Pastor and author Jarrid Wilson believes that it's "bogus" and "fraudulent" when people claim to be Christians, but don't actually follow Jesus' teachings, and he's hoping to challenge believers through his new book to embrace an authentic, Bible-based faith.
Wilson, 26, the next-gen pastor of LifePoint Church in Smyrna, Tennessee and author of, "Jesus Swagger: Break Free from Poser Christianity," told TheBlaze what he believes are the two biggest issues facing the church today.
He said that the first barrier is the "toxic and destructive act of religion" — mainly the idea that people create rules and regulations and then put man's opinions above God's, which he said is simply "not biblical."
"A lot of people are turned away from church because of the opinions of man," Wilson said, offering up the commonly debated issue of alcohol consumption, which some Christians oppose. "The Bible says don't get drunk. The Bible never says don't drink."
In the end, he said people end up feeling saddled by man-made rules and regulations, adding that he believes the way that churches and believers, alike, have traditionally interacted with gays and lesbians has also created a conundrum.
"The way that the church handles its relationship with the gay community is something that will, hands down, be the talk of the church for the next 10 to 15 years," he said. "We've done such a bad job of showing grace and love to that community."
[sharequote align="center"]"[It] will, hands down, be the talk of the church for the next 10 to 15 years."[/sharequote]
Regardless of where one stands on homosexuality, Wilson said that the Bible calls believers to "show love and grace."
"One of the things that I always let people know, even in topics I'm very passionate about, I always extend a hand of grace, because I believe that's what we're called to do," he said.
Explaining his own upbringing, Wilson said that his parents became Christians when he was three or four years old and that he grew up in a faithful home, but that he struggled, at moments, to relate.
"When I would be sent off to youth group, I could not stand it. I thought youth group was so lame and so cheesy," Wilson told TheBlaze. "I felt like it wasn't authentic. It wasn't real. I just couldn't fit in."
The experience, he said, led him to turn away from Christianity a bit during his younger years, as he felt the experience simply "wasn't authentic." He's hoping that, through "Jesus Swagger," he can help correct this same dynamic in other churches and among his readers.
[sharequote align="center"]"We've done such a bad job of showing grace and love to that community."[/sharequote]
"It [is] this kind of movement and call to action for people to understand that your faith has to be legit. You can't pose like someone on the outside … the reality is that's what the pharisees did," he said. "The outside looked awesome, they said all the right things, they prayed in public, but Jesus said [their hears were] disgusting."
Pastor Jarrid Wilson (Twitter image via @JarridWilson)
Wilson wants other Christians to recognize the same potential problems in their own walks with God by helping individuals understand what it really means to follow the Bible.
"If you start from the inside out, the overflow of the heart will change… you," he said.
If everyone who said they followed Christ actually did, Wilson said the world would obviously be filled with more positive sentiment.
"I believe we would have a world filled with grace and forgiveness … and mercy and acts of kindness," he said, though he noted that persecution would likely still abound at the hands of those who dislike Jesus' message.
He's hoping that "Jesus Swagger" encourages readers keep their focus on God and the Bible.
"I want the reader [to consider] that the compass that they are to use to direct their lives should be the cross, not the opinions of man, not what they heard on some podcast," he said. "I've tried my best to make sure everything I was saying was a biblical understanding and truth."