March 28, 2023 -


Presenting Perfection and Other Christian Norms We Need to Ditch

Drew Hyun

Drew Hyun
Is “Christian” culture clouding your view of Jesus? Drew Hyun gets it. From emotionally healthy discipleship to deconstruction and eliminating the noise so we can be communities who are shaped by the love and grace of Jesus, check out this “real talk” conversation with the Hope Church NYC pastor and founder.

Episode Reflection

Invitation to Explore

Drew Hyun sheds light on the importance of an “integrated life” and brings us back to seeing the heart of Jesus, especially when our Christian experiences are filled with disappointment and pain.

Do you yearn for a life of integrity, where your public and private life are working together toward flourishing? What are some particular pain points in your Christian experience that have made it difficult for you to see the goodness of Jesus in your innermost being? Spend some time this week considering what it might look like for Jesus to speak into your pain to bring about wholeness and healing where you need it most.

Scripture to Study

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”

(Matthew 23:25-28)

Wise Words to Consider

“10% of an iceberg is above the surface and 90% is below, and so many of our discipleship paradigms focus on that 10% with activities to do, disciplines to carry. And believe me, that’s an essential 10%. But are we going to allow Jesus and the good news of Jesus deep into that 90% to really allow it to touch the most sensitive, reactive areas of our soul – our shame, our fears, our anxieties, our trauma, our woundedness? And that’s really I think what emotionally healthy discipleship is about is urging us to not settle for a superficial kind of faith, but instead one that deeply transforms us.  – Drew Hyun

A Prayer to Lead You

Jesus, You know what is in the heart of every person. You warn us about the danger of pretending to be a fruitful tree when we are withered, washing the outside of a cup without washing the inside, and wearing one face in public and a different one in private. And yet, we lie about our true weaknesses, struggles, pains, and disappointments. We cross our fingers hoping to be better off than we truly are, and we bury ourselves in things to do so that we can keep up this illusion of wholeness and health. We’ve run so far from You. 

But we are done running, lying, hiding, and cowering. We come to You not as the righteous, but as the sick needing a physician. Just like the woman who feebly touched just the edge of Your cloak and found healing and wholeness, we come to You with our feeble faith. Heal us, Emmanuel! Our deeply wounded souls cry out for the renewal that can only come from You. In Your mighty name we pray. Amen.    

A Practice to Begin

Speaking to the fact that people are deconstructing from the Christian faith, Drew suggested that the church needs to make steps to strip away the excesses so that we can get back to having Jesus at the center. Drew later mentioned that corporate renewal must always begin with personal renewal.  

Take an honest inventory of the forms and practices of the Christian faith that are present in your life and put them up to a simple test: does this place Jesus at the center? What would it look like in your life to deconstruct, reconstruct, and reorient your faith so that you can see more of Jesus?

Questions to Answer

Drew talked about how the practice of communion is the clearest picture of how we are being knit together around Jesus, not by our gifts and talent, but by our wounds, our brokenness, and our weakness.

In what ways have you bought into the cultural narrative that you are what you can do (e.g. your gifts, talents, productivity, success)? In what ways might that be affecting the way you see your walk with Jesus and your walk with other believers? 

Are there ways that you can push back against this cultural narrative and lean into your brokenness? How can you see your brokenness as a possibility of communion with others rather than something to hide?  

Resources to Help

Pete Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Discipleship


Emotionally Healthy Discipleship


Drew: [00:00:00] In my experience, most people are deconstructing not so much about the truth claims of Jesus, but it really is about the hypocrisy of the church, the thirst for power and influence that has inculcated, like the narratives around Christian renewal have moved into Christian triumphalism.


And I really think once everything else could get out of the way so that Jesus could have a chance.


There was something so beautifully profound about Jesus.


Chealsia: [00:00:33] Do you feel discouraged by Christian culture? Consumerism, division, lack of engagement, and the things that actually affect your life.Drew Hyun is a pastor in New York who gets it. When I heard him speak at our Created For event last year, I was struck not only by his message that Jesus sees and notices us. But by his sense of presence in the delivery. I felt so seen listening to that nine minute talk. 


This year at our Created for Wholeness event he talked about wholeness and integrity, about a faith that transforms all of who we are and touches our deepest pain points. He has such a way of getting us to the heart of what we are all longing for, helping us be present with the things that really matter.


Today we talk to him about deconstruction, integrity and how we can eliminate all of the noise in our Christian experiences so that we can get to the heart of who Jesus is in our own lives and in our communities. I can’t wait for you to listen.


Chealsia: [00:01:55] Welcome to the Created For Podcast. A space where our everyday lives intersect with God’s redemptive story.


Michele: [00:02:01] Where together we learn from diverse voices, explore our unique callings, and pursue communal flourishing.


Chealsia: [00:02:08] We’re your hosts, Chealsia Smedley. 


Michele: [00:02:11] And Michele Davis.


Michele: [00:02:12] So, Drew, we are so excited to have you back. Thanks for coming back.


Drew: [00:02:17] Yeah, very excited to be back. Thanks for having me. I’m really thrilled for the conversation.


Michele: [00:02:22] Oh, absolutely. So this year our theme for Created For 2023 is Created For Wholeness. And I’d love to hear from you, Drew. When you think about wholeness, what comes to mind?


Drew: [00:02:37] Yeah. You know, I actually think of the word integrity. Integrity, actually, the kind of the root of it is the same root for the word integer, which is a whole number.


And so when I think of integrity, I think of my public life and my private life, my inner world and my outer world matching. So when I think of wholeness, I think of a flourishing of both my inner life and my outer life and hopefully an outer life that matches what’s happening internally for me.


So when I think of wholeness, that’s what I think of. And then when there’s flourishing in that sense, I think there can be a flourishing within my relationships, the world around me, etcetera. So that’s what I think about.


Michele: [00:03:20] Yeah. I think you hit the nail on the head. I did not realize integer and integrity were connected at a root word, but that makes sense. Even seeing it written on my paper here that it would involve something that’s whole.


Drew: [00:03:31] Yeah, absolutely.


Michele: [00:03:33] The entire. Yeah. And I think that hearing you describe wholeness and thinking about what I do know of your work as a pastor and working with emotionally healthy discipleship, this is a big part of your life’s work, to help people find wholeness. I’m curious if you could tell us more about the work you do with emotionally healthy discipleship.


Drew: [00:03:53] I think part of it relates to my own story, my own faith journey. I actually grew up as a son of immigrants to Los Angeles, California, from South Korea. And a big part of my journey was we grew up going to church. It was mostly like glorified babysitting and a lot of these immigrant communities would center around the church because it was the only place where we could speak our language and eat our own food and that sort of thing.


And so growing up in this kind of immigrant community church was a very big part of our lives. But yet my home life was very different. So my father was incredibly violent, was very harsh and violent towards my mom and towards us. So there was already this disconnect between in public, we were this church going family who spent all of our waking time and hours at church, and yet internally, like our family, was a bit in disarray.


And then meanwhile, what happened at this immigrant church that we were part of, and this was this massive immigrant Korean church in Los Angeles, the church of 4000 to 5000. And I remember this really acrimonious church split that rocked the entire community. We went with the departing church and all of a sudden, in my young, elementary aged mind, I’m part of this other church. And then at that other church, 2 to 3 years later, some deep friendships formed between me and some of the other kids there, as well as the other families.


And then that church ended up having another really crazy church split. By this time I was in middle school and there was fistfights happening between the elder faction and the pastor faction. And I remember the LAPD would have to come in and break up these fights. It was covered in the local news. And I remember being so stunned at what was happening, you could imagine, as a kid.


So a lot of people, they might say phrases like, oh, you’re just a Christian because you grew up going to church. And I tell them, No, you don’t understand. I’m still a Christian despite growing up going to church, because what I experienced was such pain and politics and power grabs when I was a kid in church. And then after that, my father ended up, you know, and again, our home life was in disarray.


But my father ends up leaving his job in refrigeration and air conditioning and then he went into a job as a vocational minister. However, his behavior didn’t change for us at home. So you got to imagine, like my dad then, he’s now enters into this vocation and already in immigrant communities like pastors, are very honored, especially in Korean culture. And so my dad is now this venerated pastor.


But meanwhile, the four of us, the brothers, we all have such harsh, angry relationships with my dad because of how he treated my mom and how he treated us. There’s this disconnect then between kind of the private world that we’re living in, as well as my experience with my father.


Drew: [00:06:41] Long story short. My father, he leaves vocational pastoring to actually become a writer and an author. And then he would end up writing a book that would become a bestseller in Korean Christian communities. Since that time, my father has written 37 books, and he’s basically a Korean Christian celebrity author. 


Michele: [00:07:02] …Gasp.


Drew: [00:07:04] Now, the topic that my dad writes on is how to raise a family.


Michele: [00:07:08] Oh, my gosh.


Drew: [00:07:09] I brothers and I were in high school at this point. And so there’s this public versus private view of faith and honor and respect. And yet there’s this disintegration of what we had experienced, of what faith is like. So then I go to college really on this quest for spiritual truth because I’ve experienced the pain of living in this home world where there’s this disintegration of my family life from my private life and my public life. And then there’s also the pain of this church community, which on the outside was full of power and miracles and growth and vibrancy and a lot of financial wealth and yet internally was really sick.


So I go to college and I’m wrestling with faith because I’m like, do I really believe this? Because what I’ve experienced feels so far from what I think, to be what Christianity is about. So I take all these classes my freshman year on religious studies, I take classes on the Bible as literature.


I go to UC Berkeley in California, and I’m really wrestling with faith. And I remember that passage in John chapter 6, where, you know, Jesus basically says to Peter, Are you going to go with them? As people leave this hard teaching, he’s fed the 5000 and Peter says, Simon, Peter says, ‘To whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life.’ And I remember, that was a real seminal moment for me in my faith journey of being like, gosh, as much of my personal experience that has been hurt by the church and by my family, I really believe in Jesus.


I really believe that he has the words of eternal life. As I’ve studied these different faiths and these different expressions, I really believe this.


And so in college, I made that commitment then to be all in with Jesus. Now, during that season, though, of college, I went all in and honestly, the next four years I’d be so fervent for God and the Scriptures. And honestly, I think I became a bit of a pharisee. So much of my life and faith was about apologetics and theology and the veracity of scriptures and being able to get answers to people.


Anyhow, fast forward. I ended up my senior year choosing to move to New York to work in this inner city ministry in Queens, and this was before Pete Scazzero had written any books on Emotionally Healthy anything. It was mostly known as a church that was working with the urban poor and so I moved out to New York City on September 5th, 2001. So six days before 9/11, I’m at this church as this fresh intern. I raised $1,500 to live in New York City for a year and that’s what I lived off of and as an intern, just serving the needs of the urban poor. And here I am at New Life and the first thing that happens is 9/11 happens. Tragic event for our city, our nation, The world.


Chealsia: [00:10:00] Yeah.


Drew: [00:10:00] And now, like suffering becomes far more real to me because families in our congregation had lost people in the towers. So it’s the first time we’re, like, suffering, like, real kind of suffering and walking with people where pat answers and apologetic answers about theodicy and evil and suffering, like all these things fall so shallow related to the experiences of people.


At this church of people who are recovering addicts, people from radical conversions, from drug cartels and immigrants and people who are taking three steps forward in faith and then five steps back, it seems, and like it just life was no longer this cookie cutter way of viewing the world, which thought it was in college.


Do I have the resources? Does my faith have the resources to deal with some of the stuff that goes beneath the surface? And so meanwhile, Pete, he had been through his own emotional health journey. So in 94 to 96, he had made this significant turn with him and his wife, Gerri. And so over the next 4 to 5 years, they had really been trying to live out emotionally healthy discipleship, which was a discipleship that goes beneath the surface that spiritual maturity and emotional maturity are inseparable. It’s impossible to be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature.


So they come to that conclusion after leading this growing church on the outside and yet internally there was a lot of sickness physically, emotionally, a lack of honesty and truthfulness and delving with deeper issues when it related to conflict. On the outside, the church was growing and expanding, and yet there was this internal sickness that was happening beneath the iceberg.


And so as an intern, Pete drops this manuscript in front of us. What do you guys think about these thoughts that I’ve been writing about and thinking about as we’ve been trying to implement this at our church? You know, so you can imagine, as this college grad, I read this and I’m like, oh my goodness. Like, first I thought Pete was a heretic. Honestly, I thought I was like, Where is this coming from?


[00:12:03] But one of the first exercises he had us do was to draw a picture of our family origin at the age of seven and what we remember from that, it was the age of seven or the age of nine. And I just remember drawing this picture and then Pete going through a theology of family of origin and the effects, even when it comes to the commandments, when it talks about the generational effects of sin.


And it was the first time that I was being invited as a Christian to look back at my family of origin and to start confronting some of the pain in my own life and inviting and allowing God to enter into those spaces of my life. And then I was also being invited to just more authentically delve into my own shame, because at that point in college, because we were in this highly legalistic pharisaical environment, or I should say I was the one that contributed to this.


My senior year of college, I got hooked on pornography on the Internet and, you know, it was right around the time when email is being introduced and I remember such incredible shame wash over me because my pharisaical view of ministry and life was you just had to be holy and what gave you credibility as a human being and as a christian leader was your holiness.


So you could imagine, so what did I do with that information? I hid it. I just didn’t share with anyone because there was too much shame involved and there was no way that I could ever share with anyone that I was struggling this way.


And yet here I was by the time I was a senior in college, I wanted to enter into this lifetime of service to the poor and vocational ministry. And yet there was a secret shame I was carrying. Here I am at New Life, though, where so much of it is about living this integrated life, allowing God into the areas of my shame, the brokenness of my past, the woundedness of my family of origin, and to give all of that to Jesus in an honest and authentic way.


So the start of my journey, it really has felt like God’s providence for me to end up at a place like New Life and to have a spiritual father and mentor like Pete where and Gerri to invite me into places that I never would have gone had I not or who knows if I would have gone into these places.


But, it was through God’s providence and now I was dealing with areas of my own life and discipleship. Even though I had grown up in the church, even though I was such a Pharisee who knew so much scripture and theology and had read so much about it, there was this invitation for me to actually allow that theology to go deeper into my heart and life, into my wounds, into my past, into my shame, into areas that, honestly, I could preach all day about how I want to let God into these areas, but to actually live it out and to be open and honest about it and to find healing in it.


Those were the spaces that I never allowed God into those spaces. And so the introduction to emotional healthy discipleship then is a discipleship that I think ultimately just goes beneath the surface. In the talk I talked about how 10% of an iceberg is above the surface and 90% is below. And so many of our discipleship paradigms focus on that 10% with activities to do disciplines to carry. And believe me, that’s an essential 10%.


But, are we going to allow Jesus and the good news of Jesus deep into that 90% to really allow it to touch the most sensitive, reactive areas of our soul, our shame, our fears, our anxieties, our trauma, our woundedness? And that’s really, I think, what emotional healthy discipleship is about is urging us to not settle for a superficial kind of faith, but instead one that deeply transforms us.


Chealsia: [00:15:51] Wow. Drew, I like wanted to, there were like multiple times I was like, oh, I want to cry. Just from well, let’s go back to talking about your childhood and growing up in this place where your father was abusive and he was also like venerated in the church. And I think that there are so many people have these experiences or like I even have experiences of someone saying that they follow God and then the way that they treat you is totally different.


[00:16:18] And so how do you hold on?


[00:16:21] I think it was the grace of God, one, to get you to say I’m still a Christian when I went off to college. But like, how did you hold on to Jesus when you were in the midst of that? And even now, I don’t know if your dad has changed or but that experience is you’re walking through what it was like to follow God.


Drew: [00:16:41] Yeah. First, I think all these years later, through countless hours of therapy and a lot of ups and downs in my relationship with my dad were in the best place we’ve ever been.

And I do attribute that to just the grace of God. Certainly it is still challenging at times, but even me being able to talk about this was difficult because his ministry was so prominent in Korea that I felt, and especially in East Asian cultures, which tend to honor families and again, keeping one’s private life out of the public sphere was very difficult.


But my dad knows that I’ve been very open about my own journey with him and us. And like I said, we’ve been in the best place that we’ve ever been in so I think I’m really grateful for that. I do think it’s been part of this emotional, healthy discipleship. 


In terms of just how I kept my faith at the beginning of the talk, I talked about how, again, I was on this panel and it was so fascinating to be on this panel because they wanted someone to address the intellectual side of faith, the emotional side of faith, and they were asking the intellectual side of person about deconstruction.


But in my experience, most people are deconstructing not so much about the truth claims of Jesus, but it really is about the hypocrisy of the church, the thirst for power and influence that has inculcated, like the narratives around Christian renewal have moved into Christian triumphalism. And I really think once everything else could get out of the way so that Jesus could have a chance there was something so beautifully profound about Jesus. And it’s so fascinating that Jesus’ most pointed critiques are not towards the sinners, the prisoners, but it’s to the religious communities.


Michele: [00:18:25] Yeah.


Drew: [00:18:25] That somehow speak about a faith. And yet their hearts are so far from God.

I realize with Jesus there was something so refreshing about that. What he came to do was to unmask all of those superficial ways of living and. The ways of pride and judgmentalism and getting at the heart of freedom and grace and love and truth.


 And one of the most stunning things about Jesus is that he’s both perfectly holy. He’s perfectly holy and normally in today’s context, if we were to say about someone, oh, that person’s perfectly holy, we’d be like, oh, then that person’s untouchable. Everyone’s better stay away from that. I don’t want to be around. I don’t want to go to parties with that person, right? That guy or that girl.


Chealsia: [00:19:09] Yeah. (laughs)


Drew: [00:19:10] But the thing about Jesus was he was perfectly holy, and yet he’s also perfectly loving and accepting. It’s absolutely extraordinary. Like he’s the guy that’s being invited to the best parties and he brings the best wine like Jesus is. It’s so stunning because he’s perfectly holy yet perfectly embracing and loving most people when we think about holy people, we’re like, oh, they’re no fun, they’re not cool to be around. I want to stay away from that person?


And yet Jesus was so approachable. Kids loved being around him. There’s something about Jesus that can integrate in such a manner where he can be holy and differentiated and yet super approachable and loving and I think that kind of integration is what I certainly long for and what I hope not only would I hope, but what I really believe that everyone kind of longs for and I think that’s why I mean, some of the greatest religious teachers talk about their respect for Jesus.


They might have problems with the church, but their profound respect for Jesus, with all the technological advancements that have occurred over the last, whatever, 50 years or etc. or the hundreds of years, no one has been able to improve upon the moral teachings of Jesus. And that is stunning. And that’s why I think, gosh, if we can give Jesus a chance, you know, and then if we can begin to hopefully embody a faith that tethers people and myself to Jesus, now we’re talking now, I think he is the most compelling and loving Lord that I would just wish for anyone to follow and give a chance and hopefully communities can continue to center around Jesus rather than anything else or anyone else.


Chealsia: [00:20:59] Beautiful. Yeah. Yeah. True. He saves us from all of the corruptness that we bring into Christian life.


When we think about people that are deconstructing and you talked about how a lot of people are deconstructing because of the hypocrisy of the church and so how how would you walk alongside someone who says, Hey, I see Jesus, but I also see the ways that people present Jesus and it’s really hard for me to separate those two things.


Drew: [00:21:32] Yeah. And I would and again, I would bring first, hopefully if someone were to have this conversation with me first, I would affirm that I would say absolutely. I think the church and as someone who’s actually a Christian minister, vocationally like I often say, I would probably be in that class that if Jesus were to be here today in the flesh, that I would be part of that class that would get critiqued by him and so it’s one of those challenges and I would be the first to admit that, gosh, we have done a poor job in representing Jesus. And with that said, I would again encourage the person, like, if you can just give Jesus a chance and hopefully what we can do is we can strip away all the excesses that the church has made this christianity project. If we can get at the heart of it, right, which is living out what it means to live in freedom and in the gospel. You know the Acts 2 vision of getting together daily, praying, fellowshipping, breaking bread together, and we see this radical generosity, this redistribution towards the poor and the marginalized and just this movement. I think if we can get back to the primal impulses of Jesus and his followers that we see in the gospel accounts and in the book of Acts, I think we have a fighting chance, you know.


 And so I would say whatever it takes to get back to that. Now, I realize there’s been all sorts of when you look at the history of movements institutionalized at some point, and that’s what we see in Acts chapter two. Right? There’s this movement, this primal energy of the spirit that continues to drive the church forward. And yet the subsequent years, there would be this institutionalization of the church. 


[00:23:20] That’s needed for sure. And then there’s renewal movements that would happen throughout Christian history, where these renewal movements would constantly be not only critiquing the excesses of the church or the sins of the church, but also bringing us back to a deeper heart of what it means to follow him. That’s why, like in the early church, you see it says of the desert fathers and these different monastic communities that were trying to get people back into prayer and seeking after God in these smaller bands and a deeper commitment to serving the poor and the marginalized, like all these things of the faith have been there from the start.


We just need these continual renewal movements. Actually, I would say that Cru is one of those renewal movements, right? Getting a church back at the heart of the mission of what we’ve always been about.


So when someone talks to me about the critiques of the forms of church and I say the forms of church because it’s totally legitimate, so many of the forms of church tend to be driven by competition, celebrity tourism. You know, you just go and you sing these songs that some great musicians and a great speaker or whatever and great signage and great social media helps as well, right? There’s all these elements of faith that, especially in today’s western world, that get highlighted. And I would say if we can just cut away the dross of all of that, get to the person of Jesus and then begin to live in such a manner in which we emulate the ways of Jesus in community together on mission. I think we have a fighting chance and hopefully churches, new churches that start, new movements, parachurch movements. 


It’s hopefully all of us are pushing along that Jesus is the center. He is the center and fueled by the Holy Spirit. If we can continue to get around Jesus, the forms may look very different. They might look like house churches, college ministries, brick and mortar churches, house churches, whatever the form might be. I really still want to get at the essence, which is Jesus.


Michele: [00:25:14] I like that. I feel like I’m just taking a beat to soak that in because it’s also what my heart longs for, to see Jesus at the center and as you’re talking about different forms of church, these things, I have very vivid memories of seeing how some of this plays out and sometimes it plays out great and sometimes it doesn’t. You know, I’m wondering right now, like, what would you say you do as a pastor leading your church community to be this kind of church where Jesus is at the center? And I imagine you probably do have people at your church with similar stories to what we’re describing here of seeing hypocrisy.


Drew: [00:25:54] Yeah.


Michele: [00:25:55] Wanting to find a place that doesn’t celebrate and reward hypocrisy, but instead seeks authenticity. So how are you as a pastor with this vision and this central drive, helping your church live that out in community?


Drew: [00:26:12] Yeah I think that’s a great question and I um I’m going to start talking about something and I realize it might take a while to get to answer that question, but believe me, I’m going to get there. But I think it relates to this idea of forms and then getting at the heart of things because like the question of how are we trying to form this and shape church here?


Because in most church start ups or church planting, there’s usually a certain formula that people, especially our church planting coaches, the books, the whole industry of the evangelical subculture talks about the formula kind of goes like this. And it’s basically if you build it, they will come. And the way you build it is you build it with a great preacher, great music, great kids program, great signage, great social media.


Michele: [00:26:59] Good sneakers.


Drew: [00:27:00] Good sneakers. Absolutely. Right. So you guys know the formula. Now, of course, we have prayer meetings that start it and that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, and there’s a certain metric and the metric is really based on how many people show up on a they call it the attractional model. You just attract people.


Michele: [00:27:16] Yeah.


Drew: [00:27:16] In other parts of the country, this is the formula that works. But in post-Christian New York, it’s wait a minute, does that formula work? If you think about New York City as a cultural iconic location, so a church planter comes in with this mindset of, man, I’ve got to attract people more than Broadway as well as MOMA, as well as, you know, the Met Museum and more than the best brunch spots in the city. And I’ve got to out preach Tim Keller and I’ve got to out music and out worship Hillsong.


Like, how in the world am I supposed to do this? Especially if I’m being coached to do this on a minimum budget and only with 20 people? Now because of that, we basically, as we were approaching the idea of starting new churches here, and especially according to that formula, which was the way that most people were trained in how to start these new churches and ministries, we realized like, there’s no way I will ever out preach Tim Keller.


Most of the time when I meet someone, I’m like, hey, you should really go listen to Tim Keller or hey, you should listen to him. You don’t have to listen to me or, hey, you want some good music? You should really go to this other church that has really great music. So when we were starting our church, we said, how do we get at,  and not to say that we don’t care about those things because we said, let’s be good enough at those things.


But, what if instead what our church was known for and the word that we thought of was the word presence. First, the presence of a community that really stunningly believed that God was real and that God is close. And like that we were people, especially in a post-Christian setting like ours, that really believed that and lived our lives in a manner that demonstrated that belief.


Michele: [00:29:01] Yeah.


Drew: [00:29:01] And the second word for presence was the presence of a community that really loved each other in a city that can be so self-absorbed and so self advancing, what would it look like for us to be radical in the ways that we cared for one another, as well as in the ways that we were generous towards others? You know, and then lastly, the presence in our neighborhoods, especially those who are marginalized, what would it look like for our community to do to be present with our neighbors in loving kind ways?


Now, this word presence one of the things that we noticed when we started to review this list was everything that we just talked about doesn’t actually require a significant budget. It requires a people to really believe in an extraordinary God, to begin to love one another and to love those around us. And so we said, let’s major on that then, if we can do that. And so for us, the engine for our discipleship pathway is really around that word presence.


[00:29:54] So we use the Alpha course, which the Alpha course is essentially a course that invites people around a dinner table. It’s centered around prayer, hospitality, friendship and listening. We invite neighbors and friends and all sorts of people from various different faith backgrounds to just come and gather around a table. And then emotionally healthy discipleship is the next course that we invite people to. And a healthy discipleship is about living out the great commandment, loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength in mind, and then loving others as you would love yourself.


Um, essentially in our discipleship pathway of how are we trying to form and shape followers of Jesus to be someone who is prayerfully tethered to Jesus, rooted in community and taking a deeper journey of faith that is willing to ask even the hard questions around suffering grief and loss, difficulty journeying through the wall, dealing with some of our deepest wounds and traumas and fears.


Drew: [00:30:56] So that’s how I would say..


Michele: [00:30:58] Yeah.


Drew: [00:30:59] We’ve gone about trying again, I’m trying to do this without dismissing that attractional model, but when that attractional model becomes the first thing, then that’s essentially what we get. We get these celebrity driven, consumeristic, competitive kinds of communities. And one of the things that I love whenever someone visits one of our churches in New York. Um, they’re always shocked at how unimpressive it is.


I mean, I love that because people are like,


Chealsia: [00:31:28] I love that. Yeah.


Drew: [00:31:29] Pretty unimpressive, like setup you got here and there’s not lines out the door and there’s not but the story of our church has been hopefully a community that’s tried to grow deeper and wider in our neighborhoods and communities and tried to do our best to redistribute whatever resources we’ve been given for the good of our city. So even this building that we purchased, 95% of the time, it’s used by organizations and nonprofits outside of our own.


I think that’s just emblematic of what we’ve tried to do, of trying to redistribute our resources in a manner that would serve the rest of the city instead of being like a self-seeking kind of organization.


Michele: [00:32:10] Yeah, I think your choice of the word presence, it’s like presence over program is what you know, that the people and their relationships, what those relationships bring is more important than the production of an event.


Yeah, I see a lot of integration to what you’re saying. You know that you are as a church really seeking to live out and give people the opportunity to be authentic, which does happen in relationship to others. So that makes a lot of sense to me.


Drew: [00:32:39] Yeah. Yeah. And I think we’re doing hopefully we’re doing our best, you know, and we fail and stumble at times but yeah.


Chealsia: [00:32:46] Yeah. You know, you talked about the un-impressiveness of your church. I just think about, like the disciples and how they were a pretty unimpressive bunch of people. Yeah, they were just normal guys.


I think too, when we think about this vision of, okay, we want to center Jesus, we want to be authentic, we want to really reflect Him well. Some of us can get into this oh, that feels like a lot of pressure and oh, I need to do relationships perfectly or make sure that I don’t lose my temper those types of things.


In your talk, you said Jesus doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but he asks us to be honest. And so I would love it if you could talk a little bit more about how Jesus invites us as individuals in a community to be part of that renewal.


Drew: [00:33:32] I mentioned in the talk about how I mean, it really is crazy how of all the things if you read the book of 1st Corinthians, which there’s a lot of stuff happening in the church in Corinth, like a lot of crazy sins like and yet that one sin of lying in Acts 5.


It comes out so clearly, like this is the one thing that God will not stand for. God’s got so much grace for so much stuff, but like that and it really is that sin of lying of And again, I was saying that it’s actually presenting myself as being more spiritual than I truly am and think there’s something profound about the invitation into a community where, again, we don’t have to be perfect, but we do have to be honest in recovery anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous. Anonymous. All the anonymous 12 step movements.


One of the sayings, they say, is that 90% of sobriety comes through honesty. And it’s just really hard to find freedom if I’m not honest and willing to confess and repent. In fact, James, chapter five says, ‘confess your sins to one another and you will be healed.’ And it’s interesting that one theologian says God is the one who forgives us.


[00:34:58] But it’s community that heals us. There’s something about being in a community where we don’t have to be perfect, where we actually experience an embodied way of grace. That’s why communion is so beautiful, because communion is this moment of we all come to the table not by our own righteousness, but we come based on Jesus and his brokenness.


And the reality is all of us are broken, fragmented people, but we come together and partake of the bread and of the cup. And it’s Jesus he talks about repairing and remembering it’s like it’s basically we’re putting members back together, you know. 


And it’s like we’re all whenever we come to the table, we come with all of our broken pieces, our shame, our woundedness, our honesty and we are remembering Jesus by coming back together and saying, this is what binds us, is not our gifts, our talents, our our wonderful power. But it’s actually our wounds, our brokenness, our weakness.


Michele: [00:36:01] Yeah.


Drew: [00:36:02] That comes together in the table. And I think if Christian communities could be more centered on that, the humble, honest realities of who we are, I think that’s really the pathway towards unity and that’s really the pathway towards togetherness, um, that I see.


But that’s the thing like even in a place like New York, with like so many people the lead question for everyone is what do you do? Where do you go to school? Where do you work all this stuff? And we’re more defined by LinkedIn profiles and IMDB and whatever else it might be.


But ultimately, whatever breaks, a community open is when someone can come into a room and say, I’m a human being who hurts and bleeds and I don’t have it all together. And I think the more we can have courageous communities that do that, I think the more beautiful healing can come for people.


Michele: [00:36:55] Sign me up. Yes.


Drew: [00:36:57] Yeah, absolutely. Same here. Yeah.


Chealsia: [00:37:00] Yeah. It’s so countercultural. Our culture tells us to present ourselves, to put your best foot forward, to show your life on social media. And when we do the opposite. That’s how we present Jesus to people instead of presenting ourselves. If we are able to show up and say, Hey, this is who I am. I’m a work in progress. God is working on me. 


Drew: [00:37:24] Yeah.


Chealsia: [00:37:24] Healing me. Then Jesus comes to the forefront, like you said before.


Drew: [00:37:28] Yeah, no, totally.


Chealsia: [00:37:30] We have one last question that we’re asking everyone. So in light of all that we talked about, how would you encourage someone to participate in God’s redemption of their community today?


Drew: [00:37:41] I recently just preached on this idea at renewal of renewal, and my big point was like corporate renewal always starts with personal renewal. And there’s actually this quote that I found to be true for myself.


[00:37:57] I’ll go ahead and read, this is a quote from an unknown monk. He says: “ When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world. So I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my own town. I couldn’t change the town. And as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself. And suddenly I realized that if long ago I had changed myself. I could have made an impact on my family. My family. And I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation, and I could indeed have changed the world.”


[00:38:45] And so I just think that so perfectly encapsulates what I hope we can take away is so much of renewal, wholeness, changing, i really starts with me willing to go the deeper journey. And if I can, I really hope and believe that hopefully my marriage will change. You know, hopefully my parenting will change. Hopefully my being will change so that what people remark about me is not necessarily all the things that I’ve done or produced or the gifts that I carry, but who I am as a person, and that people could walk away from encounters with me as a human being and really experience me as a whole person who is on the journey as a fellow follower, a broken follower of Jesus who is remembering Jesus and all that he’s done to bring us back together as a community.


Chealsia: [00:39:33] Mm hm.


Michele: [00:39:38] Don’t we all really long to experience the presence of Jesus and to be present with him like we are with a close friend.


So this week we just want to invite you to sit with Jesus and to spend time in the presence of God knowing He doesn’t demand perfection, but invites us to be deeply honest about exactly where we are and what we’re struggling with.


Once there, we want you to remember that as we center our lives around the presence of God, we can let go of our cultural baggage, be more present with one another, and together become more whole.


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