Is it more important to be politically correct or to be biblically correct? As Christians, our answer should be simple/automatic but, in a culture that’s easily swayed, offended, or outraged, oftentimes, we get stuck too. On this week’s episode of indoubt, Mark Sayers joins Daniel to discuss what’s going on in our cultural moment. How do we balance what’s relevant with our faith and still remain faithful? What can we do to make a difference? Is there still hope for the future of Christianity, young adults and the local church? You’ll hear all those questions and more talked through on this episode.
Who's our guest?
Mark Sayers is a cultural commentator, writer, & speaker who's highly sought out for his unique & perceptive insights into faith & contemporary culture. Mark has written a number of books that speak directly into leadership, culture & identity. He is the author of Reappearing Church, Disappearing Church, Strange Days, The Road Trip That Changed the World, & Facing Leviathan. Mark is also the Senior Leader of Red Church in Melbourne, Australia & the co-host of the popular podcast This Cultural Moment. Mark lives in Melbourne with his wife, Trudi, & their three children.
Welcome to the indoubt Podcast, where we explore the challenging topics that young adults often face. Each week we talk with guests who help answer questions of faith, life, and culture, connecting them to our daily experiences and God’s Word. For more info on indoubt, visit indoubt.ca or indoubt.com.
Hey, everyone. It’s Kourtney. This week on indoubt, Daniel has the opportunity to talk to Mark Sayers, pastor, cultural commentator and author. His newest book is Reappearing Church, and I’m actually right in the middle of it. If you’re looking for a good book that makes you think, I definitely recommend it. This week’s conversation really revolves around how we as Christians should respond to current culture and how we’re actually responding right now. We can easily look at the world and the state it’s in and feel hopeless, but Daniel and Mark ensure that there is hope on the horizon. So, I’ll let Daniel take over, and I hope that you enjoy this episode with him and Mark Sayers.
Hey, welcome to the indoubt Podcast. My name’s Daniel, and I’m joined today by Mark Sayers. Some of you might know his name. He comes all the way from Australia today, and he’s a pastor, he’s a writer, and he’s a cultural commentator with a lot of valuable insight to what is happening in our world today. How are you doing, Mark?
I’m doing really well.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself as we get going here?
Yeah. Mark Sayers, married to Trudi and father of three kids, live here in Melbourne, and I’m the pastor of Red Church. Yeah, do some writing and speaking, with a real interest in culture and what God is doing in the world and particularly have a real heart, which aligns with this podcast, of equipping young adults to live for God at this particular cultural moment.
Well, we appreciate you joining us. Back home in Australia then, what keeps you from the day to day? You’re a pastor, you’re a writer and you’re commentator, but what kind of things aside from that do you enjoy doing, and then what are some of the great joys of your job in pastoring a local church?
Yeah, I’m a dad and husband. So, I have three kids, so I spend lots of time with them and doing family life. I like soccer. I like reading. I like coffee. Melbourne’s an incredible city to live in. There’s heaps of parks and nature, but also great coffee and yeah. I just enjoy spending time with family and friends and that’s sort of my life outside. I feel very privileged to be able to live here and live this life. I think for me, too, there’s an element where I have this bizarre life in some instances, so written seven books, get to speak and do podcasts and do different things. But most of my life’s actually here. I actually don’t travel that much. I do sort of a few strategic trips a year. I think being in the southern hemisphere, that makes everywhere far away. But yeah, most of my time is just in the local church, and there’s an element there where I’m an analytical, theoretical person, but I always then have to bring that down to, “Okay, that’s a great idea, Mark. But how on earth does that work on the ground with these real people who are not theories?” So, I find that interesting, taking these ideas and always putting it through the lens of the practical.
Wanted to talk to you today about a few things, especially just what’s going on in our culture. And one of the unique things about this discussion today is that you are in Australia, you’ve done a lot of writing about our cultural moment, our cultural climate. And I was curious, just as we begin here, I wanted to hear a little bit about one, you’ve been to Canada before and I was curious about what are some of the similarities and some of the differences that you’ve noticed in Canada culturally? And then as you see Christianity in the Western world in Australia and Canada, what are some of the issues that you see here?
Well I think both probably Canada and Australia have a number of things in common. One would be, we have a Commonwealth heritage. I think we’re also very large immigrant cultures, which both have a similar model of immigration, which has very much shaped our cultures and multicultural and diverse cultures. I think also both of us are in the English-speaking world, the Anglosphere, as they call it. So, in a sense being in that world, particularly even in the church. Always in the cultural orbit of the U.S. is such a big country and big, dominant cultural force. So, there’s an element of being engaged with that culture. You sort of almost just feel like you’re part of it even though you’re not there. And probably more so for Canada being so close, but then also this point of difference as well have been parliamentary systems and so on.
And you have even some of these defining cultural moments; World War I is this sort of defining cultural moment for both our countries. And you have the Battle of Vimy Ridge and we have Gallipoli and yeah. So, there’s some really interesting… I always find it fascinating being with Canadians. I would say probably some of the differences, I think that Australia is… There’s different cities in different areas, but it feels like a bit more of a unified sense of being Australian where there’s somewhat fractiousness to being Canadians and much more… We both have federal systems. You have provinces, we have states. But ours is just sort of low-level sporting rivalries where, particularly I think French-speaking Canada, non-French speaking Canada, all those elements and even West and East. I think, I heard the Canadian Railway, sort of the thing which keeps Canada together. So there’s always this sort of sense of fractiousness, which I don’t feel like we have in Australia.
But really interesting, I feel that there’s a new thing entering for both of our countries, and I think in the sense that we’ve always been a bit behind the U.S. it’s felt like sometimes in trends, but I think things are changing now, and just being in Vancouver recently still a lot of similarities. The influence of China and the disruptive influence of the culture of China and us dealing with that. It’s a big deal in our two countries. And I think China’s going to be a cultural disruptor – that hasn’t caught on in the U.S. just yet but will. And I think even post-Christianity, I think that we’re both dealing with that. So, it almost feels like, I feel like Canada is actually being positioned from sort of feeling like perhaps maybe it’s slightly behind. Actually, I think it’s really a forefront position, and I’m more interested now probably what’s happening in places like Canada than even what’s happening in the cities in the U.S. which just seem to be, I don’t know. It’s where the cultural milieu is in the U.S. at the moment seems like. Yeah, something new is happening in places like Canada. It’s really interesting.
I actually see a lot of similarities also between Canada and New Zealand. I think New Zealanders have a little bit more reserved culture. Australia has sort of this Irish rebellious thing, which may be part of our convict thing. So, I think there’s lots of similarities with Australia and Canada, but also, I see a lot of similarities with actually New Zealand. People say New Zealand’s more Scottish. Australia is more sort of Irish Republic in some ways. But yeah, definitely you just find these fascinating Commonwealth touchpoints, which is really interesting, outside of America.
One of the things then I want to transition to now is talking a little bit about boots on the ground, culture things. I mean, it seems that in our cultural time right now there’s just so much distress and there is so much concern and anxiety about the future, and you write on this a lot. I was wondering if you could comment a little bit and just talk us through some of the things that we’re seeing in our culture of outrage. How did we get to this point?
Well, I think there’s two things going on. There’s many things going on, but I’ll bring it down to two. One is, if you read the history of the 1970s, the 1970s was an incredibly fractious time. People were worried about the economy. They were worried about the environment. They’re worried about clashes over immigration. They’re worried about international war and all of this sort of stuff. Terrorism, there was, I think it was in 1976 or something, there was a bombing almost every day in the United States by terrorist groups who were mostly left-wing terrorist groups, which is really interesting. And you read these things, there was a battle with Jihadis in a sports store in New York. And it’s so fascinating how people forget, like we so forget. And I think, then you go back to the 1960s or 1950s, you’re looking at, you’re in the Cold War. You go back to the ’40s there’s the war. The 30s, there was the rise of communism and fascism. So I think there’s a really interesting dynamic that history is always filled with lots of chaos and conflict.
But I think partially what happened was there was this belief that so many people bought into, particularly after the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, that the world was going to move to this almost content-free future where people didn’t believe stuff that deeply anymore, and the world was just going to join together, and globalization was going to make us happier. The economy seemed to be growing, the internet was going to join us together. And I think particularly at that moment, particularly for countries like Australia and Canada, that sort of aligned with where we were. We felt like, hang on, we’re different to other countries. We’re more peaceful. We perhaps look at the U.S. and say, we’re not like that. We’re not as politically enthusiastic-
Exactly. Yeah. We don’t stand and salute to the flag and cry. It felt a bit weird. And then I think what happened was this sort of promise of this future got rocked by a number of shocks. And you could go through heaps of them. September 11th was one, the War on Terror, the global financial crisis, the rise of the internet. The internet has flipped from, hey, it’s this wonderful thing. It’s going to be this sort of hippie utopia online where all hierarchies fall and everyone in the world gets connected. And particularly for young people and young adults, too, there was a stage where, hey, the future’s going to be amazing. You’re going to do start-ups and everyone’s going to be a celebrity, or you’ll have a massive YouTube channel. You can just work from home and hardly do anything and sit at the coffee shop. But then I think the reality began to change. And I think what’s happened, it’s not that the future looks any more chaotic and apocalyptic. It’s just that we fooled ourselves, or rather, a myth was sold to us that it was all going to get better. And part of that myth was I think that humans can get along without senses of meaning. We can get along without God.
There’s an influential thinker called Francis Fukuyama who talked about a post-content future. There’s even been some of that language around Canada. It’ll sort of be a post-nationalistic nation. And I think Justin Trudeau spoke in that language, but then almost we got mugged by this hunger for meaning from people. So, Australians were classically like… If you had a flag at the front of your house in Australia, you were weird. But then I remember about 15 years ago, 10 years ago, I began to see so many young Aussies with southern cross tattoos, which is on our flag and I was like, “Wow, that’s weird.” And there was this big alternative music festival, which was super alternative when I was young. But then people started bringing Australian flags to it and people at home, we don’t do this. What is going on with this next generation? And whether it was people pushing into nationalism or pushing into politics, all of a sudden, as the world got more chaotic, and I think also the internet sparked then this conversation where all of a sudden that stuff couldn’t be hidden, and it came to the surface, and it wasn’t a hippie utopia. It just revealed everything that was already there. And everything comes close.
Canada’s actually had a… It’s fascinating. I don’t know if many people in Canada have noticed this, but if you look at the last U.S. election, all these people talking about these people boosting Trump, a number of them were Canadians, and Canada has created a lot of these sort of new rights media figures. It’s really fascinating. And that sort of, as a Canadian you’re like, “Oh hang on, this is not us.” Or “That’s not what I thought.” But all of this was there. It’s just that it was hidden. And I think it’s also boosted. So what happens in this moment is that harder, more extreme voices and negative emotions trend online faster than positive emotions.
From my point of view, and I think you’re onto this, too, it seems that we’re in a free fall now because it’s not all that we thought it would be. And maybe part of that, too, is we’re like a microwave society. So, we’re so used to instant gratification and seeing things happen instantly. But then we’re not seeing that cultural change happen right away, and people are getting nervous and anxious about that. And you bring up outrage culture and you tie some of that to Pelagianism. Can you explain a little bit about what Pelagianism was and then how that morphs today? Because I thought that was absolutely fascinating when you were describing that.
Yeah. Pelagianism is essentially this idea that you have to work for your salvation. And one of the things that I talk about is, to understand Western culture and understand post-Christian culture and cultures like Canada, is that we describe them as post-Christian. And I felt like we almost got that wrong in the sense that, there’s conversations, 10, 20 years ago people were like, oh, that means we were almost back at a zero, ground zero, blank slate. It’s like you’re explaining to people the gospel who have never heard it before. But in many ways maybe they’ve not heard the gospel as we would communicate it, but they’re actually living in a culture which is trying to take the fruits of Christianity, but without the content of Christianity. So many of our cultural ideas of quality or freedom, a lot of these ideas actually come from Christian roots and we want them, but we’ve sort of cut off the branch from the tree.
And so what happens in that point, it’s not that Christianity goes away rather what’s being embraced is actually Christian heresies and a number of political writers spoke about this. And it is Pelagian that you have to then work for your salvation. So, the idea of salvation… Peter Brown, who wrote on the late after Christianity, into the world comes this new sense of individuals wanting to be transformed personally. Before then it was more like we don’t want the gods to destroy our culture so we’re going to offer sacrifices. And in many ways the idea of the contemporary person who finds themselves reborn because they left their corporate job and did yoga and moved to a beach in Thailand, weirdly that seems un-Christian, but it has these sort of Christian contours of being born again, but it’s done through a heretical lens if that makes sense.
So people still talk in these contours of Christianity, but it’s done through this… It comes back so often to this thing of I have to do it myself. I’m going to strive to do it. The person who was living on the street, but then through grit got themselves working in the stock market and rebuilt themselves and now this dissented person. So, so many of the elements to Christianity are there, but is ancient heresy in a sense returns that we have to do it ourselves. We have to make the economy happen ourselves. We have to protect ourselves. We have to reinvent ourselves. And one of the things that you would say to someone is that’s a heresy that, from a Christian perspective, traditionally we’ve always said that’s a heresy you can never live up to because we’re not divine. We cannot do it ourselves.
Søren Kierkegaard who’s a Danish Christian in philosophy, he talked about this almost like ladder, or ascending ladder of this sort of attempt. So, people may… Down the bottom, you’ve got people who are just pursuing pleasure. If Kierkegaard was in the 20th century, this is the person who just drives to the drive thru and is just eating five burgers. But then there’s this ascending thing where, as you get to the top, you become more refined. The person who doesn’t go to the drive thru and get five burgers, they didn’t get the high, gourmet meal. Then you get to this point of, I want to put on show that I’m a good person.
And just lastly, really Pelagianism leads to exhaustion. Pelagianism leads to anxiety. It leads to just burn out culture. And I think so many young adults are experiencing that. And yes, there’s all those things where… Essentially salvation now is not that you’re oppressed, per se, by culture which tells you what to do. You’re told what you could be, which is exhausting. And salvation then comes going, hang on, I’m actually a sinner. I cannot do this. I can only find out who I really am by weirdly dying to the quest to find out who I really am and bowing at the feet of Jesus. And through that, through encountering him, then weirdly, you get yourself back in this completely redeemed way.
Yeah. And so, as we are looking towards… Because your new work is about the renewal, right? The reappearing church, the hope for renewal in the rise of our post-Christian culture. Going forward, how do we renew the church, and what is the hope for this young adult generation, and what would you encourage young people with as you look forward?
Well, I really feel this tremendous urge to encourage any young adult to reframe this moment, which seems so counter-intuitive because everything is screaming, it’s bad. You just tell me what it is. I mean, I know people now who’s just like, “I cannot look at the news anymore. I literally feel anxious.” But it’s coming to the end of yourself.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said something really similar. He said that what he linked it to was renewals and revivals happen when people come to the end of themselves. And what happens is, if you look at the early church, the early church explodes out of Jerusalem after Pentecost and the resurrection of Jesus. And what’s so interesting is when you look at what was happening culturally at that time, Rome had been this global culture. For most of the known world it was across, it went all the way from Africa into central Europe to Britain, and that had this strong message. It was powerful. It was going to give you prosperity. It had the way. You just had to bow to Caesar.
But when the church emerges, it is a time when civil war has wrecked the empire. Its promises are falling short. And around the synagogues, when you read the gospels you’ve got these interesting characters, called the God-fearers and what they were, were Gentiles. They were not Jewish who were like, I’m on the edge of this because, hang on, I don’t’ believe in the gods anymore because they’re not delivering. I don’t know if I believe even in the cult of Caesar. I’m just going to see what this monotheism is, what this God of the Hebrews is. And many of those people then become Christians. And so, what that says is even before Christ came, God was working, drawing people to himself. And also, at the same time, I think God was working in the culture, where God was using the falls of the idols…
In scripture Colossians talks about on the cross the powers were humiliated. And a lot of that language is talking about the powers in our culture, which take our eyes off God. And you look today, the economy, government, politics, so many of these things, Hollywood. In a sense there’s spiritual realities behind these things, which would draw us away from God and they’ve all been humiliated. Hollywood has been humiliated. Politics has been humiliated. Even Canada and Australia, we thought we had these non-fractious cultures and politically, that was just boring. I remember politics when I was young was so utterly boring in Australia. And that was sort of good because it meant that it was moving forward to a better future. But when you see this, that means that all of a sudden, I can’t put my hope in this stuff. I’ve got to look to Christ.
So I actually believe that when you look at history and you look at the history of renewals, you go back to the 19th century, the 18th century, even to the 1st century, to the 14th century, that there are these times when cultural change happens, when the idols start to be exposed, when weirdly, technology connects the world… In the first century the Roman road and that Roman Imperial mail system connected people. And just for the Reformation, you had letters were being sent all over Europe in this mail system, which connected thought leaders. We started to question, hang on, how’s the church teaching this? That doesn’t align with the gospel. In the 18th century, you had the British Empire was going out in the world and doing some, not some great stuff, but on the back of that there were these believers going, hang on, I want to work… go from here to the other side of the world. So, the Moravians who come out of Germany, followed the trail of the British Empire, went to the Caribbean and sold themselves as slaves to give their place to other slaves, to tell them about the love of Jesus, actually giving up their freedom. So, they turned the empire on its head. So fascinating.
That’s the story of our countries. That’s how the gospel comes to our countries through globalization. And in the 19th century the telegraph becomes this way that the gospel is spread all over the world. Spurgeon would preach in London and his sermons would be telegraphed all over the world. There’s a story of a shepherd in country Australia, in my state, Victoria, who happens upon a ripped-up newspaper in a field and reads a Spurgeon sermon and kneels and gives his life to Christ in the middle of this field. Weirdly, that’s the gospel going through the sinews of globalization, and what a connected moment.
Vancouver is filled with migrants, becoming this hub of different migrant communities. My city is, too. And the gospel is going out through all these incredible ethnic networks. So, we’re actually at this moment where people, I think there’s a new generation of young adults… Barna’s research is saying that there’s this small group of young adults who are still believing in the gospel. They call them resilient disciples. And what’s interesting, you can look at that number and go, “Wow, it’s small,” but what this data is showing us, as well, that they are getting better disciples because of the pressure. Daniel became an incredible disciple in Babylon. Probably many of his mates fell away in their faith, but there was this Daniel generation who used the pressure and God created a remnant out of them. And I believe he’s going to do that now.
Yeah, that’s an interesting point because you always hear the stats of people leaving the church, and there’s so many less people attending church, and there’s so many less people who identify as Christian. But it just almost seems like that was nominal Christianity and it was like that made you a good person. I go to church, I’m a good person. And so maybe you didn’t really believe, but it was just kind of cultural. It just almost seems with the authenticity of our day, I mean, that’s a virtue, right? Be authentic. And a lot of people just aren’t going to be lying about what they believe. They’re like, “I don’t believe in the Christian God, so I’m not going to say that I do.” And they might not even be just opposed to it. Just they’re not going to pretend they are. So maybe some of that data is showing, actually no, the people who have always believed will continue to believe. They’re just not faking it anymore. And as it becomes more polarized, you’re right. There’s going to be Daniels raised up, and people who actually really have to have a faithful presence in their place where they live, where it’s not looking good.
And you brought up Babylon and that’s kind of where I want to go, right? You have Jeremiah 29 where the people, they are now in exile right? They’re in Babylon, but God says to them in verse five, He says, “Build houses and settle down. Plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters. Find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage so they too have sons and daughters. Increase in number there and do not decrease.”
And then I love this, right? “Seek the prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” And I mean what is that saying? It’s saying God has brought the people to Babylon for purpose, for the prosperity of the city. And I just, I worry that too many Christians are so scared about our world and how it’s going. But I just see this in Jeremiah that it’s like having a faithful presence and trusting that God is in control, he’s always been in control, and that it just might look different right now is a helpful thing.
Yes, absolutely. The thing I’m realizing is that with the… This thing where you can look and say, well, all these people are leaving the faith. The stats are saying that in this millennial generation, the new Barna stats, which just got released and they’ve looked at Canada and they’ve looked at Australia and the U.S. What’s interesting is that there’s a higher amount, I think in Canada and Australia, who have left the faith. Also, there’s less cultural Christians. And what’s good about that is that what it means is the people left genuinely believe. So much of the church’s problems has been people who have been in the culture, in a sense, are a Christian, but they’re not living a biblical worldview. So, it creates this dichotomy, you know what I mean? But then when actually the people really believe it, you can live in the culture. You don’t believe its idols. So, in a weird sense what I say is to serve the culture, you’ve actually got to disobey the culture, which is a really bizarre concept. To show it an alternate way that you refuse to believe in its idols, but you believe in what it can become turned to crossed.
Yeah. Well, it’s just so interesting because you just see so many liberal churches become more and more like the culture, to the point where they just are basically the culture. They’re affirming in everything that it believes, and the gospel is no gospel at all. How do you balance the line of obviously trying to contextualize, but be different? I mean, how do you try and contextualize, but also remain faithful and unique and different?
Yeah, great question. I mean, I studied missiology, which is the science of missions for a period, and contextualization was a big idea, which is basically people taking the gospel to other cultures. How do you not just bring your own cultural baggage? So, for example, near here where I’m speaking, there is a Presbyterian church, and on its roof, it has a snow catcher, and there’s no snow. It has never snowed in Melbourne. But it’s a classic example of… We did this in England, so we have to do it here, or Scotland or whatever. And so, contextualization is how do we faithfully bring the gospel and bring it to a culture without overloading them with our culture?
Now the really interesting thing is Western 21st century culture is so influx and actually is in many ways an anti-culture. In a sense everything now is a deconstructive moment. So, we’re actually deconstructing culture. And so, it’s not like we’re protecting this indigenous, Aboriginal culture. It’s like, hang on. It’s this bizarre sort of capitalist, globalized culture. So one of the things that I think that is really key, and again coming back to the Barna research, which I find really helpful, is that what they’re learning is that one of the key skills of people, what they call resilient disciples, who are able to keep their faith, live a biblical worldview, is cultural discernment. So, we teach our people cultural discernment. There’s going to be new apps in two years that we don’t know exist now that are going to disrupt stuff. What I’ve realized is you can’t just teach people how to deal with this particular thing. You’ve actually got to teach them how to deal with whatever might come across their desk in the future.
So part of that is understanding the big story of scripture, how we fit in that, and then how do the other stories that are behind things. So, realizing Tinder has a story behind it. Cable News has a story behind it. Our absolute obsession with fitness at the moment, there’s a story behind that. When you understand the story, you then can understand how to engage with that thing without selling out to the story. So, for example, I’ll use the fitness thing. Fitness has boomed. Is there anything wrong with the story of humans who are creating an image of God, we’re given bodies, is there anything wrong with them being healthy? No. Okay. But then if you’re at this point you need to discern, hang on, or what’s the point where this becomes my identity and I’m sitting taking more selfies in the gym than I am concerned about myself. So, it’s just a really simple example. But the learning when am I buying into the story, and when am I submitting myself to God’s big story of redemption and learning in community…
Because that’s the other key. Guru Google is not going to be able to help you through this. You need to do this with discerning Christians. Iron sharpens iron. Proverbs tells us to submit to wise people of counsel. So that’s really key. We got to do this in community, in Christian community with wise people. And I know that particularly for a lot of young adults, they are my peers. Your peers might have some great advice, but your peers often at this moment where we’re learning just to look left and right, rather than to any form of authority, there are people of authority out there who want to guide you. And Christianity is a discipleship-based movement.
Yeah. And there was just a research done here in Canada, I think it was called Hemorrhaging Faith, and they were polling young adults. And one of the things that young adults crave is a mentor. And I feel like it’s a cliché thing people always say, if you watch some of those business social media people, they’re always like, “Find yourself a mentor, find yourself a mentor.” But it’s true. There is a real craving for that by young adults to find someone to be mentored by, or as I think we should call it in the church, be discipled by, and you’re so right. That happens in community. And that happens with, I mean, the local church.
Absolutely. And again, too, when you look at the culture, you bring up the business. I mean you’ve got all these business social media guys now like, “You need a mentor. You need to be part of some…” They call them, sell-ons, which is like a small group of people who work through books together. They’ll talk about you need a morning routine where you woke up, and I’m like, “This reminds me of waking up for your devotions” and practice mindfulness and you’re just like, hang on, the church has been doing contemplative prayer years. It’s all these things that are in the church that all of a sudden now people are discovering for the first time. Digital Sabbaths. There’s people taking Sabbaths. There’s an element when that’s the cutting edge of the culture.
There’s also all these guys discovering stoicism now. You have to deny yourself and understand that you’re going to die. And it’s so fascinating how the culture’s getting… And realizing that some of the stuff that we already have has life.
I think you’re so right. And what would you say to the audience here, the local church, but also the young adults across Canada, what kind of hope would you give to them about the Christian faith? Are we going to be okay, or are we going to have the freedom of religion ripped out from under us? What’s that going to look like? What kind of hope do you see on the horizon?
Yeah, I mean there’s all kinds of, I guess, fear around issues that we thought were sort of stuck in our constitutions or cultures around religious freedom, and this can bring a lot of anxiety. But it’s so interesting, you talk to Christians from Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. Church is booming in Indonesia. I think that Paul Yonggi Cho said that Indonesia has replaced Korea as the world’s prayer room. The prayer movements happening in places like that are just amazing. And they don’t have the law on their side, and pressure bizarrely creates diamonds. As much as it’s uncomfortable, you look at the incredible witness around the world, and from my just, I guess, human analysis I don’t think we’re heading towards being a North Korea or anything yet. North Korea is North Korea, and part of us, instead of worrying as much, needs to actually be praying for people in places like North Korea who genuinely are experiencing an incredible persecution.
So what I would say is I feel like there’s this moment where people listening out there, young adults who I think are listening to this. If they’re listening to this, they listen to this because they want to know more about their walk with God, taking a proactive step. And you may look at your friends and go, “Man, some people have walked away. This culture is nuts,” but it’s around people like you that God does new things. And I just have had this prayer for one year now, 12 months ago. I felt God say, “Pray for the hungry, the holy, and the humble,” and there’s a bunch of people at that don’t have that platform, see through a lot of the hype and stuff that can sometimes swirl around Christian celebrity, but these people are praying in the quiet spaces, they’re saying, “Yes” to God. Daniel is praying in his room and that’s what enables him then to go and do the great public things.
All these people who did renewals throughout history had this private moment with God where in their inner world, they turned to God and gave them everything. Often there’s this stage where people have made a commitment to Christ, but then there’s this second thing, which is not about salvation. Rather it’s about I’m going to fully follow you, in this crazy moment in culture where I could look left and right and see a bunch of Christians who are compromising. Now actually, I’m not going to compare left and right. I’m going to compare what John Wolseley did in history, what Jonathan Edwards did. What these great saints of history did, that’s actually going to be my standard and actually believe that God can use you. And if you feel like, “I haven’t got the resources,” you don’t need to have them. If you feel like, “I don’t have the heart,” you don’t actually need to have them. God has them.
And I believe that this is… God’s actually going to birth this wonderful thing. I’m meeting people as I travel around the world here in Australia, in my own church, just humble, holy, hungry disciples. They’re the kind of people that God, there’s something new added.
And just to end too, as we mentioned, I was in Vancouver recently and I walked around the city in prayed, which is something I more and more do and like, “God, what’s your destiny for this place?” And I really believe that God is moving Canada to a new moment. And I think that Canada, at the forefront of post-Christianity, at the forefront of this new kind of very diverse society facing some real challenges, some contradictions. But what if Canada is being placed at a moment where perhaps the U.S. which lives in its shadow, the U.S. is going through this real reckoning. The church in the U.S. is going through a real reckoning. What if a moment like that, that if God’s going to use holy, humble, and hungry disciples, what if he’s going to use a holy and hungry church in a country like Canada, who’s not in this to build platform, but actually find yourself positioned… Vancouver, what an incredible hub on the Pacific Rim to influence into Asia, all these different places. Migrant communities coming.
I just felt this actual sense of excitement around Canada, and I felt like when I was there, almost to tell Canadians, “Hey, reframe how this moment – what if God wants to do something through you guys that’s new and special and you’re at the cusp of this new era we’re entering into the culture and a new story is going to be told through you guys?” And Canadians are wonderfully circumspect and sarcastic and different things like that. I know there’s Australians can be like that, and sometimes that can be a compensation for a lack of confidence. And what if this moment is actually, I think, to not grab onto a confidence, like a patriotism as we look at other places that are repelled by it, what if this moment’s to look at a confidence that actually comes from Christ and what if He wants to do a new thing in this generation of young adults in Canada?
Yeah. One thing that I have often thought about is our culture. If it just keeps spinning and spinning and spinning, eventually it’s going to crumble and people are going to be looking around, and we need to be ready and prepared standing with the gospel and saying, not like a “I told you so,” but follow him because he’s worthy of following.
Well, thank you for all of this, Mark. This is going to give us so much to think about, and I’m sure we’ll speak again.
No, I really enjoyed it. Yeah, thank you.
It’s such a great opportunity to talk to Mark Sayers, and I hope that you found this conversation helpful and maybe even a bit inspiring. Our prayer is that as you say, “Yes” to God, that He will transform you into someone who, as Mark said, is hungry, holy, and humble.
If you’d like more information on any of Mark’s books, the two mentioned were Disappearing Church and Reappearing Church, but he has five others that we didn’t talk about, and we’ll have that information in the link section on the episode page online. And if you’d like to stay updated with Mark, you can follow him on Instagram @Mark Sayers or you can follow Red Church @RedChurchMelbourne. So, join us again for next week’s episode where Isaac will be talking with Tony Reinke, author of 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You, talking about technology and faith in today’s culture.
Thanks so much for listening. If you want to hear more, subscribe on iTunes and Spotify, or visit us online at indoubt.ca or indoubt.com. We’re also on social media, so make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.