(Photo: Fresh Life Church)
Editor's Note: In a season where every day seems to bring a new assault on traditional biblical views, there are nonetheless a whole new generation of young pastors preaching orthodox biblical Christianity and seeing their churches grow exponentially because of it. The Christian Post has picked but a few of scores of pastors enjoying the favor of God in this way, in an effort to find out what about the Gospel resonates in today's generation.
Pastors interviewed are under 40, most, but not all, in urban settings and are attracting Christians over a wide age spectrum, including Millennials and Generation X. These pastors uphold traditional biblical views of family and morality, yet attract young people and are gaining national reputations.
Today we spotlight Levi Lusko, 31, pastor of Fresh Life Church, a multi-site church in Kalispell, Montana.
Evangelist Greg Laurie believes that God is going to use Pastor Levi Lusko of Fresh Life Church in Montana in a powerful way in the coming years.
"Levi is, when it's all said and done, a Bible expositor," Laurie told The Christian Post recently. "Yet, his style is so engaging, relevant, and humorous, people might not catch that right away.
"In a day when some ministers sound more like motivational speakers than preachers of the Word of God, Levi stands out and gives me hope for the future. He faithfully teaches and preaches God's Word with clarity and passion," said Laurie, who has brought Lusko alongside his Harvest Ministry's outreach events as an MC for the last several years.
"The Lord has already used him to dramatically impact the state of Montana, and I believe that for Levi Lusko the best is yet to come."
Laurie said he is impressed by Lusko's character the most.
"Levi loves the Lord with all of his heart and he loves his wife and children," he said. "He has experienced the worst loss imaginable: that of his dear daughter, Lenya. Yet through all of this, his faith has not grown weaker but stronger."
Over the last six years, Fresh Life Church, with its multi-sites throughout Montana, has grown to over 2,000 members and seen "thousands upon thousands give their lives to Jesus," Lusko said. His ministry now includes radio, television, and a national sexual purity program.
An edited transcript of Lusko's interview with The Christian Post is below:
CP: You are experiencing success gathering people to orthodox Christianity in a generation increasingly opposed to it. How would you explain this?
Lusko: We began the church six years ago and just taught the Bible. We've never had anything else to give. We've just taken what we received, like Paul said, that which I have been given I give out, and that Christ died according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that three days later he rose again. Like Jesus said, "If I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to myself" in John 12. So that's been our goal. We started it with a handful of people above a barn in an empty room six years ago in Montana, and everyone said it will not work like it works in California or [other places], people are different here. We simply taught the Bible and had worship and lifted up the name of Jesus, and we found attraction.
I focus more in ministry on what makes people the same than what makes them different. We are all the same in our common need for a savior, our common fear of death, and sense of guilt over the sins we've committed. The Bible resonates that. I've never really looked at "well, how do we reach this generation?" or "how do we reach this people group?" Everyone is more alike than we think at the end of the day, and so we haven't had any difficulty as far as people receiving the Bible or people needing something else. We just taught the Bible and God has blessed it.
CP: Are you an expository preacher? An exegetical preacher? What kind of preacher are you?
Lusko: By and large, our custom has been to go through books of the Bible, chapter by chapter, verse by verse. That's been the bread and butter of our church. We do series that are topically based and there are definitely benefits to both. When you go through a book of the Bible you allow God to pick the frequency and the concentration of topics that come up. You can't soap box or hobby horse when what's in the text next week brings up every topic you can imagine, even subjects you would never bring up, but there is also benefit to homing in on a topic for a season, and we do that as well from time-to-time, which gives you a chance to have a heightened amount of attention on one topic. But even then, I tend to announce a topic, pick a chapter and verse, or text for that topic and still exposit. So, my definite comfort level is exposit scriptures, whether topically or going through a book.
CP: How do you do practical application?
Lusko: I think that when you've done a good job of expositing the text and unpacking it, it's like a mirror you look into. You see clearly what needs to be changed. Our format is kind of, what does it say, what does it mean, and how do we apply it to our lives? I heard someone say that the sermon begins when the application starts.
CP: How do you set up your church to keep the practical application going, how do you make sure your congregants bear fruit?
Lusko: The biggest thing we do to foster discipleship and community is our small groups, which are everything to our church. We say that if you only go on weekends you are getting less than half of what this church has to offer. At church we have hundreds of small groups meeting all over the state of Montana getting together and discussing the weekend message and seeking to spur each other on to godly living. That's probably the most important thing we do to see what we hear on the weekend lived out in day-to-day life.
CP: What about the hard places, the places where society is really coming against Christian beliefs, how do you maintain orthodoxy there?
Lusko: I think God does a good job of that himself. We preach the Bible. We don't get political. I don't want to polarize. I want to be a witness and minister to Republicans and Democrats, and God is neither. So, we want to just unleash what He has to say and help people to form a biblical world view and make those godly righteous decisions by having their inner man built up by the Holy Spirit.
CP: How do you keep the Bible in one hand, preaching orthodox theology, but balance that with being relevant to the young generation and engaging the culture?
Lusko: I'm just a jacked-up sinner who has found grace, who wants to share that with whoever will listen, if that's young, if that's old, we are just trying to use every cultural mechanism – podcast, tweet, Instagram – whatever we can to get the Gospel out. But we don't try and be relevant. I just feel like that is such a mistake because people can just smell that a mile away. You just have to be who you are, whether you are a professor, like Tim Keller, or you are hip and slick, like Steven Furtick, or you're rowdy and controversial, like Mark Driscoll. Those are just who they are, they are not putting on an air or an act. The Bible makes the Bible relevant. God is relevant. People want to know what the heck is going to happen to them when they die. They want to know why getting laid and getting paid doesn't satisfy, and when we just simply address these things at a gut level, it resonates. I think the biggest mistake you can make is that you over specify the demographic that you're trying to target – just go with what you got. God has gifted you uniquely to reach people and just do it with all your heart.
CP: What is the balance between evangelism and edification (discipleship) when you are preaching to mostly saved people in the congregation?
Lusko: I think you always have to be mindful of it. Jesus gave us our marching orders. We are to go into all the world and preach the Gospel – the Good News to every creature. That always has to be in your mind. For me, a built-up Christian is going to do the job of an evangelist, so yes, there is a definite emphasis needed to teach the church and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry because they are going to be the best advertisement for the Gospel as they are living the most godly life. So, that has to be in your mind, but it's almost like a split screen focus. I don't feel like there should ever be a dichotomy put up of one side or the other. Those are one of the same all the time, every time. In every situation we have to try to redeem the time because the days are short.