An Interview With Judah Smith
Posted: Jun 29 2015
For our guest blog post this month, we are honored to have Pastor Judah Smith from The City Church in Seattle, Washington. Pastor Judah is a gifted communicator, pastor, and author. His most recent book is titled, Life is ____.: God's Illogical Love Will Change Your Existence. It's a great read, and if you haven't had an opportunity to check it out, you can pick up a copy here: Life is _______. Book on Amazon
Recently we had the opportunity to ask Pastor Judah a few questions, and he was gracious enough to take some time to answer them. Here's what he had to say.
1. You run a thriving multi-site church, you speak to churches all over the world, and you are a husband and father to a beautiful family. How do you find time to write these great books like Life is _____.? What's your daily routine?
Haha.I WISH my life was simple enough to plan each day like the one before! Each day looks different based on what's going on that day. Plus life with three kids is as planned as possible but also very unpredictable at times, so we try to go with the flow and stay flexible. It keeps life spontaneous and fun with a sense of adventure. My books so far are loosely based on messages that I've preached, and of course those messages are the result of living with and thinking about the topics for a while before I preached them. So when I write a book, the material is my real, unscripted voice, if you know what I mean. Many of the stories, illustrations, and scriptures are what I used while preaching the messages.
2. You pull out some outstanding details from stories in scripture. For example, pointing out that John lived as if he were Jesus' favorite. How do you find these details? What does your personal study look like?
I lean a lot on a couple of Bible researchers who help me with the details to make sure I'm as accurate as possible, but more than anything I depend on the help of the Holy Spirit to inspire me when I'm reading my Bible. That's not a cliché. He's the best research assistant any preacher can have! I read my Bible for personal sustenance, not just for sermon preparation all the time. I try to intentionally engage with the scripture and talk to Jesus and ask questions just like any normal, growing believer. Reading and engaging with the Bible is how I continue to grow in my own relationship with Jesus, and my preaching and books simply come out of that.
3. In Life Is ____., you say: "We long to be loved and to love, but we feel unloveable." Why is it that most people feel unloveable?
I wouldn't say we feel unlovable all the time, of course, but I think many people struggle with recurring doubts about their significance and purpose. I know I do at times. For me, it's usually the result of focusing too much on myself: on my qualifications, accomplishments, or qualities. The society and culture we live in don't help, either. There is this constant comparison going on, and if we let our sense of value be defined by what we do, we set ourselves up for failure. But when we truly understand God's love for us just as we are and we believe our value in his eyes, those feelings of insecurity and self-doubt tend to fade away.
4. Besides the Bible, what is the best book you've ever read?
I'm not what you would call an avid reader so I don't really have anything that stands out as my "best book." I'd say just about anything by James Patterson. Does that count?
5. Why do you believe we insist on control, or the illusion of control?
The answer to that is probably rooted in a lot of factors, and I don't claim to know them all. I'm still trying to figure myself out, much less the rest of humanity, ha! But I do know that some level of fear and insecurity are common to us all. If we don't learn to rest in Jesus' finished work on our behalf, we can start to think that everything depends on us. Honestly that is what our culture teaches us: that you get what you deserve, that you have to work for what you want. There is truth to that, but it's not the whole picture because it doesn't take God's love and grace into account. Ultimately he wants our success and fulfillment even more than we do, and when we understand that, we are able to relinquish our death grip on control and enjoy life as it comes.
6. You talk about starting with the end in mind. What do you want your end to look like? How do you want to turn out?
I've been thinking a lot lately about that topic actually. Recently a friend gave me a bracelet engraved with the words "Better at 70," and it has really inspired me. So much so that I had the same bracelets made for some of my closes friends. That thought makes me consider the daily choices I make as a husband and father and pastor. It helps me keep the end in mind. I don't want to end up where I want to be and not be who I want to be, if that makes sense. Thinking about the end helps me to keep the present moment more meaningful and my personal priorities intact.
7. A theme throughout the book is to rely on, lean on, and look to Jesus. Practically speaking, how do we do that? What does that mean?
I think on a practical level, it will mean different things to different people. Even in my own life this has looked different at various times, depending on my circumstances and the needs of the moment. I think it is a heart attitude more than a list of actions or rules. It's the simple belief that Jesus is with us, he is for us, and he is before us. He knows what we need and he is on our side. When we face hard times, if we keep those things in mind, we will naturally lean on Jesus and look to him. Obviously it can include things like Bible reading and prayer, but often it will mean just playing basketball with your kids instead of stressing out over a problem that you are facing. God is a much better problem-solver than we are, and in this adventure called life, he is with us all the way.
So there you have it! Thanks so much to Pastor Judah for sharing his wisdom with us. If you're not following him already, you can find him on twitter here: @judahsmith. For more information on The City Church, go to www.thecity.org.