American Reformation

Rethinking Ministry: The Shift from Institutions to Relationships with Pastor Josh LeBorious

August 16, 2023 Unite Leadership Collective Season 2 Episode 51
Rethinking Ministry: The Shift from Institutions to Relationships with Pastor Josh LeBorious
American Reformation
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American Reformation
Rethinking Ministry: The Shift from Institutions to Relationships with Pastor Josh LeBorious
Aug 16, 2023 Season 2 Episode 51
Unite Leadership Collective

What if the church was more about relationships than institutions? This is the thought-provoking question we pose to our guest, Josh LeBorious, a new pastor and inquisitive father. In our enlightening conversation, we discuss the need for a transformative shift in our church focus, veering from an institutional perspective to a more relationship-centered approach. We grapple with the limitations of virtual worship and ponder on the church's proclivity for relying heavily on the power of position. We argue for the value of local, life-on-life ministry, advocating for a church culture that elevates connections over politics and legality.

Josh LeBorious shares some intriguing insights from his church's successful strategies for cultivating and maintaining attendance. This involves the unique tactic of scheduling employees with their friends, which fosters an environment conducive to spiritual growth. He emphasizes the importance of having a close-knit circle of people in a discipleship relationship, drawing inspiration from 'The Other Half of Church' by Jim Hendricks. This book sheds light on the pivotal role character development plays in discipleship. 

Our conversation extends to the hurdles encountered by young pastors and the centrality of discipleship in the modern church. We dig into the process of identifying potential leaders within the church, assisting them in nurturing their leadership skills, and maintaining a healthy church culture. Josh shares his journey of self-discovery and the role it plays in conflict resolution, reminding us of the essence of a community focus in the church. Join us for this eye-opening discussion and let's rethink the way we approach ministry.

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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if the church was more about relationships than institutions? This is the thought-provoking question we pose to our guest, Josh LeBorious, a new pastor and inquisitive father. In our enlightening conversation, we discuss the need for a transformative shift in our church focus, veering from an institutional perspective to a more relationship-centered approach. We grapple with the limitations of virtual worship and ponder on the church's proclivity for relying heavily on the power of position. We argue for the value of local, life-on-life ministry, advocating for a church culture that elevates connections over politics and legality.

Josh LeBorious shares some intriguing insights from his church's successful strategies for cultivating and maintaining attendance. This involves the unique tactic of scheduling employees with their friends, which fosters an environment conducive to spiritual growth. He emphasizes the importance of having a close-knit circle of people in a discipleship relationship, drawing inspiration from 'The Other Half of Church' by Jim Hendricks. This book sheds light on the pivotal role character development plays in discipleship. 

Our conversation extends to the hurdles encountered by young pastors and the centrality of discipleship in the modern church. We dig into the process of identifying potential leaders within the church, assisting them in nurturing their leadership skills, and maintaining a healthy church culture. Josh shares his journey of self-discovery and the role it plays in conflict resolution, reminding us of the essence of a community focus in the church. Join us for this eye-opening discussion and let's rethink the way we approach ministry.

Support the Show.

Watch Us On Youtube!

Speaker 1:

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 and I am pumped for you to get to meet a newer pastor and a newer friend of mine and of the United Leadership Collective, josh Labourius. Josh is a brand new. We got it at First Things First, josh, a brand new daddy. Just a couple of days ago, his first son, ezekiel, was born, and praise be to God for newness of life. It is an absolute miracle, isn't it?

Speaker 3:

Josh being a first-aid dad it is. And if any of you guys are listening and you're like, wow, this guy's not as cofier as I would expect, well, that's why we're really excited and baby and mom are both healthy.

Speaker 2:

Amen, Amen, Praise Jesus. So Josh is a pastor at Edgewater Lutheran. They worship in a school and we're going to hear a little bit of his story, but let's stay high level. To begin the normal question here how are you praying for Reformation of the American Christian Church in 2023 and beyond there? Josh, thanks for hanging by.

Speaker 3:

So you sent me this question and I my immediate thought was I want a cop out answer. If you were to give me a million dollars because you want a straight answer to this question, I think my prayer would be that God would move us away from our what I would say is too much of a focus on institutions. Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that institutions are a bad thing. I think institutions they do a lot of good things and they support the proclamation of the gospel. But I think that there's kind of this, a myriad of things that are playing into maybe our focus getting too far that way, I think a big one.

Speaker 3:

I think social media has given us an inflated sense of our impact and widened our self perception of our sphere of influence. We think, oh, I'm really going to influence people with this post on Twitter or on Facebook or. But the reality is, if you're going to sway someone with a post on social media, they're just going to remain swayed until the next post on social media. And I think, from inside the church, kind of looking at the church as an entity on its own, I think there's this temptation to focus on institutions outside the church, like political engines and cultural movements, and then there's also this focus of like. We have institutions within the church that we get almost hyper focused on and, like I said, these aren't necessarily bad things, but when they become the focus of what we're doing, I think they become antithetical to what we're trying to accomplish.

Speaker 3:

My prayer would be is not just that we shift away for the sake of shifting away, but that we focus more on kind of relational ministry and impacting the people who are around you. I'm increasingly convinced that the way God calls His people to be together is embodied, and this isn't something that I'm dead set on yet, but I'm increasingly convinced that a virtual community is it's less than what we're called to in its fullness because it's by nature curated Now virtually. I think that's a great way to resource people. I think it's a great way to put out stuff like devotional content and things that help people in their own walk. But I'm pretty skeptical about the fullness of church being expressed virtually. For this reason of I think we need to move toward, or back toward, a relational approach to this kind of stuff.

Speaker 2:

That's so good. I agree we have and I think COVID did a number there too right, because virtual entered in and is virtual the entire thing. I like technology because I get to hang out with a guy like you across states, but where the rubber hits the road is the people that I'm doing life in ministry with that are seeking to be faithful to the call of Christ and to spread the gospel here in our local communities. I think the more we you know human beings are also, josh hardwired for this kind of bigger, this more I think Jesus when he sent the 12, right, and he sent then it was a multiplying movement. They had that call from Jerusalem, jai Esmeralda, to the ends of the earth, but that always pulled them back local or pulled them into the mission, which was always local, life on life, of planting churches, multiplying disciples. But they didn't have this.

Speaker 2:

Because I guess let me go down this direction for a second is, I think, when I hear people saying let's take a stand, like the church has to take a stand, like I'm going to stand on the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a lot of these and this is just a broader perception, a lot of those let's take a stand movements, especially as tethered to preachers and pulpits and churches, kind of moving in a political direction. I don't think there's any end to the legalism and I think we can have such this posture of making the world, you know, and those people in positions of power, bringing them to repentance. I think the church does have a prophetic role but I think we may be in balance maybe a good way to say it toward the cultural stands of the day. Any thoughts and comments there. It's easy to get sucked in that direction.

Speaker 3:

Josh, right, undoubtedly because everywhere you go something is pulling, so I am probably a bigger user than I should be of YouTube shorts, like I'll flick through those videos in my spare time and what I'm looking for in those videos is essentially comedy, like I want 60 second comedy clips.

Speaker 3:

I'm looking for funny stuff and inevitably different political clips get pulled into my feed. I am not looking. I promise you this. I'm not looking for them because I've been in that place where I watch a lot of that stuff and it puts me in a really bad space as far as am I still being faithful in what I think saying do so I try to avoid that kind of stuff and it just gets pulled in and no matter where you go it seems to get pulled in. So I don't really fault people for this temptation to get sucked into it.

Speaker 3:

But you go back to the disciples, these 12 men who following Jesus, obviously but we can't hold ourselves up to that standard because we're not God but these 12 men who changed the world right, who ultimately, like the Roman Empire one of the greatest you know, government political entities to ever beyond the face of the planet, was completely changed by Christianity. And it started with these 12 men and even though their ministry spanned much of the known world, it was still very personal ministry it was. We're going to go to this new place. We're going to build relationships with these people and we're going to multiply those relationships.

Speaker 3:

And I think what's crazy is because I'm a math guy, I'm a numbers guy. If you take, if every Christian so Christian, everyone who on a census says I'm Christian if they share their faith with one person, you have doubled the size of the church. Right, this is this is math. This is pretty simple math. If that group, then that that doubled size group, shared their faith, again, you've quadrupled the size. If that happens one more time, every single human being on the planet is now Christian.

Speaker 1:

Right.

Speaker 3:

Now, that's not to say if you share your, share your faith with someone, that's not to say that they're boom, they're going to come to faith, right. But if you oversimplify it, if every single Christian shared their faith with four people and we multiply that four times out, at very least everyone has been touched by this message. And when we say, oh, this relational approach, where you're just talking to the people at your friends and family and close to that's not enough, I disagree strongly because if everybody did it and I I have, with the exception of some, like clothing purchases, I've never made a serious life decision based on strangers on the internet. However, if my close friend comes to me and says, oh, you got to try this restaurant or you got to try this thing or you got to try this TV show, the chances of me trying it go up astronomically higher. So I'm all on board.

Speaker 3:

And I think something that the institutional church gets caught up on is the relational approach is not a fast one. Right, your church isn't necessarily going to explode from 50 to a thousand people overnight relationally, but what I am convinced is that the growth is going to be much more sustainable and much more meaningful. And not to brag too much on the church that I'm at now, but I'm really proud of them because we have this kind of relational approach and since I've been here, our average worship attendance has probably gone up. When I got here, maybe 50, we may be hitting 50 and now we're up near 67. And it's been just over two years and that's not exponential growth. But the people who have joined us are in church 75 to 100% of the time.

Speaker 2:

That's awesome dude.

Speaker 3:

So, and I believe that's because it's a relational approach, and this is something if you were at best practices last year there were a few people who went. I did a presentation on this, but I used to work for Vanderbilt Campus Dining, which is not a good job, right it's.

Speaker 3:

The hours were long and not great because you were working through dinner time and through evenings and the job conditions were okay. The pay was minimum wage, which in California, if you say that you're like minimum wage and so bad, well it's 10 a seat, so minimum wage is still 725. And our retention rate was terrible, like from the beginning of the first year I worked there to the end. 25% of the employees say that was it? Anybody else who got a better job? Who got any other job left? So I had a manager come up to me and said we got to fix this. Do you want to help? And I'm like I can try.

Speaker 3:

And the biggest change we made is we said we're going to try and schedule people with their friends and we're, as long as you're still like because you're you're spooning food on one plate for most of these roles like you can talk with someone next to you while you're doing that. It's not super complicated. And we said as long as they're still doing their job, put them on. We talked to our student managers. We said put them on lines with their friends. And then the student managers what we said is for every student employee on your shift, have during the shift. You need to have at least one conversation with them that is unrelated to Rand campus dining. You can talk about classes, you can talk about hobbies, you can talk about the family, whatever something that is not related to work. Build that relationship and our retention went up I think something like 50%.

Speaker 1:

I believe it.

Speaker 3:

And my, as I apply that to ministry. I'm like if just having friends and having relationships can make people stay around Vanderbilt campus dining. Yeah church is a whole lot more pleasant than Vanderbilt campus dining. So surely by adding, by focusing on these relationships, we can benefit how, how involved people are with this community. That is then discipling them and pushing them forward.

Speaker 2:

I mean not to get too simplistic. I love the story, josh, great analogy that's what Jesus did and did live deeply with 12. And then it expanded out. There's something about the inner circle, like if everybody had this inner circle of people that they were in a discipleship relationship with, that Jesus had Peter, james, john, right, that kind of inner circle. And then it expands out to 12. Like this is kind of a core group of people.

Speaker 2:

We lock arms, diverse gifts, you know, within that set of set of 12 personalities, et cetera. And then there's a wider kind of thing which human beings really can't be tethered to much more and know deeply the story of much more than 100 people. Right, that's, that's the size. But if that kind of church is pivoted, arms in rather than arms locked in, closed, you know, but arms locked in love and care and relationship, with a rhythm of eating and sharing life together, sharing the ups and downs, but then are consistently holding one another lovingly accountable toward hey, let's have Jesus conversations where we work and play, and obviously in our, in our homes, like how much more fun is that than, hey, you just come here, you listen to me, and then you get, you just get dispensed right back.

Speaker 3:

You check the box, check your boxes and go home.

Speaker 2:

That's not. We have long since passed a time where that is acceptable, and I think then that's where it gets into the theological conversation of the priest of all believers and the role of of the pastor. As you conceptualize the role of the leader, you know how does that shape then your work as a local pastor, josh.

Speaker 3:

So I'm going to, I'm going to geek out for a second here. There's, there's a book that has been incredibly formative to how I look at ministry. It's called the other half of church. It's by Jim Hendricks, and I've got a forget the two sides of the brain book dude.

Speaker 2:

I've referenced it.

Speaker 3:

I've referenced it yeah, I can't.

Speaker 2:

It's so good.

Speaker 3:

It lives rent free in my head. And what this guy talks about and what I pull out most from it is, he says, our character. So when we're talking about discipleship, I mean you can parse definitions, but really we're talking about character. We're talking about, consistently, how you think, how you act, how you, how you look at the world. And he says it is, it is most profoundly shaped, not by what we know, yes, but by who we identify with as our people. And I mean this.

Speaker 3:

This is something that very easily, if you're listening to this, you can experientially kind of know this to be true, because how often does life give you a chance to stop and think what should I do in this situation? Right, our life moves too quick for us to be able to do that, and the reality is we just don't have time. And if you look back on things you've done wrong in your life, you knew what the right answer was more times than not. But we don't react like we should.

Speaker 3:

And what this book, which is written by a theologian and neuroscientist working together, he's like we have to form that group identity, because that's what shapes these more reactive emotional responses that really, whether we'd like to admit it or not, define most of what we do and what we say. It's kind of the knee jerk response and this, this is exactly what. This is how Jesus did ministry. This if you look in the Old Testament, this is how God was commanding the Israelites to do ministry. Like we talked about all these feasts and festivals in the Old Testament, let's translate that we're having meals and parties.

Speaker 3:

God is commanding them around the clock, around the year have food and parties and while you're there, think about what I've done for you, like that is what God is commanding the Israelites to do. So this has been very consistent. And then neuroscience is catching up and realizing this is how we form each other. So, in my role of discipleship, am I going to still try and give the best sermons I can? Certainly I love preaching. I love putting everything I can into into curating messages. But I realized that the majority of discipleship isn't happening there. It's happening from the conversations that are happening before and after worship. It's happening in the small groups in people's homes, where they're talking for 30, 40 minutes before they even start doing a study thing. And that's even I've written it like when I recruit group leaders. I'm like if, if you're talking about life and you're catching up for an hour before you do a study, that's great, right, I'm thrilled with that kind of stuff happening, because that's where formation is happening.

Speaker 1:

Yes.

Speaker 3:

And the core of it is you're. You're being with these Christians and you're being formed by. This is how we behave as people who are conforming to Christ. Amen.

Speaker 2:

So good. But a relational depth is the gift of the local church, the big seed church. When the world feels disjointed, we're unraveling, people are angry, anxious, fears on overdrive. The role of the church. Right, it starts with our relationship with God in Christ Jesus and then our a depth of relationship with one another. I don't think we pause long enough to have vulnerable conversations, josh, that's kind of where you're going to say. I've kind of been thinking about this both theologically and philosophically.

Speaker 2:

All of life is confession and absolution. I confess that I need the mercy and grace of God. I confess, josh, that I need you and others like you in my life. I confess I can't, I can't go alone. And then I confess that I struggle with certain things and I need your love and care and support and prayer, and you probably need the exact same thing for me. There's mutuality there. Any thoughts about the confessing role of the depth of relationship and how we ought to be ambassadors of reconciliation, both between one another and in bringing absolution that flows from the cross of Christ? Any thoughts there?

Speaker 3:

Yeah. Well, this is and I would say I hate to do this, but that's not true. I'm okay with doing this. I want to go back to that book because what he does is he talks about this group identity and the fact that shame is a really powerful part of that, and we're kind of we're nervous around the word shame. We're like oh, no, no, no, no. He says like if you look at a neurological perspective, nothing changes the brain quite as fast as shame does, except for, maybe, traumatic events, which we're not. We're not in the business of fostering traumatic events. But shame is a powerful but, and here's where the kind of the theologian comes in. Christian shame is different.

Speaker 2:

Yes.

Speaker 3:

Because if you come in, say, say you come in and I'm sitting, we have this group and and someone comes into the group and they say, hey, I robbed a bank today and they're excited about this. Everybody else in the group looks at them like, um, that's not acceptable behavior. Christians shouldn't rob banks. Like, don't do that. And there's shame. And even if it's not verbal, like you look around the group and you see facial expressions that communicate nothing but you shouldn't have done that there's shame and your brain starts to change. But what's really important about Christian community because there's this, this there's two ways that shame can go right. The one way is this group that is shaming me. They're in the wrong and I'm going to depart from them. And then the other way is I'm going to change as a result of this, to conform more to this group identity.

Speaker 3:

And what's unique about Christian community is that Christians, I'll step into that relationship and I'll say you shouldn't have done that. You should not have robbed that bank. Robbing banks is not what Christians do. I still love you and the forgiveness of Jesus Christ is there for you and the forgiveness of me. Like you are still part of this community. Right, we forgive you as well, for whatever extent we Are, have been impacted by this behavior you shouldn't have done, but you are loved and forgiven and you are still a welcome part of this community and and what that does is that puts you in a place of learning where you say, okay, we're not going to do this, we shouldn't do this, but this community still loves me and still cares about me, and that's what the church is called to do, and I this is something Joel Bierman at the seminary loves the word tension.

Speaker 3:

He loves the word tension and Um, and I love it because this is another place where we're called to walk that line of yeah, we're going to hold people's feet to the fire. I'm never going to lie to you and tell you that behavior, that wrong behavior, is okay, but I'm also never going to tell you that that is going to ruin our relationship. That is, that that is going to distance you from christ, um, and it shouldn't distance you from your brothers and sisters in christ. I realize that the church isn't perfect either, and sometimes we we put more distance than we should, based on based on sin, but, um, that's, that's a hundred percent. Our role is correction with love and forgiveness, and, and always having both of those voices present in our conversations with each other sinner and saint josh at the very, at the very same time.

Speaker 2:

Uh, that is the tension filled role, recognizing it Within ourselves. That is self-awareness. Uh, I recognize I have gifts. I also have a lot of gaps and I need community, I need christ and then any community to help me see those To grow up into jesus, who is, is the head. So this is a lot of fun, man, I year You've been a pastor. For how long now, josh?

Speaker 3:

Uh, just over two years, two years and 14 days.

Speaker 2:

That's. That's so good. Thank you for answering the call to serve the body of christ. So what are some negative presuppositions that you've heard some within the church talk about young pastors that you'd like to speak to. I remember so I'm 41, now just about 42. I don't get this as much as I used to, you know.

Speaker 1:

Who's a?

Speaker 2:

pastor around here Like a? Who's a young guy up there kind of talking with passion about jesus. What are some presuppositions about young pastors that you just like to speak to the wider church about, bro?

Speaker 3:

um. So I do want to say, from a congregational perspective, um, I don't get too much actually I and I found that was true here and that was true on my vicarage it was there was still, I guess, um the respect of like, oh, you're, you're doing your thing. Um, when I was in st Louis, there was a little bit more of oh, you don't know how things work, like you're gonna, you're gonna get it. I just kind of nodded my head and I was like, okay, whatever, um, but I think and this is something that drives me insane, and part of this is is probably my arrogance. Okay, so hear that. Um, I'm Maybe more confident than I should be in my own intelligence.

Speaker 2:

Um, but it's good. Self-awareness, yeah, good, good, yeah, keep going.

Speaker 3:

There is this assumption and I think I I see it more from older pastors than I do from congregation members, but that there is a lack of wisdom or knowledge and they assume that the wisdom or knowledge isn't there, and then there's an assumption that we are gonna make the same mistakes that you did. Speaking to an older generation, um, I, I remember very specifically I was at a circuit meeting not not in the circuit I am now, but I was. I was present at a circuit meeting and this dude started lecturing us about putting money away for retirement and I was like, um, I didn't say anything because I'm respectful generally, um, but I thought to myself I'm like, oh no, we know how bad a financial situation that the world has been left in. We know that we have to put like. We have no confidence that social security is going to be there for us when we are a retirement age. Um, and that's not to say that I don't appreciate wisdom coming from people who are more experienced than me. But the matter of approaching it as assuming I'm gonna need it, versus saying, hey, do you have an awareness of this kind of thing? Like it's as easy as changing the approach, but oh man, it grinds my gears any general assumption of a lack of ability or competence because I'm younger or for younger pastor like I, how do I, how do I say this generally enough that people don't know exactly what I'm talking about?

Speaker 3:

Um, I have a friend who, in a when a public venue approached and he had some questions and some very valid questions about to say to the church, and an older gentleman shot him down and essentially said like you have no idea what you're talking about, sit down and shut up. And I was like and I know this guy, this the guy who was asking questions, I'm like he is, he is bright, he is wise, he is perceptive. That was a good question, speaking to a reality that the church is facing, whether you want to acknowledge it or not. But because he was younger and I'll admit the guy does kind of have a little bit of a baby face right, but because he was younger, he just his it was completely disregarded and that's unacceptable to me. Um, and I think part of that stems from there is this assumption that Younger pastors should look just like older pastors did, because there's an assumption that things are going to go back to the way they were. I don't think that's possible. Um, I mean, I would rejoice if it did, because I think there there were definitely some advantages to the way things were 50, 75, 100 years ago.

Speaker 3:

But there there are too many Pandora's boxes that have been opened and a lot of the questions that have been asked, a lot of the ideas and the concepts that have been put out into the world. You can't put back they're. They're out there now. So we have to deal with them, we have to adapt and and reach people where they're at with the gospel.

Speaker 3:

And I think this is this is the issue that I've seen is there's a generational gap Between people mourning the loss of Christianity as the dominant force in the culture and guys who have never experienced that. And I think when we talk about negative presuppositions about young pastors, there's this assumption that if you just keep doing things the way we've done things, things are going to go back and it's like, no, we have to pivot, not radically, but we have to pivot because I've never experienced a world where Christianity was the dominant force in the culture. It's never been. I was discipled by my family and my church. I was not discipled by the culture which I think used to be. Something maybe you could rely on is that some Christian values would get there just by being in this cloud of witnesses. That maybe a society used to be, but we're not, and I don't think we're going to see that again anytime soon.

Speaker 2:

I agree, that's awesome. I think the core of following Jesus, connected to his word, must govern our time together as the people of God, around the simplicity of discipleship. So the reason I bring up discipleship is I think there's a generation or so when the church was in the majority and the culture was basically Judeo-Christian, a lot of values that we could kind of just set it and forget it. We lacked intention, I would say for a generation or so, of actively going beyond maybe my family to be in these mutually beneficial discipleship relationships. We could coast as the very general statements here, but we could kind of coast as the church in the majority, where there was a church on just about every square block or five square blocks you could find it and that generally worked until it didn't. And so we didn't for a generation or so establish or we lost maybe some of the core concepts of discipleship.

Speaker 2:

As I follow Jesus, so you follow me, and that is a generational thing I mean as a young person here's where humility comes in is I need someone parents, spiritual fathers and mothers to mold my character in those younger, formative years. I need people to speak truth and love to me, who I know, care for me or integrating me into the family. But I think when the lady kind of lost that kind of sense of urgency, because in the early church we're all in this. I interviewed Jeff Chloa and looking at the 50, 60, 70 people who made up the church in Corinth, in the midst of the chaos of that culture, like they are all locked in together, character content, like the heart and mind of Christ. As we go our hands and feet are carried into the culture, like it was just embedded there. But I think now we have to kind of reverse engineer discipleship. Look at how Jesus did it. So how do you talk about discipleship of all of the baptized at Edgewater? Josh, so good.

Speaker 3:

So my and there's room to grow here. I want to admit that because I know there's room to grow. But my big push and I love it because I'm starting to hear it back to me and like is spend time together. Like that's really all I'm asking for. Spend time hanging out with other Christians. And I actually just a couple of weeks ago one of the guys in my congregation he texted me a picture of he and his wife and another couple from the church there at a concert and he was like Christians hanging out together and I'm like that's all. And it wasn't Christian. I think it was like a journey cover band or something, but it was Christians hanging out together. And that's when I talk about discipleship. That's what I talk about Now. To roll into that, because the content the community surrounds itself around matters.

Speaker 3:

I love to put my people into Bible studies but and I thought this was normal because this is how my dad did Bible studies, for my dad was the DCE for decades. This is how my dad did Bible studies. So I was like, oh, this is just how people do Bible studies. It's not discussion focused Bible studies. When I lead a Bible study, I introduce the topic maybe and ask questions for people to discuss Like that's, that's it. Because what that lets you do is that lets you break down the Scripture that you're reading into your life and to talk about. What does this mean for me? What does this mean for my relationships, for my family, for my different vocations? And what that discussion does is it way slows down how quickly you can move through stuff. You cannot pound through a ton of material if you're stopping to talk about how it applies to everybody. But that's kind of. So my core of like, if you're going to say what is my starting point for discipleship, is just get together with other Christians, it's good enough. If you want to look to kind of continue to grow, let's take some time and set it apart and say we're going to dive into the word in kind of this discussion focus, and that's kind of. If you're going to say, well, how are we going to jump that up, I would say, well, let's start to implement it.

Speaker 3:

If you're in this group that you're doing this Bible study together with, take a week every once in a while and go do a service project somewhere. And that's as specific as I'll get, because, right, it depends on who's in the group and what their capabilities are and what their talents are, what that's service might look like. But serve, go out and serve the community, serve your brothers and sisters in the church, but never forget that fellowship either. So this is something I remind my group leaders of frequently. If you're in the Word and you're getting in the Word, that's great. But take a week every once in a while where you're just getting together to spend time together, because that's still discipleship. It just it maybe doesn't look like what we picture when we think of what is discipleship with them. So that's what I push at Edgewater, for better or for worse.

Speaker 1:

Seems to work.

Speaker 3:

I mean, I've been here two years. I can't tell you anything more than that. But no one's calling me a heretic yet.

Speaker 2:

That's it, dude. It is as simple as that. And learning to ask good questions. The church again going back a generation, I think. As you looked at pastors, we were sages on stages, both in corporate worship and then in Bible study. I was looking and I think I was almost taught to run Bible studies like that.

Speaker 3:

That's 60, 70, 18 years, like a lecture Like a lecture.

Speaker 2:

I found some notes from an Exodus study I did at my fieldwork church at one hour. I was at seminary for a second year and I had so many I mean there were all questions but then I had to write down because I'm just learning how to do this. I had to write down the paragraph or two paragraph kind of answer. I'd written really small font. It's really funny to look back at really small type. So I made sure I got it. I got it exactly right and I think on the developmental journey there is that focus on content like the good theology matters. So, as we're learning to do something, if you're asking questions for the group I hope there's a good theological answer to those questions. But then the way we enter into the group is we're going to let the Holy Spirit move, connected to the Word, amongst all of the baptized here and we're going to learn together. That's a different posture a guide by the side rather than a sage, and a sage Josh isn't that right.

Speaker 3:

Yeah Well, and what I would say is I think it's worth distinguishing different kinds of content, and what I mean by that is.

Speaker 3:

There are some concepts that are just you. Really you've got to nail them right on the head and for those, if someone like say, someone has some questions about a concept like the interim state, something that is kind of really technical and it's kind of hard to get there on your own without relying on the wisdom of people who have gone before us, I'm happy to do a lecture style lesson for something like. Or I had a guy recently in one of the small groups that I'm a participant in and he was like, can we do Revelation next? And I told him I don't like doing discussion on Revelation. I think Revelation is one of those books. At least the first time you touch it, you kind of just need the lecture because yeah, no, I agree.

Speaker 3:

There's weird stuff in there that you right. Unless you're an expert in the Old Testament, you're not going to catch it. But then for and I would say this probably goes for 95% of the material that we have. I just pulled up one of my Bible studies here. Here are the questions that get asked and I don't answer that.

Speaker 3:

Well depending on what my role in is the group, I don't answer them. So this is the genealogy of Jesus. This is from that first part of Matthew, 1-17. And here are the questions. There are some getting to the point, questions that kind of get you thinking in the right kind of area. But then here are the questions that regard the content. How many names do you recognize from the list? And of the names you recognize, do you remember any of their stories? Because some of those names are really recognizable and what that does is that draws your attention to different parts of that genealogy. And those are pretty easy content questions.

Speaker 3:

And then it moves to a question how many women does Matthew include on the list? Summarize the stories of those women, if you need to refresh yourself Genesis 38, joshua 2, and Ruth. So there's some scaffolding there. If you aren't super familiar with the Old Testament, that gives you the touch points for these women. And then the question is what stands out to you? And that becomes a very subjective question of like what parts of these stories are most noteworthy for you? And that's going to really depend on what's your life experience, what kinds of things stand out to you.

Speaker 3:

And then the final question for the content is what do these stories tell us about God? And there's not really a right theological answer for that. There are probably some wrong ones. There are almost definitely some wrong ones, but that's really well. What do you see in this and what does it tell you that God saw fit to include these people? And I actually I just kind of published part of this because I had a small group who wanted it in a book format and I'm like I'm not going to pay to print it in a book, so I'm going to self publish on Amazon and then you can just buy the book. I think for the author's print I can get it for 230, which is a lot cheaper than Stables is going to buy it, and that's all it is.

Speaker 3:

It's a series of these kinds of questions. Where it's there, you have to try almost pretty hard to get them wrong, but it gets you into thinking about well, what is this teach about God? What is this teach us about? What do you expect from his people? And it's something you don't need someone lecturing at you, you don't need someone answering these questions, you just you got to take a second and think about them and then the scripture is going to be your guide, and then the these studies conclude with like application, specific questions. And it's this kind of thing where, if I can just have you find the answers on your own, that's what. As a leader, that's an important skill that I think I can. I can give to you much more than any bit of knowledge I'm going to pass on.

Speaker 3:

It's that whole. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for the rest of his life. If you give him a fish, he's hungry at lunchtime, I don't know.

Speaker 2:

Exactly, exactly. So I mean you lean into releasing leaders this is a podcast, united Leadership Collective and are you intentional about bringing other men and and maybe future pastors, leaders, women, for various roles too, like are you? Are you actively identifying folks that you're starting to theologically meet with consistently and go another level of depth and then give them the opportunity to practice leading one of those sorts of small group interactions, bible studies, whatever you want to call it? Are you doing that right now, josh?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, so we have five regular small groups at Edgewater. I lead one of them and I participate in another one, and this is this is something I think I I build up leaders to some extent, but I think what is more important is identifying people, especially because these people in the congregation who have all this life experience, many of them are leaders in some way or another already. You just have to find a way that they can comfortably transfer that. So with these small groups, I kind of I divide the leadership role up and I say I need, if I'm starting a new small group, I need someone with the logistical leadership to say we are going to meet at this time in this place and connect with everybody. So everybody knows, okay, we're meeting at this person's house at this time. Here's the address. So I need that kind of leader. And then I need a leader who is going to be willing to read the sheet out loud, who's going to be able to, if necessary, maybe guide the conversation. And this is something I taught and this is this is something I'll intentionally kind of guide leaders on if they need. It is the reconciliation part, because sometimes, sometimes conversations can get contentious. So I want to make sure someone in the room has the capability to either bring about reconciliation or diffuse the conversation until they can say hey guys, you need to talk to Pastor Josh and work through this. Ideally the reconciliation happens there. But sometimes I understand we're going to pass this off and I can deal with it. And then the last leader that I think needs to be in the room is someone who is who's going to keep the conversations grounded in good theology. So this can be an elder. If your church does elders in an appropriate way and your elders are well grounded in their faith, have an elder in the room. I have a women's group and we don't have women elders. So you say, well, is the elder there? No, I just make sure that there are women there who are well grounded in their scripture and well grounded in their theology. So that's kind of those are the three different kinds of leaders that for me so far it has been more identifying than anything else. But you kind of mentioned this also listing guys up to be pastors.

Speaker 3:

We have one guy who just finished his first year at the seminary and I don't I'm not going to take credit for getting him there right, because I showed up and within a year he was headed to the seminary. All I'm going to take credit for is kicking him out the door Because he was kind of going back and forth between a couple of different options and I said, dude, make a decision. And what I told him is, if you make a decision and the Holy Spirit and that's the wrong call the Holy Spirit is not going to leave you alone. Right, that's going to sit in your gut the wrong way. So he ended up he's at the seminary.

Speaker 3:

And then I have two more gentlemen. One is pre-Sem right now and he's headed that direction. And the other guy he's still in high school and he's going back and forth between he knows professional ministry, he knows he wants to do professional ministry. He doesn't know if that's going to look like a pastor or not. My, because I'm just two years out, right, I don't know that I have any sage wisdom for him.

Speaker 3:

So what I do is I just try to hang out with these guys and if they have questions I do my best to answer them or put them in touch with someone who can help them with that.

Speaker 3:

And this is something that my mentor on Vick Ridge imparted to me, steve Coreto, is just this mentorship of we spend time together and as far as like the pastoral thing with the guidance at seminary.

Speaker 3:

Now, before he was making this decision, I said, just because I worked from home, I said, just come over to my house a couple days and see what I do and see what it looks like to do this kind of stuff. And we go to the best practices conference the past couple of years. That's a nine hour drive to Phoenix, so I've invited these guys. I'm like you're going to ride in the car with me because we can talk for nine hours and you can't escape me. So that's kind of my for young leaders is because I don't feel like I have, like I'm not going to stand up on a pulpit and lecture. Well, I will obviously on Sundays, but but I'm happy to just hang out with you and to live life with you. And for a while those guys were working out with me in the mornings. But when you have school and everything else to deal with, 5 30 in the morning can become tough.

Speaker 3:

So, just living life together.

Speaker 2:

I want to see this is you're doing so many, although the Holy Spirit has given you wisdom and you're you're leading in such, a, such a faithful and intentional way. I really, really commend you. You know, when I started here gosh, 10 years ago now, and it was within six months or so of that start that we did a weekly gathering. It shifted eventually to Sunday mornings at 6 am. I know that sounds kind of nutty, but it's. There's no excuse. Shows a little bit of discipline.

Speaker 2:

It's the Lord's Day, let's gather together and we're going to read. We're going to read some sort of a leadership theological book and then we're going to walk through various books of the Bible, about 30 and 30, from six to seven. Church starts at 7 30. And it is the best way to start. And there's it's fluctuated. Guys have come, guys have gone different seasons of life and moved into even more bivocational, formal, full time Ministry, many of them. But there's a core of five to seven guys that that gather together, that ladies can come to, they come and go as well, and it's just so, so fantastic.

Speaker 2:

So if 6 am Listeners, not your thing on a Sunday, just find a time to consistently get together and those people. In my experience both congregations I've served less 15 years though there are people in your, in your midst, who would love to get closer, to learn to do what you do Maybe not full time, maybe it's not seminary, but they want to lift up your hands. I think it's restoring the old school understanding of of elder or a group, a group of of elders within our churches. You also there was a lot of wisdom around the way you are discipling and looking to form and and launch a small group ministry. You basically, without you, just did the GSE model dude the gather, shepherd, elder type type model.

Speaker 3:

I was like, oh, I kind of do that, I want to because I'm, first of all, I'm really I appreciate your kind words, I'm trying to get better at accepting compliments but I still am uncomfortable with it.

Speaker 3:

And I want to give credit, like I have to thank my parents because this is how they did ministry. They're there and even now, like they have college age kid, they have young adults from their church in Georgia over their house every Sunday night and they hang out and they get, they get in the word, and my parents are still doing this and I grew up with that. So for me it's not, it's just like oh, this is, this is how minister. And I have to thank my Vic Ridge mentor, steve and and Andrew and I was the other who was the other pastor down there for all of the gifts that they gave me as far as different approaches to ministry and the wisdom of mentorship, because I've been really blessed by having those voices in my life showing me here's a way we can do ministry that that reaches people where they're at, with the gospel.

Speaker 3:

So I want to I want to give a shout out to all those people.

Speaker 2:

Well, yeah, you won the global lottery. You won the Jesus lottery there, Josh.

Speaker 2:

And that and that sort of a family and that environment and the best learning is is caught, it's not taught, it's just in the, it's in the water, it's the air that we breathe and it's the Jesus discipleship airs, the air of the Holy Spirit that's been around you your whole life and I pray for many, many years of faithful service, multiplying, multiplying disciples of Jesus, the slow grow of of relationship You're. I think there's going to be a lot of churches like Edgewater there are right now and I pray they're pastored by leaders like you and you should just say thank you to that. I pray there's a lot of influence. So how? Last question, how do you walk through? Because there's in the church, there's inevitably going to be conflict. You know what is your process for keeping a healthy, jesus focused, mutually beneficial culture at Edgewater. How do you even talk about culture and how that is impacted? Maybe by, maybe by conflict.

Speaker 3:

So, as far as as culture there's, there's kind of the old adage don't talk about it, be about it, because and this, that book that I talked about earlier, has formed this, and just my observations in the world have formed this you can talk until you're blue in the face and people might not agree with you, but that's not going to, that's not going to change a culture. Exemplify that culture, model, that culture. My wife and I, we, as far as the relational culture, we try to have people over as frequently as we can, kind of logistically speaking. We try at least once a year to invite people from the congregation over to our house and waves, because we do live in an apartment and everyone can't come at once, we wouldn't off it. We have a volunteer thank you dinner once a year where we just say, hey, come over, we're going to grill out, we're going to thank you guys for everything you do for ministry. I'm not going to get on a pulpit and say you know, here's what our culture needs to be. I'm just going to do my best to exemplify it and then to encourage other people when I see it happening. I have one member he's really awesome he loves inviting people over to his house just to hang out, and I do my best to give him props for that whenever I can, because that's kind of culture we're about. So the more you model it, I think, the better I do. I mean, I do talk about it. I frequently will say hang out with other Christians, get together, be together. But I think, more than anything else, you model what you want to see.

Speaker 3:

And in the face of conflict, this is a weird question for me. This is something over Vickridge. I did a personality inventory with the staff at the church we were at and I don't even remember which one it was, but what it pointed out is that I will have a tendency to recognize undercurrents of conflict and to do things to mitigate that conflict before maybe even the people who are involved even realize that it's there. So I and it's hard to pin down because I just do things, but I think to some extent there's some of that where kind of I try to get out ahead of it and if I see people who are struggling or who are about to be in conflict, to try and deal with it before it becomes what most of us would recognize as conflict, I think once it becomes inevitable.

Speaker 3:

I think Matthew 18 has to be our guideline, like if someone comes to me and they say, oh, I have an issue with this person, I'm going to say, then go talk to them about it. And if you've already talked to them about it, then all of us need to meet and I'm happy to be that kind of that witness, that third party, that kind of says, well, here is where scripture would lie on this issue. But I really haven't had to deal with that yet and I think if you really push the relationship aspect of church, I'm not going to.

Speaker 3:

You're still going to have conflict, right. You still have conflict with your friends and family. But if the relationship has been that focus, I think reconciliation it becomes a lot easier, because it's not just oh, that's another person of this organization that I'm a part of. It's that is my friend who has done something that I didn't like, but they are still my friend and I want to make sure I retain that friendship right. So I don't know if that answers your question, but you're answering it, I think it does, it does.

Speaker 2:

You said you worship 60, 70 people and for this season and who knows how long this season is it's definitely manageable for you to recognize the undercurrents right as the Lord gives you growth, because I believe the Lord wants to grow his church more people. You're going to need the three and the 12, who also are relationally excellent at recognizing those undercurrents for you as you get two or three relationships removed from the depth that you've had. That's my biggest struggle now, josh. In a congregation that's larger and all that, it's normally I'm two or three steps away. So how do we train quality in addressing, in a Matthew 18 type of way, leaders and coaches in our church?

Speaker 2:

That gets a little bit more complex because a lot of times people want to put me in a triangle and it needs to go back two or three relationships away. So how do I lovingly, kindly, say no, here's the boundary. And then here's the next step for you in resolving that conflict. And it often is with leaders that I have been able to do life with and differentiate intent and impact and all the different things that we need to learn, the tools that we need to learn, because conflict is normal. You have a behavioral. I can already. I already know this about you. You're okay entering into difficult conversations. The vast majority of people are not, and so how do we even teach a lot of those general skills so that more of our leaders in our churches become all the more adept at moving people back toward one another, Having the vulnerable confession and absolution type of a conversation and then drawing people back to one another? Because the worst thing that can happen in churches split man.

Speaker 3:

The undercurrent they disengage.

Speaker 2:

Right, the undercurrent comes and people disengage, friendships are broken and, ultimately, people, many of them may lose their walk with the Lord because they look at how poorly the church models confession and absolution. So good stuff, dude. This has been so much fun. You're so bright and the Lord has wonderful work in store for you. And I'm not just throwing stuff out just to flatter you, bro. The Lord has given you great gifts, so parable to talents, Josh, To whom much has been given. Much is required, right. What are you going to do? Are we going to bury it? Are we going to multiply? Are we going to invest it? And my charge for you is I pray you invest it for decades, God willing, decades of fruitful, faithful pastoral service. Any final comments, bud?

Speaker 3:

One final comment on your last thing. If you're listening to this and you're wanting to get some help in dealing with conflict, dealing with reconciliation, I would recommend Ambassadors of Reconciliation to any of your listeners. Their programs aren't necessarily cheap, but they are worthwhile, so there's some training available if you so desire.

Speaker 2:

That's so good. How can people connect with you, Josh, if they want to?

Speaker 3:

So if you want to reach out to me, pastor Josh at Edgewaterlutheranorg has the email. You can also text 4789196187. If you call that number. Me picking up for unknown numbers is about a 50-50 shot, but if you text that number I'll definitely see it and we can connect that way as well. I love it.

Speaker 2:

This is fantastic. This is the American Reformation Podcast Sharon is carrying. Please, like, subscribe, comment, wherever it is that you take this in. We are honored to continue to have conversations both within the Lutheran Church of Missouri, and I get to talk with a lot of people who are outside of our church body but are connected to the one Holy Christian and Apostolic Big Seed Church as well. We'll see you next week on the American Reformation Podcast. Thanks so much, josh. You're the bomb, thank you, thank you.

Shifting Focus for a Renewed Church
Relational Approaches in Church Ministry
Challenges and Tensions for Young Pastors
Church Discipleship Importance
Discipleship and Leadership Development
Maintaining a Healthy Church Culture
American Reformation Podcast