Adam Weber is the founder and lead pastor of Embrace, a multisite church in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Weber is the author of “Talking With God” and “Love Has A Name.” He and his wife, Becky, have four children.
Talk about your latest book, “Love Has A Name.”
Weber regularly sets up a table and two chairs at a busy intersection in downtown Sioux Falls and puts up a sign that says, “Need to talk? Grab a seat.”
Countless people have taken him up on his offer, revealing that many people just want someone to listen to them.
“My wife always tells me the ‘strange rangers’ are drawn to me, and I always take that as a compliment,” Weber said. “A couple of years ago, I felt like people wanted to be heard and they wanted to share about their brokenness and hurt. Since I first started this, person after person after person sits down. The low-income person stops, but the main person who sits down is the professional who is miserable. I’ve had people who just found out their dad has cancer. I sat down with a scientist who’s been having panic attacks. A mom who’s struggling. A guy battling addiction.”
A few years ago, Weber felt life was taking a toll on him and loving others didn’t come naturally for him, so he consulted the Gospels.
Weber said Jesus loved people personally and specifically—from sick, bad, religious and difficult people to judgmental, average and awkward people.
“The longer I follow Jesus, the more blown away I am by His love,” Weber added. “In the past, I was always blown away by the miracles Jesus did. But when I read through the Gospels coming out of that hard season when I didn’t want to love anybody, I was in awe of how Jesus is so different than me because of the way He loved others.”
There are endless books on love and commentaries on the Great Commandment. Has the meaning of love cheapened over the years?
Weber said the world’s love is limited based on a person’s beliefs and performance.
“Our culture right now as a whole screams love,” Weber said. “Love is a banner that any good human, Christian or non-Christian, should carry. But if you begin to look past the surface, it’s not a love anybody. It’s a, ‘Man, I love you if you think like me, look like me, vote like me.’ Then, if you don’t, you’re blocked and shunned. Jesus said, ‘Man, anybody can do that. That’s not the standard. The standard is not to love people that look just like you. I’m telling you to love your enemies.’ Jesus doesn’t just get to define love, but He’s the source of it.”
Weber said he wants to be like John, who refers to himself as “the one Jesus loved.”
“I’ve been following Jesus for 20 years now, and I’m asking, ‘God, would you help me to get to the place where the first way I define myself isn’t that I’m a pastor, married to my amazing wife, by my kids, friends or house, but that I would define myself as the one whom God loves.”
Often, the longer you’re a follower of Jesus and become more involved in church, it becomes more difficult to encounter nonbelievers. How have you personally combated that?
“Try being a pastor on top of it; it makes you even more secluded,” Weber said. “For some reason, there’s this interesting thing that happens in the church. The longer we follow Jesus, the cleaner our life becomes, the nicer our grass looks, the more sanitized we become. Which is really interesting because it feels like the opposite of what Jesus modeled.”
Weber said we should surround ourselves with a few close, Christian friends, but beyond that, we should look to influence others.
“A good mark is, ‘Are there any friends in your life that Christians would judge you for hanging out with?’” Weber added. “If not, I would say in that area of your life, you don’t look like Jesus. He was constantly hanging out with those that religious people constantly criticized Him about. We should have relationships with people who are questionable individuals. For me, I’ve had to intentionally reach out to people like that.”
If we’re not doing this, how can we start?
“Get to know a person’s name and get to know their story. That’s it,” Weber said. “Sometimes it’s just being intentional. I got my coffee the other day, and I noticed the barista’s glasses. I said, ‘I just love your glasses.’ Immediately she went from robot mode to a face that said, ‘I’m a human again.’ She lit up. It was like I touched the human side of her.”
Weber does this for three reasons:
1. Curiosity about who they are.
2. They’re made in the image of God.
3. To establish a relationship with them.
“I’ve always wondered why you feel so whole when you genuinely and unconditionally love someone with the love of Christ. It’s because His love is made perfect in us, not just to the other person, but also to us,” Weber added.