Today’s interview is with Chip Ingram, senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge—an international teaching and discipleship ministry. Ingram has written 14 books, and has a massive online and radio audience—reaching about one million people every week. Some of Ingram’s best-selling books include Good to Great in God’s Eyes: 10 Practices Great Christians Have in Common, God: As He Longs for You to See Him, Finding God When You Need Him Most, and more! Pre-order his latest book, Culture Shock: A Biblical Response to Today’s Most Divisive Issues on Vyrso today!
1. Over the last 25 years you’ve pastored churches that range from 500 attendees to 5,000. Now you reach over a million people a week—how has your preaching style changed over the years?
I’ve always been committed to teaching through the biblical text, but after a thorough study, I play a game called “spiritual jeopardy.” If this biblical text is the answer, what question does it currently address in our world? As a result, many of the series I teach seem topical because of the titles and introductions; but, in fact, they’re an exposition of the Bible addressing the very specific issue in the twentieth century that was being addressed in the first century.
2. If you were to give pastors one piece of advice for successful ministry, what would it be?
I would encourage pastors to first and foremost make their time with God their number-one priority regardless of demands, and to invest in their families as their first congregation above all else. After that, I would encourage them to hear God’s voice and boldly and courageously communicate the truth by their life and word in a winsome manner. I often tell pastors they should have their resignation in a top drawer somewhere; and by that I mean we must fear God more than we fear man and be willing to address difficult subjects even if it means we lose our job.
3. As the senior pastor of Venture Church in the Bay Area, your ministry is housed in a place of spiritual darkness. What obstacles has your church faced, and how did you overcome them?
About 96 percent of the people in our area don’t attend church. They aren’t anti-God as much as they’re oblivious to his existence. It’s a very multicultural area where God is not on people’s radar; instead, making money, upward mobility, and a successful education is their focus. To overcome these obstacles, we’ve made prayer a priority. We’ve sought to equip every individual Christian to be a minister of the gospel in their network and workplace. We’ve created ministries that meet the needs of marriages and families, since this is a huge need in our culture. We’ve also actively ministered to the community by transforming a public school with 1,500 volunteers, feeding the poor, and seeking to tangibly demonstrate the love of Christ. We still have a long way to go, but God has blessed our efforts and shown himself to many people.
4. What advice do you have for other church leaders ministering in unchurched regions?
It may sound trite, but I would encourage them to take prayer seriously and seek to love their anti-God community from the heart the way Jesus loves them. Often we present the lifestyles and belief systems of those in environments like this, and the big issue is God changing our heart first. Second, there is no substitute for tangible, specific good works that communicate the love of God. I suggest that churches discover their community’s biggest need and organize and fulfill it with no strings attached.
5. Throughout your 25 years of ministry, what powerful story sticks out most in your mind?
In the early days, I wasn’t convinced that giving time to Living on the Edge was a good investment. At that point I personally didn’t listen to the radio very often and I wondered about the value of its impact. About three months after the ministry began; I received two emails that changed the course of my life. The first was one from a woman in the San Francisco area on her way to abort her baby. I don’t know what message she was listening to, or how God used it, but she wrote me to tell me that she was listening to my voice and God spoke to her to keep her baby. I remember reading that letter and tears streaming down my eyes realizing a life was saved and God really does use radio and Internet for teaching.
The second story is a bit more dramatic and God used it to bring me to a point of making Living on the Edge a priority in my time and energy. A woman who discovered that her husband was involved in an incestuous relationship in their home wrote me a letter that I will never forget. She was completely devastated and determined to kill herself. She knew a train came by a certain intersection each day at a certain time. She pulled up to the intersection and pushed the radio button to its loudest volume as she saw the train coming at a distance; preparing to pull out in front of it to kill herself. As the volume grew louder and louder on the radio she heard my voice saying, “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!” It was a message on perseverance from the book of James and God used it to cause her to abandon her plan of suicide. About a year later, she wrote me another letter and talked about the counseling, forgiveness, and restoration that occurred in her family. Our God is a redemptive and all-powerful God and when I heard that story, I set my face like flint to do whatever God would call me to do with Living on the Edge.
6. How can people get involved with Living on the Edge?
There are three ways to get involved with Living on the Edge. First, you can receive our teaching by radio, XM satellite, the Internet streaming, podcasts, and on CDs and books. Second, you can participate or lead a Living on the Edge small group. Our passion is that our teaching would inspire people to get connected in community, do life together, live out their faith, and make a difference in the world. We have about 25 small group DVDs offers help people grow spiritually in a variety of areas. Third, we have a church-wide campaign called “True Spirituality,” which takes an entire church through Romans, chapter 12 and provides an experience that sets the bar for “what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ” and how to grow. We also provide training for small group leaders within our resources and also at our website. For business leaders, we have a unique discipleship experience called PrimeMovers that helps them discover their God-given destiny and leverage their platform of influence and affluence for the glory of God.
10. You’ve written 14 books—which one are you most proud of, and why?
There are two books that I’m most encouraged by for two different reasons. God: As He Longs For You To See Him is a book on the attributes of God that grew out of 30 years of reading A. W. Tozer and J. I. Packer and studying key passages about the character and nature of God. I literally read a portion of Tozer’s book every week for the first 10 years of my Christian life, and at least once a month for the next 15 to 20 years. I believe everything in life centers around a proper view of God. Taking what I learned over 30 years and giving people practical ways to digest it and get an accurate view of God, is one of my greatest joys.
The second book is True Spirituality: Becoming a Romans 12 Christian because it’s been a lifelong journey to discover what it means to be a disciple and give people some practical means to live that out. Watching that happen in churches across America and across the world has been deeply humbling and very encouraging.
7. Your ministry talks a lot about “r12” Christians—what do you mean by this?
An “r12” Christian is a biblical profile of an authentic follower of Christ. It’s first and foremost based on grace and mercy as outlined in Romans chapters 1 through 11. It identifies what a disciple looks like in the five relationships of life: God, the world, yourself, believers, and unbelievers. It provides a specific game plan in each of these relationships that moves the concept of discipleship to a relevant and measurable lifestyle of authentically becoming a follower of Jesus.
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