Equipping People to Find a Social Cause
About the Guest
Love God and love others, in that order. Author Tim Muehlhoff encourages families to not just be against something in the culture, but to be for something by serving in their community. Muehlhoff advocates partnering on the things you can partner with, even if you don't agree with everything. As believers, our lives should be characterized by always showing love and care to those around us.
Love God and love others, in that order. Tim Muehlhoff advocates partnering on the things you can partner with, even if you don’t agree with everything.
Equipping People to Find a Social Cause
Bob: Have you ever wondered why your opinions or your ideas are sometimes ignored or even shouted down when you try to speak up in public? Dr. Tim Muehlhoff says, “Sometimes, there’s a valid reason for why you are being dismissed.”
Tim: Here’s what usually happens. I show up at the school board meeting—no one knows who I am, and I am angry. They are like: “Excuse me. Who are you? I have no idea who you are, but I see that you’re angry.”
We, as a family, minister to the people around us; and we earn the right to be heard by those individuals. As Christians, we just want to show up when we’re mad and expect people to change. I think that’s unrealistic.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 29th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. How can we earn the right to be heard, and how can we winsomely persuade others? We’re going to talk with a communications professor about that today.
Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You and I have had this conversation many times.
Dennis: We have had this conversation many times. [Laughter]
Bob: We’ve had many conversations.
Dennis: In fact, 26 years—do you know how many broadcasts we’ve done, folks? At last count, 6,250; and how many words, Keith, did you say?—over 30 million words?
Keith: Different words? [Laughter]
Dennis: We’ve repeated a couple anyway.
Back to your point; go ahead.
Bob: The conversation we’ve had is that the challenges facing parents, raising kids in this culture—certainly, in our lifetime—we’ve never seen a more difficult time for parents, who want to raise kids to love and follow Jesus. In our culture, in our day, we want them to stand for truth; we want them to stand full of grace; and they’re getting battered right and left with that objective in mind.
Dennis: The subject we’re talking about today: “How to live out your Christian faith with conviction but with love, compassion, and really being winsome in the marketplace,” is really a challenge.
Dennis: I mean, it is a challenge for all of us. We’ve run across a guy, who is a great friend, who has written a book. Tim Muehlhoff joins us, again, on FamilyLife Today. Tim, welcome back.
Tim: Thank you. Great to be here.
Dennis: He’s written a book called Winsome Persuasion. He teaches at Biola. He’s on the Weekend to Remember® marriage conference speaker team.
Tim, I just want to take this broadcast, and I want to equip singles; husbands/wives; couples; parents to know how to raise kids in this culture; and how we can be salt and light in the very finest way that honors God but helps us be influential, at the grassroots level, where people are living today. That’s really what you are after in this book; isn’t it?
Tim: Oh, absolutely. I think the place to start is to say:
“Jesus prioritized what He said,” and “Let’s live out according to His priorities.” He was asked, “What’s the greatest commandment?” “Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.” “Second great commandment”—He said—“is just like the first; love your neighbor as yourself.”
So, first, with my family—we have three grown kids. What does God want us to do? What is the purpose of the family? What is the purpose of us, as Christians, within this community? And that is not just for us to have a successful family / for us to accomplish some form of the American dream; but to let God’s love be known in this community. It’s everything—from taking prayer walks around your neighborhood and praying for individual houses—what you know; it’s allowing your kids to have some interesting friendships with other kids that you wouldn’t normally pick, who come from messy backgrounds.
For us, it was allowing our kids to be at a secular school that we, mostly, liked; but there were some things that we really disagreed with. Well, how do we make a difference with the Parent Teacher Association?—
—with the school board? How do you gain the credibility to actually have a voice, and what are natural ways that happen that you can gain this credibility?
For instance, wildfires hit our area. We were actually speaking at a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference when wildfires hit Brea. Our school had to be evacuated. Neighborhoods were being evacuated. It ruined all the shrubbery around our school. Again, California is basically broke; we have no money what-so-ever, so this shrubbery was not going to get replaced—it was a done deal.
Three churches got together and went to the schoolboard and said, “On three consecutive Sundays, we want to help plant shrubbery.” The schoolboard said: “I’m sorry. We can’t afford that.” “Oh, no, no, no. We’re paying for everything. We’ll provide the manpower and the money, and we’ll take care of all the shrubbery.” Do you know that schoolboard members, every single weekend, were part of the people that were doing the shrubbery stuff? Well, again, my kids were part of that.
Again, every time we drove into school, everybody saw this beautiful shrubbery, including the schoolboard members. Now, imagine something happens at our high school, and it hits the fan. We want to show up to the schoolboard to voice the Christian perspective. What’s the first thing the schoolboard is going to say to us? “Oh, by the way, thank you so much for you and your church. That shrubbery looks great. We love it. Thank you so much for doing it. Now, what’s on your mind?”
Here is what usually happens. I show up at the schoolboard meeting—no one knows who I am, and I’m ticked; I’m angry. They are like: “Excuse me. Who are you?” “I’m Tim Muehlhoff.” “Okay; we’ve never met. I have no idea who you are, but I see that you are angry.”
Well, we, as a family, minister to the people around us; and we earn the right to be heard by those individuals. As Christians, we don’t want to take time and energy to do that. We just want to show up when we are mad and expect people to change, and I think that’s unrealistic.
Bob: Tim, you know, in the cultural context today, we’ve got some folks, who are saying:
“Look, we just need to be about love and grace,” and “We’ll just set truth aside for a while. If we just pour on the love and grace, it puts the best possible face on who Jesus is to our enemies,” and “We just need to kind of set the truth aside and, maybe, some of it needs to be messed with a little bit anyway.”
Then, there is the other side that says: “The truth in grace—that comes in later. We’ve got to make sure people are thinking right. The truth is what sets you free. That’s what we’re going to proclaim to people, and the love and grace will come along behind that; but we start with truth.”
There are dangers on both sides; but trying to find that spot in the middle, where you are full of grace and full of truth—that’s a hard place to navigate to in this culture.
Tim: Well, that’s what’s great about communication theory—the classes that I teach. Again, God doesn’t just speak through the Bible. He speaks through what we call common grace. People have been studying communication theory forever, going all the way back to Aristotle—Christians and non-Christians.
Generally-speaking, we have to have what we call a positive attitude toward a particular group for it to be effective. That positive attitude has to be garnered somehow; so I would say, “It is, for sure, grace and truth; but sometimes, the grace does need to lead. The problem is I like being liked, so I don’t want to mess with that.
Tim: Once I establish the grace, I don’t want to bring in the bad news; so I do think we need to start by saying: “What are the stereotypes you have of the Christian community? What are the needs of the community?” and then, “Let’s jump in and start meeting these needs.”
That’s what I love about Jim Daly with Focus on the Family—right?—a product of the foster care system. He read an article in The Independent—the most liberal newspaper in Colorado—that also talked about the broken foster care system in Colorado. Jim Daly calls The Independent and says: “Hey, lunch on me. Let’s sit and talk about the broken foster care system in Colorado.” So, they did.
Then, they agreed, “Let’s do a one-day event, where we bring attention to the foster care system in Colorado.” Both of them had to sell it to their constituency. The Independent—it was hilarious—their opening line of their cover story was: “No, hell hasn’t frozen over; but we are going to partner with Focus on the Family because we care about foster care.” [Laughter]
What I would want my family to do and my church to do is to look around, where we live, Brea. What are the concerns we have? By the way, there was just a huge one—huge tent cities were popping up all over Brea with the homeless. Eventually, the police department had to come in and dispel these large groups of people for sanitation reasons/safety reasons; but now, what do you do with these individuals?
See, that’s something I would sit with our family and to say, “Okay; what are the Muehlhoffs to do?” “Okay; we can pray. That’s great—much needed; but can we give money, time, and attention? What can we do to help?”
Our church actually set up places for the homeless to come. By the way, it came at great risk. One homeless individual wandered into a home and peeked in on a woman showering. Now, that hit the fan. There had to be a church meeting to discuss it; right? I mean, there were people who were upset in the community, saying: “Hey, what are you doing?—bringing the homeless into this community? Your job is to help protect us.” So, the church had to respond to that.
All of this is going to come at risk, but I want my family to know: “How are we going to serve God as we minister to people? Who are the people who are hurting in our congregation and hurting outside of our congregation? Let’s look for opportunities to partner with other groups.” As we partner, we, again, gain—their attention, their admiration, their respect—where we can have gospel conversations. For me, it really is about timing.
Dennis: I’m glad you raised the issue of foster care; and certainly, Focus on the Family has done a great job of being a champion for foster care.
I think, if there is an issue today that needs to accompany our beliefs about abortion, where we are trying to protect unborn life—I’ve said, for years, that: “There are two halves to this coin. If you are going to be against abortion and want to preserve life, then, you must be for orphan care, foster care, and adoption. It is going to cost you.”
I’m glad you mentioned that, because there will be a price to be paid if you step into this arena. It will terrify you to think of the 400,000 children that are in the foster care system today and don’t have the security of a family. If the church wants to pick an issue—the Christian community that is low-hanging in every county, in every state in America—it is foster care.
Bob: Okay; you know as well as I do—as soon as you step into that arena and you have this kind of: “Let’s get together and work on this,” one of the issues that’s going to emerge is:
“Should we be putting foster care kids in same-sex households?” How do we stand for grace and truth when that pops up on the table as we’re trying to build this common ground?
Tim: Robert Wuthnow is a sociologist, who wrote a wonderful book called Loose Connections, where he advocates that Americans do partner on the things that they can partner with. Again, this isn’t a lifelong commitment to each other. I don’t sign off on your ideology; you don’t sign off on mine. There are certain issues that we are just not going to be able to agree on, but let’s focus on the other issues.
I would argue that; yes. “Do we put kids into foster care situations that would entail same-sex marriages? We might not be able to resolve that one. Let’s not let that stop us from the 70 percent that we can deal with. An illustration that comes to mind is Richard Dawkins, a huge opponent of Christianity—he attacks Christians all the time.
Well, the head of the British Department of Education wanted to put a King James Bible in every high school in the United Kingdom. It was getting push-back for some reason. Well, he gets a phone call from Dawkins. Dawkins says to him, “So, what do you want to do?” He says, “Well, I just want to put a King James Bible in every school.” He goes: “Okay; well, I think we should do that. I mean, I don’t agree with it; but it’s a great work of literature. What are these kids reading?—Harry Potter?”
Again, you could step back and say: “Listen, Dawkins, I don’t like you. I don’t like how you treat my community, but there is this one little window that you are actually going to help me?”—that’s taking a page right out of Wilberforce; right? He had to make small concessions and learn to work with people.
Again, the book, Winsome Persuasion, is filled with historical examples of Christians, who have really made a difference in their communities and even in the nation. We should be greatly encouraged that we can learn from the Saint Patricks, from the Wilberforces, and people like that.
Dennis: —and from Chick-fil-A®. You used—
Tim: —and from Chick-fil-A.
Dennis: —a story about Chick-fil-A—how they fed the survivors from the shooting in Orlando.
Tim: Right; so, Pulse Nightclub—one of the largest gay nightclubs in Orlando—great tragedy happened: 49 individuals were shot to death. Chick-fil-A has this great policy of not opening on a Sunday. The CEO of Chick-fil-A came under fire because, in an interview, his simply defended traditional marriage. That was the whole taste-like-hate campaign that they were hit with.
Well, on this Sunday, they said: “Hey, listen, we’re going to be open,” and “We’re going to feed all EMS workers / anybody who is doing a blood transfusion. We’re opening our policy because this is good neighbor love.”
Let me give you my favorite illustration that I wish could have gone in the book, but the book went to print before this happened. Remember Houston?—all the floods that hit Houston. There was a person—his name is the Black Beast—that is the name he gives himself. He’s an MMA fighter / a mixed martial arts fighter. He’s like 300-and-some pounds; black. He is going around, rescuing people in a boat.
It’s estimated that he rescued over a hundred people.
The last two people he rescued—he turned the corner. There is a man, with his daughter, shivering; and he is draped with the Confederate flag. The Black Beast pulls up in this boat. This guy says to the Black Beast, “Hey, man, I’m really sorry about the flag; but it means a lot to me.” The Black Beast says: “Brother, get in the boat! Your daughter is freezing. It’s a flood. Get in the boat.” “Well, can my flag come?” [Laughter] “Yes; it can come. It’s a flood. This is what neighbors do.” I love that.
Now, later, if he really wanted to talk to this Southern gentleman about his Confederate flag, he now has a platform to do it.
Dennis: Yes; he does.
Tim: Imagine him coming up and saying: “Okay; Dude, I’m sorry—either you or the flag.” He’d say, “I’m going to stand here and shiver.” Bob, that’s going back to the grace and truth thing. It was too early for the Black Beast to have a productive conversation about the flag.
Later, maybe, he can do that when his daughter is having a nice hot meal.
Bob: You know, though, Tim, there are some people who will resist your acts of charity or kindness. They’ll object and say, “The only reason these people are doing this is because they want to shove the agenda.” I saw it with Chick-fil-A, where people said, “Yes; so, these Chick-fil-A sandwiches—they still are haters, and you shouldn’t even eat their nasty sandwiches.” You’re saying, “That may be the slander against you, but just keep loving people”; right?
Tim: Yes; absolutely. Again, our heart has to be in the right place, Bob. If we’re passing out Chick-fil-A sandwiches as a rhetorical trick, then, you know what?—shame on us—but if we are actually loving people, and we get slandered for that, well, then, guess what?—that’s on you. And by the way, “Our offer stands.”
Bob: I just have to confess here; because you remember—this was several months ago—that The New Yorker magazine put out an article about Chick-fil-A’s infiltration of New York City. Did you read about this?
Tim: No; I didn’t.
Bob: Oh, they wrote this article and said, “Chick-fil-A is infiltrating New York City, and they are bringing their insidious Christianity with them.”
Dennis: It was like it was a disease or something; okay?
Tim: Oh, wow.
Dennis: Oh, yes.
Bob: It started off by saying: “Do you know?
Dennis: Pretty negative.
Bob: —“Their corporate statement says that they are to glorify God. You see what these people are really all about?—and they are bringing this to New York City.”
I had this impulse / I wanted to—in fact, I called the local Chick-fil-A, there, in New York City to find out if they did delivery; because I was going to send a couple of trays of chicken nuggets over to The New Yorker magazine and just say: “We wanted to buy lunch for everybody at the office today. We thought we’d send you some Chick-fil-A.” [Laughter]
Now, I will confess to you—my motives were not the purest neighbor-love that you are suggesting here. It might have been sniffed out as being something that wasn’t just neighbor-love.
Dennis: But Bob, to that point—I think God is big enough to take us, with our impure motives, and to turn them into something that is pure.
Dennis: That idea—maybe, you have to deal with your attitude about that—and go ahead and do it. You won’t do it all perfectly; but if you do seek to honor God, and to bless people, and to do something good to them—the Bible says, “Don’t return an insult with an insult or evil for evil, but giving a blessing instead.”
Dennis: That’s what we need to be known for in this culture.
Tim: And what’s remarkable about that passage, Dennis, is—when do you date
1 Peter? Theologians believe that 1 Peter should be dated roughly around AD 64, which precedes Nero’s persecutions. Peter is literally preparing the New Testament church for some of the bloodiest persecutions in the history of the church. And what does Peter say?—“Do not give an insult for an insult. I want you to bless that person.” That word, bless—we get the English word eulogize, which is to speak well of a person. We don’t back down in our beliefs, but the way we do it is different.
We bless a person; we don’t attack a person.
Bob: The last verse in Romans 12: “Do not be overcome by evil”—but how do you overcome evil?—not with rhetoric—“with good.” That’s the demonstration of the transformation that’s taken place in our lives. Again, it may be that, in the middle of the cultural crisis we are in right now, there needs to be more emphasis on grace without a devaluation of truth. That, again, is the tricky landscape we walk as we try to represent Jesus in this culture.
Dennis: I did a lot of things wrong when we had a teachers’ strike, here, a number of years ago. Yes; I really did, but one thing I did right was—I bought several dozen packages of donuts and took them out on the strike line, where the teachers were striking in front of the schools. They were being paid to open, and I passed out donuts to all of them. I just reflect back on that.
Our lives really ought to be characterized like that—doing the very opposite that people expect and doing it in a way that says: “You know, you have value. I love you. I care about you.” Yes, there may be an opportunity, at some point, where I get a chance to care for your soul; but as you say, that time will come if we, indeed, open the door with love, a gracious spirit, and benevolent spirit.
Tim: In the book, we do a study of Jesus’ table fellowship. It was more radical than we even thought—me and my coauthor, Rick Langer. These table fellowships were outside; people could see it. So, walking past, the Pharisees / the religious leaders would look and see Jesus sitting with somebody, having fellowship. Again, we quote some of the top New Testament scholars who say: “It is fellowship. It’s not just having a meal / sitting at the same table.” Jesus is fellowshipping with these individuals, and it was scandalous.
I say to my students all the time: “Okay; put somebody at the table that you’re walking past, and you see Jesus with this person. It stops you dead in your tracks. You’re like: ‘Jesus, no way You can be with that person. The optics are horrible that You’re eating a meal with this person.’” I force my students to say, “Who is at the table that would stop you dead in your tracks”; right? But we need to do that.
People will accuse us of guilt-by-association. They see us with certain people, working together. They are going to say: “How can you work with The Independent?” “How can you work with that institution?” We have got to follow Jesus’ example of saying, “Listen, I care more about the soul of this person than what you think by watching me interact with this person.”
Dennis: I remember back when Rick and Kay Warren stood on behalf of AIDS victims and had an AIDS conference every year. The Christian community attacked Rick and Kay—
Dennis: —for mixing it up with people who had AIDS; but they were dying, for goodness sakes. It was the right thing to do at that time.
You know, Tim, I really appreciate you writing this book and exhorting us to love and good deeds; because I think this is more of what we need to be known for in our communities / in our neighborhoods, going forward. I think you’ve done a good job of exhorting us, here, to find out what those good deeds are in our community and to roll up your sleeves and make a difference. Thanks for being on the broadcast.
Tim: Oh, my pleasure.
Bob: This may be a conversation that small groups will want to engage in. Get copies of your book, Winsome Persuasion, and go through it together; or it may be a good conversation to have around the dinner table with your teenagers: “How can we exert Christian influence in a post-Christian world? How do they engage with their classmates who believe differently than they do about right and wrong?”
Now, we’ve got copies of Tim Muehlhoff’s book, Winsome Persuasion, in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order the book from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to order—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. The number to call is 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-358-6329. The title of the book is Winsome Persuasion: Christian Influence in a Post-Christian World by Dr. Tim Muehlhoff.
You know, I think about the premise of your book, Tim, and I think about all we’ve talked about this week. This is really what FamilyLife Today is hoping to do, day in and day out, through this radio program. We want to, as winsomely and as practically as we can, present biblical truth about marriage and family. I know that many of you share our passion for this because, every time you make a donation to this ministry, you’re helping us take this message to more people, more regularly.
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And we hope you can join us back again tomorrow when we’re going to talk with a 23-year-old about why she didn’t rebel during her teenage years. What did her parents do differently than some Christian parents do? I hope you can tune in as we talk to Rebecca Lindenbach.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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