Grace Theology Press interviews
Dr. Joe Wall
Director of Training Partnerships,
East-West Ministries International
Introduction: Dr. Joe Wall has pastored several churches in Texas, including Grace Bible Church of College Station, Spring Branch Community Church (renamed Bridgepoint Bible Church), and Cypress Bible Church. He has also served as the Academic Dean of Dallas Bible College, President of Colorado Christian University, and was a part of the founding team of the College of Biblical Studies in Houston.
For the past twenty years, he has served in numerous leadership positions with East-West Ministries International, including Executive Vice President of Field Ministries and Vice President of Training.
Dr. Wall is also the author of three books: Bob Thieme’s Teachings on Christian Living (Church Multiplication, Inc., 1978), Going for the Gold, Bible Study Edition (Grace Theology Press, 2015—originally published by Moody Press in 1991, and Effective Church Growth Strategies, (Word Publishing, 2000) which he co-authored with Dr. Gene Getz. He has been married to Linda for more than 50 years, and they have two sons and four grandchildren.
Todd Mathis: This is Todd Mathis and I am with Joe Wall, who is the professor of Systematic Theology at Grace School of Theology. We’re going to be talking about Joe’s new book, which is Going for the Gold. It’s the third edition of this book, which is an achievement in and of itself.
I know in 1992 as I was starting out in seminary, I read the first edition. That was my first introduction to a systematic presentation of eternal rewards, so I’m excited and really thrilled to be talking to Dr. Wall here. First, Dr. Wall, can you tell us a little bit about what you do?
Joe Wall: I serve with a mission agency. When I wrote the first edition of the book, I was serving as the president of Colorado Christian University. I had pulled together several schools to form the university; then the Lord put on my heart to train pastors and church planters in the former Soviet Union, which was in the process of breaking up at that time.
Bill Bright heard about my interest in overseas training, and he recruited me to work on a Campus Crusade for Christ training project. Then, for budgetary reasons, Bill pulled back from the training project, and he apologized and said he was willing to put me on loan to another ministry if I wanted to do so. At that time, a gentleman by the name of John Maisel was forming a new mission focused on evangelism and church planting in the former Soviet Union, East-West Ministries, Intl. I was his first recruit and began to work with him. Today we work in more than 50 countries focused on unreached peoples in limited access countries.
One of the driving forces of my life has always been the teaching on rewards. For me, the perspective is one of the joys of being in the presence of Jesus, for Him to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” That’s what a reward is. And our lives can either honor or shame Him. He has done so much for us. The driving force for me is the potential of seeing Jesus smile and say, “Well done” and rejoice with me and celebrate what He did through me.
As to my book on eternal rewards, Going for the Gold, it was originally published by Moody Press in 1991 and later republished by Xulon Press. It has been translated into Russian, Spanish, Korean, Burmese, Azeri, Georgian, and Nepali, and is currently being translated into Arabic, Hindi, and Bengali. A couple of years ago, I was asked by the president of Grace School of Theology to consider publishing it through Grace Theological Press.
As I got excited about publishing through Grace Theology Press, I began to think, “Yes, I’ll publish the book again, but this time I want to make it so people will multiply.” As I’ve worked as a missionary, I’ve been overwhelmed by the impact of multiplication worldwide. We were trained in doing church planting differently about 10 years ago. Instead of planting 5 to 10 churches out of every Bible school class that graduated, we started planting hundreds and then thousands of churches through multiplication.
In that process, we developed training that goes along with that multiplication. I wanted my book to multiply, so I determined, “I’m going to put together a book that the reader then can go teach the book to someone else.” That’s why we did it. I simplified the book. It was 16 chapters. I reduced it to 12. I took some of the material and put it in the appendix, combined a few chapters together, and organized the chapters into three sets of four chapters.
My wife leads a lot of women’s Bible studies and uses a lot of different Bible study materials, so she helped me develop the discussion questions. Each chapter has two or three discussion questions. Then it has some “digging deeper” questions that could be used in a Bible study or in individual Bible study. We also added some application questions. It’s designed to be a book you can read and then teach someone else.
Todd: As I read through your new edition I thought not only were the study questions really valuable with each of the chapters, but I also thought you had a lot of content in there that was even in addition to the whole topic of rewards. I thought “How to Wisely Invest Your Life” was a very important chapter. Also, you provided a nice summary of the prophetic program in there. There’s a lot of value, I thought, in the book that would make it really valuable for any study group or introduction.
There are some critics of our understanding of eternal rewards. Some will say we are creating a performance culture by the way we teach eternal rewards. Others will say, “Well, we claim that we enter into heaven by faith, but we say we’re being judged by our works. How does all that make sense?” How do you answer some of those critics?
Joe: I think those are some good questions. It is good to consider your motives, Are you doing things selfishly? It’s kind of like a guy on a football team who tries to excel and do the very best job he can for the team and for his coach. He wants the team and the coach to be honored, and he especially wants his team and his coach to appreciate his service. It is their reward that means the most to him, not the acclaim by the world.
I picture rewards as a way to more greatly engage in the joys of heaven, and it’s a way to bring greater joy to Jesus. My life is worthless except for what he does through me, and what he does through me always has to be by faith. Colossians says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus…so walk in him…” All that is worthwhile is by faith. The rewards are rewards that are celebrations for both Jesus and for his work in my life. I just look forward to that
I guess the illustration that captured me more than anything else was my dad. My dad was a strict colonel in the Air Force. He was a strict father. I grew up in a messed-up home. My mom was schizophrenic, and she was in and out of mental institutions. My dad was both Mom and Dad to me for a lot of my life growing up.
As I remember going through all of that, on one specific occasion I decided to mow the yard. I was a young kid. In those days, we had no power mowers. They were push mowers. We didn’t have any edgers of any kind, except a hoe kind of a thing you’d stick in the ground. We had a lot of sidewalks in our little house in that little neighborhood, so I spent three or four hours mowing the yard and doing it as a kid.
I remember my dad came home, and I surprised him because I had mowed the yard. He put his arm around me, and he said, “Son, you have to quit doing this.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “The neighbors are going to be jealous.” That marked my life. That’s what I want Jesus to do. The passion of a life that makes Jesus proud. That’s what rewards are all about.
Dr. Wall’s book Going for the Gold: Bible Study Edition (2015) should be in everyone’s libraries. Be sure to pick this book up through your printed book or computer library sources, and, be on the lookout for Part 2 of this interview with Dr. Wall.
Todd Mathis, M.Div.