Episode 132: The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb? – An Interview with Kyle Strobel

In this episode we sit down with Dr. Kyle Strobel to talk about the nature of power via his book (co-authored with Jamin Goggin), The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb? Grab it here.

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There’s a power system assumed by the world, the flesh, and the devil, and you see it when Jesus rebukes Peter: he’s set his mind on the things of man…

Another way to talk about the way of the dragon is the way of power in strength for the sake of control and domination; whereas the way of the lamb is the way of power in weakness for the sake of love…

One error is to see power as bad… those who are left-leaning have a tendency to demonize power… those who are right-leaning tend to worry less about power but are almost willing to embrace ANY power as long as it leads to the right ends…

Many of us simply accept the world’s definitions of power and then assume that Jesus is doing something else (not power-related)… but that’s not right… Jesus is redefining power entirely and is calling us to faith…

When we started this project, we knew it was an important issue… it influences everything… how you pray, how you worship, how you engage or don’t engage in politics—it all presupposes power… but the church is refusing to talk about it…

If you assume a vision of worldly power, the way of Jesus just won’t make sense…

Even a lot of the ways we understand spiritual gifts—it tends to be about actualizing strength, which is ironic, because Paul’s correspondence to the Corinthians is all about power being realized in weakness…

For folks in fulltime vocational ministry, the temptation is to construct a self… and if true power is love, if we really internalize that, it will help us realize that our value is received and not generated… 

The central temptation for leaders is to use their natural ability to get things done… that’s the way of the dragon… if you’re a natural speaker, for instance, you’ll be tempted to use that gift to “win”… your strength is a place of wild temptation… 

We need to constantly ask, “Lord, how am I tempted not to trust you? How am I tempted not to have to have faith…?” 

Episode 130: The Art of Healthy Conflict

In this episode, we share six rules for the art of having healthy conflict.

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I wish leadership was just sitting around reading your Bible, praying for a few people, and going home… but the reality is that we live in a fallen world, and in a fallen world there will be conflict… 

Leadership is managing the differences of opinion among our people… people feel and think differently and when they come together in an organization, there will be conflict… leadership is stepping into that, knowing that the best things are often born out of conflict…

In a fallen world, any peace that is not conflictual is not true peace… we are living in a world that is not yet as it should be, and if we’re not willing to name the brokenness and deal with it, we have abdicated our responsibility as leaders…

What’s your motivation for leaning into conflict? For me, I’m not looking for a fight… I’m looking for the Holy Spirit… I’m looking for ways to build up and not tear down…

The first step is to confront in a timely manner… if something bothers me, I try to sleep on it and pray over it… if it is still bothering me after that, I need to go talk to that person… 

The second step is to begin the conversation with affirmation… that affirmation is born out of prayer… we need to lead with what we love about the other person…

The third step is to not accuse but share your feelings… we don’t need to question people’s motives… we just need to speak honestly, without accusation…

The fourth step is to learn to listen… not every conversation needs to be argued… what I’ve found is that if I can just get people to start talking, I’ll learn everything I need to know… 

The Bible calls the devil the accuser of the brethren… one of the primary functions of the enemy is that he accuses us one to another… the voice of accusation in our ears about each other is not the voice of the Spirit…

The fifth step is to be honest… oftentimes people lose courage in the face of the need to be honest… we need to learn to tell the truth and say it to the strength that we feel it… truth needs to be the benchmark of our organizations…

The sixth step is to be gracious… come into the meeting willing to entertain the possibility that you are wrong… both parties in the conversation need grace: you and them… if you pour out grace, that’s what you’ll get in the long run…

Episode 129: Good Study Habits

In this episode Glenn and Andrew sit down with Dr. Michelle Anthony to talk about the why, what, and how of developing good study habits.

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I was fortunate to have lifelong learners around me growing up… my parents were voracious readers and learners, and a lot of my mentors were like that as well… I grew up loving that learning process…

At some point in ministry, I realized that my output would always be a lesser quality than my input… that if I wanted to preach like Tim Keller, it wouldn’t be enough to listen to Tim Keller, but rather to read who Tim Keller was reading…

For me the love of learning ignited watching the senior pastor of our church preach… it was clear he was drinking from wells that were outside of the norm for our tribe… I saw a pastor whose mind was working…

My study habits have changed over the years… when my kids were young, I studied late at night or in carpool… right now, early in the morning before I come into work is my best space… when I do it in the morning, I find that it comes back to me during the day…

What has helped me is having time goals rather than quantity goals… what I’m trying to do is see if I can sit down for 30 minutes five days a week to read, trusting the cumulative effect of study…

I want to see younger leaders stretch… the brain is a muscle, and with the amount of podcasts and audiobooks, there are lots of reasons now NOT to study… you need to exercise the muscle when you’re young…

The difference between listening to a podcast and reading a book is that a podcast is primarily passive… it’s better than nothing… but the activity of studying requires so much more of me, which means that the output is greater…

You need a balanced diet of reading… I make it a matter of prayer… I like reading things that are more technical, and also things on the leadership side… I also like to read something that’s more narrative in nature… 

I have “buckets”: for my own personal development, for my areas of ministry and expertise, and then I also try to read one book a year by someone I completely disagree with or about something that is going on in pop culture…

For me, poetry and fiction have recently become important… as preachers, we are storytellers, and fiction will help give you a good eye and ear for story… 

Episode 127: Attracting Strong and Capable Leaders Pt. 1

In this episode we sit down to talk about the kind of environment that allows leaders to flourish.

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These principles apply not only to the church but also to the corporate world…

We often want strong leaders but we want to do the work required… money and resources are not enough… it can take years to cultivate the right conditions to attract capable leaders…

It is God’s will for churches to have strong leaders… if your church was God’s idea, then God’s idea is that you will have strong leaders in your church…

One of the first questions I ask leaders is, “Are you a healthy leader?” … if I will judge myself, other people won’t have to judge me…

Right now we’re coming out of two years of pandemic and chaos… a lot of leaders’ emotional lives are a mess… now might not be the best time to add to your team if you’re not well and whole…

I don’t get my needs met from church ministry… it sounds so simple, but really, Jesus should be enough… if I am depending on church to refuel me and give me my identity, I am going to fail…

The other thing I ask leaders is, “Are you living a life of good rhythm?” I believe in working hard, but I also rest well… a lot of pastors have mastered the art of working hard but they haven’t mastered the art of resting…

If you don’t know how to rest well, ultimately you won’t work well… by not resting well you won’t get your work done…

The final thing I ask leaders is, “Is your church or organization a place where healthy conflict can happen…?” Leadership is conflict… if you can’t do conflict, you can’t lead… 

A lot of pastors are great at study but when they walk out of their office door, they don’t know how to deal with conflict… your sermon prep won’t matter if you don’t do this well… your church will fail…

There need to be places in our organization where we can emote… where we can speak to the strength that we feel it without penalty… this will allow God to trust you with other leaders… 

Lastly, we need to ask whether everyone has a seat at the table in our organization… the church was asking it in the first century, and it needs to be asking it now…

Episode 125: An Interview with Lyle Wells – Empire vs. Kingdom Leadership

In this episode we sit down with the president of Integrus Leadership, Lyle Wells, to talk about “empire vs. kingdom” leadership and what it takes to remain resilient as leaders in a challenging environment. You can learn more about Integrus at www.integrus.org and by following @leadwithlyle and @integrusleadership.

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I think there’s a great exhaustion to come… people have been grinding for so long that at some point your body reacts…

For many leaders, their voice changed during the pandemic… we were focused on the crisis, as we needed to be… but my fear is that many leaders haven’t taken their eyes back up to the horizon…

Many organizations have also developed an addiction to adrenaline… and now it has become their identity and their purpose… for many, endurance has become the goal rather than effectiveness… 

This is a season that ought to grow our ability to be resilient… we need to set our faces back towards our purpose and call and march boldly… but we also need to be still and wait for God to move…

We talk about taking “pit stops” that make the workload more manageable, because we know that the people in our organizations are fatigued…

One of the things we implemented is something we call “no meeting Mondays”… we were doing so much on Mondays that by the time 4:00 rolled around, they were already maxed out… 

If there was one thing I could say to leaders, it is that “your tank is your responsibility”… as a leader, you have to develop a working knowledge of two things: 1) What do you look like when your tank runs low? And 2) What fills up your tank?

Kingdoms and empires are really interesting… we start with the basic premise that no one wants to be average… in ministry it is even more pronounced, because it’s not just a job but a calling… 

We’ve noticed that on the journey people get stuck or they get scared… they need guides to help them overcome their challenges… the most pivotal decision we make when we step into leadership is whether we will be heroes or guides… 

Problems accrue in organizations when leaders—who are supposed to be guides—turn into heroes… that’s when churches become empires… often this happens unintentionally… 

The most fun you can have as a leader is investing in somebody and seeing them thrive in what God’s called them to do… but this is a fundamental shift for a lot of people… 

Episode 117: Crisis Fatigue

In this episode we sit down to talk about how leaders should think about responding to local and global crises when they arise, and about how they care for their own souls in crisis.

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The fatigue is real… we got into ministry because we care for those who are hurting, and over the past year and a half, that’s been put to the test…

We don’t have an endless supply of empathy… you can run out… one of the things I’m concerned about for my own soul is if I ever stop feeling [what I should feel for crises]…

The first lens on how we should spend ourselves is this: what are your people talking about in the lobby? If they’re talking about it in the lobby, we should be talking about it in the pulpit…

One of the problems with social media is that our awareness outpaces our agency… one thing we could do as leaders is to spend more time following what our people are talking about on social media and less time following what everyone else is talking about…

Jesus commissioned his disciples into Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth… Jesus seems to be calling them not just to their neighborhood or region, but also to places that would test and stretch them… 

Your time can’t be spent evenly in these four quadrants… we need to understand that we need to allot our time in a way that is sustainable…

We don’t invest our money anywhere where we don’t have trusted relationships… it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” we are going to have opportunities, and the worst feeling is having resources but no one to call [to deploy those resources to]…

Many people in the church want to be “special forces” missions people… but if we’re only focusing on those people, we’re ignoring the vast majority of our people who need to catch a heart for global missions… 

For a lot of pastors, loneliness is their greatest enemy right now… many pastors are just looking for friends… this is one of the reasons we created the Essential Church Learning Community… we’re trying to create space for that…

Sometimes the best thing I can do is just rest… there’s no substitute for good food, getting exercise, and going to bed…

In moments of crisis, clear decisions and quick adjustments are crucial… but we also need kind hearts… 

Episode 115: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 2)

IIn this episode (part two of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

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The new paganism presents a real challenge… because if people are managing the practical needs of their lives by getting what they need through the new paganism, it makes the church’s appeal more difficult… what does the church offer that people don’t already have…?

This is one of the reasons why the gospel is racing through the global South and is waning in the West… the church is in decline in the West in part because we’re rich and have our needs met… 

Part of the reason it also may be in decline is that because we have positioned the gospel as only therapeutic, and once the practical need is satisfied, then the need for the gospel goes away… but perhaps the gospel is about MORE than the therapeutic… 

Another thing we are seeing is expressive individualism… it is the exaltation of the self as the source and goal of all goodness… my measure of what I am going to do is whether or not it will make “me” a “better me”…

People used to discover meaning in the world, but now we think that our job is to construct meaning in the world… this is why we hear people talk about “your truth” and “my truth”… it sounds nice in the suburbs, but it doesn’t work in Taliban-haunted Afghanistan…

What Christian spirituality has to do is claim the interiority while also showing how all the pieces of the world fit together… 

The aftermath of all of this is very messy… one person said, “I don’t believe in God, but I miss him…” and I think that describes so many people… 

I have an impulse in my heart to say that the church just needs to keep its doors open and trust that people will come… but Jesus is the one who goes out after the lost sheep… we need to go out and meet the culture where it is at…

We must never give up on the one thing that we have to offer that no one else does—the presence and power of God… 

We need to make room for the power of God… Paul says that one of the signs that the Gentiles belong to the kingdom is that the Spirit is at work… people don’t come to church for the coffee; they come for the presence and power of God, and that’s the one thing we’re carrying… 

Episode 114: The Resilient Pastor (Pt. 1)

In this episode (part one of two) we sit down with Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his forthcoming book The Resilient PastorLeading Your Church in a Rapidly Changing World. (Releases in February—order HERE.)

Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to stay connected with us throughout the week!

In some ways the pandemic was the instigator of new changes… in other ways it accelerated some that were already in process… and in still other ways it revealed changes that had happened that maybe we had masked over… 

The tectonic plates that have shifted are Christianity and country… many of the things that we take for granted in Western civilization (like civil rights) have Christian roots… but now Christianity no longer has a prominent place… 

The big question for Western civilization is whether we can keep the fruit of a Christian culture when it is severed from its roots…

To say that we are in a “secular age” does not mean that we are post-religion, it means that we have decoupled the relationship between religion and the ordering of society…

Now we are seeing a surge in the gap left by that decoupling… one of the elements of that surge is a new pluralism in the West which is syncrestic and imperialistic… the new pluralism is where people say “I’ll take a dash of Buddhism and a dash of Hinduism and a little Christianity…”

In a way, the new pluralism is a response to religious fundamentalism… if embracing religions in their totality is seen to be evil, then taking a little of each is a way of hedging our bets…

One of the challenges here is that when I’m in conversations with people and they are leveraging a critique against the church, they don’t recognize that many of those critiques are dependent on what the church has taught…

There’s a greater burden now on the church to show that what it is teaching is good… that religion is good is no longer taken for granted… there’s an invitation of the Spirit here to show how what we believe is good for civil society…

Christianity at its best has always at its best has been able to name what is good about different religions and systems of thought while also showing how Christ corrects and completes them…

Another element of the surge is a new kind of paganism… in the old paganism, you used the gods as means to your own end… the new paganism is things like technology, commerce, and politics… it is a way to get what I want and make me feel better…  

Episode 101: An Interview with Steve Cuss – Managing Leadership Anxiety.

In this episode, we sit down with Steve Cuss to talk about his book Managing Leadership Anxiety and how leaders can become not only more self-aware but also wise about managing both their own anxiety and that of others. You can learn more about Steve and his work at capablelife.me.

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This book was born out of some measure of personal desperation… from a deep desire that the life I was proclaiming to others was also the life I was living… 

All chronic anxiety is based on false belief and false need… leadership anxiety is what happens to us when we don’t get what we feel we need to be okay… 

One form of this for me was the belief that every sermon I preached needed to be the best sermon people had ever heard… then, whether it went really well or poorly, I became anxious… I was living under a false need…  

There are universal sources of anxiety, where it doesn’t matter how you’re wired, if you’re in that situation, you’ll be anxious… for instance, whenever we are in situations where we don’t know what to do, we’ll be anxious… that’s where a lot of pastors are right now… 

When a pastor is better at eloquently telling people about the love of God than they are at experiencing it for themselves, they are going to hit a wall… 

Burnout isn’t because of workload… burnout happens because we haven’t addressed, for instance, what happens when the critic calls and all of our old “stories” from the past come up… we can’t control whether that will happen, only our response to it… 

What anxiety does is that it tells us a lie… it is spiritual warfare… it’s about the story we tell ourselves and the voice of our inner critic… the gospel frees us from the tyranny of believing these lies… 

The first step to becoming a non-anxious leader is to pay hyper attention to your own reactivity… and then to learn to notice how your anxiety infects other people and how their anxiety infects you…  

I think that we are failing at discipling our people into non-anxiousness… most people are more discipled by their political point of view than they are by Jesus…

Episode 097: Leadership During Turbulent Times: An Interview with Dr. Ben Witherington

In this episode we sit down with New Testament scholar Dr. Ben Witherington to talk about church leadership during turbulent times.

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My parents were devout Christians and raised me in church… I was there every week and those people really shaped me… and I had some wonderful pastors along the way who were a big encouragement to me…

As I got older, there were a couple years where I didn’t really attend church… the churches seemed very formal… so I wandered until the Lord called me back through some friends into InterVarsity… that did me a world of good during a very turbulent time…

One of the things that is clear to me about right now is that when you have a crisis, you find out which people have a civic religion and which people have a genuine Christian religion… there is a sort of winnowing effect in a crisis, and you find out where people really place their trust…

I think what I want to say to pastors right now is that they need to take half-baked Christians and put them back in the oven… you don’t get to wear the big ‘C’ on your forehead if *this* is what you think about race, disease, etc…

We have a teaching moment right now, an opportunity to raise the level of biblical spirituality and sanctification, because people are struggling… we learn more from trial and tribulation than we do from other times, so: carpe diem—seize the day and let people know how Christians are supposed to behave…

We need more solid, meaty biblical preaching and teaching that’s bringing the text to bear on the situation at hand… a good preacher knows how to do this… I’m not talking about speaking to the issue du jour, but giving people the tools to fight off sub-Christianity…

It is time for us to redouble our efforts to make sure our ministers are well-equipped to equip the saints for the works of ministry…

With fallen human beings, sins like the sin of racism don’t go away; they keep resurfacing… we need to look to genuinely people like (civil rights leader) John Lewis who lived his faith out in day to day life… to Christians who will call us to action…

To the pastors of today I want to say: you are a long way from being finished… read 1 Kings 18 and 19: now is no time to give up; now is the time to redouble your efforts…