Bill Giovannetti serves on the faculty of A.W. Tozer Seminary and is the Senior Pastor of Neighborhood Church of Redding. Four Letter Words is his second book. He has written numerous articles and is a popular speaker. Bill hates legalism, loves grace, and teaches that God is infinitely more committed to us than we will ever be to him. He is a graduate of Trinity Seminary and earned his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary.
What's Four Letter Words about, and where did you get the title?
Four Letter Words is about defending your faith in Christ. If you've ever felt tongue-tied standing up for Jesus, this book can help.
Even though our culture claims tolerance as a virtue, that tolerance stops at Christianity's front door: witness the hostility directed toward a sincere Christ-follower like Tim Tebow. Judging by reactions to him, you'd think he just cussed out his grandma when all he did was say a word for Christ. Speaking God's truth and living your faith is quickly becoming today's profanity. Tougher days are coming; we need to get ready.
There has never been a truth-system more satisfying, consistent, logical and beautiful than Christianity. I wanted to help God's people rise up and say so.
What four letter words do you write about?
True: who says your truth has to be my truth too? Know: how do you know God is real? Pain, Evil, and Ouch: why doesn't God stop the bad stuff? Damn: how can a loving God send people to hell? Word: What makes the Bible so special? Wait: isn't it unreasonable to expect today's people to live by biblical standards of sexuality? Hope: what good has Christianity done in the world?
The book has ten chapters, discussion questions (in the book and downloadable from the website), and 208 pages.
Did you ever struggle with your faith? How did you work through that?
Even though I've been a pastor for a long time, I struggle with my faith a lot. My earliest struggles – back in high school days – centered on scientific stuff, like evolution. In the book I tell the story of how I made peace with faith in a Creator God and how I fit together science, logic, and the gospel in my own heart.
Now that I'm a bit older, my struggles come more out of pain and suffering.
Why does God let people hurt? I cover those topics too.
Struggles are normal – we just can't let them overwhelm our faith or uproot our joy. It's super-important for us to know every question raised against Christianity has an answer. I try to provide some of those answers along with simple talking points for everyday conversations.
Who is this book for?
This book is for anyone who either struggles with faith or who wants to help friends who struggle with faith. I wrote to strengthen faith and equip believers to share faith. Our church has used this book with high school students, young adults, and senior citizens—it's been really well received across all age groups. Other churches are using it in small groups and youth groups.
I would love to see this book in the hands of every high school graduate and new college student: they need to be inoculated from the anti-Christian venom they're going to experience.
Toward the end, Four Letter Words invites readers to faith in Christ so it can be resource for evangelism too.
Discussion questions are included.
What's with the QR codes?
Part of my geek credentials, I suppose. As far as I know, Four Letter Words is the first QR-enabled book for the general market. QR codes are those postage-stamp sized boxes with indecipherable patterns inside – Quick Response codes. I wanted to make the book an interactive experience: just scan the codes with any smartphone and you'll go straight to relevant videos, audio .mp3's, and websites. Each chapter has a lot more resources on the website (www.fourletterwords.org) which you can reach either through the QR code or just by visiting the site. The geek-tech stuff in no way overwhelms the written word; it just supplements it. I hope readers like it. What did you think?
If I read this book, what will get out of it?
I wrote Four Letter Words with three simple goals in mind:
1. Clarity: Know what you believe.
2. Confidence: Know why you believe.
3. Courage: Know what to say when you don't know what to say.
So what do you do when you're not writing?
I'm the husband of one incredible wife and dad to two amazing kids. My main calling is as a pastor to the Neighborhood Church of Redding, a small-town church of over 2,000 set amid the snow-capped peaks and pristine lakes of northern California. I love preaching and teaching—spreading out a rich feast of God and his grace and digging deep into God's Word. I also serve on the faculties of A.W. Tozer Theological Seminary and Simpson University. I like watching mindless action movies, reading, hanging with friends, bass fishing, woodworking, good coffee, and Chicago sports teams. Go Bears!
Italian food is my love language.
Do you have any other books around?
My earlier book helps readers get a grip on their inner mess. If you read it, you'll meet your Inner Thug, Inner Brat, Inner Legalist, and the rest of the motley crew lurking in your soul. It's called How to Keep Your Inner Mess from Trashing Your Outer World (Monarch/Kregel, 2009). I have a couple more books in the pipeline, including a fiction book on the global political scene.
What's your spiritual background? How did you get started with Jesus?
I was reared in a tiny Chicago gospel church. I was loved. I was cared for. I was taught the Bible. That church was my second family. They introduced me to Jesus. I received him when I was young and devoted my life to him. But it wasn't until young adulthood that I began to appreciate how much Jesus was devoted to me. That discovery rocked my world. I shifted from rules to relationship and from guilt to grace. I dedicated my life to encourage instead of tear down. I strive to free others from guilt, shame, and legalism, and to help people discover life and love through God's amazing grace.
How did you pick the four letter words for each chapter?
I had a great team working with me to pick the topics. The young adult leadership team from my church hung out with me for a few coffee-shop meetings. We brainstormed ideas. We asked what questions kept surfacing in their relationships with seekers and what issues kept tripping up their conversations about Christ. The topics came from them. Each chapter grew out of the real-life struggles of real people in my church. I think this is why the book has connected in some pretty deep ways with readers.
Would you say that Christians are persecuted?
Not so much in the U.S., but persecution is definitely coming. It's not that Christians are changing; it's that culture is running from God so fast that yesterday's normal is becoming today's weird. Christians will be increasingly marginalized. Tell a typical college student he needs to be celibate till marriage and he'll look at you like you're Amish. Why don't you hop in your buggy and trot along. A generation ago, our culture would have supported that value. Today, culture attacks it. It's going to get tougher to stay strong for Jesus.
We need a new breed of Christ-follower: alert to the beliefs that tick people off, and ready to fire the weapons of truth and grace with courage, compassion, humor, and love.
There are so many books on the gospel message, do we really need another one?
Thank God for a lot of excellent books out there to defend your faith. Four Letter Words stands out because it is written for the everyday Christian. You won't need advanced degrees to understand its message. I wanted to go deep, but keep it really clear. I also made sure to include "Talking Points" after each chapter. That's where I pull the chapter's themes into a handful of memorable and repeatable truths. These take-aways can help you engage your friends in solid conversations about Christ. While many other apologetics books focus on a single topic, Four Letter Words deals with common topics that often make the average Christian feel tongue-tied. Consider it your one-stop shop for equipping in apologetics.
If aliens landed in front of you and, in exchange for anything you desire, offered you any position on their planet, what would you want?
Definitely the Minister of Space Exploration. I dig science fiction and it's my secret dream to pilot an alien spacecraft through a wormhole into another dimension. I want to boldly go where no one has gone before. Plus it would be cool to see first hand how Jesus gets glorified on the far side of Jupiter and to hit a baseball on Pluto and see how far it goes. As Minister of Technology, I'd restore Pluto's status to that of planet instead of asteroid; I feel sorry for the little guy.
If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
There's this guy on the TV show Alphas named Gary Bell who can literally see the entire electromagnetic spectrum: radio waves, phone texts, television signals, digital transmissions, and the Internet. He sees it in the air around him. I want that. Is that enough to renew my geek-card?
Name one movie you consider wildly under-appreciated.
That's easy: Tremors. Yes, the one with Kevin Bacon fighting giant worms that eat people. Creepy comedic genius. My wife loves it so much she rolls her eyes and leaves the room every time I turn it on.
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