Dean Inserra: Getting Over Yourself
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Dean InserraDean Inserra is the founding and lead pastor of CITYCHURCH, where he leads the vision and preaching. Dean was called to start a church in his hometown of Tallahassee when he was the Student Body President at Leon High School. He is passionate about reaching the city of Tallahassee with the Gospel, to see a worldwide impact made for Jesus. Dean graduated from Liberty University and attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. He holds a MA in Theological Studies from Midwe...more
Is trying to be the best you actually ruining you? Author Dean Inserra dives into the satisfaction of getting over yourself to return to the humble truth.
Dean Inserra: Getting Over Yourself
Dave: Back in the first five or six years of being the Detroit Lions’ chaplain, you [Ann] will remember, we used to do our pro-challenge assemblies to basically give the gospel in a public high school. It was awesome; right? I’ll never forget—inner city school in Detroit one year—and this high school girl walks in; she was going to introduce us. All I remember is she was talking to her friends—didn’t know we could overhear them—and her friend goes, “Hey; who’s that other little guy over there?” because [there were] these big athletes. And her friend goes, “Oh, he’s nobody.”
Ann: Were they talking about you?
Dave: Yes; I mean, I was the only guy. All I remember was thinking, “Oh, wow! I’m nobody. My whole life, I wanted to be somebody; and a high school girl just told me—
Ann: Oh, that’s sad.
Dave: —“I’m nobody because I’m standing beside a bunch of somebodies.”
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today!
Dave: There’s something in us that wants to be impressive.
Ann: —that wants to be somebody.
Dave: Oh, yes—and there’s nothing wrong with that—but if that’s the goal of your life, it can lead to some very bad choices you make to be impressive.
We’ve got Dean Inserra back with us today, who wrote a book called Getting Over Yourself. [Laughter]
Ann: —which is a great title.
Dave: Yes; I had a hard time getting over that comment.
Anyway, Dean, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Dean: It’s great to be back; I love being with y’all.
Dave: Let me ask you this—you’re a pastor in Tallahassee; you’re a dad; you’re married; and you’ve got kids—but you hear that story. First of all, you’re smiling; so what are you thinking?
Dean: [Laughter] I think that’s the story of many of our lives. There’s the—I don’t know if this is what you were experiencing in the moment—but for me, 1 John talks about the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes [1 John 2:16], The lust of the flesh is: “I want to feel that”; and the lust of the eyes is: “I want to have that.” What are the things we want to feel and want to have?—usually, it’s admiration; it’s to feel like we are somebody.
Dean: What a daily fight for us to actually believe that we are somebody in Christ—
Ann: That’s a point: in Christ.
Dean: —and that we actually are nobody outside of Christ, even though the fact that God made us in His image and knit us together in our mother’s womb. We have dignity because we’re image bearers of God. But the things of this world don’t define us, even for a moment, about who we are and making us somebody.
Ann: It’s a battle for us, as parents, to not let our kids fall into that trap, as well; because the culture is constantly screaming that into their ears.
Dean: Definitely; and I want my kids to be somebody, by the world’s standards, and I want to be somebody.
Dave: Maybe, we’re obsessed with that as parents.
But what you’re saying is that isn’t just in the culture in the world anymore. You’re seeing it—you write it in the book—that theology finding itself in the church, as well; right?
Dean: Definitely, because I think it’s telling people that God’s will for them is to be as successful as possible: to go achieve that dream; to go conquer that goal. When you talk to most people, at a younger life phase, most of their goals are: “…to be really successful,” “…to make a lot of money,” “…to be famous,” “…to have a platform.” “…to be well-known,” “…to publish this book,”—all those types of things.
None of those things, by themselves, are bad things; but when we believe that that’s God’s will for our life to achieve those things, I worry that we’re going to be set up for a lot of failure when it comes to this life/how we define it. But more importantly than that—disappointment with God—because we’re going to assume that He had all these things of success for us; and then fast forward down the road, when you’re 45 years old—live in a basic suburban cul-de-sac where the only people who know your name are your kids, and their friends, and their friends’ parents—it’s going to feel that maybe you failed at life somehow rather than actually living a glorious life, because you’re living in relationship with God through the local church, and raising a great family.
When did that stop being the goal? I’d love to see Christians return to that—being what gets us excited and that being what is considered the fulfilled life—is one that’s with God, and with the church, and with our families.
Dave: In some ways, that’s why you wrote the book; because I think a lot of people that walk away from Christ—I think, and again, it’s just some-guy research/just me observing 30 years, being a pastor—but it isn’t that they don’t believe in Jesus anymore. I think they are disappointed in the life they’re living after following Christ, like: “I thought I’d be happier,” “I thought I would be more impressive,” “I thought I would get the things that I was looking for, and those things aren’t always coming true.” It’s like, “I’m walking away from this.” Is that what you’re seeing?
Dean: Yes; what happens when your coach doesn’t deliver? Eventually, he gets fired; right?
Dean: How many football coaches get fired in two years/three years? If God is just seen as your life coach, eventually, you are going to move onto something else that’s going—you still might believe that that coach exists—it just doesn’t work. Because much of the new prosperity gospel really is defined by the pragmatic/it’s: “What works?” “What doesn’t?” “What’s successful?” “What brings in people?”
A lot of pastors get caught up in it; because they know that, when you tickle the ears, it’s going to draw a crowd. We think that we’re doing the right thing, and it must be working—because “Look at how many people are here,”—when Jesus actually turned people away when they wouldn’t be willing to actually pick up their cross and follow Him.
I think that we need to redefine: “What is success, in general?”—and how we have come so far from a biblical definition of success; which is defined by—“A life with God and being part of God’s mission”; I want that to be what success looks like for me.
Ann: We recently sat down with Trevin Wax. It’s interesting; because you know him, Dean. How do you guys know each other?
Dean: Just through our church networks. He’s a good friend and is really a brilliant Christian thinker and a great writer. I’m really thankful that he was on this program.
Dave: Yes, he was great. His book has a similar title, Rethink Yourself. When he was on our program, not too long ago, he made some comments that I think you’ll resonate with. I’d love to hear your response as you hear this clip.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Trevin: We’re not the center of the universe, with Him revolving around our plans. [Laughter] He’s at the center of everything, and we are a part of His big plan: God coming first, then looking around to others—to the people of God/the family of God—that we are called to be a part of, and then looking in to see that unique contribution that God has for us to His kingdom.
The Apostle Paul talks about how, in the church, it’s one body; but there are many different parts. We all have different roles to play. As a parent, I know my kids are unique; and I want to celebrate those unique aspects of those kids. But I want to celebrate them in a way that’s going to have them asking questions: “Where does my identity—my gifts, my talents—the things that God has given me, where’s that going to fit into His overall plan?” Not: “How can God fit into my plan for my life?”—but—“How can what God has given me fit into His plan for the world?” That’s the bigger question that I think we have to wrestle with.
Dean: I think Trevin’s exactly right. A couple of things come to mind when I hear him say that.
First, talking about God being the center of the universe rather than us. I think every Christian I know would say, “Yes, God’s the center of the universe.” In the new prosperity gospel, you just want to make sure you’re standing right next to Him/that you’re as close to that as possible as well. [Laughter] You don’t want to give up any of that glory to share with Him—you’re cool with Him having it—but “I just want to have it too.”
And then, I really appreciate the thought about his own kids, where I want my kids to know that they have a purpose, like they really do have a purpose. But that’s the issue: “Let’s define the purpose.” The purpose is: “What does it look like, in your life with God/in your relationship with God, to fulfill the purpose He has for you?” which is to use whatever it is He has given you—if it’s your situation in life/if it’s your talents—whatever it could be—for His glory in the church to allow the church and mission to thrive around the world.
When we hear about our own gifts, God never gives us the gifts for our personal good, or just on its own, or our personal glory. God gives us gifts to use them for the flourishing of others/the flourishing of the church and for His glory. We need to make sure our kids know that, like: “God’s given you a gift, not so you can be a big deal; God’s given you a gift so that you can continue to make Him a big deal.”
Ann: Yes; that’s good.
Dean: You can make Him a big deal without some massive platform. That’s where we get confused sometimes. We think: “In order to make God a big deal, I need to be famous,” “…I need to have a million social media followers,” “…I need to write five books,”—rather than—“You can make God a big deal with your gifts by being a faithful husband,” “…by being a great mom,” “…by being a great dad,” “…by being the most hardworking employee that others at work look to and admire; and as a result, they see your distinct life; and it points them to a distinct God.”
I think when we start to be able to see the mundane things in life as opportunities God has given us to make His name great, I think we’d probably rethink how we view almost everything.
Ann: I feel like, recently, I’ve been meeting with a lot of younger women—which I love to do—just kind of mentoring them, hearing their hearts/hearing their passion for Jesus. But there was a time, several years ago, that I came home; and I was just discouraged, because it felt like everyone that I was meeting with, was saying, “I feel like God wants me to speak before millions.”
I remember saying to some of these young women: “You know what He wants? He wants your life—He wants you to lay down your life before Him—and for you to say, ‘I will follow You, if it has me cleaning bathrooms as a stay-at-home mom,’”—because that’s what I feel like I did in my younger years, trying to find, like, “Is there anything in this?” I felt like God was really pleased. “God how can I make You famous? How can I lay down my hopes and my dreams and hand them to You? Because You’re the One I want to follow more than anything else.”
Dave: Yes; and I think the question then is: “Okay, how do we do it?” Because our sin nature is going to be about me, and I want to take care of me. In a sense, I don’t want to be the center of my own universe; but I do. [Laughter] I sort of want to be the same in my own home; I want my wife to say, “You are the man!” In a sense, that’s really sick; and in the other sense, it’s like, “Well, that’s in there.” How do I overcome that? And obviously, how do we help our kids overcome that?
Shelby: You’re listening to Dave and Ann Wilson with Dean Inserra on FamilyLife Today. We’ll hear Dean’s response in just a minute; but first, at FamilyLife, we believe God does some of His most amazing work in homes, just like yours—whether that’s through a small group Bible study, or laughing on the floor with your kids, or sharing a meal with neighbors—the home can be the launching pad for God’s work in this world.
For me, that gives me a lot of hope. God is at work, and He’s not dependent on some political figure or the biggest influencer. He’s using families, just like yours, to make a difference, one home at a time. That’s why we do radio broadcasts, and podcasts, and Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways, and small group Bible studies: to help strengthen families to make an impact in their corner of the world.
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Alright; now, we’ve been hearing from Dean Inserra this and his book, Getting Over Yourself. So how do you actually do that? Here’s Dean.
Dean: Yes, I think we have to put ourselves in our place. [Laughter] You’ve heard someone say, “She just put him in his place,” or “He just put her in her place.”
Ann and Dave: Yes.
Dean: I think we need to put ourselves in our place regularly, and reprogram our thinking on a daily basis, that: “This world really isn’t about me.” I know that sounds cliché; but sometimes, things are cliché because they’re true. [Laughter] When we need to return to the fundamentals over and over. I think one of the most fundamental things we possibly can know as Christians is: “There is a God, and we are not Him.”
Paul wrote to examine ourselves to see if we’re in the faith. I think one of the areas we can examine ourselves is: “Where do I have a tendency to really want to project myself—to almost get in some sort of depression—not a clinical depression, but a functional depression—if I’m not getting those accolades/that admiration; ‘Why is that?’”
A lot of times, we excuse it and go: “Well, men need this,” “Well, women need that.” Okay, that’s true; but that’s not an excuse to be selfish. That’s not an excuse to look for all the acclaim. I wonder, sometimes, if we’re in really big trouble with some of our brothers and sisters in Christ because they believe, in their life, they’re a failure right now; because they’re 50 years old, and their dream they had when they were 20, didn’t come true.
When I say, “I worry,”—is I worry for that person and for the church—that they’re not actually to fully flourish in their relationship with Christ; because they still feel like there is something missing when there’s nothing missing, because they have Jesus. I really want to believe that for myself, as well—that if I have Jesus—nothing is actually missing.
The messaging, oftentimes, we hear today—especially is what I call the Instagram-ification of the Christian faith—is that: “You still need to go get this; go chase this.” They’ll tell you things like, “You have to have these realities in your life for life to really be what is fully meaningful.”
I just am really sad for a lot of professing Christians that have gone hook, line, and sinker; and as a result, are missing out on joy, because their joy has to be so circumstantial: “I have to have this,” “I have to feel this,” “I have to be a part of this,” including worship services. People can’t even like churches anymore unless it’s at a certain level of production, and the music is like A-list quality, and the speaker is right off of Ted Talk. How many churches can actually do that?—because of the budget, and talent, and those type of things. I worry: “What if your job transferred you tomorrow to a town that didn’t have a church like that?—but had a church that still had a faithful pastor; that people loved Jesus; had the kids’ ministry—volunteers were loving, but it wasn’t Kaboom!—it wasn’t this big huge charade?”
Ann: You’re saying we have become consumers.
Dean: Yes; and I worry that they could not be part of a local church community in another place; because even church for them has to be this certain experience—because that’s how they view life now, as an experience—rather than God Himself being the experience.
Ann: Go back and talk to the guy, who feels like he’s at a dead-end job—he’s 50; he’s dissatisfied—or even the mom that like: “Man, I’m in the midst of these toddlers; I feel like my life is going nowhere.” How do they get that perspective of “Jesus is enough”?
Dean: I think you are called/remember, you are called to three things in that moment. You’re called:
- One, you are called to provide for your family—which there is zero shame in any job if it allows you to pay your bills—no job is beneath any of us if it allows us to do that for our family.
- The second thing is Colossians says we are to do all things unto the Lord
[Colossians 3:23-24]. So every job has a purpose/everything in life has a purpose. I can still see my job as a calling—even though it’s not in terms of “I’m called to be at this job,”—the act of work for God’s glory is still a calling.
- And the third thing is that I’m never exempt from letting my light shine before others that they may see our good works and glorify God.
I would say, “Reprogram how you view work.” Because I know men can have identity in work oftentimes. We’re not supposed to have identity in work; work is an assignment that God gave us. Work existed before the fall, so work is good; work is not an identity. It’s an assignment God gave us.
I think we just see it that way: “I’m doing this to provide for my family, to work unto the Lord and give glory to God, and to find opportunities in the mission field to make the gospel known.” Then, when you go to work tomorrow with that perspective, all of a sudden, it’s going to look a little bit different; because you’re seeing your coworkers, who don’t know Jesus, as opportunities to share God’s love with them/to be in a relationship with them.
You’re seeing these last two hours at work—that are just so: “Come on; just get to five o’clock,”—if you are working that kind of job, where it actually has purpose, because I’m actually working unto the Lord. And you’re not ashamed of your job or your life; because you know God has given you your wife—or your husband—these kids. And you’re job as a husband and a father is, first and foremost, to provide for them, and to care for them, and to love them.
Dave: Now did you ever come in the house, and lose perspective on that, as a pastor? I did the same thing, where—
Dean: —weekly maybe? [Laughter]
Ann: —daily? [Laughter]
Dave: I’d love to hear your perspective; because there would be times where I would come home, and Ann wouldn’t treat me with the respect or admiration I felt like I was getting at the church at my office.
Ann: Oh, you’re going to admit this?
Dave: Well, I say things—and people/I had an assistant, and she would go get my—Ann didn’t like this—but she’d bring me a Diet Coke® into the meeting, because I was in a meeting and couldn’t get it. I’d get home, and there’s part of me is like, “Hey,”—I never did that; but there is part of me that is like—“I’m exhausted,”—especially after a Lion’s trip. We go on a road trip, and they take care of you: chartered flight/best hotels—
Ann: Right; he’s on a road trip; and I’m home with a five, three, and a newborn. He would come home with that perspective, like, “Wow, you’re not even going to serve me?”
Dave: I’d come home exhausted. Again, we got beat; so I’m not happy. Anyway, again, I’m joking; but there’s a sense of like, you walk in your marriage, where you—and as a preacher, I preached this: “Lay down your life as Christ did for your bride,”—and yet, there’s this Me-Monster in there, that’s like, “I deserve you to take care of me right now; because I’ve been/people have been taking care me.”
Talk about that. You ever feel that struggle in your own marriage?
Dean: They say, if you preach from your weaknesses, you’ll never run out of material; right? [Laughter]
Dave: Yes, right. [Laughter]
Dean: Definitely! And that’s just the ultimate example of the need to get over yourself.
Dave and Ann: Yes.
Dean: I walk in—and I’ve had/it’s been a hard day—I’ve preached several times/had to put out these four fires—and then I walk in, and my wife has had a full day at home. She has done laundry for a couple of hours because of three kids; she’s had to do drop-offs and run from one place to another, so she spent more time in the car than anywhere else, just waiting. And I have the nerve to walk in, and be like, “Hey, I’m here. Let’s all make sure everything revolves around me.” [Laughter] Oh, yes; that is definitely a thing.
Whenever I think about it, it’s embarrassing, looking back at how really sinful I can be. I think the remedy to that:
- One, you have to have a wife—to go back to earlier—who’s not afraid to put you in place. [Laughter]
Dave: Here’s the question: Has Krissie ever said to you, “Hey, Dean, get over yourself”?
Dean: Yes, absolutely; she definitely has. [Laughter] The nice thing is that it’s an adjustment for us [Dave and Dean], when everyone at church knows you and does what you ask them to do—because they work on the staff and that type of thing—and then you go home; and then, you’re not King Tut anymore. We shouldn’t be King Tut at our churches either; but functionally, that just happens sometimes. That’s its own conversation for another time.
But when you go home, I think it’s good to know that your wife is not that impressed/she’s not that impressed. I appreciate my wife’s encouragement, but she—when I walk in the door on a Sunday—she’s not like, “That was the greatest sermon I’ve ever heard!”; you know? [Laughter] I want her to say that, but it’s just we’re going to keep life going together. It’s only going to flourish, really, if I don’t think, when I get home, that all of a sudden, music should play and everyone should tend to me. [Laughter]
But it really is a temptation, and not just a temptation, but when you give into far [more] often than I’d like to admit. But just even having this conversation—you bringing that up—made me think about: “Man, I do that way too often.” [Laughter] Which is why I need Getting Over Yourself regularly in my life. That really, I think is our story: is having to constantly get over ourselves.
Ann: I think it’s typical/I mean, I think all of us do this: “My life would be better if…” I did that for years in our marriage: “My life would be better if you would just…” or “…my kids would just...” or “…my career would just….” I think it really comes down to: “My life would be better if I had Jesus in the forefront of every thought,” and that takes a daily discipline.
What does that look like for you, just on a daily life of walking with Jesus?
Dean: I tell people to get rid of the blank and the blank space; because what you talked about—“My life would just be better if…”—that’s a common occurrence. So I want to make sure, in my own life personally first, that I get rid of that blank; because my life would not be better. My life could be easier if I could fill in that blank, but it wouldn’t be better; because the best life we actually have, really, is life with God. But again, that’s a daily struggle to believe that. It’s kind of a “Lord, help my unbelief,” kind of moment.
Dean: My struggle is not atheism or agnosticism; I believe that God is exactly the One He claimed to be. My struggle is actually believing that that is best/that God Himself is best—that He is the greatest blessing—that if I never have any material blessing ever again—I hope I do—but if I never have any material blessing again, I’m still blessed; because God is good and I, by His grace, am allowed to know Him.
I don’t ever want to suggest, in my function, that I have a better life than a Christian somewhere that doesn’t have the same—I guess we could say, resources that I have or access to things that I have—I think that Christians can have a great life, because they know the Lord.
I think it’s really a belief thing for me; it’s really revisiting that over and over again: “Do I really believe that the greatest blessing of God is God?” I think where the new prosperity gospel church and the messaging is falling short is it’s presenting other means other than that as the reality.
Dave: Yes, there’s a sense—I remember, years ago, doing a Weekend to Remember® with FamilyLife, which we still do; and you should sign up right now and go to one near you—but my co-speaker was a guy named Mick Yoder, who was probably 15/20 years older than me. He had lost a son in a plane crash that he was actually in as well. He made this statement/he said, “Life would be better if we didn’t expect it to be so easy.” He just said, “We just expect it to be easy, and when it isn’t, we’re like, ‘What’s wrong with my life?’”
I just thought, when I was listening to you for the last couple of days, Dean, talk about this, I thought:
- “If we understood that, when we signed up to follow Christ, we were signing up to get over ourselves.”
- “When we signed up to get married, we were signing up to say, ‘This is a way I’m going to get over [myself].’”
- “When we signed up to have kids, we signed up to say, ‘This is not going to be easy. This is actually going to be really hard; and it’s going to be agony, and it’s going to be beauty; because God is going to shape me to become like His Son—not through an easier life—actually, through a more difficult life than I signed up for, knowing on Day One, “Okay, here we go.” This is not going to be easy, but it’s going to be beautiful; and the end result is going to be what God wants.’”
That’s what your title says. I think, “Wow! That’s a great model for my life: ‘Get over myself.’”
Dean: The potential God sees in us is the potential to be more like Christ.
Dean: The messaging often is “God sees this unlimited potential in you,”—it’s like, by that, they mean “…for achievement,”—no, the potential God sees in you is that
Romans 8:29: “…to be conformed to the likeness of His Son”; that’s the potential.
Now, all of life now is the process of us becoming more like Jesus; that should be the real win in our eyes.
Shelby: That’s Dave and Ann Wilson with Dean Inserra on FamilyLife Today. Dean’s book is called Getting Over Yourself: Trading Believe-in-Yourself Religion for Christ-Centered Christianity. You can get it at FamilyLifeToday.com or by calling 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
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Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking with David Mathis about the fact that we don’t just naturally humble ourselves; we need God to do the humbling. While that’s scary, it’s also freeing. That’s coming up tomorrow. We hope you’ll join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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