Every year, I hold a training for aspiring authors and accomplished authors called SCRIBE.
After meeting the authors who attend, I will often interview them on this blog.
Today, I’d like to introduce you to Matt Berry and his new book, Invited: A Simple Guide for Connecting with God.
If you’re interested in joining us at SCRIBE 2021, GO HERE for all the information.
Your book will also be featured on this blog.
Enjoy the interview!
Introduce yourself for the audience. Who is Matt Berry?
Well, I’ll tell you who I’m not—unfortunately for some, I’m not the Matt Berry who talks fantasy football on ESPN. I’ve not met my doppelgänger, but it does explain why I felt so very important on a cab ride to the Minneapolis airport one winter evening, and also why the driver was so interested in what I thought about the Minnesota Vikings.
In truth, I’m a husband and father who lives in Big Lake, Minnesota, a rural suburb outside the Twin Cities. I’m also a co-vocational pastor, which means I work a full-time job in the field of cyber security, while also co-leading a missional community called The Jesus Following Network. Whatever I set my hand to, my aim is to inspire a lifestyle of movement, freedom and rest in the lives of spiritually inclined people…while also paying the bills using my nerd superpowers.
And how do we know each other?
We officially “met” at SCRIBE 2019, a writer’s conference that was held in Orlando. At that time, my book was nothing more than a collection of chapter synopses on my iPad. It’s come a long way in two years. But in truth, Frank, I’ve known of you far longer than you’ve known about me.
I first came across a little digital book of yours in the early 2000s called “Rethinking the Will of God,” which was extremely transformative and liberating in my day-to-day life. But some of my other favorites are, “Pagan Christianity,” “Jesus Manifesto,” and your latest book, “Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom.” Your perspective on God’s kingdom is a message that’s needed, not only within the church, but especially without—as we see an increased awareness of injustices like sex trafficking, racial inequality, and this global pandemic.
So coming out of the Scribe 2019 event, you wrote a book? Tell us about it.
The idea of connecting with God is foreign to many people. Entering any pursuit of spirituality can feel a bit mysterious, sort of like entering uncharted waters. Without a clear path of how to build up momentum, many people simply stall out from insecurity.
This book is intended to take somebody from a place of curiosity about God and put them “on the path.” I provide them with a handful of useful tools and the encouragement to begin taking steps in the direction of God.
The book is called, “Invited: A Simple Guide for Connecting with God.” It combines down-to-earth “teachable moments” with easy-to-understand truths from the Bible. My goal is to lay out a faith that is for everyday life, what I call a “doable faith,” one that helps you to see what God is doing and hear God speak for yourself.
I like to think of it as a field manual for the modern-day seeker.
Tell me more about these “modern-day seekers.” Are they churchgoing folk?
Not likely. This book is primarily written to people who don’t attend church on a regular basis. Pre-COVID, you’d find them sleeping in a Sunday morning or grabbing brunch or getting ready for the football game—ordinary people who work full-time jobs, love their family, go to school—but who also have this curiosity for something deeper and a hunger for meaning in life.
In my early research, I discovered that the majority of “Christian discipleship”resources (that’s the genre) are written in such a way that assumes the person already has a good grasp of biblical terms and concepts—like they already know the underlying “why” and so the materials jump right into facts: Believe this; Believe that.
While understanding the right facts are important in a journey towards God, I think equally important, is entering into an experience with God—because ultimately, God is not somebody just to be understood; he is a person to be known. And there’s a huge difference between those words: understanding and knowing.
Interesting. So did this conviction affect the way you wrote the book?
Absolutely. From the very beginning, I wanted the readers of this book to be exposed to that invitation for a personal experience. This kind of pursuit needs to go beyond the head (i.e. gaining facts) and reach the heart. Each chapter includes a handful of questions crafted to help people turn inward and ask the question: What does this mean for me, in my current season of life?
But reflection is just the first step. The next step is taking not a “leap of faith,” but a small step in the right direction—making meaningful application: What are you doing to do about? Inward reflection. Outward action. Both are crucially important if what we’re seeking is a lasting change.
This book is designed for people who are willing to take action. While that may not be a prerequisite for somebody to pick up the book, they will soon find a gentle invitation toward inward reflection and encouragement to take meaningful steps towards Jesus and toward a life that is guided by him.
How did you decide what topics to focus on in Invited: A Simple Guide for Connecting with God?
This journey began about three years ago. I wanted to simplify what had become, for me, a very complicated way of following Jesus. God gave me this picture in my imagination, a scenario that played out like a movie clip.
I was sitting at a high table in one of those airport bar/restaurants. And I saw myself sitting at the table with my bags next to me—club soda in my hand. My flight had been delayed and here I was, stuck in an airport for three hours. I saw a person sitting next to me and they were asking me about Jesus and what it meant to live a lifestyle of faith.
The question that was impressed on me as this scene played out was this: If you only had a three-hour layover to tell someone about Jesus and give them the basics of what it looks like to follow him, what would you say?
What a hard request, but an important one! Simplify, condense, “cut the fat,” remove the non-essentials. We ought to do that more often! I felt a bit like Philip talking to the Ethiopian in that story from the Book of Acts.
I started with twenty-something topics, which eventually got whittled down to the eight chapters that are in the book today.
When it comes to spirituality or, more specifically, the idea of connecting with God, what do you think most people struggle with?
I think that many people don’t even consider it as an option. They’re distracted with everyday life, too busy to consider the possibility of anything more being available to them. But for those whose curiosity and longing outweighs the busyness of life, those people don’t even know they have permission or an invitaton to something more. They don’t know God’s character. They likely assume God is either too frustrated with them or too preoccupied with other things.
In this book, I explain in simple terms how God isn’t on a proverbial mountain somewhere, waiting for people to discover the secret path that leads to the top. Rather, God has come down off the “mountain” through Jesus Christ and pursues us and invites us into a relationship with himself. There’s nothing to earn; only an invitation to receive and pursue.
If you could go back and rewrite this book. What would you do differently? That’s a hard question! If I could go back, I would break up the content into much shorter chapters. Not that these chapters are all that lengthy. However, people’s attention spans are shorter than they’ve ever been. While we could argue whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, it simply is what it is.
I would take the content in these chapters and divide it up into smaller sections that could be read in 7-10 minutes—about how long it takes me to drink a cup of coffee.
I wouldn’t change the content itself, just more the organization of the content. There are more books within me and I’m confident that the next book is going to be better than this book. But I’m really proud of what I’ve done, and it’s taken a lot for me to come to grips with that. I have a habit of being pretty critical of myself. While there’s a place for that, I think it’s also important to recognize when good enough is good enough. And I think this book is good enough.
You mentioned earlier that scenario of being in an airport with a person and only having three hours to explain the idea of connecting with God. If you only had time to share one chapter from your book with that person, which one would you pick and why?
The chapter on prayer is one I would really hope people understand and catch a vision for. Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice” (John 10:27). Sheep can be quite dumb, known for their short-term memory and need for a lot of protection and guidance. While our culture values independence and sort of “being your best self,” I think deep down we all know we’re pretty much like sheep. So it’s a fair comparison. But even sheep know the voice of their shepherd. And I think one of the greatest tragedies of Christians today in the West is an overall lack, or insecurity at best, when it comes to being able to hear God’s voice for themselves.
“My sheep hear My voice.” You may not have a theology for hearing God speak today, in the midst of your messy life, but it’s in Scripture. You either need to explain it away or bold embrace the possibility of what you’re missing out on.
In that chapter I included some examples of my kids having heard God speak to them. And with their permission I included some of their journal entries because I want people to see for themselves that if a seven-year-old can do it, a grown up can do it. Once we are brought into God’s family, we have a right to hear his voice and I would love it if Jesus followers would be able to access that right more often.
Where can people learn more about you.
The easiest way to “find” me online is to visit my mobile-friendly website: https://find.theMattBerry.com. From there, you can find direct links to my book, in Kindle, paperback, and hardback version.
You can also find my social media pages (@MattBerryWriter) or information on another project I’m excited about, Invited: The Digital Journey, which is a free video companion to the book. And of course, I’d love to stay in touch with you through my email newsletter, which gets sent out about every 3-4 weeks. All that can be found at https://find.theMattBerry.com.
Thanks, Frank, for the honor to be featured on your blog. I appreciate the opportunity and the friendship.
Check the book out on Amazon below.