Episode 126: All Things Beautiful with Dr. Chris Green

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Chris Green to talk about how Jesus reveals himself to us through the arts. This conversation is an engagement with Chris’s book All Things Beautiful. Grab a copy here.

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My encounter with literature and the arts is what led to my becoming a theologian… I grew up in a Pentecostal church, but didn’t read the Bible with any artfulness… but after my encounter with the arts, the Bible became something entirely different…

Too often, we read the Bible for the way it affirms and confirms our ideas… we need to learn to give it the kind of attention Jesus gives to us… not looking for confirmation of our ideas, but receiving it for what it is, and marveling at it…

Proverbs, for instance, opens with a call to the young to learn wisdom… but to do that, you have to attend to “the dark sayings of the wise”… 

This is striking to me because the churches I grew up in put pressure on the preacher to make the truth plain… we didn’t want to do the difficult work of interpretation… but I think what Israel knew and what Jesus embodies is that we need to do the difficult work of interpretation…

The artfulness of the artist is to make art difficult in all the right ways… 

Artfulness opens us up to the way that God saves us… Emily Dickenson tells us to “tell the truth slant”… which speaks to the way that God saves us… God is sometimes startlingly direct in the Bible… but most of the time is like the road to Emmaus—God is there, but not obvious…

We need to recognize the good of difficulty… when something is demanding, it summons parts of yourself you didn’t know were there… so God is demanding in a way that summons out of us gifts we didn’t know we had…

Another part of this is our brokenness… the universe seems “riddled” to us because we are the ones who are “riddled”… in our brokenness, God teaches how to become truthful… 

The arts also give us the skills we need to turn to others… when give our attention to the arts and they surprise us, it teaches me that the next time I’m with a person, if I’ll give them my attention, they will surprise us…

Episode 125: An Interview with Lyle Wells – Empire vs. Kingdom Leadership

In this episode we sit down with the president of Integrus Leadership, Lyle Wells, to talk about “empire vs. kingdom” leadership and what it takes to remain resilient as leaders in a challenging environment. You can learn more about Integrus at www.integrus.org and by following @leadwithlyle and @integrusleadership.

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I think there’s a great exhaustion to come… people have been grinding for so long that at some point your body reacts…

For many leaders, their voice changed during the pandemic… we were focused on the crisis, as we needed to be… but my fear is that many leaders haven’t taken their eyes back up to the horizon…

Many organizations have also developed an addiction to adrenaline… and now it has become their identity and their purpose… for many, endurance has become the goal rather than effectiveness… 

This is a season that ought to grow our ability to be resilient… we need to set our faces back towards our purpose and call and march boldly… but we also need to be still and wait for God to move…

We talk about taking “pit stops” that make the workload more manageable, because we know that the people in our organizations are fatigued…

One of the things we implemented is something we call “no meeting Mondays”… we were doing so much on Mondays that by the time 4:00 rolled around, they were already maxed out… 

If there was one thing I could say to leaders, it is that “your tank is your responsibility”… as a leader, you have to develop a working knowledge of two things: 1) What do you look like when your tank runs low? And 2) What fills up your tank?

Kingdoms and empires are really interesting… we start with the basic premise that no one wants to be average… in ministry it is even more pronounced, because it’s not just a job but a calling… 

We’ve noticed that on the journey people get stuck or they get scared… they need guides to help them overcome their challenges… the most pivotal decision we make when we step into leadership is whether we will be heroes or guides… 

Problems accrue in organizations when leaders—who are supposed to be guides—turn into heroes… that’s when churches become empires… often this happens unintentionally… 

The most fun you can have as a leader is investing in somebody and seeing them thrive in what God’s called them to do… but this is a fundamental shift for a lot of people… 

Episode 124: Intentional Rhythms

In this episode Sarah Jackson sits down with Glenn and Holly Packiam to talk about having intentional rhythms as a family. (Watch for the book Glenn and Holly are writing on this subject—releases next year!)

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Early on in our marriage, I would say yes to certain things, and then realize that our spring break or summer went out the window… we started wondering why we were making plans that way…

We can have good ideas, but without intentions, those ideas never take shape… without intentionality, autopilot kicks in and life just kind of passes you by…

The pandemic really destabilized us… we’re not used to that… one thing that’s interesting to notice is that the monastic movement—with its intentional rhythms—happened during a destabilized time… we need to reclaim that… 

If we only live with a rhythm or order that is imposed from the outside, that may not be a godly rhythm… and it may not be producing the kind of flourishing life that God invites us into… 

Identity is a key part of this—who we are becoming… habits that are built around identity stick… we need to ask what kind of a person our habits are leading us to become…

Years ago, an older couple told us about how they would get away once a year to review their rhythms as a family… we started doing that… 

It’s evolved over the years… now, we start with a dinner, and then the next day is an exercise in looking back over the past year, both to give thanks and also to repent… 

The other thing we do is listen for a word, phrase, or scripture verse for the coming year, and then think through the rhythms we need to have to make that possible… 

For me, if I didn’t do this, I wouldn’t have any built-in times for friends… I was good at planning time for work and spiritual disciplines, but I didn’t have time for friends… 

When we started doing this, I became more aware at how reactive I had been with my schedule… giving space to reflect on my schedule helped me be more proactive with things like prayer… 

It’s like a ship out in the ocean—if you don’t set a course, you won’t get anywhere… 

I’m going to guess that for many pastors and leaders, the area they lack is that there is no intentional rhythm for friendship… you need to make time for friends… 

Episode 123: Emotionally Healthy Discipleship

In this episode Glenn sits down with Sarah Jackson and Holly Packiam to talk about Pete and Geri Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Discipleship curriculum and how it can help churches lead people on a path towards spiritual and emotional maturity. You can find out more about the entire EH curriculum series here.

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What I love about this material is that it gives you the fifty-thousand-foot view, along with really practical skills for you to embrace the lifelong journey of discipleship… 

Many of us learn spiritual disciplines but haven’t been taught how they connect to emotional health and maturity…

This material isn’t just for beginners or people who have been through trauma… it’s for anyone who wants to grow in their emotional maturity and deepen their relationship with God… 

This isn’t a counseling session… but it will require the challenge of digging into our inner world, which is something that we don’t often do a good job of in evangelicalism…

It’s really helped me see Jesus in a different way… I think I had downplayed Jesus’ humanity… but Jesus taking on our humanity in the Incarnation has helped me see that whatever’s going on in my own humanity is part of how I discern God’s work in my life… 

A refusal to pay attention to our past, our trauma, or our hopes and dreams is to miss out on an opportunity to be blown away by the work of God in my life…

Many people grow up feeling like they’re not allowed to feel the more difficult emotions… but I see EH helping people understand how God is speaking in those places… 

Emotions are a mode of perception; they are a way of seeing the world… so part of what we’re trying to do with spiritual formation is learning to use our emotions as modes of connecting with God… 

Emotions are signposts… if we use them appropriately as signposts, we can use them to help us turn to God… which is why we need to pay attention to them… 

The strength of this material is that it pulls together ancient practices with insights from the world of counseling psychology, set within a biblical framework… 

Episode 122: An Interview with Dr. Gregg Okesson – Witnessing To A Complex World (Pt. 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation with Dr. Gregg Okesson to talk with his book A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness to a Complex World and what it looks like for local churches to witness to the reign of Jesus Christ in all of life.

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Sending is an important function for the church… but historically one of the most radical things that Christians have done is to gather… we need to think of local congregations as people who gather in ways that are different from the world…

People talk about the problems of people bringing their politics and ideologies to church… but that happens all the time… we need the sacraments, worship, and preaching to challenge those ideologies…

This is where we need to be a people of difference—we worship the King of the universe… all ideologies need to be challenged at the foot of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus Christ…

One of my heroes is Lesslie Newbigin, who said that the cross is a profound “no” to all ideologies… they all need to come to the foot of the cross and die… just like individuals, even “publics” need to come and die…

But Newbigin also said that the resurrection is a glorious “yes” to God’s creating and reconciling work… we need to go out into the fullness of God’s world saying “yes” to politics and economics… 

If we take public witness seriously, we will discover the gospel of Jesus Christ… there’s a lot of preaching out there that has nothing to do with the gospel, or is so thin that it has no ability to speak to the public realm…

To preachers I would say that while it’s wonderful to get into all kinds of exegesis, we need to tell the full story of the gospel over and over again… the world is “storying” us one way, and we have the greatest story of all… we need to tell it to our people… 

Every congregation is different and pastors need to know their congregations… they need to know where and how to affirm the good… but if we are not regularly calling into question the reigning assumptions of our day, we are not fulfilling our role as preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ… 

Pastors need to spend time with people and live in the “publics” around their congregation… we need to do strong biblical exegesis and strong cultural exegesis at the same time…

Episode 121: An Interview with Dr. Gregg Okesson – Witnessing To A Complex World (Pt. 1)

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Gregg Okesson to talk with his book A Public Missiology: How Local Churches Witness to a Complex World and what it looks like for local churches to witness to the reign of Jesus Christ in all of life. This is the first of two episodes.

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The challenge for me while planting churches in Tanzania was trying to witness not just to individuals but to large, complex social needs…

In the process of allowing my understanding of the gospel to enter into the day-to-day public realities, I actually found the gospel…

Christ is reconciling all things to himself… so the challenge for us is to enter into complex public spaces with a gospel of salvation that is big enough for the whole world… 

The gospel is good news, but we’ve often made it bad news… it’s about the inauguration of Jesus Christ as king and lord of the whole universe… 

Historically, evangelicals have opted for simplicity over complexity… but when you look at the story of God, it is a complex story… across time and space and ethnicity… 

I use the language of “thickness”—God is weaving a “thick” witness in a “thick” world and too often we have tried to witness to the thickness of the world with a too-simple gospel… 

We need to start to practice the discipline of intentional inconvenience in our churches… if we’re not inconvenienced in our churches, the gospel will become captive to our culture… 

The public realm is drastically shaping the way that we live… from cell phones to music to television to streaming video… we are immersed in it…

“Publics” are spaces of togetherness where humans form life and build community that also have “open weave” in them… 

We tend to think of these “publics” or “domains” as discrete, but they are actually overlapping each other every day of our lives… 

The problem that we face is that we don’t realize how all of these overlapping “publics” are impacting us… it is forming us and shaping us… we need to spend more time exegeting the ways that it is forming us… 

Episode 120: A Church Called Tov (Pt. 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation with Dr. Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer to discuss their book A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing.

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The first thing I would say to young leaders is that every pastor needs to become self-aware through a battery of psychological tests, to try to expose traits of narcissism… 

We also need to restore to the pastoral calling the centrality of character… just like culture eats strategy for breakfast, so character eats culture for breakfast… a bad character will form the culture… 

We have so valued the platform and performance gifts… pastors on the platform exude a persona… people think that is the real person… they are responding to a persona… 

We need to start putting persons of character on the platform more than just persons of gifts… 

TOV is the Hebrew word for good… God created everything good… this word is used in the Old Testament hundreds of times… it is master moral category… God is TOV, everything he makes is TOV, and he wants us to be TOV…

We found seven elements of TOV that flipped the script: empathy, grace, putting people first, telling the truth, nurturing justice, nurturing service, and nurturing Christlikeness…

We could do ourselves a world of good by giving our budding pastors a test, for instance, on how empathic they are… 

Power physically changes the brain… all of us have power at some level… when we have unbridled and uncensored power, it is damaging to the person who has it along with those who are on the receiving end of it…

The people that have wrecked churches and ministries over the last twenty years had power without boundaries… it never ends well…

Leaders need to learn the habit of being in touch with people in pain, and watching how they are responding to them… 

If power is something that changes the brain, we need to practice the habit of losing power and having people over us who have more power than we do… 

We also need to learn to invite people to the platform who are better than us… the pain of wondering if people like someone else better than you is a good thing… 

Episode 119: A Church Called Tov (Pt. 1)

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Scot McKnight and Laura Barringer to discuss their book A Church Called Tov: Forming a Goodness Culture That Resists Abuses of Power and Promotes Healing. This is a two part episode.

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

It was a disorienting experience to have our church covering up the truth… it launched a series of conversations about how Scripture was not being interpreted the way it should… 

Around the same time, I read a book on the German pastors and how they responded to the Holocaust that shocked me… it showed the power of sinfulness of Christian leaders… when confronted by the truth, they didn’t confess their sins… 

Pastors have an enormous power over people… and have the capacity to assume a platform and narrate a story that trusting people are going to believe… when the narrative is distorting, cynicism arises in the church…

I found the way that Matthew 18 was being used irritating… they were using that text to say that if a woman thinks that a leader abused her, she has a responsibility to tell him… that will protect a pastor every time…

We need to ask, “Who has the advantage?” when Matthew 18 is being used… it is never appropriate to require a victim of abuse to confront their abuser privately…

A sign of institutional narcissism is when you shift from thinking that your church is helpful to thinking that your church is the best church in the world and where you think that all other churches are inferior…

This isn’t just an issues with megachurches… small churches are impacted by it too… thinking that you are the true people of God is insidious and dangerous… 

Since writing this book, we’ve gotten tons of letters from people who have been impacted by power-through-fear cultures…

Power is a very interesting phenomenon that is wielded wisely and recklessly by the same people in the same churches, and we need to be more conscious of it…

There’s such a thrill for people to be in the pastor’s inner circle, that it becomes like a shield of pride… but it’s a double-edged sword—you can both welcome people in and kick them out… it’s like a drug for many people… 

Episode 118: The Power of Place

In this interview we sit down with Daniel Grothe and talk about his new book The Power of Place: Choosing Stability in a Rootless Age. Snag a copy of The Power of Place HERE.

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The question of “what is the good life” has bugged me for a long time… as I pay attention to people who are living good lives, all of them have lived lives of stability in place…

This was actually the first book I wanted to write… I think that wisdom looks like a rooted life in place… 

Summers in my childhood were spent in Idaho with my family… they worked the land hard and were tired at the end of the day… I don’t get to live exactly like that, but as a pastor I’ve tried to live that way…

With the Gerasene demoniac, this is the first time Jesus tells someone, “You can’t follow me…” Jesus sends him home… when Jesus finds him, he is on the fringes, he is place-less… Jesus heals him and sends him back into his life, to live settled… 

When we look at the Bible, see that place helps us find security… place helps us find identity… and place helps us learn skilled mastery… 

God is not the God of abstraction… he doesn’t bless us out in the ether somewhere, but he blesses us in place… the story of God ends with the new Jerusalem descending to earth which gives life and security to the nations… creation itself is re-placed, re-homed…

We need to remember that Jesus is Jesus OF NAZARETH… he comes to us in our particularity… he comes into the story to put together heaven and earth, flesh and spirit… 

Adam and Eve started wondering what they were missing out on, and it led to their looking outside of the limitations of the good life that God had given them… when we live at the edges, we miss out on the gift at the center…

When people leave our churches for silly reasons, I always think to myself, “You’re going to have a stranger bury you? I should be burying you… or if I go first, you should be at my funeral… you’re going to throw that away?”

Sometimes you can’t stay in a place… even then you can live by certain principles… Jeremiah 29:1-10 helps us… wherever you are, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which you’ve been sent into exile… God will bless you there… 

Online church is a great tool, but it’s not a congregation… it will never replace the body of Christ, the local congregation of the saints… 

Episode 117: Crisis Fatigue

In this episode we sit down to talk about how leaders should think about responding to local and global crises when they arise, and about how they care for their own souls in crisis.

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The fatigue is real… we got into ministry because we care for those who are hurting, and over the past year and a half, that’s been put to the test…

We don’t have an endless supply of empathy… you can run out… one of the things I’m concerned about for my own soul is if I ever stop feeling [what I should feel for crises]…

The first lens on how we should spend ourselves is this: what are your people talking about in the lobby? If they’re talking about it in the lobby, we should be talking about it in the pulpit…

One of the problems with social media is that our awareness outpaces our agency… one thing we could do as leaders is to spend more time following what our people are talking about on social media and less time following what everyone else is talking about…

Jesus commissioned his disciples into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth… Jesus seems to be calling them not just to their neighborhood or region, but also to places that would test and stretch them… 

Your time can’t be spent evenly in these four quadrants… we need to understand that we need to allot our time in a way that is sustainable…

We don’t invest our money anywhere where we don’t have trusted relationships… it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we are going to have opportunities, and the worst feeling is having resources but no one to call [to deploy those resources to]…

Many people in the church want to be “special forces” missions people… but if we’re only focusing on those people, we’re ignoring the vast majority of our people who need to catch a heart for global missions… 

For a lot of pastors, loneliness is their greatest enemy right now… many pastors are just looking for friends… this is one of the reasons we created the Essential Church Learning Community… we’re trying to create space for that…

Sometimes the best thing I can do is just rest… there’s no substitute for good food, getting exercise, and going to bed…

In moments of crisis, clear decisions and quick adjustments are crucial… but we also need kind hearts…