The Denison Forum Podcast Episode 34: The church and urban ministry: A conversation with Chris Brooks

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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The Denison Forum Podcast Episode 34: The church and urban ministry: A conversation with Chris Brooks

August 1, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

Summary: 

Radio show host, pastor, and writer Chris Brooks joins Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman to discuss urban ministry, discipleship and evangelism, and how the Bible defines the church. 

Show notes: 

Chris Brooks begins by giving his background and how he got into the world of pastoring and urban apologetics (6:13). They discuss the importance of evangelism and social justice—the advancement of salvation and living well in this life (10:54). They turn to talk about Marxism and Nietzsche’s ideas on human nature, and how Christianity responds to their claims (24:30).  They talk about church membership, church leadership, and the connection between theology and practice (31:04). Brooks considers the importance of anthropology in the Bible in particular. They finish by reflecting on how God’s love for us can fight the despondency felt in our culture (47:12). 

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 

Chris Brooks is the Senior Pastor of Woodside Bible Church, a multisite congregation across the metro-Detroit area. He served as the campus dean of Moody Theological Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. A popular Detroit radio host since 2005, Chris is the author of Kingdom Dreaming and Urban Apologetics. He graduated from Michigan State University with a BA in Finance, completed his MA in Christian Apologetics at Biola University, and graduated from the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. He and his wife, Yodit, are the proud parents of 6 children, Christopher, Zewditu, Cameron, Judah, Sophia, and Christyana.

 

Transcript

Mark Turman  00:01

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. Thank you for joining us. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, executive director of Denison forum sitting down again with our CEO and cultural apologist Dr. Jim Denison. Jim, how are you today?

 

Jim Denison  00:14

Doing well excited about this conversation today, Mark, thanks.

 

Mark Turman  00:17

Well, it is going to be a great conversation. I’m excited. This is my first opportunity to directly impact or interact with Pastor Chris Brooks. Chris, how are you today?

 

Chris Brooks  00:28

I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.

 

Mark Turman  00:31

Well, these guys know each other well, and so I’m at something of a disadvantage, but I’m going to try to catch up. Let me share with our audience who Chris Brooks is. Chris Brooks, first of all, is a person that’s a good thing and a disciple of Christ. He is the pastor of Woodside Bible Church, a multisite congregation in Detroit and the South East Michigan area. He is a father, Pastor, radio host and author. He and his wife have adopted three of their six kids. Chris is also a graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Finance Biola University with a degree in Christian apologetics graduated as well from the Oxford Center for Christian apologetics, and is currently a doctoral candidate working on a degree at Asbury Theological Seminary, studying the integration of economics and theology which Chris automatically put you way out of my paygrade. In addition to pastoring, and leading his family he hosts a quip with Chris Brooks, which is a national radio program hosted by moody radio. I love this line on your bio Chris. He is a proud Spartan and a deep and has a deep appreciation for Diet Coke, which means we are all kindred spirits on this podcast. Chris is also the author of Kingdom dreaming and urban apologetics, as well as a new kind of apologetics and the book marriage. Its foundation theology and mission in a changing world. And several other works as well. Chris, welcome to our podcast. And I know you and Jim are longtime friends. Jim, would you like to say a word about your friendship with Chris,

 

Jim Denison  02:18

I’d be honored to do that. Thank you so very much. And Chris cannot thank you enough for your time. Today when you got this request from us. You didn’t think Well, great. Now I know what to do with my morning, right? Man, thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. But yeah, may as well say in his presence was what I’ve said about I think Chris is the most significant Evan Jellicle pastoral voice in America today. I genuinely believe that. And that’s not only because he had the national presence and platform he has by virtue of his radio ministry by virtue of his speaking ministry, his apologetics background, but I mark I don’t know anybody that combines his brilliance of mine and his pastor’s heart the way that he does. You heard it in his bio, but even more than that, that’ll be clear in the conversation today. He is absolutely a first class first raid scholar, who was also a person with an incredible heart and a passion. And so yeah, I’m couldn’t be a bigger fan. I want to be president of the fan club. The second, as soon as as soon as that invitation opens up, and I’m just so grateful to him and for him. So, Chris, man, what a privilege to be in the conversation with you today. I’ll be on radio with you later today, as I said, So, I’m so, so glad just to do this with you today, man, thank you so much for doing it with us.

 

Chris Brooks  03:26

Well, Jim, I appreciate you. I’m flattered by that introduction. You have to set the bar much lower. I don’t want to disappoint those who are listening. But it’s been great to be in friendship and ministry relationship together. Some of your subscribers and followers may know that you are frequent guests, with us on our program, equipped with Chris Brooks, heard throughout the moody radio network and very much beloved, very much respected. And our listeners look forward to the days where Jim Dennison comes to help us to make sense out as a crazy world that we’re living in.

 

Jim Denison  04:22

Thank you, Frank. Thank you so much, Mark. It’s very, very kinda Mark is going to be nicer to me today because I hope is at night, I assume. That’s right. Okay.

 

Mark Turman  04:34

Yeah. So Chris, I purposely did not mention your wife’s name because I’ve never seen that name before. And I didn’t want to mess it up. So your wife’s name is it’s

 

Chris Brooks  04:45

an Ethiopian name. Yodit derives from the name, Judith, which is a female version of Judah, the Hebrew name for praise praise to God, and so on. She comes from a great Christian family. I tell people that the simplest way to remember it is just like Jodi, but with a Y. It is easy to remember that way Yodit. So well, by the way,

 

Jim Denison  05:14

Mark, she is brilliant and beautiful. I have met her. 

 

Chris Brooks  05:23

This year she’s been putting out with me for 25 years

 

Jim Denison  05:25

Oh, congratulations. Yeah, you can Yeah, exactly.

 

Mark Turman  05:30

Well, we’ll we’ll be connected as well, because my wife is named Judy or judo. Wow. And so it’s a little bit of a name linkage there.

 

Chris Brooks  05:39

That’s a common Ethiopian name. Yep.

 

Mark Turman  05:44

So awesome. Well, we’re going to talk about a couple of things today to try to encourage and equip our audience as we’re all passionate about doing. And so broadly, I want to just talk to you about the church, and particularly the church in America today is where you’re seeing that, tell us a little bit about how God led you into ministry. And then tell us a little bit about what’s unique about doing ministry in the name of Christ in the Detroit area in that part of Michigan where you’re served? Yeah.

 

Chris Brooks  06:13

Well, I think the simplest way is to say, you know, it was it was God’s providence of grace that led me into into ministry. But there’s certainly a familial part of it. My father and grandfather, were both in ministry. So I’m a third generation preacher, my father spent a little bit of time pastoring, but primarily was itinerant and evangelists and in His ministry, before he passed away, way too early, at 56 years of age, as a result of a heart attack, but certainly, my formative years were spent, and dialogue with him around the word of God, he was, by day a professional school teacher, and I like to affectionately say, and by night, he was my school teacher, teaching me the word of God and developing with him your real passion for the word. I was blessed along the way to have some incredible pastoral mentors as well. And my eagerness for learning. And reading was a place of bonding for my dad, even as a as a young boy, I just remember helping to organize his books in the library. And that was so much fun to me over the weekends. And so that was kind of the formative years. But I will say that I developed a love for business. You mentioned in my intro, the economic background, as I went through school, I’ve developed a real passion and love for business. And so when I graduated from my undergrad program, I was pretty content with going full time into the investment banking world. And I spent the mid to late 90s there all the way up till September 1 2001. and felt the Lord directing me to my local church to come on staff a role had opened up, and I took it say yes. And 10 days later, the World Trade Centers were burning, and I kind of feel like God preserved me for what he’s allowed me to do, and serving the local church.

 

Jim Denison  08:35

Well, then, and then would you have been in the Twin Towers, you know,

 

Chris Brooks  08:39

our office was in Michigan gym, but all of our training was there in New York, we went back and forth to New York, probably every other month. So there’s a high probability I would have been there. I lost two friends, colleagues, as a result of what happened on 911. And it took me Jim, about a decade before I can even go back to the city, just because of the deep connection emotionally. I eventually did go back and see the memorial, the 911 Memorial, which I would encourage everyone to go and take in three that’s there. But there’s a high probability I would have been there.

 

Jim Denison  09:20

Oh, my gosh, I had not heard that story. Yeah. Oh, my friend.

 

09:25

Yeah. All right. So

 

Jim Denison  09:27

the way the age of 55 from a heart attack? Yeah. So yeah, I didn’t know we had that in common as well. So it’s right. Wait, so sorry. Way too soon. Way too. So.

 

Mark Turman  09:38

Yeah, yeah. It’s amazing how our dads and our granddad’s shape us and in so many different ways and, and those kinds of random events like 911 Just how we look back on those and see what could have happened, you know, and then like said, how that impacts us. I know I was in New York a couple of years ago for my own doctoral program. The last seminar that we did in my doctoral program was a two week immersive, expensive experience in New York. And I found myself after about an hour, I needed to get out of the 911 Memorial just because of the intensity of emotions that it generated. And since then, I’ve had people in my congregation here in the Dallas area that were in New York, they were in nearby buildings, and and it’s just so so much a part of our lives and still brings back so many intense remembrances and reflections and and such a pivotal day for

 

Chris Brooks  10:42

all of us who believe it’s been over 20 years.

 

Jim Denison  10:46

That’s shocking. Yeah, it really is. Yeah, yeah. So Chris, about Detroit, if you wouldn’t mind letting us know what ministry is like.

 

Chris Brooks  10:54

The second part of your question, is an interesting one to me, because of my beliefs about the fall of humanity. And I’ll say this about my beliefs about the fall, I think the fall and the effects of the fall, are evenly distributed across humanity. And what I mean by that is, I don’t think that there are places that are more fallen than others, more sin than others, we’re all in need of a Savior, all in need of the grace that comes through Jesus Christ and the work of the Cross finish work of Christ on the cross. But I do believe the fall expresses itself differently in various groups and cultures. And so I would say in Detroit, like many urban inner city areas, there has been some of the the challenges that you probably will be familiar with violence, gang activity, a decaying infrastructure, economic stagnation, that has come as a result of a lot of factors, all of those things that create urban life realities. And so I will say that pastoral ministry in that context, has to be combined with a holistic view of the application of the gospel, what Luke talks about, or records Jesus saying, and Luke chapter four, that he’s coming to set the captives free to open the eyes of the blind to set at liberty, those who have been in prison. So there’s a meeting of the physical needs a meaning of the spiritual needs, as well. And so I like to put it this way, if you think about the Jesus of Billy Graham, which helped to prepare us for the life to come, and the Jesus of Dr. Chain, which helped us prepare, prepare us for the life that we’re living. I want to combine both of those, because that’s who I believe the Savior really is. And I think that it’s possible for us to proclaim the gospel that works in every zip code, and a gospel that also prepares us for eternity.

 

Jim Denison  13:09

Mark, now you understand, right? A little more? Why I’m such a fan of Chris Brooks. I mean, I’ve never heard that juxtaposition of Billy Graham and Martin Luther King as both expressing the gospel. Yeah, that’s exactly right. Yeah, it’s exactly right, this life and the life to come. And the holistic call that is inside all of that, and, therefore the desire on his heart to do both of those and the desire that ought to be on ours as well as,

 

Mark Turman  13:34

But Jim is, I’ve heard you say often that Jesus was a model for us in terms of meeting, meeting, felt needs and meeting physical and real needs, in order to meet spiritual needs to get into the opportunity of conversation about eternal needs and the reality of the gospel. And that those two things have to go together. Yeah,

 

Jim Denison  13:55

I would say in the secular culture, you have to earn the right these days to preach the gospel. You know, I mean, there was a day when I mean, I’m remember, I’m 64. I’m old enough to remember a day when a lot of people were worried about hell, they were worried about dying and going to hell, and so they thought the church was necessary to help them go to heaven instead of hell. Well, the other day, I saw George Clooney quote, I don’t believe in heaven or hell, I don’t want to waste this life, which is the only life I have. Chris, I saw a survey that said that only 1% of Americans were afraid they might die and go to hell out. So we don’t have that anymore. Nor do we have the moral standing we once had in the culture that people knew they needed to go to church to be better people. You’re seeing the clergy abuse scandal. You’re familiar obviously with all the tragedy around all that. So I think we’ve lost that attraction and so say that to say these days maybe more than ever, just like Jesus beginning his ministry we have to legitimize preaching the gospel by doing the gospel. My friend Randall leverage has I have no right to preach the gospel to a hungry person. Wow. I really believe there’s truth in that.

 

Chris Brooks  14:53

Yeah. Those are all profound things that you just said and I agree with you, Jim, I you know, often will tell our A church that throughout Scripture, we see that signs are for sermons that wonders are for the word. And so when we see these, you know, miracles, it’s to set up the message. When we see signs, it’s set up the sermons when we see wonders, it’s set up to where God knows how to draw a crowd. And I think that in similar fashion, our work should point to our faith. And when we do these things, it’s not an end unto itself. And that’s what separates the social gospel from the Gospel of Scripture, we’re not doing these good works with the sense of creating a utopia here, or as a, an end unto itself. But it is an expression of the love of Christ that fills our hearts, that compels us to go into communities, and to show the care and the concern of the gospel. And so I 100% agree.

 

Jim Denison  16:04

And the challenges, I think, that we’ve had over the years, we take when we take people this way, we always go up to harm a Guido, and look out at the Valley of mosquito or Armageddon, as we say, and we go through the, you know, kind of the eschatological theories that are out there, once a day when a thing called postmodern it or excuse me, post millennialism, was a very, very popular idea, the idea that the church could usher in the millennium VHDL, created Southwestern Seminary in part to usher in the millennium. Well, now we understand the church isn’t probably going to do that, that we don’t have the capacity to do that. So we’ve seen some people swing to the other side. And to get to a kind of eschatology says the world must by definition, get worse before the Lord will return us. So we have no business engaging in cultural issues that’s only prolonging the time until Christ over to so there’s this middle ground that we’re not meeting needs as an end unto themselves. Like Chris said, it’s not a social gospel, Rosh imbues kind of all that’s left for the church to do is to meet social need, because everybody knows the Bible is a diary of religious experience, nor is it on the other side withdrawing to only preach the gospel. You’re not preaching the gospel, if you’re not meeting felt need to meet spiritual need? And isn’t there a balance in there someplace? And that’s why I love the way Chris does ministry because he has that holistic mindset and everything that he does. And man.

 

Mark Turman  17:22

It’s just, you know, it’s interesting to me sometimes how, within the church, within the Christian community, we end up creating false tensions, you know, most all of my ministry, we’ve had this tension of Well, are we focused on evangelism? Are we focused on discipleship? Well, it’s not an either or it’s a both and it’s a both and and why do we get into arguments into two conflicts over things that are both strongly presented in Scripture, both the calling of the church and of every Christian? We want to share the gospel anywhere in everywhere that we can with every person that we can. And then once they become become a follower of Christ with us that we want them to develop that relationship into its fullest. Depth and strength and vitality. Why would we argue about which one of those is most important? They’re both vital. That’s like, that’s like arguing, which which is more important, the baby being born or taking care of the baby after it’s born there. They’re both equally important. Chris, I wanted to just get your thoughts kind of unpack, if you will, a little bit of the biblical theology of the church, we’re living in this age of the church. And obviously, a lot of great things going on in the church, everywhere that you go, but also a lot of difficulty. We mentioned the clergy abuse scandals that are really, really hurting our witness right now. But there’s differing opinions floating around. Is the church, particularly the church in America? Is it doing well? Or is it not doing well, making my way through the latter pages of a book called The myth of the dying church by Glenn stamp right now, but wanted to get your thoughts in, but maybe first of all, just define the church because I’m kind of starting to get the experience around me in the Dallas area, that there’s a lot of things that pass for under the banner of okay, that’s my church. But it doesn’t exactly look like a church, when you start unpeeling some of the layers of it in terms of how it’s set up and how it functions and whether or not everybody’s really welcome. So maybe we start there in terms of how you see the definition of what what is the church? 

 

Chris Brooks  19:39

Yeah, so if I was, I’m from the auto capital of the world, Detroit. So if I wanted to figure out what a car was, I would turn to the manufacturers of these cars, look at the owner’s manual and say, how do they define that? Well, I take the same approach to the church. God is the manufacturer, the creator of the church. if you will, and the owner’s manual is the Bible. So I’m gonna look at the word of God to say, how does he define the church. And there’s three little letters and your New Testament, my New Testament, they’re called pastoral epistles. First Timothy, Second Timothy and, and Titus have classically been called to pastoral epistles. And I think that they, they they teach us much, as well as broadly, the Scriptures teach us much about what the church is supposed to be. Two things number one, the term Ecclesia is often used for the church, which in in the first century Roman culture would have been a gathering, a community of, of people, the called out ones, if you will, from a biblical perspective, that the church needs to be an assembly of people who are called from something and to something from the world or from a life of sin, to a life of fidelity to Christ. So the church is a group or community of believers who have pledged their fidelity to Christ, as disciples following him. That’s, that’s the heart of the church, but also see that the New Testament more often than not, and if you read First Timothy, I’ve been studying First Timothy a lot over the these last couple of years just to be reminded of my job description, if you will, as a pastor, what is my marching orders, and these types of times, the familial language that is used throughout the pastoral epistles really strikes you that God is our Father, that we are brothers and sisters, that the church is a spiritual family. So that’s great for me, because it helps me to know, the church isn’t primarily an organization. It’s not the political, the religious weighing of any political party, that the church as we learned through COVID, was not just a building. So the simple definition I will give from the church is that the church is a spiritual family, committed to Christ, on mission for the gospel, that we are spiritual family, we’re committed to Christ, and we are on mission for the gospel, to spread the good news of his salvation. And so that’s what the that’s what the church is. I think in this day and time, what we’re seeing, in particular with this generation, is a stronger demand for the church to almost take on an activist role, that far more than just proclaiming getting news, the question is being asked, Have you moved the needle on the social issues that we deem to be important? I think this is where discernment is required. This is where we have to be beholden to the scriptures, because our hyper political environment tempts us to say, Hey, I’m going to pick aside and try to, if you will scratch the itch of that particular group of people for the activist issues that they want me to be passionate about. But I think they’re what we have to be as biblical as like never before, being beholden to the Word of God, and walking out the commitments that come along with our faith, and being a follower of Jesus Christ. And in so doing, they’re going to be times when we appease one or the other side, there’ll be times when we offend one or the other side with our fidelity has to be the Christ.

 

Jim Denison  23:43

Chris, if I could pick up on that for just a second. Thank you for that, man. I wish I was I wish I was listening to you talk and wishing you had been my ecclesiology, professor and seminary. To summarize, really, in such a such a holistic fashion, I think exactly who we are and what we’re to be in these days. So why do you think it is? I think I have some answers as well. Why why are we tempted? Why am I tempted? Why as Christian leaders, are we tempted into the sides into the partisan issues into the into engaging in kind of a focus group sort of motivated, you know, kind of causes that maybe aren’t so expressive of the gospel, but more or what the culture is demanding that we do? talk for a second, if you would, about what tempts pastors and Christian leaders in that direction?

 

Chris Brooks  24:30

Yeah. I don’t really think maybe a little off. No, Jim, you have thought deeply about this as well. I’ll just say, just a couple of things. Number one, we’re human beings. We, as pastors, want approval, one acceptance. You have to guard your character from being driven by the applause of the approval of men. And, you know, it was it’s very tempting for that. So that’s part of it. It, Paul warns Timothy not to engage himself in civilian affairs, I think that we can often forget where our citizenship lies, and what our responsibilities are to, to this world as heralds of the gospel. But I think going back to Nietzsche, and his philosophy, this whole thought of will to power. And this thought that somehow at the end, the narrative of history is about power, who ultimately dominates the other? I think that, to me, is at the heart of most of what we see in this in our culture, you know, we often will claim that this whole sense of, of dominance, will, will, if we’re not careful, become the way the church operates, trying to claim positions of power, by force, or by will, or by the loudness of our voice, instead of coming as Christ did, as a servant to all, as you said, Jim earning the right to proclaim the gospel.

 

Jim Denison  26:17

Yeah. Now you got absolutely agree. I mean, the world of power is the basic driving human nature they need. She was right about that. It’s the temptation in Genesis three to be our own god. Yeah. You know, yes. So I may have, I may have told this story someplace along the way. But back in 2009, when we were starting this ministry, I was meeting with a guy named Brad Smith, Brad used to work with leadership network work with Bob Buford, a really brilliant strategic mind. And so he and I were talking, I was asking for advice. As we were getting started, he asked, well, how is this going to be funded us have a lot of donor base, and he said, Well, who’s your enemy? And I asked, Well, what do you mean? He said, well, to raise money, you do three things. You convince people to have an enemy, convince them, they can’t defeat their enemy, then convince them you will defeat their enemy if they give you money, or vote for you or whatever. Now, he’s being a little facetious with me, at least I hope he was we certainly tried not to do it that way. But isn’t that wow thing, you know, the other sides the enemy. The other side, though, it’s a bad guys, those people over there after you, whatever the after you looks like, you know, so come to my church, or give me money or support what we’re doing and we will win the culture war on your behalf? Yeah. Is it daily temptation, and so much of the culture is doing that, as an expression of that willpower as as that need to win? You can’t win unless somebody else’s loses, right? It’s gotta be a conflict, it’d be a winner. Right? And it just is. So for me anyway, it’s so I mean, we deal with it every day here. With every article we write with everything that we put out, man, let’s just try our best not to go there, you know, not to be in that space. 

 

Chris Brooks  27:47

You know, Jim, one thing, and I’ll just say this as an aside, and forgive me if it’s a deviation. But, you know, we know over the last several years, and maybe even beyond that the kind of accusation of being a Marxist has gotten a revival, right? Anything that seems to be more progressive politically, is called Marxism. But I think that when we understand Marxism at its root, it’s rooted in conflict theory, right? That there is a social conflict that’s happening between two social classes now, and Marxism is to proletariat, the working people and the bourgeoisie, the the leading class, right, and the only way that that ultimately gets worked out, is when one group conquers the other and in Marxist theory, the proletariat was ultimately going to win. But I think that whenever we get to a place where we say the world would be better without the other group, whoever we define us. And the way that we’re going to get to that point is by conquering them, defeating them. When that becomes our agenda. We have become Marxist in our hearts. I don’t care what political side you’re on, when the whole message is dominance by any means necessary. It is an antithetical message to the gospel, the gospel is reconciliation, not dominance. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, whereby we implore men be reconciled to God, Jesus we know as a result of Paul’s writing in Ephesians, two on that cross was reconciling us to God and through that cross, and in Christ us to one another, tearing down the wall of hostility that existed between us and one another, Jew and Gentile. And so I think that as Christians, we’re at a place where we have to ask ourselves, are we going to accept the message of dominance that is so pervasive in our culture, or are we going to accept the ministry call of reconciliation? Do that Christ has given us.

 

Jim Denison  30:02

I think Marx was right. In his description there have fallen man, I think you’re exactly right, Chris. I would never say Marx is right in terms of his solutions, of course, would never for a moment say that. But I think he wants to he was diagnosing this will to power its human nature desire was it, whatever my side is has to win your side has to lose. Now, he wanted that to be the case, we we obviously consider that to be woefully tragic. A third of the world has been enslaved by a kind of communist ideology that comes out of that very worldviews. Marx is writing in the British Library back from the day when he’s creating what we call Das Kapital. But you’re right, I mean, that idea that my side has to win, and therefore your side has to lose really is an expression of some of the culture today. And even I would say, and I don’t mean this to sound unkind. Some of those that are the most angry about so called Marxism in the culture, whether it’s critical race theory, or whatever it is, are some of the ones expressing the very thing we’re saying right now.

 

Chris Brooks  30:56

You know, we gotta we gotta guard our hearts. Yeah,

 

Jim Denison  31:00

we all do. You all do. I’m tempted as anybody.

 

Mark Turman  31:04

Yeah. And the opportunity for the church here is to follow in the steps of Jesus and to do what Jesus did, he had all power, you know, even at the cross he saying, Look, I could call 10,000 Angels if I wanted to. But Jesus is exemplifying, hey, I, I control, I have all power, but I’m going to use my power for the benefit of others. And for the glory of God, I’m going to pour myself out and serve service, sacrifice and suffering for the sin of the world. And then you see, the church and the early church leaders doing the same thing, Paul, coming to the end of his life, they’re in Second Timothy, as he writes, he talks about the pastoral letters, Paul says, you know, at the end, I’ve been poured out for others, as a drink offering, I’ve been poured out for the glory of God. And that’s the opportunity of the church in this day is to not be consumers, coming in looking for a religious experience that inspires them, but rather coming in to be people who will say, we will be like Christ, we will, we will take our power and influence and and give it away, we will lay it down in service, sacrifice and suffering if necessary. And that really kind of drives me back to what we were talking about, you know, I know you’ve written on marriage probably can speak to this a lot better than I, one of the pastors in our area, a guy named Jimmy Evans, up in Amarillo, talks about in his talks about in his book How dominance will kill a relationship, it will kill a marriage faster than anything, you decide in that context, that you’re going to dominate one or more areas of your relationship of marriage. And you’re immediately putting in the poison that will kill the relationship. And it’s it happens in the home. And it happens within the church family as well, as we operate as sacred siblings, if we try to dominate in and it can happen from pastor and staff down toward the people or it can happen from the people toward the pastoral staff, we’re going to try to dominate what happens here rather than adopting a servant mindset, right, as Jesus taught us, and talk about that a little bit from want to talk a little bit about expectations, because I think that’s where a lot of struggle within the church happens. People get disillusioned because of expectations not being met. We tried to talk about that in my church. Here in the Dallas area, we would have a an orientation of a membership orientation, when people came into our church to try to set the understanding of this is what you can expect from the church. What what should we expect from you? How do you handle that conversation in your minister? 

 

Chris Brooks  33:57

Well, you know, the question, and I love the question. I think it starts with recognizing that we have to do what we’re doing in this conversation, and start with a baseline conversation of what is the church, because when we skipped that point, or skip that step in the process, we overlooked the fact that everyone comes to the church with their own sense of definition, with their own sense of expectation. And that may be in line with scripture, but more often than not, it’s informed by culture by Hollywood by sound bites and TV and media and so many other things, not the least of which is our personal experience, whether that be good or bad. So there’s a couple of resources that we try to use to help people to start with the question of what is the church where we can explain. You know, I may have mentioned this before, but Joe Hellerman, who’s a professor at Biola University, Dr. Joe Holloman has written up powerful book entitled when the church was family. And that helps to give that framework for the church being a spiritual family in which not only are we sacred siblings, but we are obligated to one another. I think that where we have truncated the gospel in some ways, is to say, hey, when you put your faith in Jesus, you get a Savior. And you do. But you also get a family. And we’re in covenant with God, but we also are in covenant with one another. And that’s where all those one another passages come into play in the New Testament, that obligate me to you and you to me, the other thing that we try to do is to affirm right expectation. I don’t think the culture is wrong when they expect Christian leaders to align themselves with the Word of God, the ethics that we proclaim. Now, I think, that we have to be honest about our own humanity. And when we are wrong, that’s not at all, an indictment against the gospel. As a matter of fact, the Gospel helps us to know when we are wrong, it gives us a measuring stick beyond our own human activities and standards, by which I know I need to repent. But we have to affirm the fact that people aren’t wrong when they say, Hey, as a Christian leader, you should what was happening in your life should be the same as what’s happening in Scripture. There should be this correlation, if you will. So I think there are some right expectations. I think there are some wrong expectations. But the starting point for all of it, is to talk about what the church is, and how God has defined it. And I will just say this, Jim, when you think about church history, every area seems to have its area of theology that comes to the fore. The areas of theology that really seem to be prioritized. I would say, in this generation, the two areas of theology that are at the forefront are anthropology. What does it mean to be human? And ecclesiology? What is the church? I think those should be there was a time, like you see where everybody was concerned about eschatology. And everybody was looking to the future. I got the flannel charts to prove it. Right. There’s charts there. He’s well illustrated. That’s it. That’s it. Give me a Scofield and I’m ready to go, you know. But that’s not the time that we live in. Right now. You know, the time that we live in is a time where people are asking anthropological questions very deeply, the church needs to be engaged in that. And I think that the church was one of the areas mark where we have, I think, gone wrong, is we have not through most of church history, taking anthropology as seriously as the Bible has. Great. So now, now you have a generation who says, Hey, you got your soteriology, right, what you believe about salvation? You got your Christology, right? What you believe about Jesus? But how could you enslave other human beings? Right? You got that wrong. But yet, we have people who we would baptize as the standard of orthodoxy who got maybe the rest of their theology, right? But anthropology was woefully wrong. And very rarely do we hold them accountable about that? We have people who get again, they’re soteriology, right? They’re Christology, right? But they have created a culture in which the abuse of women is pervasive and accepted. This is what this generation is saying to us that no, you have to get your anthropology right as well. And when Paul confronts Peter and Galatians, chapter two, he says to him, because of Peters, hypocrisy in a way he relayed to the Gentiles before those who from the circumcision party came, Paul says he challenged him to his face, because his behavior was not in step with the gospel. Now for an apostle to send it to another apostle, is the highest level of indictment. What he’s basically saying is that your behavior is heretical that you’re behaving in a heretical way you’re not in step with the gospel. And it wasn’t doctrinal heresy, but it was certainly behavior or heresy. And so I think that the church’s challenge now is to be just at take just as seriously our orthodoxy as we do our practices, seriously, behavioral heresy as we do doctrinal heresy. And I don’t think that the church has fully embraced that shift in our culture, yet some have. But I think we still have a long way to go on that.

 

Mark Turman  40:36

Yeah, it’s just interesting how, how behavioral heresy leads toward theological heresy and vice versa, right. But But this, this issue of anthropology is just seen, in daily life everywhere, we all have these questions about identity, and about what we mean, when we start talking about this thing called the image of God, what does it mean that we bear the image of God and that every person does, goes all the way to this very current reality and big discussion about abortion, the image of God in the unborn? In every culture, every society, every group, every gender, all of these questions about, well, who am I? And what am i are all anthropology questions, right? And how do I fit in this world, even the conversations about all kinds of confusion relative to sexuality and transgenderism? And it those are all questions of identity and anthropology that our our culture is struggling with. And it is an opportunity for the church, quite frankly, it’s an opportunity for us in things like this podcast, to help people find those biblical answers to what does the Bible say about who we are, and about how we are this special Pinnacle expression of creation as the image bearers of God. And I think we have to get better at articulating those kinds of biblical answers to the questions that the culture is asking, Hey, man,

 

Jim Denison  42:18

yeah, those weren’t the issues growing up for me, you know, I became a Christian at the age of 15. I’m 64. Now, back in those days in the 70s, and the 80s, we’re getting into inerrancy conflicts inside Baptist life and have a Jellico life. You know, we’re having theological issues around that. We’re having theological issues around charismatic expression versus cessationism. And all the stuff that now all the eschatology stuff, like we talked about a minute ago, then we’re getting into Calvinism versus Arminianism issues and sovereignty and free will, that, you know, all these issues that have really captured so many of us in Christian leadership over all the years, all the while, the issues that matter most to daily life, or the anthropology issues, sitting out here on the side, and the culture is moving into a sexual revolution in the 60s, and it’s endorsing abortion in 73. And you’re seeing LGBTQ activism starting in 69. And moving forward and normalizing and then to legalize, and now to stigmatize those who disagreed, even criminalizing disagreement. And all the while that’s been happening. I’ve been over here, my colleagues have been over here debating various versions of inerrancy, and various definitions of the Chicago statement and trying to figure out which of Calvin’s five points we really agree with, you know, what we’re, and I’m not, I’m not here to say those things aren’t important. Those are vitally important issues, but won’t make you guys point, you know, just out of that context, in the midst of all that, I’m seeing Paul looking at Peter and looking us kind of the same way. Yeah, you know, back to Galatians. Two and saying, Well, you guys are so worried about this. But here are these very people here, here are these Gentiles becoming Christians, and you’re not thinking about them. You’re not thinking about the mass of humanity that really is needing the good news of God’s grace and doesn’t need to come through the funnel of Judy Ising legalism and having to be circumcised to become Christian and all the stuff inside all that I can see Paul saying the same thing to us today. Get anthropology out in front again, and see that again, as being as critical to us as it was to him and as it was to Jesus, and it’s Jesus at that very point. 

 

Chris Brooks  44:20

And the sad thing, Jim, is that for some for believers, like yourself, leaders like yourself, to to affirm what you just farmed for some is, are the marks of progressivism, or, or how the temptation to fill there’s a deviation from orthodoxy. And yet everything you just said was, yes, we need inerrancy. Yes, we need to understand eschatology. Yes, we need to make sure we get a right understanding of the cross and The work of Christ and how salvation is experienced. We’re not saying those things don’t matter. But what we are saying is that, and so does anthropology. And I think the church has to get to a point where we’re not afraid that that somehow is a dog whistle for wokeness, or CRT, I think that there’s a ways for us to model and what we must do is model I, you know, I try to think in terms of the extremes, when it comes to most of these conversations, be it sexuality, or social identity, race, all of these things, we can either take the perspective of shouting, like most of our culture is doing, or silence like some of our culture is doing. But I think the Bible rejects both of those approaches. What Paul tells us to do in Ephesians, is just this third option, which is speak to truth in love. We don’t have to shout, we don’t have to go on to Twitter and put our tweets in all capital letters, with 30 Exclamation marks after it. Nor do we have to be silent, hoping that somehow we’ll come through these conversations unscathed. Because I think much like in the Protestant Reformation period, the question of Catholicism, everyone had to answer it, there was no way you’re going to come through unscathed. You can try to take the silent route for only so long, but eventually you’re going to be confronted with it. Well, I think to all these anthropological issues, eventually you’re going to have to answer and you better be ready to answer in a way that is true to your convictions, but full of compassion. You know, John says, John’s Gospel says, and John 117, the law came through Moses, grace and truth have come through Christ. And I just think that that’s what we need to embrace in this season, that we don’t want to truthless grace or graceless truth, we can have compassion and conviction.

 

Mark Turman  47:12

So good. Okay, Chris, let’s talk about that a little bit. As you were talking about, just understanding who we are want to give our people several words of hope. But particularly around this, I have, in my mind, the CS Lewis, quote, you never met a mere human. And that driving it, that idea of what it means to be the image bearers of God, how would you speak to our audience in that way, to help them understand how incredibly beautiful and valuable they are? How important they are to God? Obviously, the cross is the greatest expression of that. But how would you say to that person, you know, we talk about in our culture right now, the very significant number of what are called deaths of deaths of despair. We’re going to do a podcast soon about suicide and helping our audience to deal with that we’ve seen a significant rise in our culture during the pandemic, of hopelessness of despair. And, unfortunately, of suicide. How would you? How would you encourage the people that hear this and are dealing not only with their own questions of who they are their anthropological questions, but they’re dealing with teenagers and children and friends and family members struggling? Where do I fit? How does God look at me? Does God really see me as somebody precious and valuable? How would you speak to that? Yeah,

 

Chris Brooks  48:48

I love the question. I’m so grateful for it. And it makes me think, as a dad, what I want my kids to understand about who they are to God, who they are, and in his in his sight. So as they navigate through a culture that’s going to try to tell them who they are, that they would know with surety, who they are. So just a couple of places, I would go in a text number one, I will go to Genesis one, where after each day of creation, we hear this refrain, the Lord said, and it was good, and it was good. But when he gets to the apex of His creation, humanity, he looks and he says, and it was very good, you know, this whole sense of his pleasure. You know, I was after I went through the loss of our son, the death of our son, I was in grief counseling. And the counselor who’s well trained in both theology and counseling, asked me a question, and it caused me to pause he says, Chris, is God pleased with you? And you know, if you would have asked me, Does God love me? I would quickly say yes, if he would have asked asked me, Are you forgiven? I would quickly say yes. But I paused for a minute, because I hadn’t thought of the pleasure of God. Unfortunately, at that point in my spiritual development I just hadn’t thought deeply enough about. But going back to Genesis one, we encountered the pleasure of God, that he is very pleased with his creation, when he when he looks at us, I also like to think of Peters words, and First Peter two, and nine, and he says that you are a royal priesthood, that whole thought of being royal, you know, I don’t have to look for governments to ascribe dignity to me, doesn’t come from that doesn’t come from public policymakers. My dignity is firmly bestowed upon me by God. Others can affirm it, certainly, but they cannot give it nor can they take it away, I am made an image of God, he is very pleased with me. And he is also he also calls me Royal. I love that, that we, we get a chance to experience that. But I also would say this, that we are His ambassadors, right? We are His ambassadors, Paul causes that. So it’s important for us to understand that we’re important to the mission, you know, God could have obviously, is a result of his power, could have accomplished a mission without us. But he invites us to be a part of that mission. So I’m so grateful for that. And then finally, I’ll just mention that Jesus says his disciples, I no longer call you servants, but friends, that your, your, your friends. And so when you think about all of that, so often, the word that’s described are used in Scripture, as the letters of the New Testament are written is, beloved, that we are beloved. And that’s that’s how I think of the church, as I think of what it means to be in Christ, my own identity. That’s how I hope my my kids see their identity in Christ. And that’s the way I hope that all my brothers and sisters see their identity that you are beloved.

 

Jim Denison  52:23

So Mark, don’t you want to move to Detroit?

 

52:26

I think so what I mean, yeah, absolutely.

 

Jim Denison  52:29

Be in a church where the pastor like that,

 

Chris Brooks  52:31

you know, the other part of that’s really sweet Jim, is that in first, John, those first four verses a first, John, it’s a multisensory passage, that which we’ve seen with our eyes, hurt with our gears in touch with our hands, right? That’s what we proclaim to you. But he says that their joy is complete by inviting us into that fellowship they have, and the fellowship they have is with the Father, through the son with the Father. And so not only are we beloved, but we get to invite others into that fellowship, that we get to invite our neighbors, our co workers into this loving relationship we have with our Heavenly Father, as a result of this, the sacrifice and grace is given to us through Jesus Christ. And so I praise God that that not only are we beloved, but we get to invite others into that that relationship as well.

 

Jim Denison  53:32

That’s really the attraction of the gospel in a culture like this. Yes, I know we have to be out of time, Mark, but just very briefly, I’d want to contrast that with how our culture would answer your question. Yes. So Martin Heidegger, the existentialist atheistic philosopher, says you’re an actor on a stage. Wow. You have no script. No audience, no director, no past no future. Courage is to face life as it is. He emphasized a thing called dot sign in the German which is being there. And in his world, this is all there is. It’s the George Clooney quote, I don’t believe in heaven or hell, I don’t want to waste the only life I know. I have. John Paul Sartre. I titled his most famous play, no exit, titled his autobiography, nausea. Naturally, that’s your devotional thought for that. Yeah. You know, wow. In a culture like that, yes. Come forward with this idea of being beloved, and being able to invite other people to be beloved, isn’t that the incredible opportunity and invitation that we have? The darker the room, the more powerful the light, and that’s the light that we get to share today, man.

 

Chris Brooks  54:44

It’s been a joy to be with you guys.

 

Jim Denison  54:47

Chris, thank you for sharing your heart and your mind with us and with those that we’re reaching here today. And Mark I know you’ll say this, but I just want to say this too. I hope everybody who’s hearing this will as a result of this take my invitation iron invitation to be more engaged with Chris Brooks ministry to follow Him as He is available through radio to follow him as he’s available online as his preachings online as his writing is online, and to pray for him, to pray for him to pray for his family to pray for his ministry in these critical days. So grateful that God back 20 years ago, called Chris from a life of finance overdue a life of eternal finance. I guess we could say that’s, and he’s investing in eternal finance. And I couldn’t be a bigger fan and want those that are following our ministry to follow his ministry with that kind of gratitude.

 

Chris Brooks  55:33

feeling’s mutual.

 

Mark Turman  55:34

Absolutely. Now, thank you, friend. Absolutely. Yeah, one of one of our goals is to use this opportunity of podcasts to, to affirm and accelerate other voices that are really representing Christ in the Gospel in such a beautiful way. Chris, I just was was thinking while you were talking about what Genesis talks about how, you know, we keep coming back at times to the Westminster catechism that says, you know, the chief end of man is to know God enjoy Him and to enjoy him forever. I wonder if you could turn that around a little bit to say, and God’s great goal in the cross is that he would have us with him so he could enjoy forever. And we don’t we don’t think about that. We don’t think that that’s how much God thinks of us is that he, he went so far as to die on a cross so that he could enjoy us, with him and heaven for us. And that’s good. That’s, you know, what a great, great way of expressing God’s love and concern for us. That’s Chris Brooks, folks, you could find him on the moody radio network at equipped with Chris Brooks. You can find him in your favorite bookstore, you can find him online at Woodside Bible Church as well. And check that out. And if you’re in the Michigan area, obviously, you can go and check out that church and we would recommend you to do all of that, Chris, again, thank you for your ongoing ministry, your time with us today, the work that you and Jim do on an ongoing basis. And we’re just privileged to be a partner with you. And we thank you for your time

 

Chris Brooks  57:07

for for the work you guys are doing and consider this partnership, one of the most important that we have and I’m super grateful for the ministry. God bless you guys.

 

Jim Denison  57:19

God bless, Chris. Thanks so much, my friend.

 

57:22

All right. Take care.

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