An Interview with Trillia Newbell

trillia-newbell-portraitOne of my favorite modern writers is Trillia Newbell. She approaches a variety of topics both with nuance and grace. She writes from a Christian perspective but in ways that are fresh and insightful. It is my joy to share her writing with you, and to introduce us all to the person behind the writing.

Tell us a bit of your story (conversion, church life, career, family, etc.)

This is quite the question. Thanks for asking. I have had the opportunity to share my testimony on Desiring God so if you’d like you can read it in full here. I became a Christian in my early twenties. I believe I was 22. I am a wife to Thern and a mom to two sweet kids. They are my loves and I couldn’t be more thankful for them. We live in Franklin, Tennessee right outside of Nashville. I am a writer for several sites and work for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Council for the Southern Baptist Convention. In March Moody Publisher will publish my first book called United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. The second book title is in the works but it is about fear and will also be published by Moody.

You’ve written on a number of different topics for a number of different outlets (TGC, Desiring God, Christ and Pop Culture, Ethics and Religious Liberty Council, Women of God Magazine, etc.). Are there any pieces that you have a special affection for? Are there any topics that you are especially passionate about? Anything in particular that you want to write on in the future?

I have several articles that are quite meaningful to me mostly because I often write on topics that are near and dear to my heart. I do write at a number of locations and I am so thankful for these organizations. Most of them allow you to search an author by name so I will give you the various links to the articles I’ve written for a few sites, click on the link and you’ll see a list of articles (Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, The Reformed African American Network, ERLC, The Resurgence).

One of the most meaningful pieces I think I have written was on miscarriage and to those who are not yet mother’s for Mother’s Day. I have had four miscarriages and remember having trouble on Mother’s Day. God allowed me to rejoice with others but the pain was still there. Knowing this sorrow for women I wrote “When Mother’s Day is Hard.”

I am not sure what the future holds. I wouldn’t have been able to predict that I would be writing on the topics I am today. I will say that I imagine I will continue to write about ethical issues facing the church as well as womanhood and Bible studies. I love writing and thinking about theology—that may be broad and may be why I tend to write broadly.

How has the local church been important in your development as a Christian? How has it shaped, if at all, your writing?

Without the local church I’d say I wouldn’t be serving the Lord at the moment. Perhaps for some that seems like a stretch. But my flesh is prone to wander, without the encouragement, accountability, teaching, and love from the members of my local church it’s hard to imagine surviving those early years of walking with Christ. Now I’d say it’s no less important. Jesus loves the church and gave His life for her. I want to make it a priority—which means making the people a priority.

I wouldn’t say that my local church has shaped my writing. I’d say that my experience in church has given me topics and ideas for writing.

You’ve written a lot on race and femininity. What might you encourage local pastors to consider in relation to these issues? What might you encourage Christians in the pew to consider in relation to these issues?

Another really terrific question, one that I’m not sure I’ll be able to answer sufficiently in a short few sentences. These are two different topics so I will break this out a bit.

Race:

Pastors, I think, must realize that racism still exists and it won’t go away by not talking about it. I think some people are fearful of starting these hard discussions because of the potential for offense, but because racism is a heart issue, pastors ought to be some of the leaders of this conversation. Another topic is what is race and how should we as Christians relate to one another. I think pastors need to explore what the Bible says about ethnicities, if they haven’t already, and how it all relates to the gospel.

Christians in the pews should also evaluate and learn from each other and then work hard to be unified. The cross demolishes inequality. God’s created us equal in value and worth, we are fallen equally, and we are saved equally. We are brothers and sisters in Christ and need to begin to relate as such. It would be amazing to see this faith in action.

Femininity:

In order to answer this best I’d need to know where each pastor was coming from. In other words, I would answer it differently if you said, “I have a pastor friend who wants to get women involved in the church but is struggling with how best to do so, etc.”  I don’t think the issue of femininity is as clearly black and white (no pun intended) as the race issue. So with that said, I would simply encourage pastors to be aware of the issues that are facing women but most importantly know their specific congregation. Every local expression will be different and therefore what might be in the latest blog controversy may not be what you are experiencing.

The church members will need to be honest and patient. Again, without knowing specifically the question or problem, that what I would say. I’d also encourage members to honor their pastors and encourage them. I think they are assaulted by their own sin and the devil daily.

You’ve communicated on your blog that you are first and foremost a follower of Christ. How would you encourage younger women aspiring to similar roles of influence to keep this priority first? 

That’s interesting. My first thought was, don’t aspire for influence. I love to write but I never set out to be influential in this particular area of writing. I really had a desire to serve women and asked friends to consider linking articles but I didn’t think I’d be writing quite as much for as many sites. Let me qualify my statement, I don’t think it’s wrong to be ambitious but I do think that if you can try to be faithful first. If you can be faithful to your craft or people or whatever it is you are doing, the Lord will grow it as He wishes.

As far as keeping Christ first, I don’t think that He is always first in my heart. I always desire that but some days I wake up and must fight to remember Him. Other days I wake up and I can’t get Him off my mind. I don’t want to paint some picture of me as if I am glorified (one day we all will be!). I pursue Jesus in the Word and through prayer. I believe Bible reading and prayer are two disciplines that I want to always cultivate in my life. I do both daily and would encourage other women to do the same…not to gain favor before the Lord but to remember Him and know Him and love Him.

What presently has been shaping your own walk with Christ and growth in faith (specific books, relationships, ministries, sermons, experiences, etc.)?

Wow, great question. I would say without a doubt Not by Sight by Jon Bloom. It has been a constant source of encouragement as of late. I have never been one to doubt the Lord, at least I thought, the book has helped me remember why I can trust the Lord. He is a good God. He is a sovereign Lord. I’m overwhelmed by His kindness to me.

I work with some of the best people. I have too many newer relationships to begin to identify just one. The writing community is quite encouraging. The women I’ve met both online and in person are incredibly gifted and desire to know, serve, and magnify the Lord in all they do. I have a wonderful agent, Erik Wolgemuth, who has been a constant source of encouragement and eager to assist me. My writing can tend to be deeply personal (as well as my upcoming books) and he has helped remind me of God’s grace. I’m so thankful for him and his team.

Thern, my husband, helps me get in the Word.  I have two small children as well as writing and Thern helps me make my own soul a priority. It could be easy, because I am writing about the Lord often, to forget about my need, my struggles; he helps me get time with Jesus.  He is also a great friend and accountability partner. He is my love and I am most thankful for him.  Without the support and love of my husband I don’t see how I would be able to be in ministry.

God is using many people and ministries as a means for my personal growth. I could go on for days and for that I am so humbled and so thankful. God is good!

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