Listening In: Brett McCracken

WARREN SMITH: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’re listening in on my conversation with writer Brett McCracken.

BRETT MCCRACKEN: Everyone is most concerned these days about their own rights and it’s just a battle for whose rights matter the most and I think so much of our world is falling apart at the seams because of this. We’ve lost the framework of actually caring for the thirsting of others as a more important thing. And I think that’s a Christian idea that can, has, and truly will change the world if we can live it out.

SMITH: In the past few years, Brett McCracken has emerged as an important voice in Evangelical Christianity, especially among a younger generation that is culturally savvy, but which also embraces historic Christianity. McCracken’s 2010 book, “Hipster Christianity,” was subtitled “When Church and Cool Collide.” And he followed up that book with “Gray Matters: Navigating the Space Between Legalism and Liberty.” His latest book, and the one we’ll be mostly discussing today, is “Uncomfortable: the Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.” That book is out this month from Crossway. Brett McCracken is a senior editor at the Gospel Coalition. In addition to writing books, Brett has written for the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and among many other publications. He also speaks and lectures frequently at universities, churches, and conferences. I had this conversation with Brett McCracken near his home in southern California where he lives with his wife Kira. Brett McCracken, first of all, welcome to the program. It’s really great to visit with you. When “Hipster Christianity” came out in 2010, is that right?


SMITH: That’s when you kind of first came on my radar screen, in part because you’re young, and you know, the quote unquote millennial generation, and yet you seem–your faith seems to be really well formed. You were not just writing about and celebrating this hipster Christianity, but you were critiquing it as well and first of all, I wanted to back up and ask you about your background. I’m sure you didn’t spring fully formed from the womb, but what are some of your early experiences that sort of formed you theologically?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, yeah. Thanks for having me, Warren. I grew up in the church, Midwestern Baptist upbringing, Oklahoma and Kansas, and just have the luxury of being always in just a really solid Christian family, solid churches. I never had a phase of being driven away or, you know, a lot of I think young people who grew up in the church, when they go off to college or in high school or whatever, have those phases where they abandon it for whatever reason. I went to Wheaton College for college, which I think was a really formative thing for me to put kind of deeper roots to my faith and to take the faithfulness and the love of the church that already existed, but to give it a more solid foundation and scaffolding, almost, to withstand the challenges that would inevitably come in my 20-something years. So yeah, I think the combination of just great churches, good family, Wheaton College, authors that were really influential–C.S. Lewis–I worked for the C.S. Lewis Foundation right out of college and got to spend time in Oxford and Cambridge. And just kind of being around great thinkers, Os Guinness, people like that who would come and speak at these conferences. For me as a–I was always a thinker; I was kind of a nerdy kid who really thought deeply about things and asked questions and was naturally skeptical. And I saw a lot of my friends who were similarly wired leave the faith, because of that curiosity that led them to like, you know, question things. But in my case, I’m grateful that God was able to put models in my life of thinkers, great philosophers who were Christian and who had natural skepticism but actually wrestled with it in substantive ways.

SMITH: Well and one of the things that appears to me from the outside looking in, Brett, to be formative for you has been media. You understand media in a way that maybe someone of my generation doesn’t. You’re more of a digital native. You’ve written a lot about film. There are film analogies and metaphors in your books. Fair to say formative?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, film particularly, but culture generally has been a huge part of my life. And I think another thing that growing up, I had these kind of dual tracks of the church and Jesus, and then like movies and culture and music. And I think a lot of people pit those two against each other and never find ways to really reconcile them. But I kind of made it my mission to integrate them in healthy ways. And actually I felt spiritual resonances when I would watch certain movies or listen to certain music, even if it wasn’t quote unquote Christian. So I suspected there was more to the story than I had maybe heard from certain people.

SMITH: Well yeah. And in fact I’ve read in places you’re a big Terrence Malick fan.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, huge. And I think he for me–like when I saw “The Thin Red Line,” his 1998 film, I was like a sophomore in high school or freshman. And that was like a formative experience for me in terms of something where I felt like my faith and art, like legitimate cinematic art, came together. Because it was a film that was just unapologetically spiritual, and asking metaphysical spiritual questions and it was seeking transcendence. And so I think after that movie, that’s when I really started on this trajectory of like, I want to write about film from a Christian perspective. I want to help other Christians find these films and learn how to appreciate good art in a way that edifies their walk, their Christian faith.

SMITH: Yeah. I don’t want to go wander too far down this rabbit hole with Terrence Malick, but I’m a big Malick fan as well. I’m wondering if you’ve ever heard some of the interview–he famously does not do interviews. And in fact I did the junket for “The New World” movie.

MCCRACKEN: Oh, I was there. At the Four Seasons.

SMITH: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I do not remember meeting you there.

MCCRACKEN: I mean I was like 21 or so. It was a long time ago.

SMITH: But if you were there, you remember that Malick was not there, and at least in the round table that I was in–I think we must have been a different round tables or I would have remembered–we constantly were what’s it like to work with Terrence Malick? What’s it like to work with Terrence Malick?

MCCRACKEN: You always have to ask secondhand. Like what, what is he like?

SMITH: Because you can’t ask him.


SMITH: But there is one famous interview with that Martin Sheen did with him. Have you ever seen that? That interview where basically Martin Sheen–and of course I’m not holding up Martin Sheen as an exemplar of either great religious thought or political thought.

MCCRACKEN: Right, but he is is devoutly Catholic, or at least–

SMITH: He is, and he said he credits Terrence Malick with helping him through a crisis and causing him to return to the church.

MCCRACKEN: Right. Yeah. And you hear stories like that, I mean Malick goes to church in Austin, Texas with his wife regularly, and you know, he has a faith and it shows up in his film. And so he’s a great example, I think, of the type of faith-inspired artist who is an artist first, or–I don’t know, just isn’t kind of like trying to hit people over the head with–

SMITH: He’s not a propagandist.

MCCRACKEN: Not a propagandist. He’s an artist, and any secular atheist film critic would point to Terrence Malick and say he’s changed the medium in terms of his experimental forms. And yet he’s unapologetically Christian, especially his most recent films, I think.

SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Well I completely agree with you. But anyway, let’s sort of–

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, we could talk about Terrence Malick all day.

SMITH: Yeah, exactly right. Which is ironic because he has, you know, it’s hard to find any public utterances of himself, but I think that does get at, at least in part, of what you were about in “Hipster Christianity.” And also in your latest book too, “Uncomfortable,” which is this idea of– and I want to be a little bit more systematic about talking about the ideas in the book–but one of the ideas are really came out in this book was just this idea of authenticity. And yet on the other hand, you see in an artist like Terrence Malick, somebody who is really diving deep into these questions and is wrestling with them not necessarily for commercial purposes, but because he’s genuinely concerned about it and wrestling with these issues. And yet you also talk about the difference between authenticity and transparency, in some ways, pitting them against each other. Can you say more about that?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, authenticity is such an interesting word because in many ways I think it’s a defining value for Millennials, for kind of 21st-century Western culture. If someone’s authentic, you know, we trust them and if they’re inauthentic, whatever that means, we hold them at arm’s length.

SMITH: Yeah, and also too, if I could interrupt, authentic is–we attribute moral virtue to authenticity just by–almost definitionally, right?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah. And I think that’s where I’ve seen some problems with it, and I talk about this in “Uncomfortable,” is the word authenticity, when it comes to moral virtue in our behavior, is almost like this sanctioning of our brokenness. It’s basically the idea that, yeah, we’re broken, let’s accept it. We’re all messed up. We all have issues, and that’s authentic, that’s like the currency with which we can connect with each other. So we kind of go around in our small group circles in church and we all share our struggles and our brokenness and that’s become the currency with which we relate to each other. We pat each other on the back for our brokenness and that’s quote unquote authentic. And you know, it’s tough because there’s good things about this, of course. Confession and being open about our sin with one another is a good thing. But I’ve seen the value of authenticity become such that it’s equal to brokenness and we’re elevating our brokenness to this level of a good. That is the way that we kind of have credibility, such that like a pastor who is middle aged, has a family, has a good marriage, has nothing on the surface that’s, you know, super broken, like he’s untrustworthy or he doesn’t relate to the audience as well as the tattooed cussing pastor who’s like, you know, just come out of like a battle with alcoholism or something. Not that one is better than the other, it’s just–it seems problematic to me that we elevate the broken and kind of are skeptical of people who are living, pursuing holiness in apparent ways and actually have things relatively together.

SMITH: Well, as I was reading this, you know, of course I’m, as I’ve said already, and I’m sure people could tell, a whole lot older than you. You know, in some ways, I wonder if what you are seeing in this generation is in some ways not a symptom of, you know, kind of like the whole post-World War Two evangelical movement where it was all about, you know, I was a drug addict, I was an alcoholic, I was a prostitute, I was whatever I was, and then I encountered Jesus and it was all good after that. In other words, that’s sort of the stock evangelical testimony. And it sounds almost to me like what you’re describing is sort of like the 21st-century re-engineered version of that for the Millennials.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, for sure. I mean there’s always these pendulums, I think, in Christian history where we’re reacting from one extreme to the other. And so much of what I write about, I think, in all of my books, is about kind of bringing the pendulum a little bit more to the middle and not being so prone to doing it the opposite way that our parents did, whether it’s legalism in terms of pop culture, and then swinging to the other extreme of liberty where we just consume everything recklessly. But the same thing can be seen in this authenticity and holiness discussion. We’re reacting, I think, to the facade of fake where perfection–and sin was hidden and there was hypocrisy, and that was a real problem. I think a lot of my generation did grow up with Christian leaders, televangelists who would live this perfect life on screen or on stage, but then there were all sorts of scandals and terrible things behind the scenes. And so we’re swinging to the other extreme now where we want all the brokenness to just be completely upfront to the point that now it’s a currency of solidarity. It’s a currency of value. But that’s not good either. We need to be people who are open and confessing our sin, but ultimately the point of church is to push each other forward and to grow and to move towards holiness. And I think that’s a tough thing to find that balance.

SMITH: Well, and that might be a good way to sort of transition between hipster Christianity or the Christianity of the seeker movement, and your new book, “Uncomfortable.” Because finding the truth about what church is, which as you said is pushing you towards holiness, pushing you towards more authentic community is an important part of that. In fact you start “Uncomfortable” with a description of your DC: desired church.

MCCRACKEN: Right, dream church, yeah.

SMITH: Talk about that a little bit.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, I mean, I thought it would be a fun way to start the book by just like–

MCCRACKEN: Dream Church. I said Desired Church, but it’s Dream Church.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, Dream Church. Just like kind of writing in extreme detail, what would be the perfect church for Brett McCracken? Because I think we all kind of do that in our minds when we’re searching for a new church. We create these checklists in our minds, this wishlist of what we would want it to be, and that’s because we’re so conditioned by consumerism. And consumerism has so infiltrated the way we approach everything that it’s infiltrated the way we approach church to the point that we even use the language of ‘church shopping,’ and that’s just the accepted term that we use. Like, Oh yeah, we’re shopping for a new church. We just moved into a new town; we’re Church shopping. I think it’s interesting that we’re using the language of consumerism. And so I started the book that way to kind of lay out my dream church, only to then make the point that it’s actually ludicrous and not a good way to approach the church. The church is not for me; it’s not meant to fit me exactly where I’m at. My checklist of tastes and preferences are not the most important thing about a church. And in fact, when we find a church that’s perfect for me, I would want–I would suggest we should run in the opposite direction, because you’re not going to grow. You’re never going to be stretched. Your assumptions are never going to be challenged if you’re in the perfect church for you. If you’re in a church where you don’t agree with necessarily everything, or there’s people who make you uncomfortable, the people don’t look like you, that’s hard. And that’s actually countercultural in our consumer society. But I think, and the point and the thesis of my book is that we grow the most when we’re willing to lean into the discomfort and those challenges.

SMITH: And, well you talk about the contrast of the dream church as being in a church where your faith is challenged and your relationships are challenged as well. You talk about uncomfortable faith in an uncomfortable church, right? So first of all, let’s talk about uncomfortable faith because especially in this day and age where Joel Osteen is saying you can have your best life now, and a lot of the teaching that is happening in the church is all about how to be better parent or how to get your finances in order, or you know, all of these kinds of things, we kind of forget that the sort of the defining idea of the church is this idea of a bloody Jesus; a bloody cross, right?

MCCRACKEN: Right, right.

SMITH: Not so comfortable.

MCCRACKEN: No. And that’s the funny thing about all of this and kind of–it’s funny that we have to write books like this, to reiterate, remind people that, oh yeah, Christianity is inherently uncomfortable. Because it’s just become so ingrained in American culture that it’s just what you do. It’s just this comfortable part of life. But that has gotten us away from the cross. And so I start the book, I think chapter one or two, one of the early chapters is the uncomfortable cross. And just taking us back to the beginning and, what is this religion all about? It’s about a man who suffers the worst indignities on the worst of all execution devices and calls his followers to in some ways do the same, take up your own cross, he says, and follow me, deny yourself. And the early apostles did that. They all were killed and died and Peter was crucified upside down. And so we’ve gotten so far away from that. I think in contemporary Christianity, the cost of discipleship is–it’s just not near to our everyday experience. And I’m not–this book is not about, like, let’s seek out persecution and try to become martyrs. It’s more just, in all sorts of ways we can actually lean into the discomfort of Christianity and the heart of it and the cost of it and see that as a good thing; see that as a way that we can know Christ more and be like him. And ultimately our mission in this world is to be like Christ. And I think just living comfortable lives where our chief end is our happiness, our best life now, our satisfaction, our tastes and preferences being met by the perfect church for me, that doesn’t show Christ to anyone. But I think the real opportunity for us as Christians is to show the world something truly countercultural. So in a world where consumerism has led us to never choose something, never go out of our way to choose discomfort–increasingly, I think it’s easy with technology to surround yourself only with ideas that agree with you; surround yourself with only people who agree with you; never have to willingly rub shoulders with people who are different from you. And you’re seeing all sorts of terrible things in our society as a result of this. We don’t know how to do life with people who are different from us. But the Church of Jesus Christ from day one was all about bringing very different people together. And, you know, read Paul’s letters. He just hammered this point. Do you–no, you actually have to lean into the difficulty of this. You can’t start a church for the wealthy and a church for the poor, a church for the Jews, a church for the gentiles. There’s one church, one body, one baptism. He really pushed this and it’s so central to what Christianity is and why it’s countercultural. This uncomfortable melding of all sorts of people with different perspectives. And I think in today’s world that aspect of Christianity can be a real distinctive and something that’s real appealing ultimately. So it’s hard to lean into that discomfort, but I think missionally, and for discipleship, it’s going to be for our good.

SMITH: You talk about the–we’ve talked about the uncomfortable cross, that’s what you were referring to, at least in part, and we can’t sort of go through every chapter in this first part of the book which was on the uncomfortable faith. But since you’ve mentioned holiness, I did want to ask you to maybe pause there just for a minute longer. You say that holiness is an idea that makes a whole lot of us uncomfortable.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah. I think the idea of holiness and even the word holiness is not a popular word these days. You know, you have these derogatory phrases like holier than thou, that you know, we don’t want to be that. We don’t want to be those goody-two-shoe Christians who are holier than thou. And yet holiness throughout scripture–you can’t get away from it. It is from the beginning to the end. God causes people to be set apart, to be holy as I am holy. If we are the people of God, if we are manifesting God to the world, holiness and pursuing holiness is a huge way we do that. It’s a huge part of our mission. And so, yeah, but it’s an uncomfortable thing to call people to change. And this is where I think in today’s world, it’s really radical. We live in this world today where it’s kind of like, you’re fine how you are, don’t let anyone tell you that, you know, you’re not okay. Like you can just–you’re born that way. So this whole idea that we should change, that there’s acts aspects of ourselves that we didn’t even choose that are malformed, and we have these misplaced desires, and to suggest that there’s a growth that needs to happen and that it’s actually a good thing to be pushed to grow and to heal–that is not a popular idea. And it’s kind of, you know, you can get blacklisted for suggesting these things in today’s world. But I think it’s an essential idea in Christianity. The belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a belief in change. That’s fundamentally what it is. It’s a belief that anyone can change and that the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit can do that.

SMITH: Well, in fact, our friend John Stonestreet is fond of saying that one of the cruelest things you can say to somebody, or say to a world that is not okay, is that you are okay.

MCCRACKEN: That they’re okay. Yeah.

SMITH: Which kind of goes with that idea that you’re talking about a little bit. So if I could just transition because we can’t–as I say, let’s just stipulate for the record, if you want to know all that’s in the book, get the book and read the book.

MCCRACKEN: Right. That’s–yep, that’s good.

SMITH: So with that stipulated for the record, let’s move a little bit more towards the back half of the book, which is about, you know, you transitioned from uncomfortable faith to uncomfortable church. And some of the things that you talk about in this uncomfortable church that is in contrast to sort of this dream church that doesn’t make you uncomfortable at all, is that it should be diverse, that there maybe would be people in there that you wouldn’t normally hang out with, that there’d be uncomfortable people there. That, and this is something that I think a lot of folks have trouble with, millennials, but not just millennials: that it’s going to have authority; that you’re going to have to live, you know, as someone under authority and submission, not just one to another, but to a real hierarchy. Talk about these ideas a little bit.

MCCRACKEN: The difficulty of people is an obvious one, you know, and I’ve already talked about it a little bit, just that fundamental idea of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which was radical in human history, is that all the ways that we divide ourselves naturally as humans–gender, class, creed, ethnicity–are done away with in Christianity. And so churches should manifest that. And yet that’s super hard. And especially in cultures where race is a very charged issue, and class, and all these things, we’re naturally prone to want to just do church with people who are like us. It’s more comfortable that way. It just is. And yet I don’t think that’s the ideal. And I think this is a real, uncomfortable way that we can lean into what Jesus wants his church to be. And so, yeah, I mean there’s all sorts of stories I tell in the book. But it brings in things like worship style, and everyone has their own opinions on what types of worship fits me. And part of doing community with people who are different from you is learning to submit to each other and to have this humble spirit of, for your good, I’m going to submit to your preferences and I’m going to serve you and I’m not going to put my interests first. And I think that that’s a value and a virtue that I talk a lot about in the book, is that diversity should cultivate humility. And this beautiful concept of mutual submission to each other, which the imagery of the body of Christ and all the parts of the body working together in harmony that Paul talks about speaks to it. So the authority issue is a big one. Especially I think for my generation, we’re very anti-authoritarian. With church authority, we’ve seen church leaders be hypocrites, we’ve seen Catholic priests, you know, sexual abuse. There’s a lot of good reasons, I think, why we’re skeptical of authority. And not only that, but the broader culture I think is very anti-authority. The new kind of ethos in contemporary culture is, you are the only authority that matters. Just look inside, look within for guidance. It’s this self autonomy idea. And that has really infiltrated the hearts and minds of even Christians. So I think it’s really unnatural, truly countercultural to suggest that actually, no, there needs to be authority outside the self. And scripture, of course, is an authority outside of ourselves that we have to defer our opinions and will and desires to what scripture says, what God through scripture reveals to us. And then, of course, ecclesiastical church authority is an area where we need to be able to defer. You know, sometimes we’re not going to agree with our pastors, but God has set in place these authority structures for our good, for the church to flourish. And without authority things would be chaos. And there would be no growth. There would be no flourishing. And so just like in a family, think about a toddler. The toddler is not going to flourish, not going to thrive, if there’s no authority, there’s no parental authority there to say, no, don’t do that, that’s not for your good. So God creates authority, whether in the family and in the family of God, in the church, and it’s for our good. And I think as a elder at my church, I always want to remember that this is for the flourishing of the people. It’s not from my own–it has nothing to do with anything about me and my goodness or my brilliant ideas. God has just given me this task for the flourishing of these people in my care. And so I understand skepticism about it because it can go–it can be abused, but anything can be abused. And that doesn’t mean that it’s not in itself a good thing.

SMITH: Well, it is ironic in a way, isn’t it, that you know, young people who often want to rebel against authority structures and be countercultural end up in some ways being hyper-conformist in their rebellion, right? And I say that sort of responding to something that you said earlier, which is that submitting to authority, you know, living for the flourishing of another rather than for yourself, it has become truly countercultural, hasn’t it?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, yeah. No, absolutely. Everyone is most concerned these days about their own rights. It’s just a battle for whose rights matter the most. And I think so much of our world is falling apart at the seams because of this. We’ve lost the framework of actually caring for the flourishing of others as a more important thing. And I think that’s a Christian idea that can, has, and truly will change the world if we can live it out.

SMITH: Brett, sort of in closing our time together, I wanted to ask you just a little bit personally about yourself because you know, you wrote “Hipster Christianity” in 2010. This book that you and I are talking about, “Uncomfortable,” will be coming out with later this summer or the fall?

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, September.

SMITH: In the meantime, between those two books, you wrote another book, but two pretty significant life events. One is you got married.


SMITH: And another, you alluded to, and that is that you became an elder yourself in your church. And I’m just curious as to how those two life events had–did inform the writing of this book and sort of the evolution of the guy that wrote “Hipster Christianity” to the guy that wrote “Uncomfortable.”

MCCRACKEN: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think both of those things have for sure informed my writing and this particular book. I think marriage obviously is something that can be uncomfortable at times. And some of these principles we talked about, in terms of submitting to the other, and kind of not just making decisions for your own good and having the center of the universe revolve around you. Marriage really reminds you, actually, no. For this to work, you have to have this view that is beyond the self and that is serving the other. And I also think the nature of the church and kind of the parallel that Paul makes with the church and Christ and then marriage–like marriage has taught me a lot about the church. And I’ve had a deeper love for the church and the idea of covenant and the idea that when we commit to a church community, it’s kind of like the commitment we make to a spouse and just like with a spouse relationship, there’s going to be ups and downs and difficulties. Yet we stick with it because of the commitment we’ve made. And I think that’s where the consumeristic approach to church, just like the consumeristic approach to a marriage would say the minute it gets difficult, just bail, just leave. If the minute it doesn’t work for you and isn’t serving your emotional needs anymore, you have the right to get out of that relationship.

SMITH: Well, again, I mean, what you said it still resonates with me and also, I mean, it’s thoroughly biblical, right? I mean, the church is the bride of Christ, after all, right? So, there’s–I don’t know if you know Andrew Peterson’s music at all–

MCCRACKEN: Yes, he’s great.

SMITH: –But he’s got a song called Dancing in the Minefields, which he talks about marriage and he says it’s harder than we imagined, but that’s what the promise is for, right? I mean, you make this promise, you keep the promise, even when it’s harder than we imagined.

MCCRACKEN: Right. And there’s such a beauty, I think, in that promise and in the longevity of a covenant that has withstood ups and downs and moments of even temptation or unfaithfulness. God, you know, relentlessly pursued Israel, his people, even when they were unfaithful. And yet the picture of the arc of scripture is it ends with this beautiful picture of God–the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, like a bride adorned for her husband. And there’s this moment of the perfected bride, finally the bride, who has been unfaithful, who’s been kind of a mess, an awkward runaway bride, is now this perfect, spotless bride and the marriage is consummated. And so I think as Christians, and when we go to church, we need to lean into this idea of we need to commit. We need to be in it through the ups and downs for better or worse, just like marriage vows. And that’s not to say that you should stay in a church when it’s downright, you know, terrible, or an abusive situation. There are some valid reasons you should leave a church.

SMITH: Well, yeah, especially in this day and age, some churches depart the way of Orthodoxy.

MCCRACKEN: Yeah if the church is heretical, clearly. But I think far, far too often, we leave church too soon and it’s mostly because our preferences have changed. There’s a newer, sexier church down the street, you know, that we want to try out. And so we leave our boring church. I think honestly, we just get bored easily. Like in our fast paced consumeristic world where we’re just–so many things are coming at us, we have a low attention span, we get bored. And I’ve seen that with my generation so much with church. Like there’s this whole thing where you’ll go to a church, you know, for a couple of years, but then it just starts getting boring and you’ll try out a newer church or you’ll start a house church yourself because it’s–you can do things finally the way that you want to do it. I know, but that doesn’t ever last either. And so rather than be captive to our own fickle and changing emotions about these things, I think it’s a better thing to just resolve to commit to the church where you’re in. And barring some heretical, deviant, abusive situation, commit there and be part of the solution. You know, if there’s a problem, if there’s something that comes up, try to work it out. And so yeah, becoming a pastor, becoming an elder at my local church was a huge part of me wanting to write this book because it gave me a new perspective on the challenge of the local church. And that kind of covenantal messy relationship that for better or worse relationship, but also the beauty of it and the beauty of the discomfort. There’s times where it’s uncomfortable to be a pastor and to be, you know, having to deal with pastoral situations that you’ve never had to deal with before. Whether it’s, you know–I just had someone with same-sex attraction who I’m pastoring right now. And that’s a first, and I don’t know exactly what to do, but I’m trying to do it because he needs that pastoral care. And so there’s all sorts of things like that when you’re an elder or a pastor that are just uncomfortable and yet we can’t avoid those. And we need to embrace those and love each other; love in hard places. D.A. Carson has this great book called Love in Hard Places and he talks about the nature of the church. It’s going to be messy when diverse people of so many different walks of life come together, and yet it’s a beautiful thing. And it’s ultimately why I wrote the book. I wanted to paint the picture of the beauty of uncomfortable church. As often as we try to avoid it, I think it’s good for us.

SMITH: You’ve been listening in on my conversation with Brett McCracken. His new book is “Uncomfortable: the Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community.” His previous books include “Hipster Christianity: When Church and Cool Collide.” We had this conversation near Brett’s home in southern California. Listening In comes to you from WORLD News Group. Your membership in WORLD helps to support this program as well as WORLD’s other digital and print content. For more information about WORLD membership, go to Our producer is Rich Roszel with strong technical support from Michael Huckabee. Our executive producer is Nick Eicher. I’m your host, Warren Smith, and you’ve been listening in.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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