The speaker of The Redeemed’s next webinar is not just a pastor, he’s a 23-year Army veteran and 1996 winner of the “Best Ranger” competition, one of the highest awards for physical achievement in the U.S. military. Yet that recognition turned out to not be nearly as satisfying as he’d hoped.
“I devoted literally every year of my life for a few years to that competition. When you win, you are vaulted to immediate superstar status in the Army,” says Jeff Struecker, pastor at 2 Cities Church in Columbus, Georgia. “But I remember thinking the next day, ‘Is this it? I have given several years of my life, every day all day long, to this—and now that I’ve done it, it’s totally disappointing.’ And I wonder how many other people achieve the highest levels in business or politics or sports, and when they get there it totally lets them down?”
So when Jeff leads his webinar on July 30, “Restored to Factory Settings,” he can speak from personal experience about the need to re-examine what’s truly important in life. That, he says, involves directing attention away from competing voices—from popular culture to one’s own wants and desires—and toward God’s.
“Adam and Eve stopped listening to the voice of God and started listening to a competing voice,” Jeff explains, “and I think many guys still believe those kinds of lies. I don’t want to dismiss this by saying we’re a bunch of ignorant Neanderthals; I think the lies are so well-packaged that they’re really easy to believe. What I’ve been trained to do with my life is help guys ‘reset to God’ and be the image bearer of God that they were originally created to be. And to lead their families and communities like Jesus would lead them.”
What does “restoration” mean to you?
It starts with the idea that something is broken. It used to be beautiful, it used to be whole, it used to be used for the purpose for which it was created—obviously we’re talking about people—and somehow, some way, something broke it. I hope that the language I’m using right now doesn’t sound too impersonal, but when I was teaching college many years ago, I had a sign on my door when that had the “reduce, reuse, recycle” symbol on there, and it said Jesus recycles people. By that I mean it was originally made, it served its purpose, then something happened, it got worn out, it got broken. But do we throw the thing in the garbage, or is it possible to recycle it to make its usable once again?
What God originally created people for, that’s the purpose for which we exist. But somehow we have distorted that thing, and now God has to go “recycle” that and fix it—in the language of this webinar, restore that original purpose—and when people see that, I think they see their purpose and their worth in the grand scheme of things.
So it’s not that we’re being used for a new purpose, like an aluminum can becoming part of a jet engine or something, we’re being reminded of what our original purpose was all along.
I think guys listen to that voice that says, “You have to drive a nice car, a nice house, and a big bank account to be successful. You have to have a white picket fence and a picture-postcard family.” And none of these things are true. I think all of those things come along with submission to God and living for him, but none of those things give us the respect or the success that we’re longing for. That stuff can only come from the one who created us.
A nice house, a white picket fence, a beautiful family, those are all byproducts of a good relationship with God, but they’re not the things you go seeking for their own sake.
James says it this way: Every good and perfect gift comes from our father in heaven. Seeking the gift rather than the giver of the good gift itself is a form of idolatry, a form of sin. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the gift, but when you look to the gift itself for satisfaction rather than the giver of the gift, it’s always going to let you down.
Is restoration as simple as reminding yourself who gave you the gifts? Or do you have to go deeper?
I do think you have to go deeper than that. Think of the image of God like a giant picture window: Even if you break the very bottom corner of the window, you’ve got to replace the whole thing. The image of God is kind of like that in people. You can’t just do a couple things over here to tune up part of your life—although I’m all for doing things to tune up your life, it just doesn’t work that way. You can’t restore yourself; God has to reach in and do this supernatural work, and the Bible really does say it’s a miracle, the miracle of rebirth. Anything short of the miracle of rebirth doesn’t really fix what’s broken inside of people.
Over the course of your career as a pastor, I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “That’s too big for me—that just sounds like too much.” What’s your response to them?
My response would be yes, of course it’s too much for you! Nobody could pull that off—not even the pope, Billy Graham, or Mother Teresa. Only one person can fix what’s broken inside of you, and that person is Jesus Christ, who is ready and willing to do that if you seek him, if you will allow him to reach in and do his supernatural work.