Author Spotlight: Gregory Kline
By Gregory Kline
Gregory Kline, MD is an endocrinologist by training and currently a Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Calgary. The majority of his writing thus far has been in the form of scientific papers in the fields of hypertension and adrenal diseases. However, for this book, Dr. Kline draws upon over four decades of his experience “being churched”. From age five onwards, he has participated in virtually every activity and program that might be offered in the local church. More importantly, he has had the opportunity to observe a lifetime of interpersonal relationships within the church and multiple examples of the ways in which Christians seek or relate to God. Losing Your Luggage is Dr. Kline’s first foray out of the “dispassionate neutral observer” position and the result couldn’t be more opposite in style as he takes a very passionate and personal exploration of the heart attitudes that sometimes hinder a Christ-follower’s willingness to surrender to the life transformation that God longs to see in their lives. Dr. Kline currently lives in Calgary, AB with his wife Shannon and two daughters.
Q: In your book, Losing Your Luggage, you talk about baggage—and getting rid of it. What do you mean by that?
A: I’m referring to the misunderstandings and errors in thinking many of us acquire, often unconsciously, as we bring our cultural habits and human nature into the church. Most of these misconceptions can be subtle but powerful hindrances in our journey of surrender to God. Like excess baggage, these problems eventually slow us down and make the journey a lot more difficult than it has to be.
Q: How many of these items of “church baggage” are specific to denominational beliefs?
A: None, actually. I really have no interest in writing about issues that divide us. The baggage in question has to do with attitudes that transcend all denominations and are common to many Christ-followers—mostly because they arise as issues of our heart and will. For example, no denomination has a monopoly on the human tendency to be quick to anger and slow to forgive. It’s something we must all examine in our hearts.
Q: Some readers have commented that they’ve experienced feelings of guilt while going through this book and recognizing some of this baggage in their own lives. How do you respond to that?
A: I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised, since I have yet to meet the perfect Christian. However, readers should not feel judged or condemned while reading the book, mostly because I’m writing about baggage that has been known to exist in my own heart! As well, I respectfully point out that guilt is a feeling of regret for things that cannot be undone. By God’s grace, therefore, that doesn’t apply here. God isn’t interested in making us just feel guilty, but He is interested in convicting our hearts to confess our sins, surrender to Him, and be forever transformed into His likeness—no guilt required!
Q: How does a Christ-follower actually go about letting go of the baggage?
A: One of the key themes in the book is that permanent change of heart isn’t something we can just automatically implement. Trying harder, in our own strength, rarely brings lasting results. After years of trying harder, I’ve finally come to realize that this was never even God’s intention. The Spirit brings spiritual transformation as we progressively surrender all parts of ourselves to Him. At that point, our actions aren’t calculated appearances but rather natural outflowings of His character, displayed in us.
Q: Of the ten items of baggage you write about, which one do you think is the most important for Christians to address in their own lives?
A: That’s a really tough question. Based purely on my own experience, I’d have to say that letting go of the ways in which we get angry might be the one that leads to the most obvious change in character, and to the greatest outpouring of grace and peace in our relationships.
Q: The afterword is completely different than the rest of the book, as it appears to be a fictional account of church life in action. How does this fit into your overall message?
A: Yes, the final section is loosely inspired by the famous film It’s a Wonderful Life, wherein an angel shows the main character what his community would be like without him. I’ve flipped it around to have a heavenly narrator show the reader what their church would look like if we all surrendered the baggage spoken about in the book. Although I’ve read this last chapter over thirty times in the course of writing it, I continue to be moved when reading it. Just think about the loving community we could build if we fully surrendered ourselves to God, to have Him redefine the way we interact with each other in the church.
Q: How was your publishing experience?
A: My experience with Word Alive Press publishing was extremely positive—fun, actually. The staff was very helpful and encouraging, and I especially enjoyed the editing process. Both my wife and I had to laugh—after quite a few years of education, I thought I knew how to write and speak the English language, but after getting the first run of edits, I realized that wasn’t necessarily true! In the end, though, I felt the staff played a crucial role in transforming my first writing effort into something that might actually be readable. Thank you!
Q: How would you describe your style of writing?
A: It depends on what I’m writing. For most of my career in medicine, I’ve written with an authoritative and dispassionate third-person voice, which is useful for explaining facts but not enjoyable to read. In this book, I’ve used a more conversational approach—part persuasive, part confessional and part allegory. Bit of a mess, isn’t it? But that probably mirrors the way my mind works.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to discover the Christian author within them?
A: The best advice might be to not ask for advice from me! For myself, this process wasn’t about becoming a writer. The final product was just a reflection of my own thoughts and prayers offered to God as I seek to surrender more fully to becoming the person He wants me to be. I simply figured that if God was teaching me something, it might be useful for others as well.
So I guess I should take back that bit about not asking for my advice. My simple suggestion for the new Christian author is that before every session of writing, be sure to offer your time, skill, and thought to God so the results will bring glory to Him.
About this Contributor:
Gregory Kline, MD, is an endocrinologist by training, but his real expertise might come from his four decades of being “churched.” Having experienced everything from Sunday school to Christian camping, church choir to short-term missions, he’s had ample opportunity to see the church at its best… and sometimes its worst. He has a passion for seeing people come to a deeper level of surrender to God’s work in their lives.