Scalability: Principles for Church Growth based on Tim Keller’s “Leadership and Church Size Dynamics”


I see a lot of friends in the room, and it looks like some new friends, as well. So, let me quickly just introduce myself, and a little bit of background of why I even get a chance to speak up here. My name is Tim Beltz. Spent 25 years in the Coast Guard, retired to get into business, and God had other plans. 

I got into non-profit management from leading a homeless non-profit agency in Seattle. I had a chance to work with the second largest non-profit in the state of Washington. Really large Christian ministry. We started going to Mars Hill Church, met Mark Driscoll and Jamie Munson. After going through an eldership process for over a year, I was invited to come on staff. 

I served as the executive pastor at Mars Hill Church from 2007 to 2010. I was demoted to Pastor of Operations, was fired and then ... Thankfully. What a huge ... That was the best firing ever. 

Then I actually came back on staff at one of the campuses, and then God called me to come to Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY. We didn't know where Louisville was. I was invited to come for three years. So, in 2016 my wife and I had a chance to step down, retire from staff at Sojourn Community Church. 

We had a house built for us down in southwest Florida. We went there, not to retire, but to restart consulting with churches. A passion that I have. As we get started, that background becomes important because of the mistakes and lessons learned, and the opportunities that I've had to work with hundreds of churches around the country. 

In 2016, we move from Louisville to Punta Gorda, Florida. Southwest side of Florida, about 90 miles south of Tampa, about 30 miles north of Fort Myers. Having spent 25 years in the Coast Guard, I knew all about hurricanes. I spent a lot of time in Search and Rescue, and I did extensive study as to the areas that were least prone in Florida for a hurricane. 

So, the first year we were alright. This year, it's been a pretty busy season. So all of the study didn't mean much, when it was late August, early September and there was this tropical invest. A butterfly stretched it wings over the Sahara, and suddenly we have these tropical weather systems developing, and the beginning of hurricane Irma began.

How many of you live ... I'm lookin' at Jeremiah. I know that you guys are living there. But how many of you live in an area that's been impacted by a tropical disturbance of some sort? 

A couple of you. 

So, when I refer to a guy named Jim Cantore of the Weather Channel, I have learned ... If you haven't watched ... If you live in a region that you don't have to pay attention to the weather, significant weather, then you may not know who I'm talking about. Jim Cantore is one of the meteorologists who loves the big events. In fact, the bigger, worse, epic storms there are, the more excited and animated he gets. I mean, he loves epic storms. 

I've learned to hate ... Literally, you're not supposed to hate people, but I hate to see him because that means that there's tragedy on it's way. Somebody is gonna get hammered very quickly. So unfortunately, when Jim shows up in your area, it's not a good day. It really is not a good day, because he's live from your area. 

So, Irma ... And you'll find out why I'm talking about a hurricane in just a moment. But, Irma transitioned from this invest, to a tropical depression, to a storm. And then, very quickly, from a Category 1, to 2, to 3, and 4. As Jim Cantore would say, "Well, it's not just because it's Cat. 4. It's the biggest, widest storm ever." And he takes hurricane Andrew, and he shows this little circle in the midst of this big, huge hurricane Irma. It's going through the tropics, through the Caribbean, and just wiping out islands left and right. It's just headed right for us.

So, early morning on September 9th, Irma had come and landed ashore in the Florida Keys. A day later, it's working it's way up, just south of us, to Marco Island. It's marching straight up to Naples, Estero, and then Fort Myers. It's just devastating, and they're talking about storm surges of up to 15 feet. Having been in the Coast Guard, I knew that with our elevation of 11 and a half feet, we where in trouble. We would be swimming, and didn't want to do that. We left. We went to Mobile. 

Fortunately ... Providentially for us, just as it was heading north, hitting Fort Myers with 135 mile an hour winds, it jogged east about 60 miles. What we got hit with were Cat. 2, 85 mile an hour winds. So, the difference of damage between 135 and 85 is profound. Our electricity didn't even go off, is what our neighbors reported. It was such a minor event, we just lost a few trees. 

I'm mentioning about the hurricane because I've been doing a lot of thinking, and writing on Tim Keller's awesome article, brilliant article, of 11 years ago on scalability. Of the impact of size on church leadership. So, as I'm writing, or experiencing the difference between a hurricane watch, a hurricane warning, and in the cone. Oh man. I can see Jim Cantore. "You're in the cone." It's like, "Wow." The preparations that you have to make are so different with each place. The preparations that a wise and prudent person would do.

As we're experiencing that, and I'm trying to write on Keller's scalability, I'm thinking there's a lot of similarities between what comes to a church as a result of growth. It's like a hurricane that's coming. 

The National Weather Service has all kinds of terms, and has defined terms, and we've gotten more educated. As I think about growth and it's attendant complexities, I started thinking about, "I've been dealing with those issues for a few decades now." Probably another two decades on impact of growth and complexity in organizations. It seemed to me that, as I could explain this, is that I'm listening to the definitions, that strong winds and high surge are coming our direction. What are we going to do about it?

As I spend time working with churches, I find that they've got the hurricane watch, they've got the hurricane warning, and they're in the cone. Yet, they seem somehow unable to deal with the effects. The complexity shows up, and it manifests itself in so many different ways. But what it does, is that it creates an incredible amount of burnout. 

I think that the idea of bring able to do some storm preps, especially when you watch neighbors deal with these different threats in a different way. Some just seem to just ignore it. Others, they're really well out in advance of the preparation, and they're able to do it. But you see a lot of people that are immobilized. So, it caused me to think about, "Why is it that some people can't deal with the preparations?" 

I happen to be gifted with a spiritual gift of administration. It suddenly appeared to me that the gift of administration is a pretty broad term. Because with the gift of administration, it's like, "How do you understand how do you get ready for something?" 

Well, if you have the gift of administration, you go, "Wow. There's a lot of things that go with this." Things like organizing, coordinating, scheduling, prioritizing. There's a ton of things that have to be done. You can sort of put them in an order, in a sequence, and you just get busy and do it.

But, if you have the gift of administration, it becomes a pretty simple matter. If you don't have the gift of administration, it's like, "Wow. What do you do if you're a church, you're a Lead Pastor, and you don't have that particular gift? What do you do to get ready and deal with the complexities that are coming as a result of size?"

Recently, I heard a sermon ... Every once in a while an Executive Pastor will get a chance to speak, and those brave Lead Pastors that allow that to happen, but ... It was an incredible sermon. He coined some language. He said, "The use of the gift of administration is for the sake and good of the church. It's a supporting function." 

He really captured the main idea I want to get through today in my presentation, in that it's not ... I just don't really want to talk about the effects. The effects of the hurricane, the complexity that's coming. 

Keller has done an incredible job, like the National Weather Service, of explaining what's happening in your church. But, with the gift of administration, it's to be able to say, "Well, if there were four different buckets that you could say ... What's the impact? What are these four buckets that you can look at, and get ready for?" That actually gives you language.

I don't know about you, but if I'm ill and I don't know what's wrong with me, it's incredibly helpful when I go to the doctor if they can diagnose what it is that I'm dealing with. There's nothing worse than the uncertainty. This like, "Man. I feel terrible." 

Take that to the workplace of the church. We know that we're being burned out. We're being stressed. We're busy. There's more work than we can possibly do. You can look around. People are getting stressed. They want to leave. I want to leave. Thank God for calling, because you just can't check out because you want to. But, you're tired. You're worn out, and you seem to be losing ground. The whole idea is, when I go to the doctor and I find out what it is, then I can do something about it.

My hope today, the big idea, is to be able to help correlate what's happening as ... Maybe in your church, what's happening as a result of growth, and the complexities that come with it. More specifically, as you cross one size of a church. I'll talk just in a moment about the church sizes that Keller has brilliantly defined. As you cross the threshold from one size of church to another, there's a whole host of attendant complexities and issues that have to be address, that hopefully I can categorize for you in a couple of buckets, and make you see that way. 

So, suddenly you have a diagnoses. I know what's wrong. I know what we can address. This, "How do you deal with the unknown?" We don't very well. We have anxiety and angst. The big idea is, maybe this gives you a way of thinking about what it is that we need to do as a leadership team to address the complexities that arise from growth.

By the way, I see growth as just an incredible blessing of the Lord. I pray that there isn't a Lead Pastor here that says, "Boy. I wanna grow. I just really want to grow." No, you really want to be healthy in every respect. What's a byproduct of being healthy? Growth. If you're healthy, your leadership team's healthy, your congregation, your members are healthy, then you can grow. 

Growth even happens sometimes when you're unhealthy. I think of Mars Hill Church. For years, we were really, very unhealthy, and yet incredible growth happened because of the Lord's favor. And so the growth, it just kicked our fannies. 

A couple ... You have in the notes a little ... I'm looking at the clock and time isn't our friend. You have some information on the notes. Let me just make a point. 

Scripturally, I think there is an incredible example about church growth. You look in Acts 2, and people were very content. They were pleased with the leadership. 

What happened? There were, daily, people being added to the church. This isn't just growth, this is exponential growth. Suddenly ... I don't know. I'm not a biblical scholar. I don't know how much time occurred between the situation where people were really pleased with the elders, the leadership, of the church in Jerusalem, between Acts 2 and Acts 6, but growth occurred, complexities occurred. So, in Act 6, you realize that the elders ... And these are the disciples. 11 of the original 12. They were faced with allegations of discrimination. That'd kill a church pretty fast if there's allegations. The daily food allocations appeared to be inadequate for the Greek widows, so they were being allegedly charged with some form of discrimination. 

I don't ... I wasn't there. Don't know. But I don't think it was a matter of discrimination. I think what it was, is that growth and the complexity that came with it, they didn't properly manage and plan and administrate. They didn't use their gifts, and maybe they didn't have great gifts of administration. So, what did they do? That's the rise of the biblical office of what? Of deacons. That's exactly right. 

That was their response organizationally. You go, "Organizations? They're only church." Yeah, you know, they were meeting daily. There was probably a great deal of organization, and it was an area that they left unattended. They didn't realize that it was a problem until this complaint arose. Can you imagine how shocking it was? It was like, "Really? We're not trying to discriminate. We're just gettin' our butt kicked here, because of there's just so many people. We don't know how to do this. We've never done this before."

I'm sure you've never thought that. 

In that, there's a reaction organization. So, if there's a biblical basis for this idea, it's found between Acts 2 and Acts 6.

Probably another great example, that we don't have the time to flush out, is King Solomon was given the great gift of wisdom and knowledge to govern God's people. Why? Because God finally wanted to have a temple built, and he used his father and other's to be able to get to a place of unifying the kingdom. So Solomon could what? Levy lots of taxes, and have a lot of people work to build the Temple of God. The presence of God. The gifts that were required ... Solomon is the wisest person, next to Jesus, that ever lived. He was giving his gifts. So, why? Because he needed those talents, those administrative and other skills, to be able to build God's presence, the Temple of God. 

Let me get on to Keller. 2006, Keller writes this seminal work. It's absolutely brilliant. He sets a new standard. I was at Mars Hill at the time that the leadership team was reading this, so here's what we were experiencing. 

I came on when we were at about 2,800 people, with three campuses. I was finally fired when we were ... It was 9,000, with 12 campuses. When we read Keller's work, it was unbelievable for us. He actually gave language to things that we had never known, these concepts. We blew through the house church, to small, to medium, and large, and very large size threshold almost every year at several campuses. 

There was one Sunday that we planted ... Oh. This is a really good one. We planted five campuses in three states on the very same Sunday. What a great idea that is. 

Let me just give you some context, is that when we plant a campus, we didn't plant 'em as a house church. We didn't plan 'em as a small. If we couldn't plant 'em from 250 to 350 people, we wouldn't plant. It was just unbelievable. I hope that you see in this that we made a lot of mistakes, because we did. But, it was almost like Gospel truth when we read Keller's work. 

Here's what we were able to do. We were able to anticipate the changes that were associated with moving from one church size to another. We could actually begin to see patterns, because we suddenly had a language and a concept force that Keller had written. We could see that. His descriptions of what was happening in the church, like the National Weather Service talking about a hurricane, "Hey. This is coming." We could see and we could believe that it was coming based on the complexities that would occur. Suddenly, as you think back in retrospect, you could start putting things into different buckets. That's what I'm hoping to provide to you. 

This growth, just by the way, here's what it strained. It strained every ministry. There wasn't any ministry that was immune to it. It effected our service order. Even the amount of time that was allocated to a service. It was that crazy from a ministry standpoint. Every facility and space, every system that we had, the roles and responsibilities of staff and key volunteers, administering leads. Organization charts. We got so tired. We couldn't keep track of things, so we finally just gave up publishing organization charts because of complexity until we actually had built some different systems.

It changed our strategic framework. What do I mean by, strategic framework? It's the defining of your mission, the outcomes that you produce, the shared values you have, your vision of where you're going, and your strategy of "Okay. How do we achieve the vision?". It changed that, every time we went from one size to the other.

It changed our polity and governance. It changed our finances. And, it changed every meeting agenda that we had. It also changed the length of our day. The day just didn't end, seemingly. 

If you're following, I'll go back on script now. So, if you're following in some of the notes ... Keller's model, an overview of it. How many are familiar ... Have a working knowledge of the model?

Okay. For those though, that you may not be familiar. The major thesis of Keller is that strategy changes with growth. As you move from one church size ... And he defines five church sizes. Small, which is up to 40. How many of you are at a church that's a house church size? Okay.

The next level is small. That's generally 40 to about 200. Next is medium - 200 to 450. Large - 400 to 800. And then, very large. 

Gosh what church do you go to? 

[inaudible 00:22:00]

Those are the five church sizes. 

He has 10 basic principles that he talks about. One, he talks about increasing complexity. Second, shifting lay ... Whatever language that you use. The key volunteers. The people who are non-vocational. Shifting lay and staff responsibilities. The increasing intentionality. Where what you're doing now at a house church, may be just flowing. It's so relationally rich that you don't have to give a lot of attention to it, but when you get to a small, medium, large, or very large, the complexity is just exponential. There's an increasing redundancy of communication. The quality of production. 

Oh my goodness. We used to spend ... At Mar's Hill, if you ever wondered how much money that we spent on ... We had ... Anybody know what a red camera is? Yeah. So, a red camera ... ABC News, at the time that we bought ... As the Executive Pastor I had an order on my desk for three red cameras. ABC News, the evening news, they had one red camera. We had three because with the way that we did church, with the screens, the quality of production, we were spending 3% of our budget on technology. It was a big, big chunk of money. We didn't just get there, but as we went from one size to another, man, the technology budget went right with it. Which means that we didn't have money to spend on other things.

Increasing openness to change. If you're in ministry and God is gonna grow your church, and change is a problem for you, you might not be in the right ... Well. Maybe you're exactly where you're supposed to be, because God's gonna work on that because you really need to be open to change.

Next, is the fact that you lose members because of the change. That really hurts. If you're a small church, some of the core group that you have, suddenly they leave because they don't like the changes that are being made. It's really painful to lose friends and close people that were there with you from the very start.

The role of the pastors. There's a significant need for you to do a makeover. Especially if you're the Lead Pastor, you might have to do three, four, five makeovers if your church is rising through several different size categories. 

Structuring smaller, which usually means community groups, or classes, or different types of ministries where people get a chance ... Because as church gets bigger, it's really hard to have any significant relationships. In a church that's gathering and there's 1,800 people meeting on a Sunday morning, that's not much of a sense of community. 

Lastly, number 10. An emphasis on vision and strengths. It just occurs that you have to use vision more to lead, the larger the church, on vision. And then the strengths of the team, to be able to help lead the size. 

So, Keller has the five different sizes, and he talks about all five of them in three different ways. He talks about the character of each size. How it grows. And then, crossing the threshold. What's needed to go to the next size level. 

Not necessarily that you're trying to say, "Well, let's move this thing from 180 to 220." You're not trying to do that. What you're basically saying is, "It's moving. When we come back from the summer, we've been averaging 180. We know by looking it's just going to blow through the 200 mark, and we've got to do something about it."

In your notes, I didn't know what to call this. So, you have Keller's model and then, I call it, the Beltz Boost. We're both Tims. He's the doctor, and I'm just a dumb MBA. But, I've been operating in this space of dealing with this change so much that so, the boost that I may be able to give Keller's model is to talk about, "How do you deal with this?" The hurricane is here, how do you structure this? 

You can see in the notes, some of the differences. I'm looking at the time. I don't want to spend a lot of time here. You have the notes, but here's what ... I guess the contribution that I would make to the Keller model, is that in those five different size categories, I see four different areas. I called them buckets earlier. As a church crosses a size threshold, those buckets are one. Often there's an impact. Sometimes a significant impact in the founding documents. 

What am I saying, "founding documents"? Well, if you have the articles of incorporation, that allow you to legally found your church as a corporation in the state in which you're registered, you also have to have bylaws. In the bylaws, you're describing how you're organized. Who makes decisions, regarding what. So, the bylaws often change from that house church to the next size, because why? Because suddenly your leadership team grows, instead of you just being a sole elder. Wouldn't it be nice to have a couple of more elders? And it really depends. 

If you're elder led, and congregationally affirmed, and a lot of you churches are that way, what's gonna happen then is that, it's no longer just you making all the decisions. That, or you might have a group of ... And you don't have any other elders so you probably have got a team of some key, gifted volunteers, that can help you. What happens over time, is you grow and you start having three or four elders, the power then might shift to them. Or there's tons of other iterations of what could happen. That change in who's making what decisions needs to be captured in your bylaws. It might be that the growth size that you just went through might trigger a change your bylaws. Well, that's a lot of fun. No. They're horrible. 

A second thing, would be revision to the strategic framework. Some of the examples, I'll go into this a little bit, but as you get a little bit bigger you, as the Lead Pastor, you have to lead more on the vision of the church than relationally. They say that generally speaking a Lead Pastor can personally shepherd 150 to maybe 200 people. Where you're ... As children are being born, as people go into the hospital, they're suffering injury, or you're there to console families when death occurs, or weddings, and major life events, you're able to care for that many. 

But suddenly, if you go from 200 to 300, that job as chief shepherd has changed. We'll talk just a minute about other things that happen in the church. What happens is, is then you're gonna need some help.

That means your strategic framework. What happens if you have just sort of a ... "Well. Yeah. We have a mission statement. We have some values. Yeah. We got this sort of vague vision statement." But suddenly if you have to lead by vision and you've got this mediocre statement that says, "Yeah. We're sort of headed in this direction, but it's not very clear." Maybe it's time that you have to refresh that. There are changes that happen that are really fundamental changes that happen that cause you to go back to your strategic framework.

The third bucket, is the design and establishment of some overarching organizational principles. Let me give you an example of that. That would be theology and philosophy. 

As the church gets bigger, you need to structure smaller, according to Keller. So, you might now have groups. It'd be really helpful if you had some theology and philosophy of groups. Instead of most churches just like, "Well, we'll just do it." But suddenly they start growing. What does the Bible say about how to handle the groups? Or, let's maybe go into another area of care and counseling. 

It'd be great to have ... There's so many different stops along that spectrum. What school of thought are you going to use? What's it gonna look like? Are you going to pay thousands of dollars to have a few people that can minister to just a couple of people? Or are you gonna try to handle care and counseling in a different way? So, you need a theology of care. Those are some of the major pieces. 

The other thing might be in some of the operational systems of budgeting. People, now they're giving, your budgets getting close to a million dollars or more. They wanna know how you're stewarding the money. So, a good budgetary process. Those are some examples of really high level organization. And, when I say, "organization," I'm meaning the church. But. the church is an organization. The church is a corporation, as well. 

The last piece, the last bucket,  is the creation of major policies, processes, and procedures. How do we do certain things so that we're operating above reproach? Especially, how are we dealing with size? That's the piece that I look at. 

So, I'm gonna look at a small church. Man. So, here's what's happening. And you've got more information in your notes that I provided you than I'm gonna cover today. Remember, I told you with Keller, for a small church it's 40 to 200. He talks about character, how it grows, and then crossing the threshold. I'm gonna go quickly through that. You have the information.

The character of a small church. Jeremiah, this is your next ... This is what you're gonna grow into and you're gonna go, "Man. I can't wait." Well, yeah. But every crossing is a little difficult. 

Here's the expectation of a small church. Every member has a face to face relationship with every other member. That's one of the beauties of the small church. What happens from a small to a medium, we'll talk about that. That has to change. That's pretty significant, because the expectation on you as Senior Pastor is different. The emergence of several lay opinion leaders, who must support the changes. 

You don't have many elders at this point, and so you've got some key volunteers. Those key volunteers, you don't get a chance to relate with but you know what? You want to try to do some changes? You gotta bring them along. In a house church, you don't have to do that. They come. They just ... But now there's some form of organization. 

Informal communications at this point. Mostly word of mouth, and relatively swift. "Hey. Susan Smith has just had a heart attack." It's really just moments before the word spreads. All you have to do is just tell one or two people, and it spreads in a small church. That's really awesome to be able to do that. Or, conversely, the rumor. The Senior Pastor's, fill in the blank. Something that may or may not be true happens, and suddenly you have to address it as a leadership team.

The Pastor is still primarily a shepherd. The effective, loving shepherding of every member is the driving force of ministry. It's not the quality of your leadership. It's not the quality of your preaching. It's that shepherding. You're caring for people. They love it. And, they're relationally connected. You're having to structure a little bit smaller as you get a little bigger. The emphasis on vision and strengths, and the primary circle of belonging, is the church as a whole. Why? Because you can have a relationship with everyone else.

How it grows. Keller calls it the "backyard approach". It's newcomer's attraction to the relationships in the congregation. Their neighbors say, "Hey. Come to church with me. I got a really cool church. Everyone loves everyone here." That's how you grow. 

And then, a personal relationship to the Lead Pastor. You can actually go, in a small church, you can greet everybody by name. That's expected to be able to do that. And, "How you doin' today? I know that you sprained your ankle last week." I mean you know. You can manage that in a small church. The Lead Pastor in a small church can begin two or three new ministries, or classes, or groups, but with the backing of a few informal leaders. You can't do it on your own. You need their help.

So, how do you get to the next stage? Let's say that you're a small church and you're about ready to break the 400. How do you get to the next size? And, this is where you've got more information. The six changes that Keller talks about. There's multiplication options. There's a willingness and affordability to add another ministry staff member. So, suddenly now, that one staff member, now you have to be a manager and leader. There's a willingness to let power shift away from lay leaders to the staff. Especially as you bring on more elders. Those lay leaders, who are part of your board or trustees or whatever, the leadership council who are making decisions, it's now going in the hands of elders. There's a willingness to become more formal and deliberate in assimilation in communication. It's a little bit more difficult as you grow. An ability and willingness of both the Pastor and people to do less shepherding and more leading. 

That hurts. Especially, that's where you begin to lose people who says, "It wasn't this way in the beginning." "You're not caring for me." "I don't like the changes that are being made." And then, you're considering options to move to a new space or facilities, or add services, just because you're running out of room. 

Let's say that's happening in a small church. What I see is that, for the founding documents, there's not much impact. You might need a small tweak to the bylaws, especially if your polity is changing at all. Or you're changing ... You have now a couple of elders, and now you're making the decisions. It might be at this point is where you actually go and lease a building. You could do a house church before in someone's business, but now you actually have got to lease. Or another church might give you property. This is the place where you might go apply for state and property tax exemption. Why?

Why do you need a property tax exemption if it's a leased space? Because if you don't have the property tax exemption, the landlord who's leasing it to you may pass the property tax on to you. Why would you have to pay for that if you can qualify for a property tax exemption? There's a lot of churches that don't know that, and don't think about it. But you're wasting money by paying real estate taxes, when you don't have to. Even in a lease.

Strategic framework. There's need for greater clarity in core values, mission, and strategy as more newcomers are coming and being welcomed. Your values that are purposely lived out in ministry area provide stability and consistency for volunteers and staff. So, your numbers of volunteer teams are going up. What draws them together? Well, the shared values. People need to know where are we going, and how do we get there. That's what we mean by vision and by strategy.

The relational pain of Keller's Six Changes? It actually can be alleviated by casting a clear and compelling vision. Like, "Yeah. I know it hurts. I know that we don't have the relationship. I can't shepherd you the way that I shepherded you in the past. But here's the vision. Here's where we're going, so that the gospel can be preached and the kingdom be expanded. So more people can come to a knowledge and an understanding, and come to be believers in Jesus Christ. Isn't that worth giving up a little bit for those? You can work through that if you have a compelling vision.

Then the strategy. The strategy really expands beyond the relational, living life together. That's what it was in the house church, but it's more complicated now because you've just added two or three new ministries. And then, you need better decision making, and a strategic framework helps you do that.

Overarching policy, principles, polity. How you guys relate and work together and do governance, begins to emerge as additional Pastors come aboard. You need some clarity as to roles and responsibilities. That's important. There's an early need to think about preaching and worship standards. Why? Because as multiple people share those responsibilities, there needs to be some standards of excellence. 

Let's just say that you're the Lead Pastor of your church. After listening to me now for 40 minutes, you would never invite me to be a preacher at your church, unless you had some worship standards that says, "Hey, Beltz. You had better ... This is what I expect you to be able to do." Or, as a worship leader, you really want a certain quality. What's going to happen, as your church goes from house, to small, to medium, and large ... Man alive. You really have gotta be a very good musician usually to be on the worship team. And preaching, they're not gonna tolerate third string. If your third string is a couple standard deviations from where you're speaking.

So, what does that mean for you? That means you can never go on vacation more than a Monday to Saturday. So, you really have got to do that. Then, some major policies and processes. You'll see those in my notes. I don't ... Time is getting away from us. 

What I wanna do ... You also see the medium church, Keller's model. I'll talk just briefly about that because the case study that I have for you, is gonna get into this a little bit. Remember I said for a small church, the primary circle of belonging is the church as a whole? Well, Keller says, that the primary circle of belonging in the church is usually an affinity, class, or ministry program. That's what happens when you now get over 200, you're going from 200 to 400. You break that model. 

Your identity is not the church as a whole but it's the Sunday School class, the community group, the worship team that you're on, or the ministry team that you might be. That's your connection to the church. That's your identity. 

The Lead Pastor shifts somewhat away from being a shepherd, towards becoming ... Keller calls it a "rancher". Where training and organizing lay people doing ministry becomes the bulk of how you spend time at work. That means that you've gotta be pretty skilled in training, supporting, and supervising ministry and admin staff. 

None of those appeared as the Pastor of a house church. Very little of that at a small church. But suddenly now you've got to redefine your work differently. 

Leadership functions differently. How it grows is different. Before it was a "backyard approach". It's now a "side door approach". It grows as it multiplies classes, groups, services and ministries. You add a service, it's gonna grow. You add another site, of course it's gonna grow. You add community groups, different ministries, different outreaches, it's going to have an impact and bear fruit. And all that brings growth.

Classes. The quality of classes. They have to be great learning experiences. It's not good enough to do a mediocre membership class, or if you're gonna do some training. If it's not ... Has some quality and excellence to it, don't bother because it's really going to have an adverse impact, is what Keller says.

Music. Suddenly music is so much more important. It has to meet aesthetic needs. And preaching. The quality of preaching. It must inform and inspire in a medium sized church.

Crossing the threshold to break 400, churches have to break the old habits in the first five change areas of a small church. I went over those really quickly. Then, often number six has to occur, where you've actually got to move to a new space, just because you don't fit. And then, there's more centralized decision making. 

I'm not gonna get into my boost of the medium church because I think the case study is gonna do that. So, what I wanna do is I wanna give you a little bit of time.

You have a case study in front of you. This may be one to take back to your leadership teams. But, what I want to do is I just wanna quickly get you to think about this just a little bit. So, I'm gonna read it very quickly, and then I'm gonna ask you a couple of questions.

So, this church exists all over America and I'm not writing about a single church. There wasn't one that came to mind, okay? And, I did have lots of help from other Ex Ps. So, if it sounds like your church, Gulf Coast Community Church is not your church.

This one happened to launch in 2013. It had a core of 40 dedicated people, and they had two small groups. Attendance doubled the first two years, and they had to move to two different leased venues before finding an affordable facility that would seat 175 adults in the auditorium, and accommodate up to the 40 kiddos that were now coming. 

In 2017, this year, they broke the 200 attender barrier on Easter, and the two weeks following. Probably, like your church, after Easter, in the summer, probably attendance tailed off a little bit. They now have 12 small groups, meeting several nights each week. Attendance was soft during the summer months, which is to be expected but attendance surpassed 200 all four Sundays in September. They had broken the 200 barrier. 

Ministry leads are hearing repeated comments from members about difficulty in finding parking, and time delays in checking in and picking up their kids. It's all hypothetical. The Lead Pastor, my good friend Samuel Harris, the founding Pastor and primary teacher/preacher at Gulf Coast Church, loved the fact that he knew every family at the church. His warm, friendly, and personable qualities coupled with the ability for expositional preaching with clear application of the Gospel, likely is one of the key factors for the rapid growth of the church. He loves the flock, and they love him.

Samuel is gifted as a relational and motivational leader. He injects enthusiasm and inspiration with his small but growing leadership team. As to weaknesses, he readily admits to his lack of interest and competency in administrative and organizational areas. Truth told, Samuel and the elders have an aversion to organizational systems and processes. One could say that Gulf Coast Community Organization mantra is, "Show it to me in the Bible, or we aren't doing it here." We're talking about administration. Like, "No. I'm not gonna do this administration 'cause I don't see ... Where's the biblical mandate for that? I don't see it."

Organization. Attracting and equipping leaders is another natural talent of Samuel. He saw leadership potential in men and women right from the start, and he tirelessly poured into them. Now, in year four of the church, he has three elders, plus two more in the pipeline, five Deacons and eight other small group leaders. The church staff consists of two full time staff, Samuel and an administrator, who handles all church office functions. They have two part time staff, working 15 hours a week, a worship pastor and a small groups pastor.

The church is elder led, but members vote on all major issues like the annual budget, bylaws, and new elders. The small council of elders, that's what they call their leadership teams, governs and oversees the ministry of the church. So, they do both governance and management 'cause they're small, and it works for them. At least, seemingly it does.

Organization. Attracting and equipping leaders is another natural ... I did that already. I'm sorry.

Growth pain points. The constant and rapid growth experience since hard loss has taken a toll on Samuel and his leaders. The sheer number of both governance and ministry transactions arising from the growth are swamping them. The church admin threatens to quit monthly. What started as bi-weekly meetings to equip his elders, now has morphed into three or four hour long weekly sessions. Some even running six hours into the late evening. Meeting agendas now are full with items like, "Dealing with a crammed auditorium." "Kids in parking spaces are inadequate." "Consideration of establishing a second border council to handle the growing governance work load." "Bylaws update to document the growing governance complexities." "A need for additional staff." They need an Ex P, a kid's director, and increased hours for both the part-time pastors. They need to add a second Sunday morning service. Pressures to adopt a more formal assimilation and church membership process.

Perhaps the biggest issue of them all, is a private one for Samuel. He is increasingly aware of his need to re-engineer his role and responsibilities as the senior pastor, as a result of the rapid growth and complexity. It is now much more difficult to meet and know everyone at the church, and the effort required of him to serve as the primary shepherd for all members is crushing. Despite knowing the need for a personal makeover, he finds letting go a problem and feels a growing sense of doubt and uncertainty about his ability to lead Gulf Coast Community Church in the next season. 

Kindled Fire – How The Holy Spirit Helps Us Preach – Part II


Welcome! Thank you so much for coming to this session. If you don't know me, my name is Rusty McKie, I'm one of the pastors at Sojourn Community Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I have the privilege and the honor of functioning in the role of the lead pastor there. My church, we were one of the first that was sent out and planted within the Sojourn network, so we're coming up this Easter on our five year birthday from when we started services. It's been a wild and crazy ride and getting to have the privilege of preaching weekly for those years has just been incredible.

Which leads me to what I've been asked to talk about today, I'm so incredibly excited to get to talk about preaching and the holy spirit. And I'm also flabbergasted that they asked me to talk about this, I don't feel like an expert at all or like I have much to say. But as I've reflected on this, and Jesus saying that if his people don't speak about him, the rocks will cry out. I think of Balaam's donkey, the spirit of God came on him, spoke God's word. So, I think there's hope for all of us if God can do all of that. 

Before we go any farther, let me pray for us and then we'll jump right in. "Heavenly father, we thank you so much for the privilege of getting to be your servants. Father, we thank you even beyond that, for the the privilege of being able to be called your sons. Holy Spirit, you are an amazing person, and the work that you have done in our lives to reveal truth to us, to grow us more into the image of Jesus. To help us to cherish him more than anything else in this world is a good work and we're so thankful for who you are and for what you have done. And, I pray right now, that as we come to a subject that honestly has a lot of mystery wrapped up in it and is not very cut and dry, Lord would you just give us wisdom. Would you let everything that is said here honor you and honor Jesus. And I pray, Spirit of God, that you would help us to walk away from this time more challenged to step into pursuing being lead by you in our preaching. We just recognize right now our dependence on you and pray that you would meet us in a powerful and special way. In Jesus name, Amen." 

Again, my name is Rusty McKie, I'm one of the pastors at Sojourn Community Church in Chattanooga. I grew up in a very straight laced Baptist Church with a pastor who ran that church more like a CEO of a company than a pastor. And yet, there was an interesting dynamic in my church growing up as well because we had that going on. And then, in our youth group, we were like hardcore Bapticostal, if you know what I'm saying, like very influenced, didn't know it at the time, but very influenced by the contemplative movement. And so, the goal and the point of the Christian life was let's get from one spiritual high to the next spiritual high. After high school, graduated and I then went and I ran some isles and ran some flags with our charismatic brothers and sisters and that was definitely a good time. 

And then after that, my wife and I, we transitioned after we got married this season of wearing some suits and singing some hymns with our Presbyterian brothers and sisters. I share all that to say, when it comes to how we interact with the Holy Spirit, I have experienced every end of the spectrum and everything in between. And in the midst of all of that, have really felt a burden to want to experience what it means to walk by, to be lead by the spirit. And, I felt a lot of angst, like "Is my experience lining up with what the scriptures teach us?" Not only in my own personal life, but also when it comes to preaching God's word. 

Now, if we look throughout Church history at this topic of revivals and reformation, we get some pretty good material when it comes to looking at preaching with the power of the spirit, okay? And there are a couple trends, specific things that come up in the actual preachers that we see. And these things are; first, the men who lead reformation, who lead in revivals, these men had great knowledge, we see that in these men. These men; secondly, had ex-communication abilities. Now, they look different from man to man, but they had great knowledge, they had great communication abilities and they also primarily had the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit on their preaching. And this is exactly the three elements that Paul includes in 1 Corinthians:2 as well that Jamis mentioned earlier, we'll dive into that here in a few minutes as well.

So, we have this knowledge, this ability and we have the Holy Spirit working together in the preaching of these men to bring about reformation, to bring about revival. If we want to frame this conversation in a different way, we can also say it like this, "There's preparation, there is presentation, and there is the power of the Holy Spirit." There's preparation, presentation, power of the Holy Spirit, if you're into diagrams you could do a Venn diagram on all three of those meet. You've got spiritual preaching in the middle of that. 

As Doctor Martyn Lloyd-Jones, again Jamis mentioned earlier, his preachers and preaching excellent resource, his chapter on the demonstration on the power of the Holy Spirit is amazing, I would highly encourage you to read it. Within that, he says "The demonstration of the power or the spirit is the greatest essential in our preaching." It's the greatest essential in our preaching, so that should encourage you to want that in your preaching, but if you're like me, you also recognize that that is outside of our control. So, the greatest essential in your preaching is something that, as Jamis said earlier, there is no formula for us to get it. So the big question for us comes to, "If the working of the spirit is as mysterious as the wind, then what are we to do in order to have this experience of the power of the spirit in our preaching more and more. How do we as men depend on the spirit both in our preparation and in our presentation?" So, that's the big idea for today. I want us to walk through in both our preparation and our presentation, this idea of depend on the Holy Spirit, how can we do that more and more?

So, we are gonna look at the preparation as our first point, we're gonna look at the presentation. Under those points, under the preparation we're gonna look at the preacher himself as the man, we're gonna look at the sermon that we craft, that we prepare. And then under the presentation, we're gonna look at the sermon, the actual act of preaching. And then, we're gonna look at the preacher, how do we interact with the spirit, as men during that preaching, as well as after that preaching. 

Alright, so first off, the preparation. Specifically, the preparation and the preacher. Simply put, if you hear nothing else today, you cannot preach a spirit lead sermon if you are not a spirit lead preacher. Before you ever start prepping a sermon, the spirit of God needs to be prepping you, right? Now, immediately there are some dangers that we can fall into here. If we're not careful, we fall into two faulty ways of thinking about the spirit and the preacher. The first is, we can think of the spirit as just another tool in our tool belt that we need to master. You know, as preachers we grow in the preparation, we grow in the skills of presentation and we think, "Okay, now to really become a great preacher, I need to get this whole power of the spirit thing down." Let's just get that nonsense out of our heads right away. Because, we do not master the spirit, the spirit masters us. We don't utilize him so that we look good as preachers. No, he utilizes us as tools and as vessels in his hands. 

So, if we think about the apostle Paul, the man has superb knowledge, the man had amazing skills, and yet Paul says, "Beyond those things, the really important thing is the power and the demonstration of the spirit in our preaching." We see this in 1 Corinthians:2:1-4, this is what Paul says "And I, when I came to you, brothers did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech." So, the ability to talk good, right? Or, wisdom, right? That knowledge, I didn't come with those things, no, but I came in demonstration of the power of the spirit. That's essential, that's what Paul is fronting. 

Now, Paul is not saying that we shouldn't work on our knowledge. Paul is not saying that we shouldn't work on our abilities, honing our skills when it comes to our preaching. He's not saying that we should put those things aside so that we can then climb on the Holy Spirit rollercoaster and ride it for 35 minutes while we're just like shooting from the hip, right? That's not what he's putting forward here. What Paul is concerned about when he's speaking to the Corinthian church who prioritized the knowledge, the wisdom, the philosophical insides. They prioritized being able to have amazing rhetoric. He's saying, "No, my main concern is, how are my words, the content and the way that I'm saying them, what are those words, how are they impacting the church?" Paul's concern is, "Are my words and the way that I'm saying them, are the exalting me as a preacher or are they exalting Jesus?" 

The verse, [inaudible 00:10:33] says first Corinthians 2:2, that's where he says that "I preach Christ and Christ crucified." That's his goal, that's his aim. John Piper, in his book 'The Power of Words and the Wonder of God', he says this, "The point is this, pride sustaining, self exalting use of words for a show of human wisdom is incompatible with finding your life and your glory in the cross of Christ." So, let your use of words be governed by this double criterion. Self humiliation and Christ exaltation, let your words be governed by this double criterion, self humiliation and Christ exaltation. 

Alright, so the first faults he thinks that we just need to figure out how to use the spirit to make us look better as preachers, that's our first faulty way of thinking, that our relationship as preachers of the Holy Spirit. The second faulty way of thinking, is we can think that growing in the [inaudible 00:11:40]on spirit means that we grow in confidence as preachers. We can think that as we become more spirit lead, that we feel more comfortable as preachers, but it's actually the opposite that the spirit does in our life. 

Have any of you men read any A.W. Tozer? Can I get a show of hands? We got any A.W. Tozer fans in the room? Whose heard of 'The Pursuit of God?' It's his most famous work. Alright, has anyone read the followup to that book, 'The Pursuit of Man?' Anybody read that one? It's not as common, most folks don't know about that one, it's a great book that's about the Holy Spirit, okay? So, that whole book, 'The Pursuit of Man', is about about the role of the Holy Spirit, and that's not the original title. The original title of his book; which I think wasn't PC enough, so they toned it down a little, the original title was, 'The Divine Conquest of the Human Heart.' 

'The Divine Conquest of the Human Heart', isn't that an amazing description of the role of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit in [inaudible 00:12:53] attacks the sinful nature and in attacking the sinful nature, what the Holy Spirit does is he conquers our pride, he conquers our ego, and then he inhabits us like a conquered city, and he begins to work out of us the kingdom of self and work into us the kingdom of God's son. 'The Divine Conquest of the Human Heart', so it shouldn't surprise us at all that the relationship between the preacher and the Holy Spirit is a relationship where we do not become more independent and we become more capable as preachers, no it's one where we actually have this experience of the spirit emphasizing our weakness as a man so that in our sermons we emphasize Christ. It is him conquering our ego, and this was exactly the case for Paul, right? When we see his thorn in his flesh in 2 Corinthians 12, his thorn wasn't sin, but it was weakness in his life. And he didn't like it, he asked God to take it away three times. And remember what Paul says God's answer was? II Corinthians 12:9, "But he said to me, my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefor, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 

I hope this is true for you as well, but the more I grow as a preacher, the less confident I am in my knowledge, the less confident I am in my ability. I had this thought that as I became, by God's grace, a better preacher, that I would feel more comfortable doing it. And in fact, the spirit does the opposite in our lives. He makes us more dependent and more aware of our inability which forces us to depend on the spirit.

[inaudible 00:15:01] Turn and think about the preparation in the sermon, we are actually talking about sermon prep at this point. Let me just encourage you up front, when crafting a sermon, all of the components that make a sermon great are also the roles of the Holy Spirit. This should be so encouraging to us, so I'm just gonna go through these pretty quickly. What makes a great sermon? Think about this with me. They are Christ centered, right? They are exegetical, they are explanatory, they are explaining the texts of their Christ and they are exegetical. They are illustrated, illustrations help make great sermons. And then finally, they are contextualized with application. That's what makes a sermon great. 

Now, let's think about the roles of the Holy Spirit. So first, the spirit helps us craft Christ centered sermons. R.C. Sproul has famously said, "The role of the spirit is to shine the spotlight on Jesus." That's a great description on the role of the Spirit. And that reminds us exactly what Jesus told us over John 14:25, Jesus said, "These things I've spoken to you while I'm still with you, but the helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will sin in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." So, the Spirit helps us craft Christ centered sermon. Second, the Spirit says craft exegetical or explanatory sermons. The Spirit is helping not only us as preachers, but he's helping our folks to understand his word, the scriptures. 

1 Corinthians 2:6-10, say God has revealed the secret in hidden wisdom of God through what? Through the spirit, for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. So, the Spirit helps us prep and craft Christ centered sermons, exegetical explanatory sermons. Third, the Spirit helps us craft illustrated sermons. In the book of Ephesians, Paul prays and he asks the Spirit of God to do what for the church in Ephesus? He prays that the Spirit would give them wisdom and revelation, why? So that their eyes might be enlightened. So that what was dark to their minds, light shines on it and they can see it clearly.

Now, the spirit certainly does this in more ways than just illustration, he does this in the explanatory exegetical parts of our sermons as well. But, we can kind of shy away, Jamis talked earlier about how we can be all word centered as opposed to word and spirit centered in our sermons. We can kind of view illustrations as a necessary evil that we kind of have to do, but we kind of just throw them in just because you're supposed to do it, right? But, let's not deny the fact that the Spirit of God can use well chosen illustrations to illuminate truth for the folks in our churches.

Charles Spurgeon has said this about illustrations, "A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows." Think about that, "A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows." Think about a house with no windows at all, there's something in it, it's completely dark though. People are groping around, they're kind of trying to figure out what it is. So, when we just go in and have primarily exegetical sermons without illustrations, we are not serving our people. And we're actually denying the Spirit the opportunity to use those well placed illustrations to enlighten truth in our folks. 

Fourth, the Spirit helps us craft contextualized convicting sermons. John 16:8 says, "When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." I hope this is for [inaudible 00:19:28] you. This means, when you're preaching, you don't have to be the Holy Spirit. This means that we don't have to have heavy handed application where we're trying to convince our folks. But instead, we can faithfully draw application out of the text. We can share that and we can pray and trust and depend on the spirit to do what he does best, which is convict of sin and to show folks the truth about righteousness and judgment in his world. 

So, we as we craft these sermons, we can have so much confidence that what makes a sermon great is also what the Holy Spirit, not only what he does, but is what he loves to do. The Spirit of God is so happy, so happy to help us have sermons that exalt Jesus. That help people to understand the scriptures, that helps people to see in greater depth, taking that truth from their head into their souls and their hearts and their lives into help us to craft sermons that help people apply his word to their lives. So, how can we depend on the Spirit more in the process of crafting a sermon, okay? A couple of quick thoughts for you. How do we depend on the spirit in the act of sermon prep? 

First, pray as you prepare. Super novel, right? Like, super novel, but pray as your prepare. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones, when he talked about the power of the Spirit, he basically said the number one test for a preacher as to how he's doing when it comes to the power and the demonstration of the spirit is, "Does the man pray for it?" And, how often do we not have because we don't ask? So, as we are prepping our sermons, are we talking the time to say, "Spirit of God, teach me, help me. Help me not only to see what this text means and to do your work in me, but also help me know what my people need to hear out of this text so that I don't go on saying all of the things I could say, but I say the things that you want me to say." 

Two, repent as you study. The Holy Spirit, if one of his roles in our lives is to convict us of sin, then as we're studying this text, we need to say, "Spirit of God, convict me." And as he does, we need to repent our way through our preparation, so that when we come on Sunday morning, the text has actually touched our lives. And more than that, the Spirit has touched our lives. 

Third, fast. You can fast something during your preparation period. Because, that's just an act, it's something that we can do with our actual bodies that's saying, "I'm depending on you Spirit, I'm leaning into you. Help me and speak to me, now." 

Four, get input. Get input. One way to depend on the Spirit, is to depend on others in our preparation. That can be your plurality of other pastors, so you write out your sermon and you send it out to them and you say, "Give me your feedback." If you don't have a plurality of pastors, you can develop a leadership team of people who are thoughtful and you can send that out to them so that they can look at your sermon. And, this takes humility guys, it takes humility to say, "I just crafted this sermon that I've spent 10 to 20 to 30 hours on, and here it is, tell me how it could be better." But, what we're doing there is we're taking God's word and we're asking God's spirit to then use God's community around us to help us craft the best most spirit lead sermon for our folks. It's a humbling experience, but it's a great experience. 

Jamis mentioned earlier as well, that you can get people praying. He talked about Charles Spurgeon and the boiler room, the room underneath his pulput where there were people praying for him while he spoke. So, you can also get folks praying for you, not only while you're preaching but also while you're preparing. 

Alright, so that's preparation. Let's turn and let's start thinking about presentation. So, presentation, first starting with presentation in the sermon, the actual act of preaching. If you would, allow me to share my history of preparation and presentation, I don't share this as a model for you to follow. I, by no means am a model, but I share this as a story, as an illustration, and I invite you to put yourself in the story so you can kind of understand where you're at on the spectrum. 

When I was a young preacher, I would study a lot. I'd spend all of my prep time studying and I would write on a note card a bare bones outline and then I would get up and be 'quote on quote,' lead by the Spirit in my presentation. Basically, what that meant was, I would just wing it, right? And low and behold, I would always be disappointed that what was in my head and what was in my heart didn't come out the way that I had hoped that it would. So, from there, I swung to the other extreme, and then I began manuscripting everything, every single word. So, I put just as much time into the actual presentation side as I did the preparation side. I manuscripted it out, I mark up my notes on my manuscript, I'd run through it, practice it a couple of times and then I'd get up and preach. And through every ideration of new draft to marking it up, to every practice, I was able to hon my language to the point where I didn't have that post sermon regret, you know, afterwards where it's like, "Okay, I'm happy with where my language landed. I got what was in my mind and my heart to our folks." 

But, after awhile, that began to feel confining and constraining for me and I wanted to allow more freedom to not only have the Spirit speak into the preparation but also the presentation. So, where I'm at now, is I manuscript most of my sermon, but I make it way shorter. Like, a 1000 to 1500 words shorter than what I was doing so that there's kind of the bare bone structure there, but then I also have flexibility and freedom within the sermon to go off script and to be lead by the spirit to say words that maybe weren't planned. 

Now, there are a couple benefits I think to this both/and approach. You know, bottom line, you've got the freedom. You can go off script, and if you don't feel like the Spirit is leading you off script, then your sermon is shorter. And, I promise you nobody is gonna complain about that, you know? I've been doing this long enough, where I don't want to hear myself talk for more than 40 minutes, right? So, we know everybody else don't want to hear me talk for more than 40 minutes. So, let's just get it in our heads, it's okay to preach some shorter sermons if they're faithful to the text, Christ centered, all of that good stuff. Let me share a couple of benefits with this both/and approach to you of kind of doing a blend of manuscript while leaving freedom to be spontaneous.

The first is, it just helps us avoid extremes. It helps us to allow for the Spirit to lead us in the preparation and the Spirit to lead us in the presentation. And I can't tell you how many times folks have remembered the well crafted words that I've preached that came about through all of the iterations. I also can't tell you how many times we have just felt the Spirit fall on the room. You know, that hush, where babies stop crying, and it just gets quiet and you're just like, "Man, we're on Holy ground right now." Those experiences come more through the spontaneous moments of speaking for me personally than from the planned words. So, what I'm trying to say here is both are important. Both are important, so why wouldn't we make room for both? 

Second benefit is, it creates space for silence and silence is so powerful. When I was a young preacher and I didn't have the discipline to cut content, my solution to hit my time was to just talk faster, right? I was always like, "Well, I can't cut this stuff cause I gotta keep it, so I'm just gonna like, I'm gonna fly through this." And that's a shame, that's a shame, you know? 

Amazing, powerful councilors, they know the power of silence. They know, when they're sitting down one on one with someone looking them in the eye when they ask them that question or when they share that gospel truth, they know the power of speaking the words and then just letting the silence sit. Because they've learned the truth, the Spirit of God works in profound ways in silence and it's true for our preaching as well. We need to learn how to create some space for silence so that we, and it's uncomfortable, we all know this, right? You stop talking and you start to feel a little more self conscious, right? We all know that. So, we need to learn how to depend on the Spirit enough to say, "I'm gonna just sit in silence and I'm gonna end that silence praying and asking the Spirit to do something really powerful here." 

Which leads me to the third benefit, which is room for silence means you have room to pray. Room for silence means you have room to pray. And, this is during the presentation of your sermon. [inaudible 00:29:28] not just so the Spirit of God can work and your people, they are also so that the Spirit of God can work in you as the preacher while you're presenting your sermon. Those pauses offer opportunities to throw up quick breath prayers, things like, "Help me feel this, lead me, help my tone, lead my pace, make Jesus stunning." My favorite, "Spirit, help me." Help ... help, I can't tell you how many times I pray that while I'm preaching, help. And what we realize here is that prayer is dependence, right? There's no reason to pray unless we need God to act on our behalf. The actual act of prayer is dependence. So, if we're going to be preachers who are dependent on the Spirit in our preaching, in our presentation, that means we have to learn how to pray while we're preaching, while we're bringing the word to our folks. 

Alright, so that was the presentation, looking at the actual sermon as we preach. Finally, let's look at the presentation and the preacher. If you preach regularly or if you preach infrequently, you know there is a lot going on in your mind and your heart while you're preaching. And if we take long enough to think about it, it's kind of terrifying how much goes on in our minds and our hearts while we're preaching. So, a couple thoughts for why we desperately need to depend on the Spirit in our presentation as preachers, we need to have that relational dynamic with him. 

The first is, don't trust your content, trust the Spirit. In over 10 years of preaching, I have had four experiences, okay? 10 years of preaching, I've had four experiences where I just knew in my bones that the sermon I had prepared was exactly what our church needed to hear. And there is no confidence like that. When you go into the sermon and you just know, "Spirit of God, you've just given me this word for these folks." I want more of those experiences, I pray and ask God to give me more of those experiences, but four times in 10 years. What's the norm? I think you guys know the norm, I feel like my sermons awful, the content, I'm like, "Ugh, I just don't know if this is gonna land at all". And I'm going in not feeling confident in the content but feeling insecure about the content. That is the norm, and I just want to say, that's okay! It's actually good for us that that's the norm. Pray, prepare, present it and walk away from it trusting the Spirit of God to work. Trust the Spirit more than your content. 

Second, don't trust people's facial expressions, trust the Spirit. Don't trust people's facial expressions, trust the Spirit. Do you have certain people that you regularly look at while you preach? Of course you do, I do too. They're the ones who are smiling, nodding and taking notes, right? And then there are the people that I quickly look over because they're the ones who look like they want to beat me up. Right, you're like, "Man, you're looking cold right now, I'm just gonna look over here to these folks who are smiling and nodding." Yet, I have seen more often that not, the folks who are smiling, nodding and making great eye contact, they will walk away and commit the very sin that I just preached against. Whereas, the folks who look like they want to kill me during the sermon, they actually walk away living in repentance. Don't trust people's facial expressions, trust the Spirit of God, because you have no idea what the Spirit is doing in someone's heart and mind and soul. 

We go all the way back to Genesis, right? And you have the word of the Lord being spoken and you have the Spirit of God hovering over the deep. And when the word and the Spirit come together, life. When you are preaching, you are preaching the words of life. And you have no idea who the Spirit is hovering over. You have no idea what darkness is in your folk's lives and their minds and their hearts that the Spirit of God is working with and he's in combination with that word he's bringing life. You have no idea. Trust him, and expect him to work in this way. 

So yeah, as dependent preachers, we need to refrain from making judgments about our folks based off of their posture, their facial expressions, so on and so forth. Third, don't trust your feelings, trust the Spirit. Every week after I preach, I ask my wife the same thing, "How'd it go?" Every time, "How'd it go?" Right? I mean, we work so hard. We pour our very souls into our sermons, because what a great calling. What an amazing privilege that we get to bring God's word in collaboration with God's spirit to people. Oh my gosh, thank you Jesus. 

So, we care, we care deeply about our sermons. Yet ironically, the sermons I felt the best about tend to have the smallest impact. And you guys know this if you've been preaching awhile, the sermons I feel the worst about, they're the ones where everyone is coming to me and talking about how the Lord spoke to them and how amazing it was. And, I think that is just the Spirit's comical, gentle, I don't know how you want to put it, I think it's just the Spirit ... another way the Spirit comes to us and just kills our ego a little more and a little bit more and he reminds us that we're not in control. And yeah, we work hard, but he's the one bringing the powerful life change. 

And, it's another opportunity for us to not trust our feelings about how we felt about how it went, but for us to trust the spirit and say, "It doesn't really matter how I felt about how it went. I worked hard, I prayed, I prepared, I presented. And now, I can walk away." Dave Harvey has a great little article on, it's called a post preach checklist, if you haven't checked that out I would encourage you to. A post preach checklist, and Dave encourages us after the sermon to expect attack from the enemy, expect spiritual warfare. He encourages us to quiet your soul, and the way he encourages you to do that is to go do something that's fun. You know? 

And, that's been one of my favorite things to apply from that. On Sunday afternoon, it's like, "Alright, what can I do that just helps me not think about this morning?" I'll think about it and I'll talk about it with my team later in the week, but it's Sunday afternoon, I don't have to review my sermon on Sunday afternoon. In fact, that's not helpful for me, right? So, like let me get outside and play with my kids, and what can I do that just takes my mind off of this?

And then third, he says, "Don't fish." Don't fish for compliments. We can be so insecure, right? I mean, can't we be so insecure right after sermon? And we kind of just like, ask people questions, like round and try to do nice like judo moves so we can get people to affirm us. And, we don't have to do that. We just don't have to do that. The Lord has given us so much freedom. Friends, we must depend on the Spirit of God before the sermon, during the sermon and we've still gotta depend on him even after the sermon. 

And the great news here, is he loves using our sermons to bring life and to point people to Jesus, to make much of Jesus. We can be so confident in him, and so we can just essentially think of our sermons like sacrifices, you know? When you think about old testament sacrifices, there was so much preparation that went into that. But then what'd they do, they like killed it and left it on the altar. It's really helpful for us to think of sermons that way. Like yeah, let's pray, let's press into asking the Spirit to lead us in every stage of the process. Let's present them, let them on the altar as an act of worship and then just walkaway. Say, "It's dead, let's do the next one."

So, as we wrap up today, I hope more than anything, that you're able to see where you're at in your journey of depending on the Spirit. I pray and I hope that you've been really encouraged to step into more of a desire to be lead by the Spirit in your preaching. I also hope that you're just encouraged to know that the Spirit is for you in this, the Spirit is happy and eager to help you in preaching. And I really hope that you're encouraged that the Spirit would even use you in preaching. How incredible is our God? 

So, I pray that you'll be able to leave here with a couple next steps that will help you more regularly depend on the Spirit in both your presentation and in your preparation in preaching. I'm incredibly honored that you men joined me this afternoon. Thank you for being here, may we as men grab hold of what Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, the greatest essential on preaching, may we do all that we can so that we can have that power of the Spirit. 

Gender, Sexuality, and the Gospel: Essential Info For Effective Care


Well, welcome to Gender, Sexuality, and the Gospel. We don't have a lot of time, so what I'm going to do is, your notes that you have, I don't know exactly ... I think I know what's in your notes. I don't know if everything's in there that I have or not, but that ... actually, I'll grab one over here. Thank you. 

The material that you have is about three or four hours worth of stuff and we have an hour. So what that means is I'm going to skip a lot of stuff. I don't know if I'm going to skip the stuff in yours or just in mine. I'm not sure. This is already cut down quite a bit. But there's going to be some stuff where you're going to see this gigantic gap and you're going to go, "Well, he didn't explain this part," and I'm just saying as a disclaimer, you're totally right. There's a lot of stuff I'm not going to explain because there's just not a lot of time and I would also want there to be time for Q&A at the end, especially on a subject like this. And so I'm going to try, okay? I'm really going to try.

First thing I want to do is a ... hello. First thing I want to do is I want to talk about why this is an important topic, okay? Why is it? And so in your notes, you'll see Roman numeral number one, description of the now, okay? But before we get to that, do you have an asterisk at the top? Okay, important thing to do first. Disclaimer before we start. We are not only dealing with issues but also with people. Christian behavior regarding topics like these include love, sympathy, compassion and fairness. Amen? 

This is one of those issues where winning the argument is not the goal. That's not the goal. The goal is to love people not to win, okay? Winning is losing in this discussion. And oftentimes, if you're like me, and I'm guessing you are, you love the Bible, you love the Word of God, you believe it's truth. It's very easy to say it in the wrong way or to say the wrong thing. So first, I just want to start with that. We're dealing not with just an issue, it's not theoretical, it's real. So we're dealing with people, okay?

The description of the now. I'm just trying here to tell you why this is even important. Why are we talking about transgenderism? Which is really what this is about. It's not really about homosexuality, it's really about gender, sexuality and the Gospel. So when you combine gender and sexuality, we're talking about the transgender movement today, okay?

So a couple quotes. Chaz Bono, that is Sonny and Cher's daughter, who's now their son, okay? She has transitioned to a male. Here's what he says. If you're wondering, "Why are you calling him a he?" Maybe Q&A, we can talk about that, but I'm going to call him a he, okay? "There's a gender in your brain and a gender in your body. For 99% of people, those things are in alignment. For transgender people, they're mismatched. That's all it is. It's not complicated, it's not a neurosis, it's a mix-up, it's a birth defect like a cleft palate."

E.J. Graff is an advocate for the LGBT movement and just recently, I think it was a year ago, two years ago in Newsweek magazine, she was asked, "Why don't you just celebrate the victory of winning the culture war with homosexuality?" Homosexual marriage, like, you've won the culture war. Why not celebrate? And this is her response. She says, "I don't want to celebrate because there's a much larger cultural question that deeply deserves our country's attention. It has to do with gender. The way our culture, our politics and our legal system treats femininity and masculinity and everything in between. Breaking the nation out of its gender straitjacket is a fight we can win."

This discussion and debate on the transgender issue is the next discussion. You guys have all heard and been a part of the discussion around, how should Christians feel about homosexuality? How should Christians feel about homosexual marriage? How should Christians feel about homosexuals being pastors and leaders and elders? You've heard this discussion. This transgenderism is the next thing that the church has to answer and we have to have an answer. We can't shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, I don't know. It's weird to me, I don't know much about it." We have to have an answer.

Now, I didn't really introduce myself. I probably should have done that. My name's Ryan and I'm a pastor, I'm the lead pastor at Redeemer Church in Seattle, the Seattle area. And so it's possible that where you're coming from, maybe you're from the Midwest, maybe you're from the Southeast, I don't know. It's possible that when you hear transgenderism, you're like, "I know what that is, but I'm not around it at all." And what I would say is, it's coming. It's coming. It's alive and well on the West Coast. It's alive and well on the East Coast and it's coming to the middle. It always starts on the coast and it's coming. There's a cultural shift and we'll get into that in a minute.

Celebrities. You know Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner. This was the most politicized and the most famous transgender story ever. Bruce Jenner, the Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, he decided in 2015 that he, Bruce, was actually a female. That he, Bruce, was in the wrong body. That he is actually a female and he was born with the wrong body. So after his transition, his sex reassignment surgery, he was on the cover of Vanity Fair. Many of you saw that probably? Right? As a female, in not a lot of clothing.

In 2015, Caitlyn Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner was the runner-up for the TIME's Person of the Year. Yeah, that's a big deal. You know who won it that year? Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany. And Caitlyn Jenner was the runner-up. And what did Caitlyn Jenner do to become runner-up? Transition from a male to a female. So this is a big deal in our culture. It's praised in our culture.

In 2015 also, Caitlyn Jenner won the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN, for the courage, for coming out in being who she is. Facebook now, if you sign up for Facebook, there are 71 gender options on Facebook. There's 71 options when you put your name in and where you live, whatever you want to fill out. Male/female used to be the two. There's now 71 options and I don't know them all off the top of my head, but there's 71.

Gender-neutral restrooms. Where Redeemer meets, we meet at a community college and so at our community college where we meet, there's gender-neutral bathrooms. And so this is a discussion we have to have as a church, because we have to explain to these people that are coming to a church, why, while they're in church, there might be a male walking into the female bathroom or a female walking to the male bathroom. Because there's college students walking around during church, which is great, but there's some confusion. This is a very real thing.

Athletics. Who can play for what team? This is becoming a big issue today. If there's a male, a biologically born male who wants to become female, can he play female athletics? Yes or no? Well, typically you would say, well, because biologically, he's a male, he's built differently. He's probably taller, he's probably stronger, he's probably faster and I'm saying probably, so I don't get in trouble here, but you know what I'm saying, right? Probably. Okay? Not all the time, of course. And so is that fair that he can run track against the girls and this is becoming an issue. Is it fair? 

In Seattle, I'm sure you know a little bit about Seattle. It's a very liberal, progressive place. In Seattle this last year, in the Seattle Times, in one day, there was a back-to-back story. So there's one story and then another story right here and essentially, what it's doing is it's praising the idea of identifying kids that are transgender early on. So the first story is young transgender kids play and open up at California day camp, and then the subtitle is this, "The camp caters to transgender and gender fluid children ages 4 to 12, making it one of the only camps of its kind in the world, open to preschoolers." Okay? So it's telling you like how great this is, and it's broadening, there's a lot of them throughout the country now.

The second one is, if you were interested in the first one, like if you were a parent you said, "Wow, you can know your kid is transgender at four years old? How do you know that?" That the very next article is how to know if your child is transgender. Experts will tell you and literally says, what experts say. So for sake of time, I'm just going to read to you two things that the expert said. "How can you tell? They include certain actions at a very young age, such as toddlers pulling barrettes from their hair, grabbing for their sister's dress and dolls or throwing away their trucks." That's one way. Another way, there's a bunch of them, but just three to ... "The use of verbs regarding gender. Instead of I wish I was a girl, a transgender child will say, I am a girl." Okay, so the experts want you to know because this is becoming a big deal. How do you know if your child isn't really what their biological sex says. 

In Washington, I don't know if this is the case in any of your states, but in Washington, this is public school curriculum now. In public school, your kids will be taught gender fluidity. So my kid, both my kids are in public school and so what that means is both my kids, I have a kindergartner and a third grader, starting in third grade is when they start teaching transgenderism in the schools. Once again, if you're in the Midwest, it's coming. I promise, it's coming. What should we think about these things? What should we think? Is it okay?

Now, with all that said why it's important, I have on your notes, I think it's there, it says prevalence. You see that? On prevalence, you would think it was more common because it's becoming such a big deal, but it's really not very common. So for men, one study says 1 in every 10,000 to 13,000 men would identify as transgender. Another study says that it's actually closer to 0.005 to 0.014%. You get the idea. It's not very large but it is very accepted. Women, there's the numbers there for women.

A whole bunch of definitions. I'm not going to go through them, they're in your notes, they're all there. Now, there are a lot more definitions but this is for you, if you have questions in the future about what does it mean to be non-binary or what does cisgender mean? What does inner gender mean? They're all here for you and I'm going to, because of time, just move on.

Go down in the definitions part to sex and gender. This is really the focal point of this. When you guys see the word sex and you see the word gender, what might you conclude about those two words? Are they the same, are they different, are they synonyms? This can be interactive, you can share if you want. Synonyms.

So you would, if I this was a math equation, you would do that. You can say those are the same thing. I agree, I agree. Up until the 1950s, that was a given. 100%, nobody would say sex and gender opposites, it's always the same, they're actual synonyms. You're filling out an application, so maybe you've done this. Sometimes it says sex, sometimes it actually says gender, and they mean the same thing. On my license, on my Washington driver's license it says sex. I don't know what yours says, maybe it says gender, but for a long time, they were synonyms. But today, that's not the case. Today, the equation looks like this. Because there's been a movement to un-equate these things, to make them not synonyms. 

And really where this came from is, there's a man by the name of John Money. He's not alive anymore and John Money, in the 1950s he was a sexologist and what he did in the 1950s was, he heard of these two twin boys, and as the twin boys were being circumcised, one of the circumcisions was botched. And it was so bad that they actually had to cut off his male parts. So John Money, trying to prove and sway culture that gender is just a social construct and it's not really tied to biological sex, he asked David Reimer's parents ... David Reimer was the child who had a botched circumcision, if he could use David and his twin brother as a experiment. And somehow the parents said yes. I'm not sure why, but the parents said yes.

So what John Money did is he actually used his twin brother as a control, as a male who was born with male parts, and then David as a biologically born male with no male parts, and he convinced David's parents to raise David as a girl and raise David's brother as a boy, to see like, is gender really tied to your biology or not? Like can we actually bring up David as a girl, and he just thinks he's a girl?

So what happened was some time between the ages of 9 and 11, David realized something's not right. He was never told before that, but he's realized something's not right. And he told his parents, "I don't think I'm a girl, I think I'm a guy." And then from this point on, he tried to "transition back to being a male," which is what he was born as, and he actually committed suicide 13 years ago, because there was so much confusion and parenting stuff, I'm not sure. 

But this is why today, there's a word called cisgender. Because today, if these things don't equal each other, then what it means is if you in this room, if you are let's say, you're a female and you say, "I know I'm a female," then you would be called cisgender, which means you think they agree. Now, back in the day, you would just say, "I'm a female," and everybody would know. That means you're biologically female and you know you're a female.

But today, because these don't equal, there's actually a term cisgender. So if you're a female, but you don't feel like a female, then your identity could be male or could be fluid or it could be whatever you want it to be. So from the '50s, on this has started to change. Anyone of you get Time magazine? No? In March of this year, this was the cover of Time magazine, and it is a picture of a transgender girl. Meaning, boy who transitioned to a girl. And as I looked at this, there were some headings that popped out to me. Like this, on the cover of the very beginning of the story. Infinite identities is what it says. So you can see right off the bat, this is actually an identity issue, right? It's an identity issue. Scripture says a lot about identity. 

As you scroll through ... not scroll, just scrolling. As you turn through ... isn't that funny? Goodness, that's so funny. This is paper. On the third page of the story, there's a quote up here that says, "Gender doesn't have to be defined in rigid terms." Gender doesn't have to equal sex, guys. We don't need to be rigid on these things. Then you go two pages further and really big up here it says this, it says, "Every different type of identity that exists should be supported."

So once again, my goal in sharing this with you is I want you to understand that this isn't some niche thing, but this is becoming large. Cover of Time magazine. 71 gender classifications on Facebook. These don't equal each other today, so much so that we have a term called cisgender. So I have a quote in your notes, I think from the American Psychological Association and here's what they say. They say this, "Being transgender is its added," or rather gender, this is a gender definition, "Attitudes, feelings and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person's biological sex. Behavior that is compatible with cultural expectations is referred to as gender normative." That would be the same thing as being cisgendered. "Behaviors that are viewed as incompatible with these expectations constitute gender non-conforming."

So if you're a male who associates as a male, you're conforming your normative for culture, if you're not, you're going against the man, so to speak, against what culture says, the way you should act. So today, here's what it means. Today, this is biology and this is identity, makes sense? Biology. And everybody knows this, you can't change biology. Even transgender people, they know that no matter what surgery they get, they can't actually change biology. That's a fact, no one argues with that. They can try to look like the opposite sex, but they know they can't change that, but today, this is what's fluid. No one says this is fluid, but this is it. Because they're not equal, this is identity, this is the parts you were born with.

So, question. Is gender a social construct? This is the question. The reason why people today think these aren't equal is because what they say is the only reason this was ever equal is because the culture said they're equal. The culture said if you're born with male parts, you have to act this way. And if you're born with female parts, you have to act this way. So the question is, is that a true statement? Gender is a social construct, true or false?

I was in Chipotle about three weeks ago with our staff at Redeemer, and we're talking about this very thing, and as we're talking about it, a group of people walked in from the T-Mobile headquarters, is right there by our church, and there's always T-Mobile people walking in with their T-Mobile stuff, pink everywhere. And one of them walked in with a shirt that just really big letters, "Gender is a social construct," huge. As we're talking about it. And it kind of looked over and I said, "Exactly, like isn't that the question?" Is gender created by society or is it actually come from God? That's kind of the question. How should Christians feel about this? It matters what the Bible says, I think.

But at the same time, I think we need to be careful. Culture certainly has something to do with gender, does it not? Of course it does. Why is it that William Wallace in Braveheart can wear a skirt, a kilt is what they call it, but we call it a skirt and that's like totally okay? William Wallace, in as far as characters go in movies, he's one of them manliest men ever, is he not? He's wearing a dress, a skirt. And so in Scotland, that's okay, even today. Scotland, it's totally fine, it's masculine. If I wore today, for instance, to do this class or this breakout session and I wore a kilt, you would go, "What's going on?" What if it wasn't plaid? You would just call it a skirt, wouldn't you? But if it's plaid you're like, oh yeah, it's Scottish. So isn't that a social contract?

In some sense, gender is constructed with society, meaning what's masculine, what's feminine. For instance, you go to Europe and in Europe typically, men actually dress more feminine than here. Like my jeans today are not nearly skinny enough to be trendy in Europe. Now, some day it always comes this way, but this is just a social construct. What about tom boys? What about girls that grow up and they don't like football or they do like football, and they don't like shopping. Doesn't society say that football is a guy thing? Doesn't society say that HGTV, well, not anymore, society wouldn't say that. Doesn't society say that loving shopping is a girl thing? Society says that.

Now, the Bible has nothing to say about these things. Nothing at all. If you want to get technical Jesus and his disciples, we would have called those dresses. If you want to get technical. Society totally does culture, totally does dictate a lot of this, however, the difference is not what does it look like to be a man, the difference is what do you think you are? That's the difference. So William Wallace, a manly man, he could wear a kilt and it's fine because it's Scotland. I couldn't wear a skirt here and get away with it. I'd be called feminine. Totally culture driven. The difference is William Wallace is a man who knows he's a man. Make sense? Me in America, I don't wear skirts, I'm a man and I know I'm a man. The difference is, if I have the biology of a man and yet I think there was a mistake made. Actually, I'm a woman, I know I'm a woman, but I have the wrong parts. That's really what we're talking about here with transgenderism.

The next thing in your notes is actually probably the most important thing and it's what is called gender dysphoria. You guys heard of this term before? Gender dysphoria, I think is the most misunderstood definition in this whole topic. So let me read what the American Psychological Association ... once again, not a Christian organization, you guys know that. But here's what it means. "A marked incongruence between one's experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender for at least six months." So here's what it says, incongruence meaning not equal, of one's experienced, so they mean by gender here. One's experienced gender or expressed gender and their assigned gender.

So this like equation, whatever you call this thing, I'm not a math whiz. That is the definition of gender dysphoria. Now, I got to say a couple things about gender dysphoria. I think many times, Christians especially, we look at someone who might have been born male and he might think he's female, as "Man, he's sick, that's gross." But what we forget is that gender dysphoria is a real thing. Like it's a real thing. It's a real psychological thing. It would be like telling someone who's depressed, "Hey, cheer up." Is that what you do? You shouldn't because like depression is like a real thing.

In the past, before we had like modern medicine and modern psychology, in the past, someone would see someone, if you go way back, they would see someone who's depressed as just having like demons. Today, I think we're a little archaic, I think, today in the church at how we understand gender dysphoria, if we even have a definition for that. I think this is true. I think people actually struggle with this. I think for a lot of people, it's completely real and unchosen. There's an issue and I want to say this clearly, we got our definition from the American Psychological ... it's important, Association. It's a psychological problem, it's not a biological problem, it's a psychological problem, it's right there.

Not everyone who expresses gender dysphoria actually wants to be transgender. I want to make that clear too. There are people who, they're a male and they feel like a woman, but they don't actually try to transition, they know like, "I know I'm a male but I feel like a woman, but I'm not going to transition." It doesn't always become transgenderism, it's just gender dysphoria at times. Transgenderism is what takes place when someone decides to reorient their life to be incongruence with their mental dysphoria. 

By the way, the word dysphoria, we don't use very often, it's the opposite of euphoria. Dysphoria, opposite of euphoria. It's a discomfort with your biological sex, and we all struggle with different types of dysphoria, all of us do as sinners in a fallen world. Maybe just not gender dysphoria. We all have discomfort with our situations, with our identity, with our bodies, with our whatever. We all experience dysphoria. This is gender dysphoria.

I should say this also, if you have youth, you have kids in school, I get asked this a lot. At my kids school, my kid is in high school let's say, my kids aren't in high school, but I get this at church a lot. My kid is in high school and they're teaching this and he's in the locker room or she's in the locker room and there's guys in the locker room that think they're girls or whatever. Like how should we feel about this? And so when I talk about gender dysphoria, I have to put this disclaimer on it. Some people have gender dysphoria and some people are trying to get attention. Let's be honest. If there's a middle schooler, that male who thinks he's a female, that person might legitimately have gender dysphoria or that person might be trying to get attention.

When I was growing up, it wasn't gender, it was cutting yourself. Remember that? I'm not saying it's not a thing anymore, it totally is. But like when I was growing up, it wasn't guys saying they're girls, if some people wanted to get attention, they would cut themselves. And they would want you to see their scars, so you would ask, today, I think to a large degree, that's transferred to gender confusion. Someone might want attention, so they say, "You know what? I'm not a girl, I'm a boy." Maybe not. Stats show that in adolescents, 85% of those who think they're transgender come out of it and don't think it anymore by the time they're adults. 85%. So it is kind of the cool thing amongst young people, but for adults, it very much is a real, psychological thing.

All right, because of time, yeah, I wish I could spend more time on this, Roman numeral number three, it's called the journey to where we are. And what I want to do here, but I don't know if I have time, is I wanted to look at how we got here. In our culture and this is very philosophical, how did we get to the place where the culture would be so progressive to where they would believe that these two things aren't equal? How did we go from 1950s where these were synonyms to where we are today, where if you say they're synonyms, it's seen as kind of hate speech? How did we get there?

Kevin DeYoung has a quote. Hopefully that's in your notes. He says, "The question is whether the is of our emotional and mental state equals the ought of God's design." So when you're talking about ethics and I know that's not a term we use very often, it's kind of a misleading term, but when you're talking about ethics, really what you're talking about is the word ought, right? Ought is the word, and then there's a word over here called is. And so what happens is, sociology, anthropology, they study the is and they say, "Here's what's true." You do a survey, here's the amount of people in the U.S. who are Christian, here's the amount of people who are Mormon, here's the amount of people who are Buddhist. It's an is. It's just a description of what is.

Our society today has largely said the is, is the ought. So you do a sociological empirical study and you say the is, is the ought, because this is true, that's just the way it is, you should be okay with it. So DeYoung's question here or his statement is this, or no, I guess it's a question. Is this equal to this? Is something okay just because it's the case? How should we feel about that?

So for sake of time, man, it's my favorite part too. If man is the source of ought, the is, is just you look at the world and say, "Here's what's true." But if man is the source of ought, so if man is who determines what ought is, what should be the case, there's three branches that come out of this, three branches. There's reason. How can man determine what ought to be? They can use their brains and they can say, "I'm going to reason, I'm going to intelligently deduce what should be the case."

Over here ... there really is no right or wrong. I'm going to will something to be. This is how I feel, I shouldn't say feel, that's a different category. You guys heard of existentialism before? You heard that term? That's what this is. There's no purpose in life, so you decide what you want to do and you roll with it. You give yourself purpose by willing something, and then down here, I think is ... experience.

So if you were to go back to pre ... well, 500th anniversary of the Reformation is coming up, like next week, so we'll just say Reformation. If you went pre-Reformation, pre-17th century, I should say pre-16th century. You would be in like the medieval times going into the Renaissance. Before that, pretty much every philosopher had a Bible in hand, every leader had a Bible in hand, and they pretty much agreed like, the Bible is God's Word.

The reason why the Reformation even needed to happen is because the church always follows modern secular philosophy, always, always. Unfortunately. So even the Catholic Church because of Thomas Aquinas and his contributions, actually started to think like philosophy. And what happened is, in the about 1650 to 1800, the church adopted this as their source of truth. Reason. This is Thomas Aquinas, maybe the smartest Christian to ever live, maybe.

But he said, "You know what? God gave us brains, let's use our brains and God by nature, will tell us what's good and what's bad." This is why Luther and Calvin stood up and said, "How about you use your Bible?" That's a better source, use your Bible. So reason. So what happened and these guys are always kind of the really depressed people, and by depressed, I don't mean that like a mean way, these are the people that say there's no meaning in life, I'm going to create my own meaning. I want to get married, I'm unhappy, there's no purpose, I'm going to get married because I think if I can just get married, that will make me happy. That's will. 

But this down here, this is what happened as a result of this not working. So what happened is by, I think 1850, is what most historians would say. 1850 is when you went from the Enlightenment, because this is Enlightenment, post Renaissance Enlightenment, in about 1850, you went to what we would call now, what we just call now post modernity. You've heard of postmodern before. What's the postmodern philosophy? Is there truth? There's no truth. It's based on experience.

So what that means is, first, before all this happened, God was the source, not man, God. And God revealed himself. I'm short-handing everything because of the time. God revealed himself, so in his Word, he told us what the ought is. He even told us what the is, is. Here's who you are, here's what you ought to do and ought not to do, but in the 1650s, or I should say before Renaissance era, they started going to reason and then when reason didn't work, because after 150 years, culture said, "Man, we went to reason, thinking that reason would solve all of our disagreements. If we just use our brains we should all agree." And it didn't work, surprise, surprise, it didn't work.

And so when that didn't work, then everybody said, "The Bible, we don't like that, reason, it didn't work. So what we're going to do is we're just going to go based on how we feel." That's where we are today. Now from this comes subjectivism, it comes egoism, it comes relativism, it comes hedonism. You heard those words before? Did I say emotivism already? No? Emotivism, utilitarianism, it all comes, all those isms come from here, which is just a fancy way of saying follow your feelings. That's where we are today. There is no truth. This didn't work, we don't like what God says, do what you want and don't tell anybody else that they can't do what they want. That's where we are.

So how did we get here from the sex and gender being synonyms? We got here because now we're in an age where it's all based on how you feel, therefore, if you feel like a woman but you were born a man, do what you feel like. That's how we got here. Wow that was a quick way to do that. That was a quick way to do that. Now, this has been an issue today, even within the progressive movement to where ... do you guys know Gay Pride Month? Pride Month is always in June. This last June, there was a little bit of infighting because what used to be the case is ... like the slogan for years and years with the Pride movement is, "Born this way." Did you guys know that? That was the slogan. "Born this way."

And what that means essentially is ... trying to use reason. Like, "Hey, use reason. If I was born this way, then it's reasonable to let me act this way." But guess what? There's a lot of infighting today because today, you can't say that because today, it's this, they've transitioned even over the last 20 years or so, so today, there's some infighting in the Pride movement. This last June, there were still people holding banners in the parade saying, "Born this way," and other people saying, "Whoa, what if I wasn't born this way? I can still do whatever I want." So what you're saying is, if I wasn't born that way, I can't do this? And now there's some infighting. 

So even amongst the progressive movement, now there's some disagreement. So it's fast moving, is my point, it's very fast moving, but if it's true that God is the source of the ought, then he's revealed himself to us. He's revealed his ought to us, he's revealed who we are and so we actually have something to say, God, I should say, has something to say. Now, I want to say this too. Some people, if we say man shouldn't be the source because Christians would say that, and if we say God should be the source, some people go, "But God's just arbitrary, God's an angry dictator that says don't do this, do that, I don't want you to be happy, I want you to worship me only. I get all the praise." It's like the non-christian view of God. So just do what I want, he's an angry dictator.

But the thing is we learn in Scripture that God is not arbitrary, but that God, it's called creation I think, where he commands things that are good for us and the things that he commands us are good, but famous Plato question, "Is it good because God commanded it or did God command it because it's good?" Yes or no, but not either one, it's either both or neither, but it can't be just one of the other. So God's commands are good for us.

Now, this led to radical individualism, this led to the sexual revolution. Do what you want. Hugh Hefner died recently, I'm sure you heard about that. Were you guys as bugged as I was that he was celebrated as much as he was? He was celebrated. If he died 20 years ago, he would not have been celebrated, you realize that? But because of where we're at now, he's celebrated. What is appropriate on TV today is far different than even 10 years ago. When my daughter, eight-year-old daughter Ella wants to watch Disney, I never thought I'd be this parent, geez. And I'm like, "No, it's not appropriate." Disney is not appropriate? I never thought I would say that. I never thought I'd be that parent.

But when she turns on these shows, these youth drama shows and it's all about boys and girls, it's all about the love, it's all about the ... and she's eight and I'm like ... when I was growing up, that stuff wasn't even on and my parents had the same thing about when I was growing up. They said, "Well, when we were growing up." Yeah, it changes fast. It changes really fast. Somehow we have to keep up.

Robert George from Princeton, here's a couple of quotes that I put in your notes, and this is what he calls neo-Gnosticism. Hope I'm not losing you guys on these big words. You guys know what Gnosticism is, kind of, maybe? I don't want to lose you in the big words, but I think they're important. That's why I put them in there. Gnosticism is the belief that the physical is bad and the spiritual is good. Paul fought against this, in first of John, where he says that we not only heard Jesus but we touched Jesus. He's fight against the Gnostics. The Gnostics believe if there is a God, he's totally spiritual and if he came in physical form, it would prove he's not God. Because physical is bad, God would never become physical, spiritual is good. Paul and John both talk against Gnosticism.

So Robert George, a professor at ... he's actually a law professor at Princeton, he says this, "The self is a spiritual or mental substance. The body, its merely material vehicle." That's a neo, new, Gnostic view. Gnosticism, most people think started in the second century. Like 100 and something, like we're talking 70 years after Christ died on the cross is when most people think that Gnosticism came to be. The idea that the physical biology is totally separated from the mental, spiritual ascension, that is something that's 2,000 old. It's not new, it's very old. It sounds biblical, doesn't it? There's nothing. It sounds it almost sounds like Ecclesiastes, doesn't it? It sounds like Solomon.

Gnosticism says the physical is bad, the spiritual is good. So the goal is this, the goal is to reject the physical and to obtain the spiritual, which is non-physical or to use the physical to serve the spiritual. So Robert George says this also, he says, "Yet for the neo-Gnostic, the body serves at the pleasure of the conscience self, to which it is subject and so mutilations and other procedures pose no inherent moral problem." And by procedures and mutilation, what it means is there's adolescents that are getting reassignment surgery, where their genitals are being cut off at the age of 16, 17, 18, or you don't have to be youth. They could be 30 years old and their bodies are being mutilated. How can that be okay? Because if you're a neo-Gnostic, it's totally worth it, because the spiritual is higher than the physical. The physical is bad. You're stuck in this cage for a while and the closer you can get to the spiritual, the better, so if you can be you, you're closer. You shouldn't be tied down to your physical body.

Last point under how we got here, what about anorexia? The reason I put that in there is because anorexia, as I see it, is the exact same thing as gender dysphoria, it's the same thing. However, our culture reacts differently to anorexia than it does gender dysphoria. I don't know why that is. I'm not quite sure why that is, but reacts differently. So what is anorexia? Anorexia is when someone looks in the mirror and I'll use if, it's not totally female, it's usually, generally females over males, so I'll use a female as an example. A female looks in the mirror, that weighs 85 pounds. You can see her ribcage popping out, she's incredibly unhealthy. But what she sees in the mirror is I'm 100 pounds overweight. That's what she sees, she actually sees that. Is she faking it? No, either is the gender dysphoric person. They actually don't see themselves physically as they are.

So what do we say to the anorexic person? Some of you might have anorexic friends, what do you say to them? "Well, you think you're fat, you should get liposuction." Is that what you say? Is that healthy for them? It's actually very unhealthy. You would never do that, but if the mind is higher than the body, if you're following that logic, you should certainly tell them to do that. So you got to be consistent. Are you neo-Gnostic or are you not? But we're not consistent in our culture today.

So the answer to the anorexic person should not be, "Hey, you think you're fat, you're not, but you know what? To each their own. Like I'm not going to be the bigot that tells you, you can't do that. Go ahead and get surgery." Try to find a doctor that'll do it, but go ahead and get that surgery. "I think you should go on a diet, that'll make you feel better." You would never do that, so the question here is, is it then okay to tell someone who has gender dysphoria they're male, but when they look in the mirror, when they look inside internally, they say, "I'm a female." Is it then okay to say, "I think you should just be a female then," or is that equally as harmful? It's kind of the question.

The title of the class is Gender, Sexuality and the Gospel. We've done gender, we've done sexuality, we have not done Gospel at all. This is going to sound bad, so bear with me. I'm going to briefly do Gospel, but here's why, because you know the Gospel, so I'm going to briefly do it and you know where I'm going, I don't have to explain the Gospel to you. So I'm going to briefly do that, and then the most important thing we can do is we have to get to the where the church has failed at the end. That's like where we're going, or else this is meaningless to just talk about this.

So the design. You guys know this. We were designed, we were not just ... we're not just parts that were put in a bag and shaken up and then like spilled out. We were designed in a very particular way. I got scriptures on there for you, once again, we're going quick so I'm not going to read them. Genesis 1:31, very good. Well, why is it very good, instead of just good, like the rest of creation? Man and woman are created and it was very good. Says in Genesis 1:26, 1:28, that they, meaning the Trinity, "Let us make Man in our image after our likeness." And then it goes further down, "So God created Man in his own image, in the image of God he created him male and female." See there's two, it's binary. There's two. There's never more than two, it's always two.

And by the way, you guys know who Greg Allison is? He's in the network. Greg Allison, this summer, he did a bunch of studying on the binary nature of creation. There's always two. Land, water. What else? Sun, moon. Day, night. Always two. And it's the same thing with humans, it's man, woman. It's always binary, all the way through, and that's why Greg Allison's Greg Allison, because he can see stuff like that, it's just binary, all the way through.

And so man and woman were not just created, but they were created in God's image and here's what it means. Contrary to popular opinion, no one gives men and women more value than God, no one. The culture today would have you believe that they give humans more value than Christians do, it's not even ... I shouldn't say Christians because we're sinners, than God does. Our God gives us more value than anybody could give us, because he created us in His image. It's very good, it's perfect.

Now, being in Seattle, Boeing is huge in Seattle. Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks, those are the big things in Seattle. Close to my house, there is a Boeing 737 plant, they actually build 737s. They can do like five at a time, it's 1.1 million square foot building, enormous, and on prime real estate, on the shore of Lake Washington. I can't even imagine what that property is worth, 1.1 million square feet. If I were to go in there, if we took a little field trip and went there and we saw how meticulous these plants were put together. 

The fin goes here, the steering wheel, the yoke, I think they call it, the yoke goes here. The throttle goes here. The engine, important, goes here. It's not as if there's these parts and they're just throwing them together, it's very meticulous. And it seems like from creation, God was even more meticulous, and his creation of human beings is way more impressive than these engineers putting together a 737. Way more impressive. There was actually a purpose behind it and everything that he made was good, man and woman, very good. In God's image. I have a Wayne Grudem quote for you, always good, you can read that later, intentionally created.

So here's the question, are we more or less than our parts? That's the question, so if I use ... there's a Mac computer back there. It's an iMac. Question for you. What's worth more? That Mac as it sits designed, put together, or take all those parts apart, put them in a bag, what would you pay more for? The computer put together or all the parts. And put together is worth more. The question is, are we more than the sum of our parts? Are we more than just male and female? Of course we are, we are meticulously designed and put together. God doesn't make mistakes on this kind of thing. God does make mistakes period, don't quote me on this kind of thing. God doesn't make mistakes. 

So if the screen of that computer said, "I want to be the hard drive," and if the hard drive said, "I like that, I want to be the screen," would it work? Because the screen literally doesn't do anything, it can't be the hard drive and the hard drive can't be a screen, it doesn't project anything. It actually doesn't work. Men can't become women and women can't become men, we're designed in a very particular way.

Now, if I go through, I got a bunch of more stuff there. What about Jesus? A lot of people will say, "Yeah, but Jesus doesn't talk about this." You heard that before? Yeah, I know Genesis is dated, Moses hated everything, women, everything, but what about Jesus? Well, Jesus here in Matthew 19:4 through 6, he quotes Genesis 1 and 2 as God's word. Jesus fully affirms the creation account, which means Jesus fully affirms that man and woman were created, the binary nature of men and women.

Skipping ahead, I have some tweets there. One is from Caitlyn Jenner, one is from Sam Allberry. Caitlyn Jenner said this right after her transition. I don't know how to say that. Caitlyn Jenner, after reassignment surgery, said this, "I'm so happy after such a long time or a long struggle to be living my true self." Very important, true self. "Welcome to the world Caitlyn, can't wait for you to get to know her/me." Sam Allberry, 10 days later, tweeted this, "Culture says your psychology is your sexual identity, let your body be conformed to it. Christianity says your body is your sexual ID, let your mind be conformed to it." See the difference?

What's more concrete? The physical or how you feel about the physical? The physical is the concrete, that's the created thing. So we go through the Fall, you know the Fall, but I want to point this out in the Fall. What is the first effect of the Fall? They eat from the tree that they're not supposed to eat from, the first effect is shame about what? Their body, first effect of the Fall. Shame of their body. They're naked, Genesis 2:25, they're not ashamed, we can't even imagine that, and then 3:7, their eyes are both were opened and they knew they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin cloths. Body, shame, first thing.

What's the impact of the Fall? Disordered bodies, disordered minds, disordered hearts, and by hearts, that means desires. Jeremiah 17:9 says this, "The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick. Who can understand it?" Romans 1:21, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened." 

So the point here is, we shouldn't follow our hearts. That's very dangerous. Have you ever been told by somebody, just follow your heart? It sounds good, but it's really bad advice. What do you think prison is filled with? People that followed their hearts. Prison is filled with people that followed the desire and they're in prison for it. Following your heart is not always a good thing, especially if you believe Jeremiah 17:9, "The heart is deceitful above all things."

So if you're born biologically male and you feel like a woman, you shouldn't follow your heart, it's not the way you were designed. Either the mind has to change for the body or the body changes for the mind, but biblically, there's a right one and a wrong one, because God designed it this way.

Going further down, the Gospel. So we got creation, we got the Fall, we got Gospel. John Wyatt wrote a book called Matters of Life and Death. I recommend it for everyone, it is amazing, and he does this thing in the book and it's genius, I think, he essentially asked the question, "Are we LEGO sets or are we flawed masterpieces? What are we?" If we're LEGO sets and if the LEGO set doesn't like the way it is, then what do you do with a LEGO set? Take it apart and do whatever you want with it. My five-year-old son loves LEGOs and he makes the weirdest things and he shows me all the time, and it's not from like a directions. He just makes all kinds of things and then he tears him apart and redoes something else. 

Are we LEGO sets? I don't like the way I am, I'm going to change it, or are we flawed masterpieces? What do you do to a flawed masterpiece? Meaning, it was perfect, something happened, it was exposed to the Sun too long, what does an art restorer do to a flawed masterpiece? They restore it back to the original intent. It would be a very bad art restorer. Is that what they're called? Art restorer? Art restorationer? I don't know what to call them exactly. They would be horrible at their job if they changed it to be something that never was. The way that the original artists made it, is the intent of the way it should look always. I think John Wyatt is right. Matters of life and Death. 

We need to be restored and luckily the Gospel does that. The Gospel brings us redemption, but the Gospel also brings us transformation. Amen? Transformation. Second Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold the new has come." First Corinthians 6, 9 through 11, it's very important. This is a list of sins that most people don't like reading because it's a bunch of list of sins. But I want you to hear what Paul says in this, it's very important. 

So let me get through the list, here we go. "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality." Here we go, here it comes, wait till the end. Good news, wait till end, there's much better news than ... that's bad news right there. "Nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." Really quick, do you notice that he doesn't just say homosexuals? You notice that?

We all fit into this category, everyone does, but look at verse 11, "And such were," some of you, it's past tense. What does that mean? It means Paul's writing to the Corinthians and some of them were these things, and they're not anymore. That means if you want to use the homosexuality one, because we're in a class right now called Gender and Sexuality, what it means is, some of the men who were homosexuals are not anymore. The Gospel restores, it transforms, it's not just for eternal salvation, it's for temporal results too. 

Now, that sounded very prosperity, let me rephrase that. It's for temporal restoration too. Got to be careful the way I say things, because it's being recorded. If it wasn't recorded, we'd have a lot more fun. What's that? And transcribed. It's going to be some funny transcription on this one.

I loved Ezekiel 36. Ezekiel 36 is essentially the new covenant. Here's what God says, "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit, I will put within you, and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh and I will put my spirit within you and," this is so great, "Cause you to walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules."

Holy Spirit does this in us, this is not behavioral modification. Do not go to someone who's transgender and say, "Stop it." That's not the Gospel. The Gospel is believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit will cause you to turn from your sin. Do you see the difference? One's a legalism and one's the gospel, one's hate, one's love. There is a big difference between those two things.

There is an article and I'm just going to tell you, you should all read it. Some of you might have read this article already. Christianity Today did an article about a month ago and the title is, "I never became straight, perhaps that was never God's goal." Oh man, that sounds ... whoa, it's amazing. I just want a disclaimer. There's about three statements in here that she says, her name's Rachel Gilson, that's her in the picture, is about her and she wrote it. Trifecta. And there's about three statements in here that I don't agree with, and I'm like, "Oh, I wouldn't have said it that way." But the point is amazing. Can I read a couple things to you? Because it's one minute after, you guys okay? Please feel free to get up and go, I just think this is really important.

She grew up in a really liberal home in San Francisco. No dad, around mom let her do whatever she wanted to, and middle school, she realized, "I like women, I'm attracted to women." She started dating people, started having sex with women, she went to Yale, she's very smart, went to Yale, started reading Descartes in one of her philosophy classes, and all of a sudden was approached with, "Man, is there a God?" Started studying, started reading the Bible and she's like, "I think there's a God and the God that I think exists does not agree with my lifestyle. What should I do about this?"

Starts going to a Christian group and the Christian group kind of helps her out and does Bible studies and she finally comes to realize like, "I'm not supposed to live this way anymore." But the problem is, her desires didn't change. She's still attracted to women and you know what a lot of Christians do, to people that have same-sex attraction? If you're a Christian that will go away or else you're not a Christian. Says who? Exactly.

So here's what she says. "Thus I had my first lesson of the Christian life, how to obey before I understood. In the end, it came down to trust. I knew Jesus was worthy of trust because he had made a greater sacrifice. He had left the bliss, the comfort, the joy of loving and being perfectly loved to live a sorrowful life on Earth. He took the pain and shame of a criminal's death and suffered the father's rejection, also, I could be welcomed. Who could be more deserving of trust? Would he remove my attraction to women? Those first years of Christian faith included relationships with women that were spiritual, freeing and intimate, yet not erotic. But in other cases, personal sexual chemistry lured me back to old patterns." She's a Christian and she's still struggling with this. Yeah, it's called sin.

"Why wouldn't God fix me?" She said, "Through study, conversations and prayer, I eventually arrived at a critical truth. That sex wasn't something God discovered, then fenced about with arbitrary restrictions, but something he made to teach and to bless us. When his teachings went against my instincts, denying my desires became a profound way of saying, I trust you." And it's easier said than done, we read this and were like, "Oh, that's good, it's amazing, but yeah." Hard.

"This trust got stretched near to the breaking, my high school girlfriend wanted a fresh start, but I couldn't oblige. Then I fell for a senior girl at Yale, but love for Jesus called me away. After I stupidly went back and had sex with my high school girlfriend, I labored to convince myself that even then I was forgiven. He brought a man into my life. We had met the summer before on a Christian mission." A lesbian on a Christian mission trip. Yeah, the Gospel, exactly.

"We were friendly but I was not attracted to him. He knew about my past. He asked to come visit me at Yale during my senior year. I had a sinking feeling he was romantically interested and sure enough, he arrived with flowers." Now, this is a funny statement here. "I reminded him that I had slept with more women than he ever would." I think that's hilarious. "But he wouldn't budge. If Jesus had forgiven me, he had no business holding anything against me. I wrestled, I wasn't sexually attracted to him, but I did admire his goodness, his warmth and our shared priorities, yet I saw that he loved me. That he would be a good husband and father and he would call me toward Jesus. I even felt we could experience genuine physical love, albeit more learned than natural. Step-by-step, Jesus opened my eyes to a kind of human love that I hadn't seen. One steeped in commitment and spiritual joy, rather than passion for passion's sake. Once again, I obeyed before I understood, I married that young man before I really fell in love with him, because I loved Jesus first." 

"This is typically the juncture where people jump to conclusions. I've had gay and lesbian people question whether I was actually ever attracted to women. I've had straight Christians proudly declare that God healed my homosexuality. They've tried to use me as a mascot for something I didn't actually embody. The truth is, even 10 years into my marriage, when I experience attraction to someone other than my spouse, that person is female. Still, my marriage has been a place of joy and healing. When people ask me my orientation, my most honest answer is, married. With the same blessings and burdens of other married believers and with the same source of hope and power, the Holy Spirit." 

Last thing in the article, "That's why this is not the story of my becoming straight, which has never truly happened and it's really beside the point. It's a story of me becoming whole, which is happening every day." 

Why do I share that? We're talking about transgenderism. The reason I share that is because the actual reality of the thing is this, just because you share the Gospel with somebody, just because someone becomes a Christian, it doesn't mean that their gender dysphoria just goes away. That's not what it means. The Bible never ... Paul in Romans 7, "What I don't want to do, I do. What I do, I don't want to do? What's wrong with me? Wretched man that I am." I think that's Paul when he's a Christian, I know there's debate, but I think that's Paul when he's a Christian. Shriner disagrees, he's smarter than me, but I think he's wrong. And I shouldn't say that because he's not wrong often. What's that? It's recorded, yeah, I'll have them take that part out.

Andrew Walker quote, love this, "We live in a Genesis 3 world, with a Genesis 1 blueprint, on the trajectory to a Revelation 21 future." That's what you tell someone who's a Christian that struggles with gender dysphoria or same-sex attraction. We live in a Genesis 3 world, meaning the Fall, with a Genesis 1 blueprint, you're created a certain way, with a trajectory of Revelation 21, no sin.

If you have to leave, you can leave, here's the four things. Errors the church has made, I'll make it quick. Number one, we rank sins. Forgetting the effects of the Fall, forgetting we all have dysphoria, whether it's gender or not, we all have distorted minds and hearts, so we start to rank sins. And transgenderism is not the worst sin, it's a sin, that should be repented of, but it's a sin.

Number two, we perpetuate man-made stereotypes. In the church, we do this. Men should dress this way, men should act this way, men should have these types of jobs. Nick, you and I know all about this. We used to work in a place that just pushed this like crazy. Men do this, women do this men. Men watch football, they love cars, they hate shopping. Women love cooking, they watch HDTV and they love shopping. Those are man-made stereotypes, those aren't God made, Bible made stereotypes. This is the equivalent. If you have kids, this is the equivalent, if you care more about your kids' academic success or athletic success than you do about them becoming more like Christ, it's the same thing. You've bought into a man-made thing, not a Bible made thing. Be careful not to push men act this way and women act this way. Be careful.

What do we do when there's a young man in the congregation who's more feminine? He doesn't like football, he has a higher voice, his best friends are girls, and you say, "Men act this way," and he goes, "Maybe I'm not a man." We do that to people sometimes, be very careful.

Number three, we show no compassion. Every human is an image-bearer of God. What was wrong with Nazi Germany? A lot. When I said that, I've got to be careful, I say this. Just so everyone's clear, Nazi Germany, a lot of them had their Bibles open, just so we're clear, and yet they're killing Jews. Why is that? They didn't see Jews as made in the image of God.

What about American slavery? A lot of Bibles open, what was the problem? They didn't see blacks as image bearers of God. Abortion. Why there's so many unborn babies killed, because they don't see the unborn babies as made in the image of God. Why are we called bigots at times to the homosexuals and transgender people? Because we don't see them as image bearers of God and they are. Let's be careful, be very careful.

Last thing, we err when we speak no truth. I say this very firmly. Being open and affirming is not loving. It's actually the most hateful thing you can do. Tell someone to lie. We know God gave us his revelation, we can be honest with people, but not ranking sins, not perpetuating stereotypes. In showing compassion, we can be honest and love them. Amen? Anorexia, you don't tell someone to get liposuction. Someone that says, "I'm worthless," you don't say, "Go kill yourself." Someone that has sexual temptation you don't say, "Act on it," you say, "No, there's a better way. God created you a certain way."

Parenting a Special Needs Child


I'm grateful that you guys would come. I looked at the other breakout sessions, I'm like, "Man, I would've gone with Mike Cosper." No, but I'm just kidding. My wife's a big Mike Cosper fan, so we tease her. But, my name's Orlando, and I'm with Summit Church down in Southwest Florida. My wife, Pam, and I have been married for 20 years. 

We have two children, Max and Emily. Max is 12, Emily is 10. We ... They're both adopted from birth, and so I appreciate, Scott, that you would look into this, because we had tried ... we knew we had always wanted to adopt, but our plan and desire was always, "We're gonna have some children naturally and then we're gonna adopt." Until after many years of trying to conceive a child naturally, we just went to the pastor we were serving and he just said, "why don't ... what's stops you from pursuing both options at the same time?" 

And so we did, and lo and behold, we adopted Max. And what's interesting is if you have a child with special needs, at least for me, there's dates that you won't forget, right? You know your child's birthday, you know your wife's birthday, you know your anniversary, you know all of these dates. But if you're a child of ... if you're a parent of a special needs child, then you also remember "that" date. And we talk about "that" date. For us it was March 20, 2008. 

Max was born on July 7, 2006, and for the first couple of months, things were glorious. God had answered our prayer, we were just delighting in this joy of being parents for the first time, thinking about all of these dreams and aspirations, right? "My sons gonna roam center field for the New York Yankee, and it's gonna be amazing." 

And then, as he ... as time went on, we started to notice our child is different. There's some things there and we kept pursuing the pediatrician and pressing. "Oh, boys develop later. Boys develop later, just wait, just wait." 

And then finally we knew. You could drop my son in the middle of a room, he wouldn't move. You'd put something in his hand, he'd slam it, bang it, or line it up. He had a lot of sensory things. He didn't like things in his hands that were slimy or wet. He didn't like to walk on the grass or sand. He was started easily. 

And then we went to All Children's Hospital in Tampa, and on Thursday, March 20, 2008, we received what we thought at the time was like a death sentence. "Your child has Autism Spectrum Disorder." And that just ran amuck in our minds and our hearts, and the worst thing you can do is start googling all kinds of things. And all of a sudden, for a time, that becomes your reality. 

You lose sight of this thing that you had aspirations for and things that you were pursuing, and things that you know God had spoken to your heart, and things that God had ... was doing. And all of a sudden, just fear overwhelms you. And now you're in this whole, new almost narrative that you're living in to. And that's what it was like for us for several months. 

And I'm not here in any way and just ... just as we share each others stories, right? We can ... quick and not even like ... not even share each others stories, but just introduce ourselves. We can tell and see that there ... that when we talk about special needs, there's a variety of things. It's a plethora of different things that we're talking about. 

So I'm not here in any way, shape, or form to give you a "how-to" and this "one-size-fits-all" ... that's not my heart. In fact, I was "volun-told" to do this. I had great trepidation. I always volunteer Jamen to do anything. When somebody invites me to speak, I always sign him up. And so ... but Dave Harvey was like, "you're gonna do this," and there you go. 

But what I thought was ... instead of focusing so much on the "how," just challenge us and encourage us as Gods been encouraging my wife and I in the "what." What is it that God has called us to ... in regards to parenting. His gift, right? And then the "who." Who is it that ultimately this child belongs to? And who is it that has entrusted this child to us?

And so, just for the next moment, I just wanted to share with us ... nothing profound. There's nothing profound, there's nothing here that you're gonna be like, "that's earth shattering." But if anything, I just hope that it would encourage each of us. And by the end of this time together we would maybe reassess or be reacquainted with what it is that God has called us to, who he is, and this precious, precious gift that God had entrusted into our lives, right? For a season, and how do we live faithfully into that season. 

A passage of scripture, for me, that has been important in this journey is Psalms 73. And you guys probably know this passage really well, it's written by a man named Asaph, and Asaph was one of the temple worship leaders. And he comes from a lineage of temple worship leaders. His brother was a worship leader, his dad was a worship leader, his dad's dad was a worship leader. And so you have this ... and the bible does actually talk about Asaph in other places. That he was a man of God, that he knew the word, that he was skills. 

And yet, we're not exactly sure what the backdrop is to what is going on in his life in Psalms 73. But whatever it is, it's heavy. And the reason that's important to me is because ... to remind ourselves that, even as pastors, as laborers in the mission of God, we're not exempt from hardship, are we? We say at our church ... I say all the time, "You're either in a trial, you either just came out of one, or you're heading towards one."

That's the reality for every believer. The goodness of God, and his person, and his character never change. And yet Asaph is so honest and so on point in Psalms 73, that he starts Psalms 73 with a very profound theological statement. He says, "truly God is good to Israel. To those who are pure in heart." 

That's not a ... that is such a profound statement. He's saying in that way that God is perfect, right? That he's holy. That he's just. That one little statement ... in some ways Asaph is trying to encompass all that God is. And it's right. The people ... the first hearers of this would have said, "Amen! Absolutely! You nailed it!"

And I start thinking about that often because ... my first challenge to us is this: that as we journey, we must bring our heart along with us in this journey of faith. All of us in here love the word of God. We are seeking to be faithful biblicists, the eloigns, right? 

And yet, at times, when it comes to this journey that God has us on ... if we're not careful, we'll try to use our theology to try and mask our feelings. Or try to use our theology to keep us from just engaging with the whole person with a whole God. What do I mean by that? I remember when Max was first diagnosed. It was the Thursday before Good Friday, and that Sunday, these guys had entrusted me to give the Easter sermon. And that year was the first year we did it in an open air park. We brought the two campuses together, we did this blitz.

And I'm driving home from Tampa, and I'm thinking, "okay, I was really confident on the way up here, and actually excited to talk about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The hope of the Gospel." And now I'm driving home and I'm not as excited, not as ... not that I'm not convinced theologically, but I'm so ... like distant from that. Does any of this make sense?

And people then asking me, "how are you doing? How are you doing?" And you give that answer, "Surely God is good to Israel." But I'm not bringing my heart to that. And I was afraid for a while to bring my heart to it. I tried to theologically navigate this journey all the way through, without ever trying to engage my heart in this. When I talk about my heart I'm talking about those feeling that encompass that, right? 

The feelings of sadness and loneliness and fear and anger and shame and guilt. And what's interesting is when Asaph says, "truly God is good to Israel," notice the second verse: "but as for me, my feet had almost stumbled. My steps had nearly slipped." And then he goes on to talk about why that happened. "That though I understand something so theologically profound, I'm looking at my circumstances and my circumstances are telling me something different than what I know to be true with my head."

And I know ... that as men, its hard to engage with our feelings. We normally say something like, "Well I'm not an emotional person," right? But the reality is we're all emotional, we just never been taught to feel our feelings, right? I mean, even now, when my kids get hurt ... they'll ride their bikes and they fall, what's the first thing we do? It's like, "you're not hurt, get up!" Like we don't know what to do, when in reality that looked like it hurt. You just flipped over the handlebars. That ... you should cry. You know?

And yet every part of the trinity feels. Imago dei, "we are created in the image of God." And so if every part of the trinity feels, then we were wired to feel. And its not until we feel that we actually begin to engage with the truth. Now, I'm not saying, listen to me very [inaudible 00:11:00], I'm not saying that "feelings are gospel." Feelings are just a dashboard, and a lot of times they're a window to what I ... actually engaging and believing to be true about the gospel in this moment. 

And if we're gonna shepard our kids, if we're gonna engage in this, then we have to bring our hearts to this journey. We have to bring our whole person to this whole God that we love. I remember ... I'm a big sports fan, and this was one of these things that I had to mourn as my son was getting older. I've taken him to the park and watching other dads and going, "You know, I won't have that." My son is ... my son doesn't have that. 

Well then we started to just shoot baskets, and ... if you know anything about Autism Spectrum Disorder, the part ... they all have like a little bit of a savant ... they ... because they're repetitive, they can pick up things and they can master it. Well my son, mastered like set-up shooting. So you can put him at a spot and it was swish. I almost wanted to take him into like parks and be like, "I bet you $5 my son will hit that shot." We'd make a lot of money. 

And so my wife's like, "why don't you enroll him is basketball?" So I talked to him and I was like, "Max, wanna play basketball?" And he doesn't like to be outside, doesn't like to sweat. I'm like, "its indoors and there's AC." He's like, "I'll do it."

And so at practices its different. You just do drills and you just shoot. And he gets to shoot from the spot he wants to. And the first game, we're so excited, got my family there, my in-laws, and my friends, some of my friends are there. And Max comes out, and at the ... the half way point of the first period, my son comes in, and he's running up and down like normal kids. And there's this pride that swells up in me and I'm like, "That's my kid!" And he gets the first pass and he shoots it and I'm like, "that's my kid!" 

And then right after he shoots it, there's a foul called. And the whistle blows, and right away my son puts his fingers in his ear, and he runs over to the referee and he's yelling at the referee, "Don't do that again! Don't do that again!" And all of a sudden, I just start to sink. And then he blows the whistle again and now my son is the kid running up and down the basketball court, not worried about the ball anymore. Just following the referee, literally, and saying, "don't you dare blow the whistle again! Don't you dare blow the whistle again! What's your problem?"

And then at the end of the period ... you know what happens at the end of the period? And then he runs over to the scorer's table, starts slamming on that. Now my theology is great, but my theology doesn't help me in that moment, does it? Because in that moment, what am I feeling? I go from elation to this feeling of shame and guilt. I'm not as proud as my son. And God has to deal with me. The only way God can deal with me in that is if I actually bring that to the Lord, right?

Listen, I don't know where you are in your journey but I guarantee you, I will bet the farm, that you live in this journey long enough, you're gonna have a whole host of different emotions. And I would tell you, "don't suppress those. Just bring them to God." Bring all of that to God. 

You know, there's something interesting that we see in Genesis, right? Any working theology that we're gonna have of God has to start with Genesis, right? The God who always was, is, right? Speaks the world into existence, he makes everything perfect, he sets man there, and we understand what happens, the first greatest tragedy in human history is human aloneness. He makes women, and they live together, naked and unashamed, and they live in perfect community with God. Sin enters the world and we see the first ... we see the next chain reactions, not only that that relationship is broken but there's a toxicity of shame and guilt between Adam and Eve, right?

Shame that says, "now I got to hide myself because," Jared, "if you saw these parts of me, you wouldn't want me anymore." And then the shame of guilt that says they "heard the God of the Universe coming" and they hid. Genesis 3:9, in my opinion, the most profound question in all of the Bible. God comes to them. The antitheses of the lie they want to believe. He comes for them and says, "where are you?" Isn't that profound? Not a geographic question, right? He knows their location, he doesn't need GPS. What he's saying is "where's your heart? Where are you in this?" 

And constantly in this journey we're gonna have to ask ourselves that question and bring that answer to God. "God, today, this is where I'm at. I'm just so fearful. Now my sons in sixth grade, he's in middle school. Kids are mean. Kids fire off 'oh God.' I know you're good, but I got to be honest with you - I am crippled with fear." Its hard, isn't it? 

Because ... especially if ... you're the one in charge of standing before you're people and proclaiming this every single week they may be this tension in your heart and my heart to believe, "well, were not allowed to have such feelings." And what a lie. What a lie. To shut those feelings down is almost like to try to be unhuman. God is not looking of your performance or my performance as a parent, but he's looking for our dependence upon him as his child. 

Psalm 139, "Oh search my theology, oh God?" Would you critique my preaching? Oh no no no. "Search my heart, oh God." I'd search my heart. And guess what, because he already knows my heart, he's not afraid of what I'm going to bring to him. But its in what I bring it to him that he gives to me what I desperately need. His grace and his constant reminder that he walks with me. 

Heres the second thing: is that we don't forget that your child is first and foremost a child, and a gift to be enjoyed. So my son gets this diagnosis and we go right to work. We go right to work. I'm researching doctors and therapies and he's going to music therapy and he's got occupational therapy and we go se holistic doctors, and this doctor, and this Autism Spectrum Disorder b ... we go after it just like you would. And there's nothing sinful or wrong about that, that's wise. If you had a gunshot wound right now, I would not be like, "hey man, good luck with that." I'm gonna try to help you. 

We ... our child needs for us to advocate for them. But if the advocation takes over in such a way that our child is now something or someone that we're trying to heal, or a puzzle that we're trying to solve, rather than recognizing, first and foremost, he or she is a gift to be enjoyed, we've missed it. Do you understand you and I recognize this, right? God can heal my son right now. I could go home and my son be like, "what up?!" So yes we pursue the therapies and all of these other things but not over the reality, Jared, that first and foremost your daughter is a child and a gift to be enjoyed. 

Listen to these passages, you know them. Psalm 127:3, "Behold that children are a heritage from the Lord. The fruit of the womb, a reward." James 117, "every good gift and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." Psalm 139, "for you created my inmost being. You knit me together in my father's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and your works are wonderful." 

You see the phrase "special needs" has come to classify children who are different than the average child. In ways such as medical distinction, right? So there are things like heart defects and cancer and muscular dystrophy and chronic conditions like asthma or diabetes or cerebral palsy. There's developmental disorders like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, intellectual disabilities, learning difficulties. Things like dyslexia, Central Auditory Processing Disorders. 

Or "special needs" can be referred to as behavioral or mental health issues. Things that encompass things like Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD. Disruptive Mood Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, anxiety, depression, OCD. There's so many things. And if were not careful, really what our society will tell us with this label "special needs" is that our child is defined by what he or she can't do. By milestones that your child has yet to meet or may never meet. By foods that they can't eat. Activities they can't participate in. Or experiences they will never have. 

Theses are the type of things that can set parents on a trajectory that says to them, "the goal is to get my child to be 'normal,' whatever that means." Now again, that's not a bad thing. If were consumed by trying to figure this puzzle out, then we forget, at the end of the day, your child is still a gift from God, and a gift that he meant for us to enjoy. 

So for almost three years of my son's life, we never heard him say a sound. Sound. Now they knew he had the ability, but they weren't sure he would. The only sounds he would make would be screaming sounds when he was frustrated because he couldn't tell us what he wanted. And those yellings would go on for a long time. A long time. And when yelling wasn't getting it, then it was hitting and kicking and biting and scratching. And there were many, many days that you ... that I would just have to bear-hug him from the back and then be careful that he wouldn't hit me from swinging his head. 

And so my wife and I set this tra ... we went on this ... just prayer ... we were like, "God, we just want to hear his voice. Not the 'ahhhhh.' We just want to hear his voice." So one day my wife calls me from work and she says, "you gotta come home from work right now." And this was normal. "I just need you right now, I just need you." I said, "is everything okay?" "We're safe, but you gotta come home."

And I come home and Max is normally like ... he normally was right there in the living room, on the carpet, just sitting there staring at a toy. Us waiting for him to engage with it, whenever he would, and try to teach him how to play with that toy. So my wife gets down and she goes, "Come here." And I get down on the floor and she's looking right in his face. She's like, "Max, Max, Max. Take the bus." It was an alphabet bus. "Max, hold the bus. Hold the bus." And he holds the bus and then Pam takes his finger and goes, "Show Daddy, show Daddy, show," and he goes, "A. B. C." And we just ... I started bawling. I'm like, "get a camera! Because we don't know if he'll ever do this again!" And she's like, "He's been doing it all day." 

There's a thing called regressive autism. And my son had shown that. That means that your son can wake up one day or your daughter can wake up one day and master something and then the next day not now how to do it. Just lose it. So I remember every morning sense that day, I would ... I would literally ... because I was in charge of getting him up in the morning .. we would do these morning therapies, and I would run in and wake him up and go, "Max, Max, Max, Max! Heres the bus! Come on!" Because I was so afraid that he would never say that again. 

And I remember one morning going right to the door and God said, "What would it be different if you just went in and just celebrated the fact that he's breathing, he's alive, that he's yours, and they you get to enjoy him." Radically changed. That fear of like, "oh gosh, he's gonna lose it," just became, "God, I can just enjoy him today." 

Psalm 90 became real for me. "Oh God teach me to number my days that I may know to grow wise in my heart." Jesus doesn't see our children the way that the world may mark him, does he? Even in biblical times, children of all types were sometimes seen as insignificant but that's not they way Jesus ever saw children. 

Mark 10 tells us, right? "And they were bringing children to him in that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it he was indignant and said "let the children come to me. Do not hinder them for to such belongs the kingdom of God." 

You see, your child is not a minus. He or she is a great plus. With great capacity and great value or worth to the father. And when we get more caught up in enjoying our children rather than solving the mysteries of their disabilities, we then live in to what our number one call was, right? To love them and disciple them and show them the love of God. 

One day my wife challenged me and she said, "you know what, read Romans 8:39." I was in a really dark place with my son. I said, "I know what Romans 8:39 says. That's not gonna help me right now." I said it just like that. No, you need to read it. So let me read it to you. "No height nor depth nor anything in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God and Christ Jesus, our Lord." That means Jack has an ability to know God's love. And I believe all children with special needs ... there's a special way that God has to show them his love.

And we get to be those mirrors, and if we're not careful we can spend more time trying to solve this puzzle rather than living in to the first call of discipling our children in Jesus and showing them the great love of the God that we serve. 

Chuck Swindoll said, "each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children." I want my deposit to Max's life to be ones that he knows, man. God is real, and God's love abounds, regardless of what his disorder is. 

Number three is simply this, and I don't say simply, but: remember that God isn't doing doing something to you, but rather he is doing something in you and through you. So I'll never forget the day my son was born because we got the call that his birth mom was in delivery. She lived about four hours north from us. We got in the car, drove there. It was a traumatic birth. The Yankees were playing the Cleveland Indians, I remember that as clear as day. They won 12 to 6. It was a great day. And I remember my wife and I were sitting in the lobby, the waiting room area. We were praying, and Act 17 came. I opened the Bible and it said, "Paul and Silas were men who turned the world upside down to the gospel of Christ." And I claimed that, I felt like that's what God said, "I'm gonna do." 

And then, it doesn't add up. And I go, "Huh!" And all this bad theology begins to permeate my life because I'm like, "maybe God is punishing me. Maybe it's something that I didn't live up to. Maybe its just" ... and what? No way. God's not punishing us. God's loving us well because he's given us this child so that he would do something in us and he would do something through us. 

Over the last twelve years, you know what God has showed me? That that verse is more true than I ever thought because the world that has radically been flipped upside down is my world. I have learned how to worship God more because of my son. I've learned what it means to pastor with compassion because of my son. I've learned what it means to enjoy the journey, all parts of it, because of my son. I've learned that running is great but sometimes just walking and sitting is glorious too because of my son. I've learned the depths of the gospel in a way that I wouldn't have learned because of my son. 

God's not doing something to us. He loves us enough to do something significant in us and through us. And that distortion is not new to us, its something that we see throughout scripture. John 9, "As he, Jesus, passed by, as he saw a blind man from birth, and his disciples asked him, 'Rabbi, who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?' And Jesus answered, 'it was not this man who sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him'." 

I hope that today I challenge you with this: "reflect on how God has grown you. How is he continuing to challenge and mold you today? What would you not know right now through experience if it wasn't for your son or your daughter?"

Max has shown me the goodness of God in amazing ways. Think about this: "reflect on the circles you are now in because of your child." I would have never thought that part of where God has called us to live is within families who share a similar journey. We know people and we're connected to families now. Our church is in the process of developing a special need ministry. I don't ... whether or not we would have gotten there, I don't know. But I think my son has been a catalyst for something like that because God has ... 

See, all of us wanna shape the world, don't we? You went into ministry ... you didn't go into ministry because you were gonna make money. You went into ministry because why? You said, "Man, I want to give my life to something greater than myself and I want to live in to a narrative that's bigger than my own." Well here you are. God's answered that prayer. So we need to thank him, don't we?

When James Montgomery Boice was diagnosed with cancer, he stood before his church and he said, "You know when we go through things like this, we might think it would be right to say, 'God, change it,' or 'let me change it'." He said, "but if he'd let us, we would ruin it. God's ways are perfect. God's ways are perfect."

Andrew Wilson, if there's one resource that I would recommend is his book, "The Unexpected Life." Andrew Wilson and his wife Rachel have two children with severe, regressive Autism Spectrum Disorder. But in that book he says, "God's purpose has come through millions of unnamed, unheard of things in unnoticeable ways to the glory of God."

Heres the fourth thing, we gotta go quickly: don't lose sight of your spouse and your marriage. The most haunting and frightening statistic that we learned early on is that married couples with special needs children have an 87% divorce rate. The fact that we're here means that our wives, our husbands somewhere, right? Dealing with our children by themselves and if its tough for us, its gonna be tough on them. So for us the things that we have often talked about is that time together, for us, is nonnegotiable. We love Max, we love Emily, but we need that time. The best gift that we can give to Max and Emily is an intimate relationship that we share that's an overflow of the intimacy that we share with Jesus Christ. 

One other thing is: deal honestly with your frustrations, you fears, your feelings, your schedules, and your pressures. I don't let my wife say to me, "I'm fine." No, no no. I know what its like. "Where are you? It's okay, this is a safe space. We share this together." Make space and margin for your spouse. Again, we have this outlet and so one of the things I want to do is I want to be faithful in allowing God's gift that he's granted to my wife to be crafted and to be used now. As much as she loves Max and she loves Emily, and she gives herself to that, I know that God has given her a gift, and so I want to make sure. I want to give space, I want to fight for that margin and say, "Man, you have a passion to disciple young ladies, go do that. You love leading worship, go do that." I wanna ... as much as you're fighting for me to have space, I wanna do that for you as well. 

And heres that last part is: seek help early. If you're struggling, go get help. Don't suffer in silence. There's a couple that is like spiritual parents to my wife and I, that have walked with us for the last three and a half years, and I don't know where we'd be without individuals like that. 

Heres the last thing, I want to leave time at the end. Don't walk this path alone. This whole conference is about collaboration and I think, if were not careful ... because we're ministers of the gospel and people want to be missional-driven, we think of collaboration solely on projects and efforts and productivity. When collaboration is first and first soul stuff, its heart stuff. And you and I can't do it alone. We've not been called to do it alone. The fact that we're in this room together means what? We're not alone in this, right?

And there is something special and synergistic that Ryan, who lives all the way ... we couldn't be on two further points in the continental US. But brother, you and I and our wives were swimming in a pool two years ago. Talking about our children. And you've been such a blessing to me. You always pray for me, you text me, you call me, and you remember stuff. You pray for my family. How sweet is God? And then you talk in an accent and it sounds Godly.

How is the common grace so special a grace that he puts people in our paths? And we need to press into that. We need to take full advantage of that. We don't ... listen, that a special group. God put Jamen as my neighbor and he had taught his kids how to love my son. 

I noticed that not everybody invited my son to birthday parties. I'm over that. But man, we have two, three families that have taught their kids how to love my son. That's God's special, special gift. Don't, don't try to walk and navigate this by yourself. 

You guys know this quote, C.S. Lewis, "friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'what? You too? I thought I was the only one'." You're not, I'm not, and there's many more in out midst that would love the opportunity and would love the community that God provides for each of us, right? This is a beautiful thing. I tell you this is not a "how-to" just a challenge. 

I was supposed to leave time for questions, but you know what, I'm not gonna do that. Here's what I'd rather do: of we just pair up, okay? For the next few minutes, and just, would you do this? Would you pray for each other? Pray for specifically for one another's child. And heres what I want you to do: as a parent or a future parent of that child, I just want you to hear your child's name prayed over you. I want you to receive that today, God's common and special grace and love. 

So let's do that, okay? We're gonna do that for ... we got ten minutes. We'll do that for four minutes. And then I interviewed my son because he thought it was ... because I went to my son before this and I said, "Max, do you think I should do this? Because if you don't think I should do this, I won't." He said, "I want you to do this," and then he wanted to be a part of it. And so, it's just like four minutes,

Alright, so pair up, I'll give you four minutes and then I'm gonna play this video, and then I'll pray over us, and we'll be done. Can we do that?

Faith Among the Faithless: Living with Faith in a World Gone Mad


So, Daniel is, sort of, the primo example of it and a lot of people today when they're talking about what it's like to live a faithful presence they say, "Well, we should look to Daniel as an example of guidance for us." But, I think that's too optimistic. Because, if you look at what happened to Daniel, Daniel was taken into exile when he was about 15 years old. Which means that the formative years of his life were spent inside of a well established religious and moral education. So, his formative years of his life were spent in Jerusalem, spent worshiping at the temple, spent in a way of life that formed him and gave him a strong sense of identity as a Jewish person. 

For ourselves, as an example, it's difficult because, most Christians in general are growing up in a culture that has raised them in a culture of moralistic, therapeutic deism. They've grown up in a culture that is de-Christianized. They've grown up in a secular age. That's the primary, sort of, formative space that we all come out of. 

Now, the Lord has done his work. He's rescued us. We've awakened to the truth of the gospel. But, I think it is problematic to look at Daniel as an example because, Daniel's spiritual formation work was done before he was put into the crisis. We're sort of born in the midst of it. Most of us. We're long past the time when the Judaeo-Christian values were the primary shaping influence on our culture. If you look at our formative institutions, they're radically secularized or the even neo-pagan. Whether it's education or media or politics. 

When you add the ... sorry ... perhaps no where this is more clear within politics where the party of the so-called Christian Right elected a thrice divorce, serial adulterer who brags about money, who brags about sexual conquests and seeks to humiliate his political enemies. Whether they're grieving widows or senators. When you add that to the fact that this candidate's been enthusiastically endorsed by Christian leaders, it makes the situation even more clear.  I want to be fair, if there are Trump voters in the room, I want to be fair, I know there are a lot of folks who voted for Trump because they saw him as the lessor of two evils or they held their nose and pulled the lever. I'm not trying to speak to condemn those folks. What I'm speaking to are the guys who are on Fox News saying this is "God's man" and "what an amazing gift to Christianity Donald Trump has been to us." To me that's a clear example of compromise. If you disagree, we can talk about that afterwards. 

So, that's why I want to look at the book of Esther. Because, Esther introduces us to characters who's situation is far more like our own. We have to be careful with Esther because most of us grew up with the Sunday school version of the book of Esther, which is a very sanitized, sort of, Princess fairy tale story. The Sunday School, or the Veggie Tales version of this is the story of a virtuous, beautiful girl who wins the heart of the King and saves the Jewish people. But, the actual story is about power and sex, compromise, people are plotting murder, people are getting impaled ... it's much more like Game of Thrones than the Veggie Tales. 

So, to revisit the story just a bit, Esther opens with the King, Ahasuerus, throwing a massive banquet for his Princes and his military leaders. What's happening in Esther, Chapter One is this is actually a fundraising campaign. Ahasuerus or Xerxes, as he's also known, is about to go to war against the Greeks. If you know anything about, sort of, ancient history, this is an infamous war. In the movie The 300, that's Xerxes going to attack the Greeks and ultimately failing in his campaign against the Greeks and getting humiliated. But, during this fundraising campaign he throws this big party, he invites people from all over the Kingdom to come and see his wealth, and it's more, or less, a promise of the wealth that will come when they conquer the Greeks. 

At the end of the big, six month party he throws another week long party for the citizens of Susa who hosted this whole thing. So, the citizens get to come in and they're treated like nobleman and they're able to eat from the Kings table and drink from the King's cups and it's this big act of generosity on the part of Xerxes. During the party, he summons his Queen. She refuses to come and we don't exactly know why she refuses to come. The context suggests that something sexual was going on, that he was going to humiliate her in some way so she refuses to come and he ends up banishing her. He goes to war against the Greeks and three years go by and we, essentially, find a different version of Xerxes towards the end of Chapter One who is somewhat depressed. His Queen is gone and he's remembering Vashti and he's lamenting it. 

So, his advisors try to cheer him up. They say, "Listen. We can find you a new Queen. We can have you sleep with all the young virgins of Persia and your favorite one you can pick as your Queen." If we read over that too carefully, there's a lot of people who make jokes about how this is like the Persian bachelorette. But, this is more like, who wants to be raped by a brutal, Persian dictator. This is a campaign of terror. It's a horrible thing that's being done to the people of Persia because women are being kidnapped, taken to the palace and once they sleep with the King, they're confined to the harem for the rest of their life. They can't be allowed out of the palace because no woman who slept with the King is ever allowed to be with another man ever again. 

So, you're kidnapping women, you're torturing them and then you're promising to isolate them for the rest of their lives. Again, this is not the Veggie Tales version of the story. 

Then in Esther, chapter two, verse five there comes a sentence that, if you were a Jewish reader of the text and had never had heard the story before, there's a sentence that would raddle you. It's Esther two five. It says, "Now there was a Jew in Susa, the Citadel, who's name was Mordecai." There's several things to notice here. Again, this is a sentence that would have hurt Jewish ears during the exile. 

Jackie Mason, the comedian, has this joke. He says, "What is it with Jewish families these days? You hear Jewish families and you're introduced to their kids and you meet them and their names are Americanized. They're Christianized names. You meet Tiffany Swartz or Jessica Lipshitz. I keep waiting to meet a Crusafix Finklestien." 

A Jew named Mordecai is like a Jew named Crusafix Finklestien. Mordecai is named from our Duke, a famous Persian God. Esther, as well, is named for a Persian Goddess. We find Mordecai, a Jew with a Persian name, living in Susa the Citadel. Not Susa the city. Because, the Jewish ghetto would have been in Susa the city. But, the fact that he's living in the Citadel means he's living amongst the Persians at the center of power. This is, essentially, to say he's living near the palace, in the midst of the palace. So, Mordecai, when we're introduced to him, is a profoundly compromised person. He has a Persian name, he's living amongst the Persians and, as we see from the story, as the story goes on, we see he's passing as Persian. No one knows he's Jewish. There's no signs of his Jewish identity in any of his outward life. 

So, this plan gets announced to the Kingdom that the King is going to kidnap and sleep with all of the young virgins of Persia and choose one of them to be his Queen. We're introduced to Mordecai and to Esther, his cousin who is living with him, who he's adopted and Esther goes right along with this opportunity. 

Starting in verse seven of chapter two it says, "He is bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, the daughter of his Uncle, for she had neither Father nor Mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at. When her Father and her Mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. So when the Kings order and the edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in Susa the Citadel in the custody of Hegai, Esther was also taken into the King's palace and put into the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. The young woman pleased him." Esther pleased Hegai, the King's unic who's in charge of the harem. "Esther pleased him and won his favor. He quickly provided her with cosmetics and her portion of food and with seven chosen young women from the King's palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. Every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her." 

So, notice, there's no resistance to the command to sleep with the King in spite of the fact that this violates more Jewish laws then you can count. She eats the food, she takes the cosmetics, she takes on the preparations eagerly. All of this implies, sort of, sexual preparations in order to be prepared to sleep with the King. It's a profound contrast with Daniel, who never violated his conscience and never violated Jewish law in order to win favor. 

As the story goes on, Esther wins the contest. She becomes the Queen. So, we meet these two characters then at the end of chapter two. We've met Mordecai and we've met Esther. They are Jews passing as Persians. They're eager and willing participants in this pagan culture and they're fully assimilated. 

So, a lot happens in the next several chapters in the book. There's this plot against the King. The plot to murder him. Mordecai manages to hear about the plot, passed the word on to Esther and the plot is foiled and the men are hanged. Then we're introduced to this character named Haman. It's shortly after the assassination plot that Haman comes into the story. Haman is, basically, given absolute power. 

One of the interesting things that you'll notice in the book, a lot of commentators point this out, that early in the book the King is talking to his advisors. Once Haman is introduced, we only see the King and Haman talking to one another. Then when bad things happen to Haman later on, the King is once again surrounded by his advisors. So, what you see is after the assassination plot, Xerxes, who's been humiliated in this war that he's lost, now concentrates power into the hands of one key advisor. He's trusting this one guy to solve and fix the problems. Obviously, his empire is shaky, there are plots within his own palace to kill him, he has reason to be afraid, and so, out of fear, he reaches out to this guy Haman. He says, "I'm putting you in charge. You're going to be just like me. I want you to sort out what's going on here and I'm going to vest you with all of my authority." As a result of this, Haman ... the Agagite, as we're told ... Haman comes into this place of power and, if you see Haman, if you encounter him, you're supposed to bow in front of him. 

One of the interesting things is the fact that Haman is an Agagite. That's an important part of the story, because Agagites are descendants of Agag, a King, or Agag, I don't know how to say it, he's a King who did battle with King Saul. King Agag was an Amalekite. The Amalekites had this back and forth battle with Israel starting from the very beginnings of the story of the Exodus. In fact, the Amalekites where the first tribe to attack the Jews in the wilderness after the book of Exodous. 

Now, Esther is celebrated in an annual celebration in Jewish communities. It's celebrated with a festival called Purim and it's probably the second most important festival in the Jewish year. Before the book of Esther is read, when Jews gather to celebrate Purim, they read this passage from Deuteronomy. It says, "Remember what Amaleck did to you on the way when you had come out of the land of Egypt. Remember how he met you along the way and attacked your rear and all those who were faltering behind and you were faint and weary and he feared not God." When the Amalekites attacked, they attacked from behind. They attacked those that are straggling. They attacked the sick, the old, the vulnerable, the poor. What we can see in the Amalekites is, more or less, the origins of terrorism. Attack the innocent because we want to attack the innocent people and demoralize the strong before the battle ever even begins. 

Yoram Hazony, a Jewish Philosopher, writes this about the Amalekites. He says, "We have no idea what Gods ruled over them. None are named and for all we know there may have been none at all. What we do know is that whatever Gods that may have belonged to Amalek as a people, they did not fear any moral boundaries established by them. Unlike even the most depraved of the Idolaters of Canaan, they respected no limits on their desire to control all that they saw fit. They were willing to go to any means to grasp for power to accomplish what they wanted, which was to defeat Israel. So, the attacked children. They attacked elderly. They attack the sick and those that are straggling behind. 

So, the author of the Book of Esther is intentionally linking Haman to these Amalekites. He's linking them to a historic, anti-Semitic enemy of the Jews. He's connecting them to a people who will grasp for power at any cost. This sets up the great contrast of the Book of Esther. Haman is essentially an idol of power embodied. He's an idol of power and the empire, itself, is told to bow and worship this idol of power whenever he shows up. 

Mordecai has this choice. He's an assimilated Jew. He's in Persia. Nobody knows that he's Jewish. But, he knows who Haman is and he knows that Haman is an Amalekite and he has to face this choice. Do I bow down in front of this Amalekite? Do I bow down in front of this idol of power or do I expose myself for who I am as a Jew? 

Something happens inside Mordecai where he can no longer live as a Persian and he chooses to disobey this law and announces, in the book he announces, that his reason that he refuses to bow in front of Haman is because he's a Jew. I think this is like the first moment where we can start to, kind of, go, okay, well, what are the parallels here for us? I think it's the simple fact that there are going to come, moments for all Christians where if they hold on to the name "Christian", they're going to come up to these hard edges where they have to say, "Am I willing to risk my neck and to literally ... literally is the wrong word ... and to really work the metaphors, to stand up when everyone else is bowing down to these cultural idols? Am I willing to risk my neck and risk what comes along, whatever punishment might come along with refusing to bow?" 

So, this creates this crisis situation and it creates an opportunity for spiritual awakening in the midst of the very spiritual ... the very dark, spiritual place that Persia is for Mordecai and Esther. 

Haman, of course, is furious but, rather than taking his fury out on Mordecai directly, he goes to the King and he convinces the King that the real problem with the whole Kingdom, the real thing that we need to solve, is these Jews that are living amongst us. We have all these Jews, we have all these people ... they worship differently than us, they don't participate in the rest of us, they don't believe in what we believe ... and this is kind of a classic, political situation. Anytime in world history, any time you see ethnic cleansing. If you look at the Holocaust, if you look at ethnic cleansing that took place in Eastern Europe in the 1990's or the kind of stuff that's taking place in Africa now or in other parts of the world, you see this political ideology that rises up that says, "If we can rid ourselves of these toxic people, then culture's going to be just fine. The real problem in our world is this class or this ethnic group or this religious minority or whatever it is. If we can attack them and drive them out we're going to purify our culture and everything is going to thrive."

That's exactly what Hitler said in Germany about the Jews and this is what Haman is saying now. Ideology is intoxicating. It pervades the way we think about politics. It's not just applied in a way that would lead to ethnic cleansing, but, it's also implied in ways that make us attach ourselves to political philosophies as if ... if we just implemented them completely everything in our culture would be healed and everything would be okay. So, some people do this with free markets. If we could just truly get a free market society, true free market capitalism would be a perfect world. Or, you hear people today talking a whole lot about income inequality this way. If we could just fix income inequality, our society as a whole, everything would thrive, everything would flourish. The poor would have more opportunities and the rich couldn't push down the poor. 

You hear this with, like, the language of stopping illegals. From the Left, you hear this with stopping the oppression of the LGBT community or of women or whatever. If we could just solve the problem of this oppressive group that's keeping down these minorities in our culture. You hear it from the Christian Right. If we could just return to our roots as a Christian Nation, then everything in our culture would be okay. 

I point this out now to suggest that we don't hold on to our political convictions. But, what I am saying is that we should be suspicious when the language around any political idea becomes utopian. Whenever somebody says, "Hey, we can fix everything by just solving this one thing." You're dealing with ideology and, really, to boil that down more, you're dealing with an idol of some sort that's promising to fix our society. 

So, what happens is that King Xerxes or Ahasuerus, is totally taken in by Haman and loves the idea. Again, to save time, I won't read the passage but, this is what takes place in Esther, chapter three, verses eight through eleven. 

So, word then spreads throughout the Kingdom. There's this decree. They set a time. They set a date. On this day, on this specific day, we want all the Persians to attack all the Jews and to take all of their stuff. So, the word spreads about this and immediately Mordecai begins to protest. He actually puts on ashes and sack cloth and he can no longer enter the palace because, when you're mourning death you can't go in there. But, he, basically, makes himself look like a dead body and he sits outside of the Kings gate shouting day and night for somebody to pay attention to the fact that they're going to come and kill all the Jews. Further risking himself. Further exposing himself to this command that now calls for his life. 

So, communicating through messengers, Esther hears what's going on with Mordecai and, kind of, freaks out and sends him clothes. Like, "Hey, put your clothes on and go home. Everything's going to be okay." He refuses and they end up having this exchange, which is one of the most famous parts of the Book of Esther. This is, if you're looking in your Bible, it's Esther four starting in verse eleven. 

Actually, we'll back up and start in verse ten. They've had this back and forth. Mordecai is begging her to go and intervene with the King. "And Esther spoke to Hathak, Mordecai's servant, and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, "All the King's servants and all the people of the King's Provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the King inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law. To be put to death. Except for the one to the King holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But, as for me, I've not been called to the King in these thirty days." They told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think to yourself that in the King's palace you will escape more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews form another place. But, you and your Father's house will parish. Who knows whether you have not come to the Kingdom for a time such as this.""

"Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, "Go. Gather all the Jews to be found in Susa and hold a fast on my behalf. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will fast as you do. Then I'll go to the King, though it's against the law, and if I parish, I parish." Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him." 

Just one thing to note right off the bat is this call to prayer is the only specific religious moment in the entire book. God's name is never mentioned once. God is totally hidden. That's deliberate. This is a literary masterpiece, as well as being the word of God. It's a literary masterpiece because that's a device the writer is using to make sure that it's very clear to us, this is a Godless world. This is a dark place. In the midst of this dark place, there's this crisis and Esther is willing to say that she'll go before the King. But, she has to be compelled to go there. What Mordecai says to her is actually really fascinating. She says, "I can't go. No one can just walk into the King's presence without him bidding them. If I go into the King's presence, he's going to kill me. Only those he extends the scepter to does he let live. The law is that you die." 

So, Mordecai's response is a bit strange. He says, "If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place. But, you and your Father's house will parish. Who knows whether you have come to the Kingdom, whether or not you've come to the Kingdom, for such a time as this." 

So, he says if you don't help, help will come from another place. So, now Mordecai is expressing faith. He trusts that God is going to save the Jews one way or another. So, what he's telling her is he's saying, "Something's on the line here for you that goes beyond whether or not the Jews survive or don't survive." Mordecai has faith that God is going to preserve the Jews, but, he says, "You and your Father's house will parish." 

So, the Jews will be safe but, you won't be okay if you don't help. It kind of doesn't make sense. If God's going to preserve the Jews anyway, then how would Esther's life still be at risk? 

What's happening here is that Mordecai is pressing Esther to have the same religious awakening that he's had. He's saying that if you don't identify with God's people now, if you don't stand up as one of us in this time of crisis, you're going to be cut off. Your Father's house will parish. 

God's great promise throughout the old testament is to preserve the Jews. In Jewish communities today, that is like, the heart of Jewish identity is we are God's people who He's preserved through all of these historic crises like this one. 

Walker Percy points this out and talks about the strangeness of it. He says, "You can't walk down the street and meet a Mennonite or a Canaanite on the streets of any city in the world today and yet somehow the Jews have been preserved as a people. It's this beautiful, mysterious thing that, in the midst of God's grander design, He has preserved the Jews and continues to preserve the Jews." 

Mordecai in this time, he has faith in that promise but, he warns Esther that her place in that legacy as part of God's people, is going to disappear if she doesn't stand up for the Jews now. Her response is an awakening. She actually ends up using the same word Mordecai uses when he says, "If you don't go you'll parish." She inverts it. She promises to go to the King and risk her life saying, "If I parish, I parish." She's recognizing that it's better to die and be counted among God's people than to live and be cut off from them. 

So, she calls for the fast and only after that does she approach the King. This is another one of the moments in the story where, like the Sunday School version of the story doesn't quite get what's going on. Often times, the Sunday School version says, you know, we see Esther, she gets dressed up in one of her fabulous gowns and she goes and she walks before the King and he's so compelled by her beauty that he can't help but say, "Well, I don't want to see her die. I want to save her life." Then he saves her. But, actually, we need to see that Esther is coming in weakness and not in strength. She spends three days and three nights not eating and not drinking. Then she puts on this gown and in her weakness, in her wariness, she goes before the King and the King's reaction to her is, "What's wrong?" The King's reaction is, "Something troubling is going on. Something terrible has happened." 

I think this is one of the keys, when we think about faithful presence in a post-Christian world. It's a willingness to accept the place of weakness and vulnerability. In fact, we get that part of the story wrong. We miss such a significant moment. She comes in weakness. She comes willing to die. She comes ready to pay the price for who she is. There's a difference here between vulnerability and victim-hood. She doesn't come to him crying out, immediately saying, "Haman's out to get me." Rather, she comes simply identifying herself in a place of vulnerability. 

Victim-hood is about power. Victim-hood is about leveraging someone else's behavior to give ... to grasp for power for ourselves. Vulnerability is about putting ourselves into a position of risk. Are we willing to risk our reputations, our place in society, our comfort, our wealth, our jobs and our lives to be counted amongst God's people? 

You know, it's a story ... there's a story, sort of, in the life of Sojourn that exposes some of this for me, personally, which is, we ran this art center for several years. We had art galleries and music venues. We had studio spaces on the third floor of the center. For about two and half, three years, the place just ran swimmingly. It was great. We had partnerships with local radio stations. We showed Christian and non-Christian artists. It was a beautiful thing when it lasted. Then one day a reporter from a local news weekly came along and said, "Hey, I want to do a story about the nine thirty." The long story short was it was a hatched piece. It was basically, like, hey, you know, FYI to the Louisville art scene, this art gallery and these music venues that you've been taking part in are run by a bunch of bigoted people. They hate gay people. They hate women. You're supporting them by taking part in this. 

What was interesting was, in the aftermath of that we never lost the support of the artists community that we were serving directly. But, we activated the anger of enough people in the crowd that whenever we'd book events, whenever we'd book an artist or we'd book a musician, they would get spammed. Their websites would get spammed with email from angry activists saying, "You can't go there. They hate gay people. Etc, etc." For a while, our partners, our local partners, promoters, radio stations and things like that spoke up on our behalf and said, "That's just not the case." But, they got tired of defending it themselves and, ultimately, the attendance that the concerts dwindled and we really just acme to a place where it wasn't sustainable anymore. 

So, I look back on that as a story that I think you can find hundreds of similar stories right now of Christians who in some way put themselves out into their cities or in trying to serve their communities and find themselves facing angry reactions from people who think that because of their historic convictions, they're somehow bigots, they're somehow racists, or whatever you want to call it. I think the call to vulnerability is a call to say, "That's a risk we're willing to take and we're going to do it anyway."

See, victim-hood stands in the aftermath of a situation like that and says, "We're the victims of these oppressors who came and shut us down." Vulnerability says, "I'm going to look for the need and I'm going to go ahead and pursue it anyway." Vulnerability accepts the risks. It accepts the fact that the next time we try to do something like the nine thirty arts center, we might still get shut down. It might mean that the work that we try to do serving our public schools is going to face a whole lot of hostility from angry people. Whatever the ministry opportunity, whatever the thing we might want to do, whether it's in our personal vocations or as a work of our church, we have to recognize we're putting ourselves in harms way. I think embracing a sense of vulnerability says, "Yes. I'm going to do it anyway. I recognize the risk." 

You know, I think if you hear from ... well, let me move on. I want to save some time for questions. So, don't get caught up in the scapegoating and try to resist the culture of rage. That's another example here of resisting the culture of rage. Resisting the culture of angry responses. The response was mourning. The response was weakness. The response was prayer and fasting. 

So, what happens next? Moving quickly through the story. Haman's grasp for power, ultimately, turns against him. There's this great sequence of events where Haman interrupts the King and thinks the King is asking him, "What should I do to honor you?" He gives him this grand vision of, you know, "March me through the streets and say that the King wants to honor me." Ends up that Haman has to do this for Mordecai so Haman is humiliated. He ends up dragging Mordecai through the streets saying, "This is the man the King delights to honor." 

He comes home humiliated from this experience and when he tells his wife about it, his wife asks him, "Is Mordecai a Jew?" She's recognizing, oh, there's something happening here. There's this decree. You've just been humiliated by this guy, Mordecai. Is this Mordecai one of these Jews? He says, "Yeah, he is." Then his wife basically says, "Oh. You're screwed." That's the Mike Cosper translation of the passage. 

So, Esther hosts these two dinners. At the second dinner she reveals to the King that she's a Jew and she begs him for help. Haman ends up being exposed for the murderer that he is. He ends up getting killed on a gallows that was actually built for Mordecai, a Persian gallows was actually like a big spike they would empale you on. So he's empaled on this spike and hung above the city. 

There's a big lesson about power here. That when we grasp for power, power consumes us. It blinds us and it, ultimately, destroys us. The Rabbi's that comment on Esther in the Talmid, they talk about how power is like having a pet crocodile. You feed it and you feed it and you feed it and when you have nothing left to feed it, it finally eats you. 

So, Haman is dead. Ahasuerus appoints Mordecai as his new second in command and he brings back the advisors. This is when we see the advisors back in the story, back in the conversation with the King. You can miss this in the text. The way it's worded is a little funky. But, actually, two months goes by and the King has done nothing about the decree. He's killed Haman but, he hasn't done anything to rescind the decree. 

So, Esther goes back a second time. She goes back again to the King and risks her life a second time going to him unbidden. She throws herself at the Kings feet. He gives her the scepter again and spares her life and she begs that he would spare the Jews. This time the King does rescind the command. He can't rescind it but, what he does is he gives a second command saying, "Hey, on this day, when people attack the Jews, the Jews are supposed to defend themselves and if you want to help out the Jews as they defend themselves, you should." 

So, the day comes and goes. What ends up happening is that the Jews in Persia end up, basically, killing all the anti-Semites that were out to get them. Persia ends up being a safer place for the Jews in exile than it was before. 

After this, Purim is inaugurated. This festival that, where on an annual basis, this story is supposed to be told and retold and retold. 

One of the interesting things about Purim, if you look at, again, if you look at some of the Jewish commentators on the story, is they say the reason this festival is so important and the reason that they inaugurated a new festival at this time and in this place is because this was a cross roads where people who didn't have to acknowledges their Jewish-ness recommitted themselves to the covenant. Where Jews in Persia who had assimilated themselves came back and recommitted themselves to the covenant and re-embraced their Jewish identity. In a sense, Yoram Hazony puts it, he's like, this is like revisiting Mount Sinai. This moment where we say, "We are God's people. We will identify as God's people from here forward."

So, just a few final reflections. I'm probably not going to have time for questions, but, I'll stick around. 

The first thing is that one of the obvious conclusions to the Book of Esther is that compromised people are not written out of God's story, are never written out of God's story. 

Second thing is that being counted among God's people is a life and death decision. It always has been. That when we put ourselves in the position of saying that I'm going to identify with the people of God, we are embracing risk. We have to be willing to accept that. 

A third thing is that, while power itself is an evil, Esther and Mordecai are incredibly powerful figures by the Book's end. Power for power's own sake is suicidal. Seeking power, grasping for power is like having a pet crocodile and the day will come where it eats us. The temptation for the church in a post-Christian world to grasp for power in the midst of it is extremely dangerous. I think that Christians that are gladly, sort of, compromising their moral and ethical standards to grasp for political and social capital are going to pay a big price for it, ultimately. 

The fourth thing, vulnerability is different from victim-hood. It means embracing risk for the sake of others, for the sake of God's people. We need soft hearts and open hearts that are willing to embrace that vulnerability even while we remain committed to our identity and our convictions. Our convictions should drive us to being vulnerable and to being risky. Because, we're willing to embrace consequences in this like knowing that we're part of a people of God who will be sustained, who will be kept for his coming Kingdom. 

I think another thing is that, like Purim, Christians need to embrace formative traditions that will help us and our children and our children's children to remember our faith and preserve our faith in decades to come. 

I think the idea of, sort of, re-inaugurating a celebration that re-identifies, that re-affirms our identity as God's people makes a whole lot of sense. I'm not suggesting we restart Purim, but I am suggesting that we think about what it means to gather as the church and in what ways are church gatherings are reaffirming of our commitment as God's people in the midst of a hostel world. Are we walking through those particular challenges?

The Balancing Act of Ministry, Motherhood, and Marriage


My name is Nicki. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here. I've been married to Burt for 11 years, almost 12, and he has been the pastor of the same church in Augusta, Georgia, for 15 years. 

In that time, there's been a lot of ups and downs, and I guess the two main highlights would be, he led the church through a revitalization early on, and then most recently, about two years ago, we went through a church merger that moved us from the suburbs into the inner city. So, it was a big change for us, but a really good one. 

We have been with the Sojourn Network for about five years, and really, it started with Burt looking for friendships and for accountability for coaching, things like that, and he did find all of those things in the network, but we also found so much more. We found support for the wives and for the assistant pastors and things like that. So, the network has actually gone above and beyond our expectations. 

You should have a handout ... If you don't, let me know ... On the back of your handout, there is a place for comments, questions, discussion points, things like that, so as you think of things throughout the session, please feel free to jot them down so that we can discuss those at the end. 

At the top of your handout, you're going to see a continuum there, and there really is a spectrum of women in this room today. On one extreme end, there are the go-getter types. These are the women who stay busy day in and day out, and really to the point where their family life suffers because of it. They probably thrive off of checklists, so I'm going to refer to that end of our continuum as the Checklist Women. 

On the exact opposite end, we have those who may be a little bit too free with their time, and maybe they get sucked into time wasters to the point where their family suffers. So, I'm going to refer to those women as our Free Women. 

Smack dab in the middle would be those who know how to work hard and rest well. So, find yourself on that continuum. Go ahead and mark where you are on that continuum. We're all in different places, so this is not a one-size fits all topic. It's not like I can just say, "Women in general, let's talk about balancing these three things." We all really have to come at it from where we are starting from.

I can be in, actually, two different places. Typically, I lean pretty heavily Checklist Woman, but I want all the things. I want to do all the things, and I want to do them fully, but then I tend to get overwhelmed with all of those things, and I jump over that healthy middle section, and I start to avoid things. So, then I find myself locked in my room, watching Netflix, and just saying, "Nobody's allowed to need me for the next week because I just have to ... " I don't know, I just avoid things. But then, a deadline will approach, and I get back to getting things done. 

I can, honestly, tend towards both ends depending on where I am at that point in my life. 

I want us to look at Colossians 3, verses 12-24 today. We're going to see that Paul gives a church plant some Godly wisdom. In fact, it's God's own words about practical living. We're going to see that before we can try to find this balance between motherhood and marriage and ministry, we have to look at our own hearts first. 

So, that's where we're going to go. We're going to look at our hearts. We're going to do some ... Honestly, it's some hard heart work. Then, we're going to talk about how we can balance, really, the three most pressing and stressful and potentially the most life-giving and fulfilling roles in our lives. 

So, let me give you a little bit of a background on Colossians. The church in Colossi was started by a guy named Epaphras . So, Epaphras , his hometown was Colossi, and he traveled about 100 miles to Ephesus . When he was there in Ephesus , he heard Paul preaching the gospel, and you can actually read about Paul's time in Ephesus  in Acts 18, chapters 18 through 21.

So, Epaphras goes from his hometown of Colossi, travels to Ephesus, hears the gospel preached, and then he takes that message back to his hometown of Colossi. He plants a church there. So, Epaphras was a church planter. 

This church, this new church plant, it was young, it was thriving, things were going well, but pretty early on in the church planting process, some dangerous teaching began to happen. So, Epaphras visits Paul, and he says, "Look. Things aren't going so well. We're young. There's this false teaching going on, and I'm concerned." 

So, Paul writes this letter called Colossians in response to this report that he got from Epaphras. The first part of the letter, he's really going after this dangerous teaching, and then in the second part, he says, "Okay, church. You know the true gospel, and here's how you should live in light of that true gospel," and that's the part we're going to look at today. 

Let's read Colossians 3: 12-4. It's in your handout. We're going to really be interacting with the text some, so if you have a pen, take your pen out. We're going to do some marking of the text here. So, we'll read the text, then we'll pray, and then we'll get started. 

Colossians 3: 12-24

"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other. As the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive, and above all these, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you are called in one body, and be thankful. 

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing each other in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do in word or deed, do everything the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, the Father, through him. 

"Wives, submit to your husbands as submitting to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Bond servants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.

"Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." 

Let's pray. 

God, I pray for our time together. God, I pray that you would give me true words, and if there's anything in my notes that you don't want me to say, help me to just skip over them and not even realize it. If there are things you want me to say that are not in the notes, Holy Spirit, impress those things in my heart and my mind. Give us hearts that are ready to be changed, and give us minds that are ready to learn and take in this knowledge. In Jesus's name, Amen. 

Our outline is this. It's printed on page two, in your handout. Number one is Put On, number two, How?, and number three, Living. 

First is Put On. So, the text says, "Put on, then," and I want to stop right there, at the third word in our text. Some translations say, "Therefore, put on," and if we had that translation, I would stop at the first word, "Therefore," because those are linking words. Then and therefore mean there's something before that we have to look at so we can understand what comes ahead. 

Kind of like, if I said, "okay, then I'll put on my sweater." Well, what came before it? That word, then, means something happened before. So, "I looked outside and it was snowing, so then, I will put on my sweater." It's not printed in your text, so I'm just going to read verses 9 and 10, which come, obviously, right before this. 

It says, "Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator." So, Paul is saying, we have to put off old-self stuff. He makes this list ... I don't think it's exhaustive, but eh says things like anger, and wrath, and obscene talk. 

The idea is, whatever your life was before Christ, however you tended towards sin, put those things off. If you were an angry person, put those things away. Put that away. If you were lazy, that shouldn't be affecting your husband or your children or your ministry today. If you were selfish and greedy, put those things off. If you were jealous and insecure, put those things away. Whatever sin you tended towards before Christ, put them off. 

I always hate to be in a group like this and the speaker's like, "Hey, can you write something super personal down about your sin on your paper?" But, I'm going to ask you to do that today. Let's just all agree, we're not going to look at our neighbor's papers. This is personal, and I really do want us to do some hard heart work, so we have to get honest about our sin if we're going to do that. 

On your handout, you see this question, "What do I bring into my life as a Christian that I should be putting off?" So, basically, what are some old sins that you still allow into your life. Think about your husband. What would your husband tell you to write down? What about your kids? Kids notice a lot more than we give them credit for. What would your kids say that their mommy struggles with as far as sin? 

Think about your church. If the ladies in your church knew your thought-life, your private conversation, what sins would they say that you should write down? Just take a few seconds and write some of those old sins down that you should be putting off. 

Female: [inaudible 00:10:47]

Nicki: No. I should clarify. You will not be sharing these. You will not be sharing these. Maybe later, with your husband, but not in this group time, so please be really honest about this.

Y'all, I know this isn't something we like to think about, and you may be thinking, "Wait a second. I signed up for practical advice, so do I really have to deal with these heart issues right now?"

I'm the first to admit, it is so much easier to sweep our sins under the rug and act like we're doing great at life, but we're not. I'm not. I'm sure you're not, either. We all have sin that we need to put off. That's a hard thing to hear, but we need to hear it, and it's a hard thing to address, but we need to address it. 

I think there's a healthy way to read about this putting off/putting on process. If you're a get-things-done kind of girl, on the checklist end of the spectrum, you may be thinking, "Yes, this is good. I need this push. I'm glad I can see my sins here. I'm ready to wage war on this sin that so easily entangles." If you're at the other end of the spectrum, though, you may read these sins that you're struggling with, still, and feel discouraged or frustrated with yourself.

Paul inserts this beautiful little phrase that I really believe is there because some people would be discouraged and anxious about this, and this is what he says. Look at verse 12 on your handout.

"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved ... " It's like he's saying, "Look, I know this message is going to discourage some of you, but remember who you are." 

Let's circle those three things. Circle "chosen," "holy," "beloved." Circle all three. They show who we are. They tell our identity, and that ... Our identity is going to determine how we live as moms and wives and Christians. 

There's one more thing that helps us define our identity. That's found in verse 13, "We are forgiven." Circle forgiven, as well. 

"Sister, God chose you to be his daughter. He made you holy through the blood of Jesus Christ, and oh, how he loves you."

Sometimes we just need to hear that. We need to be reminded of that. He chose you. He made you holy. He loves you, and you are forgiven. 

Those are the blanks on the second page of your handout. "I am chosen. I am made holy. I am beloved." Forgiven did not make the handout. That was unintentional, so go ahead and write in, "I am forgiven," as well. "I'm chosen. I am made holy. I am beloved. I am forgiven." Because of those things, I can put off the old self, and I can put on the new self, because of those things as well. 

If we can't just focus on constantly getting rid of our sin, we also have to clothe ourselves with good things. So, let's underline the things that we need to put on ... I know this is flipping a lot back and forth, but back to your first page there, call out, what are some things that you see ... Let's start in verse 12 ... that we need to put on? 

Female: Kindness. 

Nicki: Kindness. Underline kindness. What else?

Female: Humility. 

Nicki: Humility. Underline humility. 

Female: Meekness.

Nicki: Meekness. Underline meekness. 

Female: Compassionate hearts. 

Nicki: Compassionate hearts. Underline that. 

Female: Patience. 

Nicki: Patience, good. Underline that, and then ... There's two sub-points under patience. One is bearing with each other. That would be a sub-point under patience, and then, also, forgiveness would be a sub-point under that. 

What is the last thing we see in verse 14? 

Female: Love. 

Nicki: Love. So, in place of those things that you wrote on your handout, those sins that you are trying to bring back into your life all the time, put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and above all of those things, love. Truly, if we love people deeply, then those other things are going to happen naturally. 

You have a quote there from Spurgen in your handout. So, Spurgen, in his commentary on Colossians, says this of those spiritual fruits that we just read. "These are the sacred vestments of your daily priesthood. Put them on. We are in such a hurry and such a dreadful haste, so selfish, so discontented, so impetuous, and the major part of our sins spring from that condition of mind. But, if we were Godly, restful, peaceful, how many sins we should avoid. Let the peace of God rule in your hearts." 

And then, verse 14, love binds everything together. That takes us through verse 14, and then verse 15 is going to start our second point. How? How do we put these things on? How do we put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, and love? 

We see three ways listed there. We're going to underline these with a squiggly line to differentiate here. How do we do this? Put a squiggly line under, "Let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts." Put a squiggly line under, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." Put a squiggly line under, "Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus." 

So, those are the three ways listed that we can put on these good things. The peace of God dwelling in our hearts, the word of God dwelling in us richly, and then doing everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. I love how Christocentric those three ways are. We can give our best attempts at putting on compassion, and, oh, yeah, I can put on love, and I can be meek. We can try our best to do those things, but apart from Christ, they are going to fade away very quickly. 

We don't just need peace, we need the peace of Christ. We don't just need good words, we need the good news of Christ. We don't just do everything in the name of good deeds, we do everything in the name of Christ. 

I want us to notice something really important here. Look at your text, and put a box around each time Paul mentions thankfulness. Call out what you see. Where does he talk about thankfulness here? 

We're starting in verse 15. 

So, "Let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts," put a box around, "and be thankful," in verse ... What do you see in 16? 

Female: [inaudible 00:17:44]

Nicki: Yes. So, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with," put a box around, "with thankfulness in your hearts to God." And then verse 17. 

Female: [inaudible 00:17:54]

Nicki: Okay, so, "Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God." 

Paul couples thankfulness with all three of these ways to do this. In your handout, it says, "Which condition of the heart is involved in all three of these?" And the answer is, thankfulness. 

We're going to very quickly go through each of those, the peace, the word, and doing everything. I'm going to just talk about those things briefly. So, verse 15, "Let the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts, and be thankful." 

We have access to the peace of Christ, but somehow, we find ourselves struggling with the opposite of peace. We find ourselves struggling with disagreements, agitation ... Especially with parenting, in my case ... distress, frustration, anxiety, sadness, worry. These things are the antonym of peace. They are the opposite of peace. 

The peace that we have is from Christ, which means it has power, so it's not this worldly, temporary, thin kind of peace. That's not what the peace of Christ is. We trust that God is working all things for our good in His glory, and the Holy Spirit uses that faith to give us peace that surpasses all understanding that the rest of the world does not even get. 

When our wombs are barren, or when our toddler is throwing yet another tantrum, or when our older children are wayward and breaking our hearts, we have peace that surpasses all understanding because we trust that God is working those things for our good and for His glory. 

Word. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." So, the word of Christ, that is the gospel. We must let the gospel dwell in us richly. So, we read it. We meditate on it. We memorize it. We speak it. We preach it to ourselves and to others. So, when we're feeling anything other than that peace that we talked about, we preach the gospel to ourselves. When we're feeling anxious, discouraged, angered, annoyed, overwhelmed, we say, "Nicki, Jesus died for you. You are now a child of God. You are loved. God has given you this child, throwing this temper tantrum, right here, right now, for your good and for God's glory. This is good for your sanctification. Trust God." 

We preach that gospel to ourselves. That's one way that we get those things, we cover ourselves with those good things. 

And then, the last one is, do everything. "Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus." So, do life in the name of the Lord Jesus. Discipline your kids, go on date nights, have kitchen dance parties, wipe butts, whatever it is that you do in your life, do those things in the name of the Lord Christ. And what does that even mean? Do everything in obedience to him. Represent who he is, and make much of who he is in your daily life, in the everyday things that you're doing. 

Now, we are at a point three, living. We've worked our way through verses 12 through 17, and now we're at the practical outworking of that heart work that Paul has been encouraging. We've addressed our hearts, and, Lord willing, we know what we need to put off. We know what we need to put on, and we know how to put those things on. 

We've all heard this section before. I'm not going to pull out the obvious applications. I'm not even going to go verse-by-verse like I have for the rest of the text. The main thing I want us to see is an order of priority that is given in our text. 

Obviously, first, we're Christians. We love the Lord, even if we lose the other three. If we lost our marriage, we still love the Lord. If we lost our motherhood, we still love the Lord. If we lost our ministry, we still love the Lord. So, this is in terms of earthly relationships. This order is in terms of earthly relationships and we've got to get the order right. 

Look at verses 18 and 19. What are the first words in those verses? 

Female: [Inaudible 00:22:01]

Nicki: Wives and husbands. Put a number one above wives and husbands, the first words in 18 19. 

Then, what do we see ... What are the first words in 20 and 21? 

Female: [inaudible 00:22:14]

Nicki: Children and fathers. Put a number two above children and fathers. 

Then, in verse 22, we see bond servants, obviously, there's a lot more exact application for bond servants, but it can also have application for work outside of the home and for ministry outside of the home. So, put a number three above bond servants. 

The order must be this: marriage, motherhood, and then things outside of the home. Specifically, today, we're talking about ministry. So, marriage, motherhood, and ministry. This is not a 33.3% split between each one, like, "I'll give 33.3% to my marriage, and 33.3% to my kids, and the same to ministry." That's not what this is. 

This is a fill your marriage up 100%, and fill your children up 100%, and then fill your ministry up 100%, according to your capacity in gifting. We're going to revisit those words in a few minutes. 

Truly, our first ministry is to our husbands and then to our children. That's why, when I say ministry, I'm saying ministry outside of the home, because we're all doing ministry inside of our homes at all times. 

Let's go through these in order, and turn to page three of your handout. Your husband must come first in terms of your earthly relationships. He is your first ministry. This ministry looks like encouragement, time, love, energy. There's a proverb printed out at the top of page three. It says this, "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down." Proverbs 14:1.

We see a very stark difference here. We see a wise woman building her house. We see, she's building her home up. Then there's this lady named Folly, which I have been Folly before many times. This lady named Folly is tearing her home down with her own hands. The wise woman gives 100% of the time and energy, love, into building up the marriage part of her home. 

How can we build up the marriage part of our home? We're going to just call out ways. We're going to take 30 to 60 seconds, and call out ways. If somebody says something that encourages you, or you feel like, "This would be good to build up the marriage part of my home," jot it down. You've got a box there. 

I'll get us started with the thing that some of you are probably thinking but don't want to say. Sex. We can build up the marriage part of our home by having mutually joyful sex and having it often. So, I'll go ahead and get that one out of the way. What are some less awkward ways that we can build up the marriage part of our home? 

Female: Encouraging our husbands. 

Nicki: Encouraging our husband. 

Female: [inaudible 00:25:09]

Nicki: Yes, definitely. 

Female: [inaudible 00:25:09]

Nicki: Yes. What else can we do? 

Female: [inaudible 00:25:19]

Nicki: Yes. 

Female: Sometimes, giving up my own desires so that he can fulfill his [inaudible 00:25:28]. 

Nicki: Hmm. 

So, sacrificing for them. Yes. Let's have a couple more.

Ashley: I think making him a priority, which can be hard when you have kids. 

Nicki: Yes. It does. 

Female: [inaudible 00:25:47]

Nicki: Say it again? 

Female: Making time. 

Nicki: Making time for him. Yeah, that's good. Those are really good. 

Now, for your second box, we're not going to talk about it out loud. What are some ways that you personally struggle with tearing down the marriage part of your home? Maybe you're not tearing it down wall-by-wall, but maybe you're picking. You're just continually picking and tearing it apart little by little. So, just, in that box, write some ways that you struggle I think tearing down the marriage part of your home. 

And then motherhood. Your children should come next. Your second most important ministry is to your children. Just as ... What's your name, in the second row?

Ashley: Ashley. 

Nicki: Just as Ashley said earlier, it's easy for our kids to creep up to that number one spot because they're cute, they say, "I love you," they offer free hugs, but also, they just demand a lot of time and a lot of energy. So, it's really easy for us to kind of just slowly put them as number one, and really, they need to be second. 

It will bless your children to see that your marriage is actually more important than them, that their dad is your number one priority in terms of earthly relationships. 

Our children are our first line of evangelism, and then, Lord willing, as they get older, they'll become our first line of discipleship as well. Let me read our proverb again. "The wisest of women builds her house, but folly, with her own hands, tears it down."

We want to be a wise woman who gives 100% of the time, energy, and love needed to build up the motherhood part of our home. Every child is different. Some are going to need more cuddles. Some are going to need more affirmation. Some will just need more time. How can we build up the motherhood, the children part of our homes? Let's call out some things that the Lord is putting on your heart and mind, and jot down things that would encourage you to build that part of your home up. 

Female: Being present can build something [inaudible 00:28:17]. 

Nicki: Yep. That's good. 

Female: Being patient. 

Nicki: Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

Female: Discipline. 

Nicki: Yes. Sometimes, it's easier to just ignore it, but yes. Being faithful to discipline. 

Female: [inaudible 00:28:35] in scheduling and in doing as much ... It's very easy in mothering to just be tossed by the waves, but if you're reacting to your life instead of actually plotting it forward with intentionality. 

Nicki: Yeah, that's good. Let's have one more. 

Female: [inaudible 00:28:53]

Nicki: Yes, girl. 

Female: My prayer, that it's encouraging, because that's all I [inaudible 00:28:58] at certain times. 

Nicki: Yeah. That's great. Yeah, our kids need to see us repenting. They need to learn how to repent from us. Like I said, they're our first line of evangelism, so they should see us acting in obedience to Christ, and that involves a lot of repentance. Sometimes, 10 times a day, saying, "Oh, I'm so sorry I got frustrated with you." I had to apologize to my three year old, actually, right before we left, because I got frustrated with her. 

So, now, more personally ... We're not going to discuss this. Just, how do you struggle with tearing down the motherhood part of your home? Take just a little bit of time to write those down. 

And then, ministry. So, our marriage is to be our number one earthly priority. Our motherhood is second, and then ministry. This is ministry outside of our immediate families, but this is a part of our spiritual homes. We have spiritual brothers and sisters that we can contribute to either building up or tearing down. So, let me read our proverb again. 

"The wisest of women builds her house, but folly, with her own hand, tears it down." 

What are some ways we can build up the ministry part of our spiritual homes? 

Female: Hospitality. 

Nicki: Yeah. That's a good one. 

Female: Generosity. 

Nicki: Hmm. She said generosity. Yes. Yeah. 

Female: Making time for them. 

Nicki: Yes, and that can be hard. 

Female: Being vulnerable. 

Nicki: Yes. Not putting up the front that we've got it all together. Let's have one more. 

Female: Praying for wisdom or [inaudible 00:31:24]. 

Nicki: Hmm. Yes. Yeah. That's good. 

Then, more personally, how can we tear it down? Think of ways that you tend to tear down the ministry. Maybe it's gossip. Maybe it is through frequent conflict with people. Maybe it's talking badly about elders or wives. Whatever it is, however you struggle personally, write those things down. 

I want us to see one more thing in our text before we move on, so if you'll turn back to the first page ...

I want us to see that verses 23 and 24 parallel back with verse 17. Let's draw a big rectangle around verse 17, which says this, "In whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." And then put a box around 23 and 24, "Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ." 

Put rectangles around those, and then just connect them with an arrow or with a double-sided arrow to show that they parallel. 

You have a question on the back of your handout. I want to spend the rest of our time here, and then we'll have a time for discussion. 

It says, "What if my relationship with my husband or kids is struggling in particular because I'm stretched to thin?" 

I think we all are at this place in various times in our lives, so the answer is going to begin with what you marked at the very beginning of the session on that continuum. Where are you on that continuum? 

If you lean heavily towards checklist, maybe you're stretched too thin because you have too many extra things on your plate. Maybe you're the first to volunteer every time somebody needs a volunteer, like, "Oh, that sounds fun. I'll do that," or, "Yeah, I think I can fit that in," or, "I'm not sure when I'll fit that in, but I care about it, so I'm going to make it work," and you just keep adding, and you add, and you add, and you add. But then, later, when you realize the things that you'll have to give up in order to fulfill those roles, you kind of start to regret that you committed to it in the first place. 

Are there things that you can pull out of your schedule that other people can do that would give you more time with your husband and your kids and your ministry? The takeaway for you would be to weigh the cost of every single one of the extra things that you agree to take on. What would you have to give up in order to fulfill that role? 

If it's something like, "Oh, I'll have to give up 30 minutes of sleep," maybe that's not a big deal to you. If you've already committed to a bunch of other things, and now it's, "I would have to give up X amount of family time once a week," you really need to weigh that once you get to that point. 

If you lean towards the free woman end, you may be stretched too thin because you get sucked into time wasters, and maybe you're not present enough to enjoy your ministry, your motherhood, and your marriage. What are some time wasters that you can pull out of your schedule? 

We all need to unwind and relax, so I'm not advocating for working 24/7 without a break, but there is a point where we abuse rest. What are some time wasters that you can pull out of your life to give you more time with your family and your ministry? The takeaway for you would be to weigh the cost of all of those time wasters. If you're watching Netflix, and it's like, the next episode starts playing, "What would I have to give up if I'm going to watch another episode here?" 

Maybe, you're like, "Oh, the kids are asleep. I'm good. I'm going to just keep going." Think about the next morning. What are you going to be like when you wake up? Are you setting yourself up to put these things on for your kids the next morning? Are you setting the morning up for failure because you're going to be tired and grumpy? So, weigh the cost of each one of those time wasters. 

Burt is great about having us sit down and pull things out of my schedule. This is a regular part of our lives. I over-commit. My plate's always heaping full. He'll say, "Babe, your family life is suffering. You have too many things. We need to pull some stuff out." 

So, I'm thankful. Honestly, I'm very thankful that he's willing to do that. So, invite your husband to do that for you. Invite him to call you out or help you out when he notices that your family or ministry is suffering due to your busyness, or you're wasting time.

I think once you realize your tendency, and you pull back on either unneeded busyness or time wasters, you're going to feel a lot of relief. However, once you get those things out, you are still going to be stretched because marriage stretches you. Children stretch you. Ministry stretches you. So, here are the blanks on your handout. 

"If family life is suffering, or your blanks are losing control, based on the order Paul presents, it's wise to back off ministry outside of the home and focus back on my husband and kids." 

I'm going to read it again. "If family life is suffering, or losing control, based on the order Paul presents, it's wise to back off ministry outside of the home and focus back on my husband and kids." 

Y'all, I realize the magnitude of saying this to a roomful of ministry wives. That's not easy to say, but if you are stretched too thin, you need to pull back to the most important things. You're still going to be stretched, but it won't be as thin. You need to be stretched a healthy amount. Marriage is going to stretch you, motherhood is going to stretch you, ministry is going to stretch you. 

For some ladies, ministry needs to be at a minimum, for a time, especially when motherhood is taking a lot out of them. 

Here's your next two blanks. "Ministry must take two things into consideration. First is your gifting. Second is your capacity in this stage of life."

Female: [inaudible 00:38:22]

Nicki: "First is your gifting. Second is your capacity in this stage of life." 

God has gifted us all with different abilities and different capacities for various things, do don't compare yourself to others. If you see a lady gifted in hospitality and she's looking over at the lady who's gifted in teaching children, and thinking, "Oh, I wish I had that gift. Look how, kids are coming to know the Lord through her teaching. I want that gift." No, she's been gifted with hospitality, and she should use that gift in full. 

Maybe you're gifted in hospitality, and maybe you also feel stretched and just full with marriage and motherhood. So, you would sit down with your husband and say, "What does hospitality look like for me right now?" And maybe you agree, once a month, you're going to have people over for dinner. One time a month. That is great, because that is what serving in ministry to a full 100% looks like for you at that time in your life. 

Maybe there's another woman in the room who is a Checklist Woman and she has a greater capacity for things. So, she's feeling stretched in her motherhood, and marriage and motherhood as well, and so she sits down with her husband and they agree, three times a week they're going to have somebody over for dinner because her capacity is greater. That's also great. That's wonderful. That is how 100% to ministry, for her, looks at that time in her life. Both things are wonderful, and they're dependent on the capacity that they've been given. 

Listen to this. It's okay to say this. It's actually good to say this. "I have less capacity in my life right now, so hospitality looks differently for me than it does for her. God is honored in both." God will give you the grace that you need for the tasks that he has for you. You don't have to do it all. Yes, be committed to the local church. Serve in the local church. But, the capacity that we serve at 100% is going to look differently at different times, and that's not just with ministry. It's also with marriage, and it's also with motherhood. 

If your husband is seeing a lot of conflict in the church and he is just going through a really difficult time with the church, he may come home and regularly want to talk for two or three hours at night, so you giving 100% to your marriage is going to look differently at that point than it does a month later when things have settled down and he feels loved and supported at the church. Then, maybe you're not ... Maybe you're spending 30 minutes a night rather than two or three hours. 

Same with kids. Maybe one of your kids is being bullied at school, so you invest more encouragement into that child. You're more intentional to love and support that child, and then later, when he's back playing with the neighborhood kids and having fun, 100%'s going to look differently. 

It's the same across the board. It's not just with ministry. But, sometimes, as ministry wives, we feel like we have to do it all. We just, "Come on. I'll do it. I can do it. I'll find a way. We'll make it work." You don't have to do it all. If you're growing as a Christian, if you're loving your husband well, loving your children well, and serving in the church, you're doing an incredible job. That, right there, those four things, that's a lot. 

You don't have to lead every Bible study. You don't have to attend every training. You don't have to fill in every time there's a nursery worker missing. You don't have to fill in every time the Children's Sunday School teacher gets sick. You don't need to be the on-call person for every ministry in the church, unless you have the time and capacity and gifting to do that without putting a strain on your family life. 

For those who aren't able to do that, it's okay to be in a season where you're serving one time in the nursery for the quarter. I specifically am thinking about the time when I was nursing a child, and I had a toddler running around, and I was getting maybe three or four hours of sleep at night. For that stage of my life, I had to step back and say, "Look. I need a break. I need a break from the ministry outside of the home because inside of my home is demanding so much of my time." 

It is okay to do that, and it's even healthy to do that. 

So, the free women are over here, like, "Yeah, I totally get that," and then the checklist women are like, "No. I am not giving up my Director position. I am not giving up my spot on the music team." But here's the deal. You have to understand that it's for a time. It's not forever. It's for a time as your home requires more time, energy, love. 

Here's your last blank, here. "Once home is healthy, I should take one step at a time back into full ministry outside of the home, always assessing the health of my marriage and motherhood." So, one step at a time. 

Defining Moments in Care - Weddings, Funerals, and Visitations


I was asked to consider and to think about, I guess what one of the days, I'm not sure exactly, which one, titled Defining Moments in Care. I think the defining portion of that is some of the practical conversations we can have about weddings, and funerals, and visitations. Before we jump there, I want to talk about care in general, and not assume that caring for people or what that looks like is something that all of us have as a value.

My experience, because I was a young pastor and some people might even say, "You're still a young pastor," in my thirties. I would confess that I've very rarely heard young pastors aspire to be a minister whose major impact is in quite simple moments of presence with people who have needs. The most of the time, when we imagine, and we dream, and we go to the conferences and we think, "I'm going to be like X, Y, or Z," our heroes are people who are using spectacular gifts in spectacular ways in big meaningful moments.

My assumption, or my guess, is that for a majority of us, God needs to do work in us to a place of conviction down deep in our soul that says that to be like Jesus and to walk in the calling that He's given us, means that we need to not only be willing to but embrace and love the fact that God would use us, and not for our spectacular gifts, but for our willingness to be present, to be personal, and many times even to be silent, that it's not going to be some spectacular gift that we use.

I'm going to take a little bit of time, and hopefully at the beginning here, try to make a case so that we could all maybe be on the same page for the conviction that we ought to have for pastoral care. Before we can meet people in defining moments of their care, I think we need to be convinced that God's calling us to do that, so that's the first thing.

I had a moment recently where I thought a lot about what this would look like for me and it convicted me. I was back home in North Dakota. I got a call the weekend before. I was supposed to go on a pastors' retreat with some of my best friends in the world, that I really looked forward to. We got a call about midnight from my best friend's wife. My best friend has been struggling with stage 4 cancer for two years. He is in his late thirties and to the point where he is just completely wasting away. I visited him a couple different times. I made a trip to go be with him as he did an experimental chemo thing in Houston at one point. Now, he had been taken to the emergency room and they weren't sure if he was going to make it through. Despite being very strong and having a big support team there, his wife called and said, "You know, I know we've never asked you this before, but I think that if you could come, we need you to be here".

We made the decision at that point we were just going to drop what we could, and we were going to go. We told them and committed that we wanted to be there. In one way, I was acting out this, "I want to be present and I want to be there." What I didn't know is that over the next couple days, I was going to be struck by the ministry of and the presence and care of a man that in my mind did far more for my friend and for his family that I would have ever guessed. We were sitting in the emergency room and I was listening to my friend as he dropped in and out of consciousness on morphine, and trying to care for him and talk with him there.

It was a Sunday, right? It was a Sunday and he'd said, "Why don't you come over because I'd love for us to study scripture together or do something meaningful." I remember I was just paralyzed, I woke up that morning and I thought, "I don't know what to say to this. I don't know how to do this and ..." Sometimes it's an odd thing, you can be super powerful spiritually with strangers or at a context where it's your job. Maybe this is my experience with my wife, with my kids and in this case with my best friend, sometimes I feel completely inept. I don't know what to do.

I'd spent the day and just sort of fumbled around, we'd done nothing spiritual. I'm feeling guilty about it and I'm sitting there with my friend, and the emergency door slides open and in walks ... I say walk generously. In waddles a nearly 80 year old couple of open heart bypass surgery, minister of the gospel, with a collar, of this little Lutheran Church in the small town of three hundred people that we grew up in.

He comes in and he knows us by name, and he gives us a hug. Immediately he begins to pull out a little travel communion set that he brings with him. He just sets it up and over the course of the next few minutes he opens catechism, he invites us to pray the Lord's Prayer with him, and right bedside in the emergency room with my friend and his wife, and my wife and myself, this humble, quiet man in 10 minutes, I think, enacted one of the most powerful moments of ministry that I've ever been privy to in my entire life. I would say that in those 10 minutes, he spoke his own words from his own personality that he would have had to make up maybe 10% of the time. Some of that 10% was just saying things like "Hey, it's so great to see you. I love you guys, I care about you." The rest of the time he simply read with passion and care and kindness words that Jesus would have given us to pray in the Lord's Prayer, words that would have been written by Luther hundreds of years ago in a catechism, words of the institution of the supper. He simply prayed for and gave these things out, and then he turned and he left.

My wife and I both sat stunned, and we talked about it many times since then. What an amazing thing it is that this man was able to do in less than 10 minutes, nearly none of his own words, something that I felt was so meaningful and he could do within that 10 minutes something that I'd felt like I'd struggled for days to do for my best friend. What struck me about it the most was the fact that anyone could have done it.

In some ways I felt, that was the most powerful thing. This guy was humble enough and caring enough to show up. He was powerful not because of who he was but because he was there, not because of what he said, but because he used other words that needed to be said. He wasn't afraid. He had no care in the world that somehow he needed to be unique, that he needed to do something that was going to be powerful. I don't believe that in that moment he was thinking to himself, "Man, you know what? I just need to say one thing they'll remember forever as he goes to his last days."

In that particular moment, I thought to myself, I want to commit myself. I want to have a conviction for my soul that some of my pastoral care in my ministry is that I would be dedicated to being present, I'll be dedicated to doing the things that anyone could have done, but the things that are the most vital.

I realize in my own soul--and I have a working assumption, so I don't want to assume about anybody here--but I've been working assumption that for many of us as we've entered ministry and you get involved in the mix of it, and all of us love preaching and we love doctrine. We love music and songs and the things that weren't part of. I have a working assumption that many of us underestimate the importance of meaningful presence in the simple moments with the actual people that God has given us in our churches, that it's more important. We underestimate it, and at the same time as we underestimate it, I think that when we think about it, we have probably not taken stock of the reasons why it's so difficult for us to do that.

It's difficult for us to actually be meaningful present in people's lives, so I want to start with why I think meaningful presence, pastoral care, defining moments of care is more important than most of us think. That if you take stock of well, what's going to be important for me to be successful in a ministry life? Most of us put pastoral care, being present, far down, maybe not even on the list.

Andy, you tell me it's one of your seven pastoral principles at your church. You guys are winning. That's awesome, so not Andy. Maybe your assumption, maybe you're out of the assumption, but for the rest of us, I don't think we aspire to when we're 17,18,19,25, 30 thinking like "Oh, man, I'm just going to kill the pastoral presence game. I'm just going to be there, just there. Not say anything, but knowing that I love them."

I think that when we start to dive in and think about this thing, we're going to realize why it's difficult for us, and I want to uncover some of that. Let me just give a few different reasons. The first reason is we ought to have a conviction of pastoral care. This is the thing that leads us to decide to get better at weddings. It's the thing that leads us to say, "I'm going to dive into funerals as much as I can." It's the thing that leads us to not overlook or think of invitations to be with people, to visit people as somehow an interruption in the rest of the busy awesome things you're doing, but actually run with them.

I think it starts with a conviction of [pause 00:08:42] to do, and what I should be doing. The first thing is just simple incarnation. All of us want to be Jesus. He's the model for every single thing that we do. Again, I think we sometimes overlook the fact that one of the most significant things, the starting [inaudible 00:08:58] gospel, the good news of what it meant for God to reach out to people, is in the name of Jesus. The announcement comes for his birth, and the announcement comes to the people. He says, get this, get this, get this, "His name is going to be Emmanuel, God with us." The staggering fact that God would gift to the people with his presence, just merely that he's going to be here, would have been enough for everyone to say, "Hold on, do you have more good news? That's going to be great. We'll celebrate that then, but let's have a party right now. God's going to be with us."

Simply being with the people was the starting point of the good news. I've heard a ton of people describe this.  Christmas is coming, right? If you're not working on your advent seriously, what are you doing? Everybody knows man, we got an nail this. What does it mean? God came and is incarnate. Okay, I'm going to get after this. Then if you're really edgy, and you're missional, you start to think about incarnation we [inaudible 00:09:54] in our city. We can't be so spiritually minded. We need to like smoking and [pause 00:10:01] reclaim all that. I've heard a ton of incarnation speak when it comes to being [inaudible 00:10:08]. If you get that far, it is a great place. What's interesting is I think as pastors, as people in church, we often overlook the obvious fact that to be like Jesus means that we ought to know what does it mean to be incarnational with our own people? Are we present with the people that we're actually pastoring?

I remember one time complaining to an older pastor when I first kind of residency, part- time job sort of things--complaining about some of the [inaudible 00:10:40]. He stopped me. He stopped me right off the bat. He wasn't going to have any of that. He said, "I want to tell you something Lance. At one point you just have to come to a conclusion, and you have to be convicted about something. You never get to the pastor [inaudible 00:10:50] there. God knows what he's doing, and he's providential, and you only get to pastor the people that you actually have."

It was in that moment that I felt like well, what am I doing wrong here? What he was calling me to, what this older pastor was saying is, event [inaudible 00:11:05] the incarnational present actually with who you have, with your church. One of the [inaudible 00:11:13] have to be like [inaudible 00:11:14] the present. How many leadership manuals or books that people have in ministry actually help to tell people how to protect themselves from having to be too present with their people? Presence, we need to be [inaudible 00:11:29]. If you're called to pastor a church, if the word [inaudible 00:11:31] is what you put [inaudible 00:11:32], then to be like Jesus means you are committing that the standard, the bare minimum, the thing that you're to do is to live amongst the people, to be with them as much as you possibly can.

Jesus, his ministry was recorded in the Gospels, and then commented on and explained of course in rest of the Epistles, but over the course of his life of ministry the normal stuff was that he was with his disciples. That would have been the dominant factor. He wasn't always turning loaves and bread into a feast. He wasn't always walking on water. It does seem like he made a practice of being with them. In fact, how much [inaudible 00:12:04] when he withdrew from them, that's what they commented on. Jesus actually withdrew and was by himself, which I think gives me an indication that the normal thing was, he'd let himself be with them nearly constantly. Incarnation is one of the first things that's going to lead us to a conviction to have pastoral presence with people.

The second thing--not all of us in here probably are there, but there's a sense that we need to define our call in a particular way. Specifically, if you are called to be an elder in a church, if you're called to be an elder in a church, then you must [inaudible 00:12:37] the fact that shepherding is not a negotiable aspect of your call. In fact, I would say that for the most part, shepherding is the over [inaudible 00:12:45] and any other gift that you bring to the table simply allows you to get at that in a better way.

So many times--and I'm just going to read of the passages of the scripture--I think we [inaudible 00:12:54] knowledge of our flock, knowledge of [inaudible 00:12:58]. The kind of knowledge that only comes with listening well and being there, and noticing and paying attention is the absolute call to elder. You cannot shepherd apart from knowing the flock. It was quoted in one of the many [inaudible 00:13:09] that we've had. John 21:15, 16, and 17, Peter is being restored by Jesus, and Jesus tells him to do, "Feed my sheep, feed my sheep, feed my sheep." He doesn't say that. That's what I wish he had said. Feed my sheep. I just write some blogs, I preach the sermons, I give him all the content, I just want them to be well fed.

Now Jesus says, "Feed my sheep." The second time says "Tend my sheep." Goes back to feed. I don't want to make too much of that. [inaudible 00:13:40] point out that for those of us who love to be expositional about the Greek meanings of all the words, it's pretty easy to neglect the fact that he does say tend. He says the word poimen which means to shepherd, to be with. Right? Then I think that's borne out in the way that the elders interpreted this call the elder for beyond the [inaudible 00:13:58]. Verse 28, Paul [inaudible 00:14:04] to the elders back [inaudible 00:14:04] be careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers." Careful [inaudible 00:14:12]. It's hard to pay careful attention to the flock, unless you are with them, unless you have a kind of [inaudible 00:14:18] with them.

Paul had actually used an example of his own [inaudible 00:14:22]. He taught them in public, he said in verse 20, as well house to house. This means that in a certain point, your experience of church in the New Testament could have been that the Apostle Paul himself sat in your living room and talked to you about Jesus, which is absolutely fascinating. I think it's [inaudible 00:14:41] that we have so lost. It would seem so odd for many of us to make home visits and to sit with people and disciple them in their homes.

Anybody ever read The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter? The thing about that book is that a huge portion of it comments on, describes the motivations for, and helps us to get better at home visitations of the people. The majority of his ministry life, which I think was not at the time [inaudible 00:15:08] weekly house to house catechisms of the families in his church. Knowledge of the [inaudible 00:15:16] being there with the people was something that he [inaudible 00:15:22].

This is what Baxter has to say about [inaudible 00:15:24], and I think in application of Paul's decision he said his apostleship in ethicist was to go house to house. Baxter says this. He said, "We must labor, we must work to be acquainted not only with the persons in our church but with the [inaudible 00:15:38] of our people, with [inaudible 00:15:38] congregations. Which sins are they most in danger of? What duties are they most apt to neglect? Which temptations are they most liable to? If we know not their temperament or disease it is unlikely that we would prove to be successful physicians. We have to know the people. 1 Peter 5 [inaudible 00:16:00] says I exhort to be an elder that would shepherd [inaudible 00:16:05], the idea of us knowing the people and being there.

Should I think we can all probably agree that it needs to be part of it.  I think the other part of our calling- One, it's a command, right? We're supposed to be with them, among the shepherd in the flock. The other part of our calling [inaudible 00:16:23] and whether it was commanded to be them or not, part of the calling to be an elder in a church, if that's what you aspire to, you're going to be held accountable for the souls of people that you're out [inaudible 00:16:35].

Again, Baxter commenting on the foolishness of so many elders and pastors who aspire to huge ministries. To him, he wanted to take on only the number of people that he could actually know well because he was terrified to be held accountable for people that he could barely remember their names. Quoting this he said, "How could you, for I know I could scarcely commend the prudence or the humility of that elder, of that pastor no matter how great his gifts. How could you to man his humility or prudence if he would try to undertake to gather in all the harvest of the whole country to himself, and he would do this upon pain of death for his own damnation and judgment."

Which is again, Scripture is so clear on this. Not many of you should seek to be teachers. You'll be held to a strict account.  Shepherd the flock that is among you, among you whom you'll overseeing. [inaudible 00:17:31] 13 says that you'll give an account to God [inaudible 00:17:34] of the people who are under your care.

He says I could never command the prudence or the humility of that laborer who would take the whole harvest upon himself, even upon damnation or pain of death, but actually would earnestly contend for that privilege, that the person would actually [inaudible 00:17:53] huge task of our people. I think the majority of us, the idea of the thing that's going to want to be involved in the defining moments of care for people is first and foremost a conviction of what we're actually called to do. This I think will temper and will help to limit one of the biggest tragedies in the church for so many people, is that their gifts take them further in ministry than their character can sustain them,  that our gifts are highlighted to the point where shepherding and being present among the people is barely even a question.

I read something like the stuff from Baxter and it makes me shocked. I think in incarnational ministry, we want to be like Jesus. We should be with people. We should consider our calling must be with people. It's commanded and there's no way that you want to give an account for a soul that you don't know their name. Right? We don't ... Now that seems like the bare minimum. let's just start with, "Hey, can we have coffee? I think I'm going to have to give an account for your soul. I'd like to know your middle name or I'd like to know where did you grow up?" That kind of thing, right?

Last, context, the thing that will lead us toward defining moment there is I think our context and this is what I mean by that. A majority of us are in younger churches. We're not at the place where somehow we can offload all these things. This is somewhat of a practical thing, for me, maybe even a little bit of a rant, but you can decide that for yourself. I've heard so many young pastors. I have talked with, and attempted to help, and prayed with so many young pastors who like from the moment [inaudible 00:19:32] attempt to implement the sort of old wise adage of you can't be everywhere at once. You can't be at [inaudible 00:19:41].

From the beginning, the thing [inaudible 00:19:43] is how do I make sure? How do I make sure that I'm not the one that's responsible to be at everything or to do everything? How do I make sure that I'm a little bit insulated? How do I make sure that I sort of guard and protect myself? Every single time I look at them and say, "You have forty people. Be everything for everyone. This is the moment. This is the context. Before you can feel the weight and strain off load and get other shepherds, you need to lean into and shepherd yourself in the particular moment."

I would say that for a majority of churches, until you have more than 150 people or so you're given to this full time. A lot of people, full time, 50, 60 hours of your week let alone just making friendships in the church the kind of unity the [inaudible 00:20:30] mornings. You should be able to by God's good [inaudible 00:20:34]. I love that I get to be the shepherd that personally knows and is present with all of these people. Then I hear people from the beginning saying, "You know, I read this book and it was so helpful. This [inaudible 00:20:47] he needed to make sure that he wasn't expected to be at everything."

They're reading wisdom and leadership input from guys who have a church of two thousand people who learned the lessons of having to offload, felt the weight of real shepherd at some point in their ministry. You can't shortcut this. In fact, I would think that for the most part the major factor that's going to grow your church, your preaching. My preaching is probably not that great, but it's amazing how much better preaching gets when you know the heart of the person you're teaching. It's amazing how much better your application, your [inaudible 00:21:23], your love is when you look out at people and your thinking to yourself I counseled with them on Thursday. You were in my living or months Saturday. I was at your kid's baseball game on Monday. Relational teaching is I think one of the most precious gifts that God gives to small churches in order to build them.

Again the idea that somehow the power of your gifts, of your leadership ability is somehow going to supersede and overtake the need to be present with your people seems absolutely insane to me. Network like ours,  we're  young. Our church is trying to grow. My advice would be in your context you should [inaudible 00:22:04] at being present with them as much as you possibly can until you're about to die from it and then only because they're lost from your dead cold fingers would being present with people be ripped from you. Unless your elders come to you and say, "[inaudible 00:22:20]," so well when you pu-, like they hear your, hear it all the time. We must give up a couple of these things. Help us to shepherd with you because we want to release you to be able to teach more powerfully or to write or to go to that thing and help and serve other people.

I think a lot of [inaudible 00:22:39] has of who we imitate because our heroes are the book writers of thousands of people churches. We immediately want to imitate and think we should have a ministry that should only be reluctantly taken on by us so. We want to be like Jesus, so we want to care for people be present. What of our calling? It's command and it should be sobering to say, "Wow, I have to take care of somebody's soul," and then context. I think that many of us under estimate, like I underestimated the ten minutes for the guy at the hospital room, you could build a church on being present with people. It's rare that someone's going to be building a church based on the idea that you are ... I messed up?

Speaker 1: It's cutting in and out.

Lance: It's all my fault. I move too much.

Speaker 1: You're good. Stick that.

Lance: No one's going to want to listen to this but go ahead.

What a faithful servant. It's cutting out. No one's going to care. You care, though. Thank you. You care. That guy cares. What a great guy. We all need guys like that.

All right, so we walked through all the stuff. Build a church on presence, that's the whole point. I would tell anybody, "Like you want to be effective in the ministry you have? Ask yourself a few questions.  Who's here, who are my people, and how can I run at them as hard as I possibly can? This means simple things. like I was telling somebody when we had our church stuff, "The moment I'm driving out of the church property anyone who's doing anything or [inaudible 00:24:06] personal ownership.

I possibly can be present. That means I see the guy setting up the cones in the parking lot thing. The next day I'm writing a personal note to him, "Joe, man, I know that we haven't spent much time together. I saw you set up the cones. thank you so much for being [inaudible 00:24:24]. I'm so glad you're here," and send him the letter. I guarantee that for Joe and for his family, feeling the presence [inaudible 00:24:33]. That is going to last for years longer than any one bit of information or exciting rhetoric that I give from the pulpit for him. He doesn't remember a stinking sermon that I've ever spoken to him, but he remembers in that moment I stopped. I talked to him. I sent the letter. I was present. I cared.

Your context should mean go for it. A couple reasons why I think this is difficult for us.  I've sort of run at them. These are reasons why we should run at them and maybe to be more important a couple reasons why I think they're difficult. This one's just going to get some idols and I'm just going to go ahead and throw it. We don't want to be present and care for people [inaudible 00:25:08] not a good place for our idols to grow.

We have ego.  Ego is the reason that we don't want to be present with people. I'll just say it. Presence with people is difficult because it takes all of our person and almost none of our personality. For pastors who believe that their gifts are what's going to carry them to success and a significance, that is a difficult pill to swallow.  Presence [inaudible 00:25:34] all of you. A ton of the times, the moments that are to be significant for other people you think [inaudible 00:25:40] time for them is when they sit and listen to your sermon.

Most of the time, they don't really care. What's significant of them is when you show up and sit quietly in the side of the hospital room. What's significant to them is when I go and I ride around in a golf cart picking out the funeral plot for a prematurely born child. You think I have anything significant to say, "Hey, well, you know, actually the Greeks would pick out one on a hill." It was their mourning and their grieving and I'm just there. You know what? It takes my whole day. It takes all of my person and very little of my personality. I think all of us [inaudible 00:26:16] I think that wants to be more special than that.

I don't ever be the guy who walks and only says the Lord's Prayer, and only [inaudible 00:26:25] the catechism, and only gives the ten minutes in the hospital room because I think like I want to be more cool than that. I mean, anybody can do that.

Another reason that we don't. This is a real thing. We are limited, but I want to turn this on its head for a minute. It is true you might feel busy. you might say to yourself, "This season I can't be with everybody. I don't know what to do," and so we give up. We just think it's too hard but I want to remind you of something that's sort of counterintuitive. It is true that you cannot be everywhere at once. You cannot be all things for every person. Which is exact [inaudible 00:27:02] and for them. 

In your pastoring, it'll be very difficult you to ever communicate something more loving than showing up because everyone implicitly knows you could be anywhere. You could be with anyone. Merely by your presence you are saying, "I'm here and I'm with you." It is precious and it is valuable. It communicates a kind of love that can't be gotten any other way because everyone knows I could have been anywhere. You know that. I could have been anywhere, but I'm taking time out of my life and I'm here. I'm limited but my limitations are directed at you right now in this moment. That's the kind of powerful thing that comes off as an actual shepherding of actual care for people. Again, I think for us that's difficult because we put flip out and say, "I can't be everywhere, so I don't want to be there," or we feel like we have more important other things to do.

I'll just say one other thing. On the ego side of it, I'm just going to say consumerism. And I'll just say this from the shepherd side for ministries. It is so easy for churches to complain about the people. you know, Christians these days. They just church shop all they care about is just getting a religious experience. It's a checklist. They're shoppers in a store. I think sometimes we need to turn that around on us and ask ourselves have we created a context where we kind of like the shopper to store model.

Flat out, honestly it's easier for me to write a blog post. It's easier for me to pastor internet folks who don't require anything of me. I kind of love, something in me kind of loves if crowds of people would come on Sunday mornings and all they want is my teaching. Boy, that's a clean exchange. Here's the data. I thank you. See you next week. I think sometimes consumerism on the part of pastors and ministries and churches wanting to be a deliverer of goods and services helps to perpetuate this idea that people want to be there. I don't know if that's you, but I definitely know it can be me. I love to produce all of the things that can be delivered early in a clean way without my much follow-up. It just turns out that our calling is much deeper than that. It just turns out that our need in our people is much different than that.

All that to say I think what's going to happen- I think it's going to happen is that we have a conviction of this, when we repent of this, that we're going to start to ask ourselves not what is most significant to me in the way I want to pastor my people but what is most significant to them in the most moments of presence that I can love them in the way they need to be loved? That's going to lead us to the sort of sub-

Well, not today. What we're trying to get at, weddings funerals, visitations, whatever you want to call them, we're going to talk about that for just a second. Any comments, any questions, any pushback, any no, that's dumb at all? I'm sorry. I get freaking out and there's no way to erase anything.

Speaker 2: I have a question. I know you mentioned ego is the hindrance that we don't feel important when we spend our time there. Do you think the opposite of you kind of shared with your friends, of being like what good would me being here be? What do I have to offer? Kind of a lower view of self, of thinking. Of all the people that could be with you, why would you even want me there? Have you encountered anybody, any pastor struggling with that as, "I have nothing important to offer you. Even my presence is [inaudible 00:30:44].

Lance: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree and I actually think that that's ... I think that's a built in thing. I think that that level of dependence is a kind of faith built in thing. It's a revaluing and reorienting of values, and it's happening in the moment that you believe that. It might be true. Sometimes, the reason we want to get practical and say, "Let's make sure we do weddings well and funerals well and visitations well, because sometimes we really are bad at those things. Who knows the actual percent mix?  if you're feeling like what's my presence doing here? This is terrible. It might be that you do need to say, "I’m going to be better next time."

The little man that waddles in with the collar, you need a collar, is what I'm saying. No, you don't need the, but something better, right? He comes in and one of the striking things was like he was just so free of self and so confident that he just was like I'm just prepared. I know my purpose here. I know what I'm going to do.

He was prepared. He had the little communion set. I didn't bring that. He had the catechism thing for the Lord's Supper. I didn't have that ready. He knew exactly how to and said exactly the stuff of, "Let us pray the Lord's Prayer together." I didn't have that. You could feel bad because you need to get a little better, which I hope we do.  Convictions should lead us to say, "I want to get better." We'll talk about that minute, but I think the rest of it is actually just good. I would just run into it. If you feel that moment like what is my presence here? This doesn't even make any difference. I think that's a great invitation to your soul to be like, "Yeah, God, remind me. Remind me that I'm really not that special but I'm human and I'm here, so I don't know."

I actually had a conversation this morning with a friend, who pastors in north Florida with us, who said that he'd been in a church for only six months and he got a call to go over to hospital in a terrible circumstance. A wife's husband had died in an accident that they were in together. She was coming too and delirious. She didn't know what was going on and she's crying out, "Where's my husband? Just stop talking to me. Just where's my husband? I need to talk to him," and he passed. He said that. He just said, "I wanted to run away. I felt ..." He felt profane almost, like why am I in the room right now? I don't even know them, that kind of thing.

Again, that moment not only maybe get better or maybe feel like oh, wow. Then in the sense of that, too, it goes back to our thing of calling [inaudible 00:32:57], to feel the weightiness of this moment. It is true. I wanted to say to him, "Like buddy, like Ryan, what a profound thing we do. You've been there six months. You get to be in the room. Wow, that's insane. That's crazy." I don't know. I think the invitation there, that's a struggle. It's a struggle, but it makes me think God must be doing something there and there's some kind of spec [inaudible 00:33:21]. I'm not even sure if you ever get ... Maybe I'd be arrogant. If I ever walked in on one of those things like ... You walk into [inaudible 00:33:32]. "Yeah, I'm here. I'm here, everybody. It's fine. I'm here. I should be here.  So glad you called me."  I think something went really [inaudible 00:33:40] when maybe someone could be like that. I don't know.

We have like five minutes. I want to walk through just a couple things to think about and then ask all Q&A and you guys can [inaudible 00:33:51]. I already said it and I think it's true. For most people in the church, their experience of the church, it's not a terrible [inaudible 00:33:58]. It's not a bad thing. The thing about the Protestant Reformation and then our continuing is that we have de-ceremonialized many church functions. We're all singing, we're all singing, "God gave you more than a song," or whatever. What's that song? Remember that cheesy worship song?

Speaker 2: Heart of Worship.

Lance: Heart of Worship? Right. We're all coming back to the heart of worship and all and all of us love to just hate on people who are like, "Oh, you're going to get married [inaudible 00:34:21] church?" That's good. Long live the reformation. Luther till we die. All that stuff, right? I also think that sometimes we can miss opportunities to realize it can be a good thing that people still want to reach out and they still want a little bit of ceremony. Guess what? You get to be there. If you ask most people, even un-church people who are not regenerate, they're going to say the [inaudible 00:34:40] significant points when I need a pastor. If I need an elder or a  church, it's going to be because I'm in a wedding, because someone sick or dying or is dead, or someone's in the hospital or there's something that I need to have a visitation for.

For the majority of us, that [inaudible 00:34:53] do we want to do these things.  If I [inaudible 00:34:56] active, I'm even pastor. [Inaudible 00:34:59] for a long time, just started a congregation a few years ago. I find that weddings are a major where I get to practice presence with people. That's one thing. It's just a couple of outlines for me. Here's the things that I have that I find. I find I have some of the most presence with a couple before the wedding, not the wedding itself. I think if we say, "What are our moments of care there?"  I think that as a church and as pastors we should say to ourselves, from the moment a couple leans toward you and says, "We just got engaged," then we ought to have a process and a mentality and a mindset that reaches out to them and grasps them, and says, "We're with you. We're walking. We got this path. Let's do this. Most people don't know what they're doing and you can have significant presence in a couple. I also find the wedding is the best time you have [inaudible 00:35:45].

Some of the most hardened guys or some of the most aloof women who want to meet with me and want to continue to get there because they know they want their wedding to be significant. Sometimes, depending on the need for the people, I think I haven't got a chance to get to know this couple very well. I'm going to put a twelve-week premarital counseling thing in place and pretend it's the most significant thing ever, when really I just want to be there with them. I want to know them. I want to get to know them better. I want to be significant. I will take on personally--and this is something every church needs to struggle with, every pastor needs to figure out--I will take on weddings that are more messy than some other people that I know simply because I embrace and love and want to run at the moment of presence part of the wedding. That would mean the couple who comes--and I've had couples come to me flat out and be like, "We're not Christians but my grandma wants a church building." We heard some cool things. I met you one time of this thing and that was fine. Is there any chance you would officiate our wedding?

I know a lot of pastors who from a conviction immediately say, "No way. God's house will not be profaned. This is not just a special pretty place." I don't know. If you run down that thing I guess you could have a conversation over, whatever. I'm the total opposite. I say, "You know what? What an honor and a gift. I can't believe you're asking me. Let me see how I can serve you, and I would love to meet." I will take the next five weeks and I'll talk about the wedding for ten minutes and the gospel for thirty. Right?  I just say, "What made you want to the church thing? Why wouldn't you want to? I know your grandma wanted to, but why wouldn't you want a church?"

That is a significant moment of presence for the wedding. Even Christian couples who are great. They want to do things right.  It's just My experience before the wedding, times of presence with couples, there's such an attentive spirit there it's nuts. You can say anything you want to them because they feel the weightiness of a marriage. [Inaudible 00:37:28] itself I think is a significant place. All of us know you can preach the gospel there.

I tell couples before I get into a wedding, "There's three things that I will absolutely do nonnegotiably. I will make you exchange vows." Some couples say like, "We wrote a little poem for each other." You listen to the poem and you could have wrote it to like a good hot dog at a stadium. It's like, "You changed my life. I felt so good when I ate ..." It's just dumb. There's no promise here. There's no vow.

I tell them like, "A wedding is this ... This a vow. God's listening and this is something so vows are nonnegotiable. I'm going to pray for you. I'm invoking the name of Christ and I'm praying for you."  We talk about grace and why they need that, and the Holy Spirit's doing to be in their wedding. Then I say, "I'm going to preach the gospel there because a wedding, marriages only exist because of the gospel, so I'm going to preach the gospel. Those are all points that we can talk about. In the wedding ceremony, think about that. Then after the wedding as well."

Josh, you had a good interaction with a buddy. What did you want to tell me about wedding stuff, what he had to say about ...

Speaker 2: This guy who had, who had stepped down from his church and he was reflecting on just the way that he had interacted with these types of moments and how he thought about his presence, and the pressure he felt from the church to be a professional. He said one of his big regrets was not was not going to every single wedding reception because he had to go back and finish when he got his sermon, what a missed opportunity that is to really feast and celebrate with people and reinforce the value of enjoying those best moments of your life together and how ... That was just encouragement to me was don't do that. Don't give him that[inaudible 00:39:00]."

Lance: Yeah, because it's the innate and the normal thing to just be like well, the sermon's more important, no being there for the hour. That was a convicting thing for me because last week I had two couples come to me and schedule weddings that are in the next four months. I'm going to be a part of them and I gave the same speech that I've given for the last year because I had so many weddings going on, "Hey, I just want you to know. I can't wait. We're going to start premarital counseling. I'm going to the ceremony but I just want you to know I probably won't be of much else because my family, my kids and last week there was [inaudible 00:39:28]. You can imagine the calendar."

I give the whole speech like almost victimized. Oh, I'm so busy. It's crazy. The next thing [inaudible 00:39:40], what are you doing? They're inviting you to their celebration, to their feast so this thing, and then you just think no, I need one more hour to what? To worry? One more hours to like nail down the way that transition is going to go?  Not [inaudible 00:39:53] more and again. Who does that? That's stupid. Be there. Be present. Obviously weddings are one.

Funerals, there's no way we can settle this all in ten minutes.  I'm not great at them. In fact, I would say for a network like ours in most of our churches we probably need to do some work where we go and we talk to other people. I just befriended and went out a couple weeks ago. There was a man in north Florida who's in his late 80s. He was pastored ... He's been a preacher. I was talking to him. I said, "What should I call you?" He said, "You know what's funny? All you people call stuff ... When I was growing up, we were preachers, as a preacher man."

I met the preacher man and I thought and I was thinking to myself when I left time with him I want to ask him some stuff and one thing I want to ask him is tell me about funerals because he's done obviously more way than me.

Funeral stuff, I'm going to ask you guys in a minute what you think or what you learned from them. I'm going to give you one application, one application that I've been struggling with the last three weeks and I've been thinking this really for me. I was seventeen years old when I felt called the ministry. I was kind of embarrassed to say it. I didn't want to tell my friends.  I wanted to be an optometrist but I knew I knew, but I knew God was stirring something. I began to teach a little bit. There was always a little bit of fruit, some encouragement.  I enjoyed it I thought this is great. Because I had a conviction that preaching the Word of God in a local church context was going to be what God called me to do. I did some things. I said, "I'm to get better at this. I do not want to be terrible at this.  I took every teaching opportunity I was ever offered for like ten years. I made a conviction.  I said to my wife, my friends ... She was my wife at seventeen. We're not Amish or I don't know who does that, but we're not. 

I just said, "I'm always going to say yes." This found me teaching 4H Girls Clubs for third graders, the school chapel for the ...  The weirdest contacts, but I just knew hey, it's a conviction in my soul. I'm always going to say yes to teaching. The second thing I did in teaching is everywhere I could, I would get it recorded and within twenty-four hours I did the terribly painful thing of listening back to everything that I'd said. You ever have to listen yourself speak? It is the most miserable, horrible ... Sometimes even a video of it, and ridiculous but here's what I said.  I said to myself you know what? Not only want to do this a lot but I know I'm going to be terrible and everyone else ... My grandma is too nice to me to say it was bad. Nobody's grannie's like, "Lance, seriously, you said um so many times and that illustration never landed. You were horrible."

Which is what's true so I made a conviction, an application point, I'm going to say yes every time. Within twenty-four hours I'm going to listen and  I'm going to be brutally honest with myself.  I would take notes on it, cringe, times where you just have to shut it off after thirty minutes and come back later because it's so bad.

Now that I think about it, I think I did the same thing with leadership.  I'd reach out to people who I think are effective leaders. I'd sit down with them.  I asked them, "I have a series of questions. What do you do well? What do you do bad? What's the hardest thing? Where do you think I need to grow." Reading endless leadership books. I'd jump in cohorts because I want to learn all about leadership.  You know why? Because it's a conviction for me. I want to be, I want to do better at those kind of things. I want to do better at those kind of things.

Here's the struggle the last few weeks. Never once have I intentionally applied or thought to myself I want to get better shepherding and being present with people. Avocation for me is I want to talk to my wife and figure out what this would look like. I just think to myself what would it look like if I just said over a six-month or nine-month or one year period?  I'm always going to say yes to being present with people, always. Someone's having a baby, I don't play the well, they'll probably be out tomorrow card. I just don't know.

Hear someone in our church who is an accident. They're going to the hospital for surgery. I don't try to triage the thing and think you know actually that community leader could go better. I'm kind of busy and I'd rather be over there. I'm just going to say, "I want to run. I want to run to ... I want to run to it," because I don't want to have the situation where I walk in and I feel like why am I here? I'm terrible at this. I want to get better.

Scripture actually gives this command to go to funerals as much as possible. Ecclesiastes tells us the heart of the wise in the house of mourning. Even if you're not the one ... See, pastors love to do this and I'm so guilty of it. I'm not sure the last church services that I've willfully gone to if I'm not vitally [inaudible 00:43:56]. Every time you're not vitally involved in leading something, you take that as an invitation to be like, "Oh, good.  I get a break. I'm [inaudible 00:43:56]."

I think to myself what would it look like for nine months or a year to just go to funerals. That sounds so morbid, just go to funerals. In 2006, my wife... My wife ... My brother and his wife made 2006 the year of concerts for them. They love music. They live in Phoenix. They were like, "You know what? This is just the year," and so all of us were pumped. I live vicariously through them. it was a great, leading up November and December before it started. They were just getting their calendar out. They had this big chart on their wall in their kitchen. They just went to as many concerts as they could because they knew life was going to change. They were going to have a kid the next year and all that stuff.

I just thought what if 2018 is the year of funerals and I just go listen to that 80-year-old guy who's buried 29 of his friends and is acquainted with grief and death. I can learn. I've never done this, I think partly because it's never been of value for me. It's been the thing that I had to get through and do until I could train some elders to do all that stuff for me so I could just do a better job preaching.  I've been convicted about these things. I've done it with all these other areas and I just wonder what that would look like for me.

Organizational Transitions: Change or Die - Part II


Good to see you guys back. At least half of you came back. I'm sure the rest ... Tim just totally torpedoed me. Right in the middle of the session he just starts dropping wisdom and, you know, marketing his upcoming class right in the middle of mine. 

We are going to pick up where we left off and again, if you missed this morning you can kind of catch a little bit of this ... We kind of threw up a framework earlier for thinking about organizational strategy that's rooted in theological vision. that leads to congregational health. And this is kind of the basic framework that I've operated out of.

Just a helpful ... Again it's not in the Bible specifically anywhere. But the principles are definitely there. And, in this last one we kind of begin to talk about as you're assessing awareness, who am I, who is God, who am I, and where am I, leading to vision and burden. That leads us to action. Strategy being that how we then take the vision God's given us and begin to, with open hands, test ... I think of, like, strategies ... R&D ... S

Strategy we do with an open hand. Vision is kind of a closed hand. Strategy is an open hand. Here, we're just trying stuff. If we're honest, we're trying stuff, seeing what works, seeing what's helpful, what's fruitful. Asking questions. Kind of like testing assumptions against reality. Courage. We begin to have a bias to action and start to move out into the community and off the white board. And, fear not. And then assessment, with humility, we kind of step back and say "How's it going, how's it working?"

And then pivot ... Inflection points and transitions. And that's really what I want to kind of pick up with here. I mentioned this book last time. Chuck Adisez has written quite a bit on the management side of organizational life cycles. I think it's ... He's kind of the guru on corporate life cycles, seasons of life ... And so he's kind of studied and said basically when you think about organizational strategy, organizational leadership ... We'd said strategy is a combination of system structures, strategies, culture, and outcomes that support, sustain, and assess the implementation of the theological vision. We kind of use the analogy of a body. Your body has 11 different systems that help support the flourishing and the unity and the coordination of the body. And so, in a similar way that's what organizational strategy does. 

Adisez came along and said "You know, if organizational life feels very chaotic but it's actually very predictable when you look at it and you study it across different cultures, across different ethnic groups, across different industries, there's actually a fairly predictable process. In each one of these phases, which we will just go through here quickly, there's things that are normal, there's things that are abnormal. Those things that are normal are kind of just universal. They typically happen. You may move faster through some of those, but you're going to see the basics there.

Abnormal becomes things that require some kind of intervention, like when your own expertise ... When you kind of bump against, you know, those times when you just kind of hit up a bump ... Bump up against your personal ceiling or capacity and you realize we don't have what it takes to push through to the next season. This conversation is just too complex. The scale is too big, the ideas are too complicated, or we are just too immersed like fish in the proverbial water. We need outside intervention. We need a consultant, or a coach, or a doctor to come in and help diagnose.

And then each one also has pathologies. Those things that can be body killers. If you are not careful with those things, what's normal can become pathological and kind of undermine your vision.

So just going about one-on-one, I mean, you kind of get the gist by the words. But I'll just bring some of Adizes' ideas here to help us. Courtship is, as it sounds, kind of the dating phase of organizational life cycles. Courtship is when you have a founder or a group of co-founders who come together around an idea.

Typical characteristics of courtship ... It's a season of when you're kind of beginning to test commitment. So, you have an idea, you have this vision, you have this dream ... I've always wanted to do this, I've always wanted to see this happen, a ministry idea. And you begin to date it. You begin to kind of dream about it and think about it and maybe begin to talk about it with people. It becomes that thing that's always kind of on your mind and your heart. You dream about it.

And, you're testing commitment. So, commitment is growing, risk is growing. You're kind of in the courtship phase when you leave a job, when you sign up for something, when there's kind of skin in the game. That's really what courtship's all about. Courtship is about the founder essentially saying "I have an idea. Am I willing to risk? Am I willing to suffer? Am I willing to bleed to see this idea come to fruition?" 

A lot of passion in that phase. Lots of romantic ideas and to use Bonhoeffer's word "wish dreams." You know, most of that's naïve and overly optimistic, but that's part of dating, right? 

Abnormal things that can become pathological in the courtship phase. Adizes talks about the idea of when commitment gets tested against reality and it doesn't lead to actual real commitment or implementation. Then he says what you essentially have is an affair. So it fizzles out. This kind of like promise, commitment, fizzles out into an affair and there's never an actualization there. It just essentially kind of stays in the air as a fantasy. It never gets beyond the courtship phase. 

Courtship. Very normal in an organization. You're dreaming about something. This would be, we were talking earlier, a guy who is really excited about church planting but has not actually moved his family or taken that next step. 

Infancy. When you give birth to an idea. Infancy. Just like when you have a baby ... Those of you who are parents, you know, infants require a ton of attention. They require lots of nurture and care. And it's a messy season. Lot's of, you know, poopie diapers. It's a season of action. It's a season of unpredictability. Lot's of uncertainty, lot's of things that could happen but we really don't know what's going to happen.

Adizes talks about how in these different seasons they require different kinds of leadership. And so he says different seasons or different cycles call forth different things in leaders or require different styles of leadership. And one of the things he says in the infancy stage is actually a little bit counter intuitive. It may be off putting for some of us. He says you really need to be ... You need a lot of directive leadership in the infancy stage.

So if you're a parent, you don't go to your three year old and say, "Hey. Would you like to eat dinner today?" You say, "No. You need to eat dinner. This is good for you." And he says, in the infancy stage, while the organization is kind of learning to walk so to speak, learning to talk, learning the difference between what's right, what's wrong, what's helpful, what's hurtful, you need autocratic leadership essentially.

Which we always ... It's kind of like a bad word in our world. But, like it can actually be helpful. If you think about directive leadership in times of crisis. So I think the tendency where some of us maybe have seen this gone wrong is when you try to empower too quickly. 

When you empower in infancy, you empower immaturity. You empower lack of wisdom. You can say this is like "Octo-Mom." You multiply like crazy and things go badly, right? That's like reality TV. Or some version of reality TV. Multiply immaturity, you empower a bunch of 20 year olds who have figured out how the world works. And the we have, you know, messy multiplication. We have conflict. We have all kinds of mutant creatures, subterranean mutant creatures that emerge. And then we have whole networks full of angry, confused 20 somethings who have all been empowered way beyond their character and their capacity.

You have blow-ups and break-ups happening in different ... But that's characteristic of infancy. So infancy needs strong but loving and benevolent leadership.

The pathology here, the abnormality that can turn to pathology, he calls it infant mortality. You either have smothering, you try to structure too quickly in the infancy stage. Kids need some structure but you know, like, too much structure, too much rigidity ... There's always been a big debate with pediatricians ... Like if you did Baby-Wise. If you're a doctor, you hate Baby-Wise because people have malnourished their children. They are like "It's not been 25.6 minutes yet." They're not ready to feed. It's like they're turning blue. Use common sense. 

And that can happen when you smother something and you try to build too much structure too quickly. You come in, and you plant a church, and you've got your manuals, and you've got all your algorithms, and you've got all of your policies and procedures. And, you don't even have any people yet. That can be problematic, right? You can smother something that needs to be kind of organic and need to be grassroots, and needs some oxygen, not more structure. So smothering or malnutrition. You don't give it enough attention. You just assume the best. You assume, "Hey, we're all Christians, we all love Jesus." This is kind of like your classic co-founders. Two or three guys come together. We love Jesus. We'll figure it out. And that works for about five years. And then you have, again, break-ups, blow-ups. Bad things tend to happen. You have Frankensteins that get release in our organizations.

Infancy, then, if you can survive and continue to adapt, infancy then moves to childhood and what he calls the "go-go years." This phase is characterized by curiosity. So think of a five-year old, a six-year old, a seven-year old. There's a sense of awe. There's a sense of wonder. The world is your oyster. There's lots of experimentation in the growth phase. Your R&D ... You're trying things.

You ask for forgiveness rather than permission, which is one of the key contrasts when you get to aging and decline. You ask for permission rather than forgiveness. It's one of the tell-tale signs that your organization is dying. Everybody is constantly asking for permission to do things. It's like Morgan Freeman in Shawshank Redemption. He gets out of prison. And he's been so institutionalized. And he says ... He has to go to the guy and say "Permission to pee, Sir." That's essentially the characteristics of a church that's gotten institutionalized.

But in the growth phase, we experiment. It's messy. It's usually characterized by a lot of over confidence. Lot's of declarations. When your church is growing, you had this mentality of just like abundance. And when you experience ... success in a small measure. So think like, I'm not talking your church is growing necessarily 100% a year but, just think like, the average church has plateaued or declining. So if you're even growing five or ten percent a year that would be considered really healthy, robust growth as a church plant or an established church, right?

So, what happens is you get a little success over here, and you start to extrapolate that experience across every domain of your life. And you think, I'm really good here. So I'm going to be awesome at everything. So, this phase is characterized by over-extension. You try everything. Every opportunity is a good opportunity. Every person to reach is a good person to reach. Every ministry initiative is a green light. If you can do it, you should do it. That's kind of the mantra of the go-go years.

You're typically ... There's a lot of ambiguity. You're very people-oriented rather than systems-oriented. You're very undisciplined and what you say yes to and what you go behind. You tend to be more reactive than proactive. So think sales rather than marketing, if you're kind of in the business world. You're selling and you're closing, but you have no strategy for, you know, what's good, best, and better.

The pathology there, obviously, is an interesting one. What he calls the founders' dilemma, the founders' trap. The founders, as the organization begins to grow, run into a trap where they know that they need to decentralize power away from themselves but they get confused because they're used to operating in a very, kind of, run and gun style. And so ... low policy. Just again, like high entrepreneur. And yet, you find that you need to empower people around you.

And so what begins to happen is you give power away. And then you realize, "Oh crap. I don't like the way they're doing it." And so you take power back and it becomes this power struggle where you're constantly feeling the need to give it away and yet you're having a hard time. And so the founders' dilemma, the founders' trap, becomes usually the thing in the go-go phase that kills a lot of organizations. When they can't make the transition from childhood to adolescence. Where you have to lead through policy. Where you have to lead through a lot more of a disciplined approach. Move from being an entrepreneur to being more of a manager, which is really the key there.

Adizes also says, interestingly enough, he says the worst thing that can happen to any organization is that you experience rapid growth. He says that is the number one cause of death for organizations. When you have a meteoric rise, he says ... When you rise all the way up and you go into the clouds, where's the only place you can go? Down.

And some of us have been in those organizations where it rises fast, and it's exciting. And everything's good. You don't need policy until you need policy. You don't need a conflict resolution policy on your elder team until you need a conflict resolution. Then when it goes bad, it's like "Whoa." Wish we were doing Robert's Rules of Order. Even though we all hate Robert's Rules of Order when we're a young, you know, infancy growing church. It's like, "Man, we really need somebody in here to like adjudicate crazy here."

So, that's childhood. Childhood then gives way to adolescence. And if we know anything about adolescence is its a season of conflict. It's a season of challenge. It's a season characterized by lot's of refining. The key in adolescence, and I actually have it on here, here we go, the key to adolescence ... So conflict ... The way through adolescence is a couple of things. The delegation of authority is a huge issue. Who has power? Who is in control? There's a wrestling again as that founders' dilemma begins to resolve itself between ... Typically, what a founder will do is hire a Board of Directors or hire a Management and Administrative Team to come in and begin to bring some order to the chaos.

And what begins to happen again is that power struggle between the founder or the co-founders. It's kind of an "us versus" them mentality. Who are the stakeholders? Who are the constituents? Who has control? Delegation of authority is huge. The need to lead through management and policy as opposed to the, kind of, whimsical nature of the founder. Learning to say "No" to good things, to say "Yes" to the best things, is a really important piece there in that season. 

The pathology ... Eventually what can happen in this phase is all of the "us versus them" can give way to anxiety, and fear, and suspicion, and control struggles. A break-down in trust. And typically what happens in adolescence is organizations can break-up. And co-founders can break-up. 

If you make it through adolescence, you're the to prime. Prime is a season that very few organizations reach. In prime, it's a season of clarity. Things that were fuzzy are becoming clear. It's a season of integration, where you're taking things that seem disparate and you're bringing them together. Integrating them. There's lots of creativity because now you're leading through policy. There's predictability. There's a sense of like, "Here's who we are and here's what we're doing." And, "Here's how we offer excellent, predictable services." There's still that entrepreneurial creative impulse. You've kind of learned to live into and manage the tension between self-control and flexibility, which again in the early years are very difficult. 

The pathology here is that prime tends to be a very short season. And, it's hard to stay in prime. He kind of describes prime as early prime and late prime. And then you go to what he calls the fall. And the fall then leads us into aging and decay and death. So complacency, self-satisfaction, loss of a sense of urgency, decreased creativity. Opportunities in the aging, and decline, and death stage. Opportunities become problems instead of opportunities. There's a focus on technique. "This is how we do things." You're talking way more about the how than the why or the what. 

Again, everything is forbidden unless you ask for permission. You're cash rich. This is typically what they call a "lifestyle company." You've moved from a start-up to a lifestyle company where you have lots of money. And ... becomes about sustainability and personal preference and the kind of the co-founders cashing out, essentially. 

You're risk avoidant. You disempower people. There's no longer an environment of empowerment and freedom and creativity. You're in survival mode. Eventually, the bureaucracy is built. Institutionalization begins to kind of set in. Rigor mortis happens. And organization goes towards decline.

And again, you can stay in this and live in this for a really long time. I mean, look around our neighborhoods, right? They're full of churches that have been in decline and decay and aging for generations. And so, then you have to find alternative revenue streams. That's kind of when you tend to start, like, schools. You cash in on millennials moving back into the city looking for good educational options. And you start all kinds of alternative institutions that function as non-business related income to keep your organization afloat. But there's no real life. There's no real vibrancy. There's no entrepreneurialism happening.

So, that's these different inflection points. The first step in this process is just diagnosing. Where are we? Beginning to ask yourself the question, "Where are we as an organization?" And stepping back and beginning to look at it and say, "Hey. What are some of the symptoms? What are some of the signs? What are we seeing?"

And again you may not, you know, neatly fit into one of these categories. But I think just the first step of awareness in this case, is just being able to kind of plot yourself. And, maybe a good exercise is to take your team through this and say, "Hey. Where do you guys see?" Don't assume that you see everything correctly. So take this and say, "Hey. Let's have a conversation with our deacons. Let's have a conversation with our elders. Let's have a conversation with the key stakeholders in our community." And begin to ask, "Where are we? Where would you say we are?" And, maybe that will stir up some awareness conversations.

So, for us, what that's looked like so [inaudible 00:18:51] is ... We are, as I mentioned earlier, kind of coming out of a season of childhood to have planted it six years ago. Parachuted in and didn't know anybody. Started the church from scratch. Had a very slow kind of like first couple of years which is just ... mega-church world. And then about year three we kind of rocketed, just for no particular reason. Had a season of rapid growth. Went quickly from courtship and infancy into just the throes of childhood.  We were empowering. We were starting new ministries. We launched a million undisciplined, unsustainable initiatives. We at one point were ... an eclectic counseling center. We were doing faith and were ... We were going to do everything, right? We were going to be a, you know, whatever like ... mini-Redeemer in two years. Not recognizing that it took Keller like, you know, 25 or 30 years to do that.

So, we were doing all that. We were in that kind of go-go phase, and in the process, planted five churches. Which sounds really awesome. But it's kind of like if you're a Mom, like, having five kids in five years. My wife had four in five years. We adopted one. Not a very smart thing to do. 

And so, we come to this season now of really adolescence. Tired, trying to figure out what it looks like for us to grow up and to lead less off of like shooting from the hip and more established, you know, kind of policy-driven. Still visionary but much more settled season of life. And so we have been asking a lot of these questions [inaudible 00:20:30].

We've planted five churches. Three of those are within kind of our umbrella under our 501-C-3. So we are a multi-church or multi-site or whatever you want to call it. And then, two of those are autonomous, but we kind of roll together as a family so we meet together every month and we strategize on church planting and hang and spend a lot of time together. They're [inaudible 00:20:51] network as well so all five of us are [inaudible 00:20:53] network churches.

And so about nine months ago our elders came to me and said, "Hey. We've got to start thinking ahead. We've got to start looking towards prime and asking hard questions because we're about to enter into a season of pain." We were also looking around. Several of my friends were in some hard times, some turbulence with multi-site. You know, going to mention the complexities of an interdependent plurality and then an interdependent movement of churches. It just exponential complexity and speed and difficulty and pain. And so, multi-site is like multi-pain. 

Not to say you shouldn't do it, but just, you know, circumspect. We're going to talk about it on our panel here in a little bit. It was rough. So we were empowering, again essentially, empowering these young congregations full of young people with lots of enthusiasm. Lot's of thrust but very little vector. If you're a pilot. 

And so, it's been a challenging season trying to figure out, you know, control, authority, decision-making, finances, you know, power. These are all conversations that we were kind of discussing. My elders said, "Hey. We want you to take three months, or however long you need. Three months, four months, five months. We want you to spend some time just praying, reflecting, researching. Go travel. We'll give you a budget." We want you on ... Step back and really being to like help lead us forward into the future in terms of building on our organizational structure. Give us an organizational strategy that is still rooted in a robust theology but it's going to lead us toward health.

And as much as we can control that ... Obviously there's lots of things we can't control, but we have no idea what we're doing and we want you to help us go there. And so, I'm really thankful they initiated that. It was a frightening thing to think about stepping away from the organization that you planted for three months wondering if it's still going to be there. 

So, what I'm sharing with you, I ended up writing about a 50 page paper and am happy to just give it to you guys if you want to see it. There's a bibliographies in there. So essentially, I took about a month to pray. I started in February 1 of this year. Took a month to pray, journal, just kind of ask God, you know, where have we been, where we going.

I think a lot of me ... We've been so ... If you've planted a church you know it is so missionary, missional, outwardly focused. Then my wife and I think we just needed some space, to step back together, and say, "God. What do we want to do? What are you doing in us and what's going to keep us here over the long haul because we've only been thinking about what's best for our community, which is great." But we've got some desires. We've got things that we want to see happen in the future. We have kids. We have four kids who are also stakeholders in this. And we want to have those critical conversations.

And so we began the process. Step one is kind of like diagnosis, discernment. Step two is what I would just call differentiation. Differentiation is a season where you begin to just ask like, you know, questions about desire and what do you want, you know. There's a great passage is Mark chapter 10. So that's what we were kind of doing in February. So, a month of asking and praying and questioning, kind of on a personal level with my family. Then a month of traveling and researching. I did four case studies. New Life Church in Chicago, which is 25 neighborhood churches, parishes around the city of Chicago in working class, multi-ethnic neighborhoods. Summit Church in Naples. Village Church in Dallas, which actually just broke-up their multi-site into autonomous churches. They are in the process of doing that. Then Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, which J.D. will be here tomorrow and talking about partnership.

So, looked at the and then phone calls to a number of other churches around the country so that we got in all about a dozen churches. Researched, studied, asked questions about not only what they were doing but why. What was motivating it? Trying to get kind of a psychographic look at the landscape of church planting.

I've personally been in multi-site for my whole life. For my whole adult life. I've never not been in a multi-site church. I started ... I became a Christian in a multi-site church. I cam one staff at a multi-site church with seven campuses back in the late '90s when I think only John [inaudible 00:04:03] at Second Baptist Church was even doing multi-site, one church many locations. It's kind of the mantra back then.

Moved to south Florida and was part of a network of churches there that's now nine campuses spread around Palm Beach County. About 5,000 people. I was kind of the Executive Pastor, essentially there. And then, what we're doing here. So I seen a lot, but I think I had never really had the space to process what did I want. I kind of just assumed that's like normal reality. And realizing how weird that is, you know. But that's kind of the world I was coming out of. 

So [inaudible 00:25:43] I think Jesus kind of comes to the disciples here in Mark 10 and he says to James and John, which, you know, they're two of his inner circle, "What do you want me to do for you?" That's an interesting passage. It's an interesting question, that Jesus would come and ask. "What do you want me to do for you?"

He's given us a theology of desire. And, he begins to kind of just invite them to name, and to own their desires. To be honest about what it is they want. Well we know that their Mom actually steps in and answers the question for them. Salome, who is probably Jesus' aunt. And she says, "Grant it that my sons would sit at your right hand and your left when you come into your Kingdom. You know, for your glory, Jesus." 

You know, over-spiritualizing. Invoking the name of Jesus. Over-spiritualizing. So what does the Mom ask for? What do they ask for? Status. They want status. Clearly, the wrong answer. Right? But, it's interesting that in the passage Jesus doesn't rebuke their desire. He redeems their desire. He says, "You've seen it done among the gentiles this way. It's not to be so among you, as one whose come not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom. This is how it is to be among my disciples."

So, he takes this desire, which in itself is actually a good desire. Just a few chapters earlier Jesus said, "Ask anything in my name and I'll give it to you." He said, "When I come in my glory, you're going to be given 12 thrones of power. Twelve tribes of Israel. So like Jesus is talking about getting them all geeked up about power and authority and ruling and reining alongside of him. Then they ask the question ... Then he asks them the question, "What do you want?"

So I think that should be part of the question we're asking ourselves. What do we want? What do we want? What are we ambitious for? What is God inviting ... What is ... What has God wired us? What do we want to happen in our city for the glory of God and the Kingdom of Jesus?

And for me it was a season that was nice to be able to kind of ... The elders essentially created space for me to slow down, to kind of back out of doing work in the church and to begin to work on the church a little bit. To create some space for honesty about things I was feeling, things I was processing, things that I was hating. Like, the weird thing about church planting is that you can actually create a church that everybody hates, including you.

And so being honest about those things that, kind of for me, like weren't really working or weren't sustainable for us. Just to be honest about my limitations. And say, "God, you know all my life I've wanted to be this. And I've had in my mind this mental map for what ministry should look like, and I've kind of borrowed this template from some of my mentors." That's unhealthy. I've idolized that. That's really not good. I need to set some limitations. I need to think about who God has made me and who he has not made me. And just be honest about those things.

I shared those things with my elders and my leaders. To say, "Hey. I'm not this kind of person." You know, gifts, limitations, shadows, desires. That's all part of the space that we're creating. So differentiation. Kind of declaring yourself. Your desires, your values, your culture. Collaboration, it's something we do together. So, in this space of differentiation, desire, collaboration. How do we get there together? This is not just a selfish pursuit. Not a narcissistic pursuit for me, where I then come back to the team and say, "Well, here's what we're doing." I'm Moses coming off the mountain and delivering the tablets and saying, "You know, here's what we're doing." 

I'm bringing these things back as fruits of reflection and prayer for me. And then saying to the guys, "Here's what I'm seeing. What are you guys seeing? Speak into this. Let's talk together. It's not just about my desires. What are your desires." 

One of the most interesting conversations that I had in the research leave was with Kevin Peck from Austin Stone. Kevin said to me, "So Brennan, we don't have a model at the Austin Stone. We have a thing. This thing works for us. We believe it's rooted in a theological vision but it's something that works for us. And so we have a thing that like everybody around the table..." 

They have 15 guys in their executive team, which is like twice as big as you're supposed to have in an executive team. They've defied like [inaudible 00:04:03] rules about how you build an executive team. Keep it small. You know small ... big conversations. They have 15 guys in there that are like the co-founders of the Austin Stone.

And they've all been together for a really long time. They've been there since the beginning. Since Austin Stone was started. Very diverse backgrounds. I mean Kevin Peck was like in acquisitions and mergers in the business world. Matt Carter, who started the church, got brain cancer early on and had to hand the church over to Kevin Peck because he almost died and then miraculously God healed him. 

So a real interesting story, but he said, "We had to come to a place where we just thought that the church structure that we were going to embrace needed to be something that everybody hated a little bit and everybody loved a little bit. And so everybody's kind of compromising and giving up things that they would love to see happen for the sake of us staying together as a team. And what we've got now works."

That's the idea of collaboration. That all of us need to create space and room for each other to declare who we are, who we're not. The limitations God's placed on us. The things that lead to flourishing and don't lead to flourishing.

I told you guys earlier that one of our pastors, his son was recently diagnosed autism. That changes how we think about our community the way that we need to love him and serve him, and the pace and the scope and the scale of the different things we are doing as a team. And so, that's all part of that process.

So communication obviously is involved with collaboration. So desire, collaboration, communication. Communicating amongst the team. So I got back from that two months of research, six weeks of research. We had conversations with out elder team multiple times a week. We then rolled out, a cascading roll-out to the church, and we began to have conversations with our deacon teams, their key leaders. Eventually brought it to the entire church and said, "Hey. Here's what we're doing, here's where we think God is taking us." We had them affirm it, and then this fall we've actually just been spending time preaching through it. And, it's been a really beautiful, sweet season.

And so the three kind of big ... I guess is what I am getting at here. Or four. And then I'll just share some of the specifics that we came away with. Diagnosis, leading an organization through transition. Diagnosis. Where are we? Where are the pain points? Where are we suffering? Where are we desiring to go? Differentiation. 

And another thing on the different ... It's really important for us to pay attention to differentiation. It's easy in an organization to lose yourself. The me can get swallowed up in the we. And particularly what I found in this SURJA network, and I think in young Reformed churches in general, is we love community. We love the idea of community and many of us grew up in broken families. And so the community that comes essentially for many of us is a projection of our longings for, like, a true family.

And so what happens in that process is we get lost in the herd. Irvin Freedman, who is a Jewish psychologist wrote a great book called "The Failure of Nerve." He wrote another one called "Generation to Generation." And he talks about this herding instinct. That human beings tend to, by nature, going back to hunter-gatherer phase, have always kind of clustered together in herds. And what happens when you begin to herd together is you have the we, but there's no me.

Think about like cellular biology. Every healthy organism has a nucleus that's surrounded by a permeable but yet differentiated core. And he said, "In order for you to be a healthy organization essentially, you have to learn to differentiate the me from the we."

And so in some organization cultures there's lots of me. Too much me and not enough we. I think our network, if we err anywhere, its probably too much we at the expense of me. And so we can get lost in the herd. And there's all kinds of anxiety in the organization. I mean just think of this as just anxiety. And when there's too many like gaps here, and we've not been honest and we're not differentiated, the anxiety begins to get in our own souls and wipe us out. 

And so differentiation, Freeman says, is actually one of the key leadership competencies. Being able to declare yourself. Freedman is another name that you should probably know if you're looking to read some stuff. 

Roberta Gilbert has also picked up and run with a lot of ... This is all rooted in what's called family systems theory. Murray Bowen, back in the 20th century wrote quite a bit and then Gilbert and Freedman and others picked it up and applied it to organizational structures and leadership. 

So diagnosis, differentiation, and then design. Yeah. So three. Sorry. 

Once you've had the conversations, you gotta just go. You gotta begin to build. And so I think the key with design ... A good designer builds their way forward. They ask questions. They build their way forward. They don't think their way forward. So again, just you're not going to get this right if you're a person that has a high need to get things right and have it orderly and good and perfect. You're going to be paralyzed in organizational leadership. 

Good designers know that you do what's called prototyping. Rapid prototyping, right? Good enough on time. You create a prototype, you test assumptions, you put it out there. You put the product out there. This is like Apple right? They put out a phone. It's got all kinds of bugs ... 1.0, 1.1, 1.11, 1.111. And you being to test it. And you work the bugs out in real time as people are using and interacting with it. 

And so design is just kind of this idea that once we've diagnosed and differentiated, we've got to put together a prototype and just get it out there and begin to live in it for a little while. Because you're not going to know what assumptions and biases are, and what the blind spots are, until you actually get the product out there.

So for us, practically what this has meant is a complete restructuring of our organization that is very comprehensive and thorough-going. It's rooted in a realistic understanding of where we are, they differentiation of our team both together and as individuals, asking hard questions, having hard conversations, loving each other while listening to each other, documenting each other's hopes, dreams, desires and have a whole document of just like ... stuff for our whole team.

Just beautiful conversations. Opportunities to pray over each other. Love each other. Even inviting our wives into this process to say, "Hey. This isn't just about the dudes. What do the ladies want to see? What do our kids want to see as we think about the future of the church." The church is not just for our people it's also ... We're also members of our churches. They should be places where we find life as well as give life to others.

So, I'll just share some of this with you guys and maybe it'll be helpful. Maybe it won't. So this touched on a number of different areas for us. We developed what Tim Belt calls ... Out of the season of differentiation, we developed a strategic framework. I'll just quickly for us, that looks like our vision statement, our mission as a church which we've had from the beginning but we brought a lot more clarity and definition to it. 

Again, sometimes as pastors we use really robust, flowery language that nobody else understands and is not really accessible in the real world. So for us we've always had this statement that we exist to see the gospel change everything. But when we begin to say, "How do we assess that? How do we know for seeing the gospel change everything?" 

We didn't really have any ideas. So we came up with the "Five Outcomes." When we are on mission, out of these conversations with some outside help, we expect measurable growth in the following areas. We want to see the gospel transform disciples. And for us, disciples are everyday people who are doing life ... Hang on. Let me reset this here. How did we say this? It's not in my notes. Everyday people essentially walking with Jesus. Becoming like Jesus. Doing what Jesus did. Some iteration of that. We've got definitions and things. But that's that first piece. Transform disciples.

Transform leaders. Self-aware servants influencing their church's community and world. Using their power, sharing their power for the good of others. Transform communities. Healthy life-giving reconciled family. That's transformed community for us. Transform churches. Maturing and multiplying local churches and leaders. And then flourishing, which I defined earlier as to just chew away. We want to see Acts 8, much joy in our city because of what the Holy Spirit's doing in and through us.

So those become our outcomes. Then we build our metrics around those instead of tenants, buildings, cash. Kind of your traditional measures. 

Shared culture. We expect to see cultures ... This idea of beliefs made visible. What does it look like for our beliefs, our doctrine, to go public? To IPO our beliefs, so to speak. So for us, we expect to see our beliefs made visible in every area of our community. Every environment of our community. For us that means humility, family, authenticity. And not  authenticity as emotional disclosure or transparency but authenticity as substance, as reality is both our brokenness and the beauty of God's redemption in us. Strength and weakness would be how we define authenticity. Empowerment. We want to use the power that we have and the authority that God's given us for the flourishing of others. 

Everything we do as leaders exists to help others flourish. And then renewal. We are going to leave our neighborhood better than we found it. 

And then that led to a vision for the next five years because we felt like, "Hey. We're only five years old." We probably don't know anything more than the next five years, if we know anything. So let's not do a bee hag 30 year ... I mean we could all be dead in 30 years in a nuclear war, you know, in ten years. So let's take five years and dream a little about five years.

So for us, that led us to this statement. We want to catalyze a movement of a thousand live-giving disciples who scheme together. So this idea of kind of Kingdom scheming with a specific burden to bring God's renewing presence to their neighborhoods, networks, and the nations. And then we begin to build some metrics around that.

And then we identified our key strategies. Our key strategies are Sunday gatherings, missional communities, and discipleship groups, a family of neighborhood churches, and equipping ministries. And those become the kind of key organizing ministry strategies that get us towards our outcomes and the culture we want to see God bring.

We also then identified desires in our teams. Again, we ... A number of things. We kind of uncovered in our research but just created some space for that for guys to be honest and talk about that. One of the interesting things again in research was seeing how many church leadership structures were formed just by the unique imprint and story that God's brought that church through. So if you look at the Village Church and you think about the way they're structured, so much of that's rooted in Chandler story. The cancer. His preaching gifts. And be honest about that. We tend to think, you know, like, what's Mark Dever going to think about this church structure? Whatever your hero gonna think about this church structure? But the reality is so many church structures of healthy churches that you would want to attend with your family are just rooted in healthy self-awareness, the story, the personality, the gifts, the desires, the limitations, the honesty of the founders of the churches asking good questions. What's going to energize us? What's going to sustain us? What's going to work for us? 

So obviously leaning into desire too much can lead to unhealthy self-obsessions and preoccupation. But ignoring desire can also minimize our humanity in a way that undermines long-term flourishing. 

We also overhauled our polity. So we embrace what Brett House calls it, Redemptive Polity, which is kind of trying to strike a third way between ... Typically, the way we think about polity, or the way we create polity, is what I would say is either identic polity, which is this pollyannish view, like again we're all Christians, we're all good, we'll figure this out. We assume the best about others not recognizing that total depravity is a reality in the church as well as outside the church.

And then, the other kind of polity that I've seen in reaction to identic polity, when things go bad, is what I call police state polity. We lock down everybody. We call in the ... We declare a state of emergency. And it's like there's so much bureaucracy and so much intrusive and invasive accountability that probably goes way well beyond what the Bible even calls for in terms of accountability in the church. It handcuffs leaders from using their God-given powers and life-giving ways to create and multiply flourishing for other people.

We created some design principles for how we're going to operate. We kind of set limitations and governors that are going to guide us in the future. So, things like the goal of multi-site for us is not multi-site. When multi-site becomes an end instead of a means to an end, instead of a strategy and it becomes the vision, things go bad. Just like when you make any good thing the ultimate thing. Things go really badly. 

When multi-site, when control ... Let's just call it what it is, when control becomes the end game, then we begin to move into spaces Andy Crouch calls exploitation. I don't know if you've guys have seen his book. And excellent book. The Strong and the Weak. He talked about flourishing leadership. This is authority. This is vulnerability. Where you have high authority and low vulnerability, you have control or exploitation. Or you have low authority, low vulnerability you have withdrawal or apathy. He actually says this is the worst quadrant to be in. Makes you think about how many young people are in this quadrant with their leadership, power, and authority. And then you have suffering over here. High vulnerability, low authority.

And so we want to be in this space, or at least moving up as much as we can towards that quadrant. To say anything we do as a church, the goal of our multi-congregational model which we're booting off ... and we'll talk about this in the panel shortly, the cooperative model, probably moving more towards a network model in the future. So we have lean structure. We pool our resources together to do a very few small things together that we can do better together. But we give lots of decision-making power and authority to the local congregational elders.

But we do that because we want to see healthy multiplying leaders and local churches. This is the mandate and the measure of an effective central team. So central team only exists to see the flourishing of local congregations and pastors. Anything beyond that we feel like is a ... or at least for us would be a temptation to grasp after power and control. 

So my congregation should look like Soma in their context under their leadership in the stage of life that they're in. Kind of acknowledging those realities of cycles and seasons of life. Mission, prayer, and relationships must trump systems and structures. Doesn't mean that they're not important. It just means that's the lead foot for us. 

Lean central structures enable long-term agility and sustainability. Healthy decentralization requires good systems of organizational control. And then we defined our multi-congregational boundaries as our culture, our doctrine, our practices, our relationships, and our standards.

So, those are just things that we kind of came out of that season of differentiation with. So that changed out polity. We're in the process of re-writing by-laws and kind of looking at a number of different things like ... We have a whole list of things. We're beginning to see, "Wow. If we want to do church like this over the long-run, we better be policy led" [inaudible 00:46:23] in leading leaders. There's kind of different approaches to how you think about an elder team. For us, we're moving more towards a policy-driven elder team that sets broad policy for the church as a whole, but doesn't micromanage the churches. 

Man, we seriously lack policy. So in this adolescence phase, we have got to make sure that ... We have no policy for like succession planning. We have no policies for conflict management, so we're forming a leadership advocacy team to help buffer and monitor and promote the flourishing of relationships between the dual roles of staff when you have a lead pastor, overseeing elders who also sit then overseeing him. You have all these weird dynamics that are happening and that. So we're creating leadership advocacy teams to help be like shock absorbers in those kind of potentially awkward spaces.

Yeah. So kind of a re-write of our polity, our by-laws, new organizational structure. And then what was cool then at the end, I was sharing that earlier, you've got the theological vision, the organizational vision. And then what we came up with at the end was actually kind of a last second ah-ha moment. We said, "Hey. Let's take all this stuff that we're doing and let's figure out how do we then take this to the church. And we created what we called a congregational alignment plan. To then say "Okay. How do we build capacity and get our congregation on board with this vision? How do we help them visualize their role in this structure? 

Because this isn't just about bringing clarity for our organization. This is about fulfilling the vision that God's given us as a church. And so we came up with a three-year congregational alignment plan to help our church begin to step towards these organizational strategies.

And what was cool, I was preaching this downtown. I was preaching this alignment plan. I was kind of unpacking it for our downtown church. And a girl who attends our downtown congregation works for a grant writing organization in ND. And she said, "What you guys are doing we can fund that." So we got a $15,000 on a matching grant from our city to begin to implement all of this stuff that we walked through as a result of this.

So again, vision always leads to the multiplication of resources. And it was just cool to see now what we were already going to do anyways, now we have some resources to be able to come alongside and do that.

I'm happy to unpack any more of that in detail. It's a lot in 45 minutes. But, yeah. What questions do you guys have, or thoughts, or pushback? I mean, again, like there's lots of books you can read on organizational change, congregational change, and every situation's going to be unique. There's an old book called "Leading Congregational Change" which has been probably one of my favorites. Cotter, in the business world, has written quite a bit about leading change. 

None of these principles are new. What I think has been awesome for us is the leadership dynamics and how that was led by our elder team for our elder team, and how that's come spilling the banks into our congregation in really healthy, life-giving ways. We have much more ownership of the vision that God has called us toward in the organizational strategy. And a much clearer picture for how we're going to pursue organizational health in the future.

Nine Things That Seminary Could Not Teach Me


I want to make this as ... I've got a good bit of content to go through here mainly because I want to make sure we have something to actually engage with and interact with and it'd be kind of fun to just workshop the whole thing. I'll just run back over to the introduction here. My name is Collin Hanson and I serve as the editorial director of the Gospel Coalition, which means I oversee just all of our content from conferences to website publications and things like that. We're going to be talking about today is a book that we have coming out next year called "15 Things Seminary Couldn't Teach Me." We don't have time for 15 so we're just going to get down to nine. Also, nine that are actually applicable that we can discuss relationally, things that I've experienced from a church leadership.

I'm an elder at Redeemer Community Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Joel Brooks, you heard him this morning, is our lead pastor and yeah so just it's a fun experience. We've been a part of Sojourn Network for a couple years now so let's jump in. Essentially here's the problem that we're running into and why we would work on this book. We're bringing together contributors, different types of churches, size churches, different time in ministry, different ethnicities, different denominations of course. We brought them all together to topically engage different aspects of pastorally ministry. Essentially the idea is that in my years of work at TGC and in the church I've noticed that there's a great guys are graduating from seminary with a great deal of theological knowledge and a zeal for the gospel and getting the gospel out there but it's not matched by corresponding spiritual maturity or wisdom that can only come from experience. What's happening is guys are either burning their churches, the churches are not going well or they're burning out themselves in ministry within a few years. 

There's also of course the dynamic where many today are not really going to seminary and they're questioning the validity of seminary at all. There's pluses and minuses of residential seminary in particular. I do work out of a seminary and attend a seminary so I do highly recommend it and at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham we have only residential options. I highly recommend it for anybody who can do it but it's very clear that a degree at a seminary can't make someone a pastor. Only the church can call someone and ultimately confirm that subjective inward call. 

I want to work through these nine different things. If you're taking notes jot down some questions, we can come back and we can cover some things and focus in on some things in particular. Let's start out with this basic idea, knowledge and credentials are not enough. Not enough for ministry. Jeff Robinson writes this chapter and this is a book that will be out next year for T4G. Jeff was here earlier teacher, he's our senior editor at the Gospel Coaliltion, a pastor here at Christ Fellowship Church in Louisville. We need to start with the recognition that knowledge and credentials are not enough in ministry with Paul's own words from 1 Corinthians 8 verse 1 to 3. A passage that's probably familiar to you though more difficult to apply. "Now concerning food offered to idols," Paul writes, "we know that all of us possess knowledge. This knowledge puffs up but love builds up. If anyone imagines that he knows something he does not yet know as he ought to know. If anyone loves God he is known by God." 

It's kind of the ultimate verse in seminary, you just want it plastered over your door posts in your apartment. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. Paul advances that argument, by the time it culminates in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, "If I speak in the tongue of men and angels but have not love I am a noisy going or a clanging cymbal." We always think of this passage in terms of weddings but I think it's very applicable in this context. "If I have prophetic powers and I understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have all faith to move a mountain but have not love I am nothing. If I give away all that I have and if deliver up my body to be burned but have not love I gain nothing." It's very easy to go to seminar, lose even your love for God but lose your love for other people as well in that process.

It's fascinating to me that when we look at Paul's life when he's challenged as far as his apostolic authority what does he use to be able to establish his credentials? He refers to his suffering, he refers to his persecution, he refers to living humbly among them. He boasts in his weakness that exalts Christ, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. We know Paul is a tremendously learned man having studied with a leading Jewish scholar of his day. We come back and always remember we are jaws of clay to be used by God, frail pots to be able to convey God's grace to show that God's power is ultimately decisive, 2 Corinthians 4:7. One of the first thing we can't learn in seminary, or at least is difficult to learn in seminary is that knowledge and credentials aren't enough. Second thing we can't learn in seminary is how to shepherd my wife. For pastors in particular, here Danny Akins writes about this, "Seminary can be tremendously stressful for marriages but that only presages harder challenges to come in ministry."

Danny Akin writes this chapter again we can start out with Ephesians 5:25, the call for all husbands, "Love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her." Thing I keep coming back to though in ministry is why do we so often give up our wives for the sake of the church? In a complete reversal of that passage. I think there are actual reasons why we're led astray in those ways. Ambition, which it happens in ministry. A need to be needed by others. Ministry is a helping profession and we often go in with a needed to be needed by others or we just over commit in part because of those first two things, the ambition and the need to be needed. I think it's crucial to remember that God, I mean this is kind of hard to say, but God doesn't need your church. If He's going to work in revival power in your community to reach your community with the Gospel it won't just be your church that's doing that, that's not going to happen. 

Where Jesus promises that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church but not necessarily your church or my individual church. The reason I say that is because we have this sense, this overinflated sense of our own importance that leads us to sacrifice our other callings and sacrifice these things that God has asked us to do. You're hopefully not. Maybe if you've just planted a church you might be in this position but hopefully you're not the only pastor in your congregation. I don't necessarily mean paid vocational minister, I mean somebody who's been called and gifted to be able to serve and to teach but you are your wife's only husband, you are the only father to your children. 

It's not a consequence that Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:1-5, one of the famous passages about character and the necessity of character in ministry. He says, "This saying is trustworthy, if anyone aspires to the office of overseer he desires a noble task. Therefore, an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober minded, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money." Heres the key, "He must manage his own household well. With all dignity keeping his children submissive. For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" I have experienced this a number of different times in my life and I've seen it multiplied many other times as well. Trouble at home cripples ministry. It's not something you can hide. It's something you can perhaps fight through for a time, we're all going to have struggles and challenges but ultimately it's something you can't hide decisively.

Let's move on to the third one seminary can't teach you, and again I think seminary actually develops some bad habits in these cases. The third thing is, seminary can't teach you how to follow your lead pastor when you disagree with him. Matt Capps talks about this, "Most of us at some point in our career are going t work for another pastor unless you switch careers later in life or plant your own church. But even in those cases you're probably going to work for someone else. You're also not always going to be in a church where you agree with everything that's being taught even at your own church. Sometimes not even a church you'd want to attend. You're actually working at." When I talk about disagreement here I want to be clear that I'm not talking about immorality or illegality, in terms of those differences. Those are differences that require a different approach to disagreement, closer to confrontation and beyond.

Immorality and illegality are real problems that you will face in many churches. I've seen lots of abuse and heard about a lot of abuse in churches and I always get questions about why didn't the elders or the other leaders or their pastors, why didn't they speak of and why didn't they speak out about this problem? I've reflected on that and concluded that it's because there are only a certain number of sins in ministry that are seen as being black and white the lead to a clear safe fire able offense. Okay? Sex outside of marriage, that's a black and white thing. Stealing, that's a black and white thing. You don't do those things. What do you do when your pastor is just a jerk? What do you do when he's abusive in certain verbal ways? When he's prideful or when he's greedy?

The trouble is we're all on a spectrum somewhere in those situations. It's hard to know what would be a fire able offense or clearly illegal or immoral in those cases. The problem is when those allegations get brought up and discussed it leaves you open for the counter allegation of partiality or jealousy toward the lead pastor. It becomes very difficult to explain more broadly in a congregation of what's happening when conflict in ministry. Here's the dirty truth as well as what happens if church leaders confront a lead pastor in sin one of the threats they always have to recognize the lead pastor can always leave and if he leaves he can often take the people. When takes the people he takes the money. What does he leave? He leaves the debt. He leaves the facility, but not the people. This is a real problem that a lot of people face. 

A solution. What's the solution here? I do think partnership, like we're talking about here, with other healthy congregations who can come in and offer discernment and prayer and experience from older and wiser outside churches, which is not just between the senior pastors but true church partnership within networks like Sojourn Network. You ultimately need a number of different outside counselors in these cases, including people who are going to push back on you and help you to see your own problems and ultimately mature humility and Christ likeness can get churches through a lot of different things. It's just sad to know that in some cases you can't just count on that in a church.

We come back to what you do in those situations when you're on a staff like that, whether it's ... I'm speaking here mostly when you're leading up not leading down, but this works in both cases. Matthew 18:15, Jesus's words, "If your brother sins against you go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother." Among the many things that I conclude from this passage I think we have to say that this means talking to the person who has offended you and has sinned against you, not about that person. A major problem especially for junior leaders in congregations. For those of you who are lead pastors you sympathize with this even more of a desire. The worst thing is when you hear, well we've been talking and you know that's some scary stuff that comes after that phrase. I've found that if you think about this as a lead pastor, what will make you respect somebody and even be more open to their critique? I think one of the clearest things is when those junior leaders in a church are willing to ask the pastor for critique of them to direction and response and feedback. It shows a humility that I think makes it more possible for them to eventually in appropriate ways offer that kind of criticisms to somebody in a senior position. 

It's where you come back to these words of Jesus, this is where we find life and truth. Matthew 7:3, "Why do you seek the speck that is in your brothers eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" One of the things that I realize about this, having been a junior leader in organization stuff like that is that I knew a lot more when I was younger. Was a lot smarter, I had a lot more answers when I was younger. That's something you just can't learn without experience. There's just certain things you can't realize.

I've found overall in a healthy leadership culture that good leaders, I mentioned this before in my introduction to Joel earlier today that good leaders attract other good leaders. If you're looking for a congregation you're looking hired as an associate pastor or to train as a church planter or something like that you're looking to place that attracts other good leaders, equips good leaders, retains or at least sends them out on good terms. Bad leaders are often quite charismatic at first and attractive because of their growth and because of their dynamism but they quickly burn out and chase away other leaders. This is the key, they chase away other leaders with integrity. They tend to keep [inaudible 00:15:05] fans on the church, the people who wouldn't have a job without bowing to the throne of that particular leader.

Seminary is not going to equip you for that. Seminary just can't prepare you for those kinds of situations. Fourth, what else seminary cannot teach us? How to lead my leaders. This could be for lead pastors or junior leaders, we're all in a position of trying to disciple others. It was pointed out to me when I was in seminary but in my internship in a church that leadership in the church is about [inaudible 00:15:39]. This is not the way leadership is in every other sphere of life. Think about sports or think about the marketplace or think about the military. You can often have command in clear authority. That doesn't work very well, especially in congregational churches. I do think this kind of leadership by persuasions is ultimately it's less efficient but more effective. Beware of the kind of congregations where the pastor can make too many decisions on his own without any kind of other insight from people. It's less efficient but often more effective.

When you're looking for leaders, again Juan Sanchez really runs through a really helpful grid here in this chapter from our forthcoming book. He starts out with the simple reminder that when you're looking to develop other leaders, again things that seminary doesn't not equip you very well to do, you're looking first for character. You're looking first for 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1. The basic character requirements in ministry. The next thing you're looking for in intending to cultivate another leader is care. Think about 1 Peter 5, shepherd the flock. I think this is so helpful when Peter talks about what this looks like, he specifically calls out shameful gain. Not looking for leaders engaged taking shameful gain and not domineering. This indymic. That kind of culture in our churches of people who want the power, even how small that power is. That's crazy. You can have a small church but still have power hungry leaders. Ultimately you're looking for those people who you're going to have to constantly go back and remind yourself, you're not looking for leadership the way the world judges' leadership but the way the Bible talks about leadership, the way Jesus molded leadership.

You start with the character, you look for that care. Next you look specifically for elders and other pastors' competency but only third. We often look for that first, this is only third. Especially in young leaders who the character and the care are coming along a little bit more slowly, sometimes it's easier to start with the competency, which is the ability to teach, specifically for elders and for pastors. Combine all of that together and ultimately something you can only see with time is how those things come together, the character, the care, the competency with time. Then you look for credibility. Again that comes from maturity and experience when the congregation can rise up with a call and confirm, yes this is a man who truly has been gifted by God and we will follow him with credibility. Again you can't lead with persuasion without credibility in your congregation.

One thing that I've noticed again and again is that when training up leaders it's better to wait too long than to give authority too soon to leaders. It's also because somebody who shows those character requirements and true care for other people is somebody who can demonstrate a willingness to be patient and grow. When some people aren't given authority and they react negatively to that it's a pretty good red flag that you've got something that's gone wrong there. I'd encourage you as you're leading leaders to look for this kind of Biblical leadership, to invite it, to search for people who are already doing the work even though no one is telling them that they need to. A leadership developing culture is going to give a lot of credit away from senior positions and accept responsibility. 

Let me cut to the chase on this. Your congregation is going to hold you accountable anyway. The lead pastor will be held accountable for everything his other pastors and elders do. You might as well accept the responsibility, it'll help you gain authority and credibility with your own other leaders. When you do that you give credit away and accept responsibility you'll have a humble culture that can be replicated. I would also say the flip side works for senior leaders as well, when you're giving critique you have to accept critique as well. That can be very difficult especially when it's coming from younger people who are less experienced but it is a way of helping to establish your credibility with younger leaders.

Alright so this is a good transition point. The fifth one, you done learn in seminary how to handle conflict. Jay Thomas at Chapel Hill Bible Church, this is one of my good friends from back in our days in Chicago together. One of the most difficult things for younger leaders in churches to realize is that conflict is not an abb oration, it is the norm of your ministry. It will never be otherwise. Comfortable churches beyond that, comfortable churches are not churches on mission. They're not dealing with messy people and messy topics, they tend to be comfortable and not missional. I did learn this in seminary though. It was jut a one credit class that I took at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through like a pastoral practices class or something like that. It was like issues in counseling, that's what it was. I want to hear what you guys think of this. The kind of conflict that you have to bring in mediation for almost always, I was told like 90% of cases, almost always involves a youth pastor or a music director. A youth pastor a music director. 

Now, I had to think why would it always be those cases? Why? I think I realize the answer, because those are places we hire for skill and availability and not character. We hire because they're available and they're willing and they know how to play guitar or they like to hang out with youth. [inaudible 00:21:44] for character there. Often they do tend to be younger so it's just a lot of that maturity and experience hasn't come. You're not going to be hiring many 50 year old youth pastors. Okay? That's just to keep in mind right there. It's just a recognition that voiding this problem of conflict is not going to make it go away in your church. You don't need to come in guns blazing, I mean that can certainly make things worse, but you're looking for ... I read about a church in Kansas City once that was able to achieve a great deal amid a dying conflict riddled congregation by learning how to in savvy ways set traps for people to fall into or let people set their own traps and fall into them. You're not so much the public rebuke but almost just the invitation for people to reveal who they really are.

There's so many just twisted power dynamics and political manipulations that can happen in a congregation and there has to be some kind of savviness and patience from behalf of leaders to know when do I just directly confront and deal with this but where I can afford, can I let this play out a little bit because if I let it play out a little bit it'll become obvious to everybody else. Seminary isn't going to be able to teach you that, I'm not really going to be able to teach you that either, but there are a few things that we can practice to handle conflict well. One of them is don't do it over email or text. Do not. You probably already know this. 

Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:23:22].

Speaker 1: Or Twitter. Oh goodness. If you have a lot of church members on Twitter you've got bigger problems in your congregation. Whenever possible face to face. Make people come. I had a church member come not too long ago and it was one of those, I'd like to talk to you about a few things emails so you know it's coming. It was 14 pages of accusations. You know the only thing I could do in that situation was essentially have the back of my other leaders, have the support of them so they know what was going on and then essentially just in my house for 30 minutes. No email exchanges, no text messages. 

The problem with email and text is they often come at bad times. You know, you're in bed, it's late at night, it's Sunday after a service and you're drained or it's Monday morning when you're checking your email. It just doesn't go very well. One thing that could also help practically speaking with conflict in your church is do not in so far as possible speak ill of other churches. That helps to ensure you don't create a culture in your own congregation of that kind of criticism. You guys are probably aware of this as well. Be aware of any new members or visitors who speak ill of their former churches. I described it to somebody yesterday as if the pastor suddenly realizes that he probably has a red dot on his own forehead, or will soon. It's hard if you're planting a church or you're young in a congregation because you're just excited for anybody to be there. Especially a young church that's still forming it's culture, who over relies on people who are dissatisfied with their previous churches is not a church that's likely to survive.

Ultimately with all of these things there's no other solution than the Gospel, there's no other solution than Christ. Than the way of John the Baptist that we smut decrease so that Christ might increase and that whatever motives people might have, only that Christ might be proclaimed. Paul himself certainly dealt with a great deal of conflict. I think what I've seen again and again and again just paten wise if you're humble as a pastor you're teachable, you confess your sin then you can handle conflict, because you're not going to be perfect. Nor is your congregation, only Christ is. You set that kind of tone and you're going to be okay.

Alright we have just a few more of these. Number six here is the need to fight for my relationship with God. Vermon Pierre writes about this. He's one of our TGC council members who's out in Phoenix, Arizona. I'd highly recommend a podcast, a lecture that Tim Keller gave at Beeson Divinity School last Fall on ministry. You can probably just look up Keller Beeson Divinity School or ministry podcast of the Gospel Coalition. This is what he said about ministry, "Ministry will either make you a worse or a better Christian. But it'll push you in one direction or another. You will go in one direction or the other because either you're going to live up to your calling by grace or you'll fake it, which is going to make you worse."

Ministry doesn't give you any other option. One of the biggest challenges I run into so often that scares me to death. Moved into a new house the other day and I thought, or a few months ago, I thought, what would it be like to walk out of this house and to lead my family out of this house knowing it's because of something that I did in ministry. It's one of the only places we know where there are certain practical consequences for our families if we fail in our religious performances. That scares me to death. Losing not just ... I can handle, if I screw up I can handle being the idiot, but to know that my kids would face the loss of their home, their reputation, their friends and my wife is very difficult to handle.

All of that pressure just doesn't really help. It just makes things a lot harder. The only thing I can come back to is to think it's just a few things to help us calibrate on these things. One of them is whether you're doing the Lord's Supper once a month or whether you're doing it every week to recall this is a meal for you. This is not just another kind of religious performance, this is for you to feast on the grace of God that comes through Christ. Do this in remembrance of Me. The bread and the wine are sustaining grace, a visible, tangible grace, feel, reminder of God's sustaining grace for us in ministry without which we can do nothing.

For you I'm not sure what other disciplines might look like that keep that relationship with God. For me, my big struggle is private prayer. For me, my best outlet for love for God is singing. Not in a group or something like that necessarily, though I do like that as well but just singing hymns, singing spiritual songs. Also books. It's not necessarily the latest books like this that I'm talking about. It's often fiction. There's a lot, an incredible amount of really encouraging edifying fiction, even that relates to pastors, that I find to be very encouraging. Books like "Gilead" from Marilyn Robinson, very helpful to me. It's a sensitive topic but thinking about believers in your own church do you have other people like that who you can be honest with? I know in some cases as your church may not be the case but are there other pastors that you might be able to turn to in a spirit of partnership in your community.

The bottom line is that you need a Barnabas, you need an encourager, you need someone else to remind you why you got into this in the first place. That Christ is going to hold you fast. Kevin De Young wrote recently in a blog post for the Gospel Coaliltion that the two essential aspects of ministry are love the Bible and loving people. I think that's a pretty good mark of a need for recalibration in your church if you're thinking, I can't stand these people. You know, I can't do it. Again there may be many reasons why that's the case but it's a point where there's going to have to be some recalibrating going on there. Make no mistake there probably will come times when you feel that way. There are moments, I notice it in my own job, where I just can't bear the thought of doing it anymore. I find it almost always goes away within a day or two. It's like the old saying for pastors, never make any decisions life decisions on Monday. Never make life decisions on Mondays. 

Of course the Bible, if the Bible becomes just another guilty responsibility, I'm not saying it's always going to be the same kind of dynamic experience that you might have had when you were younger or even different times in your ministry. It's hard to effectively pastor without a love for God's Word, teaching it as well as just doing it ourselves. There are other practical things, making sure you take your day off, letting others preach and actually sitting there in the congregation and listen to them, not just while you're on vacation. Exercise. Just a reminder again that without God we can do nothing, that when we're weak He is strong. 

Alright let's move on to seventh one here. Can't learn in seminary how to pastor people who are different from you, especially because in seminary it tends to be a lot of people who are like us because after all there's very few people at seminary that are interested in this kind of stuff. We often think in this category about ethnic differences or even missionaries with national differences. I think actually sometimes it's easier to imagine people around the world, like, learning to love people who are so different from you because they're around the world than it is to love your own family or your own neighbors who just get on your nerves in certain ways.

This chapter is written by a good friend of mine named Jeff Higby. We were at Northwestern together at undergrad, we were at Trinity right around the same time. He lived outside of Los Angeles, Washington DC and Chicago and has since graduating from seminary served as a pastor of a free church in Underwood, North Dakota, population not even 1,000 people. I was able to help him with some things because I grew up in South Dakota in a smaller town even outside a smaller town. I was just so moved by his desire to know these people and to love these people and to become one of these people. It reminds me of something I actually talked a little bit in my last [inaudible 00:32:39] here, that this practice of pastoring people and caring for people who are not like us is fallen a little bit out of fashion because of church planting and because of cultural fragmentation, I think. I wondered how much of our church planting is determined by our lifestyle preferences, by the kind of people we want to hang out with and frankly the kind of church we'd want to go.

I wonder what Sojourn church looks like in rural Kentucky or Alabama. I also wonder why nobody is ever called to those places from our churches, that seems weird. Anyway, maybe that's just my church or the churches that I know about. It doesn't seem normal. The go to verse, whenever you're talking about loving people or communicating to people that you aren't like you is 1 Corinthians 9:22. Paul writes, "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." What I can't figure out about this verse, why we almost always interpret as going somewhere that we fit in. That seems so odd, in fact the opposite. Micah Fry's is a pastor in Chattanooga. He wrote his article for the Gospel Coalition on contextualization. He said, "While modern contextualization often asks how far can I go with the Gospel, Biblical contextualization asks how much can I give up for the Gospel?"

I guess we acknowledge that when people are going overseas of how much they have to give up just in terms of family and culture and dress and food and things like that. That's harder again for us to imagine with our own neighbors, especially if it's perceived as somehow sliding downward in the socioeconomic scale. You know to hang out with those people who like the things that we don't really like. I'm not talking here about Christian freedom, I think that's an important virtue here around Sojourn. I'm asking you to submit to manmade laws that just tie churches together in legalism. You have liberty where Scripture does not constrain. I want us to remember what is the purpose for freedom? What does the Gospel tell us is the purpose of freedom? Galatians 5:13-14, "For you were called to freedom brothers, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, you shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

Alright these last two, I'm going to close off with just some personal things that have been hard for me in particular. Maybe they are for you as well. The eighth one here that seminary does not prepare us, cannot teach us how to avoid the temptation to make a name for myself. Scott Sauls writes about this out of Nashville. We put it this way, "Wanting to be the next John Piper or Tim Keller is a terrible reason to go into ministry. But I should know." I'm not actually gifted in the same way as really these guys. I'm not actually gifted in the way that make me really tend to want to make people famous but I remember in seminary thinking suddenly that I really was maybe called to be a church planter in a major secular city. It's funny how all of us suddenly had that realization in seminary for some strange reason. Maybe it's because we were listening to Tim Keller and Mark Driscoll, I don't know.

I found that while a very good and noble calling that God can clearly give, that in my case in particular it was more about my need for relevance, my need for fame than it was for the need of those cities for the Gospel. It wasn't actually motivated by that much. I remember thinking, well nobody they don't ever write about anybody in England who didn't pastor in London. That's the way these things work so I'm just trying to be honest here about some of those challenges. A convicting story for me has been the story of Simon the magician in Acts 8. You may recall he confronted the power of the spirit on display from the apostles. He desired to have that same power himself but what he wanted was the demonstration of the Holy Spirit but not the Holy Spirit Himself, not the experience of the Comforter, the Consoler Himself. That kind of desire is not going to lead you to lay down your life. It's not going to lead you to sacrifice for others in love as Peter and the other disciples did out of their love for Jesus.

This has made me wonder if there's something that's gone wrong in our fundamental criteria for evaluating a ministry. I'm all for giving an encouraging vision of church ministry like why would you not want to do that? Teach the Bible and disciple people, spend all your days in coming to places like this and learning. That's all to the good but I remember thinking, well how many of us are hearing come be in ministry. You get to stand in front of people, eager to hear you explain the most important things about life and love and eternity. That's a pretty good gig there. You know you get a lot of kudos for that. I wonder if we truly understood at the outside of ministry that it's often more like Jeremiah's call in Jeremiah 7:27. "So you shall speak all these words to them but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them but they will not answer you."

To remind people that you will be hated, you will be slandered. That's a privilege, because Christ Himself was hated and slandered so this is identifying with Him. That money will be tight, that worse at some points in ministry you might even wish you got overt rejection because that's better than pervasive indifference. That's better than just standing up week after week proclaiming the majesties of the grace of God and having people give you a little golf clap in the end. Almost long for that. Again, it's a good reminder here that as we refuse to make a name for ourselves to realize there's never going to be one church alone that reaches a city. If we're really about building the kingdom of God together in partnership it's going to have to be many different kinds of churches with many different kinds of leaders, many of them who are going to be unlike you and me in their gifting. 

Here's the couple kickers here. In fact, some of those incredibly successful churches are going to be those led by people who have less ability and gifting than you, but actually see more numeric success than you do. I think about a good test for our desire for revival in a city is to desire and to believe and to hope and to pray that it would start with the church down the road from us. That sets the proper posture of humility that's necessary in a culture of confession and repentance. I think there's a couple ways, if this is a temptation for you like it is for me, to think about calibration questions here. One of them is, how do you feel in ministry when you fail? How do you feel in ministry when you fail?

I'll say for me, if I fail in a way that's tied to a kind of gifting that I have or desire my tendency is to collapse. Just collapse. I can tell you some gruesome stories there but it's obvious there as the Lord's grace to show me my idolatry, my sin. It can be a pretty gory thing. There's also the Lord is kind to us to also show and reveal this idolatry and how you feel when you succeed in ministry as well. I've found not only in my own life but in any number of other leaders that when you're thinking this way about ministry you always want more. You always want more success, it's never enough. Nothing is ever enough. No amount of books sold or people in the pews. You can have 30,000 people but hello, that's 30,000 people. I mean that's not even that many people in the grand scheme of things in this world. There's probably not even that many people in most major metropolitan cities and that would be one of the largest churches in the country. You're never satisfied because only Jesus is enough.  In fact, these thorns that come from God are for our good, to be able to keep us humble to know that it's only about Christ power at work in us. 

The last thing, what they don't teach you in seminary is what to do when no church hires you. This has hit home for me very personally. I remember thinking about my internal call to pastoral ministry and I talked with one of my former bosses who was a good friend. We were sitting down because actually after seminary he wanted to hire me again to go back not in pastoral ministry. I remember him saying, well Colin, anybody can have an internal call. That doesn't mean anything without an external one. That was just some truth I needed to hear in that moment.

There was a lot of clarity that came with that, I think this will help you as you're trying to train up some other leaders or if you're in a situation that I was in. It's a great way of being able to evaluate that call in your life, to know if you are just looking for a job and looking for a way to make money or if you were truly following a call. Because the call to elder, the call to teach and to shepherd does not guarantee a salary and benefits. It does not. Again, it talks about a worker being worthy of his wages, which is good, but there's no guarantee that comes in there. In fact, Paul renounced that in his tent making and living among them so that they couldn't tie this back to him. I would say again if you're a full time pastor I hope you can recognize, you're not the only person called to ministry in your church. That can give you a healthy approach and appreciation for those who are not doing that full time.

When I didn't get hired I could tell you story after story of just baffling things about why or some ways I don't know why. It was helpful in that moment, and something they don't talk to you about in seminary but I realized as is tarted to go back over these character requirements that we've been talking about. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. I mean, I was not good at managing my household, not particularly hospitable, gentle, peaceable or self controlled. Because again, I don't think those were really natural for me. At the same time as well, they're not cultivated in seminary. You learn things, you become opinionated, you stand up and tell people what the Word of God says but those character requirements were really drawing to be realized and the Lord had plenty of sufficient reasons not to call me at that time into pastoral ministry.

I want to conclude by saying that again, seminary is valuable but no sufficient. I think groups like Sojourn Network are helpful in ongoing education, equipping, mentoring. It's not that your ministry ends in seminary, it's just beginning during that time. Jesus knows that. There's plenty of grace, there's grace abounding for us in that. I wonder if we can understand that and truly appreciate that. That you can trust in the finished work of Christ, even if you're not a finished work yourself in ministry. 

Going Multisite: The Advantages and Challenges of MultiChurch


We're talking about pillar model. Pillar model is one location, one service, the entire church can gather at one time. You could put this up as Nine Marks. This is Nine Marks model of church. Gallery is multiple services in one location, so different rooms, usually through video.

Franchise is different locations with typically video venue, one personality spread out across different locations in a city or even beyond. Federation is typically live preaching, more local contextualization in different locations. I prefer federations in a city, but you could do federations beyond. 

Guys coming in? Sneak in I guess. We get into multi church. Multi church is now you start having those campuses start functioning like churches. These become a cooperative of mostly or potentially independent churches that have chosen to form a cooperative of one church, particularly these are for city reaching. They're oriented towards one location. These are just two different variations of that. Make sense? Good enough?

The question is, or the topic for this one is the opportunities and challenges of multi-church. For me, it starts with why did we think it was necessary to take another look at these multi-site models and say, "Hey, is this a valuable opportunity for the church, or is this just a fad that should die out? Should we let it die or not?" 

We talked a little bit about this in the last session, but maybe if you have a Bible, you can open it up to 1 Corinthians 12, which you know where I'm going once you know the text. I think this is really important for us as we're thinking about the church. We talked in our last session about the idea that one of the driving critiques of multi site is this idea of why not raise up churches once they're able, to send them off into autonomous churches. That's one of the driving, I don't know if it's a critique or just what seems to be an assumption, I think, that if you have a multi site church and you need it to do that to get it up to a particular maturity, why wouldn't you then. It seems like the natural evolution would be to let those churches go, if you love them let them go. 

To me, there's a big assumption built into that and that assumption of autonomy. One of the places that gets me thinking about this is that 1 Corinthians passage. So we go to 12:12, you guys know this verse. I don't know that I have to read it all, so you get the idea that, "Now for just as the body is one and has many members, although members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ, for in one Spirit we are all baptized one body." You guys know this. "The Body does not consist of one member, but many. The foot can't say, 'I'm not a hand, I don't belong here.'"

He goes through this section, which is saying, "Hey, you shouldn't look at yourself and say I have no value," and then he continues ... make sure that door's open for someone's trying to get in there. Okay. 

Essentially he goes through this understanding for the church. We tend to read this, and probably ought to read this as one church that each member has a place. The strength of the whole is determined not by the strength of your preacher, but it's everyone from your preacher to your janitor to the guy that just walked off the street. As we come together as a church, the overall strength and maturity of the church is dependent on everyone in the church. 

I think when we read this, we agree with it. I don't know if practically we believe this all the time. Does that make sense? I think many of us maybe if we are pastors and lead pastors, sometimes we lean into, what really makes this church strong is my preaching or what really makes this strong is my lead team, or what really makes this strong is our vision, but what Jesus says makes us strong is all of the people that he's given us and all of their different. 

He does these amazing things with this. He says, "You shouldn't disparage your own contribution. Don't say as the foot, 'I'm not a hand, so I'm not valuable.'" Then he says, "And the hand can't go and say that the foot's not valuable, so don't disparage other people's contribution." He says, "And on the parts of the body that we think are less honorable, we stow great honor, and on presentable parts, they're treated with great modesty." Even the weakest and those things that we have a tendency in our human nature to hide, those parts of the body we should actually show modesty and honor and understand their contribution. 

This is the picture that he has of how interplay as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. He does this thing in Ephesians where he says, he calls us to unity, Ephesians 4, he's calling us to unity and says just as others, I can take us there. He uses the Trinity, that's his basis for calling the church to unity in Ephesians 4. We went to this verse actually with Jaiman as he called us, this idea of walking in a manner worthy. He uses the Trinity as the argument for why we should be unified as one, but without the loss of the individual gifts that Jesus gives us. 

What is the end goal? Anybody know what the end goal in Ephesians 4 is? What the end goal of the church, the unity is? It's for the maturation of the church, the glorification of God. To know Jesus in his fullness. That the church's maturation and it's knowledge of God is dependent on the whole of the church. It's not dependent on the preacher. It's not dependent on the apostle, it's dependent on all of them. 

The more that everyone thrives, the stronger the church is. Does that make sense? I think of these concepts and I think about this idea of wouldn't it be best if we just let everyone go autonomous. There's dissonance between those two concepts in a way that it seems that God has built the church, at least for me. I feel that dissonance. 

Speaker 3: Isn't autonomy greater maturity?

Brad: Is it? Why would autonomy be greater maturity? Someone asks me what would I prefer? I would say, "I prefer autonomy." Why I prefer autonomy? I don't have to ask permission. I don't have to ...

Speaker 3: Okay. I'm not talking about unhealthy autonomy. Okay. Since you're speaking of unhealthy autonomy. 

Brad: No, but I just think autonomy in general. Autonomy as a concept of saying that the concept of autonomy is that I am not dependent on anyone else. That's autonomy, but God has built a church that says that maturity is interdependence, not autonomy. 

Autonomy, as a high virtue, is an American concept. 

Speaker 3: I think we need a different word.

Brad: Maybe.

Speaker 3: Because I look at some of these models as restricting maturity. If some of the models restrict having your own 501c3 legal status, they restrict financial freedom. If it restricts having a leadership team or elders in a body, to me that's restricting maturity. That would be my concern. I don't know whether the autonomy word fits in on that. 

Brad: Yeah, I think that ...

Speaker 3: ... restricting maturity is a problem.

Brad: Yeah. I would say that some of these models restrict the expression of leadership, but I would argue that when you get to these models, when you get over here where you're saying, "What I want out of a cooperative model is I want a local church that's operating with its own local leadership team, that's working with its own elders, making its own decisions and having responsibility over the majority of its own budget. 

What they're experiencing is, maturity as in our kids' maturity. You got you're own bills to pay, you pay your own way, yeah, that makes sense. Over here, there's a restriction of those opportunities to do that. 

What's required in these models, when you say, "I'm going to by my own choice, decide to partner with other men in other churches in other leadership teams," that requires much more maturity than to just do it my way. Autonomy actually limits maturity in those areas, in the areas of submission and the areas of ... even the stuff that we heard today from Stensiano is this idea of collaboration, what we see in Ephesians 4, it requires patience. It requires humility. It requires long suffering, and my phone won't open up. Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. You guys know this. When we talk about the fruits of the spirit, require someone else to ... how do you express patience unless you have someone who tries your patience. 

Someone once told me, he said, "You can't really ...," it's not that you need other people to live out the fruits of the spirit, you actually need annoying people, because it's not hard to bear with someone who's kind and nice and generous. You actually need some people to try your patience. That's one of the ministries that I try to provide my friends, is opportunities for them to express the spirit.

As someone who's lived in probably all of these models, I believe there is a maturation required here that strengthens the church. I think there are some restrictions here that I think stunt the development and the maturation of the church. 

Speaker 3: Having lived those as you have, I think the autonomy word's just loaded. I think it's just not a good word. 

Brad: Yeah. The reason that I use that, is because right now that's the argument. The argument is why wouldn't we want to move in that direction, call it independence or unaffiliated or disconnected churches. To me, I know why people want that, I don't necessarily think that that's going to reduce stronger, heather churches in the long run. 

Speaker 3: You talked a little bit about in these models [inaudible 00:13:14] the word used, stunts growth or ...

Brad: With these models, for a franchise model, it's like dealing with, this isn't meant to be condescending in any way, but if you imagine these are your children and one of our elders once said, he's like, "Your child will never learn to pour milk if they're not allowed to spill it." If you have a system in which no one can make a mistake because they're always told what to do, they never have any opportunity to actually lead and make mistakes, they're never going to grow. 

These models, especially if you've got a video venue model and you never have an opportunity for someone to preach in front of adults, it's going to be really difficult to develop preachers that you could eventually send out.

Speaker 3: I was a franchise situation, and the lead pastor was afraid that the other campuses might go independent, so he refused to let me get my elders, excuse me, what was I saying, leaders of each of the ministries together. I had to meet individually with each of them. He refused to let me meet with all my leaders in all ...

Brad: They might unionize and then what would you do?

Speaker 3: So that meant I could develop leaders individually, but I couldn't develop them into a team. As an example of ...

Brad: It's an extreme example, but actually not one that's far fetched. A lot of some the reasons that we get into weird models is because there's a lot of extreme fear. 

Speaker 3: What's interesting, both of those look [crosstalk 00:14:55] system-ish.

Brad: These?

Speaker 3: Yeah. In my speaking about the heart of that, the leader at the center of the model, regardless of the heart, the size dynamics of that is any large body had gravitational pull whether they want to exert that pull or not. Try to think of we were planted or I was planted out of a large church and I thought, "I wonder if we go serve the city together," I just started laughing. It's like 1000 people, 50 people, we'll just get lost. It's a good idea, and thank you so much for inviting us, but it's not even meaningful to cooperate together with you because of size differential. How do you navigate those inevitable size dynamics of cooperative relationships?

Brad: I think it depends. If what you want to do is serve the city in a particular way. We have a robust mercy ministry at our downtown campus. At East, we do some mercy stuff, we don't do a ton of it. We're out here in the suburbs. Needs are different, but we definitely have people in this congregation that have those type of gifts. Maybe there's ten of them. There's probably more, but say there's ten of them. Being a part of this type of eco-system, they're able to go and serve at some of those opportunities at Midtown as part of their church, because we're one church and it doesn't matter that they get lost. East doesn't need ... we don't need any recognition for the fact that we sent ten people down there. They're using their gifts for kingdom work within. It's easier for them to do, because we're one church in that sense.

They could do that with other churches and other organizations and we're fine with that as well, but there's less energy barrier, because we're part of one collective. 

Even some of the stuff we talk about today, yeah, it takes humility to collaborate and even be able to go, "Hey we're just going to add a little bit to this big event that's happening, but that's okay," unless we're stuck on the, "Hey we want this to be our thing." If we're okay that it's not ours, then it becomes a lot easier. Make sense?

When I think about, I think this is important, we talk about multi site and again, you're going to see me advocate probably if I'm, I don't know what happened to my pens. Stick them somewhere? I'm probably advocating in this world. I don't advocate much ... we can talk about gallery as someone's getting started, but I'm more advocating in kind of those worlds. It's important to understand some of the myths when we talk about opportunities for this. I have yet to find a model that's financially more beneficial than being independent. Lots of people move towards multi-site because I think there's all these economies of scale that are going to make it easier and better and more financially viable. That's not true.

I have an engineering degree. I'm very good at statistics. I'm pretty good with spreadsheets. I have yet to find one that says you're going to save a ton of money by going this route. Most cases, it costs more. It's pretty easy, simple to figure it out. If you've got one mortgage vs. two mortgages, right, or two leases vs. one lease, all of a sudden it really gets hard to find economies of scale. There are some and the bigger you get the more there are, but it's not worth doing multi-site or multi-church for economies. 

Speaker 4: Do you have any data or just experience to apply what you just said, specifically to the launch of new campuses? I have seen some churches where they almost circle a particular neighborhood. They rent the space, they send in great musicians. The first day that they have a service or a missional objective, it's fully staffed, fully funded, the best of everything and they almost completely sail past, at least as far as certain things, what other churches in the neighborhood ...

Brad: First you got to find out if they got oil money. The Koch Brothers behind this? I don't know what's going on. What you have from an economic standpoint is you have leverage. We've got four churches and five buildings. That gives us leverage with the bank. If I want to take a loan out to start a new work, we have leverage. It's not any cheaper for us to go to another site, but we do have leverage because of the size. I could go out and get a loan whereas if I was a church of 300 and I wanted to get a loan to purchase or to put a lease on a building, I would have much more difficulty than if I had a collection of five churches of 300 and then now we have some capital that we can leverage.

When I say economies of scale, I mean, if we had one church with a big building vs. two separate churches with smaller buildings, it's rarely going to be cheaper. You might maybe get lucky with a gifted building or you live in a town that leases are really cheap and maybe you can find some economies, but the reality is that complexity is always more expensive than simplicity. As soon as you go to multiple services, multiple staff, you end up ... it ends up in a wash. 

I only say that because I don't want you coming in here and saying, "The reason we're going to go to multi sites is because we're going to save all this money, we'll be able to put it towards ministry." I've yet to find that unicorn and when I do, we'll have a good barbecue.

What's that?

Speaker 4: It seems like another form of 10,000 is going to cost a lot more than ...

Brad: Maybe building it. But, if you were to say, "I could build an auditorium of 10,000, or I could have ten buildings of 1000." You have to buy the property and you have to build 10,000 room auditoriums or rent them or lease them. At the end of the day, you're just not finding those economies. The models are generally like, "Oh it's going to be cheaper," and then when you look at here, you don't know what these numbers are if you just came in, but in these models, 66% of every dollar went to central to make that thing function. That means locally you got to keep 33 cents of every dollar that was given at a local campus to do ministry with, pay your staff and do ministry. That's not a very good economy. Does that make sense?

Speaker 4: Probably your per capita giving is less with a franchise.

Brad: Usually it is, but ...

Speaker 4: Usually that's true.

Brad: Usually it is. 

Speaker 4: You know the reason why.

Brad: The point of that is, "Hey that's not why ...," I wouldn't encourage you to do multi site.

Speaker 4: It's like when two people ...

Brad: It's cheaper ...

Speaker 4: ... live together it's cheaper to live together than ...

Brad: I won't use that because we're the Southern Baptist Church. I can't use that example. 

Why do we do it. One is this passage from 1 Corinthians, Ephesians 4, this idea that we do believe that God has built us in such a way that when we work interdependent, that we're able to not only do more together, but we're able to do it in a more healthy way. 

The guys over here heard this analogy and so I'll just use it again for the guys that are new, is that I was interviewing with a guy the other day and he said that he was told that when you take draught horses and you add one draught horse to another draught horse, you increase its ability to pull by four times. 

One horse can pull 100 pounds, you put two together, they can pull 800 pounds together. It's a really cool analogy, but because we are so achievement driven in our typical context, we think, "Well shoot, let's redline both horses and now we can do amazing work." To me, the goal, when I hear that, what excites me is that we could accomplish twice as much of what we could've accomplished alone and we can do it in a way that our horses survive. We could have healthy horses. That to me is the goal of multi church. It's not to redline them so we can build this great empire and everyone can talk about how great we are. 

To me it's that I want to be able to have pastors and staff that 20 years from now are glad they were a part of this church, that they were actually able to accomplish more because they were healthier and we were able to advance the kingdom more than we could've alone, but we did in such a way that we didn't have to burn everybody out and we don't have people blogging about how much they hate our church, because I worked there, it's horrible inside. I don't want that story. Does that make sense?

If I can latch two together, I don't have to pull eight times, I can just pull four times. We get the advantage of both. We accomplish more, but we accomplish it healthier. For me, you've got this opportunity, one, to live out Ephesians 4, this unity, this strength that comes from that, you got an opportunity to collaborate like we talked about in the main session, to genuinely have to ... get the opportunity to walk in humility and collaborate with other people and actually acknowledge that my ideas are not always the best ideas. When I actually put multiple leaders in a room, we may actually, the spirit may move in a way that's not necessarily going to move if I just sit down with a piece of paper and try to solve the world's problems. 

You have unity, collaboration, and one of the things we talk about in the book was really a driving force for Greg and I, was one of the movements that we've seen in the church planting strategy is this idea, and some great concepts from these books and I'm not ripping them down despite what's being recorded, concepts like simple church. What's the concept of simple church?

Speaker 4: [inaudible 00:25:59]

Brad: Find the one thing you can do that's great, do that great thing and the mediocre things, what do you do?

Speaker 4: Don't do them.

Brad: Don't do them. Let somebody else do them. That's great, right? That's beautiful business principle. You want to make some money and create business principle. Problem is, is that we have a Bible that calls us to what it means to be the church. 

We don't get to just be driven by our desires. We actually have some obligations as the church and what the church is supposed to be and supposed to do in the world and for our people. We have some constraints on what we can do. What happens with those ideas, like the hedgehog principle or this simple church principle, is that we begin to reduce the church to those things that we're good at and we begin to neglect the things that we're not.

Who decides what we're good at? Who decides?

Speaker 4: The people [inaudible 00:26:57]

Brad: Is that what really happens? All the people vote? We all think we're good at this. What would happen if you let everybody vote? It's a curious concept. We see in 1 Corinthians. What would we find if we polled our people what we're good at? 

They're all good at different things. Why? Because God made it that ... he's like, "I'm giving you a diversity of people with diverse gifts because that'll make you stronger." But, they don't usually decide. Who decides is the lead pastor. What the lead pastor's good at what the lead pastor's ... or the leadership team. What they're passionate about, what they're good at. 

What happens if you say, "I'm going to do simple church, I'm just going to do what we're good at," what you've not only done is, you've not only zeroed in on what you're particularly good at, you've also neglected what other people in your congregation are good at. 

There's a trade off when you do that. There are people in your church that no longer get you use their gifts, because they don't have the same gifts as you. Make sense? We call that ecclesiological reductionism, because I work with Greg and he likes big words. You get the idea. We start reducing the church to things that are manageable for us. The problem with the manageable church is that you don't need the Holy Spirit. 

Something interesting about the way God designs a church, the expectations on the church and the way he designs it, that it requires a dependence not only on one another, but it requires dependence on the Holy Spirit.

We can build a church that doesn't need either one of those things. I don't know that that's what God's called us to do. I don't believe that that's what God's called us to do. What I'm seeing right now, is churches neglecting their responsibilities. Example. We won't use the name because we're just trying to be nice, but I worked for a really large church, one of the largest churches in America and one of the fastest growing churches in America.

You know what it didn't do? It didn't do international missions. Maybe near the end it started thinking about it. I was there for 13 years. Missionaries coming, "Hey, we would like to go out in the mission field." "We don't really do that. You have to go somewhere else to do that. We don't have any money for international missions, that's not what we do." 

We didn't do international missions. We didn't do mercy for the most part. We had said, "Well, that's not what we're good at. We'll let somebody else do that." That just let us off the hook. We didn't give to that, we didn't put money to that. We didn't empower people that were gifted in that way. 

I see that, not just at that church, I see that in churches all across America right now. Maybe they're neglecting international missions. Maybe they're neglecting evangelism. Maybe they're neglecting community. Seeing this a lot in large churches these days, where they're saying, "You know what? I don't know if you noticed, but developing community's really hard. It's really hard." 

Churches are now saying, "You know what? I don't know if it really affects our bottom line if we develop community or not. We're just going to stop doing it. They still show up on Sunday and their checks still clear, so we'll stop developing community." I don't think that's a long term investment. I think that's a short sighted way of looking at developing the church. 

One of the things that we're trying to do with these models is say, "Hey there's a reality to the fact that as a lead pastor and a leadership team, you have certain strengths and certain weaknesses, and your church is going to reflect that. Most people, that's a common adage within church planting world. Your church is going to reflect your strengths and weaknesses. How beautiful is it though, that if you build a system in which it's not just one person's strengths and weaknesses that are reflected in the church, but now you have multiple leaders and leadership teams and elders teams that have different passions and different giftings in which, instead of those being neglected, now those begin to synergize with one another. Does that make sense?

We're not trying to have one person or one leadership team say this is what we're going to do, say this church does some ... they're really good at international missions. They're a really good sending church. They're great at leadership development. This church is really good at counseling in care. They start a counseling center. This church is killing it in evangelism and community, and now we can learn from each other, grow from each other, and when we think about our church, we can start to see those gifts effect on another more than they would if we were just independent churches, because we wouldn't collaborate at the same level. 

That's the vision of combating that idea of reductionism. I don't think I'm going to be able to make everything happen, like say, this local congregation, this is Sojourn East, are we going to be able to do everything that the Scripture has called us to do as a church. I don't think we're going to get there. 

Do I think I can begin to see that develop in Louisville as a whole with multiple churches linking arms together. I actually think we can start to chip away at that vision of what the church could be, so that all of these churches are influencing one another. They're all growing in those things, but they don't have to feel like, "I've got to make everything happen here."

In a federation model even, what tends to happen is say, this is what it means to be our church. We do music, community, counseling, women's ministry, men's ministry, children's ministry, these are the things we do and every one of these expressions has to look the same. We have to do those in every one of those expressions. That's what Sojourner was trying to do when I got here.

Who do you think that frustrates? 

Speaker 4: The lead pastors end up [inaudible 00:32:50]

Brad: The lead pastors because they feel like what? They're always failing, and how about the people in those ministries? Always failing. Some of it's because some of them are small. Some of them are big. They don't all have the same resources. They don't have all the same talents. 

But, if all of a sudden we say, "Hey we don't have to do that at every one of these, what if we just made sure that all of those were happening across all of what we do. Some of them are going to be duplicated because we have some overlap, but what if what we were trying to do is say holistically we want to make sure ... we care about those things.

There are some things that every church does, but there's some things we just try to make sure we're developing across all. To me, being able to combat that reductionism for what the witness of this church will be in Louisville, is a big deal. 

Speaker 5: I wish I had ten minutes to talk, because I'm trying to not screw up my question. It's kind of a multi-part so, try to show a little bit of patience.

Brad: Long suffering. Here we go. 

Speaker 5: I'll try. I'll be that ... the last session, you talked about the federation model that one of the ideas that you guys were thinking you were accomplishing, but failing actually at, was we can bring in these really high [crosstalk 00:34:11] and then we can offer that to these churches and that's a good thing, but in fact, they don't need them or want them ...

Brad: They wanted them but they didn't have the resources to take advantage, yeah.

Speaker 5: ... in fact, you are hurting them without meaning to and certainly here, this is the first part, how that's not the same thing in the cooperative idea, and then second, how what you just described is not letting the right-handed church, right sided church off the hook, because they're not really good at sending people out in international missions, but the pop church is and so we don't worry that the right side church is not growing up ...

Brad: What I'm saying is that as one church, you have the opportunity for those to be influencers, so they're influencing us more and we're going to let those churches grow, but we're not going to expect every church to hit maturity at the same time. 

We may have this picture of a holistic church doing these things, but I'm not going to expect this church that has 300 people to be there, because you just can't. You just don't have enough resources to make it happen. 

One, they can learn from the fact that we are doing this as a church, maybe at a different congregation, and they can learn and be influenced and be challenged to, as they have the opportunity, grow and do it, but you let a kid be a kid. If you've got a two year old church, let it be a two year old church. Don't expect it to do everything that a 20 year old church can do, but there's something that we can celebrate by the fact we are doing that within the whole. 

The first question you asked, how is this different? Well, one, these churches aren't paying for those experts anymore. Here, they're paying for it. They're actually paying for salaries at a central location for those people. They're not doing that anymore, once you get to this side.

Speaker 5: Do a follow up then?

Brad: Sure. One more.

Speaker 5: Do you guys have a mechanism in place to help prevent inadvertent draining. Again. We're on the right side church. They're not really good at sending missions, but I have a heart for missions. I'm in that church and the other church is doing it really good. At some point, I find myself just wanting to go be part of that, because they're better at what my heart is, and I end up ... how do you guys work towards guarding brain drain of various things, specialized churches, and you're right back to square one.

Brad: That happens. From a mercy standpoint, we've had people from this congregation go to the downtown congregation because there's more happening on the mercy side of things. It happens. But what we do try to do is, you might tier it. Which are the ones that we would like to do that the least. International missions, we want all of our churches being sending. We've developed some staff, some non staff at each of the churches to own that piece for the local church, because our vision for international missions ... we had a centralized international missions program, but even when it was centralized, the idea was, we need local ownership of local churches. We want missionaries sponsored by local churches, we want them invested in those folks. That's part of that holistic vision for what that looks like so we're developing that at each local church. 

Some of our churches are much farther down the road. They've got many more missionaries in the field. Other churches have a few, but they all have someone who's responsible for developing that at their local church. As we decentralize that, that's part of the drive there.

There still may be some things that we still feel like, centrally, we get some economies, like trip management, like someone who's really good at putting all those mission trips and coordinating missionary care. We might do that centrally, but we're going to try not to have a missionary agency within the center.

Speaker 5: You talked a little bit about what in the coop, the structure's going to look like centrally and not to confuse having more of a federation, but there's got to be some sort of structure. You have leadership interdependent to other churches. What's it going to look like?

Brad: Two different types of structures with a coop, the idea is you got a coop, someone's leading the coop, not the only way to do it, but for the coop model, we had executive team and a leadership council, leadership council overseeing governance, executive team overseeing management of the central operations and the church as a whole. 

Depending on how you do it for us is representation. You have members of each of the lead pastors run leadership council and some non-staff as well as the executive team functioned on that. The idea is you can't separate governance and management and you have representation so that each of the congregations feel like they have some ownership in the decisions that are being made. 

The executive team would oversee all of the central staff to provide services for each of the local churches. As you move more down the scale to the collective, you have less control, you're trying to provide less control centrally. At that point, there's less of an executive team, there's probably more of someone who's overseeing the central staff, the central services that are providing that, but giving less direction to the whole. The direction to the whole is done more as a team of the lead pastors and maybe that director leading the direction and vision of where it's going and then a board of directors that's overseeing the governance, policies and procedures, but only those policies and procedures that are important for the solvency of the organization as a whole. 

They're not saying, "Here's what you do in children's ministry. Here's what you're going to teach or here's how many crackers you're going to give out," but they may say, "Hey any one of these churches is going to do background checks for kids' ministry, because you screw that up, we're all going down."

Things like that would be handled at a board level. 

Speaker 5: Does each local congregation have its own elders?

Brad: Yes. In this model. Yes. Once you're at a multi-church model, each local church has its own leadership team for management and then elders for the governance and care of the church. 

Speaker 5: The assumption that as the leadership separates, so the budgets are kept separate?

Brad: The way that it ... we talked about this in the first one, but it's helpful here is that in these models, generally what happens is the budget is managed centrally. When you get here, what happens is that there is a cost to the central functions and my budget locally is I pay for that cost and that's all I have to pay for. 

That's a set percentage. I think the best way to do that is a set percentage and then I ...

Speaker 5: Despite the size of the other churches?

Brad: Yeah. Regardless of the size it's a set percentage, so everyone's paying the same percentage, and then they manage their own budget locally. There may be some policies in which we say, "Hey here's some guidelines on how you do compensation so that we don't get in trouble down the line, but for the most part, you get to hire your own staff, you get to decide how much money goes to ministry, how much money goes to flat screen TVs, that's your call, it's your church." 

The beauty of this is, you have a bad year, it's up to somebody to figure out how we're going to cover it, which is how it always worked. The challenge here is that if you don't make your local budget, you're firing someone from your staff. There's not a lot of room. 

Here there's a lot of room. We can juggle a lot of things. Here it's, you had a budget. You had to stay within your budget. You don't make your budget, you have to make cuts to make it happen.

Speaker 6: Other examples. I can see how things on this side of the line, the transition to that side of the line, are there examples of where those things have emerged with a founder. The founder changes things in terms of the vision and the implementation of now all of a sudden the circles aren't equal in terms of their ...

Brad: You're saying the founder being at a particular location?

Speaker 6: Either the founder ... I'm trying to picture it. I'm not saying it's bad or good, I'm just trying to figure out how in reality, they all look very well balanced and concentric, and they all are rotating in ... but the reality is that ...

Brad: Some of these are bigger, some of them are smaller. 

Speaker 6: But even when it involves a founder in one of those circles, now things aren't. Even the intellectual, the spiritual capital that brought this to fruition, do you stick the founder in the circle and let him balance in [inaudible 00:43:59] space or is he on one of the planets [crosstalk 00:44:04] just in the real world, how does this actually work?

Brad: I think it can work in a lot of different ways, but sometimes that founder sits here and is working towards expansion and vision and resourcing of each of the local churches. He may be at a local church, maybe a preacher at one of the local churches, or he may be preaching at all the churches in a rotational piece. 

I don't think there's, in all of this it's a spectrum, I don't think there's one way to do that. The challenge is, is what often happens with founders is that if I'm at this church, that's the preferred church and that's the church that gets all the resources. If the founder doesn't believe in this system, what does it take? Ephesians 4. It takes humility, patience, long suffering. It takes humility to say, "Even though I'm the one that founded this, I'm not going to demand that I get special treatment." That's very difficult to do.

There are plenty of pastors out there that have been able to do that. When they're able to do that, these things function really well. If what's happening is that all the resources are going to one location, that throws the system in balance, causes lots of frustration, makes it very difficult for central staff because they're being told to serve everybody equally, but they have someone who's saying, "But I am special and I'm going to walk into your office and my name's on the door, so make it happen for me."

You do have to ... I don't think the system works without humility. I don't think it works without humility in lead pastor, I don't think it works without humility in the elders. I don't think I works without humility in the staff. That is one of the, I think it's one of the beautiful principles that make me want to do it because why would I want to be a part of a church that wasn't driven with humility in the leadership. It's also one of the challenges that makes it really difficult, one, to get to, and then the sustained, to say, "We have to constantly grow and mature in order for this to survive." I think I'd rather have that struggle all along and make us better leaders than for that to work and we don't ever have to grow. 

Speaker 7: Kind of follow up on that, because with the coop, as Sojourn pushed toward coop and Daniel, if I'm right, was going to go into the middle, he found himself no longer ... I know that's reductionism in itself, but then Veritas with McKnight, same kind of thing happened, but then Redemption Arizona, who's a a great case study on this being successful, they brought in a non-founding guy to hold the middle and seems to be doing great. Is there other churches than those three than you guys and Veritas and Redemption that we can look at and say, "Here's a case study of a founder in the middle, working wonderfully. Here's a case study of a non-founder in the middle, but a founder still had a campus?"

Brad: Yeah, one I would say that in both of those cases, I don't think any of the three of those cases that the model drove anything to do with whether the founder was there or not. Redemption it was essentially retirement succession plan that drove that. That's a really long story of how Johnson got there, but with Sojourn and with Veritas, I don't think these models effected any of those transitions. 

Those transitions were issues that were being worked out, I think, separate. What I'm seeing founders who are looking out into the future and saying, "We've built this over here," and how do you hand that off. You build a franchise, you build eight churches. I'm talking with a church that's up in Detroit right now, can't remember how many churches they have, 12 or something like that, and he's like, "I'm going to retire." Where do you go find a guy that can lead 12 churches. Those guys don't grow on trees. You get the advantage of growing with it maybe when you're the founder, but that's not going to work, so what's happening is I've seen more and more guys earlier and earlier saying, "I founded this thing, but I'm realizing it's not going to work unless I move to something like this."

Right now I think that's what Brandon Shields is working through right now. He's a founder, founded it, he's working through that right now. I'm going to end up in this ... he's early in that saying, "If I don't get to something like this, I'm going end up in that place where we're going to have to use dynamite to fix it." 

That's why when we explore the future of multi site, I think that's the future that's going to allow us to do these things.

Speaker 7: [crosstalk 00:49:37] franchise model requires certain personalities gifting out there. Typically, you're going to have to replace all those campus pastors with leaders who can lead enterprise and you can't just do that.

Brad: Yeah, although what I would say what's happening right now is that most franchise churches are hiring guys that have that capacity and then sucking the life out of them by keeping them in that model. If they haven't lost the first generation, they might be able to do it, but if they've lost the first generation, then you might have to say, "Hey who could actually do this, it's much different to push play than it is to lead and preach." Sometimes you can develop those guys out of that group.

Speaker 7: Speaking of succession, your design, who is the decision maker for a new pastor interesting the coop and collective model. 

Brad: What happens is you want to plant a new ... you're talking at an existing location?

Speaker 7: Existing location, have to go somewhere, who decides the new ....

Brad: We've been in that conversation. How does this work? You got to assume that either ... the same question applies to adding someone to it, because you have a team that there's a team dynamic and there's an impact on the whole if you add someone new. The way that we've looked at it is that the first owner, if you will, or maybe if you're doing RACY, responsible, RA is accountable, C is consultant, the R is going to be the local elders. They're responsible, we want them to make the choice, but there's a loop in which feedback from the other lead pastors and the board of directors are able to speak into that. 

The idea is, "Hey if you're going to bring in someone that no one likes, that's going to make this thing hard to sustain. Give us three candidates. Let us meet them and let us say, "Hey, all three of them could work," or let us say, maybe these two would probably work for us, can you pick between these two, but there's got to be that extra feedback loop. It's a little bit harder. 

The ultimate decision maker, you want to be local church elders. One of the challenges, some of the things that we were going to talk about, one of the challenges of multi site for me, that I thinks really important to understand why you would maybe go to one of these models, is that multi site allows you to inject steroids into church growth. What it does is, you go, "Man we're running up into ... what we're doing's pretty good, people are coming, we're starting to run out of space." I just start another campus. I can double this thing if I can start two more campuses. I can go really fast.

The problem with that is that what generally happens is if you're a church planter, you know this, you start with 20 people in your home. You don't know anything. You know the Gospel and you're doing a little bit to help them, but as that group grows, you learn how to counsel people who are struggling in marriage. You learn how to deal with people who lose their job. You start learning how to do these things and by God's grace, you grow with the congregation. 

What happens in multi site is that I can instantly grow or almost instantly grow from 200 to 400 to 600 and I didn't get to grow with the congregations. What ends up happening is that lead pastors often find themselves, their churches have outgrown their leadership and that's where I think I see a lot of multi site churches. It gets unstable and then you end up with significant problems. Some of those churches don't survive or they have to do some major remodels. 

That's why some of these, why I don't recommend them, is because I think they're dangerous. I think they're dangerous for your soul, I think they're dangerous for your peoples' souls. 

In these models, you're not trying to just start something new, throw a worship leader and a guy who can press play at it, you're allowing those churches to grow and allowing those lead pastors and the elders to grow with those congregations. You may get bigger and you may reach more people, but you're not doing it at that pace. This takes a lot more time, because it takes patience and humility and collaboration and working together. It's not going to be as fast as the multi site, franchising works, but I think that's to the benefit of leaders in the model.

Speaker 8: [inaudible 00:54:28] you say that's money going into central?

Brad: Yeah.

Speaker 8: What if you have, we're looking at doing a daughter plan, different city, and what we said is it's going to be the same name, 501c3 and all that stuff, but two different budgets. Nothing coming into any centralized thing. It's just two groups giving to two different budgets. Is that unhealthy or ...

Brad: I guess if you're in two different cities and you have no overlap of budget, I'm trying to think of what the benefit of being one 501c3, because what I hear is, I hear risk in that. We're one organization but we don't have any authority over what happens there, so I'd be concerned about that.

Speaker 8: We're sharing pastoral leadership team. 

Brad: Okay. 

Speaker 8: So leadership wise ...

Brad: You're just assuming that the percentages work out?

Speaker 8: ... I'm coming into central, we didn't structure that way as far as them giving back anything to a centralized pot is what I'm saying.

Brad: Who pays for the leadership team? Is that leadership team on salary, or staffed ...

Speaker 8: Right now it's one guy who's part of a larger pastoral team. Most of the pastors are at the mother church, but the new church planter is still on that pastoral team, but he's leading the charge with the ...

Brad: I think when you start that, there's a lot of ways we start things that are pretty simple and easy, that become more complicated once you start adding staff and you start going, "Okay, who's overseeing the payroll at both locations," because the argument at one church was like, "Why don't we just have our own person doing payroll or doing finances and payroll." If you've ever been part of a business or a large organization, if every individual's doing that, then you have to hire another individual to make sure everyone's doing it right, and you coordinate that because you're one organization. You're one 501c3, you do taxes for one organization.

Speaker 8: ... one payroll involved, but what I'm saying is there's no percentage back or ...

Brad: So who's paying for the ...

Speaker 8: Mother.

Brad: So the mother church is paying for everything.

Speaker 8: The payroll. 

Brad: So this is just like my kids. They're like, "Hey I want to go buy this stuff." "Where do you get the money?" "You're giving it to me Dad." I think that at some point you're going to get to the place where who's paying for that. If the mother church is doing great and they've got all these funds and they don't mind, but I will tell you this, that at some point, someone at the mother church is going to say, "Why aren't they paying their fair share?" 

They're going to go, "I want to hire a youth guy, and I can't because we're paying for two bookkeepers because the second church isn't paying for that. At some point, you're going to have to work that stuff out. To me, it's fine for the first, the first work is always an overflow room. It's minimum, get it started, that's fine.

Speaker 8: You're talking about longevity and ...

Brad: As it grows, then you want to have a system in which everyone feels like there's at least equity. Everyone's paying their fair share. What I look at is, first three years of one of those plants, they're not going to be able to pay their fair share, but at some point, we have a model in which we expect self sufficiency, unless we've got to work, we're just like, "Hey we know that particular part of town will never get there and so it's a missional work that's worth putting money into." From an ecosystem standpoint, if you have multiple churches, four churches, you're going to want at some point, we understand where the money's coming from, how things are getting paid and everybody's contributing.

Speaker 8: Would you consider that a federation though if they're not, if it's two separate budgets and the new daughter church is paying for their own budget, is that a federation or are we using federation still where there's a percentage back ...

Brad: A lot of it depends on who has say over what happens. Who has authority structures. These are typical ... the authority when you get a mature federation or a mature franchise, high control costs money and so it usually costs that amount as a ballpark number. 

Speaker 9: So the network clearly, we're here, I'm from Norfolk Virginia, so there's very wide reach, in so many cities and places. I think I heard you said last session that the coop and the collective are typically in a local context ...

Brad: My preference is, is do it for city reaching, because I don't think you're going ... if you say, "Well Brad told me to do collective over a tri-state area, one, I don't think it's going to work and I don't want to be blamed for it.

Speaker 9: I would maybe talk afterwards, but I'd like to hear what your vision for that would look like in the coop and collective language, but is it going to come to a point, like I heard brother over here say, is it Redemption Arizona and Veritas, I've never heard of those places and I'm doing research myself on these kind of things. Does there eventually need to be a network of coops and collectives that are helping each other learn from each other about these kind of things. I'm just still ignorant and in my infant state in this process of learning. 

Brad: I think that's going to happen within this network, there's more and more churches that are moving to that, so there's going to be a group of guys that are like, "Yeah, we're all working on that together." I don't know that I would have want a separate one because I like the diversity of what we have. We have different types of churches here and stuff. 

One of the things that I'm seeing ... one of the examples that you brought up was Redemption. What Redemption was, was they were a traditional church, I'll get the numbers on how long, maybe 25 years old, hadn't really planted any churches, was just a typical mega church that was growing in the suburbs of Phoenix. They then got the conviction of, "Hey we need to actually start planting churches."

They have a complicated history, but in a simplistic sense, they started planting a few churches and then they ended up partnering with another church and started thinking about this multi site concept. What happened is as they started doing a multi site, which is more on this side, so it was a multi church model, the churches that they sent out came calling and saying, "Hey is there any way we could ... you planted us as autonomous churches, is there any way that we could actually get back into the collective?" They didn't use that language, but that's the language that I would use.

So they said yes, and what they ended up doing is growing a collective really fast, because what they were doing is not just planting new ones, they reconstituted the churches that they had planted out because those churches realized that there was an advantage and a benefit for them being a part of Redemption rather than being their own individual independent church.

I think that's going to happen more and more, and I think should happen more and more, where smaller churches that are doing okay in a particular city, but actually could come together and form one organization and end up getting that support and do more together, do better together, hitch those draught horses and be more sustainable. I think that's more ... it's not only more sustainable, there's a stability that comes from that. We have a bad year, we can weather that a little bit more. 

My hope is that this maybe inspire some churches that are out there, independent, struggling to make it work and then being able to go, "Gosh, what if we did this and now we're combining super powers." That's the intent. Are we run out of time? We'll wait till they come and grab us.

Some of the challenges, just to be real with it, is that it sounds beautiful to require maturity of your leadership, but here's something I learned about lead pastors. Lead pastors are artists, they're not accountants. I don't know if you've ever tried to wrangle artists, but artists are not the easiest to manage. They're creative, so you have to manage creative differently than you would manage accountants and engineers.

That's tough. It's hard. It's work that you have to do to manage the emotional energy of the organization to make sure that people fell empowered and have opportunities to speak, and yet you're still trying to maintain one vision. When I think of the same things that excite me about multi church, it requires maturity, it requires humility, are also the things that are most challenging and threatening to the organization.

You really have to know that going in, it's like, "Hey if we're going to do this, we have to know what we're signing up for. Some of those models are actually probably easier than doing this. I've never really been one to go for easy models anyway, so if you've read my community stuff. 

The other one of the issues when you have a centralized ministries or these may just be operations so, maybe it's finance, payroll, HR, technology facilities, that kind of stuff, communications. If I'm working with my accountant or communications director in my local church and I did their wedding and I did their counseling and they screw up, I'm pretty flexible, and more apt to say, "Hey it's all right, we'll figure it out." I'm very gracious and patient. 

If I outsource and someone makes a mistake, if you ever had to call Comcast or Spectrum or your cable company, we tend to lose graciousness when we don't know the person personally. That make sense? What happens in here is despite the fact that most of these people actually attend the church, it's your church members, the relationships here tend to act more like outsourcing. There ends up being less grace, less patience sometimes with that stuff. It's a reality that you're either going to have to deal with cultural heat and actually really work on it, or just make sure no one ever makes a mistake.

Speaker 10: Am I allowed to ask?

Brad: Yes. You're back in.

Speaker 10: If it's inappropriate just [inaudible 01:05:40].

Brad: What kind of question you going to ask over there?

Speaker 10: ... things that come to my mind. Federation, because what Sojourn was, it's now a cooperative.

Brad: Yeah, it's kind of in this boat. You can come in if you want.

Speaker 10: So you get, everyone was tossing in 40%, now they're down to how much a year?

Brad: Right now we're averaging about 25 and we're on our way to 15 by the next budget year. 17, sorry, 17.

Speaker 10: Did you guys have to face the uncomfortable reality that there was going to be reduction in staff because, or did you just shift from that mother church or whatever you call it, did you just shift some of those bodies into ... 

Brad: We did make some significant shifts in staff and those were usually at the top of the organization, not the bottom. We brought in experts from around the country to do some amazing work. We had to say we can't do ... if they can't be afforded at the local level, then they're probably not going to be able ...

Speaker 10: So you did have to make some of those ...

Brad: Yeah. These models, I use a story in the book, when I was a kid, my dad worked for the state of Michigan and he had graduated, got the job, stayed working for the state of Michigan for the rest of his career. He managed budgets for all the airports in Michigan and worked for the aeronautics department. One day, my dad never worked on weekends, except for one time I remember he's like, "I've got to go to this meeting about this project."

I'm like, "What is it." He's like, "Oh I really don't want to go, I don't want to do the project." I was 17 or something, and I'm like, "Well if you don't want to do the project, why would you do that? That's stupid," and he's like, "Well, if I don't spend the money this year, then I'll get less money in my budget next year, so we have to do this project so that we can retain our budget." 

Use it or lose it, so I learned a lot about politics and the economy. That happens in the church all the time. This, if I don't spend my budget, then it will be taken away from me. If I don't grow my ministry, then I'll be seen as unsuccessful and so there's this pressure to grow, spend more money and build things that I think sometimes are unnecessary. It's very easy, I think, all the way up to a federation model, to have over bloated budgets, not because people are bad or evil, there's a momentum that takes you down that road, yeah freakonomics kind of stuff. 

Some of that we're able to clean up, that allowed us to do that. Some of that was staff roll offs. We took a couple staff that were really high quality staff and said, "We're going to roll this off to its own 501c3, because you'll actually probably get more money and be able to do more ministry outside of our church because with these changes, we just don't have the funds for it anymore. We actually started two non-profits, one was a non-profit that is now a for-profit, but we started a couple of those that are doing great ministry, but we just had to say, we can't afford to have these high level leaders because we're trying to get the money back to the local church. So some of that was able to do that, some of that was cleaning up budgets, some of that was letting people go. 

The Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Caring For Leaders


Well I've been asked to speak on the most important things that I have learned about caring for leaders. And I'm really thankful that the leaders of this conference have chosen this topic to be the subject of our conversation, and the subject of this breakout session. Because really it's an expression of how [Soger 00:00:21] Network is committed to making sure that the leaders and the pastors of the churches that are involved in our network are cared for. And that's a real value for [Soger 00:00:31] Network. Dave Harvey in his e-book Healthy Plurality Equals Durable Church, which was recently released writes "Our network bleeds soul care. Soul care is the belief that ministry flows from the inside out. Beneath it lays the gospel inspired idea that our ministry is only as fresh as our connection to Jesus Christ. Lasting in ministry means we must know our heart and know how God's word speaks to what see. God loves us so much that he unites us into teams to experience community, and love towards each other. This means we provide care for each other and receive care from each other." 

So this concern for care that [Soger 00:01:18] Network has is really rooted in the gospel itself, and you hear that there in the quote from Dave Harvey. When Christ saved us, he not only saved us but committed to care for us. And we see this especially in Ephesians chapter five. So in Ephesians chapter five, we're told that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. But then he doesn't just leave us to ourselves, right? Rather Christ has committed to sanctify us, to make us holy. And he's committed, I love these words that Paul uses in Ephesians chapter five. He's committed to nourish us and to cherish us. He's committed to care for us. And one of the ways that Christ cares for us and meets us, is by placing us in community. Namely in the context of a church, which is to be marked by love and care. And so it's through this love, through this care, it's through this nurture that we are to become whole and strong and healthy. 

So with that in mind, I ask the question well why is it important for the leaders of our church to experience this kind of care? And here's what I'd say and I think this is really important for us to grasp. The spiritual vitality and the relational health of our churches will only be as strong as the spiritual vitality and relational health of the leadership team. Okay. So let me say that again. The spiritual vitality and the relational health of our churches will only be as strong as the spiritual vitality and relational health of the leadership team. So it's helpful even with the folks that you're leading just periodically to ask "How do you feel you're being cared for? How do you feel you're experiencing community within this leadership team? Within our team together as leaders." 

If our leaders are not experiencing this kind of care and the benefits that come from this kind of care, chances are it's very unlikely that the church is. Right? But if our leadership team is experiencing this kind of care, and we're experiencing this together and the benefits of that care, then it is ... there's a really good chance that that's spilling over then out of their lives into the life of the church. So with that in mind, I wanna share with you some things that I have learned ... I'm sure there's much more we could say, but just a few things that I have learned over the years that I've been in ministry in caring for leaders. And I'll just say right up front this is not because I've mastered this, a lot of times I feel like I'm not very good at this and I always feel like I'm learning. I've been pastoring the same church for 15 years, and I still feel like I'm learning what it means to care for our leaders well. But hopefully as I share out of my own experience and even some of my failures, it'll serve as a good basis of our conversation together and be helpful to us all.

So you should've received a handout, and on this handout you'll see it's front and back. There are seven commitments for the leader who cares for leaders. Okay. Seven commitments for the leader who cares for leaders, and I'll work through this material and then hopefully we'll have some time for discussion and questions and that sort of thing. I'd love to hear from you. So the first is renewal, the first is renewal. All of these start with an 'R' okay, so let me know how ... So the first one is renewal. We should seek to create an environment in which we and our leaders are experiencing ongoing spiritual renewal. And you know we might ... we might say this is to be assumed, you know? We all should assume this but it's just so essential and so vital that I don't want us to assume it. I want us to take just a little bit of time to pause here and say this is just so absolutely critical. Of course we're limited in some regard as it relates to us and particularly our team experiencing spiritual renewal. Because spiritual renewal is something an individual has to pursue themselves personally. And it's only God that can accomplish that type of spiritual renewal in one's soul. But we can as leaders seek to provide and create an environment in which spiritual renewal is valued and pursued. 

So listen to how Jesus does this. So you're thinking about Jesus leading the disciples and that's a leadership team. He's leading them, he's seeking to care for them. And John chapter 15 verse five, Jesus says "I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing." And so the life we live and the culture we could create ... that we create should communicate that abiding is everything. So there should be this sense among the leaders that we are leading, and among our team that if we are not walking closely personally with Jesus, nothing is going to get done. Nothing of any value. Therefore on a personal level we should value spending time with Jesus, it should be the top of our priority list. Spending time with Christ and his word, worshiping him. Calling out to him in prayer. And then very practically speaking as we think about as a team, we should value spending extended times with our team in the word and in prayer. 

I imagine many of you are doing this. I hope that you are. If you are doing this, there's a few things you can do. You can read through a good book together, right? That's devotional in nature, that helps you think about certain areas of life in ministry, biblically and theologically. You can also read through large portions of scripture together. Our elders actually just met recently and we had about a day and half together. And we started both of days by reading through the pastoral epistles. So we just went around and each guy read a chapter, and we read through First Timothy and Second Timothy and Titus. And then discussed and talked a little bit about what we saw there and the implications for our ministry. Another we can do is we can spend extended times in prayer together as a leadership team. One of the things we like to do when we get these longer periods of time together, is we like to pray through our membership directory. So we have a membership directory in our church and on each page there's about five people, couples and individuals. And so we'll just go around and each person chooses someone on that page. And it takes us a while, but we work through the directory and pray for our membership. 

We've also set aside seasons of fasting and prayer. So we'll say "Hey for this next month let's commit on Thursdays that we're gonna skip lunch. We're not able to all get together, but wherever we're at let's spend that time during lunch seeking the Lord in word and in prayer. So these are some real practical things we can do to encourage spiritual renewal on our team. One thing too and this is something that is related to this that I've tried to do in particular with our staff, is encourage our staff to make time for personal development. I imagine some of y'all are familiar with the five hour rule. Benjamin Franklin actually practiced this. Throughout his life he would take one hour each day to commit himself to learning, personal learning and development. And so I've encouraged our staff, this is kinda part of their work schedule, to take an hour each day to pursue personal development and renewal. They can read, they practice their craft, they can do any ... you know spend time in extended prayer. But to give themselves to personal renewal and growth. And I've found that that's really good for my soul and they have as well. So that's the first thing, a leader who's committed to caring for leaders, is committed to renewal.

Secondly would be rest. Rest. So in Mark chapter six, Jesus sends the disciples out to do ministry. And after the disciples have gone out, they preached the gospel, cast out demons, healed those who were sick. They returned and they're very excited, they've got a lot of stories to tell. And Jesus responds in Mark chapter six, verse 31 by saying "Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while." Rest a while. So Jesus is caring for them, right? Again he's calling them away to rest. Jesus is caring for his disciples by inviting to rest. And as he invites them to rest, Jesus is acknowledging that we are ... that they are embodied souls. That we have a soul and that that soul dwells within a body, and that Jesus' care for the disciples is holistic. So when we invite our leaders to rest we are caring for them holistically. We're caring for their souls and for their bodies. And so as leaders we should model sabbath rest, and should encourage those on our team to rest to celebrate the benefits of rest.

We had an elder that we were going through assessment with, this was a number of years ago. And there were a lot of things in this guys life that were commendable, but as we went through the assessment process one of the things that emerged was that he was just really stressed out. Demands at work, there were some unique demands in his family life that were beyond his control. And so as he was trying to tend to all these different things, he was just overwhelmed. And really the way that was expressing itself was he found himself being tempted, increasingly to be short with his wife and with his children and that sort of thing. 

So we started going through a process, we started reading some books together and listening to sermons and meeting together and so forth. And out of that he decided to set aside a day each week to rest, the sabbath rest. And it's just been really life giving to him. And now he's actually been serving faithfully as an elder at our church for about six years. And he really ... It's encouraging to see. He like tenaciously guards that day, he doesn't wanna schedule anything on that day. And that was just one example of encouraging rest, trying to model rest, celebrate rest, where we saw one of our leaders really embrace that. And it's been life giving for him and really see that as a blessing and a win for us. So we need to model and encourage regular rhythms of rest.

As a part of sabbath I would include as well, and this goes under rest I would include retreat. You see how I did that with another 'R'? Do you like that? So that's retreat. Okay. So here is something that I have not done very good at. For years I would schedule for our elders ... and that's the main leadership team that I lead besides our staff. So a lot of this I'm saying in terms of the context of our elders but it would apply more broadly to other leadership teams. But I would plan elder retreats, okay? And so what we would do on elder's retreats is we would meet all day Friday and Saturday. And when we would get together to meet, we'd spend about an hour in the morning in what I'd call word and prayer. We'd read the word some, we'd pray together. And then we'd launch into meetings then we'd get lunch together, then we'd have meetings all afternoon. And ... So we'd do that and we'd do that Saturday. And when we got done I just felt like "Man we got so much done. This was so productive and so forth." 

And after a while, y'all can probably see where this is going. Y'all are smarter than I am. After a while the elders were like "This is not a retreat. We enjoy this, but it is not a retreat." They started calling it an Elder's Intensive, okay? So we started having eld ... We renamed it Elder's Intensives for a while. But then we kept ... They kept pressing a little bit. They're like "Man we just need to spend some time together and this is just like ... This a lot of work, we're getting stuff done. But we just need to hang out." And so we started changes things with their input, which has been extremely helpful and I'm so thankful for. 

So now what we do, we tried to with the elders retreats plan times away, where we would get out of town for a weekend. But the way that our elder team is made up, we just got a lot of young elders that are having babies. And new babies, and the wife's pregnant and so forth. So it was just really hard for us to get out of town as a team. So now we really try to capture that Friday night and that Saturday night. So this last one we did on Friday night, all the elders and went out together, a nice place got dinner. On Saturday now all our families went out together. And we went to this dairy farm and there's like a trampoline there and a slide and all that stuff. A hay ride and so forth and we just had a blast. And the families had a really good time together. 

And we worked that into the budget, and we're intentional to do that on a consistent basis. And now as well we're trying to do one Friday each month where we get together, elders and their families for a dinner. And again we worked that into the budget because we feel like that's a priority and we want to invest relationally in the team that way. I say all that to say and some of you may not ... this may be particular strength of yours, but it wasn't for me. And it's something that I've recognized that as a leader it's easy for me to underestimate how much as a leadership team, we just need to spend time hanging out. We just time like nurturing those relationships and getting to know one another and spend time with each other without an agenda. Without trying to necessarily accomplish anything, with not checking a box at the end that we've gotten something done. So one of the ways that we care for our leaders is by creating space to rest and to retreat. 

Third, a leader who cares for leaders committed to reconcile. To reconcile. So we know this, conflict will happen. Not only will conflict happen in the church, but conflict will happen among the leaders. It's inevitable. And how we handle conflict says a lot about how well we are caring for our leaders. One thing I would say here and of course we could say all kinds of things about conflict, but one thing that I would say is we need to press in to conflict and see it as an opportunity rather than retreat from it. In this sense we need to be actively pursuing reconciliation. It is true that love covers a multitude of sins, right? And there are certain things we can and we should overlook, and we all need a lot of grace. But it is also true that there are many times where we are just overlooking minor offenses or weaknesses in love. But we are running from legitimate concerns out of fear, right? And that's unhelpful to the leadership team. One of my mentors often says "A leader's effectiveness is directly linked to his or her willingness to have hard conversations." A leader's effectiveness is directly linked to his or her willingness to have hard conversations.

And I think that's true in a lot of areas. I think that principle particularly applies in how we care for leaders. Are we willing to have hard conversations? Is it obvious in our leadership team that we are willing to conversations that are marked by truth and love? Truth that we're willing to be honest, we're willing to be sincere, we're willing to say hard things and to receive hard things. And we're willing to do that in love with humility and kindness. 

So we gotta be willing to say things like "You know what you said in that meeting really hurt me or embarrassed me. And I'd like for us to talk about that." Or "Hey, this project that we've been talking about for a while, it's just not getting done. And we need to make sure it gets done, so let's talk about that. What do we need to do to make sure this gets done?" Or "I know that you have a desire to serve in this role, but I just really don't believe this is the right fit for you right now. And so we need to talk about where can you plug in on the team where you can really thrive and flourish." Or "Hey man, we just ... we work too much and we don't hang out enough. Can you make some time for us to hang out and just relax?" Like my elders were saying to me.Sometimes it's tough, it's necessary ... It's tough to have those conversations but it's necessary. You know we were talking about the analogy of the vine and the branches before. And this is kinda like the pruning work. Nobody enjoys pruning but it's necessary to remove those obstacles that hinder relational health and healthy community on the leadership team. 

Okay, fourth commitment. Fourth commitment for a leader who leads leaders is respect. Respect. Dave Harvey actually talked about this a little bit in his talk last night. But Andy Crouch has been helpful to me in thinking about the dynamics of power and humility. Okay? He's been helpful for me in that regard. And most of us ... One of the things he points out is that most of us have or possess power and authority, that we just don't realize that we possess. So that's true actually even in this room right now that I possess a certain amount of power and authority. So I'm talking and you're listening, right? Everyone's like focused this way. All the chairs are like turned this way and directed towards me. I'm standing and you're sitting. Some of you may be thinking "I was really enjoying being here, but I don't know if I wanna be here anymore right?

So there's these dynamics though right? Of like power and authority and influence, that a lot of times we don't even realize are taking place. And there was a time ... Let me say this, if that is true here in this room, if you're a leader in your church, particularly let me say if you're a lead pastor in your church you can multiply that by like a 100 right? I mean you possess a tremendous amount of power and authority and influence in your church that often times you're probably unaware of. And so I used to actually deny that, like the sense of like I possessed power or authority. Because I felt like it was prideful or it was ... you know it wasn't being humble. But actually what we need to see is that when we deny it, we're actually ... we're putting ourselves in a place where we're blind to it and then we're more susceptible to abuse that power and not to discern how it can be used for good. So it's actually more helpful to acknowledge it and to own it, and then to reflect on okay, how do I not abuse this but how do I use it for good. 

So the key is not so much whether or not we possess authority and power, every single person in this room does. We just went around, everybody said your role in your church. You possess certain power and authority within your church. The question is how will you use that to serve and bless others rather than to abuse or hurt others. So again there's a lot we can say about this. But one of the ways I think that we need to be intentional about respecting the other leaders on our team, is in the way that we speak to them. And this has implications for the content and the tone of our speech. We should never be harsh or belittle another leader on our team, even if we disagree with them. But we should always treat them with respect. Ephesians 4, 29 says "Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths. But only such as good for building up as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear."

And so sometimes it's just helpful to say you know that, being a jerk is not macho nor is it being a good leader. Right? It's just being a jerk. And it's an abuse of power and it's a failure to care for others. So one of the ways that we respect those on our leadership team is obviously not speaking disrespectful to them. But in contrast to that to intentionally look for ways that God is working in their lives. This is something that [Soger 00:21:03] Network talks about a lot. I know Dave Harvey talks about it a lot, it's been really helpful to me. But intentionally recognizing the good that God is doing in one's life and to point that out and to encourage them. Sam Crabtree in his book Practicing Affirmation says ... he talks about the 3-1 rule. Some of y'all probably heard about this. But CJ Mahaney says that for his staff he has a 3-1 rule, three affirmations for every criticism. He says like in a marriage or that sort of thing, he would even make it a much larger ratio. But three affirmations for every one critique. 

And we see this especially with Paul in his letters that he's writing to the church. At the beginning of his letters, the end of his letters where he's pointing our certain leaders or that sort of thing. He's commending them, encouraging them. A lot of times we brush over that, but actually we should pause. Because that's a critical way that Paul caring for those leaders within those churches is to point out those evidences of grace. And that's a critical way in which he's strengthening those partnerships that exists between him and those churches. So we should respect the leaders that God has given us in our church, and one way is by honoring the work that God is doing in their lives and affirming them.

Fifth is receive. So the fifth commitment for a leader who cares for leaders is to receive. So in caring for leaders we need to remember that as a leader, we need care. And one of the things that's important here to recognize that when we receive care, we are not only being cared for but we are caring for others by receiving. So when we are vulnerable, when we're transparent, when we're willing to share our own weaknesses we create an environment in which others feel free to do the same. So I know that for many people, their first year of marriage is wonderful. It's like ... you know they refer to it as the honeymoon stage, 'cause it's kinda of an extended honeymoon. And first year of marriage is kinda the sense of like "I can't imagine us ever fighting or that sort of thing." And if that was your experience, I'm very happy for you. That was not our experience. 

So my wife and I, when we first got married we had a really tough first year of marriage. It was very difficult. We were trying to deal with some really challenging serious things in our marriage. So at that time ... I was already in ministry when we got married. And at that time we were actually pretty fearful and insecure about sharing that with our elders. And that's really not a reflection on our elders as it was a reflection on us. But when we humbled ourselves and we opened ourselves up to receive, man our elders were just so generous to give. And through that process you can imagine what happened. As began to share our challenges and the struggles we were having and the things we couldn't get past, the other elders just started opening up right? Like "Well we remember this time where we went through in our marriage. And just this season we didn't know how we were gonna get through." Or "We struggled with this." Or "This has been a hardship that we've dealt with." And it just ... It brought the whole leadership team closer together in remarkable ways.So caring is not always giving, that's the point I'm trying to make. Caring is not always giving. We actually care for others when we humble ourselves and take a posture of receiving. And so that's another important aspect in caring for leaders.

Sixth ... Sixth commitment in caring for leaders. And this is ... The sixth commitment is rely and this is similar to receive. We need to receive care. But what I wanna say here is we also need to rely on the strengths, giftedness and unique insights and wisdom of the other leaders that we serve with. Okay, so we need to rely on the strengths, gifts, unique wisdom and insight of the other leaders. Again Dave Harvey in his book Healthy Plurality Equals Durable Church says "Success is not just me arriving somewhere, but it's us." And he's referring to the leadership team. "It's us arriving somewhere together." And so if we're caring for the team well there needs to be this sense from whoever is the primary leader that we are in this together. And as much as you need me, I need you. I need your friendship, I need your gifts, I need your strengths, I need your unique insights. You matter to this team, and everyone on this team is working together to arrive at a certain destination. 

And when we do that, when we genuinely rely on others essentially what we're doing is we're acknowledging God's work in their life. We're acknowledging the unique way that God has gifted them. We're acknowledging the unique contribution they make to the team and they feel cared for. And they're experiencing care through that. And that's often more difficult to do than it is to say because it requires a number of things. Let me just mention a few. It requires one, that we give away authority. It requires that we're willing to give away authority to other leaders on the team. And so one of the things we need to be mindful of is not be threatened by what we might refer to as high capacity leaders. You know if there are men or women on the team who are high capacity leaders and they share a similar vision and they have character. And that's very important that they would share a similar vision and have real character, then we need to empower those leaders. 

Now some of you, if you're church planners and you're early on you might be saying "Where are these people? Because I'm just desperate for them. I want them now!" You know? But it's interesting like you're so desperate for them early on, but then as you go further along you can start to feel really threatened individuals like that right? And so it's important that we be willing to empower those leaders and give them real authority. Another we need to do in this regard in relying on other leaders is we need to create an atmosphere that encourages open dialogue and allows for pushback. That encourages open dialogue and allows for pushback. So we need to regularly try to seek out feedback from our leaders. One of the way that we do this at our church is we have a service review each week. And we go through the service and we get to the sermon. And basically all the people on the staff ... I want everybody to go around and tell me "What did you think was helpful from the sermon? What do you think was good about the sermon? And then where are the areas that you feel like, maybe I was unclear or I could've done better? Or there was something that maybe I said was wrong?" 

And we just go around and we do that every week and I want that to be done in public, so that other people can hear individuals on the team giving me honest feedback. I think that's just so critical. I try to do this if I have an opportunity to teach, if I'm in a meeting. If I'm in a counseling situation, a hard conversation and there's another leader with me when that's done, I regularly try to be intentional to say "How did you think that go?" Or "How did you think that went?" You know? "What did you think was positive? What would you do differently?" If we're going to truly rely on fellow leaders, they need to have sense of confidence that they're input is welcomed and it's encouraged. And that when they give it we can handle it, and in fact we invite it. Right? So that goes to a lot of ... just idea too. We've gotta be secure enough to receive that but we wanna create that kind of environment. 

Another thing, I'm still on this point of rely. But another thing I'd say we need to give away authority, we need to create an atmosphere of open dialogue and feedback and then the other thing I would say on this if we're gonna really rely on other leaders is, we have to be willing to submit. We have to be willing to submit. And think about this in particular as it relates to being on an elder team, but we need to be willing to lose votes, we need to be willing to submit and we need to be willing to follow. We need to be willing yield and trust the collective wisdom of the team. 

So just to ... This is a pretty simple illustration. But I remember just ... even this last ... I was talking about recently our elders got together for about a day and a half. And there was a situation that came up about membership. There was a couple that I had done the membership interview with them. And so I came to the elders, and I had a particular idea ... There was an issue about their baptism. About whether they could join or not given the situation with their baptism. And so I was presenting this to the elders, and I was thinking this was gonna go in a certain direction. Actually I was hoping to ... I thought we should probably receive them into membership. And so I brought it up to the elders and I said "Okay, let's talk about this." And immediately the conversation went in the direction ... a direction I did not anticipate. 

And so they were leaning towards ... in a different direction. I felt pushback just a little bit. And they started talking about it a little bit more, and I'm just kinda listening. And they're still headed in another direction. And at that point, I knew I could push more if I wanted to, but I just felt like you know it's better for me just to resign and say ... So basically what I did was. I said "Okay, I think it's clear we've made our decision. Let's move on to the next item." And so we decided those folks are not actually gonna be joining our church. But one of things that I learned from another mentor early on actually, it's that often times it's more important that I be willing to trust the leadership team and yield to the leadership team, than always convince them of where I want to go and get them to go there. And as you do that, the team will feel cared for. They will feel cared for because they're not there just to rubber stamp. But they actually have a voice and you're recognizing it, acknowledging God's gift in their life and role and the unique contribution that they make. 

Okay, so seventh and last commitment for leaders who are committed to caring for leaders is remove. Remove. So in Acts chapter 20 verses 29 to 30, Paul is talking to the elders at Ephesus. And he says "I know that after my departure, fierce wolves will come in among you not sparing the flock. And from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them." So Paul acknowledges that among the elders at Ephesus, there are gonna arise individuals who are gonna be wolves to the congregation. They're supposed to be shepards but they turn out to be wolves. And it's always sad, it's always difficult to remove a leader. But sometimes it's the best thing we can do to care for the leaders in our church. 

We've been talking about health and having a healthy leadership team. And a bad leader can be like a virus, like a bacteria to a leadership team. And really sap the vitality and life out of the team. I remember early on in the ministry at the church where I serve, we had an elder who came on our elder board. And we had a very small elder board at that time, so this made it even more difficult. It wasn't a doctrinal error, it wasn't even like a sexual ... like a moral failure. Like he was sexually unfaithful to his wife or he had been involved in some financial scandal or that sort of thing. But what we found over time was that, there was just an unwillingness to submit to the elders. There was kinda this sense that like once he became an elder, well now we're gonna do it my way. You know? So we just found this happening time after time, where we would have things come up and the elders would disagree, and the elders would wanna move in one direction. And he would kinda lock things down. Like you know? He even at times threatened you know "Well if we don't do it this way, then I'm gonna have to resign." Kinda thing.

And so we had a number of difficult conversations and then eventually, just came to the conclusion that he has to be removed from the elder board. And that was really tough, we were really small at that time and it was really difficult to do. But it was necessary and actually it was the best way for us to care for the leaders and the church as whole, was to remove him. And so sometimes, when we're caring for leaders that's one of the best things we can do, is to remove a bad leader. Sometimes we do have to do that.

So those are the seven commitments. Renewal, rest, reconcile, respect, receive, rely and remove. I'm gonna read one passage of scripture here and then open it up for questions. But this is from Second Samuel chapter 23, verses three to four. Second Samuel 23, three to four. Love this verse, this from David. "The God of Israel has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me when one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of the Lord. He dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning. Like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth." And so as we care for leaders this can be a prayer for us. David's prayer can be a prayer for our own lives and ministries that our leadership would bring light and life to the leaders who have been entrusted to our care.

The Pastor and Hospitality: Why hospitality is at the core of biblical evangelism


Really quick intro about myself. Live in Seattle area, north of Seattle. Actually grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. I'm from the great frozen north, where practicing hospitality can be quite hard unless you're stranded in a ditch and you need someone to help pull you out. Then people can be very hospitable. Other than that, it's a little bit challenging.

My wife and I have been married for 16 years and we have four kids together, all girls. I'm surrounded by a princess posse all day long, ages five through 13, almost 13. When I think of hospitality, there's a few images that kind of pop into my mind right out of the gate. When they emailed me, and Dave asked me if I would want to speak on this, I said, Hospitality. Okay. The first image that comes to mind for me is my grandmother. She's about 80 years old, and she, for as long as I can remember, was always into the hospitality that meant she studied where the forks and the knives went. Which cup you put in which area, and I remember as a kid being like, is Grandma insane?

She had books by Emily Post and Ms. Manners, you guys know what I'm talking about? My mom would actually be like, "Oh, Aaron, before we go over to Grandma's house, remember to not put your elbows on the table."

This was what hospitality meant in some of my earliest formative years. I'm like, that's terrible.

When I think about hospitality, I also think about one of the men who was a founding elder of our church at Sound City. Being from Texas, he would always talk about southern hospitality and how he wanted to bring more southern hospitality into our church. Then he would always go on these rants about how southern hospitality is sham, and it's a fraud, because everyone welcomes you in, and they're all nice to your face, then you leave and they all talk bad about you behind your back. He's like, "It's just not even real. That's not real hospitality."

The other thing that I think about is, in Seattle, in our context, we have this thing called the Seattle Freeze. Other than Trevor, has anyone here heard of the Seattle Freeze, anyone familiar with that?

Okay, it's a real thing, you can google it. There are articles about it. The Seattle Freeze is basically, we care about everything. We care about the environment, we care about whales, we care about land rights, we care about whatever social justice thing is happening, we just don't care about you. When you walk through the streets of Seattle, it's this thing, the Seattle Freeze.

Here, my wife and I were touring downtown yesterday, we're walking around, and people would be like, "Hey, how's it going?"

In Seattle, people will look at you like, "What is wrong with you?" If you do that to them. It is a very cold, inhospitable culture. Lots of reasons why, a lot of people have transplanted there from around the country, everybody feels like a stranger. The weather doesn't help things, it's gloomy, it's rainy. People who are like, into depressing emo music move to Seattle, and they don't like things like friendliness and eye contact. 

The Seattle Freeze, and it's a real thing and we wrestle against that in our culture. We're up in the suburbs, which adds even another layer of complexity because people drive out of their garage to their work, go to work, they drive back into their garage and they go to their favorite third place, which is Netflix.

We're dealing with this stuff. For me, when we think about hospitality, what I want to think of is, I don't want to think of those things primarily. I don't want to think about my dear Grandma. I don't want to think about southern hospitality, as much as I love good home cooking. I don't even want to think about the Seattle Freeze. I want to think about the heart of the gospel.

That's kind of the central idea that I want to get across to you today, is that hospitality is not something a pastor or church should do. It really is intrinsic to the heart of the gospel itself. I find that hospitality is best defined in contrast to fellowship.

I want you to think of two categories here. You've got, look at the gospel project here for kids, it's good. You've got over here on the one side, you've got fellowship, but then over here on the other side, you've got hospitality. Hos ... pital ... ity. My brain goes faster than my hand can write.

Fellowship. This is your Acts chapter two sort of description, right? You're familiar with this passage that says they devoted themselves to the apostles, ching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers, awe came upon every soul, you guys know this passage, right?

All who believed were together and had all things in, what's the word? Common. As they were selling their possessions, belonging, distributing to the proceeds of all, you had need day by day, attending the temple together, breaking bread in their home, they received their food with glad and generous hearts. Praising gods, having favor with all the people, and the lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The word in there, there's two words in there, there's the word fellowship, which we see back in verse 42, and there's the word, having all things in common. Those words are etymologically related. Fellowship is the word koinonia. It's actually where we get our word for Koine Greek. Are you guys familiar with the common Greek. The common language of the day, because of this great guy named Alexander and the Greek world, they spread the Greek language throughout the entire region. Everyone had this language in common.

It's a commonality. When you think about biblical fellowship, which is a good, and valuable and necessary part of the Christian life, you have to remember that it starts with something in common. Whether that's the gospel itself or whether that's like we've talked about, some theological convictions, or in certain parts of the world, you have something in common, a sports team or a particular band. People come together because they have something in common.

Christians are no different. In fact, we would say we have the greatest thing in common, which is we've been redeemed through the blood of Jesus. We're part of this family. Fellowship is an important part of the Christian life, but by itself is incomplete. This is where hospitality comes into play. Matthew 25:35, you remember Jesus talking about the final day of judgment. He talks about, I was hungry, you gave me food, I was thirsty, you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me.

I was a stranger. The word underneath that in the Greek is "Xenos," it's where we get our word for xenophobia. In Hebrews 13:2, one of the more fascinating verses in the bible, "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers," There it is again, "For thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

What a fascinating verse. This biblical practice of fellowship is, we've got something in common already. This is you on a Sunday morning, you're standing at the connect desk, someone shows up, they say, "Hey, we just moved into town. We've been looking for a good gospel church, we looked through your website, we liked your doctoral state, we listened to a couple of sermons, we think this might be a church that we could plug in."

How easy is your job at that point, right? Oh, this is going to go well. We have something in common. Contrast that with, in our world, we go to pick up our kids after school in the afternoon, you strike up conversation with another mom or another dad, and they start talking about their Wiccan friend, and their Wiccan beliefs, maybe that's just a Seattle thing. You guys know what Wiccans are, earth worshipers, it's not too uncomfortable ... you have three? In your neighborhood, or ?

audience: No that is like, in the county adjacent.

Speaker 1: Oh, right. There are three Wiccans total in the county, gotcha. Yeah.

audience: There might be in all of Kentucky.

Speaker 1: This is when you strike up some conversation, they start telling you about their odd earth worship, or maybe for you guys it's the agnostic or the atheist, I don't believe in any god or whatever. They start having these conversations, and what's always funny to me, at least in Seattle, with politics and religion, people will start talking to you with the assumption that you already agree with them.

The gym, working out with a group of people, and someone brings up politics, and the way they start talking about it is, they couldn't believe that there is such a unicorn animal who exists that would vote for Donald Trump. City of Seattle, very liberal, very progressive, you would never see a Trump sticker in the city. Bernie Sanders was too conservative for a lot of people in the city of Seattle.

We have a bona fide socialist, not a democratic socialist, a socialist on city council who won running as a socialist. They approach you like, oh, don't we have this thing in common? You're sitting there like, I don't believe your religious beliefs, I probably don't share some of your same moral convictions. You're already now at odds. You've got an opportunity to either retreat or to press in.

That's really, at the core of biblical hospitality. The two are definitely inter related, okay? You can see this in Romans 12:13. The apostle Paul wrote, contribute to the needs of the saints. That's your fellowship part. You're giving, you're contributing to whatever the saints need, and seek to show a hospitality.

I would even go so far as to say, if you have one without the other, as a church or as a, just a disciple of Jesus, there's a healthy imbalance there. Fellowship without hospitality, what do you have? You have a clique. Everybody's got everything in common, it's us four, no more, we're really happy in our little clique.

If you have hospitality without fellowship, what do you have? You've got people whose needs aren't being met. You're missing out on growth, edification, iron sharpens iron, all of that sort of stuff. 

Here's how I define hospitality in light of the difference between the two. Hospitality is taking upon yourself the responsibility to help someone move from unknown to known. To help somebody move from stranger to family. When you recognize that there is not that commonality there, it's pressing in and saying, I'm going to do the heavy lifting. I'm going to do the hard work of finding where there is a commonality.

Finding where there can be a bridge, and I'm going to do the work of bringing you close to me. Does that make sense? Is that helpful, have you guys heard that contrast before? Okay. I'm not making any of this up, hopefully.

The real question though is how. It's funny to me, when you're going to practice hospitality, what's one of the first things we talk about? It was actually common in at least two of my illustrations, right? My Grandma and the guy from Texas, the pastor from Texas, it's always this invitation to a table.

It's always an invitation to a meal. It would be weird if when you first met somebody, and found out you didn't have anything in common, you invited them to go swimming. That would be strange. Hey, you want to put on your swimsuits and expose, especially in the pacific northwest you've got a lot of pasty white flesh? Let's go swimming. No, you usually start with a meal. 

You start with, why don't we go get coffee? Why don't we go get food. Why don't you come, gasp, into my house? By the way, in Seattle, that's a big hill to crest. Come into my house. Come have a meal with me at my house. Parts of the south or the Midwest, you're probably more practiced in that, but for us, that's a big hurdle to overcome.

Actually it's interesting. I just went to Africa for the first time earlier this year. I went to Uganda, and we have a member of our church that started an elementary school there. One of the things that we were going to do, we were going to do this prayer walk around some of the villages. Very remote area, and we're walking around, we were with some local pastors, they're like ... just watch this.

We walked for hours. We walked for about five hours. We probably met 100, 120 people, and without fail, every single one of them invited us into their home, offered us something from their crops, gave ... This poor Seattle boy, my mind was blown at just the level of hospitality that exists in other parts of the world.

That was like, man. Even that, there was a lot of people, there's a lot of animism, paganism, witchcraft, even there, there's lack of commonality. The language barrier, the different skin colors, all of that. We're still trying ... they're being hospitable in one sense, but we're trying to do that hard work of trying to build a bridge, to help open up the door for the gospel of Jesus. Think about how much imagery in the bible revolves around a table.

Think about how much in the bible is about a table. Abraham and Melchizedek, sitting together after Abraham goes and rescues his fool of a nephew. Think about King David going and getting Mephibosheth, the son of his enemy, King Saul, inviting him to reside at his table permanently. Not just a stranger, but an actual, bona fide enemy, come and eat with me.

Think about Elijah and the Syrian army. You guys remember that story? They all get blinded, Elijah goes out, he invites them in, he feeds them a meal. This army was sent specifically for the purpose of killing Elijah. You know that you're doing something right when the army doesn't want to attack the king, it wants to go attack the prophet.

He invites them in and feeds them, you think of Jesus sitting with tax collectors and sinners. That was one of the critiques against Jesus, is that "You eat with these people who are outcasts and are sinners."

Think about Jesus telling the parable of the great banquet. Jesus is saying, "Here's what the end of the age, here's what the kingdom is going to look like. All the important people, they don't want to come to the party. Go out to the highways, go out to the hedges, and compel them," Jesus says, "To come in."

Peter going to Cornelius, moving outside the Jewish centric mindset and following God to invite the Gentiles to come in to the family of God The wedding feast at the end of the age in Revelation 19. It's people coming to a table to sit with Jesus. I think of the verse in Ephesians 2 where it says, You are no longer strangers, there's our word. We're no longer Xenos. We're no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God.

If we're members of the household of God, we get to eat at the table with our heavenly father. How good news is that?

This is actually at the heart of the gospel. If we think about our relationship with God, it could be said, that the story of the gospel is Jesus taking upon himself the responsibility of moving us from a stranger to family. That's what Jesus did. Jesus practiced hospitality in his ministry, to go and find those who were at one time alienated, who had nothing in common, and to bring us in, to make us brothers and sisters by inviting us to the table. Isn't that actually what he does? He invites us to the table. 

This bread is my body, which is broken for you. This blood is poured out for you. When you do this, as often as you do this, do this in remembrance of me. Church leaders, your practice of hospitality is far greater and far deeper than just, A good thing to do, a nice church growth strategy, make your church warm and welcoming.

It may do all of those things, but my conviction is that hospitality really is at the core of the gospel itself. When we practice hospitality ... Yes, fellowship as well, but when we practice hospitality, to go find those, to go build those bridges, we are imaging god, and we are living out the gospel, indeed, which by God's grace, we hope would lead to opportunities to share the gospel in word.

That's my biblical case for it. Now, I'll just share with you briefly a couple of the primary objections, and then we'll open this up for Q and A and discussion time. Here are the, I think the big four that I get.

I'll try to address them the best I can, and we'll come back to them. The number one objection that I hear from people is, "Aaron, that's fine for you. You area raging extrovert, but I am an introvert and I struggle to break that, you know, that barrier with people."

Actually, the first time my wife and I came to a sojourn event, Brad House, who's one of the board members, I've known Brad from his time in Seattle, and Brad says, Man, I'm so glad to have you here. He goes, "do you need me to like, introduce you to people? Then he said, Actually, nevermind, you are both aggressively social. You'll figure it out."

Those words, my elder team still calls me. YOu're the aggressively social. I think that's good? I don't know. Here's the thing if you're an introvert, you struggle with that. Man, it's sometimes hard for me to get past that barrier. It's hard for me to spark up the conversation, let me just offer you a couple of thoughts.

Number one, make sure that you're not using that as an excuse for conviction. This really is a gospel issue, this really is a priority in our lives. I would also encouraging you towards pacing. If you are an introvert, I know enough about introverts to know that that doesn't mean you don't like people, it means that you need some more time on your own to so to speak, recharge your batteries.

Jesus himself did that. It says in Luke that Jesus would often withdraw to lonely places to pray. Jesus needed some alone time with the father. Then he'd go catch up with the disciples later, walking across the lake and scaring them to death. If you're an introvert think about pacing. Think about intentionality. When and how you're going to do it. If you're a preacher or you serve on a church staff, and you know you've got a long, tiring day coming up on Sundays, maybe you shouldn't be inviting people over on Saturday night, because that's going to drain you and deplete you.

Maybe you need to do it on a Thursday night, so you've got some time on a Friday or a Saturday to kind of get away, pray, or recharge your batteries. Introverts, that's one of the great misnomers. If you're an introvert, I'm trying to defend you here as an extrovert. If you're an extrovert, repent of judging the introverts, right?

Introverts are people-people as well, but you need that time to reset and recharge. Be intentional, think about your pacing, but make sure that being an introvert isn't an excuse that's keeping you from the work of the gospel, okay?

We can come back to all these, too. Here's another objection I hear. "I just hate small talk."

Okay, fair enough. Who loves small talk? Anybody gone home, "how was your time with the guys?"

"It was great, we talked nothing of substance whatsoever." Actually, I shouldn't lie. I have enjoyed that, because as a pastor you're often talking about nothing but deep and heavy things. Sometimes it's good to just talk about the Seahawks for two hours.

Let me just say this about small talk, okay? Think of it as one of those little ... I don't know what the right word is, a little bolt or a little piece of that bridge that you're building. YOu're trying to do this work of building a bridge, and small talk is just a little piece, but it can be helpful to moving the conversation forward, whether that's talking about the weather. Talking about the community, talking about sorts in your region, talking about a concert you went to recently. Small talk can be helpful of moving the conversation forward.

Let me offer it to you this, too. Don't let it stay at small talk. I want to encourage you to foster genuine curiosity about people. Genuinely curious. What does this person live, what is their experience been? What have they experienced in recent times?

IF you're brave, you can go there. How are you processing all of this stuff in the nation now with racial tensions? What do you think about politics? You can actually go deeper with people more quickly if you're approaching it from a question, and getting to know them. I'm genuinely curious about you, I'm genuinely interested in what makes you tick.

People are more willing to go deep in conversation than we sometimes realize. They don't necessarily want you to come on and start laying all of your opinions, and your perspectives on them, but when you start asking questions, people are often willing to open up.

Think of Jesus with the Samaritan woman, the woman at the well. Their conversation went pretty deep, pretty quickly, right? You have five husbands, and the one you're with now isn't ... it went pretty deep pretty fast. Got your marital history and she tries to distract and talk theology, and he doesn't let her off the hook and she ends up becoming the biggest evangelist for Jesus in her home town.

Why? Because Jesus said, "What about your husband? What's going on? Tell me about your relationships."

In my experience, I have found that people are far more willing to open up to share when you start asking questions. It's incumbent upon us as believers to actually develop genuine curiosity. I just want to know. 

Some of you are naturally curious, that's great, use that. Some of you need to foster that and develop that a little bit more.

Third excuse I use, objection. I'm afraid. I'm genuinely freaked out. Three possibilities. Number one, if your fear is fear of the unknown, fear of the other, you may just need to repent. Xenophobia is actually a sin. If you are scared to have [inaudible 00:21:42] of a different ethnicity, different political party or a different background, or a different life style or a different sexual orientation, you need to repent of being afraid of them.

God has not given us a spirit of fear. He's called us to love. He's called us to love who? Our neighbor, Our friends. He's called us to love our enemies. Based on all the biblical categories of who we're called to love, you find me somebody that doesn't fit into that category.

They all do. Some of you may just need to repent of your fear. I'm going to keep people at an arm's distance because I'm afraid to get to know them. Others of you, it may be a, "I need to pray. I need to get my heart right with the lord and not give place to fear and remember that the lord is your strength and your protection."

We actually had a conversation recently in our community group, we have one member in particular who is very gifted with hospitality and evangelism, and mercy.

This plays out in where he ends up striking up conversations with homeless people almost everywhere he goes. He wanted to care for them, wanted to love them, and their spouse really struggled with that because there was fear. What if they track us down and kill us?

We had to have conversations about ways he could love his wife better, but ways that she needed to not give so much place to fear. 

Here's maybe the most common one, or the most helpful I can give you. There's fear, you might need to phone a friend, and bring them along with you. Jesus sent the disciples out how? Two by two. If you're wanting to put into your life a biblical practice of hospitality, bring a friend with you. Somebody that you already know a little bit, somebody that's maybe trying to grow in this as well. That actually is just a practical help, too.

Then you can say to somebody, "Hey, we're having some friends over, do you guys want to join us?"

We're going to get together, we're going to have a meal. We're going to get together and do some dessert, or we're going to get together. You want to come over and join us? Then you actually have an opportunity so people don't maybe feel like they're being singled out. Bring a friend along with you.

Somebody you know you've already got something in common with. That way it can help you allay some of those fears. The last one is maybe the most common, and it's simply, "I don't have enough time."

I don't have enough time. There aren't enough hours in the day. Let me ask two questions about time. What might you need to cut out? It might need to go. Where can there be fat that can be trimmed, it doesn't need to be a part of your life? Sometimes, I'm not trying to shame anybody or guilt somebody, but could I just see your Netflix watching, your history over the last couple of weeks? Then you tell me how much time you don't have for, not only hospitality, but reading the bible, praying, loving your family? I don't know.

Some of us, it's Netflix, it's diversions or it's whatever. Maybe some things need to be cut out, maybe. Not trying to be prescriptive here. Here's what I have found to be even more helpful, is, what natural rhythms do you already have in your life that you can combine with hospitality?

I have another woman in our community group, she met a neighbor recently, and they were talking. This neighbor apparently doesn't drive. She usually takes the bus, transit, like a real good Seattlite, they recycle, they compost, they take the bus, they're going to go to Seattle Heaven.

This woman in our community group said, "I have to go to the grocery store later this week, would you want to go together, we could do our grocery shopping together?"

Just stay at home moms combining natural rhythms of life. For me, I've got a couple different natural rhythms. I go to to the gym. I do it in a group setting so I can talk with people and not just have my headphones in. I love to do cigars. Yes, I go to the gym and I smoke cigars because I don't want to be too healthy. Guys in the backyard around the fire pit with cigars, that's easy to have guys who are Christians and who are not Christians come over.

We're involved in our kids' school, our neighborhood school. We have to go to the school, we have to be involved in some of these things anyways. How can I look for opportunities to combine what I'm already doing with rhythms of hospitality? If we're over at the school sermon, I can meet this other dad, and I can be like, "Hey, let's do this watchdog dads thing together."

Then I get an opportunity to stand there and talk with this person while we're helping out, volunteering with the school. What might you be able to ... by the way, that's how we got, the people who are hosting our community group right now, we met them through one of our kids' birthday parties and ... for our daughters to spend the night, and we were like, "No, we don't let our daughters spend the night at other peoples' houses," but we had the convenient excuse, "We have to get up for church in the morning."

"Oh, what church?" Conversation, boom. Now we're in a community relationship together because our kids have a rhythm in common, a birthday party. Those are the four most common objections I hear. I'd love to open it up for collaboration, open it up for questions, and let's kind of dive into this together. 

First of all, I hope I've made my case compellingly enough that hospitality, biblical hospitality, different than fellowship, some of us church folk, we slide into nothing but fellowship real easy. It's different.

Biblical hospitality is at the core of the gospel itself. Jesus comes and gets us strangers and brings us into the family. If we work together, and if we lean on each other, we can fight through some of the natural objections and things that we work through. Just a couple questions, how does the gospel stir your heart towards a lifestyle of hospitality? When you really think about Jesus coming and finding you and inviting you to the table, when you were the stranger? Just, again, not shame, not guilt, but just, when was the last time a non Christian was in your home for a meal? When was the last time you were at a coffee shop with ... you spend all your time with Christians, or do you have substantive time with nonbelievers.

I find for myself that's the hardest one. I'm a pastor. I'm pretty sure that all of our staff is Christians. The people I spend the majority of our time with, I'm meeting with people for counseling, or elder candidates, it's hard. I've hard to intentionally fight for time with non Christians.

How can, for you, your natural rhythms of life, how can they be combined with hospitality, and what are some ways that you could help develop genuine curiosity about others? When was the last time you were surprised by something somebody told you about themselves?

Let me kick it to you guys, let's open this up. What comes to mind? What other objection did I not answer? What things are you bumping up against in your practice of biblical hospitality, welcoming the stranger in?

The Unseen Opportunities of Small Town Church Planting


A little over seven years ago, God moved me, my wife Melissa, my daughter Beth who is 14 years old, and our two cats who are about the same age, from Southern California to Northern Ohio. I was on a staff at a large church at the time and it seemed like God was opening a ministry door for us in a place that I had actually traveled through many times in Ohio. I traveled in my earlier years. It was actually a state I really enjoyed immensely as a tourist, if there are tourists of Ohio. I don't know. 

That was something that happened about eight years ago, and a couple things with that. Let me rabbit off a couple things with that. Number one yes, I am a horrible father for moving my daughter across the country at the fragile age of 14 years old. I've got to own that one I don't get to go back and reverse that, it happened, and there's still a lot of forgiveness in the air between me and her that we're working out, okay?

Number two, yes the culture shock moving from Southern California, south of LA, Orange County area was and is a real thing that I completely discounted at the time. 

And then three, we didn't actually move to Ohio to plant a church and in fact, if you just heard Joel's session, there was probably three or four moments where I looked over at Big M, my wife Melissa, and I said, "Is he telling our story, or his story?" Because ... and if you talk to Danny Wright who we're gonna talk to in a little bit, it is my story. This whole thing about being on staff at a large church, wanting to plant a church, having them just completely say, "Absolutely not," and then having us completely say, "But that's what we're going to do," and then just having it be this horrendous process that in some ways we're still immersed in that did not go well. But, God in His goodness has blessed it anyway.

As to my third point about how the fact that we didn't go to Ohio to plant a church, God had done something even as we got into ministry in that He'd always placed me in the company of church planters. I don't know why this was, and I don't know why, if some of these guys were just drawn to me because I have a little bit of an entrepreneurial thing going on, you know, I've started things. The comment that I got repeatedly from these dudes, over the ... Being in the company of these guys was, "I think you're going to plant a church someday Ronnie." To which I usually replied, "Never let me hear you utter those words again." Right? I mean, it just was not on my radar whatsoever, and really, I think part of it was I thought these dudes were crazy. 

I would look at what they were doing, and what they were endeavoring, and it just felt nuts to me, and it seemed way more nuts than any entrepreneurial thing that I had ever attempted, and what I didn't know at the time, was that God was, really, He was planting a seed in me through these brothers that was going to come to fruition in the not so distant future. Like I said before, as I alluded to, my move to small town Ohio, man, it just initially did not go well. We found ourselves on staff at another large church. So, I'd come from a large church. I'd gotten on staff at another large church, and it just turned out the opposite of what we might call a "fit," right from the very beginning.

And you know, without going into all the gory details, at some point we knew our time was coming to an end, and again, part of me being weary and tired of being harassed by church planters ... Because I moved to Ohio and here I am, just surrounded by church planters. Here I am in Columbus once a month, hanging out at a Gospel Collation Group with other planters and pastors, I don't know. It's just where I find myself in these circles, and church planters can be a little ... They can get into your personal space a little bit. They can kind of harass you, quite a bit. You know, there's something inherent to that personality. 

But so at one point, Melissa and I, Big M as we like to call her, we asked God to create a desire in us to plant if that's what He had planned all along. I don't know. When you get that kind of push all the time, at some point, you got to go, "I don't know God, is this like you speaking in, or am I just hearing voices that I wish would shut up?" You know? 

So, we started praying about it and after a little while ... again, I'm skipping a lot of details ... the California kids planted a church in Ashland, Ohio, and three years later we ... It was so much fun, we planted another one in a town called Wooster, which should not be pronounced like "Rooster" unless you want to die a death in a small town.

But, like all endeavors, which church planting is a humble endeavor as you guys well know ... Man, we've learned a lot, we're learning more. We're going on five years into this, and I feel like I ... I feel like we're just beginning in some ways. More than anything, what struck me as we were coming from very crowded suburban, chaotic, Southern California, more than anything, was that we realized that what would have been presented to us by being in this town where just opportunities that we could have never anticipated ... because one of the big things is the sexiness of church planting. The hype of church planting over the last 15 years has been huge, you know? 

You got TK, you got Keller, you got Acts 29, so you got all this stuff that's happening and so all you ever hear about and all I ever heard about in the churches that we're at, where planters actually left was, "Man, you gotta go urban church planting." So, the big thing is, man, I want to hit the city, you know? That's what we want to do. 

I started reading Center Church by Keller, and I mean, God blessed Tim Keller, right? I mean, we love TK. I mean we understand the allure of urban planting, right? We understand there's nothing more sexy than just storming the gates of Manhattan with our Crossway ESV in one hand and our white paper on Social Justice in the other hand, right? There's something about that that appeals to all of us 'cause we're explorers and we're adventurers. 

But God did not really drop that in our laps. Here we are in this small town, and we're seeing that there is a lock of something, and I'm not a small town dude. You know what I mean? I'm not a small town guy, but we're seeing that there's something here and then in the surrounding towns that we'd kind of become familiar with. There was something there that was lacking, but we weren't hearing a lot of stuff. Like right now, you got A29 starting to talk about urban planting or small town planting because I've been harassing Dave and Dave for the last three years. Here we are. We got a break out talking about small town planting and Sojourn. 

What was interesting was that my heart wasn't really warm for urban planting. My heart wasn't really warmed up for small town planting either, but God was doing a work, led us into planting, and it was actually, believe it or not, it was during that time as I was reading Center Church of all books, it got me thinking about the opportunities that He was applying to downtown urban planting that I think totally applied in this weirdo urban/suburban mix that you get with small town planting. 

What I'm going to lay out to you ... This is not exposition. Obviously, this is a little more like what [Brooksy 00:07:23] just did where I'm just gonna speak, and I have 10 things, 10 things that I'm calling 10 Unseen Opportunities that I've just seen over the last few years, and even before, that have been unique to gospel-centered churches being faithfully planted in small towns, and what are some of the advantages of looking at some of these towns that are being abandoned and of which the gospel has just been depleted from? What are some of those opportunities that we can find and we can see, and that God can use to produce some gospel fruit? And again, this is just my town that I'm speaking out of, town of about 25-30,000 people. This is not some collective perspective, necessarily. So, if you guys are from towns or you're looking at towns, you're going to be like, "That's not like my town at all," I'll be like, "Not going to argue," because some of these things are unique. 

I do think that these are wide enough to be at least somewhat applicable to anything that you might be thinking in terms of small-town church planting, which I think is really important. Again, what we're seeing, especially with planters, especially over the last 15 years, especially with dudes that are 25 to 35, which may have grown up in small towns, there's always this sort of reactive thing, that they want to get out of the town, right? They want to get into something that has a little more life, that's a little more vibrant. And so, again, the push to cities has been a great thing. 

There's no criticism of that, but where does that leave just these hundreds and thousands of small towns that are anywhere from 5,000 to 25,000 people? Where does that leave them when you have a bunch of mainline denominations that litter the town? Every small town has nine or 10 Methodist churches, and no offense to all you brothers that came from Methodist backgrounds, I'm not here to drive on your concrete there with any of that, but what you see is you see a movement had once happened, is largely dead, and there is just sort of this settledness of eternal autumn and death in the air. I'm a little poetic sometimes so you have to bear with me at this.

So here's-

Speaker 2: [inaudible 00:09:29] 

Ronnie: Yeah, there you go. 

So, here's 10 Things, and so what I want to do is I want to lay out these 10 Things, and we'll do a little Q & A if you guys have some questions. And then I'm going to bring up Danny Wright, who is a friend who has been a guy that has been involved in a plant for much longer than me, and I want to ... I want to ask him some questions about what it looks like after five years, what it looks like after 15 years, when you faithfully have just been in this scenario and some of the things and some of the wisdom that he has that far exceeds mine. They just asked me to do this instead of Danny because I'm ... I talk louder and I'm a bigger jackass, so ...

Here's the first thing. So if you're thinking about small town church planting, if you're in a city, if you're looking out, if you've decided, "Hey, I just don't want to go to the other side of the city," but I'm seeing, especially in the mid-west these towns that kind of dot the outer perimeter of these big cities that nobody's talking about, maybe they've turned them into bedroom communities for commuters. That's happening as well, but here's 10 Things.

The first one is Gospel Presence. I'm putting that one at the top. Gospel Presence. Small towns ... I just said this a minute ago, but they tend to be ... I've driven through a lot of these towns. I've taken notes in a lot of these towns ... Small towns are littered, they seemed to be littered with mainline denoms. Is anybody a part of the mainline denomination? I'm gonna step on somebody's toes right now, and I just want to ... Okay, great. I can say whatever I want now. 

They're litter with mainline denominations many of whom ... and I can attest to this in our town ... have abandoned the Gospel and really have become a shadow of what they used to be. You see this in towns of this size. If you can visit some of these churches, and this is what you'd be greeted by. You'd be greeted by just these scant numbers of, again, kind-hearted people, kind hearted parishioners, who really, at the end of the day, seem to be hanging on by a thread in an old building that really has become a museum of former glories.That's what you seem to see. They're hanging on, there's 25 people there, they got this gorgeous building, and they stacked up so much money in the bank. All they keep doing is dying and diminishing and there's no life left, so there's kind of a sadness to what you see in a lot of these towns. 

A gospel-centered church, a Gospel-centered presence has the opportunity to serve as a lighthouse, as a lighthouse in a town of churches that, in a sense, have just drifted out to sea. And so you go into a small town, and a lot of times these ... there's a 140 churches in our town, 140 churches in a town of 25,000 that takes you literally six minutes to drive from one end to the other of the town. 140 churches. 

There's some gospel churches. There is, and you don't want to steer that far. I've met up with brothers that are preaching the Gospel. They can do it a little bit different than us. Their jeans aren't going to be as tight, you know? There's all those things in place, right? It's going to be, you know, qualitatively different in some way, quantitatively different in some way, but there are some gospel-preaching churches, but there lacks that vibrancy that we see with the way that we want to express the gospel in our churches, the way that we want to reach into the community, the things that we hear about that circulate ... you know, our structures, and our methods, and our vision for how we think of Sojourn churches. 

So, the very first and most important thing, the most opportunity that you have is the chance to be a Gospel Presence [inaudible 00:13:00] shine all the more brighter, right? Because there's not a bunch of lights, you might be one light, and it feels real glowy in the town. That's the first one, is a Gospel Presence. 

The second one is Give the Opportunity to Stand Out. You have the opportunity to stand out. Even when small towns ... And I'm going to talk about this next point in a second ... Even when small towns are initiating a revitalization ... and you're seeing this in small towns, where they're trying to initiate some sort of revitalization ... Most don't experience a lot of new things. A small town, one of the characteristics of a small town is you're not seeing a lot of new stuff happen, and again, people that live in small towns, that's one of the reasons why they like being there, is because there's a stability there. There's not a lot of new stuff popping out, much less new churches. 

A gospel-centered church, which is what all of us would endeavor to plant, it has the opportunity to pop out a little bit by virtue of, really, just being there, which will naturally, in the town, it will garner a lot of talk, and attention. Again, our church has garnered a lot of talk and attention because we're planting right in the downtown. We're right in the middle of the downtown. It's not because we've done all this marketing. It's really, at the end of the day, just because it happened to be one of the only new church plants to have popped up the last 10 years, and we're still going. There's been a couple that have popped up, kind of failed, and then left town. We, by God's grace, we're still going.

We've garnered a lot of talk and attention by [inaudible 00:14:39] just being there, being faithful, not going anywhere, not seeming hostile, not going in and trying just to eradicate all of their old traditions or try to seem like we're better than the rest of them, even though we probably think we are on our bad days and all those things. What's great about that, and one of the really important pieces of that is that, no marketing required. We don't market. We've never marketed. We just exist, and because people drive down all these streets and there's only so many streets, they see you. We got our sign, they see our sign. 

This is one of those things where we've literally had people ... We literally have people come to the church because they, wait for it ... Have seen our sign. When does that ever happen? You know what I mean? I had one guy come in. He'd only saw the sign. He's one of our deacons right now. This was years ago. He said, "Dude, it wasn't just the sign. It was the font you used." I was like, "Oh, my gosh. Where am I right now?" Because we still used [inaudible 00:15:35] hipster fonts and all that kind of stuff. 

Something like that, are you [inaudible 00:15:40]? If you're in downtown Manhattan ... That font we used, that's every sign in downtown Manhattan, but in A-Town, Ashland, that's it. It's the only thing that you ese that looks like that, so you have a chance to stand out and popular a little bit. That's not a bad things. We're just being ourselves, a little to the side of what the culture would be, but not in an offensive way. I don't know, can you offend anybody with a font? You probably can. I don't know. 

Speaker 2: Sure. 

Ronnie: Sure, you can offend any ... You can offend somebody with anything, right? 

Speaker 2: Is it Word Art? [inaudible 00:16:10], Word Art? 

Ronnie: It's just word. Yeah. It just looks like the Sojourn font. 

Oh, brother, you got a phone call here. What are we doing? 

Speaker 3: No, it's all good. 

Ronnie: You good, man? Should we answer the phone? 

Speaker 3: No. 

Ronnie: Maybe we should talk about what we're doing right now. Maybe it's your wife. She wants to know what you're doing, we're in the breakout. 

That's never happened to me before, I appreciate that, man. It's going to give me a story later on. "So, I'm up here, I'm doing this breakout, right? And this dude has his phone ... " No. 

Here's the third thing. We're keeping this loose today, boys and girls. Spaces. Locations, spaces. Lot of small towns have, ours has, has experienced economic downturn, so we had one of those old factory towns, and again, I wasn't there obviously, but 25 years ago, some of these massive factories went out of business. A lot of people, they leave because they lose their jobs, and what this means is that many of those towns, especially ours, have just plentiful opportunities for permanent gathering places.

We moved into our town, there was [inaudible 00:17:09], there was this furniture store called Gilbert's Furniture in the downtown, and behind the store, there was another street, and it was their warehouse. That thing had essentially been sitting empty for eight years, and it's almost next to nothing. I knew the owner because he also owns eight other buildings in the downtown, and, "Hey, what are you doing with this building?" There had been some things that had moved in and out. There'd been this little organic market that had been there for six months. They moved out. 

We were just able to move right in, and again, it's because of some of the economic downturns that have created those opportunities, and not only that, but something unique about small towns is, and especially our town, is the city just welcomed us in. There's not that hostility. The city welcomed us in with open arms. We work with the downtown. There's a downtown organization that's been formed. They really like us, believe it or not. They were thrilled to see us take this old warehouse and just [inaudible 00:18:11] some of the revitalization, some of the fixing up, and some of the regular maintenance and upkeep that we do on it now, and again, it's cheap. You're just not looking at ... It's something you can actually get into really early, because it's not just taking 50% of your budget. 

So, pretty amazing for that. You can find really, really good spaces. Some small towns ... It doesn't apply to every small town. Some small towns are a little more upper-middle class, and you're going to find space to be a little more of a premium. But that is one of the opportunities that is going to be a lot harder to find in an urban context, where you just have to rent, you have to lease, you have to move stuff in and out. You can find a permanent space pretty quickly, have your stuff set up, that alleviates a lot of burdens for church planning. 

Here's the fourth thing, and I kind of touched on this a minute ago, which is revitalization movements. That's kind of a thing with small towns right now is revitalization movements. It's kind of returning back, restoring all the old buildings back to their former glory, everything looking kind of quaint and kind of Norman Rockwell, and our town is going through a revitalization movement right now. It's going to take forever. We were almost the first thing in there. We didn't kickstart it, but as they were talking about this, and as they were trying to create an environment for outside businesses to come in and be part of that restorative process, we just kind of jumped right in, so it was really interesting what God did through that. 

Like I said earlier, it's a downtown where a committee has been formed to help pave the way for new growth. For us, what it's done is created a lot of opportunities for us to take part in something restorative and, this is the bigger thing, show our town that we care about the things that they care about. We don't have to Bible thump them just because we're there. We're doing things with them, alongside of them. 

In fact, this Tuesday, they do this crazy thing every year called Costume Capers for Halloween, and what it is, is all the downtown businesses open their doors on a Tuesday night, and then all of these kids come in, about 3,000 kids, they just go door-to-door and they go trick or treating. We've been a part of this the last couple years. We have this roll-up door. We just roll it up, and then they eventually circle around to us, and we give out candy, but we're taking it to the next level this year. We're closing off ...

This is what you can do in a small town. We can close off the entire street, so we're closing off the entire street and we're setting up all this crazy stuff, we're giving away all this free food. We're setting up all these tables, and so as they walk through our street to get to our cars, because we have all this parking behind us, they're just going to be bombarded and confronted with this, it gives us a reach, right? Again, the town is stoked out of their minds that we're doing this. 

Why? Because nothing's ever happening. It's just an event. We didn't have to ask the paper to advertise. We didn't have to ask the downtown committee to put it all on Facebook. That's all they're doing. They're pumping it every day. Why? Because it's the only thing going on. You know what I mean, "only thing going on." That sounds snobbish, but essentially, it's something that is available for the whole family, and here's plenty of stuff like that, but, specifically, it's safe, and a church actually cares about something that's going on in the community, which is different for that town. So, that's what we're experiencing for that ... Revitalization movements and just sort of the welcoming aspect that you get and you can be a part of. 

Here's the next one, and again, some of these are just really practical to encourage you to [inaudible 00:21:50] look out beyond the perimeter of this city that you might be in. The next one is Cost of Living. Let me just cut to the chase here. Small towns are cheap to live in, because as a church planner, what are you most worried about? 

Speaker 4: Money. 

Ronnie: Money. Can we all just say that together? One, two, three. Money. Okay. Finally, some honesty here at Sojourn Network. I'm lying. 

Cheap living, our town ... Our town was listed a couple years ago as the fourth cheapest town in the, wait for it ... nation to live in. What this means is ... You just don't need this Willow-Creek-sized budget to move in and start doing some work. You need ... I remember, I'll just be honest with you guys. I think our initial budget, years ago, was something in the neighborhood of $45,000 for our first year budget. 

Yeah, I know, they were starving me to death, but here's the things. There's no overhead. If you're paying a couple hundred bucks a month for a building, where's all the overhead coming from? You're getting people donating things, and at the end of the day, you just got to be able to have electricity on. You got to have some heat in the winter. You got to be able to open those doors. You got to have a pulpit or a music stand, a Bible, and dude, you're ready to go. 

Some of you guys are thinking, "Ronnie, that's really simple." Yeah, that's just our vibe. We've kind of kept this very simple model. That's a philosophical thing for us, and our budget is not $45,000 anymore, but the fact that we were able to start that simply was encouraging, because, again, we started in some measure of chaos. We didn't have a sending church. We had a lot of animosity towards us because, again, we were a new thing in and old town, and had some people that were not thrilled about what we were doing. 

So, being able to say, "Hey, man. If we can just get $40-$50K, man, we can do this thing. We had a small core group. That's another thing I didn't write [inaudible 00:23:55]. You don't need a massive core group. You don't need the magic 40. We started with the magic 25. I think five of those people left after the first week we gathered. You can have a smaller core group, and a smaller core group can provide the budget money that you need to do the work. There's not that pressure of needing those massive expanded budgets, because you're starting in you're counting your $180,000 to get through the first year, and I don't even know if anybody's going to show up. It allows you to have some safety and some fallback. 

So, cost of living, I think, is something to really consider. Again, that shouldn't be the motivating factor, but it's also something where it allows you to think of other things besides the money, because honestly, the money is not going to be that big of a barrier. You got 25 people hat are committed to the church, you're going to bring in $50,000. Right? So, that's just a practical thing. 

Here's the next one. No Hostility. I got to qualify that, because we had some hostility, but that was more of a personal hostility that we had, but I'm talking in terms of the town itself. You don't experience hostility because small towns are typically very churched cultures, or at least they used to be at one time. What this means is that people aren't necessarily hostile to churches. You're not messing with their minds. They haven't gotten political about churching. In our case, many were happy to have something positive and new and family-oriented, which is how they would have framed us coming to town. 

On the flip, it also means that people will be incredibly indifferent to you. They're not offended, but they're kind of just like, "That's cool. Another church? That's great. It's positive. There should be another church. I know we have 140, but what's 141?" And that has its challenges, right? Because, again, churches are like wallpaper, sometimes, in these towns, so the lack of offendedness also creates an indifference. 

At the very least it means that you'll likely have an opportunity to walk through a door without any resistance on the other side. That kind of means something, right? That means there's one less battle that you're fighting with all the other battles that you're going to be fighting. Sometimes, resistance can be a good thing, too, but in small towns, what I've experienced is that you don't have the same kind of resistance that you might have in other areas. 

Here's the next one. I forget what number we're on. Does anyone have a number count? 

Speaker 5: Seven. 

Ronnie: Thank you. Yes. I went to Christian school. I don't know how to count. 

Not Transient. Not a transient culture by and large. Small towns are not transient. Like I said in the beginning, some have ... And even ours, we found this, is serving a little bit more as a bedroom community because we are pretty close to Cleveland, we're pretty close to Columbus. What you have is a free 45-minute, no-traffic drive to any of those towns. Not that big of a deal, right? 

You can work in Cleveland, you can work in Columbus, and then you can live for free in Ashland. There's something incredibly appealing to that for some people. What happens is that most people in these towns are very rooted. They're very rooted in the town. It's kind of like our favorite band, Journey, small-town boys and girls who took the midnight train going anywhere. Right? We all know the song. We all love the song, because it's truly one of the top 10 greatest pop songs ever written. 

What happens is, when they leave town, and they all want to leave town, and they're all anxious to get out of town, a lot of them return to town when it's time to settle down, and it's time to raise their families, and we've seen that. What this means is you have opportunities to invest in a congregation that's not going anywhere, and there's something very interesting about this. 

I grew up, again, in Suburban California. You go to a big church ... Well, first off, you don't really know that many people anyway because there's 2,000 people, but you do know that the people you know after two years are probably not going to be there because they got a job in L.A., they don't want to commute anymore. They got a job up the coast ... It doesn't matter. Everybody's in and out, and it's hard to settle down and establish community. It's much different here, because people are there, they want to be rooted. They're there for a reason, so you get to invest in a congregation that's not going anywhere. 

There are other socioeconomic reasons why people don't and can't leave small towns, too. I don't want this to feel too [inaudible 00:28:45], because there's a lot of issues that in terms of socioeconomic things. For us, we have zero racial diversity. So, when Sojourn's talking about racial diversity, I'm just checking Facebook the whole time. I'm kidding. It matters for all of us to be educated in those things. Practically speaking, it just has no impact on us. We are [inaudible 00:29:05], wait for it ... Nine-eight, 98% white Caucasian in our town. 

I think we have three African Americans in our ... We have the three African Americans that live in the town, are in our congregation. 

Speaker 6: [crosstalk 00:29:19] accomplished the goal you've got there. 

Ronnie: Boom, we made it. We're the most diverse church in Ashland, right? Again, it sounds funny and crazy. It really is true. It's really true. 

There's other diversities, though, and what we deal with is, we deal with a  good side/bad side of the tracks kind of a thing. We have a massive opiate problem in our town that nobody knows how to deal with, including yours true, and a lot of socioeconomic diversity and downturns depending on where you live and where you're at. Even though the town is small, there is a dividing line in our town, and again, our church has probably gotten to a place ... Very few of those people on the other side of the tracks feel comfortable coming in even though we're just this broken [inaudible 00:30:10] old warehouse. We actually made the warehouse too nice. 

So, again, that's just one very simplistic factor that I'm bringing out. There is some diversity, but, again, these are people of which they have never left the town. They can't leave the town. They have things going on. They have other issues that they're dealing with.

Yeah, go ahead, man. 

That really accounts for, really, the limited racial diversity, but the massive socioeconomic diversity that these towns have, which you really might not think about. If you're thinking in terms of having that kind of mission of heart and outreach, it's there. It's there. Racial diversity always looks sexier. It just does. But this is a very real diversity that we have. 

When I talk to guys like Wes Thompson from Veritas East in Columbus ... His dad has a ministry called the Refuge, who works with people who have various forms of addictions. It's a whole other thing that we're probably not really dealing with much, because you need a level of education to dive into it, and you don't want to be just the ex-Southern California, white church plant dude with the, you know, his pants are too tight to dive in and think he can save the world in small-town Ohio. 

Those are some of the diversities, but at the same time, back to my original point, they're not transient. Nobody's going anywhere, and I think that's a benefit that often gets missed.

Here's number eight. Good Transfer Growth. Oh, the evil phrase that we're all afraid to mention. Transfer growth. I think that there's a good transfer growth. In fact, go to Sojourn Network, an article I wrote on it a little while ago. You can click on that. There is such a thing as good transfer growth that I wholeheartedly endorse and believe in, because gospel-centered plants in small towns, what is happening there is you're giving spiritually starving people the opportunity to finally be fed. 

This doesn't mean you become a burglar. This doesn't mean we become the Hamburgler, right? It means that God may transfer someone from an unhealthy congregation to your healthy congregation. This is a good thing, right? This is a good thing. And, again, it doesn't happen in vast numbers. We've had some of that. 

Here's a story I always like to tell. I remember, I was sitting down with about a 66-year-old dude. His daughter and his son-in-law had helped plant the church, and this guy went to the ... There's two big churches in our town that are about 1500 people. One of them is a Lutheran Church. This guy, because his grandkids are at the church now, and he'd been kind of in and out of the Lutheran Church, attending four times a year, his daughter's there, so he kind of got in. 

They'd experienced some tragedies in their life, so we sat down with him. I don't know where he's at. I'm not sure that he's saved, and so we were able to share the gospel with him and talk, and I remember he said this line to me. This was really important to me. This was years ago. There was a pause with him, and he looked up, and his eyes were all glassy, and he said, "Why have I never heard this before?" And I looked at him, and I said, "What do you mean?" 

He goes, "Well, I've been a member at the Lutheran Church for 55 years." He goes, "And I've never heard what you just said." 

I said, "What do you mean about ... What I said about the gospel and the cross and Christ's love and his forgiveness for you?" I go, "You've seriously never heard that?" He goes, "Not the way you just said it." And I said, "Oh." I was like, "Well, damn that place." Right? That's how I felt. That was the indignation, and it was probably self-righteous indignation in me a little bit, but there was this sense of, "Are you kidding me?" 

Like, "You've been ... " And not only ... This dude wasn't just a member. He was on one of the two or three of the 97 committees they had at the ... He was involved. His dollars had gone to this Lutheran Church almost his entire life, and he's just, he's crying, he's like, "Nobody ever said it like that." And I'm not a great preacher. So, it's like, there was something significant about that. 

What happens is, I look at something like that, and again, with, hopefully, a good measure of humility and just say, "Well, God, thank you for bringing him to us." I don't know. I'm sure that there are people there that are getting fed, so I don't want to blanket-statement this thing, but he had not been. So, praise God. He came over. Now he's hearing the gospel preached, with a level of mediocrity, but nevertheless, it's getting out. 

So, good transfer growth, because you're new. You have something new. You're popping. You're standing out. It's different. 

Number nine. You Can Be a Change Agent. Because you're in a place that sees slow or little change, God can use your church plant as an opportunity to actually be a change agent in the culture, and here's why. Small things can feel like big things in a small town. When a gospel church reaches into the community with love and care what we've [inaudible 00:35:33] about the churches in our town is, man, they have all just formed ... They've all just put glass cases over their church, and they're all just kind of holding on, and none of them step outside. They step outside after Sunday afternoon, after Sunday morning service, and they just kind of pop in and out. It's a place that they hibernate at on Sunday mornings. 

If you are even a church that has a conversation with other churches, that has a conversation with the mayor, that has a conversation with some of the people that are rally interested and love the town and want to see it grow and thrive, it's going to be shocking to them. It's shocking to them that we have people that sit down with some of these people and actually talk to them about things that we'd like to do, not because we're brilliant. We're not strategists, we don't have all these amazing ideas. We don't. That's just not how God has wired me. 

It's just a matter of saying, "Is there a few things we can do this year, I don't know, that we can be a part of what you have going on here, and allow people to see what it looks like for a church that actually just cares?" 

Again, it's not so agenda-driven. I mean, we're always agenda-driven. The gospel is our agenda. But we can look like we care about all the other things that they don't think churches care about other than bringing in [inaudible 00:36:48] and trying to stay afloat.

Finally, here's my last one. It's kind of tied to that. It's Social Media. Social media goes a long way in a small town. Again, kind of like the sign, we have had countless people. We're a church of about three ... congregation's about 300 people. We have had countless people come in because it's like, "Yeah, I don't know. We just saw you on social media." [inaudible 00:37:19] They're kind of are no other churches on social media in our town out of 140 churches. It's crazy, right? So, for Melissa and I, we're a little more natural with the social media thing. For some of you guys, it's not your natural thing. 

Here's the advantage of it, is it goes a long way, because everybody sees everything in a small town, and having a social media presence, it doesn't turn into white noise, or wallpaper. I can't tell you ... I get stopped by people at the grocery store and these places, and they'll be like, "Oh, you're the dude from Substance." I'll be like, "Yeah, how's it going?" And they said, "Man, we follow you on Facebook. We love what you're doing. We see you. We go to the church down the road." 

I'm like, "Yeah, that's great." 

"But, man, we're so encouraged by that. We see you guys doing all these things, and it's like ... " Actually, we don't really do that much. We just let everybody know the couple of things that we do. That's it. We're not doing that much. We're not overachievers. 

So, don't miss that one, because it's massive. It also means that there's a marketing thing. There's a marketing thing, because everybody is stalking you on Facebook, because there's not a lot of other stuff going on. It's just, "Hey, we're doing this event," or, "We're going to be over here," or, "Join us on Sundays. Again, just reminding you that these are the times we meet," and man, you have an opportunity with just a little clicking to present yourselves as something that is thriving and living and growing, like a gospel organism. 

Those are 10 Things. I know we kind of just breezed through those things, but those are 10 things that really have sort of stuck out to me in the last five years as we've engaged in this work, and what it does to me, what it does for me, because I tend to be a minimalist, so God brought me from this very noisy culture, but I've always been kind of a minimalist. 

I like stripped down things. I like simple things. So, he very providentially put me in a place not because I feel like I have all this commonality with the mindset and the culture of the place that he put me, but he actually gave me just a couple of giftings, ora couple of proclivities that allow me to do something that's made it not such an overwhelming word. You start talking to me about what Starkey's doing in Manhattan, and I just go, "I know I look like a Manhattan guy, but that's just not how God wired me." 

He's allowed me to sort of see this thing very streamlined, very simple, with the understanding that, hey, some of these things are actually going to produce fruit in the way that you're able to do them, which is just a couple of things, stripping things down, keeping it simple, and then, at the same time, knowing that small towns ... They're very suspicious of things that come in too complicated and too over-the-top and too corporate. 

We had a guy that we were going to be planting a church with. He went into a town of 32,000 people, did the big, massive budget thing, had to raise like $6.9 million. He wants to start this thing, he wants to start this thing like [inaudible 00:40:25], the first Sunday, the big launch thing, and it's like, he's going into this town, which is all factory workers, median income of $30,000 a year, and it's like, "Dude, what are you ... You can't do that. They are going to look at you like you are coming in to rule them with an iron fist." 

And, again, there's been a lot of issue. He still went ahead with it. A lot of issues. A lot of problems with how he's done that because people are like, "That's weird for me. I want something more simple. I want something more stripped down. I want something more homey. I want to feel like I can go in there ... I can just, I can look how I want. I can dress how I want. There's not that pressure." 

So, again, just some things. I threw up a lot on you, right now-

Lessons on Community and Citywide Networking


Just to introduce myself, so I moved just three months ago, into New York City to replant a church there called Apostles Church at Union Square. It's historically a multi-congregational church that multiplied into its own individual churches, and so I'm helping rebuild one of them. It's gone through a lot. But historically, I come from Columbus, Ohio where I founded Veritas Community Church there. And that congregation, that church has just grown and been a very influential church in the city, and it's really encouraging, set up really well. All the leaders are here. They take like three rows in the auditorium. It's crazy. And so, it's good to really reflect on some of those lessons in Columbus. But I'm also kind of coming into this saying, "I'm doing it all over again." A lot of things I've started and done in Columbus, I'm doing all over again, starting from the very bottom, starting from scratch in Columbus. 

I just started this role in August. And New York City, as you can problem imagine, is a little different than Columbus, Ohio. I tell people in the city, yeah, we live downtown Columbus, which is pretty much exactly the same as Manhattan. It's not at all the same. In Columbus, a lot of my lessons, a lot of the things I'm gonna be thinking about are things from Columbus, and just reflecting on my time there. It's actually a really timely talk, and because I have been doing a ton of reflecting over my ten years in Columbus, and from planting the church to building a network in the city, and developing a lot of relationships, and honestly missing a lot of those relationships. It's a really hard time for me ... Not hard time, but it's nostalgic. This has been a good thing for me to kind of write some things down and think about some things, and process, and really missing a lot of my relationships in Columbus.

That's basically one of the big reasons why I'm talking about this. It's been a sort of a natural desire for me to want to build network and collaboration and relationships all throughout Columbus. I've gotten to see things really click in Columbus, as far as seeing churches come together. A lot of the things I'm talking about, I hope that you hear that I'm not saying, I am the one who did this. As I talk about these, and bring a lot of stuff to the ... Like really cool things that happened, I don't want you leaving here thinking, "Man, Nick really did a great thing there," because it was not me. I was a part of a lot of that. I was weaved in and out of a lot of conversations and a lot of ... I was part of a lot of teams. And so there's a lot of churches brought together. It was a really good collaborative effort, and so yeah, just one of many. 

Also, a few other things that I wanted to point out of what qualifies me to really talk about this and actually bring lessons to the table. Just some things that we did, we did a regional men's conference for many years called Act Like Men. That was before Mark Driscoll and whatever, McDonald stole it and made their own. It was really awesome. We had 600 men that would come to that. We've had up to that, from all over Ohio and West Virginia and Indiana. It was really awesome. Really awesome conference for guys. 

We developed ... One of my contributions is developing a group, or sort of a slogan, I should say, called For Columbus, which the Southern Baptist used when they came into Columbus for the convention, if any of you guys are Southern Baptist. They came to Columbus. We let them use that name, and our website that we had for that to try to catalyze something a little bit more deeper to serve our city, and love the city in various ways. That since has caught on and is being used, even now, as they're developing and building a network. They're just thinking about life in the marketplace and life in arts and entertainment, and sort of the seven pillars that Frances Schaeffer brings out of gospel change and a movement.

There's another group that I worked with and helped bring together called the Catalyst Group. And this is a group of business men and women, and they are culture shapers in the city. They're several prominent business leaders in the city. They're very influential, who really had a heart to see the gospel go further than the church could, than the marketplace could, and see this kind of world come together a lot more, to bring a wholistic vision. And so, through that, we partnered with people. If you know these names, they're helpful to get some context, but we've partnered with Kevin Palau, who wrote a book on gospel movements. And he's son of Louis Palau, who was a Latin American evangelist, like the Billy Graham of Latin America. I think that's his little slogan. That's a big slogan, really. Kevin's in Portland, and he's been a really great mentor, just to help think through what great movement looks like. 

In New York City, there's a thing called Movement Day. Maybe you've heard of that. That's actually spread now, all over the world. Mac Pier, who is the director of that, has also been very influential for me. And so, I went to my first Movement Day actually this weekend in New York City. Which was really encouraging. Really life changing. And it made me want to go back to Columbus, really. But I'm like, "I'm here now." So there's a lot we can work on. 

Other networks I have either led or been a part of or just been orchestrating with. There's the Gospel Coalition. We had a chapter there that we helped develop and grow. There's a church planters group, which really gathers church planters from a lot of different backgrounds, denominations, and groups throughout the city. And man, that grew really, really big. 

And so, early in the day, we had about 100 church planters, pastors, that would gather quarterly. And we sustained that for awhile. And then it morphed into somebody else leading it. And so he's really gathering church planters and there's like 20 or 30 church planters around Columbus. When I moved there, there was like two church planters. Myself and a couple of people in the suburbs. And so, it's just really incredible to see some of that really grow. Some of that momentum. 

And, then I want to also bring a whole other side, that maybe might be more interesting to you, is the city networking. So developing networks within a non-Christian community, which is something that I was really excited about doing. So, I was involved with neighborhood associations, and business associations. And so we were always connected into those groups, into those two particular groups where I helped provide leadership. So, in my neighborhood, there was no kids, hardly any kids. My thing became, let's get more families in the neighborhood, and everybody loved that. We worked through the neighborhood association in that.

In the business association, there was no any ... There were a couple of churches that were a part of it. They were all affirming churches, they were very liberal. So we were then the conservative Baptist church in this area and people really responded well because we really networked in a way where I came into the city and I knew, this is a high, very high percentage of gay people in the community. And it's very spiritually hungry community, but also confused about a lot of areas when it comes to just how to think about the Bible, sexually and a lot of those hot topic areas. Being a part of the business association allowed this network of saying okay, "This is the prominent leader advocate for the gay community. I'm gonna hang out with him." And so I could hang out with him through that. So my wife and I go bowling with them and have the over for drinks. And then when things hit the fan, which they did, and somebody made a stink that we weren't an open and affirming church, this guy vouched for us. He said, "They're cool. They're friendly. They love people and they've served our community really well."

That's like one angle about ... One of the reflections I have really reflected on why it's important to network in your community and build these relationships and share the gospel. And things like city counsel. Our church hosted the very first all city counsel sort of conversation. When all these candidates were running for city counsel, we had them come to our church. We invited all the neighborhood churches and we had like 400 people there. And that was the most that they had at any city counsel thing. They were all blown away. It just put us in a lot of really good favor for something like that. Asking really good questions about justice, injustice in the city, and how they were responding to homelessness and things that we as a church care about. That really put us in a place where we're able to have some relationships. Especially for me, and for our staff, and our other pastors and deacons, being able to have those ongoing relationships with city leaders.

That's kind of what qualifies me to talk about this, I suppose. Two caveats though. One is this, these lessons are reflective. I already said that. But second, this isn't a formula. I'm not prescribing anything. This is ... Well, I'll talk about this as a lesson, but it's not a formula so I don't want you to hear this like, "Okay, here's the ten steps to being a great networker." 

Alright. So let me just jump into it so we can have time for some Q and A. The first lesson is really thinking about your calling. Building a network in your city is not for everyone. I don't want you to leave here feeling burdened that this role is your responsibility. That you aren't meant to play. If you aren't meant to play it, don't feel like you have to. You don't have to carry this. I have discovered more than I have really known this about myself. This is a natural gift that I have. It's not a spiritual gift, which makes me feel really unqualified to be a pastor sometimes. It's like, networking seems so ... I don't know. Something you'd find entrepreneurs do. And business leaders do. Not pastors. But it's something you really discover more than you know it. For me, it was ... For me, I don't want you to feel like you're carrying this. I gotta do this. 

So how do you know? How do you know this is happening? How do you see this in your life? How do you feel this calling, this burden? Asking questions like, do you naturally schedule meetings with city leaders, influential people in your community? Do you naturally reach out to them and gravitate to them in a way that's not using them? And in a way that's not condescending or anything. Banging their head with church things and gospel. But being able to present the gospel and talk about the gospel really boldly but really carefully. Is that like a natural draw for you to schedule these meetings? It's a simple, practical, reflection question.

The second lesson is understanding your city's history. So I came into Columbus and I had discovered in the 80s and 90s, there had been what some pastors actually called a small revival within the city where churches were actually working together. There was really really good relationship. There was actually really good community. And it happened because in the 80s and 90s, a lot of these churches were pretty small, and the church, in general, was very small. Some of the churches became very prominent leaders. And so they kind of had these more successful ministries. They started growing a lot so that they people in that group, there just became a lot of tension and a lot of jealously and envy. So there was a whole history of this in the 80s and 90s, and even in the early 2000s, to where some of these pastors are just like, "We tried this. It's too hard." 

So they all kind of retreated back into their own world and they built their own kingdoms and they built their own stuff. And some of them were really good stuff. So, it was like a little guy coming. And especially like, for me, I'm coming in and our church is growing and we're in downtown, so that's a little different. There's some things that are unique about us. We're very robust about the Bible and gospel in a very liberal neighborhood. So people are very curious, like, "How can you be that in this neighborhood?", and those kinds of things. 

So, really have to know your city's history. So have you really taken the time to learn these things? Asking some of the old pastors, the old saints. When it comes to church relationships, when it comes to relating to the city. Because sometimes there's massive tension between the city counsel or city leaders or the mayor or political figures and the church. Which I found out, our first mayor, he had massive issues with the church. Because he grew up in church, burned out by the church, frustrated, left the church. Single dude, had lots of old girlfriends, that kind of thing. The church pounded him on that stuff and he just never worked with the church. And our mayor was never connecting to the church at all. So, there's a lot of tension in that. So you have to learn those things and know those things. I think really knowing also what has happened is really helpful to know how to proceed moving forward. And to think about how you can connect with pastors better. Knowing if they have a history of tension. You're not in and trying to make these asks and, "Will you give me a platform?", or these kinds of things. So know your church's history.

It's interesting because I'm really learning this now in New York City. Five percent Christian. It's completely overwhelming being dropped of like eight and half million people and trying to figure out how to understand the history. Especially in the shadow of places like Redeemer Presbyterian Church and Hillsong and these really big, international figures. I'm in this process of really understanding history. 

Third lesson. Know why you network. It's really important to know why. Why are you doing? And I'm to get ... Some of my other lessons sort of flow from that one. Where I'll get a little deeper in some of my exploration of why. But really know why. Is it friendship? Is it collaboration? Are you wanting some consulting? Are you coaching? Why do you want to connect with someone? I'm usually referring to someone outside of your church if you're in the church and pastoring. Or someone in the business community. Or somebody kind of outside maybe the normal realm that you run in. Another church, or something like that. Why do you want to do it? So, more's going to come out of that one. 

The fourth lesson, and this is where is kind of starting to come out, check your motives. This one, I feel like, is the one that I have reflected on significantly because I've it in [battling inaudible 00:17:56]. I've seen it in my own life. I've really had to pray and process my own intentions. What are my motivations? Never ever, ever, ever, never, never engage in city networking if your motivation is not to join people. If you're not joining them, then what are you doing? What's the point in this? Are you platform building? This is where I think it's really important. You cannot, you can't build a platform. Like that never builds a movement. It might build your platform and actually might work. That's a scary thing. It might work. 

But when you meet with somebody, this might be a little practical caveat. When you're meeting with somebody, asking not what people can do for you or vice verse, asking what you can do for them. I recently met with a church planter in New York City and we were chatting and working through things and just hearing his story and that kind of thing. And he was like, "Man, how can I serve you?" And I was like, "How can you serve me? Like, dude, you're a church planter. There's nothing you can give me." And I didn't say that. But I'm just saying, if you're a church planter coming in. Or, if your not coming in and saying, "Man, I want to ... ". I don't have ... You don't have anything to offer. 

So, come and say, "How can I join you? How can I be a part of what you're doing?" You gotta find common ground and not be condescending or not be ... And I know that the heart of when saying, "I want to serve you." That's Jesus' heart. That's what you want. That's very important. But I think it really, really shows a lot when you communicate as much as you can in these conversations. "How can I join you? How can we join together in some things?" That's my motivation. It's not, "Let me serve you." Or even, "Let me ... You give to me. Here's what I need you to do for me. I need money." Or meeting with business leader and asking for money. Dude, they get that every day. They get that all the time. If there's a mark on them that says they're wealthy and they're generous. Every day. And I can't tell you how many times when I've gotten to meet with a business, and I didn't ask for their money. But I talked about let's do something together. It's changed the conversation. Completely changes the conversation. So really check your motives.

The fifth lesson is having a vision for your city. Do you have dreams? Have you actually thought about what a movement in the city or in your neighborhood or what that could actually look like? Do you have dreams for it? Tell people. Talk about it. "Here's some of my dreams." Tell people. But again, do it in a way, and this is really important as well. Do it in a way that doesn't step on theirs. Don't come in like, "God's given me this vision. Given me this dream. I'm the Moses coming to dispense the vision upon you." Especially if you're new to the city. You come and say, "What are your dreams? How can I join what you're doing? I want to hear what you're thinking." 

But, think about the city. Think about how the ecosystem of the city works. Think about how the church and the business and the arts and the inter-church relationships and pair church and how all of those things connect. And think about how important it would be if they actually worked together, if the church wasn't angry at the pair church for not being the church. And the pair church wasn't vice versa. And the business leaders aren't like, "Oh, they just want our money. They don't care about anything else." And there's this whole ecosystem and it's broken. Think about how it all could connect and give some vision to it. Build some bricks and put some mortar together and think about that and ask, "How can this all bring together?"

Tim Keller's Center Church has some of that. Just understanding how ecosystem works in the city and how it can all work together. And really, just celebrate all of the facets. Be a learner of all the facets. Be a learner of fashion. Be a learner of music. Be a learner of business. All of these things. And be curious about that because people are really happy and excited. It's like serving and honoring when you can do that.

Alright, sixth lesson. Prove it before you ask for it. I'm mostly talking if you're the new guy on the block. If you're a new guy on the block, and you begin to talk about revival, you know, there's just a disconnect. Especially the people who have been there a long time, that might have been praying for a long time for a revival. Man, spend some time saying, "Okay." And that sounds kind of works based. And I hope that's not how you're handling this and taking it. But, we want to be a people who are faithful in our own context and faithful with what God has given us before we start laying tracks for something great beyond what we've been faithful for.

Because when we start laying tracks and start developing all of these really great dreams and really good conversations. But everybody's like, "But dude. You can't even invest in your own. You can't even manage your own household. You can't even like live into what God has given you." Then, a lot of that stuff just kind of falls to the wayside. You can't develop a church planting network without planting a church. I guess you can. I guess people have done it. But you can't do a movement without building your own church. So prove it. Prove it before you ask for it. You know, I've been on both of ends of that where this is an area where I reflect and I think, "I probably have too big of a dream for Columbus too early. I should have just shut my mouth more and just kept my head down." And those lessons came even early where I had to just say, "You know, no. Just focus." I'm not doing it, like proving myself so I can do these. It's not like a step. But I want to be faithful. So prove it. 

Lesson seven. Honor, honor, honor. Show as much honor as possible. If you guys haven't gotten to meet Dave Harvey, he's like the over honorer. You feel like, you know, you just feel like he's picking you up on a throne and carrying you around. You feel so good around him because he's just really great about that. But really show as much honor as possible. This line is with me. It stays with me all the time. By R.C. Sproul, he says, "The mature Christian is easily edified." So when you're meeting with someone, you're not looking for the false doctrine. You're not critiquing. You're not like, "Oh, they're just another hipster. They're just another whatever." You know, not blowing them off like ... It's just showing honor to them. 

And I learned this lesson because I was asked to come to ... So after things happened in Ferguson, Missouri, if you guys remember a few years ago. The riots happened and Michael Brown when he was shot. And his pastor, Michael Brown's pastor. Some of our pastors in the community flew him to Columbus to meet and talk with the pastor. So he was sharing that he got to baptize Michael Brown's father like two weeks before the shooting happened. And like there was family was a wreck, but there's just a lot of change and transformation happening in their lives before all this happened. It was really encouraging and we were sitting because we just flew him out to say, "What have you learned from this? What are you learning from all of this?" 

So it was a really good moment and part of that was he was going to preach and have a big service in one of the big, prominent African American churches. And this church is way out of my theological comfort zone. And I'll talk about that in a second. But, I showed up and thankfully, I wore dress clothes cause it's an African American church and I brought somebody and they did not. It was one of those moments of like, I felt good about myself but of course, I made fun of this guy so much. But him and I got brought to the front and put on stage. And he's super embarrassed. And I'm kind of embarrassed because I'm not wearing a suit, but I'm still dressed nice. Something as little as that is just fascinating to think, "How could I show more honor in this? I should have dressed nicer." He definitely should have dressed nicer, and he got made fun of it a lot. Especially considering he grew up in the black church. He felt really weird. 

But all that to say, how can we show honor? Call pastors "pastor." Yeah, show respect, even if they're outside of your tribe. And I think for me, it has won my heart in so many ways to be honored by others. On the other side of it. Just being honored and having church planters come in who aren't saying, "I'm gonna be a better church planter than you." Or, "I'm going to be a whatever better." Or, just even having that attitude. But an attitude of honor. 

Lesson eight. 

Audience Member: Could you give the R.C. Sproul quote?

Speaker 1: Yeah. "A mature Christian is easily edified."

Yeah. The lesson eight is reaching outside your tribes, kind of connected to the honor. Reaching out to your tribe. This is again, a very challenging thing for some of you who are maybe big theologs. Maybe love the theology and the ... As Dave Harvey said yesterday, "You might be the ..." What did he call nine marks? I'm not going to get into that. 

But you know, you're wanting to control everything.

Audience Member: [inaudible 00:29:15]

Speaker 1: Yes. Yeah. But, reaching outside of your own tribe really helps bring a community together. And it gives you a place to be able to talk about things are real. 

So I talked about this prominent African American church. He was ... This pastor was and is mentored by T.D. Jakes. And so you can imagine what his theology is. But, so many times, I left his office in tears of just how the Lord used that time to convict me, and just build a friendship. 

And it's crazy. Because I'm in New York City this weekend and this pastor's cousin is there. And he's like, "Oh man, I've heard all about you." He's like a prominent African American leader in Brooklyn. And just opening a lot of doors in those relationships. And just being able to step outside your comfort zone. Especially with international churches. How can you reach out to the Nepali church? And to the Chinese church? Nobody reaches out to the Chinese church. Or international churches. I mean, no white churches ever do that. 

So we had a joint service one time with a Korean church. There was a translator and everything. And it was, man, it was so challenging. But it was really good. And we had a really good friendship and relationship at this particular Korean church. You know, especially if your church is pretty mono culture. Like, how can you engage with churches outside of yourself? Some of you might be begging God for your church to become more multicultural. We'll have a panel on this in a little while. But, praying and begging to make your church more multiculturing may never happen. I don't know, this may be super cynical, and I'm pretty jaded and cynical. But, it might not happen. But if you're able to still build some relationship outside of your own tribe and figure out ways to connect and relate and to have friendship, then man, I think that just might be what God asks you to be faithful with. And again, we can talk about that more. 

But high church, low church. Reach out. I went to an Episcopalian service a couple weeks ago and it was super awkward. I didn't know how you're ... I grew up in Catholic church. But I didn't know if you were supposed to like drink the wine or dip. All these things I just didn't know. And I had ... It was just really unique. But, man, the pastor was really blessed that a Southern Baptist like me would come into an Episcopalian church and have communion and spend time with him. It was really encouraging.

All right, lesson nine. I'm gonna go faster. Lesson nine is hide behind people. Hide behind people. This group, the Catalyst Group that I talked about before, earlier, that was a group of business leaders. So they are the ones that had been orchestrating a lot of this movement stuff that we've been talking about. Sort of the larger ecosystem. And so I'm getting together with them and we're talking about things. One of the big areas that we talked about was prayer and citywide worship. How do we just gather all the churches to pray and the people in churches to just pray and have citywide worship? 

And so they asked Veritas, me, and Joe Byler that's here, if you haven't got to meet him. I was going to describe his as a guy with a beard, but that's not helpful. But he ... We were asked by this group to lead this citywide worship. We thought about and prayed about it. And Joe helped orchestrate a lot of the music and got a lot of worship leaders from a lot of different churches. And he had a really great cohort of the leaders. But we decided we were going to hide behind a lot of people. And we didn't want like ... Joe didn't want to be the guy known to be doing the music part. I didn't want be known to be doing like sort of the flow and liturgy and invitations and all of these kinds of things. 

And so we tried as much as we can to hide behind people. Because we knew that if Veritas was the sort of person behind this, if people knew that, it would just ... It doesn't bring collaboration the same. It's just like, "Oh, it's just a church trying to do this." And so, we found people and hid behind these business leaders and build this. And the last one they had, there was like 10,000 people that came out this worship and prayer night. And I wasn't even there. Which it was hard. 

But when you hide behind people, better things happen. Always better things happen. Like, hide behind as many business leaders as you can. I don't think revivals going to come through obvious means. We think revival comes when you preach a killer sermon and a million people get saved. I don't know if that's how it happens. I think it's gonna be through business leaders who catch a vision of the gospel for their workplace and their business. And artists who ... It's gonna be way more than you can do. And if you're bottle necking the vision. You're not hiding behind other people and you're not inspiring people. 

There's a business leader in New York City who, he, Jim I think you know this guy. I know you know him. He said something to me just a few weeks ago that was incredibly encouraging and it relates to this. When he said, "I love seeing people at their highest of passions in the business world." So when they start getting amped and animated. He's like, "And for me, when I ... What I want to do, when they get to that place of high prominence of passion, I want to then talk about how the gospel can take them further. And not in their business and success and that kind of thing, but actually just in their passion for love and image of God and building the church and those kind of things." To me, that was really brilliant because you're hiding behind people and you're boosting the passions that these Christian leaders might already have in their life. So hide behind other people.

Lesson ten. Last lesson. Maybe the biggest. I don't know. Definitely I think it could be right up there as the biggest. Don't neglect your first community, your church. I said this already, I know. But you are responsible for your church family. If you're a pastor or you're an elder or you're a deacon or you're serving in your local context. You are responsible for that community first. I mean, logistically, they pay you. So don't use them. They need you. You need them. Don't neglect your church community. 

Sometimes, what is best for the church is you taking time to network with the city. So there are times when it encourages the church. It strengthens the church. It builds up the church, your local church, by going out and networking. I've seen a lot of pastors do the opposite where they're like, "I don't have time for all that networking stuff. Or relationship or citywide building or movement. I don't have time for that. I just gotta do this." And I think that's actually unhealthy for their church as well. It doesn't bring them into the larger story and the larger narrative of the city. And it doesn't help them and strengthen them. And we've been hearing a lot about that partnership and what the beauty of that. 

But, the other end is just going out and just spending all your time being apostolic and talking about the great movement and next church plant and these kinds of things. And you're missing out what God is doing right in front of you. I've seen a lot of that where you're not making time to develop friendships and relationships within your own context with your own church. You're becoming known by other pastors. Maybe here at a conference like Sojourn Network. People here might know you more. If people here know you more here than they know you if your own church, you're doing something wrong. That's really important because you have to be known in your church. You have to be ... You have to know your church. You have to come representing your church to your city. You can neglect ... But there are times, again. The best way to serve your church is connecting with someone outside of it. 

All right. So these are ten lessons. These are ten small reflections that I've been processing over the years and again, I feel grateful to talk about it. But I also realize that I'm in a place where I'm starting all over again in a big, much bigger city and a much harder context. And starting to actually apply these things where I am. So I also will end and just say I am a learner with you.

Mobilizing For Mission: The Multiplying Pastor In A Postmodern World


Rob Maine: Hey guys, we're going to go ahead and get started and really glad that you guys are here. Want to make sure that you're in the right spots. We are doing the talk on-

Nick Bogardus: Feminism.

Rob Maine: That's right.

Nick Bogardus: Just kidding.

Rob Maine: That's right. No, being a multiplying and missional pastor in a postmodern world. So we're glad you chose to join us for this talk. For this breakout session. We're going to try to keep the session somewhat short, so we can engage with you guys, and engage in some dialogues with you guys. 

My name is Rob, I'm a lead pastor at Renaissance Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We moved there about 5 years ago. We cultivated the ground, did some core team development for about a year-and-a-half. And then we launched services about 3 years ago. So we've been there for about three years. It's been a fun run, been a hard run, but good. So yeah. Rob Maine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Nick Bogardus: How did you guys come to join the network?

Rob Maine: We came to join the network, I was one of their first residents, interns, when they started the network, so I was here when-

Nick Bogardus: Really.

Rob Maine: Yeah, gosh. Brian Howard was here and he helped Daniel Montgomery start the network. So learned underneath Brian for about 6 months and was a member at Sojourn Community Church. I was on staff, of Nathan Ivy's, pastoral assistant for a season. We love the church, we love the culture they were creating, and we were sent out from Sojourn back in February 2013. So yeah, Sojourn was a mother church for us, ascending church for us.

Nick Bogardus: Oh, that's awesome. My name is Nick Bogardus. I grew up in Orange County, California. Worked in the music industry for 10 years before moving to Mongolia with my wife for a year and a half. She was in the Peace Corps. I wanted to marry her, so that was part of the deal. We spent the first year and a half of our marriage in Mongolia. We moved from Mongolia to Seattle, worked at Mars Hill in Seattle for ... worked for Mars Hill for four years, worked in Seattle for two years. When I planted there, Orange County campus was there for two years. We left in '13, planted Cross of Christ. We're Act 29 and Sojourn, so we're going on about four years now. Let's see, that's probably a good introduction.

As far as how we came to join the network, Brad House, who's on the board here at Sojourn, was at Mars Hill with me. We're very good friends. And when he came out of the Mars Hill experience, I suppose you guys know this story, Brad got it pretty bad. A lot of the guys came out beat up bad. Brad came out really beat up. And when he came here to Sojourn, they basically, they said, "Hey, we know you've had a rough go for the last year of '10, why don't you just get your legs under you for a month, and then we're just going to pay for you to take a sabbatical with your family. We'll pay for counseling, we'll take care of you." And that for me it was like, "Hey, if that's how they take care of my friend, I want to know what that network is like." And so it's been like that ever since.

And so our experience of Sojourn has been very, very similar. A high emphasis on care that accompanies an emphasis on mission, and so we're super thankful to be part of the network. So we're going to be talking about mobilizing for mission in a postmodern culture, and our hope in this time is to maybe give something a practical side to what many of you, being in our kind of reform tribe might already be reading on. I'm guessing you're reading a lot of Keller, James K.A. Smith, some Cosper.

There's a lot of really good material out there about our postmodern context and how to think about it. How to engage with it at a thought level or at a worldview level, and all of that is awesome and wonderful, but I don't know about you guys, but I can't find a lot written on how to lead in light of that. What do I do practically with that?

And so our hope in this time is to make it very simple. We're going to share things that went wrong in Pittsburgh, things that went wrong in Orange County, things that worked well in Pittsburgh, things that worked well in Orange County. Show you our mistakes and show you things that God, by His grace, did well, that might give you a glimpse into how we've tried to walk it out in our postmodern contexts, in Pittsburgh, in a relatively urban setting, from what I understand. And Orange County, which is basically just suburban sprawl.

So hopefully it will be very helpful for you. We'll go with Rob and Pittsburgh.

Rob Maine: Yes, so when we first started out back in February 2013, if you come to know me, get to know me, if you ask my wife, what is the biggest thing about me, I love answering the question, why? And so identity is a huge, huge part of how I operate and that's because when I understand who I am, I automatically know what I'm supposed to do. But that's my individual personality. And I thought that everybody operated that way.

And so when I was training up and developing the core team, I'm just thinking, "Man, all I got to do is teach identity and once I teach them who they are, they'll know what to do." That really doesn't work too well. I mean, we even see in The Scriptures, Jesus constantly reminds us who we are, but he also instructs us in what to do. So while identity is a must, it's not enough. We also need instruction as well, and the writing was on the wall. People were asking me, "How am I supposed to do this?" I'm like, "Just be a missionary, just be who you are, where you are," and that's a really fun slogan, but a lot of folks didn't really know how to do that.

And so I forgot to train my team in strategy. We have strong vision. If you talk to any one of our core team members, they could recite to you our vision backwards and forwards. They knew who they were, they knew what the Gospel was, they just didn't know how to live it out. Because nobody was instructing them, and that's my job. That's my job as the lead pastor, not only to teach the why, because the why, I believe the why matters more than anything else. A wise pastor once told me, "The what is important, what we're going after, but the how is more important than the what." How is always important, and I forgot about the how just because that's that's something that I naturally do and I didn't believe I needed to train on. So that was the first mistake that I made, that's what did not work well in Pittsburgh.

But then, so the question I have for you guys is, do you guys know how to engage with your people group? Do you guys know how to develop a strategy that will equip your core team or if your members, if you're a full-fledged church right now, when you have membership, do you know how to equip your team, your leadership team to engage in a postmodern culture? Do you know how to equip your members to do that as well? Identity is valuable, it's a must, but it's not enough. Instruction needs to happen as well.

So the second thing that didn't go well is because I didn't have a strategy, I over simplified mission. And what I mean by that, because of the lack of strategy, my mission statement was just build relationships. Just build relationships. I mean, seems pretty simple. Can you build relationships with your neighbors, can you build relationships with your coworkers, can you build relationships with the people in your networks? And they actually did it, but then they didn't know what to do.

Like for instance, Mike, who is a manager over a sales team, he didn't know how he was supposed to build those relationships after it got past the surface level conversations. Or how is he supposed to interact in the workplace? Was he supposed to start holding Bible studies in the workplace? Was he supposed to only have spiritual conversations with his coworkers? Or was he supposed to do his job really, really well? Was he supposed to sacrifice for his team? I mean, these are questions that he was asking me and I didn't have answers for him.

Or Chelsea, who loved the homeless, who loved the poor, was wondering, "Am I the only one supposed to be engaging with the poor, with the homeless? What is the church's responsibility in this? How do they come alongside me?" And my answer was, "Just keep building relationships, inviting other people into building relationships."

Or Jessie, who's now our executive pastor, when I was discipling him from the beginning, he had a bunch of atheist friends. How is he supposed to engage with all of his friends who claim they don't believe in a God? I didn't tell him how, I just kept telling him, "Hey, just keep building those relationships. God will bring up the conversations."

And so what happened was when I oversimplified mission, I didn't create awareness on my team for the complexities of sin, and not just the culture of sin, but the complexities of their own sin as well. And we don't have a self ... this awareness of the complexities that is our culture, then we're not going to engage with that culture creatively. We're going to be engaging with them in a way that they don't need to be engaged with. And what it did, it hindered my team's awareness of our contexts and the many different facets of the people groups that are present in Pittsburgh. And so when I just say, "Just build relationships," I mean, there's zero awareness of the culture around us. 

This is the second thing that happened. And so the question for you guys is, have you oversimplified mission to something that is tweetable, to where it reduces the complexities of your missions field, but also weakens the effectiveness of the Gospel? I'll ask that question again, have you oversimplified mission to something that is tweetable, which reduces the complexities of your mission field, but also weakens the effectiveness of the Gospel?

And finally, this was a big failure of mine. I did not share stories that encapsulated the mission and the vision. Because there was one person who was living this not well. It was me. I knew how to live it out, I embodied it, but because I thought sharing those stories was a form of pride, was a form of arrogance, I shied away from it. I didn't share stories with my team, because I didn't want to make it look like I was boasting in my giftings. I didn't want it to make it look like I had it all together and everyone else did not. And so there was no stories being shared.

But when you think about how God motivates us or maybe how you're motivated through movies, through narratives or even thinking about the Gospel narrative and the Gospel is the greatest story that's ever been told. How does God motivate us to move on mission? It's through story, through sharing those wins and what I missed out on is what I share the stories I share, celebrate what I value. And the stories that we share as a church community with one another, celebrates what we value as a core team, as a church community.

And so my question for you guys is how are you creating platforms for stories of what I would call, vision wins? Are you celebrating where people are actually living out your vision, where you're living out the vision, where you're creating platforms to be shared in big team environments, but also cultivating that in one-on-one environments as well?

So those were our three big failures. First, I thought teaching identity was enough, second, I oversimplified mission, and third, I did not share stories that encapsulated the vision of our church.

Nick Bogardus: Thanks Rob. As far as three things that we blew in Orange County, really briefly about Orange County, Dr. Mohler from Southern Seminary described Orange County as a laboratory for the rest of the United States. And it's an interesting statement for him to make, because it's not San Francisco, it's not New York, it's not Chicago, why would he consider in Orange County to be the laboratory of the United States? He said because the way the church interacts with the culture in Orange County will affect the way other churches around the country interact with the cultures in their cities. Because where we are, it's more like the rest of America than the major urban hubs. 

We have a very church culture. There's no place in America that's birth more global church movements in the last 50 years than Orange County. You have Vineyard, Calvary Chapel, TBN, you're welcome for that everybody. Saddleback, Merritt, all these huge churches that have been birthed there, that have spread around the rest of America. And so there's a lot of really amazing great fruit that God has planted, but there's also a lot of like, I mean, if you look at moralistic therapeutic deism, the birthplace came from where we are.

And so the way the church interacts with the culture in Orange County will spread beyond it, and so the mistakes I've made, I hope might in some way reflect Dr. Mohler's statement of serving you guys well. The first mistake I made, I thought I was the exception, and if you're a church planter, you probably think you're the exception to all the rules.

One rule is the people that you start with, won't be the people that are there in 18 to 24 months. I thought the people we start with, I'm going to be so compelling, the mission is going to be so compelling, they're going to get it, they're going to be here in 18, 24 months. I can tell you what, no. The group that you see in two years is not the group that you started with and that hurts, you guys. You're not the exception to that rule.

What happened to us actually, was like I told you, I'd planted the Mars Hill in Orange County, and a year and a half into our plant, everything went down with Driscoll and Mars Hill closed, and the Mars Hill there was the only campus that didn't continue on in another form. And so what happened to us, was a lot of those people came over to our church. And so it wasn't just that I had lost people in the 18, 24 months and that had shifted so much. We ended up having a church merger in the first 18, 24 months, which was traumatic for us. It overwhelmed us, overwhelmed our systems, overwhelmed our people, burned our people out. It just hampered everything. We grew, we doubled in size in a month, and then for the next 18 months we slowly collapsed as people as we helped people process anger, confusion, hurt, all that stuff.

I thought I was the exception to this rule of like, the people that come are always going to be there. It's not, it wasn't true and it hurt. Another thing that I thought I was the exception to was your closest friends will be the ones that hurt you the most deeply. And I thought, "Well, no, like these guys that I run with, like they're awesome and nothing's ever going to break this friendship." I didn't plan on us having any kind of multimedia or else I would have shown you this picture. 

And as an attempt to do what Rob was talking about, give practical, applicable lessons to young men for how to be good men and husbands and fathers, I created this thing called Men's Training Camp at an MMA gym, where every morning ... because I came from Mars Hill, it was like part of the DNA. Every morning at 6 a.m., we would get together, we would do some physical training for an hour and then we'd do an hour discipleship. We actually got to see the coach get baptized out of that, got to see these guys grow, but you know what? It's four years later and if I showed you that picture, man, four of the five guys are gone. Had to put two through church discipline. One of them just cheated on his wife. Like the amount of hurt that's come from that little group of men, I thought I would be the exception to. You're not the exception. 

An older pastor mentor friend of mine used this picture, he said, "When you guys picture D-day, what do you guys picture? You picture like that over the shoulder shot, like from the beginning of Private Ryan, where the guys are all facing the beach, door goes down, they all storm out." He's like, "You know what the reality is? When those boats went to shore, they had body bags in the back. Like they were planning on casualties." And I was like, "That's horrific." Like that thought in my mind, that never went into my mind in planting a church that there would be casualties and that's the reality. That there is a lot of pain and hurt and you're not the exception to those things.

Ministry has always been difficult. We follow a crucified and resurrected Jesus, you guys are planting in a time and place that is more difficult than any other time in the history of our country. A time when your biggest competition are not the mega churches down the street, but the narratives that people are being catechized with through Netflix, news, porn, video games, music and so on. A time when any of the benefits of Christianity that Christianity is provided are accredited to someone else or dismissed. The flaws of our faith are magnified and weaponized against us. Your work will be slower and harder than you imagined and there will be casualties, you are not the exception. So where and to what do you think that you are the exception, is my question for you guys in the beginning. Where and to what do you think that you are the exception.

So the first mistake I made was thinking I'm the exception, the second was making too many assumptions in preaching and worship. Making way too many assumptions and one of guys told me you guys were in the shadow of a Westminster seminary in Philly. You were here by Southern, by Biola, Fuller, APU. You name it, there's so many Christian universities around we are, and so it's really easy to make a lot of assumptions. 

When we first started, because we meet currently on Sunday afternoons at 4 o'clock. That means our Sunday mornings are open and there's a lot of churches where we are, and so we would take our worship team around to different churches as we were kind of shaping our liturgy to be like, "Hey, let's go look at what these guys are doing." So there's like a Hillsong plant there and in like, in my mind, I have a visceral reaction against that kind of stuff. And some of our team were raised Lutheran and so if you guys know any Lutherans, they drink a lot of beer, but they're also very stoic. An so they're an interesting mix. So we're at Hillsong and they're like, no joke, in the service, it was the Youth Service, and they did the entire Macklemore Thrift Shop song in the church service. Like it was bizarre. So I'm watching my guys react and flinch.

And here's the thing that was funny, like it's really easy to be critical of other churches that are different than you. It's so easy to do that, it is so weak and thin to be critical of other churches, because they're familiar. One of my favorite authors, Dave Eggers, talks about how it's easy to be critical of your neighbor in the khakis and his best because you don't have to get off your couch to do it. Now, you don't have to go anywhere.

And so when I first started, it was easy for me to be critical about we're not going to be like this. We're going to do this reformed thing, we're going to be a Sojourn church, an Acts 29 church. We started to see at our connect dinners every month, we do a dinner at the end of the month, where we have visitors come and we'll buy them dinner and they can ask me all the questions they want. I can tell them about our church, we find a way to get them connected to the church. I started getting these weird questions from people, "Why don't we sing in church?" I don't know about you, but that to me is like, what do you mean? That's what we always did then. And we started getting questions like that and we're like, well, hold on, people don't understand like the basic why behind the basic things we do in church.

And so what I started to do was I realized in that criticism of other churches and underneath those, in my like awkwardness to those questions I was being asked, I wasn't making myself feel like an outsider in any way. I was comfortable being an insider in the church. And so what I started to do, was I started watching Catholic and Muslim services on YouTube, because you know what? When you do that, you feel really weird. I have no idea the language these guys are using. I have no idea the common vernacular ... they're just speaking of things that are common to their congregations, that as an outsider, I have no idea what you're talking about.

And the reality is, more people are going to come into your churches from that perspective, than from someone who's familiar with anything you're saying. And so you're going to make too many assumptions in thinking that people are coming to your church knowing who Jesus is, knowing why they sing in a church, knowing why you're preaching, knowing what justification is, knowing what sanctification is. Knowing all of theological stuff that you guys are passionate about, zero framework for it.

So if you can make yourself feel like an outsider in some way and remind yourself that there are people coming in and you might be able to strip yourself of some of the assumptions that you are making. So not only that the Christian presupposition that God exists is more foreign to people than ever, according to Pew Research, 35% of Millennials are nuns, and in a recent interview, Keller talked about how this current generation is the first not to recognize that their world view itself, was a belief system. They simply think it's what all educated people think. So are people coming into your church with that line of thinking or non-thinking.

More and more people will be coming into our churches, into your church with zero framework for belief, let alone Christianity, so you cannot make assumptions in your preaching and worship. So my question, my second question is, what assumptions are you making in your preaching and worship?

And thirdly, we confuse the system for a biblical principle. First mistake that I made was to think that I'm the exception, the second was to make too many assumptions in preaching and worship and the third was confusing a system for a biblical principle. So we ran to a situation for last three years where our community groups were just brutal. They were thin, shallow, superficial, inconsistent and we were just going through this churn of leaders and people that were brutal. We had a member meeting, where I had all the members raise their hand for all the people who'd experienced the change of leadership in their community groups, and in that member meeting, every hand went up. I was like, "Something's weird, something's broken. That amount of instability is going to cause a problem here.

So we started talking to other churches, starting talking to other churches in Orange County. Ronnie Martin in rural Ohio, our friends at the Village in Dallas, some friends of ours who planted a church in the Westside in Los Angeles. Friends in Seattle. And the thing is, the problem that we're seeing in Orange County was not limited to Orange County, everyone else was experiencing the same kind of thing. It was a problem that wasn't limited to geography or demographics or church size. Think about that. It's a problem that's not limited to demographics, geography or church size.

So what we saw was that mobility that we were experiencing in Orange County, Orange County is incredibly expensive to live in. $84,000 is now low-income in Orange County for a family. If you make less than $84,000, you are low-income, think about, it's crazy. So we ran into a problem where people just can't afford to live there, or people have to move out of town for family or for work or whatever. Kim and I went on a date about a year ago and we started counting all the people that we had seen come and go in the church. And at the time, we were a church of like 75, and we had counted almost 50 people. Which means we've been growing by 9 or 10% every single year, but that means that we shrunk 20, whatever, 15% and grew by another 20%. Every year, we're going through this churn.

So mobility, what we're seeing, mobility undermines trust, because if someone's going into a group and they don't know who's going to be there, they don't know if the leader is going to be there. They're not going to give of themselves, they're not going to open themselves in a trusting relationship to anyone. If you don't have trust, you don't have relationship and without relationship, you do not have a healthy church.

So we had a problem that was bigger than our little Church in Orange County and we identified a cultural force that was contributing to it, then we explored and created a middle sphere between Sundays and small groups. What we did was we just detonated community groups and we said we're going to take the best things that we do in those communities groups, we're going to divide them up into different spheres to address this problem of mobility.

So we saw, as were taking like, if you just have a funnel, people come in on Sundays, the widening of the funnel. We're trying to shove them into these like 12 different circles of like community groups and service teams, and with all the churn and change that people were experiencing down here in the small groups, it made the large group feel unstable and scary. And unstable for people.

So we said, well, what if we put a middle sphere here, led by people who are not going anywhere, me and my wife or other elders, that might provide a layer of stability that we can say, "Welcome on Sundays." Once you guys get into men's and women's discipleship, and then a part of that, when men's and women's discipleship will be these small, what we call discipleship groups. Three to four gender specific groups go through the Bible together and we're going to have neighborhood meals together and stuff like that. So we tried to provide a layer of stability there to address the problem of mobility. 

Anyway, so it's easy to do something for so long that you begin assuming that it's the best way or it's the biblical way. In my mind, what I'm trying to tell you guys, is my mind is I took community groups and I said, well, that's what they meant in Acts 2. I just started assuming, of course, this is the best way to embody what was happening in Acts 2, and I just didn't stop to go, wait a second, why don't I go to Acts 2 and say or all of Acts and all of New Testament, which is exactly what we did, we said what were the marks of a church in that time and how can we best do that in this time and place? And the conclusion we reached was for us in Orange County, that model of community groups just was not the best way to do it. And so we had to blow that up.

So anyway, where are you confusing a system or a model for a biblical principle? So the three mistakes we made, thinking I'm the exception, making too many assumptions in preaching and worship, and the confusing of system for a biblical principle. And so now seven minutes of what worked well in Pittsburgh.

Rob Maine: Yes, so after we became aware of what didn't work well, we made a some adjustments early on, and thankfully, like the Lord opened our eyes to this before we ever launched services, so we're able to turn it around kind of quick, with our small little core team. And so here are four things that worked well in Pittsburgh and they're principles that I believe that you can figure out how to apply them in your own context, with your own people group, with your own mission field.

The first is bring somebody along. I'll explain that a little bit more. Second is your home and your people groups' spaces are the context of mission. Third, finding community rhythms that already exist, and fourth, loving the stranger, which is the definition of what hospitality is. 

Let's go over the first one real quick. Bring somebody along. Literally, everything that I started doing in Pittsburgh, I had somebody with me. Why? It's because everywhere in the New Testament, when you think about the context of discipleship and how relationships work and people grow, it's not just caught, it's also taught. It's both and, it's not either/or, it's both those things beautifully working together.

So there are going to be some aspects where yes, you're going to be instructing and teaching, and other aspects where you're going to ask somebody to observe you. And so it didn't matter what I was doing, somebody was there to shadow me. Didn't matter if I was doing a care session. Everything was viewed in terms of equipping, and so if I was caring for somebody, counseling somebody, we just created in our policies that you're going to bring somebody along with you from your missional community and they're going to shadow. Or if I'm going to hang out with somebody in the community that I've befriended, somebody's going to come along with me. Because I can't handle relationships all by myself. I need somebody to help me.

Hobbies means you guys enjoy doing things. Well, invite somebody along to come do those things with you, and do it with non-believers, and do it with believers as well. One of our mottos was, don't chain ... keep doing what you're already doing, but do it differently. Do you like to eat? Well, do a little bit differently, eat with somebody else. Do you ever read the Bible? Yep, read the Bible with somebody else. Do you ever share the Gospel? Can you bring somebody else along with you?

And what we always make sure was in place was an atmosphere where we can debrief afterwards. Or people who I was discipling can ask me questions, they can rebuke me for my arrogance and if they saw anything out of place in me. It was also a time to where I say, "Hey, next time we do this, I'm going to let you take a little bit more of the lead. I'm going to let you invite me along to something that you're already doing with somebody else."

Now, what would happen if nobody can join me? I was full-time with the church. I wasn't [inaudible 00:29:15]. So what happened when it was during the day? I'd just call somebody up and say, "Hey, can you hold me accountable to having this type of conversation with this person, and then can you debrief with me afterwards?" So whether they were physically present in that event or they were holding me accountable afterwards, I always had somebody with me. And sometimes that was my wife and that was great to be able to enjoy ministry with my wife. So that's the first thing. Bring somebody along. So who can you bring along with you immediately, when you return to your mission fields, this coming Wednesday, tomorrow, or if you got a flight, starts over again on Thursday? Who do you have in your mind right now that you can immediately bring along with you?

Second, your home and your people group spaces are the context of mission. So our God not only invites us into his presence. What does he do? He steps into our places first. So he steps onto our turf. And so we wanted to have that both and reality in the way that we did mission.

So a little story about me, my wife and I, we love to eat, and which means that we love to cook, because it results in eating. I'm super jealous of this guy because I've been watching you barbecuing over open flame. Oh my goodness, it looks delicious. I grew up with a Dad who graduated from The Culinary Institute of America and so I was a born and bred foodie. No one had to teach me how to be a foodie, like I was just around good food all the time. My Dad was an executive chef for two different restaurants, so I ate good food. We never had take outs, that was forbidden. We never went to chain restaurants, that's something of Hell to my father. And so we just ate well all the time.

And so I learned how to have people over to my home and so because when you invite people into your home, you invite them into your mess, you invite them into your realities. You don't have to clean up for them, you just show them, hey, this is who we are and the grace of God covers all of our failures in this space and you're going see a lot of them. You're going to see a lot of them in our home.

But the other thing that we realized, it was with Pittsburghers, the two big thing with Pittsburghers, they love tradition and they're very territorial. So even getting them to cross the street to come into my home was extremely difficult, so what we had to start figuring out was how to become regulars in their environments. We actually had to go to them. And so we would build relationships with Sophia at our favorite restaurant to go to, Piccolo Forno, which means it's Italian for a little oven. They do wood-fired pizzas, all the foods from Tuscany. I'm salivating thinking about it right now, it's delicious food. We're becoming acquaintances with the owner and his wife.

So going there and building those relationships or with someone like Bill and Betty, who are same age as my parents, they live right across the street from us. So we love just ... first it was relationships of hollering across the street from our porches, then it was front yards, then of me walking over to his fence to talk to him, then eventually and I think it's just because we had kids, they start inviting us into their home. They've only been into our home once, but the amount of times they invite us into their home, it's been amazing. We've had great conversations, they're Catholics and we've been able to have conversations about what is the real importance of Mary? Why do we need Jesus? What is our church all about? They once asked me if we were Mormons. Because they thought us having a house church, like missional communities in our home, was kind of weird, so they thought we were a cult. I had to explain to them we're not a cult.

Or becoming regulars where I get my hair cut. So Zack Dean is my barber and we have conversations. A single dad with a 13 year old daughter and just two weeks ago, he finally asked me to go fly-fishing with him. He knows that we both love to go fly-fishing, we both tie flies and finally, he's inviting me on to his turf. He said, "We need to set up a day to go fishing together." And finally, he just said, "Listen, I'm going fishing on Thursday, if you can make it come, if you can't, don't come."

So where are you meeting regulars? What type of culture are you cultivating in your home to invite people in? Where can you invite people into your lives of things that you already enjoy? So I enjoy food, I enjoy a fly-fishing. God gives you a personality and enjoyments for a reason to share those with other people. And also, I would say, sad thing is I had to say no to Zack. It's because I didn't have margin in my schedule that weekend. It's okay, we already scheduled another day. But the question for you is, do you have margin in your schedule to be able to say yes to those relationships that you're building? To say yes to those non-believers in your life.

Third, finding community rhythms that already existed and participate in the good that is already happening. Here's the reality. A lot of things that we're trying to do as church planners have already been invented and people are already doing it way better than us, because they're getting paid to do it. And so what are the rhythms in your community, even in your current neighborhood, where you can say, yes, we can partner with that. Because God's common grace is on that right now. Yes, we can celebrate those things, yes, we can grieve over those things as well, even losses in our community, because God grieves over those losses.

So we've encouraged our missional communities to get a part of their neighborhood associations and just be the laborers. Schools, not just loving the kiddos, but we met in a school for a while, and when we chose our mission field, it was the teachers. Because the teachers work 12-hour days. 7:00 to 7:00. So we love them with care packages, we had prayer cards for them so we can pray for them.

Hobbies. I talked about my hobby, what hobbies do you have that you can have regular rhythms of that, not with just your people, but with your neighbors, non-believers? And where can you neat ... so my big question is, where can you neatly step into the mission when you return with a hospitable presence? And where can you find these natural rhythms in your community already?

So that'll be my final question and I'll let Nick continue.

Nick Bogardus: How you guys doing? You guys want me to finish with what has gone well in Orange County or you guys want to go into Q&A. What do we got? 20 minutes, I think.

Rob Maine: Oh, we're at time, time.

Nick Bogardus: No, we'll go till 11:45. Is that right? Cool, so we got like 20 minutes to finish?

Rob Maine: Yeah, yeah.

Nick Bogardus: Okay, seven minutes of what went well, then we'll take some questions. Let me reset this, start. Similar to what Rob was saying, having a mission isn't theoretical. Getting your hands dirty makes the implausible tangible and it gives others a chance to grow with you. So there's two parts to that. Like moving away from simply having a theory of mission into getting your hands dirty for two purposes, that it makes the implausible tangible, and it gives others a chance to grow with you.

So first, in a time of skepticism, people are often going to ask, does it work, before they ask is it true? They're going to ask does it work, before they ask is it true? Sometimes we like to have a theology or philosophy of mission, but not a practice of it. Engaging in mission and actually putting what you believe into practice is a way to make the implausible tangible to people. Let non-believers see Christians loving one another. 

I'm thinking our neighbors, Mark and Noelle, we live in Irvine, which is one of the most planned communities in America and we have a playground literally 30 feet from our front yard, sorry, my front door. And so our house has become almost like the hub of the neighborhood. We know all of our neighbors. And so they watch us interact with our kids out there and our neighbors Mark and Noelle asked my wife to watch their kid once a week because they said "Look, we just want our kid to be like a little Bogardus. We watched you interact and we like your kids, can you just make our car kid a little more like your kids?" Which is funny, but they're simply watching us and then watching our friends come over and interact with our kids, just led them to say, we want to move closer to you guys and I believe they're coming to church this week, which is rad.

Chrissa and her fiancé Stephan, Chrissa is a sushi chef at this place I go to, once a month, I go to the mountains to a cabin overnight, my wife's gracious, it gives me like one night away to simply clear my head, think, pray, like all that stuff. I go to the sushi restaurant every night alone and the sushi chef Chrissa and I have been talking for like a year, and she recently said, "Hey, will you marry me? I don't know any pastors, you're the only one I know, like would you do my wedding?"

So I got to do premarital with her and her fiance last week, going to marry them in a few weeks, simply by her watching and engaging with me, made something that was implausible to her, more real. We had our neighborhood dinner this last week, where this is part of the blowing up community groups. Once a month, we're going to do neighborhood dinners in neighborhoods in Orange County. What's hard for us is like it's not really neighborhood oriented, like if you notice around Louisville, it's really neighborhood oriented. You got like whatever, Shelby, Midtown, those other cool little neighborhoods.

If you ever ask anybody from Orange County where they're from, what are they going to say? They're going to say Orange County. Like they take the 700, 800 square miles and they say, "That's where I'm from, it's never a city." And so we have a very huge commuter culture, and so we're trying to like do dinners in these major spheres. Anyway, we had over 60 people at our first dinner and that included like at least 15 of our neighbors and afterward, two of our Muslim neighbors, who didn't obviously like talk to each other about this, they both came to me like, "Dude, your people are so warm, so loving, thank you for having us." Like they just simply felt loved, they got to come see Christians engage with one another and engage them.

Our first elder candidate, he's our first elder actually now, Phil, at 3:00 in the morning, a few weeks ago, he heard something on his front door, goes to the front door, sees like a shadow outside and someone sitting outside. And he's like, "Who are you? What's going on?" It was this 17 year old neighbor kid whose dad had just beaten him and he didn't have anywhere else to go, but he came to Phil's house and he said, "You've always been a really good guy and I just don't know where else to go right now," and Phil just said, "Can I pray for you, man?" And like so he's building this relationship with this guy, simply by these people watching Christians interact. It is making something that is implausible to them more tangible. So getting your hands dirty does that first.

Secondly, bringing other people along as Rob said, and watching them, watching you get your hands dirty and inviting them into that process also shapes and grows them to put their theology into practice. It gives ownership all around, it creates space for necessary conversation to build trust. In four years, I've had to do three church discipline situations already, and I've always involved other deacons or elder candidates in that process, to one, have a witness. So if things go sideways, it's not my word against the person, there is someone else involved, but it also creates a space for them to come into very hard situations and walk it out over a long period of time.

Taking people to pray with sick and dying people. I don't know about you guys, if you've done that yet, but there's a few things that make the resurrection more necessary in your life, in your heart, than sitting with someone who's about to meet Jesus. And so bringing deacons and other candidates in to do that with me, has been very helpful and it also creates memories together, watching God work. Even this last week I had lunch with a buddy, my buddy Ray, who used to go to our church. We're still good friends and he had come to our church, he'd come back to our church simply to ask us to pray for him. His wife got cancer, she was a non-believer and so me and Phil prayed for his wife that God would heal her. 

And six months later I'm having lunch with Ray and he's like, "Hey, man," we were celebrating together that his wife is free of cancer. We're like, "Dude, rad, God answered that prayer and also she knows Jesus now." Like God answered her prayer, we didn't pray for her. I didn't ask God to do that when Ray and I prayed for her. We simply asked, "Would you just heal her?" And God of course, goes the next step. And so I got to tell Phil, "Remember when we prayed for Ray? Look at what God did there." He creates a situation where you can also have memories and celebrate watching God work there.

So first getting your hands dirty, it makes the implausible tangible, it gives others a chance to grow with you, so don't just have a theology mission, but gets your hands dirty with other people on your team. The first part is to make the impossible tangible, second is to help shape and grow other leaders. So when have you been at your best in getting your hands dirty? Think about that, when have you been at your best in getting your hands dirty? And I would say, if you can answer that question, like keep doing that, keep going back to that. And who do you need to bring along with you next time? There's a ministry opportunity, as Rob asked.

Secondly, clearly provide goodness, beauty and truth in a time of confusion. So this is a time where the only thing everyone's really sure about is how uncertain they are of everything. It's the one thing that everyone is sure about, I don't know everything. And so we have limited time, this is incredibly confused and Keller talks about how we're the first culture that doesn't believe it's a culture. It just believes it's the universal way that smart people see things. They don't see that their view of life is a set of beliefs and so there's a confusion that comes with that, and what we need to do as leaders is to provide clarity in a time of confusion.

Leadership will mean that you will need to take stands, make arguments and assertions, but to do so in a way that illuminates goodness and beauty and truth. Our tribe tends to emphasize the truth piece, but you also need to capture people's imaginations and direct their appetites with beauty and goodness. If you guys are  familiar with that whole Nashville statement thing that went down, no one argued the truthfulness of it. Everyone argued the timing of it or the posture of it or the tone of it or whatever else.

But for me, honestly, I think timing aside, helpful, clear document. It is what we believe, we need to learn how to do that well and better as people, not just what we believe is true, but also how can we help people see that what we believe is true is also good? Maybe that's part of my first point of like living in a way that allows people to see the goodness and truth and beauty of what you believe in your life, but helping people see that as you preach, don't just tell them what's true, tell them what's good and tell them why it's good, why it's beautiful. 

We will all default probably, to like here's what God says, it's true, deal with it, and not like let's draw that out a little bit and let's look at why it's a beautiful thing that God says. Why it's a good thing that God says this. Why it's helpful to give you a grounding at a time of confusion. So clearly provide, goodness beauty and truth in a time of confusion. Where are you providing clarity for your team and your church most helpfully, and where can you do it better? Is the question I have out of that one. 

Lastly, having a home to gather, train and send on mission makes a huge difference. So I mentioned our home, we just, by God's grace, got so lucky with that place. It's in the center of the county, it is right there next to this park and it has become a hub from which we can gather people and care for people and send people as a family. Because here's the thing, relational mobility that we talked about at the very beginning here, where I talked about our big problem in community groups, relational mobility is related to physical mobility. And so if you guys can be a stable physical presence in your communities, it will help in some way, push back the mobility. The relational and physical mobility.

So one of our greatest tools on mission has been being in a place for a long time and by a long time I mean five years. We're young, like we're still getting some years under our belts, but being there for five years is still longer than most of our neighbors. So being in a place for a long time has been one of our greatest tools. It's a place from which you can gather and send the gathering. 

We have, our neighborhood now has Memorial Day barbecues every year because of our church. Like they come and they look forward to it, the potluck together with people from our church. We have the playground out front which enables us to interact with all of our neighbors. We do food drives, our kids ministry leads the church in collecting food to give to food drives. We go door-to-door, we say, "Hey, we're from this church, we're collecting food for this local homeless shelter, would you want to give something? We're going to come back on this day to collect it," whatever else, it helps us to build relationships with them.

We recently had two neighbors, Jack and Avy, they lived right next door to us, they moved away for a couple years and they moved back and they were like, "We just wanted to move back because we wanted to be your neighbors. We just loved being here with you guys in this place."

Rob Maine: That's amazing. That's awesome.

Nick Bogardus: First of all, think about, we were there in the first place to interact with them. Secondly, we were still there when they wanted to come back here. Longevity in a place would get you a lot of credit. Anyway, and sending people, having family dinners. We started as a church again, to address ... we've been growing a lot, we have a lot of new people and so we're starting to do these family dinners, I'm calling it. I basically took a spreadsheet of everyone in the church and made dinners out of them. Like new people and old people in the same group, so we could have them over to our house to get them to interact and like get us to know the new people a little better. So it's a place to gather people like that. Premarital training, stuff like that.

Like what Rob was saying, people will catch more of what you do than what you teach them, and so as you had people in your home, the way that you model hospitality for them will be what they replicate. And so even Bill Clem, he's old, he's like in his 60s, he was one of my pastoral mentors. Kim and I had him and his wife over to our house for dinner and my wife's a great cook. She just made like homemade tortillas and tacos. Super simple dinner and Bill Clem still to this day, talks about how that dinner changed their view of hospitality. Like a dude in his 60s. Because my wife was simply unpretentious. We simply wanted to have a simple meal with some good friends and share some time together and have a good conversation. For us to influence an older couple is humbling and awesome, but we try to take the same thought when we have people from our church. 

And what we do, they will replicate and so as we gather them in our home and that we plan on being in for a long time, when people come in from how they're greeted, I remember you guys have talked about how intentional, they're so good at this. And when you guys walked up yesterday, there were two people out there that were out there going, "Hey, welcome, we're glad you're here." Like from the moment people walk into our door, we're thinking, how can we model for them how to interact with non-believers and other people in the church? Because what we do will be what they do from here on out.

So anyway, having a home to gather, train and send on mission has made a huge difference for us. So those are the three things that have worked well, three of the things that have worked well for us. Getting your hands dirty, it makes the implausible tangible, gives others the chance to grow with you. Clearly provide goodness, beauty and truth in a time of confusion, and then having a home to gather, train and send on mission.

Preaching to the Secular Mind


My name is John Stark. I'm a pastor of a church called Apostles in New York. We have a church there. I'm married to Jenna. We're gonna celebrate 15 years coming up in a few months. We have four children, and yes we live in Manhattan with four children. And we get a lot of weird looks, but that's okay. People get over it pretty quickly.

Any other helpful biography information there? We've been there for six years, almost seven years, and I'm the preaching pastor there. I know that it says maybe on whatever pamphlet, I know it says something different on the sheet. But maybe on the material that you received online or in your email, it was about writing and teaching, or writing and speaking. I'm sorry if that's really what you came for. I'm just gonna talk on preaching.

I'm sure it will apply in many ways for writing and teaching and speaking. It's applicable, I'm really sure it is, but I generally preach every week instead of teach or speak or write. That may be helpful in all those areas.

I'm not gonna do a bunch of footnote talking or references. I'm just gonna teach through it, but let me just give you all the footnote material up front. On preaching, I think Augustine is actually just an untapped resource on preaching.

So a lot of my stuff is from Augustine. He has a short little book at the end of ... So if you have the Ante-Nicene stuff the 15-16 volumes. On Augustine's City of God volume at the very end, is a book on preaching and theology. It's his systematic theology book, and at the end of it is a little section on preaching. It's really helpful.

Peter Sanlon, I think it's his dissertation, so it's a little dense and not very fun. You can go to sleep to it really easily. It's called Augustine's Theology of Preaching, and it's really, really helpful.

And I think Calvin in his section on the Holy Spirit, and there's a section in his introduction to a Greek New Testament, he writes an introduction to on preaching. Those sections, he develops on Augustine pretty ... I think he steals. He doesn't talk about Augustine. He doesn't quote him, but he flagrantly steals from Augustine. But he also develops from it.

That's gonna be a lot of where I'm coming from. I'm gonna steal pretty flagrantly from those sources. And at the end, I'm going to make some application from Charles Taylor's book, A Secular Age, so that'll be the end. There's a book out that the Gospel Coalition just published called Our Secular Age, so Charles Taylor's Secular Age is 10 years old now. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I think it's a helpful book when talking and speaking and writing and preaching to seculars.

Charles Taylor's a Catholic, so it comes with all kinds of Catholic implications, but I think it's a helpful book. The Gospel Coalition wrote a collaboration of a bunch of pastors and scholars and teachers on Charles Taylor applying it. I wrote one on preaching, so I'm just using some of that here as well. This is a fuller, deeper part of that chapter there. I think it's a helpful book.

Preaching to seculars, I can begin with a story. About four years ago, a bunch of pastors in the city, we experienced our church and other churches being expelled from using public schools as gathering spaces, and we experienced some other pressures in other parts of the city.

So many of us were gathering. We were doing some praying. We were doing some planning. How do we respond? How do we think? And we had felt some pressures, some hostility, or maybe that's how we were interpreting. We were interpreting it as hostility.

There was this man who is a pastor in Paris, he was in the corner, and he finally spoke up. And he began to tell a little bit of his story. And he said, "What we experience in Paris," I think as far as secularism, Paris in comparison to New York is maybe a few steps down the road. But what he said, what they're experiencing is not hostility, it's apathy.

Apathy is not as sexy as hostility because hostility means you matter. Apathy means you don't matter. I think it was a humbling moment for us to recognize that at least in New York City, it isn't so much that Mayor de Blasio thinks about the church, and how he's gonna crush the church. We just don't matter to Mayor de Blasio.

We don't matter to our neighbors. People don't wake up on Sunday morning and think, "Well I just gotta go listen to a sermon." They don't show up at church. They don't think about that. Most of my neighbors ... All of our kids are in school now, and when we invite people to church, when we invite them in the community, all of the sports are on Sunday morning, which is why we have a Sunday evening service as well. We have a Sunday morning and a Sunday evening, and that's pretty strategic for families, surprisingly, is the Sunday evening service.

So it's just apathetic. You don't plan your week around going to church around Sundays. We don't plan brunches around going to church on Sundays. So how do you engage a society that is not hostile to the Gospel, but apathetic to the Gospel and just doesn't care about you?

So preaching, that's one of the things that we're doing, is trying to preach to a secular society. The aim of preaching then to an apathetic culture, I don't think you'll draw secular people to a sermon series of Jesus in the movies. They just don't want to hear about Jesus in the movies. They want to hear what is the vision of the good life.

So the aim of preaching, how we've sort of come up to it is to persuade and transform. And many preachers, especially in our circle, so I'm just gonna probably aim at more reformed preaching, is that many of our circles stop at explain and command. We explain the text, and then we command from the text.

I don't think that's actually what the Bible does, actually. The Bible persuades and transforms. We need to explain. There are commands. We need to command our people as much as we're able, but the aim, the stopping point is persuading and transforming.

So if the big assumption about the nature of scripture is that it's inspired by God. It's the authority of God, and I think many of us would agree, preaching should be expositional, so we're trying to pull the meaning from the text. And the meaning of my sermons should be the meaning of the text that I'm preaching. So the nature of our sermons should match the nature of scripture.

The nature of our sermons, not just match, but serve the nature of scripture, which is really hard. And I don't think our seminaries train us really well. I'm not gonna talk about expository preaching. I think you probably do get training there. I'm not gonna talk about exegesis, you probably get training there.

I wanted to talk about how does our sermons, in some sense, we're gonna think about apathetic secular people, how do our sermons get into the hearts and minds and imagination of our folks.

I know many of you probably are not in Manhattan. I don't recognize you as my neighbors, but I know probably, many of you are in university towns or places where universities have influence. Places like that, maybe more in cities, and you may not think about Manhattan and the pressures of Manhattan as what you experience. But I probably think you're experiencing more than you think.

And if you are experiencing less conversions than what you're hoping for, it may be because your neighbors are more secular than you think, or they're more apathetic to the Gospel than you think.

So I want to talk about our preaching as it serves what the Bible does and what the Bible aims for. So our preaching should serve what the Bible does. Our preaching should serve what the Bible aims for. I'm gonna use two words that Augustine uses. I'm just gonna use them here and define them. This is two things that the Bible does, and it should be in your packet there.

The two words is interiority and temporality. Interiority and temporality. We're talking about what does the Bible do, what does the Bible aim for. These are two words that I think are helpful. A definition of interiority has to do with the interior parts, so has to do with the desires and longings of the soul, that which is most ... This is what Augustine says, "that which is most congenial to the communion with God."

So the Bible aims at that. In other words, the nature of scripture is not just aiming at modifying behavior, modifying our life. It's aiming at the desires, the motivations. It's aiming at what's going on under the hood. Right? It's the engine that's driving the behavior. It's the inner life, the parts of the individual, the hearts and the soul.

Therefore, listen, if you're preaching is not fundamentally aiming at desires and longings, then it is mishandling scripture. So we may be able to interpret it right, but when we apply it as a tool, as a sword, which I think the Bible calls us to do, to aim at the heart. If it's not aiming at the heart, if it's not aiming at longings, desires, you're mishandling it.

So the power of transformation is preaching, and preaching to the heart is found in ... This is what Calvin talks about. This is I think, where he's really helpful, is the inner teacher, the Spirit. So when you aim at the heart and the desires of the person, you're cooperating with the Spirit. The Spirit is the inner teacher that exposes where the truth of scripture conflicts with your heart.

So when you aim at the heart, you're cooperating with the Spirit that uses a mirror to the listener, and says, "Here's the truth of scripture, and here's where it conflicts with your heart." Here's the encouraging thing, is that when I think you do cooperate with your Spirit, the Spirit comes with a better sermon than you have prepared for.

Prepare a good sermon, but we should be encouraged that the Spirit has a better sermon than you do. He exposes the desires and compares them to God's desires. The very act of using scripture to expose the root of behavior, the root of longing, the root of desires, the very act of using scripture for that is transformative.

Look, that's true for teaching your kids. Don't explain and command the Bible. Show the inner parts of their hearts, and how it interferes or conflicts with God's desires.

That's the interiority. Does that make sense? The nature of the Bible aims at the hearts and desires. The temporality, so here, I think maybe our circles, if we're good at anything, we can maybe do that. We can maybe do that pretty well. We aim at the idols of the heart. I'm a little tired of that phrase. But we do that. I think we do that pretty well. We aim at the idols of the heart.

The second thing that Augustine does, and I think this is where we're maybe not great at. Maybe some of you are really great at, but I don't think generally, we're good at this. The temporality nature of scripture, is where the purposes of God is brought to bear upon our personal experiences within time. That's Augustine's complex definition.

Where the purpose of God is brought to bear upon our personal experiences within time. What I mean by that, the nature of scripture is a narrative. It tells us where the world is going. It has a telos to it. Right? It's a teleological piece of work. It's not just explaining and commanding. It's not just words of wisdom, but it's going somewhere from creation to consummation. Our hopes and our desires in our life, that's the interiority right, is in time, is in a narrative.

Augustine says, "Life is a journey traveled by affections." "Life is a journey traveled by affections." In other words, if you are pastoring or leading a church that is full of materialistic people, your people did not learn materialistic habits by reading a tract on a materialistic life. They didn't go, "Oh, well that's persuasive. I should live that way."

No, they learned it by spending their money over time. They were formed into materialistic people. Their life was a journey traveled by their affections that were nurtured by how I spend my money, and what I get from my money.

In other words, your hopes, your desires, your dreams are shaped by a life, shaped by experiences, shaped by habits. So we have a hope for where we want our life to go. Everyone in your church has a hope for where they would like to go.

I probably need to move a little bit faster. Expository preaching then, that's faithful to this sort of temporality nature of scripture, will place our narrative within God's narrative. Place our narrative within God's narrative. Places our hopes and where we would like to see our life go within how God sees and desires for our life to go. Our present reality must be interpreted within God's plans for our reality.

Expository preaching will bring to bear our hopes and our dreams for our life and the plans and purpose of God for our life. Everyone who comes and sits in your Bible study class, your Sunday School class, your Sunday morning service, they all have a dream for their life. They all have a vision of what a good life is. Your job as a teacher of the Bible is to expose how that conflicts with the Bible's vision of a good life.

And that's contextualization, so the big scary word of contextualization really is understanding what's the vision of the good life in your community. What's the vision of the good life of your neighbors? What do they think the good life is? And to expose it or show how it conflicts with God's vision of a good life.

So just to summarize then, the Bible does two things. It has interiority. It aims at desires of your heart, the roots of behavior, and it places your experiences within God's purposes for your life, there's the temporality. The interiority and the temporality. It aims at the desires and cravings, and it aims at the vision of bliss, the vision of the good life. Okay?

Then how do you apply it to preaching? How do you think about teaching? How do you think about speaking to seculars in this? I think this is true for not just good competent preaching, but I think this is true for interesting preaching. Our preaching should create in people, as they're listening, anticipation.

Have you ever experienced a just good preacher, for some reason, they put you on the edge of your seat. Not because they've been able to just explain the Greek really well, and they've given you interesting facts about the text. But some preachers can create such a tension in the room that if I don't see how he's gonna resolve this, my heart's just gonna burst in two. Have you experienced that before?

So how do you do that? How do you create anticipation and a longing in the people for, "I need this to resolve. You need to show me how this resolves." How do you get this to come up and out of your sermon or teaching?

I have a little chart here. This is not how the Bible says you should preach. The Bible doesn't tell you how you should preach. I think this is just helpful to think about this this way. Nancy Duarte or Dwar-tay, I don't know how you pronounce her name. What's that?

Speaker 2: Duarte.

John Stark: There you go. Duarte. Nancy Duarte. She actually has a really good book I've just actually read recently, but there's a really good article or two, and there's a really good Ted Talk that she gives.

She says, "After studying hundreds of speeches, I found the most effective presenters use the same technique as great storytellers by reminding people of the status quo and then revealing the path to a better way. They set up a conflict that needs to be resolved. That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently. To move from what is to what could be."

So this is just a helpful tool for preaching. All right? And I'm still a complimentarian even though this is a woman teaching me how to preach. Okay? She shows that at the beginnings of your sermon, show what is, what's the status quo, and what could be. Then move throughout your speech or your sermon or your study, what is, what could be, what is, what could be, and then end, she says, with a vision of bliss.

What would happen if the Kingdom came? Right? How do you call to action? She uses this method to persuade and modify behavior. Preachers, we're not looking just to modify behavior. Right? This is where it stops being helpful.

We can use it, using the power of the Spirit, the power of scripture to keep attention. Yes. To create anticipation, how is this gonna resolve. Then also persuade and transform because you're using the power of the Spirit, and you're using the nature of scripture upon the hearts of people.

So preaching is not storytelling, but she's saying, here's the structure of storytelling that creates tension and anticipation in listeners, and in some ways, that gets people to begin listening with more than just their ears, that they begin to look and listen with the eyes and ears of their heart. Right?

So, what is, what could be, what is, what could be. So if you're using the interiority, if you're aiming at the desires of the heart, you're framing your sermon around identifying with how the desires of your heart, this is what is, this is what you want, this is what you long for, this is what you crave.

And how it's intention with the truth of scripture, which creates this tension and anticipation. How does it resolve? This is a vision of what is. This is status quo. This is why your desires never satisfy you. Here's the desires of scripture. Here's what satisfies. Here's a vision of bliss. Here's what is, and here's what could be. And that way you get there, what is to what could be is the purpose of preaching.

How do I get there? You're creating anticipation, and you're resolving it with scripture. The reason why I think this is helpful, I think it serves the nature of scripture. Scripture sort of creates this tension. Here's what your heart is. Here's what God calls us to do, and how do you resolve it?

Just maybe some practical things here. You need to let scripture, so if we're gonna be good expository preachers, I think scripture allows us to do this. You need to let scripture show us how to resolve attention. Let scripture do it. Don't be too quick to resolve it. I think we're really bad at this, especially if you are a more practical person, who always seems to have good advice. We are so quick to resolve tension.

And it's usually superficial or sometimes it's pragmatic, and it doesn't sit well with the passage. So don't be too quick to offer resolve in ways that the text does not offer. You have a lot of tools within every text. Every text has allusions to other parts of scripture that resolves it maybe.

Types, fulfillments, use every thing that the Bible gives you, but don't try to do more than what the text is doing. Let the text do what the text is doing. Serve the text, but show what is, how our heart is in conflict with the truth of scripture, and show how scripture resolves the tension in order to show what could be.

Do that in a way that sets you up to give you a vision of bliss where all the desires and satisfactions are fulfilled through repentance, through grace, through Christ, through the hope of Heaven.

That's really with interiority. To apply that what is, what could be to temporality, so what is a good life, a narrative? You're communicating what your life is without this truth, and what it could be if this truth was realized. Here's what your life is. It's exposing ... I need to know your life maybe a little bit better than you do. Here's what it is. And here's what it could be if this truth was explosively true in your life.

It not only identifies the conflict between your heart and the truth of scripture, that's the interiority, and it's providing the remedy for that tension. But it's also showing the purposes of God for your desires or God's end for them. It's showing this is the good life.

I don't know if we're very good at showing the good life, which is why we maybe don't preach Ecclesiastes very well. Ecclesiastes is all about answering, "What is the good life?" And maybe we're just kind of boring, thinking about what is the good life.

Everyone desires and hopes. You have a church full of people who have a vision of bliss. If I had this kind of money, if I had this kind of income, if I had this kind of job, if I had this kind of marriage, if I had this kind of kids, if I had this kind of family. This is religious culture. This is secular culture. Everyone has a vision of bliss that's in conflict with God's vision of bliss.

Biblical preaching that serves the nature of scripture aims at both the taste buds of the heart, "Taste and see that the Lord is good," and the dreams for the future. Preaching should serve both of those. Right?

I think in some sense, probably what a lot of preachers experience is that there is ... What time are we done with this? 11:45? Okay. There's some intuition, I think, to this kind of preaching, and there are preachers who this is more intuitive than learned.

Some preachers have the ability to sort of just cast a spell on you and just make you just, "You can talk for an-hour-and-a-half. I don't care how long you talk." And they're just casting a spell because they're doing something more than just explaining and commanding from the passage.

They're provoking worship and enjoyment. They're able to aim at something, not less than this, but they aim at something more than the intellect. They not only give knowledge about salvation by grace alone, but they arouse gladness and pleasure in it.

So aiming at the heart is a kind of awakening from slumber, then, you know when we have less than fulfilling pleasures, it sort of puts us to sleep. If you have a bunch of people who for seven days a week, find satisfaction in less than fulfilling pleasures, and they're very sleepy because they've just not been awakened to joy, to pleasure, to life. And preaching, you have all the tools, the ability to awaken them to pleasure, to awaken them to fullness.

They've been looking at it in money and their job and sex and their relationships, and they look at themselves in the mirror all day at the gym while they're doing squats. They're looking for pleasure there, and they're not finding it. I sure don't, when I look in the mirror when I'm doing squats.

But you have a heavenly bliss every week to give them. You have pleasures every week to give them. You have things in your ability and in your tool belt to arouse pleasure in worship. So aim at it. Preaching to the heart is the act of inflaming real pleasure, and I mean that with capital R, capital P. Real pleasure in the hearts of hearers.

C.S. Lewis, famous quote, Weight of Glory. Right? He says, "The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located in," or maybe that mirror when we do squats that we thought the beauty was located in, "was located in will betray us, if we trust in them."

So he's talking about experiencing beauty and pleasure in the things of this world. If we think that's where it's actually located in, it'll betray us. It is not in them, it's through them. And what came through them was longing.

"These things, the beauty, the memory of our past, are good images of what we really desire. But if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols breaking the hearts of their worshipers, for they are not the thing itself. They are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a turn we have not heard." Maybe that's ... I mistyped that.

"News from a country, which we have not visited. Do you think I'm trying to weave a spell? Perhaps I am, but remember your fairly tales. Spells are used for breaking enchantments as well as for inducing them. And you and I have need of the strongest of spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment."

Expository preaching then ... This is not C.S. Lewis. This is me. Expository preaching that serves the nature of scripture functions like a spell being cast to break the enchantment of sin in our hearts. So you're preaching should break enchantments. Right?

And the best way to begin that way, of course, is to find pleasure in that truth yourself. So just two helps here. I think reading good literature, good poetry, good books are just helpful. It's like seasoning on meat. The meat's there. The scripture's there. Literature has a way of exposing unfulfilled longing better than we do oftentimes.

So a good book that I've found that helps me sort of read better was a book called Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga. He just shows how good novels, good poetry, good journalism gives us aids in talking about sin, talking about pleasure, talking about Heaven, talking about human longings.

The second thing is there's no quick way to do this, is just godliness. If a preacher preaches from a life of delighting in the presence of God and the truth of grace, he will always have something to say. He will have something for the taste buds of the hearts of his people.

I don't remember who said this. I didn't say it, but it's always stuck with me. "A pastor who is godly will always be interesting." "A pastor who is godly will always be interesting." It doesn't mean an interesting pastor is always godly, don't do that. But I do think godly people are always interesting.

So produce a good structured sermon, produce interesting sermons, read good books, have something to say, but be godly. Have a good prayer life. If you have been able to warm the coals of your heart, you can start fires in the hearts of other people. If you have nothing to give them, you won't have anything really interesting to say.

Okay, any questions on any of the interiority/temporality before I move one from there? Clear as well.

Okay, so applying that. Here's maybe ... How do you then take that and preach then to a secular age, a secular people? Here's where I'm just applying and taking implications from Charles Taylor.

Charles Taylor wrote a book called A Secular Age. It's 800-900 pages. Most of it is not needing to be read, but it's good. Maybe if you don't want to read that, I would read Jamie Smith's, How Not to be Secular. So it's just a good distillation of that, but he's engaging with Taylor, and that's significantly easier to read. I think it's 160 pages, and it's good. He works with Taylor, I think, in a helpful way.

Here's what Taylor tries to do. He describes secularism with the term "self-sufficient humanism" "self-sufficient humanism". Here's what he means by that. A humanism accepting no final goals beyond human flourishing. So do I have the job that I want? Do I have the partner that I want? Do I have the body that I want? Do I have the kind of money that I want? Yes. I'm not working anything past. There's nothing past that.

"A humanism accepting no final goals beyond human flourishing nor any allegiance to anything else beyond this flourishing of no previous society," he says, "was this true." In other words, our neighbors don't find significance in anything beyond the imminent sphere, beyond success, sex, power, and relationships. Right?

"Yet at the same time," he says, and we're gonna talk about this, "there's a malaise, a sense of emptiness in this self-sufficient humanism. The sense can easily arise that we are missing out on something. We're cut off from something. That we are living behind a screen," he says.

He says, "I'm thinking much more of a wide sense of malaise in the disenchanted world, a sense of it as it's empty, a multi-form search for something within or beyond the world, which could compensate for this meaning lost with transcendence."

In other words, I have found all of my meaning and significance in the imminent frame. My work, my body, my sex, my money, everything, this is where I find my meaning. This is why for secular people, they're apathetic towards transcendence, towards Christianity.

They're not atheists. They just don't care to answer the question. Sure God's there, he just doesn't have anything to do with my life. And the hostility comes, is when we begin to force it down their throat. That's where the hostility comes. God doesn't make them angry. It's people who force God on us that makes them angry.

There is a fear and anxiety then, that our actions and our goals and achievements and life have a lack of weight though, a gravity, a thickness, a substance. In other words, there's this feeling that something bigger should be there, and there's not. There is then, here listen, "there's a temptation among secular people towards transcendence."

This is what almost all modern literature does. It's dealing with that temptation towards transcendence, when they don't believe in it. How do we deal with that longing? We can't seem to live without transcendence, but we try to.

If you want to know how to preach towards and teach towards and reach and write and talk towards secularists, that temptation towards transcendence, that's where you're aiming. Preaching is tempting people towards belief. Everyone's tempted towards transcendence. Work with that temptation. Use everything that the Bible gives you, which is a lot, to push people toward transcendence.

I don't think this will take very long. What are some avenues to do that? All right? So let me just apply Charles Taylor. Aim at the buffered self. I'll define that. Aim at the buffered self, the experience of malaise, and the desire for authenticity. The buffered self, the experience of malaise, and the desire for authenticity.

Taylor says, "In this world, we've gone from a porous self," so think of like a sponge, "a porous self to a buffered self." A porous self, he says in previous societies, think about like Martin Luther.

Martin Luther, he ministered to an age where he not only threw inkwells at the devil, he ministered to people who believed in ghosts and goblins. When they were walking through the forest, the forest was enchanted. There were things out there, and you were vulnerable to them. Things got into you and changed you and possessed you and transformed you and turned you into something that you did not want to be.

But also, when you thought about significance and meaning, you found all of that in something transcendent to you. God was real. The Spirit was real. He was active. He's active in the Lord's Supper. He's active in preaching. He's active in the body. He's there, and you find your meaning and significance and value in that. You find fullness there.

That's the porous self. The buffered self is someone who transcendence no longer has anything to do with them. Taylor says, "Not only are we saved from the gods and the devils and the ghosts and the goblins, but we're also cut off from meaning and healing."

In other words, the buffered self becomes the master of the meaning of things. I find everything that I am needing in life to be in what I can accomplish, what I can do, what I can gather, what I can become. So a buffered self blocks out certain ways in which transcendence has historically impinged on humans and been present in their lives. Right?

So a modern person, a buffered self, who sees human flourishing as his or her highest commitment, then sees every relation and obligation as just personal enhancements.

As pastors, we want people to become members of our church. We want people to tite. We want people to be involved in the sacrifice. The reason why probably, many of your people resist that is because they've embodied this view of life, of this buffered self.

When we're talking about secularists, we're talking about people who don't go to church, and then people who are in your church. The buffered self, you have a church full of buffered selves. People who see a gym membership and church membership as personal enhancements. Is this gonna enhance my life?

Community is an enhancement. This yoga class is an enhancement. This is enhancing my flourishing, and if it begins to impinge on my flourishing, it's gonna call for sacrifice, if it's gonna call for something that I don't want to do, or I don't want to give, then I just cut it off. Which is why some people, this person hasn't been to church in four months.

Which also here ... There's a few steps out from here, but let me just go there. There are people who are serving in your church who show up every week early, who teach children's, they hold babies for you. They put out chairs, who see that as a personal enhancement in their life. It's making them feel really good. It's giving them meaning, giving them significance.

But the moment you don't notice it, you don't glorify them, it's not longer enhancing them, it's just calling for sacrifice, they'll stop doing it, or it'll burn them out real quickly.

So pastors and church leaders must recognize that their neighbors have internalized this way of thinking and often view religious commitments as intruding on their self sufficiency, which is why many people don't get up and think about church, is because it doesn't add to their personal flourishing.

So you must see that our churches are potentially filled with people also, with their current church commitments and investments in the community as enhancements to their flourishing. When these enhancements begin to impede on our flourishing by asking for sacrifice and demanding discomfort, the temptation will be to put out faith as an intolerable intruder to their buffered self.

This may not be a conscious or explicitly stated condition, but it is the way of the hearts that have been formed in the West today, whether we are religious or not. Look, if you're preaching to your people who are filling your pews or longing for people who are not in your pews to listen to your sermons, you have to recognize your preaching has to intersect with the buffered self.

You have to expose how a vision of bliss or pleasures of fullness in Christ really is a more satisfying view of reality than the buffered self where personal fulfillment and personal flourishing is as far as they go. Does that make sense?

So aim at the buffered self. The second thing, and maybe you're doing this simultaneously with the buffered self. You're aiming your preaching at the malaise of modernity, at the malaise.

All right, so with that freedom that comes from the buffered self, comes also the sense that I'm missing something. I'm cut off from something. Just read any good novel, and they're playing with that sense that I'm longing for something bigger than what I'm experiencing day-to-day.

That we're living behind a screen is the way Charles Taylor puts it. I'm not able to really engage with what I really long for. It's a sense of malaise, which senses that the world, to be an empty place, where what we've gained with our buffered selves doesn't compensate with what we've lost with transcendence.

The freedom that we've gained in our buffered selves doesn't compensate for the emptiness that we've lost without transcendence. The malaise deepens even though we've given up on transcendence. So your neighbor has given up on transcendence or at least the project of transcendence. But they haven't given up on the feelings and the experiences of transcendence.

And your preaching should aim at the feelings and the longings and the experiences of transcendence. Preaching is aiming at the feelings and the experiences of transcendence. In other words, your neighbor doesn't want everything that comes with transcendence, but you're aiming at what they're missing when they give up on it because they still long for it. They still have a feeling for it.

And here's three ways that Taylor sort of shows this to be. That we struggle to find real significance, real meaning, without any higher goal or telos beyond personal flourishing. Without a telos, some transcendent plays outside of ourselves, our lives have a fragility of meaning.

So your preaching should aim at how weak their sense of meaning really is, to expose them ... Ask them the question, "Isn't that sort of a lack?" Just exposing the questions of, "That's not a whole lot of meaning to you. There's an emptiness there. There's a fragility there to your sense of meaning." It exposes the fragility.

Second, if you ever notice, I don't know maybe you don't depending on your experiences as a pastor. There will be tons of people because I'm a minister in the city, who have no desire to be in any part of church, any part of religious world, but they'll ask me a religious minister, to do their service.

They can go down to the courts and just get it done. Or they can have a secular service. There are all kinds of secular ways in which you can make sure your marriage is true with the government, and you have all your friends there.

You don't need me to preach a sermon at your service, or at births. For a family who were spreading ashes in Central Park, which was illegal, but I did it. It was the first ash spreading service. I'm sure that's not what it's called, but no one there believed that that body was gonna rise again. But they wanted a minister there. They wanted something there.

So at moments in life like a birth or a marriage or a death, there's a sense to where they want this to mean something. But because we don't believe in transcendence, if we don't have a something here ... I at that moment, represented transcendence to them.

Traditionally, we have solemnized these moments by connecting them with something transcendent, but with this enclosure towards this buffered self, it leaves a hole. And many people have no other connection other than these meaningful moments, and they're fading as well.

So the question is, you can ask them, "Why are these meaningful to you?" And there's something more than just nostalgia going on. There's something more than just sentimentality going on.

The third area is we perceive a lack in everyday moments in the mundane. In Martin Luther's day, everything was enhanced. Everything was full of presence. Everything was spiritual. Now there's sort of this terrible flatness in everyday experiences.

There's a terrible flatness in the commercial, in the industrial, in the consumer. There's an emptiness that's repeated in this accelerating cycle of desire and fulfillment, desire and fulfillment, desire and fulfillment in our consumer culture. And preaching is meant to aim at that emptiness and fill it with something.

We are buffered selves, we have a sense of malaise, and because we seek solutions from within, not without but within, those solutions don't work. So our preaching is to expose the emptiness of all of our solutions. Why that hasn't worked for 15 years. Why that hasn't worked for the last several months.

I'll end this way. Pastors and spiritual leaders must recognize and show their congregations the unsatisfying end of the buffered self, which sees human flourishing as it's ultimate commitment over all other commitments, sees religious community, friends, relationships as enhancements that can be discarded when they're no longer enhancing. The buffered self ultimately alienates themselves from meaning, satisfaction, intimacy, and love.

This buffered, secular self, which is ... You know, in New York, loneliness is the biggest pastoral problem. That's true for Christians and non-Christians. They're just isolated. They don't experience meaning. They don't experience satisfaction. They don't experience intimacy. They don't experience love. The TV show FRIENDS is a fraud. No one lives that way. There's not that kind of intimacy.

FRIENDS is a projection of what we long for, but it doesn't happen with buffered selves. It doesn't happen because people who are in your life, who just come into your apartment not knocking, we don't want that person in our life. We don't want that person to come in while I'm in my pajamas eating yogurt from the container.

We want them to see me. We want our person to make sure I'm beautiful. I'm well-kept. I'm not eating yogurt from a container. I'm eating my kale from Whole Foods. That's the buffered self. So preaching shows where we get meaning, satisfaction, intimacy, and love.

Just one more thing with authenticity. I mentioned it, so let me just say this. This may be true. You can talk about the need for authenticity in a real secular culture, but when you're even talking to your people, they desire authenticity. Especially maybe if you have a younger crowd. They want weakness. They want failures in their leaders. Show me your messy life. Right?

They love the confessions of a something something. Those are huge now because we want authenticity. And they want to be authentic. You go to any community group or small group or Bible study, and everyone wants to talk about, man here's the lows of the week. This is why this was hard.

Here's the difference though. The authentic self, which is we're in the authentic age, Charles Taylor, we're an authentic age. The authentic self says, "This is me. You must accept me as I am. If you're gonna be my friend, you gotta accept me. This is me." That is the authentic buffered self. "You're not gonna intrude on me. You just have to accept me." And it's seen as humble and messy.

The porous self, which the vulnerable self maybe. A biblical vision ... because there's something there that's good. There is something there that they're desiring that's true. But the vulnerable self, which I think is a more New Testament. Not just authentic, but vulnerable, says this is me, take me, and change me. Transform me.

One is confession. Confessions of a whatever, something, something. Confessions of a messy pastor, to repentance. You need confession, but confession can merely say just accept me as I am. Repentance says, "Take me, transform me, change me. I need to turn from this. Help me." Aim at those desires. There's something that they want in authenticity, but show them more. Right?

Running on Empty - Thriving Not Just Surviving in Ministry


Thank you guys for being here with me this morning. Breakouts are always pretty much my favorite part of these kinds of conferences. I mean, I love the teaching. I love sitting up there. I love the careful study and taking the notes and doing that whole thing, but for me the breakouts. They're not these careful three-point expositions, breakdowns of texts. The best ones for me are the ones where they're kind of like really good conversations, really good discussions, where we're kind of all gathered here together. 

I was actually thinking about it this morning. There's already something lovely about all of us gathering in this room under this topic, because what we're acknowledging together is that oftentimes we're tired. We're discouraged. We need help, so that when you look to your right or to your left you see sisters or brothers that are tired. They're just like you and they're like me. 

My name is Melissa Martin. I'm a church planting wife. I'm originally from Southern California. We moved here ... I know, I'm not mic'd up. I don't have the pastor projection, so I'll try really hard. [inaudible 00:01:08] Are ya? All right, I'm fine. No, I can project better. I can channel my husband here, the Italian. 

We moved to Ashland, Ohio, Northeast Ohio, a small university town from Southern California about seven years. That was a culture shock. We brought with us two cats on the plane and a teenage daughter. So yes, parents of the year moving a 14 year old girl to a small town from Southern California. Don't ask her about it. We planted Substance Church about four years ago there, and then three years after that, one year ago, we planted another church in a neighboring town 30 minutes away. 

In addition to pastoring Substance, my husband is also the church planting director for our denomination. One of the things that we get to do on a regular basis is, we get to meet with a lot of church planting young couples. As they're coming into the denomination, we get to sit down with them all across the country. One afternoon we had lunch with this new couple and a couple other pastors. This one pastor's wife came in that we were meeting with and were assessing. She was really sweet, like one of the most just incredibly sweet women. Dressed in heels, a beautiful lovely dress. She had one of those ... even her voice was, her voice was so soft. Just really gentle. She didn't really seem to have many strong opinions one way or the other. Just a lovely, seemingly very, very kind woman. 

Afterward my friend turned to me, and she's also a pastor's wife, and she looked at me and she said, "Now that right there, that is the quintessential pastor's wife." And my thought was, "What? No! That's not a quintessential pastor's wife. A quintessential pastor's wife is our friend Sally." Sally, which is not her real name because who's really named Sally. She has four biological children. She adopted two more. She home schools all of them. She teaches a church-wide women's Bible study every week. Really intense. She plays the piano. She leads worship every Sunday. She cooks gourmet meals. This woman has about seven million plates spinning at all times, never appears to drop a beat. She is terrifying, to be perfectly honest with you. 

Why do I tell you that story? It's not just so you can see the differences in me and my friend's personalities, actually. But for the fact that I think that every single one of us in this room, we have a mental job description for ourselves. It might not even be largely ... It might be largely unconscious, like we don't necessarily think, "No, this is it," but we know the parts that we are measuring up against all the time. We know we're very often very closely tied in with the areas that we're falling short. This might not even be a pastor's wife for you. Could be a mom, could be a ministry leader, could be whatever you're doing. We have this mental checklist at all times that we're running ourselves against. 

When Dave Harvey asked me to speak this year, he didn't give me a topic. He just asked me to share with you guys something that I have been learning. Something that the Lord has been teaching me in this year. I don't know about you, but do you guys ever have those seasons in your life where every book you pick up, every sermon you hear, every conference you attend, there is a very similar point and a very similar theme that's running through the whole thing? That was me in this past year. It was almost getting to be kind of funny at times. So, that made what I wanted to talk about this morning really easy because it's something I have been marinating in and it's something that I've been painfully learning in the last year, really in the last year specifically. 

I want to state something upfront. I do not have a magic solution to this. If you have been in ministry for any length of time, or even if you're just starting out ... I was just talking to Dusty. We did their assessment. She's in here somewhere. There you are. They're thinking about coming into the network and starting a church plant. You read the books. Even if you haven't started, you read the books. You've had the conversations. You read the blogs. You know that fatigue and burnout are for real, so that's what I wanted to talk about but I don't have a magic solution and I hope that's not disappointing to you. Again, this is something that the Lord is really growing me in and what I'm currently learning. I think there is a beauty and helpfulness in me not standing up here as an expert imparting my wisdom down to you, but instead as a sister that is in the trenches with you. I'm struggling and I'm learning and I'm growing. So, I share those same weights. I share the same weaknesses but I also share the same Father that sustains us as we're learning and we're growing and we're struggling. 

Just this month, actually in the last few weeks, I had the opportunity to think to two different lead pastors' wives. The first one I have known for a very long time, and she has responded in their church plant's struggles ... struggles with growth, struggles with leaders, just across the board. They've really struggled in their planting experience. The way that she has responded to that is she has completely checked out. She is pouring herself completely into her kids who are now older, like high school and junior high, and into their sport schedules. Her definition, how she describes where she is at with their church currently, she just said, "I hope y'all are loving Jesus over there. Whatever's happening, I hope that's happening. I'm over here, you guys just keep on trucking." So she has completely distanced herself, completely taken herself out of the mix. 

And then two days after her, after I had this conversation that was weighing on me and I was just chewing through it, another woman called me. She is in the midst of, just up to her neck in significant leadership elder team conflict. I know some of us know the pain of that and what that feels like, the heaviness. The amount of courage it takes for her every Sunday morning to open those doors and step back into that mess and that hurt and that disappointment and that being misunderstood and maligned and what that looks like, it takes a ton of courage. She told me, she was in tears and she was like, "Melissa, I love Jesus. I love his church. I do not think I can keep doing this." 

And they both, those two responses to where they're at, they both break my heart in different ways, mainly because I understand both of them. There's different aspects of it that I can definitely, I've walked in. I mentioned that we planted another church three years into our original church plant. My husband and I have been stretched thin, particularly in the last year. I think it's even harder when you are a capable people, when you can run on your own gifts for a really long time. I think, particularly in this last year, it's been a sprint. Nobody can sprint for a year. Not even you, Kimberly, 'cause I know you can sprint.

I don't even think we were fully cognizant of this, but I don't think we had even really caught our breaths from the first plant before we plunged back into the early planting work in this new town. Ronnie preaches every Sunday at both congregations. We're responsible for the majority of the marriage counseling, the premarital counseling, the leadership development, any of the additional classes being taught, the membership classes, soul development. All the calls, all the training, all the teaching. Community groups. Everything. When you're a church plant, you know what that's like. It's all hands on deck. The myriad of details that go into running two churches. Three years in, we hired a part-time worship guy and he and his wife have been an immeasurable grace to us because up until that point, Ronnie was leading worship and preaching. We just actually hired, on October 1st, we hired a lead pastor for the second congregation, which has been very much an answer to prayer. 

So, that's where we were at and I think "stretched thin" over the last year is being gracious and kind because I'm gonna use kind language in front of you guys. I was talking to our other elder's wife about this. I was just processing through what this looks like in our life and how I am feeling about it and she replied to me and said this, "Just hold on. Your sabbatical is coming in 2018." 

Now, I adore this woman. I love her. She and her husband are squarely in our corner and they value rest. They value care for their pastor and I appreciate her care for me tremendously. I love her, but I knew then and I know now that a vacation would not fix the kind of anxiety and fatigue that had already settled in. Even a sabbatical wouldn't fix that. You all know what I mean with that. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, this summer we came home from an amazing vacation. It was just the two of us on a Gulf island, which is just ridiculous even saying that out loud, but it was great. Our first day back from that ... We flew in on Saturday. Back at church on Sunday. It was an 18 hour Sunday sprint from morning 'til end. It culminated in a meeting at our other congregation where one of our key leaders looked at us and said, "I do not feel pastored by you." 

Her words prodded that tender, that vulnerable spot in me. This is what I hear, "You are not living up to my expectations. You are not performing. I am disappointed in you." And what I feel, she should see my invisible job description and she knew clearly. She could see that where I was not measuring up. Vacation rest, gone. Everything that had led up to that. I feel so good. I have a tan. We're on a beach with great drinks. Gone. None of that matters in that minute because it just conjured all that back up, the part where I am not meeting expectations. Things were slipping through the cracks. 

So what this last year has brought me to has been a deepening conviction that I need a rest that only God can provide. I do not want to be one of those ministry couples where you're just barely keeping your heads above water between vacations. God in his gracious mercy has been pressing some pretty key truths about the nature of rest, what true peace is, and more importantly, where these things are to be found. That's been being pressing on my heart over and over and over again this past year. Understandably, I have been drawn back time and again to Jesus's words in Matthew where he said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

This is a very familiar passage for us. My eyes and my heart, they always focus on a few key lines, a few key words. Yes. I am heavy-laden. Yes, please help me find rest. That is where I anchor in. That's where my heart and my eyes are drawn to. What had never really stuck out to me before was that I am called to do something in between those two points. I am called first to come to him. "Come to me." Which is hard, I think especially, as I said, when you're a capable person and you can run in your giftings and you can run in the things that you feel like, "No, no, no, I have this." So what he starts with completely is "Come to me." 

We are called to come to him and then we are called secondly to take Christ's yoke. What does that look like? Taking Christ's yoke is submitting to him. Laying down our capabilities. Laying down our preferences. Laying down our weaknesses. Submitting complete to him our wills. And the final thing is, he calls us to learn from him. That was kind of where I wanted to camp out a little because what do we learn from him? What does it go back to? That he is gentle and lowly in heart. So, lowly in heart. We are called to humility. 

That was actually, when I was gonna title this, I just wanted to say "Ministry and Humility," but I don't think Dave Harvey thought anybody would come. But that's really what it is. I think what I've been learning a lot about is what the nature of humility is and what it isn't. This famous and familiar verse tied rest and humility together in a way that was completely fresh to me, and it was surprising. 

This concept, this idea of rest and humility being tied so closely together is explored at link in this book that I would heartily recommend to you called Humble Roots. It's by Hannah Anderson. If you don't want to read it, that's fine. If you don't want to read it, Hannah said that her entire book could be summed up in four words. These four words are probably the most important thing that I have learned in the last year. Really, honestly, if I'm going to be honest, the last five years. These were the four words: I am not God. 

I get that that's really revolutionary. You guys came all the way Louisville to find out Melissa Martin is not the creator of the universe. Here's the thing. Every morning that I wake up, I start from the position that I should be. I expect things out of myself that can only be true of him. I desire to do or to be things that only God can produce or provide. 

There's actually this tiny little book that is absolutely lovely. It's called A Theology of the Ordinary and it's by Julie Canlis. I swear the thing is like, this big and like, this little but it's amazing. One of her chapters in it is focused on how God created Adam and Eve. She says this, "When God created us, limited as we are, he said 'It is very good.' The limitations that are part of being not God were intended to keep us close and in relationship with God." She goes on, "Limitation was written into their perfection because limitation put them in proper relationship with the Creator." 

So, let's use this for this morning as a working definition of humility. Humility is understanding who God is and who we are. Let me say that again because it's taking me a very long time to understand that and really begin to start to walk in the truth of that. Humility is understanding who God is and who we are. What I am just beginning to see and experience conviction in are these two things: my utter lack of true humility and two, the way that my pride and stress and anxiety are intrinsically linked.

I love this quote. "Pride convinces us that we are stronger and more capable than we actually are. Pride convinces us that we must do or be more than we are able." I love what Andy Crouch, how he defines in. Andy Crouch says this. He calls that, "inflated significance ... that the desire to do or to be more than I was created for."

I'm gonna get a little bit personal here and share a little corner of my story. It is my story but it is also my daughter's and she's a person. Sometimes I think we forget that when we share stories and pictures of our children, but God hasn't finished writing her story yet, so I'm gonna be careful. When my daughter was in high school, she really struggled with her faith. She still does. We went through some very, very rocky years. Ronnie and I often say that of all the struggles we've gone through with losing a parent earlier, significant ministry conflict, moving across the country, planting two churches, that right there. Nothing has caused us more pain and more anxiety and more sleepless nights that this. So at one point, as you guys know, you seek a lot of counsel in these situations, or you should. We did. Talked to everybody. But at one point, the most gracious and loving counsel I received was this: Someone took me by my shoulders, they looked me in the eye and they said, "You cannot fix this." 

Out of all the counsel we sought, this was the most helpful which feels weird and counterintuitive, but why? Why was this the most helpful? With that few words, an enormous weight was taken off of my shoulders. One that I was never meant to bear in the first place. There was so much anxiety and so much fear that I was missing something. That there was some magic conversation I could have, some phrase that I hadn't come to yet, some perfect Scripture verse that I hadn't printed out and put in her lunch or on her bathroom mirror or whatever. There was some sermon I couldn't just have conveniently playing as she walked into the house. Some new rule or plan that we hadn't implemented or thought of. In other words, there was something that I could do that would change her heart. That was truly what I wanted from people until they just said, "Stop." 

What was I doing in all of that? By the way, I said that in about 15 seconds. I am compressing years of struggles in about 15 seconds. What I was doing in that and what my husband was doing in that was we were putting ourselves in God's position in this life and I was clearly not doing a very good job. 

But here's the thing with that. I know any of you that are parents, especially parents of older kids, you can relate to that. What I was doing also, there's a danger in this. I can bring that same heart and that same expectation from parenting into ministry as well. How many marriage counseling sessions have you guys sat in where you were almost physically willing these two couples to repent to each other? To get along? I almost lean forward, like you feel like you can make this happen. Half the time I would just settle for basic human kindness at certain points. 

When you're sitting in community group with people and week after week after week, the same person just does not get it. Their hearts are hard, their ears are closed. What do you do? I maneuver conversation. I strategically share things on social media. Oh, read this, you know? What I'm doing the entire time is I'm trusting in my own powers of communication, my own powers of persuasion, or sometimes just good old-fashioned guilt to produce the results that I want in their lives. But Scripture clearly tells us that that burden and that responsibility lies on God's very capable shoulders. 

We look at the psalmist. What does he do? He prays for God to open his eyes that he may behold the wonderful things from his law. In 1st Corinthians, Paul tells us that the person without the Holy Spirit considers the things of God foolishness. We're told in Ezekiel that God is the only one. He's the one that has to give us a completely new heart, replacing our heart of stone. What about the great beautiful truths in Ephesians 2? "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sin. But God, rich in mercy, because of his great love for us, made us alive in Christ." 

So, I am not God. I cannot do what only he can do and I cannot change hearts. I don't think I'm very different than you guys. I think even as I'm speaking, I'm sure there are areas in your life that you can think that this is true of you. This struggle is true for you too. Pastor and author Zack Eswine says this. He said, "You were never meant to repent because you can't fix everything. You are meant to repent because you tried. Even if we could be God for people, the fact remains that Jesus often does not have the kind of fixing in mind that you and I most want." 

So, what does this truth free me to do? This truth frees me to repent. That I am not God. I cannot change a person's heart. I need to cling to the truth that God is the one that changes hearts of stone to hearts of soft flesh, repentant. That God is the one that opens blind eyes to see the beauty and the truth of his grace. 

What does that produce in me, then? That repentance, that turning to that truth, that produces in me an ability to love people freely and generously without panic or anxiety or pressure. Or without making it all about me. That's such a temptation, isn't it? It's in parenting and it's in ministry. To see their failures or their lack of growth as an indictment against you and your ministry and your capabilities. It's a way of holding them up against that mental job description and seeing where I've clearly fallen short. So instead, when I run up against my God-given limitations, those things that God has said was good, was very good, it should drive me to dependence on him and trust that he is working in his timing and that produces rest. 

If we go back to our working definition of humility, understanding who God is and who we are and our God-given limitations ... We covered since we are not God, we can't change hearts. I cannot change hearts. Secondly, since I am not God, I can fail. I can make mistakes. And in fact, I will fail and I will make mistakes. Job says of God, "I know that you can do all things and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted." I want this so badly to be true of me, but it's not. 

Here's the thing. If this is true of God and not of me, why do I lie awake at night replaying all the small ways that I've missed the mark? Cataloging situations and people that are slipping through the cracks, marriages that are crumbling, children that are wayward, weird little myriad of details on a Sunday morning that I've noticed that are not correct. Those are the things that play through my mind lying awake at night. One of my jobs on Sunday morning between the two congregations is bringing the bulletins from one congregation to the next. We don't have screens in either of our two congregations. The first one because it looks really cool. We're in this old refurbished warehouse and it just doesn't go with the vibe. Okay, I'm totally kidding. That's not why we don't have it. It's really nice. 

Our bulletins function as absolutely everything. They are our liturgy. They are our song lyrics. They are all of our readings. They are everything. The news, everything, so our bulletins are pretty important. My job is bringing them between the two of them. Somehow one Sunday, and I have no clue how this happened, they were left in a bag by the door. Our congregations are 30 minutes apart. So, Ronnie and I are getting off on the freeway. The service is starting in 15 minutes and I realize that the bag with all the bulletins is back a half hour that way. 

This was not my shining moment. I did not respond ... like, that first church planting wife I was telling you about? This would have been her moment. This was not mine. I literally flipped out. Ronnie looks at me in the midst of my meltdown and he's like, "Babe. Everybody makes mistakes. It's fine." I looked at him, and this is not painting me in a great light, and I said, "No. You do not understand. Yes, everybody makes mistakes. I do not make mistakes. I do not make mistakes like this." He just let that hang there in its loveliness between the two of us. Didn't say a word. Yeah, that was great. 

But Hannah Anderson explains it this way. She says this, "Failures at small things remind us of how helpless we are in this great wide world. When little things spiral out of control, they remind us that even they were never in our control in the first place and this is terrifying." Wow. Those are the little things. Those are the small, everyday failures that unwind us and create anxiety. But what about the biggies? What about the big large-scale failures? Not just forgetting the bulletins. I still argue that was kind of a biggie, but not just forgetting the bulletins. Watching your marriage break down. Watching your kids rebel, your finances flounder, your church plant stops growing or never starts. Conflict between elders' wives. What about a church split?

I spoke on this last year at the conference at length, because who doesn't want to sit in that breakout about failure? I think that one of my most painful and gracious things that the Lord has done in my life has been allowing us to fail. Joel Brooks's session in there, I was not expecting that. That is so close to our story. I don't even know how I didn't know that before this. I'm sitting in there and I'm like, mascara all over my face. I'm like, "Great, I'm going into this in the most emotionally fragile place ever. Thanks Lord. I was praying. That was not really how I was expecting you to answer that prayer." Very, very close to our story so that was very encouraging and devastating to sit through. 

Failure for us, that has been one of the most gracious things that God has done for us in a weird way, because it wasn't failure at something that I didn't have any right or expectation of succeeding at. It wasn't like I was expecting to succeed at singing a solo or running a marathon or painting some beautiful art thing. It was something that I felt fully within our capabilities to do and to do well. But those times that we have found ourselves most facedown in tears before the Lord, pleading with him because we are at the end of ourselves, we cannot see a way out ... Those are times that I felt God to be the most fatherly and near, when our hands were completely empty. When those capabilities were not enough because everything that I brought to the table, my talents, my giftings, my strengths, they weren't enough. My answers at that were only, "But God being rich in mercy, because of the great love which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved." And that truth, the one that everything else is gone, and that is what you're laying before the Lord. 

Paul Washer says this, he said, "In our fight against pride, first we ought to seek to grow in our understanding of the doctrine of God and the doctrine of man. The more that we understand who he is and what and who we are in comparison, the more pride is defeated." In my failures, in your failures, we can trust that God is God and that he is good. We can rest in the knowledge that we do not know, but he does. 

So humility, acknowledging that we are not God, again, this points us to our limitations as creatures. We are not the creator. What that does for us, it means that we don't have to any longer ignore our limitations or push past them. We have physical limitations as creatures and not creators. We get tired. We need rest. We don't have to hide them from everyone around us. Even in there. I am not comfortable with tears, public tears. I am not comfortable with large scale shows of emotion. If you've been around Sojourn for any length of time, I think you can reference it. They love the Enneagram. They love it so much. I'm a five, so I don't know if there's ... Amber, sorry. I don't know if there's any other fives. Please tell me there's another five woman in here. No? I'm alone. All y'all are like, nines and ones. Every pastor's wife I come across: nines, ones, and twos. 

But I am not comfortable in that place. I am not comfortable in the place of the unknown. I'm not comfortable in the place where I do not feel equipped, or there's an answer that I cannot give you. But, we don't have to hide that from everyone around us. What this does is that it frees us to be open and admit those limitations, and we get to see them instead as God-given graces to drive us to our loving Father in dependence and childlike trust. That true peace, that true rest that that will produce in us? That is lasting. It's unlike fleeting but valuable and necessary days off and vacations and even sabbaticals. Those are necessary and good. Don't hear me saying that they're not, but this is something that produces a rest that will last. That rest will allow us like Paul to run with endurance the race that is set before us and trusting our Father for the results.

The Most Important Things I’ve Learned About Training Leaders


Well, hey, as you're coming in, just welcome. My name is Kevin Galloway. I know some of you, and some of you, I've never met before, but maybe we can connect sometime before this week's over. I am a pastor. I lead a multi-congregational church in the Chicagoland area. It's called Christ Church. We have a congregation in downtown Chicago. We have met in Lincoln Park. Now, we are meeting in the West Loop if you know Chicago at all. We're right downtown, and we have two congregations in northwest Indiana. One is in a city called Michigan City, and the other one is in La Porte, Indiana. We call ourselves one church and different congregations, all of that, but we try our best to serve that region with the gospel. 

I was asked today to teach about what I've learned. I think the title's right. I was given this title, What I've Learned from Training "Leaders", and there's quotes around the Leaders, and I never asked why it was going leaders, but maybe new leaders, long-time leaders, potential leaders.

A little bit of my history in that. Before, well, back in the day, I went to college, studied theology, got into vocational ministry, and hated it. I was so not ready for that work. My background, my training as a leader as a young man, was something called Young Timothy Class. Can anybody give me an amen? Nobody want to? You girls could have nothing to do with that back then, and the training was this. Here's how you stand when the offering's taken. Here's how you stand when we're praying for the Lord's supper. Here's how to pass the trays. As you graduate to that, you might be able to read scripture. We would practice reading scripture, which was fine, but that was it. Read it. Okay, well done. Sit down. If you graduated up into the big leagues, they taught you how to preach a small sermon. 

I went for my very first sermon when I was 17 years old in a nursing home, and they had me preach to all these folks that had no idea I was there or cared, but they listened and gave me some feedback on how I preached. I could communicate back then as a young kid. I was an athlete, but I was also in this thing called Contest Speech, so I did extemporaneous speaking. I got 15 minutes to learn how to or to prepare a speech about whatever current event was happening, and I learned the gift of BS in that. You have to. You got to give a speech, and you have 15 minutes. I had the gift of gab. I knew how to put a little talk together, and they're like, "Dude, you should be a pastor," because I knew how to hold my hands, I knew how to pass trays, I did really well at scripture reading. I started to lead singing. We didn't call it worship leading then. We led songs. Then I could preach, so I was told I should be a preacher.

I went to school, learned how to do that. The training I received at college wasn't much better than what I received I just told you about, but I knew some good words and I could read some other languages and I came out and hated it, so I did what every young man does that leaves vocational ministry. I became a state trooper, and I did that for about 12 years in Indiana. I was everything from a road trooper to an undercover detective for the last six years of my career, but my whole time with the state police, I was involved and used by our training division, and I taught. I was a primary instructor at our State Police Recruit School. 

I got into training young men and women and really enjoyed the teaching element of that, and I felt like God was calling me to use those gifts, and then over a long story, we don't have time to tell the whole story, I was called back to vocational ministry, and I've been doing that for a long, long time now, but through that, I always remembered, and as I tell my story, I realized I was so not equipped the first go around, and the state police equipped me for the second go around. 

Theological training is good, and we're all about that and we need that. It's why we're sitting in these rooms and hearing people teach us and challenge us, maybe some of our ways of thinking, but we need to train leaders in the local church to go beyond head knowledge or to go beyond a passion or a desire to do something and to actively coaching, leading, and ongoing training young men and women to serve the church as leaders. 

My talk today is going to flow out of my story, and let me continue in that. As I started this, being back in vocational ministry, saw the need, and we developed this thing called Our Leader Academy, The Christ Church Leader Academy. To be honest, I completely ripped off Sojourn's Pastor School. Does anybody remember that back in the day? I would send guys to that. I was part, and I was a regional director for a large church planting that worked in the Midwest, and I would receive calls, guys asking me for help. "What do I do next?" 

I was very close to the leaders here from many years. I would just send guys down here, and I'd come down, hang out and watch, and I just took everything they had. It was an old Dropbox folder that Chad Lewis was running with back 10 years ago, 11 years ago, and I developed that, put it on some steroids because we made it longer, and made the Christ Church Leader Academy. We have served and trained hundreds of men and women over these so many years in this academy through theological training, training in biblical counseling, training in worship, training in marriage and family relationship, training in what mission actually is, talking about community discipleship and mission, our whole values of our church, and then we have here, too, which a small group of folks have gone through, those are folks that want to continue on into vocational ministry, and we teach them how to preach. We get deeper into pastoral theology, things like that. Not to replace seminary, but to replace seminary. 

I was asked over the last five years to be part of a group, a working group, with a well-known seminary north of Chicago. I'm not saying names on purpose, but I was up there working with them, loved what they were doing, and they received a grant from Lilly, an endowment to say, "Let's look at what it means to train church leaders for the future." We sit down on the very first night. We're sitting with the President of the university, President of seminary, and the Lilly people give this big research doc on these screens. Here's what we've learned about training pastors and the need for it, or church leaders, not just pastors, and they started talking about debt from seminary.

There is a young person in this seminary that is in $300,000 in student loan debt. That's just mind-boggling to me. Then there was some 80K in debt, and then they would ask them, "How do you prepare to pay this back?" This is a few years ago. It's all right. President Obama's going to do this thing where it clears it all off.

It just rung a bell with me, and I opened my mouth and I said, "You sound like the crack dealers that are lamenting the fact that their neighborhood is gone to waste 'cause you're admitting these folks in." Again, I'm all for seminary, but a lot of the guys I know that are called like I was out of another vocation do not have time, nor the money, to go to seminary. How do we do that? Again, I am all for seminary. Go Southern. I really am. I've studied at Southern. I'm for Southern. I'm for all these seminaries, but not every leader in our church needs to go to seminary. What about the guy leading your small group ministry? What about the gal leading a small group and teaching Bible studies or leading a hospitality ministry or helping you do research for ministry, whatever that might be? How do we train those folks? 

That started to percolate in my head, if you will, and we developed this Leader Academy and still found it wanting, and I'm learning some lessons from that. As I lamented these lessons, I think that's why I was asked to teach this class, to share a little bit of insight of what that looks like, and with that, I've had a desire in my story to help go even deeper, so I started an executive coaching practice. I've been coaching pastors and nonprofit leaders since 2006, 2007 after I went to coaching school, and out of that, I've coached a lot of guys and gals, but then started a formal practice, and some of you have been in some of the cohorts that I've led for Sojourn Network, but I took it to a different level, to talk about what leadership looks like, not the how-to so much, but how do we care for our soul and how do we take all that we've learned and apply it to how we're wired and how we can live a long, vibrant life in ministry. 

I've taught some folks through that and coached some folks through that, and all of these things has led me to the few points that I want to share with you today. I'm going to give these to you, and then as time allows, I'm just going to knock through those and share some scriptures that have just really informed my thinking in these points that I want to share with you. I'm going to bullet point the lessons that I've learned.

First one is that leaders need Jesus. Can I get an amen?

Audience: Amen.

Kevin Galloway: That sounds silly, but I've opened a lot of leader books, and it doesn't start there. Leaders need Jesus, and if we're not pointing to Jesus, if we're not equipping them to pursue Jesus, if we're not on their heels saying, "Chase after Jesus," if they're not seeing us follow Jesus, if they're not seeing us repent after we fall down after chasing after Jesus, we're missing entire, entire idea of developing leaders.

Number two is leaders need ongoing encouragement and assessment. Leaders need ongoing encouragement and assessment. As we get into that point, I'm going to show you I think how they meld together. True encouragement comes from assessment. Don't think assessment if you're here this week, like going through assessment to plan a church. I don't mean that way. I'm just saying a watching of the life and an ongoing check-in of how things are going.

Third, leaders need soul care. Leaders need soul care. Is anyone here in need of a fresh drink of water? I am. Every day. All the time. We need to teach and train leaders. This is something I'm so passionate about. I really don't care if they can implement systems that are going to hit every kind of demographic and tell me what Tim Keller says about this urban ministry here or what this guy's telling me about this over there. Those are all great, but how's your soul? Can you tend to your own soul? We need to teach our leaders and equip our leaders to be able to do that.

Number four, leaders need grace. Can we get an amen to that? As leaders in this room, we need grace, and the young men and women that we train need grace. They need to receive grace from us, but they need to also be reminded to constantly be splashing in the waters of the grace of God and, in that, leaving footprints on the wet pool deck of grace with the people that they're going to lead that you're giving them the authority to lead in your congregations.

Lastly, I hope to get to this point, but leaders need a process. I was going to put that first, but I really think that's the least important. You'll develop your process. You know who you are. You know who you leaders are. You know what you need. If we can get through those other points, the process is important, but I think the process that I want to show you may be different than you're thinking I'm even offering you to consider now. We'll get to that if we can. 

Let's start with this. Leaders need Jesus. We got a hearty amen to that. It sounds elementary, but the church needs leaders who train other leaders to remind them constantly of our need for a savior, for our need for His presence, His promised presence as we go on mission. We need Jesus.

2 Timothy 2, verses 1-2, a little insight. I'll share some scripture with you that have informed my thinking in this. Let me read this to you. 2 Timothy 2, verses 1 and 2. "You then, my child," Paul talking to Timothy, "be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust the faithful men who will be able to teach others also."

Lesson one, I took that scripture and ran with it when we developed our Leader Academy. Here's all we got to do. Find some faithful men and women because we have women leaders in our church, as well. Before you freak out, they're not elders or preachers. Everybody can be good over that now, but we missed the boat. Let me sidebar that. If you're not training women leaders in your church, you're failing miserably, and then equip them to train other leaders. Ladies, can I get an amen?

Audience: Amen.

Kevin Galloway: Move on. You see, I took this passage and I said, "Man, we're just gonna take some folks that look like they can lead, and we're gonna entrust them with a big lesson plan. Nine months of school, and then they're ready to go." Our first class had 80 people in it. I was like, "Yeah, this is awesome," and then three weeks in, we had 50 people in it. I was like, "Okay," and then a few weeks later, there's 40 people in it, and then I was getting righteous. Well, there's the remnant. Here are those that really are called to lead, and I think I lost 40 leaders in that whole event. 

I think what Paul is saying here is, "Timothy, you need Jesus, and remind some faithful folks in your church and empower them as you tell them they need Jesus, to tell others need Jesus." Let's read it in that light again. "You then, my child." hear the words. Hear the love. Here's what he's telling him. Go buy all the systematic theology books that you can and teach people over nine months how that applies. Nothing wrong with that, but here's what he starts with. "Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus."

Guys, we got to get over that this is just an intro into the real stuff, that this is just a greeting. This is the real stuff. Then he tells you how from that. "Be strengthened." "Be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus." "Timothy, you need Jesus." You need strength, but you need it to come from Jesus. He says, "Well, you've heard from me in the presence of a lot of people, many witnesses. Entrust." This is what leadership development is, and this is what the releasing of leaders completely looks like, an entrusting. We can [inaudible 00:15:05] empower, release, entrust other faithful men, other faithful people in your church who will be able to teach others also, and so on and so on. 

Check it out. You're sitting here today because of this. Somebody took you under their wing. Somebody took me under his wing or her wing. I had people, all different kinds of people, grab me in different seasons of my life and pour into me. Men in this room. 

We're teaching a series now, Orlando, Damon, Every Man, Woman, and Child, and these guys poured that thought ... If you want to talk more about that. Sorry to get you guys tied up in that, but go back and talk to them because it's changing the idea of our church. The mission of our church is change because I spent some time with them on the ground. They came and blessed me personally, through the mail, through phone calls, and just some training into my life over the last year and a half, is significantly impacting our congregations in Chicago and in Indiana. People are telling me this is life changing. I'm like, "Dude, I've been preaching here for 15 years. What?" It's good. I've quoted Dwight Smith more than I have. People are like, they all know him now, but none of that would have come unless brothers poured into me and then now I'm pouring in and training our leaders, and we're teaching our church and so on and so on and so on.

Brothers, that's what Sojourn Network is. That's the whole handshake and the little logo I think is really cool for our conference this year, but this is what that's about. We're entrusting and being poured into and being entrusted with. 

Know Jesus first. Train others who will teach others. Again, it's got to go beyond the theological training, which we have to have, no doubt. It must be there, but it has to go beyond the head knowledge into the application, into not only the day-to-day life, but what they're going to do with it in the leadership that you're entrusting them with. Does that make sense? We know a lot about a lot of stuff, but how do I lead people in that? On the ground, boots on the ground. Leader training in the church needs to look like that. 

I've been doing this church network thing for a long time, and I've assessed countless church planters and I've led men and all these kind of conferences for a long time, and it got really important for us a while to talk about residencies, which we are all about. That's great, but it started to look like what I did, and I think what I did by starting this academy was biting off way more than I could chew. I'll tell you how crazy it was. We offered it on Tuesday night in Chicago and on Thursday night in Indiana, and we had churches from around those regions coming, not just our church, and we're teaching nine months of leader training, good stuff for nine months two nights a week, leading three congregations that are new and growing, being a part of a church planting network, raising children. 

You guys get it. It's busy, instead of just focusing in on maybe a handful of entrusted people and pouring all that we had into them and that moment I think would have done better. It wouldn't have looked as cool on my web page. It wouldn't have given me some credentials to come talk to you maybe, but Jesus didn't start out with, "Hey, you all, join. Get 3,000 here. I'm gonna give a leadership seminar." He grabbed a few guys. We're going to get to that at the end of our time together.

Point two, leaders need ongoing assessment and encouragement or encouragement and assessment. The soul desperately needs encouragement. You believe that? The soul desperately needs encouragement. We're going to do something. It's going to make you really uncomfortable, but I really don't care, so please do this with me. Find somebody next to you or turn around. Just look at them and say, "I appreciate you." Just look them in the eyes and say that. 

Audience: I appreciate you. I appreciate you.

Kevin Galloway: Now stop. Now, the same person, before you do it, do it again and say, "I'm not doing this because he's making me. I really appreciate you." Look them in the eyes and do it again.

Audience: [inaudible 00:19:24]

Kevin Galloway: This is remarkably awkward. It is remarkably awkward to watch you guys do this. You're trying so hard. Bless your hearts, but you're like, you're [inaudible 00:19:41] trying to look ... You're staring into the eyes. We don't do this enough. Does anybody do this all the time or does it feel like enough? No, but try this. When you walk out of here today, find somebody you know you haven't seen in a long time ...

Last night, I'm walking out of here. I'm deadbeat tired, mud all over me, walking out, afraid I'm going to have bronchitis now from the night air and the smoke, and I hear my last name yelled, and part of me was like, "Oh, that can't be me." I don't know how many Galloways are in Sojourn Network except me. I heard my first name, and I turn around and there's Lance, sees me from a distance, had been in different cohorts with this brother and prayed for him and watched his life as he's watched mine, and all he wanted to do was come give me a hug and say, "Hello." It just blessed my heart. Our souls need that. Don't be afraid to press in with your folks. 

I coach a healthcare organization. It's around the country. I don't get to see all the clinical managers that I coach face-to-face. We use a video tool. I take them through a bunch of different leadership thoughts. One is Kouzes and Posner's, The Leadership Challenge. One of the five practices of exemplary leadership is to encourage the heart. We get that. If I say, "Encourage the hearts of your people," you're thinking, "Yes. We get that." My child, be strengthened in the grace that Jesus provides, but you get a bunch of pagan healthcare people, they don't know what that means, but I seen it translate, and it really spoke rebuke into my heart, as they can't get separate the idea between encouragement and reward. You following me? Encouragement and reward. Here's how you can know if you're tripped up. 

Who's that person that you're walking with? Maybe it's your spouse. You and your spouse have a bit of conflict or you didn't cut the grass just right or you didn't cook dinner so well or baby's not been changed for 10 days, whatever it may be. There's strife. There's battle. Then to encourage that soul next to you is super hard. How about the person that works with you in the local congregation, that, man, they're just not turning in their small group reports every month, they just don't love Christ enough, they don't love these people enough to do the systems that I've put in place that are holy and righteous, and they have the audacity to not turn in that paper report on how these people are doing. You go to them. You send them an email. "Bro, I need your report," or, "Hey, why did you sing Black Sabbath in the worship set," whatever it may be, and then for me to say, "Go encourage them," you're like, "No, 'cause if I go to encourage them, they're going to think I'm condoning their poor behavior." Anybody?

Encouragement is not the same as reward. You see, we just had the marathon in Chicago, and I put this before the doctors because they had ... Some of these doctors worked the race. I'm like, "Man, you're standing at your station and two hours ahead of everybody is the guy from Kenya." You know the guy I'm talking about, right? He wins every race, like whoosh. For you to go try to run alongside him and say, "You're doing great, buddy. You're doing great," do you think he cares right now? You're not going to keep up very long. If he's thirsty, you give him a drink of water. If for some reason he didn't know where to go, you point him the right way. He just keeps going. When he crosses the line, maybe you hold him up. He receives his reward. You congratulate him then and you encourage him to do another race. Does that make sense? "I'm really tired." "No, you can do it again. You're awesome." 

We tend to want to encourage that guy much more than the guy who lost 150 pounds or the mom who just had her sixth kid who worked her rear end off and so did he to run their first marathon and, man, their toenails are falling off at mile 12, and they're just running by your water booth, and you're like, "Come on, man. You can do it. Look how far you've come. Keep going. I can't believe this. This is amazing," and if it's your family member, you're crying with them. You're like, "I can't believe you're reaching your goals." That's encouragement, but 9 times out of 10, we're not paying attention to them. We're packing up. These people don't need water. They're going too slow. Pack our stuff up and we leave or we give them this, and then we clap for the guy who's been standing at the finish line for five hours. That's reward. Encouragement's getting in the race. Encouragement's putting an arm around. Encouragement's helping them along and reminding them, "You can do this. Be strengthened by the grace." They have to know Jesus. "Keep running. You're doing awesome."

Whatever it is, I'm telling you, just look them in the eye, hug them by the back of the head, and tell them you love them. If it's not weird, give them a kiss on the cheek. You will put gas in the tank. I'm telling you, because leaders get wiped out, and we need that so desperately. 

"Paul," in 2 Timothy 1, "an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus." "I'm an apostle, Timothy. I'm a spiritual father." Verse 2, "To you, Timothy, my beloved child, grace and mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus, our Lord. I thank God, whom I serve, as did my ancestors with a clear conscience as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day." Do you hear the encouragement? Watch, it continues on. There's assessment involved in this. "As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy." 

As I remembered your tears ... This sermon that I heard from John Piper 8, 10 years ago blew me away. It was at one of these big conferences that we always have. The acts of Jesus that he did on his text, by applying that to my life in that moment, blew me away because it's not like, hey, it was just a sad goodbye. He's like, "I remember your tears, and here's where the tears flowed from. I'm reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother, Lois, and your mother, Eunice, and now I'm sure dwells in you. For this reason, I remind you, Timothy, I'm encouraging you, Timothy, to fan and to flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. Here's where the tears are coming from. For God gave us a spirit, not of fear, but of power and love and self control, Timothy. Therefore, don't be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me as prisoner, but share in His suffering for the gospel by the power of God who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, Timothy, but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began."

Man, take off the theological hat and hear it speak to your heart. "Timothy, I love you. I miss you. I pray for you all the time. I remember your tears because you were freaked out when I laid hands on you, when I commissioned you as a leader, and now you're a little ashamed of the gospel? You're a little scared? I'm sitting in prison. I get it. Don't be ashamed of me. Don't be ashamed of this message, but you keep on going. Keep on going. That faith that God gave to your grandma and to your mom and they put in you, as well. Now, fan that into flame, Timothy. Keep going because this was put into you before the very ages began, Timothy. You, Timothy, be encouraged."

He's the guy that just lost 100 pounds and is running the race, and he's like, "Dude, you were chosen for this before the world existed. You keep on trucking. You know what, brother? I love you so much. I pray for you all the time." Are we doing that with leaders? 

I'm glad there's no one from my church in here because they'd be running their garments, running gravel through their hair, like, "This guy's a liar," because I don't do this enough. I'm like, "Hey, bro, where was your small group report," instead of, "Man, thank you for leading a small group. Thank you for letting these people trash your house week in and week out. Thanks for the stress moment you and your wife are cleaning the toilet, making whatever one or more type of nachos we can eat once again. Thank you for the waiting up while these people are still crying and praying with each other in your bedroom. Thank you for studying and following along with this message that we're trying to instill in these people. Thank you for your time, and thank you for loving these people. Thanks for going to the hospital when the Smiths had their little baby. Thank you for going to the funeral home when the Smiths' grandmother died. Man, I know you're tired, but keep going. Can I help you? Can I serve you? Do you know that I pray for you every day by name? I love you."

It sounds creepy, doesn't it? That's because we're so not used to it. This should be the norm. 

In assessment, Paul knew Timothy. He knew what was going on. That's the assessment I'm talking about. He knew where and how to encourage. I'm going to keep going.

Leaders need soul care, and they need to be taught and equipped and reminded to tend to their souls. It's the old analogy, the old illustration. You're on the airplane, thing comes down because you're losing cabin pressure. I don't know what I'm going to ... I'll probably be screaming and freaking out, but I'm going to try to grab that thing, but it says, "Before you put it on your kids, put it on yourself first." There's truth in that. There's just truth in that because I can't help you unless I'm healthy, but there's some breakdown in that because we're all unhealthy, and I don't mean that like we're all just off the rails. 

I'm saying we all struggle with sin and we all need to daily tend to our souls, and as we train leaders, this is something that gets forgotten. I am so grateful for a network like this that reminds us and equips us and provides amazing soul care, a network that will send strategists to your church, that'll send brothers and sisters to come and love on you and to help you through weird times, hard times, unsure times, certain times where you need some training to back that up. If you call, counselors will come your way. I know this to be true. This has happened in my own church. Thank God for a network like this. We need soul care. 

My dad was a mechanic, owned a garage, owned these wreckers that pick up, tow trucks that pick up broke down cars, and our car was the most unmaintained car in my neighborhood because he was so busy maintaining other people's cars and making money to do it to feed the family. 

I have a friend who's a contractor, builds houses. His house is half finished and it's been half finished for the last 15 years because he's too busy building other people's houses.

If you talk to my dad or if you talk to this friend who's a contractor, they'll tell you, "I just don't have the time. We're making it, but I have to do these other things. I got to feed you and the family or I got to feed my family over here." 

My friend who was building his house died about six months ago, had some cancer in his leg, went into his bones. He's dead, and the house still sits half built. 

My father, God rest his soul, passed away going on three years ago, and you know what he was doing? He had Alzheimer's horribly. I was his guardian. He was in a care facility. They would call me if there was a pill to be taken or if he got a new bump on his hand. They had to call me and tell me or give me a report, and they called me and said, "Your dad fell," and I was like, "Oh, no." Old people, that's a bad thing. "It was really weird. We found him under the bed next to his bed." "Well, that's some kind of crazy fall. What? He roll under?" "No. I don't know, but he had this rug, and his rug was under the bed, and he had the nurse call thing and he was holding it up as if he was trying to wave it in the air under the bed." I was like, "You know what he was doing? He was working on a car." 

Back in the day, they had these things called creepers. You remember that? Creepers are different now. Creepers, not on the Internet creepers, but creepers ... It was a thing on the ground that had little wheels, and you lay on that and you scoot under the car. You can move around under the car, and there was these shop lights that came down and you turn it on, and he was fixing the car in his room. Up until he died, he was still taking care of other cars while his own still sat in my driveway or my kids drove it around because he couldn't drive it anymore.

I think this is a condition of a lot of our souls, and we pass that onto other leaders. We're so busy building other houses that our house is half in order. We're so busy maintaining the cars and the momentum for other people to move forward that we're still chugging along at best and saying, "Oh, we'll get to that later," whatever that clink in your heart might be or the rattle in your soul. Leaders need to care for their souls. One of the ways, obviously, to do that is ... Is it spiritual practices? Yes. Paul tells the elders, Acts 20, "Care for your souls. Pay careful attention to your souls." Yes, how do we do that? He's showing us one way as we speak into each other's lives. 

Dave Harvey's book on plurality is excellent, very accessible. Buy it today. That's my commercial for you right there, but so goes the health of the plurality, so goes the health of the church. Why? Because if your auto mechanics aren't taking care of the car at home, there's a problem. Leaders, tend to your church, but tend to each other, and as you develop more leaders, instill that DNA in them at the time. Care for your soul. 

There's a quick bump here on emotional intelligence. As I coach people in for-profit sector and a church in nonprofit sector, some of the most ill-equipped, emotional people are pastors and totally clueless, totally clueless, to what's going on in their own soul. Just watch some YouTube videos of people on the stage, the things that come out of their mouth. Watch each other. Watch your own life. I don't have time to get into the value of emotional intelligence and all that, but, again, we need Jesus.

Psalm 139:23, "Search me, oh, God, and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting." That's that Psalm that's practicing emotional intelligence. I want to know what's going on in here, God. Search me. Know me and change me. 

Leaders, we have to. We have to practice soul care, and the people that we're developing need to have that instilled in them because that's what they're doing. God didn't save the people in your church to be ushers. He didn't save them to write songs because those songs are going to be laughed at 10 years from now because I used to be a worship leader and people laugh at my songs today. Carman used to sell out arenas. I throw that in every talk I ever do because this just gets us all into realizing who we are. Carman sold out arenas. That's just amazing to me, but he did. 

Things come and they go, but we need to tend. We need to tend to our souls. Not that the things that we're doing aren't important. How do I say this? God doesn't save people to be superstars, and he doesn't save them to be the lowliest of the lowly. He saved them to be His child, and how He uses us in that is such an invitation, as we develop leaders to care for their souls and the souls of others. That's what leaders are for. Your ushers should be caring for the soul of the person that they're taking down the aisle here on Sunday morning in some form or another. "Hey, man. I know you got 14 kids and their noses are gooing and they're green, so they can't go to the kids area. Can I just help you with your kids? Can I get some Kleenexes for you? Can I pray for you?" "No. I'm sure you can't pray for them because there's other people to ush." "Man, let them ush themselves. I'm caring for the soul." Let that DNA start to build.

Again, this is what I'm learning. I've not done this very well at all. I can say this here all day. Taking it back to my church and instilling that is harder still, so I get it, but it's a lesson that I'm learning. 

I'm going to get through this point. Leaders need grace. Soul care is so important that there's a drop in conversation that Chad Lewis is going to lead this afternoon. We're going to be talking about soul care. We'll be hitting more about that if you want to talk more about that. That's happening this afternoon at four o'clock.

Leaders need grace. Let me say this. Every leader fails. Every leader fails, some very publicly and some very privately, but we all fail. We must remember and we must remind future leaders of God's grace for them so that they, too, might be grace-motivated leaders. I think a lot of people, my father and my mother were one of them when I was in kindergarten, left a local congregation to never return because my father struggled with alcoholism. He got drunk one night and the church kicked him out, said, "Don't come back till you're sober." Boom, gone. 

I think we would probably not do something that drastically, but I think we kill a lot of leaders and we kill a lot of people with the misunderstanding of grace or just not offering it. 

I said this to people before. If this freaks you out, I'm glad. I don't think that Peter would be a pastor in any of our churches today. He would leave and go to a different tribe, and it wouldn't be in the reform camp. Peter would not be a pastor in our churches, especially if we were living in the time of Christ's death. There'd be no way he's preaching the Pentecost. Oh, Brother James has to be up here. People know your failure. Got some counseling for you. We want you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling for a while. We want to watch your life. We need to sideline you for a while. I know this sounds weird. 

If I or you would be kidnapped and taken somewhere in a hotel room with an ISIS flag behind us, cameras on us, knife to our throat. "I've got one of your religious leaders here. Let me show you how powerful Christianity really is. Denounce Christ. Denounce this whole thing." "I do." "No, we want you to really look in the camera. [inaudible 00:39:40] pick you up with a knife. I'm gonna cut your head off unless you say there is no Christ." In your head, if you're like me, you're rationalizing. "Well, if I fib my way through this, I'll cross my feet or my pinkies or something, and then when I leave, I still have a witness for the Lord. I'm better off alive for Jesus than I am dead for Jesus." 

Then one more time, I just ... Beep, beep. "Okay, you're going on television." "I don't know of Jesus." They stand me up and they say, "Look, look. Here is the power of your God." They roll me out the door. They let me go, so I'm a continual advertisement for what just happened. I get exchanged for somebody else and I wind up on CNN, on the New York Times, on Fox News, on whatever news you watch, I don't care, but whatever, I guarantee you that I wouldn't be standing here next year, and you all wouldn't be going, "Oh, man, brother, how you doing?" You'd be like, "Oh, that's the guy." That's Peter, and my story will be forgotten. 2,000 years later, we're still telling Peter's story. I'm standing here diming him out right now, but here's what happened. Jesus rebuked him sharply, put him in a pastoral care plan, and shoved him off the ledge. After this, Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Sea of Tiberius, and he revealed himself in this way. 

Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathan of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together, and Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." That is not like, "I'm gonna go wet a line." He's like, "I'm out of this thing that I've been training for with Jesus for the last three years, and I'm going back to my old life. I'm going back into the secular world. I'm not doing this church leadership thing. I'm going back fishing." They said to him, "We'll go with you," and they all went out. They all went back to work. Why? Because this thing's over, but that night, they caught nothing. Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore. Yet, the disciples didn't know it was Jesus, and Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They said, "No." He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you'll find some," so they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because of the quantity of fish. 

The disciple, whom Jesus loved, John, said to Peter, "It is the Lord," because he remembered. "He did this, too, when he pulled this on us last time. It's the Lord." When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment for he was stripped for work, and he threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging a net full of fish for they're not far from the land, about 100 yards off. Peter just goes in the water and just runs and fights his way and swims his way to shore. There, he finds Jesus. When they got on the land, they saw a charcoal fire in place with some fish laid on it and some bread, and Jesus said, "Bring some of the fish that you've just caught," so Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore full of large fish. Although there were so many, the net wasn't torn, and Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." 

None of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord, and Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead. 

It goes on. When they finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord. You know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," and He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" Then he said to Him, "Lord, you know everything that you know and I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, when I say to you when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted. When you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go."

This He said to show by what kind of death was to glorify God. After saying this to him, He said these words. "Follow me." The whole words that started the whole thing off. "Follow me. I'm gonna train you to be a leader. Follow me. I'm gonna train you to be a disciple. Follow me. I'm gonna teach you the way. Follow me. I'm gonna send you out on a mission. Follow me," and then it all comes crashing down in a public sin. Jesus didn't kick that to the curb. He didn't kick that flame that was being fanned, that got doused with sin. He didn't kick that love and the Father/child relationship to the curb because he did something so grievous. Peter was restored to the church. 

Now, this isn't a sermon. This isn't a talk about restoration. I'm not talking about anybody in specific because leaders do act like idiots and leaders do go off the rails and they should take a timeout, but not a timeout in the penalty box, a time out to care for their souls, and if they won't care for their souls, then they shouldn't be leading anybody. Going back to point three, you got to care for your soul. Can I just get an amen?

Before you start thinking I'm trying to rally something, I am not, but what I am saying is this. We all need grace, and by the grace of God, we walked into this room today. 

Jesus sees Peter and calls him to shore. When Peter hears the voice of God, hears the voice of a leader who has been trained by and in the grace of God, he runs to Jesus, not away from Him. He knows Jesus. He doesn't run away feeling he's going to get whacked in the head with the boat oar. He jumps in the water and goes and runs right to Him. This is a leader who knows Jesus. Back to point one. You following me?

Then Jesus shows grace again and again because what else does Jesus show? Over breakfast and a walk on the beach, Peter was restored. Not because of his jumping in the water, but because of the grace of God, and the grace of God for the heart that can receive it woos and compels us to follow Him. That's what Jesus says, but check it out. He says, "You're gonna die, Peter. You're gonna follow me to death. I believe that, and that's your course. Come follow me," and we know that Peter died not hiding or cursing from the name of Jesus, but glorying in it and entrusting his very soul. 

After preaching a sermon where 3,000 people responded, preaching a sermon, preaching a sermon, leading a church, making mistakes, coming back in grace, arguing with Paul, coming back in grace, having crazy dreams about barbecues, coming back to grace, all these things over and over and over and over because he walked with Jesus and he cared for his soul. 

This is what we're still in, guys. This wasn't a fantasy story. It's a story of the church that we're still a part of, and it's the same leading that we're seeing that Jesus is calling us to call people to, and I think if we would step into that over and over again, we would see amazing things happen in the leaders and the lives of the leaders that you're developing and the lives of ourselves. 

I have a last point. Leaders need a clear process, and this point would be 45 minutes for me to break down. It's Matthew 4, verses 18 through chapter 5, verse 20. Jesus trained his disciples. Supposed to leave some time for Q&A. Please read that. It's a process, yes, but let me just break it down a few bullet points. I knew I'd be to this point, so I have four points. It's a story where Jesus comes up to Peter. "Come follow me." That's where it started. He's gathering disciples and He takes them to a hillside, and He gives them the beatitudes. What He's doing is He's giving a picture of the kingdom in which He's calling them to serve Him, which He's calling them to live in, which he's calling them, he's establishing. He's just laying out the economy of this new kingdom, which is contrary to the kingdom of this world.

Guys, let me tell you, I think so often we're training leaders to the wrong kingdom. This is the kingdom that we'll be training and developing leaders toward. Read the beatitudes again. Develop your process as you continue to lead leaders. Consider that. Am I leading my leaders to lead in this economy? 

Then He goes on and talks about salt and light. Salt and light. Then he goes on and talks about Him fulfilling the law. You see, the call of saying, "Follow me," is a rabbinical call in that time. They wouldn't understand that. I'm going to come and walk with this teacher as He shows me how to live out the law. He's going to teach them His oral and written interpretations of the law. He's going to show them how to walk with God and how to live the way of God. 

Check it out. He tells them to come follow Him, and Jesus turns the whole thing upside down, but He's showing them the way. He starts with the beatitudes. "This is what the kingdom looks like, and the law of that kingdom I've come," and then the rest of that chapter, "not to abolish, but to fulfill gospel." He comes and He's telling His disciples, "Watch me. Follow me," and they walk with Him and He takes a couple of them to see Moses and Elijah, and what they're talking about in that moment is the cross, is the resurrection, what He's about to go do, and He's making witnesses and He's teaching them. He's equipping them and empowering them to lead, but He says, "The Holy Spirit's gonna come upon you," and that's when it's all going to go down. 

They watch Him die. They witness His resurrection. Holy Spirit comes upon them, and off they go into a mission that He gives them in Matthew 28:18-20. You guys know this. "Go make disciples of all nations. Baptize them. In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit." Check it out. "Teach them to obey all that I've commanded you, and I'm gonna be still with you, my students, to the very end of the age."

What a leadership, school, process, whatever it may be. We don't need Tony Robbins or John Maxwell, good dudes. That's all awesome, and they have great things to say, but don't reach for that before you reach for your Bible. Don't quote Drucker before you quote Jesus. Trust these economies, these things that He's teaching us in the beatitudes, and let it be upside down in your church. It's not right with the world, but you'll see people leading in grace, people leading in love, people leading others towards Jesus, that we started out this whole time that we desperately need. 

I'm going to have to cut it short now. I probably cut it long, but it's time for me to stop. Again, these are things that I'm learning. That was what they asked me to talk about, the things I've learned over this season of developing leaders. This is what I try to keep in mind when I'm coaching, so I try to bring us all back to. With that, I'm supposed to open up the door to questions. I'll answer them the best I can or maybe ask somebody else to answer them because they're better at it than I am, but any thoughts, questions you'd like to ask about developing leaders or some of these lessons that I've kicked around here today. 

Why Diversity Matters!


Okay. Well, this is the format that we'll be following today if you want to keep notes. There's gonna be three I'm gonna get at this. We're gonna talk about a case for it. All right? I think that most of us will probably already agree that is important, but we're gonna look at the scriptures regarding it. It's not gonna be an exhaustive list, but it's gonna be a list that has been important to me. We're gonna talk a little bit about the cost of getting wrong and look at that a little bit, and then the condition. How do you create the conditions for a church that is welcoming for the end goal of having a church that reflects more of a revelation semi-community. Amen?

All right. So, let's go ahead and pray to the Lord for some help first. Gracious Father, I think you so much for your love, for people that were alienated from you. Lord, you prove your love to us, God, by going to such great measures to demonstrate it, that while we are yet sinners, you shed your blood for us. Thank you, Lord. That is the joy that we sit in today. That is the joy that we experience together as brothers and sisters with brothers and sisters literally all across the world of different tribes and nations, and we long for the day where it's from every tribe and nation. Lord, would you bless our time right now as we think and talk more about you? In the name of Christ, our savior and master, amen.

All right. So, diversity. So, there is different types of diversity, certainly. I'm gonna be primarily referring to racial diversity. We have some other representations of diversity in the room right now, and please feel free to chime in. We'd love to know a bit more about what you're doing. Was it [inaudible 00:01:59]? Yep. But right now, I'm gonna be primarily talking about diversity. The name of the class is Why Is Diversity Important, okay? I'm gonna just define diversity as referring ... I'm referring to gospel-centered visible reconciliation. Gospel-centered visible reconciliation. There's something about the gospel. There's something about the stuff of Christianity that is to display reconciliation because that's exactly what has happened in our life, and so let's go ahead and start looking at a case for diversity or for visible reconciliation.

The first case I want to point us to is the case of alienation. Alienation. When you look at Colossians chapter one, verse 21 through 23, Paul says this. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior," he's talking to the Gentiles, "But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight without blemish and free from accusation. Listen, Gentile. You were once alienated from God. You were alienated from His promises. You were alienated from the covenantal goodness that only applied to a particular people." He said, "Now you are free from accusation because of what Jesus accomplished through his own body." That's a beautiful pictures of one, the condition that we were in, and it makes a mockery of the gospel when we reject someone or deny someone because they are alien from us. This gives us an invitation to lean on the theological depth of Christianity to say that, "Wait a minute. Lord, you drew me near as a Gentile, and now you have drew me near to you." Praise the Lord for that.

The second thing I want to look at is homogenization. Homogenization. If I don't spell this right, that's okay. We're gonna go with that. That's all right. No, I'm a perfectionist. All right. Okay. Homogenization. Homogenization, we're talking about this issue kind of like what you talked about. It's a very complex issue, diversity and a homogeny of people, one represented group in the church. I argue from scripture, when you look at a scripture and you look at the whole of the text it was never God's intention for the church to look just one way. It was never God's intent for the church to be made up of just one people.

Now, before I go onto this, let me just make this statement here. Is it wrong for a church to have one dominant ethnicity? No. So, how can I say what I just said and not contradict myself? When you have a church made up of one ethnicity because of circumstance, that's one thing, but when you have a church that's made up of one ethnicity because they are practicing certain things that's gonna actually be keeping people out, that's another thing. So, you can actually be a church in the middle of Rwanda where you have ethnic tensions between tribes, but the church that plants amongst Rwandans that is of one ethnicity, you don't plant the church just for the ethnicity. You plant the church with a hopeful expectation that this group over here is gonna come over here, and not just that. I'm gonna do things that's gonna make it welcoming for this person. I'm not just gonna plant this church just for this group. I'm gonna talk a little bit more about that and some of my frustration with that.

I think about who Jesus had in his own cap. We do remember a gentleman by the name of Simon the Zealot, don't we? He was one of the original 12 disciples of Jesus. Now, a zealot. Somebody tell me what is a zealot. What is a zealot, a Jewish zealot? Yes. He's a political activist. Jesus had some Black Panthers in his spot. He had maybe an alt right person in his spot. Jesus had a person who believed that you take Israel back by a strong hand, or with a strong hand. You cut down the traitor. It was really odd I'm pretty at dinner tables when you had Simon the Zealot looking over at Matthew and say, "Oh, okay. You changed now, huh? Oh, you're a Christian now, huh? You with Jesus? Okay." You couldn't have anymore polar social opposites, but this is who Jesus calls. He calls them out.

Now, he didn't call them to remain the same. He transformed their life over three years. It still took them even to the point of his ascension in Acts 1:6 where they ask the question, "Jesus, when will you return the kingdom back to its proper state?" It's like you still don't get it, one, and two, it's not for you to know that. I imagine that when Simon is having conversations with Jesus, come on, Jesus. Let's do this. What are we doing? There's something about just simply having a Jewish state with one ethnicity that is not impressive to Jesus. There's something about having just one ethnicity just gonna be representing God that's not impressive to Jesus. It does not make the vision of Jesus.

When you look at Mark 1:14, you look at Jesus proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, the good news of the kingdom. When Jesus comes, he's ushering in a whole new society. The world at that point had seen the ancient Chaldeans. They had seen the ancient Babylonians. They had seen the ancient Persians, the Syrians, the Syrians, the Greeks. They had also seen the Romans now, and certainly their own amongst the Israelites, but the society in which Jesus is ushering in is fundamentally different than any other society that has ever existed. Why? Because it is the kingdom of God. It is the society of God, and so this society is made up of more than just one ethnicity, and you also see even this zealot commissioned in Matthew 28.

As Jesus is giving and commissioning them to go forth, He's telling this zealot that was specifically, and certainly this is reflective of most of the disciples, but specifically in the ears of Simon the Zealot saying that, "Listen. You are going to go to the Roman. I want you to go to the Greek. I want you to go to all the peoples o the world and make them disciples of me." Wow. So, the person that used to have hate in their heart and only one representation says, "No, that is not my kingdom. That is not my society."

The fourth one, revelations. This certainly builds on what we've already been saying, but there is a revelation here. Yeah, okay. There is a revelation here that the Lord has for His church that He wants His church to live out. Ephesians 3:1-10, let me read this for us. "For this reason, I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles and me, surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you. That is the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the spirit of God's holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel, the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body and sharers together in the promise in Jesus Christ."

"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of His power. Although I am less than the least of all the Lord's people, this grace was given me to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God who created all things. His intent was that now through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms." This is one of my favorite texts. Revelation is that this is a mystery. There's something about God's wonderful work and glorious work with reconciling people together. It was a mystery that prophets did not know in the past. It was a mystery that God had seeped out here and there through Old Testament text, but it was a mystery that will be fully realized and revealed in Acts in the first century.

We have a responsibility because, what, it was God's intent that this is known. It is God's intent that is known that God reconciled the two together. Why? To make his manifold wisdom known to an onlooking universe. There's a universe looking on this thing and peering in and seeing, oh wow, you actually had a plan for all people and not just one, so we can't just try to wipe out one people. We have to do everyone. They're all over. It's just like water and oxygen and air. It's all around us. The local church has a wonderful opportunity to display this. The way I often define the gospel, not original to me, is that the gospel, the church, excuse me, is the gospel made visible where people were actually seeing the texture of God's love and the texture of His vision been revealed through the local church. That's an opportunity the Lord has made before us, and you have a togetherlyness, if you will, that assumes that the Gentile is together with the Jew, right, but even moreso it will certainly follow that the Gentile is together with the Gentile. Amen? I mean, this assumes this.

And then lastly, glorification. I mean by glorification as our state and us in our glorified state. Revelations seven, verse nine, "After this, I looked and behold a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the lamb clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hand." John sees the beatific vision of what the church is going to look like. He looks at this and says that, "Listen. Look at this proximity. These are people from all places in the world, and they are what? They are standing together. The Africans are not in Africa. The Europeans are not in Europe. The Asians are not in Asia. No. They are standing altogether wearing the same wardrobe." They all got the same clothes on. They're all wearing black shirts, blue jeans, and black boots. No, they're all wearing white robes. 

That's what heaven is going to be like. God has [inaudible 00:14:37] his kingdom now. The church is evidence of a grace of what is to come. That is just scratching the surface for a theological argument as to why this is important. Diversity is important. What we're gonna go into a little later is how do we ground this, because it is certainly true of the universal church. This is true to the universal church. How do you make this, or how do you connect it to the local church, and the argument there obviously on the onset is that this is a reflection at the local level. The gospel is a reflection at the local level where people get to see what God's plan is at the universal level. Does that make sense?

Yeah. So, this is a universal truth. This is a universal church, and we exist universally. How do you ground it locally? And the argument on the onset is that it is grounded locally because the local church is the visible representation of a universal reality. Right? So, if you have a church in the middle of Iowa where the population is 90% white and you have maybe five percent, well, you'd have to have 10% non-white, 10% non-white, you plant the church for believers, I mean the seed for future believers and converts. You don't plant the church for 90% white people. You just plant the church.

This is the model that Paul works with. Paul goes and plant churches. That's what he does. He works with what he has. He doesn't care who's there. He starts with the Jews first and then whoever else comes. This is why, and let me just say it right now, I detest the ideal of an affinity group. Right? I love what my brother said right here. Tell us what you do. Where do you pastor at? What church are you at?

Speaker 2: I pastor at Gospel Community Church. It was planted originally for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, but that the catalyst to a big group of diversity.

James: What led to that?

Speaker 2: 26 years of interpreting for the deaf community.

James: Yeah. You said something. You said that ... Now, I think this is a language issue, so language is ... We're talking about something different here with language, and that's a language issue, but I was stunned when you said that, "But we wanted to do ... We didn't want to just do one ... We want to do ..." Can you talk about that a little bit? You was talking to my wife. You said that you didn't want to just plant a church just for-

Speaker 2: Specifically just for dead individuals.

James: Yeah.

Speaker 2: Yeah.

James: Talk about that a little bit.

Speaker 2: The deaf church at large has planted for itself constantly. It has become an ethnocentric club that values their identity as deafness larger than it identifies their identity in Christ, and so what we see is people getting together and exalting and glorifying their identity as deaf individuals in deaf history and deaf culture, and so we had to step through Romans 15, which tells us that God has no preference over Jew or Greek, that there is one lord, that we are united under one flag and it's Christ, and so though we planted specifically for that affinity group, what we quickly learned was that our identity in Christ guides us to individuals that are totally different from us. [crosstalk 00:18:05]

James: Yeah. And so, since then it has expanded to other languages?

Speaker 2: 26 different diagnoses, and then it's a mixture of white people, African-Americans, Asians, old individuals, younger individuals, and it's a cross section of the place that we're in. Deafness doesn't discriminate with skin color, so automatically we were diverse if you looked at us by any other picture, but the flag that they united under was deafness, and so you could walk in as an African-American man and walk in and they never saw that, but if you were hearing it'd be like there's a distance in arm, and so the same things that we see with skin color would divide them, we saw with ... They would judge them.

James: Yeah. Yeah. I see. I see. Very good. Very good. Yeah, thank you so much for sharing that. It's very encouraging. As a church planter, we're gonna be planting a church in Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country. We're going there because this issue is so important to us, and a lot of the social upheavals that are happening in the country and a lot of the stress happening in the country is coming right out of Oakland, California, coming right out of the East Bay, coming right out of Berkeley, and so we want to be right there in the midst of it, and it's very diverse city, but just because it's diverse doesn't mean this is integrated, and so we want to hopefully be a display of God's manifold wisdom in the city of Oakland, but when the question is posed to me, "James, what is your affinity group? Who are you planting? Who are you planting for?" I'm planting a church, y'all. I'm for lost people. That's my affinity group. Amen. That's what I'm doing.

And so, I do believe that some of our church network, our church-planting organizations have to change their mind about this and kind of get out of that mindset because that's how we end up with a church that looks like us, and sometimes it's just the fall of the dice, but when you have already philosophy set in and built in that would already kind of keep other people out and attract people that is like you in your affinity group, then we wonder why we have such a huge issue in America regarding this, and so it's going to be a challenge for me. It's going to be a challenge for me, this inner-city brother that grew up in the African-American context trying to appeal to all peoples. Okay? It's not easy.

All right. So, let's talk about the call for this. I like what the famous author James Baldwin says regarding the burden of racial tension, diversity, some of these issues that we find so important. He says that we are capable of bearing a great burden once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is. The burden that we have a church in America today is reality. We struggle often with reality, and what we have to do is get to where reality is. That's our responsibility. Well, what is reality? What's the reality that we're referring to?

I just heard yesterday from a pastor, Pastor Robert Morris, I don't know his teachings, so I'm not vouching for him, but I just heard from a brother from Dallas, Texas. He says that he knows that the problem is the church. The problem with a lot of the racial issues in our country is the church, not the world. Now, that is embarrassing. It's a shock to me. It's an indictment against me and anyone who's Christian. It doesn't discriminate. Trust me. Black folk look at me strange when they're not Christian and say, "Why are you a Christian? Why are you serving that Jesus?" We all are in this together, and so goes the reputation of the church, so goes us all.

[Borner 00:22:13] just released something, released a study regarding people's opinions about racial reconciliation. Borner said that Christian churches play an important role in racial reconciliation. He says as a result of the study. He says that in this view and looking at whites and blacks, well, we know that it's not just whites and blacks that exist, obviously, but in looking at ... I suppose that people typically think that these are the polar opposites and then you have that in between, and looking at this issue, you have 75% of whites believe that the church plays an important role in racial reconciliation, and then you have 77% of blacks that believe that the church plays an important role in racial reconciliation.

Well, that's a pretty high percentage, and that's pretty close, and that's another thing. That's right. That's right. How do we get there, is the question. How do we get there, and why is this so hard? I think, brothers, sisters, that this is so hard because we fundamentally, we start at different places. Sometimes we're asking different questions about life. We have different narratives, different histories that we carry around within us, different fears. One thing that we do know is that we also ... I mean, it's not just embracing difference. We have embraced sameness. We're same in so many ways. In all the most significant ways, we're the same, but it's that small percentage of difference that makes all the difference. I saw the pastor do this. This is so good. Now, I want you to see that ... What's the name of this? Who makes this?

Speaker 3: Kirkland?

James: Kirkland, okay. Everybody assume that you just know it's Kirkland. You see this. All right. What's the name on this bottle?

Class Members: Kirkland.

James: Kirkland, all right. You do understand that I don't see Kirkland right now, right? Often, this is how the conversation goes within the church on this issue. You have one population of people that sees this, and you have another population of people that see the other side, and they don't see this side. What's the solution? The solution is for us to come around to the other side and say, "Okay. What is it that you're seeing? How is it that you're doing this? What happened? Tell me why do you feel what you feel," and I have an obligation as an African-American to ask the same question. Tell me, why is it that when you look at this issue you don't see this? What's your take on it? And so, that's where true dialogue can happen, and I think the start of reconciliation.

Let's look at some specifics, and first let's categorize church diversity, different categories of church diversity. In this, you may be able to see, okay, I think is where my church is as it pertains to church diversity, and then we have an ideal area of where we hope the churches can be as we think it is the goal of the gospel. Okay. So, the first one is the ... We can say this. I think I got this right. Yeah, so the Americanizing congregation. Okay. The Americanizing ... Is that right? Yeah, it's right. Congregation. All right? So, what you should also know is that Sojourn Midtown has been on a journey. It's been on a journey to diversify. It's one of the deep passions of Daniel Montgomery, and it's also a deep passion of Pastor Jamaal Williams. Pastor Jamaal Williams was the pastor of Forest Baptist Church, a predominantly black church, and so he joined them in that effort.

This is Sojourn before Pastor Jamaal, before these convictions had come. This is defined by newcomers are welcome, but they are expected to adapt to the language and culture of the dominant group. Consequently, the church staff need not gain special language and intercultural communication skills. Newcomers, however, do not feel welcome and experience alienation. So essentially, people are welcome, you want people to come, but there's little to no effort to actually help with language gaps, with cultural gaps. It's simply expected that the person adopts. Okay?

Two, you have the personal ethnic congregation. The C is congregation of church. Okay. The personal ethnic congregation is defined by this. It's the church congregation is served in its particular cultural context and language. Leadership and church staff reflects the culture of the congregation and people from other cultural groups do not participate in the church for the most part. Okay? So, this is your specifically-defined ethnic churches. This is your African-American church, traditional African-American church. This is your Taiwanese church or your first-generation Chinese-American church. Right? And so, that's the personal ethnic congregation.

Three, you have the inclusive congregation. So, let me say this, though, about the personal ethnic congregation. If this, number two, falls in the dangers and trappings of the Americanizing congregation, then it can very well be the personal ethnic church, and what this says is sometimes it is ... We've talked about this before on social media outlets, that we assume that a predominant culture is not a culture. A predominant culture is a culture, and so there are different values, different tastes, things like that, and so as much as that is strong and prevalent, it may actually fall into this category, or come off as this category.

All right. So, now you have the inclusive congregation. So, what's the inclusive congregation? This is Sojourn in 2016. Pastor Jamaal was hired on now. Newcomers are welcome, and some measure of accommodation is exercised regarding the music, cultural traditions, and celebrations of the minority group. Okay? So, this is a further step into becoming a more integrated diverse church. It's done specifically through a means of grace that is culturally defined, music, maybe pastors coming and hearing from other pastors, and then there's some effort to celebrate that particular minority group. You have the segmented congregation. I spelled it wrong. I'm getting lazier. This is a congregation that becomes one of parallel communities, each of which has its own staff. This is ... You know what? We have different churches meeting in the same building and they're distinct by their own cultures. Okay? All right?

Five, you have the mission outreach congregation. This is the church that is very sensitive to making sure that they serve the people within their parish, within their communities, and that community may be made up of an ethnic group or a culture that is different than that which is in the church. I feel like I could say that much simpler. Basically, the people around them is different than the body of their congregation. So for instance, you have a Sojourn that was predominantly white. They're in an area of the city that is predominantly black, and then you have Great Mercy ministry efforts to serve the people within the community. However, it's not translating to people coming into the church and becoming integrated into the church.

Then you have finally the integrated church. The integrated church, I think we see this in Acts six, and this is Sojourn's goal. Right? So, it's defined by this. All cultural groups are [inaudible 00:31:48] and suitably served. There will be residual resentment on the part of the various groups, and some groups will need help embracing such integration. It's messy. It's messy. This is the hard stuff. This is Acts chapter six all the way. Did you notice that within Acts chapter six, there was no church for this person, this group? It was just a church in Jerusalem, and you had the Greeks speaking, even amongst languages. This is interesting to me because I'm wondering, I'm playing with this thing in my mind. What does that even mean? What are the implications of that, that you have Greek-speaking Jews in the same congregation as Hebrew-speaking Jews, yet they're a part of the same church? Very, very interesting.

It makes sense to me that if you have different languages, you just have a different congregation. Well, they didn't actually come to that conclusions. They said, "No. You just put them all together," and we're talking about 3,000. Work that out. But you have this in Acts six. You have the Greek-speaking widows being passed over with the daily distribution. It's very interesting also have they resolve this problem. How do they resolve the problem? They appoint people from among them that would actually address this particular situation. So, they weren't afraid to tell people that, "Listen. It makes more sense." Now, they did do this. What makes sense within this church? The solution for them was not to plant a different church. The solution for them was to ask the question, to ask the hard question, what makes sense?

They said that it makes sense for us to appoint some deacons, specifically deacons that are more reflective of their needs. Right? Maybe they're bilingual. Most of them were. Maybe they can pay specific attention to this group of people. I'm not sure what implications that has for us in our church planting models, but there's certainly something there.

Okay. So, let's talk about the conditions. All right? Here are the different categories. Where does your church fall into that? Where do you desire to be? I think my prayer is to be here, and this is hard. I just listened to a talk from an Asian pastor by the name of Dr. Jonathon Yon, I believe his name is. Very fascinating when he talks about some of the difficulties, even amongst Asian-American churches. It's very complex. I engaged with him, asked him questions about the diversity, and when you look and peer in, because it's worth ... I mean, we should be. We should have questions about the African-American church and our Asian brothers and sisters, and specifically that are a part of Asian-American congregations or Asian congregations, or African churches.

What's going on? Why? Because we are a part of the same ... We're Christians. We're part of the same body. It's very interesting when you look at ... He talks about the divide between Eastern Asians and Southeast Asians. He talks about the divide with the Eastern Asians, which is Koreans, Chinese, Japanese, there may be more in Eastern Asia there, that in our society they may be considered honorary whites, and so often you can see, in a congregation you can have Asians and whites together, but he talks about in his heart is he wants to see more Asian congregations working together and diversifying more, but there is a particular social aspect there and a particular social way that they may relate to one another.

Now, this is fascinating for me because these are issues that are going on in our country or in our world that is just not a black-and-white problem. Right? And he talks about this is messy. This is hard. He even said at one point, "I'm not sure how to do this, and I've been studying this for years." There's only one way to do this, guys. You know why we talk about this the way we do? Because we want to know an easy way to do it, to do this neatly. There is none. That's the point of this class. There's only one way, and that way is get your hands dirty, integrate. People are gonna get mad, and your congregation's gonna put amazing pressure on you, but it's governed by love, and we'll talk a little bit more about that in a second.

All right. So, let me just say this. I think it'd be helpful just as an African-American or as a minority in a majority context, I want to express to you why I attended predominantly white churches. Okay? And then we're gonna get into some specific steps you can take to diversify your church more. Okay. So, I looked back at my life. I've been a believer for about 20 years now, and so looking back at my life and all the churches that I've been a part of, been a member of, we've lived in almost every region of the country in these 20 years. I've been a member of four black churches, three white churches, which the leadership was white and it was predominantly white, and then I would say six ethnically-diverse churches, six ethnically.

Now, of that you have four that were white pastors. One was an Asian pastor, a Chinese-American pastor, and then the other was an African-American pastor, and I will say that they had a significant amount of diversity within their church, but I wanted to zero in. Why did I go to white churches or churches led by whites where I was the minority? Why did I do that? Okay. Let's look at five reasons as to why I did that.

One, they had Stephens and Philips and Prochoruses and Nicanor and Timons and Parmenases. You know who that is? Those are seven deacons in Acts six. They had that element in the church. When I walked into the church, there were people that looked like they cared for me. They understood that they had to fill a gap because there was a gap for me. When I walked in, I know that we have a connection because we are Christians, and sometimes we have an even greater connection because we are doctrinally aligned, but there is something else as a minority that I need, and I need you to help me to bridge that gap. We're culturally different, or we're ethnically different rather, and so these are people that pay close attention and say that, "Listen. I know that you are different." They don't say it. They do it with making sure they make eye contact, that they rush over to me. They say, "Hey. How you doing? I'm glad that you are here. You need anything, let me know. God bless you, bro."

So, we'll just call this Acts six. Two, they cared about social issues. They cared about social issues. All right. This is a huge divide in our church, right? Churches take sides along political lines. If we want to ever have any hope of reaching this, we all obviously have to stop doing this, and we also have to stop being afraid to talk about social issues if the scripture or the text demands it, or the prophetic voice at the moment demands it, all right, which I don't think that's very often, but I think that it does happen, that where we have to speak about something that happens in society. All right? My voice and how I do that is not dictated by people yelling at me and saying, "Hey, man, you need to start talking about this more." I talk about it as I feel led, but there are key events that I feel like I need to talk about, so I think that's a conscious issue. Okay?

But if we have any hope of doing this, we cannot be afraid to talk about important issues because we believe that it's going to align us with other political factions. Side note, Matthew 25. Let me give you some resources from Matthew 25. Listen to Jesus' words here, and I'll wrap up because I want to do a conversation here. So, "The sheep and the goats," okay? This is what Matthew 25, 31, and the following is about. "When the son of man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right," excuse me, "And the goats on his left."

Okay, Brother Preacher, why are you talking about this? What does this have to do with diversity? What does it have to do with these social issues? Watch this. Verse 34, "Then the king will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed by the Father,' take your heritage. The kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world." 35, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed me. I was sick, and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and fed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothes and clothed you? When did we see you sick or in prison or go to visit you?'" Right? These are good questions.

Verse 40, "The king will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" These are social issues, guys. Prostitution, human trafficking, poor, racism, problems that our country faces at the social ground level. When you serve those issues, our lord, our master says you're serving Him. We're not talking about left or right politically. We're talking about our what our lord entrusts us.

So, they cared about it somehow. It came out somehow. Right? They said it in a sermon. They said it in an illustration. Maybe I wasn't there on that particular Sunday, but somewhere when I'm in there sermons or on their Facebook or on their church or in there looking at their values, they care. That tells me that, okay, I think I can be accepted there. All right? Because this is so important to, just FYI, to African-Americans and Latino populations because so many of us are from lower socioeconomic groups. That's why it's so important to us. Okay? Because we live in those realities.

Okay. Three, the pastor and leaders gave personal touch. The leaders themself gave personal touch. I love the Leviticus 19:34. "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God." Essentially, what I'm saying is that it's the same as the first one. I'm just not writing anything down. Cared socially or about social issues, but also three, the leaders cared. It's so important. We love to see it from the body, from the deacons, which are leaders as well, but for the pastors to do it, it goes volumes.

I've been at churches ... I became a member of a church at a church where the church was really ... They saw me as a threat. Why did they see me as a threat? Because they saw me as a threat to what the pastor wanted, which was to change what they found comfortable. So, every time you have an additional or another minority come, it's like things are changing, shaking up. When Pastor Jamaal did this in the African-American church, it had the same exact effect. Right? It's not a white thing. It's a human thing. All right? But when the leaders do it, I was able to stay with the leader despite the church's feeling about it. Now, it takes a lot to do that. You need your people onboard with you, or as many people as possible, but a leader makes all the difference.

All right. Also, they quoted from non-Euro Christian sources in their sermons. People listen to ... Your members, they listen to this. They hear it. Okay? All right. They use non-Euro sources. That doesn't mean don't use Euro sources. What that means is that they're telling me that they are appreciating and drawing from a well that's not necessarily just a reformation. Right? The Lord moved mightily throughout the continents. The reformation was one of those beautiful movements of the Lord, but you had the beautiful movements along obviously North Africa in the beginning of the church. I mean, you have beautiful movements even right now in Southeast Asia in what the Lord is doing, and you're drawing from a deep well, theological well. We pick up on that. It stands out in that sermon, and it's not like, "Hey, listen. I got a quote here from a black guy. He's a white guy. Listen." No, no, no. It's subtle. It's just an illustration, and you quote the source and we do the rest of the work, like, "Man, did you hear him quote? Quoted my boy Augustus. All right. Quoted my boy Arthur Beatty."

All right. And also, they're more Godly than cool, especially African-Americans coming from a reformed tradition, coming into a reformed tradition. Most African-Americans coming out of a church, African-Americans are still labeled the most religious group in this country, which is why you're gonna have people who talk about righteous stuff on songs and get up and accept the Word and say, "Thank you, Jesus, for this." Jesus ain't got nothing to do with that. But holiness is something that is ... Godliness is something that's important to us, so this give you the freedom to be Christian, be yourself.

I've been in situations where I've been a member of a church where the pastor tried to be cool, and he's a cool guy. He's a cool guy. Our coolness may be different to how we define cool, but he's a cool guy. I mean, I would follow him. But that's not what I wanted from him. You ain't gotta speak the lingo. Most of the stuff they're talking to, I don't even speak the lingo. I've gotta catch up with the Millennials. Millennials, help me out. Jeff Brown was here earlier. He hold me down. He keep teaching me all the new stuff. No. I just want to know, are you a Godly pastor? Are you a Christian? And I can go with that. Okay? Those are the reasons that I went to these churches, and those are the things that attracted me to predominantly white churches. That's exactly why I'm at Sojourn, because they had a heart. They wanted to do something. They wanted to change.

I'm gonna tell you right now. When I was here initially for seminary at Southern Seminary, I wasn't a member at Sojourn. I love their music. I mean, I listen to the music. I [inaudible 00:48:24] to the music. It was so transformative in my life, but I didn't join the church. I joined the church that actually had in their tagline that they were building a church of all cultures where Christ is king. That was their tagline. I mean, I'm gonna go there, but just been vulnerable. Now, look. I have this resource here. Let me just open up for some conversation right now. These final five things that you can actually read here, I want you to be sure to pick this up. This is the process that we went through at Sojourn Community Church and getting our church to a more integrated diverse church, but let's see if we have some conversations right now. Any questions, comments, concerns?

Back to the Future: How Dead Baptists Teach Churches to Stay Alive


I want to say a little bit, I want to introduce myself. I am Jeff Robinson. I serve as pastor of Christ Fellowship Church of Louisville, here in Louisville. It's about 10 minutes from here. We are in Middletown. I want you guys to know about Louisville, but I am in Middletown, Kentucky, where it's actually just a suburb of Louisville, so we're about 10 minutes from here. I actually live about five minutes from here, so this is the shortest distance I've ever driven to a speaking engagement, which was great. I could stay home and hone my presentation as much as I possibly can.

I'm also a senior editor for the Gospel Coalition. So any of you guys that read the Gospel Coalition, hope we try to help ... One of my missions is to try to help pastors with providing gospel center resources for pastors and so we're not 99 marks, those are friends of ours, but we try to provide lots of good material for pastors. I've been with them for three years I guess, three and a half years or so as senior editor.

Also teach some at Southern Seminary. Teach church history so that's why I'm here to talk about dead people today. I know I can see one of the firsts things I do when I teach church history is I literally do a lecture, one full lecture on why you should view this as the most important class you'll take in seminary. Church history, that's kind of an audacious thesis I realize but I'm trying to get them to buy into the fact that church history is very important. And most of my classes as much historical theology as anything else so I would say when you get history you kind of get everything. That's the thesis, I will not give that lecture today. But that's my thesis, you got what students pay lots of hard earned money to receive in the semester. 

I do want to open in scripture and I want to read 1 Timothy 4. Some words of advice Paul gives to Timothy, which are really apropos to what I'm speaking on today. Speaking of Associations, how churches seek to fellowship with one another, to hold one another accountable, so I think is an apt text, then I want to pray for us. Then we'll start.

"If you put these things before the brothers - " begin in verse six, "If you put these things before the brothers, you'll be a good servant of Christ Jesus being trained in the words of faith and of the good doctrine that you have followed. Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths rather train yourself for godliness. For our bodily training is of some value, godliness is a value in every way. As it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil and stride because we have our hopes set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct and love and faith in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift that you have, which was given to you by prophesy when the counsel of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, devote yourselves to them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching, persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your heres." Let's pray. 

Father I praise you and thank you for what you've done. Down through the ages, that you have kept your promise that I will build my church in the gates of hell and overcome it. And Father, the pages of church history tell that story, of a sovereign God and a powerful gospel. Subduing wicked hearts, bringing sinful men who were once your enemies to your table. Father I pray today that this would be edifying and encouraging as we talk about how Baptists have associated with one another in the past and done things well and done things not so well. Father we pray that you give us grace, that you instruct us now and encourage us. We pray all this in the strong name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

So how can a bunch of dead Baptists help us bring life to us today in the church? I hope in many ways to try and answer this today, but we can really get one illustration, one particular example. But I want to open in England, where in 1689 various circumstances brought a group of Calvinistic Baptist Churches together there for the first national assembly, 1689. The parliament of Charles II had little toleration for puritanism and persecution grew in intensity for about three decades leading up to 1689. As illustration the Petty France Calvinistic Baptist church, a particular Baptist as they were called, meaning they held to particular tone, not that they were particular about everything. Though they could be very particular about things, especially doctrine as we will see and I think that's often a good thing. But this church, the Petty France Baptist Church in London was attacked group of soldiers who, "Came to Petty France full of rage and violence, with their swords drawn. They wounded some and struck others, broke down the gallery and made spoil." So it wasn't easy to be a Baptist during this time in England.

And so Baptists needed each other, as did all evangelicals yet they ... Even evangelicals were to some degree at war with one another. Hyper-Calvinism, which denied the general call to gospel, denied what we call the promiscuous preaching of the gospel, was on the rise, it had a very chilling effect on a lot of the churches at the time, as you might imagine, no evangelism because the preachers of Hyper-Calvinism said, "We must discern whether or not we're let before we'll ever present the gospel. Discern whether or not our congregation is let or people are let before we could demand that they repent to believe in Christ." So you can imagine what kind of effect this would have. The Quakers were very active at this time, led by George Fox. They urged men and women to reject doctrinal standards, reject theology in favor of the light within. Go with the light within, a very subjectivist kind of approach to religion. And even one high profile pastor in London rejected Calvinistic doctrine in favor of views that bordered on Pelagianism and some [inaudible 00:06:46].

So it was a very fluid time in Baptist history in England. And so this lead particular Baptist churches to call a national assembly and frame a new confession of faith in 1689 that would refute accusations of heresy that had been lodged against them by Anglicans in particular, the state church in England. The [Araspian 00:07:07] church in England had accused them of not being in step with Evangelicals, not holding to biblical religion. And so they called this assembly to frame a confession of faith that would show that they believed the doctrines that simply pull at the heart of what they considered Evangelical religion. And so the particular Baptists of [inaudible 00:07:27] went to this confession of faith to show their solidarity with these other Evangelicals. They used the Westminster confession and the Savoy declaration. The Westminster confession was the doctrinal standard Presbyterians, the Savoy declaration was the doctrinal standards of the congregationalist. So they kind of wed those together and revised these articles on Ecclesiology, made them Baptist, or now we'd call credo-baptist.

And so they framed the second London confession, the Baptist confession of April 1689, which has had a seismic impact on all the confessions of faith, even the Baptist faith in message 2000, I would argue today. It's kind of a distance cousin to the second London Confession. Now I realize if you think about Southern Baptist life, that's a very controversial statement. You kind of have an old guard in saying we descended from the other Baptists, we had nothing to do with that, I would argue that is wrong but that's another discussion for another time. 

But Elder William Collins of the Petty French church is thought to written the confession. He said, "We put this confession forth by the Elders and Brethren of many congregations of Christians baptized upon profession of their faith in London and the country. So the framer stated their purpose as showing our hearty agreement with them, - " the Presbyterian and the Congregationalist, "- in that wholesome protestant doctrine with which so clear evidence the scriptures have asserted. " The Anglicans were claiming that it was heretics. In fact one of the more strident opponents of baptists said, "They pollute London rivers with their filthy washing." There was all these pamphlet wars at the time, you could go back ... 

You wanna spend a day, go to EEOB, English ... What does EOB stand for? I totally forgot. But it's [inaudible 00:09:09] English books online. You can find these pamphlets that have been reprinted, that are out there for free. They were, let's put it this way, they weren't trying to win friendsanifulants people the way they went about their discussions of these things, very different than today. They weren't very nice about it so they can be quite amusing. 

To slap leather with these particular Baptist, and particularly the Anglicans, was no small task during this time. There were a lot of ... more than 100 churches were represented at the meetings. They adopted the confession signed by men like Benjamin Keach, who you may of heard of, a very famous Baptist theologian who held a baptistic covenant of theology. William Kiffin, Hercules Collins, wouldn't you love to have the name Hercules Collins, I like that. One of my friends, Steve Weaver, has written a book about Hercules Collins. That might be my favorite name in Baptist history, Hercules. 

The reason I begin in London and not America, I'm gonna move to America here in a second, is because I think this is probably the best example of Baptist Associationalism in action. A kind of Associationalism that I see it work in networks like Sojourn Network, and X29, and other places, but I think is a healthy way for us to associate as churches. Kind of a loose confederation of churches bound by doctrine. I'm getting a little bit ahead of myself. 

Come to America in 1707, this is the illustration. I want to spend all of our time on the fist baptist Association in America, the Philadelphia Association. And we'll see how that's tied to the second line of confession here in a moment. The five churches in America between 1688 and 1703 banned together, again to meat together, and formed an Association. This is a organic and informal kind of Association. 1707, five churches. Each member would send delegates to an annual meeting, usually elders or representatives in the congregation, each October. This sounds familiar, this is a little bit like the Southern Baptist Convention, this is the same principal that drive the SBC. If you have been to the annual meeting, perhaps you've been. If you're a pastor, you've certainly sent a delegate from your church, a messenger from your church. This is the thinking behind it. 

Over the nest hundred years though, from 1707 to 1807, the Philadelphia Association was instrumental planning and helping hundreds and hundreds of other churches. Now it's interesting that one of the major figures, the key players in founding in Philadelphia Association, was Eli Keach, Benjamin Keach's son. Eli Keach came to America, began to pastor and one Lord's Day while preaching, realized he was lost and was converted under his own preaching. So, if you've ever felt lost ... I'm not sure my preachings powerful enough to make me feel lost. The text makes me feel lost sometimes. But, Eli Keach was converted under his own preaching. God uses various and [inaudible 00:12:14] means to bring us to Himself. That's one of the more odd conversion stories in the history of the church to me. 

But he had actually come to rebel against his father in many ways. He was kind of using the pastoral ministry as a means of doing that. And God subdued him and drew him to Himself and he was one of the founders, probably the key founder of the Philadelphia Association. Our sin does not get in God's way ... does not stand in the way of His purposes. 

Now there's basically nine purposes for the Association. Nine things they were together for. I guess this might of been the first nine marks. I don't know. But, here are the nine things they were together for. 

The first was to advise churches. The Association sought to serve as kind of an advisory panel ... kind of a loose nit advisory council for the member churches. Because questions often arose and churches met together to get the answers. So the query, or the questions, was a regular feature of the meeting. Just to give you an example ... I'll use a lot of illustrations through here. The 1723 meeting, the church of Brandywine sought help for Sundays when they had no one to preach on the Lord's day. 

They asked the question, "How should we proceed? We have a preacher through here about two Sunday's out of four. What should we do? Should we shut down? Should we try to find someone among us, a young man perhaps? How should we handle this?" And here was their answer, they said, "We can see" ... They'd have a solution. They'd always publish this at the end of the meeting and I have the minutes right here, as a matter of fact. They would publish this in the minutes. "We can see that expedient that the church do meet together as often as conviency will admit. And when they have none to carry on the work of preaching, they read a chapter, sing a Psalm, and go to prayer and beg of God to increase their grace and comfort, and have due regard to order and decency in the exercise of their gifts in a mix multitude until tried and approved of first by the church". 

So, find somebody to preach, at least read God's word, 'cause God's word's powerful, right? If you do nothing else, just read God's word. I mean even Charles Spurgeon was converted through just a bare reading of scripture in a Methodist church on a snowy Sunday evening. So, God's word is powerful. They really believed the power of the word. I think that's a lesson that church history, evangelicals particularly from the reformed period and after, really teach us, is to trust the word. 

Another example, a 1722 meeting, a proposal the church asked among themselves to see if they have any young men hopeful for the ministry. And declinable for learning. And if they have, to give notice to a Mr. Abel Morgan, one of the prominent leaders in Philadelphia, for the first of November, that he might recommend them to an academy. And we're gonna see a little bit later, they would offer financial assistance to young men who had been called and gifted to preach, which I think we should continue today. 

Another illustration of kind of advisory ... how they sought to advise churches. A question from a church in 1724, whether a believer may marry an unbeliever. This is like TGC Asks, these are the kind of questions I get in our TGC Ask box. Really. That's kind of how this function. It didn't have very quick means of communication back in those days, so go to the Association meeting and ask. Is it ... whether a believer may marry an unbeliever without coming under church discipline for it. And the answer was 'no'. That's it, 'no'. So, if a believer married an unbeliever willfully, then there should be church discipline. It was 'no' ... That was the answer. Now typically you'd get a much more ... at least that's what we have on the minutes. I feel certain there must of been some kind of explanation, maybe some kind of Biblical exposition. Alright. But, just 'no'. Of course, we would agree with that. 

Another question that same year, 1724, "If a man forfeits the office of elderly, disqualifies himself morally, does he also disqualify himself from church membership? Or, if he repents and is restored to membership, converts, should he also be restored as a elder?" This reminds me so much of TG- ... I get these kid of questions, we get them all the time 'cause there's churches out there that isolated ... they've run into this and they want to know what should you do. Mark Dever ... You see the 9Mark's Mailbag. I love that because it's always things like this Jonathan Lemon will answer the question. I love that. So the Association advised the body to deal with this as a whole and come to a unanimous conclusion. It's kind of a case by case basis with these men. And they had a longer explanation. But these are the kinds of ways they sought to advise churches. Again, kind of an early 9Mark's Mailbag or TGC Asks, which I thinks a wonderful way to help other churches.

Now for several years, the Philadelphia Association took a special interest in helping churches in the deep south, that lacked solid Baptist churches. There just weren't many churches in those days. Of course, our country was expanding westward. In the deep south there were many areas that were ... Like the Appalachian Mountain's, actually where I'm from, there weren't a lot of churches so they would send preachers down there to develop preaching stations in the [inaudible 00:17:17] churches and try to plant solid churches. We'll get to that in a little bit. But anyway, they sought to advise churches and to help churches as one Association. Then it said, "to preach the gospel, council feeble churches, and instruct scattered disciples of Christ". They would draw them together to see if perhaps there was a church that could be planted in a given area, maybe north Georgia, or western North Carolina, somewhere like that that's much more remote. So anyway, the first thing they were together for was to advise churches. 

Secondly, to discipline ministers. And so to warn the Association against a particular minister, or they could dis-fellowship at church that did not follow their guidance. If they hired a pastor who wasn't theologically solid ... did not adhere to the confession of faith and perhaps held as some kind of heresy. Again, these are big different times and so communication was at a premium. Often, these men will gain a reputation that's just been spread by word of mouth and so the Association would take up what they heard about these men. Of course, they usually do this not in front of the entire Association, they'd do this in more private type meetings. And they would discipline ministers. 

An example of this, a Mr. Worth of Pitgrove, "Was gone too far in the doctrine of universal salvation" And that's not Armenism is, that's universalism. "We are certified by undoubted authority that he is now fully in that belief. We therefore, to show our adhorence of that doctrine, and all of his disingenuous conduct for a long time past, caution our churches to beware of him and of Artist Seagraves of the same place also, who has espoused the same doctrines". They kind of put it out ... kind of a bulletin as a word about these men. "Watch out for them, the adhere to old universalism and many in his church have been ... have come under his sway". And so the would vote. Obviously, they didn't have binding authority, this was a voluntary Association almost like the SBC is today when they pass resolutions, they're not binding authority. But they make recommendations and then they could say ... If we don't follow those recommendations, they could put them out. Say, "Well then, we are gonna discharge you. Eject you from the Association". 

So advise churches, disciple ministers, and thirdly, withdrawal fellowship from a disorderly church. Because the driving principle of the Association was that they would have like-faith and order. The Association wrote an essay on the powers of Association adopted in 1749. Writing, "Such withdrawing from a defective or disorderly church or that aught to be towards a delinquent church, as such ariseth form their voluntary confederation a forth said" ... you got a good bit of Elizabethan language here. "And not only from the general duty that is incumbent on all orthodox persons and churches to do where no such confederation is entered into, as 2nd Corinthians 16 and 17". It was this long essay about the principals by which they would fellowship and discharge churches from the Association. And this was kind of clear presentation of the relationship between a local church and the Association. And this strongly affirmed, later on, the autonomy of the local church. So they weren't bound by any of this, they're still autonomous. Again, like the SBC is today. 

Fourthly, they worked to maintain harmony between the churches. I'm gonna move on because I want to spend a lot of time on the fifth one. They sought to adopt to a confession of faith and promote doctrinal unity. Doctrine is very, very importation to the Associations. And interestingly enough, it could not be different today in baptist Associations. 

One of my best friends pastored at a church down in north Georgia that my family helped plant about 10 years ago. And their annual Association meeting in ... I think it was back in the spring. The Associational sermon was basically a defense of modalism, the Trinitarian heresy. There's 300 pastors there, and he and a couple other pastors are the ones who figured this out. Listening to it, he called me and said, "Let me play some of this for you". I said, "Yeah. That's definitely modalism". So he talked to some of the officials in the Association and they just called him a trouble avisceral. So it's very different today, very different climate. Theology and doctrine ... This is an older, I think maybe perhaps a different generation than the Southern Baptist Convention, but doctrine just doesn't hold sway. He said he couldn't even get them to discuss it. He wrote a letter to the editor of the Christian Index of Georgia and they wouldn't publish it. They said it dismerits the reputation of a man who's well known to many, unfortunately. So we're a very different climate. 

But, the Philadelphia Association sought to adopt a confession of faith, they did this in 1742. They adopted the second line to confession, 1689, and added two articles. One on the singing of hymns, Psalms, and spiritual songs and worship. And two, the laying on of hands as part of baptism. Now the first additional article arose out of a hymn singing controversy out of England involving Benjamin Keach, Elias Keach's father. Of course, Benjamin Keach is partly to ... I think, partly responsible for us signing Psalms and hymns, and spiritual songs today at our churches. Because he argued affirmatively, that we're not just bound by the songs here, not just bound by Psalms. And it's okay for us to write robust hymnody. 

Though those who argued, Agustus Toplady and others, they shouldn't be writing those hymns because "they don't use scriptural language", which they certainly do use scriptural language, these old hymns. But they just wanted to sing the Psalms. So it was a major controversy and Keach won out and it's so important. This controversy crashed on the shores of America. SO important that they added an article in the confession dealing with it. So the churches would have robust music. So maybe, Sojourn music, I don't know if it's a derivative of this, but now we have ... I think there is some terrific hymnody being written today in a much more contemporary ... set to contemporary music. I think it started here, perhaps. Back in 1707. 

But the Association took the confession of faith very seriously and referred to it to answer the query's. This is how they answered when a question would arise, they would refer to the confession of faith, which I think is the way it should be done. I think a confessional church or a confessional Association is a strong church or a strong Association. And so this became the generally adopted doctrinal standard for all of the member churches, virtually all the churches adopted it. If they didn't its because they already had a confession of faith that was ... it was usually the second living confession. So it was just kind of unquestioned. Its kind of hard to imagine that now isn't it. In the age we live in now. Probably in the Sojourn network, like at southern Seminary and churches in our orbit, we love confessionalism, but that's not the norm. 

So, most of these church adopted the Philadelphia Confession, it was called. And so by 1772, the Association began to do an exposition of every single article at the Associational meeting. They'd have a doctrinal sermon and then publish a circular letter afterword unpacking the doctrine. The first circular letters written by Reverend Abel Morgan told in the doctrine of scripture and affirmed the full authority and inspiration of scripture. So they voted to print the confession, and then in 1774 the Association adopted the policy of making observations and improvements of some particular article of faith contained in the confession, beginning with the first and so on in order as needed. In other words, even then there were issues within the culture that pressed in on the church. 

If you remember back in 2000 or back in 1999, 1998 and 99, southern baptists added an article to the baptist faith and message. They revised it, first of all, and added an article on family in gender. Because feminism was pressing in on the church and southern baptists had to address it. So this is a contemporary example of this very same thing. They allowed for it to change over time to address issues that rose in the culture. It was to be a static documenture of the doctrines, but it also allowed for them to address cultural issues as they arose, which I think is wise, very wise. 

But you might ask, "Didn't that undermine the authority of the autonomy rather, of the individual churches?". Well, the Association affirmed the right to adopt a confession and expected churches to adhere to it on the basis of two principles. One, the general Christian obligation according to Second Corinthians 6:16 and 17, to admonish brethren to separate from error. Well how to we know what error is? Well we first have to set forth orthodoxy as a cannon against which we measure for error. So, that was one. And two, it concerned the nature of such involuntary confederation as an Association ... what it is. You voluntarily associate with us, so in associating with us, you agree with us doctrinally, or else you won't be a part of the Association. That's the fundamentals of being a part of this Association. These are churches agreeing in doctrine and practice who, by nature, are independent, they said. Their union is voluntary ...

But adherence to the first principle [inaudible 00:26:31] in sound doctrine and regular practice. Where I read First Timothy 4:4. Sound doctrine and sound practice. And they were inextricably wed to these particular baptists. And that was what determined the character of the union. And so they wrote ... it naturally follows it ... such a defection in a doctrine or practice in any church in such confederation or in any party in such church, is ground sufficient for an Association to withdrawal from such a church. And to exclude such from them in a formal matter. So in addition, they could bear testimony against the defection, and you see this happen once in a while. 

I think this is kinda like what the Southern Baptist Convention might to if a church affirmed ... [audio cut off 00:27:12]

... in this a couple times. A few years back, maybe four or five, maybe longer than that. The older I get, the more time chronology starts to really mess with me. I'll tell my wife, "that was four years ago", she said, "Honey, that was ten years ago". Anyway, several years ago the SBC disfellowshiped, of course, informally, two churches in Atlanta for affirming same sex marriage. And of course, that was before the [inaudible 00:27:38] decision on that several years ago. They reserve the right to do that. A church defected from its doctrine or practice. 

So they adopted this confession, and they used it basically in six way, the churches, and the Association. One, as an affirmation of and defense of the truth, of course. These doctrines are the core of the evangelical faith. We affirmed these things and deny anything that any church or individual that denies these doctrines. So, that's what motivated the churches. The same thing that motivated this Association that's motivated the general assembly in London in 1689. 

Secondly, they use it as the baseline for church discipline. As a mattered stewardship church, purity and love to neighbor, faithful pastor, a faithful elder board, a faithful church member must keep a close eye on the life and doctrine of those within the congregation. Not just pastors, also church members. Of course, the Association didn't do this, but the ... There was a very clear understanding that there would be accountability among the church members and church discipline was expected. That's that ... You guys, being a local church ministry, you know that's a hard sell today isn't it. 

I think the toughest thing I've ever done was a first church discipline case in a church I pastored at years ago down in Alabama. It was a prominent member who'd been in the church, as she loved to remind me, 47 years, who sinned egregiously against the church, and openly, and flouted the elders ... not the elder's authority, but flouted the elder's recommendation. They made a recommendation to sell a piece of land that she had rebelled, and started smear campaign, and all this stuff. And was very surprised when we wanted to meet with her. And cried, "Autonomy, autonomy". So it's difficult, isn't it. But if you have a doctrinal standard, and we did, so this is what we are expected to adhere to, then we have a baseline for church discipline. So, we keep a close eye on our life and doctrine. 

Andrew Fuller, an old baptist theologian, wrote of the care that must be taken in church discipline and the role of confession in that pursuit. He said, "If a religion community agrees to specify some leading principles, which they consider as derived from the word of God and judge the belief of them to be necessary in order to any persons becoming or continuing a member with them, it does not follow that these principles should be equally understood, or that all their brethren must have the same degree of knowledge. Nor yet, that should understand and believe nothing else. The powers and capacities of different persons are various. One may comprehend more of the same truth than another, and have his views more enlarged by an exceedingly great variety of kindred ideas. And yet, the substance of their belief may be the same. The object of the articles is to keep a distance, not those who are weak in the faith, but such are as his avowed enemies." 

So these churches were not seeking to be doctrinaire. In other words, you don't have to be a seminary graduate and have exhaustive understanding of these doctrines to be a church member. I don't know about you guys, but our church, we don't require any church members to sign the confession of faith to join our church. In our new members class we go through the confession clearly, we tell them, "Hey. This is where our doctrine live. If you're here, you're gonna be happy here. If you're not or if you wanna think about this ... But you don't have to subscribe to every article or even understand it to the degree that the elders do", but this is what they agree on. Now, the have to sign the church covenant. This is what you're agreeing to. You're agreeing to meet regularly, to give of your time and resources, and things like that. And the Association dealt with that as well, so we're not being doctrinaire here. We're not just seeking to fill our church with egg heads who understand theology exhaustively, or something like that. That's what Fuller is getting at, and that is exactly right. Good way to use confession of faith. 

They also used it thirdly, as a clear and concise standard by which you evaluate ministers of the word. If you call a minister to your church, the first thing I wanna know is, "What do you believe? What do you teach?". We just elected a new elder about six weeks ago, and I knew what he believed, but we put him through the ringer doctrinally. We put him through the ringer. He was a Southern Seminary graduate. I'd actually taught him before. But it didn't matter, we put him through the ringer. "What do you believe? Can you defend these doctrines? Do you know what they mean?" He did well. He did quite well, but I think we want to evaluate ministers very, very carefully. And I think Sojourn Network and other confederations like this do a good job of this. A lot of this is just ... I'm confirming what you're doing. What y'all are doing is rooted in history, I think. I'm not here to teach anything new, as so much, to just affirm what you're doing and say, "This is good, just keep doing it". There may be some corrections is places that these old baptists can teach us. 

The fourth thing they used the confession for was a doctrinal basis for planting daughter churches. Have the like doctrinal DNA. When we plant a church, it's gonna have our confession of faith, it's gonna have our doctrine, right? We want it to have robust, sound doctrine. My entire goal for getting into ministry is going back to my hometown ... my little hillbilly town in Georgia, and plating a church there where no solid baptist church existed. We planted it, I'm just not the pastor, my best friend is. They adopted a confession of faith first thing. That's the basis upon which they were planted. They continue to teach and preach out of that today, a decade later. 

Fifthly, is a means of establishing historal continuity and unity with other Christians. We're not just reformed Christians, or credo-Baptist Christians, we're Christians first of all. Right? We're evangelicals. We hold like faith and practice with evangelical Methodists, evangelical Pentecostals, evangelical Congregationalists, all who hold things like, justification by faith, inheritance, efficiency and inspiration of scripture, and all those things. It shows our doctrinal fidelity, but also our adherence to those doctrines in and union with those Christians. 

And finally, as a means of theological triage in Christian maturity. It's what they taught. They used it in doctrinal controversy. Is this a first level ... Doctor Moler did not ... Al Mohler [inaudible 00:33:49] didn't invent the altrical triage. They were doing this back then. They didn't call it that. And of course, he knows he's drawing on history as well ... church history. But it was an important means of saying, "Okay. Is this a first level issue? Is this a disagreement over the return of Christ? Is the timing of his return? Or is this a disagreement over justification by faith?" Those are vastly different questions aren't they. I mean, when is Jesus coming back? I have no idea. People in my home town are very fascinated by that, and I've been to seminary, they expect me to have the answer. I tell them, "I don't know". You don't either. 

So, we're gonna give some latitude on the doctrine, right? Or maybe even spiritual gifts ... questions on things like that, second level issues. Justification by faith, scripture, the trinity, things like that, no. We're not gonna give an inch on that. And so these were teaching tools to teach their people theological triaging Christian maturity. That was how they sought to use the confession of faith adoptive. They were very much driven by doctrine and theology. Again, not in a doctrinaire, arrogant, and exclusive sort of way, but I think in a very Biblical sort of way. The Bible's a theological triace. It's a theologically annotated story, in many ways. [inaudible 00:35:06] for a difference in new creation, theological [inaudible 00:35:08] [audio quit 00:35:08] Story telling us about all that. And it's very consistent, of course, this tradition is very consistent with that. 

The sixth thing that the Association ... getting back to just the big picture of why the Association was formed. The sixth reason was the Association sought to speak to sociopolitical issues. Political controversies are nothing new, and of course, we know this. We've had bad elections before. It's interesting, I've been reading the biography in the last few days of President Truman and Douglas MacArthur, those two men together, controversies they had together. Its interesting how questions in the election when Truman decided not to run are very similar today. And that's just a few years ago. That's just after World War II. There's nothing new under the sun. It's almost like well, this recent election cycle's destroyed everything. Well, I mean, it's been destroyed before. Nothing new under the sun. 

You see the Philadelphia Association speak to political issues because, low and behold, they invade the church, and their members are seeking a Biblical answer. Its not like they just talked about theology all the time in an egg head sort of way, but it landed on the ground in the lives of these people. 

The 1789 meeting delegates encouraged churches to work for the abolition of slavery. Again, this is 1789. Slavery's not abolished in England until 1833. So, they were way ahead of their time. In fact, this is what they said from the minutes, "Agreeable agreeably to a recommendation in the letter from the church at Baltimore. This Association declares there high approbation, or approval, of the several Associations formed in the United States and Europe for the gradual abolition of slavery of the Africans. And for guarding against their being detained or being sent off as slaves, or having obtained their liberty. And do hereby recommend to the churches we represent, to form similar societies, to become members thereof, and exert themselves to obtain this important objective". That almost surprises you doesn't it. That they saw this evil. All these years ... this is, you're talking 60 plus years before the Civil War. For the question really began to phone it in America and there was change. And 40 years, 45 years, or some odd years before, slavery was abolished in England. Way before [inaudible 00:37:35] took its effect. So they were dealing with these issues in ways that kind of surprise us.

The Association would also issue an annual circular letter, which dealt with a doctrine or some front burner theological, or even political issue. It was written by selected pastor within the Association that often encouraged the Association, sought to encourage the churches to correct, to rebuke, to clarify a doctrinal issue or ethical issue facing the churches. Just one example, 1784, John Gano, very famous Baptist pastor in the Philadelphia Association wrote a circular letter expositing the doctrine of effectual call. And we don't really see much like that anymore, do we? Effectual call ... It says, "As an incentive to increase our thanksgiving for present peace [inaudible 00:38:20], and increase of our churches, our prayers for the further growth, with a more powerful affusion of the divine spirit and grace upon them". SO the effectual call was very practical to him, and he wanted to be practical to the people. It should promote prayer. It should not promote spiritual gridlock, but prayer. And praying for souls for the churches to increase and grow by conversion. So the Association spoke to sociopolitical issues. 

Seventh, it encouraged the education of ministers. In 1789, they wrote ... the minutes record, "The importance of raising a fund for the education of pyas young men for the ministry". And so the Association began to take up a fund to support ministers who were inclined toward learning. Boy, that'd be great today, wouldn't it? If finance were not a barrier to young men coming to seminary. I would love to see Associations recover that. I would love to see Sojourn Network ... and they may do something like this, I'm not certain, but I'd love to see churches do this. My home church back in Georgia used to do this very well. They helped me when I was here. They helped men called to ministry. Helped for immediate needs and also in an ongoing way. Associations now help slight bit, usually if you're from that ... your state convention will help you, or state Association will help you, or local Association will help you. But, its very minimal. But they wanted to fun their education. 

The eight thing they're together for is fellowship. Just being together. I'm gonna just leave that there. 

Finally, to meet mission needs in the surrounding area. Which is what we're doing today, right? Planting churches, meeting mission needs. John Gano, the same minister in the Philadelphia Association at least, we'll say twice, to places in South Carolina and North Carolina, remote places that were destine- [audio cut 00:40:14]

Preaching. Preached for several months. And of course, the Philadelphia Association was instrumental in planting dozens and dozens and dozens of churches over it's first hundred years. Particularly, in the mid-west and the deep south. Churches with this kind of confessional DNA. During this time, it was almost a little bit of a golden age, a lot of good churches during that time. In fact, a church I grew up in is planted by the Charleston Association, which began in 1751 and was sort of a first cousin to the Philadelphia Association in the deep south. The church I grew up in was planted by that Association. It had long sense departed from the doctrines that it held in those early days. And fortunately, in that early 1800's, it was planted in the Second Great Awakening. It was a lot of funky stuff going on down there during that time of revival and revivalism. 

Okay. So, why should we care? What does it mean? Well, six quick application of what ... some and we'll talk. You can ask anything, we'll talk. One, a lesson we aught to associate with like minded churches for doctrinal and ethical accountability. We gotta keep a close watch on our lives and doctrines because souls are at stake right. We need each other to do that. Churches to do that. 

Secondly, we aught to associate with like minded churches to help and encourage pastors. In my work here at TGC, I hear from pastors all the time, who pull the sound doctrine and yet feel very isolated. They say, "I'm the only guy in my town in my region who believes this. What should I do? How would you encourage me to connect with other ministers? Do you know anybody?" We have a church role at TGC. "Do you know of anyone who's out here maybe? Who I can fellowship with". And that may resonate with some of you. I've got friends in places like that. Remote places where they're the only ones and some of the other pastors find out kind of they're, baptistic and they hold these doctrines, and it seems kind of weird, or something. They're not a lot of good fellowship. So, we want to encourage pastors I think. 

Thirdly, we aught to associate with like minded churches to better steward our financial and ministerial resources, which we talked about already. A pastor in Alabama that had a catastrophic financial situation, which actually cost me the ministry there. I had to leave, I had no choice. We left on good terms and what not. But, another Baptist church in town sent a man there. He was bi-locational and they sent people and money and it revitalized that church. Now they didn't take it over, they just sent ... We were like minded theologists, so they sent a man there and send financial resources, so now the church is doing really well. It's recovered, if I'd stayed it couldn't recover. Because they were paying me a salary, I was trying to be bi-locational, and there's a long story short. But, I think that's a very fine example of an answered prayer of how we can help to better steward our financial and ministerial resources. 

Fourthly, we aught to associate with like minded churches for the sake of gospel mission. Right now, our church here is partnering with ... beginning a partnership with a church in inner city Cincinnati, a like minded church over there. We're sending people over there to work and to participate on their outreaches on Fridays and Saturdays. And they're sending people over here. We hope to eventually plant a church in the west end of Louisville, a really, really difficult area that has one church that's been planted there over the last years, but not much gospel witness there. So we're hoping to do that. Obviously we're together for the sake of mission, that's why the SBC formed in the first place. Not the circumstances, but the reason for us coming together. 

Fifthly, consider planting churches not just in urban or suburban centers, but also in rural areas or places where there tend to be very little real gospel presence. Here's what I mean by very little real gospel presence. I'm from a county in Georgia that has 12,000 people and 70 churches. 70. Do you know how many of those churches I would recommend to you? If you came to me and said, "I'm gonna be in your hometown, Jeff. Where would you go to church?" Two. One that we planted, which was a Baptist church. And the Presbyterian church, the PCA church. There is nothing else. There are 70 churches and I mean ... I grew up there. I grew up in a couple of those churches. They're well meaning people, I'm not in any way degrading the people, I love the people. They're my hillbillies, I like the hillbilly elegy. Those are my people. But, there's just not much gospel witness there. 

And my friend there ... I preach often. I do seminars on weekends and stuff with them every ... regularly go down there and preach and what not and they're just hungry for it because there's nothing there. There's just nothing there at all. Not much gospel witness. It's solid [inaudible 00:44:58] churches, but the Lord doesn't work there. We're starting to find that God's raising other like minded brothers, which I'm very, very grateful for. 

And finally ... and this is one of the only quasi-controversial thing I'm gonna say. Multi-site churches should consider as a goal, turning other sites into autonomous churches, with a supporting church, and all her daughter churches functioning as an Association as here described. I think this is a good model for these multi-site churches ... to become this. And this may be what some ... I know some of them are doing this. And that's a good thing. I'm not a huge fan of the multi-site movement. I'm gonna be honest with you. 

But I think if the goal is to function as the Baptist Associations once did, to provide financial means for churches, and encouragement, and ministry, capitol and things like that ... pastors and whatever they need. I'm all for it. And I think that's a good way to function, you don't have to call it an Association. That may be an anachronistic term, doesn't matter. It could be a coalition, it could be a network, I like that. But, to function that way. Instead of having a Presbyterian form of church government, which I'm not quite comfortable with. But I'm much more comfortable with this, and I think this is the good model, at least on that score. And I think that's where the help comes. And I think all these other ... the nine things they are together for, which groups like, Sojourn Network and others, they're together for almost all those things. This is nothing new. So, I'm very grateful for the Sojourn Network and all very similar organizations who are doing this kind of work and are having conferences like this. Bringing you guys together for encouragement and all kinds of other reasons.  

So, that's how I hope these dead Baptists can help us or continuing to help us. Maybe if we're doing these things, it's nothing new. Again, we're drawing on it. We're drawing from a deep well of tradition that stretches all the way back to the reformation, and I would argue all the way back to scripture, of course. Of why we're doing these things.