By Josh Sugata
Faculty Training and Development Specialist, General Editor
Every week, Grand Canyon University sponsors the radio show Community Connection where host Billy Thrall, the director of church relations at GCU, speaks about charity work and events happening in our communities and how they emulate Jeremiah 29:7.
I recently had the honor and privilege of tagging along at Billy’s show as he interviewed Bart Millard, the director for The Center for Worship Arts at GCU as well as the lead singer of the band MercyMe.
Billy likes to speak to those who feel they are not where they want to be in life. His message is one of encouragement that God is always at work. This message was not any less applicable to Bart Millard as he shared his own spiritual journey and a recent spiritual awakening.
Part of Bart’s story involves how the band MercyMe has transitioned from being his identity to a platform to proclaim God’s message of grace. Throughout the show’s taping, and even during our brief interactions after the show, there were so many insights and quotes of wisdom that I find it unjust to simply summarize the interview or highlight points of interest. I hope that together we can unpack just a few of the insights that occurred as a result of these two spiritual leaders simply conversing like old friends.
Grace is Enough…. Right?
For starters, I would like to define two terms: a “Bart-ism” or “Billy-ism” is a sincerely unique statement that may even go as far as to redefine a traditional church-goers view of grace or a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. A Bart-ism or Billy-ism deserves to be noted as a show-stopper comment that makes the audience pause, reflect and appropriately digest what is being communicated.
Bart readily shares that he was one of those kids that got dropped off at church whenever the doors were open. Like many of us, he wouldn’t label his beliefs as legalistic, but there was an unspoken way of living that equated to, “Christ is enough, but here are 10 more things you can do just to make sure (God notices you).” How many of us believe Ephesians 2:8-9, that it is by grace we have been saved, yet we live as if we have to do good in order to get into heaven? Bart followed up by sharing, “I wouldn’t call it obedience, but it certainly looked like work; like I was trying to do enough to get in… as if all the good work was to please God rather than to trust Him.”
When immersed in a world that is driven by popularity and a society that measures success by the amount of record sales, sold-out shows, awards, etc., there is a balance when trying to be successful professionally or raise a family. By society’s standard, there is always more that can and should be done. However, the message of the Gospel says that Christ is enough.
“There’s nothing you can do to make Christ love you any more than He already does. Grace to the core is if you are capable of sabotaging everything, anything good in your life and never doing another noble thing ever again…grace is still enough.” –Bart-ism
Christ Sees Us All the Same
How often do we find ourselves in our busy day-to-day lives testing this very core principal? Your job will never provide satisfaction, as there will always be another promotion needed to be achieved. Even if sacrifices are made out of good intention simply to gain the popular opinion of those within our association, God does not suddenly pay more attention to our deeds. In the end, vanity is all that remains. A vanity that will perish as the world simply fades away.
Bart’s message is to leave the guilt and bags of shame that we all carry at the door. The message of the cross is one of freedom. After nearly four decades, Bart finally reached a point where he stated, “I’m done trying to tell people to stop sinning and to try to show them who they are in Christ.”
“You’re not a bad person trying to be good, you’re holy righteous and redeemed. You will wrestle with the flesh, you will win some and loose some along the way, but it will never change how Christ sees you” –Bart-ism
The term “redeemed” runs throughout popular culture and you may not even been aware of it. A simple internet search will provide a long list of synonyms such as reinstatement, reinstitution, reestablishment, but by definition it means, “to restore to the original condition.” It quickly becomes the theme and soundtrack for our lives. Movies, TV shows and songs all tell stories of an ideal situation that develops some sort of chasm keeping the main character from perfection. Thus enters the solution: sometimes it’s healed relationships, other times it may be a new relationship, or even a literal knight in shining armor. Whatever the solution is, it provides restoration to the situation.
Sound familiar? It sounds to me an awful lot like my favorite story that I learned at a very young age while sitting in Sunday school. God created man to be in fellowship with Him; however, sin entered the picture driving a wedge between man and God. Due to God’s endless love for man, His son is sent as a sacrifice to bring restoration to those who call upon the name of Jesus. When the free gift of salvation is accepted, God now sees his children as flawless.
This message of grace and redemption is one of celebration for those who have made the decision to trust God with their lives through acceptance of His son, Jesus Christ. Instead of living a life of restriction, it grants freedom to those who are willing to boldly accept and then proclaim this message of hope.
Faith no longer becomes something we religiously practice on the weekend, but rather it engulfs our entire being since the Bible states that we are new creations. We can finally stop trying and finally start abiding in the life God created for us. Our identity no longer rests in a job, how our peers perceive us or determined by a title we bare. God has provided Bart with a literal stage, however, God has also provided each of us with our own platform.
“What would church look like, what would marriage look like, what would parenting look like, if who we are in Christ really did define us?” –Billy-ism
As Christians, how dangerously effective would we be if we truly, truly found identity in how Christ defines us?
Community Connection broadcasts on Sundays from 2:00-3:00 p.m. on 1360 AM KPXQ Faith Talk Radio.
If you’d like to learn more about The Center for Worship Arts, please visit our website.