The Debrief Podcast with Matthew Stephen Brown

This weeks episode delves into a series of thought-provoking questions that touch upon various aspects of faith and life. Topics include the personal nature of belief and faith in God, the challenges of wrestling with doubt despite a desire for spiritual connection, the essential needs of the modern church, the pursuit of hearing the voice of God and dealing with doubts after a period of spiritual distance, the struggle of leading a family when communication turns abusive, sharing faith in a mission-oriented workplace, navigating fear of expressing Christian beliefs in a cancel culture society, and the potential consequences of church affiliation with larger organizations. The episode also explores the church's mission and vision in reaching the unreached and offers insights on how to serve beyond the confines of a church's physical walls. Join us as we journey through these deep and impactful questions of faith and life.

What is The Debrief Podcast with Matthew Stephen Brown?

The Debrief Podcast with Matthew Stephen Brown. Author and lead pastor of Sandals Church, Matt Brown debriefs current issues shaping our culture from a spiritual perspective.

Welcome to the Debrief Podcast with Matt Brown. The podcast where pastor and author Matt Brown debriefs your questions about Christianity and current issues shaping our culture. Thank you for listening and enjoy the show. I love that baseline. You like it? That's good. That's good stuff. Yeah. Yes. I did not contribute to that at all. No. Some other wonderful creative music. But I am a connoisseur of fine music. Hey guys, welcome to The Debrief and we have a special episode today. I am here with a dear friend. I don't want to say best friend because I don't want to put that on you. But one of my closest comrades in the faith and just lifetime friends. We've been friends for over 20 years now and just super excited and you are now on staff. Finally you surrendered to the Lord Jesus. I've begged him repeatedly, multiple times and Eric is not a man who struggles saying no. He's a spiritual gift of mine. Yes, but we work through a deep friendship. We work through, I think, spiritual relationship. Iron sharpens iron. You're one of those people that sharpens me. And then we have to do the whole boss thing, which is weird, but we do it. We do it well. So Eric, Eric Salley, tell us at Sandals Church who you are, a little bit about who you are. Share whatever you want before we get into the show and tell people what you do at Sandals Church. Okay, a little bit about who I am. Well, gosh there's a lot there. Initially coming out of college I was trained as a physical therapist, so I'm a doctor of physical therapy, I have physical therapy practice, it's been deeply integrated into almost everything that I've done professionally. Yeah. And so that's still part of my my current life. After that, or not after that, but in the middle of that, we got called to the mission field and we served for almost a decade in East Africa. Thought we would live and die there and things happened and we had to come back and move stateside. And when we did that, I had the opportunity to go teach at Cal Baptist. So I did that for seven years. A year I was supposed to get sabbatical and tenure. And that's when you talked me into coming over here. And so I've been on Sandals Church staff since May of 21. Okay. Well, full-time since May of 21. Okay. And what is your official role now? So now I'm the executive pastor of Mission. And so what that includes is a number of things that you might not expect, but all of our network kids programming, all of our network youth, young adults, and it's something that we call seasonal formation all sit under my oversight and on my team. Yeah, so your job just keeps growing. So every day Eric comes to work and he has no more pay but more responsibility. And I don't know how you did it, but you let me skip that I also have missions, global missions on my team. Yeah, and that's actually what I discussed to you first was global missions and that's really what you came here to do, but you're just such an exceptional leader and he is a doctor and so in my book that's coming out in March of next year there's a chapter of two people who I consider to have the gift of healing and the doctor that I go to in that book is you and that's somebody I've seen God repeatedly use you to bring about healing I believe that you have a spiritual gift of healing and God has used you to heal me to heal things in my wife and our family, both physical, emotional, and spiritual. You have a very unique role. And one of the, I think, the sales job I did in luring you to Sandals was to really cement the fact that that's part of your ministry on earth. It's not just to be a leader and to lead missions, which you are dynamic at, or just to be an executive pastor at our church, but you have a gift of healing. And I think that that's so important for people to know about you. So thank you for being on the show and for those who've ever met Eric Talley, a lot of people think he's me and I'm him and they confuse us and I think that's just because people think all white people look the same. But our wives do get confused from time to time and you know people when you visit campuses, Sandals has 14 campuses, people thank you for the sermon. Yep, thank me for the sermon. They tell me they confess their deepest darkest secrets. I can usually see the look now. I've learned to recognize it and so I can head most of that off before we get to the... Do you think it's just because as we get older we just all look alike? I don't think that's quite it. I mean if you look at a bunch of senior citizens they do not all look alike. I don't think that's it. I wish I would have looked like you in high school though. Eric had my dream body in high school. He was that guy. He was him. He was that guy. So okay let's jump into the show today. We're going to start with CJ from Fresno. Great, great question, CJ. Thank you for this. Is belief and or faith in God a personal decision or simply a gift from God? This is a fantastic question. And so let me say this. Most of the church, most of Christianity agrees with what I'm going to say, but there are segments of the church called Calvinist slash determinist who would disagree with what I'm going to say. So for the first 400 years of the church, the church believed that belief and faith in God was in fact a personal decision. Augustine came around in about 395 AD to 412 AD. Some people disagree on the exact date of when he converted from traditional understanding of salvation to, you know, you can't call it Calvinist because Calvin wouldn't be born for 1100 years, but Calvinist really is an Augustinian processor thinker as is Martin Luther who started the Reformation movement. So I want to make sure that we leave room for Calvinists who do take issue with what I'm going to say and they are a part of the Christian church and they are God-fearing, Bible-believing, scriptural, Bible-based churches. I just differ on the issue of salvation. And so Eric, I want to get your thought on this, but for me, the Apostle Paul always contrasts faith with works. And so the Calvinist believes, and if there are Calvinists out there, I'm not trying to put words in your mouth, but my understanding is that Calvinists believe that if faith is of me, then it is a work. And so what I would say is there's a difference between me believing I can save myself and me believing I cannot save myself. And so salvation is the understanding that I cannot save myself, I cannot be saved based upon any works. And so Ephesians 2.8.9, for it is by grace that you have been saved through faith and this is not of yourself lest any man should boast. The argument that's Paul making, it's not my charity, it's not me trying to bend this scale of if I just do so many good things and therefore God is pleased. It's understanding as a Christian that the only way God is pleased through me is by my faith in Jesus. This is something the Gospel of John says that the one work God requires is faith in Christ. And so I believe that is a personal decision. This is why Sandals Church is so evangelistically centered. We want to share the gospel. It's why we do things the way that we do. We do not operate in a church that led multitudes to Christ 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 150 years ago. We want to be current, relevant, speaking to culture and for the way that culture is now. But for me, faith is a personal decision, you know, so we need to understand that yes, it's a gift, but it's a gift that we choose, that we must choose to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved. That's my personal understanding. That's my belief. That was the belief of the church for 400 years. There's been some disagreement amongst that since Augustine Calvin and Martin Luther kind of solidified that as a major issue for a lot of reformers. But a lot of people who call themselves reformed don't realize that many reformers did not agree with that. So many, many reformers held the traditional view that salvation is a decision based upon the free will of the individual to repent and put their face in Christ. What are your thoughts on that? Well, a couple. First of all, I think belief is insufficient. Belief by itself is insufficient, right? Even the demons believe and yet they don't have faith or haven't chosen to follow. So belief is insufficient by itself. But I also think the definition of faith is belief in action. And action means there has to be a choice involved. Real love actually requires choice. If we don't have the choice to reject God, then we're not much more than something that's programmed or already written out by Him. But instead, no, we're actually invited into His kingdom, right? That is the work of God drawing you, and we can believe and still reject, and I think people do that all the time. But when we believe and then give our faith or our allegiance to Christ, that's where salvation occurs. Yeah, and there are individuals that you and I would call friends that have amazing churches that would disagree with that. But I do not believe that God has created automatons. We are free will individuals and that love by definition must involve free choice. And so I cannot manipulate someone to love me, that by definition is not love because you've been forced by what I can control for medicine. So I think God is not manipulating us, but he is actually calling us, drawing us, and he wants us to choose him by faith through Christ. And so, CJ, I'll be praying for you. I believe that more things are determined than are. But really what determines your life, CJ, is your choices. Your choices will manifest your future and you've got to take responsibility for that. I do believe God knows the future, but I do not believe that God has determined the future. Simply because he knows something does not mean that he's caused it. And so that's a tension in the church. And again, there's going to be people that disagree with that or have a different interpretation or understanding. But I stand with the first 400 years of the church's understanding. I believe Augustine changed that. And I think that we need to get back to the original gospel, which is there's a real offer there of salvation. Fantastic question from TJ. Next, Zach from Oklahoma City. Have you been to Oklahoma City? I've been to Oklahoma City. I've never been. I've been to Tulsa. So that's the only place in Oklahoma I've been. He says, I dream of going into ministry one day and starting an organization that helps disciple and change the world. But I want to help meet the needs of the overall big C church. We're going to need to define that for our audience. The big C church that it has – I tithe, I serve – well, thank you for that, Zach – in multiple areas. What would you say the church needs most these days outside of those things? Yeah, I would love a church full of people that did those things. Right, right, right. So, I mean, that's what I think that we're arm wrestling with believers every single week. We had a message on giving a couple of weeks ago where I just really kind of shared with our church what giving is tightening, it's going down in our expenses because of inflation are coming up. So what I would say is the big C church for our listeners who don't understand what that means, that's Christian slang for all churches. So when most people say church, they mean their local church. So Sandals is a local church. The big C church would be all churches that call upon the name of Christ. And so what I would say, Zach, is that the church is God's plan to change the world. So really, organizations that help churches do that started that because churches weren't very good at doing what they were called to do. That's part of why we've brought you on staff here is to help us make better disciples. Rather than bringing an outside organization, we said, OK, we need to get better at this. We need to help people follow Jesus better. What would you say to Zach? Well, I think the answer is disciples who actually multiply. People have this idea, and I don't know that it's their fault, but somehow our culture, our tradition has kind of said, what it means to be a follower of Jesus is to show up at church, to attend on Sundays, to give as you can, to serve if you're willing, something like that. And those are all part of what it means to be following Christ, but they're not enough, they're insufficient. What it means to follow Christ is to love God, love people, live on mission. What's it mean to live on mission? It means that you are multiplying yourself so you're actually pouring into those people that you don't know, don't look like, don't act like, don't think like, and you're earning the opportunity to share the gospel and then sharing the gospel is not the end. That's just the beginning. If you get to the point where there's a decision that's made, then it's pouring into their lives intentionally teaching them how to be a follower of Christ, which means for them to go then and multiply. And so if the church was full of people that were doing those things and multiplying, man, the kingdom of God would be here. Yeah, that's great. So, Zach, I would say join a church that would unleash your gifts and talents to do this in that church. You know, and there are all kinds of churches that are desperate for leaders like yourself who have a passion to make disciples. You know, get a pastor that's not intimidated by that. Because pastors can be, unfortunately, insecure, sometimes controlling, and they are, what I would say, allergic to strong leaders. And that makes me really, really sad. One of the things that I try to do at Sandals is surround myself with very, very strong leaders. I don't want to be a great leader. I want to build a great team of leaders. And so, Zach, I think anybody that has you would be blessed to have you. But I just think we need to quit thinking outside the church because Jesus didn't think outside the church. Jesus' prayer was for the church. His commission was to the church. You know, the manifold wisdom of God is revealed through the church. And so we just need to make sure that we love the church. And she's easy to criticize because she's the bride that Christ picked and we've got to love her and serve her as best we can. But what would you say the church needs most these days is people who are willing to do the essentials and we haven't gotten to the multiplication part of that yet, but to multiply. You know, everything on earth has a life to live and then it multiplies itself and then it dies. That's the way of everything on earth and in the church we need to remember that, that we have to multiply ourselves so that the next generation can be one to Christ as well. Great question. Number three, Austin from Charlotte. How can I hear the voice of God as it is normal for doubts to creep in after stepping away from my faith for a while? Man, Austin, I appreciate just your authenticity at this very, very real question. I thank you that you're listening to Sandals Church, you're listening to the debrief. Man, I just wish more people were honest about that. What would you say to this, Eric? How can I hear the voice of God? And is it normal to have doubts that creep in after stepping away from my faith for a while? So there's really two questions here. So you answer however you like. Well, I think the first way you learn to hear the voice of God is by reading His Word. His Word is His voice and that's him speaking. And as you begin to take that in and let it have its way with you, which is to change you, transform you, you begin to hear and see things about yourself and your life that you didn't know or weren't aware of before. And doing that in community to make sure you're not going off the guardrails and behaving bizarrely and starting a cult is deeply important to that. Yeah, absolutely. And I would say it is normal to have doubts creep in after stepping away. Absolutely because you've chosen to walk away from God and so there's going to be some new habits that have to be created. You're going to have to change things about your life in order for you to really sense and feel God. And I would just say this. I just was talking with one of our pastors in the lobby before I came in to do the show. I asked him, have you read Dark Night of the Soul? And that's a book written by a Catholic priest who just really talks about, you know, God is always with us. That never changes. But the sensation, the spiritual sensation, the emotional sensation, the mental sensation of his presence ebbs and flows. And what I would say to everybody listening, that's when you know you have a real relationship. You have an amazing wife and you guys have an incredible love story. Tammy and I, we've been married 27 years. I always love her. I'm never leaving her. I don't want to be divorced for any reason. But even in that close physical contact, there are seasons where the sensation of closeness ebbs and flows. And that's because it's real. So what I would say to everyone that's always on fire and always pumped up for God, I would question, okay, is this real? Because natural relationships ebb and flow. There are seasons for a reason, right? You got to go through winter so that you can have a great summer. And so we need to understand that. So that's a great, great question, Austin. I appreciate it. This next one, I think, is personal to you and I as dads who've raised children and anyone who's not angry out there it's because you don't have kids yet. So Richard from Grand Terrace, love you Richard, thank you for this. This is just my heart, real authentic questions. As the man and spiritual leader of my household, I find it extremely difficult to lead when no one else listens to me. Bad Richard, you're preaching to the choir right now because I tell my family sometimes, you know that thousands of people listen to him, but not here. So we all feel that way. We all struggle with that. He said, I find it extremely difficult to lead when no one listens. But then he says, listen, I love this. I was super convicted when you spoke about the woman whose marriage was in shambles and you asked if the husband had been unfaithful, negligent or abusive. Listen to this. He says, I know I'm verbally abusive to my family. Wow. Yeah. Richard, thank you for your honesty. I do not know how to control this anger. I feel like I'm explicit and specific in how I communicate with them and I still made the villain when no one listens. Well, let's stop there. I usually then respond with angry words. How do I stop becoming verbally abusive when I feel disregarded and ignored by those I'm trying to lead. Leading your family, leading those closest to you are the most difficult people to lead. This is why you need community. When I'm struggling with my kids, often times I've said, talk to Eric, and I've sent them your ways. There's been times with your boys where you've encouraged me to talk with them. And there's just something about community. Jesus said a prophet has no honor in his own hometown. His own mother and brothers thought he went crazy. So what you're facing, Richard is the reality that it's hard for people to follow you when they see all of you. So why is it maybe easier for your family, Richard, to follow me? Because they don't see how I am all day long. They don't see when I'm grumpy, when I have bad breath. They don't see when I've left my dishes out. They don't see real life, right? They're seeing and it's not that I'm not real when I'm preaching but that's a segment of my life that's not all that life is and whenever we spend a lot of time with people it's difficult you and I joke about day four and so that's how you know when you can really be friends with somebody when it comes to day four on vacation that's when you know can we be friends or not because day four that's when people can't fake it anymore this is the real person and then you're like okay we're never going on this trip again and so so let me let me chop your thing in half, Richard, and then we'll hear from Eric. You said you were super convicted because you said you know that you are verbally abusive. You said, I don't know how to control this anger, so I'm with you on that. But then you said I feel like I'm explicit and specific in how I communicate with them, and I'm still made to be the villain when no one listens. You are the villain when you're abusive. So you're not being the villain because you're trying to lead. You're the villain because of how you're leading. And so you have to separate those two issues. So Tammy is not mad at me when I'm trying to lead. She reacts to how I'm trying to lead. And so what the leader has to do, has to die first, listen first, apologize first. You know, that's what it means to be a leader. And you and I, we have to do this all the time as church leaders. Like even if we're only 5% responsible. I'm so sorry. When the person we're challenging is 95% the problem. But you have to give an example of what it means to be a leader. And you've got to be humble. So what I would just say, Richard, and then we'll get Eric's take on this. I would just say, guys, I want to lead. And I want to do better. So let me start by saying I'm sorry for my anger. Please forgive me. And then just say after you've apologized, one of the reasons I feel so angry – so don't make an excuse. I'm sorry for the anger. One of the reasons I feel so angry is I feel unheard. And when I'm unheard, I go back to this person I don't want to be. So how can we as a family help me to be less angry, and how can you guys help me by helping me to feel like I'm heard? Because I want to feel heard. And so many times, I mean, that's what I've seen throughout this whole political process for the last couple of years, people getting angry, screaming at school boards, people marching in defiance. They feel unheard. And when we feel unheard, we do not operate at our best, even as Christians. And so what I would just say is, guys, I want to be better, but I need to feel heard. How can we work together? I'm going to do my part. I'm not going to get angry. But what can you guys do? Is there a time and place when I can share how I'm feeling? Because what I would say, Richard, the time and place is not when you come home from work. It's not when you're frustrated. It's not when you're tired. That's not the time for a family meeting. It's when you're rested. So you have four very strong boys. Yeah. And your boys are strong, independent, opinionated leaders. And so let me say this. And so Richard, Eric is one of the strongest men I know. I mean I'm not just saying that because he's sitting here. It's why you're my friend. It's why I listen to you. It's why I submit to your counsel. But your boys aren't like, Father, thank you for that wisdom. You know? They are not. So what would you say to this? Yeah. No, it's a tough question because I think this is how you feel as a father a lot, a lot more than you feel successful. Because it's such a tough job. Parenting is, man, it's not a game, and the stakes are real. So unlike other places in life, if it doesn't go your way, it's okay. You can let that roll off your back and keep moving. But when it comes to your kids, and it comes to your family, your peace, your domain, you have hopes, dreams, desires, expectations, and you're aiming at a particular outcome. And when you don't get it, that's particularly sensitizing to your sense of accomplishment and purpose. And so what I would say is when I failed as a father, it's because I'm actually not following Jesus very well. I'm not listening well. I'm not worried about the person that I'm communicating. I'm worried about my goal and my objective instead of where they are and what's going on in their lives. And so what I would say is if you're going to lead well, you have to learn how to follow Jesus well first. And so that's probably a place for you to dig in right there because how much time are you spending in the Word? How are you hearing from the Lord? And then are you doing that in community so your community has the opportunity to shape your thoughts, shape your decisions? And then the tough part really is you still got to live it out in real time. So you're still going to face people that don't listen and ignore good advice. Well, a good leader lets that happen. You can't control people. God doesn't control us. That's why there's so much chaos and trouble in the world. He tells us how to live and how we should live. And he helps us do that. But man, he makes us make real decisions and suffer the consequences of our decisions and sometimes as the leader of the house you got to do that. Yeah. Richard, I was 40 years old and I went through a major crisis at our church. I had discipled a young man, loved a young man, thought we'd be in ministry together. Our whole relationship broke up. He left Sandals Church, went somewhere else. It was devastating to me and I was really upset with him. And here's what the Lord told me. The Lord challenged me to grow in three things in my 40s. And I'm no longer in my 40s, but I'm still working on these three things. So number one, I want to lead better. And that's what I hear you saying. And then God said to lead better, I have to listen better, and I have to love better. And so, if you want to be heard, how are you communicating to your family that you're hearing them? So let's start where this says. You said, I was super convicted when you spoke. So let's stop there, Richard. God began to move in your life when you heard him. So that Holy Spirit is him speaking to you. And what I would say is the same things you're experiencing in your home, your Father in Heaven is experiencing in Heaven. You're probably not listening. And so how are you listening to God? And then how are you communicating that you're listening to your family. And so for me, that's okay, I got to abandon being right. I got to abandon being in control. I've got to listen. And my family's never good when I'm not listening. Because I can't lead well. Like what's a leader's responsibility to listen to those that they lead and then make a decision based upon what you've heard. But so many times, right, we're responding to our own woundedness. We're responding to our own brokenness. We're responding to what we think is being said or what's been said in the past or what's happening to us. And so much in the family, right, it's all of this hurt and frustration that piles into one conversation. And then you've got this multiple car crash, like in the freeway when it's like 217 cars crashed today. And that's what happens in marriage when the reality is it should have just been a fender bender. So let's talk about all of this stuff. And I would just say, Richard, go to your family, ask for forgiveness, commit to wanting to be better, and then give your family permission to speak to you when you're being abusive. And so that's the language that you've heard because you cannot lead your family for Christ and be abusive. Those two things are diametrically opposed. You've got to choose one or the other, but leading is difficult. It's difficult and here's the thing, Richard. For me with my kids, I would find myself getting bitter and here's why I was bitter. Because they didn't know how much better they had it than I did. But then I realized they don't, they didn't live my childhood. They don't understand my life. And so I'm judging them with a perspective of two lives, mine and theirs, but they only have theirs. And the truth is my dad could say the same for me. My dad could say, hey, I was doing way better than my father did. And so he had the perspective of his childhood and my childhood. And my childhood was exemplary compared to his. And I had way more things than he had. And my kids had way more things than I have. And it's not just about things, but as parents we get bitter because we're working so hard, oftentimes slaves, so that we can give our children a better life than that. And so, but if you become a better parent, what's the point? So take a step back, be honest. And Richard, I'll be praying for you because like my brother Eric here said, parenting is not for the weak. And it doesn't end, by the way. It doesn't end. So number five, Glenn from Reno Valley. Thank you, Glenn. How do you share your faith in a workplace that is very mission-oriented. I'm six years into the Marine Corps career, and I've had a hard time mentoring these Marines in a Christian way because it might make them uncomfortable because they just don't believe or don't care. So let me encourage you, Glenn. I was in the military, and God spoke profoundly to me in the military in two ways. One, in two, through my leaders. I had men of God that challenged me, that prayed for me, that were there for me. And so here's the thing is, Glenn, not everybody's going to listen, but somebody is. So find, you don't need to disciple everybody. Find that one person, that person of peace, that young man or young woman that's struggling and speak to them. Because I think we get discouraged because we want to save everyone, but we can't. So who's the person that God's already working in? And for me, I was in the military because I was Jonah. I was running from God. And I had a sergeant say – he said, I feel like you're running from God. Do you think that's true? And I was like, yes, that is true. And so the Marines, for those who haven't served in the military, can be very, very crass. It can be very, very carnal, and that's just kind of the way that it is. We don't want soft warriors. That's just not what you want. And so part of that's good, I think, for our country. But it's very, very challenging to be a Christian and thrive in that environment where, you know, there's a lot of crassness. There's violence, man. I mean, the military is a violent place by definition because that's what they're trained for. But in the midst of that I found God, Glenn, through someone like you that was saying, how can I minister to this young kid? And that person, you know, I'd be interested if I ran into my drill sergeant and he's like, you're a pastor? And it was because largely of what he said. And so you've got to pick and choose when you speak, Glenn, because if people don't want to hear, that's not the right moment. And but when the Holy Spirit is telling you to speak, you need to do it. You know, I think about when you and I were on that ship in the Mediterranean. And was his name Mark that shared his testimony? Ryan. Ryan. Ryan. I don't know why I said Mark. But Ryan shared his testimony and he literally told us his story. They were smoking weed in a parking lot in Reno Valley. And this guy comes up, knocks on the window from Australia. And he says, Hey, man, I feel like the Lord has told me to tell you guys to stop doing this and God loves you. Well, Glenn, one guy in our church listened, Ryan, and it changed his life. And he's completely turned his life around because one person spoke in the moment where the Holy Spirit was saying. And so that's what everybody needs to say is, is the Holy Spirit calling me to share my faith right now? Because the Holy Spirit knows when the person is ready. So what would you say to that? Well, I laugh a little bit, not at Glenn, but at his question because he says it might make them uncomfortable. I've never been in the military, I haven't been in the Marines, but I've never heard anybody describe it as a comfortable experience. I would not describe my time in the military as comfortable. But that statement resonates with me because a lot of people say that when it comes to sharing their faith, they're more worried about making someone uncomfortable than giving them life. And that's just, I think that's a strategy that the enemy has been winning on for so long because you are in a very real way confronting what makes a person tick, the core of their beliefs, and you're asking them to reconsider that. That's not a comfortable moment, it's not a comfortable event. And so we've got to get that word out of the task or the opportunity to share the gospel because it just shouldn't be part of the equation. We should just go, you know what? Sharing the gospel is hard. It's scary. And that's why people don't do it. It's hard. It's scary. But when I push into hard things, there's usually something good on the other side. And if you're doing this in a way that's aiming at the person, your desire is to see their life be better, to see them grow, to experience something they've never had before, to be delivered from difficult and worse circumstances. And that's your goal. Then as you look for ways to earn the opportunity to share the gospel, when you get it, no matter how hard it is, and they wake up and they hear it and it impacts them. They never go, oh gosh, you made me uncomfortable, I wish you wouldn't have done that. They're invariably deeply grateful for the experience and grateful that you had the courage to push through whatever hard circumstances they were facing to tell them the truth that they weren't necessarily wanting to hear in the moment. Yeah. And I mean, think about our own relationship, how it started when we became friends and I first met you and you've always been an extraordinarily strong person, a gifted person and I gave you those jagged rocks. And I said, pray about what this means. And for those, you know, listening, I mean, Eric barely knew me then, maybe you knew me for six months or whatever. And what I was trying to tell, and Eric came back to me a couple of months later, he said, I don't know what the jagged rocks mean. And what I meant was is he had some rough edges that needed to be smoothed out. If I wasn't willing to make you uncomfortable, who knows where you would be today. And that's not a salvation issue. You are already saved. But that's becoming who God has called you to be, and we all need this. All of us need to be challenged and made uncomfortable so that ultimately we can be who God wants us to be and then be saved because that's why Jesus came to die for us. But let me say this and I think that this is just so absolutely important when it comes to sharing your faith and making people uncomfortable. Don't try to win an argument. Try to win the soul of Christ. And you got to pray, what am I trying to win? Because I think most Christians it goes bad because you're trying to win an argument. It goes good when the person believes even if they disagree, you're trying to win their soul. You're going to love them. Yeah, you're going to win their soul. And I remember two famous atheists that are in Vegas, Penn and Teller, devout atheists. And I remember – which one is the one that talks? Is it Penn or Teller? One of them doesn't talk. I think it's Penn or maybe Teller talks. I can't remember. That would make sense, Teller Talks. But the one that speaks... One way to think about it. He said this. He said, I want Christians to come at me and challenge me. He said, because if God is real and that's the only way to heaven, he said, you don't care at all about me unless you're trying to convince me. And so it was famous. Penn. It's Penn, of course it's Penn, not Teller. That would make too much sense. So Penn is the vocal portion of that two-person act. It's fantastic. And I remember when I heard him said that, and I really like him as an entrepreneur, as an entertainer, as a communicator. I mean, this guy, they've been successful for decades now. So this is a long-term act. And when I heard him say that, I said, okay, I'm going to do that because that's caring about him, not winning an argument, but winning his soul. Alright, let's go to Marissa from Rancho Cucamonga, the funniest name of a city in all of California. Every time someone says Rancho Cucamonga, I have to giggle a little bit. So, what advice would you give someone who's trying to follow the Christian faith but is scared to say their beliefs due to the cancel culture? That's the question. When you own a business or anything, it is easy to be targeted and written off if you don't follow the majority. It can infect, effect, I said infect, it can affect your entire livelihood. Man, Marissa, I appreciate you. You're a business owner. Yeah. And you've gone completely the other way. So talk to us about that. Yeah. Okay. Well, there's a time to listen and a time to speak. And so you do have to pick the time to do both of those things. I don't necessarily advertise overtly Christian slogans or Christian organizations or things of that nature, but I have a conversation with almost everybody that walks in the door about where they are spiritually. And I let them set the pace. I ask their permission, but what I've realized is if I get good at asking questions, who are you, what do you believe, tell me about those things, how did you come to that conclusion, how is that working out in your life, is it moving things forward, what do you do with that compared to this? And how did you answer this difficult question? If you ask enough questions, people invariably say, that's incredible. They see that you're interested. And they go, what do you believe? And once they ask me what I believe, there's no, oh, I'm gonna get canceled, because now we're having a real conversation, it's a real dialogue about people and someone that matters to them because I've invested so much. So earning the opportunity to share what you believe is not the same as advertising what you believe. And I think that's where people get canceled when you're more interested in something like a slogan, a patch on your shirt, something like that. People are close-minded to that because they don't know you yet and they're willing to offend you. Yeah, and let's – let me say this. Being a Christian business owner doesn't mean you have Bible verses on your walls. It doesn't mean that you have the Christian fish on your car or the one that cracks me up is the Darwin fish eating the Christian fish. Like I love the bumper sticker Olympics where we have to just out-communicate to each other. That's not what it means to be a Christian business owner. To be a Christian business owner means to be first excellent at what you do. To honor God in your business. Make sure that you're excellent in what you serve or what you sell. You're honest in how you serve and sell to people. You're upfront. Be a person of integrity. And then what the Bible says when we interact with outsiders, Colossians says always season what you say with salt so that you may respond like you said to those who ask and so I think that with social media right where we've got this bullhorn and we're speaking to people who didn't ask yeah and so what we need to do is speak to those who are asking and it's a difficult thing to do that or to share that and I remember I was sitting in a jacuzzi Tim and I were in Mexico last January and a guy said, What do you think about gay marriage? And here's how I responded. I said, Well, let me talk about what I believe about sex as a Christian. I said, I believe that sex is a holy thing to God and that I can either honor God in the way that I have sex or I can dishonor him in the way that I have sex. And as a free individual, I choose to live my life in a way that when I engage in sex, it honors God who has revealed himself in the Bible. And so my understanding of how God has designed me and how he's revealed how he wants me to use my body sexually is in the context of heterosexual marriage, lifelong commitment to each other because sex is a spiritual thing to God. And because it's spiritual to him, it's spiritual to me. And he was totally okay with that. In Mexico, I'm sure he was a homosexual. I mean, I'm assuming, but that's why he chose to ask that question. But he said, I can respect that. And it wasn't you're right or you're wrong, I'm right. Here's what I believe and here's how I'm living my life. And here's why I'm living my life. So it communicates not judgment for purpose. There's a purpose behind sex. Sex is not just for entertainment. Sex for the believer is a way to commune not only with your spouse but to be blessed in that sexual communion with God. It's something that he has blessed and brought together and it creates oneness and it's a holy, awesome, wonderful thing. And it's not just an act of release, but it's an act of worship. And so I just really, really try to think about how you're going to answer. Because I think what being a Christian is, do you check the right boxes? Do you say the right things? Rather than trying to speak to your audience. And, you know, I was having lunch with one of our friends who's frustrated with how I communicate some things from the pulpit and I said, but the pulpit, some of our listeners like what's that? When I'm talking on stage, I don't have a pulpit, especially if you watch online. I'm talking to the teleprompter, but I'm speaking to a broad audience and so for those who are listening, the debrief audience, oftentimes I can go deeper. I can provide more clarity. I can answer questions if something is confusing. When I'm speaking on a Sunday or Saturday or whenever you're listening to me, I'm talking to people it's their first time in church. And I'm talking to people who it's the 10,000th time in church. And that's a difficult needle to thread. Can I say that? You know, as you get our age, it's really hard to thread a needle. But it's very, very difficult to walk that line. And some churches, right, turn the Sunday morning church into seminary where we just study the Bible and non-believers are very uncomfortable. And the churches don't grow. They don't lead people to Christ. 1 Corinthians 14, Paul makes the point that part of what you do in a church service is to keep the non-believer in mind. And Corinth had actually forgotten the non-believer. It was confusing and let me say this, weird. And so what we want to do is we want to make a person feel like, okay… And what Paul says, oh, God is here. That's our goal. And so that's what I would say, Marisa, is you don't need to fly some flag that represents your faith and what you need to do is live a life that represents your faith and when you have an opportunity you need to speak to somebody and the best way to say this guys is just hey are you doing okay is it would it be okay if I prayed for you yeah I find prayer to be the best way to spiritually engage a person so just yesterday I was at the gym and I was trying to get up to the it was cardio day I do wasn't super excited to be there. So head down, focused, I'm walking to the... is it the Stairmaster? What's the thing where you... Stairclimber. Stairclimber. That thing is the devil. It's so hard. But I was going to do it and I'm going to do 30 minutes today and that's really challenging for me. And this guy said, hey, do you have a second? And it's a guy that I had led to Christ a year ago and he said, I've been feeling like since the essential services, I need to be baptized. He said, would you baptize me? I said, of course. And he said, OK, I was a little nervous to ask. And that whole salvation process began with, can I pray for you? His dad was battling anxiety. Yeah. So can I pray for you? That's how the whole thing started. And we need to just and some people will say no. I have people. No, I'm fine. Okay. Yeah, yeah. So what were you gonna say? Sorry. Well, she said a couple of things in there as well. She said, she's trying to follow the Christian faith and she's scared to say their beliefs, her beliefs because of cancel culture. And the reality is if what you're fighting for is a cause, then you're fighting. Right. Right? And remember, people are the point. We're aiming at people. So the very people that might target or write this person off, they're the people we're aiming at. And when you focus your love and attention and care, and look, start with customer service. I mean, that's God's idea. You are the point of the reason I came. I came to seek and save the lost. That's why we're there. That's why we're actually in business. Even if the business doesn't seem related to, let's say, religious functions. We're there to find them and to find a way into their life so that we can deliver a message that they couldn't otherwise hear. If you do that with people, and that's your aim and your goal, then people feel loved. And they don't target you, and they don't write you off. They may not agree with you. They may not come on board. They may not end up following Christ, but they certainly aren't against you. Amen. That's great. All right. Is this Jesus from Winchester? Jesus. Jesus. All right. Now batting, the Son of God. One of the greatest far side. You ever see that cartoon at all time? It's Jesus. It's Jesus. That's great. All right, Jesus. Thank you. From Winchester, have you weighed the consequences of getting kicked out of the SBC for our missionaries who work for or for the International Missions Board should we get kicked out as a church? How are we going to care for them and how would that affect them? So thank you, Jesus. Great question. For those of you who don't know what the SBC is, it's the Southern Baptist Convention. I'm a third generation Southern Baptist pastor. We are a part of Southern Baptist Convention and as far as I know, the churches that they are kicking out are churches that have ordained women as pastors. We have not done that. The Southern Baptist Convention has allowed women to speak. Every seminary that we have gives MDivs to women, PhDs to women. So… Who have women teaching in those programs. Yeah, have women teaching in those programs. So teaching potential pastors to do their job. Yes. So as far as I know, we're okay. We're not trying to pick a fight with him denominationally. We're trying to do two things. One, follow God's Word, and two, what I believe is that preaching is a spiritual gift. Some people have it. Some people don't. And I believe that we have some women in our church who have that gifting. And so, and that comes from Ephesians 4.12 that God gave these gifts to the church, right? First apostles, then prophets, then pastors, then teachers. So Paul lists that as a gifting and the Holy Spirit, and he's speaking to the church as a whole in that passage. And this is what we get into when we talk about the 22 passages of Scripture that talk about speaking. And 20 of them seem to indicate that women can and two of them indicate that they cannot and so there's a tension there and that's why there's a tension in the SBC and And once again the SBC was started Jesus around mission not around theology So Southern Baptist came together in order to put missionaries on the field and Jesus our greatest missionary we take a missionary offering and her name is Lottie Moon. And she's a woman. And she is the reason there are hundreds of millions of Christians in China today as we speak because she went when men would not go and she preached and she taught and she discipled and she changed the world as we know it. And that's part of the tension within our denomination is, look, our own offering for missions is in the name of a woman because what she did was inspiring. She lost her life to save people. And those of you who don't know Lottie's story, there was such a great famine in China, in communist China, that there wasn't enough food. And so she was intentionally not eating to feed her church. Did you guys know that? So she got so sick and had such malnutrition, she had to come back ultimately to the United States. And that's how she cared for her sheep. And so Jesus, we're going to continue to care for our staff. We want to continue to work with the SBC. There are aspects of the SBC that we love. It breaks my heart kind of what I call the heresy hunters, these people that are looking for Christians who say one thing that's wrong or whatever. I want to work with them. I love them. There's still a lot of great value in partnering with them, and I'm hopeful that in the end We will do the right thing. We are conservative church. We believe in the authority of Scripture We believe in the mission of the church. There's so many things that we have in common On this issue of women being able to speak in church. We differ slightly, but not from all churches There are many SBC churches most African American churches in the SBC, most, the women speak and preach. Most black Southern Baptist churches, the pastor and his wife co-pastor. So this is catastrophic for our denomination because we have sin in terms of how we've handled the issue of slavery in America. This is catastrophic for us if we lose so many of our black Southern Baptist churches that have stayed with us in spite of our sin, have forgiven us and said, you know what, because of mission, we're going to forgive and move past this. And so I think that that's, you know, something that's really, really important. So you're more connected to this. Well, do you want to answer the second part of the question? How would that affect them? So we have some people on the field who are missionaries who work with that particular organization, the way the SPC works, even if for some bizarre reason that we can't expect or anticipate today, that we were no longer part of it. They would stay, remain on the field doing their jobs and we would continue to contribute to that work till the end. It wouldn't change our relationship. And we have a very complex and comprehensive system for supporting our people on the field that doesn't go away, even if that were to change, which I don't expect it to change. Yeah, and I mean, that's the beauty of the SVC. If they don't hold the missionary accountable for, let's say, the waywardness of the church, and I don't believe that we're going wayward, but that's the beauty of the system, is because you could get, I mean, you could get launched by a great church and go off in the field and they're like, God's a woman and the earth is heaven. But the missionary hasn't changed their theology. And so the missionaries with the SBC sign a theological statement in order to be a part of that process. You had to sign that, and that's important. And so as long as the missionary is still in line with the convention. When I went, they actually had you write your own version of the Baptist faith and message, and then they would compare it to the Baptist message. And if it wasn't in alignment, you didn't get sent. Yeah, wow, I didn't realize that. Thank you for going through that. I wouldn't have made it. Yeah, so Jesus, thank you for that concern. You know, again, the SVC, at its worst is political, at its best is missional. And so my prayer is that we will continue to operate at our best, which is missional, to share the gospel with the world by any means possible. The gospel was originally proclaimed by Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus healed. And so I think that that's just really, really important when we get back to the roots of Christianity, that we understand that it is okay for women to proclaim the gospel and that they are a part of that. That's my opinion. I realize that makes some people uncomfortable, but we haven't gone woke. I'm not a little woke. I'm not winning mini woke. I'm that that's not who we are so Jesus I'll be praying for you and You know, I hope that I hope that we Do not get kicked out as far as I know We've not been targeted or listed at all But Sandals Church the churches that have been targeted have ordained women as pastors And so we've not done that step and so, you know that's we continue to believe that the normative function of the church is that it should be led by men who are to be called elders. That's the normative function of the church. However, there are exceptions to the rule – Deborah, Huldah, Jason's four daughters, Priscilla, Phoebe. And the reason there are exceptions to the rule is giftedness. It is giftedness. And so sometimes as Christians, if we're not careful, we can become Pharisees and get so caught up in following the rules that we forget. I mean the scriptures say that the firstborn son is always to be the leader, and then God constantly chooses around that. So because God is sovereign and he can do what he wants and he can call someone to preach, whoever, and that includes Mary Magdalene, which is not who I would have picked to preach the first sermon That's if we were like in a huddle. I Wouldn't have gone with her So but that's man's a great great question. He's Houston. I appreciate you. Let's go to Spencer from Corona, man I would love to hear more about sandals churches goal mission and Vision factor I like that and vision factor in reaching the unreached world. Claude mentioned, once mentioned, in a sermon last year that Paul's vision was to reach the unreached with the gospel, not to build on someone else's foundation, Romans 15.20. In all grace, thank you, Spencer, for your grace, doesn't Sandals' model look more like the latter than the former? I just wonder how much we as Sandals Church do impact the unreached. Do you want to tackle that as the... Well, he says look more like the latter and the latter in his phrase is not building on someone's else foundation. So I'm not exactly sure if he got that backwards or how the question is worded but absolutely Paul says he talks about his ministry in Jerusalem, the Lycraeum and then to go to the unreached unengaged peoples of the world and he's setting the model for all of us. That's actually what our model here is at Sandals Church. We have local mission and we have global mission and we have opportunities that connect those two across the board. Now part of probably what he's referring to is the fact that people don't know a lot about what we're doing globally. And that's with great intention, not because we don't want us there to cause grief or difficulties to our people on the ground and more importantly to the people they're trying to reach. And so look, the more connected you are at our church with what's going on, that you can have access to this information. We have global engagement teams at every campus. We have local mission at every campus. And we have short-term trips that go and serve the people that are on the field, in addition to some other global workers or what we call great commission partners. So there's a comprehensive strategy for what we're doing. And those opportunities now, they got minimized a little bit during COVID that kind of shut things down. But we've been doubling every year since. And this next year, we'll probably send out something like 14 to 20 trips all over the world for people to come get involved. Yeah, just this summer. I know they're just short-term opportunities. What are some of the places that our church went to this summer, just this summer? Well, I'm going to say we went to South Asia. We went to Asia. We went to Europe. We went to Africa, just to give regional areas. Yeah, yeah. Rather than… So, Spencer, here's what I hope you're hearing is this is the guy who's specifically in charge of the ministry that you're questioning whether or not Sandals has, and we have to be vague. And so here's the consequences. When governments figure out we're involved, and let me just give you one specific one that is about eight years now. When the country of India figured out we were involved in the sponsoring of 1,100 children now we were feeding them clothing them educating them when the government of India found out Christians were involved they prohibited us from giving money, so I just want everyone to listen to that Because we are Christians The government of India would rather their children starve than become Christian, and that's not everyone in India But that's the government of India and so I can give you another story. I have a good friend of mine. They were on a mission trip to Scotland. I want everyone to hear that, Scotland. And when they landed in Scotland at Edinburgh, they were asked by, who do you talk to when you come through? Immigration. They were asked, immigration, why are you visiting on this trip? And one of the kids said, we're here to share the gospel. Yes, the entire group was rounded up, put on a plane and sent home. That's Scotland, right? So this is Western Europe. So Spencer, we have to be intentionally quiet about how we do these things. So what you hear about is everything we're doing in America. So somebody said, posted on my thing, you wouldn't have 14 campuses if America wasn't America. Yep. Love America. Appreciate America. In America we can be loud and proud about our faith and our campuses and everybody to get saved and we all need to celebrate that about America. That is almost not true anywhere else in the world. Even in Western countries that we would all go, what? And so we have to be very very careful telling you where we go, what we do, and how we do it because the consequences Look, Bibles are illegal in China. I mean, today, like, today, I get emails all the time from people in India. Hey, how do I get your book? They cannot buy my book on Amazon in India. Today! Like, right now, today. And people, we just live in this world where we think you have these freedoms. And these freedoms, even though America is struggling, are very, very unique to America and we are blessed to live here to be able to say what we want to say and worship it the way in which we want to worship. But most places, you know, are not that way. I think about a couple of years ago before you took the job, we had a whole team get rounded up by the police because, and why, what did we do wrong? We led one woman to Christ and she shared that with her husband. And he called the Secret Service. That's how he celebrated his wife's conversion. He called the Secret Service and our entire team, over 22 people, were detained and threatened with arrest for sharing the gospel. And I don't mention that country intentionally because we still work in that country and we want to do things. And I mean it's good things that we're doing. It's not just that we want to share the gospel. We do medical interventions. We do all kinds of things through our church that we can't publicly advertise because if we are associated with that work, it could end that work. And a great example is 1,100 kids in India went hungry because it got connected with us. And that broke my heart. So Spencer, that's why we're very, very private about what we do. But I mean, this guy sitting next to me served in Africa. He served as a missionary. You know, I hear a lot of times, well, Sandals isn't about missions, doesn't care about missions. Can you just speak to that? Oh my gosh. Well, his last statements, I just wonder how much we as Sandals Church do to impact the unreached. We're doing absolutely everything we can to impact the unreached. We're sending as many people who are qualified and called to go to the field. We're supporting them on the field. We're trying to plant the church every place there is unreached, unengaged people. And we have support networks here on this side set up to support and encourage and enable that kind of work. So we can't do any more, but I love that you're asking the question, I wonder, because that means it's the right question. If you come get involved, you connect at your local campus, find out who the the missions coach is and find out how to get connected and what to do next. You'll be part of that and we'll be doing more. Yeah. And it's very difficult. We just can't advertise what we're doing. And so some people think. And so maybe we can talk about how to. Vaguely advertise better, but we cannot specifically advertise or tell you where we're working because people's lives are at stake and livelihoods are at stake and we must honor that and you know you think about what I can talk about is what happened in Afghanistan when America pulled out so so maybe our missionaries or our people we maybe we get them home but we can't get all the people that they've led to Christ and discipled home and now those people are going to be persecuted because they've converted and and things like just like in India some of your hearing they're going through villages where people have converted and they're beating people up and burning businesses because they're Christian. And so these things are happening and we have to care deeply about this, and so we have to be very, very careful in how we, I guess, advertise what we do. So great question, Steven – Spencer, sorry. Get more involved. Get more connected. All right, last question. This is from Carla from Riverside. How can I serve outside the Sandals Church walls? So I think what I'm gonna guess here is that she wants to know how she'd get more involved in the things that we're doing outside of the local church. So how could she do that? Well, a couple of levels. First of all, at all of our campuses, we let all of our campuses have autonomy in terms of how they do local mission. But they all have some form of local mission which is reaching outside of the walls of Sandals Church. If you go to slash missions you can find out about everything that we're doing and you can hit I want to find out more and you'll get our newsletter you'll get connected to the short-term application if you're interested in that you'll find out where our teams are and what what opportunities to serve them once you get inside and meet a person, because we don't put these kinds of things in print, you can find out which people on the field need care teams and what their needs are, and you can play a role and be connected to that as well. We also twice a year are doing something like global engagement education courses, six courses that teaches all about God's heart for the nations, and it gets you connected to what we're doing at Sandals Church. So there's tons of opportunities. Yeah, absolutely. And so just to give a couple examples, we have the hill at San Bernardino, which, you know, Sandals has poured over a million dollars. You're talking about local mission. Local mission. So that's local and that's specific to the needs of San Bernardino. I think about what we did for the mountain community this past year when we literally We literally were shoveling snow, getting medicine to senior citizens who could not get out of their homes. We mobilized and really led that kind of rescue mission. It was interesting, the state of California asked to jump in on our call that we were leading, which is just kind of scary for everyone who thinks the government's going to save them. They were trying to figure out how they could help us save the people. So those are just two specific issues, but we try to give because local pastors understand their local situation and how they need to minister in that area. Globally, we work together. So 14 campuses, we come together because we can pull our resources, our money together so that we can support more people to go in places that are needed. And it's much more expensive to send someone abroad than it is to minister – to be a missionary locally. And so we need all of our 14 campuses pulling those resources together so that we can send people. And, you know, things happen. Missionaries get hurt on the field. You know, I think about when you were in Africa and your son broke his arm and had a compound fracture and you're in Africa and the doctor's drunk. Like, I mean, you guys... Well, that was after a seven-hour drive to the capital city where we met an intoxicated Russian physician who said he could do the surgery no problem and then we had to buy a ticket and fly to another country. Right, so then we have to fly you, your son, your wife to what, another country? Yep. So that you can have a doctor that's not hammered. Yeah. So, and those are the things that happen and this stuff happens all the time where maybe in some of these countries they don't use clean needles, they don't understand protocol and there's just dangers that happen and we need to pull those resources together to make sure that the teams that we are sending are as safe as possible. There's no such thing as safe, but as safe as possible and I know that you and I, we want to make sure that our teams are as safe as we would want to be going and that's one of the things that we do. And so, there's great care and some more costs in order to do that, but I think that it's absolutely important. And so, thank you so much Eric for coming on the show. I appreciate it. I'm sorry that people confuse you for me, me for you. And if anybody says anything mean, I apologize. So listen, you guys can submit… Thanks, Matt. Thank you for being on the show. You can submit your questions to the Sandals Church app or you can go to slash… Is it forward or backslash? Forward slash ask. Or if you follow me on Instagram, you can always send me a question. Just put debrief on it so I know. So many times I get great questions and I send to Madison. I'm like, hey, let's ask this question. But just put debrief on it because what I have to do is if you send me a question, I have to say, can I answer this on the debrief? And that kind of just clunks up the system, but a lot of great questions come in that way. But we love your questions. We love you guys. Thank you guys for joining us on Mission and thank you, Eric, for surrendering to God's call. You had an amazing job at California Baptist University and I just love that you just listen to what God said and here's how I got him. I said, pray about it. And again, it was God. Because God calls and God brings us together and I'm so grateful and thankful to have you here at Sandals Church. So I love you brother. Thank you for your work. Thank you for your friendship and thank you for your wisdom on the show. Thank you guys. God bless and hopefully you'll tune in next week. thank you for your wisdom on the show. Thank you guys. God bless and hopefully you'll tune in next week. you

Transcribed with Cockatoo