Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome
About the Guest
Are you a risk taker? Owen Strachan, a professor of Christian Theology and Church History, challenges listeners to disregard their fear and follow Christ with abandon. With faith, Owen explains, it's possible to live a God-glorifying, risk-driven life, and today he tells you how.
Owen Strachan challenges listeners to disregard their fear and follow Christ with abandon. With faith, Owen explains, it’s possible to live a God-glorifying, risk-driven life, and he tells you how.
Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome
Bob: In I Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul says, “When I became a man, I put away childish things.” Owen Strachan says today a lot of young men need to be told to grow up.
Owen: All the cultural pressure is toward being a goofball. I like sports—I enjoy a lot of the same media that young men my age enjoy. I like ESPN and these sorts of things. But so much of the encouragement to young men, like me, is to not build a family. It’s to goof off for as long as you can—avoid responsibility for as long as you can—and then maybe, eventually, down the line, have a family. Young men today are not being encouraged to be sacrificial in their lives.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, November 24th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. A part of growing up means learning to take the right kinds of risks for the right reasons. We’ll talk about being risky today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, do you describe yourself as a risk-taker? Do you think of yourself that way?
Dennis: I do. I really do. In fact, I’m thinking back to what we did back last summer—in dusting off an event we used to hold back in the early 2000s—I Still Do™—
Dennis: —because we felt like it was worth the risk to stand up on behalf of marriage and just go back to the book of Genesis, the book of beginnings, and state the truth about marriage—that it’s between a man and a woman for a lifetime.
Bob: I think just starting radio, 22 years ago, was kind of taking a risk; don’t you?
Dennis: Well, it was. We were enjoying—Barbara and I—anonymity of occasionally speaking at a Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway.
Doing radio meant you had to become more public. I have to say it really represented a death to self, which is really what Christianity ought to be all about.
Bob: But when I think about risk-taking, I’m just thinking about the 30-foot bluffs that you jump off of into the lake or the sky-diving. Are you that kind of risk-taker?
Dennis: I’ve been known to do some of those, but I don’t really care for the big heights. We have a guest with us today who is the main man.
Bob: The main man?
Dennis: The main man—He grew up in Maine. [Laughter] Owen Strachan joins us on FamilyLife Today. I don’t think we’ve had somebody, who grew up in New England, on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast!
Owen: Thank you. I’m so glad to be here and to rectify that error. [Laughter]
Dennis: No doubt about it. Owen is a professor at Boyce College and also at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, which is that other seminary that operates in the country along with Dallas Theological Seminary.
Bob: Oh, that’s how you refer to it—“other”—[Laughter]
Dennis: He has been married to Bethany for eight years; is that right?—three children and doesn’t have a fourth one on the way, as far as we know. We had an off [Laughter]—
Bob: We should explain—just before we came on the air here, Dennis says to Owen, “Oh, we just called your wife, and you’re expecting number four.” It was a great—that classic look from Owen.
Dennis: It was a great—
Bob: You were stunned.
Dennis: It was a great moment. Owen has written a book about risk, though—it’s called The Risky Gospel. It actually begins on the coast of Maine, where you were standing on a ledge with some buddies—about to jump in the ocean. I was all set for it to be the reason you didn’t jump is because: “Who in their right mind would jump into that icy water out there?” But that wasn’t the issue; was it?
Owen: That was not the issue. I grew up swimming in the Atlantic Ocean—so I’m tough in that way, I guess. Perhaps, that’s the only way I’m tough. Yes, I was standing there. It was in high school, and it was the classic kind of prove-your-manhood moment.
I had trembling legs, quivering hands, and I ultimately did not jump. I was afraid—I didn’t want to take the risk. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t make myself do it!
Dennis: Did they?
Owen: Yes, other guys did—other guys jumped. They were egging me on: “Come on! Do it!” Listen, I wasn’t—here I am, on national radio, making myself out to be some weakling, “This is really scary”; but I love sports. I played sports—I had injuries. I was a guy—young guy—so all the typical trappings of young manhood were a part of my life; but, in this particular moment, the guys were saying: “Come on! Jump!” and I just couldn’t do it.
Bob: I’m with you—I get it. I look down there and go: “No. Idiots jump. I’m staying right up here.”
Dennis: You wouldn’t do the bungee?
Bob: No-o-o. No, no, no. Jump into—
Dennis: Skydiving? You wouldn’t do that?
Bob: No—probably not. I’m not going to do anything that involves falling long distances. I don’t see any sense in that.
Dennis: Okay, Owen. Why is it that for many who profess to be followers of Christ, we end up being more controlled by fear than by faith? Why? Why?
Owen: Great question. Well, I think it’s naturally a part of our sinful makeup to be fearful of the wrong things. There is appropriate fear in life, actually—we should fear God in one, as Christians—so we want to cultivate that in a sense. That’s another kind of topic to talk about. But, fundamentally, we are afraid of risks in life. Especially, in a spiritual sense, we want to win the popularity contest. We want an easy, quiet, nice, safe life; and that is not—here’s the news flash—that is not what Jesus promises us in Scripture.
Bob: It’s been interesting to me to watch over the last couple of years books come out like Crazy Love by Francis Chan, Radical by David Platt—there is something resident in the heart of a follower of Christ to say, “I do want my faith to be something more than just a play-it-safe faith.”
But the day to day of life presses me back into play-it-safe mode. I’m not thinking about needing to go out and conquer the world.
Bob: I’m thinking about the little risks that God’s asking us to take every day in relationships / the risks he’s asking us to take in the choices that we make. That’s the kind of risky faith you’re calling people to; right?
Owen: That’s exactly right. I think that Radical, Crazy Love, and other books in that vein—in this kind of bigger gospel / big God vein—have done a great service to the church. I’m very thankful for them, but what I want to do is re-enchant ordinary Christian living. I want more people to go to Africa / I want more people to go to the 10/40 Window and be missionaries behind the enemy lines, so to speak—we need that—we desperately need that. I hope people will listen to this broadcast and do that.
But we also need to give so-called ordinary Christians—and I would put myself in that category / I’m not in Africa or the 10/40 Window—we need to help them see the glory of everyday Christian living. If you wake up in the suburbs, and drive your car into work, and you work eight to five and come back home—you, too, can lead a big God-glorifying, risk-driven life. That’s not closed off from you. I think people respond to that message when they hear it.
Bob: You say in the book that one of the reasons why we’re not living with risky faith is we’ve stopped living aggressively for the Lord. So, what does that look like in the normal Christian life? You live in Louisville / I live in Little Rock. What does somebody living aggressively for the Lord—who’s going to his job, and going to church, and taking the kids to softball or football—what does aggressive living for the Lord look like as compared to generic Christian living?
Owen: Fundamentally, it’s grounded in this conviction that I have not been called by Jesus into a way of life that’s supposed to be safe, and neat, and clean. I have been called on this glorious gospel-driven adventure with Jesus Christ, who slayed death and rose from the grave, to give me life, and give me purpose and hope. Now, I’m on mission for Him—I’m doing that whether I’m a pastor, whether I’m a missionary, whether I’m a plumber, a homemaker, professor, teacher, whatever I may be / businessman— and I am going after God’s glory.
I recognize, furthermore, that, in Genesis 1:27, humanity was given the call to take dominion of all the earth. Now, I’m interpreting that through a Jesus-centered, Jesus-focused lens. So, I’m saying, “How can I—with my particular gifts and abilities / with the particular sphere of life into which God has placed me—how can I give God glory right here and now?”
I’m not supposed to look at Billy Graham, and Tim Keller, John Piper—whoever your favorite preacher is—and say: “Oh, wow! I’m so thankful that they’re giving God glory and taking dominion. I’m just over here, on the sidelines, cheering them on.” Well, many of us are cheering them on; but we are in the game too—every last one of us.
The kind of Christian life that is not exhibiting that kind of faith is a Christianity that isn’t focused on God’s glory. You go through the motions—you show up at work / you’re hanging around your kids—but you’re not really investing in them. You go to church—you listen a little bit, every now and then / your mind is drifting to the lake and wave runners—but you’re not really plugged in. You’re not really serving / not really a witness in your community in any meaningful way.
Again, no expectations from me, Owen Strachan, that you’re going to be this evangelistic dynamo; but you’re not even really caring about your neighbors. Whereas, the person, who is after God’s glory in all of those spheres, is doing everything they can. They’re praying hard that God will bless them and use them—put them to use in taking dominion of all their life for Him.
Bob: Here’s what I hear you saying—we talk at our church about people drinking in and pouring out. I hear you saying if all you’re doing is drinking in, you’re not living the engaged risky gospel life. The pouring out part—you have to be figuring out: “What does pouring out look like in my life?” and “How do I engage that pattern/that practice?”
Dennis: There is a great illustration over in Israel of this—it’s called the Dead Sea. The Jordan River comes into it, and it stops right there. They actually mine that sea today because it’s full of all kinds of deposits of minerals today. Our lives were not intended to be a dead end.
Bob: To be a swamp.
Dennis: People who take in spiritual food/spiritual drink over, and over, and over again—I’m afraid we become obese. God made us to have tension against the muscle.
I compare faith to a muscle. If you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it. Faith was given to us by God as a gift to be able to exercise it.
I can tell you—today, my faith is stronger today than it was back then because I’ve used it. Now, have I failed in doing that?—over, and over, and over again. I’ve caved into fear—I’ve moved into the camp of the doubting Thomases. Who doesn’t; okay? But you get back up again; and you step out in faith, once again, where you’re living.
What’s an illustration in your life, Owen, where you have faced—maybe it’s back to Bob’s question—more of the everyday run-of-the-mill vanilla stuff that all of us face every day—but it was disguised a bit—but, ultimately, it was a step of faith that was required by God of you?
Owen: Well, we were joking about this announcement of a fourth child on the way for the Strachans, which you guys harassed me with earlier—
—it’s a good thing there’s no in-studio cam there.
Bob: Right. [Laughter]
Owen: That would have taken the Strachans by surprise. We would have given God much glory in that, of course; but anyway—listen—I’m a young man today. All the cultural pressure is toward being a goofball. I like sports. I enjoy a lot of the same media that young men my age enjoy. I like ESPN and these sorts of things. But so much of the encouragement to young men, like me, is to not build a family. It’s to goof off for as long as you can—avoid responsibility for as long as you can—and then maybe, eventually, down the line, have a family.
I can say, when I was in my mid-young 20s, I heard this call first from Dr. Al Mohler, who I know is a friend of this ministry. He was challenging young men on my seminary campus to go and build a family: “Do something awesome. Build a family—it’s something that lasts for the rest of your lifetime, Lord willing.” I can say that I have felt, since then, that this is a scary undertaking in certain ways.
This is a sacrificial undertaking—
Bob: Yes, it is.
Owen: —and that is against the spirit of the age. Young men today are not being encouraged to be sacrificial in their lives. So, it’s been hard at different points—it’s hard when I come home. I can fully understand what other young fathers feel—or older fathers feel—when they come home from a long day at work. What you want to do is put up your feet, turn on ESPN or whatever else, pick up the paper—I don’t know—and you want to tune out / you want to rest. Instead, you have—I have three little children who come home and pounce on me, and are so eager to see Dad, and play, and spend time with me. I need to invest. That is just as hard for me, a seminary and college professor teaching theology, as it is for any man—but that is my call—to risk my comfort and get active.
Dennis: I have three sons, who have been grafted into my family—they got my daughters; okay?—alright? And there’s a story about one of them—that he won’t mind /
I’ll keep him unnamed. It’s a great story because, when he was dating my daughter, at a point, we were having a good healthy conversation. He said: “You know, I think I’ll just keep on having a good time with the guys. We’ll camp out down by the fire, sit down—you know, have some fun—go fishing , swimming down by the lake, and…” I said, “You know, all that’s good / I understand that. I hear that call today; but,” I said, “you know, if my daughter is the one for you, there’s going to be a D-Day—and it’s not invasion.” [Laughter]
Bob: It’s not a Dennis Day; is it? [Laughter]
Dennis: No, it’s not a Dennis Day. It may demand a Dennis Day, though, “But there’s going to be a D-Day that demands you to go, ‘You know, that really looks like a waste of time compared to what God’s got in real life in taking a bride/taking responsibility.’” It was interesting.
When I gave him my daughter’s hand in marriage, I kind of looked at him and winked. I said, “You know, there really is something better than going down by the lake, building a bonfire, and sitting by the guys; isn’t there?” [Laughter]
Bob: I think there is some inertia in the lives of guys to just want to—we’re talking about guys here because we are guys. This is probably true for everybody who is listening—
Bob: —inertia to just relax, or check out, or rest or—
Dennis: I’ll tell you, Bob. It’s back to fear again. Owen’s book has a subtitle: Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome. It sounds like an advertisement for Home Depot®; okay? But it’s real life! If you’re going to accomplish something with your life, you will have to face down fear. There’s a reason why the David and Goliath story has been popularized today by Malcolm Gladwell. He wrote The Tipping Point. He spotted a cultural trend—I think he’s onto something big here.
We’re a generation that is more into our fear and playing it safe than we are into stepping out in faith, and trusting God, and try to do something—what you said here—build something awesome. A marriage and a family are just that.
Owen: Yes. And listen, this is going to affect all of us. This is not a guy problem alone—this is a generational problem, like you just said. All around us are meta-narratives or big stories that people want to get swept up into. You turn on the TV—you see romantic comedies, you see Jane Austen’s fiction, or something like this. You see the ESPN stuff. You see movies, where there are superheroes conquering the world. Okay, all around us are these grand stories and people are getting swept up into them. Or if people are falling prey to sexual temptation and lust, that’s a grand story too; right?—“I can conquer the world. I can prove my prowess.”
Christianity needs to not be this kind of padded room that you enter if you trust Jesus, where everything is soft, and safe, and easy.
Christianity—for guy or girl / young or old—needs to be about going on mission with Jesus. Let me give just one example. A young woman today can either play it safe and lead a cultural life—let’s say a young guy hasn’t stepped up to the plate to ask her for her hand. She can build a career that glorifies the Lord. Perhaps, there’s a social justice cause out there that she can apply the gospel to. Perhaps, she’s the next one who is supposed to take on abortion, and be the William Wilberforce of this generation, and shut it down through different means. There is no limit to what God can do through us, but we are limiting ourselves through this kind of “best life now” theology.
Bob: And it may be that she’s investing in her workplace/in the job. Let’s say she’s a doctor.
Bob: She’s saying: “Okay, this is where I can focus. This is how I can advance the cause of Christ,” rather than thinking, “I show up, punch the clock, get my paycheck, and then I’ll go to church and do my two hours there”; right?
You’re talking about asking the question in every aspect of life, “How can I make the Kingdom the priority and get in the game?”
Owen: That’s exactly right. Let me give you an example of this—a story from my own life, quickly. I’ve been pro-life for many years. I know this isn’t a show about pro-life or something, but here’s an example. But I’ve never thought of myself as somebody who would ever go to an abortion clinic and do anything; okay? I have no training / I have no background in that—ardently/passionately pro-life—but I finally, a couple of years ago, decided to go to Market Street in Louisville, Kentucky, and go to the one abortion clinic in town.
I knew that there were some folks from area churches who went down. They didn’t shout at people / they didn’t—most of them—hold up signs or something. They tried to counsel women, through the gospel, to not have abortions—to not have abortions and then come to church to be saved. I got involved in that ministry. I didn’t set new standards for any kind of success or something, but that was a risk that I think the Lord called me to take and gave me the grace to do.
Dennis: I think we’ve underscored the need for us to face down our fears in the small issues/the big issues. For some, who are listening right now, the step of faith may involve a relationship that’s not right. Maybe, it’s one where you need to ask, in faith, for forgiveness. Maybe, it’s one where you need to respond, in faith, with forgiveness.
Dennis: Maybe, it’s a person you need to go to and confront—and call them out of some wrong behavior / something they’re about to do that’s tragic—that they need a voice from the outside to step into their lives and say: “Don’t do this! I love you, but don’t do this.”
It also may be something—and Owen, I don’t know if you’re aware of The Art of Marriage®and Stepping Up®—but they’re video series that we designed to put in the hands of laymen and women to make a difference in their neighborhoods, their churches, their businesses, their community—and to, frankly, push back against the forces that are seeking to destroy marriage and family today—
—and to take a positive stand, and to equip people to make their marriage and family go the distance / to equip men to know what it looks like to be a man today in the culture.
Dennis: It may be there are some listeners, right now, who are listening to our broadcast—and they’ve heard us talk about The Art of Marriage/Stepping Up—and they’ve just been afraid. You need to pick up what the Home Depot line on Owen’s book, Risky Gospel—the line says, Abandon Fear and Build Something Awesome.
I think today the problems in our country are so vast / so out of control that it’s bigger than any church. It’s bigger than any organization to address. It’s the body of Christ—it is the church, ultimately, in action—where they live, making a difference, and pushing back and doing something on behalf of the gospel.
Bob: I think the question is: “When was the last time you took a risk? When was the last time you said, ‘I’m going to step out in faith—I’m going to take some risk, but I care more about God’s agenda than I do about my own comfort or my own reputation.’?” That’s really what is at the heart of what you’ve written in your book, Risky Gospel, calling us to step away from comfort, and ease, and false security; and instead, step into the mission that God has for us.
We have copies of Owen’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. We’d encourage you to go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of the book. When you get to the website, click in the upper left-hand corner, where it says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find the information you need about the book, Risky Gospel. You can order from us, online, if you’d like. Or you can call 1-800-358-6329 and order over the phone. Again, the number: 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I’ll just mention, too, that on our website you can get more information about The Art of Marriage and about Stepping Up—the video series that we’ve put together. A lot of folks have found this to be a very effective way of engaging others / doing ministry for others by hosting one of these events or one of these studies. In fact, a lot of folks are looking toward Valentine’s weekend as a great opportunity to host an Art of Marriage event on a Friday night and a Saturday in their local church. Get more information about The Art of Marriage and the Stepping Up series when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Or if you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
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Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to talk about how we get in the game—how we can be part of what God is doing in advancing the work of His Kingdom here on earth. Owen Strachan will be back with us tomorrow. Hope you can tune in as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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