Carl Medearis is one of those people who preaches more with his life than with his words. And those are the kind of people we want to pay attention when they are speaking.
Carl is an international expert in the field of Arab-American and Muslim-Christian relations and acts as a catalyst for a number of current movements in the Middle East to promote peace-making, as well as cultural, political and religious dialog leading toward reconciliation.
He’s written great books, traveled to many nations and raised a beautiful family. I have quoted him in multiple articles so I decided to reached out to Carl this week for an interview. I sent him a few tough questions and he replied quickly with exceptional answers.
1. Carl, let’s get straight into it: If Jesus was American, who would he vote for?
Just a quick reminder – he wasn’t American. Not sure if you knew that. 🙂 It almost seems as if Jesus wasn’t too concerned with who the political leaders were. He actually never gave the Romans a hard time. He was hard on his own religious leaders of the day, but he didn’t say much about the Romans. I doubt he cares nearly as much as we think he does. His Kingdom is so much bigger and better than ours, it’s like being concerned which ant is in charge of the colony – really, who cares.
2. What has been your worst moment as a Christian leader?
My worst moment as a leader is always me. I provide enough of my worst moments for all of us.
3. You’re sitting in front of a Muslim friend who’s inviting you to be part of the ceremony at his wedding… You say?
So if they’re Muslim, they’d for sure have a Muslim cleric do the official part of the wedding (which is really just signing documents). But I’d be delighted to be there and do anything else. Pray a blessing. Give high fives. Hugs. Whatever’s needed and wanted.
4. How can the next generation get involved in bringing peace between Israel and Palestine?
Well now that’s a simple question! 🙂 Here are some relatively simple ways for us to think of this and get involved:
A. Admit that what you see and hear on TV and the media is, at best, partially true. The only way to really “know” something is to be in it. Go visit and spend time on both sides of the wall. (Israel has built the largest wall in the world around Palestinians to imprison them – or keep Israel safe – whichever you prefer to believe. Or both).
B. Recognize that you have probably wrapped up politics and eschatology into your views of how God sees people. When I’m asked my opinion on the Israeli-Palestinian “situation” i try to clarify by asking if they’re talking about the politics of it. Or their theology of it. Or Jesus mandates to love neighbors and enemies. Or the social/humanitarian affects of it. They are all interconnected, but separate.
C. Recognize that everyone has a story. Every individual. Every family. People. Country. Some of Israel’s recent story is backdropped by the holocaust. It has caused them to live in fear and continually say “never again.” Understandable. So when they see an angry Palestinian, they immediately think “extermination” and react out of fear. They build a wall. Develop the fourth or fifth most powerful military in the world. They’re afraid. I get that.
Then you meet a Palestinian who has lost his land – taken by an Israeli Jewish settler at some point – probably by force. That Palestinian is hurt, lost and confused. That leads to anger. When his anger and hatred bump up against the Israeli’s fear and insecurity – well, that’s a bad combination.
D. Followers of Jesus exist to bring peace, hope and healing to the world. The Israelis need healing from their pain of abuse and hurt over the centuries. So do the Palestinians. They are both misunderstood and feel all alone. We are the ones who have answers. Ultimately a relationship with Jesus, but at the very least an understanding of the “other side” (whoever that is for you). And we can only understand when we spend time with the people. That takes effort. Make it.
5. How do you balance travels, preaching, family, ministry?
Not very well honestly. I’m getting better – I’m 55 this month and have learned a couple of things about this. But mostly, I haven’t done it very well. What i think i’m learning is that “rhythm” might be a better word than “balance.” So when I take time off – I’m off. 100% out of touch. When I vacation, I’m fully present to the family or those I’m with. When I’m in a really busy time, I let myself be really busy. Sometimes I have to produce something – a book, a conference, whatever – and it’s 80 hours that week. But I better have some time off right after, or I’ll explode.
Life is like the seasons of the year. Or the rhythms of nature. It ebbs and flows. Just don’t full yourself that you’re “in a busy season right now” but actually that “season” has lasted for months – or even years. Be honest. Ask those closest to you. They’ll tell you the truth. Then adjust.
6. What does the perfect church look like?
One without me in it.
7. Best part about living in Lebanon for 12 years?
Living in Beirut for 12 years was the best thing ever for our family. Our oldest lives back there now. It wasn’t always easy, but the people taught us so so much. Hospitality. Family values. Enjoying life even in the midst of a war. (Literally). How to have passion about the things most important to you. Chris and I often say that “we met Jesus in Beirut.” We knew our religion of Christianity. We knew doctrine and the church and missions and a ton of great stuff. But just not Jesus. We met him there – in and through the people. We will forever own the Lebanese that debt.
8. Tell us about Simply Jesus.
Our fun Simply Jesus gathering happens each summer in the Colorado mountains and is just what it say – simply about Jesus. I recognized a few years back that all the Christian conferences were about “Christian stuff” but not necessarily about Jesus. They focused on church planting, evangelism, doctrine, the Bible – again, all good stuff that ought to lead us and point us to Jesus – but doesn’t always do that. So I thought we ought to start something that just talked about Jesus himself for three days straight.
So we try to bring in some of the best and brightest practitioners in the ways of Jesus and have them hang out with us. It really is a gathering of friends more than a traditional conference with a ton of information. It’s so so fun. Already can’t wait for the next one – July 20-23, 2017. Oh and we video everything and put it on our website for free. All high quality HD filming. It’s at: SimplyJesusGathering.com
9. Latest show you binged-watch on Netflix?
Not because I’m so godly, but just don’t watch a lot of TV – well, other than sports. I can binge watch college football on a Saturday, that’s for sure!
10. What’s your next “Yes” adventure?
We think that following Jesus is the craziest most adventurous life possible. I can imagine getting bored if I’ve just signed up for a Sunday morning Christianity, but I sure can’t imagine anything other than a wild-ride hold-on-to-your-hats life when you actually choose to believe in and follow this Jesus of the Bible.
So our next big adventure is that we’ve packed up (for the third time) and moved off to Dubai. Dubai is awesome. Even better than you think. The whole world lives there and we can take hour flights to all the fun places – Pakistan. Iran. Saudi. Qatar. Oman. It’s so so fun! The people are amazing and the culture is inviting and warm. We love it there in every way.
Read more in: Adventures in Saying Yes: A Journey from Fear to Faith
11. What would you do if the leaders of ISIS wanted to come over for dinner?
I suppose I’d cook lamb. Actually maybe have some choices. Beef. Lamb. Chicken. Served with rice and a good salad of course. We’d have a blast talking about the one who created them! By the way, I’ve invited them already!
12. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
He loved Jesus, his family and his neighbors (which included his enemies).
Read Carl’s powerful books:
And connect with him at CarlMedearis.com
“When we preach Christianity, we have to own it. When we preach Jesus, we don’t have to own anything. Jesus owns us. We don’t have to defend Him. We don’t even have to explain Him. All we have to do is point with our fingers, like the blind man in the book of John, and say, “There is Jesus. All I know is that He touched me, and where I was once blind, now I see.”