Jon Tyson: Saving the Wild Wild Western Church
Jon Tyson: My name's Jon Tyson, and I choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Are you tired of tribalism?
Speaker 3: I think a lot of what the left supports is Satanic.
Speaker 4: The only time religious freedom is involved is in the name of bigotry and discrimination.
Patrick Miller: Are you exhausted by the culture war?
Speaker 5: If they don't like it here, they can leave.
Speaker 6: You can put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Patrick Miller: Are you suspicious of those who say Jesus endorses their political party?
Speaker 7: Is it possible to be a good Christian and also be a member of the Republican Party? And the answer is, absolutely not.
Speaker 8: From certainly a biblical standpoint, Christians could not vote Democratic.
Patrick Miller: We trust the lamb, not the donkey or the elephant. This is the podcast that's too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. I'm Patrick Miller.
Keith Simon: And I'm Keith Simon and we choose truth over tribe.
Patrick Miller: Do you?
Keith Simon: I hate carnivals and I hope you do too. Now, I might be saying that because I remember going inside of one of those fun house mirror buildings as a kid and having a horrifying experience. Yes, more horrifying than The Weekend's super boring, Super Bowl fun house mirror segment from the last Super Bowl. You see, I got lost and it's really easy to get lost inside of these mirror houses, but it's terrifying too, because the mirrors are shaped to change your bodily proportions. You can be a thin, spindly, giant. You can be an hourglass model, a squat dwarf. You can be anything but you. Sometimes it seems as though the American church is lost in a mirror fun house, and after decades inside the fun house, it's forgotten what it actually looks like. To some of us it's this spindly giant of Fox News loving right- wing Conservatism. To others it's the squat angry dwarf of the left. To others, it's just an hourglass model where you can go numb on some entertainment when you're done with Hulu. But let's go ahead and push my extended metaphor one step further, because the mirrors in this fun house that the church is in they're not made by God. The church was made by God, but the mirrors around it, those are made by culture, by media, by publishers, by social, and the church is constantly buying into the version of itself that this or that cultural identity group reflects. In other words, we're in desperate need of finding ourselves for who we really are with all the true beauty that God has given us as His church. We are in a desperate place and we need to resist. We need to resist the cultural, political and secular narratives that misshape us into these faintly human monsters. Jon Tyson is a pastor and cultural commentator from Australia. He moved to New York City to rebuild the broken church in the west, and he's forming a community of people who seek not only to have their minds renewed, but also their bodies, their disciplines, and their practices have all of those things renewed by God's spirit. Why? So that they, so that we can resist. So that we can become the beautiful bride of Christ that God made us to be. He's written countless books on this topic, but in this interview, we are focused on his book, Beautiful Resistance. And I think you're going to learn a lot. So thanks for being on the show.
Jon Tyson: No Worries, mate. I'm looking forward to the conversation.
Keith Simon: Great. Well, I want to start with this. I'm sure a lot of people have read your books and leveled this critique that you suggest that resting is part of what we need to do. We need to have Sabbath. We need to have prayer. We need to have fasting. And I have to imagine some people say, " That is super unrealistic." It's nice for you and your pastoral ivory tower to rearrange your life so you can have these practices, but that's not realistic for everyday people. It's too intense. So how do you respond to that?
Jon Tyson: Well, number one, the kingdom of God is not defined by what is realistic. So number one, we have to have a theologically informed vision of how to live. We get that most clearly from the person of Jesus. And it seems that Jesus had a rhythm of engagement and disengagement. So Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. And Jesus is always seeming to sneak away from even his disciples to be with the Father and to regain rest. Jesus practiced the Sabbath, obviously in first century Judaism, that was a part of what he did. I do take a touch of offense that in my ivory pastoral world, I would trade pastoring through a pandemic in Manhattan with anybody except those in the medical field. So it was like, yes, I mean, New York is a hard place. People charge fast and my whole point is it's counter- cultural. It's counter- cultural to do it. So Lesslie Newbigin said, " We must live in the kingdom of God in such a way that it provokes questions for which the gospel is the answer." Resting is one of those things that makes people say, " How do you even do that?" The other thing I would say is people are often in many ways, very undisciplined with their time and the task expands to fill the available time. And Sabbath is one of those gifts that puts a hard boundary and it makes you definitely more intentional with your time. So if you're like, " Oh okay, I actually have to shut this thing down. I can't actually dilly dally. I've got to focus. I've got to get on it." And some people say, "Well, what do you do if something comes up?" For the Jewish community, the category of violation of the Sabbath is if it's in the interest of saving life. So if you're doing something that is genuinely pivotal for the wellbeing of others, it's okay to skip out on it. But that's the category and not I didn't use my time well enough or whatever it is. So it's meant to be a gift. Jesus is like, " Why are you fighting me on this? This is a gift for you."
Keith Simon: So obviously New York city is known as city that's urgent, high speed. Are people in your congregations practicing these things actively?
Jon Tyson: 100%. Yes. I mean, yeah, people find ways. I mean, New Yorkers do everything hard. So if you give them a vision of rest, they will rest hard. They will rest well. So yeah, there's a lot of folks. I mean, it's definitely a part of our staff rhythm. So it's modeled in how we set programs and activities, even for people to be able to participate in the life of our church. And then I think it's, yes, it's definitely a framework that we've taught on regularly that people take seriously. So yeah. I mean, does everybody? I mean, Jesus, didn't get everybody to do what he wanted, but we certainly have a strong culture where it's present and valued.
Keith Simon: What would you say to someone who says, " Look, I've got three kids. We've got sporting events. We've got two parents that are working. Daycare, pickup drop off, all of those. I mean, I barely can make it to church on Sunday. How am I supposed to take a day of rest? How am I supposed to, I mean, fasting, that just sounds like crazy, unless I'm trying to lose weight." Where do you start?
Jon Tyson: Well, number one, you start by realizing you're saved by grace. So you can be incredibly disciplined. You can use your time in incredibly good ways, but if it's not done out of the grace of God for the glory of God, it just works. But what it sounds like is it sounds like you've chosen a lifestyle that is killing you and you probably need to rethink your entire life. Sounds like if you didn't have time to rest, you don't have time to live properly. You need a larger conversation with all of the factors that are promoting such busy- ness. Say, what is it about kids sports on the weekends that is so vital?
Keith Simon: No, I think you're making a really great point right now, which is we should renegotiate some of the things that we have sitting on the table.
Jon Tyson: Yeah. And I'm a huge proponent of just I'm big in a spiritual formation, which is who am I becoming by what I'm doing? And I always just ask myself what is this kind of lifestyle doing to me? Who was it making me? Is it making the fruit of the spirit more evident in my life? Am I more available in love to God and neighbor? Am I a better parent? Am I teaching my kids the values of the kingdom of God or values of a busy suburban American life? And then I'm going to start once I get a vision of the kind of best I'm supposed to be, I'm going to start then thinking about what practices forming the person I want to be. And then if anything gets in the way I will try and deal with those or change those. And sometimes when you're overhauling your life, some people need just cold turkey, they need radical change. And other peoples need, they need grace, they need to be able to wean off it in a way that's healthy. If we have all the same lifestyles, values and practices of the typical American, we are not following Jesus well. It's just impossible.
Keith Simon: Yeah. You're making me think about Michael Collins, famous author who wrote Moneyball, a number of other books. And his daughter recently, I think she was 19, she tragically died and he's not religious. He doesn't follow Jesus. But he was talking about her passion and her love for sports and he said that her being on the sports field, that was her church. That was the closest thing that she ever experienced to church and transcendence. And obviously my heart was breaking for him. I have a daughter. I can't imagine what that's like. But then I just started thinking about myself, about all the other Christians I know and I thought, is this the closest thing to church that my kids are going to experience? Is this going to be their walk with transcendence? It's only going to happen on the sports field or will it actually happened in the church? Will they really know Jesus? And finish what you're saying about what forms us, what shapes us.
Jon Tyson: Yeah. I mean look, I'm not against sports. I think sports are great. My kids played sports. Sports in place can be very formative in a helpful way. But I think there, part of the challenge is when they just take over our lives.
Keith Simon: The chihuahua's here.
Jon Tyson: Fearless. What a killer.
Keith Simon: Okay. Really quick for our listeners. Right now Jon has a mourning chihuahua in place. Can you just tell us what's happened in the chihuahua's life recently? Your life as well, obviously.
Jon Tyson: Yes. So we did the worst. So we used to have a French bulldog, amazing dog named Bruiser. And when my kids were on vacation, it was hit and killed. It got off the leash, it was hit and killed in front of them. And so what parents should do is mourn the loss and give time to process. What you don't do is bury the pain and replace the loss. And what we did was bury the pain and replace the loss. So the next day went to the thing and got this dog named Pixie. So Pixie for 11 years has basically been weened and fed by my daughter, and my daughter went to college this past weekend and this dog is in mourning. So anyway, she's sitting right next to me and I just feed a little doggy treats and every now and then she barks when someone walks by. Real time, real life.
Keith Simon: Well, we welcome her presence on the show. It's good to meet Pixie. In your book, as we're talking about discipline and the need to think through what our life looks and what's forming us, I'm brought to a story that you tell in your book, Beautiful Resistance about Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his friend Wilhelm Niesel. I'm not sure if that's how you say it. But it's a story of him visiting Dietrich Bonhoeffer's underground seminary during the rise of the Third Reich in Germany. And so maybe you can share what was Bonhoeffer doing? Why was Niesel suspicious and what did he show him?
Jon Tyson: Well, yeah that, I mean, that was a very moving scene, and it was one of those scenes you feel like you've read and heard everything about Bonhoeffer. And I was reading, it's a Strange Glory I think by, I think it's Charles Marsh on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and fascinating biography. And in it, he tells the scene where at the pressure is starting to mount. People are starting to wake up and realize, okay, looked at church, there's complete capitulation with a Third Reich here. Hitler is demanding the loyalty that belongs to Jesus. And so people were like, " What do we do?" And so he is given the opportunity to run an underground seminary and it was in a place called Finkenwalde, which is now in Poland. And he had had a place that was like donated to them and he basically set up a school of resistance. It was like theological. It was cultural, it was communal. And one of his former friends who had heard him lecture before heard about what he was doing. And I think he actually read an early manuscript of Life Together that was floating around. And he was just like, "Are you kidding? This is crazy. This is too much." So he comes out and visits him to see what's going on. And he comes to this place and they're doing this common life, and in this he wrote Cost of Discipleship and Life Together based on his experiments there. Gets in a boat and Bonhoeffer rows him across the Oder Sound, which is this body of water. And they go up the hill to where Hitler has an airport that is training troops. And there're troops being trained there are planes taking off. And he basically makes this case to his friend, is that he basically stands there and says, "Look at what Hitler is doing to form the German people. And then you look at me and my seminary and you think that what I'm doing is too intense." He's like, "Until our intensity matches the intensity of what Hitler's doing, when they're never going to win the formation game" ... And you can read the actual quote in my book, but in essence, I did a whole sermon series based on this, which is, this must be stronger than that. And Bonhoeffer is basically saying this, "Thinking about what we're doing has to be stronger than the formation of the Third Reich." And they get back in the boat and they row back in silence. I love that posture of Bonhoeffer, standing on a hill, contrasting the Reich versus discipleship and saying, "Don't apologize for radical discipleship, because our discipleship has to be stronger than the formation of the world." And we don't have a Hitler or a Third Reich today, but I'll tell you much of how our culture forms us is probably certainly ideologically as strong, but in terms of practices, it is definitely as strong.
Keith Simon: Yeah. And obviously most of the German church did compromise with Nazism. I'll never forget seeing this a really sobering picture, I don't know if you've seen it, it's an altar in a church and there's a Bible on top of the altar and above it is a crucifix of Jesus. But the altar itself has a Nazi flag draped over the top of it. And so here, I mean, it's a striking image. You've got Jesus, a Jewish man crucified by the Roman state hovering over the flag of a fascist state that's about to execute six million Jews. And when I saw it, of course there's part of me that just appalled, but then I started thinking, what's the equivalent picture for the church in the west? I mean like you said, we're not the Third Reich, and yet I keep asking the question, what are the ways in America and in the west that we're compromising the gospel right now?
Jon Tyson: Well there's, I mean, there's probably a lot, I think the one we don't talk about that I think motivates is the root behind a lot of other things is the spirit of mammon. And it's still capitalism, I think capitalism is the best human form of economics. Okay. So a lot of the data shows capitalism has done more to raise people out of poverty than aid. So I'm not a capitalist. I'm a communalist, which is voluntary redistribution as opposed to communism based on generosity. But in terms of an economic model that works in society that is thoroughly, thoroughly inhabited by the spirit of mammon. And mammon when you study it in the Bible, it's mammon is very sophisticated. It's a life of independent luxury. It's not desire. It's probably the most common image I can think of is it's that Instagram worthy vacation. It's that Instagram worthy outfit where someone else has it and you don't have and they'll sell it to you, but you look at it and you're just like, " Dang, that's the life." That's what mammon is. So it's not money as such. It's everything attached to money that produces luxury without concern for others and independence from God.
Keith Simon: Oh, that's interesting. I've never heard someone define mammon that way.
Jon Tyson: Yeah. And to me that's that is what is draped under a lot of what we are doing in Jesus' name. So you start talking about Jesus, " Be on your guard against all kinds of greed," he says. Life is not found in the abundance of possessions. And I can tell you, I mean, I'm sure where you are too there's some wealthy folks in your church, but I've interacted with a lot of wealthy people who have no financial needs, but they've spiritual poverty. They were just a total crisis of meaning. And there's a lot of burdens that come with real wealth. And so yeah, we have to learn the paths of those people too, not to shame them. Some people are given a gift of making money. Romans 12 tells us, "If you're called to be generous, be generous." So I think yeah, that's one of the big ones that's hanging under the alter from my perspective.
Keith Simon: What's interesting, wealth is always challenging because no one thinks they're wealthy. There's always someone who has more than you have. And the reality is if you're listening to this podcast on your iPhone with internet access, you've probably got more wealth than a lot of people have in the world. How do you, I mean, if you're were to give someone these are the symptoms of worshiping mammon in your life, the way that you've defined it, how would I know that that's happening?
Jon Tyson: Well, I mean, you've mentioned part of it, and the problem with entitlement, entitlement looks up and says, " Why don't I have more?" And gratitude looks down and says, " Thank you." And then tries to help other people. So a huge part of it is the heart. I think it was Kent Hughes who said, " Every time I give, I tear down the idol of mammon. Perpetual generosity is perpetual de- deification of money." And I think that's a sort of a mashup. It's not exactly what he said. It's putting some things together, but that's it. Generosity breaks the spirit of mammon. And sacrificial generosity where it puts us in a posture of need and having to live by faith again, I think that's one of the things that does it more than anything. So yeah, I've got no problem. I don't think poverty is helpful and I certainly don't hate the American dream. I wish more people had access to it. So to me, it's not about let's get as poor as we can. There's a lot of self righteous, poor people. I think the attitude is God, how do I steward what you've given me? I think stewardship is the ultimate motivation of for New Testament ethics. And yeah, I think it's just basically being generous. So there's two kinds of generosity, spontaneous generosity, and there's strategic generosity. As God prompts you in the moment, and how do you build a lifestyle that is increasingly generous? We say in our church's giving generosity liturgy that we want to increase in generosity until it can be said, there's no needy among us to increase in generosity. So yeah, those, I think those are very small practices. And inaudible asked how much would you give? And it's like more than you wanted. I think that's it.
Keith Simon: Give until you're not comfortable. It's interesting that you connected the mammon not just to wealth and greed, which I've heard. You connected it to Instagram and our social appearance before other people. And it makes me think that it's also interconnected with the idol of social acceptance. Having a lot and having possessions is a way to be accepted. But I also see social acceptance being a major idol that people are resisting or need to resist if we want to move forward. And so I'm curious, I mean, New York City is a lot farther ahead probably culturally than our city is. We'll probably be what New York City is in 10 years. That's the way things tend to go. But I'm curious, how are you seeing Christians in New York face the temptation to want to be socially accepted in a time when Christians really aren't?
Jon Tyson: Well, I think I want to make an important distinction. So I've been in New York City for 16 years. I've pastored in Manhattan exclusively, which is sort of the center of power in New York. It's not the center of cool. And it's maybe not even the best borough, but it's sort of the thing you think of. And it tends to attract the kind of people who are drawn to that, or who have the capacities to function well on that either in terms of gifting or talent. So when I first moved there New York was like nowhere else. It was incredibly distinct, local microculture, stuff you got there that you couldn't get anywhere else. And I'm telling you, responding before I answer the question to your point of like 10 years ahead of, no, we are all lagging behind gen Z. That's a fact, that no city... cities do carry distinctives, but we now have sort of a global monoculture. The phone has democratized culture. And so today, even the most elite kids in New York, yeah, they may be required to go to the opera with their parents, but they're going to be listening to whichever rapper's popular at the time. Whichever little rapper is doing their thing in the moment or whatever. Their culture has been completely flattened. And so I think we're actually all failing behind how do we reach gen Z and mobile culture. Cities matter, but it's like the world has been flattened and the sooner we figure that out and get on it, the better we'll be.
Keith Simon: Well, it's interesting-
Jon Tyson: That's power.
Keith Simon: ...you moved to New York City, obviously because you care about the west and you wanted to see renewal in the west. And when I read you talking about that, one of the thoughts I had was, well, the good news is you don't have to move to New York City anymore to change the west, because the west is now online. And if you want to reach people, that's actually where it starts. It's happening on the internet.
Jon Tyson: The most compelling vision I've been given. I think, I mean look, there'll always need to be embodied presence. New York is an area with 22 million people, almost the population of Australia where I'm from. So you'll always need God's people on the ground modeling God's kingdom, embodying the good news, those sorts of things. But in terms of culture, which New York is a part of a large culture and that culture is absolutely been democratized online. So the other reason to move to New York is because it's just great. It's just fun. Because there's just great, there's just, there's a lot of good stuff that I love about it's. So you've got to have some sort of local pride. So the first part is, yeah, I think that's really important to acknowledge. The potency of the moment we're in, one of my friends says his vision is to raise up 100 digital Billy Grahams. I've just started following these TikTok evangelists. And some of them are doing the best stuff ever. I'm like, "This is it. This is the future." There'll always be the present and there'll always be the past, and we have to honor those things. But these folks who've gone online and built a following, they're into it. It's the idol of acceptance is very, very hard. It is very, very hard to resist. It's very hard to resist everywhere.
Keith Simon: Would you tell the story about the write up that happened on your church and how that impacted you?
Jon Tyson: So that was the New York Times article. I think it's Evangelical Groups, These NYC as Incubator For Planting Churches, was I think the subtitle of the article. So this was, it was actually very, very interesting. So this is when I was with Trinity Grace. We had planted five churches in five years, and we ended up planting 11 churches in 10 years. I mean, it was pretty good. It was something inaudible very extraordinary. 11 separate churches, one family in the middle of New York City in a decade. It was like the hand of God, it was really amazing to be a part of. So five years in, we are the featured article for the local section. Okay. Now this is 2010 or 11, I think. And they embedded a reporter with us and so he's coming to our prayer meetings. And I felt like in many ways it was like an absolute bait and switch. He's on our side so he can get all the stuff to make evangelicals look like idiots. The photos they choose, find the worst face in the crowd. The most violent looking wild person in the crowd. It was those sorts of things. But when I moved there, it was very, very power dynamic. It's sort of in that older world, not online world. I got mentored by Keller in 06, I think. And he'd really taught me about contextualization. And so I was hyper obsessed with doing something that was credible and not dismissible in New York. And evangelicals would come in and they'd do like, " God at the movies. And we're going to talk about whatever." And I was just these people have master's degrees in mathematics from MIT. They're not looking for Disney films on Sunday church. The world is full of evil and hard problems and they want serious answers. So I'm working pretty hard to give a credible account of the gospel. But my desire for it to be credible overshadows my desire to be pleasing to Jesus. Subtlety, slowly over time. And then the New York Times come out with that article and it's a bad piece. And everyone's like, " It could have been way worse." And I was like, "You don't live here." So anyway, they just wrote an article that basically made our church look very sophomoric, sort of dumb outsiders awkwardly trying to navigate a sophisticated city in which they don't belong. And anyway, so that was one of the chances. So I remember being at the back of one of our church services in Chelsea, and it was just it was just, it just was too passionate. It was too much. I remember just getting frustrated, thinking like, " This is not going to be credible." And I just felt the Holy Spirit slap me. Credible to who? Acceptable to who? Relevant to who? And it's one of those things where God says, "If you make the approval of the New York City the standard by which I can move in this church, this church is not going to work." That just put me in repentance. It definitely put me in one of those who cares what the New York Times thinks about our church sort of a spot. So it was very, very freeing. It doesn't mean you want to be... We're obviously called to do it well, do it with generous respect and wisdom, but that need for the city to acknowledge me, I'm like, " They will never like what I do. So I need to just put my head down and serve Jesus." And so a lot of times when I was younger, I'm 44, when I was younger, it was all about being cool and relevant. You know what I mean? So youth group was relevant. Church was cool. We spent all of our time saying, " We're church for people who don't do church." And it's like, " Hey, I don't know how to change"-
Keith Simon: The magazine is relevant.
Jon Tyson: ...Yeah, yeah, yeah. All of those sorts of things. And I think some of those were genuine attempts at the time. And a lot of it was just trend chasing. Evangelical culture is two things, it's trends and then critique of trends, that's it. And so there was a lot of people on the front end of that trend.
Keith Simon: Yeah, we had a somewhat similar moment here in town. There's one of the large just documentary film festivals in the country happens in Columbia every year. And we became partners with them years back and we got a lot of cultural capital out of that. There's actually a piece in the New York Times about this bizarre film festival with an evangelical church that supports them. And I think a lot of people were a part of the crossing because it was cool. I mean how cool is that? I get to follow Jesus and I can go to the liberal festival downtown and be one of the insiders. But we preached a sermon that slayed a sacred cow and it just decimated the relationship in a single Sunday. And not because we said anything hateful, I don't think, but we, and I think as a congregation have continued to be faced with this question of, if we're not socially accepted in our city, I mean, because before that, there weren't people who said, " I don't want to be associated with your church." But now it's very much of the case that, " Yeah. We would not be associated with the church like that." And I'm watching more and more Christian who seem to be deconstructing their faith in part, because of this social acceptance problem. And so I just again, I have to imagine there's a lot of people in your church or a lot of people that are in New York City, I mean, how do we resist the idol of self- acceptance?
Jon Tyson: Well, I mean, part of it is you, you, you have to know existentially that you're accepted by God. I mean, so when there's a person whose acceptance that you desperately want and you get it, that is one of the most potent forces on planet earth. So that I was very, very aware with both my son and my daughter. Like my daughter could meet some loser guy when she was 15 who was 19, who was smoking weed and had a car and was from some outside of the city or whatever and if she loved him, he would dictate the terms of her life. So it doesn't matter how much wisdom I had, love, care, time, whatever, if she valued his acceptance more than my acceptance, he would've dictated everything. And so that's why it's also very, very important to evaluate are we after the right person's acceptance, because that is one of the most potent forces. The right acceptance means you can take on an empire, which is what Daniel proved. So to me, yes, making sure that we had the right a vision of understanding how we're accepted by God, but then feeling it. So 1 John: 3 says, " Oh, what manner of love the father's lavished on us, that we should become children of God." And you've got to feel love has been lavished on you to handle the kind of rejection that we will face that culture today. So I tell a lot of people how I do it, I spend my mornings enjoying the acceptance of God. It's like, " What do you do?" It's like I get up and I just marinate on God's word. And I just read slowly for my own pleasure and delight and I meditate on my certain future, the certain hope that I have. And I realize that just like we are talking about Bonhoeffer now and all the phase of his age and his faithfulness that 50 years from now my life will be over before I know it. And so how do I just remain faithful in his love? And I think of the first church father that was martyred, when they were trying to get him to deny his faith. And he just says, "Well he's been so good to me all these years. How can I?" That's how I feel. He's been so good to me. And so that's got to be so real to you. And when that is real to you, psychologists say, we get our sense of value from the person whose opinion we value the most. We get our sense of worth from the person whose opinion we value the most. And again, it can't just be theologically, correct. Jesus is the true and better. The, I am statements, you've got to feel I. The work is getting it into your spirit. And that's where I think a lot of people go wrong is other things get in their spirits, even though their minds belong to God. And so I spend time trying to cultivate that.
Keith Simon: I mean, I feel like we continue to circle around the exact same topic, which is that we need these things in our life that form us and shape us so that we can't enjoy that acceptance and live in that acceptance.
Jon Tyson: Yes.
Keith Simon: And if you don't, you're left to the whims of culture or that coworker you care about or whoever it is.
Jon Tyson: Yes. Yeah, very fragile. A lot of fragile identities out there.
Keith Simon: We'll be back to our episode really quick. Look, if you're enjoying the content in here, you want to sign up for our newsletter. We like to write little articles every week that are kind of based on our podcast, but they really take one idea that we don't spend a lot of time talking about and expand them not to a super long article, but to an article you could read in 10 minutes and get a good little nugget out of, that's going to help you think about what's happening in our world in a more Jesus centered way. So make sure to go to choosetruthovertribe. com and subscribe to our newsletter. While we're on the topic of idols and thinking through the idols that are creeping through the Western church, another one that I find interesting, we had Thaddeus Williams on the show a while back. And he said that he sees three idols. He said, " The self, the state, and social acceptance." So we've talked about social acceptance, but I'm curious, I think that the self is another major idol that is winning places in people's heart. And when I say the worship of the self, I mean, worshiping self expression and personal authenticity as the highest good as the highest possible good in life. And I think a lot of people think that worshiping the self just means being a selfish person. And that's not precisely what I mean when I say that. I'm curious, how do you think in the west people have begun to worship the self more and more?
Jon Tyson: Well, I mean, I mean, how have we done it? We've so here, number one, let's acknowledge this. We are, we are in a major radical experiment that no society is undertaken you human history. That's what modern Western cultures become. And it basically says there are no external norms that are life giving whatsoever. And the only true way of flourishing is expressing the internal and then modifying the external to match it. Now there's never been a human society that's valued that. All societies have agreed that in some way, shape or form, there are universal ethics, values, practices, stories, institutions, rights of passage and pathways that form you into a person who can live for the common good. And now we have... and I mean, Alan Mann writes about this in Atonement For A Sinless Society, he uses the phrase project self, modern society's a blank canvas of self- expression and anybody who impedes full self- expression is oppressing me. And so that's basically the way it is. We've reversed what almost all societies in history have done. And we've said the internal must dominate every individual's internal reality is the ultimate reality.
Keith Simon: And you're saying internal reality, not eternal reality?
Jon Tyson: Yes. And we've going to start bumping into actual reality soon, and we're just going to see it's not going to work. So we're seeing this in transgender sports right now. So we're sort of like you can't invent... You can't simply by saying I'm something else, become something else. Now this is not my comment on people who struggle with gender dysphoria. I think that is a very, very real issue that must be treated with compassion and tenderness. But I'm talking specifically about a way that society exists with some kind of reality and what we are doing to it doesn't fit. And I think maybe what we'll end up doing is having a category for trans athletes, which I think is maybe the way forward in our society, but that's a way longer discussion. But I'm just saying we're starting to bump into these things that don't quite work, and we're starting to get resistance because the resistance before was like, "Hey man, you do you, I'll do me." But now we're realizing the consequences institutionally and culturally, of "you do you and I do me", actually don't build a culture. They don't build a society. You can't build a social contract that people participate in, that's "you do you and I do me." And I think the worst thing that Christians can do in response to all of this chaos is use fear mongering and self protection as the antidote to it. The way forward is to embody a better reality and to lovingly, to make the church a more compelling counter culture. So again, we are doing the opposite thing, we are assuming the world should become like the church rather than the church becoming like what Jesus intended it to be.
Keith Simon: I love of that and that's a profound thought. It also seems to me that there are lots of people in the church who are trying to baptize this message of the self as an unalloyed good that I should embrace. I hear a lot of talk about authenticity. I hear a lot of talk about self- care, and I hear the good and the bad in those things. But even as we're talking, I think some people when we discuss Sabbath or fasting that to them they say, " Oh, that's Christian self- care." And I'm curious, I mean, would you frame it that way?
Jon Tyson: Yeah. The problem with that is like, "No, that's the teachings of Jesus. Stop trying to shove your cultural framework over the top of it." I mean, Jesus says when you fast, when you... I mean, these are like ... So you always have to reject the frame. You always have to question and examine the frame that's being put over the teaching. You've got to start with theology and then move out into sociology in the other practices. If you reverse that it's going to be a very real challenge. So I'm sensitive to that because I continually meet people who have been harmed by toxic forms of religion. And basically what they're saying is like, " Hey, this thing that was meant to be life just caused death in me." And there's people who are genuinely reacting to abuse and trauma inside the church, and they need care. They're gentle, they're wounded souls and they need that ministry of Jesus. They need this smoldering wick and broken read. They need that kind of ministry and mercy. It can be definitely a season in their life that the New Testament talks about being considerate to the weaker brother, not using your rights for the sake of them. And ultimately the reason you do that is out of love. And so love is the ethic that makes space of the weaker brother. The problem is, is then when you get the weaker, when you never have any strength in the church and there's only weaker brothers, and the church avoids its mission and sort of calling. And so I think the great challenge is to hold things in tangent. I do laugh a little bit. I live a... I don't live a balanced life by any means, but I live a, what I would describe as a biblically rhythmic life. So I work a lot of hours. No one will ever accuse me of being lazy. Strong work ethic that I got from working in a butcher shop formed me at a very young age. And I want to model a full heart with integrity for the haul. My goals is to finish well. But I do see some people in their early 20s who actually haven't really worked yet. And they're like, " I'm taking a sabbatical." And I'm like, " You may not be ready for a sabbatical." What a sabbatical supposed to do, the need for the sabbatical may not have been formed in you yet where you appreciate what it's actually designed to do. And so again, but I will tell you this, I would take rested young people over burned out young people, but I think we've got to find a way to get that right. Again, action reaction, and I just want to shove the teachings of Jesus in the middle, in a disruptive way and say, " Let's start there."
Keith Simon: I think one of the things that I wrestle with when I hear some of the practices you're talked about discussed as being self- care is precisely that they tend to make you, when you are taking Sabbath when resting, when you're praying, they tend to orient you around yourself. In other words, it becomes about me feeling a certain way, or having a certain experience instead of orienting those things around Jesus and around drawing near to God and hearing him and connecting with him. And so I will admit on the one hand, yes, this is a good thing for you. If you want to take care of yourself, this would be a good idea for you to embrace in your life. But on the other side is that the right orientation? Is that why you're doing it? And if you have the wrong orientation, does it take away it's healing power?
Jon Tyson: Yeah, I mean, I think I would say if your Sabbath is about you, you're not doing the Sabbath, you're having a day off. There's nothing wrong with a good day off mate. A good day off is great, but the Sabbath is oriented or around God. So Sabbath is the practice of the sovereignty of God. And we get a lot out of rightly aligning ourself with who God is or whatever, but it's not just a day for glorying in self. And in the essence, I mean, it was Satan who's like, " Let I, let I." I've got a chapter in my last book For the Burden is Light on pride, and people forget that Satanism is the worship of self. It's not the worship of Satan. And so when you look at what Anton LaVey taught, the founder of the church of Satan, he's like, " We don't worship the devil. We worship the person. The archetype of rebellion against the tyranny of God that reasserts itself and its own desires." It's the Satanism is worship by the self. And so you can definitely somewhere between an unhealthy sense of self, sort of like false humility and pride is what the Bible teaches, which is a union. The true self renewed in the image of creator in union with Christ. And that's what we should be cultivating in exploring how that works itself out. But I'll say this, hey man, don't beat yourself up. Keep working at this. It's the art of living. It's not technique. It takes time to figure this out who you really are and how you work and different seasons of our lives dictate how we respond and what margin is available. It's like the goal is to do it in a way that ultimately leads to a fullness of heart and the glory of God.
Keith Simon: I'm curious to get your thoughts on, I think something related to this. Again, on the idea of how worship of the self might creep into the church. I've noticed recently two things that I think are interrelated. One is the growth of kind of the Christian personality movement. That you need to understand whether it's your Enneagram or your Myers Briggs, and I'm fine with those things. I'm not one of those people who gets on Twitter and starts yelling at people about knowing their Enneagram number. But the other one is I hear a lot of people talking about authenticity and transparency. You just need to be the real you. Perfectly authentic, perfectly transparent, perfectly real to yourself. That's what God wants. And those things tend to merge together. That my personality type is the real me, and that's who I need to be. And I'm just setting you up. I'm just curious, I mean, do you know your personality type? Has that been something that you found spiritually helpful? How should we think through this?
Jon Tyson: Yeah man, I mean, I've done every test you can do. I wish people talked about spiritual gifts more than they talked about an Enneagram. I know the Enneagram has a cult backgrounds. I just met with someone who's a PhD in psychology and he just used the Enneagram the whole time. And I was like, " Dude, you understand, you know that the Enneagram has very little scientific backing and that it's the big five test, that's where all the research is that's helpful." But the big five traits aren't as sexy. It's like, " Oh, I'm low on conscientiousness. If I don't flow, it doesn't work."
Keith Simon: But I've often thought that the Enneagram is the thing that you talked about, that we do need external things to shape us. And what I find is people discover their Enneagram and then I wait three years, if they're really into it, they become their Enneagram number that they thought they were.
Jon Tyson: Yeah. I mean, but anyway, my point is he used the Enneagram all the time. Even he goes, " There's just some uncanny, explanatory power about it." These are all tools and we should be grateful we live in a time of history where we can have this much self- awareness. The question is what do you do with it? And what I hate is so I'm a four with a three wing, almost indistinguishable. So I'm either really special and driven, or I'm really driven to be special. Okay? So I don't know how that works itself out. But you can't reduce the complexity of my life and heart to that number. So I get frustrated when people use it dismissively, " Well, you're a four with a three wing." And I'm like, " That's not all I am." But I understand. I understand the need for it and sort of where it comes from and how people think about that. So I got mercy on it. I mean, it's a tool. Use the tool properly and use the needed tool that is not the only tool.
Keith Simon: That's great. That's great. I've heard you speak a lot about renewal and how you're seeing renewal in the west, which I find really interesting. We've had a number of different interviewees on here and it's been a theme I've heard people talk about. But the people who I've heard talk about it probably don't see eye to eye with you on much. So one person that comes to mind is, we had Greg Locke on the podcast and he's famously done and said some things that I find to be pretty disturbing, but he talks constantly about a great awakening happening. Now for him, it's this kind of God and country Christian libertarians, civil religions, ceremonial deism thing. And then on the other side, we had David Gushee on the show, who's a progressive Christian. And he also sees some sort of renewal happening inside of the church. And he though sees it as people leaving the church and of casting off the Bible and just going back to some maybe basic Jesus things and having theology and ethics that line up with a far left progressive agenda. But he says this is happening in the millions right now. There's this huge renewal. And then you're talking about renewal. You start feeling like it's hype almost.
Jon Tyson: I want to just say it's not happening by the millions. I mean, it is statistically, but it's a blip in terms of what's happening in global Christianity. Global Christianity is not like white progressives abandoning the Bible and embracing leftist politics and ethics. That is the level of arrogance to assume that that is the future of Christianity is staggering to me. Do you know what I mean, you're not talking about centering. That's the most arrogant centering I can think of. The future is the typical Christian in the world right now is a black woman in the emerging world. I mean, so the future of the church is, it's again, it's white people that cannot let go of their ideological colonization with all of their privilege who have to push their agenda onto the global poor and this time they're just doing it through faith. And so I don't have a lot of patience for that. I think they're doing the very thing. Now. I do have patience with people who've been chewed up and spat out by fundamentalist, hypocritical church and Jesus has very, very strong things to say about that. So when we're talking about renewal, I mean, I think I'm just talking about Jesus' desire to manifest his heart to his people. And yeah, there's normally a pruning. There's normally an awareness. And I think it's very, very different in different places in the church of revelation. Jesus says different things to every church. And so I don't, in terms of there's going to be a great awakening, there is a great awakening happening right now. Look at Africa in the last hundred years. Look at the repositioning of the church to the global south. We've seen the most extraordinary Jesus movement in the last hundred years. Absolutely breathtaking. In the west, I think you read earlier, I'm trying to seek and cultivate renewal because we're in one of the places where the church is just, it has been so caught up in cultural ideologies and I'm just trying to yeah, have some sort of humble reform movement towards more of what Jesus had in mind. Based on this imitations, if you repent, there's always, there's a critique, but there's an invitation to life. And I'm trying to do a generous and sincere critique with a passion that appeals to life.
Keith Simon: Well, John, that's a great note to end on. I really appreciate you taking the time to come on our show. One thing I like to ask our guests to do is to pray for our audience. And I heard you on a different interview say that people aren't being blessed enough. So maybe you could pray a little benediction for everyone who's listening.
Jon Tyson: Yeah, sure. So wherever you are listening to this, just receive this as God's heart towards you. May the love of God and the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit be with you always. Amen.
Keith Simon: Amen. Thanks for listening. If you found this podcast helpful, make sure to subscribe and leave a review and make sure it's at least five stars. Stop. No. Just be honest. Reviews, help other people find us. Okay. Okay. At the very least you can and share today's episode, maybe put it on your social, your favorite text chain. And if you didn't like this episode, awesome. Tell us why you disagree on Twitter at TruthOverTribe_. We might even share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.
In this episode of Truth Over Tribe, Patrick sits down with Jon Tyson to discuss his book, Beautiful Resistance, and the culture of compromise that has infiltrated today's Western church. Jon is not only an author but a Pastor and church planter. Born in Australia, he eventually moved to New York City to rebuild the broken church in the West. Today, he talks about having a theologically informed vision of how to live and getting that most clearly from Jesus. You'll also hear Jon and Patrick discuss religion in the West, how the gospel is compromised, and if there is a renewal happening in Christianity today. Listen now!
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