“Bill Hybels coined a phrase years ago that is true of me: The rate at which I was doing the work of God was destroying the work of God in me."
Tell me when you first began to understand NewSpring’s potential?
We had this guy named Lee. He started showing up about three or four months after we started. I was preaching through the story of David and Goliath, and I remember him coming up to me and saying, “Hey man, about the third week into that story, I had to go out and buy a Bible to see what happens.” One Sunday, Lee checked the box in the bulletin asking to talk to someone about your relationship with Christ. I tried to call Lee three or four times an hour that entire day. That night, I am greeting people in the lobby and Lee walks in. He had spent the day on a boat. I get excited because he felt free to walk into church in his bathing suit, button-up shirt, and flip-flops. I tell Lee that I had been trying to contact him about his request for more information on a relationship to Christ. So I led Lee to Christ right there in the lobby. I saw Jesus change him. He was incredibly faithful in his service to the church and others. About a year ago he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and shortly after went on to be with the Lord.
How much do you use story at NewSpring?
I try to use story as much as possible because Jesus did. I think Jesus was the most effective communicator in the history of the world, so if he used stories, we should use stories. The story that people want to see and hear and pay billions of dollars to go see is in every great movie—conflict, resolution, good guys win. Just open your Bible. Conflict: sin enters the world. Resolution: Jesus dies on a cross. Good guys win: the book of Revelation. You can’t get a better story than that. I think it’s a sin to take the greatest story ever written and make it boring.
How do you effectively preach the Bible as a story?
I think one of the main mistakes we’ve made is to take all the characters from the Bible and put them on an equal playing field with Jesus. Moses and Jesus are completely different. Jesus was sinless. Moses killed a man and buried him. Right after he got off the boat, Noah planted a vineyard, got drunk, got naked and cursed one of his boys. He’s a Bible hero. If I do that, I get fired from my church. Jesus is really the only hero in the entire Bible. Every other character is just evidence that God can use screwed up people to change the world.
How do you speak in the context of people far away from God without watering down doctrine?
I am passionate about correct theology. I think the problem in the church world is that people have confused theology and methodology. Methodology should be adapted on a continuing basis. People called Jesus a drunkard, a glutton and a friend of sinners because his methodology was very unorthodox, which is why the religious people hated him. Theologically, Jesus and the Pharisees would have agreed on nearly everything. It wasn’t the theology they disagreed with, as much as his methodology.
It doesn’t take much of a Google search to see that NewSpring is also offending a lot of people.
One of the things we actually caught the most heat for was starting our Easter services in 2009 with the AC/DC song Highway to Hell. People are still talking about that, and we’ve done way more offensive stuff since. People look at a church like this and say the reason you are growing is that you don’t preach the truth. We have a testimony from a person far from God who showed up that day. He says the Lord spoke to him during that song telling him that was exactly the road he was on. He prayed to receive Jesus. I would do the same thing again 100 times out of 100.