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Q&A with Barnabas Piper
Evan: Tell us about yourself?
Barnabas: I am married to Lauren and the father of Grace and Dianne. We love living in the Nashville area and taking advantage of the beautiful outdoors for hiking, the readily available live music, and the wonderful restaurants.
I serve as one of the pastors at Immanuel Church in Nashville. Prior being called into pastoral ministry I worked in Christian publishing and leadership development for nearly fifteen years. I grew up in the church, quite literally, since I was a pastor’s kid until I turned 30. For the most part I loved the church, but I had (and in many ways still have) a complicated relationship with it. I have never left it, but I have certainly resented it at points. For a long time I was certain I would never become a pastor; that sounded awful. But God moves in mysterious ways and chuckles when we say “never.” And I am deeply thankful for that.
Aside from ministry and family I love reading and try to read widely–fiction, history, biography, theology, social sciences, etc. And I love watching sports, especially my beloved Minnesota teams. But, like the church, I have a complicated relationship with them and have definitely resented them at times.
Evan: What led you to write Belong?
Barnabas: When the opportunity to write a short book on what it means to find belonging at a church was presented to me, thanks to friends in the Acts 29 Network and at The Good Book Company, I jumped at it. The idea for the whole series is fantastic, but this particular aspect of loving your church resonated deeply with me. I have been part of churches for my entire life. I have always loved the church, in concept. But at various times I have felt like an outsider, I have seen the ugliness, I have been on the receiving end of sin, and I have struggled to understand why and how to belong to a church. (And I have certainly contributed plenty of immaturity, bad attitude, and selfishness to the mix.)
A few years ago, 2016-2017, I had basically reached a point where I was committed to being part of a church out of obedience but had given up on real community or joy or belonging in it. That all sort of seemed idealistic. But then the Lord, through friends and unpredictable events, led me to Immanuel. Over the course of the next year or two I discovered what belonging and community and joy can look like in the church, primarily because of the church body. The leaders were wonderful, but it was the members who embodied belonging on a week-to-week basis for me. (That’s why I dedicated the book to my community group.)
Now I have the privilege of serving as a pastor at this church that has taught me so much and cared for me so well. I get to help foster and protect and feed the kind of Jesus-reflecting culture that meant so much to me. Immanuel hasn’t cornered the market on this. It’s something God can do through so many churches. That’s what this book is born out of–a desire to share this amazing reality that is rooted in God’s word with as many weary or cynical or just new people as possible.
Evan: What do you hope readers will take away from it?
Barnabas: To use biblical words (this is a church book after all), I hope people are encouraged and exhorted.
So many people are just worn out from trying to find a true church home. They have been disappointed. They have been hurt. They feel like they’re on the outside looking in or like they don;t measure up. Or they’re relatively new to church and it’s all just overwhelming. My hope is that Belong will encourage them by showing what is possible in God’s design, what churches can look like, and how they can participate in it (even if they feel like they have nothing to offer).
Some folks need some exhortation, though. They are bringing unhelpful and unbiblical expectations to church. They are holding a grudge against a past church and it’s hurting their relationship with their current church. They are hanging out on the fringes of church waiting for belonging to just happen instead of taking the risk of investing themselves. My hope is that Belong will be a gentle, but unignorable, urging into God’s design and promise for the church.
Mostly, I pray that this book would lift burdens and remove barriers that hinder people from deeply giving themselves to the body of Christ and deeply receiving the love and healing and rest and joy that can be found there.
Thank you Barnabas for doing the Q&A! I’m thankful for your work with Belong! Be in prayer for him, his family, and the ministry of Immanuel Nashville.
To purchase a copy of Belong, click here.
Free Small Group Kit for Belong, click here.