Episode 158: A Conversation with Bri Stensrud

Andrew Arndt and Daniel Grothe are joined by a New Life congregation member and author Bri Stensrud to talk about the complexities and challenges of what it looks like to “meet the strangers at our gates.” (01:35) The trio discuss how this issue moves far beyond simply a social or political issue, Bri helps guide a discussion around immigration and caring for the foreigner and its biblical roots. (10:54). The last stretch of this episode includes both the practical and the personal ways we can all get involved in this conversation. (29:45)

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Host: Andrew Arndt
Co-Host: Daniel Grothe
Guests: Bri Stensrud
Producer: Briggs Boyd

For pastors/churches:

Evangelical Immigration Table

World Relief

For laypeople:

Women of Welcome

Books: 

Start with Welcome 

The Bible and Borders 

Welcoming the Stranger

Find Bri: Instagram 

Episode 157: A Conversation with Derek Vreeland

Andrew and special guest, Derek Vreeland have a detailed discussion around Derek’s new book Centering Jesus: How the Lamb of God Transforms Our Communities, Ethics, and Spiritual Lives. One of the core values of Essential Church is that Jesus is at the center, and this is exactly what Derek’s book reveals — from the book of Revelation, the COVID pandemic, and the power of unity (02:22). At the crux of Derek’s book is the metaphor of Jesus as the Lamb of God, and the multitude of ways that metaphor is fleshed out through Jesus’ life (15:34). This conversation lands by discussing how prayer is the ultimate act of seeing Jesus at the center of all things (24:22).

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Host: Andrew Arndt
Guests: Derek Vreeland
Producer: Briggs Boyd
Derek Vreeland’s books — https://derekvreeland.com/books

Episode 156: A Conversation with Dr. Russell Moore

Andrew and Brady take the time in this episode to sit down with author Dr. Russell Moore to discuss his book Losing Our Religion, An Alter Call for Evangelical America. Russell shares the history that created a need for such a book, but also the weight of utilizing his prophetic voice in a time of need (3:36). Dr. Moore goes on to share a few key ideas and principles around how to better discern and live wisely when dealing with the great social challenges of our day (15:53). The trio then round out the conversation contemplating the moral fiber of future leaders as well as pondering what needs to happen in America for true revival to take place (24:06). 

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Host: Andrew Arndt

Co-Host: Brady Boyd

Guests: Dr. Russell Moore

Producer: Briggs Boyd 

Losing Our Religion, An Alter Call for Evangelical America by Russell Moore — https://www.amazon.com/Losing-Our-Religion-Evangelical-America-ebook/dp/B0BPWRF4C5/ref=sr_1_1crid=3I076VEZFKVJK&keywords=losing+our+religion%2C+an+altar+call+for+evangelical+america&qid=1696973367&sprefix=losing+our+religion%2C+an+alter+call+for+evangelical+america%2Caps%2C99&sr=8-1

Episode 152: Neuroscience and Spiritual Formation – A Conversation with Michael Hendricks

In this episode we sit down with Michel Hendricks to talk with him about his book The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation.

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This book was written out of frustration and confusion… some pastors and I were talking about our frustrations with discipleship, and one of the pastors said, “Michel, I think we’re ignoring the neuroscience angle,” and I had no idea what he was talking about…

The left side of the brain is what in popular culture we think of AS the brain… it’s the problem-solving side… but the deeper, relational questions are handled in the right brain—it’s the more powerful side of the brain… 

Before the left brain even kicks in, the right brain is asking, “Who are these people? Are these my people? Am I safe here?” Most of our discipleship is left-brain oriented and doesn’t take the right brain into account at all…

Our brains are designed to change us through love… our attachments and bonds with others are the strongest force in the brain for the formation of our character… 

I’m not saying that we should drop left-brained discipleship skills, but that we ADD the right-brain relational skills… e.g., joy—are we creating environments where people are happy to see one another…? Joy is fuel for transformation… and when our joy is low, nothing really works…

For the Hebrew mind, the face and presence of God were inseparable… the face WAS the presence, like a baby looking into its mother’s face… that’s how a baby grows… and how we grow with God…

Our churches need to function much more like families than they do like religious organizations… families are primarily and fundamentally about creating bonds…

If our relational skills are right, we can do church discipline in a way that’s healthy… it’s about flipping on the self-regulating principle in the body of Christ… 

There is a form of healthy shame and toxic shame… toxic shame is what most of us have experienced… healthy shame is deeply relational and helps remind us of who we are… it reinforces our good group identity…

Forming community this way makes us virtually immune to narcissism… if we are a deeply bonded family which self-corrects, we are creating a soil that narcissism can’t thrive in… 

Episode 151: Good News for Anxious Christians – An Interview with Philip Cary

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Philip Cary to talk about unbiblical and unhelpful stuff that evangelicals believe and how the gospel liberates us. Grab his book Good News for Anxious Christians here.

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Good News for Anxious Christians came from my conversations with Christians who were anxious because of the ‘practical advice’ they’d been given about how to improve their lives… 

When the Gospel is replaced by practical advice, before long you’ll get anxious about whether the practical advice is actually working…

Part of the reason that people are anxious is that pastors are anxious… the odd mistake that we make is by thinking that the way to change someone’s life is to tell them to change their life… but that’s the law… it’s the gospel that really changes us…

Consumerism has a lot to do with this… we’re competing in a spiritual marketplace, and the church feels pressure to say, “We have a better lifestyle/product than everyone else…” that’s the wrong incentive… 

When I say, “You don’t need to hear God’s voice ‘in your heart’”, I mean that we need to listen to the words of God that come to us from OUTSIDE our hearts: e.g., the Bible, the words of the gospel when it’s preached, etc. …  

What God commands us to do is to seek wisdom… that means that our hearts should be shaped by wisdom… when that happens, your heart will have some good voices in it—they’ll still be your voices, and they’ll be worth listening to, because they’ve been formed by God’s wisdom…

As the Word of God comes to dwell in us, the voice will be our own, but the word will be God’s… the Word of God shapes our hearts… when we hear the story of Christ and receive it by faith, our hearts get reshaped into the image of Jesus Christ… 

‘Conscience’ is a word that has dropped out of our vocabulary… God doesn’t decide for us, but he has told us how he’d like to behave in his Word… as we take that Word into our hearts, our conscience will come to nag us when we don’t treat people properly… 

We don’t have to find God’s will for our lives because God has told us what his will is… The Ten Commandments are God’s will… The Two Great Commandments are God’s will… God wants us to learn to make wise decisions ourselves as responsible adults…

When the Gospel is properly preached, it’s not about our feelings, it’s about Jesus… and precisely that is what builds up our Christian feelings… our job is to give people Jesus Christ… 

Episode 142: Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies with Marilyn McEntyre

In this episode we sit down with writer and teacher Marilyn McEntyre to talk with her about why our speech is so important and how sanctified speech and sanctified lives are connected. Check out her book Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies

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Some of the urgency of this matter is self-explanatory at this point… I don’t know anyone of any theological or political persuasion who doesn’t recognize that our public discourse is in trouble…

There are some bad habits of speech that are pretty widespread… one of them is the tendency to fall into abstractions rather than particulars… 

The scandal of the gospel is the scandal of particular… God came into a specific place and time… but in a lot of our public speech, we resort to abstraction… 

Abstractions enable us to avoid responsibility… they allow us not to look at THIS person who has been begging on THIS particular street corner and has been unhoused for THIS MANY particular months… to go “deep” is to go particular… 

One of the ancient meanings of the word conversation is “to walk with”… when you have a conversation with someone, you walk with them and come in parallel with them… but in our world, this can be hard to come by…

We need to quit trying to win… a lot of conversations in public speech turn into arguments very quickly because we’re trying to win… it sets up a kind of defensiveness that truncates exploratory conversation… 

There’s a layer of accountability in our speech that is only available to us if our bodies are in the same room, in the vulnerability that face-to-face interaction makes possible… 

One of the things that I would say to preachers is that if you’ve gone to seminary and have studied the ancient languages, hand ‘em over! Some of my favorite sermons have been when a preacher took time to explain the nuance of a word… 

Sometimes I think that pastors are so desirous to be “pastoral” that they dumb down the content of their messages… you can simplify without dumbing down… 

When I was a young adult I began worshiping in a church that featured written prayers… I loved stepping into words that had been carefully crafted and prayed for generations… written prayers help us step into the communion of saints to join them… 

Episode 138: The Five Masculine Instincts with Chase Replogle

In this episode we sit down with pastor and author Chase Replogle to talk about his book The Five Masculine Instincts. For more on Chase’s book and extra resources click here.

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First and foremost, I’m a pastor, and I’ve watched over the last few years how the topic of masculinity has become controversial conversation… 

I was seeing the guys in my congregation struggle with this, and I wanted to create a book that offered a path towards a better conversation—a conversation about character…

The cultural ways of having this conversation are that either we need to deconstruct masculinity, or we need to indulge it… but what both of these approaches have in common is that they focus on externals rather than on the internal realities of a man…

I’m always careful to say that these “instincts” are not the five sins of man, nor are they the five expectations… the question is how we become mature men, given these instincts…

God initiated a conversation with Cain… I think that’s really profound… you’d imagine that Cain would ask God why he rejected his sacrifice… but he doesn’t… he acts impulsively and sarcastically…

Cain’s sarcasm is a thin veil for his contempt for God… his immaturity makes him reactive and winds up perpetually immature… he’s the picture of a lost adolescent, perpetually adrift… 

For men—if you find yourself struggling to take things seriously, or find yourself immediately reactionary, God may be using precisely those things to make you a better man… 

Samson has divine experiences in the midst of adventure, but instead of it enlightening him, he just indulges it and becomes less discerning…

This theme becomes larger and larger until he gives away his secret, I think, as a way of just being done with it… he’s sick of it all…

If you’re constantly trying to find meaning in adventure, and it’s weakening your commitments to place and family and vocation, then perhaps you’re putting something on adventure that it’s never going to be able to deliver…

A lot of pastors, in their search for adventure, are disrupting the framework of their congregations… we need to satisfy that thirst for adventure inside the boundaries of our lives…  

Episode 131: “Where the Light Fell” with Philip Yancey

In this episode we sit down with one of the most prolific authors of the last hundred years, Philip Yancey, to talk with him about his new memoir Where the Light Fell.

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I knew that the version of Christianity I had been given—racist, angry, legalistic—couldn’t be right, and yet I also knew there was something worth salvaging…

I’ll often tell people that I grew up thinking that God was a scowling super-cop in the sky… it took me a long time to realize that the heart of the universe is not a scowl but a smile… the story of history is the story of God’s love…

Many “exvangelicals” have wistful memories of their youth… I wrote this book because I wanted to reach those people… my reasons for becoming an “ex” were stronger than most of theirs… and yet I emerged having discovered the love and grace of God…

My father was a victim of polio… he was 23 and he and my mother had planned to go on the mission field… after he died, my mother made a vow to God that me and my brother would replace him as missionaries to Africa… when we didn’t fit the script, the vow became a kind of curse… it was a theological error… 

My brother and I took different paths in relating to our upbringing… he became one of Atlanta’s original hippies… I saw what that did to him… it was a living illustration of what happens to us when we have nothing to go toward… 

Pain redeemed impresses me more than pain removed… often, it’s the hardest things we go through that are most important as we look back… 

We are at a hinge time for the future of the evangelical church in the United States… we need to adjust to the fact that we’re not the home team anymore… this is new, and a lot of people don’t like it…

We are always called to live both in the city of God and in the city of humanity… we don’t take our marching order from political parties but from God… but there’s such an atmosphere of partisanship that it can be hard for people to know what to do…

The dialogue has gotten so crass and adversarial… Christians need to stand up against that… I want pastors, whatever they believe, to show the style of Jesus… our country needs this…