Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

A Conversation With Larry Crabb (Jan – Feb 2009)

Filed under: — @ 7:18 pm and

by Fred Peatross
Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Larry CrabbFor years you have known Larry Crabb as a psychologist committed to a biblical model through his ministy, Institute for Biblical Community (IBC). Larry remains committed to a biblical model, despite a long journey with some unexpected turns.

But now, something fresh is brewing. He has recently seen, with more clarity than ever before, that Jesus offers a new way to live, a way that takes the pressure off and offers a wholeness and joy we’ve scarcely imagined.

There is an old way to live. It seems reasonable and right, even “Christian”, but it leads to spiritual deformation, not formation. What follows is a glimpse into the mind of one of Christianity’s best thinkers.

Larry has written many challenging books; too numerous to mention. Take a look.
Larry Crabb’s New Way Ministries web site

Fred: If I remember correctly in one of your books you make a comment that “People often call you when they need help but seldom do they think of you when they want to have fun.” Loose paraphrase but can you explain what you mean and the significance and meaning of this in your life?

Larry: Sometimes I feel more useful than enjoyed, wanted for what I can sometimes do more than for who I am. A cardiologist once told me, “Lots of people respect me. I’m not sure if anyone likes me.”

For me, the issue beneath this is both one of identity and of self-protection. Michael Card once told me it was life-changing for him to clearly see he is not his gift. I’m seeing that, and need to see it more. I am a man, insecure, anchored, gifted, deficient, kind, insensitive, but with a heart that wants to know God and love a few others well. My “public persona” sometimes hides me, and sometimes I want it that way. And I’m self-protective.

For years, I’ve had the image of myself as a bright red apple with a worm in the center. Look at me, take a bite, maybe two, but stop – I don’t want you seeing the worm. So my feeling of being more useful than enjoyed is largely my fault; I protect myself by keeping distant (though people say I’m vulnerable) and give no one an easy chance to share Jesus’ delight with me.

Fred: In the book “Finding God” you talk about telling stories that “disrupt and entice.” Would you briefly tell the readers why you believe there is value in revealing ourselves within the Christian community?

Larry: We are secret keepers. We expend quiet but enormous amounts of energy hiding in fear of rejection or criticism or failure. That leaves little energy for worship and love. Hebrews 10:24 tells us to think hard about how we can arouse love in each other. If we’re to relate like God, like the community of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we must start with letting ourselves be known until the reality of the trinitarian life inside us is seen and affirmed.

Sin is eventually relational. It’s our impact on others. A self-righteous husband can never watch pornography, never demean his wife, and, at the same time, never nourish her soul. Until they start “swapping stories” about mutual impact, he may never be disrupted to the point where he discovers his deep, Spirit-implanted desire is to bless his wife, to nourish her soul as no other can.

Christians need to see that relationality is the center of Christianity. We must therefore relate in ways that disrupt us with revelation of how we unwittingly disappoint others and entice us with receiving grace from those we disappoint until we recognize our strong desire to give to others – for Jesus’ sake.

Fred: So often those who love God desire a close relationship with Him, yet it’s difficult for a fallen race to develop the same kind of intimacy with the Divine as one can in a good, well-maintained marriage. Your thoughts?

Larry: Intimacy with God, the way we often define it, is a myth, and it will remain a myth till heaven. The enjoyment of God is a bit like sexual pleasure – it comes in short bursts; the rest of the time is spent in disciplined relating with incredible emotional ups and downs.

Intimacy defined as two parts hope, two parts trust, and one part thrill is available now, but only when our hearts are detached from everything else, or at least are in process in that direction. That’s painful. In a good marriage, subtle preferences for something or someone other than one’s spouse are not as easily detected by the other. God always knows – and He keeps working till we see our idolatry and surrender our first place affection to Him. That’s a life-long project.

Fred: Many who will read this interview are of the heritage know as the church of Christ. I think it was Gayle Erwin (Jesus Style) who said he…” wasn’t sure what someone was putting in the water we baptized with because we all came up out of the water so argumentative. I thank God we are beginning to change. But can you tell us what your experience has been with our tribe. We need to hear the good, bad and the ugly. So be honest with us.

Larry: I don’t know much about the Church of Christ, but I suspect it shares a few unfortunate similarities with my heritage, Plymouth Brethren. I’m deeply grateful for my background, as I know many in the Church of Christ are rightly grateful for theirs.

But too often when a group centers on what makes them distinct, they become proud. I was 15 before I even considered that folks other than Brethren knew Jesus. Distinctions matter; they are convictions based (hopefully) on the Bible about what is true. And truth matters.

But because God is trinity, truth is fundamentally passionate, not propositional. When we identify with our distinctions in a way that makes us less loving and justifies it, we are not guilty of compromising truth in the name of unity, we are guilty of compromising the core truth of one body with pride.

To all churches with convictions, that are resisting post-modern relativity, I say: May your tribe increase, and, be careful – sin is crouching at the door.New Wineskins

Fred Peatross

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