The Lord has directed Dr. Matt Harmon’s path and blessed his work in some unique ways — from his early days with CRU, to his time in Wheaton’s prestigious Ph.D. program, to his long list of book publications and his growing podcast, Various and Sundry. Through all of his experiences, accomplishments, and platforms, Harmon’s sincerest passion — to equip people for discipleship ministry — is evident.
Read on to find out more about Harmon’s story and why he’s never been more excited about what is happening at Grace Theological Seminary than he is right now.
How did you come to know the Lord?
I was raised in what I would refer to as a religious home. My parents thought it was important for me to go to church and yet didn’t often go themselves. So they would drop me off for church. I was involved with kid’s programs and came to know Christ through a conversation I had with my pastor when I was 13 years old. It was the end of a confirmation class. All the pieces had been put in place for me to understand the gospel, and all it took was him giving me a five-minute summary of it and asking if I wanted to put my faith in Christ. I remember thinking at that point, “Well who wouldn’t.” It just seemed obvious to me. And clearly, that was the work of the Spirit making it obvious to me. I’m grateful that God converted me at a relatively young age.
Tell us a little bit about your family.
I’ve been married to my wife Kate for 25 years. She is an English teacher at Lakeland Christian Academy. Both of my sons have gone to Grace. Jon graduated in 2020 with a degree in sport management and works in the Indianapolis area. Jake is about to begin his third year at Grace and is also majoring in sport management. As you might guess, our family loves sports! One of the sweetest blessings God has given me was the opportunity to coach both of my sons in basketball at the high school level.
What did you do after graduating with your undergraduate degree from Ohio University? How did this season prepare you for discipleship ministry?
I was on staff with CRU from my graduation in 1995 to 2000. I was doing evangelism and discipleship ministry on a daily basis, leading Bible studies, and helping to plan ministry events. My time with CRU really impressed upon me the importance and value of the Great Commission and the urgency of making disciples. It also gave me a model for the type of mentoring I get to do now as a seminary professor, getting to know students, having them in my home, and helping them grow spiritually in both their understanding of the Bible and their own walk with the Lord.
Tell us about how God used your seminary experience to affirm your desire to pursue discipleship ministry through teaching and writing.
When I started my seminary days, I suspected that God was leading me toward a more academic career in terms of teaching, writing, and research. As my professors in seminary affirmed my gifting and steered me toward Ph.D.-level work, I grew in my confidence. But that’s still no guarantee that you will get into the Ph.D. program that you want. So it took God opening the door at Wheaton, which only takes six students every year into their Ph.D. program, to really confirm that this was what God had for me. But even then, there are a lot of students who graduate and cannot find a teaching position. So at the end of the program, through a series of Providential events, God opened the door for me to come to Grace. My mentor at Wheaton, Doug Moo, came to speak on campus at Grace. And while he was here, they said, “Hey we have an opening for a New Testament Theology professor. Do you know anyone who might be interested?” He came back and said, “I’ve got a guy for you!” That started the application process, and here we are 15 years later.
Looking back on your past 15 years in academia and discipleship ministry, what has been the most fulfilling part of your job?
The most fulfilling aspect is seeing students graduate and go out and pursue their own discipleship ministry. It’s been incredibly rewarding and encouraging to hear them talk about specific things they’ve learned in classes and conversations and to see how they’ve put those into practice. In the classroom, I most enjoy teaching New Testament theology and also Biblical Greek Exegesis II.
You’ve written a number of books that have received notable recognition, how did you get started in your writing career?
I’ve always enjoyed writing. But it took me a few years to feel like I was stable enough in teaching to find time to write. Then it was God opening doors for me with a couple of different publishers and those publishers giving me opportunities to demonstrate that I was capable of doing it. It’s just kind of snowballed from there. One of the things that I love most about my role here at Grace is that the institution has affirmed those gifts and abilities and has given me less classes to teach to give me more time to write. That’s enabled me to consistently produce books over the last number of years.
What was the most enjoyable book to write and why?
That’s kind of like asking a person, “Which is your favorite kid?” But there are a few that stand out. One of them is a book that most people will never read. It’s a book that I co-edited called, “Studies in the Pauline Epistles.” It’s a collection of essays by New Testament theology scholars. But what made this book unique is that it was a Festschrift. A Festschrift is a tradition in the academic world that when a notable scholar reaches the age of 65 or 70, a former student organizes a collection of essays in their honor. That collection of essays was in honor of my doctoral mentor, Doug Moo, and we got to surprise him with that around his 65th birthday. So that was one of the most meaningful ones.
The other one that comes to mind is my book, “Asking the Right Questions.” That book came out of a lot of experience in the classroom, in the church, and in small groups. It came out of a recognition that there are lots of believers that want to read the Bible but don’t know where to start and can get easily frustrated. So I designed it to be readable by literally anybody. And the idea is that we all can benefit from asking a set of basic questions that get at the heart of what God wants you to believe, understand, desire, and do when reading Scripture. I think that book is the most significant book I’ve written to this point.
You mentioned your involvement in small groups; what is your role at Christ Covenant Church (CCC), and how have you been involved in discipleship ministry over the years?
I teach in our life education classes which are basically adult Sunday school classes. I serve on the preaching team, and I preach about four times a year. For years, I’ve led a small group at CCC as well. In addition, I end up serving in a lot of ad hoc ways. We are doing some long-range strategic planning, and so I get pulled into some different areas of that. I don’t have an official role, but it’s kind of funny — the leadership of the church often jokingly says, “Well, you’re the Matt Harmon of the church.”
You’ve also started a podcast recently with another professor, John Sloat. What inspired you to start that?
John and I have been friends for many years now. He was in my mentor group as a student, and then when he came back on staff here our friendship continued. For many, many years, he would come over to our home on Sundays after church. We would hang out in our basement, usually watching football or basketball, and we would have these off-the-cuff conversations about theology, culture, books, ministry and travel. A couple of years ago, my son, Jake, said, “You guys should start a podcast.” And we asked him, “Well, what would the podcast be?” And he said, “This! You guys just talking about things you’re interested in.” We brushed it off. But in the fall of 2019, the equipment became available, so we thought we would give it a shot. Now John and I are in a good rhythm of recording an episode every week, and God seems to be blessing it. We have a lot of fun doing it. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We enjoy taking our friendship public — and that’s really the heart of it.
What is your favorite episode to date?
Two episodes stand out to me. Last year we did an interview with Dane Ortlund who is a friend of mine from my doctoral program. He wrote a book called “Gentle and Lowly” that is very popular. We interviewed him just as it was getting popular, so we like to jokingly take credit for the explosion of interest in his book. And then just a few months ago we interviewed Barnabas Piper, John Piper’s son. He is also a pastor and has written several books. I really enjoyed getting to talk to him about some of his writing.
Those two stand out in my mind, but if you look at the topics we cover, we are literally all over the map. It really lives up to its name, Various and Sundry; you never know what we might be talking about from week to week.
What recent news or developments at Grace Theological Seminary are you most excited about?
That hasn’t changed. Despite all of the new programs and despite all of the different things we’re doing, the thing that gets me most excited is seeing new students come to Grace and having an opportunity to equip and prepare them for a lifetime of discipleship ministry. And so, I’m excited about these programs to the extent that these programs are helping us do that, whether it’s the five-year blended program, our Deploy program, or even our traditional seminary students. But I’ve never been more excited about what is happening at Grace Theological Seminary than I am right now. I’ve never been more encouraged by the structures that God is putting in place to help us maximize our efforts to train and equip people for discipleship to Jesus wherever God leads them.
Do you want to be trained for discipleship ministry under experienced professors like Dr. Harmon? Learn more about our Master’s of Local Church Ministry.
Click here to learn more about Harmon’s most recent publication. And keep your eyes peeled for Dr. Harmon’s next book, a commentary on Galatians in the Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary series.
Matthew S. Harmon, Professor of New Testament studies, loves to help people understand the beauty of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, seeing it as the key to life transformation (2 Corinthians 3:18). As a result, the focus of his ministry is teaching and preaching God’s word in various contexts. He has a passion for research and writing, specializing in the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament, biblical theology, commentary writing and the Pauline epistles. He is an active member of Christ’s Covenant Church, where he leads a small group, teaches Sunday School, and serves on the preaching team.