Today on the blog, I interview my friend Dan Kimball. Kimball and I first met in person at George Fox Seminary, where we both spoke together. Before that, we got to know each other online, and he graciously interviewed me on the book Pagan Christianity. Dan has also kindly endorsed three of my books.
Here’s my interview with Dan.
1. How and when did you come to Christ?
I was approached by a Christian who was witnessing to people in a shopping mall when I was in junior high school. He wasn’t street preaching, but he was walking up to strangers and he came up to me and my friend Ralph and began asking us questions. I don’t remember too much of what he said but it rang true and I prayed with him to trust in Jesus as Savior. After I prayed with this guy, he gave me a “I’m Saved” button or sticker and then went off to evangelize others. I don’t know if I was saved at that moment, but it was the first time I ever heard that Jesus was Savior and He died on the cross for sin.
I had no church I was part of, so not too much changed in my life after that. I did find that I became sensitive to Christian things after that. Watching Billy Graham on television. Reading Christian tracts when I would be given one. But it wasn’t until I met Stuart Allen, a pastor in England after I graduated from college when I began to understand what it means to follow Jesus more. So it was more like when I was in my 20’s when I began realizing Jesus is Lord and what that meant for my life to follow Him.
2. Your book, THEY LOVE JESUS, BUT NOT THE CHURCH, has done really well. Why did you write it, what’s the main point, and what has been the most common response to it from readers?
I wrote it because I kept sensing a growing disconnect from the church and people outside the church. Especially in how those outside the church were defining “evangelical” and “Christian”. Most of their impressions and stereotypes of Christians were ones that felt we are all homophobic, right-winged politically, judgmental, organized religion and other negative characteristics. So I began exploring this and it turned out so many of those with these impressions, didn’t have actual relationships with Christians. They were mainly getting these stereotypes from the loudest Christian voices out there whom were more extreme in their views and attitudes.
I then began exploring Christians in churches and who they socially engage with and it was primarily all other Christians. I found that even in many churches who used the term “missional” this was the case as well. They were Christians who met in another church, then formed a new missional church because they didn’t like or fit in their previous church – but then they primarily socially engaged with each other. So we have all these non-Christians out there who gain their understanding of church and Christianity by the media and loudest voices while the Christians are all busy hanging out with each other in “community” all the time. It was quite fascinating seeing how much of a Christian bubble we created and how so many of us Christians remain in that Bubble socially and didn’t even realize it. So of course the world around us will develop these weird impressions of us because the loudest voices then defined “Christians”.
The response has been really great overall and it really connected with a lot of church leaders. So most of the response I have heard has been positive – except for a stream of thinking from some Christians who feel that we shouldn’t care what people outside the church think of us. There is a slice of Christians who take the position that Jesus told us that he world will hate us if we are Christians, so naturally we will be hated and not liked. So it can be an excuse and even self-verifying for some to feel satisfied when they aren’t liked by non-Christians feeling that they are then fulfilling what Jesus said would happen. But the problem with that viewpoint, is that Jesus was not talking about not being liked or hated for so much of the issues are people have with Christians. It is mainly our attitudes and how we present and talk about things. It is more of a lack of Galatians 5 fruits of the Spirit why many don’t like some Christians.
3. What are you most passionate about – what drives you?
What drives me is knowing how Jesus changed my life and has changed other lives. Jesus is the truth, the way and the life. So what drives me is to do whatever it possibly takes to see other come to understand who Jesus is and to not simply become a “convert” but a disciple who joins the mission of Jesus as they follow Him. There is a difference between a “convert” who holds their hand up in a moment to make a decision and someone who puts saving faith in Jesus, but then in community growing in their love and knowledge of Him. And as they follow Him and the Spirit changes, strengthens and shapes them as they join in on mission.
I am also passionate about remaining pure to orthodox historical theology however being innovative and leading the church towards change for sake of this mission. Not compromising Scripture, but we have a lot of freedom in how we go about the mission of Jesus and what our churches may look like and function like. So I am passionate to see people understand this and that God gifted them for serving the world on mission.
4. What puzzles you the most about the Christian faith?
- Why some Christians who know Scripture and say they follow Jesus become mean Christians.
- Why some Christians are passive and consumers instead of joining in on mission to the world around them.
- Why some who say they are missional don’t have making new disciples from those who don’t know Jesus yet as a major part of what they do, blog about and share stories about.
- Why there is evil and suffering to the extent there is (I know the correct apologetical answers and even teach on it, but it is such a tough thing to still comprehend).
- Why Frank Viola won’t admit that churches whom are intentional about it can be large and structured and still function to produce healthy, vibrant disciples of Jesus.
- Why Frank Viola won’t grow his hair out on the sides and comb it upward to try and have a hairstyle like me. The higher the hair the closer to God.
5. Who are the 5 people who have influenced your life and ministry the most, and how have they influenced you?
It’s an interesting question, as I have many people who influenced me throughout my life which in turn influences the ministry I am in. I have had bands influence me. Not Christian bands, but secular bands like The Clash, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley and U2. Films influenced my life like The Elephant Man, Awakenings, Eraserhead and others (which I would have to explain why and how, especially Eraserhead!). I have had friends throughout various time periods in my life influence me during my college years in particular. I have had writers influence me such as Marvel and DC comic book writers when I was a kid, to classics authors like JD Sallinger, CS Lewis and Tolkien. Dallas Willard, Bill Hybels and even Frank Viola writings have influenced me greatly.
Artists influenced me like Ralph Steadman, Mike Ploog, and Will Eisner. So it’s hard to name specific ones as I believe God has used all types of people, authors, films to majorly influence how I ended up turning out and how I view life and how I then function in ministry. I can’t state strongly enough how these various influencers impact me in thinking and viewing the world, which in turn does impact how I serve in ministry today and think. And of course The Bible is my major influence of which I now screen all these other life experiences. But when you ask “who are 5 people who influenced your life and ministry?” the normal answers are the ones I will now list here, but we are shaped in many ways by other factors which come to mind as you ask me that question. But in terms of specific people I had relationships with, about a couple of them are:
1) Stuart Allen: He was 82 years old when I met him. I was living in London playing in a punk/rockabilly band there at the time. Stuart was a pastor of a very small elderly church. By chance (or I should say it was God guiding me) I saw that his church had a Bible study that I ended up going to for a year while I lived there. Stuart was intelligent, allowed me to ask questions and never made me feel dumb. He never judged me for my haircut or my clothing. He influenced me in realizing you could be intelligent and be a Christian. He stirred a passion in my to know and study Scripture.
2) Dr. Mitchell: When I went to Multnomah Seminary in Portland, Dr. Mitchell was 92 years old and would meet with me while I was a student there. He was so passionate about prayer and being intimate with Jesus. When he prayed it felt like he was speaking to a dear, dear friend he knew so well. So he encouraged me to not settle for a shallow relationship with Jesus but one of depth. He also was passionate about sharing Jesus with others and had crazy stories of being in canoes to go preach to people in remotes places and other adventures of his missionary mindset.
3) Rod Clendenen: He was 65 years old when I met him. He mentored me and met with me weekly and we studied Scripture and prayed together. Rod influenced me to worship God all day and practice His presence all day long.
4 and 5) My Mom and Dad: I was so fortunate to grow up in a home where my parents were wonderful examples of loving each other and set a caring home to grow up in. It wasn’t a Christian home (although both my mom and dad became Christians later in life). But they influenced me to understand the love of a Father, the love of a mother, the importance of a home of safety and care. And to this day their influence has shaped me in incredible ways which impacts almost everything I do.
6. What do you hope to accomplish on this earth? What are your ministry goals? Be specific as possible.
Foremost, what I hope to accomplish here on earth is to live my life holistically as a worshiper of Jesus, stewarding and using the gifts God gave me on mission. So that when I one day meet Him face to face He will say “Well done good and faithful servant”. This includes everything, how I live as a husband, father, church leader, friend, living in a local town, living in the world. I try not to compartmentalize my life but see it holistically so as I live as a worshiper on mission – it is everything I do. So that is goal overriding everything – to steward my life in a way that is honorable and pleasing to God on mission with the time He gives me here.
In terms of ministry goals – bottom-line, is to see as many people as possible come to a saving knowledge of who Jesus is and put faith in Him and then grow and thrive as a disciple serving Jesus on mission with their lives. This involves challenging church leaders to rethink their roles in the church towards this. This involves people of the church being trained and motivated towards this mission. This involves me living this out personally.
7. Are you working on any future books? If so, tell us about it.
I’ve been working on the same book for 3 years. It is tough for me to write, because it is wonderfully consuming leading a missional church plant now 5 years old as well as being a dad and husband. And I am working on a doctorate degree. So my priorities and time unfortunately push book writing to a slower pace. But I have signed for several more books with Zondervan. My next two books are trade books which are books written for the average person. All my books so far have been church leadership books. The first one is a follow-up book to They Like Jesus But Not The Church addressing the same issues, but more of an apologetics book for the average person to think through some of the primary issues we need to wrestle through in our culture. We are still determining a title.
Toying with a title something like “Adventures in Churchland” but the sub-title may be something like “Discovering why Christianity is not judgmental-homophobic-male dominated-fundamentalist-organized religion”. It’s a hopeful and positive book for both Christians and those wondering about Christianity and church. It really is an apologetic for the church, the Bride of Christ and why the church despite our faults is an essential part of what it means to exist as a follower of Jesus. Why we need the church and the church needs us.
The book after that is one based on a teaching series we did at our church that was called “Don’t be a “Christian”: Exchanging Religion for the Mission of God”. I don’t know think that will be the actual book title, but it is an exploration and rally cry for people to break out of consumerism into full sacrificial lifestyle worship. To exchange “going to church” to instead “being the church”. To exchange living in the Christian sub-culture to being in the world on mission. To become a theologian rather than closing our minds or numbing our minds with suturing them with entertainment. So I really look forward to writing this one.
Then I am going to write a biography of Frank Viola. That book will sell more than Blue Like Jazz and The Shack combined. A movie will be made about it. Bruce Willis will star as Frank Viola. It is going to be great!