word of God, the gospel, and each other.  My family and I have been the recipients of overwhelming generosity, hospitality, encouragement, and support. 


The Cayman Islands is home to beautiful and hospitable people.  The country enjoys a Christian history it is quite proud of and fighting to protect in many ways.  It is as diverse as any major metropolitan city, and in that sense is a great outpost for the gospel. 


It's almost always 80+ degrees, sunny, and clear blue water on white sandy beaches.  So, those who don't want to suffer for the gospel should consider easier places to live!

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