How can Christians strengthen their witness in the world? For John and Lisa Bevere, the answer lies in breaking away from distractions and living as God’s
Messenger International, founded by John and Lisa Bevere in 1990, began with the encouragement of a pastor and a Honda Civic that brought the family from church to church along the I-95 corridor. Since then, the Beveres’ ministry has grown under the umbrella mission statement of “developing uncompromising followers of Christ who transform our world.”
John and Lisa have collectively authored over 30 books, taught at churches and conferences all over the world, and developed a “rescue” arm of the ministry that partners with antitrafficking organizations. Bible Study Magazine recently connected with the Beveres to discuss their latest books and the passion for ministry that continues to fuel their efforts.
BSM: What’s the message of your book, Without Rival? What do you hope readers will take away?
Lisa: I believe this generation is trying to find their purpose before they find their identity. They know that God has his hand on their life for something unique and significant, but they don’t know what that is. I believe it’s because they’re so busy looking at what everybody else is doing.
I don’t believe you find your identity in the company of people; you find it in the presence of God. In Without Rival, I unpack this concept—if we have a heavenly Father who is without rival and who is without equal, then we, as his children, are loved without rival and loved without equal. I wanted readers to connect to this identity—to know that nobody can take their place at the table. Only when they become attached to their identity, their Creator, and the promises that both of those things provide, can they work out their purpose.
BSM: You talk in the book about the dangers of comparison. Can you explain that a little?
Lisa: The root of comparison is pride and the fear of man. Comparison positions us to be resistant to God. Scripture says God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud (Jas 4:6). Comparison puts us in a place where we are insecure and struggle with the fear of man. We end up concerned about self-image instead of God-awareness.
Galatians 5:19–21 includes warnings of what happens when we compare: there’s division, divisiveness, somebody feeling superior, somebody feeling inferior. Comparison robs the body of Christ. If you’re constantly comparing yourself with other people, you’re not going to develop God’s calling on your life.
John 5:44 also talks about this. It essentially asks us, “How do you expect to get anywhere with God when you spend all your time jockeying for position with each other, ranking your rivals, and ignoring God?” Comparing removes our wisdom and understanding of who we are and what we’re created to do. I am not created to compete with other people. I am created for God’s glory. I just need to be obedient with that talent and faithful with that entrustment, so that he’s honored.
BSM: So what’s the antidote to comparison?
Lisa: I believe the antidote to comparison is time in the presence of God, time in the word of God, and prayer. We may need to intentionally step back from the things that are distracting us and leading us to compare. We need to ask the Spirit to speak through the word. We have access to so many Bible study apps, which is wonderful. We have access to dynamic preaching with just a click. We have so much access that sometimes I think we’ve forgotten how to pause, how to be still, and simply open his word and hear from him. Nothing replaces our time alone with God.
And if we actually get into the word of God, it’s going to begin to rightly divide between soul and spirit, between motive and intent, between joint and marrow. It’s going to come into our lives and begin to facet it according to truth.
BSM: How does knowing our identity help us understand our purpose?
Lisa: If we understand who our Father is, that gives us a reflection of who we are in him. I went through the entire Bible and looked for “he is” and “I am” statements to get a dynamic of who God is. So because God is love, I can be loving. Because he is almighty, then I can have power. Because he is a consuming fire, then I can be refined. Because he is greater than my heart, then I can walk in truth. Because he is my strength, he can be my strength. So having a revelation of who God is, first and foremost, is necessary before we can discover our purpose.
BSM: In your latest book, Killing Kryptonite, you discuss the dangers of “spiritual kryptonite.” Can you explain what you mean?
John: Superman could only be stopped by kryptonite, a radioactive substance from his home planet. In a similar way, spiritual kryptonite is weakening the church and making it less effective. Spiritual kryptonite is when a person knows what God says and yet doesn’t do it. In essence, it’s idolatry. When Saul willfully disobeyed what God revealed to him, Samuel approached him and said, “Stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1 Sam 15:23). The core of idolatry is not statues, altars, and temples—that’s only a byproduct. True idolatry is when we choose our will, wishes, and desires over what God has clearly revealed to us.
BSM: How do you see kryptonite—or idolatry—affecting the witness of the church?
John: The early church impacted entire cities—Jerusalem, Samaria, Lydda, Joppa, Sharon. Asia heard the word of the Lord in just two years. Yet, when you look at the Corinthian church, which existed only 30 years later, it was divided. Believers were picking favorite preachers and taking part in sexual immorality. They were not discerning the Lord’s body—they were not caring for the poor believers but were eating all the best foods before they came in. As a result, the church was weakened. They were not able to affect the city of Corinth like the early church did.
So, if the glory of God in the church is supposed to be greater today, what’s holding us back? We have more ability and technology than the early church, yet we are less effective at reaching entire communities. Why are we in the condition that we’re in? Are we afraid to confront the issues that are weakening us because we don’t want to be perceived as being judgmental? If we don’t, we stay weak and ineffective. And we’ve got to become more effective as a church.
BSM: What particular issues do churches today need to confront?
John: I think it really comes down to how we bring people into the kingdom. Every messenger in the New Testament—from John the Baptist, to Jesus, to the disciples, to Peter to Paul—said the only way to truly come to God is to repent. Now, the problem is religion has made repentance into a very legalistic and bondage-producing word.
We teach those who enter into a marriage covenant to say goodbye to all old relationships. Paul says a marriage covenant is an illustration of Christ’s relationship with the church. When you’re entering into a covenant with Jesus that means you are making the decision, “I’m not going to live like the world lives anymore.” James told early Christians, “Your loyalty is divided between the world and God” (Jas 1:8).
As communicators of the gospel we can’t just say, “Pray this prayer, ‘Jesus, come into my heart.’ ” We have to say, “You have to make the decision: ‘Am I going to give myself fully to Jesus, as he gave himself fully to me, and therefore, whatever he loves, I will love, and whatever he hates, I’ll hate?’ Or do you just want to have Jesus with all your lovers from the world?”
BSM: What needs to change for the church to be an effective witness?
John: If we come up with a grace that covers us but doesn’t empower us to live godly lives—if we talk about holiness that you get in Christ, but we don’t talk about the pursuit of holiness and our behavior—we’re neglecting scripture. Peter says, in 1 Peter 1:15, that we are to live godly in our personal behavior.
According to Ephesians 1:4, we were made holy in Christ when we became born again. We’re holy because of our position in Christ, but we have to live holy. The grace of God has empowered us to live godly lives. I think when you neglect to tell people that, it opens the door for kryptonite.
We have to realize that the clearest Jesus that others are going to see is a believer. I believe that we can eliminate kryptonite. The world will truly see Jesus in us again.