WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with pastor and author Jason Jimenez.
Have you noticed that we live in divisive times? Yeah, me too. My guest today, Jason Jimenez, says that when it is hard to have tough conversations – about politics, about the Gospel, about tough cultural issues – we tend to do one of two things: We either avoid the conversation, or we attack. We become aggressive.
Jason Jimenez believes there’s a more constructive third way, and that is to be an advocate. He asks the question: What does it mean to be an advocate for the truth, but also an advocate for people, even the people with whom you disagree. Is it possible to stand for the truth and – at the same time – love our neighbor and even our enemies in ways that make them believe they are indeed loved.
Jason has served as a pastor and ministry leader, and his books include The Bible’s Answer To Life’s 100 Biggest Questions, which he co-authored with Dr. Norman Geisler. The book we’re discussing today is his latest: Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church.
I had this conversation with Jason Jimenez at his home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Jason, welcome to the program. I got to tell you, I really enjoyed your book, Challenging Conversations. What motivated you to write the book? Why did you want to write this particular book at this time?
JASON JIMENEZ, GUEST: Well, first, Warren, thank you for having me. I appreciate you and the ministry and the work that you do. You’ve been a good friend for all these years. The purpose really writing the book was helping Christians not ignore challenging conversations with people they love. I mean, the subtitle is “A practical guide to help Christians discuss controversial issues.” And so, as you and I know, most of the time the MO is to avoid the conversation. A lot of Christians these days, they don’t like to jump into things that are divisive or they don’t like to even have disagreements. And so one of the things I saw very early on was it’s not unbiblical to have disagreements. It’s okay to have disagreements. The Bible just says don’t dispute over little things, contrary things that really don’t amount to a hill of beans in Romans 14:1. But you can have disagreements on major issues and I think we need to have them. And so the more that Christians are not talking about it, I think the less the gospel is being proclaimed, the less the truth of God’s word is being presented in these types of challenging times that we live in. And what we’re seeing then is either a form of progressive Christianity that takes charge, a form of liberalism or whatever. And so I wanted to help Christians know how to respond to these controversial issues, but do it willingly because they love God’s truth and they love others.
SMITH: Well, you just mentioned that, you know, we tend to avoid these kinds of conversations and you offer early in the book some reasons that we avoid these conversations. So, for example, I’m going to read a couple of them. I never know what to say. What if I embarrass myself? I don’t like it when people are mad at me. I don’t want to argue. I don’t like the way it feels when there’s tension between me and somebody else. And you’ve got a few others listed, but where did you come up with that list? Is this what you hear in your work and in the work that you’ve done at Summit?
JIMENEZ: Yeah, this is definitely, I mean, this is 22 years, basically, being a pastor, you know, since God called me in the late 90s and just continually seeing these excuses that people make. Now, obviously I didn’t want to come off negative. I wanted to look at the hard evidence as to why Christians struggle communicating. Now, people in general, we all struggle. Communication depends on what it is right with the person. Right now, as we’re recording this, you know, we’re under an election time. And so people can, you know, avoid conversations because they don’t want to get into arguments. And you see a lot of tension out in the streets. I actually like that. I prefer getting into very intense, heated conversations. I enjoy it because I think that’s really where the passion lies with a lot of people. I may strongly disagree with them, but I love having those conversations because it’s the exchanging of ideas. And I think that actually relationships can grow. You can actually love people who disagree with you. And so, but what I’ve seen is these excuses turn into people turning away from being engaged with people. And one of the biggest ones that I’ve seen anecdotally, researching, looking at a lot of stats, talking to a lot of people such as yourself, pastors, and interviewing a lot of Christians. Matter of fact, when we were putting this book together, we put out a survey and were evaluating people within the Stand Strong Ministries, Summit Ministries, you know, Baker was helping me, my publisher and there were two other independent firms. And we were looking at defensiveness, awkwardness, and not knowing the answer. And those are usually what I call the three fad excuses. And that’s just the reality because I think in order for us to solve this issue, we have to look at what the problem actually is. And those are the three big ones that Christians, majority of the time, will give you as to why they don’t want to jump into a challenging conversation.
SMITH: Well, you know, Jason, you said that you actually like having those conversations, I would think in part because you have mastered some of those issues that you just talked about. You know a lot of the answers and you have developed some tactics over time that sort of help you diffuse the tension in those situations and move to the issues. So, I think you would agree that developing those skills really does matter and tone really does matter. And the tactics that you use really do matter. What are some of the tactics that, you know, maybe you could share with our listeners that would get them past some of those objections that you just said that I’m sure that they probably fail.
JIMENEZ: The first thing I wanted to do is deal with the psychology aspect. We’re human beings. We’re relational beings. That’s how God created us. But what’s happening is we’re living in a vacuum right now. A lot of people are lonely. A lot of people are dealing with depression and a lot of people are dealing with a lot of these fad excuses that have literally destroyed many of their relationships or prevented them from letting God use him mightily. I do believe there are a lot of people, Warren, who could be living out a dream that God has called him to live if they would live boldly, without the fear of rejection. So what I do in the book is what I want to present. And this is key because when I evaluate, not only did I survey people in general, these fad excuses that they use—defensiveness, awkwardness, and not having the answer—but I also wanted to understand what they employ in those types of situations. For example, I refer to either as the avoider or the aggressor. And those are the two opposites. But they’re both things that you see with Christians in general, in the flesh. That is, again, letting fear, guilt, being uncomfortable, fear of not having the answer, fear of rejection, whatever, all those things as how they respond. But I wanted to point people to a third option, if you will. And it’s really the scriptural one. I refer to it as the advocator. And what that means is somebody who knows God’s truth and they advocate for the other person. That’s part of the great commission. And that person also throughout the book I referred to as a conversant Christian. Someone who’s willing to learn and be patient and understand, asking the right questions. So once we are understanding like, okay, my default, oftentimes, in the flesh is an avoider, the moment somebody starts saying something on Thanksgiving dinner about politics or racism or they come in wearing a BLM shirt or they have a MAGA hat on or whatever, my first reaction is to shut down. I get scared.
SMITH: Let’s talk sports.
JIMENEZ: Yeah. Let’s try to do something else. I, oftentimes, sadly laugh about it sometimes because sometimes people are intentional about what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to get a reaction from people. They’re trying to provoke. And we know, again, going back and we’ll get to those three tactics in a minute. But that’s what we have to do. You have to survey what’s going on here first. You don’t want to assume. Or it’s the aggressor, somebody right now who’s listening to us talk right now saying I’m definitely the aggressor. I get very defensive. I start lashing out. Maybe name-calling, maybe I start criticizing the person rather than critiquing their point of view.
SMITH: Or, even if they don’t go that far, they at a minimum want to win the argument. Right?
JIMENEZ: Yeah, it’s “I gotta prove this person wrong.” And we know which of course is a fallacy, just because you may prove someone’s argument wrong does not mean you proved your point. Or if you name-call, does not mean that you have a valid argument.
SMITH: Or that you’ve convinced them. I mean, I could prove mathematically that some statement that you said is wrong, but I still haven’t convinced you to come over to my position because I’ve embarrassed you, I’ve humiliated you, I’ve challenged some presuppositions that are behind that.
JIMENEZ: Exactly. And the sad truth is because we’re dealing with a society who are biblically illiterate, I don’t think people really think through what they believe. They don’t really know it. And so what I wanted to do, based on what we’re talking about right now, Warren, is okay, like my tendency in the flesh, I could be the aggressor, right? I’m a philosopher by trade. Theologian. Apologist. Like this is stuff that we’ve studied and trained to do. We deliver it. We write books about it. We do conferences about it. So I can have a tendency, but as we get older and by God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit, and actually my heart has softened through the years, pastorally, towards people. I actually love talking with people of the LGBT community. I love talking to people who are progressive Christians. I love talking to people who I’ve talked to many people through the years outside the abortion clinics. I care for those people. And I also love going into churches where people profess to be a believer, but don’t believe in the infallibility of scripture or that Jesus is God or he’s one way to God. And there’s other ways. I like having those conversations because they matter for eternity. So what I wanted to do is lay out, okay, where do you tend to fall into the category of avoider or aggressor, but let’s start focusing on the advocator point of view. What does that look like? Well, I talk about it in the book, but then I start showing that as an advocator, it doesn’t matter the topic, the perso, or the situation. If you employ these three tactics effectively, you will not win the argument necessarily. But what will happen is that you will win the person over. And that is key because I believe in advancing the gospel, you have to love and befriend people.
SMITH: Welcome back. I’m Warren Smith. And today you’re listening in on my interview with Jason Jimenez. His new book is Challenging Conversations: A Practical Guide to Discuss Controversial Topics in the Church. Let’s get right back to that conversation.
So, Jason, in the first segment, we sort of talked about the context here. But you were about to share with us some tactics, three individual tactics. What are those tactics?
JIMENEZ: The first tactic, Warren, as a conversant Christian—and, again, if we’re talking about, I deal with non-controversial issues anywhere from mental illness and depression to substance abuse, to divorce and remarriage, to racism, politics, abortion, so there’s a lot of issues there.
SMITH: And we’re going to get to it to some of those issues.
JIMENEZ: So, no matter, again, the person, topic, or situation, the first thing you want to employ in a conversation with anybody, again, these are challenging conversations so they’re going to be uncomfortable. The first thing you want to do is to relate. Your job is to personalize that conversation with that individual. And what you do is, again, body language, setting the tone, making them feel comfortable, there to listen to them, building rapport. That is a huge part of the art of persuasion is how you are to build rapport with someone. You got to make them comfortable if you’re going to prolong that conversation. The second tactic from relate is now you want to investigate. So, think of yourself as a journalist, such as yourself, asking the right questions to get to the truth. That’s a listening ear. When you have probing questions, Jesus did it. There are so many people who did it that I talk about in the book that were genius when it came to rhetoric. When you ask the right questions, what you’re showing that person is you care enough to ask why they’ve come to the decisions that they’ve come to.
SMITH: Yeah. You know, that’s an idea, Jason, that I think you and I have both encountered before with people like Greg Coco’s book tactics, for example, just the power. What are some of the questions that you have found to be effective?
JIMENEZ: So, one of the key questions is instead of diving into their point of view or whatever their worldview may be, or whatever their ideological position may be—politically theologically, spiritually—is asking them, Hey, when was the first time you started to develop this opinion or this point of view. Rather than what is it that you believe? When did this start taking shape in your life? That’s huge actually. And I rarely see anybody talking about these things. And by the way, Warren, when you do evaluate the spectrum of books out there, I think a lot of times we do provide tactics or we give people immediate responses, or this is how you’re to answer if somebody asks you this question. I wanted people to take the advocator point of view, what that looks like, give them three tactics, but then now, okay, let’s start addressing a lot of the challenging conversations. And so questioning their background is foundational to understanding, number one, what they believe. But if I’m going to be presenting the gospel or my point of view, I have to first understand what it is that they believe and why they believe it before I start poking holes, if you will, in that argument.
SMITH: So, why is it important to ask someone “When did you first come to this idea?” What are you trying to surface there? The fact that maybe they came up with this idea when they were very, very young and haven’t examined in a long time? Or maybe they came up with that idea when they were in a crisis in their life? Is that what you’re getting at?
JIMENEZ: Exactly. That’s the story behind everything. And I think, again, when we were talking earlier, I want to prove this person wrong. I want to prove why they’re wrong and I’m right. That is not the Christian way at all. You can’t find that in scripture. Again, the whole basis of the book comes from Ephesians 4:15, “Speak the truth in love.” Aggressor can speak the truth, but not do it in love. The avoider doesn’t want to be unloving by jumping into something and hurt someone’s feelings. So they think they’re being loving by not speaking the truth. The advocator says, no, there’s a both and. It’s the Jesus way. It’s the Christian way. And so what I’m trying to do is say, look, what’s important first and foremost is when did they start formulating these ideas? What shaped these ideas? Was it a person?
Was it a loved one who eventually passed away? Yesterday, as a matter of fact, I was witnessing to my lawn care guys. And I intentionally do that. I give them water. I give them a snack. I go check on them. I talk with them. And then immediately, as we’re just talking about life, that guy was talking about taking care of his niece during COVID. He’s not married. He lives with his mother. She has cancer. I said I’m so sorry. What’s her name? I’d like to be praying for her. And I told him about my brother who had died of cancer this past year and how I can relate to a loss and just the struggle of that. I said, well, I find comfort and hope in the Lord. What about you? He says, well, I was raised Catholic, very strict, but I’m not into that anymore. And that’s when I started asking—investigate. The second tactic was asking key questions as to why he is “not a practicing Catholic” these days though he was raised that way. So what is he today? What shaped him to come to those conclusions? You know what I mean? And as I’m investigating, I then start asking now the third tactic is to translate What that means is what have I learned about this individual? What have I shared in response to the individual? Hopefully I did it respectfully. Where do we agree to find the common ground, going back to relate where you build rapport to find common ground. And here’s the catch, Warren, this is where people miss. This is significant. And I hope all Christians listening will capture this. The third thing you got to ask in relate, this is harmonizing the conversation, now, whether it was 30 minutes, an hour, hour and a half, maybe at Starbucks or after a small group at church or something like is where do we go from here? See what happens oftentimes when you do jump into a challenging conversation, let’s say you took the aggressive point of view. You attack, you get defensive. You know, you’re folding your arms. You’re being resistant. You’re not listening. You’re interrupting. You’re saying, I didn’t say that. Or you’re putting words in the other person’s mouth. And, guarantee, if that’s been the approach, you’re never going to have a follow-up with that person. And most of the time that relationship is over. I don’t want to see that happen. I want to see people be able to lovingly and caringly jump into a respectful conversation though they disagree and say, okay, that was part one, Warren, where do we go from here? How can we have part two? How can we push this relationship forward and show the love of Christ between the two of us? So, those are the three effective tactics.
SMITH: Welcome back. You’re listening in today on my conversation with Jason Jimenez. Before we proceed, I want to offer a quick word of caution about the next segment of the program. One of the chapters in Jason’s book is about pornography, and we discussed that chapter in the next part of the podcast. There is, of course, nothing explicit in our conversation and indeed both Jason and I took care to handle this material sensitively and in a God-honoring way. I hope you’ll agree that we did that, but I also didn’t want to sneak up on you if you happen to be listening to this conversation with small children. With that, let’s get right back to our conversation.
Jason, I want to pivot in our conversation just a little bit, because up until now, we’ve talked about some of the context and some of the tactics that we can use. I’m going to dig into some of the specific conversations. And your book has a lot of them. I guess there’s eight or 10 in total. And we can’t dig into all of these but there are a few that I did want to spend a few minutes on. And one of them is the question of pornography. In part because you brought me face to face with the reality in your book that this is kind of the dirty little secret of the church, right? I mean that it is pervasive. That is, you know, over 50 percent of men in church have issues with pornography. And it’s something that we kind of talk about in the abstract, but you get pretty specific here.
JIMENEZ: The reason I give specific is because I think this has been the detriment to a lot of the church. I just was doing an interview recently and I said, listen, the fact that we haven’t presented the case that sex is good in the confines between a man and a woman, and that’s kind of tabooish and the Christian circle, not in all denominations, but predominantly it is. Or you have a lot of these other movements that I think do a disservice, if you will. I’m a goody two-shoes if I’m not having people touch my body or vice versa. But it’s so much more than, as you and I know, Warren, when it comes to holy sexuality. But because we didn’t do that as well with the growing generations between millennials and gen Z. And because we have a lot of men, as I show in the stats, and one of every three clicks is also a woman, by the way, not to mention, obviously when you’re looking at porn, there are women in the porn industry. But sadly, a lot of them get involved in it—human trafficking, delusional means to be successful in Hollywood, et cetera. And that’s a different story altogether. But why I wanted to address this issue because when we don’t talk about sex is a good thing and when we talk about the issues that we’re seeing with porn and how many people are looking at porn, we’re not going to be talking about other issues like sexuality or same-sex attraction or transgenderism at all. Porn is the industry that feeds all of those things. And I talk about that in the book as well. And porn is not just related to 18 to 45 year old men predominantly. It’s across the board. So this is, I refer to in the book, as this silent killer. And it’s destroying us, I’ve been doing this long enough, I’m raising four kids. Two of them are teenagers. We are having these conversations. I go out there traveling, Warren, as you do. And I talked to a lot of parents and young people about this issue. And sadly, I see how demoralized, particularly, people are when they have this private obsession, but then they go to church and I call them, they’re remorseful viewers, who don’t know how to talk about it before their congregation because they feel ashamed.
SMITH: Well, let me drill down on that just a little bit, Jason, because you say a couple of things in your book that I want you to highlight here. Number one is that in your kind of list of statistics, you talk about the first exposure to porn these days. I think you said was 11 years old.
JIMENEZ: Yeah, some reports even show nine, but more or less it’s 10 to 11 years old.
SMITH: And so I think that if we’re parents or grandparents listening to this conversation, and we think that the time is not right to have this conversation with our kids, we’re probably wrong. I mean, these kids, if they’re beyond the age of nine or 10, they are probably having this conversation either internally or with their friends or with their smartphones. Right?
JIMENEZ: Yeah. And the sad thing, because again, all of our kids have devices. That’s all we call them digital natives. Gen Z, that’s now into college in 2020 and usually we’re looking, these are the generation that came post 9/11. These are digital natives. All they’ve ever known since iPhones came out in 2006 is a device in their hands. So a lot of these, Warren, go unsupervised. So it’s not that these nine and 10, 11 year olds are looking for porn necessarily. Aadly also, by the way, Warren, there’s statistics that show parents, particularly dads unfortunately, or an older sibling that exposes a younger sibling to porn. So, the kid wasn’t looking for this. But the marketers are. They know that. And we see through social media lenses, when you have Instagram, Twitter, of course is a disaster, has been for quite some time. And now Facebook, when you get a lot of friend requests. So kids who have Facebook, they get friend requests from basically porn stars, people that are marketing false profiles. So, they’re looking for them. So yes, if you were to have not had a conversation, you’re a parent or a grandparent and you have a kid who’s nine or 10 and you’re not having these conversations, again, the first thing to talk about is sexuality in general. What makes you special or unique between a male and a female, et cetera, and the organs that they have—they need to be having.
SMITH: So paint the positive picture first.
JIMENEZ: Yeah, exactly. The positive picture first before you jump into talking about naughty things, and there are bad people out there that are exploiting private parts. We need to be having these conversations. Now, I do not think it’s solely on the church to do that. It’s primarily the parents first and foremost. But churches need to be an aid to assist families because quite frankly, Warren, with how biblically illiterate a lot of people are these days, they’re not having the conversations at all. So guess who’s having the conversation? The media, social media, and that’s where they’re learning about this stuff.
SMITH: You said something else in your book that I want you to quickly tell this story because I do think it gets to that idea of porn being a silent killer. A killer of our faith, of our walk with the Lord, with our potential for leadership within the church and our families. And that’s a story of a kid that you ran into at Summit. You were speaking, and he was quiet off to the side until the crowd kind of — I’ve spoken before and after you give a speech, the kids come up, but sort of one by one they go away and usually there’s one or two left. And that’s what happened to you. Tell me about this kid.
JIMENEZ: Yeah, so sadly, this is a typical story. Now, obviously, if I’m going to tell the story about my personal life of being molested when I was a child and when I had a porn problem of course you’ll get a lot more responses afterwards and people are very, very thankful that you’re that vulnerable and that open. And the reason I do that is because that’s what the Holy Spirit’s led me to do. So, I could show people this is what a person filled with the Holy Spirit who has been forgiven and restored, been victimized, but also went down a path because of other bad influences in my life—older cousins, older siblings who exposed me to things. That’s a tragic story of my life. This is, again, this is pre-internet right. So you had to get a book or a magazine. So a typical story, sadly, of an individual like this one young man at Summit, felt fully ashamed, totally embarrassed to even bring up the situation. And this is what’s sad. Some of them will be very direct and say, Hey, look, I masturbate. Where does it say that’s wrong in the Bible? I know it’s wrong. I feel it’s wrong. Consciously, morally I know it’s wrong. Spiritually I feel completely dark and away from the Lord. What should I do? How do I restore this relationship? I keep asking God to forgive me. And every time it’s like, I go a few days and then I see something or I get on my phone and I can completely eliminate any history or track record that my parents can’t find. Well in this case, and this is what I’m finding, Warren, and I can tell other stories that are very similar to this one. They ask the question by saying, can God forgive me? Or has God abandoned me because I continue to do a particular sin that I’ve told him over and over again, that I’ll stop doing. And I know, immediately, it’s because of this sexual sin and it has to do with porn. And I’d give, by the way, for your listeners, Warren, it’s very important in the porn chapter, I show the progression of porn. From the thoughts, to a viewing, to masturbating, to having sex, this progression. And one of the chapters I deal with as well, not just porn, but it’s premarital sex. So that will be very helpful for people if they’re very interested about how can I figure these things out and have these challenging conversations? Because what’s happening now, especially for men, their identity is completely lost because of their porn addiction and God hates them and they can’t be forgiven.
SMITH: Well, and the answer to that is no, God doesn’t hate them and they can be forgiven.
JIMENEZ: Absolutely. And that’s the thing, just like I told my son, who’s 17, you have desires. That doesn’t mean you give into the desires. But when we do sin, there’s no sin as great enough that God cannot forgive, unless obviously, is we’re talking about somebody who rejects God completely. That’s the unpardonable sin. Because God doesn’t force himself on someone. But when you have somebody who feels ashamed, when you have somebody who is sexually attracted to same-sex or the opposite sex, and they’re figuring things out and they’re young and their hormones are going crazy and they’re all fired up and they have all this exposure to something as a simple click, unfortunately, this is what we’re talking about. It’s looking for them, as we said, and you have friends who were showing it, that’s the other thing. Parents may be screening these things out, but then they go to their friend’s house or they’re at school or whatever, you know what I’m saying? And what are they being exposed to? And will they bring it up right? Will they bring it up? That’s the other thing. So, this is what we have to remind people is when this stuff happens, God is right there to forgive you. And I give, especially in the translate section of the porn, how you respond to someone who wants to get help. And I give biblical responses to that.
SMITH: I think one of the things that causes this section to really cause me to sit up and take notice is that I have found, Jason, in my dealings with people that a lot of people reject Christianity, not because they have examined the claims of Christianity and found them to be false. Because if they examine the claims of Christianity, honestly, they will find them to be true. Often what happens is there’s been some area of sin, often sexual sin, that creates tension, cognitive dissonance in their lives. And they know that they’ve either got to give up their sin or give up God and they choose to give up God rather than give up their sin and finding a way to help people give up their sin so they don’t give up on God is such a powerful way to get people past that point and maybe move them beyond and maybe farther up and farther in more deeply into their relationship with Jesus. Is that a fair summary?
JIMENEZ: It is fair, because, again, it goes back to if you fellowship with God in the light, you know, okay, there’s going to be beauty. There’s going to be wholeness, right? Remember that’s what Jesus said in Matthew 5:48, “To be perfect as my heavenly father is perfect.” Not the moral perfection, but the completeness. And that a lot of the completeness that a lot of these people that are in porn, they’re struggling with is in the mind. And so teaching them not just to hold every thought captive, but also teaching them how to be rooted and grounded in Christ. And that is something that when they do fall into that, they feel like they’re failing God. But one of the things you also see is an insufficiency there is understanding of what grace means and not to take it for granted. But that’s what I explore with the reader in that chapter, because what we find—case in point in my own life, and I even talked about John Bevere—is a lot of times people, they are willing to risk some things to become favorable again to God, but it’s complete surrender to God. So like when we talk about substance abuse or porn addiction or any type of addiction and predominantly it’s caused by trauma, not all the time, but most of the time. But what I talk to people there when it comes to getting away from porn addiction or substance abuse, it’s not sobriety that matters. It’s solidarity in Christ. And that is the main focus we’re trying to get people to understand. And, again, by the way, just to say this, Warren, this also is, and again, I do this in introduction, when you do not teach the full extension of God’s word, you’re not going to be covering these issues completely. So people have a dumbed down view of who God is, his holiness and forgiveness. So when you then add addiction to a lack of theological understanding of who God is and salvation, this is a total mess, and this is where we find ourselves in.
SMITH: Yeah. Well, Jason, unfortunately we can’t cover every single issue. You brought up addiction, for example, and obviously pornography is one form of addiction, but there are other forms as well. I just would recommend all of our listeners read the book, read the book. There’s some really great practical stuff here, but there’s one other area I want to talk about briefly before we bring our time together to a close, Jason. And that is racism. You mentioned the Thanksgiving dinner where somebody comes in with the BLM t-shirt or the MAGA hat or whatever. I mean, I think it’s fair to say that race has become, you know, one of the wedge issues in our culture today. Even within the church we struggle with how to talk about it, how to have that conversation in a constructive and respectful way. What advice do you have?
JIMENEZ: Basically, people need to recognize that there is a form of prejudice in all of our hearts. And the other thing is, and especially speaking to Christians, you know, it’s not, again, we’re going back to those three tactics—relate, investigate, translate. You don’t want to name-call. So you don’t immediately just say you’re a racist because you’re wearing a certain, you know, merchandise. You’re representing a certain point of view, let’s say. So understand that there is prejudice in all of our hearts. Does not mean that person’s a racist. But also identifying that there are people around us that have been discriminated against and what can I do to care for them? You know, we definitely live in this society, in cancel culture, Warren, where these aggressions, you know, phrases like white privilege, you know, and then of course, sadly, you had Louie Giglio tried to refer to that as white blessing to try to get the gospel in there, total disaster. So one of the things you don’t want to do is you don’t want to associate everything you see on the news to formulate your ideas about racism. The bottom line is racism at its core is satanic. It is Satan’s way to divide a white person, let’s say, from a black person or a brown person from a white person, whatever the case may be, whether they’re Asian, Caucasian, or African, we are all made in the image of God. And, again, I talk about in the book. So if somebody is like, oh, I’m really interested so I can, you know, navigate again as a conversant Christian in the culture we live in, have this challenging conversation. Check your heart, don’t fall prey to what the press is telling you, understand that we’re all made in the image of God. And God is actually calling us—like me. I’m half Hispanic. So I grew up in a very diverse background in Tucson, Arizona. So, predominantly the people in a poor neighborhood, by the way, not educated. Less than 20 percent in my zip code where I grew up went to college, I was a second person in the Jimenez family to go to college and graduate. So there’s definitely a dynamic there within minority communities. And I think as someone who has been raised in this great country of ours, Warren, who is white, that does not mean that they’re a racist. Had they had advantages in some areas than maybe some of the minorities? Of course, but that does not mean that they are a racist. And I think that when we start labeling that, that’s a huge mistake. And I’d say, lastly, if you do attend a church that doesn’t really talk about this stuff, and they think that well, we’re all colorblind here, or we don’t deal with these kinds of things. They’re missing the mark because we are to embrace the beauty of diversity. That’s what makes us unique. So we’re not to be color blind. That is a form of racism, if you will. Doesn’t mean that person’s racist. So we can’t buy into this kind of stuff. And the last thing I know, I keep saying the last thing. But this is important, Warren is if you look around your spectrum, your sphere of influence, and you see that most of the people that you hang out with on a daily basis are really like you—the same color, kind of the same background. You know what I mean? I encourage people to diversify in their portfolio of relationships, because you will start learning about, again, as we were talking about earlier, people’s backgrounds and why certain ethnic groups or cultures do certain things and learn them. Just learn them. And I think that that will eliminate a lot of the fear
SMITH: You know, Jason and, again, correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems like that we keep circling back to this notion of relationships over and over and over again. I mean, no matter what, whether we’re talking about pornography, whether we’re talking about race, whether we’re talking about marriage itself. I mean, I guess in some ways I should not be surprised, right? I mean, Jesus came to have a relationship with us. I mean, he left the privileged place he had in heaven to be Emmanuel—God with us. And so I guess in some ways you’re just calling us back to first principles in that regard, right?
JIMENEZ: Back to first principles. And I talk about in the chapter on mental illness, be a pick me up, be like those friends who took that paralyzed man to Jesus. Be that friend to someone who needs you and it’s not going to be easy. And that’s the other thing is relationships, Warren, as you and I know, can be an inconvenience, but we have to be willing to be vulnerable and we have to be willing to listen. And that is the great gift that we can give people is by listening to them. And so especially now with a lot of the division we’re seeing in our country and quite frankly, in our churches. The sad thing is, Warren, I would say is doing this for many years, as you’ve done it, it’s sad to see how the church has become silent on these issues. And what that’s doing is affecting relationships as a whole. And they keep talking about community, we need community. Well, if you want community, you have to talk about hard things. You have to be willing to go there for people. Don’t beat around the bush and definitely don’t come out, you know, swinging. I talk about the analogy, one last thing, in doing these conversations, have these healthy relationships. Think of it as a baseball game, not a punching match. And I think that that will help people recognize I gotta be less aggressive. I gotta stop avoiding these things and I gotta be present. And that’s what I want to leave your listeners with. Be present in the relationships that God has put around you, because you will start seeing many blessings and the privilege of advancing God’s truth as his hands and feet to so many people that you never thought possible that you could reach. But when you trust the Lord and you don’t be paralyzed by fear, you have to learn. Read the book, learn how to do that. That’s so important. I don’t want to just feed people the information. I want to teach them how to carry those relationships forward. And you will see God do a great work in your families and your friends and people at church
SMITH: Jason Jimenez, thanks so much. It’s great to have this conversation with you and thanks for this book Challenging Conversations.
JIMENEZ: Thank you, Warren.