Have you been burned by the Church?
Do you ever look around and wonder, “What’s going on with the American version of Christianity?”
The church in North America has done a poor job of reflecting the life that can come from the gospel. Instead, many Christians have become preoccupied with their “camp”– their cynicism, or their passion for a specific cause–at the expense of the gospel-given life.
Meant to Live unpacks how Christians can live in the power and glory of the gospel–the Good News of Jesus Christ–and celebrate God’s glory in the Church and in their lives, the Church and beyond.
In this book, inspirational communicator Nancy Hicks describes four “camps” of Christians who are forgetting to celebrate God’s glory, unaware that their choices are leaving disgruntled believers and non-Christians with the thought: If that’s what it means to be a Christian, no thanks!
Meant to Live offers a vision of humanity’s calling to come alive! It calls the Church to snap out of it, inspiring vision and hope for what is possible when the Christian gospel is truly embraced.
1. Tell us about your childhood and how your upbringing helped set the stage to be who you are today.
NH: I grew up in the city of Toronto. Being Canadian makes you hardy and living in the great capital of Ontario gave me a love of cultural diversity and the buzz and bustle. I had a “can do” attitude. I learned to be an overcomer. Our family was fun and lively . . . and tough. My father (a pastor at the time) was abusive in every way, then left my mother to raise her three daughters on her own with zero support. We were four women surviving the ramifications of abuse and abandonment.
At the same time, we were followers of Christ, experiencing Him in part through His church, and it was a VERY positive experience for me. I was deeply in love with Jesus Christ from the time I was a little girl. In fact, the first time I was taken to church as a very small child, I came home singing about Jesus and never shut up. My mom said I was lit up like a Christmas tree. She remembers thinking, What’s gotten in to my child? and she followed me to church and learned that God wasn’t mad at her but in fact loved her. I learned to not only enjoy and love God but to cling to Him as I navigated a fatherless upbringing and being one of four hurting, surviving women. I grew up constructing a bold façade to make it through.
I was a performer from a young age. Even as a little girl, my gifting as a singer and speaker were celebrated. I remember being put on the soloist roster in our church, which held to extremely high musical standards. By sixteen, I was told to craft the evening service and preach. My denomination fostered leadership in me. The church leadership trained and guided me, and moved me out onto stages all across Canada, singing and speaking to thousands. I was very active in the Canadian music scene–sacred and secular–and, at the same time, I used those gifts in the Church.
Through Christ, I’ve lived out my adult years stripping the façade to find the genuine transformation from liar to truth-teller, angry to forgiving, faux confidence to genuine confidence. Honesty is a HUGE hallmark of who I am today as a result of this transformational work in Christ.
2. Why do you have a heart specifically for helping women discover and pursue their gospel-centric calling in life?
NH: I actually didn’t want to start out speaking primarily to women. I didn’t want to be told, “Women or children are your only audience.” But for now, God has made it clear to me: Women are my work.
There are a few reasons for this:
1) I understand women’s issues. Giving up a career or trying to navigate career and kids. Being told that, because I’m a woman, I can’t do this or that. (Sadly, this is within the Church.) I understand abandonment and rejection.
2) Many women are stretched beyond healthy capacity and are exhausted. There are unhealthy ideas permeating today’s culture and driving the modern woman, ideas such as We don’t need men the way we once did.
Whether it’s about financial stability, sex for pleasure or procreation, or running a household or a business, among women today a message of autonomy is circulating: “I can get the job done.” It’s a message of women rising (which I’m all about) but at the expense of others–men, children, and other women–and it’s killing us, emotionally and spiritually. Women must rise.
Yet it is a lie to think that the rising must come at the expense of anyone else. Or that the rising means we do it all . . . and all at once. What a lie from the pit!
3) I see the gospel mushrooming across the world–in Africa, Asia, South America–and I know that the women in the Church in these nations are strong kingdom builders. And yet I also know firsthand that they are underserved as far as resources: biblical and leadership training, to start. Therefore, I specifically reach out to the indigenous female leaders around the globe.
4) We need all hands-on deck to advance the kingdom in our time. I believe one of my charges is to help position women for genuine purpose in all they do. And certainly to see all they do–in the marketplace, the home, the neighborhood, the church–as a platform for loving all people for Christ. We don’t need a select “special” segment of professional or particularly gifted males. We need everyone to live out the mission to advance the kingdom of God.
My final reason for targeting women really undergirds all the rest:
5) To quote one of my heroes, Evangeline Booth of the Salvation Army: “If a woman loves, she worships. If she champions a cause, she’ll fight for it. If she gives, she gives all. If she lives for, she dies for.” That really says it all.
3. What are some tangible steps readers can take to fully live the way they were “meant to live” for God’s glory?
NH: The first step is to see God’s glory, to catch Him all over our day-to-day lives. We gaze at and linger on His glory in just about everything: in people–Christian or not, American or international–in Scripture, in music, in nature, absolutely everywhere; and then let His glory be the vision that captivates us, infuses us and propels us forward.
Second, realize that the majority of the gospel is actually good news! Meaning, the layered key message is pretty astounding: (a) we were created to be in relationship with–alive in God (Genesis 1-2); b) through Christ, that relationship that was marred by sin in Eden is reestablished, and God’s Spirit awakens and empowers us; and c) in the final analysis, we’re made fully alive when Christ’s kingdom is established “on earth as it is in heaven.” All of this has much to do with God endowing His glory (Himself) to all people, but particularly those who belong to Him.
Third, acknowledge where we’re stumped and stuck about this good news. To use language from my book, a lot of us are “camping out” in the lowlands of the gospel, when God calls us to much, much more! As examples, I identify four “camps” of Christians our Untapped, those who hang their heads and think it’s godly to habitually feel unworthy; the marginalized, disabled, or high functioning believers with the imposter syndrome; those who consider themselves “a nobody; and at the far end of the spectrum is the #Blessed, which are Christians who identify with the prosperity ideology. We’ve gotten stuck in these and other distortions of the gospel, which, as the apostle Paul cautions, is no gospel at all (Galatians 1:7).
Fourth, face what’s true in our lives head-on. Acknowledge where we tend to camp out. Acknowledge where we’ve been deeply hurt. Confess where we’ve blown it. Then look at the cross of Christ (the emblem of the gospel) to handle it all. This is the Good News. I had a pastor who once said, “For everyone look you take at yourself (your junk or glory), take nine looks at the cross.” Get those eyes up!
Lastly, get back in the game. Dallas Willard once said, “All of life is repentance.” It’s a turning. We turn away and turn toward. This is what builds humility, endurance, holiness and excellence–the marks of God’s glory–in us. Let the repentance infuse genuine refreshment and life (resurrection power) back into that place, and then get going.
4. What do you believe is a Christian’s highest calling, and how can believers live this out practically?
NH: A believer’s highest calling is to know the living God. This is the essence of Meant to Live. This shared, or primary, calling is over all creation, urging us to come and live. It emerges from the third chapter in the book of Genesis, when God pursues Adam and Eve in the garden after they’ve gone their own way (which is the basis for all sin). They’ve found themselves naked, are now ashamed, and are hiding. For the first time, they’re separated from the God who is Life, so they’re spiritually dead. I love what we see in this passage if we pay attention to what God is doing. God goes out. God looks for them, calls to them. And implicit in this scene is the core message and, I believe, the highest calling that extends to all people: Come back! Return to God and live, whether it’s in your failing marriage; your raging temper; your self-centeredness, arrogance, doubt, judgmentalism, hypocrisy, control issues–you name it. God calls to us: Come and live.
Practically, how do we do that? We beg God to give us a heart for Him: “God, if I’m honest, I find I don’t often want You, except when my life is difficult. Please give me a desire for You.” We ask Him to give us an undivided heart and an unwavering affection for Him. We spend each and every day–more than that, all the moments we’re aware of God throughout each day–paying attention to that call. We listen. We feel Him. We read His holy Word. We stay connected to the broken and beautiful Church. We worship and fall in love with God over and over and over again. Then we move out and let all manner of love for God–in word and deed–inform, develop and prove that relationship. That’s the only way I know how.
5. How do you keep your faith amid life’s challenges? Do you have any advice for others who are struggling to trust God during dark times?
NH: Absolutely I do. I’ve been in hard, dark seasons, and in fact I am in one now. In 2013, we discovered that a youth worker in our congregation had been preying on our younger son for five years. We spent months working with police to have this person arrested and put in prison, where he is now for a minimum of twelve years. (This is a much longer story for another time.) Today, our other beloved son is fighting colon cancer while in graduate school. These are just two of several things that have threatened to rock my world with God.
These things especially have hit me hard because family’s a huge focal point for me. After a tough spanking as a little girl, I made a vow while curled up on the bathroom floor, promising myself: “I will have better. I will have better!” And I set out to make that happen.
Because I come from a family that was so damaged (all divorced and having affairs several times over), I resolved, by God’s grace, never to pass this all down. To shut it down! Having a healthy marriage and raising children to love God and be all they were created to be in Him was a very big deal.
Here’s why I haven’t walked away from God or the Church despite these and other dark times:
I join the apostle Peter in his resolve: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). God’s words are spirit and life. God’s Word is always alive and active. His spoken Word is a done deed. God’s Word, written and spoken, is who God is. When I’m in a dark place, I go back to the God who not only speaks and gives life, but is Life–the God whose greatest offer will always be Himself.
Here’s what that tangibly looks like for me:
1. I remember that no one, absolutely no one, will measure up. I don’t care who they are or how fabulous they are, the best of the best will disappoint. Go ahead and be disappointed with the Church. But then remember, you too are the Church. Set your eyes back on Christ.
2. I get on my face. Cry. Pound my fists on the bed or floor. Weep. Mourn. Tell Him. I tell God all that’s in my soul. I pour out my all to the God of all life. And I don’t hold back. It sometimes feels like death. At times, God will even be so quiet and I wonder, if I don’t outright ask, “Why are You so quiet? Say something! Please say something.” And He won’t. He’ll just breathe on me. And I may or may not feel it. But by faith–because let’s face it, we so desperately want to walk by sight, especially at times like these–I’ll get up in His power and live. I keep living until I actually begin to feel alive again.
3. I go back to Scripture. For example, long ago I memorized Psalm 63:1-8, and I mutter it in the quiet of the night when my mind and heart won’t settle: “God you are my God. Earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you in a dry and weary land where there is no water . . .”
4. I draw in a close and wise friend or two, including my dear husband, Cam (unless he’s my problem! smile).
6. Where can we learn more about you, and where can we pick up a copy of Meant to Live?
Get the book on Amazon or any number of book retailers after September 17th.
Nancy Hicks is a Bible teacher and former on-air spokesperson for QVC. Her passion is calling people to life. She raises up women around the globe to live out their full calling in Jesus Christ.