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Engaging the Culture in Winsome Ways (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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April 19, 2022 6:00 am

Engaging the Culture in Winsome Ways (Part 2 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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April 19, 2022 6:00 am

In this conversation, Philip Yancey describes how you can be a bridge to the Gospel in a culture that’s thirsty for the Good News. Tune in to hear how three types of Christians in particular – pilgrims, activists, and artists – can serve as conduits of God’s grace. (Part 2 of 2)

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And the Gospel truly sounded like good news to realize that God cares about me, that God loves me, that I can connect with the God of the universe, the God who created this planet. That's Philip Yancey with a really important reminder that the Gospel is truly good news to those who are hurting. Philip joins us again today on Focus on the Family, and your host is Focus President and author, Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller. John, last time we shared a powerful conversation I was able to record with Philip Yancey.

If you missed part one, make sure to get the CD or download or find the video on YouTube. I'm thankful for Philip's insights on how we present the good news to a watching world. In the book of Matthew in the Bible, Jesus told his followers, let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. That's right out of Matthew 5 16.

If you're a believer, you're called to be a faithful witness to the hope you've found in Christ. And today, Philip will offer you help as you seek to share God's love in a winsome way. And as we mentioned last time, Philip's book that is the foundation for the conversation is called Vanishing Grace, Whatever Happened to the Good News? Philip has a fascinating perspective. He spent years researching and writing about how Christians can be salt and light and live authentically. And I do hope that you'll get in touch with us for a copy of this great book.

Call 800 the letter A and the word family, or click the link in the episode notes. And Jim, here's how you began part two of your conversation with Philip Yancey. Philip, it's great to have you back for day two. Thank you. It's a pleasure. It's a great conversation.

I'm going to go deep quickly. But, you know, pain often draws us toward God. It seems, again, counterintuitive. Why would the Lord use suffering? But certainly Paul and others talked about that, what suffering produces, hope, faith, etc. And, you know, for me, it's been my life's experience as a little boy who went through a lot of trauma, orphaned at a young age into foster care. Someone will ask me occasionally, you know, if you had to go through all that again and to be where you're at with the Lord, would you do it again? Absolutely.

So in that context, address that, because you've written a lot about it, suffering leading to deeper relationship with God. Does it have to be that way, Philip? I think of a phrase from C.S. Lewis, and I'm always very hesitant to ever disagree with anything C.S.

Lewis says. But he used a phrase called, pain the megaphone of God. He said, God whispers to us in our good times, but he shouts to us in our bad times. And I understand what he's saying, but I would phrase it a little differently, because when I hear that megaphone of God, I think of a football coach on the sideline yelling at people, do 50 pushups, go run five miles.

I had that coach. And I don't see God up there saying, oh, I'm going to teach Jim a lesson, I'm going to make them suffer, and then they'll turn to me. I just don't see that. We could talk about why, but I would just change that phrase a little bit and say that pain is the hearing aid. Actually, it's something we can control.

We can either turn away from God, well, if it's a God like that, I'll never trust him, that kind of God can. Or we could turn up the volume and listen, what could I learn from this experience, which is what you did. You know, Philip, one of the big debates that we have, you know, those that excel in the material universe, right? You can be in conversations, and I think you were even in a book club that had this kind of diversity, if I could call it that.

But people that are accomplished, they may go to the Ivy League. I met a man who is the chair of religion and philosophy at a university. He had me come speak there. He talked about being a Christian at one time, but he went to Princeton Divinity School and he said, I read too much, and I lost my faith. And I think in that context, you know, how do we speak in a world that trusts so much in the material world, and when it comes to faith, it's like, well, that's beyond what I want to deal with. I don't know about those things, and frankly, right now, I don't care about those things. That seems to be one of the battles, because I'm sure, like your book club, there are great people there.

They just don't know the Lord, don't really have an interest seemingly. I would get in conversations with people in my book club and ask them, okay, you're a member of Amnesty International. You care about human rights. Why do you care about human rights? Well, because everybody does.

Actually, everybody doesn't. There are dictators in the world who don't care about human rights. The reason I care about human rights is because I believe everybody was created in the image of God, and that's foundational.

I can't stop that. Why do you care about the environment? Well, because the earth is in trouble. Okay, that's true, and I care about the environment because I believe God created the earth.

It's part of his artistry, and it exposes sometimes people just have these assumptions of what's good and what's not good, and as you know, you've traveled the world. Not everybody shares those assumptions. We have to have a basis for them. We have to have a reason, and if you peel back Western civilization, the things that we value, human rights and education and art and beauty and those things, they came out of the church. They came out of Christians saying these are what God is like, so therefore, as sub-creators, we're going to demonstrate that.

Right. I mean, these are the attributes that we see in the character of God, right? At least how it's recorded in the Scripture, and I think that's pretty accurate. You spent years rediscovering, as you said in the book, the good news, the good news of Christ.

Describe what happened, and what did that journey entail to rediscover? Well, I grew up in a church that was very biblical, they thought, but they came away with some different conclusions than I had to work through later. This was in the South, in Atlanta area, back when the civil rights movement was just getting underway, and my church was racist.

We actually had these cards, and if a person of color tried to enter the church, they would give them this card that said basically, we know you're not a true worshiper of God. You're just a troublemaker. You're not welcome here.

You're not allowed here, but if you want to know more about Jesus, call this number. That was in your lifetime. That was when you were a kid.

That's absolutely true. Wow. It would have been in the late 1950s. That seems like something that might have occurred a century or two ago. Well, it was the last century.

It was 1950-ish, 59 or so, yeah. When I realized that what the church had taught me about racism was wrong, that was a crisis of faith for me, because I thought, well, if they're wrong about race, maybe they're wrong about the Bible, maybe they're wrong about Jesus. And it forced me to go and investigate for myself, and for a while there, I was deconstructing my faith. I can't believe that anymore. I can't believe this anymore.

And fortunately, just as a writer, I've been able over the years to pick up these things one by one. The Jesus I never knew. What is Jesus? Prayer.

Does it work? What is grace? I didn't feel much grace growing up.

What is it? And spend my life kind of going to the Bible, going to people I trust, and reconstructing my faith. Yeah. And I think one of the difficulties, Philip, is we often, we're trying to project perfection when we're imperfect, even in this life as Christians. I remember talking to one naysayer, and he said, well, you're just a bunch of hypocrites.

And I said, actually, you're right. Because we can't live it perfectly. We're going to have blind spots, and then we're going to have spots we know we're not doing well in spiritually, and we're not living it out the way we need to.

It's called the sanctification process. We're not going to be the same, hopefully, 20 years from now that we are today. We're going to be better, deeper in Christ, living it better. And he seemed to appreciate that. And that's one of the problems is we try to be perfect in the sight of people, rather than broken. Yeah. I love that line. I am a hypocrite. You're absolutely right. And back to a phrase we mentioned earlier, holier than thou. Right. That's the same thing. There's really only one standard, and we're less holy than thou, and I'm pointing to the heavens. That's our standard. And Jesus said, be perfect.

And his disciples said, no one can do that. And that's the point. Yeah, you're right. So do you have a fallback? Here's the fallback.

There's grace, and there's forgiveness. Right. Because none of us can make it on our own merits.

And by the way, that's what makes it the good news. Exactly. You don't have to earn it. Exactly. And it's like we flip it on its ear, and we tell people, ah, you got to be good. You got to behave right. And then you get it.

That's not what Jesus said. You made a trip to Kazakhstan. You may be the only other person I know. I visited Kazakhstan as well. So the two of us.

I was more like 93 for me, but that same area. What happened to you that reminded you that the gospel is the good news? I went to speak to a group of people who are staff members and volunteers for CRU International.

It used to be Campus Crusade. And these were all Christians. They were all Christians, obviously, and they had all been raised before there was any lively church in Kazakhstan.

They were raised under rigid communism. They were taught there's nothing beyond this life. There is no God, atheism. And if you believe in God, you're a fool, and you're also being penalized in our society. You can't go to university. You're going to be cut out. That's straight out of scripture, by the way, where they say you're going to be called a fool for Christ's sake.

That's right. So I would say, well, tell me your story. What happened?

Now you're working for CRU, so what happened? And it's almost like they had memorized the script, because everyone told the same story. They said, well, we were true believers in communism, and yet we looked around us, and we found out that we were miserable, and it wasn't true. And our parents were alcoholics, and my father would beat us, and this is a cold place, and we had no reason to live. And then somebody came up to us on a university campus and said, did you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life? I mean, we've all heard the four spiritual laws in the United States, and you just kind of say, oh, yeah, okay, there's a little formula for you. They had never heard this stuff.

Right, it was new. And they would stop and say, there is a God? God loves me? Would you like to hear more? Yeah, I'd like to hear more. And I heard this again and again. I mean, it became almost a joke. I knew exactly what they were going to say next, but these were people I got to know and trust, and they weren't using a script. They were just telling what happened. I grew up under this regime. I found out it was wrong, and the gospel truly sounded like good news to realize that God cares about me, that God loves me, that I can connect with the God of the universe, the God who created this planet.

Yeah. You know, Philip, in the book, you discovered three types. I think it was a comment that a friend of yours made to you, but you discovered three types of Christians that outsiders respect the most. A lot of outsiders don't like many Christians, but there are three categories of people who they're a little more open to, who are effective artists, pilgrims, and activists. Let's start with activists. If I care about the environment, if I care about civil rights, if I care about some of these things, and I do it because of my Christian convictions, then somebody else who cares about those things has to stop and think, well, why do I care about these things? You know, I am representing what God cares about by my activism.

So, again, go back to the civil rights movement. Most of them was a moral crusade, and most of the people leading it were clergymen, from John Lewis to Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy. You know, the church led that. Right. Yeah, abolitionists were predominantly Christian.

Same thing. Artists, I like to lecture the church on, you got to pay attention to these artists. They're hard to work with. Creative people.

Yeah, they look funny, and they dress funny, and they don't do well on committees. But artists can get across profound eternal truths better than pastors, better than theologians, because they sneak up in ways that go directly to the heart. And I told some story of artists who do that. Well, one story I mentioned, because we're here in Colorado, one of the great artists of our day is a man named Mako Fujimura, Japanese. He's an artist. Japanese-American. He's an artist, incredibly talented.

Once he was – he was called to do the White House Christmas card. I mean, he's up at that level, but he does abstract expressionism in an old Japanese form. And we had the 20th anniversary of Columbine just down the road here. The shootings that killed a whole bunch of people and kind of started the whole awareness of mass shootings in the United States and school shootings. The 20th anniversary was a sober event, and Mako came as an artist, and he showed us this craft called kintsugi.

It's a Japanese word, where they take these old pottery things that are broken into – like a bowl that's broken into four or five pieces, and they glue them back together using solid gold as the seams. And they create these beautiful things out of what had been thrown away, been picked out of a trash can. And he gave that as an illustration for the terrible tragedy at Columbine. And yet, out of that, these beautiful things had happened. And what people had feared is kind of a somber message turned into almost a celebration that redemption can come even out of pain like Columbine.

We heard from survivors, we heard from families, we heard from the principals. And art can do that. Art can express something that other people can't.

Well, then grab the heart. Absolutely. And then the last category of pilgrims, and we've been talking about that, Jim, that we don't win people by saying, I've got something and you don't.

Hopefully. Yeah. Some people do. We win people by saying, I'm just like you, and I found something that satisfied deeply in my soul. And if you have ever experienced anything like this, if you've ever experienced confusion, pain, whatever, I know a place to go. I know.

The gospel is really good news. Give it a try. And if you start with that, I've got something and you don't, I'm going to help you. It usually doesn't work. So true.

But if you start, I'm just like you, I know what you're going through, and here's something that I found that really helped me. In that context, what I've seen interacting with people that would oppose a Christian worldview is that when you meet with them, talk with them, and they realize you're not the caricature of what they created, that you can laugh with them, you can simply relate with them. There is something in there that when people sincerely feel that you care about them, I would say love them. It's almost in our spiritual DNA, we can't resist that. Even as a crusty human being, something begins to crack in your soul, which I think is how we cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Going back to yesterday's comment that you don't have to go out of your way to be hated and then wear it as a badge.

Try this. Go out of your way to look for that kind of loving grace that actually cracks that crusty soul and then can allow the Holy Spirit to do that great work in someone's heart. Be a shock to people. Wow, I didn't expect Christians to behave that way. I didn't expect a Christian to say that God loved me, whatever it might be. You have, in fact, in the book, you have a story of a skeptic. I think her name was Gina Welch, and she began visiting a church and described an outsider's point of view. What was her story? Yeah, she was an Ivy League person, Ph.D., who, as a sociology experiment, started going to Thomas Road Baptist Church, where Jerry Falwell Sr. at the time was pastor. She was just trying to figure out what are these evangelicals and maybe write a thesis about it.

To her surprise, she found that she was just cared for. The word compassion, Jim, come passio, comes from to feel with. And she found that people had compassion toward her, that she would look forward. Oh, I'm going to go on Sunday.

I'm going to be in that Sunday school group again. And they know some of what I've been going through and they care and they draw it out. So she doesn't talk about, I became a Christian because of this experience, but she talks about the way her perspective changed. She thought these were going to be these right-wing, uptight, hillbilly types. And instead she found, no, they're human beings, much like me, and they care about me.

And they have a community that they can bring their honest struggles to every week. It was a shock for her. And I think we need much more of that kind of cross-fertilization from both directions. In her direction, it was the liberal who had these preconceptions about what an evangelical was. And we need our own perspectives changed, as you've talked about in expanding. Well, and the reality is, if she lands in a different church, she might have had those presuppositions reinforced, right?

I mean, true, absolutely. I mean, it really came down to the leadership of that particular church and what they were expressing, what the people expressed. In that regard, Philip, this caught my attention years ago when I stepped into the role as president focus, but it dawned on me, we have this, I think, non-essential battle going between what I call orthodoxy and orthopraxy. So the orthodoxy is speaking God's truth. And we're a communications ministry, so that's what we do. We try to express God's truth and have programs like this one to talk about the love of God as well, but His grace, His truth, the whole theme of what we've talked about.

And then there's orthopraxy, which is the doing of the word. And I think, at least in Western culture, maybe that's one of the great failures from early Christianity that we are wonderful at speaking truth, but have become a bit lazy, if I could use that word, at expressing the orthopraxy of the gospel, actually rolling up your sleeves, getting involved. One of the things that we started here was a foster adoption program. It was born out of my heart, you know, being a foster child. I always felt like if the church were on the right things, there shouldn't be 100,000 kids in the foster care system waiting for adoption. And it's a tough road, believe me. We have fostered 15 children. It's not an easy task, and not everybody's cut out for it.

I get that. But if you look at 100,000 kids out of the 400,000 that are in the foster care program, and there's over 300,000 churches, that's one child every three churches. Can we get that done? I mean, and talk about changing the brand of Christianity in America, you know, I'd love to see that New York Times headline that says Christian church wipes out waiting foster care adoption list. Wouldn't that change things?

It would. There's a theologian from Croatia, you may know the name, Miroslav Volf. I've met him. Have you?

Okay. I think he teaches at Yale now. And he said, as civilization changes and grows less and less friendly to Christianity, we have to change our approach. And I'm kind of putting words in his mouth here. But he said, in the old days, Billy Graham could go to any stadium in the United States, fill that stadium with people, and he'd stand up there and say, the Bible says, and people would come forward and respond.

He said, try that now. There are very few evangelist preachers who could fill a stadium anywhere in the United States. And if you stand up and say, the Bible says, people will say, well, so what? I don't believe the Bible, you know, the Bhagavad Gita says something else. Who knows what's true?

Society has changed that much in our lifetimes. So he said, the best way I know to get across the gospel is what he calls hands to heart to head. You reach out with your hands, acts of mercy, exactly what you're saying.

Foster program, feeding the hungry, responding in a refugee crisis like Afghanistan was. Hands, you reach out with acts of mercy. That affects people's hearts. Why do you do this?

Why do you care about me? Oh, well, here's why. And finally, you get to the head. We used to start with the head. Here's what you should believe. But things have changed. Reach out with your hands first. It affects the heart. And then they're open to that head knowledge.

So true. In the book, you mentioned a British skeptic, Matthew Paris, who pointed out the benefits of Christian evangelism in South Africa. I mean, again, he wasn't a Christian.

But when he looked at it, what did he see? Yeah, he grew up in South Africa. I think he might have been a missionary's kid, but he strayed far from the faith and calls himself an atheist now.

But in it was in the Guardian newspaper, he wrote an article and said, I got to admit that aid programs alone don't solve the problems in Africa. People who just kind of toss bags of rice out of a helicopter or something, you know, that the Christians who are there really care and they express that care. So with their own hands, they hand out bowls of rice. And that's such a different thing than, say, the U.N., you know, just coming in and doing a job to distribute food. And he said, it's not enough to convert me, but I got to say, there's a huge difference in someone reaching out with their hands with acts of mercy.

It's just it's different. Well, and the idea, I think it explained that faith has made an impact. It's what makes the biggest impact in Africa. Boy, that's true. So many of those countries. There's a non-believer saying that. There's a non-believer saying that. And the statistic I've heard, Jim, is that today, this day, while we're sitting here, 30,000 people will become Christians in Africa today. Unlike in America. Happens every day. And so, I mean, that's the difference, right? It seems like the Spirit is at work in especially third world countries.

Yeah. I was asked to speak one time. It was probably when the century changed, the year 2000. And so I was speaking at this place and I went back and kind of reviewed church history to see what had happened in the last 2000 years. And of course, the movement started in the Middle East, but most of the places that Paul visited and wrote his letters to, there are no churches left there. They're all bulldozed. They're in Turkey.

They're in Muslim control or they're all gone. And then it went to Europe and was there for about a thousand years. And then things started changing. And then it jumped over to the United States and we were, and still are, the center of global outreach for the faith.

But the real exciting part of the faith is in places like the Philippines and the underground church in China and Africa. And I came up with this revelation that God moves. Not God moves, you know, but packs up his bag and moves.

Leaves the scene. Yeah, it used to be in the Middle East. Then he went to Europe. Then he went to the United States, North America, and then now he's all over the place.

And the real active parts are in a lot of the most challenging places in the world. And I concluded that God goes where he's wanted. And the more prosperous and stable a society gets, think of Europe, think of the United States now, then people say, well, I could be watching football on television on Sunday. I don't have to go to church. I could be doing, I could be just accumulating more and more.

Why should I care about poor people in the world? Right. We don't really need him as much. I mean, I don't mean that.

My life goes pretty well here. That's what we say. We do. And God never forces himself, never twists our arms. God just says, I'll find somebody who does need me and admits it and wants me.

Boy, that's so true. Philip, this has been so good. Thank you for being with me. I appreciate it. It's been a pleasure to discuss these things. We haven't solved them all, but a few along the way.

Yeah. Thank you so much. What a great two-part conversation, Jim, that you had with Philip Yancey. And for the listeners, a reminder that we're here for you to help in your spiritual journey. If this is the first time you're hearing about the gospel, the good news, or maybe you're rediscovering that message, as Philip did, get in touch with us. Our website has a free booklet you can download. It's called Coming Home, and it really is a nice readable summary of the gospel.

And you can find the link to that in the episode notes. And wherever you're at in your spiritual journey, we'd encourage you to get a copy of Philip's great book, Vanishing Grace. Consider making a monthly pledge or a one-time gift to focus on the family. And when you partner with us in ministry together, we'll send you Philip's book as our way of saying thank you.

Donate and get your copy of Vanishing Grace, Whatever Happened to the Good News, when you call 800-232-6459 or stop by the episode notes for the link. Do plan to join us next time as we offer encouragement and wisdom for parents of teenagers. They are going to be greatly influenced by our model, more than anything we say by our model. So if they turn out to be like me in this particular area, am I going to be happy with that?

If not, I need to be changing it now, and I need to go ahead and apologize for my past failures with this and make those changes. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ. I'm here asking people how they could both give and get. I don't know, maybe love? Yeah, you could both give and get love. True, but it's also possible with a charitable gift annuity. You get a secure source of fixed income and a charitable tax deduction. Plus, giving a charitable gift annuity to focus on the family helps families thrive for generations to come. I love that. Find out more. Go to That's
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-30 00:52:39 / 2023-04-30 01:06:25 / 14

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