Dr Joseph Kidder is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, based in Berrien Springs, Michigan, USA. Growing up in Iraq, he found Jesus in a small Adventist church as a young person. Speaking at the Western Australian camp-meeting in April, he also talked about his story and his books.
What prompted you to tell your story in Out of Babylon at this time?
I have told the story of how I fell in love with Jesus in several places and the response had always been very positive. Many people urged me to put the story in a book format so it will be a source of encouragement to others. I pray that those who are thinking about falling in love with Jesus will do so with whole heart commitment and for those who are struggling with some issues of commitment will stand firm for Jesus no matter what.
How did your early life and experiences affect your faith today?
I decided to follow Jesus under very difficult circumstance. My life was on the line. I learned therefore to depend on Him and ask for His guidance and help always. My faith became everything for me. Because of that, Jesus became my hope and joy.
You have committed your book royalties to a church-planting project in your hometown of Nineveh. Tell us about this dream.
The modern name for Nineveh is Mosul. It is a city of about two million people, which was occupied by ISIS for several years. They destroyed many of the churches, museums and buildings. There was a Seventh-day Adventist church in Mosul many years ago—and my prayer is that there will be a church there again in the future.
Why is church planting so important for the mission of the church?
Church planting is the best means to spread the kingdom of God. A new church will reach a different demographic that the existing church cannot reach. It can also serve as a means of building new leaders and attracting inactive members, who might have a difficult time going to the mother church.
Tell us about your teaching and topics at the seminary.
I teach “Foundation of Biblical Spirituality”, “Church Growth” and “Innovative Evangelism”. I love teaching the new generation of pastors how to connect with God, and how to grow healthy and relevant churches.
I pastored for 20 years and the Lord blessed my ministry richly. One of the churches that I pastored grew to more than 500 people in attendance. In my classes, I draw heavily on my experience as a pastor. I also do research all the time to continue to be fresh and effective. And my previous books are based on my experience and research.
What is your definition of church at its best?
A healthy church understands that its most fundamental calling is to be a community of Jesus followers. This understanding turns us toward discipleship commitments. This church’s core purpose is to incarnate Christ’s healing and saving ministry in a hurting world, joining God in God’s work in this world in the power of the Holy Spirit.
A healthy church has a shared vision that all its members seek to embody. Having a clear and focused vision invites us joyfully to align all our resources toward shared kingdom work.
A healthy church has a thriving ministry. There is a sense of excitement and passion among its members. People experience meaning and purpose as they are given the opportunity to share their gifts.
A healthy church is anointed by the Holy Spirit and respond with power and enthusiasm to any challenge, and work faithfully through any conflict that might arise. This church steps out in faith to honour and glorify God.
Out of Babylon: How God Found Me on the Streets of Baghdad is available from Adventist bookshops in Australia and New Zealand.