It turns out that rock bottom isn’t the worst place to be. When you have nowhere else to turn, you realize we need renewal.
Mark Sayers has not written another book on the challenges that face the church in the West, though few would be better suited to do so. He’s written instead a handbook for not only surviving but even thriving in our secular age. Sayers is the author of Reappearing Church: The Hope for Renewal in the Rise of Our Post-Christian Culture, published by Moody. Sayers has written previous books, including Disappearing Church. And he is the senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia. Many listeners of Gospelbound may know Mark as the cohost with John Mark Comer of the podcast This Cultural Moment.
I appreciate Sayer’s view that we’re just not going to be smart or savvy or rich enough to meet the challenges of our post-Christian culture. So much is working against us in this world.
The whole of contemporary Western culture—from the structure of our malls and cities, to the very fabric of the internet and social media platforms—are ideologies that shape us toward a vision not rooted in the eternal, but in the unlimited freedom and pleasure of the individual.
But Sayers doesn’t just see challenges. He also sees opportunities. We talk about both in this episode of Gospelbound.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Collin Hansen: It turns out that rock-bottom isn’t the worst place to be. When you have nowhere else to turn, you realize we need renewal. Mark Sayers has not written another book on the challenges that face the church in the West, though few would be better than Mark to do so. He’s written instead a handbook for not only surviving, but even thriving in our secular age. Sayers is the author of Reappearing Church, the Hope for Renewal in the Rise of our Post-Christian Culture published by Moody.
Collin Hansen: He is the senior leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia. Many listeners of Gospelbound may know Mark as the cohost with John Mark Comer. The podcast is This Cultural Moment. I appreciate Mark’s view that we’re just not going to be smart or savvy or rich enough to meet the challenges of our post-Christian culture. So much is working against us in this world. He writes, “The whole of con temporary Western culture from the structure of our malls and cities to the very fabric of the internet and social media platforms are ideologies that shape us toward a vision not rooted in the eternal but in the unlimited freedom and pleasure of the individual.” But of course Mark doesn’t just see challenges, he also sees opportunities and we’re going to talk about both those challenges and opportunities in this interview. Thank you for joining me on Gospelbound, Mark.
Mark Sayers: Absolute pleasure.
Collin Hansen: Well early on in your book, you point to the communists as an example from which Christians should learn. How’s that supposed to work?
Mark Sayers: I guess it’s not so much the communists as in Manko Douglas Hart, who was the editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper in mid century in the UK who came to faith and wrote a book really challenging the church in a number of ways. But one way which really resonated with me is that the church was much larger than the communist party in Britain, yet he noticed that the communist party never saw itself as this beleaguered minority even though it technically was. And he saw the church there much larger seeing itself as this beleaguered minority. And that was in a time which many people would describe as Christendom. And yeah, so I think he looked at the way that they organized themselves and offered some ways forward. So no, I’m not advocating a new Christian communist synthesis, but I think he had an interesting point.
Collin Hansen: I thought I’d open there. That’d be appropriate for anybody who listens to your frequent references to Russia on This Cultural Moment, so I share a lot of that appreciation for Russia. So anyway, if culture is less caught than taught, Mark, and our street philosophy is more intuitive than rational, why do we spend so much time preaching, writing books, and recording podcasts like this?
Mark Sayers: Well, I think the two work in harmony, I think it’s not that one idea or thoughts somehow inferior to I guess the actions and disciplines and habits that form us. I think there’s a symbiotic relationship between the two. So I’m big into ideas and I love preaching and sharing ideas, but I’m also very aware that I wear this other hat, which is being a pastor who then sits with people afterwards, sees how they’re formed by culture outside of those things. And I think the two need to work together. And I think that’s how the church has always worked.
Collin Hansen: Yeah, I mean, is there, I’m a veteran as you are, of a lot of the debates about the emerging church and one of the most persistent critiques of the emerging church was we’ve got to stop this whole monologue of the sermon. And I was pushed back on that and still pushed back on that because I’m thinking, well, I mean, this is God’s word brought to bear through his ordained means for the good of building up his people. So I completely believe in that. And yet I’ve never suspected, and in fact I think not even our homiletics professors would even necessarily say this, that somehow most of our Christian discipleship comes through that kind of straight monologue information transfer. So it’s helped to understand where does that fit? I mean all the attention that we devote toward rational development at a time when people don’t seem particularly inclined toward rational argumentation.
Mark Sayers: Yeah, I think that what’s happening and I think things are actually moving incredibly quickly. Even since I wrote this book, I think things are moving quickly with a culture and a new phase. And I just read over the Christmas holidays, Martin Gurri’s book called Revolts of the Public and he was a CIA analyst who studied the effect of increasing information on the public. And I think that is that in 2010 the amount of information that existed from the beginning to where humans are at then, doubled in a year and then doubled again the next year. So he says that’s radically changed the world and people now have far more information at their fingertips. If you go back to 300 years ago, the preacher was often the most educated person in a town or a village or in the city. They often, at the beginning in England at the beginning of service, they would give local news as part of the announcements.
Mark Sayers: And so you this preacher as sole arbiter in many places of information and thinking. Now I actually think that we’re at a new place where people, it’s not that they don’t have enough information, they’ve got too much information and I think the preacher is increasingly taking the role of someone who interprets and actually guides a way through that information. And so I think preaching the word, and John Stott talked about, that way of preaching in two worlds, but I think that’s even getting a greater resonance now because people are just like, “Man, I’m getting so many gospels coming at me.” And I mean that by secular gospels if you like. How do you preach the gospel? They’re wanting people to guide them. And one of the big surprises I’ve seen in the last two years is people turning up.
Mark Sayers: I mean, I said this would never happen. People turning up to church, complete cold turkey here in Australia, completely untraditional, multigenerational, unchurched. And they’re turning up because they’re coming to the end of themselves and actually wanting someone to guide them through this information avalanche and this fragmented culture. And the word brings new possibilities. And the good news goes out and creates new things in us. It remakes us. And so I think there’s a new form of doing that now. And I don’t mean say like, “Let’s do some new kind of preaching,” but I think preaching hasn’t gone away. It’s super important, particularly in this moment.
Collin Hansen: All right, so I’m just going to hijack this podcast. Now I’m going to ask you to do some church consulting for me. We’re in a mega church context, but it’s only gotten there in a couple of years. Mostly young people, probably average age, mid twenties or so in our church, a couple thousand people or so coming regularly. We had a debate among our elders about theological vision and we all recognize that biblical and theological literacy is pretty low in general in our culture and especially in our non denominational context and with converts, we’re not just handed a bunch of Baptists or Presbyterians who have been well catechized for example. So we sense a strong need to be able to deliver information and teaching to them. At the same time, many of our converts are coming through their exposure to our community.
Collin Hansen: They seem to be assimilated into a group of people that they want to become and be like in contrast, what they’ve experienced in the world. And then in the process of our community, they become formed and socialized into many of the beliefs that we teach and reinforce through classes and through our preaching and whatnot. So if you’re advising a church like ours, do you say, “Well, what they need of course is an extensive Bible literacy training program because they just don’t know history Bible theology well enough?” Or do you say, “Well no, instead let’s really focused on community because that seems to be the leading edge of so much of your evangelistic witness there.” I know they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but in churches we’re dealing with limited resources.
Mark Sayers: I do think you can do both. And I think that both are there. I mean I think your point that we’re increasingly having people come to us who are less formed and in some ways I thought about when I read the histories of revivals, it’s like you have a very low point, so the 1700s was a low point. And then there was a series of almost aftershock revivals is a way of putting it. And I feel like where we’ve come now, it is so much of that received knowledge has been forgotten. It was passed on generationally, but we’re getting to an end of particularly a couple of generations have rebelled against previous generations. And we’re in an age which questions authority.
Mark Sayers: So people are coming, but they’re looking for… I think it’s actually an opportunity because what they’re looking, “I want truth, but I also want to see how to live and I want to see that you’re doing it as well.” So for me, I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive. I think we can preach the word, we can preach theologically, we can preach a theological vision which connects with the need that they’re seeing in the world. And then through a lived discipleship, embody that. And I think on the resource sense as well, a lot of this can just happen relationally. If you’ve got people who are in your church who are, particularly with young adults, there’s a hunger to now be… They’ve got enough peers, they’re overdosing on peers, they sit and look at their phone, they know what their peers are doing at any moment.
Mark Sayers: Put them with an older, wiser believer, they love that. And we’re seeing real fruit and friendships go across generations. So I think, yeah, the community is a discipleship tool. So I would say do both.
Collin Hansen: Let’s do a little bit more analysis then of the cultural situation we’re in. You offer description in reappearing church of the post-Christian pattern of personal renewal. Just give us that street level perspective on what human flourishing looks like from the post-Christian perspective.
Mark Sayers: Yeah, well I think one of the things that people need to understand about post-Christianity is often the way post-Christianity was taught was we’re back at ground zero. Tabula rasa, everything’s just clean slate. But really in many ways the skeleton of Christianity continues or faith, but all the internal organs and flesh is gone. So it’s so interesting how people in the West talk about a sense of what it is to flourish as a human being, but almost use this Christian language. The person who had a terrible misfortune but then fought their way back and as rebirth when they discovered this career or this romantic relationship or they moved to Thailand or they’ve got this great skill and so many of our personal success stories just look at biographies, success stories, you can look at that, have that Christian salvific language around it.
Mark Sayers: And I think there’s multiple ones. I don’t think there’s one, one anymore. There is the business-y entrepreneur when Donald Trump is sort of that story. He portrays that story. There’s the person who health is becoming this really interesting one as well. And it’s almost puritanical now with health, like clean living. I expunged the toxins in my body of anything like toxins and bad foods like sin and I ate my way to this better thing and now I’m glowing on a beach somewhere. So we see that when we’re preaching the gospel, we’re actually in a sense having to do our apologetics, not just again say, “Here’s the worldview of Buddhism or atheism.” Often when we’re doing apologetics, it’s actually against the secular post-Christian personal renewal stories.
Collin Hansen: I love that you mentioned Thailand. I don’t know why it’s always Thailand, but that seems to be the place.
Mark Sayers: It’s always Thailand.
Collin Hansen: Yeah, that quasi Buddhist mentality in there seems to work. I mean with health it’s not merely that puritanical or even Levitical views of contamination and things like that, but also you get your church, you get your congregation as well, your gym or others who you’re selling your product to. And so you have your rituals and it really does become an alternative religion there. We’re on the wrong side as Christians of a cultural narrative that says that we, you and I and the rest of us, are standing in the way of progress and utopia. I think that’s what Charles Taylor would call a subtraction story of the West. Just subtract Christianity and you’d see this human flourishing there. How do we as Christians flip that narrative?
Mark Sayers: I think it’s flipping itself and part of my theory as I was writing the book, but I’ve seen it even more prevalent, is I think Christians need to realize there’s an element where during Christen, we had the ball and the ball was moving culture to a future flourishing. Secularism is taking the ball off us and many people lament that. But the positive side of that is like, “Okay, you go guys, create your utopia. Let’s see how you do with that.” Currently the world, as we speak, is going through Coronavirus fright, a scare. And the World Health Organization just announced it’s now global emergency. That’s in China, but what’s interesting is one mile from here where I grew up, the mall where I grew up, it’s empty now.
Mark Sayers: It’s a highly Chinese area and Chinese New Year has been canceled on Saturday, which is a big event around here. There’s people walking past my house with masks on and there’s been people affected in this area with Coronavirus. And that just shows how our message of, “We’re going to connect the world. The world’s just going to instantly get better. We’re going to get rid of disease, we’re going to get rid of all of these things,” and here’s a story we’re hang on. That’s not happening in the way that we thought. In fact, globalization, and this is not an argument against globalization, but this is a lot more complex than we thought. The political realm has actually delivered results that are not what we exactly thought. Running the world and moving into a progressive utopian future is not as simple as we thought, so there’s an element where I think we’re moving from a post-Christian, progressive, dominant narrative to now wanting to increase fragmentation. I think you have… Or do you have a follow up question there? I could see-
Collin Hansen: Well, yeah. No, that’s just one of the benefits of being able to talk that because I was wondering the what’s next? Because we’d love to imagine that we’ve reached the end of history and we know, “Oh well Jesus is going to come back.” And then Jesus comes back or everybody turns back to the church. We’re all post-millennials now and then, which is not just getting older, it means actually the kingdom has come in our midst. But I think you answered the question there, which is, well there’s no one next, next is everybody doing their own thing within their own subculture I assume. So it’s like cable TV just evolving into a million different streaming services and everybody now has their customized experience. Is that more of what you’re expecting?
Mark Sayers: Yes, and a way to put this I guess in an American context as well, is that we understand that, yeah, with cable streaming, it’s gone into multiple streaming networks or multiple websites, but it’s interesting because America in a sense politically still has this zombie category, which is two networks. So we’ve got the left and the right network and that’s still defined so much of the Christian conversation in America, but it’s being absolutely undermined as we speak. The Republican party has split into different factions. The Democrats are currently splitting into different factions and also what’s happening is in the West, imagination goes backwards. So particularly politically, we look back and people on the right are afraid of the return of socialism. People on the left are afraid of the return of fascism. Everyone’s like, “Watch out for fascism, watch for socialism.”
Mark Sayers: But in the world, there’s entire new political entities arising. China has just drafted a new political document going forward, which is its attempt to undo individual rights and liberalism in the world. They have a global projector to actually then promote this through the world. Things like China, other countries are going to absolutely subvert so many of our Western understandings and that disruption is going to be the next thing. So disruption is going to be normative for a while, but I see a tremendous advantage in that. So what that means is it’s not like here’s the Christians and then there’s the culture. It’s now Christians and the cultures. And what’s so interesting is all those cultures feel beleaguered so everyone feels beleaguered. Hollywood just had its feelings hurt as Ricky Gervais made fun of it at the Golden Globes and now they feel beleaguered.
Mark Sayers: Like, hang on, everyone’s beleaguered.
Collin Hansen: It’s the way you get power is by claiming victimhood Tom Holland would say it’s a bastardization of the way that Christians through the crucifixion, well, Jesus Christ himself through the crucifixion then ended up valorizing in bringing glory into the greatest victimization there through the resurrection there. So now we have a culture that’s incredibly Christian and thoroughly Christian and it’s expectations that there’s power within victimhood, at the same time is lacking the entire purpose of it. Which leads to what I was wanting to ask about the secular progressive myth, which you say wants the fruit of God’s kingdom without the king. So how can we as Christians help them to see that you can only get them together?
Mark Sayers: Yes, yes. And I think part of that is a learned lesson that we’re seeing. And I think that there is a point where so much of what we’re dealing with, particularly in the world at the moment, is an interrelationship between an increasing world of fantasy and online, which even our political conversation has gone to. And then what happens in the real world. And so I think the church is actually doing an incredible job. There’s the book I read recently, or read parts of it recently, I’ve completely forgotten the name, but it’s a guy who traveled across America, he’s not a believer, but he just would go to… People said, “You’re in this town, don’t go to that neighborhood,” he would go to that neighborhood and he found two things. McDonald’s-
Collin Hansen: Chris Arnade, Dignity.
Mark Sayers: Yes, yes. He would go to the McDonald’s, and the McDonald’s would be this gathering point to the other thing he said is in all those communities, there’s a church open. And he said that the public meetings all the churches against these people, transgender people, et cetera. But they would go to these churches and many of them were theologically orthodox, but they would be accepting all those people. And I’ve seen that on the ground. My first ever trip to the United States was to visit a gang-infested area. And I went into a prison and it was the Christians going into the prison. And that’s here in Australia. The church is so often the ones first welcoming refugees in these people.
Mark Sayers: I was part of the Salvation Army for 10 years and the huge lion’s share that they carry for people who are poor in my country. So there’s an element where I think we’re listening to a conversation that’s often disconnected from reality. Let’s keep doing what we’re doing and humans live in the real world. And I think we’ve got to fall back in love with the real world. Part of I think what this secular, post-Christian thing does or this world of images and ethereal internet culture that’s defining who we are, but actually let’s connect back where we are, which is real people in the real world, living in flesh gospel and following Jesus who rose from the dead. Yeah.
Collin Hansen: I’m so excited about this book because when I set out 10 years ago to work on a book on the history of revivals, which became the book A God-Sized Vision, I just didn’t see a lot of other people talking about it, but that’s really the heartbeat behind reappearing church. And you say that the study of history shows that God moves when it looks like the church is slipping into unalterable decline. Give a couple examples of that from history.
Mark Sayers: I would say one example where in the 18th century, the church was actually in quite a significant problem. The beginnings of the industrial revolution as people were moving out of the system, which Christendom understood, which was this parish system, which was primarily based around agriculture and urban centers became huge. And the beginnings of globalization and empires, people were sent all over the world to places like the United States, the Caribbean, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the church faced this tremendous challenge. And I can’t remember exactly what year it is, but there was a year, particularly at [inaudible 00:22:21], that gigantic cathedral in London, built by Christopher Wren the great fire of London in 1666. It was something like six people turned up to Easter service. Now we’re not used to hearing those stories.
Mark Sayers: The first church service in Australia in the 18th century, it was the chaplain had to build this church and it was a handful of people turned up to this 500 seat auditorium I think was the number. And we’re not used to hearing those stories. The American West, was quite an unchurched place. And then you had this tremendous move of God that began, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, kicked off in Ireland, spread all across the world at that moment. I mean we’re living through a contemporary one at the moment. For many years, there was a church in what is today, Iran in Persia. And there were missionaries who went there, there was a local trip, there was an Armenian church, which was primarily just around the… People just struggled so hard to actually bring Persians to faith.
Mark Sayers: And the church looked like it was in decline, particularly when the Islamic revolution and the Ayatollah came back from France in 1979. But then what we’re seeing in the last 10 years, we’ve seen more Persians come to faith than in the last 10 centuries. And that is something happening in the world. At my church, we’ve got people turning up who are Persian people and through just crazy stories, people who are catching refugee boats with people’s smugglers and coming to Australia, somewhere in the sea between Indonesia and Australia having seen Jesus. And they’re telling you this story, I’m not used to hearing these stories and dreams and that’s going into Turkey. A lot of people have gone there. It’s going to Afghanistan, it’s revitalizing churches in Scandinavia. So there’s actually these renewals happening and I think they’re really important to tell these stories as a form of narrative warfare against the dominant story of secularism.
Collin Hansen: Narrative warfare, I am going to steal that from you and hopefully I’ll credit you for it. But people will know, they’ll remember that-
Mark Sayers: It’s not mine.
Collin Hansen: Well it’s actually a book that I’m working on now because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do that I think… Well let me ask you how you navigate this. So many people I know who know the most of what’s happening about the world are the most pessimistic about it. You might say that they’re the most sober. They can rattle off for you that the 10 terrible things that you probably didn’t know about that are probably going to kill us all in the next generation or so. And you’re clearly somebody who’s well in touch with those things. And yet those people do tend to at the same time be the most pessimistic. It’s almost like it’d be better the alternative of just not knowing anything, getting out of that fake world of online that you talked about or at least the online world and just get in that real world and almost just close your ears. You’d almost be better off doing that. So how do you navigate that where you know so much and you’re so well read about what’s happening, but you’re not discouraged, you’re actually really encouraged about what God’s doing.
Mark Sayers: Well, I think I was profoundly discouraged for a number of years and I think two things happened. One is I think things began to change and there was almost this inevitability that I’d bought into that the church which is going to face this slow decline, then my life would just, let’s just hang on guys. And if I can just keep almost the people we’ve gotten, maybe if a couple of people come to faith, that’s good. But as I saw the actual… I guess I’ve tried to read culture for many years, but actually see these profound shifts in the last few years and see them optimistically. I’m not invested in Western secular, democratic liberalism, great project. I live in a very democratic liberal country, which has the second highest wealthiest people in the world. So I benefit from that. But I don’t believe that we can have utopia without God.
Mark Sayers: So as that project is questioned, it’s opening all these faith questions. And just little stories like people I know, guys I know who I’ve known for 30 40 years who have been disinterested in faith, who are now asking me questions. Just little leaped realities like that. The second thing too is that I read the read through the Gospels a couple of years ago and just one word that just kept bumping out at me was, “Do not be afraid.” Jesus continually, he just says again and again, “Do not be afraid.” And if we really believe in Jesus that he has history moving towards his ends, that he defeated death. He defeated the powers and principalities, they were humiliated on the cross. That I actually am called then to be a bearer of good news that I am actually called to preach the gospel, which it’s not just news for a bad time, it’s good news.
Mark Sayers: And I guess to add a third, I mean I just read through Damian Sandberg’s Two Histories of the United Kingdom during the ‘70s and what struck me was you’ve got 1970s, what are the big issues? You’ve got should Britain be in the European Union? Terrorism, economic stagnation, gender fluidity, David Bowie, gender norms disappearing, the sexual revolution, how schools were being changed with now a Neo Marxists supposedly new curriculum. And there was differences, but so many more realities. But it was actually worse. The IRA were just bombing people and shooting people in central London and Birmingham and these places. You had an oil crisis. So many things we’re going through are actually nowhere near as bad as what’s happened in the past. So there is also an element that I think the incident brings it all so close. Yeah, so I think that that’s what keeps me optimistic. At the center, it’s ultimately God.
Collin Hansen: Did you read Ross Douthat recently talked about this. He wrote about the decade of the 2010’s that just concluded, depending on how you count your time, but said, “Isn’t an amazing, we’re so anxious about what happened, nothing really happened in the last 10 years, not compared to the previous decade when, what’s the difference? Why do we feel so much worse about it?” And best answer I can come up with is our smartphones. I mean we are just bombarded. I mean you said earlier, there’s the doubling of information that’s come out just seems we’re a wash in bad news, which is a largely technological development, but it’s radically affecting our perception of things. And ultimately I fear it’s eroding our faith and instead of… We’re doing our best to try to contextualize. But as somebody I recently read said we really need to be focusing on textualizing ourselves more to the scripture.
Collin Hansen: So a key spiritual practice, of course you identified there is just familiarizing ourselves with the promises of God and choosing to trust them as more important than anything else that we could read. The only true words there. I want to conclude with a couple more questions. Again, my guest is Mark Sayers, author of Reappearing Church, the Hope for Renewal in the Rise of our Post Christian Culture. These are a little bit more focused on inside the church. The first one’s kind of negative. The next one’s more positive. You observe at several points that the most spiritually unhealthy and immature Christians often set the tone for our congregations and resist renewal. Help us diagnose a bit of what that looks like.
Mark Sayers: Yeah, I mean I think that there’s two elements. I mean the impression you get from reading the book of Acts, reading Paul’s letters is it wasn’t a picnic early church at all times. We had false teachers coming in, we had people who were going lukewarm in their faith, we had people who were doing all kinds of crazy things that we can identify with today that we see. So there’s going to be a dynamic, at any stage, in any place in history, in any culture where there are people in the church who are in need of renewal. And there’s going to be people who resist that renewal as well, who don’t want to be on board, who their flesh resists what’s going on. Now overlaying that, I think the particular difficulties is two things.
Mark Sayers: Number one is we live in the age which is currently being destroyed about the age of public opinion that somehow we could craft a message that appeal to everyone and kept everyone happy. And politics went like that through ’89 to probably 2010. We can have this anodyne message that marketing can give us with focus groups and you can keep everyone on site. It’s just not real, it’s being destroyed in politics, arts, culture, everything. And in the church there’s an element that when you bring a gospel message, a sanctification message, that’s going to challenge people. There’s going to be people who push back on that. The other thing that I would say too is that also making that more of a challenge, and I bounce off this in the book, but Edwin Friedman who I cite in the book, who was a family therapist, systems therapist and a rabbi.
Mark Sayers: He talks about how in the modern world, and it says in human communities, anxiety is infectious. So at the moment, we have the Coronavirus and there is a Coronavirus but more pandemic than the Coronavirus is actually anxiety around it. So humans will naturally feed off each other’s anxiety and you put that public opinion, public relations concept, we can keep everyone happy alongside the fact that anxiety is infectious. What that means is leadership is increasingly not being determined by the anxiety in the room. And so Friedman would say that part of a leader is someone who exhibits a non-anxious presence. Now Friedman’s answer to that is almost to do that through an active super will, personal will. I’m not that good. But when I read Friedman, I agree with his diagnoses, but I don’t think most people, let alone me, can do that, pull that off.
Mark Sayers: But I do know that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. And so me being close to him, walking close to him, allowing scriptures to wage narrative warfare on me, my bad scripts to be remade into Christ’s image, I’m going to become a person of peace when I’m following the Prince of Peace. So I think that’s a new form of leadership rather than continually reactive. I mean, you see like giant companies now reactively responding to three people writing a bad comment on Facebook about their product. It’s madness. And so we can be like that. And so I think there’s a new form of courageous leadership that’s the less like, “Let’s fight that bear.” Rather it’s, “I’m going to stand here and there’s a lot of people in the room anxious, but I’m trusting in Jesus. He’s close to me and I’m going to tell a good news story that actually brings everyone with me.”
Collin Hansen: Well you led right into my last question because is there anything else you would add? It really stood out to me, Christian leadership that’s self differentiated in an anxious age. Maybe just give people some of that technical language because I think you just described it right there. That’s what it looks like. Just help people to understand what you mean in terms of self-differentiation and how that communicates in an anxious age.
Mark Sayers: Well, I think self-differentiation is understanding there is a natural boundary between you and others. And what’s interesting is if you look at scripture, boundaries are a huge part of scripture. The temple was this boundary which kept holiness and uncleanness separated. And the old temple is gone, but there’s a new temple here, but there’s still elements of boundaries around holiness and we can often think of that same with sexual sin or financial impropriety. There is an element that I need a boundary to actually other people’s toxic emotions, which are so prevalent today to actually be differentiated from that. And what’s different again today? Exactly, it’s on our phone. It comes to our pockets all around. News goes so quickly and increasingly many young adults live in a world of constant anxiety. It’s become cultural. So a leader is someone who has a good boundary.
Mark Sayers: It’s like, “Yeah, I can understand this is going on. I need to lead these people, but I’m not going to let that affect me.” And if I could just speak to pastors and perhaps even young pastors. So often our metric is actually going horizontal and sideways and” our marker is like, Oh, what am I friends doing? My friend on Instagram is doing this.” We’re looking for our markers and our metrics horizontally. But as I read Revival History, all of the people who got used powerfully had this hidden place. Moody had this moment where he’s walking in New York, and he goes through his friend’s house, he says, “I just need to [inaudible 00:35:10] room.” He goes upstairs and God just profoundly meets him and marks his life. Every single person I read had one of those moments. So there’s that hidden place, which is our life with God. That’s the fount where the self-differentiation comes out at. That needs to be where our ministry is driven from. And that’s where spiritual authority comes from, where we meet Jesus in a hidden place.
Collin Hansen: Great place to end it, Mark. My guest on Gospelbound has been Mark Sayers, author of Reappearing Church, the Hope for Renewal in the Rise of our Post-Christian Culture, published by Moody.
Mark Sayers: Thank you so much.