Pastor Chip Ingram addresses several cultural hot-button topics, describing how Christians can navigate divisive discussions about these issues with grace while still adhering to biblical truth and modeling the love of Christ.
Chip Ingram: And I think I - I meet Christians and Christian parents are shocked that, “Oh, this is difficult for my kids.” Guess what? That’s the world that they live in. That’s what we prepare them for. And I think what most kids need is parents that are modeling that.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, sitting down and having a conversation with someone, even if we disagree with them is the first step to changing a culture. Chip Ingram is our guest today on Focus on the Family. And he’ll share how you can engage the culture for Christ. And he’ll provide some solutions on how you can talk with others about some pretty hot-button topics. Our host is Focus president Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we live in a culture that’s bursting with opinion. Just go to social media, and you’ll see it. And some of it gets pretty, you know, beyond the pale.
Jim: But it’s just the nature of the culture that we are living in today, that people are full of opinions. And they want to express them, whether it’s in the public policy arena, even the spiritual arena, you know, Christians and their role in the culture. All kinds of comments are being made. I love what Jesus said in Matthew. You are the light of the world, right? We are the light of the world. And we’re called to let that light shine before others, so they’ll be drawn to Him. And that’s the goal. How do we minimize ourselves and lift up Christ as the answer to so many people’s difficulties? Shining His light requires us to be intentional about having conversations with others. And I think one of the difficulties we have right now is we’re intimidated not to talk about faith because people are telling us faith is something that’s private. Keep it out of the public square. And that’s not the tradition of our nation. We were built on Judeo-Christian principles. And in a democracy, we as Christians, have every right to express ourselves as everybody else does. And I think we need to encourage you to remember that. Now, the question is how to do it. And we’re going to talk today with Chip Ingram who’s written a great book. It’s a couple years old, but called,. And I’m looking forward to it.
John: Yeah. And Chip is the host of a daily radio show called, “Living on the Edge.” He’s been in ministry for over 35 years and was, for nine years, senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in California.
Jim: Hey, Chip. Welcome back to Focus.
Chip: Hey, great to be with you.
Jim: You’ve been here before.
Jim: Yeah. That’s so good to have you. I want to start by asking you about how the culture has shifted in defining truth. I think this is one of the most crazy things when I watch the news now how people can walk away from a discussion and have totally different perspectives...
Jim: ...On what was true. And I think most historians will say this started in the ‘60s and ‘70s, kind of this relativism. And truth is what you think truth is. Speak to that. And how did we get here?
Chip: Well, I actually wrote a thesis on that so I’ll...
Chip: ...cut to the chase but...
Jim: That sounds intimidating.
Chip: It does, um...
Chip: But it really even goes back farther to some German theologians and where existentialism was born and in the mid- to late 1800s. But when it got public is when the beatniks of the ‘50s then into the ‘60s. And then if you remember, “I’m okay. You’re okay. If it feels good, do it.” And so what happened is truth moved from an absolute right or wrong. In other words, gravity is true. If you step off a building you fall. Two, truth is whatever you see it to be. In other words, you can share your faith. And most people will say, “Oh, that’s good for you.” I think the real shift happened in terms of America when situational ethics was introduced. And Dr. Sloan came in. And my mother was a guidance counselor. And I remember our dining room table and her pulling her hair out. And they would do these hypothetical situations, you know? “If someone put a gun to your head and said you had to do something immoral, or kill three people, what would you do?” And at the end of it, what it produced was there really is no right and wrong.
And then we graduated from the ‘70s and the ‘80s to where we live in a day where, now, all truth is - have equal standing - pluralism. And so what we have to remember is when people hear things, they have a set of glasses and a set of hearing aids that say there’s a filter. Yes. That’s true for you. But truth isn’t absolute. It’s not black and white. It’s whatever you perceive it to be. And I think that has been the dominant theme of the culture. And that’s produced some pretty devastating changes.
Jim: Well, here’s the connection. And I was shocked in reading the book and seeing some of the statistics and in getting some of the updates on that. But let me - for the listeners’ sake, let me share this, that idea of relativism and that type of thinking and how it’s infecting the church. A survey that was done said that 54 percent of Christians in the U.S. don’t believe in absolute truth. Now, that’s shocking. 54 percent. Where do we go from here if fewer and fewer people in the church are believing there’s absolute truth. What will the world look like for your grandkids?
Chip: Well, it’s gonna exponentially look more like it does right now unless there’s some real movements like Focus on the Family, and I think parents. I think parents have to realize that the view of relative truth in academia, the school systems and the media and in the political arena - they’re probably there to stay for a while. But what we have is the opportunity to model something very different.
Chip: But we’re gonna have to own the responsibility of teaching our kids and grandkids.
Jim: Well, okay. And here’s the key issue, I think - is it can become very emotional...
Jim: ...because you’re saying, “No, there is truth.” And you’re yelling, you know? You don’t mean to be. But, emotionally, you get into this, because we as Christians do believe in absolute truth. There is a black and white. And how do we go about expressing that to today’s landscape?
Chip: Well, I think two or three things - one, you have to really remain calm. Two, you have to model a life where they want to hear what you have to say. And, three, have to build some relationship, so that there’s some credibility. With that, what I would say is everyone believes in absolute truth.
Jim: That’s true.
Chip: Everyone does. And so if you ask someone, “Are you OK with torturing children?”
Jim: Of course not.
Chip: I don’t care where you’re coming from. Of course not - based on what?
Chip: In fact, I still remember defending that thesis. I did it at West Virginia University. And I had these three doctoral who were interviewing me. And it was a three-hour thing. And mine was on absolute truth versus relative truth. And, you know, they said, “No, you’re completely wrong. And I said to one, “Dr. Austro,” I said, “Do you have children?” “Yes, I do.” “Well, what if someone walks into your house, knocks over the door and says, ‘What feels good to me is death’? And he lines up all three kids, takes a .45 and goes boom, boom, boom and kills your three kids? Are you okay with that?” “Absolutely not - that’s preposterous. Blah, blah, blah, blah.” I said based on what?
Chip: And every - what we have to understand is everyone draws the line differently. And so, like, you put your arm around people. You build a relationship, and then you help them back their way into seeing the hypocrisy that, in theory, I say, “I don’t believe in absolute truth,” but in real life, are you okay with someone having an affair with your wife? Are you okay with someone bullying your child? Are you okay with, you know...
Jim: Well, and this - to a degree this is the conundrum, when...
Jim: ...you watch the news. It’s something I say often to the team here at Focus. You know, truth can have sand on it. It can be obscured. But truth will always prevail.
Jim: The Lord will always prevail. It may take time for the truth to emerge from underneath the sand that’s covering it...
Jim: ...as a metaphor. But, it’s very interesting. I think the knots that our culture is twisting itself into - it will be a revolutionary moment when truth regains itself, and people go, “Yeah. I am not good with torturing children.”
Jim: Maybe, hopefully, prayerfully, in this country, we’ll realize that abortion is murder.
Jim: There is an example of a truth that is covered right now. People cannot see the reality of what they’re doing.
Chip: And I think what you see, too, is that truth has its outcomes. And as relative truth gets to play its way out - and what you begin to see is - when you see the fruit of some of that, that’s when the culture realizes, “Well, wait a second. This really doesn’t work.” I mean, when we have atheists now - Elisabeth Cronwell, who’s executive director of the Richard Dawkins Foundation...
Chip: ...atheist - has come out and just looked and said, “We can’t kill our own species. Abortion is wrong. The science is absolutely clear. Life begins at conception.” And so, I think what we’re gonna see is that when we shift our values in marriage and in parenting, what we’re beginning to see is the fallout. That fallout, over time, if there is Christians who are lovingly and kindly bringing light instead of heat...
Chip: I think what we’ll see is some real shifts.
Jim: Well, and Chip, here’s the challenge that we have, though. We are in a fast-food culture...
Jim: ...if I could say it that way. So we want to see those changes quickly. We want to see relative truth run its - the end of its course right now, because we want those changes. We want people to realize that these truths are not truth at all and that what we believe in, as Christians, as Christian moral underpinnings - that’s the truth. But how do we trust that God’s in control, that God has this and that, whether it takes 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, 2,000 years, that we can trust that God will bring the equilibrium, the spiritual righteousness back at some point? Or it’ll be His second coming.
Jim: I mean, those are the truths of it.
Chip: I think as believers, if we could just recognize one main point, that the world we’re living in now is far more like the first century than the last century...
Jim: I have said that many times.
Chip: And once you get that, then what you realize is - and I’m not trying to be down on us. But I’m just being real with all of us, we, as Christians, are very strong about what they’re doing out there. If we would just address our own issues about relative truth - if 30 percent of 18 to 30-year-olds are living together - uh, 65 percent of all the women who are having an abortion self-identify as some background of a Christian. We need to take the absolute truth of Scripture and live it out in our homes and in our churches, so that we are light and are salt. And at least in the first century, that’s what turned things around. And I think that’s, uh, the same prescription for today.
Jim: I think we’re so close to that, really. And the difference was, in my opinion - what turned the Roman Empire upside down were the Christians willing to give of themselves. And I think this is one of the great challenges that we face in modern faith...
Jim: ...Modern Christianity is the amount of sacrifice that it requires to change a culture, rolling up your sleeves, getting involved with orphans, getting involved with foster care, getting involved with - through your church, in doing community programs, helping public schools. It’s all tough work. And we’re already really busy, Chip. I mean, really.
Chip: And what I...
Jim: I’d rather just go to church on Sunday and just settle in there and just kind of hunker down together and ride this thing through. But if we’re really going to change a culture, we’ve got to do what the first, second, third century did. And that was to get engaged.
Chip: And it actually happens in the same way today as it did then. My last 25 or 30 years of ministry has been almost all on the West Coast in the most liberal communities ever.
Jim: You’re in the Bay Area.
Chip: Yes. And what I can tell you is, we remodel schools. We help HIV patients. We work with homeless people. We’ve been given, I think in the last nine years, three different awards from the city. These are the secular thing - thank you, all. But the point is - is that when you live out your faith instead of argue about it and throw grenades about telling people how they’re wrong, what I will tell you is unbelievers - the city council - they don’t agree with our theology. But, basically, what they’re saying is, “You had a thousand volunteers show up...”
Chip: “And you’re cleaning up an area of our city that no one cares about.” That’s the kind of Christianity. Now, it has to go with the Gospel. But that’s the kind of faith that makes a difference in a city.
Jim: Well, and it starts with those actions, which open up the heart.
Jim: And we’ve heard so many reports. Portland - I think Kevin Palau’s done a wonderful job in the city of Portland working with the mayor. They’re not going to agree on social issues. But they turned out 24 - 25,000 volunteers to work in public schools to paint and to do things. Think of the scripture. And I want everybody to lean in on this. Think of the scripture that says, “Do these good deeds so that they’ll honor your Father in heaven.”
Jim: It doesn’t say, “Say these good words.” It doesn’t say, “Win that argument.” Do these good deeds. But I’m telling you, everybody. I suffer from the same problem. It’s hard to do it, because you’re already taxed out, doing all kinds of things - your work, your family and then, you know, go feed people at the soup kitchen on Wednesday night?
Jim: That’s exactly it. Or if it doesn’t exist, create the soup kitchen. How about that? It’s going to require work. And I’m concerned, Chip, when we look at the Christian culture today, we’re not so into that kind of heavy labor.
Chip: No, we’re not. In fact, I think we need to redefine, actually, what it means to be a follower of Christ. I think we...
Chip: ...have assumed that listening to some good songs, a good, motivational message and feeling good about ourselves and positioning ourselves as somehow against the culture. I’m not against any culture. I’m in the midst of it. We’re called to love it. Um...
Jim: But we need that zeal to say...
Jim: ...”Okay - I’m going to love it, even though there are many aspects of it I despise.”
John: Yeah, we’re talking today on Focus on the Family to Chip Ingram about engaging the culture and making a difference, not just through words but through actions as well. And, uh, Chip is a very gifted communicator on this topic. He’s written a great book -. And we’ve got it and a copy of this broadcast on CD or as a download at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. You can call if you’d like. Our number is 800 - the letter A and the word FAMILY.
Jim: Chip, let’s get right to some of the hot topics...
Jim: ...In the culture - human sexuality - very much like early Rome again.
Jim: When we’re talking about first, second century of Christians, human sexuality and the distortion of God’s design for human sexuality, which is monogamous lifetime commitment to your spouse - that’s what God has intended. It’s out of control once again.
Jim: The episodic nature of human expression - we’re back into that same period where things are happening that are displeasing to the Lord, that go against nature. Speak to human sexuality and the gift of what God has given us and then the distortion of how human beings have made it something ugly, rather than something beautiful.
Chip: I would say that it is breathtaking. That’s all I can say - is the shift in the thinking about human sexuality in the last 50 years, or so.
Jim: Yeah - just think of it that way.
Chip: I mean, in the normal high school, 5 percent of girls and maybe 10 percent of boys were sexually active.
Jim: Back in the ‘50s, let’s say.
Chip: Back in the ‘50s - today, it’s 80 and 90 percent. And I think you see the sacredness, the design. Sex has been separated from love. It’s an event. Sex is separated from commitment. I can have sex, but I’m not responsible for what happens. Sex has become not just something to sell. But from media to pornography to the entire thinking about the sexual relationship, we’ve warped it in such a way that we have a whole generation of people that are desperate for intimacy.
Jim: Well, and then, in that context, Chip, you know, as we do every day here at Focus on the Family, we’re speaking to mostly Christian parents about how to help them raise kids in an environment that’s so sexually saturated. How do we do that as parents? How do we effectively put our arm around our 13, 14-year-old boys and girls to say, “This is the better way?” And all their friends are saying, “Oh, that’s old-fashioned. That’s weird. Why would you save yourself for marriage?”
Chip: Well, I think first of all, we need to teach them what the Bible actually says. When I meet people, they do not know what the Bible says about sexuality. Second, we need to...
Jim: Do they care?
Chip: I don’t know if they care.
Jim: Yeah. I think that’s the difference.
Chip: I guess, if I’m talking to parents, I think parents care.
Chip: Although, there’s even a shift in our day that kids are going to be kids. Um...
Jim: They’ll come out on the other side.
Chip: Let’s just help them get through it. Yes.
Chip: I think we need to first educate our kids. What does the Bible actually say? And then we need to help them understand why. And then, you know, the research is overwhelming, Jim. People who live together and cohabitate - 10 years later, only one out of ten are together. There’s so many logical reasons about why sexual relationships mar the future, emotionally and spiritually. So I think we need to educate and talk to our kids about that. But I think we also need to prepare them for, are you willing to take a stand for your faith?
Chip: I think we have this idea that there is no price tag to follow Christ...
Chip: ...And what’s the easy way? And what I would say is, “lest a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself alone.”
Chip: “But if it dies, it bears forth much fruit.” Following Christ is taking up our cross and realizing we’re going to be ostracized.
Chip: And I think - I meet Christians and Christian parents are shocked that, “Oh, this is difficult for my kids.” Guess what? That’s the world that they live in. That’s what we prepare them for.
Chip: And I think what most kids need is parents that are modeling that.
Jim: That’s true.
Chip: There’s a few things - I will tell you in the Bay Area - and I’ve had - I can’t tell you how many 20-something Bible studies. We just...
Chip: ...have them in my house. And they don’t have relationships. Most of their parents were divorced. They’re making a lot of money. They’re super into high-tech. They can’t relate. They can love their phone better they can a person. And when they are around relationships that are real and connected, they will line up for hours with my wife and I, or other adults.
Jim: Mm - think of that.
Chip: What I want people to know - people are longing for rich, deep relationships. We had a Bible study on love, sex, lasting relationships and taught the kind of things that you would say. And new people kept coming. It grew from three to 50, like, in four weeks.
Chip: My daughter, who started, said, “Dad, you know, this is the one about you can’t have significant intimacy, unless you have sexual purity. These are these people’s first time. You think we ought to do it?” I said, “Stay with it, honey.” So we did the same study. And literally, I mean, Stanford grads - “Hey. You know what? I’ll try anything - doesn’t work for my parents. If there’s a way to have a deep, meaningful relationship, and there’s another way, other than the way I’ve tried it - because everywhere I look, it doesn’t even work.”
Chip: That’s how desperate the culture is - unbelievers are to see and to experience.
Jim: Well, and what you’re expressing there is despair.
Jim: And we have so much despair. I think someone’s been asking that question in the media. It may have been Tucker Carlson. For a country as rich as ours, why do we have so much despair and loneliness?
Jim: And you’re tapping into that...
Jim: ...Because we’re not feeding the spiritual hunger that we have and that’s connecting with God.
Chip: And I would remind people, these people - if I could just do something like, get this out of your mind. These are not like bad people who are trying to have sex outside of marriage, or have same-sex relationships and they’re somehow against you and Christianity. These are people that are ignorant, who are wounded, who are hurt. I know there’s activists and people that are doing some wild, crazy things. But the average people that are really struggling - when they meet someone who cares, who loves them...
Jim: Can listen.
Chip: ...who models, who’ll listen, it’s amazing.
Chip: They’re wide open to the Gospel. Often people say, “Well, how do you deal with people in a homosexual lifestyle?” Well, the same way you deal with people that are living together, the same way with people who have an addiction, the same way - it’s a sin. And it’s wrong. But it’s a sin that has really taken over the culture, because the genius of the LGBTQ movement is they have taken their view and made it a civil rights issue.
Chip: And we’re in a time where I think we have to stand strong and love strong at the same time.
Jim: Yeah. I love the simple definition, the Biblical definition, that what God intends is for a man and woman to be together for their entire lives, to be faithful to each other...
Jim: ...monogamous in their relationship. And that’s it.
Jim: That’s a Biblical definition of marriage. And anything outside of that, sexual, in terms of expression, is outside of God’s plan for the human race. And that’s as straightforward as it gets. Let’s move to abortion, which is a huge issue. And, in fact, you mentioned it earlier...
Jim: ...With the head of the atheist movement, that is saying that, you know, there’s no doubt that human beings - their lives start at conception. That’s a powerful statement. It’s a logical statement. It’s a nonpolitical statement.
Chip: It’s a medically proven statement.
Jim: And it’s a medically proven statement.
Jim: And I do have some excitement that the culture is moving toward a more pro-life perspective.
Chip: When we were talking early about, you know, wisdom will be vindicated...
Chip: ...This is what’s happened is people see what happens when you kill your offspring. They see what happens to post-abortive women. They see what happens when you can’t have a child. They see what it does in terms of the value of life. And I think that the medical research now is crystal clear. The scientific research is crystal clear. And I think we, as a culture, are realizing we’ve made tremendous errors. Again, it goes back to - it got framed as a women’s rights issue, instead of - where does life begin, and who has the rights of this child, and who cares about kids?
Jim: Yeah. It’s so well said. And I think it is an awareness. And I think we have to trust that God’s hand is either covering the eyes, or opening the eyes, right?
Jim:y the way, we’re hoping that eyes will be opened and hearts changed, and lives saved, literally, with our See Life Clearly campaign and the Alive From New York event in Times Square on May 4th, when we’ll show a live 4D ultrasound right there on the big screens in Times Square. We feel that’s a compassionate way to address the abortion issue, and you can get more details to register for that event at our website.
Back to the discussion, when it comes to issues like abortion or homosexuality, we have to have faith that God is in control of these things, and we are very impatient with that. We don’t see a 50 year, hundred year plan that God is working out. We want to see people change right now and their minds change today on some of these really important issues that God cares deeply about. But hopefully, we can share in a loving way that draws people in to Christ and offers them hope and healing.
Chip: And I think we’re trying to defend a culture and a history, and at some times, a nation, instead of saying, you know what? I can’t control all of that. But what I’m called is to be light. What I’m called to be is salt. I’m called to live this life. What I can tell you - I’ve met with people who’ve come into our church, who’ve come to me afterwards, holding hands with another man or another woman: “Am I welcome here?” And I said, “Of course you’re welcome here. But here’s what you need to understand, because I want to be fair - is that whether people are in other sinful situations - we all come out of backgrounds. You’re welcome. We love you. I want to hear your story. We all have wounds, but you can’t stay there, okay? But I can’t stay in unresolved anger. Or alcoholics can’t stay in their addictions to drinking. Or poor and addicts can’t stay into that. We’re a broken people coming together. But what I want you to know is that you’re welcome.”
Chip: And what I think we have to do is, rather than the church out there solving this - the people listening to our voice, you work with people in the next cubicle. There’s people on your street, three doors down. You don’t have to start a soup kitchen. You have to get in proximity. You got to connect with people. You got to...
Jim: Live life with them.
Chip: ...care about people. You have to do life with people rather than this us and they. And when you break down the us and they - and a lot of it is deeply rooted in a self-righteousness...
Jim: Well, now we’re getting at it.
Chip: ...That we’re better, and we’re superior.
Chip: My sins are just different, and mine are more sophisticated and more socially accepted. But the fact of the matter is God loves people. And most people - I mean, my background in undergrad and graduate work was psychology. I can tell you pretty good reasons why people land the way they do, and family of origin. And I will tell you calling them names and beating them up does not bring about a positive result.
Jim: Yeah. That’s well said.
Chip: We stand on the truth unswervingly, kindly, winsomely. But I think when you can bring light and not heat, what you really see is people change.
Jim: Yeah. That’s so good.
Chip: Love never fails.
Jim: Chip, this has been good. Chip Ingram, author of the book,. Thank you so much for being with us. I hope people will contact us, John...
Jim: ...And get a copy of this book. Make a gift of any amount, and we’ll get this to you. If you can’t afford it, get in touch with us. We’ll get it to you. And I’m sure others will cover the expense of that. But Chip, you’ve done a great job capturing this. And it’s a difficult theme...
Chip: Yes, it is.
Jim: ...right now, but it’s a very critical one for the culture.
Chip: And I think it’s one that’s in dialogue and processing. So we want to be of some help. And I pray that our time together will sort of catalyze that in the hearts of people.
Jim: And I appreciate it. Thanks for being with us.
Chip: You bet.
John: Well I hope you’ll take the next step and get a copy of Chip’s book, called,, so you can have some conversations, those dialogues that he’s talking about. And certainly, if some of the things we’ve covered today have brought up some need for you to talk to someone, our counseling team stands ready to assist in any way possible. They can guide you through tough issues. Call to schedule a consultation with one of our counselors. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY - 800-232-6459 - or online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And Focus on the Family is supported by your generous contributions - your donations. So give today, if you can, and we’ll send Chip’s book as our thank you gift.
And finally, as we close, you heard us mention abortion and our See Life Clearly campaign to promote a culture of life. Follow up. Get the details, sign the Declaration for Life, and make a difference in the culture. We have a special website set up for all of this. It’s focusonthefamily.com/prolife.
Well on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Chip IngramView Bio
Chip Ingram is the teaching pastor and CEO of Living on the Edge, an international discipleship ministry that equips Christians to become more mature followers of Christ. Reaching more than a million people a week, Chip's teaching is heard online and through hundreds of radio and TV outlets worldwide. He has authored 15 books including The Real God, Culture Shock, and The Invisible War. Chip and his wife, Theresa, reside in California. They have four grown children and 12 grandchildren.