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Conformed to His Image
dr. ken boa - president of reflections ministries
We feature in this edition of The Christian Sportsman magazine, Dr. Kenneth Boa who is a renown speaker and author of over eighty-eight books and publications in communicating eternal truths to men and their families in terms relevant to our current culture. His topics range from unique perspectives on modern astronomy, world philosophy, men’s phycology, God’s creative order and spiritual formation. Ken weaves into his presentations an artistic approach to understanding science and reasoning in the context of God’s creative design of the great outdoors and God’s creative handiwork.
Dr. Boa is the President of Reflections Ministries, an organization that seeks to encourage, teach, and equip men to know Christ, follow Him, become progressively conformed to His image, and reproduce His life in others. He is also President of Trinity House Publishers, a publishing company that is dedicated to the creation of tools that will help people to integrate eternal values into the temporal arena by drawing them to close friendship with God and a better understanding of the culture in which they live.
Kenneth Boa holds a B.S. from Case Institute of Technology, a Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary, a Ph.D. from New York University, and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford in England.
Welcome Dr. Boa, it is an honor and privilege to feature your story in The Christian Sportsman magazine and share with sportsmen insights about your travels, life perspectives and unique ways of communicating with men of our current culture and outdoors passions. We are delighted to introduce you to our readers of this publication. Thanks for investing time with us today. Now, let’s jump right into the interview with a few questions and your responses to some topics that are sure to be of interest to men.
1. Could you tell us about your passions in life from the perspective of communicating with men and their families? And about your passions in relations to sportsmen who appreciate the great outdoors and God’s creative design?
One of my passions is the cultivation of deep, abiding and rich relationships and activities, especially with parents and children where they have common ground in building friendships, and bonds of connection. One thing that happens, for example, if you consider a sports outing, say you're in deer stand or you're embedded in a natural setting, what's happening? The father and the son are sharing common interests. They're spending time together. They're communicating and they're on a different level than they would ordinarily be if they are at home. There's a rich variety where common ground, common interests, experiences together, and the thrill of doing something or seeing a great trophy, that adds to the relationships, and that's what my real passion is, the cultivation of relationships.
2. What circumstances and life decisions led you to take the course of study that you followed through your formal education?
My formal education actually began in the sciences when I was at Case Institute of Technology, studying mostly math, physics and astronomy. My conversion, though, really was a surprise. I had a Christian background, but dropped it for four years at Case, and never even thought about it. But my coming to faith in Jesus just after graduating from Case really changed the whole course of my direction and my future studies. When I realized that the Bible is God's blueprint for living, I said, "I've got to learn this book," and that's what drove my decision to go to Dallas Seminary and all decisions subsequent to that were based upon an understanding of Scripture as a guide for my path.
3. What intrigues you about the great outdoors with regard to wildlife and the landscapes of God's design?
I think that everything in the created order is designed by God pointing to spiritual and moral truth, to those who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. By cultivating a taste for beauty through the natural environment and to see things that are ordinarily overlooked in our cities and so forth, it gets us exposed to the raw beauty of nature itself and the one who made it. Imagine camping under a clear sky under the stars. That is a vision you're never going to see in the city. We are inspired to see flora and fauna and to look at the majestic beauty of the creation itself and the magnificent animals He's made and the environments and their connection in terms of an ecological fit. It's astonishing. The more we learn, the more amazing it becomes.
4. Tell us about your earlier years as a young man and the track you have followed over the years through college and ultimately into building a family and launching your career as an author and writer?
After being a hippie in Berkeley, California in the summer of '67, “the summer of love” as they called it, I found myself within six months after my conversion as a new student at Dallas Theological Seminary. It was a culture shock for me and changed the whole course of my life. As I studied the Scriptures, it shaped my whole vision of family, of future, of ministry, and everything. That really set my path on an entirely new course. I got married just two weeks before entering seminary then had our only daughter, Heather, the next year, but it was a rich experience. That was our foundation and everything then built upon that.
5. What are your greatest interests regarding firearms, game hunting or fishing?
Again, I never want to disconnect those activities from the beauty and excellence and wonder of God's created order. One of my greatest interests in connecting them together is to see a greater appreciation for what God has actually achieved, what He's produced in this world. To me, natural activities are all a part of immersion into the great drama of the outdoors and to see life from more of a top-down perspective, a sense of wonder and awe and of amazement. The times that are spent while hunting or fishing are often experienced as times of solitude and silence, and they cultivate inner thought. If a person uses those opportunities, it can deepen his own character and reflection as well.
6. Why are you so focused on teaching, inspiring and encouraging men to develop lifelong friendships, and what do you believe is the essence in building such lasting relationships?
Good question, and what gets me out of bed in the morning is life change, inexplicable life change in other people that cannot be accounted for unless God was there. So that drives me and guides me in all my ministry. In my friendships, I seek to build Jesus into their lives so that they have an inner life that is rooted deeply into the ground of God's Word and His love. Then they are more stable so that when the storms of life come along, they are tethered to truth and therefore have greater stability. They have an inner life, a depth, a foundation that others may not see, but they have more integrity. They're not living on the surface of life. I love to see that.
7. Share with our readers the basic premise underlying the theme of your foundational teaching on spiritual formation?
My basic premise is that Jesus gave His life for us (salvation) so that He could give His life to us (sanctification), so that He can live His life through us – as us (service). In this way, we become conduits of His grace as we draw our life from Him, and bear fruit. Fruit is excess life that the branch does not need, and it contains the seeds of its own reproduction and nourishes those with whom we come in contact. That's basically evangelism and edification. Thus, the life we receive by abiding in the vine is a life that is manifested in the way we influence and enrich other people.
8. Who are some of your inspirational heroes in the Christian faith and how have they inspired you personally as an author and lecturer?
I've been privileged to have many wonderful mentors over the years and several of my mentors are deceased now and reside in the Father's house. I think of Howard Hendricks. I think of Chuck Colson. I think of Charles Ryrie and others who marked me for what I am. Most of my mentors such as Augustine, Pascal, Milton, Calvin, Luther, Tozer, C. S. Lewis, are dead. But I am marked by these people who walked with Jesus and who could articulate what that faith looked like.
9. As a husband, father and grandfather, how has your perspective as a leader developed over the years, especially in mentoring other men in the Christian faith?
I see leadership in three ways: as a servant, as a steward, and as a shepherd. The leader as a steward means that everything he's got has been given to him, and he is accountable for what he then takes and reproduces in the lives of others. We are all stewards, and that should be our perspective.
Secondly, leadership as a shepherd – this refers to the people in my life. Those are the people God has entrusted to me within my sphere of influence. Third, leadership as a servant, and that is my practice. I move from perspective to people to practice. All leadership is service to other people in the name of Jesus.
10. Your book, Conformed to His Image, has ben the basis for much of your inspirational teachings and publications. Can you give us an eagle’s eye view of the book and the impact that it has had in your personal life as well as in those you have mentored?
I see Conformed to His Image as a cumulative work that required multiple decades because it was the outcome of lengthy reflection and consolidation. The spiritual life is a diamond with many facets, and no single facet is sufficient. I identified 12 facets in response to what I found as common approaches used by many Bible teachers who limited our exposure to only one or two. I wanted to explore what the spiritual journey looks like, and I called it Conformed to His Image because we have a clear purpose statement in Romans 8:29 that God called us to be conformed to the image of His Son. We are in a life formation process. We live in a soul-forming world as aliens and travelers and strangers who are being prepared for the Father's house.
11. The twelve basic topics of this centerpiece inspirational book deals with spirituality in twelve areas: Relational, Paradigm, Disciplined, Exchanged Life, Motivated, Devotional, Holistic, Process, Spirit-Filled, Warfare, Nurturing, and Corporate. Why these topics and why in this order?
These topics are book-ended by relationships. I start with Relational Spirituality and end with Corporate Spirituality. We come to Christ as individuals, but we grow in community. I wanted to put Relational Spirituality at the front and Corporate Spirituality at the back. Then, the other components contribute in their own way. Some, who focus a lot on Warfare Spirituality, are underplayed and not studied enough. Later in the book I have Spirit-filled Spirituality, but those were tough sections to do because there's a lot of controversy concerning them.
Paradigm spirituality focuses on the area of a top-down perspective on life. I also discuss Exchanged life, Disciplined, and motivated spirituality. Holistic spirituality emphasizes how Christ should be seen as the center of life rather than a compartment of life. When Jesus is the hub, and all other activities radiate from the hub as spokes. Process spirituality is about being versus doing. Being should energize our doing. It is about process and not just product, and about intimacy, not just activity. Those are various aspects of the book and I tried to blend them together into a meaningful whole.
12. Speak to the tendency of most men who often struggle with a performance based mind-set and the natural bent toward becoming legalistic in our relationships?
I think people have a natural tendency toward legalism because they want to count, control, quantify, and compare. We're driven by that because it is visible and tangible. Relationships, on the other hand, are hard to measure, hard to quantify. When Ephesians 5 says, "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church," how am I doing? I don't have a love-o-meter. I can't define what that looks like, and so there is a measure of ambiguity. But at the end, life is about relationships. As I see it then, I put those components together.
13. How does God’s grace so prominently figure into the need for men to build deep relationships with friends and family members?
Again, in contrast to the legalistic mindset, a grace-driven understanding says that everything that you have and are is gift and grace. It's given by God and now, I am a mediator of the grace of God. We have been given more than we deserve. He hasn't treated us with justice, which is what we deserve. He's given us mercy, what we don't deserve, and grace, better than we deserve. He invites us to do the same in all our relationships to give people better than they deserve precisely because we were given better than we deserve. This is why He invites us to forgive because we were forgiven, and to love because we are loved. Thus, we don't have to be performance based because if we grasp our true identity in Christ, we have no one to impress and nothing to prove because we are now welcomed in the Father's house.
14. What are the greatest spiritual needs among men of our current day that you believe is not being met and how are men attempting to fulfill these needs?
I think we all have a hardwired need for significance, a need for security, and a need for satisfaction. Men could go to the wrong places to get those needs met. For significance, they turn to possessions as they show it and owe it to demonstrate they have arrived. For security, they go to people, but people will let us down and will let them down. It's not sufficient. For satisfaction, we go to performance and position, but that too will never sustain us. The world has a way of asking the question, "What have you done for me lately?” The only way to really get those needs met is to find them satisfied in our Father's house. I am secure because I'm a child of God. I'm significant because I'm a member of something that lasts forever, the body of Christ, and I have satisfaction because the Holy Spirit gifts me in ways that I can accomplish something that will last forever.
15. After our practice shooting sessions at the range I have observed your focus and intensity as if you are serious in protecting your person and your property if ever the need arises. Do you see our U.S. Constitutional exercise in keeping and bearing arms as a privilege or right and are such freedoms now being threatened?
Indeed, I see that there's a natural tendency to disarm the citizenry and this certainly happened with Hitler and under national socialism where 15% of the population basically reached a critical mass such that their ideology was able to drive the rest. The best thing you can do especially in a totalitarian condition is to disarm the citizenry. You'll notice that places where there's lower gun control laws actually have fewer homicides. Where controls are higher, they have the greatest. There's an inverse relationship People have this silly notion of blaming the weapon rather than the people and the conditions. You could just as well ban hammers if someone's going to hit someone, or knives. Also, the idea of criminalizing or keeping people from having the legal right to bear arms in my mind is in fact to blame it on the weapons. It's a basic blunder because who do you suppose will have weapons if it's criminalized? It is a blunder to disarm people who need protection.
It’s interesting that in Kennesaw, Georgia, residents are required to have a firearm in the house. My daughter and son-in-law used to live there.
16. What central role do you believe the recreational use of firearms as well as hunting privileges has played in preserving our way of life as United States citizens?
Again, it gives us a sense of being able to protect ourselves as well as the recreational component. And it gives us skills that are valuable, skills that apply in other areas of life. Communities of like-minded and passionate sportsmen can be built out of that recreational use as well. Friendships are built upon common ground and mutual interests. When you find another person's interested in the same topic, that binds them together.
17. Share with our readers some highlights about your personal experience in receiving Jesus Christ into your life and how that changed you in the short and long term?
It's a long story, but I had a profound experience virtually against my will where I was simultaneously aware both of the holiness of God and at the same time drawn to Him. It was an amazing experience that ultimately led to my conversion. That process then defined me and gave me a vision that Jesus was in fact the only way I could have of overcoming the guilt of the past and the fear of the future. By being liberated from such fear and guilt, I can be alive in the present tense. We are called to build our intimacy with Jesus in the spheres of influence that God has given us. I believe we all have that same mission, each one of us has an arena of influence in which we can represent the King as agents, as ambassadors, as stewards, and as representatives of the King. Our call is to live well, to learn well, and to love well.
18. One of the great heroes in the Christian faith most notable among big game safari hunters in Africa is the renown medical missionary David Livingstone. Do you believe that God is working through men in our current culture as He did through the life mission of men like Livingstone? How or why not?
Yes, I do believe He's doing that, but again, it's not a question of the big splash, but of faithfulness in the small things. God uses a person, even if the sphere of influence is not something that's publicly visible. Fidelity in the small things is what matters most. All of us can have that level of significance before God. That's what life's about. Given that notion, we have this understanding that true significance is found in the Father's approval and pleasure and then, I don't have to impress people. I don't have to be bound by their expectations, but instead, I can serve others unconditionally because I've been given that gift myself.
19. In your opinion, do men need personal mentors in aspiring toward spiritual maturity? Why?
Yes, we can't go it alone. We need the power of the community because we have to have accountability. Men also need encouragement. We have to have a measure of vulnerability in relationships because if we try to make it alone, be become lone rangers. That's why community is so vital for spiritual formation. Commitment to covenant relationships is powerful for men.
20. Do you have a favorite parable from the Bible that has inspired your personal life’s mission? How has it helped shape your Christian world view?
It's hard to choose just one, but the parable of the prodigal son comes to mind. First, we are all the prodigal son, but in another sense, we also have the elder brother in us. Ultimately, God wants us to become the father. After the prodigal comes to faith, we have to be careful not to become Pharisaic and legalistic like the elder brother, but rather to become like the father who welcomes the repentant.
Luke 15:20 is my favorite image. You want to know what the father is like? Just look at this text when the father saw his son returning after the son came to his senses and said, "I'll return to my father's house." He saw him from a distance, which means he was waiting for him, looking every day for his wayward son.
Secondly, he felt compassion for him. Third, he ran to him, which is something in the Ancient Near East no father would do. He actually ran to his son, and embraced him and kissed him. That's what the father's heart is about. That animates me because I want to be mediating that love in my relationships with others.
21. Could you leave our readers with a verse of scripture that has most impacted your life, career and family in the role as a leader and mentor among men?
There are so many wonderful texts. I often sign my books with Philippians 2:9-11 because it declares that after Jesus humbled Himself to become one of us and was obedient to the point of death, every tongue will confess that He is Lord. That powerful text tells us either you bow the knee now or you're going to bow the knee later, but the wise person will bow it now. He is Lord of all. And as with Christ, humility comes before honor and the cross comes before the crown. Thus, we are called to persevere through the adversities of life because in this soul-forming world, we're meant to become more like Him and it is only through adversity and the things that train us that we will cultivate true virtue and character.
It has been a pleasure to interview you as a close friend and one of our nation’s most prolific cultural writers, Bible scholars, and personal mentors of so many men who are on their own personal quest of spiritual formation to become conformed to the very image of Christ Jesus. Please know that we appreciate you and the contributions you have made and continue to make within the lives of thousands of men across the nation and around the world. May God continue to richly bless you, your family and continued outreach to serving and helping men through the many resources available through Reflections Ministries.
Dr. Boa can be reached through Reflections Ministries located in Atlanta. Georgia at kenboa.org
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