John William Drane is a theologian who is probably best known for his two best-selling books on the Bible, Introducing the Old Testament and Introducing the New Testament (both published by Lion Hudson in the UK and Fortress Press in the US, and translated into more than sixty languages worldwide). He studied in the University of Aberdeen where he was a student of I. Howard Marshall, and he holds a PhD from the University of Manchester, where his mentor was F. F. Bruce. His doctoral research focused on Gnosticism in relation to early Christian thought and practice. This interest in esoteric spirituality later became a bridge between his study of the Bible and his concern for Christian mission, with particular reference to cultural change and the emergence of New Spirituality.
Drane began an academic career as one of the founders of the religious studies program at the University of Stirling, Scotland, in partnership with Stewart Sutherland and the late Glyn Richards. At the beginning of this century he was appointed to teach Practical Theology in the Divinity School at the University of Aberdeen, though by the end of 2004 he had resigned from that post and is currently a self-employed consultant working with churches of many different denominations throughout the United Kingdom as well as internationally. He is also an affiliate professor in New Testament and Practical theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, California as well as being a Visiting Scholar at Spurgeon's College in London and a Visiting Fellow of St John's College, Durham. A course on theology and culture which was originally offered in Aberdeen is now part of the curriculum at International Christian College in Glasgow, and he also teaches occasional courses at Cranmer Hall, an Anglican theological college in the University of Durham.
Drane's interests have never been merely intellectual and academic. He is ordained priest and has an established track record as a Christian leader, serving on many key national bodies in the United Kingdom. From 1984 to 1990 he was convener of the Mission Committee of the Scottish Churches Council, which at the time was the official ecumenical body of all the Scottish churches. It was in that context that some of his most distinctive missional thinking was first conceived, and one of the highlights of that period was an event celebrating the Christian festival of Pentecost at Glasgow Garden Festival in 1988, which attracted a record crowd of more than 48,000 people and for which he received an award from the UK government which is preserved in the archives of Action of Churches Together in Scotland. For a period in the 1990s he was chairperson of the National Prayer Breakfast for Scotland and he is currently co-chair of the Mission Theology Advisory Group, which is a think tank jointly sponsored by the Church of England and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland). His acceptance in so many different parts of the civic and ecclesiastical establishment means that it is difficult to categorize his thinking by reference to any of the conventional theological divisions of conservative, liberal, evangelical, and so on. He has been a personal guest of HM Queen Elizabeth II at her Scottish home, Balmoral Castle, while also being regarded as an important theological resource person for the emerging church in the UK (he is chair of the board of mission shaped ministry and a member of the board of the Fresh Expressions initiative of the Church of England).
John Drane is married to Olive Fleming Drane, with whom he has three children. She also holds a postgraduate degree in theology and is a Visiting Fellow of St John's College, Durham, as well as being an affiliate professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, California and part-time chaplain at International Christian College in Glasgow. They regularly work together in both church and academic settings.
- "From one pioneer to another: insights from St Paul", in Dave Male (ed), Pioneers 4 Life: explorations in theology and wisdom for pioneering leaders (Oxford: BRF 2011), pp. 149–164.
- Introducing the Bible, 2nd edition (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2011). ISBN 978-0-8006-9840-9
- Introducing the Old Testament, 3rd edition (Oxford: Lion / Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2011). ISBN 978-0-7459-5503-2
- ‘Resisting McDonaldization: will Fresh Expressions of church inevitably go stale?’, in Viggo Mortensen & Andreas Osterlund Nielsen (eds), Walk Humbly with the Lord: Church and Mission engaging Plurality (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 2011), pp. 150–166.
- Introducing the New Testament, 3rd edition (Oxford: Lion / Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2010). ISBN 978-0-7459-5504-9 ISBN 978-0-8006-9750-1
- The World of the Bible, Oxford: Lion, 2009. ISBN 978-0-8254-7913-7 ISBN 978-0-7459-5250-5
- After McDonaldization: Mission, Ministry and Christian Discipleship in an Age of Uncertainty, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2008. ISBN 0-232-52654-0 ISBN 978-0-232-52654-7
- "What does maturity in the emerging church look like?", in Steven Croft (ed), Mission-shaped Questions: defining issues for today’s church (London: Church House Publishing 2008), pp. 90–101.
- co-authored with O M Fleming Drane, "Worship and Preaching", in Janet Wootton (ed), This is our Story: Free Church Women’s Ministry (Peterborough: Epworth Press 2007), pp. 50–67.
- "Alpha and Evangelism in Modern and Post-Modern Settings," in The Alpha Phenomenon, Andrew Brookes ed., London: CTBI, 2007, pp. 370–384. ISBN 978-0-85169-331-6
- Celebrity Culture, Edinburgh: Rutherford House, 2006. ISBN 1-904429-08-4
- "From Creeds to Burgers: religious control, spiritual search, and the future of the world", in James R Beckford & John Walliss, Theorising Religion (London: Ashgate 2006), pp. 120–131. Also in abbreviated form in George Ritzer, McDonaldization: the Reader 2nd edition (Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press, 2006), pp. 197–202.
- "Post-modernity, Truth, and the rise of the Documentary", in Theology Notes and News 52/2 (2005), pp. 16–21.
- Do Christians Know How to be Spiritual? The Rise of New Spirituality and the Mission of the Church, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2005. ISBN 0-232-52632-X
- Introducing the Bible: with CD-ROM, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005. ISBN 0-8006-3672-4
- co-authored with O M Fleming Drane, Family Fortunes: Faith-full Caring for Today’s Families (London: Darton Longman and Todd 2004).
- "Contemporary culture and the reinvention of sacramental spirituality", in Geoffrey Rowell & Christine Hall (eds), The Gestures of God: explorations in sacramentality (London: Continuum 2004), pp. 37–55.
- "Community, mystery, and the future of the church", in Simon Holt & Gordon Preece (eds), The Bible and the Business of Life: essays in honour of Robert J Banks’s 65th birthday (Adelaide: ATF Press 2004), pp. 87–100.
- co-authored with Ross Clifford & Philip S. Johnson, Beyond Prediction: The Tarot and Your Spirituality, Oxford: Lion Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7459-5035-3
- Introducing the New Testament, rev. ed., Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8006-3272-9
- Introducing the Old Testament, rev. ed., Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8006-3432-2
- Cultural Change and Biblical Faith: The Future of the Church. Biblical and Missiological Essays for the New Century. Carlise: Paternoster Press, 2000. ISBN 0-85364-979-0.
- The McDonaldization of the Church: Spirituality, Creativity, and the Future of the Church, London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 2000, ISBN 0-232-52259-6
- What is the New Age Still Saying to the Church?, London: HarperCollins, 1999, ISBN 0-551-03194-8