John Burke: The way people actually change is when they get reconnected to the source of life and love, you know, when they get reconnected to the one who by His spirit can produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, naturally in us, that’s how people actually change.
End of Preview
John Fuller: That’s Pastor John Burke sharing, uh, some of the very simple ideas that can have a powerful impact as you seek to reach people for Christ. You’ll hear more from him today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: Uh, John, I really enjoyed, uh, my time with John Burke recently. We had a discussion at a friend’s house in Houston, Texas. These friends graciously opened their home so that we could, uh, get together with a few other friends in the neighborhood, and we put it on tape so others could hear it. Uh, it was a powerful and memorable discussion about loving others authentically as Christ did. Um, you know, we always get along easy with that thinking, can I love like Christ loved? That’s the goal. Uh, it’s easy for us to get the wrong idea that we can’t talk about our faith in public spaces because we think somehow it’ll be offensive to somebody, uh, but John Burke helps us to remove those imaginary hurdles to simply serve others and love others the way Jesus did, and it’s refreshing to hear a simple recipe on how to live life authentically. That’s what this broadcast is about.
John: Yeah. This is spirit-led living, and, uh, John is the pastor and founder of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas. He lives there with his wife Cathy. They have an adult son and daughter, and he’s written a number of books, including Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World Through Imperfect People. And you can get a copy of that book from us here at the ministry, uh, at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Now here now is Jim Daly and Pastor John Burke.
Jim: You’re passionate about sharing Christ with others. I mean, it’s that simple. Uh, I think that’s why you’re a pastor now, not-
John: It is.
Jim: … an engineer, right?
John: That’s right.
Jim: Um, h- how do you interpret the great commission that Jesus gave to His followers after His resurrection, “Go to all the world”? What was He talking about?
John B.: Yeah. I think, um, I think sometimes it’s easy to miss God’s great heart for every single person on the globe. Every person, every nation, doesn’t matter where they’re from. And, um, that’s what Jesus was all about and that’s the last thing He said.
Jim: Let me ask you this though. I mean, in our humanness, it’s easy to put some people in this camp and other people in that camp, and I like this camp.
John B.: Right.
Jim: They’re fun, they kind of believe the way I believe. Kind of easy to have dinner with.
John B.: Well-
Jim: Then the other camp, they- they really don’t want to hang around with them.
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: But that’s not what the Lord is saying, right?
John B.: No.
John B.: It’s comfortable.
John B.: It’s comfortable to be around people who are just like you, and all people gravitate that way. I mean, we all do.
John B.: But I think the Lord and what He was saying, you know, when He said, “Go to all the nations, teaching them about me,” I think what He was after is us realizing that there- there’s something beautiful as well in all of our differences and diversities that reflect, because remember we’re- we’re all made in the image of God.
John B.: So, there’s something even about our differences and diversities that somehow together reflect the- the beauty of who God is.
Jim: Yeah. I mean, that is really good. We are in a post Christian culture now. I mean-
John B.: Completely.
Jim: … there’s not that cohesion around certain core values that maybe just 30 years ago, 20 years ago we would have generally mostly agreed with.
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: It’s all fragmented now.
John B.: No, I’ve watched it change during my lifetime.
Jim: Right. Um, in that context, you’ve identified in the book Unshockable Love, you’ve identified three elements needed for unbelievers to find faith in Christ. Wh- what are they?
John B.: Well, and it does have to do with the cultural changes that have happened. So, you’re right. I, you know, back in the ’80s, um, uh, we were mostly a Christian culture in America.
Jim: That’s not that long ago.
John B.: It wasn’t that long ago.
John B.: I mean, as- as I was, you know, growing up and going to college and, if you said, “Do you believe in God,” we all had a common background of understanding of, oh, you’re talking about the God of Jesus, and I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But- but there was, there was a Judeo-Christian culture that we were growing up in. Well, that- that really has shifted. And what also shifted was that in the ’80s, people longed for truth.
John B.: It was kind of a flag. I remember it, you know.
John B.: It’s like, well, what’s true? What’s true? What’s true? And proof and evidence, you know. It was kind of like we were coming out of our scientific enlightenment, understanding. We can figure it out, what’s right, what’s true. Well, that did shift. And what started to happen is, um, truth became relative. So, well, our group has a certain truth and your group has a certain truth, but who’s to say your group’s truth is better than our group’s truth?
John B.: And- and I say that to say that that is the culture that, that was the shift that happened really back in the ’90s. And- and so we’re way past that now. That’s just an assumption. Now, the important thing there is that what I found leading Gateway Church, which is, which is a Church that we, you know, we’ve seen 5000 people come to faith in Jesus out of every background imaginable, every religious background, every lifestyle-
John B.: … background. And what I found is that people often take a- a- a- a common pattern. So, they meet a Christian who is actually like Jesus toward them, which we can talk more about that later.
Jim: Yeah, we will.
John B.: But- but it is. Has the attitude of Jesus toward them, for them, I might say. You know, they get the sense that- that this person likes me.
John B.: They care about me. They see something in me. And when I’m around them, I- I feel important to them. Um, so that’s one. And that- that Christian person shares a faith with them. Um, but the second thing is they’ve got to get to know a, what I call a tribe of people, who are their other Christian friends. And as they get to know those other Christian friends, it’s more like a tribal decision, you know. If you, if you go to tribal cultures, when one makes a decision to start following Christ, it’s usually done together-
John B.: … in a group.
John B.: Because they have a group identity. Well, in some ways, that’s kind of how people come to faith today. Meaning it’s not necessarily that they bring their whole group to faith. It’s that they’ve got to have friends that they’re going to. So, I’m not gonna leave my friends who don’t believe anything about Jesus, you know, we’re just partying and having fun, to leave them to belong with this group that believes in Jesus when I don’t know who this group is. So, getting to know friends who are also Christians and having them be their friend isn’t also an important part of people coming to faith.
John B.: And then the third one is having a safe space where they can learn the dangerous truths of the scriptures, where they can learn God’s story. Um, I find that it takes people anywhere from six to 18 months of just learning before they ever come to faith. They’ve got to understand, because we- we truly live in a post Christian world. They don’t know who Abraham was or these different Bible names or-
John B.: … I- I, you know. I’ve gotten, I’ve had people ask, you know, when you’re quoting chapters and versus and they’re like, you know, “What is that?” They don’t know. And- and so, helping them just un- be in a safe place where they can understand the story of God and what God was doing through Jesus to make a way back to the heart of God.
Jim: You know, uh, the person listening who may not have a relationship with Christ, um, is thinking, okay, this sounds like it could be manipulation. You know, you get yourself together with a bunch of your friends and they try to convince you that what Jesus said and did and who He was is all true.
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: And the proof is, hey, look at my friends. That’s really not the goal. It’s just that community of believers should be a convincing witness about what they believe.
John B.: Well, it’s what Jesus called us. He called the Church His body. Now think about that. If we really are His body, then we should be showing people what God is like through us together.
John B.: Just like Jesus did in His physical body. He was showing what the unseen God is like, live- living out among people. So, He actually literally wants us to do the same thing, which means we’ve got to have the attitude and actions of Jesus, but the- the community part is important because at the end of the day when people aren’t searching for truth as a first and primary thing, they are searching for love. Everybody.
John B.: And so if- if a community of followers of Jesus aren’t loving, then why would they want to, why would they want to follow this Jesus?
Jim: That’s true. I’ve never heard that- that testimony that, you know, the Christians were so mean to me and they treated me so poorly, I decided to become one of them.
John B.: (laughs) Yeah.
Jim: I mean, I’ve just never heard that testimony (laughs).
John B.: No.
John B.: Yeah, but you’ve heard the other, right?
John B.: A lot, that-
Jim: They were so loving and kind.
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: I couldn’t understand it.
John B.: And- and- and actually that was an aha for me.
John B.: Um, I had an aha when I was living in California and I- I was, I was talking with a guy who was not a Christian. And, um, you know, I love apologetics. I love re- analytical engineering minds, so I love the reasons, right. And so he agreed to meet with me, and we- we were going to, uh, talk through faith issues. And I started going through all the reasons I believe and, you know, trying to convince him and- and, um, you know, he’d push back and we’d go. And I’d, and I’d argue him down and this and that. By the end of it, he said, “Okay, I see. I see what you’re saying.” I say, “Great. So, you want to follow Jesus?”
John B.: And he goes, “No.” I said, “Well, why not? A plus B equals C.” You know, it makes perfect sense, right? “Yeah, it makes sense.” “Well, why not?” He said, “‘Cause I guess I just don’t want to be like you.”
Jim: (laughs) Oh, man. Ouch.
John B.: E- exactly right.
John B.: But it was also God’s wake-up call to me.
John B.: Like, okay, you know what? Maybe I’m not actually stewarding the heart of God for people well.
John B.: Maybe I’m actually making it about me. And you can be manipulative when you make it about you, because that’s not the- the, that’s not what we’re trying to do.
John B.: Um, you know, as- as one person said, “We’re more like one beggar telling another where to find bread,” you know.
Jim: That’s good to remember it that way.
John B.: Yeah. That- that we’re- we’re- we’re trying to help people see that God is for them, not against them.
John B.: And He’s done everything possible to remove every barrier between them and Himself, and-
Jim: Yeah, and sometimes we become the barrier.
John B.: … self-will.
Jim: Right? And that’s not-
John B.: Yeah. We- we- we don’t-
Jim: … you know, we- we end up being the impediment.
John B.: … want to be the barrier, yeah.
Jim: You have a, uh, an example of a couple from Branson, Missouri, who really begin to demonstrate this kind of love to people. I mean, it- it’s so simple, but so profound. What- what occurred with them when they started to feed people and-
John B.: You’re talking about Brian and Amy?
John B.: Yeah. Yeah. Brian- Brian and Amy, um, you know, they- they just worked in business, you know. Normal Christians going to church, and, um, uh, they had both been divorced and remarried. And so they actually weren’t allowed to serve in their church. And so they were having some issues there, so they were like, “Well, Jesus wants us to serve people.” And so they start praying, “Who can we serve?” And then they, in- in- in Branson, um, it’s a very interesting place. Been there many times now. But it’s, you know, it’s an entertainment capital kind of place, but the people who work in the entertainment industry are the working poor.
John B.: And they live in these extended stay motels for the most part, and move around, and there’s a lot … The, it’s a meth capital there.
John B.: Believe it or not.
John B.: And- and you wouldn’t think that in Branson, but it is. And so the- these kids and these families just struggling. And they- they saw that and they decided, you know what? Let’s just, let’s- let’s do a- a Thanksgiving cookout for this one motel, extended stay motel, and they did. And they started to meet people and actually get to know them and heard their stories. And it- it moved their heart. And, um, so they came back and were just visiting and they said, “You know, the- the people down the hall are really struggling. They could really use some help.” So, they packed up a sack lunch and took it down the hall to them and befriended them. And then they said, they told them someone else who could really use some help. Well, long story short, they just start serving like this and meeting these people and bringing just food or different help things, and they realize that these people have physical needs, but really their spiritual needs are- are even greater. They need to know how God feels about them. So, they had, uh, had read a book I wrote, No Perfect People Allowed, um, talking about how Jesus entered into the mess and people’s messiness, right. And so they contacted us and said, “Hey, h- help us figure out how to do this.” And, um, and we said, “Well, come to one of our gatherings where we, where we teach pastors.” And they’re like, “Well, we’re not pastors.” Like, “It’s okay. Just come.” This is funny because they are pastors, to be honest (laughs).
Jim: (laughs) That’s good.
John B.: And- and so they came. Well, long story short, they- they started just- just hosting opportunities for these people to come together in the motels and talk about faith. They would show videos. They would lead discussions. It grew and grew. They ended up getting volunteers to help as well. At the high point, um, they were bringing 1300 meals a week-
Jim: Oh my goodness.
John B.: … uh, to- to all the- the- the h- the motels around. It, they saw hundreds of people come to faith in Christ, hundreds of people come out of addiction. They helped people who were either homeless or in these jobs just spinning, go through a jobs for life program they put on, and 90% keep a job for more than two years afterwards.
John B.: So, and all that started by just saying, “Lord, how can we be like you to the people around us?” And you never know what God’s gonna do. It’s crazy.
Jim: That’s a big opportunity, right?
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: When you say that to the Lord, He’ll say, “Okay. I’ll use you.”
John B.: Yeah. He’ll test you on it.
John B.: He’ll give you an opportunity.
John: You’re listening to Focus on the Family, and we’ve got a conversation today with Jim Daly and Pastor John Burke about sharing Christ with others in a relational, natural way. And the concepts John is sharing are from his excellent book, Unshockable Love: How Jesus Changes the World Through Imperfect People. Get a copy today, and, uh, you’ll find all sorts of great ideas in there about serving your neighbors and speaking the truth in love. Contact us today. Donate as you can, and ask for a copy of the book, Unshockable Love. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. Let’s go ahead and continue to conversation now. Jim asked John Burke to speak to the person who feels overwhelmed with busyness or is fearful about sharing their faith. And here’s how John answered.
John B.: Well, let me tell you a story that I think is a great, a great example of how it can be the things you already do and the things are already love to do. Um, so there was this couple, Doug and- and Rosie, who moved to Austin, Texas, where I live, from, um, Arizona. They had been involved in the drug culture in Arizona. They moved to Austin to get away from that because they had two young kids and their marriage was kind of on the rocks. So, they get to Austin. Doug’s business starts taking off, doing great. Their marriage is not doing well. They’re new. They’re trying to, you know, figure things out. A guy at work invites Doug to play softball, and he loves softball, so he starts playing softball with these guys. Then he finds out some of them are Christians, go to a church together. He grew up going to church and then when he met Rosie and, you know, they hooked up and started doing drugs and all this, and he kind of faded. Well, at the same time, Rosie, uh, meets some women at their preschool who are meeting up in a park. They all have young kids, so they’re just meeting up in a park to let the kids play and enjoy some time together. So, she starts doing that to make friends. She finds out that they’re, some of them are Christians. She’s an atheist, because- because Rosie was abused as a child, and she couldn’t possibly imagine a God who would love her and yet allow that to happen. And that’s what turned her to atheism. So, she kind of pushes back on them and lets them know she’s an atheist, and they love her. They’re just like, you know, okay. And so she really likes them and she keeps going. Well, one night, Doug has a dream and in the dream someone invites him to church and he says yes. And in the dream, he ends up at this church and they say, “Do you just want to watch or- or do you want to be a part?” And he says, “Be a part,” and he- he finds himself in the middle of this thing. And the next day, he goes and plays softball and they invite him to come to church. And because he had that dream, he’s like, “Okay, I’ll go.”
John B.: Okay. Well, he goes home, expecting to have a major fight, you know, just knockdown, drag out with Rosie, who never wanted anything to do with church or God at all. The weird thing is, that same week, Rosie’s friends had invited her to go to their church, and because she liked them so much and didn’t want to disappoint them, she had said yes to them. So, Doug and Rosie end up fighting about whose friends matter more and which church are we going to (laughs).
John B.: So, Doug was a salesman, and, uh, he won. And so they’re driving in that Sunday morning to Doug’s friends’ church, and Rosie goes, “Your friends go to Gateway Church? My friends go to Gateway Church.”
Jim: (laughs) Even better.
John B.: True story. I’m not making it up. Uh, they had both encountered what we call networks of Christians just doing life together and inviting friends who might not know the Lord to be a part of it. And they started coming. And so they had friends. They had someone who showed them what Jesus is like. And then they started learning at our church in a safe space to understand the Gospel, to understand what- what Christ had done. And six months later, Doug gave his life to Christ. A year and a half later, Rosie did. And they both became leaders in our church at the center of everything.
Jim: Oh, that’s amazing.
John B.: Isn’t that crazy?
Jim: That is-
John B.: But-
Jim: … that’s a great story.
John B.: It is a great story, but my point is, it’s re- not that difficult.
Jim: Yeah. Uh, uh, that is an excellent point. When you look at the New Testament, it seems if you look at it like, uh, billboard signs, the two that jump out at me is one, salvation through Christ and Christ alone, and don’t become a Pharisee.
John B.: (laughs) Yeah.
Jim: Those are kind of the two billboards, right?
John B.: It is, yeah.
Jim: But we- we really, uh, we emphasize the first, the importance of salvation through Christ and in Christ, but we do ignore not becoming a Pharisee.
John B.: Well, it’s, and it’s interesting, because w- after I wrote Unshockable Love, and it is all about the attitudes and actions of Jesus versus the attitudes and actions of the Pharisees. So, uh, you’re familiar with the Barna Group.
Jim: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
John B.: Uh, Dave Kinnaman.
John B.: So-
John B.: Yeah.
Jim: Researcher. They do polls of Christian America.
John B.: So, I got them actually to take those attitudes and actions of Jesus versus the Pharisees and poll Christian America.
John B.: Okay. Get ready. (laughs).
Jim: I’m putting my seatbelt on. Okay.
John B.: Well, so 14% of Christians had both the attitudes and actions of Jesus. 51% had both the attitudes and the actions of the Pharisees, and then of course the rest were in between. Now- now here’s what I would say. It’s not a black and white. It’s a, it’s a gray scale, and we all slide one way or the other-
John B.: … a- a lot.
Jim: Throughout the day (laughs).
John B.: M- month to month, maybe throughout the day. You know, if you think about s- some of the ways Jesus treated people or His actions, you know, He- He ate with people. Uh, you know, Matthew was a tax collector and invited all his partying friends, and He’s- He’s eating with them. So, we could ask ourselves a question, when was the last time I did that? Well, that’s an action of Jesus. So, there are things like that, right. And- and I think what’s important is to recognize that we don’t ever intentionally become Pharisaical.
John B.: We slide into it.
John B.: And we do.
Jim: John, for the person who’s going, “Okay, I- I resonate with what you’re saying. I am a busy person. I probably haven’t given this much attention or enough attention at all,” what are some things they could do differently, uh, tomorrow, tonight, that could begin to change actually their enthusiasm for their faith? ‘Cause they’ll start to see the Lord really move.
John B.: Oh, that’s the thing.
Jim: That’s what-
John B.: That’s the thing, Jim, is like you want to grow your relationship with God, start trusting Him. And here’s how you trust Him. Just say, “Lord, I want to be a witness for you.” And start praying for the people He’s already put in your life. He’s already put people in your life. They’re at work, they’re on the little league field.
Jim: They’re around your neighborhood.
John B.: They’re in your neighborhood.
John B.: You can walk your dog, you know. It’s, there are all kinds of ways. Start praying, and then, you know, think about the person of peace. So, Jesus, you know, Jesus said, “Go into the village and if there’s a person of peace that opens up to you, go there. Stay there.” So as you do this, you’re- you’re- you’re getting to know people, you’re planting seeds. And then when you see that kind of opening of a person of peace, then build relational momentum there. Find ways to serve them. Find ways to care about them.
John B.: Um, and when- when the opportunity comes, just start to tell them how God feels about them. You know, the Holy Spirit will tell you when. Great example. Um, my wife and I were at a party, you know, on our block. Kind of our first big post COVID party. And, um, and all our neighbors are there, and we’ve been getting to know our neighbors and we’ve had, you know, different conversations with them. Um, but my next door neighbor, uh, who are, who are both Hindu, he’s, uh, an AI engineer, so he’s got his own artificial intelligence company. Very smart guy. And, um, we’re there, we’re there talking to them and it just so happens, they- they find out, they didn’t know that I had studied a thousand people who clinically died, you know, and written a book on it. And when they found out, he was like, “Oh my gosh, my respect for you has just gone through the roof.” I’m like, “Really?” (laughs).
Jim: (laughs) Yeah, right.
John B.: You know? And- and so, I- I just like, okay, door open, you know. And so I started sharing with him about, you know, when people encounter God how much He loves them. And I just started telling them. There’s only, there’s only one God. He created us all. And man, y- the crazy thing is, you can’t believe how much He loves you and how much He understands you and how He- He- He wants to be like a best friend to you. And- and they, you know, and- and they said, “Oh, yeah, we all, we all believe in the same God.” Maybe.
Jim: Right. (laughs) Right.
John B.: But- but hey, you- you know what? You do what Paul did when he went into Athens. “Hey, I see you’re a very religious people.” This is Acts, chapter 17, right. He sees all these idols. They’re worshiping all these idols, but he sees one that says, “To the unknown God.” And he starts there. “Let me tell you about the unknown God you worship,” and he builds a bridge-
John B.: … to what God’s done through Jesus. So, we- we can do the same thing.
Jim: That’s so good and so important. This is how the Gospel gets shared, right? This is-
John B.: And- and remember you’re not doing it in your own power. Acts chapter one, verse eight, Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes, and you’ll be my witnesses.”
Jim: Well, this has been so good. Thanks for, uh, sharing this. Your great book, Unshockable Love, it’s a wonderful guide to how to engage people for Christ. Thank you.
John B.: Well, thanks.
John: What a great conversation Jim Daly had with Pastor John Burke, and, uh, a group of Focus friends in the audience there in Houston, Texas. And Jim, John really reminded us of how it’s exciting to share the good news in a natural, winsome way, just kind of every day. I love hearing that.
Jim: It takes the pressure off. All you got to do is present it. The message is contagious. And actually knowing Christ and sharing His love is contagious. Sometimes we make things so complicated, uh, that fear may grip us and we step back. We don’t take the opportunity. But it all starts with having a heart for others and being available, uh, you know, to listen to the spirit of God. When we’re faithful to live as ambassadors for Christ, uh, the ripples will go on forever. And what an impact we can have in our neighborhoods and, uh, communities for the Lord. And if you’ve enjoyed this conversation, uh, let me ask you to support the mission here at Focus on the Family. We’re doing this together. I think, uh, we forget sometimes that when you are, uh, giving us the field to do the ministry, you’re as much a part of it as we are. So, let me encourage you to do that. A gift of any amount, uh, I will send you a copy of the book as our way of saying thank you for being part of the ministry. Um, in that context, it really helps if you can do that monthly. It doesn’t have to be a big gift, but 10, $15 is really helpful, and, uh, we will send it, again, to say thank you for being part of the ministry.
John: Yeah, donate as you can monthly if at all possible, and, uh, our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459, or make that contribution, and, uh, we’ll send a book to you when you’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back next time, as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.