Introducing Thabiti

May 9, 2007

Well, Mark’s away in Italy now, and I still haven’t answered his question about Ridderbos (though I will), but right now I want to tell our T4G friends a little more about the recently unveiled T4G mystery guest.

Thabiti Anyabwile our "surprise" speaker for T4G ’08 is a dear friend. He is perhaps no stranger to many of you, because of his preaching/speaking, blogging and book-writing. Thabiti has recently spoken at a number of major national ministers’ conferences (including the 2007 Desiring God Pastors’ Conference and the 2007 Twin Lakes Fellowship), he authors a superb blog called Pure Church, and he has also recently authored two books that are already making quite a splash.

The first one is called The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (and has a foreword by John Piper), and was just published by Crossway this year. This volume unearths hidden treasure for all ministers who would be faithful today from the lives of three outstanding African-American pastors from the past, who teach us, by precept and practice, what faithful ministry entails. As the Crossway site puts it: "Lemuel Haynes (1753–1833) reminds pastors that eternity must shape our ministry. Daniel A. Payne (1811–1893) stresses the importance of character and preparation to faithful shepherding. And Francis J. Grimké (1850–1937) provides a vision for engaging the world with the gospel."

The second book is still forthcoming, and is provocatively entitled: The Decline of African American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Accommodation, with a foreword by the outstanding historian Mark Noll (IVP, 2007). The title contains the thesis, which is documented by Thabiti across the years of his survey of prominent African-American theologians over the course of American history.

Thabiti (which is pronounced "tha-BEE-tee" – with the last syllable dropping off kind of like a "ty" at the end of a word like treaty) is a former elder at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC. He is now the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. He is a devoted Christian husband and father. Kristie is his loving wife, and they have three children – two daughters, Afiya and Eden, and a son, Titus. Thabiti holds B.S. and M.S. degrees in psychology from North Carolina State University, and also pursued doctoral work in that discipline. He is a former high school basketball coach and bookstore owner, and so (naturally) loves reading and sports.

Indeed, the last time the T4G posse was together in Louisville, Thabiti, C.J. and Johnny Mac put on a hoops clinic for the lads at SBTS (I’m told that John was draining threes – "Dr. J" anyone?). I, too, was once a basketball coach (about fifty pounds ago) – yep, at the University of Edinburgh [Scotland]; Go Dukes! – so if I can drop about "three stone" (you Scots out there will know what I mean) I may try to get out on the court with Thabiti, C.J. and John next time (while Mark and Al hang out in the bookstore!).

And, Thabiti loves Jazz. I mean real jazz, not the pop stuff. But he’s kind enough to humor my enjoyment of Bob James, Earl Klugh, George Benson, The Crusaders, and the like. Indeed, we’ve even reminisced by laying down a few riffs from the greatest pop R&B group of all-time – EW&F (fans will need no further identification of the incomparable "Elements"), not to mention rehearsing some lines from George Clinton’s "P-Funk" together. And Thabiti, as a man of impeccable discernment, properly understands the superiority of ACC basketball.

More seriously, Thabiti says: "I love the Lord because He first loved me. I love His people because He has given me a new heart. I was once a Muslim, and by God’s grace I have been saved through faith in Jesus Christ. By God’s unfathomable grace I am a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in which I hope to serve Him until He returns or calls me home!" Not surprisingly, Thabiti has often engaged in Christian apologetics in a Muslim context and some of his recent efforts are available on the web.

I cannot wait for you to get to know Thabiti, and to hear him preach. He is a gift to the church, and a treasured friend.