I know he looks super serious on the picture above, but pastor Jonathan Martin is all hope and soul. And honestly, he is probably one of the greatest communicators alive today.
No exaggeration here.
He knows how to use prose and verbs. He knows how to explain the good news in a simple yet mysterious way. He pretends to be nothing but a man with hunger and thirst for all things truth. And I absolutely love following him on Twitter and reading his goods.
Jonathan is also the teaching pastor at Sanctuary Church, in Tulsa, OK, where he now resides. He is the author of Prototype (one of my all time favorites) and the forthcoming How to Survive a Shipwreck (use this link to get it today). He is a graduate of Gardner-Webb University, has an MA from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, and a ThM from Duke University.
Also Know As: A sacramental hillbilly Pentecostal mystic.
We reached out to Jonathan, and of course, he was incredibly kind and genuine in his response. Enjoy the interview:
1. What has been your worst moment as a pastor?
My worst moment as a pastor was announcing to the church I had founded and led for 8 years that I was resigning…on Easter Sunday. It was one of the most terrible moments of my life. I knew there was absolutely no way I could keep going there from where I was and it be remotely healthy. I knew it was the only thing I could do under the circumstances—in that way, I have never second-guessed it. But it was brutal. I felt like such a failure to the people I loved the most. I felt irresponsible. I felt like I was abandoning all I loved. I try to live at peace with my past, but you don’t entirely get over something like that—I’m not supposed to.
2. Tell me about How to Survive a Shipwreck? (So looking forward to reading it)
How to Survive a Shipwreck is about encountering God while flat on your back, the faith you find on the underside of things. It’s a book about finding love at the bottom. It’s not a memoir per se, but it certainly comes out of the darkest season of my life. It is perhaps the most truthful and most heartbreaking thing I’ll probably ever write, painfully vulnerable. I would have no interest in releasing it if I didn’t feel like it could help somebody else survive their own darkest moment.
The irony though is that the book doesn’t just feel “sad,” either. I hope it’s fiercer and rowdier than that. There is a primal sound, a kind of howl, some people find when they own their own story, even in the darkness of it. I don’t know if I’ve found it yet or not, but it’s definitely unlike any sound I’ve made before.
3. How do you balance communicating with authenticity while being honoring to your friends, family etc?
For me the simple rule is this: nobody else’s blood belongs on the page but your own. It’s okay to open up and expose your own chest cavity to the world if you feel you must, but nobody else’s. You don’t get to blame anybody, scapegoat anybody, justify anything, excuse anything. And even so, you don’t trust your own discernment. After writing Shipwreck, I had to get a lot of input from people I love to figure out if the vulnerability of it was healthy—or if it was just the sound of me bleeding out. These were people I knew I could trust to tell me the truth. If they didn’t feel good about where it landed, I could not have felt good about it.
4. How different is the church going to look like in 10 years? (And in what ways)
More black and Hispanic than white, more female than male, more third world than first world. That’s all I know for sure. Otherwise, everything is on the table. What forms and ecclesial structures will survive remains to be seen. But what I’m hoping for is that the prayer of Jesus in John 17 is straining toward fulfillment—Pentecostals are becoming more liturgical, liturgically ordered people are embracing the chaos of the Spirit. We are living in the wild west right now, spiritually speaking. It’s scary and wonderful.
I do think the world is moving on—that God is moving on—from people like me, while male middle class voices. But that is no tragedy. A lot is being plucked up and cast down, so clearly Spirit is building something else. I can’t really even imagine it… but I can’t wait to see it.
5. Who do you currently follow/read/listen to?
On Twitter, I love following people who teach me how faith shapes justice in the world in tangible ways—people like my mate Jarrod McKenna and Otis Moss III come to mind. I love following my friends Sarah Bessey and Brian Zahnd… they are prophet/poets in the time of pundits.
Right now I’m reading Marilynne Robinson’s Lila, Stephen King’s The Bazaar of Bad Dreams, and Patti Smith’s M Train right now. I’ve been on a Shusaku Endo (the Japanese Christian novelist) bender these last few years, reading as much as I can.
I’m currently listening to the new 1975 record obsessively. I’m utterly in love with Gungor’s One Wild Life: Spirit album. And whether this sounds lame or not—I can’t stop listening to the songs off the forthcoming companion album to How to Survive a Shipwreck. It’s just been miraculous how all that came together. I have some of my favorite artists in the world, making some of the most achingly truthful music of their careers. I’m having a hard time not being more excited about the songs than I am the book right now—they are just that special. It’s not an addendum to the project; it’s turned into it’s own thing! I can’t wait for them to be flung into the world.
6. Game 7 of the finals. Hornets are playing in Golden State. Does MJ dress up to play?
You know he would. MJ is a warrior. He’s still got the restlessness. People like him cannot retire, not really. So he’s in his 50’s now…who cares? He came from another planet. He does not play by our rules.
10. How do you work on your craft (writing and preaching)?
I read voraciously across genres and disciplines, listen to hip-hop and stand-up comedy (two reliable places to go to find prophetic voices), and then let the muses take me where they will. It’s all about following the Spirit for me, really, which means there is plenty of room for chaos. I try to go with the wind rather than fight it. Mostly writing and preaching both for me are about staying awake, paying attention, and making sure you don’t quite know what you’re doing. If I’m writing or speaking about things that make me feel like I’m in way over my head, I assume it’s going to be interesting for somebody else. People sense they don’t quite know where it’s all going, and the suspense is actual—I don’t know where it’s all going, either.
Man I do love both of those guys! Both have so much soul in their own way. And both are on the Shipwreck record ☺ I might have to pick Will in the lip-sync battle. But I give the nod to Andy in the most heartbreak per lyric contest.
8. What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
I hope people will say that the journey I went on, even with all the missteps, was truthful somehow. I want them to say lived without caution, that I lived out of my soul’s deepest questions. I hope they will say that watching God love me in my foolishness helped them believe God could love them in their own.
“It turns out that knowing how loved we are by God makes all the difference in the kind of people we will become.” ― Jonathan Martin
Read his phenomenal blog: www.jonathanmartinwords.com/blog