Building Your Faith
About the Guest
Is your faith as big as a mustard seed? Then you have enough to do big things for God! Owen Strachan, President of the CBMW, (Counsel on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) encourages believers to step out in faith and achieve great things in Christ's name.
Owen StrachanOwen Strachan is the President of the Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. He is also an Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Director of the Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to Bethany, daughter of theologian Bruce Ware, and is the father of three children. Strachan is the author of twelve books, including The Colson Way (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and The Risky Gospel: Abandon Fear and B...more
Owen Strachan encourages believers to step out in faith and achieve great things in Christ’s name.
Building Your Faith
Bob: When you committed your life to following Jesus, just exactly what did you sign up for? Here’s author, Owen Strachan.
Owen: Sadly, many modern American churches are structured around getting as many people in as possible and keeping them—and that means feeding people what they want to hear, by and large—sometimes, maybe, challenging them a little bit—but, by and large, keeping things pretty safe. I think many of us want a church to engage us and want the church to call us to a grand adventure, but we’re not hearing that.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 26th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll talk today about the grand adventure to which we are called, as followers of Jesus. Our guest is Owen Strachan. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, we’ve mentioned this week that our guest is the President of an organization called the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. We’ve been talking about it in the context of a book he wrote, called Risky Gospel, but it occurs to me we ought to let our listeners know a little bit about what his organization is up to; don’t you think?
Dennis: Yes. Owen Strachan joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, Owen.
Owen: Thank you so much.
Dennis: Owen is the President of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is also a professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College in Louisville. He and his wife Bethany have three children and have been married eight years. Explain to our listeners about the Council and what its purpose is.
Owen: So, the Council was founded in 1987 by Wayne Grudem, and John Piper, and a bunch their friends / scholarly peers. They were responding to trends in evangelicalism that were pushing churches to embrace what’s called egalitarian theology—
—so, the pastorate being open to both men and women / men not being the heads of their homes—so, leadership being open, in both the church and the home, to both men and women. They were saying effectively, “No, this is not biblically true.” Piper, and Grudem, and others rallied a bunch of folks—started this organization. It incorporated in 1988 and has been advocating for biblical gender roles—a biblical view of manhood and womanhood ever since.
Bob: Now, those who would disagree with you, at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, would say: “Men and women are equal. They have equal gifting. They have equal responsibilities. They should be able to do in the church and in the home whatever their gifting equips them to do.” How do you respond?
Owen: Yes, we hear that a lot. Men and women, fundamentally, are equal—gloriously equal before the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ. So, we want to be very upfront in saying that—that is a reality of the gospel. When Jesus came, Jesus liberated women.
Paul liberated women through the gospel; but, fundamentally, the Bible has certain roles that it asks us to play.
For example, we’re not the head of God—God is the head of us. Children are not the head of their parents. The parents are responsible for training them and leading them. In the same way, men are called, by God, in 1 Timothy 2 and other texts, to be pastors and elders in the church. Men are called by texts like Ephesians 5/Colossians 3 to be the head of their home and to sacrificially love and lead their wives.
It is gloriously true, as I’ve said—that we are equal—totally equal. There is no room for patriarchal abuse or something in the church. That’s not biblically-sanctioned at all. But that is not to say that God has not called certain persons to leadership and to certain roles. Christianity does not make us gender neutral blobs—Gospel Teletubbies—it makes us fully-enfranchised men and women.
Dennis: And that’s more relevant today than perhaps it’s been all the way back to 1988, when the Council was originally formed—
—because, today, we’re, not only redefining men and women and what they do within their gender, but we’re now redefining manhood and womanhood into—well, Facebook® has—what is it?—over 50—
Dennis: —different types of gender selections. Now, parents need to know, as their kids go online, they are going to face some of these issues. They need to understand what it means to uniquely be a man and not a woman and to uniquely be a woman and not a man—and there is a difference.
Bob: Well, one of the reasons you wrote the book, Stepping Up, for men was to talk to men about God’s unique call on us, as men. It’s one of the reasons we put together the video series, out that book—that guys can get together with other guys and explore: “What’s God calling me to, as a man?”
And if folks are interested in finding out more about the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, they can go to FamilyLifeToday.com. We’ve got a link there to your website, and they can learn more about all that you are up to—
Owen: Thank you.
Bob: —and how you’re engaged in this issue.
Dennis: Owen, you have also written a book called Risky Gospel. In this book, you are calling people to ease out on a ledge and live by faith—not walking by sight / not being held captive by our fears and doubts—but to believe God and trust God.
I want to take you to a moment in your life, where you were facing a test of faith and you failed; okay? You think about it for a second, and I’ll share one; alright?
Owen: Okay; alright.
Dennis: I was thinking about this question—I was thinking I was with a group of Christian leaders one time. The leader of the group asked us all to stand if we believed this certain venture needed to continue on. I was seated next to one of my closest friends—who it was his livelihood / it was his assignment—and I did not believe it ought to continue. All my peers, except two, stood.
Guess what I did?—I stood. I went against what I believed needed to happen. I waffled under peer pressure, in the context of a group of Christian leaders, who were supposed to be standing on behalf of truth.
I remember, looking at one of the guys, across the circle, who remained seated. I thought: “You know what? I admired your courage to withstand the lure of caving into peer pressure,”—even though it was good Christian peer pressure. And this was about a spiritual ministry that needed, frankly, I think, to be shut down; but a bunch of us voted to keep it going. I thought, “That’s the guy who has got conviction.” I didn’t have it. I look back on that as one of the biggest failed tests of faith I have ever faced in my life.
What about you?
Owen: Well, I can say that, in my own life, I’ve had a number of instances where I’ve had an opportunity to share the gospel; for example, with friends or family members.
Many of my family members, back in New England, are not Christians. I’ve had that opportunity—that we’re all familiar with, as Christians / as evangelicals, who want to share the gospel, where I could bridge to the gospel—I could share the truth about Jesus Christ / His death and resurrection being our means of salvation—and I didn’t.
So, something that is not as dramatic as your example but is, perhaps, more common for many of us believers. I understand that everyday temptation to fear and to put your faith under a bushel—to use that language from Matthew’s Gospel.
Dennis: I love the quote you have in a chapter entitled, “Risky Spirituality: Building a Stronger Faith.” You quote C.S. Lewis, who in the book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, was speaking about Aslan. Of course, Aslan is Jesus Christ—it’s the king/it’s the lion.
C.S. Lewis says in the book, “He’s wild, you know—not like a tame lion,”—that’s the God we serve. Our God is mischievous—He is not going to be put in a box. He is Almighty God, and He wants us to venture out and trust Him for greater and greater things.
One of my favorite quotes is by A.W. Tozer. It’s been awhile since I’ve quoted this on FamilyLife Today, Bob. You know what it is too. He said: “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.”
Now, if the God of the universe, who created billions of galaxies—if that’s who God is—and He loves you and He’s got a plan for your life, what does He want you to uniquely do?
I love asking people the question, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” I think, many times, our fear of failure keeps us from having a risky faith. We’re afraid, if we do share our faith with our family member, they’ll reject us even further—or with a friend or at work: “It’ll limit the ability for me to get a better job in my place of work”; but it may be those moments which, ultimately, call out a courage out of our chest that cause our faith to grow and touch other people’s lives in an infectious way.
Owen: Yes, there is something missing in modern Christianity—that you’re hitting on—and that is a sense of excitement and adventure. There have been different authors over the years—in recent years, even—that have called for this kind of faith. John Eldredge is one. I do not affirm his theology—what’s called his open theism—but he was getting at something that is true in the Bible, when he called people to recognize that following Jesus was not supposed to be safe.
It’s supposed to be joyful, in biblical terms; but it’s not supposed to be safe and easy.
I think that instinct—wanting Jesus to give us a cup of hot cocoa, and put a gospel snuggie around our shoulders, tuck us in at night, and say warm and soft things to us every day—day after day after day—is dampening many of us and causing many of us not to dream big dreams for Jesus.
Now, I don’t only mean world evangelism, church planting, and these kinds of things—though, I think that’s the forefront of what we’re talking about—but also, “What about having a big vision for your family?”—going beyond just: “Yes, we’re raising the kids. They’re kind of tough, and it’s kind of boring; but we’re trying to do.” Or: “What about having a big vision for your church?”—not necessarily for the pastor—but you’re a deacon or you’re lay member: “How can you build into your church such that it becomes a God-glorifying / God-centered place? How can you pour the lemonade or the coffee, arrange the cookies, bake the meatloaf, week by week, such that this church grows in the love of God?”
Many of us aren’t even asking those questions—we’re just thankful to show up. Something needs to change!
Bob: Well, and part of what you are saying in the book is a lot of churches aren’t challenging people to live risky, adventurous, gospel-centered lives. In fact, there’s a section in your book that you didn’t write. The good news is you gave attribution to who did write it—it’s not just a plagiarism issue here. [Laughter] But there is a section in the book where you turn things over to somebody who had an experience with church. She was not a churchgoer—she went to kind of check church out. Tell us about what she found.
Owen: Yes, so, this was a young woman—trained at a secular liberal arts college in Maine. She is a writer for Salon—an online secular culture and arts magazine. She went to a major church in Texas and found herself drawn to the powerful music and the self-help preaching of this place.
Sadly, she was missing something that she sort of knew that she was craving. She wasn’t hearing about Jesus—she wasn’t hearing about the gospel.
Tragically, I think this is where a lot of people are today—even in evangelical mega churches. They know that there is something grand—a big story out there that they need / that they want—but they don’t know exactly what it is, and they don’t hear that gospel articulated.
Bob: She was getting motivation, but she wasn’t getting a gospel.
Owen: That’s exactly right. She heard plenty of self-help but not the call to die in Jesus Christ.
Bob: And your challenge to young pastors today is a challenge to not soft-sell what the Bible says, but to confront it head-on.
Owen: That’s exactly right. I think young pastors—people who are members of churches—need to be part of building a spirit in our churches where we don’t want our pastors to just make us feel better. We want them to challenge us and call us to become something grander and better than we would be.
I had a basketball coach when I was 12. I was about 3’10”—well, maybe that was a little short—I don’t know. [Laughter] I’m going to give myself at least 4’ here. People are thinking: “Yikes! Is this guy okay?” You know, I’m 4’ tall—so not going to be a center for the team, shall we say.
Owen: But he looked at me—he saw that I had been working on my game / working on my ball handling—this sort of thing. I used to wear my fingertips out—dribbling a basketball so much in the summer. He said: “You know what? I think you can be a starter on a high school basketball team someday.” This was not what I was hearing from my coaches. Something flipped on in me in that moment. I recognized: “Wait a minute! Maybe, I’m not going to just be relegated to the side. Maybe, I can actually be a player.” That’s what we need in church today.
Dennis: You’re hitting on something that I want to have a little fun with—
Dennis: —here, going around the circle. There are three of us, here at the table. I’d like to go around the circle a couple of times—three if we have time.
So, don’t take a long time answering this question—but I want all three of us to answer the question: “What has God used to build your faith?” We have a lot of people listening to us, right now. They are going: “Okay, you’re calling something out in me I agree with. I need that. I need to know.” But they need some tips—some coaching—like you got—somebody who is going to believe in them / who is going to coach them in knowing where to start and how to start. So, I’ll start first.
One of the things that has built my faith in my walk with Christ has been a study of the character of God—finding out who He is. When you see God for who He is, you’re going to be held in your proper place. You’re going to realize He is a great God, and He can be trusted with your faith. That’s called me out of my unbelief and out of my fear on more than one occasion. Bob, you’re next.
Bob: Well, I think what’s led me to faith has been previous steps of faith.
I mean, I look at the life of Abraham. His first step of faith was when God appears to him in Ur and says, “Okay, come to the land I’ll show you.” He didn’t know much—he responded; but then, he—throughout his life—is subsequently called to the next step of faith and the next step of faith. And I think—
Dennis: So, are you comparing Little Rock to Ur? [Laughter]
Bob: No, Nineveh is where I compared—[Laughter]—but the point is—it’s when you respond in faith—it strengthens the faith muscle. So, the next time you are called, you’ve got this muscle memory that says: “You know, the last time we did that, it worked out okay. Let’s go.”
Owen: Yes, I think of a figure like Chuck Colson—I’m writing a book on him for Thomas Nelson right now. So, I’m knee-deep in amazing stories about Colson. You know, Colson is this guy—he is way high up in the Nixon White House in the early ‘70s. Then, he has this dramatic fall from grace. Once he comes out of prison, he then begins a prison ministry—
—Prison Fellowship known to many of us. I know he was a friend of yours, Dennis.
That is inspiring to me because it speaks to the renewing power of God. Seeing examples like Colson’s, where here is this guy who is struggling—who is disgraced / who has hit pieces written on him by all these major newspapers—and then, he comes out of the very place that was the symbol of his condemnation; and he begins a new gospel-driven ministry that ignites evangelicals to do prison ministry. That’s an inspiring example for me—I derive courage from that.
Dennis: Yes, I think that’s a good one. I could easily echo that. Being around men of faith—it’s a disease / you catch it. I’ve had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with guys like Chuck, Bill Bright, Howard Hendricks, H.D. McCarty in Fayetteville, Arkansas—a lot of guys who challenged my faith.
My next one is going to be from Romans 10—and this is a biblical statement: “So, faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Now, the context for this is about the gospel—when we place our faith in Christ for salvation—but the principle is the same—the Bible, and knowing the Bible and what it teaches, and knowing the truths of the Bible and having them stuck in our souls begets faith.
Dennis: He calls us away from unbelief and toward obedience.
What’s your second one, Bob?
Bob: Well, I’m going to hitchhike on what you said because, honestly, I think we are in a day where, as the culture clashes with what the Bible says is true, we are more and more inclined to just ask the same question that Eve asked in Genesis 3: “Did God really say that?” and see if we can find some creative ways to maybe blend what God has said with what the culture is saying. Where that leads you is the same place it led her, which is into sin and into destruction.
And honestly, I think the issue of the authority of Scripture in our lives / the trustworthiness of Scripture in our lives is, maybe, the defining issue of our day—especially, for a younger generation that is facing a culture that says, “You can’t believe that and be a sane thinking person!” And you go: “Well, I want to be a witness for Christ. Maybe, I just need to find a way to fudge that a little bit”; you know?
Dennis: And by the way, I just have to make a comment on this because I just came from the Creation Museum. Dr. Ken Ham has created a great museum near Cincinnati that is great for family. And he has the statement—that he’s quoting the serpent in the Garden—the serpent said to Eve, “Has God said…?” And it’s the same ploy today—you just mentioned it—we are questioning, “Has God said?”
And so, we are left to go with the flow if we don’t trust the truth of Scripture.
What’s your other thing that builds your faith, Owen?
Owen: Knowing my identity. Romans 8:37 says that I am more than a conqueror no matter what happens to me—no matter what may befall me. That sense of identity—that I am given there in Christ—is what bolsters me/gives me confidence. I know my name, so to speak, as a follower of Jesus Christ. I am more than a conqueror no matter what may come.
And listen, we are in an age where tough stuff may really come. We may face tremendous opposition. So, I need to know that identity.
Bob: And you tell a story, in your book, about a guy named John Joseph, who was confronted with the gospel as an atheist and had to reconsider everything his life had been built on; right?
Owen: That’s right. He was doing drugs. He was chasing women. He was leading a classically, dissolute life—
—just running from God as hard as he could—destined for death.
And he rented a Bill Maher video, of all things, and found Maher’s presentation of Christianity to be biased. He started googling on the internet, “Christianity/atheism debate.” He came across some Ravi Zacharias materials, and then some John Piper materials, and was gloriously converted. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up.
Dennis: I can’t imagine that Bill Maher would have said anything that would—
Owen: Well, what I said in my book is that Bill Maher led an atheist to Christ—a little ironic there but kind of true. [Laughter]
Dennis: No doubt about it. I’m going to add one more thing that builds my faith. It’s—truthfully, books like yours.
Owen: Thank you.
Dennis: It’s books that stir my soul, away from doubt, toward courage—toward conviction, toward basing my life on the truth of Scripture and the promises of God, and call me away from living and walking by sight.
Your book, Risky Gospel, is one chapter after another calling the reader away from fear/away from doubt. I just can’t imagine parents not being able to benefit from this—single people who are in the midst of some pretty challenging and tempting situations, where they need to be reminded of the truth and where they need to walk by faith.
I just appreciate you being on FamilyLife Today. I appreciate your life, your ministry at the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville, and just appreciate you and getting to know you, Owen.
Owen: Thank you so much, Dennis and Bob. It’s been fantastic talking with you. I really appreciate you two as well.
Bob: Well, and once again, if folks are interested in finding out more about the work that you are doing with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, we’ve got a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com where they can learn about CBMW. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click in the upper left-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “GO DEEPER.”
You’ll find the link for the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. You’ll find information about Owen Strachan’s book, Risky Gospel, which you can order from the FamilyLife Today Resource Center, if you’d like. Again, the title of the book is Risky Gospel; and you’ll find it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Or you can call to order at 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then, the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as we’ve talked today about living a life that is full of faith—that is a risky life, not giving into comfort. I’m just reminded of what a countercultural message that is. And really, what we talk about, here on FamilyLife Today, is counter to the culture. When you are talking about things that aren’t in sync with where the majority of folks are, it’s nice to know that you’ve got some friends standing with you.
And one of the things we are very grateful for, here at FamilyLife, is that we do have some friends who stand with us:
Legacy Partners—who help support this program with monthly donations—and those of you who make end-of-the-year contributions or occasional donations to support the ministry. We could not do what we do without you. Every time we hear from you, it’s just another encouragement to keep on—to stay focused on the mission that God’s called us to—to provide practical biblical help for marriages and families.
If you’ve benefited from the ministry of FamilyLife Today, but maybe never made a donation, you need to know that someone else made that benefit possible to you by supporting this ministry. And perhaps, today is the day you’d like to step up and make a donation of your own. You can do that, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com—click the link at the top of the page, that says, “I Care,” to make an online donation; or call 1-800- “F” as in family, “L” as in life, [and then the word, “TODAY,”]—and make a donation over the phone. Or you can mail a donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR.
And the zip code is 72223. Of course, we always appreciate hearing from you. We’re thankful for your support of this ministry.
And we hope you can join us back tomorrow. It will be Thanksgiving Day, here in the United States. We’ll be listening to a message that reminds us to be thankful in all things—even for the common blessings of life. We’ll hear from Gary Thomas tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
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. See you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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