Jesus Needs New PR

But either way, life is sticky.

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.

Really? The hottest? No. It’s not. It’s not the hottest.

It might be holy. And pleasing to God. And non-Miley. And perfect for hayrides or sing-a-longs.

But the hottest? It’s not. But I think that’s the point, right? It’s not supposed to be the hottest. Right? I thought it was like that.

Do women who pursue modesty really want it to be the hottest? Do they want to spread that message between their boobs?

This confuses. Btw, what exactly are unpresentable parts?

Do dudes have unpresentable parts, too?

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain…

I don’t know about you, but I love that old Gospel song. I call it my Amazing American Grace.

As a Christ-centered Patriot redeemed by the red, white, and blue blood of the Lamb, the only holiday non-Christmas that I love more than the Fourth of July is Thanksgiving! (<-You know, the day that we commemorate The New Israelites landing several hundred miles North of the New Promise Land! And what a day of rejoicing that should be.)

I love America’s birthday! There’s nothing quite like celebrating the sacrament of eating fried chicken and drinking cold Coca-Cola in remembrance of my country tis of thee. And this year, I’m so excited because AMERICA’S BIRTHDAY BASH and NASHVILLE’S CORNERSTONE CHURCH are joining armed forces to present an experience that you will NEVER FORGET: “No More Bull”

Now, you’re probably wondering…

What is “No More Bull”?!

Well, it’s sort of like the best part of MEMORIAL DAY and the best part of GOOD FRIDAY combined with just the right amount of Branson, Missouri! It’s like “America Dying on the Cross for Our Sins” the musical (with bull-fighting and in-door pyrotechnics**!)

**The largest in-door pyrotechnics demonstration in the state of Tennessee!

Here, watch this video for more information! Because I bet you think I’m kidding, right? I’m not!

In addition to food, indoor bull-riding, and an indoor fireworks display, convict-turned-pastor Maury Davis will be preaching his sermon called “No More Bull!”

Get it? Get it? No more bull? It’s ironic because bulls will actually be worshiping with us in the sanctuary.

So, come celebrate America washing away your sins WITH US!

4th of July Rodeo Commercial from Cornerstone Church on Vimeo.

Independence Day Services – No More Bull

Wednesday, June 30, at 7 PM,  Thursday, July 1, at 7 PM, Friday, July 2, at 7 PM   Saturday, July 3, at 5 PM,  Sunday, July 4, at 10 AM

And just in case you’re not convinced, here’s another video that might just get you to ask Uncle Sam into your heart…

**DISCLAIMER**MATTHEW PAUL TURNER will not be attending Cornerstone Church’s ‘No More Bull’ American Church Service. He only pretended to be attending for the purpose of this post.