Angela Weszely (00:49):
Hi, welcome back to the podcast. So glad you've joined us as we have new nonpolitical conversations about the abortion issue. And today I'm really glad to welcome my guest, Dr. Alvin Sanders, president and CEO of World Impact. Great to have you here today, Dr. Sanders.
Dr. Sanders (01:11):
Glad to be with you, Angela. Thanks for having me.
Angela Weszely (01:14):
Yeah, I'm really excited. We're going to talk about the study that you all partnered with Barna on called Inside the Urban Church, which we both care deeply about. But first I'd love to hear more about what you do, your vision for the Urban Church and why you partnered with Barna for this study.
Dr. Sanders (01:32):
Yeah, so I'm President, c e o of World Impact, and the vision of World Impact is see a healthy church in every community of poverty. So the world has a problem and that is that 95% of its pastors have no formal theological training. And we believe that's because the training is not affordable and accessible enough. So we want to train pastors and communities of poverty around the world bringing the training to the mental way that's affordable and accessible because we believe trained urban pastors lead to healthier churches, which leads to community engagement, which leads to flourishing neighborhoods. And that's essentially why we partnered with Barna for this study. We wanted to actually test and see if our theory of change actually is true and we're happy to report that it is based on this research.
Angela Weszely (02:26):
And can you talk about that? That was actually my first question. I highlighted in the study your theory of change and what comes through as your love for the church. So talk about that a little bit more. Your vision, your theory of how we can see the church really be the church.
Dr. Sanders (02:42):
Yes. So we believe that the church is a major part of urban institute, urban communities, I should say. I know people sometimes they shudder because they don't like to think of the church as an institution, but the reality is that the church plays an institutional role and it's the institutions that help shape society. So religious institutions play key roles, and we believe that the local Christian Church, if you find that there's something good happening in a neighborhood, nine times out of 10, a local urban church, it's connected to it or an originator of it. So like I said earlier, we wanted to test that hypothesis and we found a number of things in this study that healthy churches engaging their community really does contribute to the flourishing of the neighborhood.
Angela Weszely (03:33):
And I totally saw that the study. And so I want to start with what jumped out at you. Were you surprised by anything? I have so many questions to ask you because our passion is to see the church leaning in the abortion issue for flourishing exactly like you're talking about. So what jumped out at you from the research that shows where this is being done? Well,
Dr. Sanders (03:52):
The biggest thing that jumps out is the fact that contrary to a lot of studies about churches in their communities, urban churches are seen in a very positive light by both the civic leaders, the church and the unchurched. People really don't have a hangup with the urban church. Of course, the urban church is not perfect, but it's seen in a very positive light, particularly amongst those who attend urban churches. 91% of them said that they believed in their pastor and that the pastor had their best interest in mind. And you kind of think, oh yeah, that's a no-brainer. But again, that's a outlier in all of the other research that's going on in this present church, I guess for lack of a better term, deconstruction moment. So that's a huge thing that the church folk believe that their pastor has their best interest in mind. Therefore, they're willing to follow the pastorals lead if that pastor decides that they want to engage the community for the common good, and those who are unchurched as well, they expect the church to engage the community, even if they don't go to it, they still believe that the church has a prominent moral voice for their neighborhood and for the city for that matter.
Angela Weszely (05:21):
And I really was interested, and I read your summary in the research, what jumped out is one of the main issues both the church and the unchurched people think the church could address in the community is loneliness. They see the church as having an answer for that. When you think about that, what are the implications for that in terms of the kingdom, what God's calling us to do that, that's one of the biggest things we can do is offer community.
Dr. Sanders (05:48):
That was a pleasant surprise. The church, when they look at the church, they just see the church as one of many different institutions can help their neighborhood be a better place. But when asked, Hey, well, how can the church really, really help your neighborhood be a better place? It was addressing the problem of loneliness or belonging. I call belonging. It's sort of like you think of Starbucks, right? Starbucks famous for building its model on the third space concept. It's not work, it's not home. Really what Starbucks is creating for you is a third space, a communal space. And oh, by the way, have some coffee, but think about how many times have you said, Hey, meet me at Starbucks for a meeting. You didn't want it as intimate as your house, but you also didn't want it in a sort of stodgy office. You wanted a casual place where you can meet with somebody and just engage and talk with.
Well, people kind of see the church that way. They're in their community, they're lonely, they're looking for really a place to belong, and the church is a trusted place that they can come and they can feel like they can engage. Especially when it comes to things like for instance, when a George Floyd situation happens, they're looking for spaces for social solidarity to be able to work out what they're thinking concerning justice issues and issues with marginalized folk. They see the church as a safe space that they can wrestle with and work these things out. Obviously church folks see it that way, but also unchurch folk and civic leaders look the churches to help them figure out the moral issues of the day, which is a huge opportunity for the church to be able to engage its community.
Angela Weszely (07:37):
Yeah, absolutely. And I don't have the studies in front of me. We'll link some in the show notes, but what's bubbling up inside me is people who are writing on the fact that we have an epidemic of loneliness in this country. There's generational issues with it, so it's harder for Gen Z. I just wonder if this isn't a moment where God wants to do a new thing where I'm trying to frame this. We've been so focused on the church, I don't know, maybe standing for moral issues. And clearly we know God has the best way for all of us to live. That's so true. Is God highlighting to us that we're missing an even deeper human need that he created the church to fulfill, which is belonging, like you said, and that it's actually in community and belonging where we're able to better live out those lives, to have support for that, to have care. But I just wonder if, and I don't want to talk negatively of the church, I agree with you. I love the church as well, but I think there's some learning in here, like you say, as we're deconstructing a bit, maybe have we thought about that enough as being important, the role of us being a family to each other and to our community? And I don't know what you have to say in the context of the urban church with that.
Dr. Sanders (08:51):
Yeah, I mean, we live in a, I would say we suffer in a time of hyper individualization. Yes, I agree. Everything is so succinctly individualized that community and belonging has been forgotten. But the great thing about the church, regardless of what era that we're in, human beings are always going to need a place to belong. And a lot of people overlook the fact that the Bible is written as a community book, so to speak, when the Bible speaks, it's never talking to us individually. We take it and we apply it individually, and that doesn't hurt anything, but it's always assumed that the Christian life is going to be lived in community. I mean, what drives me crazy is when people say stuff like, oh, well, I don't need to go to church. I can just meet with my friends at Starbucks. And where two or three are gather together in it name, that's the church.
I lose my mind when I hear that because that is a misapplication of scripture. That is not the church. That's you and your friends having a good time at Starbucks. The church has so many other aspects of it. We've already talked about the institutional aspect, but it's a place of worship, it's a place of evangelism, it's a place of authentic relationships and fellowship. It's a place where we do life together and everything that we see in the scriptures is written to a community of people, whether it's the community of people as the tribe of Israel or whether it's the community of people in the New Testament as the church, but it's remarkably simple. Angela, if the church will actually focus on being the church, they will address this loneliness thing. We can have all the bells and whistles we want. We can have the l e d screen behind us and the smoke screen and the whatever you want to call it. That's not what people are looking for. This study says, this study says at least folk in the urban environment, they're like, man, I'm awfully lonely and I am willing to look to the church to meet me in this place of loneliness. A great opportunity for the church just to be the church.
Angela Weszely (11:09):
Absolutely. And from your experience in your work or what you saw in the research, what are some of the top ways the church can start doing this in this cultural reality? I know you mentioned people who are marginalized. We have a passion for those facing unintended pregnancy or abortion at the same time, all of us have struggles and challenges where we feel alone with it. So what can the church do to be better able to address the loneliness factor? Why aren't people, well, I'll say our research shows when they're considering abortion, they don't run to the church for community and help. What are we doing that's blocking being that community for people who need us? And what does your study show? How can we overcome that and like you say, start to be the church and be a welcoming safe community?
Dr. Sanders (11:57):
Yes. So when someone's in the city and they're looking and they have an issue like say abortion or whatever it may be, if they don't have a Christian background, you wouldn't expect them to look to the church. They don't even know what the church is, but they are going to look for a place like Grace or they're going to look for another place or somewhere to help them deal with whatever the issues that they're working with. So it's very important then that the church puts itself in partnerships with different organizations so that these organizations know the services that a church offers. So for instance, two of the biggest outreach services that churches offer in urban environments are food pantry and counseling services. So one of the research says is one of the weaknesses is that a lot of the other institutions within the community do not know what their local churches offer. So we've done a poor job of, we've done a great job of offering the services. We've done a poor job of, for lack of a better term, advertising the services and letting the people know in the neighborhood, Hey, we're here,
So we're here. So it'd be like when someone comes into a pregnancy care center and they say, I'm thinking about having an abortion. I don't know what to do. How powerful would it be if it's Christian Bay that you or whatever group could say, Hey, here's four or five pastors you could talk to about this issue, pastor, that pastor that you have vetted pastors that are going to help that person come to a great decision about what they want to do with the situation that they're in and show a lot of grace and not show a lot of political leanings and things of that nature. So that's how the neighborhood gets to know, oh, if you're an unchurched person, I can go to the church for this. It's like, absolutely, you can go to church and you could talk to 'em about that. It's that third space of solidarity, so to speak, of partnership. You cannot be a successful urban church unless you're partnering with the institutions within your community and doing things that local churches do really well to help bring, if you think about it, like this ecosystem, like a neighborhood ecosystem, so to speak.
Angela Weszely (14:26):
Yeah, no, I love that. And I'm sitting here thinking, I'm sure there are institutions that, like you say, are in the urban context that people know to go to them. Sadly, in this space, even the data is that a lot of people don't approach pregnancy care centers either. Now that could be because abortion has these other pieces to it where it's so politicized that we know, and we're working on removing it from the politics. But you're talking about advertising. I just started having an idea bubbling up, and I thought, I read about this in your research, how much of this is the institutional church advertising and how much is the urban Christian being honest with their neighbors and saying like, Hey, I was struggling with fill in the blank, and I went to my church for help. I was just sitting here thinking, how can we change the brand as you will, the reputation? And I know we always talk about the institution, but I just was thinking about individual believers. I'm putting myself in this. I live in an urban community. What I tell my neighbors that when I was struggling with my marriage, I look to my church to set me up with a counselor. Like that takes a lot of courage. But could we be part of shifting that perception and we're painting the picture of the church as being this place people can go to.
Dr. Sanders (15:39):
Well, back in its old school days, we called that given a testimony. We did being a witness. We
Angela Weszely (15:46):
Dr. Sanders (15:46):
Remember doing evangelism, right? Yeah. I mean, one of my pet peeves, Angela, is people say, oh, I don't know how to do evangelism. Well if the gospel, which literally means the good news in the original languages, right? Yeah. And I always tell people, have you ever needed a class to tell people the good news about their life? If you're married and you want to have a child and you've been struggling to have a child, and then all of a sudden after a year you all get pregnant, does anybody have to give you a class to tell people we're pregnant? No, you're excited and you tell people about the good news that you have. And really that's all the scriptures ask us to do is to tell people when God shows up in our lives, whether they're Christian or not Christian, just share with them, Hey, God's blessed me. Hey, this has happened. You don't need a track. You don't need a class if you're really walking with the Lord. And as you said earlier, you tell people about your struggles. You tell people how God has moved in your life and in your heart, and I believe that people who are interested in moving closer to God spiritually, then they'll ask you questions and follow up. Tell me more. And the more vulnerable that we are, then that's when people share vulnerable things.
I just found out that I'm pregnant. I'm not really sure what I'm going to do. The best way that the gospel spreads is through personal relationships, us being authentic in our faith to God, and then being vulnerable to those around them so that people know that they can come to us.
Angela Weszely (17:30):
Yeah, I'm sitting back here and we'll also link, we did a podcast with Christie Vine. So I think because part of a community, praxis community, she's part of that, but the power of empathetic listening, and I find that I was just at an event Saturday night, I met a brand new friend, we have a high school student in, and she started telling me that one of her children transitioned genders. And I just started asking questions and it was actually just a beautiful conversation, Alvin, and it was interesting saying this because at the end she said to me, oh, I'm sorry for telling you all that. Almost like that's not a normal thing we do, but I felt like it was a sacred moment. I wanted to hear that. So there's the other piece of us being curious about other people and asking the questions, like you say, I find that sometimes comes first before I share my own, right? Yes. And I think one of the problems is we're in a social media world where we feel we have to post on our viewpoint on an issue, and that could actually be cutting off relationship where we could just listen to someone. So I don't know how you see that in an urban context where people live so close together. How can we be, we're talking about being better neighbors. We, I mean more interested in our neighbor.
Dr. Sanders (18:50):
Yes. If you wanted to sum up the entirety of the study, it's the State Farm jingle, like a good neighbor, state farm. Is there a good neighbor, the church is there, a good neighbor? The congregation is there. That's essentially the summation of the study. Be a good neighbor institutionally to your neighborhood. Be a good neighbor personally to your neighborhood because that's what people, that's the entry point, the people understanding and knowing who Jesus Christ is.
Angela Weszely (19:22):
And what is your advice? I know you do this a lot for folks listening to this podcast. Like I say, our specific issue is abortion, but we understand that when we value all people and lead with grace, it does touch a lot of issues. So what did the study show? How can we be a better neighbor and how can our churches be a better neighbor when people are struggling? I know there's actual data of what people wanted to see the church address, right? Community and relationships like we've been talking about, but also family instability, healthcare, income, housing, those really important things. What does that tell us about some avenues we have for being a good neighbor?
Dr. Sanders (20:01):
Well, really, I wrote a book on this shameless book, plug. I love it. I wrote a book on this called Uncommon Church. Yes. It's called Uncommon Church Community Transformation for the Common Good, which talks in depth and answers the question that you're talking about. But essentially there's three main things that the church needs to do. One is empower. Empower people, create pathways of opportunities, especially for the marginalized that's in the neighborhood. Give them the opportunity that if they want to, because they're their own free moral agents, but if they want to have a better life, give them the opportunity to do that. So as a former pastor, former urban pastor, the ways that our church did that is two ways. One, well, actually three ways. One was we did tutoring for the local elementary school. We had an center where kids could come, they can do their homework.
We would encourage them. We would help them to become better learners. We also had a food pantry, food pantry that helped people in the neighborhood who were struggling to eat. And then we also had a partnership with a local university that did health checks. So people could come in, they could get their food on one side, and then if they wanted to, they can go ask for a couple of health questionnaires, get a couple of screenings and say if they had diabetes, then they'd say, Hey, look, you have diabetes. You need to go around the corner to the health clinic or whatever. It's at the other. So we did a lot of things and really anything that you think that your church can do to help empower people in the community to have better lives, that's one thing you can do. Then we also talked about the other thing, which is partnership that don't be isolated. Join the neighborhood councils, the gazillion different neighborhood councils that you have. Pick one, join it. I'm trying to remember what we, oh, we were part of the Chamber of Commerce. I'd go to the Chamber of Commerce meetings. You say, well, why is the pastor to Chamber of Commerce meetings? Well, I'm going to meet all the local business people.
I'm going to hang out with them. I'm going to hear what they have planned for the neighborhood. I'm going to look for opportunities to where the church can be positioned to be able to engage. So partner as best you can with as many of the different entities within the community. And so empower and partner. If we empower and partner with people, then it leads to the reaching of our community for Christ, which ultimately, at the end of the day, if you're a church, that's what you want to see happen. You want to see people come to the faith. You want to see their lives change. You want to see their lives transformed. You want to see God rise. We want them to understand that God is bigger than the circumstances that they find themselves in. So that's sort of what I talk about in the book, empower, partner, reach, reach, and that brings the common good of the community that helps the community become a better place, and that's how you could become a good neighbor.
Angela Weszely (22:52):
Yeah, that's great. And I'm sitting here, okay, I've never been a pastor, but I have led an organization, talk to a lot of pastors, and I think as soon as I hear Empower and all these programs, I get tired like, oh my gosh, we got to start a food pantry. So I love that you lead right into partner because what we're finding is there's a lot of people doing good work, and if we would lay aside whatever we need to lay aside as churches and organizations and start to work together and trust. I agree with you. I think partnership is the answer. Because I don't know if you've seen this, but I feel like sometimes churches can get so busy building programs that what gets left out is actually the being a safe community or let's say having a program for a marginalized group, but not addressing, not discipling people into accepting that group fully into the church.
So we have this kind of dichotomy, where are we judging the people that we're trying to empower? And the church has a unique opportunity to kind of shift their D n A to be safe and welcoming as opposed to spending all their time on programs where they can partner with other people to do that. So like we talked on a microcosm about being a good neighbor and asking questions, but how about empowering the congregation to be safe and welcoming, to not just think about the food pantry, but think about welcoming those folks into the church or that's a huge thing. In the abortion issue, I would say people have said, oh, we'll refer people to this other nonprofit, but then I've talked to pastors like, well, how would I welcome? And they'll use words like those women unintentionally Alvin. But you know what I'm talking about? Well, how do I welcome people back in the church? So it's like, what's that beautiful piece about grace and the gospel that the church holds uniquely that goes beyond programs and speaks to the actual environment that would be welcoming for people who feel like they have nowhere else to go?
Dr. Sanders (24:49):
I'm not going to be as hard on programs as you are because programs are a good thing. That's good.
Angela Weszely (24:53):
No, you good pushback. That's awesome. But
Dr. Sanders (24:55):
Too many, but you are correct in that too many of them is a bad thing. The key to the programs is the right program for your situation. So for instance, I talked about when I did pasture and we did a food pantry. We didn't do a food pantry because hey, we just like to do a food pantry. That's not why we did the food pantry. We did the food pantry because we use the phenomenal resource that I recommend and should probably put in the show notes called Asset-Based Community Development.
Angela Weszely (25:24):
Absolutely. We'll put it,
Dr. Sanders (25:25):
Which is a group out of DePaul University will train leaders and churches on how to do what is called community asset mapping. You literally go out into your neighborhood and you build on and you find out what are the assets in the neighborhood. Because most of the time when a urban neighborhood is looked at, it's looked at it for its deficits. It's the age o question. It's the glass, it's the glass half empty versus it's the glass has full, right? Well, asset asset-based community development says that's the wrong question. The question is how much water is in the glass and how can we raise the water level in the glass if we look at water as an asset? Yes. Right. So what we did was we went out and we mapped our neighborhood. I love this. And what we found out was that if you were homeless, a destitute, there were plenty of food for you, places for you to eat and stuff like that.
But the group that was suffering was what I would call the service industry moms. You heard of soccer moms? Well, these are service industry moms. These are women who mainly worked in service industries. They had enough money to cover about three weeks of groceries, but that fourth week is what was the deficit. So we opened up a specialized pantry for working people. If you were working but you didn't have enough money to make it through the month, we'd give you what we called one week's emergency supply of groceries to help you make that fourth week. So that that's the type of programs that a church should do the church to say, we're looking at all of our partners. We're looking at everything in the neighborhood that is happening, but the neighborhood doesn't have this. So then let's deliver whatever this is. So that's the macro answer to your question. I love that. The micro answer is I'm going to pitch shamelessly again, another program that World Impact actually offers, which is we train churches on how to do trauma healing. So there are, particularly within the urban context, there are so many things that happen to people and it traumatizes them.
So we teach churches how to start trauma healing groups, trauma healing circles. This is not meant to be counseling, but provide trauma-informed care. So for instance, if someone comes in and they've experienced an abortion, which is a traumatic experience, this is what the church could do with this person, this is what they can do with the individual to help 'em start to emerge from that trauma experience. That's one of the best things. I think I'm biased, we have several programs, but I believe at World Impact, maybe our most impactful one might be our trauma healing training. Trauma healing program.
Angela Weszely (28:24):
I love that. And I can see that tying into what we talked about before, which is people in the church go through this program and God meets them there, and then that's there. As we talked about testimony, this is where if the churches are doing this
Dr. Sanders (28:38):
For our own
Angela Weszely (28:38):
People, then we can be open as we're having discussions and talk about that healing. To me, that's what creates a level playing field that I'm talking about. How can the church be welcoming?
Dr. Sanders (28:49):
Angela Weszely (28:51):
Yeah. I love the focus of your food pantry on moms who are struggling. What was that like? I dunno if you have a story, what was that like for your congregation to interact with people from the community and did some of those women find a home in your church? What was that connection like where, I know you're offering an institutional program, but I'm guessing you were using church folk to do it, and how did that impact certain women and their lives and their kids?
Dr. Sanders (29:19):
Well, the funny thing, Angela, is we had what I called a community congregation that developed. So we created that third space that we talked about before you come to the food pantry, you get your food. We had a health check station. You could go and you could get your health check. But then we found people wanted prayer.
Angela Weszely (29:42):
Dr. Sanders (29:42):
Love this. So not only did we have a health check station, we created a spiritual check in station. So one of our staff would be back in the back or a church member. And so then people would get their food, and this is all voluntary. They can get their food, they can get their health taken, and they can go, they could have prayer. They say, well do, what do you want me pray for? Wow. And so what we found out is people actually, I remember talking one time, this is funny. I was talking to this lady and I was doing the pastor thing and I was like, Hey, I'd love for you to come to our church on Sunday. She said, oh, where are you pastor? I said, river Flight Church. She said, oh, that's my church. And I go, basically, I'm going, I've never seen you there. She said, oh no. Yeah, I come to the food pantry every Saturday
Angela Weszely (30:29):
And that's her church.
Dr. Sanders (30:30):
So basically this folk for the community, they sold that as their church. They did not see that as their food pantry because they were coming there for their food, but then they were going to talk to, his name was Pastor Arnold Davis. They'd hang with Pastor Davis and he'd prayed for 'em and he'd encourage them and he'd mentor. And for them, that was their service.
Angela Weszely (30:48):
I love that.
Dr. Sanders (30:49):
So yeah, very few made the bridge from Saturday to Sunday, but they were getting ministered to,
Angela Weszely (30:56):
And you guys figured out intentionally how to cross that line, how to go where people were, and I just think that's a beautiful picture of church being outside the walls intentionally. That's great. Wow.
Dr. Sanders (31:10):
Well, it's, it's that third space. It's that social solidarity third space. So ours was food pantry and a health check, and then when people entered into that space, they let us know we'd like something spiritual back here, which I don't know about you, but my best things that have happened to me, I've sort of stumbled into. I didn't originate and just say, oh yeah, I'm going to do this from the start. No, I just kind of stumbled into it and said, oh, this works. Let's do this.
Angela Weszely (31:42):
Right, exactly. No, yeah. And then you look back 10 years later like, oh Lord, was that you or was that just me stumbling? So yes, I get that. I wanted to ask one last question and appreciate your insight on this. There was a bit that came out in the study about working towards racial unity among churches, and I know it wasn't a focus of it, but it's really important to us. I just feel like Christians need to be united. If we're going to meet, the needs are out there. We got to be one kingdom family. And so I didn't know if you wanted to speak to how could we do a better job in this? I know we're working on it, but what's yet still to be done? What can we learn for specifically urban churches or you did some research actually with non-urban churches too. What do you see as a pathway forward for us to, and I think this is a testimony to Jesus, to the community, if the church can be united and if we can apologize and repent and work towards unity, I mean, what a demonstration to our community. So love to hear your thoughts on that from the study or from your work with World Impact.
Dr. Sanders (32:51):
Well, this is another shameless book plug. So a book that I wrote years ago, let's call Bridging the Diversity Gap. And the bottom line is, when it comes to racial and ethnic issues, we need to understand the differences and act on the commonalities because there are differences. Wait,
Angela Weszely (33:11):
Dr. Sanders (33:12):
Does nobody understand the differences act on the commonalities?
Angela Weszely (33:17):
That's what doesn't happen. Okay. Yeah, go ahead with what you're saying. I just wanted to repeat it so people got it.
Dr. Sanders (33:21):
Yes, no, no. So for instance, I'm an African American male, you're a white female, there's going to be obvious differences. What happens typically is people highlight the differences in and weaponize them, but if I were to draw a circle as an African-American Christian man and you were to draw a circle as a white Christian woman, I could almost guarantee you that our values, attitudes, and beliefs, if we put all our values, attitudes, and beliefs in those circles, probably seven to 80% of them with overlap and then anywhere from 10 to 30% would be different. It's the overlapping of the values and attitudes and beliefs that we have as human beings, which curates the common ground for us to see each other as human and to work together. So that's the high level of what needs to happen. Yeah.
Angela Weszely (34:16):
Well, and as Christians, I would guess a lot of our values overlap because of the time we spend with Jesus and the value we place on his words. And to your point, if churches, if we start there, I think what's happening is, and this is my plug for what we're doing at Prograce, we assign ourselves political positions on things instead of kingdom positions. And so if you and I, we may be different politically, but we don't even need to discuss that because we're going to have some real commonality in how we say Jesus shows up for people. And man, if the church could focus on that and unite around that to start having the harder discussions, to your point of the 10 to 30%,
Dr. Sanders (34:58):
Angela Weszely (34:58):
What could that look like?
Dr. Sanders (35:00):
Yes. So it's not that politics aren't important, they're absolutely important, but it's the way that the politics are positioned, which makes them toxic and makes conversations almost impossible to have when it comes to politics. Instead of declaring war on individuals, we need to, if we are acting on our commonalities, then we can begin to understand, okay, what are the differences and why do you think this way politically, and this is why I think this way politically and then engaging one another because it actually is possible to have a good political discussion as long as people really know each other. It's just like anything else. If I really know you, then I can talk to you about hard things, but if I don't know you well, then you're going to get pigeonholed and stereotype as a particular person because I don't really know you. I don't know your heart. I dunno where you're coming from, but there's all kinds of people I have great friendships with that we don't agree with on everything from politics to sports, to you naming it. Right, but it doesn't kill our relationship.
Angela Weszely (36:07):
You built that trust, and I think that's what acting on commonalities does. I'm sure there's brain science on this somewhere. We're checking to see if people are safe, and as we understand the commonalities, it allows us to feel like, oh, this person shares this value. I can be safe. And you're right. That's when we can talk about the differences. But it's almost flipped now in society sometimes with the way we dialogue, and we got to get back to that acting on commonality. I think that's beautiful.
Dr. Sanders (36:36):
Yeah. Now it's a hyperfocus on differences, and the scary part is it's not only a hyperfocus on differences. If you are different from me, you are my enemy. That's the scary thing. You're a bad person if you think different from me not entering into a, it's a very uncivil moment. In fact, there are people who wrote whole think pieces on the reason we shouldn't be civil against civility. And it's like, well, if we lose civility, good luck with trying to run a productive society
Angela Weszely (37:16):
Because society is focused on our commonalities and the things we all want, safety, belonging. That's what it's supposed to be built on,
Dr. Sanders (37:27):
A unified functioning society is. But I don't know how you run a society if the focus is always on differences, really the weaponizing of differences.
Angela Weszely (37:39):
Maybe that's why we sense God doing this thing where he is calling the church to focus on unity, the commonality we have in Christ, could we lead the way in our culture? I believe he's given us a roadmap like you talked about. I mean, we have to. I think maybe in other generations, maybe we weren't as aware of it, but it's so glaring right now in the culture that I do think it's a unique opportunity for the church to step forward with the commonality, and maybe that's what makes us feel safe. Back to that whole first thing we talked about, maybe that's the light shining in the community is they know they're safe, they're welcome. We're focusing on common good. You use that word. And just the commonality we have in Jesus of we're under his grace, come as you are type thing. What a haven the church would be from like you talked about the divisiveness that's in society now.
Dr. Sanders (38:31):
Yeah. Yeah. Amen. You might be a preacher. Angela, I
Angela Weszely (38:36):
Thanks for not
Dr. Sanders (38:36):
Challenging me on that.
Angela Weszely (38:40):
I appreciate this.
Dr. Sanders (38:41):
Angela Weszely (38:42):
This has been so great, Alvin, and we will put your books in the show notes and the link to your organization and just any last words you have for us of encouragement before we wrap out this podcast.
Dr. Sanders (38:55):
Well, I would just want to say that I'm very appreciative of you and the work that you're doing with Prograce because the space that you're trying to create, that space of trying to talk about the issue of abortion in a graceful way and in a way that's nonpolitical is so rare. Unfortunately it's too rare, but I just want to encourage you to continue on that journey. Your voice is definitely needed because we need more spaces like yours that you're trying to create for the young women and men actually who need places to process things. Our good friend Chris, I'll never forget, she told us avail, she told me the stat, I'll never forget it, that the overwhelming majority of the women who get abortions don't want to get one. They don't want to get one. And so if that's an opportunity for the church to say, if most of them are looking just to get some questions answered, and if you can help them understand and get the questions answered that they're looking for, that they'll keep the baby, that's the road forward, not politics,
Angela Weszely (40:07):
In my opinion. Well, you're absolutely right. And that's why I love what you're doing because we need the church because it's actually a survival decision a lot of times, and women feel like there's no other way. And so the type of community we've been talking about today is exactly what women and their partners and their families need. So I love that we're partnering together like you talk about, and I think that this is the way forward for the church. So blessings to you and your work and so grateful for what you do and that you were with us today. It's great talking with you.
Dr. Sanders (40:40):
Yes, thank you, Angela. Appreciate it.