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is the pastor at Gateway Church in South Austin,
a professor with Bethel Seminary, creator of The Church Growth Workshop,,
author at and founder of www.ericbryant.org.He has recently released the updated 10th anniversary edition
of Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World .
Here is a brief overview in Eric’s own words,
Now more than ever is the time for us to become agents of change,
creating genuine unity among people from a variety
of backgrounds and worldviews.Not Like Me urges readers – women and men, democrats and republicans,
church leader and lay people from every background –
to create a new future that connects God’s heart by removing
the religious baggage of Christianity to discover the world Jesus intended.
Through stories and insights gleaned
from my own personal experiences and failures,
the experiences of others, and the life and teachings of Jesus,
readers will discover how to move beyond ethnic, racial, cultural,
and ideological barriers toward genuine friendship with others
that can lead to personal and community transformation.
So LifeLetter Cafe is excited
to share this recent interview with Eric Bryant
to dive deeper into the story behind
Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World .
Enjoy his answers below in the latest 7 Questions Sunday!
Today’s 7 Questions
LifeLetter Cafe: What was the personal motivation behind your decision to write this book?
Eric Bryant: I grew up in the suburbs and in Texas where it was assumed everyone was a Christian. As a high school student, I didn’t feel like I could invite my friends who did not have faith to a Sunday morning service. After college, my wife and I helped plant a church in Seattle and then served at a church in Los Angeles.
In doing so, we began see the how the Church can reach people who believed differently and looked differently than us. Being a part of diverse churches reaching people from different faith backgrounds gave me something important to share to those uncertain of how to navigate a multicultural, pluralistic, and even post-Christian world.
LifeLetter Cafe: In a sense, Not Like Me shines the light on the core issue of evangelism moving beyond a “Come to church” to more of a “Be the church” mentality. What in your mind have been some of the more egregious evangelism techniques employed over the last 50 years?
Eric Bryant: Honestly, I feel like our efforts and evangelism were effective at the time they were introduced, but the same methods that were effective in a previous generation are not always effective to the emerging generations. What reached the World War II generation didn’t communicate clearly to the baby boomers and the same is true for Generation X and now for Millenials. Every generation needs to learn how to communicate the message of Jesus in their own context.
For example, the Romans Road and 4 Spiritual Laws led with our sinfulness which was most effective in a culture where people were religious and sought to create a facade of good behavior.
In our culture, people are much more open and honest about their brokenness. Most people are not trying to live up to a religious moral code.
I recommend we change the order of the Romans Road. Rather than starting with “you are a sinner,” we should begin with Romans 5:6-8 “when you were powerless… God demonstrated His love for you…”
In other words, most people in our culture already know they are a sinner and feel judged by God and His Church, what they do not realize is that they are loved by God.
The message of Jesus needs to begin with love demonstrated – not just by what we say but by what we do. It’s in that context that people will hear our message because they feel God’s love through us.
LifeLetter Cafe: Tell us what you mean by “party theology” and what can be most compelling about friendship evangelism?
Eric Bryant: Party theology is based on the way Jesus went to the home of Matthew, the tax collector. To emulate Jesus means we are willing to ruin our reputation with the religious in order to befriend those far away from God.
For too long the church has tried to influence people from a distance. We’ve tried to hide from the world and our churches have become a sort of fortress from the world. In reality the Church is sent out into the world.
We have the greatest capacity for influencing others in the context of a friendship – an actual relationship.
Changing the world begins by inviting a neighbor over for a backyard barbecue or inviting a coworker out to coffee. They may not seem spiritually curious and the opportunity to talk about faith may not arise at the beginning. However, those we know are very open to conversations about God when they face challenges, difficulties, or life’s transitions. We can be there for them when we have a genuine relationship.
We need to invite someone to follow Jesus
not just for what Jesus does in his or her life,
but what Jesus can do through his or her life
and in the lives of others.
– Eric Bryant –
LifeLetter Cafe: As to the issue of relevance to diverse communities within reach of our churches, tell us how your time at Mosaic shaped your great commission model? Eric Bryant: Our pastor, Erwin McManus would often point out that our mission was to reach our city so it should natural for a church in a diverse city to become diverse. However, its remarkable how few churches actually are representative of their city.At Mosaic, we were very intentional about staying on our mission to reach our neighbor – whomever that might be and wherever they might be from.
We were intentional about creating a community where people could belong before they believed. At the same time, we were intentional about raising up leaders from different backgrounds and even creating space on stage for those we were reaching from different backgrounds.
LifeLetter Cafe: How do church congregations get stuck falling short of a contagious love that knows no boundaries and what are they keys to reawakening that fire within that comes from the heart of heaven? Eric Bryant: I think the key is that we need to invite someone to follow Jesus not just for what Jesus does in his or her life, but what Jesus can do through his or her life and in the lives of others.Our faith has become more individualistic and intellectual than what is best or what was intended.
The message of Jesus is far more relational and spiritual than the American version we’ve adopted.
Moving forward, we need to reevaluate all we do in the light of the Scriptures and God’s heart for our world.
Are we making decisions about what we do based on what’s best for those who’ve been here the longest or for those who are not yet here?
LifeLetter Cafe: The format of Not Like Me includes field notes from thought leaders in church growth and mission – tell us how this came about and what a couple of your favorite guest contributions are?
Eric Bryant: The women and men I asked to help me write the Field Notes all demonstrate loving people in such beautiful ways. I wanted them to share insights to help us serve others more faithfully and effectively.
LifeLetter Cafe: You mention that several churches are using Not Like Me to enhance their focus and commitment to reaching their communities for Christ – please share some of the feed back you are receiving. Eric Bryant: Churches have made Not Like Me their theme for a sermon series and have used the books in their small groups. I am so encouraged by the way the people in these churches have stretched their faith by being more intentional about investing in people they may have previously overlooked and even discovering the beauty of sharing about Jesus in the context of these relationships.We have a special discount on copies of the book and the book is now on available on Kindle as well.
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