I almost forgot to ask him about his new book, Aha: The God Moment That Changes Everything. Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church (Louisville, Ky.), is just that likable. Before I knew it, he was asking me about the website (HollywoodJesus.com), my church ministry, and the things that God was calling me to. My admiration for the heart behind Not a Fan and Gods at War grew as we talked, but we finally settled in, and I asked him questions about his new “God help” book, aimed at recognizing God’s call on our lives.
Idleman is the son of a seminary president, former church planter, and father of four, and his desire to model authenticity (“which often means confessing when I’ve done something wrong, and reinforcing that we do the right thing with the right heart”) shines through his latest book. After preaching through a sermon series on “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” Idleman used the opportunity to gather up not only the teaching points from the scripture used in the series, but also the way that God’s spirit had moved in the lives of the people in the community who received it.
One of my favorite pieces in Aha is about our need for “Courageous Friends,” those who will challenge us to examine our lives and live it better. The book talks about one of Idleman’s friends, a personal trainer, who asks him how his workouts are going, even though he knows Idleman has been slacking off; another friend points out when Idleman is dressing like a 1980s retro casualty. But in our interview, Idleman pointed toward a friend who he meets with weekly, who helps him ask, “‘What am I missing?'” The relationship there leads to awareness, not because the other person tells him what’s wrong but because he helps him answer the questions for himself.
We talked about how that awareness of ourselves leads us to an ‘aha’ moment about God. “The greatest aha moment is when I recognize that I can’t help myself,” Idleman says. “As pastors, we can send mixed signals, ‘here are the six steps,’ but the Gospel really says, ‘I can’t do it on my own.’ We need to humble ourselves and pray for ‘aha’ moments.”
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt plays an important part in the new book, as his study about what we would edit from our own child’s life was shown to participants, who edited out all of the ‘bad stuff.’ “As a parent, our instinct is to protect our kids from life’s challenges, and sufferings, but in our own experience, that’s when we can show people that God has been revealed to us most clearly,” Idleman says.
Idleman points to these moments as times we think we should look for God’s ‘aha’ rather than pushing them away. In the book, he tells stories about individuals with eating disorders, drug abuse, and alcoholism who recognized that they were letting something else fill up the God-sized hole in their lives and had their ‘aha’ moment at the bottom. Just a few weeks ago, Idleman preached to a prison chapel full of inmates and asked them about their moment; the inmates unanimously said that their incarceration was their worst moment but also their best, because they met God in prison.
Everyone “reaches a point where reality is pressed upon us,” Idleman says. “It’s a matter of time where they can turn to God now, or recognize later, more desperately, that they’re dependent. But it’s going to be much harder on them.”
Idleman’s hope is that the book will push people from self-help to God-help, and that they’d recognize that God loves them unconditionally. He’s dedicated this book to his four children, and he says that he hopes that they will see in him, and in God, a father who loves them even “when the stains have been revealed, who runs toward them with grace and arms wide open.”
The book hits shelves March 1st- check back for a review!