Rechab Gray: Good Theology Gone Bad
Could your “good” theology go bad? On Real Life Loading..., Shelby Abbott talks with Rechab Gray--who tells how his theology hamstrung him, and what realities Christians need to own about Christian culture.
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Could your “good” theology go bad? Rechab Gray tells how his theology hamstrung him and realities Christians need to own about Christian culture.
Rechab Gray: Good Theology Gone Bad
Shelby: So I don't really even need to do like the intro stuff.
Rechab: Cool; that works.
Producer Bruce: This is 22 04 27 Real Life Loading… with Rechab Gray on whatever you guys end up talking. [Laughter] Recording.
Shelby: I haven’t shared my notes with anyone. [Laughter] In case you can’t tell. [Laughter]
Somewhat anxious—always authentic—this is Real Life Loading… I’m your host, Shelby Abbott. Our desire with this podcast is to help guide you toward the life-changing power of Jesus for relationships in a constantly-shifting culture. We're called Real Life Loading, dot, dot, dot. And those three dots at the end of our title are super significant. The dots describe being in process—we haven't arrived—we're very much in a state of loading. It's my job to be a trusted friend to come alongside you and help you walk closely with God in the humor and hardship of life.
Now, today, I get to talk with a relatively-new friend of mine, Rechab Gray. I met Rechab several months ago, and we hit it off immediately. He's planting a church in Orlando, Florida; and we're going to talk about a lot. We'll start with our favorite Hip Hop songs and artists; “Who's the GOAT in basketball?”; using knowledge about God to run from God; and then we'll move on to what it means to lead in the culture instead of following the culture. Let's get into my conversation with Rechab Gray.
Shelby: I kind of want to know: “What are your all-time favorite Hip Hop songs?”
Rechab: Songs—man, that's tough—the song.
Rechab: So my bag in Christian Hip Hop—it was funny story, actually—when I first came to Christian Hip Hop. When I got to college, I was in Philly; and Philly was like the spot for Christian Hip Hop. You had Ambassador out there at the time. A lot of Lamp Road recording artists was out there at the time—Shai Linne was—so they was all at the same spot. I happened to be at that very church.
Shai Linne was like my favorite artist at the time. Dude named Stephen the Levite was just incredible to me, probably one of the best lyricists that I had heard up until that point. And those dudes are just animals. Because I listened to so much secular Hip Hop, like I had the ear for what they were doing. Man, it was just like, “Yo, I don't care what nobody say; these dudes are like animals—
Shelby: They're legit.
Rechab: —on the mic”; yes.
My favorite album, actually, is one that most people wouldn't say is their favorite Shai album. It was actually an album called Storiez that he came by with. I don't even know how well it did or whatever—but the concept was dope—every song was a different story; it was a different kind of narrative. The artistry it took to do that in different forms of narrative—I think, to this day, is like one of my/still one of my favorite albums just to listen to—period.
Shelby: That's good.
Rechab: Yes; and you know, who else is like slept on, but like one of the nicest lyricists I’ve ever heard—
Shelby: Who’s that?
Rechab: —is Jackie Hill Perry.
Shelby: Yes, yes; that’s true.
Rechab: She's just like—
Shelby: She's not famous for that per se, now; but she is.
Rechab: She’s not; she really isn’t. But like as a lyricist, like she's a monster, even more than her spoken word. I would say like her lyricism was just—like Crescendo—just amazing; ridiculous; so yes.
Shelby: Now, I’ve got some things to add to my Apple playlist;—
Rechab: Yes, go for it; yes. [Laughter]
Shelby: —yes, Spotify®.
Shelby: I know you're, obviously, a big basketball fan. We talked about this; you played ball, growing up—so this is, you know, the question: “Who's the GOAT?”—is it LeBron or Michael Jordan?
Rechab: Yes, this isn't really a question.
Shelby: It is not—oh—[Laughter]—this/so many people answer this that way, like they: “Well, it’s so obvious.” [Laughter]
Rechab: Yes, yes; no, it's clearly like one guy—Michael Jeffrey Jordan is the GOAT—but LeBron is an amazing player, amazing talent, and all that; but yes, Michael Jeffrey Jordan.
I was one of those dudes who, if I didn't go into engineering, I wanted to do like sports broadcasting or something like that. So I like—
Shelby: So you’ve put thought into it/—
Shelby: —a lot of thought.
Rechab: Yes; I watched stats; I watched like: “How much did your second player average?”—“your third player average?” Like I just/I'm just kind of like nerd-out like that.
Shelby: So let's pretend—I agree with you, by the way; I completely agree—but let's pretend I'm a LeBron person. [Laughter] Let's pretend I am. Why?—change my mind, if I'm a LeBron person—“Why is Jordan the GOAT?
Rechab: I think chips matter a lot, like that's big time; but I think the main thing for me is, defensively, he has a Defensive Player of the Year award, which is amazing. He scored with, literally, the best of them of all-time.
But what is most under-rated is, during the time he was playing, averaging 31—which is what he left off with, with the Bulls—averaging 31 at that time meant so much more than averaging even 30 in this time; because teams are scoring so many more points. So he averaged like 30 in his last final series with the Bulls, and I think they averaged like 85 or something like that for the series; so you think about that. [Laughter]
And then Bryant, you know, he's put up like dumb crazy numbers; but teams averaging, you know, 110/120, it's very different. You putting up 30—your team only scrapping out, you know—
Shelby: It’s a different game; yes.
Rechab: —89/90 points. I don't think people recognize just how much it was to the average 31 when teams are scoring 90; maybe, cracking 100, here and there.
I remember we used to go to Philadelphia 76ers’ games; this is only even six/seven years back. There was like a MacDonald's® prize given away if we score over 100 or whatever. I think they stopped. [Laughter]
Shelby: It just got to giving away too much stuff, yes. [Laughter]
Rechab: Yes, for sure.
Shelby: You can't afford to give fries to everybody in Philly. [Laughter]
Rechab: Right. [Laughter]
Shelby: Yes; they do that now with like Philly's games. Like if you/if somebody steals like a second, it's like everybody gets a taco from Taco Bell®. Taco Bell’s like, “Oh, man, here we go. Monday is going to be awful”; yes. [Laughter]
I'm old enough to be able to have seen Jordan play on TV; and so I've always approached it from: “I think Jordan's the best because I'm biased.” But I do hear people talk about LeBron and make legitimate cases for him,—
Shelby: —but I've never felt them compelling enough. So I wanted to ask someone, who actually knows; because I knew you were into sports broadcasting.
Shelby: And you have like researched, and you played ball. I never played ball.
Rechab: Absolutely; absolutely. But never would take away from Bryant—he's amazing/incredible—all of that—and definitely, for me, he's a much greater sports model. You know what I'm saying?—like he's just a guy—I'm like: “One of the, to me, maybe even the greatest superstar in terms of holistic, on and off the court, that I think we've ever seen and, maybe, even will see.”
Shelby: He gives back a lot, too,—
Rechab: He does.
Shelby: —a philanthropist. Yes, I absolutely agree.
Rechab: He does; he does.
Shelby: So what feels more important to you now, more than ever?
Rechab: Without a doubt, intimacy with Jesus.
I think—I’ll just share this quick story—in 2011, two things happened at the same time. I was working as an intern at a Naval base in Philly. When I graduated/finally graduated, they had to technically change my job to a different “job”; because I had now graduated. But they had to post the new job. Within the two days that they posted it, a veteran applied for the same job; I got laid off.
Shelby: Oh, my gosh.
Rechab: And so it was like one of those moments, where it was like it just threw me off.
At the same time, I was super nerd, in and out of theology books, like just/I'm like one of those guys; you know what I'm saying? But I was using books about God to run from God.
Shelby: What do you mean by that?
Rechab: Yes, it was in a church setting, where people really valued theological knowledge, which is awesome and all of that; but because of that, I could use theology to hide the fact that I wasn't actually experiencing intimacy.
Rechab: I would go around and spread this information that I was picking up to hide the fact that there was like zero intimacy that I was actually experiencing. You know
John 15—like: “Apart from Me, you can do nothing,” “I am the vine; you are the branches,” as funny in that passage, like we forget, he repeats that phrase, almost like, so we don't get it twisted.
Shelby: Right; yes.
Rechab: You know what I'm saying? Like: “You really have to find your sourcing in Me.” Man, I was finding it in books about God as opposed to God Himself.
My wife—not trying to pick, not trying to do anything—just asked a simple question: “So how does that like enhance your relationship with the Lord?” I was on some, you know, theological whatever. But for real, like I couldn't like sleep at that point.
Shelby: —couldn't escape the question.
Rechab: Being laid off, and that question, sent me into the best tailspin, if you will, I've ever experienced of: “I need Jesus, the Person,”—like really, really, really need Him. From that moment on, I say every season of my life has only ticked that up, just a few notches. And so when you ask me: “What's become the most important?”—I would say, “Yes, John 15; abiding in Christ.” I mean, that's like my tattoo passage, if you will; like that's become the most important for sure.
Shelby: That's great; yes.
You and I have talked about this—like a bunch of head knowledge is great—but if head knowledge is unapplied, it's a waste. And even talking about getting everything correct, when it comes to like answering—especially, in our polarized times right now, if you get in the “correct camp”—but “What does this mean if you do not live this out?”—
Rechab: Come on.
Shelby: —you don't actually believe what you're saying, even though you might be right on these things. That's one of those things that—people don't—they value being right more than they value actually living those things out. “Have you found that to be true?”—like in the circles you run in as well?
Rechab: Without a doubt. It's one of the—like every generation has what I would call—like my friend, who's a worship guy/he has this phrase I love called “ignorant convictions,” where it's like—
Shelby: “What's that mean?”
Rechab: —you get these convictions—you don't really know where they're found in Scripture; but just because you walk with the Lord, He has given you a conviction. You find out later: “Oh, that's why I believe/I believe this so strongly. I just didn't have a text; and now, I understand”; so it's ignorant convictions. I think every generation of believers has these ignorant convictions that they might not even know where they're from—but God has just instilled this into the culture and ingrained this into the culture—and then, like they hold onto this.
One of the things I love about up-and-coming believers—they might not even know where it comes from, biblically; but they are not okay with theology for theology’s sake—they're asking the question, like, “Yo, so what is this producing in culture? How is this shaping the culture? How are we making an impact upon those around us, as opposed to just looking inward?” It's a beautiful thing about this generation. I've, not only found it to be true, but I'm really excited about this up-and-coming generation; because they kind of don't like that aspect.
You know, basketball hoops love that. There's a coach, Monty Williams, who coaches the Phoenix Suns. Sometimes, he'll have this hat—and it simply has—WD>WS. It comes from a Benjamin Franklin quote, which is: “Well done is greater than well said.” I was thinking about that more and more; and it's like, “Ain't it beautiful?”—like: “This is Jesus' words. He will, one day, say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ But I do think that—though that's what Jesus says we're looking forward to—like that's His claim; that's His words—what I think we've trained so many—not only Christians, but pastors—is to believe that Jesus won't be saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant”; He'll be saying, “Well-articulated, good and faithful theologian.”
Rechab: And when you get those mixed up, you disciple towards: “Well said.” Even who you pick as leaders—are well-said leaders rather than well-done leaders—I think we really do need to have a shift in/of like: “Man, our well-articulated theology is only actually good if it becomes well-done practice.” I think we can grow in that for sure.
Shelby: And now, it’s time for “Three dots…three thoughts” on Real Life Load… We’ll get back to my time with Rechab in just a second, but this is where I share three simple ideas that could potentially change your life—they probably won’t—but they could.
Thought 1: “When it comes to minigolf, in my opinion, the more difficult the course, the better the experience. Have you ever been to a minigolf course near like a vacation spot or a tourist destination?—that is just so easy; it was overwhelmingly boring. I can't stand that.
Yes, I know; I'm putting a bright pink ball through a rotating fiberglass statue of a Viking, holding a turkey leg, while riding what looks like an oversized pot belly pig, for some reason. But come on! Give me a challenge here. The owners of these easy courses out there might not take, put-put golf seriously, but I do; and so should you.
Thought 2: “When you get a cold drink out somewhere, and a few minutes goes by, and all of a sudden—especially, in the summer—water droplets and moisture begin to form on the outside of your cup and drip all over your clothes, and lap, and your computer. I found that the best way to combat what I call ‘sweaty cup’ is to simply wrap a napkin or a paper towel around the outside of your cup to soak up the condensation.”
Sure, you're going to look like a weirdo; and your friends are definitely going to make fun of you. But the joke’s on them, because when they stand up, after drinking from their sweaty cup, your lap is going to be dry; and they're going to look like they peed their pants. “Wrap those cups, y'all.”
Thought 3: “It certainly seems like the norm today is: if you're serious about your romantic relationship with someone, and you can definitely picture yourself marrying them in the future, well, then you need to move in together first.” Cohabitation is the name of the game. Nobody out there seems to question that it could be a wrong choice for any and every couple.
But what if it is? What if moving in together with your boyfriend or girlfriend is, for a ton of reasons, actually a really bad idea? These are the kinds of questions I explore in a short book I wrote called What's the Point?: Asking the Right Questions About Living Together and Marriage. Sure, moving in together is easy; but this book explores the side you might not regularly hear, and that's why marriage might be a good idea, after all. You can pick it up for super cheap at FamilyLife.com. Again, the book is called What's the Point?
This has been “Three dots…three thoughts” on Real Life Loading… If you have a thought you'd like me to share on the show, hit me up on social media at Real Life Loading… Now, back to my conversation with Rechab Gray as we talk about culture; race; and the ways to think, biblically, when it comes to that tricky and, often, polarizing topic of injustice.
Shelby: Obviously, the culture is pretty antagonistic toward Christians in general. How do we continue to live for Christ when the culture is so anti-Christ?
Rechab: Yes, yes; I think a few things: one, the culture is sadly anti-Christ, not only for the same reasons that they were anti-Christ in the time where Peter was writing to the church—like he writes at the beginning—Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ/he says to the elect exiles of the dispersion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia—we know, historically, like what was going on in 1 Peter. The reason why I keep coming to 1 Peter: I think there's so much good stuff in there.
One of the things that we know, historically, is that they had just gone through crazy persecution; and we're smack dab in the middle of it. And I'm talking about people being burned at the stake; people being crucified. I mean, this is deep, hard stuff.
Shelby: —dark stuff, yes.
Rechab: But there is a passage—I believe it's in Chapter 4—where he says, “Let none of you suffer as meddlers, or thieves, or evil doers. But if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not at all be ashamed; but let him glorify God in that name.” He makes a distinction; he says, “Some of y'all are saying y'all be persecuted.”
Shelby: Yes; “But you get it, because you deserve it.” [Laughter] Yes; “Because you’re doing dumb stuff.” [Laughter]
Rechab: “Now, some of y'all, though, don't get ashamed of that name, ‘Christian,’—because that was shameful for them—like: “Don't be ashamed; actually, glorify God in that name. That's your prize right there. That's the blessedness right there.”
And we read the Beatitudes—it's like: “The blessing is coming,”—no, no, no; He's saying the blessed life is in suffering in that way for His name. There is a joy that can only come when you're actually being persecuted for the name of Christ.
But we need to be careful, and also own the fact, that a lot of the reason why the culture is anti-Christ is because Christians have been anti-love.
Shelby: We kind of shaped the narrative for them on the frontend.
Rechab: Absolutely. Just to give a simple example/illustration, you talked a little bit about baseball. You know, is it different between batting, lead off, and then like batting last; right? [Laughter] You lead all second; third. You want some—
Shelby: —some strikes; yes.
Rechab: — students who know what they're doing, you know what I'm saying? You’re ninth—you’re good—I mean—
Shelby: —pitcher; yes.
Rechab: —you’re pitcher; right? [Laughter] So it's like: “Alright; we'll work with you”; whatever happens kind of happens; right?
Rechab: But for the most part, the ninth is following the suit of all the rest.
I think that the church has been batting ninth when it comes to issues of compassion and justice for far too long, and the culture is like calling us out. I think the scariest thing is that we've been endowed, through the Spirit of God, Barry Bonds-like power; but we keep deciding to bat last, simply out of fear. Can't keep happening; at some point, we got to put our stake in the ground, and say, “No, we stand for something.”
We can stand for it the right way; because when we're batting last, now we're following. We have to follow culture, when it comes to racial justice; because we wouldn't say what the Scripture would say, so we wait for culture to talk about it; and then, we have something to say. We follow culture when it comes to LGBTQ issues; because we wouldn't say what the Scripture says in all of what the Scripture says—not just the calling out of the sin—but also so much of what produces a culture around us.
Like the stuff in the church—once again, 1 Peter—“Judgment must begin at the household of God”; that's a weighty text. Ezekiel says the exact same thing: “I'm starting with the elders,” it says in Ezekiel.
Shelby: Yes, top down.
Rechab: This is weighty, weighty stuff. And too often, the church has said, “Let me fix you out there...” before we deal with us in here. The Spirit of God has never done it like that; never done it like that.
I think this is a time, where we could do it different. We can say, for the first time: “Let’s bat, lead off, from now on—this culture/this generation right now, of new and up-and-coming believers—like they can make the decision to bat, lead off, on everything with the Scripture in hand/with the Spirit’s power to “proclaim the excellencies”—that's the virtues—"of Him who called us out of darkness into marvelous light.” His virtues far outweigh anything the culture is going to try to sell.
That's my confidence. I think, if we start to do that, man, it's going to be a different next 20 years. But if we don't, man, I think we're going to lose. I just have a fear we're going to lose a lot of people in the process. I'm hopeful—a friend of mine, Micah Edmondson—he uses language, all the time, of being a prisoner of hope. The language actually comes from—I think it's Zecharia 9-13—but it was about the coming of the king. He first calls them prisoners of the waterless pit; and the very next verse—because the king has come, riding on that donkey—we know they are now prisoners of hope.
I think: “Christians, we have to be prisoners of hope. We have no choice. God ain't done with His church. Jesus ain't died for none. He’s going to get this thing done.”
Shelby: Yes; we know the end of the story. [Laughter]
Rechab: We know how this gets done. Just to be able to lean and walk in that, and walk with others as we reclaim territory that I think we can, oftentimes, give up; because we're just tired.
Shelby: Yes; and not for the sake of: “Yay, us!” at all—for the glory of Jesus—and yes, I just want to make sure that's crystal clear. It's not like, Hey, let's reclaim America for—
Rechab: “Come on!” [Laughter]
Shelby: —no, not that at all; because, clearly, that's not led to great places; right?
I want to talk about that a little bit more; but you and I were talking about this earlier, off microphone, like you're a black pastor in Orlando. I heard you once say, “No matter how angry I am at the injustice I see in the world, the God I love, serve, and who died for me, is angrier.” I thought that was powerful.
Injustice is a hot-button word. Some people might already think: “I know exactly what they're going to say, ‘I need to throw them into a camp.’”
But you once used a helpful illustration about exchanging punches with your daughter as an illustration—not for real—
Rechab: Yes, because—[Laughter]
Shelby: —yes, not for real—before they come, cart you off. [Laughter]
To define what injustice looks like, from a biblical standpoint, can you break that down for me? Help me understand that illustration a little bit more.
Rechab: Yes, for sure. You know, dikaiosuné is like the Greek word for righteousness and justice. And because of that—like the concept is really difficult to decipher—like: “When are we talking about justice issues?” and “When are we talking about righteousness issues?”
Really, especially in our culture, you have two camps kind of pitted against each other:
- You have the righteousness camp: so they're more about personal morality before God.
- And then, you have the justice camp, which is more about our corporate or social constructs being done well.
Biblically-speaking, I think you can chronicle this—literally, from Genesis to Revelation—God will infuse this word, “justice” or “injustice.” Most of the time, scripturally, He's more angry with their injustice than their lack of personal righteousness. Sometimes, they're doing all the by-the-book stuff; and He's like, “I won't even accept it, because you have injustice happening in your land.”
Someone was asking, like: “So how do you kind of decipher these two concepts?” The way I would kind of describe it is—because they're so tightly knit—it's taking the same action, if you will, but applying power to it. The example I give of my daughter is—let's say my wonderful daughter; love her to death—
Shelby: How old is she?
Rechab: She is 11 now; she's 11 now.
Say she gets mad at me, and she punches—that is unrighteous—before the Lord, that is wrong. She is not supposed to disobey her parents—that's just straight-up wrong—she should not do that. And everyone who would see that would be like, “That's not okay.”
But now, if I return the punch to my daughter, we all have a different reaction for a reason. Why?—because when she punched me, she punched me with very little power. I can handle that, because I'm so much bigger than her. But if I punch her—the force that I have—I can, literally, knock her out. That is the distinction between unrighteousness and injustice—it is the same act—but when you apply power to it, it totally changes the game.
So now, you bring that into any concept, really—any issue of injustice and, and even specifically race—or anything like that. You have, especially, when it comes to people who look like me, like black people—like I'm a proud black dude—you know what I'm saying?—like love who I am. You have, in so many ways, a people/smaller people—so minority is, literally, why we use that language—who, historically, have had, not only little power, but been robbed of the little power and rights that they’ve had.
And so, when a dominant system comes in—if you will, punches this people—no matter how much they swing back—
Shelby: —there's no power.
Rechab: —there's no power there. That is the distinction between—again, there might be unrighteousness in their swinging; that's not what I'm saying—but when the dominant system punches in this way—and in this situation, it wasn't like black people were/did the first punch—[Laughter]—like the illustration—very, very, very different; right? But when the dominant system gives that swing, it's no longer just an act of unrighteousness; it’s an act of injustice.
We, as the people of God—like, can I just read a passage—
Shelby: Yes, please.
Rechab: —of Scripture?—this is Proverbs 31:8-9. And it says: “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth; judge righteously; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” This is a call of wisdom. James, in the New Testament, says: “If we need His wisdom, we should ask. And He's gracious to give us wisdom,”—it’s beautiful. Some of that He's already provided, right in His Scripture: "This is what wisdom looks like…”
I think that the “opening your mouth”—he says it twice: “opening your mouth”—what an act of justice to just speak. For so long—again, going back to the lead off versus batting last—we've left the speaking to those who have the wrong words. And those, who have the right words, we've literally passed on the mic. I'm like, “We have a wonderful moment to really change that.” But I do think, in order to speak well about it, we cannot get our understanding of justice or injustice from culture.
If we can go through and do our own biblical theology on justice—just take the text—and search out the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation—we could just look for: “Justice: what is God saying about justice?”—and begin to bolster our theology as opposed to just hearing culture’s critique upon an issue that culture really can't understand themselves.
I'm super, super passionate that it comes from this Book. And I think, if it comes from this Book, it has the fire to keep us going. But if it don't, man, it's like putting water in the gas tank and hoping that junk could drive across the nation. [Laughter]
Shelby: So true. [Laughter]
Will we, as followers of Jesus Christ, open our mouths and speak from a position of standing on the Bible, and what the text says, instead of what culture says?
Rechab—I love my time with him—and I hope you did too. If you live in Orlando, consider getting all over, becoming a member of New Creation Fellowship Church, where he pastors. If you don't live in Orlando, you could follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RechabG; that's @R-E-C-H-A-B-G.
If this time today, with Rechab Gray was helpful for you, I'd love for you to share today's podcast with a friend. And wherever you get your podcast, it could really advance what we're doing with Real Life Loading… if you'd rate and review us. And it's crazy easy to find us on our social channels; just search for Real Life Loading… or look for our links in the show notes.
I want to thank my producers, Josh Batson and Bruce Goff; couldn’t do this without them. I’m Shelby Abbott. I’ll see you back next time on Real Life Loading…
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