NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Thursday, January 3rd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The Olasky Interview.
This time a conversation with Mez McConnell. Their conversation took place at Patrick Henry College last year.
EICHER: In case you don’t know the name, Mez McConnell is senior pastor of Niddrie Community Church in Edinburgh, Scotland. He’s authored six books.
One of them titled “Is Anybody Out There?”
In it McConnell talks about his difficult childhood: absent mother, disengaged father, and the stabbing death of a friend at age 15. McConnell was homeless by 16, then he landed in prison.
REICHARD: We’ll pick up on the conversation as WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky asks McConnell about his conversion to Christ.
MARVIN OLASKY: Then you get on probation.
MEZ MCCONNELL: Well,I couldn’t get parole because the nature of my offenses were violent, and the only way I could get parole is if I had an address, and so this Christian dude offered me somewhere to live and so obviously, I’m, like, oh, yeah, I’ll take the address. That’s how I got paroled.
OLASKY: Then what happened? When did you start really hearing about…?
McCONNELL: So I moved to their house and it was, like, quite a nice house, sort of Christians would come around and do sort of Christian-y things, you know, talk about Jesus and read the Bible and pray and weird stuff like that, and these people just lived in another world to me.
I mean, I ran around with murderers, thieves, drug dealers, and so inside, I was thinking, “Man, I wish I could be as chilled out.” They didn’t seem really affected by life or they seemed to have, like, a peace I never had. My life was just frantic all the time. So actually, one of them invited me away to a sort of Christian youth weekend, which I was very suspicious about.
OLASKY: Christian youth weekend?
OLASKY: Did you do it?
McCONNELL: I did do it, but I set some ground rules, like if you try to brainwash me, I’ll just murder all of you.
OLASKY: Which would probably keep them quiet a little bit.
McCONNELL: Well, at the time, you may remember this, Doc, because you’re old enough. David Koresh, Waco, that was all over the news. So I thought Christians, I thought wackjobs, right? They were all in a compound having a youth meeting or whatever, and that went bad, and I’m thinking, come to a youth meeting and hear about Jesus, I’m thinking, Waco, right? So, I thought I’m a small guy, but I was pretty confident I could take most people. If they try and brainwash me, I was confident in my ability to handle the situation.
OLASKY: So what happened?
McCONNELL: So I heard about weird stuff like the blood of the lamb and redemption and just weird stuff, words you never hear in your life.
So I just was bored by it. Although, I was interested in Jesus. I quite liked Jesus because Jesus seemed to me to be a real pain in the neck to people in authority, and that quite appealed to me.
I left that weekend, decided I’m going to find out more about Jesus, and that’s what then started me, seriously, on the road to the Lord saving my soul, really.
OLASKY: How were you going to learn more about Jesus?
McCONNELL: Well, I found an old book in this dude’s house. It was a Matthew Henry commentary on the Bible. You’ve seen one of those bad boys?
McCONNELL: They’re bigger than me. I got a friend to help me carry it onto the table and so I just thought I’ll read this thing, right? I just thought it was a Bible. I didn’t know anything. So I read it from start to finish, took me a couple of months, but I read it.
OLASKY: So then what?
McCONNELL: I mean, you get to Leviticus and your head’s battered, right? And so I was asking Christians questions, and then I got into the New Testament, and the book of Romans just resonated with me because I’ve been taught lies my entire life, largely by social workers and drug counselors. They just lied to me blatantly.
OLASKY: And what were some of the lies that were most common?
McCONNELL: The biggest lie was this: that I wasn’t really a bad person, that I was a good guy that had a terrible upbringing, a terribly abusive childhood. I was a product of my environment, and if I had come from a good, stable home with both parents, etc., etc., then I would’ve have made the life choices I made, etc. And so I’m, like, yeah, yeah… I’m a victim.
Then I’m confronted with Paul—I’ll transliterate—who says, “No, no, no, son. You need to take responsibility for yourself, for your actions. Boohoo, you had a tough childhood, but you are a sinner standing in front of a holy God and there’s no excuse for your sin, regardless of how people mistreated you.” And so, that’s what led me to repentance and faith in Christ.
OLASKY: How long have you been at your church?
McCONNELL: Eleven years now.
OLASKY: Now you’re planting other churches, I understand.
McCONNELL: Yes. Now, we have, including this, seven churches or plants in five cities.
OLASKY: And how do you train the people who are coming in to be pastors there? What’s your process of trying, in a sense, give them the same DNA that you have?
McCONNELL: I mean, we need a generation of men and women who are willing to forgo the comforts of live and move into our communities, plant and revitalize churches, and grow a new generation of indigenous converts who will then, in 10 or 20 years, be the future church leaders. We’re miles away. I mean, people in my scheme haven’t had a gospel church for 30, 40, 50 years. We’re in a mess, a really bad mess, and it’s going to require a true old school planning and missionary mindset.
The problem we’ve got in the U.K. is that Christianity is almost encased in a middle class tertiary educated bubble, and nobody wants to come into the hard, poor communities. Historically, reformed evangelicals were at the forefront of true mercy ministries, hospitals, schooling for the poor. We’ve left that behind, and we’ve left this whole sway of the population to theological fruitcakes, charismatic fruit nuts, liberals, and the reformed church needs to get a grip of itself.
OLASKY: So what is showing the love of Jesus? What should that really look like?
McCONNELL: I mean, showing the love of Jesus is, first and foremost, is proclaiming the truths of the gospel. Jesus came because there’s a sin problem that needs to be dealt with. It doesn’t matter if you live behind a gated community or whether you live under a bridge; you are separated from a holy God because of your sinful rebellion, and people need to hear—listen, eternal hell is a reality, but here’s the good news, baby. You don’t have to go there, not if you turn from your sinful lifestyle and put your faith and trust in Christ the Lord for salvation and He’ll forgive you. That’s the good news.
So, showing the love of Jesus is preaching the gospel of Christ, and if you don’t get that, you’re an idiot in my opinion.