‘Critical Grace / Living on God’s Life Support’ is thought-provoking new book by Brooklyn native LeeAndrew Wright
LeeAndrew Wright’s new book is a powerful work that combines devotional passages with short stories that Wright has been saving up for most of his life.
“Critical Grace,” as a whole, is a testament to forbearance. This is not the standard book of warm devotional platitudes. Instead it is a strikingly unique piece of writing that encourages readers to search out their own truths.
Wright is a native Brooklynite, born and raised in Brownsville, and lead pastor at Kingdom Building Victorious Church in Gowanus. Wright is also the host of the Gospel Truth Show. He holds degrees in marketing and is currently pursuing a doctorate in psychology.
Wright is a charismatic and soft-spoken individual who took the time to discuss his new book with the Brooklyn Eagle. He explained what motivated him to write it and what he hopes readers will learn from it.
Brooklyn Eagle: What inspired you to create such a work interspersing devotionals with short stories?
LeeAndrew Wright: The inspiration to create “Critical Grace” came when I lost nine family members in two months to various health issues. Going through that grief, I was depressed and lost everything I had — my home, my career. Depression pretty much stole my life at that time. Everything I had depended on was gone. Though I was very well known in the church community, I didn’t have the church to depend on. I had to suffer through that alone. When people ask me what got me through that period, I say it was the grace of God. It was the critical grace of God. Sometimes, when people are sick, they are put in the critical care unit to help keep them alive. In much the same way, I had to totally depend on God in order to stay alive because I had nobody else to depend on.
BE: While reading the book, I was struck by the way you present some seemingly insurmountable life experiences and subtly walk the reader through a greater understanding of how to face such challenges.
LW: That was the goal — to write something that people could carry in their bag and in their heart. I wanted to offer them something [so] that if they didn’t have a community to support them, they would have a resource or reference of some sort to help sustain them. I am a Christian. The goal of the Christian was supposed to be community, love and outreach. We’ve become more commercial, so we don’t look out for one another as we should. I did not want people to spend all their time with the Lord and then suffer and face different adversities without a community to reach out to. I wrote this so that people would have a place to go to, a place where they could find healing.
BE: You also offer the reader specific biblical passages that pertain to each story and devotional.
LW: Yes. The stories were not just a figment of my imagination. A lot of those stories are my truths. I just changed a few things. The purpose of putting those scriptures in the book as references is so that people can get comfortable with, open and read their Bibles. Also, as a pastor, I try never to give people my opinion.
BE: In your story “All Aboard,” you use the train as a metaphor that carries a diverse group of riders to glory or otherwise. You make a strong case for living a good life, because one never knows when God will call them home.
LW: The purpose of “All Aboard” is to show how religion imprisons the Spirit. Religion is bondage. When you put bondage on Spirit, people are imprisoned. Your good works or your good life cannot get you into heaven. But being obedient to God can get you into heaven. We, as humans, have our understanding of good and bad, but does God agree with our version of good and bad? I can’t make a prejudgment about somebody else’s soul based on my human knowledge. I don’t know what God’s ultimate judgment is going to be for that individual. “All Aboard” deals with sinners and saints. We’re all in life together. We’re all on the same train and we’re trying to get to our final destination. I want people to understand that what you do on your journey determines your outcome. We cannot buy God. God is not a metro-card we refill every week. We have to be careful of how we travel and whom we affect as we travel.
BE: I remember reading Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” and it scared me. Your book encourages readers to live a good life. You choose not to frighten, but rather to gently enlighten. Please explain.
LW: That goes back to what the Bible says. The Bible says that “with love and kindness have I drawn thee.” Jesus was love and kindness. If I draw you based on fear, then I really didn’t draw you. I’m making you serve me. God gives us a choice to serve Him. That’s why salvation is free. People give out stuff for free all the time, but it depends on whether you show up to get it. People try to force salvation on others through fear, so most people will serve God out of fear rather than out of love. My job is to make Jesus your friend and not your enemy.
BE: I did not expect the ending of “Humble Soup.” What a great story, another great lesson. I thought I had Justine and Levi’s fate figured out until the end, and I was greatly impressed with how you turned the tables in this one.
LW: In “Humble Soup,” I used characters based on my grandparents, my dad and his siblings. All through the story, I emphasized the fruit of the Spirit. Although Justine was a Christian and a loving woman, she was still challenged.
BE: You hold degrees in marketing and you are currently pursuing a doctorate in psychology. What drew you to the ministry when you could have easily pursued a lucrative career in either field?
LW: I went to school for marketing and never used it. It didn’t pan out for me. I’ve been in ministry all of my life, but did not come into the pastorate until about four years ago. I didn’t want to pastor, because I saw the challenges of pastoring people. But, at the same time, knowing that if I was to pastor, I would want to pastor the rejects, the misfits, the Muppet babies, the garbage pail kids of life, the people who were discarded and rejected. I knew that doing so would get me in trouble with the traditions of the Church, because the Church already has its picture of what church is supposed to be. I wanted people who didn’t have a desire for God, to be introduced to Him. Though pastoring is my heart, writing is my love. I love to write and I love to teach. My teaching is very unconventional. I use the message of the Bible but not necessarily the methods of the church.
BE: You refer to the stories and reflections in this book as pieces in a puzzle that speak of pain and joy, with the aim of healing the brokenhearted and introducing redemption to the discarded. Please explain this notion further.
LW: It is all a puzzle. We go through life trying to figure out where we fit in. When we don’t find a place to fit in we tend to walk away. We need patience to understand exactly where we fit in. Until then, that puzzle is going to be incomplete. Pain, separation, death, abandonment — all of these things that I speak of in the book — separate people. You can never be a whole puzzle if you keep taking your piece and walking away. We all need each other as a community.
BE: Do you have any final thoughts to impart to your readers?
LW: I always tell people, God is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent, He will never leave us hopeless, helpless or useless. That’s my motto.
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