5 Reasons The Church Today Needs Matthew Paul Turner & Our Great Big American God

Margaret —  August 15, 2014 — 44 Comments

5 Reasons The Church Today Needs Matthew Paul Turner & Our Great Big American God

I’ve known Matthew Paul Turner for more than a decade.

We co-wrote Everything Twenties and 20 Things You Should Read together years ago. I remember his short-lived stint as an editor at CCM. Over the years, I’ve watched him grow and mature as a writer, editor, thinker, husband, father, and follower of Jesus. I’ve also had the privilege of watching Matthew—even from a distance—grow into who He was always meant to be—a provocative thought leader.

That said, I’ve never met anyone who has read much of Matthew Paul Turner, his wildly popular blogs, or his books including Churched and Hear No Evil that hasn’t gotten fire-engine-red faced angry. I’m sure that person exists.

Along with fairies, elves, and Sasquatch.

If you’ve read MPT for years and never once had your nose flare, show yourself. Then go to a doctor. You may not have a pulse.

This week, I read his newest book, Our Great Big American God, which provides a travelogue of God from the time He crossed the Atlantic until He arrived in what has become jesUSAMERICA. Beautifully written, Turner forces us to look at how Christianity has been influenced by nationalism, the economy, politics, entertainment, greed, agendas, and the history we prefer to ignore.

In his trademark playful style, some of Turner’s observations made me wince, others left me fuming, still others proved aha! moments. Some vignettes, much like a Gladwell book, only provided a sliver of the true tale, but still a shard we need to be aware of—even if it’s doubtful, questionable, or suspicious.

The reason the church today needs Matthew Paul Turner so much is because:

1. Turner is among the best when it comes to sacred cow tipping.

Every so often we need someone who makes us ask deeper questions, wrestle with our faith, and dig deeper into history and His Story. We need people courageous enough to remind us not to take ourselves so seriously.

2. Turner pushes us to think beyond what we believe and why we believe the implications of our beliefs.

This is a lot more thinking than many want to do, and while I don’t agree with many of the conclusions, I so appreciate the push, push, pushing of Turner’s writing. Don’t take things at face value. Ask the harder questions. Watch how this plays out in real life.

3. Turner challenges us to love Jesus more.

If you just get stuck in the “mottled face” stage of frustration, you’ll miss this. Matthew wants his readers to know and love Jesus. Not religion. Not rules. Not a Pharisaical affection for church. But Jesus—with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

4. Turner thinks differently than most of us.

He exposes our natural bent to surround ourselves with people who look, sound, and smell just like us. Yet this never leads to growth. Imagine how frustrated Nathaniel, Andrew and Bartholomew must have been with each other. That competitive rub between Peter and John. People who think different than us can make us stronger, smarter, more gracious, and deeper—if we allow.

5. Turner is more than his blog or writing.

It’s so easy to create caricatures of the people we read online. We form heroes and villains forgetting these are real, living, beautiful people handcrafted in the image of God. The softer side of Turner is seen on Instagram, his gorgeous kids in tow. As his friend, I’ve seen this especially over this last difficult year when he’s repeatedly reached out to ask, “What can we do to help? How can we support you during this time?”

Matthew and Jessica Turner gave me the gift of presence when many turned away or vanished. I will be forever grateful.

Before you get mad at Matthew Paul Turner’s next thought-provoking post…before you reach down to pick up a stone, pause to remember that he’s giving you a gift—himself—and asking you to think, to grow, to become deeper, and more passionate follower of Jesus.c

As for me, I’m grateful to call him friend.


Our Great Big American God_cvrThis week, were giving away 1 copy of Our Great Big American God by Matthew Paul Turner.

Americans love God. We stamp God on our money, our bumper stickers, and our bodies. With a church on nearly every street, it's hard to deny our country's deep connection with the divine.

Yet culture critic Matthew Paul Turner says that God didn't just change America-America changed God. As a result, do we even recognize the "real" God?

Whip-smart and provocative, Turner explores the United States' vast influence on God, told through an amazing true history of faith, politics, and evangelical pyrotechnics.

From Puritans to Pentecostals, from progressives to mega-pastors, Turner examines how American history and ideals transformed our perception of God. Fearless and funny, this is the definitive guide to the American experience of the Almighty-a story so bizarre, incredible, and entertaining that it could only be made in the U.S.A.

No matter what your political or religious affiliation, this book will challenge and delight with its razor sharp wit, social commentary, and savvy historical insight. It will make you reconsider the way you think about America as a "Christian nation," and help you re-imagine a better future for God and country.

Ultimately, Turner dares to ask: Does God control the future of America-or is it the other way around?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

One winner will be selected and announced on Friday.

*Original Photo Source

44 responses to 5 Reasons The Church Today Needs Matthew Paul Turner & Our Great Big American God

  1. Oh this book is SO up Tom’s alley…can’t wait to suggest it to him! Thank you for the recommendation Margaret!

  2. I love MPT. First time I met him I said we’d gone to the same church and school in different states. Where his faith has grown from is truly a work of the Lord.

  3. I never heard of MPT but I think I need to read this. I would love to get a copy of this book to read.

  4. Really enjoyed Churched, and can’t wait to read this one! God is in control!

  5. I’ve followed MPT on twitter and in the bloggersphere for a few years now. I have observed him grow in grace and mercy. I’m excited about this book.

  6. God cannot be controlled by culture, but neither can an unsubmitted people be controlled by God. So the answer to the question posed is – neither. God will continue to be, and America will continue to be and the submitted persons among us will be honored by God, and God by them.

  7. I follow Matthew and totally agree with everything you’ve said here. Sometimes I shout “yes!! EXACTLY!!” to his posts and other times I’m tempted to completely rail on him. He definitely serves a valuable role in faith dialogs and I’d love to read this book.

  8. Always challenged by Turner. But I keep coming back! 🙂

  9. Patricia Fancher August 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

    WOW! Either way you look at it, God IS in control. HOWEVER< America HAS changed with their concept of God. It is easier to make God into one's own liking than to accept the reality of WHO He REALLY is. People often want to focus on the fact that He is LOVE and discard the reality that He is also HOLY.

  10. Jennifer Mantle August 15, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I admit I have not read anything from Mr. Turner, but I am willing to give it a shot.

  11. Sounds like a truly fascinating read.

  12. I sure hope Matt’s book is widely read and discussed, and that it changes lives. This is such an important topic. Having experienced my faith around the western world outside of the U.S. (mainly Canada & Europe), I’ve seen how inapplicable many versions of American Christianity are for the rest of us. It’s so deeply rooted in its political and economic history that we can’t relate, nor can we be convinced that our countries must follow America’s political footsteps to be a truly godly people. All of us need to navigate our own political systems in the process of figuring out the best expression of our faith, and in that I sympathize with American believers. Where it takes a wrong turn is when American Christian culture is presented as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s will on earth. This creates a regrettable distance between American believers the the Global Church. At the same time, I think we’ve also seen positive change happening, and Matt’s book seems to be an indication of this shift. I look forward to reading it.

  13. It’s both. God is, and He’s in control. However, the “remaking” of God into what we prefer Him to be in America makes it increasingly difficult to separate the real God from the one we’ve manufactured.

  14. i believe God ultimately has control over all events as they play out in history and that would include america. But i also believe, each american has been given free will and freedom of choice and that means we can each make good or bad decisions for ourselves and for our country.as to Jesus wasn’t he a radical thinker, a true revolutionary? and isn’t that what we are all to be, as we are, like him, made in God’s own image? we should think unique thoughts and enjoy each other as we are each as unique as a beautiful snowflake…so why try to play church, just fit in and all think alike? church should not try to be a sorority or fraternity and should not specialize in conformity of thought, but instead be a place where we can feel free to explore our faith and worship freely as our consciences tell us what is right, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  15. Sounds very interesting. Looking forward to checking out his book.

  16. never hear of MPT. but i’ll look for his books now!

  17. MPT is not afraid to tell it like he sees it and we need voices like this. It’s hard to stomach our often Americanized from of Christianity that looks down its nose on others and forces everyone to comply with her ideals. Thank goodness for those willing to say something about it. Can’t wait to read the book!!

  18. Thankfully – God is in control!!! I’ve not heard of MPT before – but look forward to reading him – perhaps by winning one of these books!!

  19. I can’t wait to read this. Like the others, I have not heard of MPT before, so anxious to start reading his stuff. Thanks!

  20. That’s an interesting question. I think this is not one to be answered in a simple blog comment though. Really, you are asking whether God’s sovereignty trumps man’s free will, or the other way around.

    I tend to think God is less concerned with nations than with people. It might be too far to say God has no opinion of America, but that’s comes pretty close to how I feel. He is far more worried with the hearts and souls of my neighbors than he is with who is president, and how righteous American is (or isn’t).

  21. I never heard of him (MPT), either. People tend to forget that God is not American and He definitely is not human. I don’t think I will fully know Him or who He is until I see Him face to face.
    A.W. Tozer once said, “We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of.
    God’s Holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.”

    The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His Holiness he cannot even imagine.”

  22. Looking forward to reading this. Like you, I wince, ponder, and have aha moments when reading his thoughts, insights and observations.

  23. I have not yet read his writings, but from the description, a passage I read last night was immediately brought to mind: Isaiah 58. Verse 2 is especially chilling. Just as throughout time, God has a remnant that seek Him in truth and with all their hearts. But in America today, I see a striking similarity to this passage. We have refashioned a god of our own image. God, however, does not change. America and her churches will be blessed when we earnestly seek Him-to know His heart-and we will become what He intends for us-Jesus’ light in the darkness. I would love to read his book.

  24. Easy answer: God IS in charge.

  25. Stephanie Taylor August 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    God is in charge of America!!! Our perception of Him, though, in America is covered with being an American. I see God in the Bible is dangerous and very holy. The American God is comfort. This book sounds very interesting.

  26. God controls the future of America.

  27. Debbie Salmonson August 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I am excited to read his books!

  28. Rochelle Southard August 15, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I love MPT and his books love his wife’s blog too! God is always in control

  29. I think Americans control their idea of who God is, attempting to mold Him into our image. Thankfully, God is unchangeable.

    Also, I REALLY want to read this book. 🙂

  30. Well, shoot I missed the deadline, but looking forward to reading this.

  31. God is in control. And I’m really angry people have turned away from you or vanished in your time of need. It just makes me downright mad! Thankful for true blue friends!

  32. My husband enjoys a challenging book to read and this sounds like just the one to do it. Thank you for introducing it to all of us.

  33. Dusty Becker Allison August 16, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Papa has had me on a journey of rethinking a lot of what has influenced me in my journey with Christ and how the “church” has tried to put God in the box of our own understanding. I look forward to reading and being challenged by this book.

  34. This sounds like something I need to read, so I will be better equipped to argue, OK he calls it discussion, with my very smart 20 year old son; sometimes too smart for his own good. He has a tender heart and our conversations about God can get quite animated. The Lord is preparing him to listen and learn and this sounds like a good resource for both of us. Thank you for sharing. It would be even better to win it! Have a blessed day Margaret!

  35. I have already been challenged in my thinking by simply reading this post and the comments. I would appreciate the book very much to be able to experience more of this, and hopefully, grow more in my relationship with God, free from cultural chains.

  36. LoL, it’s time Americans read the BIBLE and studied the BIBLE to find out just who this God of America really, truly is.

  37. I’ve never heard of this author until this blog post, but now I really want to read this book. I’ve been interested to learn some lately about how being American shapes our view of God and Christianity. And how our brothers and sisters in other countries don’t need to become like us in order to become like Him. How much is gospel and how much is cultural preference? Very convicting thoughts…

  38. doreen a mannion August 17, 2014 at 8:09 am

    What you wrote; exactly!

  39. I am super excited to read this new book! I think God is in control of America & the rest of the world in that He is not wringing his hands in frustration or disappointment at the state of our country. I think He is a loving Dad that is for sure watching us make a giant mess of things, but gives us the freedom to do so, knowing that when we realize the mess we are in, his kids will run to their Daddy and ask him to fix it….knowing that he graciously will!!

  40. I think we need to throw off all the religion we have put on unaware and follow the TRUTH. I am very interested in reading this book.

  41. I believe that God is ultimately sovereign; but that so many Christians in the US have changed their image of the Almighty into an America-centric GOP white bread God that has little resemblance to Who He really is. We have boxed Him in.

    I very much want to read this book – it sounds right up my alley! 🙂

  42. As a long-time fan of MPT’s writing, I’ve been excited about this one for a while now. Can’t wait to get my hands on it!

  43. Oh Wow. This is just where I’ve been thinking for a while. Must win this book! If not, I’ll buy it anyway!

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