Ben Bennett is joined by Cody Buriff to discuss the core message of Jesus and how it brings resolution to so many of our questions today. Using a new resource called “Made To Thrive”, they discuss practical ways that you can share the good news of Jesus with others, and engage in conversations about life’s big questions.
Formerly the Director of Innovation with Cru, Cody Buriff is the Director of Resource Initiatives at Restoration Project. He is passionate about working alongside people to help strategize, problem solve, and make the world better.
Connect with Cody on Instagram @codyburiff
Visit the Resolution Movement website: resolutionmovement.org
Follow us on Instagram @resolutionmovement
Ben: Welcome to Resolution, an initiative of Josh McDowell Ministry. Here we equip you to help youth overcome hurts and struggles and start thriving in life with Christ and others. I’m your host, Ben Bennett. Welcome to season one. Hey, everyone. Welcome back to The Resolution Podcast. Ben Bennett here, and I am so stoked about today’s episode ‘cause we’re gonna be talking about the core message of Jesus and how it helps bring resolution to so many of our struggles, the tough questions we have, and why we’re here in life.
And this whole message is the basis of so much of what we’ve talked about in this season, like how we heal from hurts, how we overcome struggles, and how we return to the life that we were created to live. And today I’m joined by one of the most strategic, hard-working, and kind people I know. He’s been a good friend for years. His name is Cody Buriff. And he’s worked with Cru for 12 years and has served as the Indianapolis Innovation Team Leader for the past four years. Cody, thanks for being with us today.
Cody: Thanks, Ben, good to be here.
Ben: Yeah, so awesome to see you, to get to connect, to talk about this episode today.
Cody: I gotta say though, every time I see you, I think you might have a new tattoo. So, I’m just wondering when you’re gonna put one on your face or something. I don’t know.
Ben: Well, the thing that helps is like, well, you see me online quite a bit, but not in person every year or couple years. So, that makes me feel a little bit better about myself.
Cody: It’s true.
Ben: Yeah. Well, let’s jump in today and get going. Today we live in a rapidly changing world. And in the US, we’ve seen a big shift, especially in the past few years, with so many people growing up without a working understanding of the message of Jesus and the Bible. And maybe that’s you today. We’re glad you’re turning in, and, hey, we believe that the conversation we’re having today will serve you. Or maybe you’re a youth leader, a parent, a teen, or you work with a campus ministry like Cru. We believe this conversation will serve you as well. And it wasn’t even 50 years ago that the majority of people in this country were growing up believing in God, knowing about Jesus.
But many just didn’t understand how to have this personal relationship with God. But now things are so different. And then you add on that everything that young people today are surrounded by – a culture where truth is thought of as something that each person decides, mental health issues skyrocketing, porn addiction at an all-time high, racial injustice, human trafficking, evil and suffering all around us –everywhere – in addition to that, a global pandemic, which we find ourselves in currently. Cody, so much going on in the world. With all of these shifts, and in your experience working with students and all the research you’ve done, what are the spiritual questions that students are no longer asking?
And then, what are they actually asking?
Cody: Oh, that’s a great question, and you hit the nail on the head. I mean, really the word I would use is “context.” Right? So, for many of us, if you’re a youth leader, or if you’re a part of a campus ministry at some point in time or work for them or whatever, it’s like, we’ve all been trained to use tools or think through the gospel message in a fairly, fairly narrow way. And so, all the tracts that you’ve ever seen, for the most part, either they follow a four-point outline or there’s the Roman Roads or whatever – different things, right? Most of those were developed in the ‘60s. It was a contextualized gospel message for people living in America in the ‘60s. And that was a great thing. It worked really well, right?
But, like as you mentioned, the culture has shifted. And ideally, over the course of time, we continue contextualizing the gospel. We don’t just keep it with that message for the ‘60s. We keep changing it. And so, really, even just as we’ve dived into this project that we’re gonna talk about later, we did a lot of research and started asking the question, like, “What is the fallen condition or the redemption solution? What is the good news for this generation?” Right? And so, what we did, we talked to a ton of students and read a lot of things that other smart people have written. But really what we discovered was this generation doesn’t feel guilty over sin. Right?
You know, traditional ways of communicating the gospel message – the primary thing is you’re guilty for your sin, and you need forgiveness for it. Well, this generation doesn’t feel guilty over sin, so why lead with that? And then the other thing is, most gospel presentations talk about like, “Well, you need to have your sins forgiven so that you can be in heaven forever.” Well, this generation – heaven? The afterlife? That’s not a primary concern. Right? This generation – they’re lonely. They’re overwhelmed. They feel purposeless. They’re hurt. They aren’t worrying about what’s gonna happen in the afterlife. They’re not feeling guilty over sin.
They’re trying to figure out, like, “How does Jesus actually affect my life today? How does He affect the things that I’m experiencing – the things that I’m going through – today?”
Ben: Yeah, so good. So, so true. It seems there are greater felt needs that this generation has – greater pressing issues in people’s lives. And of course, knowing God personally, talking about heaven, is still important. And we can get there. But that’s not the starting point. They’re asking different questions. We gotta start with where people are at and answer the questions that they’re actually asking. And I was talking recently to one high school youth minister, and she was sharing that about five years ago, she would sit down with a student and walk through the entire message of Jesus – the gospel – in one sitting – maybe 20 minutes – because they had a working understanding of Jesus, the Bible, and God.
But now it takes four weeks – four different meetings – because many don’t have a framework for a Christian worldview. And, I mean, to some extent, it's a good thing that they’ll take the time and explore that ‘cause in any major life decision, you don’t wanna jump in without doing the research. But that just kinda shows the difference in where we’re at today. So, a question I wanted to ask you, Cody, is – for those that call themselves Christians, that want to engage in conversation about life struggles, about spirituality with others, what are some practical ways that they can begin to do that?
Cody: Yeah, that’s a good question. Geez. I would say, “Be kind.” I mean, that sounds simple, but it’s like, yeah, be kind. Be generous. Listen. It’s like, how many people actually listen anymore, you know? And I think the reality is that a lot of people now, when they’re in a conversation, if they’re listening, they’re mostly listening just to try to figure out how they’re gonna respond or how to fix the other person’s problems or whatever, but most of the time, that’s not actually helpful or loving. Listening well requires compassion. Right? And the root word for compassion in Latin, it basically means “to suffer with.”
And so, in essence, we need to be able to sit in another person’s pain with them – bear their burdens. And I would say that is in almost direct opposition to kind of an old school way of thinking about some things, you know, the typical posture of apologetics. Right? Apologetics is good. Don’t get me wrong. There’s some awesome, really helpful things there. Right? But typically in apologetics, it’s like, what you imagine is you’re getting in an argument with somebody to try to win them over. Right?
And I would say pretty much every single time in the last 15 years that I’ve been sharing my faith with people, anytime anybody’s ever brought up any kind of an apologetic-style question or argument, it’s almost always a smokescreen for someone’s deeper pain that they’re trying to hide from and kinda deflect. And so, really arguing with them about something is not gonna help. My dad told me when I was a young man, he said, “You can win an argument and lose a soul.” And that really changed my perspective on things. I don’t think we need to see ourselves as responsible for winning the world or winning people to Jesus. That’s His job. That’s what He does.
That’s the Holy Spirit, right? We need to be faithful ambassadors representing His love to our neighbors, to our students, to the people around us. And so, I guess, yeah, be kind. Love well. I mean, that’s the best place I’d start.
Ben: Yeah, yeah. I love that. And yet, totally agree with what you’re saying. What I’ve seen, while apologetics, of course, are important and knowing why we believe what we believe in and things like that, I’ve seen so many people have those questions about God and the resurrection and credibility of Scripture. But oftentimes, I’ve seen people obsessing about those questions, like you’re saying, as a smokescreen as a defense mechanism for this deeper hurt of, “Man, I don’t wanna believe in a God who allows evil and suffering,” or those kinda things.
And I love what you’re saying about being kind and listening, because sharing the message of Jesus – just having spiritual conversations – doesn’t have to be weird. It’s not about selling something. It’s not about cramming something down somebody’s throat. It’s about asking and listening and engaging in a normal conversation. And one of my favorite questions is just asking people, “Do you come from some kind of spiritual background?” and just listening and genuinely caring and seeing if there’s any way that I can serve them along their journey.
I remember in my journey when I was having all kinds of questions about life and doubts about God, and looking into all of these different religions, the last thing I wanted was to be told what to believe and to be talked at. I wanted to be genuinely cared about, loved, and have the freedom to explore Christianity without being forced to come to some kind of conclusion. And that was so powerful in eventually coming back and following Jesus. But one of the most practical ways that so much of this can play out is through this new resource that you and I, Cody, and many others worked so hard at for a combined number of years to develop.
And all of that came as a result of these experiences, this research, and the shifts that we’ve seen in the world in the life of young people. So, to those listening, long story short – Cody and I teamed up with his team over a year ago to develop this resource that explores the core message of Jesus in a way that answers why we are here, how we experience satisfaction in life, how we can find healing from our hurts and struggles, and how, ultimately, we can return to this life that we were created to live – this thriving life – here and now with Jesus and others. So, let’s talk about the Made to Thrive resource. Got it right here – be exploring this.
But before we get into it, this was quite the process of developing it, wrestling with some deep questions – the message of Jesus, culture – and how to communicate all of that. Cody, what were some of the memorable moments for you in this whole process?
Cody: Yeah, I mean, it was a heck of a process. I mean, along the way, I feel like my job was to ask hard questions and backing it up where you feel like you’re kinda walking along a cliff of heresy. Like, you don’t wanna fall off the cliff, but you gotta walk it. You know? And so, even just asking questions like, “What is the gospel?” and, “Do people really need to know that Jesus died on a cross for them to accept Him and walk –” there’s just all these crazy things that are – it was a really significant time for me and for a lot of the people working on it of wrestling with the Lord and trying to figure out, like, “Lord, what is the good news for this generation? What is the good news, period?
“What are the implications of Your Lordship, of You coming, of You being here and taking the penalty for our sins and letting us know You?” It was really significant and life changing, frankly.
Ben: Yeah, it was. I echo that. I mean, I think we spent months thinking through, “What did Jesus say when He called people to follow Him?” ‘Cause so many times He just said, “Come, follow Me.” And then we’re like, “Okay, when we’re explaining this, how much do we have to share? How much does somebody have to understand to begin a relationship with Jesus and following Him?” and re-questioning or re-examining in the Scriptures in the context so much of what we just, kinda, grew up accepting or used in sharing the core message of Jesus. And then going back to, “Wait, what does Scripture actually say? How did Jesus actually do that?”
And at moments, being super concerned about what people were gonna think or, “Are we going too far?” And then getting a lot of good feedback from people with brilliant minds and seminary degrees and all of that. And yeah. It was really a challenging process, but an exciting one of learning and re-examining things. So, yeah. Cody, will you just share how people can use this tool?
Cody: Yeah. Well, many of the people that are more vocational ministry or volunteers, that kinda thing, have kind of been trained in how to use evangelism tools similar to this, whether it’s a tract or a booklet or an app or whatever – things like that. And in many ways, it's similar to that, frankly. One difference, I would say, is that, ideally, this is not just a presentation tool. It’s a conversation tool. And so, you’ll see lots of questions written into it for the purpose of facilitating conversation to give space for people to process.
And so, in a practical sense, you’re in a conversation with somebody – a friend or a student or whatever – and a lotta times, I realize that introducing a booklet can kinda feel a little awkward. Right? Or a tool can feel a little awkward or whatever. But the reality is, is that it might feel awkward for you as the user, but it’s not that awkward for the other person. Like, in fact, it can be kind of loving and caring to say something along the lines of like, “Hey, the message in here, it really changed my life, and I would love to be able to share with you. Would that be okay?” And then simply just walking through it in a conversational way. And again, it’s not meant to be a presentation.
It’s meant to be more of a conversation tool about the gospel.
Ben: Yeah. A question I love to ask a student I’m already having a spiritual conversation with is, “Can I get your opinion on life and spiritual things by using this set of cards?” Or – it’s kind of a set of cards that are joined together. And that’s really what it’s about. It’s not trying to sell something. It’s about sharing and having a conversation and listening and getting someone else’s perspective. So, let’s go ahead and explore the resource and just kinda walk through some of it.
Cody: Yeah. Well, I’ll just open it up. So, if you’re looking at this, or if you have one in your hand somehow, first of all, I just wanna point out the artwork. So, the first page, we had an artist come in and actually do – he’s a painter – but did some digital painting. And so, the imagery throughout kind of tells a story that goes along with the text on the page. And so, this first page is very vibrant and lush and really represents thriving in a real way. And so, just to point that out. But it starts off, “Created to Thrive,” and it starts out with a question. Again, it’s conversational. And it says, “How would you describe thriving?”
And then it says, “We were created to thrive, to love and be loved, to have healthy connection with God and with each other and with the rest of creation. We were made to live in place where our deepest longings are satisfied and every person is valued. A place of wholeness.” And it quotes John 10:10. It says, “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” And then in Psalm 1:3, it says, “They are like trees, planted along a riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” Right? And so, this is kinda what we were made for. This is the baseline – the thing that our heart longs for because we were made for it. And so, again, there’s a question.
It says, “Why do you think life isn’t always this way?” And really, what that does is it validates the experience that we don’t experience thriving most of the time. And so, it kinda opens up that reality for people and gives them the space to say that. And then you’ll notice as it transitions, it goes from this lush garden into this arid, lifeless, dusty desert space that’s real hazy and kinda polluted. And so, the second card – the second page – it says, “Life is not the way it was intended. After God made us, humanity was deceived into thinking that God didn’t want the best for us. We thought we could thrive apart from Him.” And it quotes Isaiah 53, and it says, “All of us like sheep have strayed away.
“We have left God’s paths to follow our own.” “And because we choose to walk away from God, death and it’s effects entered the world. We cut ourselves off from His life source. Our betrayal changed everything. Painful brokenness spread inside of us, in our relationships, and throughout creation.” It’s talking about the fall. “And as a result, we long to be loved, to thrive, and for everything to be made whole again.” That’s kinda where we sit right now. And so, it asks the question of, “In what ways have you seen this in your life or in your community?” Right? Giving, again, more word, more ability to process. Like, “How have you experienced the lack of thriving around you?” So, that’s the first two.
Ben: Yeah, I love that word about “you and your community,” especially this next generation thinking so connected, and the most diverse generation in American history. So, so important to pose that question. Like, it’s not just individualistic, it’s corporate. And that’s what the Christian life is supposed to be about. But if you’re listening to this, we’re walking through the actual tool where you can actually see this podcast – the whole podcast – on YouTube. Just search “Resolution Movement.” And if you’re listening to this and wanna see what the tool looks like, you can do that.
And then another thing I wanted to point out was, if you’ve listened to previous episodes of this podcast, you’ll notice that some of the language in this tool is pretty similar. ‘Cause one of the things that we worked on was using what we’ve talked about in this podcast called “The Wholeness Apologetic Model,” which presents this life of thriving that God created us to live, and why we experience brokenness, and how we can heal. So, we’ve really used a lot of that as the foundation for much of the template and direction of this message, but of course, added a lot more in and fleshed it out more. But I’ll just pick up at the third card. Were we on the third one or the fourth one?
I think we’re on the third one. Okay, “Longing and Dissatisfaction” is the third one. And it’s all about how we long for more. We long for more than the state that we’re currently experiencing. It says, “That as our longing to thrive goes unmet, we attempt to fulfill that longing with things apart from God. This ultimately cannot satisfy. We get stuck in patterns of behavior or thought that actually keep us from truly thriving. We increasingly experience the effects of death, disconnection, pain, and anxiety.” And then, the fourth card – yeah, we’re on the fourth one now – is about reconnecting with God.
It says, “Even though we walked away, God still loves us and offers us the only way to reconnect with Him. God came to earth in the Person of Jesus, and like us, experienced the pain of the world. 1 John 4:9, ‘This is how God showed His love among us. He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.’” And then it goes on to say, “That through His death in our place, He provided a way for us to reconnect with God. In rising from the dead, He began making all things whole and offers us the opportunity to thrive again.”
So, despite our pain, despite our hurt, despite the different ways that we seek out the fulfillment of our unmet longings and start to get anxious, depressed, go to porn, God wants to bring healing. He wants to reconnect with us. And He wants to provide something that will truly satisfy. And that starts in a relationship with Him and continues on. Cody, why don’t you share a little bit more about that in the next points.
Cody: Yeah. And as you’re looking at it, one thing you’ll notice is the visuals go from that dry, arid, dead space, and there’s this grand waterfall and rushing river that enters into this valley of thriving again. And that’s symbolic of God stepping down and bringing life and offering life again. And so, the next card is, “Jesus’s Invitation. Jesus invites us to turn from our own ways and trust Him as the only way to reconnect with God and truly thrive.” And it goes on to quote Matthew 11, where it says, “Jesus said, ‘Come to Me all you who are weary and carry heavy burdens –’” right, that’s all of us, “‘…and I will give you rest. Let me teach you and you will find rest for your souls.’”
I feel like this is the Scripture for this generation. And it says, “You can accept this invitation by simply talking to Him about it.” Often in tools like this it actually writes out a prayer. And one thing we didn’t wanna do was prescribe specific words, instead initiate sort of an attitude. And so, what it says is, “Just tell Jesus that you are weary of doing things your own way. Tell Him that you trust Him, that you wanna turn and follow Him and do things His way. Tell Him that you wanna reconnect with Him and thank Him for His gift of true thriving.”
And then the verse after that, it just says, “But to all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become to children of God,” to enter into God’s family, right? That’s scratching the itch of loneliness. We don’t have to be alone. And then, again, it has a question, “What do you think about Jesus’ invitation to reconnect with God?” And so, then the very last card, or page, is “Thriving Again.” And this is where it just talks about what it looks like walking with Jesus once you’ve decided. And so, it’s, “As we choose to walk with Jesus daily, we discover that He knows our deepest longings better than we do.” I feel like that’s pretty powerful.
And then it gives where it’s like, “We will still experience the pain of the world at times, but in the midst of that, Jesus is with us and gives us peace. Together with others who follow Jesus, we can experience healing, joy, and we can truly thrive. One day Jesus will return and finish making all of the broken things whole. Those who follow Jesus will fully thrive. We will fully love and be loved. We will have perfect connection with God, with each other, and with the rest of creation.” And that’s a callback really to that first initial thriving that we were made for. Right? And then it confirms that in John 16. He says, “I have told you all of this so that you may have peace in Me.
“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.” And then it asks, “Have you ever decided to trust Jesus?” And frankly, whether your answer is yes or no, the next question also applies is, “Would you like to?” So, it just gives us a place to go with our hope that’s not in the world that is constantly letting us down. We can trust in the One who’s overcome the world – the pain, the anxiety, the loneliness, the hurt, the brokenness that we experience.
Ben: Yeah, I love it. And just putting all these points together, these cards together, it truly does communicate the core message of Jesus. If somebody asked, “What is Jesus about?” I would wanna share this with them – all of these different points. And I think one of the things that I love, too, is that it starts on a note of hope and that we were created to thrive. And it goes through all of the challenges and the pain and the hurt that we can experience in life. And then it ends on hope. “But it doesn’t have to be this way. Things can get better.” And yeah. Just amazing how this turned out.
And then on the back of this tool – I’ll hold it up for those watching the video – there are so many great next steps, things like learning about walking with Jesus, taking next steps, how to overcome struggles and thrive – it links to ResolutionMovement.org – finding a mentor, and then finding a church. And one thing I also wanted to say is that this tool – the physical one – is available to buy at ResolutionMovement.org. You can hit the “resources” tab, and that will get you hooked up with the store and buying that. But also you can access a free online version of this at ResolutionMovement.org where you can explore this resource. So, be sure to check that out.
Cody, thanks so much for, well, really, the past year or more of working on this together and all your hard work. And thanks for joining us today in exploring this.
Cody: Thanks. Well, Ben, thanks for doing everything you’re doing. I know it’s a whole lotta work, and it’s really important. So, thanks for doing what you’re doing. And thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Ben: Absolutely. For those watching or listening, think of the people in your life that you can have spiritual conversations with and talk about life’s big questions and challenges with. And if you don’t know God personally – if you don’t know Jesus personally – I wanna encourage you to check out this tool, Made to Thrive, to investigate the person of Jesus – to read through this resource. Hey, know that God wants to bring healing and freedom to your life. And He wants a personal relationship with you. And one more thing, this is the last episode of season one of The Resolution Podcast. Thanks for being on this journey with us.
Until we continue season two, let’s keep this conversation going on Facebook and Instagram. You can find us @ResolutionMovement. There we’ll be releasing weekly, and sometimes even daily content. Or you can always reach out to us at ResolutionMovement.org. We’d love to hear from you. Take care. Thanks for listening to The Resolution Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much to us if you rate it, share it, and subscribe. To be part of the global Resolution Movement, connect with us on social media and YouTube @ResolutionMovement. That’s @ResolutionMovement. And check out ResolutionMovement.org for more information and resources.
See you soon.
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Duration: 33 minutes