Mere Christians

Jon Tyson (Pastor at Church of the City New York)

Episode Summary

The 6 marks of a creative minority

Episode Notes

What will make Christians distinct in the workplace, what Sabbath ceasing, resting, embracing, and feasting can look like practically, and why the goal of local churches should be to equip believers for working outside the church.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

[0:00:05.4] JR: Hey friend, 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 or religious professionals but who work as factory workers, professors, and custodians? That’s the question we explore every week, and today, I’m posing it to my friend, Jon Tyson, one of my absolute favorite teachers of the Word. He’s a pastor at Church of the City New York and the author of some great books, including A Creative Minority and The Intentional Father.


Jon and I recently sat down to talk about what will make us mere Christians distinct in the workplace. We talked about Jon’s framework for thinking about Sabbath as ceasing, resting, embracing the Father’s goodness, and feasting on his gifts, and we talked about why the goal of local churches should not be to take people out of the work they’re doing as mere Christians but to equip them for that work outside the local church.


I think you guys are going to love this conversation with the brilliant Jon Tyson.




[0:01:17.6] JR: Jon Tyson, I can’t believe it’s taken us so long to have you on the podcast, welcome.


[0:01:21.3] JT: Thank you so much, really happy to be here.


[0:01:23.2] JR: Yeah. So hey, unlike a lot of pastors, you’ve been a “Mere Christian.” You’ve worked outside the church, you worked at a butcher, right?


[0:01:31.3] JT: That is correct. Yes, and Eugene Peterson was a butcher.


[0:01:35.0] JR: Really? I didn’t know that.


[0:01:35.6] JT: Yes, yes, a big shock of history and his early formation takes place in the butcher shop so I feel like at least, have some other friends who pastor in that space but it was, yes. I’m a fully qualified apprentice butcher, graduated into, I don't know, an adult butcher, I don't know.


[0:01:51.9] JR: Yeah, I heard you dropped out of school to do this, to be a butcher’s apprentice, what’s the story there?


[0:01:57.0] JT: That’s interesting. So when I was 14, I’ve always had a good work ethic. I think that’s a sort of from the family that I was raised in. When I was 14, I went and got a part-time job, I wanted to get some money for myself. I’ve worked for a bus boss that was absolutely incredible, a visionary.


A very successful businessman and he’s the first person that have ever told me, “Jon, you have a leadership gift” and when I was 14 he said, “The other kids who clean up the shop after school follow you, you’re a leader.” At 16, he basically cast a vision for my life. He said, “Hey, drop out of high school, do an apprenticeship with me, I’ll teach you how to retire by 30.”


I mean, he laid out this vision. He basically painted the vision of the four-hour workweek for me. It was by age 20, when all of your friends are just working their way through college, paying off their college debt. I bought my first house when I was 19 because he told me to.


He just gave me a vision of getting and being a leader and managing and working and it was the joy of accomplishment. So he cast a vision, I had to drop out of high school at 16 to do it, I’m really glad I did. I learned a lot, a lot from the butcher shop.


[0:03:02.1] JR: Okay. So when did God redirect your path away from slicing meat? How did this happen?


[0:03:08.4] JT: The weekend I turned 17, I became a Christian in a Pentecostal youth revival. What was fascinating, my boss said to me – I got a scholarship to study theology when I was 20 in America, that’s how I moved here. It’s a miracle they let me into college without a high school diploma and my boss said to me, he used to call me Johnny Swank, it’s a long story.


But he was like, “Johnny, Johnny Swank, don’t go and be a monk now.” He’s like, “Wait ‘till you’re 30, let’s keep doing the plan and then you can go do whatever you want.” So I became a Christian at 17 and sort of derailed his and my plan for my life.


[0:03:41.9] JR: What’s the Johnny Swank story?


[0:03:44.0] JT: The Johnny Swank story is, I honestly wasn’t ashamed of being a butcher. I had no class consciousness. I just was like, I do remember a few people now, saying to me, “Oh, sure you want to do that?” and I was like, “I’m really good at it, I’m finding a sense of joy and meaning in doing it” but I always have a little bit of a snobbish crust to me.


So I’d always dress better than everybody else and I’d always show up with cologne on in the meat factory, and so they started calling me Johnny Swank, “He’s a little too swanky for the meat factory.” And that’s how it started. Yes, in all communities of men, you have your sense of belonging when you were renamed and even if that name is slightly derogatory, it’s a sign of belonging and it’s actually a sign of affection. So Johnny Swank is what it was.


[0:04:26.9] JR: So I grew up in Central Florida. I was doing my internship at the Whitehouse, I guess all the boybands were big at this time. Yeah, this is like mid-2000s and because Backstreet was founded in Central Florida, my nickname became Backstreet, which was a terrible nickname. Not nearly as cool as Johnny Swank and your snobbish crust.


[0:04:49.3] JT: Listen, man, I don’t know. They were both – I remember that era well. I had a friend, Lou actually, now he runs R.C. Sproul Ligonier Ministry. He was in the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC.


[0:05:01.6] JR: What?


[0:05:02.4] JT: Yes, and he dropped out of both bands. He was with Lou Pearlman back in the time and helping formed. He dropped out of both bands and gave his – out of biblical conviction, and then sort of went on to run Ligonier Ministries for R.C. Sproul.


[0:05:16.3] JR: That’s so – wow, this is not where I expected this conversation to go but this is amazing. I could do 20 minutes on this, yeah, jeez.


[0:05:22.8] JT: Yeah, it’s like you want to talk about mere Christians? There you go.


[0:05:28.2] JR: There you go. Hey, man, my audience hears from me every week that it is not necessary to do what you did to go into pastoral ministry in order to follow Jesus fully and faithfully. But I love it when our mere Christian listeners can hear that from ordained ministers like yourself, and I know this is a topic you and I have talked about before.


Take a minute and expound upon the sacredness of the seemingly secular “work” that our listeners do most of the week.


[0:05:55.7] JT: Well then, I think we make a lot of mistakes, and I think the biggest mistake is probably believing that it’s the Christian’s primary job to build the church. Jesus said that He would build the church, our job was to seek the kingdom. The kingdom was bigger than the church. It obviously includes God’s people and the institution of the church, but his goal is to extend the rule and reign of Jesus in all of life.


Ephesians 4 says that because of the ascension of Jesus, that what God is doing is filling the universe with Christ. So that work of joining God in their new level of all things, finding that redemptive edge where God’s kingdom is pushing back on the forces of evil is what we’re called to do.


So obviously, the goal of life is the cultivation of Godly culture in the world, that’s why people were put on earth. And through the redemptive lens of Jesus, our goal is to bring redemptive culture, and that happens in every sphere of life. Jesus isn’t just Lord of the Bible and morality and sacraments.


He's the Lord of all of human life and culture and so it’s our job to – the church’s job is to equip people to send them into the world on mission to extend the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God can be found in baking bread, cleaning streets, working on good advertising. It could be found in any sphere of life.


So the goal of the church is to equip people for the mission of God, which is a vocational mission. It doesn’t exist to suck people out of the world into the church for sort of a moral survival alone. So I love that. I sometimes, when I preach places, will ordain everybody. I do an ordination service where I ordain everybody for mission in the kingdom of God and it might sound a little tacky.


I’m telling you, I’ve had people come up in tears and say, “This is the first time in my Christian life I feel like that what I do in the world and the week matters.” So that’s it.


[0:07:44.0] JR: I love your perspective in this and I know you thought really deeply about this with our mutual friend, Dave Blanchard, and the team at Praxis and a lot of other people but like, make this a little bit more concrete and tangible.


If you were talking to a butcher, go back to your previous vocation and you’re trying to help a butcher in your congregation understand what it looks like to bring the kingdom to bear in that meat shop. What does that look like exactly, John?


[0:08:07.5] JT: Well, it’s definitely multifaceted. It probably starts in your interior life, which is the motivational structure of your heart. I want to do this for the glory of God, I want to have integrity in the way I do it. I don’t want to sell bad meat, I don’t want to miss.


It’s so interesting, one of the greatest tests, I’m not – it’s been a long time and the statute of limitations is probably past, but one of the great ethical tensions of my life – my boss used to sell mutton as lamb, and he came up with a stamp imitating the Australian meat and livestock stamp, and he would take mutton and stamp it as lamb and sell it as lamb.


And I remember very clearly becoming a Christian saying, “I’m not doing that” and he said, “Why aren’t you doing that?” I’m like, “That’s unethical mate, I can’t do it, I got convictions.” And so it starts with your interior motivational structure. It begins to move its way up, ethically, that you’ve got to have a framework of your ethics for how they participate in your industry.


Whether moving towards beauty, brokenness, what lines do you have to draw in advance? Under pressure, you’ll probably fold, so you’ve got to determine it or not. So you’ve got either the butcher shop, I was like, “Am I selling meat at the right price? Am I selling the right meat?” So this is sort of an ethical dimension.


Then you want to do a good job. I think God is honored by excellence and so you want to have a good product, you want to do your job well. If you’ve had bad meat at a barbecue, trust me, the kingdom of God matters in the meat shop.


So yeah, I would try and do everything for the glory of God and try and do as good a job as I could, and then I would try and care about the people I worked with. I would try and – which I did, I try and love them, I try and share the gospel with them, I try and care about these holistic beings but yeah, I would try and care about the people that we served.


I mean, I definitely saw a celebratory element of it. One of life’s greatest gifts is gathering around a table and meat, for many people, is the center of that. So when a great piece of meat comes out, either with the group men in the backyard watching a game or a family meal or a fine dining, when it’s brought out, you get caught up in the larger vision of celebrating, redemption, and the kingdom of heaven being a feast. So if you can get all of those pieces lined up, you can find tremendous meaning even in the butcher shop.


[0:10:11.7] JR: Yeah, no, that is so good and in a way, what you're really talking about is, “Hey, don’t retreat, engage in culture.” Engage through what you call redemptive participation. In the first book of yours that I read and loved, I don’t know how long ago this was but this little short book called A Creative Minority.


Can you give our listeners a high-level overview of this book if you can even remember? I don’t you when you write this, 2015?


[0:10:36.2] JT: Yeah, I wrote it for the 2016 election, when everyone was losing their minds. Yeah, it’s basically was just a very short attempt to give people a way to think through how to participate in culture that was increasingly secular. So some people tend to withdraw, they’ve got a separation instinct, some people seem to capitulate, they have a syncretistic element.


I was like, how do you remain engaged in the world, not of the world? How do you touch the world and shape the world but without doing it with ungodly coercion or relying on the flesh? I came across an essay, called A Creative Minority and it was by Jonathan Sacks, the chief Rabbi of the UK. And he just had this idea of a creative minority and it was how the Jewish people have approached participation in the world. And it was basically to remain true to their faith and convictions but to exert their influence in society towards a theological vision of Yahweh’s rule and reign in all of life.


I mean, the Torah is very confusing for modern people but if you understand it was designed, the reason the Torah in one verse can talk about the female menstrual cycle, what to do with a donkey if it falls into a pit, and what you should do on your roof is because they wanted you to see that Yahweh was Lord of all of life. It was a unitive framework.


At the time, there was a – there’s various gods for various elements of life. And so people were caught up in idolatry, looking at different areas and to be able to unify all of life under one lord. Monotheism is a revolutionary concept at the time and so the goal was no sacred-secular divide, be faithful to Yahweh and bring his influence to bear on in all of life.


So A Creative Minority was taking that, applying it to the church, and then asking the question, “How do we not retreat from the world?” Jesus certainly didn’t do that, how do we not capitulate to the world? We all hate compromise when we see it like that, but how do we engage it and influence. Influence is before it was corrupted by social media, a beautiful word from the Latin, literally having that idea where something like flowing through you.


It’s an effortless overflow based on who you are. So when the church goes into the world, not trying to control the world or cower from the world but engage the world faithfully, it often exerts a tremendous influence on culture, and that’s the church’s job. Be distinct but engaged and hold these things’ intentions, so that was the vision.


It did get I think some measure of resonance particularly from millennials and below, because they knew they didn’t want to give in to a leftist, neo-Marxist understanding of life. Its primary critique, not just economic but is fundamentally religious, that’s a philosophy of radical materialism, exclusive materialism, but they didn’t want to just wait to get to heaven and enjoy God when you're dead.


So, it did seem to provide that vision of engagement with faithfulness, without being outcome obsessed but still hoping to make a difference in the world. So that was sort of the big idea behind it.


[0:13:33.5] JR: Yeah, the book is really built around these six defining marks of a creative minority. This is – I’m really putting you to the test. If you can remember them and talk us through at a high level what it looks like to be a creative minority in our increasingly “post-Christian culture.”


[0:13:51.3] JT: Well, yeah, I can’t. The first thing I want to say about A Creative Minority is this, is that’s, A, I’ve thought about updating it twice because I think society has shifted a little bit. So that was written in light of the first Trump freakout. Now, the first time around, I mean, to pause for a sec. I don’t want to be divisive, I don’t know how people voted in your community or the people who are listening to you so I’m hesitant to that.


But I would say, it’s – I wanted to rewrite it because I think the first time around, there was grace not knowing. A lot of people didn’t vote for Trump, they voted against Hillary. But now, I think it’s such a political disaster. I’m hesitant to – so I wanted to rewrite it with including a chapter on prayer but the basic idea is –


[0:14:32.8] JR: Rewrite it right here, let’s just rewrite the book here, let’s outline it.


[0:14:36.7] JT: I’ll have the last say. So A Creative Minority is about different kind of relationships. So it’s basically about forming covenant relationships. The way society moves at its best is when you have a tight-knit of people with a shared vision and deep, deep commitment to one another.


So talk about two of the most fruitful communities like this, the Moravians, who are a small group led by Zinzendorf, who are the most generative Christian community in history for this size. A little congregation of no more, a village of no more than three to 400, but they did more for the protestant missions in a couple of decades than the previous couple of hundreds of years. And then obviously, the Clapham sect, Wilberforce, and his circle of friends who had a tremendous influence on what happened in the UK.


So people forget the relational dynamics. Everybody wants vision but you won’t get that kind of fruit without relational commitments. So instead of just having loose networks and associates, how to have deep covenant relationships? The second one’s narrative, how do you live in the proper story? We’re creatures of narrative. The framing and story we perceive ourselves to be in determines the role we play and whether or not we view ourselves as successful.


So you’ve got to have a compelling alternative story to the one of either fatalistic secularism, sort of a flattened-out world with no enchantment, no vision, just sort of this is it, or yeah. So, a flattened secularism or just a radical individualism. The story is just about me and you're just an uber-consumer taking everything in. So you got to have a story about God and redemption that make sense of the human longings and moral vision.


Then you got to have distinct ethics, the people of God have particularly around sex, money, and power. The Catholics I think really understood the gifts and distortions of sexuality, so they warned against sex, money, and power. Their response was an overresponse, so theirs was chastity and poverty, and obedience, though I think they were moving in the right direction. So we talk about generosity and faithfulness and servanthood as a response and ethical distinctions.


The different practices, you are what you repeatedly do. James Case has obviously written a lot about how our practices shape our lives but you’ve got to have counter-formative practices. If our practices mimic the secular, consumer practices of the world will be no different, and so you’ve got to have distinct practices and how you do that.


Then it’s a different authority when you have a sort of exile mentality. You go along as far as you can but there’s definitely going to be moment of tension. So you think about how Daniel handled this. Daniel in the Lion’s Den is not a children’s story. It’s about a man of faithfulness, living by radical trust, believing in a larger kingdom. They actually have quite a bit of favor. It was jealousy that put him in a lion’s den, not sort to religious pressure.


They weaponized his religion because of his loyalty to Yahweh but so – you’ve got to be as good a citizen as you can, as long as you can, until there’s a point of difference. And then you’ve got to diverge based on biblical authority and then participation, which means you got to get in the world and shape the world by being a part of the way. It was salt and light, in essence, manifest every area of our lives.


So I think if you built a community with those six pillars, you’d really have something quite potent, which is the goal of our faith, it’s not size, it’s potency. The kingdom of God comes in seed form. A potent seed will bear staggering fruit, a hundred XG is said, with the right soil. But I would add with all of that being said, I would definitely put a chapter in prayer in there and I would call a different power.


So creative minority has to be powered by something different. It can’t be powered by grievance, it can’t be powered by sociology, it can’t be powered by the flesh, it’s got to be powered by the Holy Spirit. And when God’s people depend on God, I think that makes a radically different community. And then I think I probably put a chapter on love in there.


A creative minority has to be a loving community. You can get a lot done with a lot of commitment and you can’t build it on anything other than love. Love is the distinctive of the Christian and it is our sacrificial love for one another that defines us. So if I was going to add a couple of chapters, it would probably be those.


[0:18:35.6] JR: I love it. There’s the new outline, coming soon from Jon Tyson. I want to go back to this idea of participation because I talk to a lot of Christians these days who are working at large companies that are increasingly hostile to the ways of the Lord, and it just fuels increasingly “secular” and they just feel the desire not to participate, right? To leave and take a job to church or maybe a business run by a fellow believer that’s better aligned with their values, if you will.


What would you say to that person? Obviously, this is highly situational. Obviously, if you’re in a job that’s requiring you to stay that’s a non-starter. But in general, what’s your advice to people who are coming to you with that type of internal conflict?


[0:19:18.1] JT: I do believe that general principles are misapplied to do damage. So I would say, “Hey, it’s the holy spirit leading you to do this?” and sort of interrogate your answer, “Why? Because you want more convenient, too much pressure, you don’t feel equipped?” So I would affirm that if I did, those are deep sense, the Holy Spirit was doing it.


I do think about William Wilberforce and he basically went home, I think he was about 24 years of age, and he wrote out 20 words, and those 20 words says more to impact Western culture than maybe any other 20 words written, which was the eradication of slavery and the reformation of manners. And that happened because his mentor obviously said to him, “We’ve got enough pastors man, stay in politics.” And I would say that if Christians keep abandoning the places of the world, what do you think is going to happen?


Of course, it’s going to get worse. You want Christians in there giving an alternative vision of the world. I think every other community understands this. I don't know why Christians don’t understand this. Part of it may be because we’re living in an idealized past. I think people radically underestimate the role of culture Christianity that wasn’t truly Christianity.


The 70s and 80s, when the cold war was really, really kicking up, people went to church not because they loved Jesus but because they hate the Russians. The swelling church attendance, a lot of it was just like swearing allegiance to the flag, which is, “If they’re Atheists, we’re Christians.” It wasn’t necessarily a deep faith. So I think a lot of times, there was a surface morality that people long to get back to but that doesn’t mean that it was necessarily deep faith.


That also doesn’t mean I don’t grieve the godlessness in our world today. I think in the Psalms too said, “Rivers of tears flow from my eyes because they do not obey your law.” I feel that grief and godlessness. But I would say to people, go into the world. And maybe we’ve got this framework that we’re fighting to make America Christian again as supposed to viewing ourselves as sent by God into a secular culture, to be salt and light and witness.


When you take on a missional lens and you have a posture of being sent, rather than just a – maybe even a moral or historical lens, I think you just end up with a different view of what it is that God wants you to do. In order to be salt and light, you must have contact with darkness and meat or whatever’s decaying. I think that that’s our core job.


So I would encourage people to get a vision of being sent by God to try and take some of those core elements of doing your job with excellence, looking for the redemptive edge, moving and create towards loving your coworkers, working with excellence, steward in the influence God gives you. I try and have that framework that informs what I did and I go back in and engage as well as I could.


[0:21:54.0] JR: Yeah, in light, it’s such a beautiful picture that Jesus offers us of salt and light. Light is primarily characterized by its contrast to darkens, right? So I’m always interested in how do we mere Christians turn up the contrast, if you will, in our lives, right? You pointed to love. What does it look like to be distinctive in how we love within the workplace?


[0:22:15.6] JT: Okay, so my answers are simple in theory, hard in practice. Getting back to sex, money, power, you have a distinctly Christian sexual ethic that you hold with integrity. Look man, the LGBTQ community doesn’t want to hear another lecture by porn-addicted men, mahoganizing women in their fantasies. So you got to have a distinctive sexual ethic that you live out with cost and conviction.


Number two, how you steward your resources, you’ve got to be disproportionately generous and everybody wants to serve the poor. I‘m amazed at how few people actually do. We don’t give sacrificially, we give proportionately. So you can get a very rich person that gives a lot of money that doesn’t cost him anything and I think there should be a sacrificial distinction, a simplicity in our lifestyle.


I think it’s class distinction, not poverty per se. There should be something with to whatever degree that God has blessed you, that is distinct amongst the community of people that you live with. This is going to sound crazy, it might be as simple as driving a Kia or an Explorer instead of a Range Rover in your community and amongst your friends. Now listen, that sounds like such a level of privilege but for a lot of people, that’s actually a helpful thought that you're not maxing out your lifestyle possibilities in the range of blessing that you have. And then, I think you’ve got to hold power differently.


You’ve got to hold power as a servant, you’ve got to literally seek to build other people up, not just take. I think if we do that - but I also do remember what Andy Kraut says, I think about this a lot. He says, “It’s not hard to be radical in our world today, don’t watch TV and give tips and your money to the poor.” And it’s like that is a sign and a wonder. Sign points to something beyond it, and a wonder makes you go, “Why are you doing that?”


I think the smaller things we can do that are quite provocative that actually point the way to others. I think a big one is civility in the modern world, getting out of the rage machine, being able to listen and empathize, I think that goes a long way, and I think enemy love and forgiveness is something our world doesn’t do very well. This is a secret weapon of the church and the better we love our enemies, we’re kind to those.


It’s that scandalous verse in Luke’s account in the Sermon on the Mount where it says, “Your father is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” You’re like, “Oh, the ungrateful and the wicked?” and he goes, “That’s when you be a son of God, that’s when you really be like your Father.” It’s when you are kind to people who don’t deserve it.


So, I think there’s the small things that are pretty simple on a podcast but when you’re confronted with a situation where you have to live that out, they get more challenging, and I think that’s why they’re so significant.


[0:24:46.2] JR: But I do think they make a big impact, right? These are seemingly small things, they’re simple things, they’re not easy to implement but when we do, yeah, it raises eyebrows. It raises questions to which Christ is the only answer. I think another one probably less powerful than distinct sexual ethic or power or money is rest, right?


I think as we work shoulder to shoulder with other ambitious professionals if we’re the ones taking time to rest for that labor, to say that the world will keep spinning if we don’t keep checking our emails at every hour of every day, I think that’s powerful, right? You’ve talked about Sabbath quite a bit, how do you think about this? Do you think this can be one of the ways that we’re distinct as mere Christians in the world?


[0:25:33.4] JT: Well, Marva Dawn wrote a book on the Sabbath that was wonderful. In it, she has a quote where she says, “The Sabbath is in essence the practicing of the sovereignty of God.” What that means is to step back and say, “God, I believe that you are God, not me, the one I don’t work, you can work and I’m just going to have to trust you.” We’ve got to remember, the Sabbath was given primarily in an agrarian culture and there was stuff you had to do.


Harvest season, sowing season, to trust God that He would literally meet your needs, was a very, very life distinctive in its time. I do think it’s the same in our world today depending on who your audience is, depending on a socioeconomic status, it impacts people differently. There is a lot of people who are so wealthy they can rest on everybody else. You can get to van waft people who are sort of like, “Screw the system” and their whole lives are basically a few YouTube videos and rest.


Then you can get the people who are the self-care people and the self-care people are just resting for themselves. Sabbath is a wholly different concept, it has a vertical orientation. It is about stopping from our work, so it is not like work is terrible we get a break from it. It’s like no, you get to live a meaningful vocation all week long. What a gift. And then you get to take a break and reorient yourself around your vision of God.


I put this in chapter on rest and the beautiful resistance that there’s that image of John the beloved, who is resting on Jesus’s chest and I love that image. On the Sabbath, we get reminded again that we’re not what we do. So, Marva Dawn’s fault partner in a cease, rest, embrace, and feast. Ceasing from work, resting from our labors, embracing our identity, and feasting on the goodness of God.


If you were literally to get a piece of paper, draw four quadrants, and write those words, cease, rest, embrace, feast, and just have a like a little mini Sabbath plan, that day will be filled with so much meaning. Last Saturday I did this, I got to tell you, I was sitting in my room overwhelmed with the goodness of God, the beauty of God in the world, in tears for about an hour not because I was having some dramatic spiritual experience.


It’s because I’ve stopped for long enough to reflect on how kind God had been to me to grant me so much mercy and kindness and blessing and favor. And it was real because I had space to remember and contemplate it. That’s one of the ways we deepen our relationship with God, we appreciate His beauty, we break off the turning everything into a utility that we can commodify news for ourselves and we just enjoy the goodness of God.


So yeah, it is definitely a weapon. I tell people in a culture exhaustion, rest is spiritual warfare. I think we forget that.


[0:28:19.3] JR: So what does ceasing, resting, and embracing God’s goodness look like typically for you most weeks as you observe Sabbath?


[0:28:27.7] JT: Well, I try and do a 24-hour Sabbath. I think that’s what God meant but I’m not a legalist but it is a gift to be a steward. I try and do it from 5 pm Friday night to 5 pm Saturday night. I normally preach on Sunday, so it is hard to shut it down on a Saturday night. So yes, I try and I don’t work and what do you mean by you don’t work? I mean, I literally do not do anything productive that is advancing my life goals or responsibilities.


I stop working but when I rest, I’m looking for a spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional rest. Rest from the trauma of the world, the new cycle of the world, the tragedy being blasted into your heart in soundbites, snippets in high definition. I am trying to get rest for my mind, for all of the scheming and pressure, dreaming and planning and my worries and anxieties, just to rest my mind.


To rest my heart, to be able to just be at peace, you know? It’s just a beautiful thing to breathe deeply and enjoy just being alive in the world. And then your body, we need sleep. The Rabbi suggested if you’re married and you haven’t had sex that week, it’s a nice old day to catch up. It’s a day for sleeping in, I always sleep in. It is such a gift, it’s the only day a week I do and if you go like, “Well, I have kids” it’s like, well, you sleep in the night before.


I mean, you go to bed earlier. That’s the only way you can pull that off if you’ve got little kids. So yes, cease, rest, and embracing, it’s like, man, you are getting in touch with who you are. It’s contemplating our future, this is who I am, I am not what I do. I am who I am loved by. I reorient myself in the story of God, I get out of the striving and earning and the rage and I just embrace Jesus and the kingdom of God.


Let the Abba cry, get a little louder, lose my concern impression knowing that I have eternal life and I am going to live in the new heaven and the new earth where righteousness dwells. I’m going to rule and reign as a king and a priest. I got to get in touch with those elements again, they got to be the real in my heart. So I want to draw from that well of security and identity and I don’t want to feast, man.


You save practices, everybody is different. We have little things that you – I use the phrase pleasure stacking. You do as much glorious stuff in a 24-hour period if you can and if you do it right, two days before you’ll be looking forward to the Sabbath, like you’ll be on tiptoes looking for the end of the week, and then if you do it right, two days later you’ll still be like, “Man, that was good.” And then the good news is that you get to turn around again and just anticipate.


[0:30:58.6] JR: What does your pleasure stacking look like?


[0:31:00.8] JT: Oh, it’s different for everyone, man.


[0:31:02.9] JR: For you, personally.


[0:31:04.2] JT: It’s pastries, it’s chocolate, it’s jazz music, it’s smoking a cigar if the weather is nice outside, riding my motorbike, time with my family, definitely an afternoon nap. It’s just I read poetry, I look at sort of travel blogs of beautiful places in the world I haven’t been yet. I’m just trying to marinate my heart in beauty. I think it was – I don’t know if it was Eldridge or Keller. I think it was Eldridge but he said we have to take in as much beauty as we evil in order to keep our hearts alive.


So taking in beauty is a gift, I do that a lot. Poetry, photography, painting, I relax. I sort of describe it, in Florida, you don’t have these often and when you do have them they’re probably so dramatic. But up here in New York, we have a snow day and a snow day when it’s just been, it’s like don’t even try going into the office. There is people skiing down Broadway on a good snow day in New York.


At that point, you just sort of throw your hands up and it’s like a free Mulligan day. It’s like let’s just do whatever and Sabbath is a scheduled snow day every week. It’s just a let’s just do whatever, let’s reign our hearts towards God, let’s enjoy him, and let’s not try and even be productive. Let’s just receive this as a gift.


[0:32:21.6] JR: Yeah. No, and it’s been that life-giving gift for me but it is different than self-care. I’m glad you pointed this out, it is part of that but it is much more than that and really reorienting ourselves towards the Father’s love.


[0:32:34.7] JT: Yeah, definitely.


[0:32:35.7] JR: My favorite book of yours is The Intentional Father, your bestseller so far. It came to me a couple of years ago when I just became so convicted that I was a hundred times more intentional about the work I do in my office than the work I do in my living room, right? I think that is true of most people, I’m sure you’ve heard that from a lot of people. What is the - what drives us to be so much more intentional about the work we do in the office versus the work we do in our homes?


[0:33:04.6] JT: Well, part of it is this measure of control a man has in his work environment. There is a measure of expertise and competency so it feels good. You feel like you know what you’re doing, that feels good. Trying to parent your kids’ heart, man, that thing is a black box. How do you get in there and understand if you can’t control them? I guess you can for a little while but that is normally detrimental.


They just don’t do what you want when you want like people do in the work environment and so that can be challenging. I also think we might just give too much to our jobs and not have anything left. You just get home and you’re like, “Man, I’m just done. Hey kids, you guys want to watch Disney or?” And they love us for letting them do what they want but it’s just a cop-out, we know it in our hearts.


So yeah, I think it’s probably stewarding, stewarding our energy, our capacity, our lack of being able to control our kids because they just literally have a will of their own. I’ll tell you what gets a man to be intentional, two things: love and regret. Love and regret. There’s no pain like the pain of a parent who has not parented well, man. I think the pain is worse than the pain of marriage. I think the pain is worse than the pain of relational betrayal.


There is no pain like looking back and you’ve got a bad relationship with your kids and you know in your spirit. Sometimes, they’re their own people, they do what they want, but you just know I dropped the ball here. That is such an acute level of pain. In my pastoring – so, I’ve spoken at a ton of podcasts on The Intentional Father. Every Father’s Day, I do another round sort of a thing and one of the biggest questions I get asked is, “I feel like I’ve blown it with my kids. Is it too late?”


I actually think the power of a father is so great, a father’s blessing, a father’s affirmation, a father’s love is so potent that I actually I’m not sure it’s ever too late. But if you move towards your kids now, there may be a whole season of repair you have to do and sometimes it’s a little patch in the wall, you know like, “Hey, sorry” and other times it’s like gut renovation in your relationship and it’s slow and it’s costly.


But I do believe that when a father turns back, anything is possible. We love Luke 15, it is the story of the prodigal son. Here’s a father on the horizon waiting for kids to come home. I’m telling you, mate, we live in a world right now of prodigal fathers and it’s actually kids at the end of the road waiting for dads to come home, and I believe the response is home. When a dad comes home, I believe very often, very often the response is, “Welcome home” and there’s a party thrown in return.


So I would say let the love of God find your heart and head towards home, your kids. You may have to repair, they may be work that needs to be done, but I’m often amazed at the grace kids are willing to show us because I found deep that father’s blessing and love is.


[0:35:54.0] JR: That’s good. It’s been a year or so since I read the book. I’m trying to remember, are there tools and practices in the book that you basically borrowed from the world of work in an office setting and apply to the work of leading your family like goals, core values? I know there is a lot of different practices in the book, but is there any application, any translation there from work at the office to work at home?


[0:36:18.4] JT: You know what’s interesting? I would actually say if you go back far enough historically, what you have is the office extracting the best of the home because society was primarily, it was a fact, society and business was built on a family affair. You get past the industrial revolution, the atomization of the family, stuff like that. If you go back far enough, you’re going to have families doing life together as mid-sized moldy generational communities, not nuclear families, and those values were extracted out of the family into the workplace.


I mean, a corporation is literally legally defined as a person, isn’t it? We humanize the workplace because the values inside of them are often that came from human institutions like the home, so I think it could be. The thing I would say primarily is like, “Hey Dad, use the toolkit and skills you’ve developed in your career, extend that into your home.” I am often amazed how a man in the workplace will understand the importance of timing, disruption in a business but then scream whatever he wants with a fight with his wife.


It's like, “Dude, dude, dude, no. You understand timing in every other area. How about timing in your marriage?” The same thing with our kids, I don’t think anybody would start a business or really get senior leadership without having at least a one-year plan. It’s amazing how many people don’t have one year plan, a plan for the next year. They just let the school calendar run it, the consumer stick calendar I think with the Valentine’s Day to Easter, the Easter egg hunt followed by swimming at the pool, and maybe a few trips as an affair.


It’s not that those things are bad. They’re fine. You’ve got to live in some cultural context. It’s just that you would never accept that in your workplace I think.


[0:37:58.1] JR: No, you’re not in control.


[0:37:59.5] JT: Yeah, I think we need to just be and the book is The Intentional Father, I think there’s two keys. It’s not doing everything differently, it is doing what you’re currently doing with intensity and intentionality. An extra 20% of effort in the family could change that family and having intentionality doesn’t mean you do more. In fact, it may mean that you do less. I’m not advocating for loading a bunch more stuff you have to do as a dad on your shoulders.


I’m actually just getting you to examine. I’m sure you’ve heard of Greg McKeown. I think he wrote, Essentialism, and then his book, Effortless, which I love. I try and tell people, it’s the effortless and essentialist philosophy applied to parenting. You know who is not effortless? You know who is not essential? You know who is not intentional? The American teenage system, that’s what suffocating you.


That’s what chocking you out, it is all the travel sports, it’s the overscheduling, it’s the hyper emphasis on academics to the exclusion of other necessary things for our list in development. When those things happen, we miss out on some of these things. So I am actually advocating for less intentionality and strategic framing and moving out from that and a lot of people say, “I could never do what you do with your kids.”


I’m like, “Dude, I could never do what America is doing to your family.” Yes, my stuff was harder, it was work, but it was life-giving as opposed to being on a treadmill of perpetual exhaustion.


[0:39:23.3] JR: Yeah, we talk so much on this podcast almost exclusively about the good work that God has called us to do outside of the home but let’s not forget that the work of parenting is also work, right? We’d be wise to take a lot of the skills that God has given us in the workplace of intentionality, of discipline, of vision casting, and applying that to our homes. This is not a podcast about parenting, so we’re not going to go deep in The Intentional Father.


But it is absolutely one of the top books that I recommend. I recommend it constantly and by the way, this is written for fathers of boys. I am a father of three girls and I still got so much out of it and this is a really good segue. Jon, one of three rapid-fire questions that we wrap up every podcast with, which books do you recommend most frequently to other people?


[0:40:12.3] JT: I’m a decently read guy, so I have to say it depends on the topic. Can you go down one layer, yes?


[0:40:17.7] JR: So specifically for this audience of ambitious Christian professionals, this could be a professional growth book, it could be a Christian living book that’s particularly for ambitious mere Christians like The Burden is Light, which I can’t believe we didn’t talk about today but anything for that broad audience.


[0:40:35.2] JT: I love biographies and I think the wisest people learn from the lives of others. If you have to make all your mistakes your own, we could do better than that. So here’s a book I love, Sacred Fire by Ronald Rolheiser. I mean, I just think that that is a book of books, man.


[0:40:49.2] JR: What’s the biography you recommend the most?


[0:40:51.2] JT: I’m in the middle of Dr. King’s one right now, a Pulitzer-prize winner. I just finished the one by Meacham on Abraham Lincoln and I love that. I love that book.


[0:41:00.0] JR: Really?


[0:41:00.8] JT: Yes. I mean, just understanding what a controversial figure he was but his process of – here’s what I love about the Lincoln biography. I think it was called There Was Light or Let There Be - not let there be light, something about light. Sorry for forgetting because I’m so deep into the civil rights movement right now in this biography. But what I loved about it was like his understanding of influencing people over time.


It’s like he was perpetually frustrating the people who are against his agenda and he was never satisfying the people he was actually trying to help. But he just had a long slow evolved vision. The thing about his life is you can turn him into a horrible racist or you can turn him into a hero. He was neither, he was a man who hated slavery and worked over the course of time to change it. So it’s just watching a man evolve, watching his ethics develop, watching the key experiences they developed over time.


So I am a big believer in biographies. I love, love Phillip Yancey. Phillip Yancey is my C.S. Lewis. He has saved my faith but his biography, Where the Light Fell, was his memoir of growing up, that really touched me deeply. I wept, I just wept in several places, just what the damage fundamentalist religion did, the damage of bad religion. Another one I love was, On the Road with Saint Augustine by James K. A. Smith that just talked about Augustine’s journey to Jesus.


I thought that one was beautiful. I have been reading a ton of – I’ve reread The Founder’s Mentality, that’s a business book basically for entrepreneurs. I just took our staff through that. I’ll tell you, a book that is probably stuck in my head the longest, I think I heard this in 2002, 2003, The Leadership Challenge by Kouzes and Posner. That book I think more than any other book I’ve ever read has framed my understanding of leadership.


Let me give it to you in literally 30 seconds my interpretation of it. He talks about these exemplary practices. Number one is challenge the process leaders who are always asking why or why not, that’s how things move forward. Number two, inspire a shared vision. You’ve got to make people look good like people care about the future when they look good in it in their minds. Model the way, which means you have to embody your message.


Empower others to act, which is create structures that give people buy-in and activate human potential and encourage the heart, people are absolutely striving for encouragement. Those stuff subconsciously, if you’ve gone around me long enough you’ll probably say, “I see these five traits most deeply in your leadership.” I am always pushing the edge, why or why not. I am always trying to cast a vision that’s good for people not just for myself.


I am always trying to embody what I’m teaching, close the hypocrisy gap. I want to empower people, help them reach their redemptive potential, and create spaces for their flourishing and then I want people to walk away from being in my emotional field, build up and inspire them that more is possible. So I love that book, it’s an old book but it’s one that’s gone the distance for me.


[0:43:57.9] JR: That’s good. I’ve never heard of it, I got to check this out, it’s really good.


[0:44:00.8] JT: It’s classic, yeah.


[0:44:02.1] JR: Yeah, who do you want to hear in this podcast Jon, ideally somebody who is not a pastor but somebody to come and talk about how the gospel influences the work they do in the world?


[0:44:11.1] JT: I’ll tell you what I want to hear, I want to hear anybody who is on the 23. I want to hear Gen Z, I want to hear how Gen Z has – so number one, I want to ask the question, “Has the faith in work message is a small hidden message?” which is sad to me because I think it is the message of the kingdom of God. So A, it doesn’t have a big enough audience period, B, I always worry that the best content doesn’t make it to the next generation.


There’s a few boomers, some Gen X, growing millennials, but I don’t know if this is a message that's found its way. I think it’s – let me say something controversial. I think that in the same way that faith in work was extracted as a vision and converted only to serving in the church, I am worried that Gen Z has lost the vision of faith and work and is doing what was done to the church around the issue of justice.


What I mean by that is they are bypassing vocational calling and thinking the only thing that matters is if you do justice in the same way. And other generations said the only thing that matters is if you’re serving the church. Justice is a part of what we’re called to do in the same way that being a part of the church is a part of what we’re called to do, but we have a calling within which that takes its shape.


So I would love to see how anybody in Gen Z is really embodying the best principles in the faith and work and pushing that vocationally.


[0:45:37.1] JR: That’s really good. Jon, what’s one thing from our conversation you want to reiterate to our listeners, this audience of vocationally diverse mere Christians before we sign off?


[0:45:46.3] JT: I want to say this, which I alluded to if I was rewriting A Creative Minority. I put a chapter in prayer there, the more secular the environment, the more intentionally prayerful people became. So the deeper you get into bringing faith in work into the darkness of the world, the more important it is that you abide in Jesus’ love and rely on the path of the Holy Spirit. Daniel went to prison for prayer.


It was the seeking of God that enabled him to do that. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego wouldn’t bow down out of allegiance of worship. Esther saved the kingdom, it was prayer and fasting. So my whole point is I sometimes say we’re so lukewarm as a church. Now, this is the pastor in me talking, we’re so lukewarm as a church that when we remove the sacred-secular barrier, instead of everything becoming sacred, most things become secular.


Now, I think the goal is to make sure that we bring potency to our faith in the darkest places. The best believers I know in New York who are high-level Wall Street people or successful in the business world, the ones who are most successful are the most radically dependent. They are acutely aware of their need for the restraining grace of God and temptation, the importance of having the power of the Holy Spirit to bear the fruit of the spirit in places where the flesh is manifestly acting, and the importance of relying on the love of Jesus, not building their identity on the sense of accomplishment, by spending time and abiding in His love.


So I would reiterate the more success, the more calling, the deeper you go into the world, the deeper you need to go in the love of Jesus to do that properly.


[0:47:20.2] JR: Very well said. Jon, I want to commend you for the exceptional work you do brother, for the glory of God and the good of others. For showing us what it looks like to work as a creative minority in a faithful presence in our increasing post-Christian workplaces and just for your encouragement to our listeners to lean into the work that God has created them to do.


Guys, Jon’s books are phenomenal. We’ve talked about A Creative Minority, we touched on The Intentional Father, I can’t believe we didn’t get to The Burden is Light, but Jon, thanks for hanging out with us today.


[0:47:49.5] JT: No worries, man. I really enjoyed it and much grace and peace to everybody listening.




[0:47:54.5] JR: I hope you guys enjoyed that episode. Hey, if you did, do me a favor and go leave a review of the Mere Christians Podcast on Spotify, on Apple Podcast, wherever you listen to the show. I’ll see you guys next week.