I figured getting an interview with Mark Galli was a long shot. Galli had just retired from his position at Christianity Today, going out with a scathing indictment of the Trump administration that landed him on pretty much every major media outlet. But, hey, he had this new book out and maybe he’d like to talk about something other than Donald Trump for once. And maybe it was that, or maybe it was the fact that we did this interview as COVID was sweeping the country and everything was shut down, but Mark graciously agreed to an interview.
It was a wonderful conversation. I scheduled publication for a Monday in April, then got busy with a cross-country move and dealing with disentangling from a ministry position and a secular job as we navigated COVID. It wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I realized the interview never posted and was just hanging out in WordPress, still marked “scheduled” for a date long past due. Whoops.
So, with apologies, listen into my conversation with Mark Galli as he answers the question When Did We Start Forgetting God?
The Interview | When Did We Start Forgetting God
This excerpt has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity. You can listen to the full interview by clicking the play button above or subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Josh Olds: You said the church is not a very efficient institution for making a difference in the world. And that part of the sentence just taken by itself, I think could be a very inflammatory sentence, but what that got me to thinking about is that the church needs to do that which the church can uniquely do. Instead, we spend a lot of time and effort and money and resources doing things in our name, in the name of the church, that could be better done, more cheaply done, more efficiently done, by other types of organizations. And, you know, when we do those things, when we try to take credit primarily for those things, those secondary things, we lose out on that which we can uniquely do, which is the worship of God.
Mark Galli: Yeah, I mean, a great example of that was a decade or so ago, we began to see some dramatic turn in the alleviation of poverty worldwide. I mean, the numbers were staggering. When people started doing research into what happened with this, well, the main thing that happened is that China and India in particular—their governments opened up possibilities for essentially small businesses, and large businesses, to have a little more freedom to operate. They were able to make take steps that made differences to millions and millions of people. And it really made a huge difference.
When I made the argument in my article at Christianity Today, that the church is really not the best institution to help the poor, it’s this sort of thing I had in mind. One of the things that the church can do in the midst of that is, governments being bureaucratic as they are, they might have programs that allow businesses to get started, they might have social programs that alleviate some of the worst aspects of poverty, food stamps and welfare and etc. but they tend to they tend to apply all these things so sweepingly and so impersonally. And the church can come along and kind of help people know that while you’re getting money or you’re getting opportunities like you never have then we’re here to kind of show you something called love in a very personal way.
…That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start a food closet. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have the homeless live in our gymnasiums one day a week, like other churches in the community do…the phrases that talk about transforming the world, changing the world—In fact of the most recent cover of my former magazine basically said, “How can we in the Coronavirus still change the world?”—and I just I just think that’s the wrong question. Our job isn’t to change the world. It’s God’s job to change the world. Our job, if anything is to change ourselves, and to love the world, The better question would be how do we love the world in the middle of the Coronavirus.
The Book | When Did We Start Forgetting God?
The former editor in chief of the acclaimed magazine Christianity Today offers a compelling look at the state of evangelicalism and hope for the future.In arguably one of the most divisive and polarizing eras, evangelicals are faced with a profound crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that has many dimensions―political, biblical, and theological―as well as a crisis of spiritual formation and discipleship. What ultimately is at the root of this crisis?
Mark Galli encourages us to turn our attention away from the politics of the moment, the social issues being discussed online, and the debate du jour among Christians. He asks us instead to take a long and hard look at what’s missing in our spirituality. In an incisive and thought-provoking book, Mark Galli helps us slow down and spend time reflecting on our ultimate priority. A must-read for anyone interested in contemplating the future of the church.
The Author | Mark Galli
Mark Galli was born and raised in California, received his B.A. in history from the University of California at Santa Cruz, an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary, and did some doctoral work at U.C. Davis. He served as a Presbyterian pastor for 10 years, four of those years in Mexico City and six in Sacramento, before becoming a journalist. He has spent 22 years as an editor with these magazines: Leadership, Christian History, and Christianity Today, and recently retired as editor-in-chief of CT. Mark has been interviewed on numerous radio shows over the years, has been interviewed by NPR, and has been quoted in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, among others. He is married to Barbara, has three grown children, and currently lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.