(This interview aired in March 2020 but I’m re-upping today on St Patrick’s Day, so we can all remember that we too are saints!)
(audio begins at 20:55)
Carmen LaBerge: All right. Joining me now, Addison Bevere you can actually find him at Addison Bevere.com. He is here to share with us today his new book, Saints: Becoming more than Christians. Addison, welcome to Mornings with Carmen.
Addison Bevere: Carmen, thank you so much for having me.
Carmen LaBerge: Okay. So, I want to start with a question that I know you have heard before. What kind of religious practice do you follow?
Addison Bevere: I do consider myself a follower of Jesus, but if I’m honest, Carmen, I haven’t liked calling myself “Christian” for a long time. And it’s not that I’m ashamed of Jesus, it’s not that I’m ashamed of the gospel message, but I don’t like being associated with the stigmas and the stereotypes, and the labels that have been connected with this idea of being a cultural Christian. I think we’ve lost sight of the mystery and the purpose and the wonder of what it means to follow Jesus. And because of that we’ve modeled something that’s so small and it’s not something that our world is looking for. And because of that, they’re turning to DIY spirituality and to other spiritual practices.
Carmen LaBerge: So, I want to ask you about these negative stigmas and stereotypes that are attached to the label Christian. We probably have a lot of people listening right now who have never given this a second thought. When they’re asked, they may say they’re Christians, and they don’t have any sense that that has any negative connotation in the culture. Talk about how that word is heard among the non-believing people.
Addison Bevere: So, I have a friend, I work out with him and he’s a trainer at the gym that I’m at. And a couple of years ago, he came up to me and he just said, “Hey, I want you to know that you’re one of two real Christians I’ve ever met.” And he said, “I heard you’re writing a book.” He’s like, “I can’t wait to read it.”
Addison Bevere: And, this is someone who grew up in the Midwest. This is someone who grew up in a “Christian” environment, and yet his whole life, he’s seen these behaviors and this idea modeled that’s very contrary to what he knows scripture tells us. Carmen, if you just go to Google and if you Google Christians are, you’re going to find words like judgmental, hypocritical, backwards, uneducated. And when I look at the life of Jesus, I see someone who the world was attracted to.
Addison Bevere: Now. that that doesn’t mean that he compromised, that doesn’t mean that he did the world expected him to do them, but he lived a life that caused people to turn their heads and be like, “Man, there’s something different about you. You have peace when no one else has peace. You have joy when no one else has joy. You are living for something greater than yourself. I want to know what you tapped into.”
Addison Bevere: Because, you and I both know, our world is looking for something more. Our world is craving the good life. Our world is craving an idea of a flourishing that they’ve been looking for since the beginning of time. And we as the followers of Jesus were supposed to be the ones who have tapped into the one who is alive and live from that place of hope and strength.
Carmen LaBerge: I’m talking with Addison Bevere. You should check out his website, Addison Bevere.com. The book is Saints: Becoming More Than Christians. Tell us about the word Saint specifically.
Addison Bevere: So, it’s one of those words that we don’t use very often, or if we do, we only use it in certain circles. But if you look at the new Testament, Carmen, the word Christian is used only three times, but the word Saint, [Greek] in the Greek, is used over 60 times. So, it was the identifier of the early church.
Addison Bevere: So, when the early church was subverting cultural norms, and they were turning the world upside down, when they were reconciling groups of people that didn’t belong together, they were identified as saints. In fact, if you look at Acts 11 where the word Christian is first used, most scholars believe, probably nine out of 10 scholars believe that it was used in a derogatory sense.
Addison Bevere: Now, I’m not campaigning against the term Christian, but I am saying that it has become too cheap and too familiar, and to become a cultural idea, people have lost this sense of purpose that it was supposed to carry, it was supposed to represent. And that’s why I’m suggesting we go back to a different identifier, an identifier that really started the revolution.
Addison Bevere: And if you look at passages like Daniel 7, you see this idea that saints are the people of the kingdom. Saints are people who break down the barriers between the secular and sacred. Saints are the people who realize that God’s heart, his kingdom message, the gospel, the good news of the kingdom reclaims every inch of our world, and they live in that reality. And what that causes us to do, is it causes us to see the mundane as meaningful. It causes us to see each and every moment as Holy, which is what Paul invited us to do in 1 Corinthians 3, when he says, “You are God’s temple.” In other words, you are the place where heaven meets, everywhere you go, you are bringing that heaven reality with you. And that is the life of purpose and meaning that we crave.
Carmen LaBerge: I want to talk more about that. I want to pull that apart a little bit. When we dive deeply into what the scriptures say about the word saint, and how the early Christians were described in this way, and referred to one another in this way. I’m just wondering like, practically in life as you have … as God has made you more and more aware of this, and you have embraced this as the core identity of what it means to be a Christ follower, and a Christ ambassador. In this day and time, has there been a change in language for you in terms of how you talk with other Christians? Maybe that’s even the language I’m supposed to be using. Help me out here.
Addison Bevere: Okay. So, again, let’s go back to original use, because we use saint in a way to canonize or to honor, or venerate people who lived a good life and died. But if you look at how it was used, it was used in a way to energize the present, to give meaning to the present. And think about the way Paul would use it in his letters. He would write to the saints in Ephesus, to the saints in Corinth, to the saints in Philippine, to the saints in Rome. He was writing to “Gentiles,” he was writing to people who are newly saved and he was calling them saints. He was saying, “Hey, this is who you are, and because this is who you are, this identifier is going to reshape everything that you do. It’s going to change your presence in the city that you find yourself in.”
Addison Bevere: And so, for me, Carmen, when we look at our world right now, obviously, our world is in a state of chaos, in a state of crisis. Our world needs us to tap into a vision, to tap into a hope that’s greater than this moment. Our world needs us to see beyond the pandemonium that we find ourselves in now. Our world needs us to not shrink back, as it says in Hebrews 10, We are not those who shrink back and are destroyed. And saints are people who capture a vision that is bigger than the present.
Addison Bevere: When you look at Hebrews 11 you find men and women who the world wasn’t worthy of, is what it says in verse 34. But because the world wasn’t worthy of them, they were exactly what the world needed. They were people who could see the unseen. And because they could see the unseen, they were able to create practical demonstrations of God’s goodness, the revelation of his will, of his heart, of purpose in their everyday lives, thus moving the world into the promised reality that God always speaks of our world, that day when every knee shall bow, every tongue will confess, every eye will see. That day when the knowledge of the glory of God will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea.
Addison Bevere: That’s what it means to be a Saint. And I’m concerned that this idea of Christian has become so individualistic. It’s my salvation, it’s my condemnation for your living. It’s my ticket into heaven, it’s my personal journey. Whereas if you look at this idea of saying it required us to see the world bigger than ourselves. And by seeing the world bigger than ourselves, which is really the whole gospel message. Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow me. When we see the world bigger than ourselves, we tap into a purpose. We tap into a community. We tap into a mission that fills our souls. That gives us everything that we crave as followers of Jesus.
Carmen LaBerge: All right. I am talking with Addison Bevere. We are talking about his book Saints: Becoming More Than Christians. I encourage you to check out his website, Addison Bevere, yes, the same way that you have thought about Lisa spelling her last name. I’m going to ask him a question about his mom in just a minute. We’ll be right back. (Singing).
Carmen LaBerge: I’m talking with Addison Bevere. He is the author of Saints: Becoming More Than Christians. He’s also the co-founder of Sons & Daughters.TV. And he works with an organization called Messenger International. It’s an organization impacting millions of people in over 150 countries through its various initiatives and ministries. And, you may know the name of his mom, Lisa Bevere. So, Addison, I’m just going to be bold and ask, what would you say is … you grew up with a, kind of, a famous Christian mom, which seems like maybe a strange thing to say. But tell us how you think that has influenced your own journey of faith.
Addison Bevere: Well, my mom’s phenomenal. And my mom would always declare over us … there’s four of us, four boys. Declare over us that we were created for science and wonders. And, she made us believe that God would do something extraordinary through our lives. And the extraordinary happens through the everyday, you know that. It happens in the mundane. We have these ideas of impact that are abstractions that remove us from our everyday lives. But God moves in the every day. That’s why Jesus came and walked our roads, had sweat. He bled our blood, he cried our tears, like he moved into our everyday lives.
Addison Bevere: And so, that was huge. That was something that she spoke over us, and it was something that she modeled with the way she was committed to us, and the way she did ministry on a large scale, but also the way she did it at home. And so, she made us believe in the impossible from a very young age.
Carmen LaBerge: What is her reaction response? Let me just read. I’ll read one of the things that she has said describing herself as a ridiculously proud mom in a time … This is about your book. In a time when so many young men are deconstructing the sacred, Addison has leaned into it. I am challenged, corrected and lifted by saints. Saints is the book that we’re talking about today. And those are the words of Lisa Bevere about Addison Bevere. When she talks about young men deconstructing the sacred, she is pointing to something that’s happening in our culture that many of us are aware of, and many of us also don’t quite know how to answer. You really provide an answer to that in this book.
Addison Bevere: I do. And I want to give fresh language for a world losing hope and religion. And, one of the things that we can’t do, Carmen, is we can’t get on the sidelines and throw stones at what has been. That’s a cheap way to validate what will be, to dishonor what has been. And that’s what our generation has a tendency to do. I’m in my mid-thirties. And so, for me, the way that I’m looking at it, is when I study church history, I see that prophetic disruption always comes from within.
Addison Bevere: And so, there’s no question that millennials have left the church, and aren’t coming back for the most part. So, every generation has a season where it leaves the church, but then normally a large majority of that generation comes back to the church. We’re not seeing that same trend with millennials.
Addison Bevere: And, it’s an interesting phenomenon. And I do think there are a lot of reasons for that, and it’s easy to point to the church and be like, “Well, the church is broken, and that’s why it’s happening.” But I actually don’t think that’s the case. So, the church has been broken since day one. Just look at Paul’s letters.
Addison Bevere: I think what’s happening, is we live in a big world. We live in a world that’s asking very hard questions. We live in a world where information is passed from one person to the next, like never before. Ideas are populated and spread like never before. And, I think the gospel message, and the God that we’re offering is too small for our big world. Now, notice I did not say that God is too small, I did not say the gospel is too small, but I think our idea, our caricature of God and the gospel message is too small for our big world.
Addison Bevere: I was at an event this past week, and my mom was actually speaking at the event too. We were both speaking at it. It was an international summit. And I taught on this idea of saints, and we had all the generations there. We had, I don’t know how many nations there, but a lot of nations represented. And after I shared my mom, she’s so sweet, she was in tears, and was so moved by the message.
Addison Bevere: And, I came off the platform, and the gentleman who was sitting next to me, one of the other speakers he just looked at me and he said, he was like, “This could start a revolution.” He’s like, “This could start a movement.” And I looked at him like, “That’s my heart. That’s my prayer, because we need that. We need people to have a fresh look at what it means to be the people of God. We have watered down what it is to follow Jesus, and what we’ve done is we haven’t given people something worth dying for. And when you don’t give people something worth dying for, they’re never going to find something worth living for.
Addison Bevere: And I think in our attempts to make the gospel more accessible, we’ve reduced it to something that really has no bearing, really has no meaning in our everyday lives. So, people they view their Sunday as their sacred day, and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, they live their real lives, and they don’t see how those two merge.
Addison Bevere: And when I look at scripture, when I look at passages like Ephesians 4 verses 11 and 12, I see that the purpose of the church is to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, which means every single one of us, regardless of where we’re called, regardless of whether we’re stay at home parents, or scientist or we’re mechanics, or we’re baristas, whatever it is. Wherever we’re called, we’re called to be saints. We’re called to be people who practice, and participate in the mystery of the final day.
Addison Bevere: Recently I was at Staples, I was getting that TSA pre-check thing done. And the young lady who was working there, she asked me, she was like, “So, what do you do for a living?” And I started sharing it with her. And she said, “Man, that’s so cool. It’s so cool that you do something meaningful.” She’s like, “I just work at Staples.” And I looked at her, Carmen, and before I knew it was coming out of my mouth. This is what came out of my mouth. I said, “That’s the great life human existence.” And she was just like, “What?” And I was like, “That’s the great life human existence.” And I was like, “I’m going to have to explain what I mean by that, because I don’t know this girl. I have no idea what her background is.”
Addison Bevere: And I just started sharing with her about God’s design for relationship, and how God works through relationships, and how God’s kingdom has always advanced their relationship. First God reconciling us to him, and then positioning us as his saints, as his ambassadors to reconcile the world to God. And I started talking about that idea to her and talking about how that moves into the mundane in our everyday lives. And then she just … and then I was quiet, and she didn’t say anything. She looked at me, it felt like two minutes. It was probably only like 10 seconds.
Addison Bevere: And I’m just sitting there, I’m like, “Okay.” And she just said, “Thank you. I’ve never viewed my life like that. I’ve never viewed God like that.” And she said, “You’ve made my week. Thank you.” And I said … and then we talked a little bit more after that. It’s just, people are looking for hope. And, Carmen, there’s a reason why people are chasing this idea of the good life. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that eternity was written on our hearts. There’s an expansiveness inside all of us that cannot be denied.
Addison Bevere: And, that’s why I believe the good life, it isn’t something you find, it isn’t something that you create at the altars of sex, stuff and status. The good life is someone you become. And that journey of becoming, the journey of understanding what it is to be a Saint, what it is to be sons and daughters of God. What it is to be people who, as Peter writes, who tap into the divine nature. They become aware of what it is to be the children of God. That is the life that we crave. That is the life we’re looking for, and nothing else will satisfy that longing.
Carmen LaBerge: All right. My listeners have just fallen in love with you. They are declaring God’s goodness, and appreciation to the heavens for you. So, Addison, let me just say thank you on the half of everybody that’s listening right now, and those who will listen later via the podcast. You are walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, and that is precious. That is precious in God’s sight, and it is a gift to the rest of us. Addison Bevere, check him out at Addison Bevere.com. Also check out the book Saints: Becoming More Than Christians. And I also want you to check out what they’re doing at Messenger International. Addison, I hope you’ll come back and visit with us again.
Addison Bevere: Absolutely, Carmen, it was an honor. Thank you so much for having me on.
Carmen LaBerge: What a pleasure. We’ll be right back. Wow. Hallelujah, right? Give me some more of that. I don’t know about you, but I’m energized. I am encouraged, I’m inspired, I’m challenged. He makes me want to walk more worthy of the calling to which I’m called today. I want you to consider today what it looks like to walk worthy of the gospel. All right, my friends, have a great day, and God bless.