Who is Matt Heard? A brief interview

Next week July 27-30, the USMB Convention will be meeting in Denver, Colorado.  Our speaker for both the pastor's conference and convention is Matt Heard.  I sent Matt some questions and below you will find his responses.  As I have read part one of this book, I believe Matt's keynotes will be a message that is very timely for our USMB family.  I hope this brief interview will whet your appetite for hearing more from Matt next week.

If you are unable to be at the convention next week, I will be tweeting quotes @JL_Martin as well as posting on this blog what is going on.  Check back next week Thursday, Friday and Saturday for my thoughts from the convention.

Why did you want to write Life with a Capital L: Embracing Your God-Given Humanity?

 I think many of us in churches are tragically less fluent than we should be regarding the grand “why” of the Gospel. Other than the forgiveness of sins and admission into heaven (both of which are marvelous), we often seem to be a bit muddled about what else the Gospel is actually for. Moral guidelines? Church involvement? Acts of compassion?

John tells us that he wrote his gospel for two reasons: (A) “that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God”, but also (B) “that by believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Many of us within the church seem to be a bit inarticulate when it comes to “Part B.”

How do you see the church straying from the gospel message in 2016?

In the church and evangelical mission, we’ve rightly focused on Part A – urging people to believe in Jesus as the Christ.  But, tragically, we’ve too often stopped there and neglected Part B. We’ve focused on redemption from our sins but neglected the reason for our redemption: the restoration of our humanity in all of life to the glory of God and the consequent furtherance of His Kingdom. It’s not a matter of choosing one over the other but experiencing and proclaiming both.
 
The result of neglecting Part B is tragic on both a corporate as well as an individual level. It leads to churches that are consumed mainly with growing and/or maintaining their institutions rather than enabling and equipping human beings to flourish to the glory of God. And it also produces individuals who, though alive in Christ, aren’t Living. We embrace the future hope of heaven but not our present calling to be fully human under His authority and leadership.

And when we fall short of embracing the whole gospel it inevitably involves a failure to credibly proclaim and model it to a surrounding culture. When we don’t know what it looks like to experience “Life in His name”, our message bogs down and falls short of being Life-giving. And, since the world doesn’t see us living out Part B, it dismisses our proclamations of Part A.
 
As we return to the gospel, how will that change the impact we have on our communities and world?
 
Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – however we more often than not tend to focus on Way and Truth but not Life. Yet He didn’t suggest that we pick two out of three.  Yes, we’re to relate with Him as “Way” (e.g., obedience) and “Truth” (e.g., doctrine), but both of those should lead to Life. If not, there’s something about our obedience that’s legalistically out of sync with Scripture and something hollow about our doctrinal instruction. Younger generations, via their exodus from many churches, are honestly revealing that they aren’t really interested in Truth and Way unless they lead to Life. They’re not drawn to Part A unless Part B is made clear and modeled.
 
Our pursuit of Christ’s Kingdom is to be more than institutional expansion; instead it should revolve around the growth of communities of Christ’s followers engaged in Life-giving discipleship. And discipleship is to be more than the passing along of informative truth statements and corrective codes of conduct. It must be restorative, resulting in reclaimed humans who are flourishing in all arenas of their human experience to the glory of God, while furthering Christ’s Kingdom as salt and light in a fallen world.
 
What specific themes are described in your book?
 
I wrote Life with a Capital L out of a yearning to see the multiplication of substantive and vibrant communities of Christ-followers who, under God’s leadership, together embrace their longings to be fully human and engage in Life-giving discipleship and Kingdom impact. The result?
  • Lives lived with a cadence of freedom to experience fulfilled humanity that is birthed by God’s acceptance, grace, and truth through Christ.
  • Hearts that are engaged with the significance of what it means to be human.
  • A renewed intentionality to taste God-authored beauty on a daily basis, leading to deeper intimacy with God as the Author of that beauty.
  • Embracing Scripture, not just as a corrective or informative religious manual, but as a restorative source of illumination for being fully human under Christ’s authority and leadership.
  • A purposeful participation in the great Story of God’s restoration of His glory on this planet.
  • Worship of God that is vibrant, daily, and “all-of-life.”
  • Authentic love that is soundly biblical, grace-based, and therefore Life-giving – a love that is the foundation of our unity and the fuel of our mission.
  • An embrace of the privileged gift of time allotted to each of us and the daily calling we each have to truly Live as images of God and seek His purposes. 
  • An honest acknowledgement of the world’s fallenness companioned with a hopeful posture of brokenness that seeks to steward our broken experiences under Christ’s leadership.
  • And a hope of heaven that, instead of merely offering an escape from our days, alters how we actually experience them.
Anything else you would like us to know about you and writing this book?
 
And, ultimately, I wrote the book for my three sons – Andrew, an Air Force Academy graduate, stationed in Alaska; Joel, a brand new graduate of Colorado State University; and Stephen, a Junior at Whitworth University in Spokane, Washington.  When I was their age, it would have been a powerful gift to have an overview of the broad-brush, day-to-day implications of the gospel to accompany me through my journey. That is why I chose such a large topic for my first book — if it ends up being my only book, I wanted it to be this one.

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