Primed by his conversation with Kevin, Mark zooms in on how reconciliation is a key mission of God and the centrepiece of being the church in a discordant world. Have you ever noticed that the earliest Christians spoke of reconciliation in two grammar voices? God is the agent who reconciles (active voice); we are the ones who are reconciled (passive voice). What gives reconciliation such power is not that it is something we need to "learn how to do better," but rather something that God does to and for each and all of us - an act of God we submit and surrender to at the Eucharist table.
Then Mark sits down with Kevin Makins, pastor of Eucharist Church in Hamilton, Ontario, and podcaster of Good God. They have a rollicking talk covering everything from video games, loving your city, making sure your city loves you, the art of podcasting, the zaniness of Kanye West, and the development of Hamilton. Then the conversation moves into the messiness of being church together, the need to make sure everyone knows how the gospel is actually good, and the implications of God being actually a good God. Kevin talks about pastoring in a post-Christendom context in Canada, the unique opportunities of post-modernity, the power and freedom of letting story guide an open-handed life, the centrality of the Eucharist, and the (2 Corinthians 5) importance of being reconciled.
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Notable Quotes from Kevin Makins
"Talking about God to a lot of my friends who aren't Christian is considered boring. It's just not an interesting conversation.... And I'm not into armchair theology.... We can do it, but why would we? Because there's all these real issues in the world. There is all of these real people that actually need an interaction with the divine. And there is real justice to be done that the prophets actually speak about."
"I'm into theology. I'm just not into Christian subculture debates. But I'm really into 'Let's talk about the Bible. Let's talk about Jesus. Let's talk about God. And let's do it in a way that's actually saying something to the real world.' It's saying something to the bigger world - the world that is bigger than the faith that were a part of – but it's saying something powerful."
"The whole idea of the podcast was getting rid of some of the stuffiness and doing a pop theology. Not because it's cheap and fluffy, but because it's accessible. And let's get people in here who – you know, dinnertable conversation: what don't you talk about? Politics and religion. The two things. If there's a million things out there discussing politics from a pop perspective, from an accessible perspective, why is there so little talking about religion from an accessible, popular level?"
"Our church has been able to be a public church. People who aren't Christians know about and appreciate our church. Even though they think we're nuts and they disagree with us on all sorts of stuff, at the very least they respect the people that are part of the congregation."
"So I can speak and I can... actually listen and I can hold my faith with an open hand because I don't hold my faith. The God that holds my faith holds me. So I don't need to cling to this thing. I can hold it openly. Which will save you a lot of anxiety, because suddenly I don't need to change anyone's mind. It's wonderful. I can literally just be a witness and listen well and God can just take care of that stuff."
"We can build a church that's based on deals, but then we're just building a superstar All-Star team. You know, like, "If you are married, middle-class, kids, white (or willing to act white), if you check all the boxes… But when you get divorced, you're gone - not because we're gonna kick you out but because you know you don't really belong. But once you lose your job you are kind of gone. Or once you're addicted, you're kind of gone.' And that for me was just this realization: I don't want to build an All-Star team for the people that can get all the theological answers and they can check all the boxes and don't ask the tough questions and they don't ever doubt. I don't want to build a church of boring people like that."
"Somebody's got to have the megachurch where people that their lives look like it's all together can go. That's fine. I'm not gonna beat that down. But if you're in an urban area where people flee from small towns or suburbs because they're not welcome, they flee because they got divorced, they flee because they are gay, they flee because they don't want to work in the family business anymore. They flee for all sorts of reasons and where do they flee? Toronto or Hamilton. They flee to urban areas and I actually believes Jesus loves those people just as they are. And if we are going to love them, we are going to have to eat with them, and share life with them, and help them hear the voice of Jesus and let Jesus take care of whatever needs to be taken care of in all of our hearts as we listen."
"God is good God - is really good - and the gospel we have is actually good news and it's good news for everybody. And if it's not good for news for everybody, it's not good news."
"The weird thing in Western culture is that no one knows what the gospel is. Because we are post-Christendom. We are post-Christian. So nobody knows what the gospel is, but everybody thinks that they do because we're so close to this empire called the United States of America but we still have these outposts of this victorious Christianity that sort of reigned for so long. So people have received bad news in the name of God and people believe in a bad God that is fundamentally about anger and judgment or hell or fundamentally against a group of people or fundamentally about control or punishing. So everyone's like, 'I've heard the gospel. It's bad news.'"
"A lot of people were never raised in the church, but they've all heard of Christianity. And if you were to ask them, 'What is Christianity about,' what they'd say is not favorable. And even those of us who were raised in the church - if you would ask us what Christianity is about, sometimes some of us would not have a favorable answer either. We just happen to stick with it."
"Gospel means 'good news.' I feel as if God is good and God is love and that's good news whether or not you believe it. But when you believe it, the good news starts to actually change you. And it becomes good news for everyone around you."
"I'm just so sad that people don't know that God is good. And I'm just so sad that people don't know that the good news is really good news – actually good news. Not just for those on the inside, but those on the outside, too."
"Fundamentally it's saying, 'We believe that God is big enough that you can tell the story and we're not afraid. We don't need to sanitize the story, cleanup the story. We don't need to protect the story. You can tell the story, and we'll read it through the Spirit together in community with the Spirit… And we will listen and we will allow that to shape our understanding of God. Because I am a young, white, middle-class guy; well, God's not me, but there are deposits of God's culture in who I am. And we've got people in our church from Kenya. And God isn't Kenyan but there are deposits of God's glory in Kenyan - the imago dei - in Kenyan culture. And in the culture of people that are older and younger than me. And in children. In the poor. All of these people have deposits of the imago dei in them and the Spirit's going to pull out - Jesus is going to pull out parts of that imago dei in their lives and if I don't make space to hear their stories, I'm going to miss out on more of who God is."
" I think both of us are in a Canadian culture where we're recognizing that institutionalized religion is just falling. It's collapsing. Christendom is ending. Its over actually - in Canada at least. And so it's a prime time to start listening again. And the early church had this kind of explosive beginning but then there was this season of listening because they knew that if they don't listen, they're going to miss what God is doing. So I see the end of Christendom as not a disaster or tragedy, but as God birthing something new: reconciling denominations and people and ethnicities; reconciling the church back together."
"I don't know what it's like to be someone in your 50s or 60s, so I listen. I don't know what it's like to be a gay Christian in the world that has never welcomed you in as an equal or a brother or sister, so I have to listen."
"When it comes to being the church in time and place, which is truly my first love, I've gotta shut up and I've got it give [a voice] to people that maybe haven't had that opportunity. And I need to listen and let them speak."
"...Women pastors don't always get naturally the same spheres of influence that young, white, alpha-males do. So talking with them we said, 'How do we use our privilege to edify the church and to give you a voice to share what God is doing?'"
"There is something genuinely the Spirit is doing in the world and I have no problem thinking the Spirit works outside of the bubble that I believe in - in my faith. I believe that the same Spirit is working around the world and in our culture. I think that people just kind of hit a dead end with some of the capitalistic consumeristic stuff. People can realize we're being sold stuff. We're being bought and sold by advertisers or the powers that be. And they may not have the language to overcome it... but I think they can tell the powers are out there... and so they want something simpler; they want something sacred."
"If you see God doing something already, celebrate it, join it, and speak into it. And let the Spirit naturally build those bridges, and if people are going to be called into what the Spirit is doing in Jesus, then I'm all for it."
"We want people to recognize that the table is the place where we are reconciled to one another and where we are reconciled to God in this all-in-one motion. And that reconciles... the Jew and the Gentile, the male the female, the slave the free - these different worlds come together. And we're not perfect.... There are worlds that would feel uncomfortable at our church, not by design, but because we are people. But we do want to have a space where, as much as possible, God is reconciling humanity to himself. And we are pleading with one another to be reconciled to God and to be reconciled with one another and with God in this Eucharistic moment."
"Everyone in our church disagrees with everybody else on everything - except: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. And so we come to the table. And at the table we break bread with people that we disagree with and people that we're scared of and people that we kind of don't know if they get entirely. And some people come to the table – they're not even sure they can believe it. They want to believe it, and so they come to the table with their doubts. And there's a sense in which, as we come together at the table, we submit ourselves to what God is doing and he brings us together in a practice run at the table. And we spend the next week trying to do what we just did - which is be the body reconciled and bring reconciliation to others."
Next Week, Episode 16:
Guest: Eva Wong Scanlan, former pastor and current COO and co-founder of Borrowell and Toronto Homecoming