So Vander Klay started his own YouTube channel dedicated to all things Peterson. Each time Peterson uploads a video of one of his lectures or interviews, Vander Klay uploads his own video discussing what Peterson said from a Reformed pastor’s perspective. Since then, Vander Klay’s YouTube channel has gained almost 7,900 subscribers, with some videos attracting tens of thousands of views. Compare that with Vander Klay’s church, which has about 50 mostly elderly attendees each Sunday.
Later, Vander Klay organized monthly meet-ups for anyone wanting to talk about Peterson. Each meeting draws about a dozen people ranging from Christians to agnostics to atheists, and discussion topics include not just Peterson but questions such as: “Is God real?” “What does Christianity teach?” “Did Jesus really rise from the dead in a physical body?” New people who had seen Vander Klay’s videos started visiting his church in Sacramento.
“It’s very strange,” Vander Klay told me, still chuckling in disbelief. “I couldn’t as a pastor have designed anything this good.” Before his YouTube videos, if he had tried to reach out to this group of skeptics, they would have shut their ears. But because of Peterson, these unbelievers are turning to the Bible with fresh curiosity, wondering why, if the Bible is so full of profound truths, they had avoided it for so long. Now they’re watching Vander Klay’s videos, and every day someone is emailing the pastor questions, or confiding in him their current struggles, or asking him out for coffee—and Vander Klay is only too happy to listen and point them to the gospel if they’re ready.
Peterson is not a born-again Christian, but he started something. People are tuning in. They perk up when Peterson advises them to “pick up your cross and walk up the hill.” But such pull-up-your-bootstraps self-reliance leads them up a very different hill than the one on which Christ bore the weight of the cross, then rose and conquered the grave.
Without fully recognizing it, many of Peterson’s fans are looking for a savior. At some point, they realize that Peterson is not a savior, and that he can only take them so far toward the one true Savior. So here’s the question for Christians: Are we ready to step in where Peterson leaves off, and provide not just good advice, but Good News?