Author Kelly Kapic joins Tom and Sean to discuss his new book You’re Only Human. If you are continually driven to do more or try harder but end up feeling exhausted, guilty, or ashamed, this conversation is for you. Learn how your limits are part of God’s good creation.
About Kelly Kapic
Kelly M. Kapic is professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. in systematic and historical theology at King’s College, University of London (United Kingdom) and an M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He is the award-winning author or editor of more than 15 books, including Embodied Hope (IVP Academic, 2017), The God Who Gives (Zondervan Academic, 2018), and Becoming Whole with Brian Fikkert (Moody, 2019).
Find Kelly Kapic here.
You're Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God's Design and Why That's Good News
If you prefer not to shop on Amazon, you can find this and other books by Kelly Kapic at Baker Book House or other Christian book retail stores.
Other Books by Kelly Kapic
Transcript Of Kelly Kapic Interview
One of the big arguments I’m trying to make is our limits are not a result of the fall. They’re a result of God’s good creation. I can tell you, I can explore why I think that’s the case, but for our purpose right now, just they’re not . . . We’re not limited because we’re sinners. We’re limited because we’re creatures, and God said, it’s good.
Welcome to Hope Renewed, helping you find new hope when ministry leaves you hopeless. The Hope Renewed podcast is brought to you by PIR Ministries. Here are your hosts, Tom Jameson and Sean Nemecek.
Our guest today is Kelly Kapic, Professor of theological studies at Covenant College and author of You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.
Well, Kelly Kapic, welcome to Hope Renewed.
Oh, it’s good to be with you. Thanks for having me.
Yeah, Kelly, welcome. We want to just start by asking you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself and your faith journey.
Sure. Well, some of your older listeners will know what I’m talking about. When I say CCR stuck in Lodi, I was born and raised in Lodi, California. And now it’s known as the Zinfandel capital of the world. So you’ve got all that you really need to know about me. And more than you want to know. But I was born and raised in California, and my family actively attended a Roman Catholic Church, and through a series of events and things. I’m the youngest of three boys. But by the time I was going through, through elementary school, we, everyone, but my father stopped going. So you know, I was pretty good kid. But my middle school years, as ridiculous as it sounds, were like people’s college years, and the kind of wheels came off and, and then my freshman year in high school, in order to get some people off my back, I said, Yeah, I’d go to this Baptist youth group, with some kids, because I partied with them. And it was, you know, big Wednesday night events and stuff. But every, every time I would go, you know, I felt like, even though there were a ton of people there was talking to me. And long story short, I ended up really becoming a follower of Jesus at that time in high school and pretty radically changed my life. And so did that. My wife is also from California. And we eventually, we got married in 1993. And we’re, I went to Wheaton for college, and then RTS Orlando, and then study overseas with a theologian, Colin Gunten. And we’ve been here at covenant college since 2001. So that’s kind of a rapid fire.
Yeah, a lot going on there. And you are a professor of theological studies at Covenant College in Georgia, and an author, and we’re really looking forward to delving into this latest book that you’ve written, You’re Only Human: How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News.
Where did this come from? What’s the story behind this? How was it formed in you?
Yeah, this is a I wish it could be just something that I read and thought was interesting. You know, this is this is it’s probably not an overstatement to say I’ve been, I’ve been wrestling and thinking through this book for 20 years. And the simplest way I know how to explain, because there’s, there are both theological and personal existential things driving the book, but, you know, especially since a lot of your audience are pastors, they might be able to relate to this. This still remains a bit of a challenge for me, but one of the things I found is when I would put my head on the pillow at night, both literally or sometimes figuratively, whenever I’d have some space, it was amazing how often kind of a wave of shame and guilt would come over me. And, you know, I’m a reformed theologian, I take sin seriously. And so if that, if what I start to think about are ways I’ve lied, and cheated and undermined, people manipulated people been cold, you know, whatever, then I, you know, I can repent and rest in the glorious grace of Christ and finish work. But when I start examining it over time, and over the years, I realize how often those waves of shame and guilt are actually related to this particular point. Why didn’t I get more done today? Why don’t I do more? And so that really interested me as a theologian, because the deeper question is, well, should I have gotten more? Right? And I would never question that I just, pretty much would always feel bad that I should have done more. And, you know, those of you in ministry and work and you know, pretty much anyone who’s attentive, especially in our in our culture, that just that’ll plague you because there’s always you know, I’m an academic, there’s always more books you can read, you’re a pastor, there’s more people you should counsel, you should, you should spend more time in your, you know, study for sermons, you should spend more time praying, the list goes on and on. And so, is the Christian life just supposed to be one constant sense of guilt? And, and how and obviously, that’s just super unhealthy and problematic and robs us of joy and grace and connection. And so, this book is me starting to explore that question. Because I found it relevant, not just for pastors, but for high school kids. Yeah. For parents of stay at home kids, for people who are working incredibly busy jobs on Wall Street to just your local small town. So, I found this pretty commonly, and actually not just in America, but beyond. But anyways, that gives you a sense of it.
Why and how key it is for pastors to be able to model a good understanding of this as they minister to those moms and business people and high schoolers. Because it’s so easy to perpetuate that, that sense of always needing to do more and accomplish more.
Yeah, it’s interesting, too, because I, you know, most, most of us with pastoral instincts, if you ask the, you know, some of the pastor’s listening, you say, when you when you have someone in your congregation that seems like they are, they’re burned out, they’re really hurting, what will you say to them? And they’ll, they’ll talk about God’s grace. And they’ll say, Listen, you don’t have to do everything. But here’s, here’s where it gets more painful and personal. The question is, what does the congregation see you doing? Do you ever say no? Are you comfortable with God’s grace, saying, I have to trust that He loves these people more than me, that I can’t do everything and be everywhere. Because no matter what you say, to everyone else, if you are embodying productivity and efficiency are the highest values for God, your words don’t mean as much as that. And so, there is something pretty powerful for us to wrestle with there.
And it seems to me that among pastors, this is one of the biggest problems that that we face. That we just do not embrace our limits well. Even though we should be the ones who are modeling this the most.
Yeah, we really do struggle with it.
Yeah, I coach pastors through burnout. And this is one of the key questions that we have to deal with. So, in your book, you talk about the concept of finitude. Can you describe to us what that is? And how it how does it show up in our lives?
Yeah, that’s a great question. And it’s not a word that we use a lot. I I’d love to bring it back. finitude though really at its, its most basic meaning just means limits, limits in space, time, knowledge, and power, right. You can’t do everything you can’t know everything can’t be everywhere. It doesn’t even technically have to mean death. We often just associated with death. But in this book, really, I’m thinking about finitude that’s not necessarily about death. I talk, I wrestle through things related to suffering and death in a different book called Embodied Hope. But this is actually just the idea of our limits. And to use more Christian language, rather than finitude and limits, the Christian language is just the word creature. That’s actually what’s meant like creature and in theology, we talked about the Creator creature distinction, and how important that is. But it’s actually it’s not just important in an abstract theological way. It’s, it’s important for us pastorally, right. To, to really, we all would say, we’re not God. But we do live as if the weight of the world is on our shoulders. So yeah, there’s pretty significant pastoral import there.
Yeah, we all need to be reminded from time to time that, that there are things that we’re carrying that we were never meant to carry, that it’s really only God’s to carry, right?
That’s right. That’s right. It’s the same thing when there is a parallel when it comes to trying to minister to those who are who are suffering and in physical pain, where we confuse the need and our responsibility to that need. So when we hear about someone who’s in a lot of pain or something all sudden, well-meaning people in the church start to say, well, maybe if you got more exercise, or maybe if you wouldn’t eat gluten, or maybe if you would see this. You know? And they mean well, and sometimes that advice might even be, but you’re actually not really qualified to talk to that you’re qualified to bring the comfort of Christ and to be his presence and to be His grace and to listen. You don’t need to answer all of those questions about why this is happening, what God is doing how you should get better. That’s not our demand. That’s not That’s not upon us.
It really shows that this this concept of finitude has kind of fuzzy edges to it that it’s not that we can’t do something, it’s that we really shouldn’t do something. That our limit isn’t about an ability. It’s about what’s appropriate.
Well, and sometimes it is about ability, and sometimes it’s about what’s appropriate, so that you really, my wife and I talked about kind of the ethics of a horse. You know, a horse can, can go at a certain speed. And when you’re, you know, when we’re in a world, and in a culture where you’re constantly connected to animals, you get a sense of that you watch movies about horses, and people ride them forever. But in real life, you ride a horse for a while you get off, you let the horse drink, you let the horse rest, you just have to do that. But we now live not with the metaphor of the horse, but with the iPhone. So, you just plug it in, that it charged for 45 minutes, it should be as good as you know, to go so that that imagination is shaping our expectations of what it means to be human and distorting us in all kinds of ways. Yeah.
What do you think we, as humans, were so reluctant to embrace our limits,
I think, I mean, there’s, there’s always been a challenge there, there’s a way to even see, you know, in Genesis three, some of what’s going on, there is a rejection of the limits, right. So, I don’t want to say it’s all contemporary. But I do think this particular temptation has really taken off in the last 150 years, and especially the last 50 years, because of our certain technological advances, because of our, you know, disconnection from the soil from animals from, you know, just kind of organic nature of life, and just the narrative that you really are the center of the universe, you should be able to do anything you want to do. And that’s both exciting and liberating at first, and then it’s crushing. I work with college students, you know, for a living, and it’s so fun to tell 20, you know, 19-, 20-year old, 21-year old, like, you can change the world you can do and they’ll there, they will, they will run through walls, and then you’ll get the email when they’re 28. And their life is falling apart. Right? And so I was on the, I don’t know, it was two or three months ago, I was talking with a pastor from the Midwest, and, and he was telling me the story about how he said, When I was in college, there was a group of us. And we were just super excited about our faith and really wanted to go into ministry. And he said, and he laughed, but he said, this is absolutely true. We sat around, and we mapped out how we could get by with four hours of sleep at night, right? Because they didn’t want to waste a single moment, right? And so, they thought do this, and then they and they went in and he went into ministry. And now he obviously didn’t keep doing that. But that spirit and the kind of unrealistic expectations that came with it. And we were talking and I think he said he was 38 or 39. And he said, Kelly, I literally was any kind of, you know, held his fingers with a centimeter between them and just said, I was this close to being checked in to a mental hospital and I should have been, I was that close to losing my church losing my family losing everything. My body broke, everything just kind of fell apart. And since his book has come out, I hear from pastors on a very regular basis, different versions of that story. Yeah. And I hear about people with suicidal ideation in ministry that their church doesn’t know. It’s just, this is a massive issue in terms of expectations that are unrealistic and crushing us.
Yeah, that was so much on my story, too. I was living with, largely without limits. And when things didn’t work, the entire culture around me, not just myself. But everything around me was saying just try harder. Yeah, I’m just trying harder, right?
That’s the that’s the only. And one of the big points of the book is not just the non-Christian world, but the Christian world, the way we deal with these limits, now. Our fundamental answer is time management. You just got to try harder and manage your time better, right? And I’m trying to say, guys, there’s theological responses to this, and it’s not a time management problem. It’s a theological and pastoral problem.
And somewhere in the midst of that, is that, that rebellion of heart that says, I don’t want to or I’m more able than God has made me to be or something like that.
Yeah, I mean, you it’s interesting, because you can have the two extremes you can have, you can have some people who are just arrogant, like, no, no, no, I got this, I got it all. And I will just keep trying harder. But I also find you have, well-meaning genuinely, you know, gracious pastors, who is just there’s just tremendous needs, and they with their integrity of heart, like, who else is going to do it? If I don’t do it? And so, it’s not just the arrogant folks. It’s, it’s, you know, it’s Moses and Jethro has to come along and say, basically, quoting the early Genesis narrative when he says it is not good for you to do this alone. Right? And yet, what’s interesting in that Jethro story with Moses is Moses, they are coming to ask what God thinks about such and such, right? It’s not Should we have a Christmas parade at church? It’s not. It’s like, what does God think? And Moses is the most qualified person. And just there’s like, No, it’s not good for you to do this alone. And I think that’s more interesting for you know, in the ministry is to go, it’s easy to cut out what’s not easy, but it’s easier to go okay, these things that are peripheral, I don’t have to, but the courage and wisdom it takes when people are even asking you about God and spiritual things. Is it ever okay to say no. And I bet we would get a big divide on that among listeners. But it is interesting, it doesn’t seem to be good. And we could explore that more. But so this idea of finitude, one of the big arguments I’m trying to make is our limits are not a result of the fall. They’re a result of God’s good creation. I can tell you, I can explore why I think that’s the case. But for our purpose right now, just they’re not. . . we’re not limited because we’re sinners. We’re limited because we’re creatures, and God said, it’s good. It’s good.
So what happens to us, when we fight against our limits, when we try and push back? We, when we try and live as if we’re infinite?
Yeah, well, Sean, you could probably speak to this as well, as you know, any of us on this. All kinds of things, right? Our bodies, you know, like a different pastor came up to me and, and he said, until three months ago, my wife said, she used to call me the Energizer Bunny, I could just do more and more. And, and then also, now this guy was in his late 40s, said, my body broke. And he held up his hand, his hand was shaking. And he said, it hasn’t stopped shaking. And two and a half months, I’ve had to get I have quit ministry, and I’m trying to get figured out what in the world I’m doing. So, the reality is, we think no, no, I’m just going to try harder. I can do this, I can spend my I can manage my time better. Your body, do you, you know, the famous line from this? You know, it’s quite a good book, (Bessel van der Kolk’s) book, but The Body Keeps the Score. And at some point, your body’s just gonna say, No, you’re done. And that you don’t get to control it anymore, right. And so, I think that happens, I think isolation happens, I find a lot of bitterness to God and other people happens behind the facade of smiling faces and piety. There’s a lot of anger. Because even though they’re doing all these loving things towards people, they’re getting more and more bitter, because they’re just spent, they’re exhausted. So those would be some examples. What do you think, Sean? What would you add to that?
Oh, I think people get angry with God. Because they, they are working so hard for God doing things, he never asked them to do, that, and then assuming that because they’re not finding the success that they thought was gonna be there, that God has abandoned them or something. And the reality is, they never took the time to slow down and be with God in the first place.
Yeah. What would you say, Tom?
Well, I’m thinking, you know, going back to what you said initially about that guilt and shame that you know, the sense of compounding guilt in your life by doing things, you know, you weren’t created to do and not either having the courage, you know, what failure nerve, your heart, whatever it might be, to, to confront that and to admit that, because for whatever reason, you have to appear competent, that was always my thing to appear competent to, and that that shame and guilt then create such a weight that then needs to be addressed somehow. And then things go sideways, right? And yeah, I tried to assuage that was, you know, whatever addictive behavior, or I like that, yeah.
Yeah, it seems like, it seems like one of the best things and this has been true in my life. We’re just not very good judges ourselves. We think we are. But you know, different personalities, some personalities will just let themselves off on anything. But a lot of us actually, especially in leadership, we’re just super suspicious of ourselves. So, if we’re like, you know, Kelly, you need to rest you’re like, Yeah, you’re just being soft. You’re just lazy Kelly. So, for me, it’s really important to have people I trust speaking into my life, you know, my wife will look at me at some point in the night and go, Dude, stop. You’re . . . go watch ESPN. You have to watch ESPN right now. Right? And because she says it, it’s just glorious, right? It’s guilt free. It’s like yes, this is what the doctor has prescribed. But if I try and do it on my own, yeah, other issues arise. So, whether it’s friends, colleagues, spouses, and kids, right? If they feel comfortable enough, they help us actually have a more realistic view of our life. And sometimes they’ll say, no, actually, you are being lazy. You’ve been on the couch forever, you know. So, I don’t think it just goes one direction. Yeah,
it’s kind of interesting. And one of the things I I often talk about is we have minimum limits too, you know, we’ve once we fall below a certain level of caring for our bodies, or connection with God, things go off the rails too.
that’s, that’s a great point, because, and maybe this is part of what you’re alluding to. I see this constantly. So, people overextend. And then we do this boomerang thing in order to try and recover. And then we just crash out and then we don’t do anything, right. And this is, you know, that comes up a lot in the book. But is it really our two options are do everything or do nothing. That is, those are the extremes we’re constantly pushed between. So, you know, I had a pastor said, My wife really wants me to have you come to our church and talk to our leadership. But I don’t want you to come because none of the none of the elders and people are gonna keep doing any anything after they hear you talk. And he, he laughed about it. But there is something to that, right. And yet, you’re trying to change a culture? Because that is the sign of we’re working from panic and fear. And we’re filling vacuums that we’re not actually qualified or able to do.
Yeah. So, it really does involve having a different perspective on what limits what finitude is all about. And you say that, that that reflects God’s design in us. And when we embrace that we actually learn about God from our limits. Talk about that, if you would,
Yeah, I mean, the surprise is, well, I would say the surprise is that since limits are part of our good, rather than part of this sin, we should ask, then what is the good? Well, the good is to be human, is to be made to actually depend on God, neighbor and earth. And one of the reasons Christian spirituality is so difficult for us, especially in the West is the word dependence doesn’t make us think, wow, that’s yeah, if, if Sean and I are talking and say, you know, Tom, Tom is just a super dependent guy, he’s dependent. No one means that as a compliment, right? The Christian vision is to be fully human is to be profoundly dependent on God, profoundly dependent on your neighbor, and profoundly dependent upon the earth. And the fact is, now we’ve said the vision of true humanity is to be utterly independent. That’s just antithetical to the Christian vision. So, we that’s, and it has all kinds of manifestations not just that we, you know, Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer talks about this in the early 20th century where he says, So, what the fall does, it doesn’t give us our limits, but it distorts the limits. So now I view my neighbor as a threat that I must either dominate or ignore, right? Because they do remind me of my limits, right? Even their bodies, their requests, that kind of thing. So, what does what does this kind of look like for us? How do we have a healthy view of limits and that kind of healthy dependence? Codependence is a problem because healthy dependence is encouraging one another to flourish under God’s good grace. Codependence is a problem because it’s not pointing towards healthy, holistic, flourishing, but to your destruction, right to some kind of problem. But that dependence isn’t the problem. It’s the sinful distorting of those dependence. And just one other thing on that. So one of the signs that we actually don’t think dependence is a good thing is prayer. And we all know you ask any Christian you ask any pastor, like, do you think you pray enough? I guarantee, you know, you know, 95% are gonna say, No, I know, I should pray more. But if we’re really honest, why don’t we pray more? Because it feels like a waste of time, doesn’t actually produce stuff. So, it’s, you know, the sign of true humility and the sign of a healthy sense of dependence is that you can’t help but pray. Right? And I don’t just mean like, God helped me with this helped me with that. It’s also God. What a glorious sunrise. God, I can’t believe that person was able to articulate those things in that way. I can’t believe that person, you know, made that guitar how what a stunning gift, right? It’s not just asking for help. It’s a dependence on an acknowledgment of all these good gifts from God. Right? It’s praise, not just petition, some there’s a lot there, but I hope that makes some sense.
How does this relate to us as human beings being made in the image of God. You know, we talked about the creature creator distinction. How does it play out there?
Yeah, I mean, part of what part of the moves I think we would want to make there, is that simple reminder of, you know, Adam and Eve made in the image of God, Jesus Christ is the image of God. And so actually starting to explore the full humanity of Jesus. So, in the book, you know, there’s a, there’s a chapter on, you know, Mary was on Jesus, but you know, the subtitle is thank God for Mary. And so like, really, if you ask pastors theologians, like, does the humanity of Jesus really matter? We’re like, yes, of course. But do we really think that, right? And so, Jesus who is the very image of God looks back at us in through human eyes? So, what does that full humanity look like, in a way that he’s not a sinner being human, right, he’s not a sinner needing sleep, he’s not a sinner, pulling away at times, he’s not a sinner, with his body with his physicality with those needs, so that that would probably be part of where I would go. But then also just that idea of dependence, I found very helpful to kind of think in this idea of, were made for communing with God, neighbor earth, and that then relates to how we commune even in ourselves or relate to ourselves.
Jesus certainly modeled dependence and limits and saying no, and yeah, that’s not really a helpful way to look at that.
It seems like it’s recapturing that sense of understanding our limits, not from a negative sense, right? Because I always think, okay, what are my limits? Well, let me run into a wall. And I’ll tell you what my limits are. That’s, that’s how we view them, right? Instead of embracing this, this creative sense that God has given in making us and, you know, looking at Jesus, all right, who, who, for the sake of us took on a human form and, and embrace those limits, not from a sinful sense, or a sense of lack, I guess, is what I want to say. But from a sense of fullness. Yeah, you know, in our abundance mindset of limit, which kind of it’s counterintuitive to me. I don’t know about you, guys. I’m reaching my limit right now. I mean, being able to apprehend that.
No, that’s so good. And I mean, this. There’s a whole chapter on humility, and how I think this makes a big difference. So, if you ask most Christians, you know, without prepping them, you say, Why should we be humble? The most common gut instinct response is well, because we’re sinners. It is true that because we’re sinners. That should be another reason we should be humble. But then theologically the question is, even before there was a fall, even before there was any sin, should human creatures Be humble? And the answer is yes. Because creatures were made to be dependent on God, dependent on others, and dependent upon the earth. And humility is the good gift of a creature recognizing all of those relationships, and enjoying them and fostering them. And so if you think humility should be built on the doctrine of sin, rather than the doctrine of creation, that’s where we end up in trouble where so we all know we should be humble, and therefore the only path forward for us is to concentrate on what bad sinners we are, that ends up in all kinds of problematic, yes, we should be aware of our sin, there are times we need to really take it seriously repent, focus on it. But the reality is, is just focusing on your sin, the path of humility? That actually tends to breed a distorted view of self, it tends to actually cultivate self-absorption. But if you say, no, no, humility is built on the doctrine of the good of creation. Then also, you can say, listen, you being humble isn’t just something you’re born with or not. There are healthy paths for you to cultivate humility. And so you should do things like this. You should actually have eyes to see and ears to hear ways God has gifted others and learn to celebrate them. That will cultivate a healthy view of humility in yourself, because you will stop viewing everyone as a threat and stop trying to win everything and start genuinely looking, not lying to people, but looking for people’s good gifts, what they’re bringing, all of that because humility is meant to cultivate these relationships and connections. So, there’s huge pastoral implications on all of these things that in some way seems small changes that really can make huge differences in people’s lives.
How would you advise pastors to embrace these themes in their own life and ministry?
Hmm. It’s a good question. I do have some ideas throughout the book, and especially the last chapter where I You know, argue for some actual practices for people, including pastors, but there are things like cultivating a sense of vulnerability in a healthy way. That doesn’t, that doesn’t necessarily mean from the pulpit all the time, right? There’s, there’s appropriate vulnerability, there’s inappropriate and we you know, you need others to help you navigate that. But I do think, rest, both Sabbath rest and other forms of rest, taking that seriously becomes very important. One of the one of the basic practices I really encourage people is, it’s kind of a dual thing is both cultivating gratitude and lament, because the practice of gratitude and lament allows you, I think, as Christians, we’re constantly tempted to lie, and to lie about two things. We’re tempted to lie about how hard the world is, and pretend it’s not in ourselves, it’s not so broken. And so we’re tempted to lie and it becomes a plastic Christianity. But then at the same time, I think we’re tempted to lie about how good God is. And because things are hard, and so we, you know, we stop thinking through that. So what gratitude and lament allow you to do, is when things are really hard to be honest with God, about how hard they are, and also look for signs of God’s grace and His presence and His kindness and his compassion throughout those two things actually breed a kind of humility and a connectedness to the earthiness of this world, that that do tend to ground us in ways that are healthy, and helps help us to kind of resist a romanticized spirituality. So those would be some examples.
Hmm. So, a rhythm of . . .
Yeah, rhythm is one of the big parts. Yep, absolutely. And even knowing, you know, because as a pastor, for example, when you’re preaching and when you’re ministering, many pastors will know this intuitively, but it’s easy to forget, or some just don’t get, but you have a congregation, full of people in different seasons of life. So, when you when you feel frustrated, like people aren’t volunteering, and you just say to everybody, the same thing, then I can just tell you, from experience, lots of stay at home parents, who are just getting crushed by the demands, and they feel terrible about themselves are not sleeping, they don’t feel productive at all, changing diapers, thoughts. And then they hear like, if you really love some version, it’s never this crude, but some version of if you really love God, and Jesus, you would be at this event and you would do this and you would do that. And they’re like, Okay, and then that’s where bitterness and stuff. So, where that’s very different than the empty nester, right. And so learning to understand different rhythms. And so I think the same thing is true for the pastorate you guys can speak to it better than I but the 28 year old pastor, the 35 year old pastor is different than the 60 year old pastor. Amen. And to honor those differences. And there are there are things you need to recognize in that and what prayer looks like in those different seasons. What community looks like, there’s just a, I think, cultivating rhythm and honoring the particularity of people’s stories and where they’re at in life would go a long way. And the fact that we don’t honor particularity and rhythm is a sign of rejecting finitude.
And I wonder how many pastors struggle with that, you know, the pastoral persona of, you know, I’m supposed to be this way. Instead of recognizing no, God has called me a unique individual created by Him for His glory, gifted in specific ways, if I can say it this way, limited in specific ways for the glory of God. And live out of that sense of call. And that sense of what it means to serve.
Yeah, I mean, we all have limits, right? So, and we have both sins and limits. And you guys know this in the past, right? When someone retires, even if they’re a loved pastor, or gets fired, the church will then stop pendulum swings, right? So, there was a great preacher, but he was had a terrible bedside manner. So, all sudden, they’ll go and find some of the great bedside manner. And then a year later, they’re like, well, you can’t preach, right? The problem is that a pastor, like a president of a college or something, a pastor is supposed to be great at 12 things and the best pastor is good at four of them. And so, I do think there is something healthy if you can acknowledge some of this in healthy ways, not belittling yourself or whatever, but being honest so that so it’s not people talking behind your back, like he’s not good at administrating like this. Guys, I’m not very good at administrating I want to be, I’ve tried, I need help in this, right? Or I need help in preaching. Can you? Listen, this is super vulnerable for me, after I always feel super vulnerable after I preach, that’s not the time to critique me. But I would love you who are really committed to me to try and give me concrete examples of how to get better, whatever it is, but also just like, guys, like, okay, Kelly Kapic. It’s hilarious, but it this is not false humility, I can’t fix anything in my house. I am, I am a disaster, right? Even last night, my son and daughter and I might, you know, are trying to change a battery in my mind, you know, 19 year old son just like, I got this dad. Go watch ESPN. Yeah, exactly. Because we all know, something that should take a normal person 10 minutes, I literally will take me an hour to two hours. And I’ll get super upset. And so, at some point, the community is better served by helping you rather than pretending that this is a good thing, right? And so, whatever that looks like, if it’s true that the average pastor needs to be should be good at 12 things, but only any of us are good at four that, then how does the community rally and I know that’s different. If your church is 150 people, and you’re the only one, we got to take into account these things. But there are ways to think through this in a healthy way. And if we can encourage and praise one another in healthy ways, and stop viewing each other’s competition, you can get beautiful things happening in a church
That’s that Ephesians four picture, right? Of, you know, he gave some to be some to be, right? So that the body works together and writes itself up in love.
And no one gets them all right, right. Yeah, this is this is why it’s, it drives you, you know, when someone starts dating someone like that person’s beautiful, right, but they’re not this and that, oh, she’s really so intelligent. And I like that. And then she’s this. And then by the end, you have this uber woman in your mind that doesn’t actually exist. So, you’re not going to get married, right? Well, that that happens in all these kinds of ways. So, how do we have a healthy view? That’s, that’s honest and realistic and, and can celebrate the other?
I think one of the things that we can say directly to pastors and pastors’ spouses maybe is, you know, just ask what is God clearly called you to not do?
Yeah, that’s, that’s right.
What’s your No?
Yeah, and, you know, all of us, all of us have to do things that we’re not particularly good at and don’t like, right. So that’s, you know, my wife calls it the bucket list. But you do like, John, I like how you put it, you didn’t say, what, what is actually hurting the community by you doing? You know, and your family and your other kind of thing. And there are probably some things on there, you still have to do. But even acknowledging that’s not great. Is something powerful? Anyways, I really like how you put that Sean.
All this sounds like so much work? of discovering that, and yet God’s at work in us, right? Helping us in this in your book, you I love the name of this chapter, Why oesn’t God just instantly change me? Talk about process, and becoming, and how do those concepts free us in light of our limits?
Yeah, thank you for asking about that. That’s been important in my journey. And so I hope it helps people. So, it is interesting, because, again, you think, is Christianity, only about forgiveness? Now, I think forgiveness is a huge part of our faith. But is it, Is it really we get forgiven and then we’re just kind of that’s it? And maybe it’s we got forgiven, and then we get to be forgiven daily, but that’s it. Right? And it’s interesting. Well, I, here’s, here’s how I put it. Over the last 150 years Christians have talked a lot about creation. And I would argue we have a terrible doctrine of creation. And that’s because in the last 150 years, when Christians, especially of angelical, Christians, when we talk about creation, all we’re talking about are questions of origins. How did God make the earth and when did God make the earth? But actually, there’s all these other hugely important things. And one of those things, whether you think the world is 10,000 years old, or 6.5 billion years old. What’s interesting is, no matter where you’re at on that continuum, all of us have to admit, joyfully admit, that the biblical narrative says the God who could have made everything in a millisecond or faster, took his time. He took days whether those are billion, you know, day, your days, or a literal day. For my purpose, it’s actually just important to go God could have made it all instantaneously and he didn’t. Which means from the beginning, the Father through the Son, and by the Spirit has always enjoyed process. He loves taking his time to spirit hovering over the chaotic waters bringing an order and that kind of thing. And that God of creation is the same God of recreation. And so, when we disconnect sanctification from creation, it distorts it, right? So, we think, to be really spiritual means to be supernatural in all these kinds of ways. Well actually no, if the God of creation is the same as the god of recreation, then sanctification looks like not the overcoming of your mind or the belittling of your mind. It’s not the lessening of your affections. It’s not. No, no, it’s the renewal of your mind, right? It’s the inflaming your mind. It’s the, it’s the movement of your will, and good and holy ways, and that kind of thing. So that really matters because God is patient with us as he grows us. And so, you know, pastorally, I think it’s so important I was thinking about here, you know, when my kids were learning to walk, we’ve all had this experience, where you set a kid on the couch there, you stand them up, and they put a hand on the couch, and you back up eight feet, and you say, hey, you know, hey, Margot, come here, come to me. She kind of looks at you nervous, and it takes a couple steps and then boom, hits the ground. And you don’t walk over to like Margot, what an idiot! I told you, Margot, walk to me, what part of that didn’t you understand? Just walk to me and you didn’t you trust me enough. And that is exactly how we treat the Father. Like he says, wait, I saved you. I made you stand up. And I said, come to me, and you fell. And we just expect his condemnation and cruel words, rather than exactly what I did to Margot. I went over, I picked her up, I smiled at her, I kissed her wherever she got bruised. I said it’s right. And I stand her up again. And it’s not that I’m indifferent to Margot, learning to walk. It’s that I understood it takes time. She had to develop muscles, she has to get done. And it’s really hard. And I knew her situation, that the Father, it’s not just us is no sin. And anyways, so God has always been comfortable with process. And when we’re ministering to people, we have to remember, God is comfortable in process. He’s doing something.
I think one of the themes that I kind of hear bouncing around in what you’re saying is, there’s a mystery to all of this. And sometimes we claim certainty, where we should have mystery. And that gets in the way of our embracing limits and in relationship with God.
Yeah, that’s, that’s really good.
So as you think about ministering these themes within the church, how does church, how do church leaders help congregations embrace the fact that they’re only human?
Yeah, I think it’s both in word and deed. It’s gotta be in word and deed. You probably have listeners coming from all kinds of different traditions. So, I’m a reformed theologian, and most people will know what Reformed folks are really good at is talking about sin. Right, it’s kind of our specialty.
Well, we’re so familiar with it.
You know, and we all joke about that. But it’s interesting, it actually becomes our like identity. And it becomes, and I do think as, as pastors, one of the things we should ask is, when people leave our worship services, what are they most convinced of? And I will just tell you, in my circles, far too often than I think we’d like to admit, people just leave really convinced they’re bad sinners, rather than deeply known and loved. And I think that’s partly because we have a very strong view of sin, and a very weak view of anthropology or what it means to be human. And I want to be a voice. I’m not, I’m still reformed. I’ve edited a book on sin and temptation. But I would like to be a voice saying, It’s not wrong for you, to understand the good of what it means to be a creature. And to help, I put it this way, an idea I’m throwing around in my mind for some lectures and some other stuff here is, you know, go therefore, and make humans. I think, in our world, in our inhumane world right now, one of the helpful ways to understand making disciples is helping them become more fully human, from a Christian perspective. And that is disciple making because it is about cultivating a dependence on God, and a connection to others, and reconnecting to His earth and the goodness of it. And I think cultivating the sense of you are known and loved is so important. One of the chapters is you know, does God really loves me and you think how is that related to finitude? It actually is. And without getting that whole chapter one of the things if you ask most Christians Does God love you? We all say yes, of course he loves me. But it’s, I work with college students. And if I asked my college students, do your parents love you? What do they all say? Yes. But then if I asked them, Do you think your parents, do you think your dad likes you? Do you think your mom likes you? It is amazing how often I see tears. Yeah. And I think the same thing relates if you ask most people in the congregation Do you think God loves you? They all say yes. But if you ask, do you think God likes you? You will notice hesitation. And my guess is a lot of the pastors will feel uncomfortable. That sounds problematic. Are you undermining sin? You’re not taking it seriously enough? Right? And behind that it’s a much longer conversation, but behind it is. Does God as a creator, does he like what he made? I didn’t just say, does he like sin but does he like what he made. And as Augustine at one point says, God loves what he made, and hates what we’ve made. And what Augustine means by that in the context is he loves what he made and hates the sin that we’ve made that distorts what he made. So, when it talks about, I’ve been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, it doesn’t mean that God hates you. He loves you enough to renew you. Right? And so, he’s trying to deal with the sin that’s distorting you. Anyway, so that, you know, obviously, we need to work through that very carefully. But there’s, there’s profound implications there, even at this very pastoral level of, do you, as a pastor feel comfortable telling someone in your congregation who’s baptized, saying, God actually really likes you? And it’s worth exploring? Why you feel uncomfortable about that? Right? And I may get some hate mail from this, I don’t know. If you can read my chapter before you get mad at me, you know, but I, I, there’s some deep theological things connected to that. And so, we have to be careful how we do it, but it’s really important.
I think that really connects with what Dallas Willard described as discipleship is learning to do what Jesus would do if he were you. Not really diminishing the sense of self and who we are and the unique creation that God has made us to be out, but really connecting with the image of God as perfected in Christ.
Yeah. And so, it really does have all these like, there has been critiques of evangelicalism that I think are, there’s a lot of truth to that, that, for example, you know, in recent decades, so much of evangelical spirituality has actually been put in almost exclusively extroverted terms. And so, if you’re going to be really spiritual, you got to love being in front of a lot of people, sharing your deep intimacy with a lot of people, all those kinds of things. So, does that mean if you’re a Christian, and you’re an introvert, you need to become extroverted? Well, no, no, no, that’s not the case. Right? So, what does your particularity look like and faithfulness to God? And that is about your limits. And they’re not bad. Being an introvert, not bad, being an extrovert is not bad. So, you know, what does that look like? And one of the things we have to be careful as leaders and you know, I speak in churches and do these kinds of conference. I got to make sure that I’m not presenting Kelly, and Kelly’s personality as the ideal for spirituality. Yeah, we’ve got to be both explicit and implicit, that faithfulness doesn’t have to look like my personality. It looks like how God made you, as you resist sin and fight temptation and seek, seek Him in your, in your strengths and limits.
So, it’s the difference between a perspective that says in order to be pleasing to God, I have to stop being me.
When really, in order to to understand the pleasure of God, I need to be more fully of who he’s made me to be.
Yes, I love how you put that Tom, exactly. When Paul says, I no longer live he’s not saying Tom stops being Tom right? It’s ironically it’s if you read the fullness of what he’s arguing, Tom is going to become more fully Tom, right? And what God intends for him in this way, because he’s going to be less and less entangled by sin.
Kelly this is beautiful stuff. So encouraging and life giving and points us to hope how can listeners find your book and learn more about you and the work that you’re doing here?
Yeah, thank you. This has been a great conversation. To be honest, given some my work, I’m not on social media so they can find me on Amazon. There’s a there’s a Covenant has a webpage and I’m, you know, you there’s a link there if people want me to speak or something, but besides that, I’m not really on that. So, it’s, it’s just, you know, Your Amazon page or whatever. So, I’m thankful for for people like you so that the word can get out.
And we’ll get your contact stuff in our notes to the episode.
Yeah, it’s part it’s part of the finitude thing. I don’t know how to not sell my soul.
Embrace it, brother.
Yeah, that’s good. Man, I wish we could keep this conversation going. This has been so much fun. We have a question that we always ask all of our guests to end. What words of hope would you like to share with our listeners?
Hmm. That’s a great question. Um, honestly, I think I would just say it’s true, it is actually true. And what I mean by that is, I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage to regularly be quiet, and just be with God. Because it’s much easier to rush in and out of his presence, and never actually find out if he’s there. And he’s there. And I’m, I’m reformed, and I’ve come to believe there’s actually a Holy Spirit and He promised to bring this to mind and heart. But honestly, it’s not more than he’s there. And it takes courage to start to make that especially if you’re a pastor, to make this a part of your life. I, we, do pray without ceasing and all that but, but to be quiet. And, and to let God work in your imagination as you think about people in your congregation and the hardships and, and, you know, Mother Teresa once said, you know, prayer begins when we finally stopped talking. And I think that’s kind of part of what she’s getting at. It’s not that there’s not communication between you and God. It’s just you’re just with God, right? There’s something there and then words come lots and then sometimes you’re just listening. You’re like, what’s going on? And maybe it’s indigestion sometimes, but it’s often God. So, it maybe if I was better, I had fancier words, but I think it’s just it’s true. Be brave and be quiet. Yeah.
So the book is You’re Only Human How Your Limits Reflect God’s Design and Why That’s Good News. Kelly Kapic, thank you so much for your time and your generosity in coming on Hope Renewed.
Thanks for having me guys. This was really fun.
And our thanks to you, our listeners. We’d love it if you’d share your thoughts and feedback on our website, HopeRenewedpodcast.com You’ll also find a lot more hope filled content there for you. Thanks for listening today. It is our prayer that the God of hope will fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.
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