The Grand Paradox

8 Feb


Two years after Ken Wytsma published his debut book, Pursuing Justice, the pastor, educator and justice pursuer released his second book, The Grand Paradox.

I first heard from Wytsma in 2012 at The Justice Conference in Portland. The founder of the conference created an annual international event that exposes men and women to a wide range of organizations and conversations related to justice. My friend and I traveled to Philadelphia in 2013 for the conference and then to Bellevue last year to see a simulcast of the event that took place in L.A.

When Wytsma was getting ready to release his first book I was fortunate to be a part of his book launch team. It’s been two years since I blogged about Pursuing Justice, which remains my most-read post to date.

I’m excited to introduce you to The Grand Paradox: The Messiness of Life, the Mystery of God and the Necessity of Faith (Thomas Nelson). Wytsma is a genuine storyteller who pulls from his own life experiences of coming to faith at age 22 while a student at Clemson.

Wytsma is a pastor who loves the local church and uses The Grand Paradox as a way to have a frank conversation about the true nature of Christian faith.

I’ll let Wytsma tell you more about his new release in the following Q and A:

Q: How did the idea of The Grand Paradox come about?

A: The Grand Paradox was an attempt to address the tension we feel in life when we realize life is messy (messier than we think it should be) and God is mysterious (less clear and forthright than we think he should be). That tension is the life of faith — the walk where we choose to obey and follow despite the lack of clarity, presence of suffering or experience of doubt and dark nights.

The American church has a history of shading faith so we come up with false notions that everything is about me… it’s all individualized and ultimately is aimed at my well-being and blessing. Scripture, however, tells a different story. We were never promised exemption from difficulty or perfectly blessed lives simply because of our belief in God — rather, we’re promised that God is good and his ways are better despite the trials, despite the setbacks and despite the allure of sin and selfishness.

I loved the exercise of tackling most of the deep questions we wrestle with and emerging with a God-centered and joy filled answer: that faith, hope and love are possible even in the mess and in the mystery.

A side note, this book was also kind of a part two to Pursuing Justice. I discuss this in Chapter 5, but if we are going to give our lives away — show greater concern for others than for ourselves — the issue of faith and whether God will “catch me” becomes a very important one. God, if I live this crazy counter-intuitive life of love and service, will you truly walk with me and be there for me?

Q: How was the experience different from writing your first book, Pursuing Justice?

A: Pursuing Justice was motivated by a deep desire to surface, define and explain biblical justice in its many facets. It was coming from Faith-and-Doubt-Square-Memea strong passion to teach on a subject central to scripture, but so often neglected or misunderstood. The Grand Paradox was motivated by similar passions, but the difference is that the subject of pursuing God or faith is so central to our felt experience in life. This current book touches the deep parts of our soul: our doubts, fears, confusions, desires and so much more.

I have loved the experience of writing both books, but I am particularly excited about how The Grand Paradox has the power to really clarify and encourage people’s understanding of God or ability to discern God’s will for their lives.

Q: You make reference to the many hats you wear in church ministry, education, justice, author, family man (to name a few). How do you find a healthy balance to prevent burnout?

A: That’s a good question and one I would have had a better answer to a few years ago. Truth is, the last year has been one of pruning. I’ve stepped back from leading The Justice Conference and now just play a cheerleading and coaching role. Antioch has raised up leaders who, in many ways, are able to do some of the things I used to do in better ways than I could.

The real ways I survive and move forward in life, however, come down to these:

1. A phenomenal wife, Tamara, who shares my calling and is a partner in everything I do.

2. Some amazing friends in life: Melissa McCreery at Kilns college; and Emily Hill, Linda Van Voorst, Ben Larson, Kip Jones, Rick Gerhardt and others at Antioch Church who all work as if it’s a calling, not a job. I could name dozens more but I feel like God has blessed me with a collaborative community where we love, serve and support each other in a way that allows us all to do much more together than we ever would apart.

3. Faith. My habit is to ask God every day if I’m where he wants me to be doing (or not doing) what he wants me to do. As confusing as it is sometimes and as imperfectly as I’m able to discern it, the awkward and daily walk of faith is my lifeline that guides my steps and guards me emotionally.

Q: What is your hope for The Grand Paradox?

A: My hope for The Grand Paradox is pretty straightforward. I’d love for everyone who wants to have a deeper belief and stronger relationship with God to be able to read it. The stories and thoughts in this book represent the twenty year of my own faith journey — it’s my whole life and learning following God distilled down into one short, quick read.

My wife, Tamara, feels strongly that this book needs to be read by women and especially moms. I can’t speak to that, but the engagement of women readers has grown into a strong desire for her and several others.

Q: For those headed to Chicago for The Justice Conference in June, what can attendees expect?

A: The Justice Conference has been one of the biggest blessings (and surprises) of my life. We set out with a vision of reaching tens of thousands of men and women over a decade with the message of biblical justice. This June, there will have been since inception a total of nine conferences (5 in the United States, three in Hong Kong and one in Australia). We will also have surpassed over twenty thousand attendees from about three dozen countries in that time span.

To me, this year is in many ways the culmination of the vision as a beautiful step forward with a new home in Chicago, new staff and the first ever conference in Melbourne, Australia. I think those who are able to come to Chicago, will join a conversation that is rich, deep and transforming. There are voices on stage in Chicago that many Christians might not hear anywhere else and there will be scores of people in the audience who have given their lives away for others looking to be refreshed, encouraged and to network with others of same heart and mind.

I hope everyone who is able, will consider making the time and setting aside the resources to join us for a life-changing event.

One Response to “The Grand Paradox”

  1. Denise Dilley February 8, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Love Ken Wystma and his heart for Jesus and justice! I attended the Justice conference in 2013 & 2014, and am part-way through Pursuing Justice. Looking forward to reading his new book as well. 😊

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