Mere Christians

Andrew Nemr (Tap Dancer)

Episode Summary

Hear the applause for your work before you go on stage

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Andrew Nemr, Tap Dancer, to talk about how to hear the applause for your work before you go on the metaphorical (or literal) stage of your job, how he came to realize that God doesn’t need us but wants us, and why we should view failure as a gracious gift from God.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[00:00:05] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Mere Christians Podcast. I’m Jordan Raynor. How does the gospel influence the work of mere Christians? Those of us who aren’t pastors, but who work as graphic designers and pilots and bank tellers. That's the question we explore every week.

Today, I'm posing it to my new friend, Andrew Nemr, described by the New York Times as “A masterly Tapper.” Andrew has performed alongside musicians like Harry Connick, Jr, and Les Paul, and was a member of the original company of Stomp. His work has been recognized with a TED fellowship, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Google. He's world-class at what he does and just an extraordinary human being.

Andrew and I recently sat down to talk about how we can hear the applause for our work before we go on the metaphorical or, in Andrew’s case, literal stage of our work. How Andrew came to realize that God doesn't need us, but wants us and why we should all view failure as a gift. A gracious gift from God. Andrew just breezed past that last one toward the end of the episode, I wish we had 10 more minutes to unpack it. But even without that, this is a terrific episode I’m confident you're going to love. Please enjoy this conversation with Andrew Nemr.


[00:01:42] JR: Andrew, first tap dancer ever on the Mere Christians Podcast, welcome.

[00:01:46] AN: Amazing. Thanks for having me.

[00:01:48] JR: First, hopefully not the last. We'll see. We'll see. So, I've never talked about this publicly, probably for good reason. But I've got huge personal respect for your craft because when I was a junior in high school, I had this very tap dance-heavy role in the musical 42nd Street. And I was terrible at it. I mean, when I did it, I probably would have given myself like a 9 out of 10 as a tap dancer. Today, I got to find the video. It's somewhere out there probably, I don't know, 4 out of 10. But you do way cooler tap dancing, than tap dancing in 42nd Street, right?

[00:02:30] AN: Well, I think it’s kind of relative. I like what I do. But as with other things, there are many streams and many ways.

[00:02:39] JR: That’s right. All right, so this is what I know. When I think tap dancing, I think like, tap dance in the musicals from the ‘50s. That's not what we're talking about with your art form. Right? How would you explain the type of tap dancing you perform, Andrew?

[00:02:56] AN: My approach to the craft is tied to the people who taught me. So, the easiest way for me to explain it, or one of the easiest ways is to say that I come from a lineage that includes Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slide, and Maybelline, many, many, many, many others, back to Bill Robinson and John Bubbles. And some of the key attributes of the approach is, it's very, very tied to personality, to an ethic of improvisation and expression, not only individual personality, but communal personality. In that way, the technical aspects of the craft work are pursued for the sake of trying to say something.

So, we learn a lot about music. We learn a lot about how to use our bodies and kind of press` them into some things that others might seem are completely unnatural. But we figured out a way, and depending on the dancer, their purpose ultimately might vary. But for me, it really is about trying to engage with the kind of experience and bring others into that experience as much as I can.

[00:04:14] JR: How did you get into this?

[00:04:16] AN: So, I'm an only child. My folks are from Beirut, Lebanon, not a very popular spot for tap dancing.

[00:04:24] JR: You don't say.

[00:04:27] AN: Yeah. And my mom had been a kindergarten teacher. So, when I was born, we moved around a lot when I was young. We eventually landed in Alexandria, Virginia. My mom was homeschooling me as a preschooler. And my folks thought I should do something with other kids. It's not good for me to just be alone. There was a dance school by the house. It was close enough that it was walking distance. So, if something happened to the car, I would still be able to make it and I went, I watched one class. And my folks asked me if I liked it, and I said, “Yeah.” So, they signed me up.

[00:05:10] JR: It was pretty simple.

[00:05:11] AN: it was pretty benign. There wasn't a big –

[00:05:16] JR: It wasn't a big aha moment, it was just like, “Yeah, that's cool.”

[00:05:19] AN: I was three and a half. I took a liking to the teacher, the context of the class seemed fun. At three and a half years old, you're in a room for 45 minutes. 15 minutes is tap dancing. 15 minutes is tumbling and 15 minutes is ballet or something that you can call ballet. So, that's how it started.

[00:05:39] JR: Your bio says you had this like life-changing moment with the movie Tap. What’s the story there? Is that later on? What happened there?

[00:05:48] AN: It's later on. I'm nine years old. I convinced my folks to go to the opening night of this film, at Union Station in Washington, DC. They had just remodeled this old train station. And there was a movie theater in the basement.

[00:06:02] JR: I've been to this movie theater. It's incredible.

[00:06:04] AN: It's beautiful. And there were rumors running around that Gregory Hines and Savion Glover might make an appearance there. So, I knew who Gregory was at the time, and I was super entranced with kind of –

[00:06:15] JR: Wait. I have no idea who this guy is. Who's Gregory Hines?

[00:06:19] AN: Gregory Hines is – so, in the 1980s, he was probably the most popularly known tap dance figure.

[00:06:28] JR: Okay, so this is a big deal for you, at the age of nine.

[00:06:31] AN: Huge. Think about the popularity of a Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, or Sammy Davis Jr, and that gives you some context for who Gregory was, especially in the world of dance at this time. 
So, he's starring in this feature film, it's all about tap dancing. And there's an opening night at this theater. And so, I convinced my folks that we have to go on this night and we go, and I'm super excited. I take my tap shoes with me. But I'm super kind of nervous and so I leave them in the car. And I go in, watch the film. Before the film even screens, somebody comes to the front of the theater, and they introduce the film. So, this is a big deal. They apologize, Gregory and Savion will not make an appearance tonight. However, we're really excited to screen this film for you, and I'm just curious how many people have their tap shoes with them. And I jump up and I look around the theater and there are like 30 other people who also have the tap shoes with them. The guy who's introducing the film pointed at me and says come down. I say, “Oh-oh.” Because I've left my taps shoes in the car and all these other people actually have their shoes with them and I'm walking down –

[00:07:53] JR: Walking down Union Station in tap shoes, right.

[00:07:57] AN: Going down. And he looks at me and says, “Where's your shoes?” I said, “Well, they're in the car.” And he says, “Okay, well, overlook that technical problem right now and how about we just do a step together.” So, in front of this audience, I perform this basic tap dance step and then I go back to my seat. I'm kind of thrust into this community where there many more people than just me that carry their shoes around everywhere and I watched the film. In the film, there's a quintessential scene called the challenge scene, in which Gregory and a host of dancers from Sammy Davis Jr's generation.

So, these are all old dancers, real life dancers, that would have been headliners in the ‘20s, ‘30s, ‘40s, and they all, in this very informal setting kind of make a circle. One by one, they come out, they each dance.

[00:08:53] JR: It's like a rap battle.

[00:08:53] AN: Yeah, it's a cipher, in hip hop parlance. And there's a guy on the piano, so he's changing the music up for each one of the dancers and every dancer is different, right? They're all evoking something of it seemed to me as a nine-year-old, like, wow, they're individual people. And coming from dance school, my experience of dance school was you do the same thing that everybody else does in the line, and you get told what to do. This was just very different than that. The dynamic in the circle was also really attractive. Everybody was encouraging. They were egging each other on. If somebody did a step that was a little bit like a joke, they would laugh. So, it just felt alive. I left the movie theater and I told my parents, “I want to become a tap dancer.”

[00:09:45] JR: That's awesome. And never looked back. That's it. That was the thing?

[00:09:49] AN: Yeah.

[00:09:49] JR: So, this is the second time this movie theater has made an appearance on this podcast. I just realized.

[00:09:56] AN: Really?

[00:09:57] JR: Yeah. So, my friend Mark Batterson, pastor of National Community Church in DC used to preach like in the early days. They preached out of the Union Station theater. I was in DC in 2006. I was doing an internship up there, and it was the only church I ever visited, was the Union Station Theater. So, how about that? Wild, that this is – why in the world would a movie theater make two appearances in this podcast. Alright, so what's your faith story? So, you grew up in Lebanon. Were your parents believers?

[00:10:28] AN: So, I was born in Canada. My folks grew up, were both born in Beirut. They were both believers. Yeah. They actually met in a fairly radical, non-church affiliated youth group in Lebanon, that’s self-funded in order to do public works projects.

[00:10:48] JR: Cool. So, what about you? When did you start getting serious about Jesus?

[00:10:53] AN: I grew up not going to church. My church family was my parents and my family. We would experiment, we would try to find a community and nothing seemed to click for us. But we made it to church, every Easter and every Christmas. And one Christmas, I remember the pastor making a call, saying if you'd like to accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, just repeat after me. And if my timing is right, this happened the Christmas before I saw the movie Tap, and I just remember thinking, “Well, yeah, that sounds like a great idea.”

So, I bowed my head and repeated after the pastor. That kind of set this course of this journey that ultimately would land me at a Southern Baptist Church in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in 2011, where I was baptized. And very quickly, after that, I would be connected to Redeemer Presbyterian Church through the Gotham Fellowship, and connected to a vineyard church in Boise, Idaho, on account of an Art and Faith Conference.

[00:12:06] JR: Very cool.

[00:12:07] AN: So, within three years of being baptized, basically, I saw very clear expressions, and different expressions of the Body of Christ, and traditions and streams. That journey has kind of continued to where I've landed, most recently, with being introduced to the work of Dallas Willard, and the spiritual disciplines, Richard Foster, and this intersection that I've found myself at, between kind of the things that we believe how we express ourselves and who we become. So, our doctrinal faith, the practices that we find ourselves engaging in, and ultimately our experience of life.

[00:12:53] JR: For you as a tap dancer, you've talked a lot about identity, right? There's even this short documentary on your life titled Identity. I'm curious how you view the relationship between kind of this primary identity as an apprentice of Christ, and this vocational identity as a tap dancer. How did those two things overlap? How did those two things interact with each other?

[00:13:19] AN: That's a great question. The backstory to my questioning around identity has to do with an experience that I had in high school, where I realized that I was carrying kind of all these monikers, like labels of who I was. I found myself feeling like I needed to switch when I was in community with other people who carry that label and kind of bouncing from one to the other. The way my mind seemed to work at the time was, “Okay, well, I need to figure this out.” Because it doesn't make sense for me to have to switch. I'd like to be or I'd like to feel like I'm the same person wherever I am. So, I wrote a list.

[00:14:04] JR: Of all the tags?

[00:14:06] AN: Of all the tags. So, I had Christian, American, Canadian, Lebanese, tap dancer. I put down hockey player because I was Canadian. So, I may as well try that. And literally, I spent a week on each of them and tried to figure out okay, if I lived fully into this idea of what I thought that label meant, at that time, what would I find? Would I feel complete? Would I feel a fullness of life around that? And very quickly, I found that kind of the national labels, Lebanese, American, Canadian, fell flat for me very quickly. I loved my mom's cooking. I was born in Canada, so everybody felt that that's what made me a nice person. But I was living in America and I wouldn't have found tap dancing in the way that I had, had I not been here.

So, there were key attributes of each one, but the fullness of them wasn't a place that I could kind of plant my feet in. At the time, I kind of landed at Christian and tap dancer. So, follower of Jesus and expressing myself through this very embodied craft, and I think I've been trying to work that out ever since. Where I've landed, is that there's an order of operations to this, that if I get it right, things feel easy and light, and free and purposeful and full. If I get it wrong, things begin to feel burdened, and heavy and weighted.

[00:15:56] JR: But it's an issue of sequence. 

[00:15:59] AN: For me, yeah.

[00:15:59] JR: I think that’s right. That rings true for me. So, give us an example, maybe of a time in your life where the sequence has been out of whack, where follower of Jesus is not first. What are the implications of that on your work specifically?

[00:16:17] AN: That's a pretty good segue into the experience of burnout that I hit a couple years ago. So, one of the things that I realized I've been formed into as a tap dancer. This is something that I've trained, is an ability to expend more energy than I have. So, in a show, I get an hour and a half to put everything that I have into the presentation of the dancing. And I know that once the show is done, the show is done. So, what I've found myself training into is this idea that I can go all out, and the end of the show will signal the stop of my need to go all out.

Now, if you transfer that ability into a nine-to-five, or into a leadership role in an organization, it's almost a recipe for burnout. Because, as many leaders might experience, the work is never done. There's no signal for endings. You kind of have to extract yourself out of the day, knowing that tomorrow, the Lord's mercy is renewed, and your to-do list is still there.

So, I entered into a leadership role at a tap dance organization, not — having been trained as a performer, and entering in with this idea that, if I give it my everything, that's how I know I'm doing a good job. Within a year, maybe a little bit longer than a year, I hit burnout. I hit a wall that I had never hit before and I hit walls after shows. There's a natural kind of come down, the post-high of a performance is often a low. But I hadn't hit something like this before and there were a number of things that I had to do, I guess, to work out of it. And I had a number of friends and support to help me do the things that I needed to do. One of those things was to recognize or to ask myself where God was in it.

And thankfully, I had a sense that God was there. So, I didn't feel abandoned, which was very important for me. And then I had to figure out okay, “Well, what got me into this?” And I had amazing support in terms of friends who had experience in counseling that helped guide me through the questions of, well, is it surprising that since you were formed in a particular way, this would be the outcome in this particular situation? Most of the things that came up in the conversations that I had were things like, “Well, how was your approach to energy management in tap dance land? When did you actually start working?” I had my first job when I was seven years old. So, there hadn't been a time in my life where work was separate from enjoyment, or relationship that I can remember. Seven years old is very young. You start to bleed those things together.

[00:19:38] JR: Exactly, right. In the net of this after this burnout a few years ago, was the core issue, yeah, I've got this order of identities out of whack? Is that what kind of netted out to?

[00:19:50] AN: Yes, in one sense, and in an almost deeper sense, it was an opportunity for a new revelation of what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus.

[00:20:02] JR: Yeah, go deeper on that. What do you mean?

[00:20:04] AN: So, I had equated being a follower of Jesus to doing good work. And I knew as a tap dancer, I had this very keen sense that I couldn't do the good work without Jesus, like without leaning on his strength, his wisdom. So, there was an interaction there. But fundamentally, my relationship with Jesus was for the sake of doing good work, and what I realized was that, yes, that is good and honorable, and part of it. But, more simply, and potentially more importantly, God loves me. Full stop.

[00:20:49] JR: Amen.

[00:20:49] AN: Not for the sake of the good work that I'm going to do and not for the sake of how I affect others. But just because he loves me. 

[00:20:58] JR: Amen.

[00:21:01] AN: And that was a revelation. I come from a loving family. My parents are amazing. And yet, this is one thing that it's like, it kind of boggles my mind. Even in coming up in an amazing environment, I still hit this wall.

[00:21:23] JR: Oh, brother, I'm right there with you. I’m 100% right there with you. Good upbringing and you could still hit this, for sure.

[00:21:32] AN: So, my journey out was kind of like this one-on-one with God to really understand what it meant, and what it means because I'm still working this out to be loved, just for being, and not turn it into some, “Well, thank you for loving me, and I got to go do this now. Because that's why you love me.”

[00:22:00] JR: Yeah, but you're coloring some like really important nuance, right? It's not that the Lord doesn't call us to do good work. He does. It’s part of it. But it's the difference between doing the good work for his favor, and doing it in response to His unconditional favor. The favor that is secure, regardless of the performance. Keller writes so beautifully about this, that in Christian — it's only in Christianity, that we get the applause before you go on stage. Before you perform. And that should radically change how we approach the work.

You mentioned a couple of times that tap dancing is the way that you express your faith. What does that look like now, as you're walking through the other side of this burnout and kind of this realization that God doesn't need you, but he wants you? How is that shaping your art form?

[00:23:00] AN: Yeah, that's a really good question. I think there are a couple of different ways that it's been playing out. One is, I realize now that I can just enjoy what I do, and share that. So, the kinds of content that I reach for or that I allow myself to partake in, and not just say, “Oh, that's too easy, or I've done that before, or that's not worth my time, I need to go do something harder, or more impressive.” No. I just kind of let all of it sit and share that.

From a project standpoint, I find myself more interested in projects that actually evoke something of this journey. So, the way I think about building shows or building projects, or even kind of sorting, all the ideas that might come up, is seeking this intersection where the thing that we do, or the thing that I do, in a particular project, evokes something of the interaction that I've experienced between me and God, in the hopes that someone else's experience of me sharing my experience might do something for them.

[00:24:32] JR: Yeah. It's really good. Really profound. I totally get that. I think it's interesting, before we started recording, we talked about our mutual friend, Makoto Fujimura. He was on the podcast earlier this year. We talked a lot about the church's over-obsession with all things utilitarian and useful, right? Culturally we're so obsessed with the functional and the practical. I think it could be hard for a lot of people to see and understand what you just said. The eternal value of painting or tap dancing, and how that can be a vehicle for showing people a glimpse of God. Talk a little bit more about this, if you can, in the ways that you see your work as a means of showing glimpses of God to the world.

[00:25:25] AN: I look at the arts as simply a heightened expression of being human. So, dancing is akin to walking. Poetry is akin to speaking. Dialogue in a theater is akin to conversation.

[00:25:43] JR: But just at a higher plane.

[00:25:45] AN: It's more technically proficient. There's some kind of wonder that it evokes or that it might be meant to or pointed towards and you'd have specialists. You have people who dedicated parts of their lives to understanding, in the case of tap dancing, sound and movement to a degree that their experience of sound and movement is more intimate than somebody else who's just listening to the world around them and walking. And in that intimate relationship with sound and movement, there is an intimacy with the creator of sound and movement that can be drawn out and presented. That to me is, what the arts do.

I have to say that I don't think that's very far from what a conversation can do. Or what seeing somebody walk can do. If we see walking as something that connects us with our Creator, or if we see a conversation as a sacred space between two people, in which the third person is Jesus. There's a lot of utilitarianism and pragmatism that's around. So, there often is a defense that needs to come for artists to feel like they can do what they do. I tend to approach it from the opposite direction in saying that everybody has an effect at the level of an artist, if we actually believe in who we are, as created in the image of God. So, the words that we speak has the effect in our sphere of influence of the most imaginative and powerful poet in the world.

[00:27:44] JR: Yes. I think that's the foundation, right? Especially with artists, the art form as a means of reflecting the character of a creative God to the world. I think there's this other sense in which tapped into whatever the art form is, even working in a business, can be evangelism, without words. Not to say that we shouldn't speak the words we should, right? But especially in the arts, you're planting seeds of beauty and wonder, and hope in people's hearts, which ultimately can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, lead some people to a longing for the source of all beauty and wonder and hope, God Himself, right?

[00:28:26] AN: Right. Yeah. In tap dance land, the art is fundamentally experiential, and the experience of the craft is predisposed for experience. People come to a space, they move their bodies, they prepare their hearts to receive a thing, and the thing that they're receiving is somebody who has prepared themselves and is moving their bodies. In that sense, for me, I think there's kind of a unique power or a unique opportunity for an experience, and the way that my faith journey has gone. I really believe that an experience is the thing, that we have some sort of interaction with God in our life, in our world, that shifts the way that we see and hear and think. All the words that might come in terms of evangelism or study or the further processing frames that experience, supports that experience, reminds us of that experience. But in my life, at least, it's not real until it's real. Until that interactive experience happens. It's hard to act as if that experience should happen.

[00:29:57] JR: Yeah. I know what you're saying. I think to the experiences that are most compelling to a watching world are the experiences people see of watching people do the thing God clearly made them to do, right? I read this article, somebody else was describing you as having, “The cheerfulness that comes from doing what he loves.” It just reminded me of that really famous scene and Chariots of Fire, with Eric Liddell, the sprinter saying that when he runs, he feels God's pleasure. I think he could feel selfish, saying that we bring God pleasure by doing the things that bring us pleasure. But I think in a sense, that might be true, right? We're His children. God wants to see us fully alive, so long as we're doing the work, doing the thing for His glory and in obedience with His commands. What do you think? Do you think there's a sense that when you're doing your work with utmost pleasure, God is taking pleasure and delight in that, Andrew?

[00:31:01] AN: The short answer is yes. The longer answer is Dallas Willard has an amazing quote, where he says, he believes that God wants to make us the kind of people that he can empower to do whatever we want. And whenever I've seen a video of Dallas, and he says this line, he always has to pause. And he says, “You might think that I might have said something wrong. You might think that he wants to make us the kind of people that he can empower to do whatever He wants.” But if we take Dallas' first statement, it says, God wants to make us the kind of people that he can empower to do whatever we want. There's a formation of our will, that aligns it with God, so that what we want, is what He would want. And we get joy in doing what we want, and he gets joy in seeing us do the thing that we want, that is what He wants. So, the idea of desiring to love well, desiring to see goodness, beauty, justice, like flow out into the world from us, naturally, easily, just because that's the thing that we actually want to do. The glimpse of that, for me is, I really enjoy tap dancing. It's something that I want to do. So, all the work and training and discipline that goes into me being able to do that well, and me being able to do that well is what brings me joy, is kind of a mirror for the rest of the formation of my person. Such that, that kind of joy flows out into every other aspect of my life.

[00:33:02] JR: It's really well said. I got to dig into that quote. But I was reading somebody else. I can't remember who it was. I was reading some commentary says, what the world needs now are – human beings are fully alive and fully animated by the Holy Spirit. I think part of that comes from doing the work that makes us completely alive. Again, so long as that work is being pursued with excellence and love and in accordance with God's commands. I think it's interesting Keller and R. Paul Stevens and a lot of other people have pointed out that it appears that God worked for the sheer joy of it, right? God had no need to create, right? So, in some sense, he created for the joy of it. And that frees us from His Stephens calls it the “tyranny of utility”. We don't have to do things that are useful. We could do things just for the joy of doing them. Does that resonate as true with you, Andrew?

[00:33:52] AN: Yeah. In the world that we live in, the thing that couches all that for me is doing that with God, because I'm not a fully perfected human. So, the things that bring me joy, some of them might be completely distorted, and some of them might be fully formed in the way that would bring God joy to see. So, my pursuit seems to be, how close and how continuous can I have a sense that whatever it is that I'm doing, God's at my right hand, at my hand of action, and I'm doing this thing with God because I am with God, that's just the basis of my existence. And that relationship, that closeness, the proximity, if you spend tons of time with someone, and they have a powerful character, that character is going to rub off on you. And that's my hope. I want the personality of Jesus to rub off on me because I'm not going to get there under my own strength. I know that.

[00:35:06] JR: Yeah. Man, this is a theme that's been coming up on this podcast over and over and over again, partially because I've been personally digging into it a lot. This idea of “with”. Yes, we're called to do work for God. But we're also called to do it with him. What does that look like for you in the work? What does it look like practically to do the work alongside Jesus? With Jesus, what did you call it? The right hand of action? I love that so much. What does that look like?

[00:35:33] AN: Oh, man, it looks like a lot of doing nothing at this point, which might be weird to say. But tap dancing is full of action and it's full of interconnected thoughts. The music is related to the motion is related to the purpose of the dancing is related to probably some market thing that needs to go out for the sake of the show, for the sake of the gig. So, there's all this stuff that's connected, and it's all moving. I find that for myself, the best thing that I can do is stop everything, drive down to the river and spend an hour, two hours, three hours, sitting, walking around in a circle, trying to balance on river rocks as I walk a little bit into the river, and setting my mind on God's face, and just asking him to teach me something or tell me something, or not trying to choreograph the time. But just say, “Alright, I'm coming to hang with you. What are we going to do?”

[00:36:47] JR: The best picture I've ever heard of this, I can't take credit for it. I think it was my friend Paul who came up with it. I can't remember if I've shared on the podcast before. So, forgive me listeners if you've heard this recently. But I think the picture, here it's almost like the finale of American Idol. Or one of those singing competitions. I don't know what's on TV today in terms of singing competitions. But right every time in the finale, you've got these two, three finalists going head to head and they come out, and they sing their final song, and they're a ball of nerves because everything's on the line. Their palms are sweaty, the tension, the nerves are palpable when they sing those songs and wait for the results and wait for the votes to be cast.

But then, once the results have been announced, and the winner is declared, the winner comes back onto the stage, and oftentimes they sing the same song that they sung before the votes were cast. But the countenance of that winner is totally different. Same words, same melody, same tune, same technical difficulty of singing the song. But there's an air of lightness of freedom that comes after the applause. And I think the trick for us as Christ followers, as mere Christians, is to remember that we already got the applause before we get out of the car on Monday morning walk in the office, or before we step onto the stage for a performance as a tap dancer, whatever it is. The applause is secure, you’re a child of God. You have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and he calls you his adopted daughter or son. That's it. That's it. Amen?

[00:38:33] AN: Amen.

[00:38:35] JR: How do you remind yourself of that, as somebody who is a literal performer for a living? How do you keep that? Because man, this is me, right? Publish books over two years, speaking all the time, whatever, it's very easy to fall into the traps of, ah man, this podcast episode with Andrew, crushed it, but the next one did it. Like how do you remind yourself that you already got the applause before you go on stage?

[00:39:05] AN: Yeah, well, I think there are two things that play in my life. One is God's gracious provision to allow failure, and the not hitting an expectation so that I can realize, “Oh, no, I do carry expectations, and that one didn't work.” So, knowing that that's part of it, for me, is to stay in the role of a follower. And what does that look like? How do I follow well? When from the public's perception, you're a leader and you're an innovator or you're the focus of attention. And in my own life, that can't be true.

[00:39:47] JR: Yeah, it's really good. That's really good.

[00:39:51] AN: Practically, the disciplines of silence and solitude are immensely helpful.

[00:39:57] JR: Yes. That is the practical out working if this, is taking the time to preach the gospel to yourself in quiet solitude, right? That's kind of it.

[00:40:07] AN: Yeah. And I would say even taking the time to have the Gospel be preached to you in silence. To be immersed in relationship, such that the thoughts that come to mind can be God's thoughts for you. And not just God's thoughts for the next task that you need to complete.

[00:40:28] JR: Yeah, it's good. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, since so much of my work is expounded upon the scriptures. When I'm doing my personal devotional time, try not to look for something that I can take and give to my audience. But look at the word like, no, no, no, no, I need this first, and it appears selfish, but that's the only way that my cup can be full. I need the Gospel before I could share the Gospel with anybody else?

Andrew, this is so good, man. This is so good. Hey, every conversation I love to wrap up with three questions real quick. Number one, books. Which books do you find yourself recommending or gifting most frequently to others?

[00:41:19] AN: There seems to be two that come up. One is C.S. Lewis’ Grief Observed.

[00:41:26] JR: Yeah, so good.

[00:41:26] AN: And the other is almost any book by Dallas Willard.

[00:41:33] JR: Which one? Divine Conspiracy?

[00:41:35] AN: Actually, Renovation of the Heart.

[00:41:39] JR: Yeah. Great answer. Andrew, who do you want to hear on this podcast talking about how the gospel shapes the work we do in the world?

[00:41:48] AN: Oh, man. I would love to hear a local parish pastor, someone that I don't even know, but has a community of 25, 30 people that they've been with for either just starting or had been with for years.

[00:42:07] JR: It’s a good answer. I like it. And are up close and personal, in relationship with people doing the day-to-day work in that community. I like it. Andrew, before we sign off, what's one thing from our conversation you want to reiterate to our audience of mere Christians?

[00:42:23] AN: I think the thing that's come up for me that I've heard in our conversation is this idea of feeling selfish and doing the things that we need to do to be with God. I would want people to hear someone say that, in my life, the Gospel has been most effective for me, and I think, in me for others, when it's an overflow of the abundance that I have received

[00:42:55] JR: Amen.

[00:42:56] AN: So, taking the time that I need, to be with God, and to know, to really know what that's like, and what that can be like, naturally affects everything else.

[00:43:12] JR: It's really good. It’s a great note to end on. Hey, Andrew, I just want to commend you, man, for the exceptional work you do for the glory of God and the good of others. Thank you for working hard, hard but lightly to create beauty in the world that reflects the ultimate beauty of God. Guys, if you want to learn more about Andrew and his work, you can do so at That's Andrew, thank you so much for hanging out with us today.

[00:43:47] AN: Thank you for having me.


[00:43:49] JR: That episode was fire. If you're asking your host. Man, I loved that conversation. If you did, do me a favor and go review the Mere Christians Podcast on Apple podcasts or Spotify, wherever you listen to the show. Guys, thank you so much for tuning in to Mere Christians. I'll see you next week.