The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“What Christian Leaders Need to Know to Model God’s Grace“
July 6, 2020
Intro: As leaders in Christian organizations, we have the rare opportunity in the midst of this pandemic and social upheaval to influence our workplace culture and the world at large. Listen in as best-selling author Philip Yancey encourages us to be different by reaching out and exhibiting grace. Listen in as he encourages us to be healers and bridge builders in our divided world.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button, and receive our free action guide.
If you can share this podcast with others, and rate it, it would mean a lot to me. Thank you.
And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
Philip Yancey is one of the most popular and revered Christian writers on the planet. His 30 books have sold 15 million copies. His best sellers include The Jesus I Never Knew and Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference. Among his many well-read books is one that speaks to the upheavals and uncertainties of our present time. What my guest, Philip Yancey, has to share with you in the next few minutes will really touch you, wherever you live, I know, and work, where and however you’re seeking to follow Jesus.
So how’s that for an intro? Philip Yancey, welcome to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Philip Yancey: Thank you. And I love that name, Flourishing Culture. That’s what we both want, right?
Al: It is, yeah.
So, well, here we are, Philip, in our virtual-meeting space. I’m sitting here on Mercer Island, a suburb of Seattle, and you’re sheltering in place somewhere today. Where are you?
Philip: I’m in the mountains of Colorado, not far from Breckenridge. I’m actually looking out over a lake with two snowcapped mountains in the background. It’s a pretty great place. If you can’t write here, find another occupation.
Al: That’s a beautiful place. I’ve been there many times.
You know, Philip, I have to ask, how has your world shifted in light of COVID-19?
Philip: Day to day, it has not changed all that much. I sit in my basement office and click on a computer, as I used to do. So my day-to-day routine has not changed, but my outlook on the whole world has turned upside down. And I hope that’s something we don’t forget. Really, the heroes of today are people like teachers. If you had to take your kids back in and started doing what teachers used to do, you appreciate teachers now; janitors, healthcare workers. We found out we can get along without these celebrities that make $20 million a year, or athletes. You can actually get along without all professional sports, as we’ve had to do. Let’s value the people who are really essential to our society. And it’s a good wakeup call for us, I think.
Al: Yeah. I’ve got a daughter who’s a teacher and just to see the way she’s had to change and transform and work online, and truly a hero, as you say, as well as healthcare workers, of course. I’ve been on the board of a hospital here in the Seattle area, and just to know of the impact of frontline healthcare workers is just huge.
You’ve done a video-based curriculum workbook from your book Vanishing Grace, and in it you say, “God’s desire is for those of us who have drunk deeply of His grace to offer its healing balm in a world of division and discord.” What did this “world of division and discord” look like when you were writing this back in 2013 or ‘14 or so? It seems like that was a pretty peaceful time back then, relatively speaking.
Philip: Well, the divisions were starting. This was written before the 2016 election, and then exposed what those divisions were really all about. If you look at the electoral map, it’s pretty clear: the blue states are on the west and on the northeast, on the coast. And those 30 states in the middle, there’re only five of them that are blue; all the rest are red. So it’s a divided nation, that’s clear.
And even back then, you heard about the growth of nones, people who clicked that I have no religious affiliation. And that’s increased even since then. So maybe about a third of young people claim no religious affiliation. They’re nones, none of the above.
In addition to that, we’ve got other religions due to immigration, a lot of other religions from Asia, particularly. Those potential divides were already showing themselves in 2012, 2013, ‘14. And then they really broke into the open with the election in 2016.
Al: Yeah. In the book you write about a great divide, so tell us a little more about that.
Philip: Yes. The reason I wrote this book came from a statistic I read out of the George Barna survey people. And in 1996, they went to ordinary people, a variety of people, who were not declared Christians and would ask them, “If you had a Christian neighbor, or the Christians you know, do you look on them favorably or unfavorably?” Well, in 1996, not that long ago, 85 percent of people said, “Oh, favorably. I’m not one myself, but they seem to be good people, good neighbors. Yeah, I like them.” In 2009, just 13 years later, they asked the same question, and only 16 percent—from 85 percent to 16 percent. Something happened in there to turn people off to what a Christian is. We are not conveying grace, I guess is the way I would say it. And I didn’t know—I lived through that period, and I didn’t know the answer to that question, what happened? And I’ve learned now that whenever I don’t know the answer to a question, it’s a good time to write a book because if I can find out the answer, I can spend time researching, talking to people, and find out. And a lot of it has to do with the politicization of our culture.
Now, if you go out and interview people, “What is an evangelical?,” for example, “What is a Christian?,” if you say the word evangelical, they think, “Oh, that’s a lobby group. That’s a right-wing lobby group.” And that is so different than my understanding of what the church is supposed to be and was in the New Testament in the early days of the church. We’re not a political lobby group. We’re in some ways counter-culture, in some ways very pro culture. And that’s why I wrote the book.
Al: In the book you go on to identify three kinds of what you call grace dispensers—I love the term grace dispenser—so pilgrims, activists, and artists. And I know I’m not an activist, probably not an artist; I guess that makes me a pilgrim. I’ve done the Camino de Santiago walk, 500 miles.
Philip: Whoa. Very good.
Al: Everybody that does that’s called a pilgrim. So, what are these three grace dispensers? How do you define those? I’d love to talk about that a little bit.
Philip: Sure. Let me give you a couple of different words than the ones I use there. There are people who are culture shapers and then people who are culture shakers. These are Christians. Culture shapers would be people like artists, those in music, the media, business—you’re in that field yourself—education. They’re trying to shape culture. And then there are people that are culture shakers. They would be the activists. They’re not satisfied with things that are going on. So they start movements or they join movements for justice on behalf of the poor. I’ve gotten to know some of them, and I’m sure you have, too.
An outstanding example is Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission. This attorney who has recruited a whole cadre of attorneys to go around the world, freeing people caught up in slavery, sexual trafficking, things like that. Another great example of a culture shaker would be Bryan Stevenson. There’s a movie about him called Just Mercy. Bryan’s a fine Christian. He started a museum that commemorates lynching and all the people who were lynched. And he has shaken culture. He’s changed the way we handle the death penalty and death row.
Those would be what I would call culture shapers and shakers. The shapers would be artists—that’s a phrase I use in the book—and the shakers would be the activists.
Okay, that leaves us pilgrims. Who are pilgrims? Pilgrims to me is more of a style. A lot of people think Christians are up on a pedestal. They look down on other people. And actually, no, they’re not. We’re pilgrims. We’re not even necessarily more holy than other people. But we know we’re not making it. We know we’re relying on the grace of God, and we are trying to follow Jesus. And that doesn’t make us saints. We’re pilgrims.
And if you go back to that great book, Pilgrim’s Progress, he makes about every mistake you can meet. You meet a person, and he chooses a bad character—not a good character—as his companion. He falls down. He chooses the wrong path. But every time, he lets God pick him up, and he keeps walking. And I think if we came across more as people who have drunk deeply of grace and get another chance, let God pick us up, wipe the dirt off, and put us back on the path, then we would be a lot more attractive and appealing to the people around us.
Al: I love those descriptions. You know, in some ways, many of the people listening to this podcast are culture shapers, whether they realize it or not, because they’re intentionally, through their actions, shaping the culture of the organization that they’re in. I love that term. We use the term culture builder when we think about internal organizational culture developers, culture builders, yeah. So I love your term culture shaper, an artist, somebody that is actually helping to shape through design culture. Am I getting that right?
Philip: You are. A few years ago, a book came out called Radical by David Platt. And he was pastor. He said, “Man, we got to take Jesus literally here. We need to do radical things.” So I think for a year they gave away all their offerings to foreign missions. Very noble thing. Well, then, a couple years later, someone else came out with a book called Ordinary. It was a philosophy professor, I think. I think out of the Christian Reformed tradition. He said, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Yeah, you’re right. But somebody’s got to build the schools. Somebody’s going to create the art. Somebody’s got to make society better, to train the next generation.” And we’re all kind of on that spectrum. There are some like a Gary Haugen, a David Platt, Bryan Stevenson, who are called to be a radical. And we admire them. I support them. I’m not one of them. Actually, I sit in my office, clicking on a computer. So I have kind of an ordinary life, but I still have to come to terms with the radical claims and commands of Jesus. And I think all of us are somewhere in that spectrum.
Al: And they are radical claims, there’s no question about that.
Philip: Well, they are. Yeah.
Al: And really are even testing us at this time in our culture.
In part three of the book, you tee up three questions that every Christian needs to consider. You call these three the God question, the human question, and the social question. So walk us through these three questions. I found this to be quite interesting.
Philip: Sure. The God question, I think, is the most basic, and that is the issue, are we alone? Many people in universities, you would hear that this whole universe is just an act of randomness. There’s nothing behind it. It just kind of came into being on its own. We’re not accountable to anybody. We’re not responsible to anybody. There is no God. That is more and more of the prevailing worldview of people around us. Certainly in academia. And fortunately, we have some prophetic voices of people who were raised in that environment, and I’m thinking of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia back then, especially. They were raised in “no God” societies, and they stood up later very courageously and said, “These societies are based on lies. And the reason is, there’s no one they’re accountable to. So they despoil the environment, they lie, they invade countries. They do all these different things because there’s no God,” they believed, “and so they’re not responsible to anybody. They don’t have to pay.” And Solzhenitsyn particularly very prophetically reminded us, “You need to be aware that what happened, as I look back on the history of Russia in the 20th century, so much can be explained by the fact that they stopped believing in God.” And he pointed his finger at the West and said, “Don’t follow down that same path. You will regret it.” So that’s the basic God question.
The human question is related, in a way. Why are we here? If you don’t believe in a God, you could say, “Well, we’re here just to indulge ourselves. It’s all about me. Just to enjoy ourselves.” So more and more, we have a society that honors values like sex, wealth, and success. Or the scientists would say, “Well, we’re here by accident, but we’re mainly here to perpetuate our genes. So that’s why we should go about doing. We should try to improve the gene pool.”
Jesus reverses that, though. He says, “It’s not the broad way. That really doesn’t lead you to the true enjoyment of life, to finding your life. It’s the narrow way.” In fact, the statement Jesus makes, it’s repeated more often in the Gospels than any other— six times—goes something like this: you don’t find your life by acquiring, by getting more and more. You find your life by giving it away. And in the very process of giving it away and serving others, you find your life. That’s where you find true meaning. It’s where you find true satisfaction. And boy, those are different ways of looking at the world. To pleasure myself or to give myself away.
And then the social question is the question of, how should we live? That’s actually a great question to be asking in the middle of a virus epidemic, pandemic, where 115,000, 120,000 people already have died. And in New York, even though it’s a huge city, people tell me almost everyone knows someone close to them who died. It’s a good time to think about death.
I went through an automobile accident where I had a broken neck, and they thought maybe one of the bones had punctured a major artery. And they said, “If it has, you’ve really only got a few minutes to live, here.” And I’m lying there, strapped down, unable to move. And as I thought about it, I thought, “Well, what is it worth spending those three minutes on, if that’s all I have?” And I came up with three questions, and that is, who do I love? Who am I going to call in the next few minutes and say goodbye? Who do I love, what have I done with my life, and am I ready for whatever is next?
And that’s how I should be living my life. How should I live? I should live them in light of those three questions. It goes back to the God question. If you believe there is no God, how should you live? Well, any way you want to. But if you believe there is a God, any way God wants you to. It’s a profound difference.
Al: Yeah, the God question, the human question, the social question. Wow. As you say, the human question, it’s over and over and over, it’s not about me. It’s really we need to give our life away, not try to bring things just selfishly to us. And yeah, I love what you’re saying. And I’m even thinking about, again, as leaders in a sense of Christian workplaces and Christian-led organizations, how we need to remind ourselves of every once in a while asking these kinds of questions. Are we alone? Well, no. The human question, why are we here? Yeah. And then, how should we then live?
Well, Philip, at the Best Christian Workplaces, we’ve come alongside leaders who have done the hard work to equip and inspire their people to build a better, healthier workplace culture. And in your mind, what do today’s Christians leaders need to know to incarnate and thus model God’s grace?
Philip: I used to be in business. I was the editor of a magazine, and I didn’t know anything about leadership. I was too young. So I kind of learned it on the job. And since then, I’ve been a freelancer, so I’m not much of a leader, although now I have one half-time employee. But thinking back on my days at the magazine, being a leader is a bit like being a parent. What your goal as a parent is not to have that child always do what you want them to do. Your goal is to grow an independent human being, to nourish a thriving human being—which goes back to your title of the Flourishing Culture—to create a flourishing culture so that under your leadership they reach as much potential as they possibly can. And, of course, you know, you have different tasks that have to get done, obviously. But the leadership qualities that I respect are things like humility, integrity, meaning, providing meaning in the work so the person thinks, “I’m not just a cog in the wheel. I’m somebody who’s actually contributing to a meaningful task here,” and to create an atmosphere of trust and justice. So many workplaces are defined by cutthroat competition and jealousies and suspicion, and that’s a terrible environment to try to get things done. The best way is to have a true team where everybody feels I’m valuable, I’m contributing, and I’m growing. If a leader can do that, to me that’s a successful leader.
Al: Yeah. I really like what you’re saying, Philip. To grow and nourish people so that they can reach their human potential. Their God-given potential is oftentimes the way I like to think of that. And with those core character qualities of humility, integrity, and eight drivers of an engaged workplace, and one of them is called life-giving work. So as you described giving meaning to people in the work that they’re doing, we describe that as creating an environment where the work they’re doing is life giving.
Philip: Wow, that’s good.
Al: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
I’m thinking of the familiar saying as an author, you begin to write a book, and then sooner or later, the book begins to write you. I’m in the process of doing a little writing myself. Where does God’s grace begin to do a number on you, especially as you’re writing about grace and God’s grace and particularly with your own personal background? How is God working with you on this?
Philip: I wrote a book years ago, back in 1997, called What’s So Amazing About Grace? And actually the working title was different. The working title was What’s So Amazing About Grace, and Why Don’t Christians Show More of It? And the publisher convinced me, “Well, that’s a little in-your-face. And besides, that title won’t fit on the spine of the book on the bookshelf.” So we shortened it. But that’s what I had in mind back in 1997. And I started asking people sitting next to me on the airplane or just a casual conversation, “When I say the word Christian, what is the first thing that comes to mind?” And they would very often say, oh, polite or moral or virtuous, or sometimes a little derogatory like holier-than-thou or looks down on me. You know, something like that. But not one time did they ever say something grace-like. They didn’t say, “Oh, those are the people that forgive easily. Those are the people who love their enemies. Those are the people who hang around people who are different than they are.”
When I read the Gospels, I just saw that all the way through, the way Jesus reached out to people who were unlike Him, not people who were like Him. It really doesn’t take much grace to be around people who are just like you, think like you, vote like you, dress like you. But it takes a lot of grace to be around people who are offensive to you, who see the world in a very different way, who are angry, who thinks the people you vote for are lunatics. And that is where grace is put to the test.
So as I cogitated over that, after writing What’s So Amazing About Grace?, it just kept bubbling up. And as the divides in our country got wider and wider—and especially now, you can see it come to full fruition where we are literally screaming at each other across barricades—Christians are called to be in the midst of a place like that, but as bridge builders, as grace dispensers. And when the faith has thrived, it usually thrives in a situation of conflict like that, because if Christians are following Jesus, they look different. They’re not part of the enemies. They are reaching out. They are crossing over. They are building bridges. And that’s my call, my concern, and that’s why I keep coming back to that topic of grace.
Al: Yeah. And we’re not seeing a lot of grace in reaction to all of this. We’re going to talk about that in a minute or two. But before we do that, you certainly receive emails still talking about What’s So Amazing About Grace? and Vanishing Grace. You’ve certainly received emails from readers who have been impacted by this concept of grace that you’ve written about. How about a favorite story about a reader whose comments maybe really touched you or floored you in a way that you didn’t expect.
Philip: Yes. One came to mind right away when you asked that, Al. There was government shutdown a few years ago, you may recall. And so government employees were laid off. They had no income, and there was a lot of concern. They couldn’t pay their rent. They couldn’t pay gas. They just couldn’t live. Well, somebody in Orlando, Florida, read the book Vanishing Grace, and they wrote me a letter and said, “I was at the airport, and I was talking to one of the TSA agents. And they’re out there every day working and not always being treated so well, and they’re not getting paid. So I went on Facebook and I started one of these Go Fund Me campaign here in Orlando to honor TSA agents. I did it through my church. So we invited TSA agents to my church, and we spread the word. We collected gas cards, restaurant cards, groceries, several thousands of dollars. Somebody went out and bought a bunch of dog food, figuring they had pets that needed food. So we hosted the TSA agents, so we had a TSA agent day in our church. And we weren’t asking anything from them. We were just giving them grace, saying, ‘We feel your pain. We’re with you. We want to help.’”
And I’ve heard other stories like that where different churches will call in local teachers or the school boards. You know, most school boards, they’re volunteer positions, and everybody’s mad at them for some reason or other. Or policemen. You talk about kind of a beleaguered group right now. They’re just kind of caught in between cultural divide, and they don’t feel appreciated, for sure. Or protesters. I mean, find a group that doesn’t necessarily see the church as on their side, and reach out to that group and say, “We just want to honor you. We’re not asking anything from you. We just want to honor. We know you’re working hard, and we appreciate what you’re doing.”. To me, that was a beautiful example that I hadn’t thought of, of somebody taking my concern about grace, dispensing and applying it in a very practical way.
Al: Random acts of grace, right?
Philip: Yeah, good.
Al: Yeah, yeah. Give them grace. Boy, let’s just have all of us think about how we can do that in these moments. People react very positively to that. Yeah. And speaking of sobering times, here’s a sobering question. How do you see the current reality of vanishing grace festering and perhaps even compromising the work of the church and parachurch mission organizations, even businesses that are led by Christians that are well known as being Christian? But what do you see going on?
Philip: My main concern, frankly, is how identified with any particular strain of politics that Christians have become. As I mentioned earlier, if you ask people today “What is a Christian?,” they’ll often come up with a political-type answer. And that’s something new, and it’s something dangerous when I look at the history of the church. Politics is a top-down way of having power. It imposes power. In the gospel, look at Jesus’s images. There are things that grow from the bottom up. You scatter seeds in a field, and some of them take root. It’s not your job to weed them out. It’s your job to nourish them and flourish and water them and make sure that they grow. And if you study the history of the Roman Empire, when the Christians were just starting out, they were a minority. They were viewed with suspicion. In some cases they were persecuted. But they actually won over the Roman Empire, not by voting. There wasn’t a vote back then. They won it over by looking different than anybody around them.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic right now. And that was one of the keys to the Christian growth in the early centuries, because when bubonic plague or typhoid would hit a Roman town, everybody would want to run into the hills. But the Christians, they stayed behind and nursed not only their families, but their neighbors’ families. Their pagan—pagans who would leave their elderly behind that the Christians would take care of them. And instead of throwing out the babies, they had this thing called abandonment of infants, where maybe a third of the babies born in the Roman Empire were just left out to die. That was their form of abortion. They’d let the babies be born and just let it die. Christians said, “That’s not right,” so they would adopt these babies in and foster them. And eventually, after watching this again and again, the Romans said, “You know what. I think I’d like to be like one of those people. I like the way they live better than the way I live.” And that’s a beautiful example of bottom-up growth, which the church does so well.
When it became the official religion of the Roman Empire, it became a power structure much like Rome’s. So that’s when they started wearing outfits and having offices much like the Romans around them. And yeah, it worked for a while. But if you go to Europe today, what happened? Well, there were several revolutions. The Reformation was one of them. And after a while, people got tired of these state churches. It looked like the government. I don’t want to be like that.
And the American experiment was very different because it wanted freedom of religion, not a state church, but freedom for religion to flourish and to grow. And I hope we don’t leave loose that heritage, because that is the genius of the gospel, and it’s something that we saw work in a beautiful way in the United States. And if we ever get allied with one particular political group, no matter what it is, I don’t care which one it is, if people see that that’s what you’re about—imposing power—then it’s really hard to communicate grace.
Politics is an adversary sport, not a grace-dispensing sport. You try to beat. You try to win. You try to defeat. You don’t try to love. Love is a pretty rare commodity in Washington, D.C. And we Christians are supposed to provide that and show the world what that looks like.
Al: Well, here we are. First came the global pandemic, and then an economic recession, and now add onto that as we continue to live out the tragedy and protests around the death of George Floyd, in your mind, given all of this, what is God inviting the church to do, who are to be about in this hour of discord and strife?
Philip: It is a rare opportunity. I read the other day in The Guardian newspaper, a secular newspaper, that in the UK, because of the pandemic and because churches have had to go online, 25 percent of people in Britain have tuned into a church service in the last few weeks. And the average church attendance is only 5 or 6 percent in Britain. Used to be a lot higher, but it’s that low now. So five times as many people are tuning into the Gospel now in Britain than ever was—
Philip: —in recent times. And that is a beautiful opportunity, because what does a pandemic do? Well, it causes fear. It causes anxiety. It causes questioning. Causes grief when you lose a loved one. When you face death yourself, you ask questions. It’s very clear what we Christians should be about, and in a place like that. Second Corinthians 1 spells it out. It has two phrases for God: the God of all comfort, and the Father of compassion. Paul says the comfort you have received from the Father of compassion, give that, spread it abroad to those who are in need of that comfort. So that’s what we Christians should be looking for, ways to compassionately reach out to help those who are afraid, who are isolated. And churches are mobilizing ways to do that, I know that.
And then, of course, we do have the divides. We have the hostility, and the church has been part of the problem for years. I grew up in a Southern racist church that banned all African Americans from attending. I know what that’s like, and I know there are wounds that need to be healed. But we’re the healers. Jesus was very clear. He said, don’t hate your enemies; love your enemies. You know, anybody can love people who are part of your family or are nice to you. But what about people who are yelling at you? We should be the bridge builders. We should be ones who treat with respect, even when we’re not treated with respect, even with people with whom we profoundly disagree, even on moral issues. Our goal, our job is to follow Jesus. Imagine what that was like for Jesus, to be around people all day long who must have offended Him morally because they were imperfect. He was perfect. And yet those were the people He’d happen around. And the church started among, look at Corinth, where Paul wrote those words. They were business people, they were ex-prostitutes, they were slaves, they were women, they were slave owners, but all worshiping together. And that’s what the church should be: a place that truly does build unity out of diversity. And the only way you can do that is with God’s help. It’s not a natural instinct, by any means. It’s a supernatural gift.
Al: Yeah, it really comes from within. And Philip, you bring about just an image that I’ve always had of the body of Christ, because Jesus did hang around and His followers were this ragtag group of people that came from all different places in society, and certainly got people’s attention, and certainly the way they lived and behaved and their loving, graceful way made an impact on the culture. That’s a good lesson for all of us. And you know this; that included a lot of diversity, didn’t it.
Philip: Yeah, it did. And I love that body analogy. I think you know, because you know Dr. Paul Brand, we wrote several books together on that analogy, and they were just redone and rereleased in the book called Fearfully and Wonderfully. And when you think about it, God is invisible. God did not have a body. But God, in an amazing act of humility, the Lord of the universe came all the way down to little old planet Earth and became one of these two-legged human beings in the person of Jesus. So Jesus had a body, but Jesus only worked for about three years, and then He said, “Okay, I’ve done it. I’m gone. It’s finished. Goodbye. Now it’s up to you.” And the only way people are going to know what God is like is if the body of Christ shows them. In Jesus’s day, you could say, “I’ll tell you what God is like. Here, come over here and ask Him a question.” “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the father,” Jesus said.
But Jesus left. And He didn’t do that unintentionally. That was His plan all along. He wanted to live out God’s life through ragtag, as you say, ragtag people like us. It’s an amazing act of humility that God would entrust God’s holy reputation with people like us. But that was His plan. And the only way the world will know what God is like is if we show them.
Al: Well, Philip, this has really been a great conversation. I’ve enjoyed everything that we’ve talked about, even starting from the great divide, as you mentioned, where in 1996, 85 percent of people had favorable opinions when you asked them what they thought of Christians and how that’s dropped to 16 percent today, and that just really wakes us up to the situation, the culture that we’re living in. And yet, here we are. It’s a rare opportunity that we’re in today. And to really follow Jesus and follow the way He instructed us to live. And there are opportunities, as you described, just how in Britain, during the pandemic, now 25 percent of the population are tuning into church services versus 5 percent, and I know of stories like that in the United States, and I’m sure there are in other countries, where we’re seeing even tenfold growth in participation in online services. And of course, it’s going to be an interesting behavior change when people actually go back to group worship.
Al: I’ve, quite personally, enjoyed watching church and participating in my pajamas, but that’s going to change. That’s going to change.
Philip: When we have that coffee cup in hand, doesn’t it.
Al: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah.
But yeah, this has been a great conversation. And I just encourage all of our listeners, let’s show grace and show others random acts of grace, just as God inspires us to as we grow closer to Him.
Anything you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about?
Philip: There’s one phrase that I learned from Dr. Paul Brand, who was a leprosy specialist, that has stayed with me. He said, “A healthy body is not a body that feels no pain.” In fact, he’s the one who discovered that all of the abuse that you see in leprosy comes because people don’t feel pain. They actually damaged themselves because they have no warning system. “A healthy body is not a body that feels no pain. A healthy body is a body that feels the pain, and then attends to the pain of the weakest part.”
And that’s such an important lesson for us Christians who are sharing in the same body, and we need to be attuned to parts of the church that are hurting in different parts of the world. You know, we talk about our economic crisis, but we have government bailouts. There are places like India and Latin America where there are no government bailouts, and where do people go? We need to be reaching out to them.
I heard from an Iranian Christian who said, “You can’t believe what it’s like here. We’re a despised minority, in the first place. And the government is lying about how serious this thing is. Please pray for us. Pray for us.” We should be doing that.
And that same principle applies in business, in the workplace: attend to the pain of the weakest part. If we do that, rather than just cut off the weakest part or get rid of it or just reward the high achievers, if we do that, then we are fulfilling the law of Christ in His body.
Al: Yeah, a healthy body feels pain. I love that. And attend to the pain of the weakest part of the body and help it to recover and to be healthy and even flourish.
Philip Yancey, award-winning author of 30 books, including Vanishing Grace: Bringing Good News to a Deeply Divided World, thank you for sharing your wisdom, insights, and stories, and thank you for all you’ve done to invest yourself in everyone who’s been listening and benefiting from all you’ve shared with us today.
Philip: It’s been a pleasure. And I look back with gratitude. I was in a pretty healthy workplace, Christian workplace and magazine. That’s where I got my start. And it makes such a difference to be valued, and became a launching pad for a lot of writers who are working with me, too.
Al: Great example. That’s exactly an outcome of when people feel like they are being invested in, where they have an opportunity to grow and be nourished, and to help reach their potential, absolutely. Thanks, Philip.
Philip: You’re welcome. Thank you, Al.
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