October 25, 2020

“For” God or “With” God?

By Chaplain Mike

One of my favorite teachers today is Skye Jethani, senior editor of Leadership Journal and Out of Ur.com. The following video is a good example of why I appreciate his emphasis so much.

In it he describes a turning point in his own thinking and ministry when he realized we may be inoculating people from the Gospel rather than welcoming them into the Gospel by teaching them to live for God rather than with God.


  1. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    That’s a good word. One of the challenges I’ve had over the previous few years is learning how to say ‘no’ in ministry. I’m definitely getting better. At my current church, I’ve kept the fact that I’m a musician somewhat on the down low because I’ve decided not to get involved in the music ministry until I finish my degree (and one thing I’ve learned about music ministers is that they are ALWAYS looking for fresh blood). Well, my secret came out and our music director got that look that she had smelled blood in the water. Well, I told her my resolve and said I’d get back to her when I was finished with my degree. She jokingly said, “What, you can’t go to school and serve Jesus at the same time?” I answered, “No, no I can’t.” I don’t think anyone was expecting that!

  2. First and foremost, sorry for my many typos. I am aware of it and even while making them God is still with me!
    You guys are maturing/growing up. This vaguish movement called ‘post evangelical’ or even ’emerging/emergent church’… to me it’s nothing but the growing realization among people my age (fortyish or younger) that the heart of the Good News was missing, quite literally.
    Not being american and not having had such an ‘evangelical’ upbringing I only can listen understand and give thanks for something wonderful unfolding.
    See, with my liberal catholic background, God’s love never was the issue, it was his justice I had no idea of…
    Let’s meet halfway and be church to be with Emmanuel, God with us. Amen

    • Christopher Lake says


      What you mention about “liberal” Catholicism is why I love both the early Church Fathers and the last two Popes, especially Benedict XVI. Reading their writings, one is very aware of God’s love and His holiness and His justice. The God who is *only* (our human idea of?) love is missing important attributes of the God revealed in the Old and New Testaments.

      • Christopher,

        I agree with the deeply pastoral and biblically sound tone of the majority of the content of the writings of the last two popes.
        As to my liberal catholic background, it’s the same progressive undercurrent that can be found in all mainline churches worldwide.
        Stressing God’s compassion without being sufficiently rooted in prayerful biblical knowledge, it tends to go overboard on issues like the inerrancy/reliability of the Scriptures and the loss of what holiness and sanctification also is about.
        Nevertheless, this position is but a response to the legalism of many bible OR pope believing christians…
        And as a former novice in a french monastery, I happen to know the legalistic and patriarchal tendencies of the Roman Catholic Church, like so many here have their experiences with a legalistic and harsh evangelical background.
        So I have to say we are ALL maturing: my last post sounded a bit too off putting… I’m part of this as well, this discovering of ‘God with us’ as the centre of the Good News.

        • Christopher Lake says


          Your experience is interesting, because here in America, at least from what I have seen, people who would tend to emphasize God’s love and compassion, but without “prayerful biblical knowledge,” would not be so concerned about the infallibility/inerrancy of the Scriptures.

          I do agree that legalism can be found in all Christian circles. With that said, some people think that Catholicism is *inherently* legalistic, while “historic Protestantism” is inherently not legalistic. Obviously, I disagree about the former. As for the latter, it really depends on the “historic Protestant” church in which one finds oneself. I have found that sadly, legalism is possible anywhere, whenever one moves too much from a mindset of walking “with” Christ to one of doing things “for” Him. As you said, we are all maturing.

  3. Skye’s willingness to evaluate his ministry and to change his ministry focus is admirable.

    I don’t think his friends were completely wrong on how God views sin in our lives; their answer was only incomplete. It lacked balance. It didn’t include the unconditional love half of the answer.

    It is always encouraging to see a young man who is serious about God’s Word.

    If we get the “with” right, the “for” will follow.

  4. Christopher Lake says

    This is great stuff. The idea of “with God,” more than “for God,” is well described by Jesus in John 15:15 (NAB): “I no longer call you slaves, because a slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have told you everything I have heard from my Father.”

  5. bunnycatch3r says

    I can’t imagine any work which would benefit or deprive God.

  6. So, the kids who don’t reject their faith after leaving home go to seminary to become pastors who have no clue what the gospel is? Seems like a self-perpetuating problem. Could we just teach kids the gospel in the first place? Is that such a radical idea?

    • It is when we don’t know the gospel ourselves. In this wealthy, powerful nation of ours, it is very hard to know and understand the gospel because it cuts against everything we were raised to believe is true. Never forget that we (mostly) are Americans as well as Christians and there is a great dissonance between those two world views.

      • There are also 2 inherent factors in Evangelicalism: (1) Revivalism, which emphasizes a momentary “decision” for Christ, and (2) Activism, which emphasizes that once one has been “saved” it is now time to serve. The combination leads us to assume that the Gospel is only about entering the family and then telling it to others. In reality, the Gospel is about the entire life we live under God’s rule, in fellowship with him in his family and for the world.

        • Dear Chaplain Mike:

          You know much more about current terminologies than I do. I know I’ve been living a Monk’s existence when it comes to religious discussions at high levels. It’s one reason I’m glad I stumbled onto this site.

          I’m living in a world where these discussions never happen, or rarely so.

          I would agree with the two inherent factors you note. They have been a part of evangelical circles since the days of Explo ’72.

          I personally don’t see any reason that God can’t use either factor to bring someone closer to him..

          An example would be some of the comments on how the Explo’ post you had and the positive experiences some folks took from that. It did spark a beginning or a strengthening in many lives.

          I understand that others had a different experience. That doesn’t negate the fact that many who made a “decision” didn’t start the journey, or make a stronger commitment.

          When you write, “In reality, the Gospel is about the entire life,,,” and so forth, you are implying that evangelicals don’t have that view.. I beg to differ. Most folks that I know who consider themselves evangelical would agree that the Gospel is about the entire life.

          I personally don’t have a date that I can quotes as the day I was saved. The evangelicals I know don’t have a problem with that.

          For me it has been a process, and no evangelical I’ve ever encountered has ever argued with me on the subject. Is it because I’m not hanging around the highly educated evangelicals?

          Maybe you know evangelical theology better than many of those who consider themselves evangelicals.

          After having written all of this, I do wonder where all of the Christians went who made :”decisions” at Billy Graham crusades. How is it possible that abortion became legal when that many people had a, in the term you have stated, revivalist experience?

          At the same time, I see the same daily struggles among those who criticize what they consider to be evangelicals.

          In the end, I disagree with your assumption, where you begin “The combination leads us to assume…”

          God’s blessings…

  7. What a change a preposition makes! You go from a debtors’ ethic of living “for” God to the scandalous freedom of living “with” the God who is not mad at you. I like it.

  8. Mary and Martha come quickly to mind. Martha was too busy trying to serve Jesus that she wasn’t with Him. Mary seemed lazy by comparison but was at His side, soaking in His teaching and presence.

    The being-with-God part leans towards the contemplative, which seems either too Catholic and/or too new-agey for a lot of modern evangelicals. However, the iMonk crew would point to that contemplative side being a subset of both the ancient-future meme and the emergent meme as well.

  9. We must “abide” and “walk humbly with our God”.

    I am for the “missional” mindset, but does too much an emphasis on it (in recent years) cause some to forget the “living with God” element?

  10. I was greatly encouraged to hear the following words from the newly-elected president of the LCMS, Rev. Matthew Harrison:

    “I wish to inform you that you have kept your perfect record of electing sinners as presidents of the Missouri Synod. I guarantee you I will sin and fail. I will fall short. I will sin against you…and plead your forgiveness for anything that I said or did that offended you. I beg of you your prayers, I beg of you your daily prayers and intercession. These are challenging times. I promise you that I will be as straight with you as I possibly can, to the best of my ability, guided by the Spirit of God.”

    • That is wisdom and proper humility in leadership. Beautiful.

    • dumb ox: I have quoted Harrison’s saying many times over the last month.

      I can never get enough of my pastor saying:

      Christ forgives you of your sins.
      Christ died for you.
      This is the body and blood of Christ for you.
      In baptism Christ has made you his son.

      Call it old fashioned, but Christ for me wins out over Christ with me or me for Christ any day.