“Do I exist for God or does God exist for me?”
That’s the question that I think animates Dean Inserra’s new book, Getting Over Yourself: Trading Believe-in-Yourself Religion for Christ-Centered Christianity, published by Moody. Or, maybe it’s this line: “We can’t make Christianity cooler.”
He explains his argument this way: “The entire premise of this book is that spiritual victory and earthly victory are not synonymous.” He identifies a new kind of prosperity gospel that promises earthly success along with spiritual abundance. But he can find no such Christianity in the Bible.
Dean serves as founding pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida. And I thought this description explains what I appreciate about his book. Dean writes, “In a therapeutic society, the achievement of self-fulfillment with God’s apparent stamp of approval is the perfect recipe for Christians to desire the things of this world while still feeling as if they are close to Jesus and He is very pleased. It appeases our need to know God isn’t mad at us while giving us license to continue on making much of ourselves.”
So what’s his alternative? Dean says, “I want to win people with a message that would still apply if my church was in a third world country, meeting in secret with nothing more than a single, shared Bible: the message of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and ascended.”
Dean joins me now on Gospelbound to discuss the divide between seminary classrooms and popular Christianity, Instagram as instigator in crisis counseling, and why he doesn’t think God wants us to be happy.
Weitere Episoden von „Gospelbound“
Top Theology Stories of 2021
1:10:50Welcome to a special edition of Gospelbound and Let’s Talk! Join hosts Collin Hansen and Melissa Kruger as they discuss their favorite recent reads and the top 10 theology stories of 2021. They also preview the year ahead in 2022—and reveal a surprise for 2023. Thank you for listening and encouraging us in this work!09:20 Deconstruction14:52 Cultural and historical shape of evangelicalism scrutinized15:58 The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill25:31 Vaccines and Covid mandates31:32 Christian Nationalism and the U.S. Capitol storming39:15 2021 Gospelbound highlights39:35 What's Next for Our Culture with COVID: Andy Crouch40:30 How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us: Morty Schapiro and Saul Morson41:25 Why Americans Quit Church: Ryan Burge44:50 TGC Book Awards46:20 The Bomber Mafia by Malcom Gladwell49:25 How Christianity Transformed the World by Sharon James51:46 TGC 2022 Women's Conference54:23 TGC 2023 Conference
How to Deepen Discipleship in Your Church
33:44What ails your church? Hopefully the answer doesn’t come too quickly! Hopefully your church is the picture of health, where everyone’s growing in love of God and love of neighbor. Or maybe your church has a discipleship disease. If so, then JT English can help with his new book, Deep Discipleship: How the Church Can Make Whole Disciples of Jesus, published by B&H. English serves as the lead pastor of Storyline Fellowship in Arvada, Colorado. Previously, JT served as a pastor at The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, where he founded and directed The Village Church Institute, which is committed to theological education in the local church JT sees churches worried about being irrelevant, worried they’re asking too much of busy people. Many Christians seem to think the church has gotten too deep. But JT English couldn’t disagree more! As you might guess from his book title, he says most churches aren’t nearly deep enough. He writes: People are leaving not because we have given them too much but because we have given them far too little. They are leaving the church because we have not given them any reason to stay. We are treating the symptoms of the wrong disease. Deep discipleship is about giving people more Bible, not less; more theology, not less; more spiritual disciplines, not less; more gospel, not less; more Christ, not less. The good news is that deep discipleship does not require massive resources, a large congregation, or an enormous ministry staff. It starts with not apologizing when we ask Christians to make commitments. JT joins me now on Gospelbound to discuss Sunday school and small groups, travel baseball, active learning, and commissioning culture.
Why Americans Quit Church
1:00:47During the last decade, one in 20 Americans has shifted from identifying with a religion to claiming “nothing in particular.” And this group is also the least likely of any position on religion to hold at least a bachelor’s degree.Those are just two of the many findings that jump from the page in Ryan Burge’s new book, The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going, published by Fortress Press. Together with atheists and agnostics, sociologists categorize the “nothing in particular” group as “nones.”Today, as many Americans don’t affiliate with any church as belong to any major religious group. We’re talking about one of the largest religious trends, if not the largest, in the last 40 years. Burge’s book seeks to explain how these so-called nones grew from statistically irrelevant to around one-quarter of the entire American population.Burge is an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University. And he’s also been a pastor in the same American Baptist Church for the last 13 years. So his work goes beyond the descriptive into the prescriptive. For example, he observes that among the nones, Christians should focus on this “nothing in particular” group, which is open to returning to religion.He joins me on Gospelbound to discuss the implications of his findings for evangelicals, for Black Protestants, for the mainline, and for politics. I’ll also ask him why so many Americans left the church between 1991 and 1996 and his best guess at the most significant cause behind this trend.
Baptized in Fire and Blood
42:40“Our cause is sacred. How can we doubt it, when we know it has been consecrated by a holy baptism of fire and blood?”So said a North Carolina minister about the Confederacy in the aftermath of the South’s defeat at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. This arresting quote contributes to the title of James P. Byrd’s new book, A Holy Baptism of Fire and Blood: The Bible and the American Civil War, published by Oxford. He writes, “This is a book about how Americans enlisted the Bible in the nation’s most bloody and arguably most biblically infused war.”Byrd is chair of the graduate department of religion and associate professor of American religious history at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. And if you’re interested in this book you need to also pick up his book Sacred Scripture, Sacred War: The Bible and the American Revolution.Just at the Battle of Antietam, four-times as many American soldiers as died as 80 years later on the beaches of Normandy in World War II. Twice as many Americans died that one horrible day outside Sharpsburg, Maryland, as in the War of 1812, Mexican War, and Spanish American War combined. Americans should have known from the Bible that civil wars are the worst wars, and even God’s chosen nations could self-destruct, Byrd argues. They may not have expected such a tragedy at the outset of the war. But by the end they had draped the whole conflict in Scripture, culminating with Father Abraham killed on Good Friday after setting the captives free. Byrd writes, “Americans were never in more disagreement over the Bible, and yet never more in agreement that the Bible proved the sacredness of war.”Byrd joins me on Gospelbound to discuss the jeremiad, Achan, Exodus, camp revivals, Frederick Douglass, and abolitionist views of inerrancy.
Get Over Yourself
39:16“Do I exist for God or does God exist for me?” That’s the question that I think animates Dean Inserra’s new book, Getting Over Yourself: Trading Believe-in-Yourself Religion for Christ-Centered Christianity, published by Moody. Or, maybe it’s this line: “We can’t make Christianity cooler.”He explains his argument this way: “The entire premise of this book is that spiritual victory and earthly victory are not synonymous.” He identifies a new kind of prosperity gospel that promises earthly success along with spiritual abundance. But he can find no such Christianity in the Bible.Dean serves as founding pastor of City Church in Tallahassee, Florida. And I thought this description explains what I appreciate about his book. Dean writes, “In a therapeutic society, the achievement of self-fulfillment with God’s apparent stamp of approval is the perfect recipe for Christians to desire the things of this world while still feeling as if they are close to Jesus and He is very pleased. It appeases our need to know God isn’t mad at us while giving us license to continue on making much of ourselves.”So what’s his alternative? Dean says, “I want to win people with a message that would still apply if my church was in a third world country, meeting in secret with nothing more than a single, shared Bible: the message of Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and ascended.”Dean joins me now on Gospelbound to discuss the divide between seminary classrooms and popular Christianity, Instagram as instigator in crisis counseling, and why he doesn’t think God wants us to be happy.
Belonging to God in an Inhuman World
44:02It’s the fundamental lie of modern life, says Alan Noble: that we are our own. Compared to our ancestors, we’re less worried about war. We’re less worried about starvation and famine. But by believing that we are our own, we tend to struggle with new problems: the loss of meaning, identity, and purpose.Noble says this in his new book, You Are Not Your Own: Belonging to God in an Inhuman World, published by InterVarsity:Everyone is on their own private journey of self-discovery and self-expression so that at times, modern life feels like billions of people in the same room shouting their name so that everyone else knows they exist and who they are—which is a fairly accurate description of social media.Noble’s book feels like a douse of cold water that wakes us from our delusion. His book builds off the first question and answer of the Heidelberg Catechism. And he helps us find our way back to this well-worn path of divine wisdom. He writes, “Our selves belong to God, and we are joyfully limited and restrained by the obligations, virtues, and love that naturally come from this belonging.”Noble is assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University and co-founder and editor in chief of Christ and Pop Culture. You may know his previous work, Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age.
Why the Gospel of Self-Improvement Isn't Good News
32:35If you want to sell millions of books, tell readers they can be their own hero. Tell them if they don’t have what they want, they need to demand it. Tell them that they can have everything if they work hard enough: the beautiful family, the booming business, the world-changing nonprofit venture.For Ruth Chou Simons, being her own hero doesn’t seem all that freeing. It looks exhausting.She has one overarching message in her new book, When Strivings Cease: Replacing the Gospel of Self-Improvement with the Gospel of Life-Transforming Grace, published by Nelson Books.“The one thing I want you to know, more than anything else,” she writes, “is that if you are truly in Christ, you can stop trying so hard to be who you already are in Jesus.”Simons is an artist, entrepreneur, and speaker. She and her husband, Troy, have six boys. Her previous works include GraceLaced. Simons goes on to explain in When Strivings Cease, “We’re working so hard to bloom, to bend, to please that we’ve neglected the soil from which we flourish.” And she concludes with a question: “What if our striving is really worship of ourselves as god?”Simons will be leading three breakout sessions at The Gospel Coalition’s 2022 Women’s Conference, June 16 to 18, including one on her new book. Given the prevalence of what she calls the self-improvement gospel, I’m grateful for this work that focuses on the grace of God. Self-acceptance, she reminds us from God’s Word, doesn’t come from self-love but from the redemption of Jesus Christ, where God demonstrates his love for us as sinners. That’s why she can write, “[S]elf-righteous striving is more hopeless than you want to believe, but grace is more life-transforming than you realize.”
Faith Is a Habit
34:49What is faith? Is it a feeling? Is it hope against hope? Belief without evidence?Jen Michel says faith is a habit. It’s not against evidence but careful consideration of evidence. It’s trust in the story that makes sense of the world. It’s curiosity. It’s where the habits of humility take us.“Try practicing your way into faith,” Michel writes in her new book, A Habit Called Faith: 40 Days in the Bible to Find and Follow Jesus, published by Baker. “Go to church, follow the liturgy, act the part. Let habit take you by the hand and lead you to God.”Michel says that faith pushes back against the technological advances that convey the illusion that exertion is our enemy. In this book designed to help introduce the Bible to anyone curious about faith, Michel guides readers on a 40-day journey through the wilderness of doubts to the promised land of hope in the promises of God. She writes:We can feel small in this world and frightened by our smallness. The invitation of faith isn’t to pretend that there aren’t big, bad scary wolves; that life can’t wreck with a sudden change of weather; that we don’t feel angry or sad or disappointed—even occasionally abandoned. But it is to say that we keep at the habit of believing the improbable; we’re not left or forsaken; God is with us.
Does the News Help You Love Your Neighbor?
44:54Breaking news! (Insert dramatic gong sound here.) Find out if you’re on the right side of history. Learn about the latest celebrity you should cancel for the wrong view on oat milk. After this commercial break. Not so fast says Jeffrey Bilbro, editor in chief of Front Porch Republic and the author of the new book Reading the Times: A Literary and Theological Inquiry into the News, published by IVP Academic. Bilbro warns that “objects on screen are more distant than they appear,” and that “the public sphere is simply not conducive to the formation of loving, sustaining communities.” He writes this: When the news sets itself up as the light of the world, it is usurping the role that rightly belongs only to the Word proclaimed in the gospel. But when the news helps us attend together to the ongoing work of this Word, it plays a vital role in enabling us to love our neighbors. So take a walk! Carve some wood. Spend time in embodied communities. And don’t worry too much about that next election, he says:Epistemic humility, particularly regarding the workings of Providence, requires us to acknowledge that even when our candidate loses, or when a court case is decided in a way that seems wrong, or when tragedy strikes, God is still working out his will—and he cannot be defeated. The reverse holds true as well: it may be that just when we think we are winning, we are going astray from God’s kingdom. A high view of Providence and a chastened sense of our ability to recognize God’s methods of victory frees us from worrying about whether a given event is good or bad. Bilbro joins me on Gospelbound to discuss the perverse incentives of our media ecosystem, holy apathy, and whether anything good can come from TV news.
5 Hidden Themes Our Culture Can't Stop Talking About
38:59In his day job for the last 15 years, Daniel Strange has taught church leaders about culture, worldview, and apologetics. He’s studied worldviews and philosophy. He talks about “plausibility structures” and “social imaginaries” and “cultural liturgies.” But it’s not some kind of vain philosophical exercise. He’s trying to help people grow in how they present the person and work of Jesus to their skeptical neighbors.After years as director of Oak Hill Theological College in London, he now directs Crosslands Forum, a center for cultural engagement for mission. And he’s the author of the new book Making Faith Magnetic: Five Hidden Themes Our Culture Can’t Stop Talking About and How to Connect Them to Christ, published by The Good Book Company. In this book, he tries to help non-Christians find their way to God through the darkness of a skeptical age. He writes:In the 21st-century West, in our version of this history, God is the one who has done the hiding and we are the seekers. And God must have found a great place to hide because we’ve looked for him everywhere but he’s nowhere to be seen.Strange features five magnetic points that he thinks can help non-Christians connect to Jesus. His book explores totality, norm, deliverance, destiny, and higher power. In this episode, we’ll talk about J. H. Bavinck, the totality, Goth culture, disenchantment, and more.