Chip Ingram is the teaching pastor and CEO of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for more than 30 years, Ingram has written many books, including “Discover Your True Self,” “The Real God,” “The Invisible War” and his latest “Yes! You Really Can Change: What to Do When You’re Spiritually Stuck,” which releases April 6. Ingram and his wife, Theresa, have four children and 12 grandchildren and live in California.
Talk about your new book, “Yes! You Really Can Change.”
Ingram grew up in a church environment that emphasized checking the boxes.
“It was be nice and do nice things,” Ingram said. “We went through a lot of religious motions. By the time I was 15, I realized the goal was kids should learn good morals, but had no personal relationship. It was a sort of check the box and that’s what good people in America do.”
Ingram said behavioral change isn’t synonymous with internal transformation.
“I think we’ve unconsciously relegated life-change to more external things like I don’t cuss as much or the big sort of sins of my past have pretty well been cleaned up,” Ingram said. “I think people are stuck in unresolved anger, lust, greed, private fantasies and comparison. I don’t want to paint it as either/or, but we’ve so emphasized—when a person comes to Christ—activities: read the Bible, pray, come to church, serving. After a while, I think people do a lot of external things, but don’t address their insecurities. They try hard, try hard, fail; try hard, try hard, fail. It seems like most Christians have all the same issues under the surface, but we just fake it.”
Ingram said our shortcomings aren’t there to condemn us, but to remind us of the power of the Gospel and God’s desire to see us change.
“I just think how sad because God wants us to know Him and we’re free of those things. You really can live from who you already are and there’s a process and a power. It’s not just external activities; it’s deeper, richer and attainable,” he said. “We all get spiritually stuck, but you really can change and God’s not down on you in areas where you don’t have it. He loves you. He’s for you.”
Is change something you choose to do or someone you choose to become?
In his late 20s, Ingram heard Dr. Howard Hendricks talk about the difference between performing for Christ and conforming into His image.
“I think ultimately it really is about who we become and it always involves what we do, but you can make your Christian life a performance,” Ingram said. “The Christian life is God using everything and everyone to conform us to the image of Jesus. The goal isn’t external success, but to become like Christ. The byproduct of that is God’s favor. Let’s face it, people that are kind, loving, humble, patient and other-centered, those are the people that everyone wants to be around.”
Instead of a “to-do” list, Ingram changed his focus to a “to-be” list: “I want to be a great man of God, husband, father, friend and pastor in God’s eyes.”
“Dallas Willard said, ‘The greatest gift you can give to God or to others is not in anything you do or accomplish, but who you become,’” Ingram added. “I’ve done a lot of funerals, but in every funeral, no one ever sits around the house afterwards and goes, ‘Do you know what that guy’s portfolio was? Does he have a cool car? Do you believe he owned three houses? She was such a great dresser.’ No one talks about their accomplishments or what they possess, but people tell stories about the kind of person they were.”
Let’s say we struggle with a subtle sin like you mentioned, such as greed, lust or comparison. How can we experience genuine change?
When Ingram became a Christian, he struggled with lust and wanted to change, but he didn’t know how.
“I accidentally started memorizing Scripture and accidentally found a small group where people shared honestly that they had the same struggles. I experienced tremendous internal life-change. Later I studied and realized, ‘Oh, we could do this intentionally.’ This is God’s plan,” Ingram said.
Ingram referenced Ephesians 4, which tells how internal change happens through community.
“It’s almost like you can’t hardly see the changes, but as you hang out with Him and the Christ in other believers, you’re transformed from the inside out,” Ingram added. “Genuine, life-change happens in a very specific, relational environment just like little green worms become butterflies in a cocoon. It’s rooted in power. You’re not trying to have peace, you have peace. You’re not trying to act with kindness and love, you are kind and loving. There are times when I spend more energy trying to appear loving and humble than actually being loving and humble.”
Ingram pointed to the acronym BIO.
Before God daily. We need His presence.
In community. Walk alongside other believers weekly.
On mission. A servant of God 24/7 fulfilling His agenda for your life.
“No matter how hard you try, some things require spiritual training,” he added. “For example, if you met with a running coach and never ran a marathon, but did what he said for six months—start walking, change your diet, sleep more and jog—your training would enable you to run a marathon. I watched my assistant do this who is not an athlete. She ran 26.2 miles after training. So we have to go in training for our integrity, emotions and attitude.”