Episode 070: A Conversation with Ray Johnston

In this episode we sit down with Pastor Ray Johnston of Bayside Church in Sacramento to talk about church health, growth, and the kind of leadership both require.

Health is more important than growth… I always wanted to pastor a church that the closer you got to the core, the healthier it would be…

People are attracted to health… we don’t have growth goals and have never set growth goals… if something is healthy and visionary, it will likely grow… 

Our secret is our team… team ministry is important to us… we spent years praying and talking about our leadership model and now each of our campuses has two senior pastors… because we believe that team ministry is healthier and more sustainable…  

I believe that the solution to everything is the right person… anything going well in our churches is going well because we have the right person there… you can have the right plans and right strategies but without the right person it will fail… 

You need to hire slow and fire fast… and if you hire slow enough, you usually won’t have to fire… we look for character, competence, and chemistry… the older I get, the more important chemistry is to me…

The most important thing I do personally as a leader is to make sure I stay encouraged… discouragement precedes destruction… it is the anesthetic the devil uses on a leader just before he destroys their ministry…  

Years ago some people encouraged me to become more public in my ministry… so we met with an agent… they developed a plan for building my “brand”… and I felt like God said to me, “If your goal is to build your brand, I’m out…”  

We’re here to build Jesus’s “brand” and not our own… I told my team that God doesn’t want me to build my brand… that we needed to go home and bury ourselves in our ministry, and that’s what we’ve done for the last 15 years… and we’re having a ball…

Episode 069: An Interview with Sean Morgan

In this episode we sit down with Sean Morgan to talk about some current trends among leaders in the North American church.

The number one thing I am encouraged by is the caliber of leaders I am meeting in the church today… I am very encouraged by their obedience of these leaders…  

The sad part about the “A-game” leader is that they can get used and abused very quickly when the church gets off mission…

A lot of churches have fancy mission statements, but the truth is that the mission is the Great Commission and the Great Commandment taken together…  

Top shelf leaders can prevent the whole church being about them by empowering others and building good systems… the larger church pastors are often the ones who have done a better job building a good team and really empowering them…  

One of the reasons we’re seeing more plural and co-leadership teams is that different people can bring their gifting and own a slice of the ministry even though they might be personally lacking in other areas…  

The church growth movement in the last forty years has left a lot of people feeling inadequate because of church size in some way, shape, or form… at the end of the day, you have to do all that you can do and trust God with the results…  

Sometimes the most mature people in the church are the most resistant to a movement to reach people if it is at the expense of their personal project or ministry…

A lot of pastors in their 50s are not ready to retire financially… which means that they become okay with leading stability which leads to their church becoming comfortable… which in turn can cost a church its life…

Elders often don’t have perspective outside their local church… in denominations, district superintendents can help churches with succession… one of the best ways to combat this is to have 3rd party outside influencers of some kind to help…

 

*Learn more about Sean and his work at ascentleader.org.

Episode 068: Blessed, Broken, Given

In this episode we sit down with Pastor Glenn Packiam to talk with him about his new book “Blessed, Broken, Given.”.

Jesus didn’t give us a theory of the atonement; he gave us a meal… bread is the most common food item around the world… the commonness of bread speaks to us of how God takes the common and fills it with his glory…

 The Holy Spirit meets us through all kinds of means… the Lord’s Table is called a sacrament because it is a visible sign of an invisible grace… the bread and wine are meant to speak to us of God’s presence…

I wanted the book to address three longings of the heart… the first is whether my life really matters… the second is, is my life too messy… the third is, does my life have purpose?

“Blessed, broken, given” is about glory in the ordinary, grace in the mess, and purpose in the everyday… I’m trying to say, “If you look closely at the Table, the message of the gospel is there…”

To be blessed is to be commended by God… but really it is to be re-storied… to be taken back to your good beginning and to give you the name that he has for you…

We often think that our story began with Genesis 3, with the fall… the story that God tells about us begins earlier… it is that God made us and saw that it was good…

Broken is a way of talking about our frailty… it is also a way to talk about our failure, and that’s where shame comes in… the Bible’s answer to shame is that there is a redeemer, a savior who can wipe away our guilt so that our faces are never covered in shame…

Another kind of brokenness comes when we experience pain… the message is that God’s redemption is more powerful than prevention…

Most of us think that our purpose has to be epic… but that’s not how the people in the Bible lived… there’s a long life of faithfulness behind each of the moments we read about in Scripture… purpose looks like faithfulness in the everyday…

*Be sure to grab a copy of Blessed, Broken, Given HERE! (And leave a review!)

Episode 067: Remarkable Pt. 2

In this episode we continue and conclude our conversation with Pastor Brady about his new book, Remarkable. Be sure to listen to Part 1 HERE.

Issues of race are deep-rooted in our culture, and we in the church need to step up and say that there is a better way…

All of us need to respond to issues of race, and we each need to know the condition of our hearts… are we being gracious and empathetic, are we listening to people’s stories and experiences…? 

The reason that slavery got abolished is because Christians got involved… it was so tied up with economics that very few people were willing to stand up… and finally a group of British Christians stood up and said, “This is not what Christ meant by ‘love your neighbor.’” 

We are living in a sexually broken culture… I want people to understand the biblical idea of purity… it’s not just about rule-following… it’s about glorifying God…

I love the passage where it tells husbands to treat their wives like Christ treats the church… Paul realized that marriage was an opportunity to show the watching world how to serve one another…

I think that this is why we celebrate long marriages… what an accomplishment, to give yourself away to another human being for their flourishing and their benefit…  

This has to begin in your city… we’ll never serve the poor in our city well if we can’t serve our spouses or children well at home… 

We have a prayer that we pray at New Life, “Come, Holy Spirit…” That’s where I start my day… these days I am ending my day by praying, “Holy Spirit, remind me where you were present today and where I encountered you today…”

It’s amazing what happens when you pray that… it creates space for the Spirit to show me where he actually answered my prayers…

If you’ll bookend your day with prayer like that, this won’t become works, it will become grace, an empowering presence to do God’s will… you can’t follow Jesus without the Holy Spirit—don’t even try…

Be sure to grab a copy of Remarkable HERE! (And leave a review!)

Episode 066: Remarkable Pt. 1

In this episode (part 1 of 2) Andrew Arndt, Glenn Packiam, and Daniel Grothe sit down with Pastor Brady to talk about his new book Remarkable.

Paul had the same challenge that we have when he went into Corinth… the city of Corinth was sexualized and entertainment-driven and violent, and people were grasping for power and cheap money… it looks a lot like our culture today…

The question is, are we going to oppose the culture, or are we going to influence the culture? It starts with our own decision to live out the teachings of Jesus in a remarkable way…

The church in Corinth had been pushed to the margins… I believe that the church is at its best when it is pushed to the margins, we become our truest self at the margins…

One of options we’ve taken in response to the culture is that we isolate ourselves… we put spiritual and physical walls up to protect ourselves… the problem with that is that Jesus told us to be salt and light…

Another option we’ve taken is the exact opposite: we immerse ourselves in the culture, where over time there’s not much difference between us and the world around us… most Christians fall into this category…

The third option is the angry option, to be the instigators: they believe that they can shout at the darkness and make it go away… the world around is shifting and changing and they don’t know how to make sense of it…

The most revolutionary and radical thing we can do right now is love our neighbors as ourselves… and not just the ones that are like us… this is the most radical thing that Christianity has always brought to the world…

Jesus confounded the religious leaders of his day by hanging out with sinners and tax collectors… they couldn’t understand why Jesus wasted his time with “those people…”

We can’t be Great Commission people if we aren’t Great Commandment people… Jesus never expected us to go into all the world and make disciplines if we don’t love them…

The “fourth way” is being consumed with love for God and love for people and let that be your motivation for everything you do…

Catch Part 2 next week, and buy Remarkable HERE! (And leave a review!)

Episode 065: Be Merciful to Those Who Doubt

In this episode Glenn Packiam and Andrew Arndt sit down to talk about how to walk wisely, compassionately, and pastorally with people experiencing a crisis of faith.

I want people to know when they come to me that they are okay and that they are not the first people to wonder about these things… that it’s okay to be where you are, and that’s why we need one another…

The struggle with faith is itself a good struggle… Christian faith grows out of the root of Israel… Jacob wrestles with God and God blesses him and changes his name to Israel which means “he struggles”… 

I always want to bless the struggle for people, because for me it has led to some of my greatest breakthroughs and insights, and has led me out of small ways of thinking about God and into the wide open spaces of who God is…

Many times people aren’t rejecting what is central to Christianity but they are rejecting the trimmings or the packaging [without realizing it]… 

At every stage of our lives, we have mental containers to try to hold the ineffable reality of God… the deeper we go with God, the more those containers will start to buckle and quake… pastorally, we need to be able to bless that process… 

One of the things I’ve learned is that sometimes when we think about faith we think about it purely as a cognitive act where if we don’t believe it at a certain level of intensity, we aren’t truly in the faith anymore…

What happens when we surrender to Jesus is that we are bound together in the cords of covenant love, which means that not just on a cerebral level but on a bodily level, we are bound to him… sometimes the feet can fill in where the mind is failing… 

Most people belief that the church has a lot of institutional arrogance, so when a leader comes to them and sits with them in their pain and says, “We didn’t do a good job” or “I didn’t do a good job,” that is so rare… but we should be good at that… we believe that we are being sanctified and that we have a lot to repent of… 

There are some versions of the faith that do need to be deconstructed, and if it means rebuilding on the rock Christ Jesus, then yes, let’s do that… 

Pastor Glenn’s Article – https://www.missioalliance.org/radical-hospitality/

Pastor Andrew’s Article – https://www.missioalliance.org/holding-faith-and-doubt-in-community/

Episode 064: What Are Summers For? (Pt 2)

In this episode we pick up our conversation on summers to talk about the purpose of pastoral sabbaticals.

Every fulltime employee on our staff gets a sabbatical at least once every seven years… 

More and more companies around the country are allowing extended leave, recognizing the value of extended time off during key periods of a person’s life… 

When you give your employees extended time away to refuel, in the long run you’ll get more productivity… the cost of replacing that employee is far greater than the cost of giving them time off… 

The first time I had a sabbatical I didn’t really know what to do with it… then I started to realize that there is a three-fold dynamic to sabbaticals: rest, recreation, and renewal… 

Honestly, though, it doesn’t take long to physically rest… but the reflecting takes longer… in our daily schedules we tend to go from one episode to another, and sometimes it is difficult to stop and really pay attention to how things are affecting us… 

These sabbaticals can teach the world how to live again… the church has always been a provocation… the sabbatical reminds us and the world that God is a God of rest… 

Sometimes we forget that Jesus was hidden for thirty years, and then during his three-year ministry he never ran anywhere… we can show the world a better way… 

St. Bernard said that the servant of the Lord is not like a pipe, where God’s work just comes through us… the servant of the Lord is more like a bowl, where we wait until we’re full and then we pour out… sabbatical is a time to become full again… 

If you’re going to go on sabbatical, you need to make sure the sheep are cared for… we stagger our sabbaticals so that our church is cared for well… 

Every person is unique, but for most pastors, they need to get out of town… so if your pastor goes on sabbatical, you need to make sure he has money to travel… if the sabbatical is going to really benefit your pastor, they need to get away…

The first two or three weeks of sabbatical is all about decompression… a four week break is not a sabbatical… six weeks is the minimum for a pastor who’s carrying a preaching weight… any less than that and you won’t come back refueled… six to ten weeks is great if you can get it… three months is even better… 

Episode 063: What Are Summers For? (Pt 1)

In Part 1 of What Are Summers For?, we talk about the personal side and the organizational side of summers and how to make the best use of them.

It’s important for pastors to plan to rest… if you don’t plan to rest, you won’t rest… so many pastors don’t take vacations… 

Summer is a time to show trust to your team… disappear and show them that you trust them and don’t call every other day to find out how they’re doing… 

Summer is a great time to play… there’s space for a restoration of childlikeness… for me, I get to reconnect with my kids… rediscovering them and finding out what God is doing in them…

This requires thinking about ministry as an ebb and flow… one of the traps we get into as leaders is thinking that we need to maintain “momentum”… summer is ordinary time… there’s a sense in which we’re trying to say that it’s okay to have seasons that aren’t epic and exciting… 

On the other hand, the fall will be here before you know it… if you have a bad summer, you will have an awful fall… you can dial back the activity, but not the planning… 

If you’re going to make changes on your staff, June and July are the two best months to do that because the activity is light… so you can make changes without creating a lot of disruption inside the church… 

Summer is a great time for self-evaluation as well… you can’t evaluate your team unless you evaluate yourself… in the summer we pastors need to evaluate how we’re doing, what our schedule looks like, and what we’re saying “yes” to… 

People talk about a “summer slump”, but we don’t see that too much around here… for a lot of families, the break in school-year activity means they have more time for church… just keep things vibrant and alive and excellent, and they’ll come… 

There are preachers in every church that just need opportunities… you need to take a chance on these people… summers are great for that… 

If you’re the young preacher holding the pulpit over the summer, tackle the topics that are in your sweet spot and aren’t going to cause problems for the senior pastor when he gets back… 

Another thing to think about for the summer is that there are other ways to do sermons than just having one person on the stage… maybe take three men or three women and put them on the stage and have someone interview them about a topic… tackle the pulpit as a team… 

Episode 062: The Old Testament and the Church (Pt 2)

This is part 2 of our conversation on how the Old Testament and the New Testament relate, and how we can faithfully preach and teach the Old Testament in the Church.

There is no kingdom without law, without rule… if there is a king, there are people who live under the king’s way, his rule…

The giving of the Law at Sinai begins with grace… he rescued them from slavery, saying, “I want to be yours and I want you to be mine, and this is what that looks like…”

The Law at Sinai both confirms and establishes the covenant, it reveals what God is like, and it shows us how we are to live in the world… 

One of the things we have to remember about the purity and hygiene laws is that the ancient Israelites were out in the desert without the kind of sanitation we have today… God wasn’t embarrassing them but protecting them and their society from getting sick… 

So many of the instructions regarding sacrifices are instructions on sacrifices for happy occasions… it’s about how to throw a party that honors God… 

Even the sin and guilt offerings are a tremendous blessing… in the ancient world, there was no way to get out from under the burden of having done something wrong… 

Some things from the Old Testament are strengthened in the New… the sexuality laws are strengthened and clarified in the New… on the question of sexuality Jesus takes them back to the beginning…

The Church in the first century is wrestling with how Jew and Gentile live together… they’re not throwing the Old Testament away but are looking to it for wisdom and guidance in how to be one people in Jesus… 

There is a “law” for Christians now… it is the law of the Spirit written on our hearts… bearing one another’s burdens, loving our neighbors as ourselves… it looks like the fruit of the Spirit… 

The major shift in the New Testament is not that there’s no law but that there is now the Spirit of God living inside of us enabling us to live in right relationship with God and others…

Episode 061: The Post Easter Blues

In this episode Pastor Brady and Andrew sit down to talk about some “do’s” and “don’ts” for pastors in the week following Easter.

The first thing is to celebrate the wins… that should be the focus of this week… so many great things happened… you need to fixate on that… 

You need to take some time this week to celebrate each other… this is the week to pat people on the back and tell them how great it all was… celebrate the big wins and the little wins…

Another thing to do this week, after all the celebrations – this is a great week to evaluate systems and processes… how did we do? were we prepared? what can we learn?… find some things to improve upon… 

Comparison is the thief of our joy… one of the things I will not do is that I will not post our Easter numbers publicly… I remember what it was like when I was pastoring a church of 150 and churches down the street had 500 or 15,000 or twelve million or whatever [on Easter Sunday]… social media can drain the life of out you… we need to be content… 

This week is a time to ease up on your schedule a bit… recharge your batteries… we need to remember that we just put out a lot of spiritual energy…

Work out… go on a long walk… spend some time with your spouse… eat well… don’t medicate… sometimes when we’re depleted, we eat improperly or drink too much alcohol or eat too much sugar… don’t do that… we need to replenish… take a deep breath and detox a bit… 

I do think we can see residual growth from Easter Sunday, if we do it well… but we also need to know that Easter came late this year and that some of the rhythms of our culture are going to impact attendance… 

This Sunday might be a good one to let someone else preach… I’ve always tried to be present the Sunday after Easter, but for some of you, if you put in multiple services – it is okay to take this Sunday off, and not to feel guilty about it… 

If you’re a congregation member, this is a really good week to drop your pastor a note… there’s a lot of discouraged pastors out there this week… a phone call or a gift card will go a long way…