Listening In: James Emery White


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith and today you’re listening in on my conversation with writer and pastor James Emery White.

When James Emery White founded Mecklenburg Community Church in the 1990s, it grew rapidly. So rapidly, in fact, that some news accounts said it was the fastest growing church in U.S. history, going from church plant to 2,000 members in less than two years. It was the very model of the 90s era seeker-sensitive church, incorporating technology, music, and gourmet coffee in the lobby.

But an interesting thing happened to Jim White on his way to celebrity pastorhood and megachurch coolness. He started writing books. There’s nothing unusual about that. Lots of celebrity pastors do it. But these books were not—how do I say it—“McBooks,” books transcribed from sermons and edited by ghost-writers, designed, and promoted, to make the best-seller list and then be quickly forgotten so people would buy the next book. Books like Embracing The Mysterious God and Serious Times did not end up on the bestseller lists, but they did end up on a number of year-end best-of lists, and they continue to have an impact today.

And for a season Jim White took a break from pastoring to become president of the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Though his tenure there was successful, it was not wholly satisfying. He missed being a pastor, and he went back to the church he founded and remains there today.

James Emery White has a new book called After I Believe, and today I talk with him about that book, and—later in the program—about his own journey as a pastor, a leader, and how to finish well. 

Well, James Emery White, welcome to the program. It’s great to be on with you and talk about your book, After I Believe. And to be honest with you, I want to talk to you about a million things. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a chance to visit with each other and I just have been really anticipating and looking forward to our time to be together. But let’s start with the book, After I Believe: Everyday Practices for a Vibrant Faith. This, in some ways, is kind of a follow-up book to one that you did a while ago. The earlier book was about bringing people who were not Christians into the faith and this one kind of takes some from that point forward. Talk a little bit about the relationship between those two books, and why you felt this one was important for now.

JAMES EMERY WHITE, GUEST: Sure. One of the books I did over 20 years ago or more was a book called A Search for the Spiritual. That was a book that was written and designed, put into the hands of someone who is not a Christian, but is willing to explore it. Obviously, that’s a lot of time and needed quite an update. Questions people are asking now are very different—ones non-Christians are asking now. And a lot of apologetics are very enlightenment based, which is—answering enlightenment based questions, which is a good thing. But there’s not as much in tune to cultural apologetics. So many of the questions have changed. So anyway I updated that and came out with a book last year called Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians. And so this one was essentially — the working title was Christianity for People Who Are Christians. And so it’s a book on foundational discipleship. And I’ve always wanted, you know, to have a chance to write a book like that. One book you could put in the hands of a new believer, fresh from the waters of baptism, or maybe someone who you realize after a couple of conversations, they’ve been a Christian for 20 years, but they have never really been grounded in the faith and the elementals. So, this was a book written for everybody who wants to make sure they don’t have a pocket that hasn’t been touched. So, it’s a comprehensive foundational volume.

SMITH: Well, and Jim, I gotta say, I read the book and found it to be very nourishing, even for someone who’s been a Christian for, you know, 40 years or so. So I really appreciate you writing this book. But one of the things that I appreciated most about this book were some of the stories that you told. And I’m gonna just stipulate for the record, if you want to know what’s in the book, go read the book, but to maybe whet your appetite for it, some of the stories that you told I’d like for you to recount. One of them is the story that didn’t exactly happen to you. But you heard this story whenever you were traveling overseas in the former Soviet Union. Or at least, I think it was one of the countries in the former Soviet Union. You can tell the story better than I can, so why don’t you do that, about these soldiers that burst into a Bible study.

WHITE: I was invited to teach at the Moscow Theological Institute with two other professors and our students. This is in 1994. And hadn’t been that long. And they were still feeling the freshness of their freedom. And many of our students still had their gulag serial numbers, and you would see the scars on their back. I mean, it was a very Spartan place. We had take big group showers like you were in college. And they’re just amazing people. Anyway, one of the stories was that there was — and Chuck Swindoll, I think, also had heard the same story, because it seemed like I ran across it in his one of his writings once. But as it was relayed to me, when the church was underground, there was a small group meeting, and they were just singing very softly, because they didn’t want to be discovered. And there was a bang, bang, bang on the door, and two soldiers came in with their guns. And they said, “Put up your arms.” And they said, “Okay, all of you who are ready to renounce your faith in Christ right now, this is your time. Leave.” And two or three did. And then they turned back, and one of them actually pulled back the bolt, and said last chance. If you’re ready to renounce, now’s your time, and another one or two left. And then they turned, closed the door, and said to the remaining group, leave your hands in the air. Only this time and praise because we too are Christians. We just needed to find out if you were really Christians, because we’ve found that someone’s not ready to die for their faith, they can’t be trusted. And that was a part of the book where I was trying to get into. What is belief really about? It’s far more than just mere intellectual assent or hidden knowledge. It’s giving over of a life and even to the point of death if need be. So yeah, it was a powerful story.

SMITH: Yeah, it is a powerful story. There’s one other story that I’d like for you to tell. And we’ll dig into sort of the meat of the book here, but these stories are so powerful. They really do help us kind of get into some of the, I guess you could say, the theology and the dogma of the book as well and the practical stuff. But one of the stories is a story of Chuck Templeton, who was a friend and colleague, contemporary, you might say, of Billy Graham, early in their lives. But Billy Graham went one direction. And Chuck Templeton went another. Tell me about Chuck Templeton. 

WHITE: He was actually considered the better of the two speakers. He was an evangelist as well. The one that they thought had the better future. But he went a little left of center in his theology. Began to discount and question the truthfulness of Scripture. It got worse and worse. He actually tried to convince Billy of the same. And he filled Billy’s head with a lot of questions that he couldn’t answer. And there was this moment out at the Forest Home Retreat Center in California, where Billy went out for a walk late at night. His head was swimming with all these questions that Chuck was raising. And he just prayed. There was a big rock there. And he prayed, Lord, I don’t have answers to everything that Chuck’s raising. But I choose to have faith in this Bible, and I’m going to believe it as a word of God. And he did. And he said, from that point on, my ministry just took off. I felt like when I had the Word of God, it’s like I had a rapier in my hand. And I could just pierce right through men’s souls, which is exactly, obviously, what Scripture says. Piercing and dividing soul and spirit marrow. And I actually tell in the book that what’s interesting was, I didn’t know about that story, that thing until I went off for a walk at Forest Home. I was speaking there once and I kind of went off the trail. And I saw this huge rock and there was a plaque that is there, I guess, to this day, commemorating where Billy made his decision to believe in the Bible. And where he feels his ministry began to become really anointed. 

The story about Chuck Templeton is that — and this came from a friend of mine, Lee Strobel, who I know your listeners will be familiar with, I hope they are. And that he actually tracked Chuck down toward the end of his life. And, you know, he was nearing dementia or dealing with some of those things. But he was a broken man. His life had really become nothing. And he just kept saying, I missed Jesus. I just missed it all. I missed Jesus. And Lee said it was just such a terribly tragic ending of a life that he realized at the end that he’d missed everything.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, it is a sad story for Chuck Templeton. But in some ways, it can be a story of encouragement. And I don’t know, when I say encouragement, I think I really mean the word in the root sense of the word that it could give us courage to continue to follow Christ even in the face of doubts. Because you’re, I think, a part of the lesson in that story is that we’re gonna have doubts, and we’re not going to know all the answers, but we can still choose to follow Jesus.

WHITE: Yeah, and as I heard Os Guinness put it once: We may not have all of the answers, but we can trust in the one who does.

[BREAK]

SMITH: I want to kind of pivot just a little bit in our conversation and dig into the meat of one aspect of the book, Jim, and that is the chapter on prayer. And you say something in that chapter that is very provocative, that a lot of my listeners, and probably a lot of your readers are going to have a little trouble fully taking on board. And that is this idea that God always answers prayers, that there are no unanswered prayers. First of all, am I getting it right? Is that what you’re saying? And can you explain that?

WHITE: Yeah, I’m not trying to get into the debate about does God hear the prayer of a Muslim or a Hindu? I mean, I think that if they utter a prayer of repentance, I mean, obviously and want to come to Christ, that’s obviously a prayer that’s heard. But I’m not going to go further into that theological back and forth. I am talking about in a book for Christians that absolutely I stand by that there’s no such thing as an unanswered prayer for those of us in Christ. But as I say in the book, that doesn’t always mean yes. There’s at least four ways and this is not particularly original with me. But I kind of craft you know like the answer can be no. In other words, the request is wrong. Like when the Zebedee brothers wanted to rain fire down and Jesus said, of course not. You have slow, which is meaning the timing is wrong. In other words, that what we’re asking God to do is not the right timing. And he knows perfect timing. His answer could be grow, which is there’s something with you. You’re asking with bad motives or something like that. My response to you is not no, and it’s not this is the wrong time, it’s that you’ve got some things to develop in your life in terms of personal growth, and even motives. And then, of course, the last one, to kind of play off the, you know, words—no, slow, grow—and go. Meaning yes, the answer to your prayers is a resounding, affirming yes. So I do think that we just tend to kind of have a very narrow view of an answered prayer as yes.

SMITH: Well, one of the implications of what you say there, Jim, kind of struck me and I don’t know that you said it explicitly in the book. But in some ways, you kind of said it just now is that we sometimes when we ask God for something, we want to see the entire plan laid out before us. And yet we have these models in Scripture, even from the Lord’s Prayer, from the prayer that Jesus Himself prayed, Lord, give us this day, our daily bread. And what Jesus—it seems to me—again, correct me if I’m wrong, is saying there and what you seem to be saying is that God sometimes just tells us what the next step is, or maybe what the next two or three steps are, but not what the entire trail ahead looks like. 

WHITE: Sometimes you can walk away from most fervent prayers and all you walk away with is a sense of, well, you know, I’m just called to trust. 

SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Right. That’s pretty powerful. Another story, if I could, if you would indulge us or indulge me. You tell the story of two guys whose last name you don’t give in the book. In fact, I have found myself as I was reading the book, trying to figure out who these two guys were because the story is pretty amazing. And it’s a story of Bob and Doug and their experiences in Kenya. Can you briefly tell that story?

WHITE: Yeah, I’ll have to do an unabridged version because it’s a longer story. It’s a fun story in its long form. But in essence, Doug was a well-networked guy in Washington, who befriended Bob who was an insurance guy and fairly new to Christ. And Doug began meeting with him and pouring into him. And they were talking about how you need to pray. And Bob says, well, what do I pray for? And Doug says, I don’t know. And he said, Well, I’ll pray for Africa. And he said, Well, that’s a big one. You might want to narrow it down. He said, well, I’ll pray for Kenya. And so he started to pray for Kenya and there was some fun in there where they made a $500 bet about it and stuff. But short form, he began praying for Kenya and then he found himself at some meal sitting next to a woman who ran the largest orphanage in Kenya. And they just started talking. And he just felt like God was opening up a door. So he started asking what the needs were. And she made it known. And so a lot of it was pharmaceutical medical stuff. So he started writing to all these pharmacies and medical places to get leftover medicine they weren’t going to use or getting ready to discard or equipment. And began organizing this thing in a massive way to the orphanage. Well, they invited him over and he went, and who was at this orphanage celebration, but the president of Kenya. And they hit it off, and he took them on a tour of Nairobi and things. And he saw this building. He said what’s over in that building? And the president said, well, those are our political prisoners. And Bob said, well, that’s not good. You ought to let them go. He goes back to the States and he gets a call from the State Department, saying, Are you Bob? Yeah. The life insurance guy? Yeah. Were you in Kenya and met with the president? He said, yeah. They said, he’s letting go of his political prisoners. We’ve been trying to do that for 20 years. We never could get him to do it. It’s a fun story about just the power of prayer. And, you know, he just started praying for Kenya.

SMITH: Yeah. Well, it is a very powerful story. And, again, let’s just stipulate for the record there, you got a lot of stories in here about the spiritual disciplines that you are encouraging us to cultivate in the book. And, you know, again, we can’t go through them all. But we’ve talked a little bit about how to read the Bible and how to talk to God and some of the other issues there. But one of the things that I want you to say a little bit more about because you alluded to it briefly when we were talking about prayer, when you say that prayer is no, slow, grow, go that those are the four possible answers, that sometimes God pauses us in the slow and the grow portion of that. Because we need more spiritual maturity to be ready for the go part of our prayer. Say a few words, Jim, about meditation and about reflection and about kind of just slowing down in this crazy world that we live in.

WHITE: You know, when I teach on this I always try to make it very clear because when I think about meditation or reflection, I tend to assume that the way most people who are hearing me is thinking about it as an Eastern form and emptying of themselves, which I think is obviously not the Christian form of meditation. In fact, I think it obviously can even invite the occultic. But the Christian meditation is being filled, filling yourself, meditating on the Word of God. And being in prayer and prayerful meditation and those things. And I do think there’s a sense where until we can quiet ourselves, as the scripture say, we can’t hear that still small voice. And that the Holy Spirit, you know, what we do, consequences of our life can scream, but the Holy Spirit tends to whisper. And so that’s why silence and solitude have been part of Christian formation from the earliest. And so I do think that there’s a key place for that in a disciplined way. I mean, really, I think there should be regular times we have set aside, this is when I’m going to be quiet. This is when I’m going to be silent. This is when I’m going to retreat for that very purpose.

SMITH: Well, and you quote a woman in your book, if I can find it, Jim, I’m struggling a little bit. Oh, yeah. The story that was told by a woman named Leddie Coleman. I don’t know if you remember that story or not. 

WHITE: Oh, yeah. Streams in the Desert Devotionals that you were part of?

SMITH: Yeah, yeah. Well, she said something or you quoted her as saying that sometimes we have to kind of slow down and —

WHITE: Let our souls catch up.

SMITH: Yeah, let our souls catch up with our bodies. That’s kind of the idea that you’re getting at here. Right? 

WHITE: It is. It is. 

[BREAK]

SMITH: Well, Jim, I’d like to pivot in our conversation one more time, if I could, and maybe step back from the book a little bit, but maybe have a conversation informed by this book. Because you used the word a couple of minutes ago, spiritual formation, this idea of formation, that I think is what you’re getting at here in your book, that you’re basically saying that just because we’re saved, which is of course, an important first step, that’s not the end of the process. That, in many ways, it’s the beginning of a process or for some people that might be the middle of a process, but it’s certainly not the end of a process. And you were encouraging us to take those next steps. Take those many, many next steps towards a deep, mature faith in Jesus. And I want to use kind of that foundational understanding to ask you to pull back from the book, ask you some questions about evangelicalism generally. We’ve faced a lot of struggles in the last couple of years. I mean, I can think, for example, of some falls of some important Christian leaders: Ravi Zacharias is the most recent one. But going back a couple of years: Bill Hybels, who I believe you knew and had a relationship with. Can you give me your thoughts about that? I know as the former president of Gordon Conwell Seminary, as a pastor of a church for many, many years, and a writer of books, you have a unique vantage point from which to look at evangelicalism writ large. How are we doing? Are we following the advice that you’re writing in this book?

WHITE: You know, there’s that phrase hot mess. There’s two or three angles to what you brought up. There’s obviously the character crisis in leadership. And we’re used to seeing fast rises fall. But it’s the Ravis and the Bills when it’s unearthed at the end of 30-40 years. And even those close to them did not realize the deeply entrenched shadow life that they had, is frightening. I mean, I was not close to Ravi like I was close to Bill. I felt I knew Bill. I probably will never fully process what was revealed about him. I’ll never fully reconcile the man I knew or thought I knew with what came out. I kind of felt, you know, Billy Graham, when he first heard the Nixon tapes, he said he wanted to go throw up in a trash can. And I felt like I wanted to throw up in the trash can about that. And, you know, there’s a lot of reasons why I’ve blogged and written some about it. And we can get into that as much as you want about what’s causing that. But when I became a Christian at 20—a little later in life than some—I was mentored. I was discipled. I had men and women pour into me. I was reached through Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and I met with, you know, a mentor every week and I was in a small group that was intense and, you know, met every week for you know — I mean, I was formed and the books that I read, that were put in my hands, the classics, you know, from Basic Christianity by John Stott, Knowing God by J. I. Packer. In evangelism, we were reading Rebecca Pitford and, I mean, Chuck Colson’s Loving God. I mean, these are some amazing books, and you just were so grounded in it all. And one of these I’m finding is that most Christians I run across today, you know, certainly younger than me, just none of that’s there. There’s a lot of ambition. There’s a lot of desire. Sadly, oftentimes, a lot of desire for notoriety and fame. And the character crisis is often that there’s a basic foundation and a basic day-in, day-out relationship with Christ. A basic sense of no one’s going to own my spiritual life but me. A sense of really withdrawing, being quiet, and honest about these things, it’s just not there. I don’t mean that to sound self-serving, like I’m some super person. But I’m just saying that as a man whose next birthday he’ll be 60 and I’ve been in this game for a lot of years. And you start speaking out a little more boldly about some of these things. 

I think evangelicalism as a whole is obviously fragmented. It’s gotten so divided politically and theologically on many things that I would consider tertiary. But in terms of the local church, the typical local church is faring better as a community of faith, but even that’s got a lot of fracture lines. It’s like, you know, one of the things that I’ve always been passionate about is to take connecting with culture along with biblical orthodoxy and bring them together, and not swing toward cultural capitulation, where you simply abandon orthodoxy to get warm bodies. But at the same time, not to enshrine traditionalism as if it is orthodoxy. And to have a robust presentation of the gospel in the context of something that is, as building a bridge, culturally. What I see now a lot of times is just a desire to be hip, a desire to just be identified with culture, to be accepted by culture. And it’s slowly a way of culture just assimilating churches. And then I see the on the other side, churches just almost having maybe not full Benedict Option, but a sense of, you know, we’re just not going to mess with culture. We’re just going to take care of the already convinced and we’re not going to have an evangelistic heart except by rhetoric. And, you know, I just think that there’s missionally, where we seem a little lost, too. There’s a lot to be concerned about. And I think there’s a reckoning, that is, I think, has come somewhat to the political process, where we just have to where we have to just say, okay, who are we going to be? Who are we going to be for? What is going to matter most? What hills are we going to die on? What is the mission of the church?

SMITH: And focus on those things and not ignore, but make sure that the other things are secondary? Is that what you’re saying?

WHITE: Well, it’s like I said, throughout the whole political process, I said, you know, every chance I had, I would say, okay, timeout. You’re a Christian first and a Republican or Democrat second. If you get that out of whack, then you’ve just become worldly. And Jesus is not Lord. I mean, and to be honest with you, and I think this is true, I think as a thinking Christian, you know, I would be considered wildly conservative. But as a thinking Christian, you know, on some issues, you might be more candid with the Democratic stance and another issue, the Republican stance. I mean, I’m a Christian first. 

SMITH: Right, right. Well, I appreciate that. And, for example, William Wilberforce and his opposition to the slave trade would have been considered not a conservative but a progressive view in his era. And o I understand that these labels conservative/liberal, they’re relative terms. They’re amorphous terms, but the term Christ-follower or Christian should mean something over time. Is that what you’re saying in part?

WHITE: Well, I’m just saying that we need to be rooting ourselves in Christ and formed in Christ. And therefore it allows us to, you know, understand that all truth is God’s truth and we can spot it in a lot of places, but that we understand that he’s Lord of culture, and Lord over science and Lord over politics and Lord over everything. And, you know, this is not our home. And so, you know, we are trying to transform culture, not mirror it, not find a home in it. We’re trying to transform it. And so what I would say to churches is get back to the heart of the mission. And it’s always been the same: evangelize the lost, assimilate the evangelized, and then disciple the assimilated, and then unleashed the discipled. Get up every day and repeat.

SMITH: That’s a good word. But I’m not gonna let you leave us on that word, Jim, because you said a lot of things, all of which I agree with, but some of which I want to push on just a little bit. And I want to go back to the Ravi Zacharias and Bill Hybels thing for a second because I completely agree with you that so many Christians today—even so many Christians in leadership in the churches—have not had their faith properly formed. Their gifts of communication or whatever it might be, caused them to have a much bigger platform and be the object of much more adoration than their characters really allow them to take on.

WHITE: But I don’t think that was Ravi and Bill’s mistake. 

SMITH: Well, that was what I was going to get at because I don’t think it was either. I mean, I did not know Bill Hybels nearly as well as you did. But I did know Bill. I knew Ravi a little better. I had many interactions with Ravi over the years. And it’s hard for me to imagine that they hadn’t read all those same books that you just mentioned. But that there was still something. I mean, what we’re learning about Ravi now, for example, is that he, as you said, he had this private life. He had this life that was just out of view of even the people that were closest to him. And so I guess what I’d like to ask you is, what do we do to guard against that? What do you do? What should I do?

WHITE: There’s two or three things that I see in both of their stories, as well as other stories like it, in no particular war. One is that the organization was a massive enabler. There was very much systemic organizational issues. There were things swirling around Ravi long before now. There were things swirling internally around Bill that have now surfaced that I didn’t know about but people who worked at Willow knew about. And so there were hints. There was some smoke in the air. And people felt like the organization, the ministry was so successful that it was more important to protect that, for the sake of the ministry than to confront the leader. 

The second thing was that a lot of these leaders, there isn’t internal accountability, whether it’s elders or a board, it’s basically a self-appointed rubber stamp. It’s just a bunch of good old boys, friends, even family members. It’s not a robust board that can really, you know, stand up to a leader who gets out of line and begins to go heading toward a ditch. 

A third thing with him is that when you reach a certain level of ministry success, or whatever word you want to use, I’ve seen where some people start to get a sense of entitlement. That they’re kind of above the law. Because I’m doing so much good, I deserve this. Or I’m entitled to a few, you know, I can do these things and it’s okay because of all the things that God is doing and how I’m being used. And I almost deserve this. And that’s toxic. I think that another thing that can often happen is that with leaders in public ministry, you can start to believe your own press reports. People afford you a very high level of spirituality that, quite frankly, you may not deserve. And probably don’t. They don’t know how you treat your wife. They don’t know what you viewed online the last six weeks. They don’t know if you’ve had a quiet time, but you’re treated like the fourth person of the Trinity, and you can begin to bask in that and accept it as true for your life. 

A fifth thing that I’ve noticed—and I’m not trying to get too personal with the names we mentioned, I’m speaking in general—is that I’ve noticed that a lot of people in ministry and I must speak about men in this case. They’ve got a lot of space for bad behavior, in terms of their wife. Their wife either not traveling with them, or maybe the marriage isn’t good. Or maybe they just spent a lot of time away from the wife. The wife is not involved in a lot of the day-in, day-out ministry. And, you know, sometimes I look at some falls and what the guy was doing and I’ve turned to Susan, my wife, and I said I don’t even know where they find a space to pursue that kind of shadow life. But then again, my wife and I, she’s on staff here at the church. I mean, she sees how I’m interacting with women and she’s very involved as a ministry partner. And I think that that can be healthy, obviously, at least involved—whether they’re on staff or not. So they create their room for this. And then I just think that the last thing is—and I don’t– 

SMITH: Jim, I want to be really clear. You’re not blaming the wife for the problems that Ravi Zacharaias —

WHITE: No, I’m blaming the husband for that. 

SMITH: OK, yeah. 

WHITE: That they lead such separate lives and they’re so shut out of what the ministry is, they live in two separate worlds. And I think it’s the husband’s responsibility to bring the wife or the wife to bring the husband into enough of their world so that there’s a sense of, you know, marital accountability for, you know, for that. 

And then I think, too, there’s a sense where—and this is true of all of us—but the longer you go not repenting of a sin, the more callous you are to it. And the more it grows and gets in-rooted and I think that after a while, you just stopped blushing.

SMITH: Well, Jim, that’s a good word. Kind of in closing here, what are you doing to finish well in your career? As you said, you’re going to turn 60 this year. I hope you have 60 years ahead of you. But I think you and I would both agree that the likelihood of that is not high. Probably got more years behind you than ahead at this point. What are you doing to finish well, and how do you want to be remembered?

WHITE: You know, I think that in terms of what I hope I leave behind, is, you know, a ministry legacy with what was done, you know, with Mac as a church and the books and was so much that, you know, that the life change. And I’ve been privileged to have a small part in a lot of people’s life change. And that’s an important, precious legacy to me. I’m unashamedly a family man. My wife and I will be approaching 40 years in marriage. I’ve got four grown kids with all kids of their own. All of them life in Christ. All of them have been in vocational ministry. And I have 12 grandchildren. And so I want to have my legacy be that when my life is over, my children still respect me, and admire me in some small way, and that I’ve done nothing but continue to try to pass that legacy of faith on to my grandchildren. And I do want to end well. I mean, obviously, this is on everybody’s mind right now. I’m as sin-stained as anybody. But I don’t want to do anything or have anything emerge that would tarnish the name of Jesus, and would be heartbreaking to my family. And so I take that very seriously. 

As far as what I’m doing. I mean, I try to practice a lot of accountability. My wife is very integrated into my world. So are my sons and children. I think it’s easier, though, in some ways to guard against the sins of the flesh than it is the sins of the spirit. And I think the older I get, the more I take the sins of the spirit every bit, if not more seriously. Not that I’m loose with the flesh. I’m just saying it’s sins of the spirit are the ones that often even the Christian community almost rewards sometimes in Christian leaders, and it’s so sad. And we’ve seen a lot of people go down out of sins of the spirit lately—anger issues, control issues, pride issues, temper. I mean, just just so much. And so, you know, I think that I hope I guard that as well to finish well, or at least to finish intact.


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