Responding to the Uvalde shooting: A conversation with Carmen LaBerge

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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Responding to the Uvalde shooting: A conversation with Carmen LaBerge

May 30, 2022 - Denison Forum

Summary: Carmen LaBerge, Dr. Jim Denison, and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the tragic shooting in Uvalde, how to respond to grief, how the church can help prevent shootings, and the recent SBC scandal.

Show notes: Carmen LaBerge, Dr. Jim Denison, and Dr. Mark Turman begin by talking about the tragedy of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas (2:20). They then turn to discuss how churches can step up to be proactive and redemptive to prevent shootings like these through care and love of the isolated (9:00). Carmen talks about bearing grief and how to respond to tragedies (15:34). They reflect on how important prayer is in these circumstances and how pastors can respond to these issues (23:04). They discuss how we can be cultural missionaries as opposed to cultural warriors and spiritual warfare (31:48). LaBerge considers how we can respond to the SBC scandal, her affiliation with the SBC, and how we can move forward (39:28). They end by discussing the ministry that Carmen does through her radio show, which is linked below.

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Carmen LaBerge is a writer, speaker, and Christian talk radio host. Carmen is a graduate of the University of Florida and earned an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary. She lives outside of Nashville, TN with her husband Jim and family.

Currently, she is the host of Mornings with Carmen LaBerge heard live Monday-Friday, 7-9 a.m. nationwide on The Faith Radio Network, streaming at MyFaithRadio.com and via the Faith Radio app. Carmen’s passion is helping people reconnect the eternal with the everyday by equipping Christians to engage the culture in ways that honor Jesus. She has written for ChristianityToday.com, the Christian Post, and other outlets.

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

Mark Turman  00:02

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Terman, Executive Director at Denison forum. And we appreciate you joining us again for another edition of the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m here today again with Dr. Jim Dennison, CEO of Denison ministries and cultural apologist, Jim, good morning. How are you?

 

Jim Denison  00:19

Good to be with you today. Mark, thanks for the privilege. I’m so excited about the conversation we’re about to have together.

 

Mark Turman  00:24

Well, I know you’re excited. So you have a much deeper relationship with our guests. So would you take a moment to introduce who’s joining us

 

Jim Denison  00:32

today. Glad to do that you and I are discussing today some conversation around some issues with Carmen Laberge. Carmen is one of my very favorite radio hosts. I’ve been on air with her over the years on a variety of levels variety of times. And I literally don’t know anyone who’s more insightful, who is able to understand these issues with a greater biblical comprehension and practical application. I am so just grateful for her mind and her heart and the privilege of being in conversation with her and, and therefore delighted that you were able to arrange this and Carmen, we are thrilled that you would give us this time and that we could have this conversation with you today.

 

Mark Turman  01:05

So welcome Carmen to the Denson Forum Podcast. And thank you again for being a part of

 

Carmen LaBerge  01:10

this. Jam. And Mark, thank you so much. A little bit of

 

Mark Turman  01:14

background. Not only a radio host, but also an author, graduate of the University of Florida, Princeton, Princeton seminary, as well. And so we are quite confident that your theological expertise well at pay paces both of ours, if you put them together, we’re confident of that as well. But we wanted to have an opportunity to introduce you to our audience in the Denison Forum Podcast in the in the event that some of them haven’t had the opportunity to encounter your ministry. And we wanted to just talk about some of the things that are going on in the world today and get some of your insight I know you and Jim, talk on a regular basis, through your radio program. And we’ll put that in the show notes. So people can find that and access it on an ongoing basis. But we’d just like to talk with you about some of the issues of the day and get you and Jim to dialogue about some of those things that could be encouraging, helpful and equipping to our audience. And so want to engage you around that this podcast will come out just days after the most recent horrific shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. We left our ministry offices yesterday, just as that was unfolding. And the world will be grappling with that terrible tragedy, I have some personal connections into that world, my daughter’s college roommate lives in Uvalde. Her family owns and operates a business there. Some of their employees were directly affected by that event. And obviously, this is coming right on the heels of what happened in Buffalo, New York, in that tragedy is well and it’s just become unfortunately, something that we’re all just too familiar with. And it’s just so so painful, especially as it regards children. Jimmy wrote on this today, even our audience can find that through your daily article. Where are your thoughts, Carmen, relative to this kind of tragedy in this kind of suffering that we’re experiencing,

 

Carmen LaBerge  03:32

deeply, grieved, deeply grieved, not surprised. And also, taking a deep breath in terms of the policy conversations that you know are, you know, already elevated in the political world, recognizing that this is actually not a political problem. This is a sin problem. And the slaughter of the innocents should not be a new storyline to people familiar with the biblical text or human history. And so I think that part of the deep breath that I take is, as soon as I say that, I sound as if I’m, I’m not grieving deeply with those who are grieved, but I am. And so I think that the posture of the Christian is first to just simply grieve with those who grieve to be an unconscious presence. Internally, I’m recognizing that, you know, God is the giver of life. And God is also the one who now stewards the eternal lives of those whose lives are lost. I don’t presume to know how God is going to work out his purposes and all of this, but I trust that He will. I also know that now’s not the time to say that out loud to people directly affected. There’s a time and a place for conversations. And I think that the sensitivity of Christians to know To discern the time and the place for particular parts of this conversation is really is really critical.

 

Jim Denison  05:10

Yeah, Jim, I would love to focus on the discernment that you just mentioned, Carmen and how critical that is at a time like this, isn’t it? The first church I pastor New Hope Baptist Church in Mansfield, Texas. When I became pastor, they change the title to Noho Baptist original last over last hope, I think, wonderful people so gracious to let me be their pastor. We did a q&a sort of thing on Sunday nights with some regularity. And one of the Sunday nights as I was just asking them to ask me questions, a woman raised her hand and asked me why God allows Alzheimer’s. Well, I started to jump into theodicy issues doing apologetics around that around the fallen world, all of that, and the Holy Spirit just stopped me and for once I listened to him, which I would love to see always did. And I felt prompted to ask her why she had asked the question. That afternoon, they had gotten the final diagnosis from their physicians that her mother had Alzheimer’s. And it changed everything about the conversation, of course, because all the Spirit just in that moment wanted me to be discerning to know that this wasn’t the day for that. This was the day for solidarity. This was the day for compassion. This was the day for being in her presence and being the presence of Christ in that space. And has tell that story just to endorse what you just said, The Lord knows these things doesn’t need the Holy Spirit has discernment into the minds and hearts of grieving people that we can’t have. And if we’ll simply pray Holy Spirit guide me, show me what to say, show me when to be silent. Show me when to be Job’s friends before they spoke, show me when to be simply present in their need. And in their moment, show me when to speak and what to say he’ll give us that discernment. One of the things I feel so intimidated by and over the years I’ve run into so many people who feel that way is, Lord, I don’t know what to do at a time like this. I don’t know what to say. So they’re paralyzed, and don’t feel they can do anything. And the advice is always what you just said, well pray for discernment. Pray for wisdom, pray for direction, pray for what to say when you’re to say it, and know that the win is as important as to what isn’t it and seek that discernment in the hearts and minds in the lives of those that were there were to be serving in these days. And those hearing this conversation are undoubtedly hearing this at a time when they’re perhaps not in Uvalde. But they have their own stories and their own grieving people in their own lives, their own influence that they’re seeking to serve. And that’s where you start, I think, is to pray for the very discernment that Carmen is suggesting that we all seek together.

 

Mark Turman  07:27

I know that this morning, just as both a father and a grandfather, all of us are parents, just trying to think and pray my way through this. I’ve been reflecting meditating on Romans eight, quite a bit for the last month or so. And I just heard again, the 18th verse where where Paul says, I consider their present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory to be revealed. And I thought, how would that sound if it landed in the ears of these parents and these grandparents in this community, on this day, it’s still true, it’s still absolutely true in every way. But it is, it is not the thing that they can hear right now, nor should they be able to hear it right now. Perhaps a verse like that many other truths like that in the Bible, could bring them hope and comfort and confidence assurance later on. But that’s where it’s just as you said, so vital to be sensitive, to be listening to the Holy Spirit of what to say when to say how to say it. And how to be that presence of Christ in that moment, whenever God gives you the opportunity. But then

 

Jim Denison  08:39

we do have the second step beyond that, which is to now start thinking in some more proactive directions. One of the things we owe those that have been traumatized, those who have been victimized is a conversation about what can we do? What can we learn from this? What can we do better? What can be done in the future? I don’t think that’s the conversation for the survivors. Absolutely. But it is some things we can think about on a going forward. So Carmen, I wonder what thoughts you might have at that space? What are some things that you think Christians can be doing better churches can be doing better? What are some ways we could be more proactive and more redemptive as we look to the future in the context of crises like these?

 

Carmen LaBerge  09:17

I think that my first inclination is to answer that question with how is the how is the body of believers functioning, actually functioning as the family of God, the family of faith? Because it seems as if and every in every or nearly every single one of these storylines. We are talking about a young man who has not been raised in the context of a family where there’s a dad in the home. Now, this particular young man, we don’t know a lot yet. But we do know that he’s living with his grandmother. So he took her life before he went to the school to take the lives of others, and I don’t want to lose sight of her like part of me. Jim and Mark is like Who is that 66 year old woman who had been striving so hard to raise her grandson? And? And where was her support system? Who was her support system? And, and then to say to ourselves? Do I know anybody? Do I know anybody that is on their own trying to raise a young man right now? And if so, what if I lean into that? What if my pro action is to is to give that person a call or text them and say, I don’t really presume to know anything about your life, but the Lord brought you to mind? And I’m just wondering, you know, can we grab some coffee? Can I pick up some groceries, I’m headed out to such and such, can I swing by and bring you something you might need? Or just come, you know, drop in for a front porch visit? I’m, I’m inclined to think that we have to stop waiting for people to come and ask for help. And we have to start pressing into the communities where God has planted us. And we have to go seek out people who we have reason to believe might be having a hard time, I have reason to believe a person might be having a hard time than I should go, I should go and drop by and knock on the door. I mean, you know, it’s all the father’s business. I mean, I think that the inclination of people is to say, well, that’s really none of my business. Well, if you’re an agent of grace, and you’re a minister of reconciliation, and you’re an ambassador of the king and the kingdom, then it’s the father’s business, which makes it your business and you need to make it your business. So maybe that seems presumptive presumptions presumptuous. But you know, in the spirit of the spirit of an incarnational ministry, at some point you have to go.

 

Mark Turman  11:52

Absolutely just made me think of that text out of the Old Testament. Am I my brother’s keeper? Well, yes, if you’re an agent of grace, you are your brother’s keeper. And you, you have been commissioned to be involved and to be engaged. And we had a conversation recently about with David French, about reweaving our communities. And just in I think if we, Jim, as you often pray often encouraged us to pray, Holy Spirit, where am I supposed to be engaged today? Where am I if, if we will pray those prayers regularly, God will show us those opportunities. He’ll show us those single grandparents and those single parents and those young men, young women who need our support and in those that are caring for them, how they need a network of support and to know how to continue to be engaged and to, to have hope that they can manage these situations that they can, they actually can care for these teenage young men and young women who are struggling, and that they don’t have to do it alone.

 

Jim Denison  12:56

Now we’re discussing the downside of democracy. You know, where we’ve got this western existentialist viewpoint that says, it’s all about me, and democracy is all about guaranteeing my rights. And on some level, kind of getting out of the way of that and just being a smaller government as we can be. And being as in as as unintrusive as we can be as a culture, letting me alone and letting be free to live the life I want to live. Yet that to a postmodern rejection of common truth and common good and my truth is my truth and yours is yours. And Carmen, you have no right to come knock on my door, you have no right to come ask me how my grandson is doing. That’s not your business. That’s my business. That’s the downside of the secular, postmodern, kind of democratic experiment, right? Well, de Tocqueville saw that, when Alexis de Tocqueville came and looked at American democracy back in those early generation, he said, the thing that was a counter to that was the kind of community fabric that we’re now losing. And that Commons is suggesting that we tried to rebuild. He saw it was the trade unions, it was the network’s it was the churches, it was the communities that really were the counter to that, and the solution to that. And that’s what the Holy Spirit wants to bring, I think, to bear again, and that’s where the church comes forward, doesn’t it and says, we’re going to be that community, we’re going to be the person that cares for the grandmother, we’re going to take that proactive response, we’re going to pay forward the grace that’s been given to us. Let’s not wait on the government to do that. Let’s not even see if the government can do that. I’m not even sure they can do that and do that effectively. And well. Don’t they can pick it can be managed top down. Let’s instead they make this my responsibility. Let’s make it as as fun the pastor, let’s ask my church, let’s ask our congregation. How can we respond in this kind of holistic way inside us? I remember I’ll share this very briefly. Some years ago, I was speaking on a Sunday morning in Houston in a predominantly African American church and they took the offering did something I’ve never seen done before and and offering as the pastor got up to take the offering. The first thing he did is they pass the plates he said, if you can spare and you have means that you can give to help us do our ministry then that’s what this is for. If you need something take money out of the plate. If you have a bill you can’t pay, if you’ve got a crisis in your life, if there’s something your family is needing, let us be the body of Christ to you. Let us be the ministry to you. And let’s not wait on that. Don’t come down on Monday and ask us for help. Don’t apply for something, don’t go through some committee. take money out of the plate. Take it right now. Let us be the body of Christ to you never seen an offering taken that way. Right. But I thought it was indicative of the way the Holy Spirit would have us be the body of Christ in times like

 

Mark Turman  15:28

this might be the best way to redistribute resources in some ways. Carmen, I wanted to ask you a related question. This kind of goes back to just the the few days between the buffalo shooting and what happened in Uvalde. Yesterday, I was listening to one Christian leader who said when he saw the first report of the buffalo shooting that he he just wanted to get away from it. He just he just shrugged and sighed and had this kind of instinct he was when he was sharing this, he was sharing it in a confessional kind of way of saying, oh, Lord, here we are, again, I can’t, I can’t listen to it again, I can’t hear it again. I can’t, I can’t tolerate or receive right now. The amount of suffering and as somebody that is involved in radio and in broadcasting and that type of thing. Just wonder what your perspective is. This leaders instinctual response to just say I just I can’t hear this kind of sadness and tragedy again. We live in a global world, where technology, radio, internet, television, brings all of these kinds of things into our awareness. I’ll confess to even last night, in the aftermath of the school shooting, that I often watch the headlines for the first 10 minutes of the news before I fall asleep. And I thought I can’t go to sleep with this kind of tragedy, front and center. What is your perspective as somebody that’s in the broadcast world, somebody that is talking about these kinds of things on a regular basis? What’s your response to that to this Christian leader to my response to my experience of just saying, I can’t, I can’t bear the grief right now. But then I immediately when I turned off the television had the sense of, but maybe the Lord would want me to be awake all night grieving with and for these families. What are your thoughts?

 

Carmen LaBerge  17:35

So there’s a lot there, I think there’s several layers of response. First, you’re exactly right. You can’t bear the weight because you weren’t designed to. So the fact that we can’t bear the weight is a good reminder, that in the same way, that we can’t bear the weight of all the agony and grief of the world. It is a sin too great to bear. We also can’t bear the glory. Right, it’s a good reminder of who I am in relationship to God. And so that would be part of my observation, you, you can’t bear it, because you were never designed to bear it. And then the other, the second observation would be in, in, in respect to how do I do get up every day and do what I do, and still lay my head on the pillow at night and, and go to sleep. I’m, I’m not trying to bear it myself. I’m, I’m recognizing that God is present and active in the lives of each and every one of these individuals in each and every one of these places. And that equipping the saints who are present is part of what I get to do through a media ministry. And I count I count that as a great responsibility, and also a great privilege. But practically, I do it, I think just by the power of the Holy Spirit, like I recognize that each one of these stories is a is about a person. And so I use as fodder for prayer when I’m reading the headline, and a place is named. And then a person is named. I am lifting up that place and that person to the Lord, I have, you know, I have prayed over places in Ukraine that have been very hard for me to pronounce. And I have prayed over the people of Uvalde, Texas, and and things that look very familiar to me. And I have prayed about a neighborhood in Buffalo, New York that I now have a heightened concern for because I know that there one community grocery store is now not available to them. And so the needs of the community have changed. And so how do I how do I pray? In, in and for all of that, so I use it as prayer fodder in my own life. Professionally, I recognize that I’m, there’s a service being provided to people who are listening, who want me the reason they’re listening to mornings with Carmen is they want to be helped in bringing the mind of Christ to bear on the issues of the day. That’s what we do, trying to equip everyone to walk their faith out into the world that God so loves, and to do so in ways that honor Jesus. So it’s not just about information, it’s also about the spiritual equipping to do it with an effectiveness where, you know, I’m I am actually the person helping to bring God’s perspective into a conversation, like, that’s why I’m there. If I feel like God’s left out of the conversation, and I’m in the conversation, well, then where’s the problem? It’s with me. I mean, if I’m the person who’s connected to God, and I feel like God’s viewpoint is missing from the conversation, well, then, I gotta recognize I’m in the conversation to bring God’s perspective to bear like, he’s got an agent, and it’s me. I’m the one on assignment in that moment. So I know, there’s lots of layers there and the answer to your question, but I feel, I feel like there are lots of layers, in answer to the question, I think it’s legitimate to feel what you’re feeling, which is overwhelmed and insufficient, because we are overwhelmed and insufficient. We are creatures. This is this is stuff that only God can bear, I then turn and I thank God for bearing it. I thank God for being big enough and gracious enough to bear it. And then I take my role and responsibility seriously, to communicate that to others in a way that hopefully will equip them to walk into the world, you know, by faith, and do things today that are worthy of the gospel.

 

Jim Denison  21:54

Mark, you can see why I love being on conversations with Carmen. Yes, absolutely. The depth. And one thing that came out of that, that really struck me and was really a word, I think, from the Lord, to me through your conversation, just now, Carmen is the degree to which we really are called to be the agents of the Holy Spirit, where he’s put us. And that’s not anything we’ve earned or deserved. I mean, I mean, the humility with which he just responded to your question is exactly the right way to, to address the fact that we are nonetheless I mean, we’re called to be as ambassadors aren’t we? We’re called to be the presence of Christ, in that darkness, were the light of the world in a dark room and to repoint if there’s darkness, and I’ve got the flashlight, the false mind, you know? So the question we need to be asking at every point is, Lord, what are you saying to me and through me? How can I be a catalyst? How can I be a conduit? How could you be speaking through me words, I didn’t know to say, and doing things I didn’t know to do. And just somehow, by Your grace, use me to be an instrument to transformation in this moment. If we would see these tragedies in that light and pray in response to them in that way, I really do believe that’s one of the ways God would redeem the crises that we’re seeing right now, by calling this people to be more intentional, about the ambassadors were called to be

 

Mark Turman  23:04

well, that an in part of that Ambassador role that when Carmen was talking to came to my mind is, is just the the mystery and the wonder of how prayer is the work, you know, I think it gave was either Luis or Oswald Chambers, who you love so much. That said, it’s prayer is not preparation for the work, it is the work. And if technology has enabled us to know more of what’s going on in the world, and particularly what the suffering of the world is, then those are prayer calls to us. We talked about, from oftentimes a selfish perspective that we are to pray without ceasing. And we, we so often turn that into simply praying about what I need or what, what I hope for that type of thing. And not realizing that all of these opportunities when we become aware of something, and particularly, you know, I’ve told my people in my church that when somebody invites you into their pain, they are inviting you into the most sacred part of their lives. And when we experienced that, through the news, and through certain things like that, we’re being by the Holy Spirit invited into other people’s pain. And we should see that as holy ground and as opportunity to immediately engage at at in this in this mystery, and in this sometimes most difficult work to try to turn that into meaningful prayer. Very, very, very small example of that. I don’t remember when this happened, but more than a decade ago, that whenever I would hear a fire truck go by or a police, car and ambulance, I just I made up a prayer of my own that basically goes simply like this, Lord, help the people that need help and help the people who are going to help them. I’m not the one that’s trained and authorized and capable of going to that person at that moment. I would probably be in the way I in in that sense, but I can be a part of it in that way, in the same way of being a part of what’s going on in Ukraine or Syria or Afghanistan or Uvalde, I can be a part of that as a redemptive agent, and particularly understanding the significance of my involvement as a person of prayer. And that’s something I think that most of us as Christians don’t have a deep handle on. I’m

 

Jim Denison  25:27

afraid that’s true. And when we see every need as a call to pray, Oswald Chambers said, discernment is a call to intercession not to faultfinding, but to intercession, and then start there, once we’re praying for and about this. And this gives us an opportunity then for the spirit to show us what we’re going to do to answer our prayer. Right. I remember some years ago, reading about some gathering that Charles Spurgeon was invited to. Now, you know, as we all know, half of the things written about Spurgeon probably didn’t actually happen. But nonetheless, the story is pretty good story. He was invited to this fundraising a bit, and they were raising funds for I think, an orphanage. And they asked him to come and pray for God to raise these funds. And he refused. He refused to pray. And they were shocked. And he said to them, you in this room, each of you could write that check yourself, if you would, I’m not going to ask God to do what you can do. And someone that night wrote the check, and they built the orphanage, you know, is how the story goes. So the two sides of this is God, you do what only you can do. But thank God, you show me what I can do. And as I work, you work and there’s a partnership in this thing. And it’s messy, and every story is unique. But in the midst of all of that God somehow ravines God somehow intervenes and redeems in the midst of all that. Well, Carmen, if I can’t ask you another question that moves right off of that, if I could, for just a moment, in the midst of the influence that God’s entrusted to you, in the writing you’re doing and the media that you’re doing the speaking, you’re doing the traveling all the ways that God is using your mind and your heart to make a difference in this space. We have a lot of pastors that listen to these conversations, a lot of faith leaders that are in this space, and it’s a real privilege to be in their space. Do you have any word of advice, encouragement, counsel for them in maximizing their influence, and using their kingdom assignment as effectively as they could give them what you’ve learned about ways that God has called you into the influences entrusted to you? Does that make sense? Any advice you could give them as they’re trying to maximize their kingdom calling in light of what you’ve learned about yours?

 

Carmen LaBerge  27:16

Yes, super reticent to give advice to pastors and other ministry leaders, mostly, I feel grace and gratitude to God for them. I can’t imagine, particularly for pastors, the challenge that COVID has been, and the challenge that that sort of a post truth or even anti truth, culture presents to pastors today and all of the challenges that pastors families face, like on and on and on. So if I have advice, I’ll just speak out of experience instead of give advice, how’s that sound? My, my experience would tell me, and I would encourage you to consider the reality of spiritual warfare and whether or not you are actively engaging every single day in not only praying God’s hedge of protection around your own life. You know, the guarding your heart and your mind wreck? Absolutely. Recognizing that the enemy is prowling around right now, right now prowling around looking for a way in and that way it might be through your spouse, it might be in through your child, it might be through a member of your congregation or your ministry, it might be in through a friend, it might be I mean, there are lots of ways that the enemy knows how to get into our lives. And if you’re not actively, you know, armoring yourself up every day with Ephesians six, let me encourage you to do that. I mean, in the same spirit of, of, you know, praying as a as of the work like, right, like, that’s an active thing that we do, we ought to be actively every single day putting on the full armor of God, like who do I think I am, to walk out into the world, ill equipped or unprotected when God has given me spiritual armor to put on like, why would I leave it in the closet? I mean, what, what’s wrong with me like, right, so so. So if, if you’re not engaged in spiritual warfare, actively, if you’re not engaged in it for your marriage, and for your kids, and for your parents and your friends, and certainly for your flock, then that’s the starting point. Like that’s baseline. I don’t know how you’re doing what you’re doing. If you’re not engaged in a actively and, you know, this is a spiritual life. And we ought to be using all of the spiritual opportunities and weapons that God has given us. And so I think before we go on the offense, we need to check to see whether or not we’ve actually put on the defensive measures. I think there is a great temptation for Christians who are well informed to get out there and sort of wield the weapons of righteousness, which is great and wonderful, but not if you didn’t put on any armor. And so you know, that would be that would be part of that conversation. And then the other part would be, just recognize that it’s not all about you, and it’s actually not your influence. That’s, I am not in the world, to make the name of Carmen famous, I’m just not, I am in the world to make the name of Jesus famous. And so I want to extend the gospel to more and more people always, in all ways. And, you know, at various times and seasons, God has given me different places and spaces to do that. I love them all. Like, this happens to be the season in which I’m doing it in this environment, and in this way, but, you know, tomorrow, who knows, right? I mean, I serve a great God, who, who has this world of endless opportunity for the advance of the gospel. And so I would say to everyone, whether or not you think you’re an influencer or not, whether or not you think you’re a ministry leader or not, you are. If you’re a Christian, you’re an influencer. And you, and you’re a minister of reconciliation. And so, yes, there’s a special calling. And I certainly want to acknowledge and recognize the pastoral role and responsibility, and my deepest gratitude to faithful pastors. It’s the hardest work in the world. And I’m so grateful for those who are called into it. But I also don’t want pastors to be like the professionals who we pay to do ministry, as if the ministry doesn’t belong to the whole body of Christ.

 

Mark Turman  31:48

Right. Yeah, no, I think I think that’s a great, great word for our people. And for and for our pastors. Carmona would also want you to reflect a little bit we talk a lot around here, about the idea of being cultural missionaries, as opposed to cultural warriors. I think one of the things that sometimes believers may misunderstand in our current environment is they see themselves as being cultural warriors, toward and against other people. When the the war, the idea of being a warrior really is about being a soldier in opposition to the devil, and being a missionary to those who appear at times to be antagonist or to be the enemy. But that’s, that’s the wrong way to think about it. We are to be warriors, when it comes to standing against the devil and against those unseen forces as we talk about, but we’re to be missionaries to those people who are in the darkness, as Jim mentioned a moment ago, people who need the light and if we talked a little bit yesterday, in a conversation we were having that the first thing the devil wants to do is to get you to do the wrong thing. But if he can’t get you to do the wrong thing, he’ll get you to do the right thing the wrong way. And that seems to be a lot of what’s going on in the evangelical community these days. Is that Is that something that you’re experiencing as well?

 

Carmen LaBerge  33:14

I know people can’t see me nodding my head, but I’m nodding my head. Absolutely. So I’m so glad that you that you highlighted this and brought this up. So I often ask people the question who are sort of in the culture warrior mindset? I asked them, as I’m trying to get them to see themselves. And so I’ll ask, tell me, which of these three images of the culture you think you’re operating out of? Do you see the culture as a river? That’s kind of you know, you’re just kind of moving along with the tide of the time? Do you see yourself as a warrior, like there’s this war, this battle going on? And you are in the culture war? Or do you see the culture as a field, like, right, it’s a field to be cultivated, it’s a garden. Because I think that God put people in a culture garden, to cultivate it, to, to YES to till the soil, but to sow the seed of the Word, and to tend the growth that God gives and to produce fruits of righteousness. So when you look around the world, if you see fruits of unrighteousness, and you don’t like them, then it’s time to get gardening, the gardening posture and the appearance of lies, even Jesus, you know, who looks like a gardener when he shows up after his resurrection? Like, right there’s a there’s a garden conversation to be had, that I think is helpful for people who have only ever thought about the culture as a battlefield. So that’s part of that conversation, I think. And, and then in terms of how we move into the conversations of the day and do so in ways Is that are like positive and proactive. I love the language of, you know, if the devil can’t get you to do the wrong thing, the devil will get you to do the right thing, but in the wrong way, that is that sort of a spiritual discernment issue, like out of what spirit Am I operating? And I think that there are a lot of conversations that we could have a long along that trajectory. Because that’s really I think, hard. You know, I’m, I’m a fish that’s been swimming in the water, of expressive individualism my whole life. So it’s hard for me to be a fish out of water, and submit to the authority of God and recognize that he’s the, you know, he is the ultimate authority in the universe, and that my life is really about obedience to Him, because none of those are very popular words in the culture. Right. And, you know, so I think that I think that for people who are interested in becoming evermore mature, more and more conformed to the image of Christ. This is the discipleship conversation that we need to be having with adult Christians today, that in many places were not having because they think they graduated from all of that, you know, whenever they got confirmed.

 

Jim Denison  36:19

I’m afraid that’s true. I’ve had that experience as a pastor myself over all the years, and it’s temptation for me as well. There’s a piece inside all of that, that I constantly have to remind myself of, anyway, I don’t know if this is a doubt this as an issue for you comment. But it may be for some of the folks that were that we’re thinking about and talking to today, it’s easy for me to judge myself as superior to others. If I on some level can find some moral high ground that I can claim over them. If I can say to myself, Well, I’m not doing that I’m not committing that sin, I’m not engaged in that place, that I therefore don’t have to think about the issues where I am sitting where I am tempted, where where am I part of the field really does need weeding, where it really does, if I can look at that other field, and the weeds are much higher than I think they’re over here, then I can ignore my weeds, you know. And if I can further adopt a warrior mentality that says, Really, I’m here to call out theirs, and I’m here to be a prophetic sort of cultural warrior into this fallen world. And these days, I again, don’t have to pay much attention to the stuff that’s in that’s on my side of the fence, it’s in my place over here. And to me, anyway, that’s a constant kind of will to power. Genesis three, be your own gods sort of a spiritual temptation, a subtle temptation, again of the enemy, that if he can get you to the wrong, he’ll try to get you to do the right thing in the wrong way. Because it can help me to ignore the wrong things that are on my side of the world in my own space. Many, many years ago, we had a pastor in this area, who had been engaged in some horrific moral failure. And it all came to light one weekend and was all over the Dallas Morning News. It was a thing that everybody was discussing in the culture. The next Tuesday, we had a speaker in chapel at Southwestern seminary, I was on faculty on those days, and therefore I had to go to chapel would confess I didn’t go much as a student, but as a faculty member, I was required. So I was there. And the speaker was there. And he began his message by addressing that by addressing what was in the, in the news, this moral failure, this very prominent megachurch pastor thought he was going to condemn all that thought he was going to kind of go on the warpath about morality issues, that sort of thing. After he described what was going on, he pointed his finger at us sitting out in that chapel. And he said in there, but for the grace of God go you. And then he said, and there but for the grace of God, go i It was a prophetic moment for me. And it reminded me that one of the reasons I’m tempted to be a cultural warrior, is that I can then focus on the enemy out there rather than the enemy over here. And to me, that’s a constant temptation. And a challenge that in what I do, and it’s to some degree, similar to what you do, is I think I have to keep in front of me all the time, Holy Spirit keeps showing me what I need to fix what’s inside me what’s wrong on my heart, before I even have the right to speak forward into somebody else relative to the issues they’re facing today. There’s a humility inside all that that I have to keep in mind on a daily basis,

 

Mark Turman  39:08

right, which is part of putting on that defensive armor before you go out to do battle. And to be as you said, Love the image of gardening, hey, we’re, we’re need to be gardening and working alongside the master gardener in that way co laborers as the Bible says, with Christ, in the last few minutes that we have with you, Carmen just wanted to get some reflections. The other kind of big item that’s going on in our world, particularly in the part of the evangelical world, called Southern Baptists is the most recent report that is going to be presented in about three weeks to the annual meeting of Southern Baptists about a sex abuse scandal and how it was handled over a number of years by some of our leaders. That’s a pretty pertinent issue. We are a non denominational ministry. And we are not exclusive to Southern Baptists by any extent. But we do have a lot of Southern Baptist pastors and a lot of Southern Baptists, believers who are listening to this podcast and even going into this coming Sunday and Sunday, so that will soon follow. Pastors, churches, believers, particularly within the Southern Baptist Convention, are trying to understand how to process this. And I just wonder, from your perspective, your perspective as not only as a Christian, but as a Christian leader, but also as a woman, how, how are you processing through the most recent report? How would you encourage us to think about it and to process it for ourselves? How could How could you help us to be equipped in that area?

 

Carmen LaBerge  40:50

Well, thank you. I, I too, am now a Southern Baptist, I’ve been a member of a Southern Baptist congregation for a handful of years now. I love my local church, and we are not immune from the challenges described. And so let me again, this is one of those layered conversations. If you’re a pastor, if you’re a ministry leader, in a Southern Baptist congregation, in particular, resist the temptation to be defensive. Resist the temptation to be defensive. We’re and for everybody listening, record, recognize that every time one of these reports comes out, it doesn’t matter if it’s Roman Catholic, or Presbyterian or Episcopalian or it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter the source. Every time one of these reports comes out, there are people who have a particularly a childhood sexual abuse, that they’ve never told anyone about ever. And so we need to be incredibly sensitive as Christians in the culture and in our own families to become the safe the person who is safe to tell. So are you a person that others would regard as safe to tell? Whatever the darkest, most horrible thing? Whatever sin has ever been done against them? Are you a person who is safe to tell? Trauma is real? Sexual Trauma is awful. It exists in the church because sinners are in the church. And so, again, am I horrified? Yes. Am I grieved? Yes. Do I think it makes the work of evangelism and discipleship? All the harder? Yes. Do I regret that it happened? Yes. Do I regret that the truth is being told no. Do I regret that the sun is shining and dark corners? No. And so I’m thankful for light. I’m thankful for truth, as hard as it is. Institutionally, congregationally denominational, however you want to think about Association only. As hard as that is going to be to process through particularly in public. I’m so grateful and thankful for it, because I want the truth and I want Christ and I want light, and I want redemption. And I want people to experience healing, who have been traumatized. And so I want to be a person who is safe to tell no matter what. What grief it is, I do want to be a person who’s safe to tell. And so that’s something I think that each and every one of us can carry forward. It’s not about knowing the salacious details, like resist that temptation. But speaking the truth and knowing the truth, and loving the truth and pursuing the truth, no matter where it leads, or what it reveals, has to be our posture as Christians, even when the truth being told is, you know, is Shetty is casting a bad shadow on some group or institution of which we are personally apart. So I hope that helps.

 

Jim Denison  44:19

I think that’s enormously wise. As a Southern Baptist leader, myself, I had hoped I’d never be in the position that my Roman Catholic friends had been in, over all these years. A very dear friend of mine, Pastor Msgr. In Dallas, one of my best pastor friends in Dallas, I’ve preached at his church, he’s preached for me, we’ve done conferences together. I still see him for lunch a few times a year and when that scandal began breaking, one of the things that was so heartbreaking for him was to come to church on Sunday and see his own members looking at him differently. Reading on their faces, they’re wondering, are you one of the bad guys? Are you one of the people that’s in this story? Now we Southern Baptist pastors are And on some level at that place is my My name on the list is your name on the list is there’s something out there that people could be wondering about us. And the enemy would love to use that to make us defensive in this moment, right to make us, on some level be reticent to being light in the darkness, just squibs, we’re afraid people will accuse us of being part of the darkness. And so there has to be this bold confidence. It says, my confidence isn’t in me never has been in me, I haven’t committed those sins, but I have I have committed other sins. It’s by God’s grace, that I’m able to be a beggar helping beggars find bread, and so to be in that space. And then the other piece is to be sensitized to the degree to which so many people are in this story, at the very top of the report that dropped on Sunday is a paragraph. And it’s outlined and it’s got a box in it. And it’s a warning statement that says if you are a victim of abuse, this report could be triggering for you. And we want to warn you about that ahead of time, but we want you to be seeking the best advice and help and help that you can be retrieved. That’s at the very top of the report itself. That should be at the top of all our conversations in this space, shouldn’t it be, I mean, you hear statistics that one in three women in America are going to be victims or have been of abuse on some level. And you just recognize the pervasive nature of this horrific sin. And that this is all of our story. On some level. I was telling mark the other day that my wife and I pulled into our garage, and she happened to be driving, she pushed the button to close the garage door, waited for it to come all the way down before she turned off the car. So we could go in the house and ask why she did it that way. She hadn’t realized she had done that it was just her instinctive reaction, never get out of the car till the garage doors closed, just in terms of her own personal safety, just because she knew that she wasn’t safe to get out of the car into the garage until the door was down. Something I’ve never had to think about something she thinks about every day. As a man, it’s something that one of the ways God can redeem this horrific tragedy is by causing a lot of us to be more sensitive to the issues that we’re addressing here to be that safe place, that somebody who is themselves a victim could perhaps come forward and be able to share in a redemptive way, looking for God’s redemption in the midst of this tragedy and grateful that he did he is a God that redeems

 

Mark Turman  47:05

right. And you know, the other thing I thought about when you were talking is just people looking at their minister or all ministers with maybe a jaundiced eye now and just helping people to understand that yes, there, as Carmen you said is so great. When truth comes out when light shines into dark places, as Jesus said, You know, what’s whispered in the dark will be spoken from the rooftops. It’s so good when even painful truth is brought out. And that’s the way you know, I would tell people, oftentimes in my church, on a personal level, they were dealing with something as like, look, only when it comes out into the light, can it be healed only when it comes out in the light? Can it get better, if it stays in the dark, if you if you keep it in the dark, or others keep it in the dark, it’s only going to grow worse. But what I would also say is to help people understand, yes, we want God to expose any kind of abuse and any kind of, of predatory behavior that’s going on. But it is not every person. It’s not every church. It’s not every pastor, it’s not every minister, it’s not every leader. But one of the things we have to sometimes pause and recognize here is that the devil does want to breed distrust. Everywhere that he can. He wants people to get to where they don’t trust ministers, and they don’t trust churches, and they don’t trust what goes on in those environments. But if churches are doing their work well, if they are following good protocols, they have good safety measures, that that that can be a place that is safe. And most ministers most Christian leaders, most Christians are people of trust people who are safe to tell. And we want people to remember that we want people to consider that that it is at the end of the day, it is the devil that is that is sowing distrust, to try to impede the gospel and to prevent people from connecting to Christ and from connecting to his church.

 

Jim Denison  49:13

Why nobody have a moment left. And we’re going to do some things in the show notes that will give people an opportunity to be more engaged with your ministry Carmine, but let me ask you to do something you would not do unless I asked you to. And that would be just take a moment if you would, and just kind of tell those that might not be as familiar with what you’re doing a little more about what you do about your radio ministry about your writing your speaking ministry. Just a little about that if you would for us.

 

Carmen LaBerge  49:34

Sure. Thank you.

 

Jim Denison  49:35

Thank you for doing that.

 

Carmen LaBerge  49:36

Thank you. Um, so I host a morning what I call morning drivetime radio show from six to 8am. Monday to Friday, it’s on the Faith Radio Network. So the easiest way probably for you for listening right now to find it is at my faith radio.com It’s cleverly called mornings with Carmen. And so but you can actually have afternoons with Carmen if you listen to it. as a as a podcast on the Faith Radio app. And so what we’re doing every single day,

 

Jim Denison  50:06

you don’t only have to listen to it in the morning, okay? Yeah,

 

Carmen LaBerge  50:09

well, you could let’s do it any time I mean, you know, right, um, it holds up. Um, it, what I’m trying to do is reconnect the eternal with the every day and equip Christians to walk their faith out into the world that God so loves in ways that honor Jesus. And so we seek to cultivate and then bring the mind of Christ to bear on all the issues of the day. So we take the headlines, much like you do. In fact, sometimes I just borrow from what you have posted in your daily article, Jim. And, and we talk about the concerns of the day and I, I ordinarily do it in a conversation with someone else. So Jim, you’ve had that experience, but I’ll have three or four different folks that I’m talking with on any given morning. So it is conversational. And part of that is, my hope, is that people who are listening, and are having a hard time trying to figure out how do you talk about these things with another person, that we’re demonstrating how you do it, especially on things about which we might disagree. So I intentionally have people on with whom I know I disagree about some things, so that we can show how brothers and sisters in Christ can disagree on something that is, you know, not a primary salvific concern, but a secondary or tertiary concern, how we can, you know, hear one another out, and, you know, go our separate ways, both advancing the gospel without being in agreement on every you know, dot and tiddle of lesser things. So, um, so that’s some of it. And, and I write as well, I have a book called Speak the truth, how to bring God back into every conversation. And, you know, yeah, and I go and talk to people when they want. I’ll show up anywhere at any time to do anything. I just like to talk about Jesus. So pretty much I say yes to every invitation.

 

Mark Turman  52:07

Fantastic. Well, thank you for that, Carmen, and thank you for this time. You can again, find connections through my faith radio, and through the podcast notes as well. Thank you for the opportunity to get to have some conversation with you today. And we thank our audience for being a part of this podcast as well. You’ll hear more from us and more from Carmen as well. And thank you for this opportunity. God bless you. Alright, Carmen, if you’d stay on for just a second to let it upload

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