Kyle Idleman Challenges Pastors: Grace Is Greater

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by Kelinda Crawford

Kelinda: Pastor Kyle, you have a new book out, Grace is Greater. Tell us, as a pastor and leader, how has the concept of God’s grace changed for you? What is different about the way you see grace now from the way you understood it before?

Pastor Kyle: Actually, what changed me was realizing that grace was so much more than a concept. That is to say, understanding grace requires more than an explanation; it requires a personal experience. Think of it like romantic love. Romantic love can be explained and defined, but until it is experienced it can’t fully be understood. I was especially struck by this dynamic as studied the theme of grace in the New Testament. The apostle Paul writes to the churches and thoroughly explains grace. He uses the word close to one hundred times. Jesus on the other hand doesn’t ever use the word grace. But in studying the narratives in the Gospels grace is powerfully conveyed. One story after another shows us what grace looks like. So I wrote this book understanding that while many people may understand grace, they underestimate the greatness of grace in their own stories.

Kelinda: You believe the church has it wrong on grace: How so? Could you explain this a bit?

Pastor Kyle: It’s not so much that I believe the church has the doctrine of grace wrong as much as I see a need for the church to be more intentional with the directive of Hebrews 12:15, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” That could also me translated as, “See to it that no one fails to receive…” I suppose there are any number of reasons why people come to church and miss grace. It could be a self-righteous and legalist spirit that puts the emphasis on works as a way to earn God’s favor. It could be an environment where people don’t feel safe to talk about the guilt and the shame they are struggling with. It could be an over intellectual approach to the teaching of grace making it difficult for people to experience on a more personal level.

Kelinda: How has this error affected pastors and leaders in the ways that they teach about, and express, grace?

Pastor Kyle: As a pastor there is a pressure to feel like I don’t deal with struggles, fears or failures. If that’s the approach I take, then it doesn’t leave much room form me to show of the Grace of God in my life.

Kelinda: What do you feel needs to be done in order to change this?

Pastor Kyle: My challenge to pastors is to not just be authentic, be vulnerable. Here’s the difference – authenticity is not pretending to be someone I’m not, but vulnerability is revealing who I am. When I am willing to reveal some of my weaknesses and shortcomings, it makes room for God’s grace to shine. That vulnerability creates a safe place for other people to be vulnerable, and that’s where grace often meets us most profoundly.