Extending Grace When We’ve Been Wronged : Daniel Darling
As pastors and ministry leaders, how do we meet the challenge of extending grace toward others when they have hurt us personally? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Daniel Darling, award-winning writer, and author. His latest book is entitled Agents of Grace. Daniel serves as the lead of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement and speaks at churches and conferences across the nation. Together, Daniel and Jason look at how we can minister in our local congregations to build bridges across divisions, even in the face of opposition. Daniel also shares from his personal experience of how to love like Jesus, even when others hurt us.
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- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
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Additional Resource Links
www.danieldarling.com – Take a look at Daniel’s website and discover valuable resources, including books, articles, podcasts, speaking invitations, and more.
Agents of Grace: How to Bridge Divides and Love as Jesus Loved – In his book, Daniel explores practical ways we can follow the Bible’s command to “strive actively for peace” even in a painfully divided church, country, and world. On a very personal level, he helps us climb out of cynicism about how the people of God treat each other, especially when we are trying to heal from such pain in our own lives.
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Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- As the world becomes more divided, it is more challenging to stay unified in the Church.
- Division in the Church was once more over doctrinal issues, but now it’s become more focused on cultural or political issues, which are often secondary and tertiary issues.
- Forgiveness is the choice and willingness to not carry around anger and bitterness. One can extend forgiveness because Christ has forgiven us.
- Jesus says to forgive 70 times 7 times because it is to be a way of life, not something to check off a list.
- One can call something out that does not align with the heart of God, but it needs to be done in the Spirit of Christ
- One party can forgive, but it takes two to reconcile. Reconciliation is not always possible because the other may not be willing. It requires humility and repentance from both.
- Trusting after being hurt or wronged by someone often takes time and, depending on the situation, complete trust may never occur again.
- Followers of Jesus loving one another is not optional. It is a command from Jesus and how He says the world will recognize His people.
- The things that God makes clear in scripture are truths to firmly embrace. They are primary issues and worth fighting for.
- Secondary and tertiary issues can be debated but should not cause division. Rather, they serve as an opportunity to learn from brothers and sisters with different perspectives while maintaining unity within the Church.
- Leaders in ministry should be both teaching and modeling forgiveness, personally, working with those they disagree with in a God-honoring way.
- The Spirit of God is still at work, reaching those who are broken, in spite of those who are cynical and pessimistic within the Church.
Questions for Reflection
- Where am I seeing more division in the Church: over doctrinal issues or cultural/political issues? How have I noticed this change in recent years?
- Have I had deep hurts in ministry? How did I handle them at the time and do I feel like I am still holding onto them today?
- For me, is forgiveness a way of life or a one-time event? Have there been periods where I have struggled to forgive? How has that affected my life and ministry?
- Is there a relationship in my life that could use reconciliation? If it’s something that seems possible, what can my first step be toward achieving it? If not, how can I be praying for reconciliation in that relationship?
- When have I found myself assuming people’s motives or intentions instead of giving the benefit of the doubt? How is love related to giving someone the benefit of the doubt? How does this lead to understanding and unity?
- In my own life, what primary issues have I let slip to secondary or tertiary? What secondary or tertiary issues have I elevated to primary? Why has this happened? What steps do I need to take to align the priority of these issues with Christ?
- In my local church or community, what primary issues have slipped to secondary or tertiary? What secondary or tertiary issues have been elevated to primary? How can I responsibly address these in love and grace?
- Am I teaching and modeling love, unity, and forgiveness to my congregation regularly? How can I be more intentional about doing these things?
- How can we promote unity within the body of Christ while having healthy discussions and debates on secondary and tertiary issues? What will this take? How can we ensure these conversations honor God?
- Am I creating and investing time in relationships so that trust remains when disagreements arise on secondary and tertiary issues?
As pastors and ministry leaders, how do we meet the challenge of extending grace toward others when they have hurt us personally?
In this episode, I am joined by Daniel Darling, award-winning writer, and author. His latest book is entitled Agents of Grace. Daniel serves as the lead of The Land Center for Cultural Engagement and speaks at churches and conferences across the nation. Together, Daniel and I look at how we can minister in our local congregations to build bridges across divisions, even in the face of opposition. Daniel also shares from his personal experience of how to love like Jesus, even when others hurt us. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to yet another fantastic episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m super excited for today’s conversation. I’m your host, Jason Daye. And every single week, I have the distinct privilege, the honor really, of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader, as we dive into a topic of conversation, all in an effort to help you, and pastors and ministry leaders just like you, embrace a healthy, sustainable rhythm for both your life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we create a show or a podcast episode every week, but we also create an entire toolkit that complements this conversation. In that toolkit, which you can find at PastorServe.org/network, you will find lots of different resources, including a Ministry Leader’s Growth Guide. And you can use this with your local ministry leadership at your local church, to really dig more deeply into the conversation. So we encourage you to go to PastorServe.org/network and avail yourself of this resource. Now at Pastor Serve, we also love to come alongside of pastors and ministry leaders, and we are offering a complimentary coaching session. You can find more details about that at PastorServe.org/freesession. So again, be sure to check that out. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, please take a moment to give us a thumbs up, that always helps with the YouTube algorithm. And in the comments below if you’ll just take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church or your ministry. We absolutely love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Now, whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe or follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And again, I’m excited about today’s conversation and at this time I’d like to welcome Daniel Darling to the show. Daniel, Welcome, brother.
Well, so glad to be with you today and excited about our conversation. Love the work that you’re doing here.
Yeah, thank you. I appreciate it. I am grateful for you making the time to hang out with us and to speak to pastors and ministry leaders. And Daniel, we’re going to tackle some big topics today. We’re going to talk about grace, love, and this idea of hard truth. Specifically how we as ministers of the gospel, can extend grace, can extend love, and can better understand really this debate around hard truth as we serve the kingdom. Your latest book is entitled Agents of Grace. And the subtitle is actually How To Bridge Divides and Love as Jesus Loved. And Daniel, that is becoming a tall order, it seems in our increasingly fractured world. How do we bridge these divides? I’d love Daniel, if we could, to begin by talking about something that you referenced early in the book, and my understanding, and please correct me if I’m wrong, is that this is an event that might have been a bit of an impetus in you actually putting pen to paper in writing, Agents of Grace. Some of our audience may not be aware, even though it was a breaking news story in The New York Times and you were interviewed on CNN, and Fox News and MSNBC, that you were very sort of publicly terminated from your role as an executive at a large Christian ministry, National Religious Broadcasters. So Daniel, can you share a little bit about that experience?
Yeah, so it was just really kind of a surreal experience, you know, something I didn’t anticipate. You know, if you could put yourself back in the fall of 2021, where we were kind of emerging from COVID but still kind of thinking through a lot of things, the vaccines included, you know. And there was still a good bit of excitement about the vaccines coming that maybe this is the way out of COVID and all that. And I wrote a column for USA Today, which I contribute to them quite a bit and I write on a lot of different things. I’ve written on far more controversial things, which never got me in trouble, which is so weird. And I basically said, Hey, I get why people are skeptical about a new thing in the vaccine. And I kind of walked through a series of reasons why people are skeptical, you know, trust in society is at an all-time low. Our public health officials have not been honest and they’ve been all over the map, they’ve been inconsistent. There are reasons people have skepticism, I get that. Here’s why I got the vaccine. And I kind of listed a few reasons. And then I basically said, Hey, I think you should talk to your doctor about this. And I talked about losing a friend to COVID before the vaccines came out, and all that. And then I went to TV and talked about it. And actually, my whole goal was to defend people who had skepticism. When I went on TV, I actually defended evangelicals, because the narrative was all these backward evangelicals are a bunch of hicks, and they’re a bunch of anti-science, they don’t care. And I was like, no, no, no, that’s not true. Most of them are getting the vaccine, here’s why there’s skepticism, you’re not going to win any arguments by being so condescending. I’m going into the belly of the beast, you know, the sort of very liberal media, and saying, Hey, you guys got it all wrong. In fact, all the feedback I got, most of the feedback was positive, especially from people who were skeptical of the vaccine. I got a little feedback from the far left saying you should have crushed those evangelical folks. I’m like, okay, that’s why you’re not winning any arguments here. So I did that on a Wednesday, coming on the following Monday, I hadn’t heard anything, I thought everything was fine. And I get pulled into the CEO’s office and like, I have to let you go because you violated our policy on neutrality. Which I really didn’t, because we actually were pro-vaccine, we’d send out emails about it. So anyways, it was kind of shocking, I didn’t intend for it to be a public thing. You know, my intention was just to move on and just see what the Lord had for us. Obviously, I was a little bit nervous and scared about our family, and how are we going to support ourselves and all that. But anyways, as everyone knows, it became public. It was surreal to be in the center of the news. You know, like, there were three news stories, if you went on social media. It was Afghanistan, COVID, and me. And I’ve been doing communications for a long time, but to be the center of the story is not something I anticipated. And so, you know, my heart really was in that moment to say, okay, what can I do in this moment to promote grace, unity, you know? A lot of folks, one of the things I’ve seen, unfortunately, even some friends who have an unfortunate experience happened to them and they sort of go on a revenge tour, or they get their pound of flesh to do a long tweet thread, or they write a book that’s just like a tell-all book. And I had media reaching out to me all over, and I just said, No, what I’m going to do is, first of all, be quiet. First of all, I’m gonna express how sad I am that this happened, how much I loved the members of the NRB, some really great ministries, and loved working for them, and call Christians to unity. And then I went on CNN, after a few days, maybe after a week, and just expressed how much I’ve forgiven them and moved on. In fact, the CNN host was really kind of mad at me because he was pressing me to just throw him under the bus and I wouldn’t do it. So I thought, well if I could use this platform to promote Christian unity, you know, how do you act when something like this happens? And not to say that it wasn’t wrong and that it was just no big deal. It was a big deal. But how do we react in those spaces? So the Lord really put on my heart to write a book about what does it mean for us to love our brothers and sisters? What does it mean to fight for the things that matter, you know? And be open-handed about things that we might disagree on, but are not ultimate. And this has been on my mind for a while anyways. As you know, Jason, the last four or five years have been really rough in the Christian community. A lot of division and not over primary things, but over things that are tertiary. Secondary and tertiary. I mean, I know folks and you probably know folks too who, I can think of two Christian leaders right now who agree on almost everything. The Venn diagram overlaps, and yet they don’t speak to each other because of a disagreement about an opinion about how we should approach politics or about a political figure or something like that. And to me, it’s sad. And I think the devil, the enemy, wants to divide us in our mission, distract us with these things. And I think we should be committed to what Scripture says, that Jesus said, They’ll know you are mine by the way you love each other. Love one another is the command I give you. So that’s kind of the impetus behind the book. And I do talk about how to forgive, what forgiveness looks like. Forgiveness is different than reconciliation and it’s different than trust. I talk about being hurt by the church, I talk about cynicism, all that kind of thing.
Yeah, that’s very helpful, Daniel. It’s interesting, as you noted, and I think everyone’s recognized it more and more. The push to unity within the Church used to be the divide over doctrinal issues, you know what I mean? Now more so doctrinal issues aren’t as big a deal if people are aligning politically or culturally. They can easily ignore the doctrinal differences now, which is what we were kind of championing for is, Hey, how can we overlook some of our doctrinal differences and unite as the church? But that really isn’t even on the radar so much anymore here in the US specifically. Now, it’s more the growing divisions are more political or cultural divisions as opposed to those doctrinal divisions, which is just a fascinating kind of shift that we’re seeing in the church. Now, Daniel, as we look at this idea of grace, and again, Agents of Grace, an incredible book, we’re gonna tackle a lot of these topics. But I do want to ask, as we’re considering this beautiful concept of grace, as literally, as we’re recording this, Daniel, the NRB is holding their annual conference, the organization that terminated you. And they’ve invited, as they always do, a number of speakers that come in and share. And some of the speakers they’ve had, people would not consider them neutral at all, right? There are people who speak, who are very vocal, and speak very directly about their specific stances, their views on cultural and political issues. They’ve had Eric Metaxas, John Cooper, and even an address from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the GOP nomination for president. In his speech at NRB this week, Governor DeSantis declared that he’s waging a war on woke and so these are all speakers at the NRB convention. This is the same Christian organization that fired you for sharing and talking about the vaccine. Daniel, two years later, after that event, this is where grace really becomes almost tangible, right? Because you’re sitting here, you were terminated for sharing some thoughts on the vaccine, and here NRB, the same organization, is having people on the main stage sharing their very pointed views on things. How are you navigating this, considering how you were let go and thinking about this idea of grace and what that looks like? Because this is real, right? This isn’t just theoretically talking about the idea of grace and love.
Yeah. Well, I mean, first of all, I think the most important thing is when you are hurt deeply, and I’m not talking about petty annoyances and things. I’m talking about deep hurts. And there’s been two times in my life where I’ve had betrayals like that in ministry. And I know, I’m talking to folks, pastors and ministry leaders who have suffered those same things. And in my early ministry, I had really deep betrayal. And I was thinking about quitting the ministry, I was in like my late 20s. And I had a mentor friend tell me, Hey, you can’t quit. You’re right, they’re wrong in this, which was really helpful for me to hear. But the second thing he says is, You really need to learn, you really need to forgive and I didn’t want to hear that. But it was what I needed to hear. And forgiveness, I think, is in three parts. At least three parts. First, the baseline is just, forgiveness itself, that the unwillingness to carry around bitterness and anger. Because all that does is it doesn’t hurt the person that hurt us. It hurts us, it’s a poison. And I have seen leaders, I’ve worked with leaders, I’ve been up close to leaders who could never move on, could never forgive, always carried that chip on their shoulder and it really affected the way they see the world, affected their security, their decisions. And I just think it’s really damaging. I think we can forgive because Christ has forgiven us. We have to imagine that even as bad as the things that have happened to us, and I know people have had far worse things happen than I have. God has been good to me. And I’ve had some things I’ve gone through, but God has been good to me. But when you suffer those things, what we’ve done to God is worse than the worst thing that’s happened to us. And God has forgiven us in Christ. It’s that supernatural, otherworldly ability to forgive. It’s simply releasing vengeance and anger and bitterness to the Lord. And it’s not a one-time thing. It’s it’s a process, it’s a rhythm. When Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness and Jesus says 70 times seven, He’s not giving them a formula or checklist, but a way of life. That every time you drive past that house, or every time you hear that music, or every time those images flood your mind, or something brings it up, you can release that back to the Lord. And it takes time and intentional effort to forgive and to say, I’m not going to be bitter. And it doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal, right? Because Joseph’s story has really helped me when he says to his brothers, what you intended for evil God meant for good. He’s able to say, yeah, what you did was evil. You know, sometimes people say forgive and forget, I just don’t think that’s biblical. Right? I don’t think Joseph was standing before his brothers saying, you know that time you sold me and trafficked me to another country? Yeah, that didn’t happen. You know, I totally forgot that. No, you don’t forget that. You bare the scars, you wear it your whole life. But he says God has used that for good. And he was able to call what they did evil. He said, Yeah, what you did was evil. So I think it’s okay to name the thing done to us as wrong. So that’s forgiveness. And everyone who’s a believer has access to that. Now, there’s another level, it’s reconciliation, which that requires two people. I think we should pursue reconciliation, we should try to be at peace. Roman says, whatever lies within you be at peace with all men. That’s not always possible. That takes two, that takes humility on both sides and repentance on both sides a lot of times. That’s okay. Sometimes that’s enough. And then the third level is trust. You know, sometimes, you can reconcile, but will you be in a business relationship? Will you be in a relationship with someone? Trust is a lot harder to earn back, right? So if the church treasurer embezzles money from the church, you’re going to forgive him, but you’re probably not going to make him church treasurer, at least for a while, if ever, and that’s okay. So I think that’s key. And for me, it’s just the saying, I’m going to move on, I’m not going to keep executing this. And I think you really know that you’ve been able to forgive when you don’t wedge it into every single conversation, when it’s not the soul and substance of who you are. I am nervous, Jason, about leaders that I hear that all they talk about is their critics. Like, that’s all I hear from them. It tells me that they’re constantly re-litigating that in their mind. And they’re not forward-thinking. They’re not people who can exhibit grace. And so I wish NRB well, I hope they do well, I don’t have anything against them, you know. And they have to lead the organization and do it the way that they feel God has led them to do. I still have a lot of friends who have ministries in there that have been really impactful on my life. So that’s the way I’ve been able to navigate. And I’ve noticed as a leader, as a husband, as a father, really, it’s important for me to be someone who exhibits Grace like that, otherwise, it bleeds into every other relationship.
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good, Daniel. And as you walked through that forgiveness, reconciliation, and trust, talk to us a little bit specifically about how grace enters into that flow of forgiveness and reconciliation and trust. What was the grace element within that?
Well, I think grace is the overarching idea that we are… I think someone’s described mercy as not getting what we do deserve and grace as getting some good thing we didn’t deserve. I think grace it’s interesting in the Scripture, it’s used in a variety of ways, but it can be a verb. Like to grace someone, to say, Yeah, I could do this, or I could pursue this or I could get my pound of flesh. I could, but I’m not going to do that. I also think it means trying to put ourselves in the shoes of someone who we disagree with and saying, you know, maybe they’re not coming at this from malice, maybe they are mistaken. Maybe they have weaknesses like we do. Trying to put yourself in their shoes, in their position. I talk a lot in the book about love and what does love require. And when 1 John says you must love one another. I mean, I think, Jason, that we think loving our brothers and sisters in Christ is kind of optional. Like, once we get everything else done, we get to that. Jesus commands it. I mean, in John, the upper room discourse, He’s saying, Love one another as I have loved you. That’s a command. And He’s saying this to a group, a motley crew. On the one end, you have Matthew, who was a tax collector, who sold out to Rome, who was not trusted by Jewish people, he was looked on as disloyal. I’m sure a lot of the members of the group hated that. On the other end, you have Simon the Zealot. And, you know, he was two clicks away from being an insurrectionist, wanting to overthrow Rome, he was dangerous. You know, imagine how that dynamic went. Jesus thrust all these people together and said, Love one another. And that’s essentially what’s happening in the church. And Jesus says, the world will know that you’re with me, that you’re mine, by the way you love one another. Francis Schaeffer, who was a great apologist in the 20th century, he was unafraid to speak truth, unafraid to challenge the church. Nevertheless, he wrote a book toward the end of his life, on Christian unity. And he was really distressed about the inability of the church to be unified on what matters. And he says that God gives the world the right to judge the validity of our faith, not even by our clever apologetics, which we need, or our works of service in the community, which we absolutely have to do, or the message or whatever, but by the way we treat each other. In other words, the world should look in on Christians and they might say, I don’t understand anything about what they’re saying. It seems strange that they would think an itinerant rabbi from Nazareth is the king of the world and is coming back. But look at the way they love each other. People that have no business being together, love each other. And so this is a command, this is something we should pursue wholeheartedly. This is what love requires. And what does love require? Well, the Bible gives that to us, right? 1 Corinthians 13, which, by the way, the love chapter was written by Paul in the midst of his harshest rebuke, you know, 1 Corinthians is his harshest letter. A church that had fallen into sin, a church that was astray on so many different issues. He’s talking about contentious things and in the middle of that he said, this is why love matters and he outlines it. And one of the things that love requires is the benefit of the doubt, love believes all things. It doesn’t mean that we’re naive, or we don’t have accountability. But love believes all things, that we don’t assume automatically that because I disagree with you because this happened or that happened, that you’re coming to it from a position of malice or of bad intent. Unfortunately, today we live in an environment where in our divided world, particularly in the digital age, where there is no benefit of the doubt, right? I mean, on social media, even among Christians, there’s no benefit of the doubt. There’s just wanting to call people out, assume the worst, join a mob, and cancel people. And Christians should be countercultural, we should be different.
Yeah, It’s interesting, because we live in a world where assumptions are truth. Our assumptions are truth, right? Like, we declare that whatever we think about someone, or whatever we’ve decided, is true. And then we run with it. And, like you said, it’s giving into the way that the world views others, as opposed to being countercultural, which we’re called to be. Daniel, when we look at the idea of grace and love, as you’ve shared so well, there is a debate and argument around hard truth. And when I say hard truth, you know, it’s this idea that we need to kind of speak the truth and it’s okay for us to be strong about it, and we need to put people in their place. And there’s this tension around this idea of hard truth. And this idea of extending grace and living a life of love. How do we reconcile those conversations because some people lean really hard one way, and some people lean really hard the other way? Is there balance, is there rhythm? How do we, in our daily ministries, process through grace and love, which we have no doubts about, but then this idea of well we’ve got to speak truth as well. What’s that look like?
Well, I think that we have to understand that there are worthy fights. And, you know, Paul tells Timothy on the one hand in 1 Timothy, stand firm in the faith. He’s telling this young man, listen, there’s a body of truth. And he repeats this throughout the epistles or throughout the pastorals, where he’s saying, stand firm in the faith, guard these things. It’s very similar to what Jude says in Jude 1:3, you know, earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints. There’s a body of truth that has been passed on to us for 2000 years from the apostles, from the scripture, from the Holy Spirit, that tell us about who God is and what He intends for us to do, that we can’t budge from. These are things that we can’t rewrite because we don’t have the authority to do that. Christian Orthodoxy is a term for it, that this is what the church has believed for 2000 years. And things like the exclusivity of Christ, and the Trinity, and the virgin birth. And I would put in there that a Christian sexual ethic is so woven through Scripture that we don’t have the right to really edit and change what God has done for us. And It’s not just that we have to defend that, we get to defend it, we get to declare it. This is what God has declared to us about who he is about what is true and good and beautiful. So those are things we should cherish and uphold and we can’t budge from. So Paul says to Timothy, stand firm in the faith, stand firm in the faith, in 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy, he also says to him, avoid foolish and stupid arguments. And so I think, Paul is saying there are things worth fighting for and things not worth fighting for. And Christians have been doing this for all of church history. But I think, today, people will call this theological triage, if you will, something that Al Mohler coined a decade or so ago. And it’s this idea of like, what are the first-level issues? What are second-level issues or tertiary issues, right? So a first-level issue is that body truth, Christian Orthodoxy that we mentioned that if you don’t believe these things, you’re not really a faithful Christian. It’s hard to be a faithful Christian without those things. The second-order things are things that Christians have disagreed with for a long time. Things like baptism. I’m a, I’m a baptism by conviction in terms of when I think about baptism. I have great friends who are Presbyterians, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, Assemblies of God, who we agree on those top core things, but we disagree on this. And we’re going to organize differently, our churches are going to worship differently and be centered around differently. And so in our church denominations, and in our churches, those secondary things are primary things within that context. But we still can be open-handed toward the other traditions and work together and learn from them, and work together on evangelism, and so many different things and learn from them. But then, you know, we have our different denominations. And I don’t think having all these denominations is a bad thing. I actually think it forms a kind of mosaic of the Body of Christ, where we learn from all the traditions, I’m probably Baptist, but I’m aware that we don’t have the answers on everything, and we can learn from our other traditions. And then you have tertiary things, Jason, where it’s like, even in the same congregation, we might disagree, right? We might disagree about soteriology. We might disagree about the end times, but we all agree that the Lord is coming back. But we might disagree on the timeline. Or how old exactly the Earth is, or even below that, how do we educate our kids? Or how exactly do we handle COVID? Or, you know, we might even agree on what are important things culturally, but how do we exercise our freedoms? And these are areas where we need to be charitable and say I have a strong opinion about this but it’s not something I’m willing to go to the stake for, number one. And number two, I’m not going to lose a friendship over it and I’m not going to let this divide us. I actually think you’re wrong on this, I actually think you’re crazy on this or that, but I’m not going to let go of that friendship and let go of that relationship. This should not divide us. And what’s sad to me is, we have allowed these super tertiary things to be the point at which we divide. And, you know, you know, it’s interesting how people are sorting themselves where someone who disagrees with me on Christian orthodoxy, who disagrees with me on all these things but agrees with me on this narrow political thing. He’s more of a brother than someone who I share three-quarters of things, or 90% of things. I’m going to share heaven with him, but I can’t speak with him, I can’t work with him because we disagree here, right? But I think we got our priorities wrong. And I think we have to get back to saying, what is ultimate? What is important? And I also think we’re tribal a little bit too, Jason, and Paul dealt with this in 1 Corinthians. I’m of Paul, I’m of Apollos. Where we take our favorite teachers and preachers, and I think we should have those, I have favorite authors and preachers that have influenced me so greatly. But, we make that alliance and that allegiance almost primary, right? I am of John MacArthur, I’m of Beth Moore, I am of Tony Evans, or I am of John Piper, whatever. And instead of appreciating them, and learning from them, we’ve made that like our tribal marker, right? And I just think that’s against what God is saying in terms of commanding us to love one another, to seek unity. You know, unity is not sameness, right? I think when Christians hear unity, they roll their eyes, and they think, Oh, it’s a bunch of us standing around a campfire, holding hands and singing Kumbaya and some weird cult ritual. But unity is actually a bunch of different parts working together, right? So like, the Bible compares the church to a body with all these different parts that look different and act different, working together. We recognize and need unity in our daily lives without realizing, right? When you get in your car to go to work, all those different parts have to work together to get you there. If one of them doesn’t work, then it makes life harder, right? If your battery goes out, or you know, whatever. This is the church, that we are different and what unifies us is the gospel. And it should look to an onlooking world like, wow, somehow those folks, like, I don’t get how they work together and love each other because they’re so different.
Yeah, but they do. Right. Exactly. But they do. So, Daniel, I love this conversation. As you’re speaking there, I was thinking about just kind of real-world ministry right now. How can we approach ministry, when there are people maybe within our own congregations who are elevating some of those secondary issues or tertiary issues and say, wait, wait, wait? You may think this is a secondary issue but I believe that this is actually a primary issue because, and then they have their list as to why it is, right? Because we have a lot of these other issues that are being elevated. And some people think some of the issues that are elevated, shouldn’t be elevated, they should be secondary, or tertiary issues, right? There’s a lot of fluidity, I guess, right now, and our culture is a culture that has become very fluid. So how do we minister in the midst of that? How do we begin to talk about what truly is primary? And if someone argues with us that no, that’s not really primary that’s secondary, or wait, the secondary issue or this tertiary issue is actually a primary issue? How can we practically begin to navigate that?
Well, I think we first have to model it as leaders and say, you know, in our lives as a leader, particularly as a pastor of a church or leader of our organization. We need leaders who Mark Sayers calls a non-anxious presence. That you’re the kind of person who has convictions and you let those show. And you say, this is where I am, but you also model what it looks like to love and work with people you disagree with on things, but agree with on the main thing. So modeling it as a leader, and avoiding getting into sectarian, super sectarian fights. There are some fights worth having, and that’s okay. Even cultural issues that we should stand up for. But modeling what that looks like and even modeling, even when you do have a worthy fight, how to do that in a way that honors the Lord. 1 Peter 3:15-16, have an answer for every person for the hope that lies within you. So have that courage to speak out, but do it with gentleness and kindness, have civility. I also think we need to teach on unity to our people and teach them what it looks like, teach on love. What does it look like to love our brothers? Show the commands of Scripture. Here’s what this says. And then I do think when people do have a kind of hobbyhorse for a tertiary issue, that’s their thing. And you know, every church has folks like that, that God has given that to them. I think finding ways for them to talk about that and do that in constructive ways. I think there are healthy ways to have debates about some of these things, and conversations, while also setting the parameters and saying, Look, we have a disagreement about the end times, right? And there’s healthy disagreement about this. Let’s talk about it. Let’s have a discussion and debate that we’re going to still leave as brothers and sisters, or whatever the issue is, right? And I think we need to teach our people what is it like to respect people who make a different decision than we do, right? Maybe you are very, very committed to homeschooling, and you’re doing it by conviction. I think that’s awesome. Here’s what it looks like for you to respect someone who feels like, you know, the public school is where I’m going to put my child. Or if you’re a public school person, and you do that by conviction to say, you know, just like the homeschool person shouldn’t say, I can’t believe you’re sending your kids to the wolves, to the devil, you know the homeschool person and think that way. The public school person not to be look back and say, you know, we’re more evangelistic than you are or our kids are going to get a better education, you know, that kind of stuff. To say, I’m not going to bind your conscience on this. So I think we have to teach this in our congregation with a model. I think we need leaders who have the skill and the commitment to hold these things together. And it’s been hard in the last four or five years, I’ve talked to a lot of leaders who are really weary, and trying to hold this together around some of these things. I think it requires leaders who invest relational capital. So if you have relationships with people, you earn respect and trust, to where when you are in one of those moments, they trust you even if they may not agree fully. And, look, you’re not going to, as a leader or a pastor, you’re not going to keep everybody. There are going to be folks that will leave over a stupid issue, which is hard and difficult. But the Lord can bless you through that as well. But these are hard days. I think a lot of it is people are being, many times, formed and shaped, not necessarily by what they hear at church, but what they’re hearing and other places and other content everywhere else. And so I think it’s a discipleship issue as well.
Yeah, no doubt we’re living in challenging times for ministry, but there’s hope. And that’s what I really appreciate about your book, brother, Agents of Grace, honestly. It’s talking about the worthy virtues, you talk about the worthy fight, you talk about forgiveness and reconciliation in all those pieces. Very, very encouraging. Daniel as we’re winding down, this has been an excellent conversation. If those watching along those listening would like to connect with you more directly, learn more about your books, your writings, these types of things, the ministry that you’re doing now? What’s the best way that they can connect with you?
Well, you can go to my website, danieldarling.com. And you have links to my books there and podcasts, and social media, and all that. You can follow me on Twitter if you can handle my hot takes on sports or whatever. I’m watching the NBA season right now. Twitter’s @DanDarling. Yeah, and that’s how you can find me and my books are available wherever books are sold. Amazon, independent bookstores, whatever.
Awesome. I certainly appreciate it. Daniel, I want to give you just a minute, as we kind of close down here to share some words of encouragement with brothers and sisters who are serving in the trenches right now, serving local churches.
Glad to. You know, I want to say that we should be hopeful about what God is doing in the world today and through our churches. I think there’s a pervasive cynicism, even among, especially among Christians, it’s almost become a cottage industry. That if you’re not down on the church, down on evangelicalism, then something’s wrong with you. And I just think we have to believe our own story. We have to believe that God is at work in the world, that the Holy Spirit is regenerating hearts, that Jesus saves. That Christ is building his church mostly through ordinary people who don’t have a book, don’t have a byline, are just ordinary people putting their guess on the table. And, you know, I just watched the Jesus Film. I don’t know if you had a chance to watch that. Came away so encouraged, you know, my dad was a sort of a fruit of that movement. And if you think about it, the 60s and 70s were tumultuous. The sexual revolution, three assassinations, racial tension, Vietnam, Watergate. We even had a president who sort of gave a speech giving up on the country. And then here comes the Jesus movement that nobody saw coming. And I think If we’ll look and we’ll raise our eyes and we’ll look around to see what God is doing. You know, we have convinced ourselves that God’s best days are behind Him, that these good things only happen in the past. And it’s just not true. And I’m excited about the church. I’m bullish. Christ loves the church, which means that He loves Christians. And He’s not just tolerant of His bride. He’s not sitting there rolling His eyes saying can you believe I have to hang out with these people, I have to deal with these people. He loves Christians. And so we should, too. We should not be cynical about what God is doing in the world. I’m hearing from pastors all over the country, and the world, people are putting their faith in Christ, there’s a deep hunger in the culture. People are worn out from the false ideologies of the age and they’re looking for truth, they’re looking for hope. And we have the answers. I think, you know, the Gospel has never been more relevant than it is today. And so let’s believe our own story. And let’s believe that God is up to something in our age and in our day.
Yeah, I love that Daniel. It’s a great word, brother, great word of encouragement. Appreciate, once again, you making the time to hang out with us on FrontStage BackStage, and just your heart. Again, your book, Agents of Grace, fantastic, and very encouraging. And it’s one of those books that really just speaks into kind of the craziness of the times we find ourselves in and points to that hope that you just expressed. So I certainly appreciate that, brother. Thank you.
Well, thank you so much. I appreciate it and grateful for the work that you’re doing as well.
Thank you. Thank you, brother. Appreciate it. God bless you.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
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