Think Red is an intriguing title; can you tell me what it means to you and why you chose it as the title of your book?
In some Bibles the words of Jesus are printed in red font. I wanted a title that invited the reader—or better yet, dared the reader—to dream and reimagine what Church might look like if we made the “red letters” of Jesus the primary organizing principle for our communities of faith. The subtitle of the book explains what “thinking red” means to me: Imagine Your Community Living and Loving Like Jesus.
Here’s a snippet from the back cover that invites the reader to Think Red:
Have you ever wondered what the Church would look like if Christians began to take the words of Jesus seriously—the words some Bibles print in red? What if Jesus actually meant for us to do the things he said? What if those who “believe in Jesus” really did value the things he valued? Would the Church look different? Would your neighborhood stay the same?
In Think Red, Larry Stoess takes a close look at the values, the vision, and the mission of Jesus, and then holds up a mirror for us to see if our communities look anything like Jesus. If we dare look in the mirror we may be inspired to leave behind our obsession with consumer–based religion and follow the way of Jesus. Those who do will be set free to imagine creative and whimsical expressions of community.
Tell me about Think Red and why you wrote it?
It would be misleading to say Think Red is a love story but in a way that’s exactly what the book is about. It’s a story about love: God’s love for the world, the love Jesus expressed in the words he spoke and the way he loved people—especially those who were overlooked and pushed to the margins of society. It’s a story about God’s love for the poor and God’s passion for justice and mercy. I wrote the book hoping those of us who call ourselves Christians would fall in love with Jesus all over again and recommit ourselves to creating faith communities that actually love people the way he loves us.
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When I got home from my retreat I had to test the Monk’s theory. I went to my art room and loaded my palette with red, yellow, black and white paint. I placed a canvas on the easel and started painting. The white strokes of my paintbrush came from the top down, black from the bottom up. Stokes of red came from the left, yellow from the right. The longer I painted the more intense the strokes became. As I slammed and mixed the four colors together the face of a man, tormented with pain began to emerge. The color of the man’s face was olive.
One childhood creation that Ryan made sits on an old wood crate in our church sanctuary—three pieces of wood, three nails, and a coat hanger. It’s not fancy, it doesn’t glitter or draw attention to itself; but for those of us who worship at Church of the Promise, it’s a simple and subtle reminder of how Jesus used a piece of wood and three nails to express God’s love for the world.
My friend Scott Dean lives in our neighborhood and worships at Church of the Promise. The other day he borrowed Ryan’s wood cross for a “project” he was working on. A week later he returned with an oil painting of the Cross and Nails. Scott, like Ryan, used his gifts to create an expression of art that points others towards God’s love.
If our hope is to live in a Fellowship of Saints we must create a culture free from pretention. We must remove our mask and be real with one another, confessing our sin and extending grace upon grace.
Hear this good news according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “God wants to see you as you are, and God wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers and sisters, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that!”
Here’s some rock-solid wisdom I’ve gleaned from spending time with Jesus:
First, hear the invitation: Come and receive! Take time to read and reflect on the Red Letters in your Bible, sit at Jesus’s feet, meditate on his word, soak in the Spirit of God. But don’t be satisfied by simply meditating on the cool things Jesus said. Hear his challenge. Be willing to confess your faults and change your behavior. Get engaged in the work of the kingdom. Put the Red Letters into practice.
Live into your identity as a son or daughter
of the King.
Larry Stoess is an author, public speaker, and urban church planter. He loves telling stories about how dreaming with God will empower people to make old and broken things new again. Larry and a band of friends founded the Church of the Promise in Louisville's Portland neighborhood; The Table, a pay-what-you-can community café; and Promise Housing Plus, a non-profit construction company. He has written about their experience of dreaming with God in his new book: Think Red.