Digging into doubts and how to minister to Gen Z: A conversation with Barnabas Piper

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Digging into doubts and how to minister to Gen Z: A conversation with Barnabas Piper

September 12, 2022 -

Barnabas Piper joins Dr. Mark Turman and Mark Legg to discuss being a pastor’s kid, talking to teens and Gen Z about doubts, the importance of humor, and depending on Christ in all things.

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Show notes:

Barnabas Piper begins by reflecting on his own life’s story and how the Lord refreshed the idea of the church to him (2:32). They discuss the hypocrisy of some Christian leaders and how to move forward with grace (12:31). Piper talks about the restoration of Christian leaders, how to talk to kids openly about your own doubts, and how to raise children who ask deep questions (18:09). They turn to converse about the openness and authenticity of Gen Z (30:56). With everything being in Christ’s hands, they discuss how we can live without fear, and how The Happy Rant podcast came from that sentiment (39:09). They look at the importance of humor, honesty, and self-depreciation in ministry (43:19). Barnabas ends by talking about political idolatry and faithful churches (52:11).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

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.

Mark Legg is the Associate Editor for Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 2021 with a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Studies

About the guest 

Barnabas Piper is an author, a speaker, and an assistant pastor at Immanuel Church of Nashville. He’s also the co-host of the Happy Rant podcast and co-author of the new book, The Happy Rant. Visit barnabaspiper.com.  He has authored four other books: The Pastor’s Kid, Help My Unbelief, The Curious Christian, and Hoping for Happiness.


Transcript by Otter.ai 

Mark Turman  00:12

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director at Denison forum, sitting down again for a conversation today we have our Associate Editor again with us Mark Legg mark, say hello. Hello. So we’re gonna call this the remarkable podcast we have a lot of marks in our world. We are also joined today by Barnabas Piper. Many of you may be familiar with him, let me give you a little bit of a formal bio of Barnabas. Barnabas is a person, which is good thing to say about anybody. He is also a husband and the father of two daughters, which means there’s more hairspray in his house than anybody can possibly fathom. I love what he says on his website, he has no real real time for hobbies, because of being a husband and a father, maybe that will come later. But he is an avid reader writer and enjoys watching all kinds of sports. We’ll hopefully get to some of that in a minute. He’s had part of his career so far in Christian publishing, as well as in leadership development. And now has felt a call into pastoral ministry where he has now landed as assistant pastor at Emmanuel church in Nashville, so many churches in the Nashville area, and Emanuel is one of the strong ones that I’ve heard of in the past. He enjoys writing, just the act itself and the developing working out and creation of ideas. You will find him on a number of sources, and is the author of four books. We’re gonna get into some of these conversations, one about what it means to be a pastor’s kid because he grew up in a pastor’s home, a conversation about unbelief and doubt that all of us struggle with, and also about happiness, hoping for happiness, turning life’s most elusive feeling into lasting reality. Barnabas Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast.

Barnabas Piper  02:11

Thanks so much for having me on Mark. And Mark, both of you are remarkable, I guess is what we’re going with today. So yeah, it’s a pleasure to be on with you.

Mark Turman  02:20

Yeah, glad to have you. Mark. Tell us a little bit about Yeah, tell us a little bit Mark, how you got connected to Barnabas his work and what intrigued you about having a further conversation?

Mark Legg  02:32

Sure. I’m gonna be completely honest about this and give a shout out at the same time. So Mark, and I work with Katherine, who is an incredible part of our team. One of the things that she’s very talented at is finding amazing podcast guests. And so she does this magic trick where she will pull a rabbit out of a hat and say, we brought this guest when we delve into Barnabas Piper’s material and what he had written and his story as well, we were extremely excited to have him on, especially after getting to read through a pastor’s kid. Let’s start there, because as we mentioned before we even started recording. Mark. Mark Turman is a pastor with kids. I am also a pastor’s kid. And then Barnabas, it was both a pastor’s kid, and is now a pastor with kids as well. So we figured it would be perfect to talk about that. So I read your work. It was insightful. Did you feel like going through that process of being a pastor’s kid? That there was a point, especially in writing your book? Did you feel like there was a point where ministry and everything involved with church was kind of put on the back burner? Where was it difficult for you to engage with the ministry? And then how did you kind of return to the point where you are today?

Barnabas Piper  04:05

Yeah, it’s a it’s a fair question, especially given the reputation pastor’s kids have for somewhere between rebellion and cynicism. The short answer is not really in terms of ministry. Well, in terms of the church, being out of my life, I have never left the church. I have left a good relationship with the church for periods of time. Although I, I felt at the time, like the church left me is kind of what more would have felt like so there were there were stretches of my life, particularly in adulthood. Post College, where I, I knew the church was a thing that I was supposed to be part of, and I’m not supposed to just in terms of a moral sense, but kind of a this is God’s design. God this is this is God’s family. This is God’s design. Thankfully, the church I grew weapon had instilled a lot of that in me there was there was a lot of love for the church there, you know. And like all families, there’s, there’s mixed feelings, there’s there’s tensions, and there’s awkwardness, and there’s conflict, but, but a lot of love, and this is the place where I belong. So, but through my, through my 20s, and even into my early 30s, I had a very on and off mixed kind of mixed feelings relationship with the church. I had, I had a vision of what I understood the church should, that’s what it should be like, sort of, and I don’t think it was overly idealistic. It’s just this is what a healthy church should look like, in terms of the community of believers, that honesty, a place of safety for people, a place where struggling people like I was just people with a lot of doubts, a lot of struggles, could could go. And the experience I was having in the church at the time was often not that that doubts weren’t welcome, there was it was more marked by judgment or by elitism or by hypocrisy, you know, hypocrisy. But I also knew, that doesn’t mean you throw the church overboard, it just means those particular local churches are not healthy. And so and so it was it was a it was a real mixed bag. But in God’s kindness, he kept me he kept me with it. And I, in several years ago, kind of at one of my lowest points in terms of cynicism about the church, but also still hanging on to hope that I would find one, a friend recommended that I that I try manual, and, and this, this was a local church expression, where I began to discover a lot of what I expected to find in a healthy church, a place of grace, a place of honesty, a place of humility, very central and the gospel. So not not not compromising on truth, but also being gentle with truth, and then the culture that came out of that. And not to say that, you know, not to say that the church where I am now is the perfect church. But it’s the church that the Lord used to restore my soul in many ways, as well as restore my confidence in what the body of Christ can be in its local expression. And that was also the process that God used to call me out of, I’d worked in Christian publishing for years and enjoyed it and hadn’t had a good run. But in a very surprising way, moved me into pastoral ministry over the last several years, which is not something I would have predicted because growing up a pastor’s kid, I was pretty intent on never doing that job. And so God has a sense of humor, and he likes to laugh at you when you say never. So here I am, as an assistant pastor at Emanuel now.

Mark Turman  07:49

Yeah. So Barnabas? Is that to say that kind of in this journey, especially as you came into your adulthood and 20s and 30s? Was there ever kind of a pivotal crisis of faith? Or was it something less intense than that? Was there a pivotal moment just in terms of your own relationship with Christ? Was there a time when Okay, I am owning this now? Or was it kind of like, okay, I’m just owning it in a different way. It’s always been mine. Was there kind of that really kind of pivotal moment? Or was it more gradual?

Barnabas Piper  08:25

Um, I would say there was a pivotal moment that turned me towards incremental and gradual growth. I mean, so it wasn’t, it wasn’t lightbulb, as much as it was a crisis that then redirected my soul in my life into, into faithfully walking with the Lord and really growing into things. So growing up, I was faithfully taught the Bible, I was fed, I was fed theologically and biblically, you know, just tons more than more than any person deserves, really. And what that did it for me was actually feed my pride in a lot of ways. I was very confident, very prideful, and what I knew, but my own adoration for Christ, my own personal relationship with Christ, my own, my, you know, Christ being the center of my life was was not, wasn’t very strong. And so there was sort of this, this massive imbalance between my confidence in myself and my theology, and my confidence in Christ as as the core of my life. And that led me to a place in my mid 20s, where that, you know, when you’re hypocritical for long enough, it ends up crumbling, I ended up getting fired from a job for a whole kind of pattern of dishonesty. And basically, what that did was lead me to the place where I was confronted with all the things that I claimed to believe versus what my life had become, which then led to a pattern of questioning. Why do I believe what I believe what is true out of what I believe You know, sort of the just the foundational like epistemological ontological types of questions you’re like, how do I know what I know why? Why do I believe this and not that. And it was a crisis of faith not in terms of, not in terms of, Am I going to throw Christianity overboard because I, throughout all of that I, I very much felt the reality of Christianity, I also felt very much on the outside of it. Because like, there is some truth in there that I know is real, that I don’t tap into, I’m not, I’m missing something. And I had I had, I was at a church at the time, and a couple of the elders just faithfully walked with me through about a year, year and a half of that mean, they really just sort of discipled me towards understanding and resting in Scripture. And Mark nine was a pivotal passage in the midst of that they just, they basically encouraged me to go back to the New Testament, start reading the gospels to take note of who Jesus is, outside of all of my theological notions is what how does the Bible present this Jesus? And I got to mark nine. And it’s the story of the father who brings a demon possessed boy to Jesus. And he just says, Jesus, if you can, would you help me? And Jesus says, If you can, all things are possible for the one who believes in the father’s responses, I believe, help my unbelief and Mark 920 14. And it wasn’t a lightbulb moment. But it was it was like, it was like, there was a spark there of that’s what real faith can look like. I don’t need to have all the answers. I can both have this, this seeds of faith, I believe. And then it’s totally okay to come to Jesus with all of these things about which I say, help my unbelief. And and it became it was became sort of paradigmatic for me of, oh, this is how you progress in your faith. You grow in what you do believe, and you just consistently coming, keep coming back to Jesus with Help my unbelief. And that that’s why I say it was it was a crisis moment that changed my trajectory. And then that became the course that over, you know, 510, now almost 15 years, sort of walked out in my life, as the Lord has has led me into new horizons of this is what belief looks like, this is what faith looks like, this is what life in Christ means.

Mark Legg  12:31

Yeah, and there’s always a tension. And I know that you have spoken to this a lot about I mean, I’ve experienced in my own life, there’s that tension of, of hypocrisy, always, like, Can I really claim to follow Jesus? I mean, this man, in his teaching, had so much grace and compassion and love, and he died for us. Ultimately, these teachings are hard. They’re not easy. They get to the depths of your heart, and really pull up all this. All this stuff that when you take a hard look at your own life, you realize there’s some hypocrisy here. But at the same time, we’re in this net of grace, and that’s what sets us apart. But for you, and maybe maybe the answer is just discipleship. But if especially if young people are struggling with this sense of hypocrisy, there’s so many, it seems like every news line or headline is of a pastor falling away in some way, one way or the other. And it seems like it’s just constant. It’s like this barrage. You know, every week, you just open a headline, and there you go, there’s another one. And even when we can say, with full confidence, with some confidence, you know, that like, they’re right on theologically. And yet there’s that falling, and that hypocrisy that we see in a very public way. How can you speak to that? What would you say to people who would look at that and bring that before us as Yeah, you know, reason not to believe?

Barnabas Piper  14:14

Yeah, I mean, it’s the first thing I will do is acknowledge the the gut reaction of questioning the validity of something because its greatest proponents don’t live it out, is very valid. You know, if it’s the same reason we questioned communism in Russia, you know, not to get political, but like, look, there are decades of proving that this doesn’t work, and it creates oligarchy and poor people. So this whole idea of their version of social socialism is bunk. The people who claim to be its biggest proponents don’t live it out, in in the way that they teach it. So yeah, it makes sense at that level to say, I acknowledge the gut level, frustration, rejection, pain, hurt the other things that pain that it causes. People put faith in pastors in sometimes too much, sometimes in an almost idolatrous way. But, but we’re also supposed to follow spiritual leaders, you know, the God, God has raised up people to teach us and guide us and set an example for as leaders. And when those people fall, it hurts, it’s a betrayal of trust. So all of that should be acknowledged, because that that is damaging. And the closer you are to that, so if you’re, you know, if it’s if it’s somebody you admire from afar, they, you know, a podcast or, you know, you listen to podcasts of their sermons, that hurts a little bit, when you’re a member of their church, when you’re an elder at their church. That hurts a lot. That’s a that’s a different level of faith and trust in relationships. So all of that should be acknowledged. None of that changes the fact that who Jesus is, and what Jesus said, have nothing to do with the sins of that spiritual leader. They they failed to represent Christ, Christ has not failed. And so that what I would say to young people is, is your faith in Jesus Christ, who has not nor will he ever fail you? Or is your faith in the compelling speaker who drew you to Christ in the first place? At some point, we need to leapfrog over the preacher into the arms of Christ. So compelling preacher at a camp or at a church, or an amazing author, or whatever is the one who opened your eyes to Christ. But in reality, they didn’t. They were God’s means God opened your eyes to Christ. At some point, that person stops being your conduit, they’re not your priest. You don’t need famous pastor X or famous author why? To be in communion with Christ, you simply need to be in communion with Christ. And so if that pastor, or author of whoever falls, you’re, your relationship and your access to Christ are not diminished. Your faith in the system of the local church is diminished, understandably, but also don’t give up. Because one pastor’s failure is not reflected on how everybody else follows Christ. I promise you that every other faithful church leader is equally as offended and bothered, as you are, maybe not as personally hurt. But But grieved, grieved for the sake of Christ, because Christ was disparaged in somebody else’s failure. And we would love to welcome those people who are cynical and jaded and hurt by that, understandably, so not going to gonna blast anybody for being hurt. But simply say, Christ is who Christ is. And that person’s failure doesn’t diminish that in the slightest. So we almost need to separate those two things as much as possible, which is a hard thing to do, because because in our minds, they’re so interconnected.

Mark Turman  18:09

Well, you know, and borrow is a good word. And, you know, we were trying to figure out how to do this in the Christian family in the large Christian community where, you know, you do have those examples of the apostle Paul, you know, saying to the Corinthian church, hey, follow me as I follow Christ. And we usually start down the first part of that, and we forget the second part where he says, as I follow Christ, where he’s saying, Look, they’re gonna be, they’re gonna be the likelihood possibility, even the probability that I’m not always going to be follow Christ. And when you see that happening, don’t follow that. Let’s, let’s try to work on that. I wonder if, if you could comment a little bit that, you know, we see what seems like a barrage of notable failures or struggles. But we also know from a biblical standpoint, that there are incredible comeback stories, you know, just begun thinking of several different ones that are just comeback stories. Have you kind of experienced comeback stories on your own? And how do we get that message out? And then kind of a second back part of my conversation is maybe on a slightly different track, which is as a pastor’s kid, and now pastoring your own kids? How do you separate out and how have you experienced that separating out of, okay, here’s my struggle of faith that’s going on. But here’s my relationship, whether that was with your parents or with your kids now, how has that been navigated from a standpoint of hey, look, we’re gonna keep pursuing the relationship on a really healthy level, even when there are struggles of faith going on.

Barnabas Piper  19:51

Yeah, well, let me I’ll try to take your questions in order. I may need you to restate the second question because my mind can only hold so much at once. In terms of sort of the comeback stories, I am aware of, of church leaders who have fallen, whether it’s whether it’s sexual sin, or abusive leadership and things like that, who have who have come back. But it almost never happens is that they come back at the same level of prominence, which doesn’t matter. What matters is the restoration of a marriage, the restoration of relationship with Christ, in some cases, the restoration of public ministry, but there is something and I’m not speaking, I’m not making a biblical claim here. So in terms of disqualification as much as just probably a loss of trust and reputation, if God has entrusted you, a ministry of some note, and you blow it, you probably will not regain the ministry of some note. And, again, not speaking biblically, there’s a very just a personal perspective. I’m skeptical of those people who tried to try to regain the same level of notoriety they had before. I admire those people who come back at a level of humble repentance, and God will do with them what God will do, whether that’s a meaningful counseling ministry, whether that’s serving faithfully in a smaller church, whether that’s being brought alongside somebody else, those stories exist, but it’s God opens doors for us in ministry, and when we go kicking down doors, because we want to get somewhere faster than he would have us be there, or further than he would have us be or regaining something that we lost. We we don’t usually do it. Well, when I say we I just mean, you know, ministers in general. So yes, there are stories of the comebacks, they’re rarely public. In part, because salacious news is much more gripping than encouraging news, you know, that the evening news would have very low ratings, if it was if it was all the nice things that had happened around town, instead of, you know, crime and tragedy and bankruptcy and whatever. So salacious news always draws the eyes. It’s hard to make public good stories, but also humble people don’t want their stories made public in the same way. And so a truly repentant, humble person isn’t seeking publicity. They’re just seeking restoration. So that’s, that’s my answer to your first question. Now, the second question, if I remember correctly, was kind of navigating in the family context? How was the interpersonal familial relationship pursued? When there are faith struggles? You know, between parent and child, that kind of thing? So that I know am I remembering that right?

Mark Turman  22:42

No, you’re right. On your right on? Yep. Got it?

Barnabas Piper  22:47

Well, no, I’ll give some examples of how my parents did this. Well, and then how I’m trying to do this with my kids. Now my kids currently are professing believers and, and that’s how they’re living. But how I want to set it up so that should they encounter a period of doubt, they still feel connected relationally and can come to me with questions and so forth. What my parents did well, was two things come to mind right off the bat, one. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that they prayed for me constantly. So I that did not matter to me at various points in life. And it sometimes I almost resented it. But the longer the longer I’ve walked in faith, the more I realized their prayers were were instrumental in what God was doing in my life. And they were an expression of love, simultaneously. So there, because they weren’t shy about it, this wasn’t just a, they’re going to quietly pray, they would let me know, you know, if we were on the phone, and we were talking, and it was a tense conversation, they would end it with, you know, we pray for you, we love you. And so those two things were just stated. And they kind of went hand in hand. So that was one thing, just the the the constancy of prayer. The second was the constancy of an open door no matter where I was, or my siblings were in life in terms of rebellion or disappointment of my parents, whatever decisions we made that, you know, that could have gotten us kicked out of the house or could have said, You’re not welcome back here. They just never did. We were always welcome back. And so even if there was a tense relational reality, there was always an understanding that this is this is home and that’s what parents do. They they welcomed their children home with open arms, I mean, in a sort of prodigal son, ask way where there’s, they had their eye out for us and they would welcome us back and it would make up our room and those kinds of things. And I never physically, you know, abandoned my family. You know, I didn’t I didn’t run away and was gone for two years, and then kind of, you know, skulk back, but spiritually, I did, and, and relationally, I did. And so for my, for my family, and for my parents, especially to welcome me back when I knew I was a disappointment to them. You know, when I knew I had, I had gone against their wishes, or I was struggling with something that they wish I wasn’t struggling with, was loud. You know, it’s set a context for oh, this is, this is part of what grace looks like, part of what forgiveness looks like. And so I’ve tried to absorb both of those things into my own parenting, there are things about my relationship with my parents that we’ve talked through. Thankfully, we can have honest conversations and talk through things that I wish were different. But there were things that they did that I absolutely embrace and absorb and say, Okay, how, how can I take this and do this with my kids? My kids are all teenagers now. And, you know, I’m guessing that at some point in life, they’re going to do some dumb stuff that will disappoint me because they’re human, not because, you know, not not for any other reason, but just, they’re human. And they have my genetics. So odds are, and. And so I’ve tried to talk to them, frankly, and often, not not oppressively, but just as the moments call for about my own failings, because what I don’t want them to see is, you know, Dad on a pedestal. And I’m especially conscientious of this because of what I do in terms of vocational ministry, because on the one hand, every pastor’s kid knows exactly how, how lousy their dad is just, you know, whatever his his, his, you know, hot temper, lazy, whatever it is, like, they know the things about their dad that are not good. But on the other hand, there is sort of a spiritual elevation that can happen. And I don’t want my kids to elevate me, I want them to see me as a brother in Christ, and a repenter, you know, I want to be the lead repenter in my home, not not the most perfect person in my home, I don’t know how to be the most perfect anything. But if I can set the pace of apologizing, repenting, and making things right, when I screw up, then then I hope I’ve set the tone of this. This is what faithful Christianity looks like, doesn’t look like perfection necessarily looks like returning to Christ perpetually. And the other thing is, when they’re struggling, whether it’s, you know, especially with questions and doubts, being being open to those responding in a way that lets them know that that’s a good question, not a threatening question. Now, God isn’t bothered by their questions. Scripture certainly isn’t overwhelmed by their questions. And I’m not mad, that means I don’t have any business being offended by a question of how how do we know the Bible is true? Or wait, if God said this, why does God later in Scripture do this is a really good questions. But they’re also questions that it’s easy to kind of go, Whoa, well, we, you know, careful how you ask that kind of thing. And then you kind of shut it down. Instead of going, let’s let God speak for himself. Let’s, let’s talk through this together. So, you know, there’s prayer, there’s open door, there’s trying to set the example as the one who repents. And then there’s being open handed with their questions so that when they hit even bigger questions someday, or when they really blow it, they know that they have a place to come back to, they have a dad who has blown it before and has repented. And this is what God’s restoration looks like. And, and then we can talk through the hard stuff. And again, there’s some of that is aspirational. I don’t want to make myself sound like the world’s best dad. It’s more like these are things I these are the things I strive to do with varying levels of consistency, but but the things that I’ve seen, make such a difference in my life, that I want that to be the baseline from my kids as much as I can.

Mark Legg  29:15

Yeah, that’s really well put i i couldn’t add anything to that, except I have appreciated the same things. You talked about my own father, who is himself something of a skeptic, a self proclaimed skeptic and doubter and is the pastor of his own church. And so it was very easy to come to him with questions, like the ones we would probably ask like those you mentioned, and I think it’s important for any parents, you know, not just people who are in ministry, to be open to those and to feel like you don’t have to have all the answers. Because odds are if your kid comes to you and asks you those tough questions, there’s a good chance you won’t know the answer either. And that’s okay. You know,

Barnabas Piper  29:56

well, most of the most of the deep questions that kid As ask or the same questions that have been asked, since the beginning of humanity, you know, they’re talking about the problem of evil. But the thing is like they see it in, because they see it. They’re like, Wait, if God is sovereign, then why this? You know what, there’s not a better question than that. There’s also not an answer that we can get our human brains wrapped around. So helping them even be become comfortable with biblical mystery. I don’t mean that the Bible is not clear. But there are things that the Bible is not, it does not intend to make it clear to us. And so you’re trying to help them see, okay, when the, when Jesus says this, it’s really clear. And when the Bible says this, it’s actually an invitation to faith. And it’s a call to view the character of God and the promises of God. So, but also to kind of be okay with some of these things that are mystery that we, we can’t necessarily understand with total clarity.

Mark Legg  30:56

Yeah, I was from my own life, I just thought it was fascinating in job when Joe brings all these really tough questions about his own hard life. It’s not like these, you know, philosophical ivory tower questions about good and evil that he’s asking. It’s like, my family has died. Like suffering. And it’s and and he’s putting those philosophical questions to that. And then at the end of it, God doesn’t give him this answer that we would probably like, which I had to wrestle with on my own. Yeah, there wasn’t no theodicy, which is, you know, just a fancy apologetic word for like, explaining why there’s evil and God’s sovereignty at the same time. There is no rigorous theodicy. Now, again, like you said, there are pointers, and there are ways we can engage with it. But what he actually does is say, look at creation. Look at how I’ve created everything in the nature of that. And I think it’s, I’m glad we’ve delved into this a lot. Because I think in the past, it’s been easy for us to put up a facade and say, and pretend like we’re not doubting, and anyone can do that. Not just pastors kids, but especially pastors kids can pretend like, they’re not doubting when they are. But I would, but Mark and I have been doing research on Gen Z, and how they approach faith and those questions. And they seem less and less likely to hide their doubts. Yeah. And I genuinely view that as a positive thing that they are there. You know, there’s a some research that says that they’re stepping away from faith more. And that is something we can mourn, but they are being honest.

Barnabas Piper  32:42

And I’m, despite having done a lot, I haven’t done a lot of research. My observation, though, is that they’re not stepping away from faith more, they’re stepping away from fakeness. Yeah, so so much. I mean, let me just, I’ll just try to say it this way, when I hear people talking about the deconstructing of faith amongst Gen Z, like they’re not deconstructing faith, they just didn’t have faith. You know, the deconstruction is for people who have, who have been in it for, you know, and then are moving in a different direction, or reconsidering their direction, it can mean a number of things. When you’re talking about 1718 year olds, they’re just simply going, Yeah, I’m not buying what I was sold, which, like you said, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It just puts it on the proclaimers of the gospel, to present a true and real and compelling gospel in a way that they’re gonna go, okay. I don’t feel like you’re trying to sell me a bill of goods now. Like, my children. And their, their peers have just an incredibly sensitive nonsense meter. Like the they will not they will not be suckered into believing something, or scared into believing something, you know, you’re going to help iron Brimstone them either. What they need is a compelling gospel, the compelling gospel of Jesus Christ, which they can look at, they can examine and they can go, yeah, there’s something there that I can’t find anywhere else. I’ve never heard something so and that becomes transformative.

Mark Turman  34:13

Yeah, that’s good. A good word. I was reading Philip Yancey, his memoir in this area where he kind of all back in the 60s he talks about basically do we would call it deconstructing his faith. When he was away at college, and made this powerful statement in his book. He’s like, I spent a good number of months, even years deconstructing my faith, but then I found myself in a place, asking myself, well, it’s actually a harder thing to figure out what I’m going to keep and what I’m going to construct. And like you said, you know, we sometimes get panicked as pastors and as parents, well, if my child hasn’t expressed their faith and been baptized by the time they’re 16 or 18, and everything is lost when you know the majority As the conversions we read about in Scripture are what appear to be adult conversions. And, and we sometimes forget that the Bible is in many ways an adult book, right? And Mark and I were in a previous podcast where one of our guests talked about that it’s an adult book, and being 1617, being 22, being 25, those are times when you’re supposed to be constructing in an honest and authentic way, what you believe and why you believe it. And we shouldn’t be afraid that they’re, they’re asking those kinds of questions. But sometimes parents and pastors, especially pastors, who are parents think, no, I have to have rock solid kids, by the time that they go away to college or the early by the time they graduate college, they better be rock solid are all things. It’s all lost if we don’t have it by then.

Barnabas Piper  35:53

Yeah. When I think yeah, and alongside that, I mean, it just the, you know, people come from different theological traditions. But if most evangelical Christians, and when I say Evangelical, I mean that this sort of the traditional theological version, not the no political ramifications, and that statement, right, believe that, that God is the saver, God is the one who moves people to salvation. I mean, the Bible calls salvation and it calls to gift of grace, a gift of salvation, a gift of faith, this is from God. So if that’s the case, when we send our kids off to college, or they move out of the house at 18, or 20, or whatever it is, it feels you know, my daughter, my older daughter, 16, I anticipate the helplessness of that moment, I am no longer holding on to her soul. But in reality, I’m not now either. She’s in God’s hands. I’m, I’m the, I’m the primary influencer, because that’s, that’s what God has given me to be as the parent. But you know, there’s the verse where Paul says, you know, I planted Apollos watered and God gave the growth, I’m planting, and I’m watering. And at some point, I pray that God would give the growth. And I think some of it’s happening now, and I think some will happen on their own. But if we really believe that faith is a gift from God, then then what we’re doing is simply trying to lay a groundwork. We’re not trying to save our kids. And we need to start bearing that burden as parents, you know, we don’t know no parent can bear the weight of responsibility for their child. So we bear the weight of responsibility for our inputs. What are we? What are we giving them? What are we exemplifying? Okay, that that we can do. But yeah, the i We shouldn’t feel panic as pastors or any other version of parent for not having rock solid kids. Because because they are they really are in God’s hands. And we’re responsible for what we’re, what we’re feeding into them over what we’re setting them up for. And then they will then they will go, and so I don’t? Yeah, I think I think the hand wringing about young people’s faith is way over. The other thing is the church has been around for over 2000 years. And, look, if if a generation of people was going to collectively give up on Christianity, it would have happened already. This is just normal. Yeah. Yeah. Doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean we shrug it off. It just means we need to have an eye on history of God’s faithfulness. He doesn’t lose generations, some move in more remarkable ways than other than others, but he doesn’t lose a generation to just gauntness, there are. There are always faithful saints, there are always those who are moving, who are Proclaimers who are influencers for the gospel. And that’s going to be the case in Gen Z. And in fact, their potential is extraordinary. To, to fix some of the things that are the old the older generations mind, the generation before me have not done well. And to to move forward with it with an authenticity in their faith that we maybe have lacked consistently.

Mark Legg  39:09

Yeah. And I think of the the fear that we can act out on in so many different ways in our lives, whether we’re parents and we’re afraid of our children, not becoming believers, whether it’s something that has to that’s more political, it feels existential, but even also for the church, like you said, you know, there’s so much potential for this generation. And you’re right that once it’s out of our hands, we don’t have to fear anymore. We can act faithfully, with the research knowing these are the questions they’re asking. We know like that’s what we want to help do is equip churches and people to be able to disciple kids effectively, and to let them know what is defined intergeneration but then also know, to not be afraid, like you said that the church has been around for a long time. And Christ is the one that upholds it, not our data or research or even what we write. And that’s, that’s a huge weight off my shoulders. And I think it is for all of ours. Like, we don’t have to be afraid because it’s built on him not on on us. But one, one thing that comes out of it that maybe can help us transition a tiny bit is that with since we don’t have to fear given what we’ve talked about, you know, do you feel like from that kind of sentiment is where the happy rant podcast came from. I talked about you know, where that podcast how that pockets got started, you can you can stay on these topics if you want, but I just figured it’s been pretty heavy so far. So

Barnabas Piper  40:50

no, that’s it that it actually that actually was a really good setup, because it was the way you just posed the question. And it’s something I said in my last answer are both kind of that they come together and to sort of where the happy rant came from. So it’s the podcast that I co host with 10 o’clock, and Ronnie Martin. And we started it 2013 We actually had it, we had a different co host at the time, and the Ronnie jumped in a couple of years in. So yeah, it’s about what, eight, nine years old at this point. And I mentioned earlier that there are things that my generation and the generations before us have not done well in the church. A lot of that is like goofy church culture stuff, stuff that if you’re in the church, it’s we do some weird things. We are goofy people, we have weird habits, we approach the world oddly, you know, like, there’s, there’s whole, there’s no Christian brands and culture and all this. And all three of us either work in the church or in Christian education. And so we were devoted to gospel ministry. And we think aspects of church culture are absurd. And so we Yeah, so we don’t function from a position of fear, we’re like, look, the good stuff is the good stuff. And we’re not going to take shots at that, but we’re sure going to be willing to make fun of and satirize the silly things. And, and, and there’s a lot of them. And we’ve seen it, we’ve we’ve all written multiple books, you know, we just we just co authored and came out with one called the happy rant where we just sort of, it’s kind of our greatest hits, where we look at, you know, manhood, and money and Christian conferences and fame and different things and just sort of like, what is good, what’s bad, and what’s absurd about these things. And yeah, we just, we have a great time with it. But what we really want is for people within the church, I mean, it’s a it’s kind of a niche podcast, you know, it’s for people who are in the church, to be able to stop taking ourselves so stinking seriously, and be able to be able to laugh at our quirks. So take the right thing seriously. No, we’re not going to we will not laugh about Christ, or the cross or the things that are foundational salvation, we will absolutely laugh about Christmas cantatas and trunk or treat. And, you know, real man conferences with like, MMA fights in the middle of it, and raw meat. And like, all of that, all of that stuff on the table for jokes. So that’s, that’s kind of how we go about it.

Mark Turman  43:19

So yeah, a great podcast, I went and did some work reviewing some of that and just the idea of bringing humor back into the faith and, and keeping it front and center because we do oftentimes take ourselves too seriously. We, we take ourselves too seriously as parents as well, you know, it just yeah, we feel like we we, we sometimes see make everything a crisis, and everything is not a crisis. And we forget that God is is still very much in control. But play that into Barnabus. This idea, okay, just from a very practical standpoint, if you’re talking to a 25 year old, 28 year old and they just really haven’t figured it out yet. From a with a spirit of winsomeness and humor and wonder and joy. What would you do as far as giving them two or three practical steps? Hey, try to work toward this try to if it’s about believing and believing even stronger, those things that you have clarity on, while you’re working out those things that you are saying to Jesus, hey, help my unbelief. What would that look like practically? Well, you know, hey, somebody listens to the podcast, and they’re like, hey, my 26 year old, young adult, just need some encouragement in this area. How would you give them some guidance in that?

Barnabas Piper  44:45

Yeah, well, I would, I mean, just categorically I don’t know that too many 25 and 26 year olds are going to want to listen to a 40 year old guy who’s not self deprecating and winsome in some way. You know, they have plenty of people who are 15 I’m 30 years older than them ready to, to be to kind of pompously yell at them. So, humor comes in, they’re just a case of not taking myself very seriously. As as you know, Ted and Ronnie would say the same thing that we we do not, we’re not out here to try to be the, you know, the voices of wisdom to the young folks or whatever, it’s much more. The other the other aspect, you know, kind of, part of that is coming alongside sharing stories, how this is how I’ve screwed up, some of which are funny, some of which are embarrassing, and there’s just a sense of sort of, again, self deprecating honesty in that, that that we would seek to achieve. But just kind of categorically those, those two or three things that I would say are. I would encourage younger Christians to focus on the person of Jesus Christ, you know, I was the was the advice that I was given, and I just have simply never come across anything better. So much of what people get hung up on is philosophical or theological issues or theories, and stuff that is intangible. But if, if I could point a 25 year old and say, Go seek out the real Jesus Christ, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, you know, reading John Stotts, the cross of Christ, some of those kinds of things that are just foundational, and this is who Christ is, this is the work of press, Dean ortlund is gentle, and lowly, this is the heart of Christ, towards people who screw up all the time, those kinds of books. And that that would be it, because in that there’s a freedom, there’s a humility, and there’s a seriousness all at the same time. So it’s certainly not at odds with humor. But neither is it crushing. So much discipleship puts the burden of guilt on the one being discipled. It’s essentially sort of a legalistic, law based thing. When you pursue the heart of Christ, there’s none of that there is no room for that. Jesus holds us both to the highest standard, and is the friend of sinners. So that means there’s, there’s, there’s massive from and he doesn’t ask us to do anything that he won’t help us do. So it’s an invitation into his help and His Spirit. So I don’t have a lot of better advice than that. The other thing I would say is, don’t give up on the church, but seek out a church, that is that holds the Bible in high esteem, and holds themselves in low esteem, usually not go hand in hand. Most high esteem Bible churches are also very proud of being that. And so you want a church that does not compromise on on Scripture and doctrine. And is humble and warm and gentle in how they go about everything. And that’s a context where a seeking Christian who doesn’t have most of the answers and is a bit on uneven footing, can find safety can can can be folded into a community. So those would be kind of my two side by side pieces of advice. And both of those allow for question asking for wonder for laughter for a church that doesn’t take itself seriously can laugh at itself. You know, we tried this, it was a complete flop. Oops, you know, that kind of thing. Instead of feeling like our reputation is on the line or any of that kind of egotistical stuff.

Mark Legg  48:29

Yeah, there’s is my dad’s church, every time someone gets this is like a this is like a liturgy. That’s probably the closest one of the closest things we’ll get to as a liturgy as this. Our church, we, every time a member, someone becomes a new member, my dad will say, Welcome to this dysfunctional family. And that’s like, a constant reminder that we’re dysfunctional. Like, where I haven’t think how many I have to look on the website somewhere. I think it says like, we’re serious about Jesus, not about ourselves. Right. And, and that’s, and that and to go back to your point about, I’m a philosophy nerd. That was my major in college. And I love all the apologetics stuff. I dig that I’m really into it. And I love reading all the brainy philosophers from a long time ago till now. But I will say that Jesus, is it. Like, all of those questions, asking and looking to critical thinking and reason and all those things are really great. And I think they’re really important. It’s really important for a lot of people, especially today, but same time. I couldn’t do anything better than point you back to Jesus because he’s who wins us over? Right? He’s definitely who won me over? Like I could see the rest of my life playing out where I’m asking questions for the rest of my life and never getting anywhere solid. But I’m really confident about my relationship with Jesus, even if I’m not You know, even as a philosopher, I’m not as confident about my epistemology. You know, there’s something that you brought up. So anyway, man, I would encourage the same thing.

Barnabas Piper  50:11

I think one thing that that it’s I mean, it’s sort of the it’s sort of the two edged sword of following Jesus or coming to faith in Jesus. But, but that it took me a long time to understand this is that Jesus asks for, he sets the highest bar and the lowest bar because he says, it basically is that he said, You know, I want I want everything from you. But that’s all I want. Like, there’s all my one is all of you like, there’s, there’s no, there’s no achievement, there’s no earning, there’s no having the list of right answers. It’s just give yourself fully to this, which is the can be the most terrifying idea, and is the most easy and freeing things simultaneously. So that reality being handed to a 25 year old is, is going to maybe mess them up in a good way. But it’s not going to tie them in knots the way philosophical questions and getting their systematic theology in order and understanding the narrative arc of Scripture. And, you know, whatever the understanding how the Synoptic Gospels fit with the Johanna, I mean, I could go on and on about all this stuff that was stuffed into my head, before I understood, what I really need to do is just give my whole self to Jesus, and the rest will or maybe won’t fall into place.

Mark Turman  51:32

matter what a great, great word not, I’m gonna give you the last shot here. Barnabus, we’re just about to the end of our time. And maybe, maybe what you just shared is your last shot couldn’t hardly be a better one. But just kind of a broad category or broad question, you choose the category in which you want to answer on this on this good day, we’re having this conversation. But tell me two things. One is what’s kind of getting under your skin right now? And like I said, it could be what your sports team is doing or not doing? Or what’s going on in your church? Or what’s going on in the big church? What’s kind of getting under your skin right now? And then what are you really jazzed about? What are you really excited about on this day?

Barnabas Piper  52:11

Yeah, um, well, let me know, I want to end on a high note. So I don’t want to I don’t want to go on. I do want to go first with that, although that what I’m jazzed about is probably easier to answer. I think, I think what is really getting under my skin right now. And I’m gonna go I’m gonna go big picture here. The Vikings season hasn’t started. So they haven’t had a chance to get under my skin yet. But they will. So if you if you beat them. But it is, I would say, political idolatry is getting under my skin, the the association of faithfulness to God with faithfulness to political party, or political candidate, the CO opting of the words and the person of Jesus Christ to support a political agenda, which Christ had no interest in whatsoever. That stuff is, is all always just a couple of degrees away from boiling, because of how destructive it is, in families and in the church. I mean, our church, thankfully, God has been gracious and we haven’t we haven’t had major divisions over that, but But it’s never far away. And, and some churches, it’s been explosive. And so that, that American merger of politics and faith is so unChristian, and that I could go on a long time, I’m not going to, but that that is a thing that is under my skin off constantly. So I’ll go with that. What I’m jazzed about is the flip side of that, which is that the more America gets Christianity wrong publicly, the more the real genuine gospel of Jesus Christ stands out. For a long time, it was really hard to differentiate between false gospel and real Gospel, except in the most egregious cases, because because there was just sort of a blase American gospel. It wasn’t quite prosperity gospel, it wasn’t quite Republican gospel. It wasn’t quite social gospel is just kind of E. And now people have co opted Christianity or the name of Jesus for whatever their agenda is. And so when you faithfully gently, lovingly proclaim the real gospel of Jesus Christ, it’s like a breath of fresh air to those who are hungry and thirsty and they were like this, this this is the thing that I wanted. I wanted a genuineness and a reality of truth. So while it’s very frustrating culturally where that or the political climate is going, it has created a context where faithful, loving, gentle churches who absolutely refuse to delve into controversy over secondary things are going to have a fruitfulness that maybe they’ve never experienced before, because people can see them for who they are for the first time and see Jesus for who he is for the first time.

Mark Turman  55:24

Yeah, well, it’s a good word. This makes me think, you know, that those that have been creating counterfeits to the faith, just keep making worse and worse counterfeits, which is allowing the real gospel the real truth to come in to its full bloom and to its beauty. And when and when you bump into and and encounter the real thing. You’re like, oh, this, this is what it’s supposed to be. This is what the sweetness and the sound of it is supposed to be. And, and when and if you’ve, if you’ve been drinking from the counterfeits, you’re like, Okay, I haven’t really had enough of that. This is what I’ve been looking for. Yes. And, yeah, Boris, thank you for your time. You can, you can find Barnabas, you can find him in the bookstore, all of the major bookstores, you’ll find his four books there. And you can also find him in your favorite podcast platform. It’s called the happy rant. You gotta love that what it means to be both happy and ranting at the same time. And the world is full of things to talk about in that in that broad theme. But Barnabas, we’re grateful for you, thank you for who you are. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for the way that you’re representing Christ. They’re in Nashville and on a broader scale as well. And thank you for your time today.

Barnabas Piper  56:41

Absolutely. It’s been a it’s been an honor to be on with you. And I’m grateful to have been asked.

Mark Turman  56:46

Hey, thanks for being a part of our podcast at the Denison forum. And if you liked what you heard, please share it. Please rate us and we look forward to seeing you at our next conversation. God bless you

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