Thank you everybody for joining us on this “Lunch and Learn”, it’s brought to you by the Alabama Baptist State Board Missions Disciple-Making Ministries. Mark Gainey, myself, and Robert Mullins, serve with Daniel Edmonds on this lead team. We’re thankful for these opportunities during this time to be able to share with you. So today we have the privilege of hosting our friend, Alan Briggs. Alan is in Colorado, he is the founder and he is the lead Jedi there at Stay Forth Designs. And he is a pastor, he is a speaker, he’s an author, he’s a consultant, he’s a man of many hats, but we’re thankful for him taking the time out of his schedule to join us today. And as Alan shares a little bit, let me encourage you to do two things, look at the chat, Alan has posted a question that he would like for you guys to engage with him in, and answer that question. It’s a simple question, what is your biggest obstacle in discipleship during this season? So I’m sure he’s gonna address that and talk about that, and then at the end of his time here in the next few minutes, we will have an opportunity to interact and engage with him through questions and answering. So if you’ll look at that Q&A tab, click on that as he is speaking, and when those questions come to mind, just type those out and we’ll try to get to those if we can. But at this time, I’m gonna turn everything over to Alan Briggs. Alan, thank you so much, my brother, for joining us today, and we look forward to hearing what God has to say through you.
Yeah, so good to be with you and all of you guys and gals joining us, what a season this has been? And I love that disciple-making is not getting swallowed in the conversation of the things. We’ve all heard the phrases, “Church is closed.” Of course, church is not closed. You have a massive opportunity to make disciples right now. And I wanted to speak into that from different angles. And as Andy mentioned, I come at this from a really strange angle. And so I do wear a lot of hats, but that hat tree that holds all of them is making disciples, we just do that in different ways. One of the ways I get to make disciples is by working with leaders across the country as a leadership coach. And so I say, I’m a mountain guide for leaders, for leaders heading up their mountain. And as you guys know, we were on sort of this long ascent, we were moving at a good pace, and then suddenly COVID hit, and everything changed. And we moved really from this decent pace up a mountain that was snaking up the side of this mountain, to kicking in ice steps, and literally just going up this thing with ice axes, that is the level of growth we have right now, which has really been change-or-die now for several months. And with that, I know from the leaders that I coach, I know from those that I talk with, friends of mine, people that have been in my backyard the last few weeks, sharing how they’re really doing, many of you are exhausted right now. And I just wanna say, I know that, I see you, I can identify on many of the levels, this level of change and criticism that you were facing, the opportunities that are ahead of you seem exhausting, even if they seem exciting. The word terror-citing is probably true of what a lot of the leaders are thinking right now, “God seems to be doing something new and fresh, but man, I don’t know if I can keep up, I don’t know if I can change at that pace.” And so I just wanted to start by acknowledging that there have been massive obstacles to church attendance, but I believe there are massive opportunities for disciple-making. Let me say that again, massive obstacles for church attendance right now, massive opportunities when it comes to disciple-making. And so when Robert would ask me to share, I said, “Absolutely.” So I’m gonna share as a fellow struggler, as one who is making disciples right now in my home, in my neighborhood, with our team and with many leaders across the country, I see you, and I know it has been a hard squeeze. And some of you feel like you just, you have one hand out and you are just trying to keep up, you are just trying to survive in this season. And I believe God has something more than just allowing us to survive in this season, I believe God’s doing something fresh and something new through leaders across the country, just like you guys. So thanks for jumping on today. Again, I speak as a fellow struggler, it’s been a really hard season for me, for you, for many other leaders across the country, and yet we’re starting to hear some of the things that God is doing. So if you do get a moment, if you would just type in, it’d be really helpful for me and others to see what’s been your biggest obstacle to discipleship in this season. If you could just name one, that could be really helpful as we continue on. So let me set some context for where we’re at right now, where I see we are not only as a culture, not only as churches, but as leaders. The context I believe we are in right now is one that we didn’t plan for. First of all, we did not think we would be here. This is unique, and so we are in uncertain times right now. So probably what we’ve held to be true has gotten smaller and the things that we have no idea about has gotten larger. There’s a few things I know to be true in this season, everything else I say, “Man, I don’t know what God is doing exactly, and uniquely.” What does this look like across the country? There’s a great danger in comparing ourselves to other pastors, leaders, churches, across the country, because what a leader in Phoenix is doing and what a leader in Prattville, Alabama, is doing and what a leader in Des Moines is doing need to be completely different. You have a context, the different ages, different fear levels in your congregation, different opportunities, different level of pain, and grieving, and mourning, different level of loss, different level of pain. One leader that I coach feared almost all of her church being laid off in that season, and we began to talk about that. One leader that I coached feared many of his congregants dying because a lot of them were over 70 years old and saying, “They’re not gonna come back to church for a long time.” So I don’t know exactly your context, but I do know that it’s unique and we’ve gotta seek the Father during this time. And I also know that there is opportunity in this season. This is a moment for intentional discipleship in an uncertain age, in an uncertain season, inside of that. So we’re gonna talk about that today, but we have to ask this question first, what is our current discipleship context, what is our current discipleship context? I believe this, guys, we are in the wilderness, we are in the wilderness. We have gone off paved paths and we are now going through extreme terrain, we are now bushwhacking through really deep forest, we are now coming up on rocks and cliffs, and this is not what we had planned or trained for, but let’s just acknowledge the context we are in is wilderness. Leaders, right now, it is time for us to take off our flip-flops and put on our hiking boots. We are not walking on the paved paths that we once were. If anything, about leadership was predictable months ago, March 1st even, it is not predictable right now. And I’ll explain why I think there’s opportunity. I believe this is a great opportunity in this moment. But one thing that we need to see is we’ve all been forced into change, and you’ve heard the adage before people don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Let me just say this in a good way, the Father is forcing us all to change. If there were things that you were stuck in, you may no longer be stuck in those, if there are things that were broken at your church and programs you didn’t wanna do anymore, chances are you’re not even doing that program anymore, and maybe it doesn’t have to come back. If there were leadership patterns you were falling into, well, you fell into some new patterns over COVID, for good or for ill. If there were things that you were doing too much, chances are you’ve weaned things down and you are doing less. There is beauty in change, but change doesn’t just require change management, I don’t like using that phrase, I call it change leadership, change, and we are all at a rate of change. But here’s one thing to remember, is that change equals loss before it equals opportunity, change is loss. Before we can move on to what’s exciting, before we can move on to opportunity, we actually have to grieve the change. I personally lost a lot, right when COVID hit, and I knew that before we could move to the opportunities to train leaders, to expand territory, to do Zoom calls, to do leadership development in new and unique ways, I had to grieve what we had lost, change equals loss. You’ve lost some things, I’ve lost some things, your congregations have lost some things, your staff has lost some things. And maybe if it just is momentum or clarity, dollars, budgets, opportunities, youth events, camps, get-togethers, Sunday morning, being able to see your people, relationship that you currently had cultivated, we have all lost something. And that defines the context of our discipleship in this moment, we have to be intentional about our discipleship in these uncertain times, in this uncertain season right now. And people are being drawn to change whether we want to or not. So I wanna give you several ways we can disciple through in this moment, several opportunities we have, and the first one is honesty. I can’t encourage you enough, disciple through honesty right now. What do I mean by that? I mean telling the truth of what’s actually going on in our lives and in our hearts. I mean, as a pastor, you can get up and say, “Here’s what I’ve lost. This has been hard for me too. This is what I’m struggling with. This is what I’m unsure about.” That will be a gift. I don’t believe our congregations will ever rise above the authenticity level of us as leaders. The authenticity level in our congregation, if you want that to grow, if you want authentic faith and discipleship, and life upon life to be done in this season, you are going to have to lead the way, disciple through honesty. Let me say it a different way, guys, in this season, honesty is currency, honesty is currency in this season. I could say what’s true is that God is good and God is in control, and God has opportunities. For us at Stay Forth Designs, we’re training leaders all across the country. Guys, that is true, but you know what the real truth is, we lost a lot. I wondered financially if my family was gonna make it a few months ago. I lost great opportunities to travel across the country and be with incredible leaders, things I was looking forward to, with money that paid our family bills after taking a massive faith jump, and I doubted, “God, what are you doing in this? Why, why would this stop? What do I need to do?” and I was fearful. And you know what was really freeing to tell people, it was actually to disciple them through saying, “I’m afraid right now. I don’t know what it’s gonna look like, but I am choosing to take courage in this moment.” No platitudes, no saying, “This is great, a stay-at-home order. We’ve been home a long time, we can’t go out to restaurants, we can’t connect with people like we would,” that is lying to our people, if we don’t truly believe it. To say what is true, of course, yes, God is good, God is doing something in this, but let’s not hide behind platitudes to say, “This has ripped through many of the lives in our congregations, there’s been a massive loss of life, massive economic change.” Let’s be honest, and let’s start there because the authenticity level of your congregation, I believe, will not grow beyond that of their pastor and their pastoral team. We are freeing people to be honest so we can actually invite the living God in. Number one, disciple through honesty. The next one is this disciple through listening. Everybody seems to be talking at one another on social media right now, but who’s actually listening? I believe leaders in this season who understand the art of asking questions will bring greater disciple-making into their spheres, into their relationships, their families, and their congregations. We can disciple through listening, to ask the questions, to lean in, to be curious to say, “What is God doing in your life through this time?” A neighbor of mine, that’s not known for his ability to be vulnerable at all, Rick, lives across the street from me, and I came out several weeks ago and I just said, “Rick, how you holding up? I know it’s been a really hard season, tell me.” He is more willing to talk than he ever has been before. We’ve all been through this trauma together, we’ve all been through this season together, it’s ripped through different areas of our lives, people are willing to be vulnerable and people are willing to share whether they weren’t before. I don’t wanna miss this moment, I don’t wanna miss this vulnerability. And I believe our disciple-making start with our own honesty, but then listen to other people, shaping and forming questions, and then we can go deeper in. Listening, what does that look like? In the midst of racial upheaval during this season, I have two black kids who are adopted and I talk with my 16-year-old daughter a lot about what’s going on in the world. I’ll tell you what, I’ve been doing a lot of listening. I have black friends who are incredible kingdom leaders and pastors across the country, we hosted a podcast series, on “Right-Side Up Leadership Podcast”, it’s just is “Dear White Leaders”. And all I do is I ask five questions during that time. And I listen, we listen, “God, what are you speaking to us right now?” To listen to the Father, and I think we’re so busy creating content that we often forget to listen, we are so busy creating content that we forget that God is creating change in us, and around us, and we are growing at an incredible rate. Would we listen to the Father, would we listen to our congregation, would we listen to our friends, our teams, and what they’re saying or what they want to say, if we would lean in? I believe we have an incredible opportunity in this season to disciple through discernment, disciple through discernment. What decisions are we making in the season? Guys, people are paying attention to how we engage on social media, people are paying attention to how we respond, to how will we choose to engage in political conversations, how we choose to live our lives with wisdom or not, what days we take off, how we engage Sabbath, how healthy we stay in the season. I believe people are looking for discernment right now. We have a massive opportunity to disciple through discernment. And I had a chance to jump on as Pastor Robert shared with his congregation last night, a little bit, and people love to see there’s a leader and they’re at their kitchen table. And I would say if Jimmy Fallon is doing shows from his living room, how much more should we say the world has changed, and people wanna see from the heart of our lives, from the heart of our homes, from the heart of our families and our relationships, how are we leading with wisdom in practice? How are we seeking God to say, “I don’t know how I should lead in this season, I don’t know what the opportunities are. God, would you help me discern?” And I believe that wisdom in life, also known as discernment, could be unapologetic right now and a powerful one for disciple-making. I believe we have an opportunity to disciple through experimentation. Guys, people have not been this open to experimentation in a long, long time. Limitation always breeds innovation, where there are limits, where there is less, where there are obstacles, we are going to create new things. New businesses have already been created right now as the economy has had limitations, and you hear one side of the story, “Oh, it’s all fallen apart,” and that’s not true, “oh, this thing is broken.” Yes, church attendance, face-to-face, has been impossible and is now still very hard, very challenging, but there is great opportunity to experiment. How are we being the church in this season, what opportunities do we have, what are we going to try? And here’s the great news guys, everyone’s bar on excellence just got pulled down to this level. As excellence goes down, the ability to experiment goes up. We have a moment, we have a window here where we get to experiment, to try things. And there’s a beautiful apologetic of faith in the midst of this. As Joelle talked about last month at the “Lunch and Learn”, fear, fear is driving so many of the decisions and how we are thinking right now as a country and as families, as leaders, we need to lean in in faith, and I believe that looks like, “Let’s try stuff. I don’t know if this is gonna work, but let’s try it. Let’s try student ministry here on Zoom as we started to see early on, let’s try an Instagram Live thing, let’s try a Bible study, let’s try a prayer group, let’s try different opportunities that we have never had before. Let’s try discipling through smaller groups of people, different nights of the week,” you name it, we could blow up some of the paradigms that are there before, and our world has blown up some of the paradigms that were already there, and we get to try things. Would we be people who are risking enough that our people say they’ve chosen risk over fear? That’s the kind of leader I wanna follow in this season. They have chosen to say, “Let’s give it a shot.” The sons of Issachar mentioned in Scripture, they knew the times and what they should do or how they should respond, as one paraphrase says. They knew the time, they understand, guys, this is a moment and a season we will never get back, give it a shot, risk. You have massive opportunities to fail and massive opportunities to succeed, and go for it. Because even if we fail, even if that thing doesn’t work or works for a moment, it doesn’t continue to work in this next season, we tried it and we say, “We trust the Father enough to try.” Guys, we haven’t an opportunity to disciple through empowerment. What do I mean by that? Pass the ball, pass the ball. Some of you are so tired from all that you’ve had to lead through. And I understand, I’m in your corner, it has been an exhausting season to the lead. Again, as the bar of excellence has gone down a bit, maybe it’s time to pass the ball to somebody else to preach and teach, and maybe you go on vacation or you just watch that from home and you don’t record the sermon. Maybe it’s time to empower some lay leaders to gather people in their homes, maybe it’s time to empower some of your elders or that one staff leader that wants to try something, you empower them, you pass the ball to them and say, “Hey, this is your shot.” But summer’s already a good time for that. And it often happens, what if the summer plus COVID in this season, we said, “Let me just give you a shot.” How can you pass the ball to somebody else that maybe previously you wouldn’t have? You get to disciple through that. It’s okay, they’re not gonna hit a home run, maybe look for singles and occasionally doubles, but then to go back, to give them some feedback. You’re also shaping the congregation to say, “It’s not all about me. I don’t have to communicate every message,” maybe it’s time for you to go on vacation and be away for a week or two. Some of the leaders that I coach have been really encouraged. They’ve taken some time off, they’ve recorded their sermon two weeks in a row, and you can same camera crew, same phone, your computer, whatever you’re recording on, and they take their shirt off, put another shirt on, and record one message right after the next one. Get creative, how can you empower people right now? Maybe somebody else could take a role in your congregation and begin calling people and just saying, “How are you doing right now? How has this season been hard for you?” and could really empower the body of Christ, the priesthood of all believers, to disciple other people in the congregation. How can you disciple through empowerment and through passing the ball to others in this season? Guys, this is big, I believe we have the opportunity to disciple through empathy. If you are a pastor, if you are a shepherd, you have the opportunity to shepherd right now, maybe more than ever. There is great pain right now. Each of us has pain in our lives. We can’t compare pain, but maybe you’ve lost a relative to COVID, maybe you’ve had a wedding and you had to have 12 people there and do it over Zoom, and you couldn’t have all those grand wedding plans that you had. Maybe you’ve lost your job, maybe you’ve lost a contract on something. People in your congregation are struggling right now, maybe they lost their vacation, or their trip, or their summer, or they feel like they lost their spring because they were helping their kids through school, we have all lost something right now, and I believe the leaders with empathy are, and will continue to lead the way through this season. And I wanna reframe this. We actually had John Eldredge on our podcast and he said this, he said, “We are all going through trauma right now.” If we can just recognize that we have been through and are going through trauma, deep anxiety attached to that uncertainty, a curiosity of what’s going on in the future, a deep fear about what’s happening within our country, and beyond, guys, people are in trauma and trauma requires care, not information. If a trauma victim comes to you and they are in trauma, maybe they’re in physical trauma, maybe something happened to their body, maybe they’re bleeding out in some way. It’s not to say, “Well, here are three ways to fix that. Here’s a pamphlet, go home and follow this,” trauma requires care, not information. Now, at some point it requires information, don’t get me wrong, we’re still gonna preach God’s Word, the gospel is still central to all of this, but people wanna be heard, people wanna be listened to, they wanna be known, they wanna be shepherded. There is pain, and right now, shepherds, there is great opportunity. And we can disciple people in trauma by caring for them. And by the way, you are in trauma as well. And that’s a great moment that I get is to actually to be in a coaching session with a leader, a pastor, a nonprofit leader, a business leader, and to care for them in that moment. They’re not looking for six tips, seven ideas, people are looking for care and connection right now. This next one is gonna sound counterintuitive, but we have a great opportunity to disciple through limitations, disciple through limitations. You have new boundaries on your life you didn’t have before. People are watching how we respond to those limitations. I had an opportunity, I was actually walking a mile to come to my office today, each day I walk to and from work and a guy stopped me early in the morning and he’s actually a cop. And I just had the opportunity to talk with him and say, “How are you doing?” And so many of these things have come out of empathy and you’re just listening to him. “How are you doing? What are you facing at work? How has it been challenging right now as a cop with the climate in our country? How are you, man? Davey, how are you holding up right now?” And also he’s feeling the limitations of this season on his job, and on his role, and on his family, and in that, we get to disciple other people, again, with limitation breeds innovation. And people are watching how we take the limits that the world has put on us and how we see there are a great spiritual and discipleship, disciple-making opportunities in this moment. How are you discipling, or can you disciple through limitations on your life? The limits of my family couldn’t leave our yard and our property for several weeks, every night was family night. And I wrote in my journal, “Tonight is family night, I’m gonna be present with my family tonight.” And the limitation had incredible opportunity and innovation for how we became a family. We were already a family before this crisis, we are more of a family now exiting this crisis into this great season of uncertainty that continues. How can you disciple through limitation? Guys, God has given us and thrust these gifts upon us, whether we wanna receive them or not. Are you going to receive these gifts? God has put them in our lap as disciple-makers, as leaders, as shepherds, as moms, as dads, as friends, as brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. How might we see honesty as a gift and an opportunity to disciple, listening as a gift and an opportunity to disciple, discernment as a gift and an opportunity to disciple, experimentation as a gift and an opportunity to disciple, empowerment, we pass the ball as a gift and an opportunity to disciple, empathy as a gift and an opportunity to disciple those guys that are underneath our care, and limitations as a gift and an opportunity to make disciples? I had an opportunity to share with my team and say, “Guys, I gotta be honest with you, we have opportunity, but we’ve had a lot of loss.” And from the loss of this last season, I never would have told you that we’d be moving as a team from five leadership administrative coaches to 20 coaches. It’s crazy, that’s not what I saw, but we went through the hard work first, of telling the real story, and saying, “Here we are in the moment, it’s hard.” I’m not gonna look back two years later and say, “Oh, that was really hard,” I’m gonna say right now, “this is hard, but I believe the grace of God is greater, I believe that gospel is greater, I believe the opportunity to be the church and the people of God right now is greater than any limitation that’s been put on us, and we have an opportunity to shine.” And I fear that we will listen to the media more than we will listen to our Father. I fear that we will look more to the news than stay-at-home orders, and when we can reenter as church attendance, then we will seek the whispers of the Father for how we can make disciples in this season. How will you use these gifts? And I wanna leave you with this, God moves through encounters and God moves through practices. God can pull miracles in those encounters and God can free people from things, and we have massive things that have shaped our lives. And in those moments, those spiritual encounters, we can say, “What is God saying in this?” When God does something huge, when a pandemic comes to our country, when racial upheaval has come, there are encounters that have changed the moment, have changed our mindset, have changed our perspective, and we get to say, what is God doing? But guess what, we also get to steward this life. And God gives us really practical things to do, God moves through those practices, the things we do every day. What are you doing, or what are you avoiding? And I just know this for me, I have rediscovered the art of listening to the Father and the art of walking each day. That is a practice that has given me life, and in that life, I’ve found encounters with God, what God is speaking to me, he’s speaking to me this morning as I walk, he’ll speak to me as I walk home this afternoon in what we are doing or what we are avoiding. And there are some things that I did in the last season that I don’t wanna do in this next season. I was running too fast, there are some things I wanna pause on, some things I don’t wanna go back to. And there’s some new practices I’ve picked up in this season that I do want to continue. And where those encounters and practices meet, that football shape in the middle, is, I believe, where transformation, that longterm growth, can happen. Leaders, don’t forget this, we want our congregations to become the congregations that God has made them into. Don’t forget that God is making you into a new creation, God is making you into a closer disciple in this season, God is shaping you in your journey, your pain, your story, your opportunity, and I believe through that, will shape many more. I wanna remind you guys of this, we gotta stay healthy in this season. This leadership conundrum, when we talk about this at Stay Forth Designs, everything we talk about, everything we lead into, we talk about this leadership conundrum where you pursue impact, and you’ll find unhealth. If you’ll do anything to get impact, then as we’ve seen in the media, you will do anything to get impact. We will violate convictions, we will seemingly lose our soul along the way. But when you pursue health, you’ll find impact. Become the person, the leader, the dad, the mom, the pastor, the friend, God has designed you to be, and health blooms out of that. Guy’s, its roots and fruits. And my prayer for you guys as leaders watching today is this that God would be watering the roots in your lives. And even if the fruit doesn’t come for six, or 12, or 24 months from now, I pray this, that God would grow the fruit on your tree, that he wants to grow, not the fruit that I wanna grow, would God grow the fruit on your tree that he wants to grow. Guys, I’ve got a gift for you. When I talk about health, I want you to be able to recover a rhythm for your life. Our schedules got blown up around COVID and I hate to say this, but unfortunately, I believe many leaders are going to burn out in this season, many leaders, I believe, are going to burn out in the season. And so we have this practical tool, it’s called the Weekly Planning Grid, I used it every single week. We normally charge for this, I wanna give it to you guys and gals watching as a gift today. So just text rightsideup to 66866, and we will deliver that to you, we will email that to you. That is getting a lot of people back on track right now with our schedule, because God moves through our practices, not just through the encounters that he brings to us. And so that’ll be a gift from Stay Forth Designs to you guys. I’m huge fans of what God is doing there in Alabama, I love what he’s doing through you guys, incredible leaders there on the ground. Guys, disciple-making opportunities are ripe, and I wanna make sure that we don’t miss this moment.
Well, Alan, thank you so much for sharing with us today. That was, can I use the word impactful, and healthy, to hear those things, so we really appreciate you sharing that. Right now, we’re going to try and maybe address some of the topics that were talked about in the chat. We don’t have any direct questions right now, I do have one question that has been messaged to me right now. So we’ll try to go ahead and get to that and then talk about some of the things that have been mentioned in the chat. First question I have for you is, how can we be sure right now in this season, that it’s God’s speaking to us, as we step out in faith, as opposed to it being like our personal agenda or our own dreams?
Hmm, great, great question. I think the first thing we need to do is elimination, I think we need to eliminate a lot of loud voices from our lives. And if you’re like me, when COVID hit, I was listening to every media outlet, I was watching Twitter, almost just hitting refresh almost every hour, I was seeing not only what was happening in our world, but what your take on what was happening was, and I just had to clear the noise. And that’s me, just me personally, I would guess that yours is probably something similar, but I had way too many inputs coming into my ears and I just had to decide, “God, how can I listen to you?” And again, that was, for me, kind of rediscovering solitude and silence, I had to grieve what have I lost in that season, or I was gonna be so focused on trying to make up for lost time or act out of my insecurity, another big one for me. I had to ask this question, what do I do when I don’t know what to do, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? And for me, I go do stuff, I go to do anything. I go make something up, start something, launch more content, create a course, create stuff, because I feel like I haven’t been active enough, I haven’t done enough. And so I think in realizing where we go in crisis or in trauma, or insecurity, shape that as well. So eliminate some voices, realize our tendencies in the flesh of where I go when I’m in crisis, and then once I’ve cleared that out, I believe listening to the Father and a few wise voices in our lives. There are a couple of pastors that I’m paying attention to in this season, for particular reasons, that they’re high-end discernment, they’re kingdom leaders, they’ve been through this before, and then I do have some wise sages in my life, some leaders who I’m paying attention to as with a ministry leader and a business leader who had been there before. And obviously the voices that I’m listening to are ones that I can trust that are hearing from the Father as well, they have a kingdom perspective. And so that for me has been really helpful to go back to silence and solitude when I think this thing right here could have me listening to a lot of different voices, I mean every hour, I mean every 10 minutes. And I actually just had to put some limits on my screen time and all my social media time to make sure that the Father could help me process from the past and then actually give me some clear steps to the future. So that’s practical. I hope that’s helpful.
It’s probably hard for some of us to hear that we need to disconnect from some of those things that we’re overly connected to, but it’s something we need to hear, that’s a tough truth we need to hear. If we’re gonna listen to the voice of God, we need to get rid of a lot of those things that are drowning out his voice. And like you said, having those trusted people in our life that we listen to. A question that kinda goes along with that is, do you have any recommendations of people that you would allow us the opportunity to kind of get into your world and see who does Alan trust, if you wanna share those?
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve got a couple of folks have been paying attention to, I think there are timely messages and there are timeless messages. And I’m kind of looking for some of the overlap in that. I believe a very prophetic book right now for this moment has been “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry” by John Mark Comer. And I think that he’s been in the slowing-down process for a long time. Everybody was saying things like we’ve had this cosmic pause button called COVID for our lives, and there’s a reevaluation of our vocation, a reevaluation of our impact, a reevaluation of our health, of our family, all those things. And I don’t know a more effective book right now, it’s resonating with a lot of pastors out there. John Mark Comer, “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”. I pay attention to a guy named John Tyson in New York city. I think it’s not lost on me that John was an epicenter of all this, he actually had COVID himself and has been through crises before, and if you’ve led things like 9/11, and leaders have led through crisis, I pay attention to as well. And he has a book that’s coming out here, I think in the fall as well, we’re gonna bring them on our podcast again. I think he has a very timely message. Pete Scazzero stuff, “The Emotionally Healthy” stuff is really hitting home right now, he’s a podcast, “Emotionally Healthy Discipleship” is the book. Pete’s become a friend and he’s working on that. Man, there’s a lot of emotional churning going on in our souls, and I think to pay attention to what we pay attention to will be a huge deal, and Pete can really help name that, he’s doing a phenomenal job with that. And then of course, with racial upheaval in our world, I listen, there’s a gal on our team I’m listening to. She has a book coming out this fall and she’s becoming a cultural advocate for us on our team to be able to learn more. I would say, pick a few kingdom leaders that you deeply trust. If you’re looking for handles, we’ve got a post called “Dear White Leaders”, or our podcast series called “Dear White Leaders”, we also have resources for white leaders. We’ve kind of vetted through that, and we trust those. My favorite right now is called “Woke Church”, W-O-K-E “Woke Church”, by Doctor Eric Mason. It’s helping me really understand sort of the past of racism and where we’re coming from. And then, man, that there’s one or two more, but I think that will be a really good start. Again, don’t start with seven, but start with a few. Again, this gal on our team, her name is Melinda Joy Mingo, and she does incredible work around culture and around biases, and around how we can understand the gospel deeper.
Wow, that’s a good list, thank you, Alan, for recommending those things. And I’m sure a lot of our people who are watching today, whether it be now, or later on, will be glad to check some of those people who are given a voice of discernment right now, like you mentioned earlier, and that’s why I still listen to those people who are tried and true. You’re looking at their character through all the things they’ve gone through and seeing that. Now, you mentioned the gift of texting rightsideup to that number to receive some help. I think that was one of the key things I caught on early on in our chat is one of the first things that popped up, you asked the question is, “How’s discipleship going right now? What are your obstacles in this season?” And one of the first things that popped up was, time margin, and how do we deal with that? And I know that’s part of what that text is and you guys have some resources there. Can you, real quick, maybe give us a few ideas, tools, or helps, that might kinda prime the pump for us to think how we can do a better job of managing that margin, or lack of margin, we have right now in this season?
Yeah, yeah, that’s really good, Andy. I’ve got only one silver bullet in this area, and it’s called Sabbath. And I’m comfortable saying that it is a silver bullet ’cause there’s not many of them in Scripture, there’s make disciples and Sabbath. And Sabbath is an actual way to slow down, a way to be human again. Pastors, you are leading all week long, and it’s gotten very personal, too, because it’s coming into our phone, our Zoom feed is coming into our literal dining room. My kids are like beating on each other, and running in the background, and calling each other names, welcome to discipleship in the Briggs family. So it’s real, like it’s gotten real personal in this time. But the problem is that if we don’t eliminate things, we are just going to try to do everything we were doing in the last season, and then just add a COVID mix to that as well, which is near impossible. And oh yeah, we’ve gone digital, so it’s more draining to be on Zoom than it is personal. And I know that I’ve been coaching on Zoom for many years and I have to pay close attention, one and a half times as much attention over Zoom as I do in person, I can’t pick up on body language as easily. And it’s also not refreshing, we also miss human touch, things like that. And so I would just say that before we add anything, we have to eliminate. And so we start with Sabbath and create that as the limit, the building block. If it’s not done by then, then I guess it didn’t need to get done, and then I’m gonna trust God in that. So I would start with Sabbath, and I would proactively build out your week ahead of time. There’s probably needs to be maybe 10 to 15%, 20% may be reaction zone, there are still some emergencies that rise up, but predominantly what people are reacting to are not emergencies, and unfortunately, that’s what’s leading a lot of people toward burnout is simply waking up and just needing to react to every email, phone, phone call, text, you name it, that people have as they’re kind of spinning out in that sense. So I put some really practical limits on your phone, I’d be on airplane mode as you’re creating your sermon, as you’re on team meetings with folks, I would dig into the heart of leaders during that time as well, and I would shorten meetings and do less meetings as well because you have to conserve your energy. We don’t know what every entry will look like. If you’re already feeling tired, and out of 10, you’d say your energy level is at a four, next week it’s at a three, heads up, objects in motion stay in motion unless acted on by an outside force, and you’re gonna have to change something. So I would maybe say the last one for this summer, please, please, please try not to cancel your vacation. There’s a lot of leaders canceling their vacation, we’ve never needed vacation more. Can you have somebody else preach next Sunday, can you record two, three sermons in a row, can you get away to the friend’s beach house that offered it up for you for free for three days, four days, please don’t cancel your vacations this summer. We need the play, we need interaction with our families, we need silence, we need fun, we need all those things. So now you’re getting me excited and revved up, Andy, this is what I do all week long with leaders, but the weekly planning grid helps you be proactive about those three blocks in the day. And I think if we work morning, afternoon, and night, all days, we’re just heading toward burnout. And so I would encourage you just to work to with those blocks each day, based on the church schedule you need to uphold.
It’s perfect. I mean, we constantly have to preach to ourselves that we must rest, and God ordained Sabbath as something because he knows that we needed it, even though he doesn’t need it, we need it, and we are to work from our rest. So that’s a change a lot of us haven’t adapted well to during this time, and having that time margin for ourselves, our family, for fun, it’s been difficult during this season. So I think some of the resources you guys have are fantastic for that. I think in just a minute, we’re gonna mention one of those. But next, let me kind of shift gears and move from time to relationships. In this season of virtual relationships, of online Zoom calls, in small groups, in what you’re doing, coaching, mentoring people, and you mentioned it takes so much more out of you because you have to put so much into it with your attention level and everything, so many distractions. Can you give us a little bit of insight into right now, how we can have some healthy interaction with those we are leading and discipling, and how maybe we can use what’s happening right now to prepare us for ministry to come?
Yeah, let me start with this. Know if you truly are an introvert or extrovert, we gotta know how we’re wired up, and from there, it’s gonna determine a lot. From what I’m seeing, introverts right now are overstimulated and extroverts are sort of under-relationshiped. And we have less interaction, I’m personally an extrovert and I have less interaction face to face than I would love. And so I’ve reentered into saying, “What have you missed during this time?” If it’s a slow meal with a friend, do that in a socially distanced appropriate way. I’ve missed time around the fire, just talking with friends. And so we have a fire pit, I have guys over from eight to 10 after my kids are in bed, and just, “How you’re doing?” As an introvert, you need to figure out some of those boundaries and limits. I’m married to one, and so she’s trying to figure out, sometimes I need to get out of the house, and solitude has been incredibly helpful for her in this time, especially when she’s managing the house and the craziness of the kids all week long. I would say as much as possible, I would try to not start with content, but I would try to start with a heart check-in. I don’t believe people have ever, in my experience in leadership, ever been this willing to talk about how they’re actually doing. When I pop in and say, “How are you doing?” People say, “Well, it’s complicated, isn’t it?” No, “How are you doing for reals, Andy, how are you actually doing?” “Well, actually, I’m struggling in this.” I think there’s an incredible opportunity for vulnerability and relationship. And, again, people aren’t jumping in for more information right now. You may get there, but first, people wanna know that you see them, you hear them, you are with them in the trenches, you’re struggling too. So I would move to a lot of spaces of prayer. I move a lot of spaces, just heart check, how are you doing? Maybe there’s some tools for that out there, kind of in the counseling world, psychology world too, of just some heart check-type tools, check-ins, things like that. It’s been incredibly helpful, we do that with our team with, “Hey, before we get anything done, how are you doing?” And to start by discipling staff, core leaders, volunteers, they’ve lost a lot, you probably have elders at your church that are laying people off. And if you just move on to the church business without starting with heart, so let’s start with heart. And then the other one, maybe the question Andy, that I would ask is what would have to be true? So what would have to be true in order for us to have a small group that is in digital? And you start to innovate through the reentry process, “What would it have to be true?” “Well, we’d have to be spread out and distanced.” “Okay, well what about a park in the evening, what would have to be true for this?” We’re gonna have limits lifted during this time, and I’ve been in different states a couple of times since these and it feels different everywhere, felt really different in Arizona when their COVID rates are going way up. So they’re having to say, “What would it have to look like to be able to do that?” While you can happen across the street with a friend from 15 feet away next week, you may be able to get 10 people together. So what would have to be true in order for our people to feel comfortable with this relationally, those kind of things? But I would invest in the heart of your staff, the heart, heart, heart right now, go with the heart, and then I think everything else, the brain will come later on, but I would just encourage you any way you can do that. And by the way, don’t forget about yourself. I do heart checks, 15 minute calls, or just, “Hey, how are you doing?” Actually, Robert and I had one a couple weeks ago, he only had about 15 minutes, it was like, “Hey man, how are you doing for reals? What’s going on? Oh man, I totally hear that, yeah, that’s hard.” We didn’t fix each other’s problems, we still had the same problems, it just felt a little better that he had a problem, and so did I, and I could identify. And so just rediscovering friendships through heart check-ins.
And I think two things are key that you talked about today, that transparency, I think that leads to approachability. Your people are gonna approach you if they think you’re in the same boat with them. And the less we come across as trying to just cram information down their throats and being more of a tender, compassionate, and gracious shepherd, I think that’s gonna help tremendously. So what you’re talking about is just try and find that balance right now. And we don’t know, we don’t know what’s gonna happen in the next few days or a few weeks, it’s so crazy and things are changing, things may get better, they may get worse, we don’t know. And I love the fact that what you’re telling us is practical for what we can handle to do right now, and we’ll just worry about what happens on down the road later. So that’s just-
Let me give you one more thing, and maybe this applies to everything we’ve talked through, Andy, and others listening, is as clarity goes up, overwhelm goes down, they have an inverse relationship. And God is a God of clarity. Satan loves to keep things veiled and in the fog. So this is the ambiguous summer, we don’t know why it exists. Does it exist for fun, Do we have to work really hard in this reentry process, do we do more coming out of this, or less, what does this look like? It’s ambiguous, while Satan comes to steal, kill, destroy, distract, discourage, all words of death. But I think Satan’s really going to distract and discourage in this next season. And you don’t have to be completely unconvinced of the gospel to not rely on it in this season, to go, “Oh man, I’m running at 80%,” 20% discouraged, like be careful in that. And to be honest about it, that’s okay, we’re human, but I would just say, however you can clarify, if you’re feeling overwhelmed by any of this, from interpersonal, all the way to what does the reentry process look like, my team, big decisions coming up, are you gonna have to have layoffs? Like this is huge stuff, take clarity up as much as possible, “God, what can you clarify?” Even if it’s a question, name something, give you one next step, your overwhelm is going to go down. And so always be thinking, “How could I clarify something? How could I clarify something?” And often a walk with my wife just to say, “How are you doing?” That even takes the anxiety off my plate too, she’s doing okay, we had a great conversation, suddenly I’m less overwhelmed because that clarity has an inverse relationship. God loves to help us clarify things.
Well, you may remember Brandon Famby, he’s mentioned a couple of things real quick. We got a couple of minutes before you have to leave us, but real quick, just boom, like kind of shotgun answers what kind of hobbies are you involved in, or have you developed anything new since March?
That’s a great question. I’ve re-picked up playing the guitar some, with my daughter. I just kind of forgot about it, ah, it’s so life-giving to me. My office sits, our Stay Forth Office sits right like on a wilderness preserve, and so I go hiking almost between every meeting, I’ll probably go right after this. So I’ve just rediscovered scrambling and hiking in the middle of the day, it doesn’t have to be a four-hour long kind of thing in that. I took my sons backpacking for the first time, and amazing, we caught over 100 fish. So I would say it’s been more of a re-discovery process to things that I’ve forgotten that are incredibly life-giving than things I’ve done for the first time. I’m trying to think if I’ve done anything for the first time. I guess like cooking, I rediscovered how awesome food is, like, food’s a gift, it’s not just fuel to fill our tank between meetings. So I think I’ve just discovered how awesome it is to get in the kitchen and try stuff again. And I’m just a lifelong fan of tacos, I can’t describe the deep joy that it brings me. And so there is a taco truck on my way home in that one-mile walk. So maybe just pray, Andy and Brandon, for my discernment and my self-control that I don’t just go eat my feelings with tacos if I have a hard day. So would appreciate you guys’ prayers coming in from Alabama?
Well, to end a talk on tacos ends on a high note. Tacos-
Always. Amen, amen. Hey, I will make the notes available to this, Brandon asked about that. So I’ll be glad to send those over Andy to you, and feel free to share those however you guys desire.
Well, Alan, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m going to kick things over to Robert Mullins and let him kind of close this out. We can’t thank you enough, Alan, for the time you’ve given us today, for the insight and wisdom and the just the love we know that you have for pastors and leaders. We appreciate that today. Robert?
Love you, guys.
Alan, thank you so much, Andy, thanks, bro. Alan, it’s just been a privilege and an honor to befriend you over the last couple of years, and I’m thankful for you, bro. And I wanna say this to though, to everybody watching and everything, he mentioned the planning grid, and I wanna just tell you that I have become a super fan of not only Alan but of Stay Forth, and I have been a part of one of their coaching cohorts, and I wanna endorse that and encourage that. Also, one of the things that I can say has revolutionized my life during the middle of COVID and all of this, it’s given me structure, it’s given me plan, organization, for daily use, but also big-picture-vision stuff, which is really tough these days, and that is this, it’s called the rightsideup journal, and it’s the planning grid he mentioned, on steroids, okay? And it is a daily use, actually, it’s a weekly thing, you sit down at the beginning of the week kind of chart out your time, the Sabbath, all those sorts of things, and then use it every day, sit down in the morning and chart out your day. And it’s been an incredible tool for me personally, and many people that I’ve, our staff, I got these for our whole team, others have used it and it has really impacted them, so. But I just highly encourage you to check out Stay Forth and all that kind of stuff. Again, Alan has been a wonderful thing to have you here today with us. So I’m gonna give everything over to Jay Gordon and we’re gonna begin a conversation about what we have heard over the last hour.
Awesome, guys, it’s such an encouragement to be on here and to hear you guys, particularly you Alan, and I appreciate you bringing some content to us. Let me just have some fun, being a second chair guy with a lot of pastors on the line, sometimes, and Alan, you mentioned listening, a number of the pastors that I interact with, and it’s none of you guys by the way, none of you guys, none of you, but sometimes we’re always sharing information and have a hard time just pausing and listening. What practices, or how does somebody, once they’re self-aware, “Hey, maybe I need to work on my listening,” what are some tips to maybe practice that some more? Alan, since you’re still here, do you wanna take that one?
Sure. I wanna make sure I say this right and nobody like crucifies me after this. Change it up. If your translation of Scripture is dry, get another one for the season. God is always doing a new thing, and we’re new creations, we’re also becoming new creations. My Scripture-reading felt dry at the beginning of COVID, and I picked up an obscure translation of Scripture I’d never read through before and it was life to my veins ’cause I saw and heard-
What translation was that?
It’s called the “Word on the Street”, it’s basically the British version of the message. So if you ever hear someone speaking in an accent, you lean in and you have to listen harder, that’s what I had to do. I don’t quite understand those words, and I had to lean in and listen harder. I’m also a kinesthetic learner and just walking and ingesting Scripture as I walk each morning has been incredible, I feel it differently. And then maybe the last thing is just listening, I’ve listened through the Book of Acts multiple times and read through it. I had no idea how the church was shaped in crisis and those like the church, we are our best when our back is against the wall. And man, that was comforting because the news says, “It’s going to hell in a hand basket, it’s all falling apart.” And you go in the Book of Acts and you go like, “I haven’t been stoned yet,” I know I’m from Colorado, different kinds of stone, “I haven’t had stones thrown at me yet, I wanna clarify.” So that’s been life to me. Did you see Scripture in a new way that’s fresh for me. So that’s what I’d say.
That’s cool. What about interpersonal relationships? How does a pastor make sure he’s listening as much as he’s sharing information?
I have a group of a group of friends or a guy that I coach, and he has a group of friends, pastors. No joke, for eight weeks, every single night, they did a check-in together, every single night. Now, maybe it’s five nights a week that you could make it, but every single night for about an hour where they just said, it was like nine to 10:00 p.m., or something, “How are you doing? What’s going on in your life and your heart?” So they could only talk for five, six minutes. They became friends during that season, not just fellow pastors in the same city, it was beautiful, it was beautiful to watch. So I think interpersonally, I would just say, who can actually talk and not have to edit your words around? Like it’s not recorded, I’m not gonna tweet this afterwards, who you could get together with and just speak freely because we all feel bad expressing any pain or hurt. ‘Cause I haven’t lost a relative to COVID, or I haven’t had this at, “Yeah, yeah, I know, but you’re hurting, Jay. Can you just tell me?” So I think listening in the interpersonal sense grows our empathy and also reminds us turns out we’re human and we’re hurting too.
Hmm, that’s good, good.
Jay, can I address that as well?
One thing that we’ve done, and I know every pastor has been doing this, but just making more phone calls, okay, just making more phone calls, writing letters, that sort of stuff. I took it upon myself to write letters to every member of our church and that stimulated conversation, either through a phone call or seeing in person when we did begin to gather again on Northridge, so being able to hear what was it that they liked about that, what was the deal? And really on the phone call, just ask a few of those really good questions to get them to really open up, and when you ask about people’s feelings, they love to tell you about ’em. And so when you’re hearing those things and you’re talking to people, really listen to it and acknowledge those things. Give yourself time, don’t sit down with a church list and just get your pen and just say, “Okay, I’m gonna check these names off,” okay, that’s not the goal, it’s not the goal just to check names off, the goal is to pastor them, the goal is to listen and to encourage. And so that’s what you wanna do. So it’s been tough, it’s been a little difficult, but it could be one or two phone calls a night, but it makes all the difference and just be willing to spend that 10, 15 minutes listening.
Sure, that’s good.
That’s good. Hey, real quick, Alan, I wanna thank you for being with us. You can stay as long as you want, but we don’t wanna monopolize your time. So Jay’s gonna be kind of giving some Q&A to some of us Alabama guys, but you’re welcome to stay Alan, but we don’t want you to feel obligated, but thank you so much for joining me, we appreciate you.
Thanks guys, love what God’s doing down there.
One of the things, guys, I think is a major problem with us making disciples, and I’m gonna be selfish because I answered the question in the chat, I just put margin and I had a pretty good margin and was on a roll with my disciple-making. And then COVID hit, and I’m over groups here at Brook Hills, well, my work actually picked up for like three months and I was hearing people talk about all this family time, I’m like, “What, what?”
What family time?
I’ve worked closely with pastors and I know the demand on you guys. And so, same as I’ve struggled with margins the last three months, it’s just a constant thing with pastors. And so one question I jotted as Alan was talking, he mentioned distraction and we’re distracted by all these important things, but how do pastors stay focused and make sure we’re disciple-making amid all of these other challenges going on? Andy Frazier, you got any thoughts you wanna start us with that one?
Well, I’ve had so much spare time, I’ve had an, I had a… No, it’s tough, man. It is a season where, and I think it’s all about priorities, J, I think it is. I think what you’re passionate about and what’s most important to you will always be something that you have time for, even in the midst of a pandemic, you should have time to make disciples because that should be a priority in our lives. Even in the midst of quarantines and us adjusting, I think we should have time for our families and ourselves. So as far as disciple-making goes, I think it’s more of an inconvenience right now than anything else. Just, it’s not impossible to make disciples, but I think it’s just an inconvenience of us restructuring our routines, and patterns, and rhythms. And if, what is a priority to us was a priority to us before all this, it’ll be a priority to us during this time. So it’s just sitting down. I think like Alan hit the nail on the head today, I mean, it was just awesome hearing him say some of the insightful things that we’ve got to make sure we are resting. And if we are doing that, we will be able to work well and be more productive from that rest, and that includes disciple-making. If we have crammed our schedules full of things, and we’re never saying no to anything or anyone, that makes it hard. But just, I mean, keeping the main thing, the main thing, the big picture of you, and that’s kinda how I try to do things. And then also on top of that, as Ducky mentioned, talking to some other guys and seeing what’s going on in their lives and in their ministries, not to compare, but to just sympathize with one another and encourage each other. So that’s the things that I’m doing right now.
One of the things I noticed once I really started disciple-making, some other things just fell by the wayside naturally. Somebody would mention something about somebody I’m going, “Wow, they’re a Facebook friend, I didn’t see that. Oh yeah, I haven’t been on Facebook.” And I’m not saying that’s wrong, I love connecting with people on Facebook, but as you put one bigger rock in, a lot of times those smaller rocks fall by the wayside. Mark or Robert, got anything else to add with how pastors can manage that?
I would just add a little bit and say, Andy’s exactly right, and what Alan said is very true of me. So in moments of crisis, I’m a doer and I ask the same thing, “What can I do? What can I start?” And that’s just kind of my personality, my nature, my makeup. And so I think Andy said a word that’s really important during this time, and that’s rhythm. And if you have already set that rhythm in your life of making disciples, you just continue with that rhythm. It may look different, for example, my D Group, my Discipleship Group that I was meeting with pre-COVID, is made up of my older deacons, okay? And three guys, and they don’t do Zoom, and they don’t need to be exposed to COVID-19 right now, so it looks very different. But then I’m also starting another D Group of younger people during this time, it’s just that rhythm. I think what Robert said a minute ago is key in this as well as super relationships. Make sure, you pastor people, make sure you’re actually in a relationship with people because look, it’s really easy right now to be a, quote unquote, pastor over a screen, all you’re doing is having Sunday morning worship service, if you’re having that, and you don’t have to really get in people’s lives and get your hands dirty, and for some people that that’s a dream, right? But that’s not pastoring. If you’re not getting your hands dirty, that’s not pastoring, you’re not discipling at all. And even if you’re not a pastor, you’ve gotta get your hands in the dirt with people in their lives, and again, that’s part of that rhythm too. And you said it right, Jay, some things fall by the wayside when our priorities are making disciples.
I hope for all of us that we get to the point that as I hear some people say, “Oh, man, I missed my quiet time a couple of days this week and I really felt it,” I hope we get to the point that when we’re not making disciples, we feel that too, that it’s just part of our lifestyle and part of what we do and understand that that’s God’s calling in our life to make disciples. And so I want us to feel it when we’re not doing that. One of the things that I wanted to ask about, too, and I feel it some, but I think some of you guys that are senior pastors would feel this even more, once we get into a small group of guys and we’re making disciples, Alan talked about being vulnerable and being transparent. And I think being a second chair pastor, I feel that to some level, but I feel like you senior pastors probably feel that more than that. How would you model transparency and being vulnerable to some of your church members when you figure, “Hey, they’re maybe not gonna hear my sermon in the same light if they know this about me.” Let’s see, Robert, how about you start with that one?
I’ve tried to be pretty much an open book as far as just being transparent. I mean, I don’t confess sin to the congregation, however, I do confess into a huddle to a disciple group, to a group of men that I trust and that we’ve gotten there. One of the biggest Kairos moments, Devon breakthroughs was one night, four of us were in a room and we’d been going for about six, eight months already, and we got to James Chapter Five, and it talked about healing, and I brought up the fact that guys had says that basically confession of the sin is the beginning of healing. And it didn’t say any divine miracle work, or anything, it said the confession of sin. And so we kinda had a little practice and I challenged our gods right there to confess our sin, in the room together. And all four of those guys will tell you that was a pinnacle, that was a tipping point for our whole entire relationship as disciples and discipling group that the culture changed at that point. I’m getting chills telling you the story. I mean, it really, it changed everything about the intimacy in the group, the dependency we had, not only on God, but on each other, and that we were literally trusting and we were doing everything together, and it moved us forward as a group, as a whole. And so I would try to model that that, “Hey, if you think that I am flawless, or I’m not gonna fall, or I’m not capable of that, you’re mistaken.” And I do say those words to the congregation on a regular basis. The other thing that I try to have in my life is accountability, and I just put it this, I’ll put a shameless plug out there for Passion Tree, it’s a great opportunity to network with other pastors. This week, I’ve had two guys call me and say, “Hey, how’s it going?” And I kind of would answer and then they’d, “No, really, how is it going?” Okay, both of them said the same thing. And I was like, “Uh, so what’s the deal here?” And both of them, “The Holy spirit puts you on my heart and I needed to call.” And it was what Alan was alluding that we had talked to. I said, “I’m really frustrated.” I said, “I’m really come to a point where I’m just hating all this stuff, and I don’t necessarily wanna get back to normal ’cause I think that’s gone,” I think normal’s a thing that we’ll never know again, right, I think it’ll always change and we’ll just see what happens. But man, I was just tired of it at the moment, I was fatigued, that was the word that kept coming to my spirit, was fatigued. And both those guys jumped in there. So having the accountability and understanding that I have a responsibility to model that and to speak and preach that as much as anything else that I do as a pastor to the church is really important to me because I think that as we do that, if we’re gonna be , which is the family, the faith family, if we’re really gonna be that, and if we’re gonna walk in the spirit, if we’re gonna stay in step together, then they have to know that I need lifted up just like they need lifted up. And so that’s kinda how I’ve tried to model that.
Okay, cool. Any of you other guys wanna mention how as a senior pastor you were work on transparency and vulnerability?
I don’t know if I can answer that, I’m probably not the right person to answer that because my tendency is always to maybe be more transparent sometimes than I need to be, but I don’t know any other way, it’s the only way I know to lead, is to be real. That doesn’t mean that I’m gonna share every dirty detail, obviously. But I think to me, in 2020, in today’s culture and world, especially if we’re leading a church with individuals who are younger than 50, there’s no way that we can lead without being real, it’s just not possible, there’s certainly no way to disciple without being real. People are gonna see the artificial a mile away and they will run as hard as they can. And so I don’t know how to tell you how, I would just tell you, just be real. And here’s what I’ve always, Matthew Chapter 10, verse 28, Jesus says, “Don’t fear those who can’t kill, or who can kill the body, but not anything else, fear the one who can kill soul, the body, and soul, and health.” And so the whole principle behind that is don’t fear what man says, right? And so don’t worry about what people are gonna say because you’re being real, if they’re offended by that, it’s just because they’re not real, they’re not being transparent, and they’re not used to it. And as time goes, I think, they’ll see the benefit if they stick around.
Yeah, there was a, one of my favorite stories on transparency that I like to tell, a guy was discipling out of a group, I wound up having a Saturday lunch with him near my home one day, and I’d told him some stuff, “Hey, my wife and I aren’t on the same page today, and it’s been rough at home,” and he had the biggest smile on his face. And I just said, “Dude, what makes you so happy about me sharing that?” And he said, “It is just such a relief to know you’re a real person too, and you have struggles,” and that was just a bridge. And when people know we’re real, they will open up as well. But I have to say one of the lessons I’ve learned in discipleship that transparency is a tool, it’s not an end result. So don’t be caught in that trap, we’re going somewhere, and that’s one of the tools, not that whole goal. One question-
Jay, can I add something real quick?
I think one of the things we need to be aware of, and even cautious about as leaders, is to be transparent to the point to let people see, that it is impossible to follow Jesus perfectly, and if we are not transparent, we’re gonna give off a completely different vibe that you’ve got to have it all together and that we have arrived, and that we know how to follow Jesus perfectly. What we need to do is just be so transparent and honest with our people, and like Robert said, I mean, it doesn’t mean you have to pull all your skeletons out of the closet, and confess all your sins publicly, but just let people know you’re human, you’re weak, and that it is possible to imperfectly follow Jesus who is perfect. And I think that’s the way we lead through transparency is, it makes us more approachable, but also it makes Jesus that much more lovely and that much more attractive for people to follow him.
Right, let me ask you a question that we’ve gotten over the Q&A, and Alan and Daniel, I see you’re still around, if you wanna pop in and answer some of these, feel free, but one interesting question, what do we envision disciple-making looking like in the future, in light of the lessons that we’ve learned right now from not only the coronavirus, but race, church change, opportunities online? As we compare disciple-making pre-COVID, post-COVID, pre-racial tension, post-racial tension, what lessons have we learned, where do we go from here with disciple-making?
Listen, we asked Alan that question on the podcast a couple of weeks ago, so he has this fantastic insight to that.
I definitely think it’s gonna be more multiethnic with people at the table who don’t look like us, that likely we are going to have to give permission to come to the table. I think we’re gonna lead through listening, which is what I was talking about earlier. Those who form the deepest questions are probably going to help lead to the deepest transformation. And we’re already in an information overload society, so people are already looking for less info and curated info than they are more info. It’s actually overwhelming to us when it’s like, “Oh my gosh.” But if Robert recommends a book, then somebody goes, “Oh, okay, because I trust Robert’s curation, I’ll read that,” but I won’t just go and google that, or Amazon that, because you type in discipleship and there’s 84 million resources. So I think it’s gonna be curated. And I think this is creating a massive authenticity. Again, when Jimmy Fallon and Ellen Degenerates are filming from their living room, I think we’ve got permission to lower the bar of excellence. So I actually feel like authenticity up, excellence down, and I think they have an inverse relationship because I think people just sniff through it so fast. And then, be excellent, I wanna have a good background here and good lighting, and I’m not talking about make it look bad, I’m talking about doing the best you can with the resources you’ve been given at the moment you’ve been given it, but authenticity is, I think, going to rule. And like you say, Jay, I love that, it’s not for the sake of authenticity, look how authentic, no, that’s pseudo-vulnerability, and that’s fake, and that’s using that to get something from people. I’m talking about that close to humiliation, sharing that, and then the spirit actually encourages us through that other person like Robert was talking about. So those would be like some predictors. And I just feel like relationship, human relationship is going up. As all the tweets go up, and all that, I just have said, “Hey, friend, and these are black friends of mine, can we just go for a walk? I wanna hear what you have to say.” What I didn’t know is that they needed to air stuff out too, that they were frustrated about. And they’re like, “I hate speaking on behalf of the black community,” or, “I have no idea.” And they’d say, “But I can’t say that online, it sounds wrong.” I’m like, “Good, I’m so glad we’re not online right now.” So I think it’s going to come back to one on one, it’s gonna come back to circles, it’s gonna come back to smaller groups. And I think we have a gift right now in the limitation of church attendance. But again, I think that’s the opportunity in discipleship going up.
Okay, yes, Robert.
I just wanna say, man, Alan, thank you for modeling that in a lot of ways for us recently, for sure. One of the big things that I have noticed and noted in the last few weeks, and this is in reference to Paul’s question directly, is if we’re honest, and we need to be now, that there are prejudices we have that go back to our life, that go back to how we were raised, or where we’re from, whatever it is, we all do. And we need to do two things that are massively important, Alan just said it, but we need to note it, listen and learn, okay? We need to be learners, and we need to be listeners, and we need to intentionally do it. We have accepted some of the most, I think, disheartening terms when we’ve okayed color references before the word church. I think that that’s kingdom-destructive. And I’m not trying to ran on anything, but I’m just trying to get us to realize that there’s some inherent things that we’ve just done with our culture, we’ve just gone with. And the reality is, guys, I want my culture to be kingdom culture, and I want it to be about more about eternal life than the way I was raised. So we have to be intentional, and we have to listen, and we have to be willing to learn.
I’ll tell you, you guys, I know I’m supposed to be asking you questions, but I just wanna say one thing that really hit me in this past year is love and how important that is in the disciple-making process. And when we, I mean, those calls you guys were referring to, somebody just checking on you, yeah, big, and telling somebody, telling another man, “Hey, I love you.” In our culture, that’s different for some guys, and it’s so important. But that listening, us asking a good open-ended question, not a closed question, sometimes, “How are you doing?” can be a kind of a, “Hey, I’m good or I’m bad,” and then we move on. But I like to follow up, “How are you, really?” But ways that we can show love, it really just builds a bridge for discipleship. And some of you guys have done that in my life, and I’m so appreciative of that. One question that was also good on the screen, in line of us being separated from one another in worship, how could our personal worship be much more valuable when we’re not able to meet, in a group, as a church? You guys got any insight on maybe developing more of a personal worship, as we’re separated from one another? I’ll just open in that whoever wants to jump on that, who has a thought, that’d be great.
Andy said he had a thought.
I think Mark said he called it a thought, so.
I think I’ll go back and use a similar response that had I while ago about rhythms of disciple-making. And that is our personal spiritual disciplines are really showing right now, or lack of. I think if we were in a season where we were Sabbath-ing and preaching the gospel to ourselves regularly, and having that personal worship time, I think that has sustained a lot of leaders through all of this. And if you weren’t, I think a lot of those guys are the ones who are really reeling, and struggling, and exhausted right now because they were trying to get water out of an emptied well. So we cannot invest in others and pour into others if we aren’t letting God’s spirit and God’s word pour into us, and that should be as much of a healthy part of our rhythms and patterns as anything. But I mean, our gathered times of worship corporately should be just an overflow of what’s happening in our individual lives, so. And I think that’s gonna show right now for us as leaders, as much as any other time than we’ve had, because we’re gonna be more raw, and more real, and more personal in our gathered times now than we’ve probably ever been in ministry.
Hmm, okay. I looked at a number of the questions or comments in the chat room that were answering the question, what’s your greatest challenge? And there were seven or eight of those, and one of those regarded vision. And it is so interesting, there are so many people, so many causes, so many conferences that you can follow these days, and get our vision from there maybe. But I think vision is so important. It’s even important for everyone on a church staff to have the same vision. So if there’s a pastor out there that maybe is just kind of struggling, and one person even said, “People are asking questions that I don’t know the answers.” So who do you follow, how do we develop a vision for our church that’s not just the next conference that we go to, or the last conference we went to, and so on? Alan, since you’re still here, you wanna take that one to start with, and we’ll ask one of the other guys to chime in too?
Yeah, I think what’s important here, Jay, that I’d say is what vision is not, vision is not strategy. We don’t even know what our strategy is for next week. I mean, if we’re honest and, hey, we’re being honest, we don’t know what our strategy is for next week, some of it’s out of our hands determined by governors and people who do wanna go to church, we can say, “Hey, we opened back up,” and I’ve been getting texts from all over the country, “Hey, we’re back at 30%, we’re back at 50%, we’re back at six,” is that normal? And I’m just laughed. And you guys said it before, there is no new normal, it’s gonna be a new different, period. This is wilderness, I’ve never been here before, there’s not a trail. So I just think that it’s important to know vision may be where we’re heading, strategy is how we’re gonna get there, and go, “I have no idea.” And I think we could actually have some attributes. What if our vision had to do with the fruits of the spirit, like what if we were just wanting to become more of that? So what if our vision was a who, who God is making us into, that feels doable, that feels hard, but clear, versus we’re gonna be this in 2020. I don’t know, I mean, all conferences, gatherings, all that kind of stuff are off, which could be great, right? Because then you have less people chirping in our ears on that. So I definitely think comparison is a creativity killer for vision, and I think we live in a copy-and-paste culture. So I do think it could be good that conferences are off, I do think there’s space, I do think, unfortunately, we could fill it up with Twitter and everybody else’s ideas, but just to free your team to say, “We don’t know how we’re gonna get there,” but maybe that listening is. And somebody asked here, Bill asked, “What are some ideas for listening?” Maybe it’s to say, “God, what is the vision of this?” And I’m not talking about the next capital campaign, I’m not talking about this like, we don’t know what size our church will be. I think the question that really rocks me, Jay, is what if I could guarantee you that you’d have the same amount of people, the same momentum, the same budget, no budget hits one year from now, what would you do? What if I could guarantee you, none of those big metrics that we care too much about would change at all. what would you do? Like, do you get excited about that at all? Like, that’s what I’m looking for, is a spark. And if we’re bored, or we’re fearful, people will know, but if we’re excited, people can’t wait, can’t you wait to just see what God does in the season? Like, I don’t know, I wanna get behind a leader who’s excited and curious. So maybe it’s less about the vision, and maybe it’s more about the pursuit of God in that vision.
Hmm, that’s good wording.
That is good. And I’ll address it too, because man, I’ll be honest, I struggled with that for years. First 15 years of my ministry as a pastor, I played that comparison game. I was like, “Well, oh man, I’ve got to get a vision, I’ve gotta get this statement and this word picture out there, and this,” I put pressure on myself and felt like I was failing my people because I wouldn’t do that. And so honestly, about four years ago, I just, I decided, “You know what, bump all that, man, forget it, I’m gonna spend time with the Lord more. And if he’s got something to say to me, he’ll tell me.” And I’m telling you, I didn’t have this great vision that I’d plaster on a wall, but he was very clear, and it has all to do with making disciples. I mean, finally, after letting go of that pressure and listening to the Lord, in his word, he revealed to me his vision for my life and for my ministry, which, of course, affects the vision of the church. And nobody’s gonna write a book about it, but to me, it’s exactly what I wanna say, and I’m excited about it, right? It’s what wakes me up every day because I know it’s what he’s called me to. And it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit Vision 2020 or whatever, what matters it’s what God revealed to me finally, after 15 years of not listening, visually listening to him.
Awesome, well, I’ve got 15 more questions, so if you guys will tune in tomorrow, we’ll pick up right, and finish. And so time is running out, and so we just wanna thank you guys for being here today, Alan, thanks so much for carving out some time to challenge us and giving us some insight. And just wanna encourage you guys to spend time with the Lord, let the Lord and his word bring clarity to your vision and then focus on that and let some other things fall away. And we will hopefully pursue that disciple-making culture in a strong way. Any other closing words anybody else needs to make? Are we good?
Let me say a quick prayer for us and we’ll be gone. Father, we thank you so much for this time that we’ve had, we pray that you’d help us to process this information in a way that would be beneficial to your kingdom and keep us on the right track of faithfulness to you. Father, I thank you for Alan and bringing him here with us to just share with us today, and I pray that you’d use us for your kingdom’s glory. And it’s in Christ name that we pray, amen.
Thank you for joining us.