Grace Theology Press interviews
Dr. Roger Fankhauser
President of the Free Grace Alliance
Introduction: Roger and Debbie Fankhauser met and were married in Puyallup, Washington (south of Seattle). They married in 1974 and have five children (counting the daughters-in-law!) and seven grandchildren. Matt, his wife Christina, and their chidlren Lily and Ryan live in Phoenix, as does their daughter Emily. Joel, his wife Alice, and their four children, Silas, Micah, Liza, Milli, and Lee live in Bentonville, Arkansas.
Before coming to Burleson Bible Church, Roger served as the Senior Pastor of Shreveport Bible Church for 11 years, and then taught math at Evangel Christian Academy in Shreveport for 2-1/2 years. Prior to entering seminary in 1991, he worked as an engineer in Victoria, Texas, for 13 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Washington State University, a Master of Divinity degree from Phoenix Seminary, and a Doctor of Ministry degree, also from Phoenix Seminary. Roger and Debbie began serving in Burleson in October of 2009 on a part time basis while completing his teaching commitment in Shreveport. He began serving full time June, 2010.
Roger’s greatest passions in ministry are helping people see the greatness of God’s grace, helping them grow in their relationship with Jesus, and seeing them respond to God’s grace in both their personal growth and their serving others.
Q: We’re here at the Free Grace Alliance National Meeting in Arlington, Texas and are having a conversation with Dr. Roger Fankhauser. Roger is the pastor of Burleson Bible Church and President of the Free Grace Alliance. Can you share with us a little bit about your ministry?
A: I have a number of hats that I wear, and one is being Senior Pastor at Burleson Bible Church. We have two staff members, about one hundred fifty people, and I’ve been there for six years. I am involved in pastoring, teaching, preaching, counseling, and just hanging out with the sheep, which is great fun.
I am also involved with Burleson Crisis Pregnancy as past President of the board for that agency. I have also been President of the Free Grace Alliance for two years, after having been involved on the council for a number of years. To do all of these things takes time, more than I really have, and that’s okay. I give the time that I have to the Free Grace Alliance and it’s a great organization that desires to proclaim a clear, Free Grace message. It’s not only the simplicity of the gospel, but also the impact in the day to day living in the lives of people. It’s not just academics. These three things keep me pretty busy. On top of that, I’ve been married for forty-one years with the last several years involved in foster care. Every once in a while I try to sleep.
Q: When did you decide that you would get into full-time ministry?
A: The decision to get into full-time ministry was a really a long process. I was in Victoria, Texas in a church with a pastor by the name of Hampton Keathly III and later Dr. Kem Oberholtzer. He was a great guy and great mentor. I was working as a chemical engineer and I was finding that I spent more and more time and energy in ministry of the church. I then found myself thinking about career moves based on how it impacted ministry instead of how it impacted my career. At one point, we thought about seminary, put the house on the market, and thought “what happens if the house sells?”. After a few more years, we then put the house on the market and thought “what if it doesn’t sell?”. After graduating from college, my single greatest fear was getting in front of people and speaking. This is definitely a God thing to get me here.’
Q: Let’s talk about being the President of Free Grace Alliance and where the Free Grace message is going. What’s your view about where the Free Grace message is at and where do we want to go.
A: The Free Grace message is getting attention from outside circles. Rather than looking at it from the inside, there are some from the Reformed camp that are responding with a negative critique so we’remore than a movement on the side. Another data point is that the Free Grace Alliance is growing and there have been bumps along the way. I think that we’re past those major battles and are able to put together a stronger and unified alliance. Also the Grace School of Theology, although not directly associated with the Free Grace Alliance, just announced that they have more than 300 students enrolled and its growing all over the world. We need more Free Grace churches proclaiming a Free Grace message because that is what the Scriptures teach. The students are on-board because that is what the Bible teaches rather than advocating a system.We want people to be convinced about the simplicity of the Gospel of faith alone in Christ alone, that we are empowered for living and that we receive grace when we fall flat on our face. We believe that because that is what the Bible teaches and rather than what a system teaches.
Q: Cross-cultural ministry is an important part of your ministry. You and I have ministered together in Ghana. What would you share about your ministry and the impacts from that, and what would you share with others?
A: There are a lot of things that come into my mind. One is, I think it would be great if Christians in America could visit other countries. It’s challenging to see face to face people living in different situations. People may say that they don’t have anything to give, but it’s great to just go to learn from the situation. The other thing is that people are really hungry. In other places they may not have good opportunities, good churches, good schools, and a chance to give back. It’s also interesting that in Free Grace circles, we interact with Reformed Theology but the real issue in many parts of the world is losing your salvation, legalism, even if the church is a Reformed denomination.
Q: Can you talk about the book that you are working on?
A: I’ve been working on it for about one thousand years, it seems. Sexual purity is such a huge issue in our culture and in our church. If you go to a Christian bookstore, you can find a lot of books on marriage, the end times, other topics, but there are not a lot of resources on sexual purity. Within Reformed theology, if you struggle with sexual purity many times the answer is that you’re not really saved. This results in the need for the person to get born again. That is not giving the right solution. You have to figure out what resources God has given to us to battle sexual temptation. We are sexual beings but it’s not a battle that we have to lose. It doesn’t mean that we will win 100% of the time, but we can apply grace to it. A Christian can have serious sin or on-going sin issues, and take the tools God has given to us to apply to the struggle.Also, many times we’ve only heard the one step of”flee immorality”, but we are to flee it to what? The name of the book is Storm-Proof Living and I’m hoping to get it out as soon as possible.
Q: What are one or two of your favorite set of tools and go to materials that you use consistently?
A: I try to look at the passage and get comfortable with it. I also use Tom Constable’s Expository Notes. Dr. Constable writes concisely and thoroughly which is good. I also use Charlie Bing’s doctoral dissertation as a good resource to study topics, and his newest book Grace, Salvation, and Discipleship: How to Understand Some Difficult Bible Passages. A great contributor to improved materials is Grace Theology Press where we have materials that have been reviewed and edited, and that we can pass on to others.
Q: What are some final words of wisdom that you would like to pass on others? What’s hot in your thinking?
A: If you are reading this and you agree with our message, then join the Free Grace Alliance. We have a passion for the simplicity of the Gospel message and it’s a chance to join together with others to participate in the message. Second, look for good Free Grace resources and get them on your shelves. Also, see how you can be involved in proclaiming the Free Grace message. If you can go on a cross-cultural mission, then go. If you can participate financially with others, then do that. Think beyond your backyard. The grace message is powerful. I had the chance to go to Nepal. Nepal is a Hindu kingdom closed to the outside world until 1950. I had the chance to work with Bishwah Karmacharia, and his wife Ramilla, whom I had met earlier in the United States. We had nine people participate in the class and I had them all tell their stories. They need us not because we have the answers, but we can support them by encouragement and prayer. And I need them to help me stay fresh and alert about real issues in the lives if real people that need real grace!
Thank you to Dr. Fankhauser for this encouraging interview. Dr. Fankhauser is the President of the Free Grace Alliance and to sign up for membership, please go to http://www.freegracealliance.com/membership/.
Todd Mathis, M.Div.