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Through the challenges of 2020 comes a unique opportunity for churches to rise up and think through issues together. And if you’ve lost your faith over the last year, just know there is always a hope-filled conversation to have. 

Stories of overcoming adversity and bringing light to the dark are nothing new. But how we bring those teachings to life is what changes ours for the better. 

In this episode, I sit down with Pastors Michael Gamble and Dwight Edwards to talk about the response of the church during these trying times – and how opportunity brings us closer to divinity.

Show Highlights Include:

  • Why the church’s response to the pandemic, politics, and racial tension starts at God’s table – and how to have the conversations that unite us now. (3:34)
  • What the history of Christianity reflects about working through hard times – and why this is beyond just reading sermons. (8:30)
  • The ‘Helmut Thielicke’ teachings about pain and how you can create divine opportunities from life’s struggles right now. (16:28)
  • Why walking in humility starts by surprising others – and how this makes you a more humble person today. (21:10)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Learn more about Dwight’s teachings: https://www.revolutionwithin.com

Learn more about Michael’s teachings: https://radiantlife-church.com

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. So glad I could be with you today and, boy, I'll tell you, we have the show of shows. I've got two of my very best friends in the world that are with me today. Both of them are master communicators. Both of them are pastors. More important, they're two of my closest friends and I love them with all my heart. I'm thinking about and talking about Pastor Michael Gamble. Welcome Pastor Michael.

Pastor Michael: Great to be with you.

Dr. Rigsby: And I'm thinking about, and talking about Pastor Dwight Edwards. Hello, Dwight.

Pastor Dwight: Hello, my brother.

Dr. Rigsby: They don't want any introduction, but I've got to give it to you. Dwight is a former tennis player. Currently he is a best-selling author, a highly sought-after motivational speaker. He's a former pastor for a wonderful church that I'm trying to remember the name of. [01:13.8]

Pastor Dwight: Waters Edge Community.

Dr. Rigsby: Waters Edge Community Church in the Woodlands. He’s just a fantastic communicator, several best-selling books. My favorite is Say “No” to Vanilla. Dwight, mention quickly your web page.

Pastor Dwight: It's “www [dot] Revolution Within [dot] com”, one word. RevolutionWithin.com.

Dr. Rigsby: That'd be fantastic. Then we have Michael Gamble, my buddy. I was so privileged to be one of your members when you first planted Radiant Life Church in McKinney, Tex. McKinney is a suburb of Dallas. It's North of Dallas. Michael, that was how many years ago you planted that church, you and Debbie?

Pastor Michael: We will be coming up on our eighth year.

Dr. Rigsby: And what's the web page for people to go to?

Pastor Michael: It's “Radiant Life [hyphen] Church [dot] com”. RadiantLife-Church.com. [02:02.7]

Dr. Rigsby: Michael got so desperate that he actually allowed me to be an associate pastor at one point at his church, probably still is.

Pastor Michael: Desperate. Desperate. God, send help.

Dr. Rigsby: Michael is the senior pastor and founder of Radiant Life Church in McKinney, Tex. He has been in ministry for over 20 years, both in North Carolina, as well as Texas. In his younger years, he started a career as a business executive and he thought that that was the road that he was going to take, but God came calling. At one point in his life—I love this part—you were a stage technician and traveled with that famed Christian contemporary group, 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Pastor Michael: That’s right.

Dr. Rigsby: What did you do with them, Michael?

Pastor Michael: I had a lot of fun, if I'm honest with you. It was a lot of fun. It was a bit crazy, but the family, the three siblings, Annie, Nelly and Matthew, they were very special and it was a great time. I was young enough to travel and go do some fun things, see a lot of the country I've never seen being from Ohio. Being from Ohio, I didn't see a lot of the countries, so going to California and Washington, and just seeing some great venues and meeting great people, it was a blast. [03:11.5]

Dr. Rigsby: Many of us have fond memories of 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Pastor Michael: That’s for sure. For sure.

Dr. Rigsby: Yeah, and Michael is married to Debbie Gamble. They have three wonderful children. Dwight is married to the beautiful Lauri. Dwight has three incredible children. One of them is waiting for him in heaven and that's Brother Steven, and these are great, great men and I couldn't think of a better topic than these fellows.

Think about 2020. Think about 2021. Think about all the disruptions in every major system. We're all men of faith, right? I have a lot of listeners who may not have the same beliefs that I have, but I love the fact that they listen and get involved with our podcasts. I have this belief that we don't have to think alike, but we should think together—and with regard to that, as a man of faith, I am convinced that God is trying to communicate something to creation. I really am. [04:14.8]

In view of the COVID pandemic, in view of the racial unrest, not just in America, but all over the world, in view of the political division that has reared its ugly head, and now dealing with the ongoing long-term lingering effects of COVID—I'm talking about anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, other issues that affect our cognitive functioning—the critical question is, what is God saying in all of this?

In fact, I think perhaps the more critical question is, what should the response of the Church be? Because I really believe this. I think that in a time of great crises, history will support the notion that the Church is usually on the front porch. [05:05.2]

People that normally wouldn't pay attention to the Church are paying attention. They're paying attention to what we do and to what we say, and so our behavior becomes very important and our response becomes important, and our words become important. I wanted to take an opportunity to talk to two people with a combined 50-plus years in ministry to ask a simple question, starting with you. Michael, what do you think God is saying to us and what should the response, secondly, be?

Pastor Michael: It's an awfully big question to answer. What is God saying? That's a big question and I reflect to the Lord's Prayer. When Jesus was telling his disciples, This is how we are to pray, in that prayer, he says, Let it be as on earth as it is in heaven.

I think for where I am at and where I see the Church is we need to get back to…instead of the feel-good message, we need to get back to saying, God, what are you saying to your church? What are you saying to the body of Christ? [06:11.0]

And the answer is in heaven. It's there, but I think we're in the microwave society trying to get quick answers. It's problem-solution, problem-solution, instead of problem and let's spend the time hearing from God, and what is the spirit of God saying to us?

I heard recently that there are 20 to 30 percent of parishioners or members of churches that will never come back to the Church.

Dr. Rigsby: Really?

Pastor Michael: I just heard that over the weekend, and these are people that have been committed to the Church for the majority of their adult life and they're never coming back. We have another problem here saying, Okay, what is God saying to us as a society? But what is He saying to those that we're losing in the Church that are part of the solution, part of the answer?

Dr. Rigsby: My goodness. [06:56.0]

Pastor Michael: We have, if from the Church perspective, I see a multiplicity of issues that have to be addressed, and so my prayer has been centered around the Lord's Prayer. Father, let it be. Let it happen, bring it to us. In heaven, the answer in heaven, bring it to us on earth, and I'm trying to put my ear to the tune in the Pitchfork of heaven.

Dr. Rigsby: Wow.

Pastor Michael: And I'm finding it takes more time, more quiet, more worship than I've ever had before, just sitting quietly at my desk, praying, meditating, reading the word. I find myself reading the Psalms and Proverbs more than I ever have before and finding the wisdom keys that are hidden there.

I don't want to be so brave to say, Thus sayeth the Lord, this is what God is saying. I will say, though, I think it's going to be bathed in unity and love and charity. I believe it's going to be…when we talk about their racial issue, someone said as I was in a conversation recently, they said, “We just need to sit around the table and talk about this racial issue,” and my response to them was, “Well, whose table are we sitting at?” [8:03.0]

Dr. Rigsby: Yeah.

Pastor Michael: “Are we sitting at your table? Are we sitting at my table? Because if we can sit at the table called God's table, which is then defined by love, then we can humble ourselves and have a really loving conversation, hope-filled conversation, and we won't walk away offended, but we'll walk away more unified and understanding one another.”

To the political divide, it's your table, my table, and I'm going to stand for my rights, stand for what my truth is, and we're just banging the table. We're not coming together.

Dr. Rigsby: Michael, you covered a lot of real estate. I'll tell you there, we could end the show right now because you said a lot of good things. Let me cull out a couple of things that you said as I ask Dwight to address them. [08:50.3]

This show, Dwight, is titled “Naked Opportunity”, because the Church has this great opportunity if we are courageous enough to see some of the things that Michael has pointed out, that shallow, superficial sermons aren't getting it done, that business as usual and hiding behind our traditions and rituals, that's what Jesus came to overturn that we have to really be something different. Perhaps, maybe we ought to try salt and light. What a thought?

So, here's an opportunity to be something that the world hasn't seen. If all you see is what you see, you don't see all there is that needs to be seen. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said an opportunity missed is an opportunity lost. What do we need to do in light of what Michael has talked about that will cause us not to miss this golden opportunity in history?

Pastor Dwight: I love what Michael said, so I’ll just try to add a thought or two on top of it, but there he really lays, I think, the foundation for everything.

In the Chinese language, they're writing pictures and one of the interesting words is the word “adversity”, because it's a combination of two pictures. One is the picture for danger and the other is the picture for opportunity. That's why I love this being the title of this. [10:07.0]

We are in the midst of adversity, but I think the Chinese are right, with every adversity comes an opportunity. We're not as unique as we think we are. This is not the first time catastrophic things have happened in the world and I am particularly intrigued, and my last book was on this very topic—there's something about the first 300 years of Christendom. The first 300 years in the Church have never been reproduced, I mean, by far. By far, the first 300 years are the best that we've ever seen in terms of the impact that the Church has made.

A wonderful book by a man named Rodney Stark—he's a Princeton sociologist—called The Rise of Christianity, and what he demonstrates is that in the year 108 A.D., there was 0.0126% of the Roman empire considering themselves Christ followers, so that's 0.0126 as miniscule. [11:00.3]

You fast forward just quickly 250 years and now 56% of the Roman Empire is calling themselves Christ followers. In 250 years, how in the world did the Church make that kind of difference? What he says, I absolutely agree with him and I don't know a better way to put it than this. Lead by surprise. Lead by surprise.

One of those first, the early that made the difference, I mean, there was preaching, certainly, and there were martyrdoms, certainly, but that's not what the great issue was. The great issue is that they use the background of difficult, difficult times to serve as the backdrop for extraordinary responses.

One of the things, interestingly, is that there were two great epidemics and thousands and thousands of people died. The Christians were the only people who stayed in the city. When the epidemic hit, unbelievers left as fast as they could, leaving their families behind. [12:05.0]

The Christians stayed and many of them went over to help the unbelievers, and they never said, If you become a Christ follower, we'll help you. They just said, How can we help you? Many of them lost their lives, helping these unbelievers, and pretty soon word began to get out, Wow, these people are different. They've got skin in the game. They're laying it on the line.

There’s another, just real quickly, a female infanticide. In the Roman world of that day, if you had a boy, you kept him, so you kept all the men. Especially in the upper class, you always kept the first woman, first girl. After that point, though, it was extremely common to take the female baby, the girl, as soon as she's born and throw her on the outside on the doorsteps to die in the elements. I mean, this was an everyday occurrence. [12:57.0]

The Christians were the only people who went around routinely, checking doorsteps to see if there were any babies that got thrown out. They took those babies home. They raised them as their own. Pretty soon, word got out, These Christians are different in really good ways. It basically is this idea of lead by surprise.

As we referenced the Sermon on the Mount, I think that the Sermon on the Mount hemorrhages with the idea of surprise. In reality, these days as dark as they are, as difficult as they are, they provide tremendous opportunity. They're the backdrop for supernatural responses, so we have a real opportunity at the same time. [13:33.7]

Dr. Rigsby: These are such, such good, good, good models to follow, I should say, advice to offer, because I think a lot of times the non-Christian is not so much looking at our traditions, Michael, not so much looking at our rituals. They're looking at our behavior.

Pastor Michael: Yes. [13:52.6]

Dr. Rigsby: And our behavior, shockingly, is often not very Christ-like. I'll never forget being at a restaurant, a local restaurant, having breakfast and next to me was a conversation and I tried as hard as I could to listen to every single word. I even moved my table closer to their table, right? Because what I perceived was there were two men who were ministers and one woman, and they were ganging up on the woman.

They literally were getting on her case for leaving the Church and I'll never forget the line she shared that haunts me to this day. She said, “I would love to come back to your church, but I can't get past your behaviors to get to your beliefs.” So, when I hear that here is a great opportunity for us to surprise people, when you hear that, Michael, what resonates in your heart?

Pastor Michael: The first thing that resonates is it just grieves my heart. It hurts to hear that, but I think, all too often, it's true. [15:02.2]

Dr. Rigsby: Yeah.

Pastor Michael: You look at the Church, and let's put this or place in the political spectrum, I've had to encourage our folks, Facebook is not your pulpit.

Pastor Dwight: Yes.

Dr. Rigsby: Yes.

Pastor Michael: Please stop using it as your pulpit and banging your fist on this. But I look at believers, those who proclaim Christ as the center of their life, and I look at their behavior on Facebook and I say there is no difference in just their attitude, just their venom, the barbs that they're just sending out. Are we not the ones who are to be salt? Are we not the ones to be loved? Then we’ve got a corner of the market here.

Dr. Rigsby: Come on, brother.

Pastor Michael: And we're not using that -

Pastor Dwight: Yeah, absolutely.

Pastor Michael: - the gift that God has given us, and we sound just like the world. But if I may -

Dr. Rigsby: Please.

Pastor Michael: - get on my pulpit and bang my fist for a minute, if you look back past the last maybe 25 years in church, what has been driving the churches to be more like the world, so we become more acceptable, so that the unbeliever looks [and thinks], Oh, you know what that looks like? It looks like the party I just went to last week, so that makes it easy for me to find my entry point. [16:09.3]

The Church should stand different. It should be loving. It should be open arms. It should be accepting and it should say, Come, whosoever will come, so there should be this loving environment, but it should not look like Saturday night's club scene.

Dr. Rigsby: Yeah, perfect.

Pastor Michael: I think that has been a little bit, maybe one or two degrees, what we have been focused on as the “big C” Church and not our message, and if our behavior is such, then that means the conviction of our heart and our relationship with the Lord is not what we think it is.

Dr. Rigsby: Oh, boy.

Pastor Michael: Because our behavior just reflects what's really going on right below the surface.

Pastor Dwight: Absolutely.

Pastor Michael: And so, we say, Okay, why doesn't the Church behave better, if we can just use a simple term? It's because we really aren't healthy. It was a 3 John that says, I wish above all things that you would be in health and that you would prosper, and I don't see the Church healthy and we're really not prospering. [17:07.0]

Dr. Rigsby: What great opportunities as you're…

Pastor Michael: Oh, this is the moment and the season, at least for my lifetime, that the Church can go.

Dr. Rigsby: What great opportunities. Dwight, you said something that's intriguing me and I know it's intriguing Michael. Basically, to paraphrase, the first 300 years was our greatest growth, really, and so I'm thinking about this. We haven't taken advantage of pain and sorrow enough to surprise people to the point that we push our behavior beyond the realm of what's normal and what's expected, and I think about this.
I think about German theologian, Helmut Thielicke, comes over to the United States, tours and has wonderful meetings with evangelicals all throughout the country, and when it comes time for him to leave, somebody asks his reflections and he says, “I love your country. I really do. I see great things happening here. But the one thing that's missing is the fact that you folks have no theology for pain.” [18:06.4]

Could these remaining 100-plus years, post those first 300, be so—what would the word be?—so numbing that we've done everything we can to erase pain out of our lives, to the point that we don't even see opportunities to be different and to surprise?

Pastor Dwight: No, I think that's exactly the case and I think one of the problems is that, oftentimes, the highest goal in the Church is what I would just call morality, and morality is just staying away from the wrong stuff. I like to say it's like a plot of ground where there are no weeds and you won't find any weeds whatsoever. But I think what we're after is godliness and the difference there is that godliness is not simply the absence of what's wrong. It's the manifest presence of what's right and what's surprising. [19:01.5]

I think as believers, if we would think through not just what's the first mile of Christianity, where it’s the Sermon on the Mount and the Roman soldier tells the guy to take the pack one mile, morality is just taking it one mile. That's the highest goal, I think, for many Christians, just stay off the internet, stay away from pornography, stay away from getting drunk, so forth and so on.

Dynamic Christianity only happens on the second mile. It does not happen on the first mile. It only happens on the second mile and that is when you say, No, could I take your pack for you? And all the way the guy is wondering, Who would make someone do that?

Nothing makes the gospel an issue more than a supernaturally changed life. What Charles Colson used to do, I think, is a great model in a lot of ways for us. He has phenomenal ministry in the prisons. One of the ways that he would often begin the time with all the prisoners who'd come in was he would get one of white prisoners there that was formerly a Ku Klux Klan member, along with a black brother who would be out of the Black Panthers. [20:05.2]

They would come on with him, arm around each other, and they would say, “I would have killed this man in my past life. I would not have talked to him. I would have killed him. I love my brother. But the only reason I do is that there's a God who gave me a new heart and He put a new spirit within me.” Nothing makes the gospel an issue more than a changed life and we've got the opportunity for that now.

Dr. Rigsby: I want both of you in the remaining moments that we have. Thank you, by the way, for sharing that Colson story. That's a powerful, powerful visual. In the remaining moments that we have, I don't want you to talk to just Christians. I want you to talk to everyone, not just pastors, everyone.

How can we be more provocative, more alluring, more surprising? The Bible says that Jesus was astonished by the man who said, I don't need to go to your…and you don't need to come to my house and visit my sick attendant. Just speak a word. The Bible says he was astonished. [21:13.6]

I want to surprise people. Guys, take it. How do we live with a fragrance from heaven that so surprises people that they go, Whoa, I'd like to know a little bit more about you? Michael?

Pastor Michael: I would offer this to say and I'll just reflect to my own life, and during COVID, I have found, my wife and I, I can say it for both of us, we have found ourselves repenting before the Lord more than we ever have in our Christian walk.

I know you've asked, let's not just speak to the Christians, but I think it's important, to even those who don't say Jesus or recognize the Christ, to hear those who say, I do follow Christ, to say, You know what? I've had to repent more this last year because of pride, of arrogance, thinking I know. Even in their racial area, you and me, we've sat down many times around the table. [22:09.7]

Dr. Rigsby: Sure.

Pastor Michael: And we've really wrestled through some tough issues and I had to say, “I just didn't know. I don't know.”

Dr. Rigsby: We lost members over it.

Pastor Michael: Oh, we did, and I want to say you never want to lose a member, but it was worth the price and I'd do it again. I would say, I want to encourage, we all need to humble ourselves.

Dr. Rigsby: Yes.

Pastor Dwight: Absolutely.

Pastor Michael: We all need to say, You know what? We're not all of that and we didn't buy the bag of chips and we didn't buy the t-shirt. We don't own it all and we just need to recognize we're not that special. Yes, we are the creation of God. We are the love of God. I understand that. But I think there's been so much pride. I'm just talking for me. This is just me. There has been so much pride revealed by God in my heart and judgment that I've had that I thought, Man, I'm above all that. I was not above all that. [23:04.0]

Dr. Rigsby: Yeah.

Pastor Michael: Maybe someone needs to hear today a pastor that says, You know what? I'm sorry for the hurt that we have caused, the Church has caused, the disillusionment we have caused, and I repent before you. I'm sorry—and I think that's where we start.

Dr. Rigsby: That's good.

Pastor Michael: That's my humble opinion.

Pastor Michael: That’s really good. Thank you, Michael. Dwight?

Pastor Dwight: I think I really follow with what Michael is saying. Everything good in our lives grows out of the soil of brokenness, out of the soil of humility. I mean that. A big part of that, I think, is an old saying that one of the missionaries came up with, but I think it's so true. We are one beggar telling other beggars where we found bread. Everything we talk about with believer or unbeliever has to be done from that vantage point, because the only difference between me and you is I’ve got blindsided by Jesus and I highly recommend you take a look at it.

I love the Samaritan woman. It's the perfect way I think to do evangelism. She says, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” basically saying, Hey, take a look at him. He rocked my world. [24:10.2]

I think the more that we can just invite both believers and unbelievers, just to take their own personal look at the most surprising life that ever walked the face of the earth, that's where the power is.

Dr. Rigsby: That's so good, Michael and Dwight. I will add this. I know that Jesus would oftentimes talk about the narrow path and, in Matthew 7, He talks about taking the narrow gate, and I've often wondered how that looks. How do you put hands and feet on it? I think we have language now, language that says, Let's walk in humility before sovereign God, language that says, Why don't we surprise people? We have this naked opportunity. Why not surprise them? And I don't think that Christians will surprise anyone if we choose the middle road. [25:00.5]

Pastor Dwight: Absolutely.

Dr. Rigsby: That you have to be so unique in this day and age to surprise someone, you cannot be predictable.

Pastor Dwight: Exactly. Exactly.

Dr. Rigsby: I close with this illustration. I remember when my first wife died and I remember people bringing gifts to the house. There were two types of givers. One would knock on the door and would wait there for me to thank them profusely, which I was so grateful for. I really was, to be honest with you. But the second one, the second one, when I opened the door, I couldn't find them or their car and in every instance they surprised me. That's taking advantage of the naked opportunity.

Pastor Dwight: Yeah.

Pastor Michael: Yeah.

Dr. Rigsby: Michael, Dwight, thank you guys so much.

Pastor Dwight: Great, brother.

Pastor Michael: Yeah, wonderful time.

Dr. Rigsby: No matter who you are, friend, no matter what you're dealing with, no matter what you're going through, there are opportunities for all of us to enhance our life, and I just pray and hope this show has encouraged you to do just that. [26:11.3]

Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick asking you the most important question I can ask you today, how you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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