Listening In: Mark Mittelberg

WARREN SMITH, HOST: Mark, welcome to the program.

You know, I’ve known you for a long time, I guess. At least 10 years maybe more. And yet, never had you on the program. So it’s really a delight for me to have you here. You and I are both here at Summit Ministries and you spoke this morning to the students here at Summit about a confident faith and you went through 20 reasons why Christianity is reliable. You can have confidence in your faith. It was a, if I may put it this way, sort of a basic apologetics kind of course.

MARK MITTELBERG, GUEST: Kind of a cumulative case. 

SMITH: Yeah. And,it’s the kind of thing, though, that people are telling us that young people don’t care about anymore. Sort of this basic logical apologetics approach, but that’s not what I witnessed today.

MITTELBERG: Not at all. And, well, we met through our mutual friend Alex McFarland. He does these conferences on apologetics for young people and gets thousands of people to this. And yeah, for the people that want to say, you know, we live in a postmodern age, people don’t care about logic anymore or truth or you know, apologetics. I just say, listen, we are still human beings created in the image of God and God is a logical God. We were created as rational beings and even the people that claim that, they’re still rational and logical in how they order their finances and how they take their tests if they’re in school and how they figure out the speed limit on the highway. And so this idea that we don’t care about truth anymore, not only kind of works when they try to project that onto their spiritual views. And of course it really doesn’t work there either cause what you believe doesn’t change reality. And so I would just say we need to teach this. We not only need to keep teaching this, we need to teach it now more than ever because the faith of all Christians and especially young people is so under attack. And you know, we’re supposed to be prepared to give an answer for the reason, for the hope that we have according to 1 Peter 3:15. And people need this and young people need it and they love it when you do it. As you experienced, I love Summit Ministries too, cause they every summer gather, you know, hundreds of students at a time for these two week camps and they just eat this stuff up. 

SMITH: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, I heard you do this presentation, Mark, I guess many times before, but let’s sat in for a part of it today and you know, you’ll talk about you know, these 20 reasons for, you know, that people, that young people, that all of us can have confidence in the Christian faith. You talked a good bit about science and I’m like, you know, you’re kinda geeking out on some of the science in there. You know, the big bang and you’re quoting, you know, Stephen Hawking and others, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Oh, Mark, you know, you’re geeking out too much. You’re going too far into the science.” And then five hands will go up and somebody will ask you some technical question. I mean, they really care about this stuff. They’re really following this stuff. They may not be asking their parents, but it’s stuff that they’re thinking about. 

MITTELBERG: Absolutely. And in fact, when I first wrote the book that this talk comes out of called Confident Faith. I was in California and I had a friend who taught the junior high ministry at Saddleback. He bought two cases of the book, gave them to all of his junior high students, had them all read it and you know, you think, well,  junior high. Are they really interested at that point? Well, he ended that reading, you know, thing—it was in the summer—he had me come… They had like a house with a three car garage. They emptied it out. They put all these junior high students in there and me and a whiteboard and did a Q and A and we went for two hours solid with these junior high students to the point where finally the sponsors had to come and say, you know, the cul-de-sac is filling up with the parents are coming back to pick up the kids. This thing actually kind of ended a half hour ago, but the kids wanted to keep going. And I’ve seen that over and over and over. It’s part of why we think they’re not interested in it is because we haven’t bothered to really learn about it and teach them. And so we haven’t whet their appetites well but when we do they love it.

SMITH: Yeah. And of course the problem with that is that they’re not learning it from us. They’re learning it from their secular humanist history teachers or their atheistic science teachers—


SMITH: Yeah, right. Worse. Dr. Google comes to the rescue—

MITTELBERG: And Dr. Dawkins.

SMITH: Yeah. And unfortunately it’s not a rescue into faith, but it’s a rescue away or a leading away from faith. So let’s just stipulate for the record, Mark, that we don’t have time today to, you know, to go into all your books and the 20 reasons that, you know, you talked about today. We’ll put some links in some of the show notes to allow people to get there. But I can’t resist though, asking, since we’re kind of on this topic, what are the questions you’re hearing the most? What are the concerns that you’re hearing the most whenever you travel around the country? Cause I know you and Lee Strobel or ministry partners and you travel at conferences together, you know, you do conferences on your own, you’re here at Summit and that sort of thing. What are the, you know, two or three or four biggest questions that you’re hearing from kids these days? 

MITTELBERG: Well, you know, there has been a growth in overall skepticism. So you get a lot of questions about how do you know God exists? And that’s where I like to go to a lot of the scientific stuff as well as historical. But I like to start with science on the question of God’s existence. You certainly hear a lot about Jesus and his real identity. And, you know, did he really claimed to be the son of God? Maybe he was just misunderstood or, you know, he—I actually had someone say to me once, they said, you know, Jesus, he was a good man, good prophet. But if he knew you guys were worshiping him today, he would roll over in his grave. And I said, well, newsflash, he isn’t even in his grave. That’s the first problem here. But secondly, you need to go back to the original sources. Cause these ideas about Jesus didn’t come with some early church fathers. These started with Jesus. And even with the prophecies about Jesus before that. So, you get those questions. I mean, a lot of the questions frankly, are not that different. I mean, the problem of pain and suffering, problem of evil. Why does, if there’s a loving God, why does he allow it? I mean, stuff Paul Little dealt with in the 60s. A lot of that same stuff today, but I would say if there’s anything that has changed, it’s what about my gay friends? Do you guys condemn them? Or more strongly, you know, my church was unloving toward my friends or wouldn’t, you know, listen to them or treat them with respect. You get those kinds of questions quite a bit. And I think walking that balance—I have a friend Matt Brown that just wrote a book called Truth Plus Love. And a lot of what I find myself teaching is that we as Christians tend to polarize to one extreme or the other. We become so truth-oriented that we’re not loving and we don’t listen to people. We don’t, you know, the last part of the verse I quoted earlier, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “Give an answer, but do it with gentleness and respect and be gracious like Jesus.” And I think we often, you know, the truth side of our Christian movement often fails on the love side, but of course the pendulum has swung and you get a lot of progressive Christianity kinds of things happening today where we need to be loving and accepting and well then truth starts going out the window. And so a lot of what I’m doing is trying to say Jesus did both. I mean, he shared the truth and presented his message in a variety of ways, but it always included truth and love and I think we need to model after him.

SMITH: Yeah. It’s funny when you describe this. A lot of times we think about truth and law of as like on a scale where, you know, you put a little bit more truth into one side of the scale and it causes both sides of the scale to move. But in fact we’re called to hold both truth and love up at a very high level. It’s not one at the expense of the other. It’s both. It’s a both and. Not an either or. And it also does strike me that here hearing what you just said, Mark, that a lot of tthe issues about gay friends and the church didn’t treat her friend the way I thought they should be—that these are matters of the heart as much as matters of the mind that are keeping these kids from believing. Is that fair? 

MITTELBERG: I think it’s very fair and yeah, a lot of times it’s not the hard truth issues as much as, yeah, how do you treat people? Are you loving? Do you listen? Have you written whole segments of the population off? For instance, I’m, you know, as I just taught, I’m very strong on teaching people about the, you know, errors of Islam and the, you know, the dangers of Islamic teachings. But I want to be just as quick to talk about how much love my Muslim friends and how a lot of them are just the most wonderful people. And I think that’s that truth plus love thing. And I think they need to hear both sides of that. And again, just look at how Jesus treated people. The classic story of the woman caught in adultery. I mean, he protected her from her accusers. He really saved her life there, but he didn’t let the sin part go as he, you know, helped her up. He said, now go and sin no more. He did both sides. And I think as the church we got to really hold both of those handles strongly. And like you say, it’s not one against the other. More of this means less of that. No, it’s love enough to tell the truth and know the truth well enough to love like the savior loves. So the two go hand-in-hand powerfully.

SMITH: Well, Mark, everything you’ve said so far in some ways takes me all the way back to, I don’t want to say at the beginning of your ministry, but earlier in your ministry when you wrote How to be a Contagious Christian and and then you add a book on the contagious church. And these were not purely apologetics. This dealt a lot with evangelism and how is it that we as Christians and churches, individual churches can be more open to our unsaved friends. Can you say a little bit more about that? I mean, obviously there’s, you know, as we’ve been discussing, the apologetics side of things, which is you know, truth and logic and that sort of thing. But being a contagious Christian involves much more than that. 

MITTELBERG: It absolutely does. And for me, it’s the desire to be, you know, have an infectious faith or a contagious faith that touches other people, that leads them toward the savior and ultimately to faith in Christ. That’s what motivates my apologetics, my, you know, studying these things, presenting 20 arguments and so on. I’m not motivated to be an academic person who can spout a lot of facts or win arguments. I’m motivated to win people to Jesus. And I view apologetics as a key part of that. In fact, our mutual friend Jay Warner Wallace wrote an article somewhere. He said, you know, evangelism today is spelled apologetics. And he did a whole piece on that. And I agree. I don’t think it always does, but I think apologetics is such a key component because when you’re dealing with people who have doubts and questions or misunderstandings of what Christianity teaches, a lot of what you do need to do is straighten out wrong beliefs and give answers and give reasons for our faith. So I think that’s vital, but it’s not the whole thing.

I know a lot of apologists that, you know, rarely really go out and share the gospel or lead people to Christ. And that comes to much more of a broad mission mindset and awareness that Jesus left us on this planet for the central purpose of making disciples, leading people to Christ, teaching them what he had taught in, you know, baptizing them into the family. And that involves, you know, praying for people who are far from God, taking relational risks to get up close and hang out with people who don’t believe what we believe. Inviting them into a conversation about spiritual matters, you know, and sharing your testimony, sharing the gospel message. And then it may or may not go in apologetics direction, but we need to be ready to go there when it does. 

SMITH: You know, Mark, I’m curious because I’m—and forgive me for not knowing this off the top of my head—but on the Contagious Christian side of things, the first book that you did on that topic, I know you’ve done participants guides and then the Contagious Church, but the first one you did was what, 20 years ago? 25 years ago? 

MITTELBERG: You’re dating right now. But yeah, I actually had these, I was looking that up just yesterday actually. It was published in 1994 which, you know—

SMITH: 25 years ago.

MITTELBERG: That was a whole different millenia. 

SMITH: Yeah, exactly. Right. Well, it was just barely at the beginning of the—But part of the reason I mentioned that is because and you know this because I texted you the picture, but I’m sitting on an airplane in Charlotte, North Carolina, getting ready to come to Summit Ministries and there’s a, you know,  I’m introducing myself to the guy. I mean, call me weird. A lot of people like to go in their shell when they sit on an airplane, but I usually just introduce myself to the people sitting next to me. And so I, you know, Hi, I’m Warren, what’s your name? That kind of thing. And this guy, you know, he shared his name with me and I noticed he had a book in his hand. I said, what are you reading? And he held it up. And it was your book. It was Contagious Christian, the original version. 

MITTELBERG: It was like first edition hardcover. I thought, that’s amazing. 

SMITH: You know, so I took a picture, I said, Hey, you’re never going to believe this, but on Friday I’m going to see the guy that wrote this book and I’d just snap a quick picture and text it to him. And I did and you saw it. 

MITTELBERG: I gotta tweet that, by the way. 

SMITH: Yeah. But what was cool about that from my point of view is that you wrote that book 25 years ago—I mean, it was published 25 years ago. You wrote it more than 25 years ago. Did you have any idea that 25 years after he wrote it, that there be a God sitting on an airplane reading the book? 

MITTELBERG: That’s the beauty of writing, isn’t it? I mean, the books can go places we’d never go. I think this guy was from Africa. 

SMITH: Yeah, he was. He was here in the United States now. But yeah, he was from Africa. Nigeria. Yeah. 

MITTELBERG: So I mean books go where we can never go and they last longer than we last. And so yeah, I did have the sense when I was writing it that it was time for a fresh take on how we can naturally share our faith. I had the hopes that it would have some influence. I never knew it goes as far as it did. And even more so the course that came out of it, which went into over, you know, the becoming a contagious Christian training course went into over 20 languages and nearly 2 million people have been trained now through that course. And I just praise God. It’s just astounding to me to see that. 

But I’m not stopping. I’m actually just beginning to write some new materials that’ll kind of be the sequence to those and kind of the next thing. So I believe new things, you know, you need a fresh take on how to present the good news in ways that are irrelevant. 

SMITH: Yeah. Well, again, let’s just stipulate for the record, that in this podcast format that you and I are engaging in right now, we can’t do everything that a book can do or training course can do. But you know, Mark, we’ve got probably some listeners here that are tracking with what we’re saying there. That are saying, you know, I do want to have more confidence in my faith and I do want to be more contagious as a Christian and maybe God’s convicting them about that sort of thing. So other than go read your book and go take your training courses, got any advice for that person? 

MITTELBERG: Yeah. First of all, if they have that desire, that’s great because again, as I said earlier, that’s what Jesus left us on the planet for. I mean lot of what we do as Christians here, we can do in heaven. You know, worshiping and fellowshipping with each other and learning and studying. They’re all great and important things here, but we can do that for eternity. The one thing we can do here and that he tells us to do here that we will not be able to do in heaven is reach friends and family members who desperately need to know the gospel. So I think it starts with a mindset and kind of acknowledging that truth that when you really think about spiritual realities and heaven and hell and eternity, you begin to realize there is nothing more important for my life than to have an influence on others to bring people with me to heaven for eternity.

I think that’s really the start. And then I think from there to pray and ask God to root that value more deeply in me, to do a daily, to open opportunities. I think what we pray for, we begin to become aware of and I think he answers those prayers and gives us opportunities. I would also just say take a risk. Just, you know, we always assume people don’t want to hear it. They’re more interested than we think they are. And if we’ll just take a little relational risk or a little conversational risk and bring it up or ask them about their background or, you know, listen to them a little bit. They want to know and they want to talk. And a lot of times it’s hard to get away once you get it started. People are so curious about spiritual matters.

And what I found, you know, people ask me how I got into apologetics, it was through evangelism. Cause I meet a girl at the mall and find out she’s a Bahá’í and I have no idea. I said, what’s a Bahá’í? She said, well we follow Bahá’u’lláh and I go, okay, well thanks for explaining. That helps a lot. But then I went that week and studied about Baha’ism and the next week I met her again and said, Hey, I read up on what you believe. And it’s very interesting and could we talk more? So I think we grow in confidence. We grow in knowledge. We grow in skills in terms of communicating by getting our feet in the water and just taking some risks. And Jesus said, lo, I will be with you always when you do that. 

SMITH: Well, that’s a good word. I know in my own life sort of a defining moment came for me when I was in college and there was a Jehovah’s Witness that lived in my hall and and he would ask me questions that I didn’t know the answer to. And for a while it really shook my faith. But it drove me to, at that time, people like Josh McDowell Evidence that Demands a Verdict and Norman Geisler’s books and others, because that was before you were around writing. 

MITTELBERG: I read their stuff. That was the early stuff I read, too.

SMITH: Yeah. And  it really strengthened my faith were those encounters and trying to come up with good answers for myself. But, you know, Mark, I think one of the things, and maybe want you to address this with just a little bit. I think one of the things that keeps a lot of Christians from sharing their faith more than they do is that we live in such a success-oriented culture. We live in a culture that, you know, where you check the box, you get the A. We say Bill Gates has a net worth of as if, you know, the amount of money that he has is the measure of his worth and not the fact that we are made in God’s image as being the measure of the worth of all humans. So the point I’m getting to is that there’s such a fear of failure, that people are afraid to engage with other people because they’re afraid they won’t know the right answer or they’re, you know, if the goal is to lead this person to pray a 25 word sinner’s prayer and I don’t get to that in the end of my four minute conversation, then I’ve somehow failed. Can you address that a little bit? If somebody does have a fear of failure, a fear of not knowing all the right answers, a fear of not, you know, actually closing the deal so to speak. Why should we continue to share our faith anyway?

MITTELBERG: I think it goes back to the mindset thing I was talking about a minute ago to realize that my life in terms of success or failure, what’s important more than anything is success in God’s eyes. And that means doing what he leaves us here to do. The fact that we’re here to be witnesses for him in our Jerusalem, Judea, Sumeria, and the ends of the earth. And so, you know, failure is to not fulfill our greatest mission. And by fulfill, I mean take efforts to be obedient, be obedient. The old saying, Bill Bright used to say it all the time that, you know, our job is to, you know, obey God and present the message and it’s his job to lead them over the line and you know, make converts. And I think that’s so true. 

I think one of the things that we taught in the contagious Christian course—I say taught. Wwe still teach it and it’s still available. But I think one of the most helpful themes in there is that evangelism is a process. So when you say, you know, I didn’t get them to pray this 25 word prayer. Well the honest truth is that we would be making a mistake to push people too quickly to that prayer anyway. Because when people don’t believe or they have questions or they have doubts or they’re just trying to put the puzzle pieces together of what this gospel message really means, we don’t want to push them prematurely to sign on a dotted line. We become like car salesman—used car salesman of the shady type, let me qualify that. 

SMITH: That’s right. No offense intended to—

MITTELBERG: Not all the good car salesman. 

SMITH: To honest car salesmen.

MITTELBERG: Because I heard that there are some that exists. 

SMITH: Absolutely.

MITTELBERG: But we become like, you know, the shady side of that, like I’m just trying to get you to, you know, get in and I’ll sponsor you. I’ll get, you know, and then I’d go tell everyone I got another notch in the belt. Well that stinks. I mean that’s not the Jesus-like attitude. I mean love cares about the person and scripturally again, we’re to give them good answers and information and help them and walk with them and you know, journey with them toward the cross and be their friend. Jesus was the friend of sinners. And you know, I always teach this friends, listen to friends. So be a friend first. And I don’t mean lock eternally. You don’t have to put in 10 years of relationship before you bring up your faith. It’s quite the opposite. Part of friendship is sharing who we are and what we do and what we’re, you know, excited about. And so I think your faith should come out early, but that doesn’t mean you push them early to make a response. You’ve got to walk them through the process and don’t slow them down, but don’t push them prematurely. And so if all you do—Cliffe Knechtle says, you know, evangelism like a chain with many links and if you’re an early link or a middle link, praise God. Every link in a chain is vital. And if you get to be the last link, that’s exciting, but Cliffe said I’m not usually the last link and I’ll say the same thing. I’m not usually the person that leads them to faith, but if I got to be part of the process, I was being obedient in fulfilling the great commission. 

SMITH: Mark, I’d like to fast forward a little bit and just kind of talk about some of the things you’re doing today. As I’ve already mentioned, you and Lee Strobel are ministry partners. You’ve been doing a lot of work together for many, many years. And y’all recently wrote a book together, right? 

MITTELBERG: Yeah. We did a kind of an apologetics devotional, kind of a devotional for the mind and it’s called The Case for Christ Daily Moment of Truth. And it’s 180 daily readings that are just two pages each. So it’s a quick, you know, four or five minute deal you can do in the morning or whenever you want during the day. But it’s little infusions of truth and evidence and there’s some doctrinal ones where we deal with things like the Trinity, but just truths that Christians need to grasp. And I think getting it in a daily dose, you know, that’s bite-size, makes it easier to digest. And so we’ve gotten really good feedback on that book.

SMITH: Mm, that’s right. Well, and of course Lee—the movie The Case for Christ came out a couple of years ago and I had Lee on the program whenever that happened. So I’m glad to sort of close the loop now. And have you on that program. I’m just wondering whether, you know, that movie has had an impact on the ministry work that you guys do together.

MITTELBERG: In lots of ways. It really, you know, for Lee it got him, he was already pretty well-known, but you know, he became all the more and it’s really open great doors for him in his ministry in terms of speaking and influence. And I just hear stories all the time, partly ‘cause I’m with Lee a lot, partly because he forwards them to me, but stories—we just heard a story this week of a guy who watched the movie, came to Christ and now he’s gonna read the book. But he actually found Lee in a restaurant we were at together in Houston. And so I see the fruit of it. One practical way it influenced us was, you know, we love how the movie turned out. Lots of people have come to faith through, a lot of people give the DVD and you know, use it as an evangelistic tool and it’s on Netflix. So a lot of new people have seen it. But as we watched it over and over when it first came out, we thought there are so many good scenes that illustrate the things we teach Christians about how to share their faith or how to answer questions. What if we worked with Pure Flix and got permission, which we did, to use some of those segments in a new curriculum. And that’s the other newest thing I have out with Lee. It’s called Making Your Case for Christ, and it’s a six week video curriculum where Lee and I teach and every one of the six teaching videos has a short clip from the movie that illustrates what we’re teaching in that session. And it’s fun because it combines evangelism and apologetics to help us all be more ready to make our case for Christ, share our story, and share the gospel with our friends.

SMITH: Yeah. You know, one of your other collaborators on the Contagious Christian on a series of books was Bill Hybels back in the day. In fact, is that where you met Lee? I know Lee was a teaching pastor at Willow Creek for a while and you were on staff at Willow Creek as like director of evangelism or something like that? What was your role?

MITTELBERG: Yeah, in fact, Lee and I were hired, we started the same day at Willow Creek and that’s when we met. We were introduced by Don Cousins who was a kind of our direct report and great guy. He said, you know, Mark, you’re the director of evangelism. And he said, we got, we hired a guy to help you. And Lee did some administrative service ministry stuff, but he was my associate director of evangelism. And he said, so you guys get to work together so you probably should get to know each other. So we went and hung out the rest of the day and I would say that day became best friends and we’ve been doing ministry together for 31 years.

SMITH: That is really remarkable. Was that before The Case for Christ came out? 

MITTELBERG: Oh yeah. Way before that. 

SMITH: Because I mean Lee was probably a pretty young Christian at that time.

MITTELBERG: Well, yeah, in fact, and Lee talks about this. I mean, one of the things I did is we kind of formed a small group with Lee and his wife and Heidi and me and a couple of other couples. But I basically discipled Lee for about two years in basic theology and stuff that he had never gotten. You know, he had degrees in law and journalism. He had never formally studied. So yeah, I took him cover to cover through a Systematic Theology and we had a great time during that time but you know, I kind of mentored him in theology while he mentored me and writing and communications. And then he quickly emerged as a teacher and speaker and teaching pastor at the church at Willow Creek. And then he wrote his book, The Case for Christ, a few years later. 

SMITH: Based on a sermon series as I recall.

MITTELBERG: He did a sermon series where he interviewed a bunch of scholars and experts and we met a lot—you know, that’s how we met Gary Habermas. And now Bill Craig—William Lane Craig—I already knew he had been one of my professors.

SMITH: Well that’s right, William Lane Craig, who many of our listeners will know was your mentor and one of your mentors and Gary Habermas who you just mentioned is I think at Liberty and is probably the world’s leading expert on evidence for the resurrection. Would that be fair to say? 

MITTELBERG: Oh yeah. Him and a he mentored, Mike Lacona. 

SMITH: Yeah, that’s right. And yeah, I see Mike a—I don’t see Gary as much at conferences anymore. But I do—


SMITH: You do? I see Mike a lot. For some reason I see Mike a lot more than Gary.

MITTELBERG: Gary still, he calls me Markie. You can’t, but he can.

SMITH: I promise you I will not call you Markie Mark or Markie or anything related to that. Well, okay. So you and Lee were at Willow Creek and y’all were doing that thing together and that was during an era when Willow Creek was just exploding and—

MITTELBERG: It was incredible. 

SMITH: Yeah, and Bill Hybels was a senior pastor. Bill Hybels collaborated with you on some projects as well. Obviously Bill Hybels has been in the news lately for some other reasons. And so as Willow Creek been in the news for some other reasons that are not so good—sexual harassment or otherwise. And I don’t, you know, Mark, I don’t want to get you into all of that so much except to say that you know, as a Christian leader, somebody that travels a lot, I’m in the same boat you are in that regard. Maybe not quite as much as you. We have to be careful. The world’s watching.

MITTELBERG: Absolutely. And I got to say if what has been said is true, it’s a shock to me as much as anybody. 

SMITH: But you never saw any indication of that whenever you were on staff there. 

MITTELBERG: No. And, I just gotta say, I’ve learned lifelong lessons from Bill and I already was evangelism-oriented, but his passion for reaching lost people and his model, you know, people matter to God. I mean, that marked me for life and I know it did Lee, and you know, Lee came to Christ through his ministry. So, I mean, in that sense, we’re forever indebted, but you’re right, we all have to really put up the safeguards and be careful as we travel. You know, who we’re with and who we’re alone with and those kinds of things. And even, you know, the television and, you know, just things you see,  things on the internet. I mean, just, we got to put up those safeguards. And you know, I did a lot of traveling and conferences in Europe and I would sometimes, you know, European television is dangerous and I would, I started just taking a picture of Heidi and our two kids and I would tape it onto the television when I got in the room and then unplugged the TV and just say, I don’t need, you know, what they’re—

SMITH: Don’t even need the temptation of it. 

MITTELBERG: Yeah. And I just, I would urge all my brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s just not worth it. I mean there’s nothing better than being close to Christ and being filled with his spirit and being used by him and whatever’s going to get in the way of that, it’s not worth it. And we need to put up safeguards. We need accountability partners. You know, when I feel like I’m being challenged in some areas, I have friends I can call day or night or, you know, at least send them a text or an email or something and say, pray for me in this. And I think we all need those things.

SMITH: Yeah. You know, it’s funny you should say that. I’ve got a guy that I interviewed on the program a couple of few years ago—Michael Card, the musician. You probably know Mike, you know, he once said that everybody needs a 2:00 AM friend. And I said, what’s a 2:00 AM? And he said, that’s a guy that you can call at two o’clock in the morning and not only will he be okay with you calling, he’ll be honored that you called him. And be glad that you were the guy that he called. And that really stuck with me, that to have—especially those of us in ministry, we need a 2:00 AM friend, don’t we?

MITTELBERG: Absolutely. That’s a great description. And then we got to have the courage and humility to make the call or, again, if they’re not in reach to send a message and say, just for the record, you know, it’s kind of a hard time, or I’m going through this or that. Let’s talk about it when we can. And even that can help, you know, just to kinda go on record that I’m a human being and this is not easy. I’m out here alone and Satan loves to get us alone. And we just gotta be aware of his plots and schemes and not let him win.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, you know, Mark, when I have a chance to visit with somebody like you, somebody that has been in ministry for a long time, you know what Eugene Peterson called long obedience in the same direction, that faithfulness over—

MITTELBERG: You’re saying old. That’s what you’re saying. 

SMITH: Well, you know, I’m older than you, I’m guessing. So if I’m calling you old, I’m calling me really old. But you know, whenever I get a chance to visit with somebody like you that’s been at this for awhile, I often like to ask this question. How do you want to be remembered whenever you’re dead and gone and if folks think, Oh, Mark Mittelberg. Yeah, that guy was… How do you want to finish that? 

MITTELBERG: Faithful to Christ. I want to be known as someone who was steadfast and you know, obviously made mistakes and didn’t do all he could have done, but did a lot to, you know, faithfully follow Christ in a steadfast way and wanted to bring as many people with him as he could. And so yeah, he was, you know, tirelessly putting his energy toward sharing Christ, answering questions, you know, meeting people where they were, taking risks for the sake of the gospel. I just want to help fill heaven up. I just, you know, I think we need to love people so much that we’re not willing to see them go anywhere but with us to heaven. And that we’re willing to do what it takes to reach them for him. And I want to live that kind of life, and I’m trying to do that.

(Photo/First Colony Church of Christ)

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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