What if the church growth movement has morphed into an unhealthy comparison game? How do we navigate the divisive impact of echo chambers and the lack of shared experiences in our ministries? Join us for a stirring conversation with Reverend Dr. Larry Osborne, a Kingdom Ambassador and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church. Larry shares his remarkable journey from pastoring a small congregation of just 70 adults to leading a thriving church of over 13,000. He also opens up about his literary contributions that have influenced thousands of pastors across the globe.
Larry and I shed light on the challenges and opportunities of pastoring, emphasizing the importance of recognizing the unique gifts in each person. We explore Larry's bilingual gift and the power of the multi-site video model in reaching people, underscoring the vitality of understanding God's calling and leading with humility in our ministries. The conversation takes a poignant turn as we discuss the rise of echo chambers and the divisive impact of the lack of shared experiences, and Larry shares valuable wisdom on navigating these complexities.
Finally, we zoom in on the story of Jesus in the book of Mark and its relevance to our lives today, touching on the importance of living in the perfect love of Christ amidst the current tumultuous times. Larry imparts his advice on finding fulfillment and striking a balance in life, emphasizing the need for developing right habits and mindsets. So gear up for an enriching conversation filled with faith, wisdom, and practical insights from one of the most influential pastors of our time. This is not just an episode; it's a faith-filled exploration of modern-day ministry.
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Hello and welcome to the brand new American Reformation Podcast. We long to see the wider American Christian Church fall more in love with Jesus by learning from the practices of the early church and other eras of discipleship multiplication. We want to hear from you, make sure you comment and leave a review, wherever you're watching or listening, to tell us what God is doing in your life or how you feel about today's conversation. Lord, have your way in us. Let's dive in.Speaker 2:
Welcome to the American Reformation Podcast, tim Allman, here. Wherever you are receiving this word today, whether it's driving your car hanging out, maybe you're doing yard work whatever it is that you're doing, i pray that the joy of the Lord is your strength and that you're leaning into wanting to grow. Today, that humility is a characteristic that you want to put on. The older we get, the more we may know about certain things, but that should lead us to say, man, i got a lot more to learn about a lot of things. And that that heart of curiosity should inspire us. And I pray you're leaning in today as I get to learn right along with you, with Reverend Dr Larry Osborn, a Kingdom Ambassador and Teaching Pastor at North Coast Church, i've heard about your church for many, many years. I read a number of your books. Brother, thank you for investing in so many churches and leaders down through the years. Training is tenure as a senior pastor. North Coast grew from about 70 adults to over 13,000. Come on And we can attend at several seven local campuses. That's wild. Larry has a rare mix of theological and practical wisdom that's made him a mentor and major influencer to thousands of pastors. Many innovative concepts pioneered at North Coast are now common practice, including sermon based small groups. I love that, larry. We've been doing that for a while. Thank you for that. Teaching teams Come on Collaborative sermon writing. We double clicked on that at Christ Greenfield a long time ago, larry. I appreciate that. Video venues and multi-site campuses. His 10 books include Sticky Church Love It. Sticky Teams Lead Like a Shepherd Thriving and Babylon. Oh, so much there And Accidental Pharisees. So thank you so much for joining us today, larry. How you doing, brother.Speaker 3:
I'm doing good. Thank you for having me and reading that little intro my mom wrote.Speaker 2:
She's very kind, for sure. So how are you praying? How are?Speaker 3:
you praying for us. He's got an exaggeration problem, but other than that we're good.Speaker 2:
Not true. The Lord has gifted you in mighty ways, and most especially, your humility and your desire to just come alongside leaders That's where we just align so wholeheartedly And the mission of the United Leadership Collective. so many of those habits of healthy leaders and healthy teams. man, you've influenced me through your research, through your writing, exponentially. So thank you, thank you. So the standard question for this podcast as you look at the church in 2023, moving into these kind of uncharted, uncertain waters that many of us are navigating right now, how are you praying for reformation in the American Christian Church?Speaker 3:
Larry Well, i got to be honest. You know, yes, that question, and it's like well, I don't pray for that on a regular basis.Speaker 2:
Yeah, So that's that's something that I actually.Speaker 3:
I'd be there for, yeah, i just pray. Lord, help me to do what you want me to do today and have the impact that you want me to have today, and pretty much that will happen. So, yeah, i just want to start this whole thing off with total honesty. It looks well. How are you regularly praying? I go I'm not sure that's that's worded, but it's. It's very much a part of of who I am and what I do when trying to make that happen. But my main thing is just hey, do your best every day, block and tackle with your assignment. Like David, we're prophets to our own generation And then in the rear view mirror we'll see what God did with it. But certainly everything I do is towards bringing people to Jesus and hoping that some of the slide we've got everywhere will be corrected and brought back in alignment.Speaker 2:
So That's awesome. Tell your ministry story a little bit deeper. How did you fall in love with pastoring and then the local church and wanting to pass pass on kind of healthy characteristics to so many church leaders? How did that Genesis story happen, larry?Speaker 3:
Well, tim, i started out I feel sometimes my life on third base because I came from a family that really honored the Lord without being weird. But the one thing I didn't like was pastors and churches. I was kind of the black sheep. I had all of these good influences. The issues were mine. Right before my senior in high school I stepped over the line and started following Jesus because the church we're in unfortunately, my folks didn't buy that in value and character, but it had more rules than Jesus and the Pharisees together could ever come up with And that's part of why it was very much a cultural thing, trying to reproduce the past. And then what happened is I was exposed to early move of what was then called the Jesus movement, really at ground zero. About 400 people was all that were there then And my mind was blown because I love the scripture right away when I was reading the Bible one day and just hit me, this is like not religious history, this is real history. I was reading Matthew and I just 180 turn around, but the idea of being a pastor forget it. But I started teaching my friends whatever I was learning and the house would fill up with the Bible study and maybe I'll become a professor or something. And then in those early days I realized, oh, i could be Larry and be a pastor. I didn't have to be. What the pastor image was, if you will, and that's really my calling into vocational ministry was like I could get paid to be Larry and teach Bible studies and disciple people, which I was doing in my spare time as I was putting myself through college. I was a journeyman retail clerk in the grocery business, had two days off, taught Bible studies in those days and shared my faith with anything that moved, probably a little over aggressively at that point. And so that was it. And then I had good mentors, like I said, besides the home. That taught me it was okay to be me that the goal was to do what God called me to do. The goal was not to grow some big old church, though obviously you'd rather succeed than fail in the eyes of men. So I was 28 when I came to North Coast, nancy was 24. And we had a dream of spending a lifetime in a place. If the Lord allowed, you never know what his call is. Completely Obviously, we got that one right, i guess, at this point in our life and try to plant and pastor the church I'd want to go to And I was surprised lots of people want to go the one I wanted to go to rather than try to plant and figure out how to make something big and not be myself. So that's my journey in that show.Speaker 2:
Larry, that is so awesome. You were part of the Jesus Revolution man. That's kind of insane. You know a lot of folks and a lot of listeners are a part of the Lutheran Church of Missouri Synod and I think there's maybe a skepticism among some confessional kind of historic church bodies about we could just say this was a hyper-charismatic movement and obviously, with the movie coming out and showing the good, bad and ugly of that whole story, what are some misconceptions about that Jesus movement? You know your audience here. A number of us are really confessing kind of conservative liturgical Christians. What are some of the preconceptions that people may have when they hear that? that you're like it wasn't totally like that.Speaker 3:
Well, it wasn't crazy at all. Theologically, i grew up in a hyper-sensationist church. There were two things. That were three things a benchmark, our rules and regulations. Anybody who didn't follow them was lost. We knew exactly the timetable of the Lord's return because we were on the programming committee, not the welcoming committee, and anything of the Holy Spirit that wasn't in the Bible but was present was satanic. So I went with this friend kind of like where am I going? And all it was was an old ball dude. I thought it was an old ball dude. He was 42. He stood up in front of about 3, 400 of us in this little room and he taught 10 chapters of the Bible, like a McGee would or whatever, verse by verse through the Old Testament. And then a group of guys got up and sang a song, like I might hear on the radio, about Jesus and that was it. That was not like all the weirdness and everything people thought, and so it was very much a Bible. A great communicator could make the King James of all things in that era actually make sense to somebody who didn't know Shakespeare in English. But yeah, i mean literally verse by verse somewhere in the Old Testament. I don't know where it was. It was just five years marching through the Old Testament. Now a lot of things spun off that, but my personal opinion is probably Chuck Smith is a most important Christian, protestant Christian leader of this century. Because what you have to do is you have to look at the ripple effects. I never received a prayer language So I left that movement because in the early days, so now that movement tends to be almost cessationist. That was an important part and I felt like not angry. I just don't have a place of leadership here and I have leadership gifts and teaching gifts as a college freshman So I moved on. But I say pretty much anybody who has contemporary music today, whose dress codes in church are not Sunday best, who like to teach the Bible in bigger chunks. I mean, you start looking at the ripple effects. Nobody had any idea that that was a place where I went. Oh, i could be Larry, it wasn't. I could be Cabbage Apples, i could be Chuck Smith. The people that learned they could be them and people have no idea are connected all throughout and including your tribe and your movement, there's many, many aspects that the door was opened. It's kind of like Luther. You go back to Luther's impact everywhere and people have no idea of the importance of scripture, all kinds of different things. So, anyway, that's what it was. For me is like wow, because it was just so laid back. You know, i just get up, teach the Bible, live the best I can, use my gifts, and it wasn't anti anything at that stage, which is very much who I am. You know. My bias and I kind of learned it then was I have a track I run on. But if somebody's a brother or sister and going to be in heaven, then I better treat them like a brother or sister because the Lord, with his sense of humor, might make them my neighbor forever. If I want to fight, you know, kind of like you can stick to fighting brothers in the room until they learn to work it out, you know.Speaker 2:
Yeah, i love that. I'd like to go deeper in terms of the sociological ramifications of pastors fitting into a respective mold, because there are many who are listening here and I've been a part of, in 15 years of pastoral ministry, formation of a number of different types of pastors And if there's one thing I could pass on and I think you agree with this is find your voice, how God created you, the experiences Jesus gave you, and speak God's never-changing word out of your own respective voice. Don't be Larry, don't be Tim, be Bob, be Sue in terms of whatever it is you know. So talk more about those preconceived notions of the mold that a pastor fits in and how you've kind of helped pastors move beyond that. In many respects It's so good.Speaker 3:
Well, part of it is the body of Christ, for many of us, has become nothing more than a theological construct. But it's not a theological construct, it's an absolute reality. And if we really believe the body of Christ is true, then ears quit trying to make the eyes hear better. And that's what we're going to and we learn to relax and become what we are instead of beating ourselves up for what we're not. You know, think of the even classic pastoral review process and in any kind of tribe What happens is the focus is in what you're not. You know I have some very strong wisdom gifts. I can meet with people, see what's going on, tell them what they ought to do. That's very different than the empathy gift of long-term counseling. And I'm a truth teller and I can grow in my EQ to know the difference between saying the truth and spreading the truth. But I will never be, you know, the person who leads with gifts of helps and mercy. Now, i need to have helps and mercy. I mean every single spiritual gift were to do those sort of things. But what I find is a lot of people try to become what they're not. And again, think of the pastoral review, if a church has that kind of thing. They, you know they beat the squirrel up because all that does is climb and it can't fly And you know, the eagle doesn't know how to run and it's just over and over. We try to make ourselves something. We're not Even churches. The whole, the upside of the church growth movement was how mission started by missionary in America. How in the world do Americans call themselves Christians or not even identified with a local church, Now morphed, like all things do, into let's be bigger and better than everybody else and compare ourselves. But so it has a good side, calling people to involvement with a body of believers and not just an isolated faith journey. But the downside is we have too many pastors who think they should grow. In fact, tammy, we've all heard this thing that healthy things grow, right, pure baloney, pure baloney, the only thing that grows as healthy through its entire lifetime. It's because it sounds like general revelation, but the only thing that grows throughout its entire lifetime are the lowest things in the food chain virus, bacteria, amoeba, all of that. The higher you move up on God's created order, the more you have a season of growth and multiplication. That's how it works. But people who have been blessed with big L leadership gifts. Stand up and tell everybody you ought to be me and if you are healthy, you love Jesus, your thing will grow and grow and grow. No, not only do the higher things in God's created order have a season of growth, they have a built in DNA. Ants don't get bigger than ants. Ants don't get bigger than dogs. Elephants bigger than elephants. Blue wells, blue wells. The only way you get bigger than your built in DNA is steroids. Steroids will kill you. There's a lot of ministry steroids out there because people have not accepted that. Maybe God's calling my life with the shepherd faithfully a smaller flock. In every which way, if I can help people, who has God made you to be? Yeah, try to grow as a person and if you're a pastor, try to grow your church. There's a reason some PGA golfer and a major league baseball player, rugby player, whatever it is they have coaches, because we always hit an artificial lid before our true lid, but there's a true lid for everyone and every organization, and so my thing is figure out what God called you to do and do that well, and quit shooting at those who do something you don't do well. Well, because we're all just castles in a kingdom. We're franchises. Starbucks doesn't care if I quit going to one branch and go to another one. The branch manager does. Starbucks doesn't even care if I start going to Seattle's best, because they own that too. If we would have the mindset I just described, there'd be such so much more joy and true unity, not uniformity, in ministry.Speaker 2:
Oh, you just scratch at the edge that I've had and you articulated it so well. First, corinthians 12,. Romans, chapter 12, i mean where we find Paul, using this metaphor of the body where would I be without the foot or where would the head be apart from the hands? I mean, that's it. And that metaphor moves into the pastoral ministry. There's no one outside of Jesus that can be the perfect shepherd, so let's get off the throne and put him back on the throne and just say, hey, i need if pastors simply said, hey, i got a very small set of gifts and I can clearly articulate what those are. But since I know that small set of gifts and how God hardwired me, what fires me up, based on my experiences, the community of people around me helped me articulate this. I can articulate that I also realized, man, how much help I need, how much I need the body of Christ to be the body of Christ for me, to watch out for my blindsides and all of that. If we just led with that sort of humility and then looked at the churches down the road, not as competitors but complimentary churches, all aimed at the same aim of elevating the name of Jesus, how much more fun. You mentioned joy, but just how much more fun would it be to have that big C, big kingdom mindset, larry? We don't do that well in our tribe And I imagine many other tribes don't do it well at all. It's more comparison as a killer of joy man And pastors, we take the cake. We win that game, man, all the time And it's really hurting our gospel witness and really just the joy of the never changing or the infinite game I'd use that the infinite game of there's always going to be more people who need the gospel of Jesus Christ, right From this generation into the next. So just enjoy the ride. More is what I hear you saying. Anything more to add there, larry?Speaker 3:
Well, it's again. The mindset creates true biblical unity. There are a lot of churches. I have a unique bilingual gift, just by my background, i mean I can move from one group to the other on the whole spectrum of born again ministries And the one thing I notice is a lot of them don't understand just because you wouldn't go to a church doesn't mean they're not reaching people that you couldn't reach. So you know somebody goes. Ah, i want to go all deep in the Greek and the Hebrew. Great, then you're going to have a smaller crowd than the Walmart will. But all of those people wouldn't go to the Walmart church. You know they'll go to the small mom and pop or you know the farm stand or whatever it is. So when we get into this, there's so many cultural languages out there And that's why we need the different forms of the body of Christ. And what I feel like happens is most of us draw our line on the church we would not go to. I could never imagine my. So we therefore think they shouldn't be reaching people. But the church you would not go to probably is reaching people you could not reach. And again, there are lines to draw. Paul writes them about heresy. The seven letters in the book of Revelation say not everything that calls its church itself a church is a Jesus honoring church. But you know I got the memo longer ago that baby Jesus grew up and he's King Jesus. So he doesn't meet me as this pitbull or watchdog or up here, and I think a lot of us think that role is still open.Speaker 2:
Yeah, sociology, what we like and the people we like doing life with, overwhelms the expansive theology of the kingdom, and that's what I hear you calling for. Praise, praise, be to God, so tell us your story. I mean sticky church, sticky teams sticky fingers sticky but all sorts of sticky stuff.Speaker 3:
Yeah, that's the publisher's fault that those three books have that title, not mine.Speaker 2:
It's cool, it's stuck. So tell us the journey of becoming an expert on church planning, multi sites and multi congregations. You and I were having a chat about how we have a multi site here and you kind of made me my head spin a bit, but in a good way, about how you may not have multi sites but within a generation or so they could end up being more of a multi congregational movement. So help us understand church planning, multi sites, multi congregations Larry.Speaker 3:
Well, i felt for some reason that God's calling my life was to help networks and not create a network, and so church planning just came out of wanting to help church planners. I love the whole process of church planning because you don't know the winners from the losers and you just kind of step in and see what God is going to do And you know. If you say, how did I become an expert or whatever in that, i don't know. I mean part of it is this God decides the line that's in front of you, asking you for advice, more than you decide who you want to give advice to, and I found people doing that. I think part of the reason in terms of who I am, i've always wanted to know. From youth on. I've always asked the why question instead of the why question. I wanted to know what was happening, that I always was interested in, why. I kind of lived my life at 30,000 feet observing things and then see something I think significant and take a deep dive. Well, i think most people actually live in the forest, going from tree to tree and study it. I don't know a lot about the trees, i know a lot about the forest and then deep dive And that is just ended up throwing me into the church planning thing with a sense of understanding how culture works, what the roadblocks are, what the rockets to light, etc. When it came to multi-site, it's well you might know or your listeners might or might not that we were the first church to do it, but it wasn't so much a vision as a problem. We had 3,000 people in a 500 seat sanctuary. I'm in my early 40s, i put a quarter in me, i'll preach another sermon. And then I had some anxiety attacks. About the same time my wife had some cancer. That was very serious at the time. She's doing fine now, by the grace of God. But my board said you can't add any more services And we were not marketing or advertising. We have never done that. Not theological against it, no problem with it, but we don't. And so I felt like Jesus and Mark, where he tries to go to the other side of this sea of Galilee for R&R and they follow him like sheep without a shepherd. And it was Lord. We can't turn these people away, you're sending them. So I was seeking for a way to handle these people without any more services And the crazy idea of you know what video might be able to be a siphon. Instead of a punishment for over you know, an overflow room is a punishment for being late Could we actually create a siphon that people would choose first? And thus we started the different styles and all that and, unbeknownst to me solving that problem, churches from all around the country came to see it and they played with my toy the wrong way. They didn't reach different demographics with different styles of worship and a video. They cloned themselves in another location. So we were probably one of the first 10 multi-site churches, not the first one, like a lot of people think. But what quickly hit me were a couple of things. Number one there's a 20 minute drive time barrier. When people drive more than 20 minutes to a site, there are two things disappear Come and see evangelism, the most powerful way adults are reached in a way that sticks, and youth involvement, which is pretty important in this culture. So thus began our philosophy Whenever we'd get a group of people driving more than 20 minutes, they could still come to our mothership if they want. But we want to plant. We got a large enough group, a campus there, and then, over time, i just began to realize there's a big difference between multi-site and multi-congregational. There's about a 90% overlap. But the huge difference is culture is set from the stage or the pulpit or the platform, and when everybody shares the same message. In our case it was always a team, but when everybody hears the same message, they have the same culture. But when you have different communicators, the communicator slowly morphs the culture into that which fits them. Nothing wrong with that. But I would call when you have live teachers. It's really multi-congregational. It's been around for 2000 years. It's a great model. Every denomination, every tribe started with that. A great leader or a great teacher, great church. People wanted to duplicate. But we all know that over time they begin to resist the mothership's control. Right, that's just how it is. And then you have to figure a way to balance those two things. So that's why I say every multi-congregational church will eventually split off into different churches, and nothing wrong with that, it's wonderful. Just people need to understand that's different than multi-side. I've never seen a video venue church spin off. It just dies. And the spin off it's long-term church planning, gestation. It might be when Moses dies. Everybody thinks there's Joshua, it might be Moses and Joshua, and then they split off. They wait till real boom shows up. I mean, i don't know how, when and where, but I just know it's got a different long-term trajectory And both are great And I spent a lot of time helping churches with both models. But I think it's important they understand the difference, because the early evangelists of the multi-site movement got so excited about it. They combined everything into one And that's like asking attendance If it's Southern Baptist, they're going to give me their membership. Now who shows up? If it's Lutheran, you're going to tell me adults, not kids. If it's non-denominational, i have to divide it by two.Speaker 2:
I love it. So, yeah, just to summarize what Christ Greenfield is about, and we don't have many multi-side slash, multi-conrogational churches in our tribe. But I am because it's a cultural value here committed to live preaching. Nothing against video venue at all. I'm committed to live preaching because we need more proclaimers of the gospel, not for our respective church but for the church at large, and they need training in that and they need to have wise guides who are coming alongside those that have been doing it for a while. So that's why we're committed to that. But what I hear you saying is, within a generation it could be me or some other leaders that come and go. We should almost plan for them being released from, say, the Christ Greenfield brand, et cetera, and to go and have that separate and that separation within whether it's a decade, couple decades, whatever my lifetime that's a normal separation that we should not be afraid of but plan strategically for. Is that correct, larry?Speaker 3:
Yeah, yeah, and if I can push back on you on your podcast, i really see it as a both and strategy. So when we had there are leaders who teach and teachers who lead or preachers, okay, what's your primary gift? And so when we have somebody who's got a gift of teaching, we haven't do it. And one of the pushbacks on multi-site video was always you need to raise up teachers. And I was always like, well, you learn to teach by teaching, not just on a stage in a sanctuary, and North Coast is living proof of that. We have teachers out the kazoo that speak at major conferences and camps, that don't speak on our main stage because we set them up to teach And plus our teaching team means I think this year six different people will have preached at the main stage. But what we also have is we have some people whose teaching gift is larger than their preaching gift, and so, by pastoring and leading and shepherding a multi-site, some of ours are well over a thousand, almost 2,000. And their gift would have been 400. And so here's the thing to hear that people don't hear. When people you can't make people go somewhere, we don't have a parish where we can assign it. And so the truth of the matter is people come to North Coast to listen to Chris Brown and Larry Osborne And Christopher Hilken was there for a while, the guy named Mike Hurley just different key people. So they're going to drive far even when we plan a campus near them with live teaching. So we're trying to break the 20-minute barrier with our videos. That's what we're trying to do. So if you must hear us, great, we're going to come to you, and if we have a communicator, we'll plan them across the street. We do not see a conflict between the two, and so what I tell a church is if you're having significant numbers of people driving more than 40 minutes, then take a video to them, because they're driving more than 40 minutes is really saying they're coming for the worship experience And, let's be honest, more often than not, the communicator, because when the communicator changes, they stop doing that. So let's bring it to them Now. Our strategy of growing we better raise up leaders and we better raise up communicators. So it's really a both and, and I think a lot of people don't see that that we would be as deeply committed to raising up the next generation of teachers. But we don't. Our biggest room is 850. We didn't want to build two and 3,000 seat places where people came like it was an event, so that was our. okay, we're going to beat you at the game because I can't help it. If people want to come here and be teach. They're like, don't blame me. The thing got big.Speaker 2:
Yeah, that's awesome. So, yeah, what I hear you saying is differentiating the teaching gift from the maybe stage, communication, preaching gift, and there should be real and in our tribe this is under the one office actually of holy ministry, so called pastoral office, but it's just recognizing the unique gifts that God is given. Because, i totally agree with you, i am okay at teaching when I preach and or when I lead and cast vision, which happens, you know, on the platform or pulpit, like that's something that I lean into and comes very naturally to me, preparing a conversation for a deep dive, exegetical, and so like. There are other men and women within our congregation who are much more adept at that work And I think we should create lanes to recognize that within the church and not diminish it because, just real time, right now it is testing with the multi-carrigational approach, using your language, who has? because fewer than we would like to admit have that communication, preaching gift and that's not something we should be ashamed of, it's something we should just recognize.Speaker 3:
Larry anything else to say there? Yeah, if gifts are gifts, Yeah, that whole passage starts out. We don't decide what gift we have, where to use it or the measure of the gift. So, you know, every now and then there's a you know, cut down the tall poppy. People ought to be ashamed of a large gift And, frankly, the video venue multi-site model I don't I'm not comfortable with is the one that's simply trying to grow the church bigger. Again. Our motivation is not let's get North Coast bigger, Let's, you know, go put our our tat on every city. It's let's stop people from driving more than 20 minutes, because we're radically committed to discipleship, which does not happen when you go to an event. So that's, that's really. That's the missing piece that people did not understand about why we stuck with video and then had no idea we did both. In fact, we've had a huge college ministry and he wanted he's a teacher He wanted to plant a church and he planted it just a, I don't know two miles from my house, right near us, And we platform and said it wasn't a North Coast church. Few things. He wants to do different. If you want to be a part of it, go in his tribe. He won the church plant of the year award a couple of years ago We're involved with it gave him the same money as if it had our name. So we're very much open-handed. But I I just don't understand why people want bigger and bigger audiences Plus. That's the other reason we were committed to a teaching team. A one teacher multi-site collapses when that teacher moves, But a multi-team where the team is strong, then that person can move on and life goes on.Speaker 2:
That's so powerful. Yes, yes. So pastoring in 2023, you're walking alongside a lot of leaders and you've stepped down from kind of your key influencing role there at North Coast and are doing a lot of. You know pastoring pastors And as you're walking alongside men, what are the greatest challenges and opportunities? But? but lean into the challenges right now, As you see pastoring, I would say in a post COVID world, everything changed, Larry, for us.Speaker 3:
I mean we, we're Lewis and Clark now. We are Lewis and Clark uncharted.Speaker 2:
Yeah, we don't know, like we thought we thought the ocean was going to we. We missed by a couple thousand miles about where this ocean, the Pacific, is, and so now we're ditching the canoes and we're we're hiking into these uncharted territories and, man, we're going to need a lot of help. So how well I mean just makes them general broad brush How well are pastors doing in these uncharted waters right now from your perspective?Speaker 3:
Well, first of all, i think they're doing better than the surveys say, because it's all about the yes a question. So I have a a good friend of mine is nationally known as a researcher, and I'm always pushing back that you're not a leader, you're a researcher because you get the right information but you don't know what it means, and so people go. This huge percentage of pastors are ready to quit. Well, the question is during the last few years of you thought of quitting? huge number of people will say yes, because there's been hard times. There's hard times, but if you change the question to in the last two years, have you done anything towards moving and walking away from vocational ministry, such as investigating another job, interviewing for another job, et cetera, not talking to your spouse about how hard it is and I'm ready to quit then the numbers go way down right. So I think it's been difficult, but I don't think it's a panic mode that people make it out to be. Well, here's a few of the things that have changed significantly, and one of them's not COVID, and it's like people would blame COVID, or they blame the Trump election or whatever, for the divisiveness in our culture, and that's not what caused it If you step back and look at 30,000 feet. What caused it was the growth of choice and the lack of a shared experience. So we've always had echo chambers. They used to be geographic And, you know, somebody from the deep South thought people in the Northeast were either stupid or immoral and the Northeast thought that of the deep South right. So echo chambers have always been around, but now they're by choice And we have, you know, going back to FM radio, cable television now the podcast and the news, whatever you want to listen to, you choose your echo chamber. you have your social media. If you have that, you virtual signal things and we just go down a rabbit hole, assuming anybody disagrees with us as either stupid or immoral And therefore everybody's angry And we have turned away from God. You know there's a dimmer switch principle. You obey the light you have. Proverbs says the light gets turned up higher and higher the path of the righteous, like the rising of the noon day sun. Romans one tells us a culture that rejects God gets darker and darker And most people think the bottom is sexual decadence. But it isn't. It's the next bottom is sexual decadence If you actually read Romans one, 18 to 32, and we hit that in the sixties. Sexually transmitted disease has put a little halt on it and we're now full bore back down that one. But in, in, i think, it's, versus 28 to 32,. At the end he says therefore, god gave them over to a depraved mind to do what ought not be done. And then he starts a list. Everything on that list is relational destruction, gossip, slander, what we would call cancel culture, no mercy, no grace, disobedient to pain. There's not one thing that's not relational destruction. And so part of what we're living in now we blame on politics and we blame on COVID is the end result of everybody choosing the little echo chamber they want to live in and therefore being angry, plus the thing God told us would happen to a culture. So we've got an angrier, more isolated culture than any of us have ever seen. And it's, it's. It's exponentially increasing in its vehemence and it's I mean. Just take a lot. We gossip and slander are called investigative reporting today, whether it's MSNBC or Fox. You want to read every single day it's all you know about the other side and how evil and stupid they are, and then deep dives into Trump's collusion or Biden's stuff or whatever it would be. It's, it's, it's almost. I mean, we need to know the basics, but we dig into all the gossip and slander, and it's even in Christian circles. What's the number one podcast in Christian circles? The Rise and Follow Marcel. People spending hours listening to one group of people who are passing on gossip. Gossip is information you don't know the person you don't need to be a part of, and slander, you know, trying to make you think worse of the person, which are horrific sins And and we just it's like sugared poison. We listen to it left and right. You know pastors tell me so, i so I I'm learning the dangers of being a celebrity pastor and I'll tell them. Don't worry, you won't be, but you're filling your soul with negative like I need to know David's slept with Bathsheba. I don't need to know how many times, of what position. I don't need to know exactly what pair of binoculars he was using, and it's just so. One of the biggest things we face is a culture that's trigger happy, with anger being activated, being. You know whatever it is you want to call triggered. We haven't had that before. And then our, our own souls are chasing. You know we're just sipping that same same poison ourselves. I think you know the fact we're in this into Romans, godless culture. We are totally post Christian and a lot of us haven't fully accepted that. We keep thinking that that what we're doing is honored in the eyes of people. So, like North Coast has some really cool swag coats, jackets, you know, all that kind of stuff, from conferences to just whatever our life groups, the whole bed. And I'm not the lead guy anymore, so you know I have opinions that don't always turn into action. But if I was a lead guy, what I would do right now is say let's no longer ever have North Coast church on our swag, because in this world there's a conversation stopper. Let's call it North Coast, which would be a conversation starter. Right, it's, and I don't think a lot of pastors and people understand that. We're in Rome again. We're not as bad as Rome was, though we think we are, but we're in Rome again. Everybody's angry and we're drinking the same relational destruction and call an investigative reporting in Christian circles and political circles and wondering why our soul is sick. Wow.Speaker 2:
Breach Larry And I know you weren't preaching, you're just talking from the heart, but couldn't agree more. And I, just as a parish pastor right now, man, i get pulled, you know, and I don't it doesn't bother me necessarily, but I got members thinking we ought to be more, you know, for certain things in our culture on one end of the political spectrum and on another, you know, and I just wanna be Jesus guy, in relationship with Christ and in relationship with others. I don't know, this is rooted in the fall. By the way, this is deep in the Genesis three story, right, i mean Adam and Eve. Eve had been I forget where I heard this but Eve had been sent by God as a partner, co-creator, co-created in the image of God by the creator, to be not just a helper but a kind adversary, one who would question him but would stay connected to him, one that would love and encourage, compliment him. And I don't think in our culture today, from the highest of positions to just even in the home, we have the, i guess, character of humility and curiosity about ourself, the self-awareness to say, hey, man, i need kind adversaries, people that disagree agreeably with me, as we and I need to do the same for others, and it's way beyond the human mind, wants to make it way more simple. But it's way beyond politics and social media and all of that. There's a deeper, underlying cause to our division, and it is our wrestle with the flesh and our wrestle with our inability to connect deeply with others. It's all about relationship, and therefore our tribes become ever increasingly, increasingly small, until we get to the point of isolation. I mean isolation is killing so many people today, larry. And this is to round it back to the role of the church. I mean the church has to be a place where people of all different stripes and sizes, i mean everybody, all different walks of life, say hey, here we come, recognizing two things There's a Creator. He's revealed Himself in His Son Jesus. His Holy Spirit lives within us and we're not the Creator. We need a lot, a lot of help, and so this is an open place for you to come and receive and to offer your gifts as the body of Christ grows more and more up into Jesus, who is our head. That sounds a lot better than having to take stances. This is our type of church. No, we're a church for all people. Say more there, larry.Speaker 3:
Yeah, well, part of the problem is Paul tells Timothy a church planter, and then the pastor in Ephesus right, he left him in Ephesus. He reminds him about the farmer, the soldier and the athlete, and what he reminds him of the soldier is he doesn't get involved in civilian affairs. And part of the problem right now that I see over and over is everybody wants to hijack the church for very good things instead of the main thing, and people don't seem to understand that salads are really good. But out here in California there's a thing called the In-N-Out Burger And you go to In-N-Out Burger when you want a burger, fries or a drink. If you want a salad, you go somewhere else. If you want chicken, you go somewhere else And like, for instance I have deep political passions and I have deep concerns culturally about certain things, but the moment I signed up to be a soldier of the cross and was placed in the role of being, i don't know, lieutenant Colonel, colonel or low-level general, whatever it is I am in his army. Civilian affairs are not on my agenda And I think a lot of pastors forget that. They keep trying to please everybody. They keep seeing real problems out there. One of the good story from the Gospels is Jesus in the book of Mark kind of his first day of ministry. All these people get healed And the next day there's a long line of people early in the morning lined up with legit, absolutely need to fix needs. People had got their friends because of the things that had happened the day before. Jesus had got up early in the morning and prayed. They couldn't find him. Hey, there's a long line. They go and get him and he says listen, we're supposed to move on. That's what the Lord wants. The parallel for all of us is we have been given an agenda and our agenda is not fix every need. That's what we think it is. And Jesus came to heal, came to do kingdom work and the kingdom of God showed up through him, but his real job was to go to the cross.Speaker 2:
That's right.Speaker 3:
And so what I think a lot of pastors do is we see a need and we think our job is to fill every need, not to ask is our name on it and is this really important? but not the most important thing, because every single day there's coming down the track a new political issue, a new you name what it is cultural need, whatever, and I just cannot play whack-a-mole and fix them and still fulfill the great calling that I have, which is lead people to Jesus who don't know him and therefore come into the church with all kinds of jacked up ideas, values and views, and then I'm to baptize them and then I'm to train them. Keep at it until they fully obey everything you taught. That's a great commission.Speaker 2:
Yeah, exactly, and Satan is having a heyday today, still killed, destroyed, dividing, fear on overdrive. And that's not what the perfect love of Christ cast out fear. So praise be to God. We live above the fray, we set our minds and hearts where Christ is and we understand the story of which we're apart. Nothing that is going on in the world right now should be overly shocking, right? Jesus said I will come again to make all things new. Until then, it's gonna get worse before it gets better. So just have that mindset and bring light to dark places. So, yeah, that is the macro narrative story that I think, as we, as confessing Christians, we were centered in the never changing scriptures, we follow the works and the ways of Jesus, we need to orient ourselves just more around that macro story of creation to recreation on the last day, and then just kind of hmm, it's gonna be interesting to see how this works out in the world. I just have that kind of okay, god, you're in control and I'm not necessarily condemning an individual. There are certain ideologies and things that are not of you, lord, and I'm just gonna connect it to your word. We'll talk about those things that are connected there, but I'm not gonna get drawn into the fearful fray which is toxic. Today The church must live in that, and it's a tension filled middle path road. You know. We make to use a law gospel lens for us in our preaching and we're called to make the comfortable uncomfortable and the uncomfortable because of our sin, comforted by the mercy and grace of God and the person in work of Christ Jesus. And so I think it's a great day to be a leader in the local church. I don't think it's a day that we should fear. The day of Christ's return is quicker as soon or now than when we first believe. So anything more to add about the story of which we're apart and how that should shape the way we lead in the church here in 2023, Larry.Speaker 3:
You know, as I think I mentioned earlier, i'm on the welcoming committee, not the programming committee. As far as the Lord's return, you know I got the balloons and the party things. I'm ready to go if, when and whatever. But I have though I don't know all the details of the book of Revelation or prophetic passages. I have read the end and Last. I look we win. And so if I know the final score, i shouldn't be too, and I know that we win. I shouldn't be too panicked in the third quarter. If and when I feel behind And to me that changes everything. If I really believe we win, that doesn't mean I just set back and it's going to take place And I'm supposed to play the game. But panic and despair are not a part of the thing. I might not like it, i might be confused. The bottom line is hey, the game's over, i'm playing the replay, we're going to win, and what that also means is I'm not a spiritual warfare. The Bible uses spiritual warfare about the flesh and the spirit. We use it about culture, and when we use the language of spiritual warfare and fear, we hunker down and we want to wipe out our enemies. When we use spiritual warfare internally and the Great Commission as our compass. We don't want to wipe out, we want to win over. Now, part of the problem today is we stop trying to win over, we just try to comfort. And so tolerance biblically should be you have the freedom to be wrong and we've turned it into everybody's right, which is ridiculous. But it's either everybody's right or I have no tolerance And I go oh gee, when I first came to Jesus I had some jacked up values and ideas And I'm glad he didn't wipe me out for him, but I'm also glad he. You know, i think a church should become as you are, but for God's sake, don't stay that way.Speaker 2:
Right, that's right. This last question here, brother, we could talk for a long time. I can't wait to learn with you in different settings in the coming months and years. But what are the top habits for in our tribe and many that there are pastors who are nearing retirement or refirement into a different season of life? What are some of those top habits for church leaders that run in ministry for decades? I want to be my dad. I'm a third generation pastor Larry. My dad ran very, very well, is doing new things now in a new season of life. I know that's where you find yourself is as well, but you've run that race faithfully and you kind of look at the. You look at the media and a number of different maybe celebrity pastors who don't finish well. I don't think again. That tells the full story of pastors who are finishing well in a very different context, but go ahead.Speaker 3:
Most finish well. I agree The news, only there's never been a story, even in Christian journals, about the one who finished well. It's always the one who finished poorly, because it's boring.Speaker 2:
It's kind of boring, so talk, i want to be boring man. Help me run the next 25, 30 years. you know really, really well What are those habits.Speaker 3:
Well, i think some of the things are mindsets and habits. One of them is those who do a really good job with their family, their friends or community and their church are people who do not have a wound, a father wound, something wound of insecurity. They have nothing to prove and no one to impress. That's a great goal. A mentor used to talk about that. My father raised me with that kind of value system And I remember just, will I ever get there? And I think somewhere in my mid 30s I woke up and I go no, i'm still driven, but I it really was like I don't have anything to prove and I don't have anybody to impress And the freedom that comes with that is unbelievable. And I know people who are at the absolute top of the heap and they still have things to prove and people to impress And they don't realize the more they're driven, the more that people don't like them, the more that people put them in a weirdo box, if you will. So that would be the first thing. I think another practice is knowing the difference. If you're going to run the long race, you got to know the difference between the regular season and the playoffs. You play hurt in the playoffs because it's an opportunity that might never come again. If you play hurt in the regular season, you won't make the playoffs, and I think a lot of people and again it goes back to what are you trying to prove. I mean relax, jesus on your side. He says if you're weary, heavy laden, come to him. His burden is light and even in hard times his steering guide is easy. If he pulled you into those hard times, if you go into those hard times with that as yoke, then yeah, it's going to be incredibly hard. We've all been there through a really hard season that God put us in and we're going. That was hell, but it was a lot easier than I ever thought it would be. Well, that was because we were under his yoke. So I think a lot of people don't know the difference between regular season and playoffs And they also don't know the difference between calling and potential. One of the great goddesses of our culture is potential. The worst life lived is the life that doesn't reach full potential. You could be a first round NBA draft pick, third, fourth pick in the nation in the NBA, and you have a six year career as a journeyman and everybody says what a tragedy. Dude, you just lived every little hoopster's dream, but because of this thing called potential, you think you're a failure. The only one who lives their full potential has the ability to, according to First Corinthians seven, is a single person. The moment you get married, you have a divided mind to please a spouse and to please the Lord, And then you have children to raise them, nurture, admonition of the Lord, et cetera. And a lot of us don't understand, especially English speaking people, that we're called to fulfill our calling, not a potential, because of a weird parable that in the English language an amount of money, called a talent, is part of a parable, and so our first illustration of that passage is what do you do with the skills you have in talents And no other language group. It's like illustration number 20, that's a parable about what do you do with your possessions. And we live in a day where everybody thinks if I could, i should, and God didn't call us to do that. You know that's like that. Not understanding that difference is massive. It has allowed me to say no to so many things I could have done that would have made a kingdom impact, but they would have made me a worse dad. They would have made me a worse husband and a worse friend. And, at the end of the day, every pastor needs to know you're an interim, whatever role you're in, but you're a permanent spouse, you're a permanent father or mother, you're a permanent friend, and we make the decisions backwards. If my name's on it, i'll do it. My name's on it, no, i won't. And that has been incredibly important for me. And the last thing I'd say is they know the ability to do their best under the circumstances, not their best. They know you're doing your best, or it's always more, but under the circumstances, do your best and take a nap, you know Yeah. I love it, jesus, you'll, you'll, you'll, you'll, you'll hit the kind of age I hit right now, with the kind of energy and impact I have right now, instead of just gasping across the finish line, i'll tie it up with this. I had two of my kids who ran distance, and if you're going to run successfully distance at state, national type levels, you're not going to leave it all on the course, believe it or not. You better have something left for the last hundred yards, which means you did not run the rest of the race at your absolute peak. You ran it measured, so you had something left.Speaker 2:
Yes, larry, this has been so fun. I just hear you calling for recognition of our true identity, which is not in what other people say, but in who Christ says we are our baptismal identity. I hear you calling for respect of. This has been the whole conversation respect of various vocations and seasons of life, and gifting and and run the race reasonably in community, keeping our eyes firmly fixed upon Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith. So this is. This is fantastic. If people want to kind of connect with you, hear more about you and your ministry in this season of life right now, how could they do so, larry?Speaker 3:
Well, there's archives of messages. If they go to northcoachurchcom They go back quite a while to our teaching team and the ones I do. And then I have a website called LarryObsworncom. It used to be called Larry Osworn Live. It's not really live. It's got an archive of stuff and how to connect with me and a few things like that, but I don't blog. Right Again, i have felt God is calling for me to be a resource to things rather than do my own thing. But contact information you know the various I think there's 10 books or something like that. That kind of stuff's all there. So those two places, northcoachurchcom and larryosworncom Amen.Speaker 2:
Thank you for your generosity of time, your wisdom, larry, for investing in. You know crazy Lutherans, conservative Lutherans and all sorts of charismatic and everywhere in between. You are quite an example of running the race very, very well. This is the American Reformation Podcast. Please share and subscribe, comment wherever it is that you take this in, and we promise to have wonderful conversations weekend and week out with amazing leaders, lovers of Jesus, those that are trying to use their gifts to multiply disciples in this crazy world in which we live, of which Jesus is the King. Thank you so much, larry, for your time and wisdom today. It's been a lot of fun.Speaker 3:
You're welcome, thank you.