Jesus Needs New PR

Jesus Needs New PR

CONFESSION: Sometimes I e-ssume

A few years ago I received an email from Dr. Stephen Arterburn asking me if I’d be willing to fly out to California to join a small group of authors to discuss a new project that he was dreaming up. Now, if you’re not familiar with Stephen, he’s one of the co-authors of Every Man’s Battle, a multimillion copy selling book series that offers advice to men about how to handle sexual desire, lust, temptation, etc. He’s also a radio host, a speaker, and one of creators of the Women of Faith conference, etc.

I had read Every Man’s Battle. I had also read Every Young Man’s Battle. And I had thumbed through Every Toddler’s Battle and Every She-man who lives in Houston’s Battle. (The last title was far more interesting than it sounds.)


I didn’t like the “Every man” series of books. (I’m talking about the real ones, of course.) It wasn’t because I think they’re bad or unneeded, but I find books like that frustrating because they often offer easy answers for people who are dealing with issues and stories that are anything but easy. Too often they’re not truly for “every man.”

But because of those books, I assumed a lot of things about Stephen. I assumed he was strict and unfunny and boring and possibly scary. Still, I nervously agreed to attend.

Upon joining the group, I was fearful that I wouldn’t fit in. My first book–The Christian Culture Survival Guide–had just released, so I was new to the “author scene.” But that wasn’t why I was fear-filled. I was scared because of what I assumed about Stephen. I expected to hate everything that came out of his mouth. I expected our personalities would clash and that anything I said would potentially create tension with everything he said. I expected him to act as though his life was perfect. I expected him to constantly direct the focus of our meetings back to something from the Old Testament or the teachings of the Apostle Paul or his book Every Man’s Battle. I expected him to hate my book.


I assumed more. I assumed a lot. I assumed that I’d probably not get invited back to the next gathering.

But I was wrong. Like really wrong.

Stephen wasn’t anything like his book, or how I personally had received his book. :) Not stuffy. Not uppity. Not opinionated. Not judgmental. Not perfect. Not Bible superman.

He’s hilarious. And genuine. And giving. And creative. And loves a good glass of wine from time to time.

Quite honestly, a part of me wondered how somebody so down-to-earth and friendly could have written Every Man’s Battle.


“Did you really write that book?” I asked him. “Because I expected you to be…”

“What? What did you expect me to be, Matthew?”

“An ass. I expected you to be an ass.”

He laughed.

“But you’re not an ass,” I said. “You’re actually a cool guy… But I still don’t like your book.”

He laughed again. “And that’s okay. I may not like yours either. But you seem all right.”

We laughed again.

I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve been guilty of assuming I know somebody based only on a book or two, a blog, a Twitter feed, a couple of sermons, comments left at my blog, etc. etc.


But here’s what I’m learning. Sometimes my assumptions are correct. Sometimes they’re very misguided. Sometimes my assumptions showcase MY PERSONAL ISSUES more than they describe the other person. Sometimes my assumptions limit me. Sometimes they limit relationships. My career. My church experience. And sometimes they limit my ability to showcase anything remotely close to how Jesus wants me to live and be and engage…

We live in a day when it’s so easy to just assume. We see people as books. Or as blog posts. Or as Tweets. Or as avatars. Or as champions of one cause. Or as political positions. Or as (fill in the blank).

I don’t know about you, but my “online identity” is only a small portion of who I really am. Yet all of us are guilty of e-ssuming far too much about people based on their online identity.


And by doing that, what do we lose?

The truth is, my gut tells me that, in person, I’d really like John Piper despite not caring much for his Tweets and some of the videos he posts on his YouTube page. I’m inclined to believe that Mark Driscoll and I would probably find a lot in common despite hating his Facebook status updates. Sure, we would disagree about topics and issues. And our personalities might clash. And we might not be destined to become best friends. But I still believe we could have an engaging conversation.

But let’s face it: How often do those experiences not happen because we’ve already assumed that we know everything there is to know about somebody based on how we disagree? And that’s despite all of us knowing that we are more than the topics we write about and the issues we proclaim/support/hate. Even if we never show the “more” part online; that’s no reason to e-ssume we know everything about each other and then “define” somebody by those e-ssumptions.


At 11:30 p.m., when I got off the plane in Nashville from that meeting in California, there was a message on my cell phone. I listened. “Hello?” The voice was thickly southern.

“Who is this?” I think.

“Mr. Turner, this is the Reverend Jerry Falwell, and I’m calling to tell you that I did not appreciate what you wrote about me in your book The Christian Culture …”

And then I hear laughter.

“Actually it’s Arterburn. Hope you got home safely. We were just sitting here reading your book and laughing hysterically. I love it. Wish you were here with us.”

So yeah, I was the one who ended up being the ass. And you why, right?

Because I assumed.

Comments read comments(46)
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posted July 1, 2010 at 9:57 am

This is possibly my favorite post of yours. I’m now e-ssuming that you are cooler than I thought you were.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 9:57 am


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posted July 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

Wow. I’ve so done this. And I can’t think of any time where the result of talking to someone I’m sure I’ll hate has resulted in me actually hating them.

Really fantastic post. Recommending to everyone.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 9:59 am

Thanks for sharing this. It reminded me of many times when I have limited myself based on my assumptions of others. We humans are so foolish at times.

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James Stillwell

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:00 am

Thanks for the post. Your journey parallels mine in a sense. As a minister in a Southern Baptist Church, a Democrat / member of the “Coffee Party,” a husband of one and father of four, a lover of rock and roll, etc, etc. I have a very diverse group of friends on Facebook. Many of them would not naturally be drawn to one another. My challenge on Facebook is the same as my challenge in the real world: to be myself, accept others, and help others to accept various points of view that they might not naturally be drawn to, sometimes agreeing to disagree, other times thoughtfully considering different points of view. Thanks for all your contributions to the cause. The Bible says we are all “one body” in Christ. That is a harder vision to fulfill than any of us normally think. But I think it’s worth the effort.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:05 am

Arterburn seems like a cool guy. He probably would even allow me one throat punch for stating that wives of porn addicts should act as their husband’s “methadone”.

Just a light one. More like a throat tap.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:07 am

After reading your books I e-ssumed you were a blading, pasty white guy who isn’t very good at basketball. That sepia tone photo on the back of Churched almost convinced me you were Hispanic, but I couldn’t shake the last name Turner.

Seriously, I really enjoyed this post. Very insightful. I tend to polarize people and it does say far more about me than about them. Sad.

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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted July 1, 2010 at 10:15 am

    Haha! Tom, that first sentence might make you an ass because you assume correctly. :)

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

You had me at the title….I love coming here and being jarred repeatedly…keeps me on my toes

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

I have e-sumed too, alot of time I look at my twittwr list or fb list & think there all inportent people with jobs & familys & would be way to busy to want to get to know someone like me thats a nobody thats lonly & kind of needy sometimes, but surprsily quite a few have had no problem chatting for a bit with me! but also I kind of am ashamed of saying this but many times I can tolerate people online better then in person, becuse I can just kind of over look there posts & tweets if they tend to get my dander up or I can write a quick comment & releave my growing agervation some but F2F I’m picking up vibes, am dealing with my own sochil anxity, & can’t just quickly scroll by there comments on to something else, I’m getting hit with both barrels of thire words & persanalty.

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    posted July 12, 2010 at 1:24 am

    I’m going to *assume* this was genuine and just say…Reaching out in love, wishing you blessings.

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Brandon Gradelle Smith

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

Ha. I did this to you the other night on Twitter. Then got convicted when you DMed me and we had dialogue about it. I was an ass that night and you forgave me. That proves this entire post.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:30 am

Your posts tend to piss me off as often as they challenge and encourage me but they always make me think. So, I suppose this makes me an ass because this post kicks my butt. Thanks for it.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

Matthew, this is a great post. And it’s an issue we are ALL guilty of, if we’re very honest. My thought is… we’re all here trying our best to do what we believe is right. We all have different ideas of what that means. But we’re flesh and blood… following a God that’s SO much bigger than our crap. Your transparency is refreshing and challenging.

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Jim in Oregon

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:32 am

Maybe everybody just needs new PR! Ever think of that?

Very good thoughts. Waiting for your radio program.

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tracey solomon

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:35 am

if we cold all get this.. the body of Christ would be.. umm a body instead of so many umm my legalism is showing: a***s One is prolly enough. “P

well said and I appreciate the honesty..

(which is why I always read- whether I agree or not:)

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Jonathan Charlie Chang

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:39 am

I’ve taken Don Miller up on his challenge to not judge people for 30 days. I’ve already failed quickly and quite miserably. But the good thing is I’m more aware of it. And posts like this help remind me of it too. Thanks.

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Tom Davis

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:40 am

Really great stuff. I found myself thinking of the many times I’ve been guilty of the same thing. Ouch. Thanks for the loving “ass-kicking” and for being so transparent.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 10:42 am

Your best post yet.

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shellie (baylormum)

posted July 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

Matthew, I try to not assume anything. My e-ssume of you it started with the veggie tale mold. I thought that was hilarious! Then I found this guy who is sensitive, funny, thoughtful (most of the time), and real. Very real with his upbringing, his feelings, his family (like the pen thing you & your mom have), his life today. And that he is still on that journey of life. With the rest of us. Looking for that place that eludes us on this Earth. Not a tour guide, but someone who takes the words right out of my head & puts them on paper! How do you do that!!?? Like-minded.

I have changed my outlook on expectations over the past 3 years in recovery. (well, in 10 days it will be 3 years)It’s not that I set them low, but expectations, for me, have the ability to turn into resentments. Then there is that whole amends thing for those new resentments. So I try to avoid expectations! God has renewed my heart & it’s just not worth my energy to build new resentments. I have enough to deal with!

Awesome insight today. Great reminder for us all.

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    Matthew Paul Turner

    posted July 1, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Shellie, thank you for these sweet words and for sharing a portion of your story. Means so much.


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posted July 1, 2010 at 11:08 am

This is a fantastic post! Thank you for being transparent and sharing the perils of e-ssuming.

I’m definitely guilty of this.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 11:22 am

i know i’m far too quick to pre-judge, even though i’ve been wounded by assumptions others have made about me.

if i’m going to assume anything, i need to assume the best. thank you for reminding me, matthew.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 11:42 am

LOVED this, Matthew…and very thankful to you for presenting it.

Been a busy week for me…realized I’ve been a jerk after reading Acuff’s CNN post, and now an ass after yours.


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posted July 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Dang. Have I told you lately what a good writer you are? Sometimes I just assume you know… But this was really strong.

I find that I also need to remind myself, after meeting people who I may be turned off by, that maybe they were nervous, having a bad day, just “off.” I try to remember to make those kinds of assumptions, too… Because it is so easy to write people off that we don’t see everyday. And I imagine I miss out on a lot when I do.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I think on some level we all boil people down to charactures {not literally boil…though maybe roast}. It’s easier than actually getting know them. I’m an offender of that myself. We are polarizing creatures.

Good thoughts here.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm

This post was really beautiful, Matthew. Thank you.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Even if I don’t like everything someone posts, I have to admit that they usually challenge me to think (whether comfortably or uncomfortably, both are beneficial). I try to remind myself of this when my feathers get ruffled. Great post!

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Amy Nabors

posted July 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Excellent thoughts MPT. It’s too easy to assume a lot without having met someone in person. Thanks for the reminder.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 1:30 pm

On the mark brother. As one trying to not ASSume that I know much of anything. Keep it up.

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Jonathan McCrary

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Jon Acuff talks about this, but he calls it “twudging” (see

I catch myself doing this all the time.

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    Jonathan McCrary

    posted July 1, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    If that link doesn’t take you to the correct Stuff Christians Like article, Google “twudging”. That will get you there.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm

This is my first visit to your site, and I’m so glad I stumbled upon you. Excellent post.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

i like the word assume because it has “ass” in it. I love the word “assassinate” because it’s “ass x 2″… anyway, this was a great post. not only full of good stuff to reflect on, but it was written extremely well. you’ve got a nice groove there Mr. Matthew Paul Turner 😉
I am sharing this post assap! lol

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posted July 1, 2010 at 5:40 pm

makes me think of the responsibility to be authentic in our writing and e-portrayal of ourselves… we could be hurting our 1st impressions w/ people because of our online presence.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I love this post! one of my new favorites. I’m so guilty of assuming too much, and usually the worst. Something we all need to remind ourselves from time to time, to keep in check… [although, when I assume (or e-ssume) the worst and I’m wrong, at least it’s a pleasant surprise! ]

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posted July 1, 2010 at 5:55 pm

You’re the only person who replies to me on Twitter, so I assume you’re a very nice guy who’s on a computer or iPhone a lot.

I can’t think of a Stephen (or Steven, if we’re being fair to the different spelling options) I don’t like. I got an uncle Stephen who’s hilarious in person, but has a sad boring stuffy right-wing conservative Xian blog.

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Mrs MK

posted July 1, 2010 at 7:25 pm

Wow, I thought the exact same thing about Stephen Arterburn until I read this article. 1) Thanks for the kick in the pants. 2) I am really glad to learn that he is a cool guy after all.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Very good and true post. I really try to never assume too much… but I think it’s so easy to do. I enjoy reading blogs, and enjoy the friendships I have made with people from blogging.. but there is always this hesitation in me to speak too much on the internet, because I know it’s difficult to really KNOW someone from what you read from them online. Maybe I care too much about the posiblity of being misunderstood, or maybe I just do a whole lot better in face to face relationships. Anyway, I think it’s nice when you are pleasantly surprised to find out that the assumptions you made about someone were way off.. and it’s worth taking the time to find that out. Wish we would do that more.

I also want to tell you that I read The Christian Culture Survival Guide, and I too laughed and laughed. You really hit the nail on the head on a lot of things.

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posted July 1, 2010 at 8:10 pm

I feel like he maybe should have kept this to himself…

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Serena Woods

posted July 1, 2010 at 8:54 pm

I loved this. :)

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posted July 2, 2010 at 3:16 am

I think one thing that we forget about assumption is that we can also assume positive things that aren’t there. Too often, I’ve found people who share my viewpoints and challenging aspects of love, and because I only know them online, I do tend to forget that these people I agree with are much more than just the blog/twitter/status update I’m reading. So when I do meet them in person, it’s usually a disappointment. I find, surprise surprise, that they are just like me – trying hard, failing sometimes, bumbling around in life, often insecure about themselves, but trying their best to live life with love. It can be dangerous to assume that someone we admire has everything all together as well, just as much as it’s a danger to assume that the people we disagree with are wild-eyed caricatures of their beliefs.

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    posted July 12, 2010 at 1:21 am

    Well said, Dianna. SO true–and something I need to work a lot more on remembering.

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Jeff Goins

posted July 2, 2010 at 7:41 am

Good post. Guilty of this, too.

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Ron Swanson

posted July 2, 2010 at 11:18 am

Great post!

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Stephen Arterburn

posted July 7, 2010 at 6:56 pm

Matt I hope our paths cross soon. And it’s okay to be an ass, God speaks through asses or at least he did that one time. You, my friend, are an amazing writer and I think even Jerry Falwell would agree. ( well if he had ever read anything you wrote before he died)

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