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.
This 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?
One winner will be selected and announced on Friday.