Journalist and Pastor John Dickerson discusses his newest book, “Jesus Skeptic,” which John calls a “visually-based, social justice apologetic for a post-truth generation.”
John is a bestselling author, reporter, and investigative journalist whose writings have appeared in the New York Times, USA Today, and many other publications. He is a multi-award winning journalist that has appeared on CNN, ABC, and most major networks, and was the recipient of the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.
He is currently the lead pastor of Connection Pointe Christian Church in Indianapolis.
“You’re working in the marketplace not by accident. God ordained from eternity past that you would work right where you’re working right now.”
1. Don’t sell yourself short or understimate your mission field.
2. Many of the great American forerunners of Social Justice were motivated by the Word of God.
3. Show up to your workplace with the same purpose and intentionality as a pastor showing up to minister at church.
4. Whenever our focus is taken away from the Word of God as central to our lives, that is when society drifts away from God.
Ray: Well, hello everyone. This is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith and this is the program… Our tagline here at Bottom Line Faith is eternal business and real life. This is the place where we love to have that conversation to talk about the integration of faith and leadership in the marketplace. And our goal here at Bottom Line Faith is to encourage you as a Christ follower in the marketplace to just through these conversations that we have with leaders, business leaders, entertainers and athletes even, but folks who are in high profile, high capacity leadership to hear their stories, to hear what they’ve been through, best practices, failures, all those things. But how these stories can encourage you as a follower of Christ to influence the marketplace for Christ. I’ve got to take… I’m really excited to be here today with our special guests.
I don’t know exactly how many interviews we’ve done here at Bottom Line Faith. Somewhere around 150 to 160, somewhere in there. We’ve been at this for over two and a half years now and I’m excited because today is our first interview with a sitting full time vocational pastor, who really had his background beginning in investigative journalism. We’re going to learn all about that. I am in the beautiful Connection Point Church, in Central Indiana just outside of Indianapolis. I am speaking with pastor John Dickerson, who is the lead pastor at Connection Point Church at Connection Point Christian Church. Pastor John, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
John: Hey, thanks for having me, Ray. It’s great to be with you.
Ray: Are you ready to get going?
John: I am, if you are.
Ray: I am absolutely excited about this. So, for folks who may not be familiar with you and your background, just give us a snapshot, family, a little bit of your faith journey and some of your background and then we’ll talk about the things that are near and dear to your heart.
John: Sure. So I’m married and have three elementary age kids and started my professional life as a journalist. Did my undergrad in journalism, started as a freelance writer and the newspaper editor for actually a very entrepreneurial newspaper owner who now owns a family of about 30 publications. So got to see the business side of the news industry as well as obviously the news side of it. Then moved to a larger newspaper where I was an investigative reporter. It was during that time that I started attending seminary actually as a hobby.
John: I was curious, I was skeptical and it was actually the ancient manuscripts that really kind of got me into. I wanted to learn how to read that ancient Greek for myself. I’m just a nerd like that. Kept going through seminary classes, enjoying it. God was transforming my heart. And then eventually I walked away from journalism, took over a church of 40 people in Arizona and God grew that church pretty significantly. And then I’ve been at a couple churches since and now serve out here in Indianapolis area.
Ray: Well, thank you for that background. And now when we talk about your journalism career, I mean, it wasn’t like this little like struggling, “I had a local newspaper.” Right? I mean, you really had some significant platforms. And let me just read a little bit more about an introduction to John because he certainly wouldn’t say this about himself, but you’re a millennial, we’re going to talk about that in just a moment of course and what that means.
John: Guilty. Guilty as charged.
Ray: But you’re a bestselling author. How many books have you written at this point?
John: I’ve written four. Well, technically five. There are four out, my fifth one will come out about a year from now.
Ray: Okay. All right. And we’re going to specifically spend some time on your project, Jesus Skeptic.
Ray: We’re going to talk, that’s going to be fun conversation. But folks, his writings have appeared in the New York Times USA today. He is a multi honor winning journalist. You have been on CNN, ABC, most of the major networks and programs in your journalism background. Is that right?
John: Well, mostly I did print. But what I earn some national awards by those people. So Charles Gibson, Christiane Amanpour from ABC and CNN awarded me an award called the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. That’s one of a handful. So not a TV guy.
Ray: Not a TV guy. All right.
John: But a print guy.
Ray: Yeah. Okay. So, let’s talk about that just for a moment today in this media-driven world. What role do you think that the media is playing in shaping worldview? What role do you see media playing in affecting Christianity both to the positive and… I’m just curious what your thoughts are.
John: It’s such a great question because I meet many sincere Bible-believing Christians who feel a great tension between them and “the media.” What I found working in newsrooms is that most of the producers, most of the editors, most of the writers and people you’d see on screen, most of them grew up in very non-Christian environments, went to Ivy league or similar universities and they’ve lived their entire life in a world that’s just very different from what we would call evangelical Christianity. Part of that’s geographic. If you get to New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, you’re more likely to meet folks like that, especially blue-blooded type people who are born into kind of middle, upper class, intellectual third, fourth generation, Ivy league.
I remember many people I met in those circles were really… They hadn’t met a sincere evangelical Bible-believing Christian before who wasn’t a weirdo. So I remember one newsroom in particular where when they found out that I was a sincere Christian and I took the Bible seriously, they thought I was wanting to bomb abortion clinics. They thought I was part of a cult. They thought I was a total weirdo. Of course, the fun of that, and I’m sure a lot of people listening, you have coworkers who have that same worldview, that same ideology, that’s all they’ve known. The really fun thing is with time we get to prove them wrong. We get to show them that Jesus came full of grace and truth. We get to show them the love of God and we get to kind of destroy the stereotype they have of us.
So where I try to encourage Christians, especially when they say, “Well, isn’t the media biased? Isn’t the media anti-Christian?” Well, the people who are writing a story or reporting it are telling it from their worldview lens. If they have a worldview lens where Christianity is just a non-factor or it’s just one cultish type religion, then that’s going to come across in their reporting. It’s not necessarily a hostility though it could be, but most of the time, in my experience, it’s more just a total blind spot. That’s genuinely how they see the world, which is why we need people in the marketplace. We need believers in journalism, we need believers who are working as executives in media companies. We need believers, right where God has placed each one of you listening so that you can be the living, breathing example of Jesus who debunks the stereotype that all Christians are hateful, backward, close minded bigots. And you can show that a follower of Jesus is thoughtful and listens and asks questions and cares and while we are committed to the unchanging truth, we hold it in a way that’s full of grace.
Ray: Okay. That is such a powerful response in such an amazing foundation upon which to build this conversation. So let me ask this, just as those with that worldview, whether it’s a secular worldview, progressive, whatever terminology we would put to it, that comes with its limitations, that comes with its downsides. So does coming to those relationships having only been in a Christ-centered bubble, right? If we grew up in a Christian home, always in church, went to a Christian college, maybe, possibly that’s the case. So what are some of the lessons that we need to have in mind, some of the principles, some of the disciplines that we need to have as Christ followers who may be, have walked with Christ most, if not all of our lives, that will help us break and debunk? I loved your word, debunk some of those stereotypes. Walk us through some of those things.
John: Well, I think my favorite principle in this realm is a passage of scripture in first Peter where Peter says, and by the way, he’s talking to Christians who live in a hyper-sexual pagan society. So that’s most of us, right? Whether you’re in sales or no matter what part of your business you work in, there’s times that you’re at a conference or around the water cooler and you feel like, “Man, God, how do I live for you among pagans?” That’s why I love the book of first Peter. It’s written to believers who are staying true to Christ in a hyper-sexual pagan society that actually hated Christians probably more so than what we experience, that we all experience, some persecution. But we’re not Nero-like persecution.
In that passage, Peter says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that even though they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” So to me, such a rich verse. Live such good lives among the pagans. I want to encourage everyone listening, you’re working in the marketplace, not by accident. God ordained from eternity past that you would work right where you’re working right now because he wants you among the pagans. I know a lot of times I’ll meet business leaders and others who as they really start to grow in their relationship with God, they’ll say, “I think the next step is for me to become a pastor.” Well, if God calls you to do that, absolutely do it. But we need believers living among the pagans. So don’t sell yourself short or underestimate the mission field that you’re in. That’s one of the things I miss the most, now that I am a lead pastor of a large church, is I’m surrounded by Christians all the time.
I start to talk like a Christian and think like in group think, I’m less sharp. So stay aware of your mission field and value that God has people in your office and on your team that you’re leading and on the… Even the person you report to who may be difficult, who no one else can show them who Jesus is other than you and God placed you there. So live such good lives among the pagans, that even though they accuse you of doing wrong. So the assumption there is there will be times where we are treated unjustly, because we’re followers of Jesus.
Whether that’s political, persecution like the Christians faced under Nero or someone steals your idea and they know you’re probably not going to get back at them like everyone else would because you’re one of those Jesus people and you’re kind of soft in their mind. But when people accuse us of doing wrong or they take advantage of it, it says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that even when they accuse you of doing wrong, they’ll see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” And really, the point of that verse is that our actions speak louder than our words.
I think as American Christians, we tend to default to arguing our position, convincing people. There’s a place for that. Faith comes by hearing, but very often the soil is softened… Before the seed is planted, the soil softened by those good deeds that are described there. So, it might be as simple as getting Starbucks coffee for the person who hates you in the office. It might be the coworker who is LGBT and they expect because you’re a Bible-believing Christian that you’re gonna hate them or be weird around them, but you show a genuine interest and who they are and what they care about and you listen and we don’t change the truth, but we go out and love just like Jesus did and we build the relationship through those good deeds. So that’d be my key verse, especially working in those very liberal newsrooms where I was the only believer.
Ray: Okay. Yeah. A lot of our audience are business owners, CEOs, presidents, and sometimes they own the company and maybe they’re a manager or something in the company and they may not own it. But in any case, we are surrounded by nonbelievers. In fact, I’m holding in my hand your book, Jesus Skeptic. Can we talk about this for just a moment?
John: Oh, I’d love to. Yeah.
Ray: Folks, check this out. It’s called Jesus Skeptic: A Journalist Explores the Credibility and Impact of Christianity. In some of the notes, it seems like John, every generation, maybe every 20 years, God brings along an apologist to really bring from a culturally relevant way the word, the scriptures. Whether it’s CS Lewis, Josh McDowell from back in the day, many of our audience would be familiar with Lee Strobel 20, 25 years ago, who was also a journalist. Right? So, tell us about this project, Jesus Skeptic. Why did you write it? What do you hope to accomplish through it? And maybe we can dig into this just a little bit.
John: Oh, I’d love to. So Jesus Skeptic is really written for the person who’s doubting if Jesus matters. It might be the person in your life who’s not a believer. Very likely it’s your children or grandchildren. Right now in the US there’s a trend of two out of three young people drifting away from the faith. So that’s my generation in particular, the millennial generation. I was that statistic for a while. I’d been raised in a Christian home. I doubted if it was all true. God brought me back. And so really this book, Jesus Skeptic is really written for them in particular. It’s written too, as a book that you can give to anyone who has questions about Christianity.
I think what’s different about it than some of the other amazing apologetic works like Lee Strobel and Josh McDowell who are intellectual titans compared to me. But in the book Jesus skeptic, I used a lot of my journalistic research skills. So there’s a lot of visuals, there’s a lot of images. What I call primary evidence. And where Jesus skeptic is a little different is it makes the argument not only that Jesus existed but that his followers have done more to improve humanity than any other group in history.
That of course is a counter-cultural argument right now. We live at a time when many people assume Christians are bigoted and backwards. But the evidence shows that it was followers of Jesus who created the university as we know it, the modern hospital as we know it, the end of slavery and a number of other leaps forward for humanity, that if you were to remove those from history, we’d be living back in the dark ages. Because that’s such a big claim that followers of Jesus did these things. That’s why I show the evidence. I show the manuscripts so that none of this is my opinion.
Ray: All right. Without giving away all the end of the story, so to speak, would you walk us through maybe an example or two or some evidence that you unpack in the book that would help the skeptic to at least at the very least understand that someone’s faith was real, maybe not yet prove Jesus, but prove that their faith was real enough for them to bring a transformation to the world?
John: Yes. So a great example, I try to meet people where they’re at. So since we’re talking to business leaders, probably anyone you work with would understand the value of an MBA from Harvard. But where did Harvard come from? It’s one of the top 10 universities. It’s usually ranked one or two in the world. And so what I do in the book Jesus skeptic is we look at where did the university come from? It turns out it was followers of Jesus. Starting with Oxford around 1000 AD, which was a church school built around a Christian cathedral. And then graduates of Oxford started Cambridge, graduates of Cambridge crossed the Atlantic and started Harvard, which was started all by Christian pastors, including the Reverend John Harvard. In the book Jesus Skeptic, I actually show these founding charters. So I’ll show Yale’s charter where it says, “For the propagation of the Protestant Christian religion.” Harvard’s first code of conduct for its students, where it says, “This is how much scripture you need to be reading every day and why you need to know Hebrew and Greek so you can read the scriptures and the original languages.”
The point is this, institutions like Harvard have created a wealth for the world in an era, unlike any other era in history. The amount of wealth that has been generated by the graduates of these universities. So in the book Jesus Skeptic, I show the Christian roots of every one of these universities that leads the world and I show that they weren’t just incidental or accidental Christians, that these top 10 universities and their offspring are where the state universities come from. It would typically be a graduate of Princeton or Yale or Harvard, typically a seminary graduate, a pastor who would go start something like the University of Michigan or another one of the state schools.
So really if you removed Christians from history, we wouldn’t have higher education as we know it. If we didn’t have that, what kind of engineering would we have? What kind of medicine would we have? So a really incredible stuff to think about. To me it’s compelling because it shows a person, “Hey, even if you don’t believe in God yet, Jesus is worthy of your consideration because his followers did that.” Now that’s just one example. They’ve done the same in medicine and human rights, lots of other areas.
Ray: And so that’s really fascinating, right? Because one of the guests I interviewed previously on the program, Peter Greer, who wrote Mission Drift. So, I hear you talk about Harvard and Oxford and all these schools that we would not today associate with Christian roots and Christian foundation. So I want to tie that back to the marketplace leader. How do we as followers of Christ in the marketplace stay on mission for Jesus in this ever-increasing secular world?
John: Yeah, it’s such a great question and let’s acknowledge, it seems like a really complex question. It’s an incredibly important question. How do we make sure if you think of Harvard university, Princeton and Yale, how did they drift? Each one of them, they’ve got a Bible in their crest, they’ve got scripture in their motto. How did they drift? As complex as it seems, it always comes down to one very simple thing, and that is the word of God. Each one of those institutions has a day in its history when the board of leadership voted and ultimately said the word of God is no longer our binding, guiding principle.
John: That’s where the drift begins. And so the lesson for our lives is the word of God, the value of the word of God, if we’re not actually reading it, if we’re not actually doing what it says, then no matter how much we’re giving to Christian ministries and even doing, if we stop making the word of God the standard for what we do and believe and our guide, our framework for our decisions, the moment we drop that we begin to drift.
Ray: That is powerful. I did not know that. So thank you. I wrote some notes on that. If nothing else, that’s my great takeaway today is it really is around the word of God and the taking away of that is where we begin the mission drift. Right? So I’m going to… Let me try to think how I want to frame up this next question. So as a millennial, and that’s a term that conjures images-
John: Oh yeah.
Ray: And for all of us in one way or another, social justice is huge. For older folks, they hear the term social justice and maybe they might equate that to doing good things in the world, but not understanding the biblical reasons behind it. To the younger folks, the social justice may be something important for them to do and they may not fully understand the biblical foundation. Would you take a moment and give us an example or two around this phrase of social justice with biblical connection as it relates to some of the things you’re pointing out in Jesus Skeptic.
John: Yes, and I want to encourage those listening, especially if you’re above the age of 40 and you feel like when you talk to your kids or grandkids or nephews or nieces and social justice comes up and you just feel like, “Oh, there’s such a divide here. How do I even connect with them?” I think Martin Luther King Jr. MLK, is a great place to start. Because, he was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. He was a Baptist pastor. I’ve got so many quotes from him in this book, Jesus Skeptic. He’s one example of people who every atheist in our society today who values social justice would say, “That’s a great person. I want to be like MLK.” And so then we can say, well, what made MLK like MLK according to him? Not according to me as an old white guy. I call myself an old white guy, I know I’m a millennial. I just know I’m a pastor, so people be over all these stereotypes of our day. But what is it that MLK believed according to him?
That to me is what makes the Jesus Skeptic book really unique is we say, “What does he say motivated him?” And then we look at his words and it’s the teachings of Jesus and he’s quoting Jesus. And then it’s, well, that’s not just Martin Luther King Jr. that’s also Harriet Tubman. That’s also Frederick Douglas, an African American who not only fought his way out of slavery, but then gave his life to help end slavery at great risk to himself, where he’d go back into environments where mercenaries would try to kill him so that he could describe to northerners the evils, the injustices of slavery. What was he motivated by? Well, according to his own biography, he was motivated by Jesus and the teachings of Jesus. And so if we look at it objectively, then even if we don’t believe in God or religion, it turns out these followers of Jesus have really made the world a better place. And so Ray, I actually consider that a connection point.
It used to be that most people in society believed there was a truth. And so we could come to them as far as this apologetics, convincing them of Jesus and God and say, “What is the truth?” I believe for my generation, millennials and younger, they don’t believe there is a truth and there’s a lot of sociology out there to confirm that. But what they do believe is we need to make the world a better place. So what Jesus Skeptic does is it tries to meet them at that assumption. Because, that’s not a bad assumption. That’s something we have in common with them as followers of Jesus. We also want to make the world a better place.
So we meet them on their turf. “Okay, you want to make the world a better place. Let’s take a look at famous people you know, who did make the world a better place. And then let’s consider according to their own writings, what motivated them? Oh, it turns out it’s Jesus over and over again. Why is that and why is it that no one else from 2000 years ago is motivating people to make the world a better place? And why is it that one out of three people in the world today claim to follow this guy as Christians, according to Pew Research Center.” And so it builds a case to use seminary terms. I call it a social justice apologetic for a post-truth generation. That’s a little bit nerdy.
Ray: Would you say that when we’re talking about… That’s pretty cool sounding. So I want to hear. What is that?
John: Yeah. I really add a couple of words on there. A visually-based, because there’s tons of images and photos for an Instagram generation, a visually-based social justice apologetic for a post-truth generation.
Ray: Oh wow. That’s fantastic.
John: That’s what the Jesus Skeptic book-
Ray: That’d be actually probably John, a good point. If someone is interested in learning more about you, your work, your writings, your book, Jesus Skeptic, the other projects, what’s the best way for them to check you out?
John: Yeah. You can visit johnsdickerson.com as in Steven or Sam. That’s my middle name. I have a friend at CBS, John Dickerson, who is a more successful journalist than I ever was. He hosts 60 minutes right now. So that’s why I’ve got the S in there. John S. Dickerson. Same thing on all the social medias, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter is @John S. Dickerson. And of course the books including Jesus skeptic are available, Amazon anywhere books are sold.
Ray: Oh, that’s fine. Thank you for that. So folks check it out. Johnsdickerson.com. So John, I want to just slightly transition a little bit and really go into the marketplace concepts and the issues for just a moment. As I said in the opening commentary here, our objective, one of our objectives here at Bottom Line Faith is to really encourage Christ followers who are in business in the marketplace to become who and what God’s called them to be as a leader in the marketplace. So given all the research you’ve done, given all the lessons you’ve taught and so forth, what are some of the biggest obstacles facing the Christ follower in business, in the marketplace, in being an effective witness to a non-believing, post-truth generation? What are some of those obstacles?
John: It’s such a great question. I’m going to speak from my own experience, from the years I spent in a secular newsroom, which is probably a pretty similar environment to most of you listening, working in various forms of business. I think one of the biggest obstacles is our own lack of intentionality. I think the fact that those of you listening to this are listening to this now goes to show you’re intentional and I can’t encourage you in that enough. To show up to your office, to your sales calls on your work travel show up like a pastor showing up on Sunday that Ephesians two, verse 10 says, “You were created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for you to do.” Whether you’re working in engineering or applied composites, whatever it is that you’re in, that work place, those relationships, those people are the good works that God has prepared in advance for you to do. They’re no less significant than a pastor preparing a sermon. They’re no less significant than a Billy Graham or any other believer, that is the good work God has prepared for you to do.
Of course, we know that a thousand years from now, that company won’t exist. The money you make won’t exist. The only things that will exist is your soul, the souls of the people around you. The word of God and the spirit of God that’s within you. And so going into each day with that awareness, that these material and temporary things matter, and we use them for the glory of God. As Jesus says, “Use worldly wealth to do the work of God.” So they’re not evil and God is in all those daily things, but keep the perspective about what’s actually eternal. That soul of that coworker who may be antagonistic to you or may seem incredibly skeptical, it will still be around in a thousand years.
God has placed you there, not necessarily so you can save them, because you can’t save them. You can’t argue them into the kingdom of God, you can’t convince them. But your job is to be a faithful witness. When I get discouraged about being a faithful witness, whether that’s now as a lead pastor or when I worked in a very liberal newsroom environment, I would go to Jeremiah chapter one, because in Jeremiah chapter one, God pretty much says to Jeremiah, “Hey, before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you. I created you for a purpose and here’s what it is.” And that’s true of every single one of us as followers of Jesus. And then Jeremiah says, “Well, I don’t really want to go to those people and say what you told me to say. And I feel young, I feel insecure.” He gives these excuses very much like Moses did.
God says, “Pretty much forget your excuses. Don’t say that stuff. Go to them and say what I told you to say.” And then God, more or less says, “How they respond is not how I’ll judge you. How you’re faithful is how I’ll judge you.” And so our definition of success is not, “Did I lead 10 coworkers to the Lord? Did I convince them?” Our definition of success is, “Did I consistently show them, here’s what a follower of Jesus looks like, including when I lost my temper and messed up, did I go back and show humility and authenticity?” If I was faithful in showing them through actions, and if I took the opportunities when God opened the door to say, “Here’s why I’m different, and let me tell you about the God who made you. Did you know there’s a God who made you and he loves you?” And I looked for those openings to tell them about Jesus. If you at the end of your life can look back and say, “I was faithful.” Then that is success no matter what the results are.
Ray: I love it. So, that’s the key. That’s a great actually transition. Kind of the last section of three or four questions I have for your listeners here at Bottom Line, I’d love to get advice, right? From our guest. And so let’s just assume for a moment, someone’s listening to this conversation right now and they’re really discouraged. They’re despondent, they’re frustrated, whatever, because maybe they’re being asked or required to do something that’s against their Christian values, maybe to compromise on a deal or to cut corners or to who knows what it may be. Maybe entertain clients in a way that’s not godly and yet they feel that pressure, “I’ve got to provide for my family. I’ve got to keep this company going because of all these jobs and people who are depending on me.” Whatever the case may be. Right? John, what word of encouragement would you have for someone who’s feeling that pressure? Who’s feeling stuck? What advice would you have for them in living out their faith in such a time as that?
John: Yeah, that’s such a real struggle. I definitely remember that tension at times as a journalist in a liberal, what we’d call a liberal progressive news room. I want to go to the word of God to answer that. That is really… If you’re in that situation right now, one, you’re at a major life choice that has ramifications, that are actually way more significant than the ones you’re thinking of. You’re thinking of your paycheck or your promotion. God’s got a way bigger plan for you and you’re at a moment where your character is being tested and don’t see it as a problem, see it as a test to pass. God of course, is who is grading, not your boss. And the best example that I know of in scripture is Daniel. I mean, he’s living in Babylon and he’s told, “Eat this thing that you’re not supposed to eat.” Or he’s told, “You’re not allowed to pray to your God three times a day.” And he always does it humbly. He always does it respectfully, but he always sticks to his convictions.
So if you know, it’s a non negotiable moral thing, wise serpents harmless as doves? Sometimes it’s not a non-negotiable moral thing, but if you know it’s a non negotiable moral thing, you know clearly what God’s will for you is in the situation, then be like Daniel. Be humble about it, but say, “Hey, I’m a follower of Jesus and this is how I roll. This is what I do. I believe I do a good job for you. I’ll keep doing my best for you, but I can’t do this or I can’t do that.” And God will provide just like he did for Daniel.
Ray: Yeah. Amen. That’s great. So in this continuation of some advice, as we’re recording this conversation here at your church, you’ve been doing a series called At The Stadium and you’ve interviewed football players and so forth, right? I’m setting up this question this way. It’s also almost Superbowl time as we’re recording this. We’re just a few days away from the Superbowl. I was listening the other day on the radio, Michael Irvin Hall of Fame wide receiver from the Dallas Cowboys.
He was being interviewed about lessons learned over the course of his life. And he said, “Here’s how I learned this.” He says, “Sometimes when I’m signing pictures, when I was young in my career…” He says, “I’ll look at that young guy on that photograph and go, young man, you made a lot of mistakes and you cost me a lot of money. You are really stupid.” Right? It was just really funny to hear him express it that way. So while you’re young, you’re 37, I want you to look back at the 20 year old, the 21 year old John Dickerson. If you had a chance to sit down with him, what advice would you give that young man?
John: It’s so good. By God’s grace, the thing I’d say to keep doing that God allowed me to do in that season was, surround yourself by people who are pursuing God. Paul wrote to Timothy and second Timothy two, “Flee youthful lusts.” But here’s the positive, “Pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace together with those who call on God from a pure heart.” So, the saying in the business world, “If you want to see yourself in five years, show me your five closest friends.” And so that’s by God’s grace. When I was a journalist, I started a 10 in seminary as a hobby. I found a church out there in Scottsdale, Arizona called Scottsdale Bible Church and got into a small group, which was really just my friends. That was really where I found my social community outside of work was other people, none of them were journalists like I was, one was an accountant, some were still working on their undergrads, but we were all around the same age and we were all trying to make Jesus the center of our lives. That was by far
I think the word of encouragement I’d give to the 20 year old version of myself is, “Just be patient.” Because there’s so many things, even to this day where I have a sense of, “Okay, God’s calling on this and he’s lining this up.” And I strive and strain for it. And it seems to always happen two or three years later.
John: So, if you’re following God in some area and you’re really striving and straining, it’s not coming together. I’ve had ones where it happened two or three years later. I’ve had ones where it happened seven or 10 years later. But just cause it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean God’s not going to do it.
Ray: Yeah. Bill Pollard, who is a CEO of ServiceMaster for years, I once heard him say this and he said that, “Life is lived looking forward. Understood, looking back.”
John: That’s good.
Ray: That’s what we’re talking about. Right? Well folks, I’ve got one more question, but I am speaking with pastor John Dickerson. One more time, John. If someone would be interested in checking out Jesus Skeptic or your other works, learning more about all that you’re doing, what’s the best way for them to find you?
John: Yeah. Go to johnsdickerson.com or follow me on social media @JohnS as in Sam, John S. Dickerson. I’d love to have you follow me on social media at johnsdickerson.com you’ll see all four of my books, including Jesus Skeptic, which we’ve talked about a little bit today.
Ray: That’s fantastic. Well, John, the last question that I asked and I don’t know that I’ve ever missed this one, in all the conversations we’ve been here at Bottom Line Faith, I pose this as… Just I simply call it my 423 question. Those famous words from Solomon who said, “Above all else, guard your heart for from it flows all of life.” So John, if you have an opportunity now to give us some above all else advice. So I’d like you to fill in the blank. What would be the most important piece of advice to give to Christ followers living out their faith in the marketplace? So let’s complete the sentence, above all else.
John: Wow. I’m going to go back to the word of God. Above all else, keep the word of God in your life. That doesn’t mean you need to be reading chapters every day. That’s great, if you are. It can be as simple as a verse. I’ve found even a half of a sentence of a verse, you take that one principle and you actually apply it one day at a time. That’s what keeps you rooted to the word of God. I’d say because we’re talking to leaders and doers, most of us have goals lists or some kind of annual goals or whatever it is. I mean, for your personal life, not just for your work. If you don’t have one, that’s a great practice and weave some scripture into that. If you don’t yet have a life purpose statement or a life mission statement, where you say, “As an eternal soul, I exist to delight in my creator by knowing his son.” And then… I’m quoting my own. But every day I revisit those goals. These are my goals for the year. I’ve actually got those going back to age 17.
John: And by God’s grace, he has accomplished most of them. But scripture’s woven in with them and my identity as a follower of Christ is woven in with them. And so that is what enables me to keep my heart. I can’t improve on what Solomon said, right? Above all else, keep your heart. You can’t do better than that. And so how do you do that? It’s one day at a time saying, “Here’s what I’m aiming for today. Here’s why I’m doing it. Here’s who I am in Christ.”
Ray: Yeah. I’ll tell you, my takeaway as we wind down our conversation is I was just really impressed to learn that it was the word of God and the taking away of that as a foundational principle that causes us to get off mission. You just reminded us, even if it’s just a little dose every day, keeping rooted in the word of God is going to keep us on mission. Did I get that?
Ray: All right. That’s fantastic. Well, John, thanks for being our guest here today.
John: My privilege. This is fun.
Ray: I hope we can do this again because it feels to me like we just scratched the surface.
John: I think so.
Ray: So folks, we have been speaking with pastor John Dickerson, the lead pastor at Connection Point Christian Church. Check out his website as he shared with us johnsdickerson.com particularly his project, his book, Jesus Skeptic: Jesus Skeptic: A Journalist Explores the Credibility and Impact of Christianity. Folks that is really at the essence what we’re trying to do here at Bottom Line Faith. As I said earlier, it’s eternal business in real life. And so we want to be credible in the marketplace and we want to have an impact. And so it’s both eternal and it’s both current and that’s what we’ve talked about today. So, we just hope you’ve been encouraged by our conversation with John and check us out on all the social media platforms as well. At firstname.lastname@example.org is our website.
We are the host ministry here at Bottom Line Faith. You can find us online as well. And go to bottomlinefaith.org to subscribe to the program and check out not only more of the time that we’ve had with pastor John, but the 150 or 60 count interviews we’ve done there and posted. So until next time, I am your host at Bottom Line Faith Ray Hilbert, encouraging you to live out your faith every day in the marketplace. God bless and we’ll see you next time.