I had the opportunity to spend a lunch with Dr. Andrew Jackson for an Off the Record interview. No, I’m not referring to our 7th President. This Andrew Jackson is an author, blogger, networker, and spiritual-activist. He recently released a book called Mormonism Explained: What Latter-Day Saints Teach and Practice. He also runs the website smartchristian.com in addition to a number of other sites. His website is “a blog outlet providing lifestreaming stuff, top-quality information and breaking news on religion, politics, including numerous resources, references, and relational connection.”
In addition, he has started a Christian Bloggers Network with more than 700 bloggers affiliated with it. When it comes to technology, blogging, and having a faith that actually impacts our world, Dr. Jackson is an innovative leader to learn from. I have tried to record his responses to my questions as accurately as I’m able to but some of his answers may not be direct quotes down to every single word. Also, if I wrote down all of the intriguing information that I heard from him at our lunch then this post would be at least 3 times longer than it already is. Let’s just say that he is a pretty intriguing guy.
Jeremy: Tell us something odd/unique about you:
Dr. Jackson: I’m a unique combination. I am an extremely focused person and at the same time I’m totally a big picture person. I’m driven by a theology of the kingdom of God. In light of that I think very big and broad. That’s probably a main characteristic of who I am. It plays out into a lot of the things I do. I would consider myself to be an initiator and pioneer. I’m very focused. This is my strength and also my weakness at times. I’m not always aware of what’s going on in my surroundings!
Jeremy: Do you think people are born leaders or develop into leaders?
Dr. Jackson: From a Biblical perspective, God gives gifts to people so it is an act of God. Leadership can only be defined in context. Leadership cannot be understood in an abstract. So somebody that is a leader in one context could be a terrible leader in another context. I would say that people are born with different personalities and that leaders are gifted, out of which they are made. I consider leadership as a lifelong process that God does in a person. I consider God to be the developer of a leader in the end. There is certain training that we can do. A leader is to equip, inspire, and release people into their calling. People that consider themselves leaders in organizations, a lot of times, are people that I wouldn’t consider a leader. I’d call them managers.
Jeremy: How can people put themselves in a position to influence our culture?
Dr. Jackson: You have to have an incarnational perspective. Meaning, first of all you have to be in the culture. You have to be in the culture but not of the culture. Then, identifying with the heart of God for that culture. What emerges out of that are the vehicles of relationship and communication. Today, if you are not doing this online, you are not impacting this culture. But, I can be online and still not have an impact on this culture if I don’t have a heart, or a real understanding, or a grasp of what are the issues of that culture. The incarnational component to me is the heart of God. Identifying with a culture, and then the online is simply a tool that you are able to interact the Gospel message and Gospel Truth through. You have to have new wineskins or else you’re not identifying.
Jeremy: Why are you a follower of Jesus?
Dr. Jackson: For whatever reason, God sovereignly intervened in my life. I say this theologically but I really mean it. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. I was out of high school and I came to the Lord in Amsterdam, Holland. It was a sovereign experience. God initiated His involvement in my life. I didn’t figure Him out. But it was also out of a time of really searching for truth. My heart was really searching for truth too.
Jeremy: What do you do personally do keep your spiritual life active and healthy?
Dr. Jackson: I’m engaged Biblically. Staying as a seeker of truth. I’m very much a learner. I approach it as that. I try to be engaged in the global movement of God. Being involved in core trends and activities that involve people and engaging in those. The vehicles through which that come out is through teaching. The online expression is a means of doing that as well. I consider myself always in formation, always in development. Even now I feel that I’m entering into a whole new phase of understanding and development.
Jeremy: What is your hope for the future of the Church in America?
Dr. Jackson: I have tremendous hope if the Church is serious about seeking the kingdom of God. I have a kingdom oriented vision of the Church. I have no hope, or very little hope, of cultural impact or advancement with a church (organization, mechanism) mentality. But I have tremendous hope in God. God can do amazing things no matter how bad things get or look. I did my Doctorate in church renewal movements through history. There have been historical pictures of tremendous darkness, even American history, of decline, where people become very pessimistic about the Church. I come out of that with tremendous hope that God is able to do greater things than we can imagine or think in culture. But there has to be a movement of kingdom believers. I’m really a believer in kingdom prayer, kingdom worship, and kingdom aspirations and hope. If the Church is not a steward of the kingdom than it has no purpose for existing. But, if the Church does exist to serve the kingdom of God, then I have great hope.
Jeremy: Should we abandon the use of the word “Christian” for a better term? If so, what?
Dr. Jackson: I’m not one to think that removing a term, like the name Christian, just to do it, has any value. Live what you are. If you call yourself a Christian or if you call yourself a Jesus follower than that is fine. Even if you call yourself a Jesus follower and don’t live for Jesus than it is going to do the same thing. I think there are different contexts for how you should use the term. You have to be sensitive. It is good to try to redefine what it means. The Biblical truth of when in Antioch they called them Christians; what did that mean? Maybe there are other terms that can bring content to it. I don’t think we need to throw it out thinking that it is spiritual but I do think that we need to bring content to it. Utilizing other terms isn’t bad. It can be a good way to help people. I’ve been doing missionary work to Turkey since 89′ and the idea of using the word Christian there is deadly. So we have to use other terms. So it is relevant, especially in the global world that we are living in. It’s really what’s coming out of your life. I like the idea of being a “Kingdom Christian.”
Jeremy: What blogs/websites do you regularly check?
Dr. Jackson: There are a variety of kinds of websites that I check, not necessarily on a daily basis.
Andrew Jones – http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/
Mark D. Roberts – http://www.markdroberts.com/
Tim Challies – http://www.challies.com/
Jeremy Pierce – http://parablemania.ektopos.com/
Hugh Hewitt – http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/blog
Jeremy: What books/authors have shaped your thinking?
Dr. Jackson: George Eldon Ladd and Howard Snyder have written a handful of great books on the kingdom of God. Many of the emerging church issues were happening during the Jesus Movement. That’s where they are all coming from.
Jeremy: Any other thoughts or advice?
Dr. Jackson: Discipleship cannot happen outside of community. And that’s one of the main themes of the emerging church. But I’m not sure that the emerging church grasps community as much as just hanging relationally. Community is pretty sacrificial.
To see other Off the Record interviews click here.