Encouragement for Small Church Pastors Who Feel Like They Have Failed | Dale Sellers

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Dale Sellers discusses 95Network and how they serve churches, as well as his new book, Stalled.

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the Church Growth podcast. My name is Jason Hamrock, I am your host today, and I have Dale Sellers on the podcast. Dale is the Executive Director of the 95Network. Now, this is a really cool organization. The 95Network serves churches that are in 500 attendance and below. Which means, they actually serve 95 percent of the churches in America, because 95 percent of churches in America have an attendance of 500 or less. This is a great organization, and I’m excited for you to hear from Dale.

But if you’re a church that’s over 500, you’re going to gain some wisdom as well, especially if you’ve been in this season, and have just kind of felt stuck or stalled. Dale wrote a book recently called Stalled, and he speaks about that in our podcast today.

Well, hey, Dale, glad to have you on the podcast. How are you doing today?

Man, I’m having the time of my life.

Awesome.

Beginning a new year off, and we’re just hitting the ground running.

Yeah, good to connect. Thanks for being here.

Yeah, man.

So, share a little bit about your ministry experience, and how you ended up serving with 95Network.

Boy, that’s a loaded question. So I’m 58 at the time we record this, I’ve been in ministry for almost 40 years. And my wife and I met at basically a Christian college, we traveled with their Christian music group. We went out of the admissions department, we would go into churches and, you know, then we would do concerts, but then we would tell about the college. And so we did that, this is back in the 80s, before you were born. This is back in a time when Christian music, I mean, it was just groups everywhere, it was it was a huge thing. And we did that for about three years, and then we started our own ministry, our own music group. And so the first 10 years we were married, we did about 1100 concerts in churches, in over 30 states. And I just loved that, I really thought that’s what we do the rest of our life, because I love the church. I was saved when I was seven years old, it was just an incredible experience. It was just, I could spend the whole podcast talking about it, but I won’t, but I’ve always loved the church.

And so as we did this, this group traveled in our 20s and in our 30s, we would come in contact with all these pastors, and they were always discouraged. And I’m like, I don’t understand, because I’m a 20 year old kid, and I’m high energy, and, you know, the glass is always totally full to me. But anyway, I’m like, what’s what’s happening here with these pastors? Why are they so discouraged? Where’s their fire? Where’s their passion? You know, all that kind of stuff. But when you’re in a music group, you blow in, blow up, and blow out. I mean, you’re not there.

So when I came off the road and started working in local church, it took me about two weeks to figure out what had happened to all these pastors. They were pastoring people, and people will just wear you out. And so even then, I began to get a deep seated love for the church and for the pastors. A few years later, I pastored a small church that grew from 30, to 300, back to 150 because we had a terrible split. But simultaneously, I also was working at a very large Christian radio station, doing events and things like that. And again, I began to work with all these churches, so it’s just been a part of my life.

In the year 2000, I had the opportunity to go to work for John Maxwell, which was my dream job. You know, I mean, I just had him up on this pedestal. But it wasn’t God’s timing, so I did not take that job. And so I thought what I’m doing today, that this ship had kind of sailed, and that I would spend the rest of my life kind of serving either as a, I’ve been an executive pastor. And actually have served in every capacity on a church staff, except for minister of music, which is odd because I had a music group. But anyway, I just thought that ship has sailed.

And then a few years ago, in February of 2014, one morning in the shower, the Lord just spoke to me and said, it’s time to launch your leadership ministry. I’m like, you’re kidding me, I’m out of this, it’s been 14 years. I’m out of the loop, I don’t know what’s going on. And he goes, yeah, I got you right where I want you. And so I just went out and started a ministry called Dale Sellar’s Leadership, how about that one, huh? And then things have just evolved from there, I was trained in a process called Strat-Op, to help churches do strategic and operational planning. And then I worked for a couple of years with the Unstuck Group doing, specifically focusing on small churches through Unstuck with Tony Morgan.

And then I met a guy named Jim Powell who used to Pastor Richwoods Christian Church in Peoria, Illinois, and he had founded a new non-profit called the 95Network. The name comes from the fact that of the 300,000 churches in America, 95 percent have less than 500 people attending, 87 percent have less than 200 people attending, and about 70 percent of all the churches in America have less than 100 people attending. And so what I knew to be true, was all the great resources that exist, the great, you know, the consultants, the programs, it’s always out of reach for the small church guy.

Yeah.

You know, when I pastored a small church, I couldn’t hire a consultant and bring them in, we were trying to pay the bills, you know? And so I’m like, I thank God for 95Network, because it’s a nonprofit, and it provides all these resources to help churches. And so Jim asked me to join the board, and then a couple of years later, he felt like God had called him to step down, and he turned it over to me and some other pastors. And then in July, it’ll be three years this coming July, two and half years ago, I became Executive Director. And we literally worked with thousands of churches now, all across America, and the cool thing is we’re working on just about every denomination you can think of because we love the local church. You know, and as I was saying to you before we came on, this is it, man, this is it, there’s no Plan B. The church is it? You know, this is what Jesus left us.And so our job, our vision at 95Network, is that we want to connect small and midsize churches with big resources. And you’ll love our vision, and our vision is to bring healthy change to every church in America.

Hmm. That’s a big one, that’s a huge vision.

And we’ll do it through partnerships with people just like you, you know, when we’re all working together to help the church. So that’s the five minute overview.

Yeah. Yeah. So you mentioned a little bit about what 95Network does, and I love the vision, I love that idea of we want to help impact every single church. So give us a little bit of breakdown as to how you actually help the 95, you know, the 95 percent of churches that are under 500.

We call them the five C’s, that’s we have. The first one is content, so we have a membership where you can join 95Network, it costs ninety five dollars a year. So that’s not too bad, that’s not too expensive.

Pretty affordable.

And so, inside our membership we create a content portal, and we have provided just incredible amounts of practical things that pastors can use to help grow their church. Most pastors were trained on how to preach, they were trained on how to do weddings and funerals, but they weren’t trained how to lead.

Right.

And so basically, you know, I heard John Maxwell say this 20 years ago, you know, the thing that we need to do the most, nobody told us how to do it. And so we provide content.

The second thing we do is we do conferences, even in the COVID era, we’ve switched a lot of those conferences to being online, but we typically do 15 to 20 conferences a year. Where we’re out, and our vision for the conferences is this… You know, if you’ve been out to a large church conference and you’re a small church pastor, you walk there and when you leave from that conference, you might be fired up. But you walk away and you think one of two things, you look at what they did, we could never do that at our church. You know, you see all the lights, and the haze, which is not smoke, it’s haze, and all that stuff in the bands. And you go, and so you leave defeated. Or worse, you go back and try to do that, and you lose your job in two weeks. Because they say, you tried to set the church on fire, you’ve got smoke, you know. And so most of the conferences really leave a small church pastor leaving more discouraged and encouraged.

So we create a one day conference, we teach around five growth actions. We talk about Mission and Vision. that’s our first session. The second one is about leadership development. The third one is how to have a clear discipleship pathway or next steps pathway, versus programs. The fourth thing is about how to have good communication, both inward and outward. And we wrap the day up by talking about how to create a healthy volunteer culture. You know, we like to do it in a room without any kind of fancy lighting, we just we want to be, if we can, in fellowship hall around roundtables. We teach for forty minutes, and then we allow twenty minutes for the pastors to answer questions together that we’ve provided, just about how they’re doing with these things. And the whole day is designed to encourage and strengthen the pastor. I only charge thirty five dollars for it, and we don’t charge the host church anything. So you know, we can’t get any more affordable than that. So we do that, but we’ve also been doing some virtually, because of how things have changed. So that’s the conference.

The next thing we do is coaching. We’ve got an entire division within 95Network that we can provide coaching, either just a one time call with me, or we’ve got you can do a six month coaching, a year coaching. We’ve got a very specific coaching plan that we’ve developed through one of our staff guys named Chad Hunt.

And then we do consulting, and we do that either by partnering with people like the Unstuck Group or the Malphurs Group. We also, at 95Network, do a thing called Vision Day. Where I’ll come in, and let’s just say you’re pastoring a church of 100 people, we’ll come in on a Saturday and we’ll spend from 9:00 in the morning till 4:00 in the afternoon, and we will just work through the individual issues of your church. Again, I was trained Strat-Op, and I’ve worked with the Unstuck Group, and those processes are so, they’re so thorough, they’re so detailed. But what I discovered was a lot of churches who’ve never been through anything like that, just get overwhelmed. And so I created a process that’s basically we talk about your history, who you’re trying to reach, what their values are, your mission and your vision, we talk a little bit about what are you doing currently that’s sustaining growth. And we pick one action item that you’re going to focus on for the next 12 to 18 months to help your church grow.

Because here’s what happens in a small church, the small church tends to do 20 things poorly, instead of doing one or two things really well. Because it feels like, well, hey, there’s a church down the street that’s got 600 people in it, we need to offer the same things they offer. Well, you can’t, you don’t have the resources, the people, the space. And so we really help the church just to focus in. And then my hope is, is that once they’ve done a vision day, the next time that rolls back around, then they can bring in Unstuck, or bring in the Malphurs Group, or someone like that to really even double down even more with, you know, so we do that.

And then the biggest thing we do now, to help us fulfill our vision, the last thing is connections or connecting. We have strategic partners that, one of them helps to raise capital stewardship campaigns, or financial discipleship, for small churches, and make it very affordable. Or we have people who help churches qualify for loans, or we just have all the strategic partners.

Basically, here’s the thing, Jason. if somebody calls me and says we have a problem in this arena, we want to have someone in place that we could connect them with. Just like you’re going to become one of our strategic partners, you didn’t know that yet, but you told me about all what you do with helping churches understand how analytics and stuff work? Most of the people in our space don’t understand that, so we want to connect them to you. And so those are the five C’s that we provide.

Man, I tell you, I get excited when I hear that. Because each one of those C’s, whenever I talk to smaller churches, or even bigger churches, there is always something there. They’re always looking for the content, or the coaching, or the groups, the counseling, or the conference. Right? And what a great concept to have a conference where they can walk away feeling equipped, and charged up that actually they can do something that’s not going to break the bank, or out of their realm of possibilities. I totally get what you’re saying there, because it’s often when I go to conferences, I’m like, it’s a show.

And again, this is America. The host church, typically, they host and they’re heart is pure, they want to help. But it also, I mean, I’ve been to enough of them where it’s like, hey, look at what we’ve done. And, you know, and I remember hearing John Maxwell tell the story years ago, how he was the keynote speaker at his denomination’s national conference, and it was the three day thing. And he said the majority of the pastors, their churches were under one hundred people, and it was like all the speakers at churches of 1000 or 2000, or this guy had a church of 5000. And every one of them, and you know how it is, can I say fake humility?

Yeah, yeah, a little bit.

You know, we just get, you know, and we try to come across humble. Well John said, he stood up and sat in the balcony and he watched the pastors, and literally he watched their body language just sink down and down and down and down. Because they are going, I can’t do that, I can’t do that. And he said the Holy Spirit spoke to him while he was up there in the balcony and said, I want you to scrap your message, I want you to get up and talk about your mistakes.

So he said he got a legal pad out, and penned out a sermon called Fumbles, Failures and Flops. And he said, he was telling his wife that they were going to lunch that day about about it. He said, I’ve written down like ten of my biggest failures, and he said his wife goes, Oh, no, John, you got a lot more than that. And so she started adding to it, he said he got mad at her.

 

But he had several pages of material.

So he ended up, he got up, and all he did was, he said he literally got up and all he did was tell the mistakes he made. And he said by the time he left, those guys were energized, they were high fiving each other, because he gave them hope. And that was one of the things I’ve always loved about him, you know, he’s certainly very secure in what he does. But he has always been good about telling when he messed up.

My book, which we’ll talk about that in a second. It’s all about, I mean, I’m just transparently telling you, I was a mess, you know? And here’s what we’ve discovered, Jason, that just so. It’s kind of encouraging and kind of discouraging. And I don’t have a scientific research to back this up, but this is just my hunch. It feels like about fifty percent of the churches that we encounter, just don’t want to die. And if we can meet a church that just doesn’t want to die, we can help it. Now, the other half are going to keep doing what they’re been doing. And that’s, you know, I’m not gonna worry about them, because they’ve chosen to go that way. But if we meet, I will do anything I possibly can within the gifts that God has given me, if I meet a pastor, or I’m meet a church, that says we just don’t want to die, we will help them. Because I think about all the souls we’re going to reach. I think about the next. Billy Graham, or Craig Rochelle, or whoever is out there, that right now might be three years old. We’ve got to help the churches.

That’s right. Yeah. Well, so let’s get into, what are some misconceptions or misunderstandings that people have about small churches that you know is not true? Because, you know, you said a comment, you made a comment, that, hey, that church down the street that’s running 600, let’s just do what they do. Or maybe God didn’t call you to do that, he called you for a specific reason. And so what are some of those misconceptions that we have about smaller churches?

That they’re irrelevant, and they don’t matter, or that they’re out of touch. And honestly, that is a misconception, but it’s somewhat true, because they’re stalled. A lot of our small churches are stalled. Part of it is because, and I don’t know if you wade into this area here or not, but a lot of our church government is not biblical. A lot of the church government in America is built around the American way of governing, the democracy, and you don’t find that in the Bible. And so, in fact, when we work with the church, the first thing we say is, hey, y’all, there’s this book called the Bible. I say y’all, because I’m from South Carolina. There’s this book called the Bible, there’s a man named Jesus who started something called the Church. And in Ephesians, 4 verses 11 through 16, he told us exactly how to do it. He said, I’m going to give you these ministry gifts, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, to equip saints to do ministry. And then he promised what would happen out of that, you would get maturity and stability, you would create integrity, and you would have community. Verse 16 says, you know, you’re going to have community. You know, the big argument has been for years, is Sunday morning, is that for the lost for the saved? Well, according to Ephesians 4:16, it’s for both. I should be able to go to church and get edified, but it also should not be so insider focused that someone who doesn’t know the Lord can’t find him. Because a lot of our language, a lot of our websites, everything’s very churchy oriented. And so we want to help the church to get structured correctly, so that there are misconceptions.

The other thing I think that may be is a misconception, is they don’t care. And it’s not that they don’t care, I said this to you before we came on our recording, most of our pastors went to school and they learned Greek, and Hebrew, and hermeneutics, and homiletics, and all the etics, and all that stuff, but no one taught them how to lead. And so if you haven’t been taught how to lead, the average leader, a decent leader, can lead about 70 to 80 people themselves. And then you’ve got to hire some people, or bring on some staff, or raise up volunteers. You’ve got to grow your leadership, and most churches aren’t equipped to do that. And so there’s this misconception that they don’t care because they’ve become insiders focused, and the truth is they don’t know what to do.

Hmm. Interesting. Thank goodness for you guys, Dale, to help pour into that. Okay, so last year, you know, 2020, we’re now 2021, praise God. But last year was kind of a very rough year for a lot of churches, especially…

And this year has been smooth as silk so far.

Yeah, yeah, we’re right on cloud nine over here. Yeah. But even through all of the chaos, and the setbacks, and what just seems like a really horrible season, were there some wins that smaller churches experienced that you can talk about?

We often talk about how hindsight is 20/20, well that’s what we have. See, here’s the thing, there was an article that came out, I think it was in September, by Barna. And the title of the article was like, you know, One In Five Churches Will Not Exist Because of COVID comma Unless You Do…And he talked about, the whole point of the article was pointing to churches who had evolved, and changed, and created, opportunities. But everybody took it and said, Barna said that one in five churches are going to close because of COVID. I don’t believe that to be true at all.

I don’t either.

I believe what COVID did was it sped up what was already happening. So if your church was out of touch, and not relating, and not connecting, it became quite apparent. So what COVID did, what 2020 did, is it peeled back the facade that we’ve been hiding behind for years. And God, I believe, is going to use what happened to help us to catch up and connect. Yes, they’re going to be some churches that are going to not make it, because they refuse to change, because their focus is insider, because they aren’t willing to embrace technology. You can’t do effective ministry long term without using technology, and why would you?

You know, we literally were in a conference, one of our conferences, where these two and I’m going to call them pharisaical pastors, started challenging us on whether even Paul would use a website if he had one. And they’re like, you know, they start getting into the, you know, all the…Just trying to sound spiritual kind of stuff. And I’m like, are you kidding me? Do you think if Paul could have driven a car, he wouldn’t have driven a car. Or if he could have caught a flight, he wouldn’t. Come on dude, God has provided these opportunities. And the church, as you and I have talked about, lags behind typically. What I have always said is the church tends to be about 20 years behind whatever’s happening, whatever changes are happening. But the problem is now, change is happening so rapidly in our culture, that if we get left behind two years now, it actually becomes like 10.

Oh, that makes sense.

And so what’s happening is, 2020 helped us to realize we can change. Because here’s what happened, so with the shutdowns, you know, COVID hits, and they ask us to shut things down. Well when that happened, it was like about five weeks before Easter. So Easter was a big great distraction, so all the churches were like okay, we’ve just got to get to Easter, we’ve got to do Easter. So they evolved, they changed, they did what they had to do. Some churches had, here in the south, they literally had the staff and the praise team on the porch, and people sat in their cars and listened on a FM transmitter, Which I thought that was the silliest thing I’d ever heard of, but it worked for them. And so I don’t know it all, you know, that worked.

The problem is now those churches have to change because it’s winter in the south, were supposed to get snow here today. Which, by the way, it’s a federal holiday when we have snow in South Carolina. So anyway, what happened was everybody looked toward Easter, looked toward Easter. And then, Jason, after Easter happened, I think probably the second week, I think passion really got depressed because they’re like, okay, this COVID thing is not over yet. You know, you mean I’m going to have to keep doing the stuff online, and a lot of them couldn’t even meet in person at all at that point. And so I think we could describe last year is, that we went kicking and screaming into blessing. Because the Lord, and culture, and the need, all forced us to change.

Now, here’s the thing that I don’t want to see happen. I don’t want us just to change and grab the first thing we see. I want us to change strategically, to do what we need to be doing in our town. Because say, you ministers someone in Jackson, Mississippi, it’s much different than how you minister to someone in Indianapolis, and how you minister someone in Bozeman, Montana. We all have the same mission, and that’s the great commission. But how you, Jason, the way God wired you carries it out, and how Dale cares about, is based on our personality, and where we live, and how we experience things. You know, I would probably be a big flop in Arizona, because I talk country. You know, I’m just, I mean, I’d entertain people for about two weeks and then go, you know, alright we’re tired of that. You know, you might you know, you’re sharper than me, so you might work okay here in South Carolina. But, you know, God’s wired us all a certain way. And so what what we have to do is, instead of just doing something to be doing something, instead of just live streaming, to be live streaming, why are you live streaming? What are you trying to accomplish?

And that’s why in 2021, this New Year, our entire focus, our part of our major focus at 95Network, is to help churches learn how to do hybrid church. Which means doing a great in-person experience, but also having a great online presence, which is much more than just live streaming your service.

Absolutely. It has two focuses, one to connect with and disciple your people, but also to reach those outside your church. That are not going to show up in, you know, these days, showing up to church is just a thing of the past. People still do it, but it’s definitely declining. And so, but they still want it, they’re still curious, they still have felt needs, they still want to engage. And so, yeah, those churches, if you want to be relevant…You mentioned, if you’re a…I mean, just imagine if, you know, most churches, in fact, we talked to so many churches that when this thing broke, they’re like, we need a website. Wait a minute, what? Or I’d ask, you know, how do you even, how do you do giving? Well, we pass a basket. You don’t have online giving? We’ve never needed that before.

I’ve got to tell you this story, you will love this story, you brought it up. Okay, so I used to…Let’s see, how can I say this, I worked at a church at some point in the past, because I obviously don’t want to identify that church. But I did work at it, and I’ve worked a lot of churches. And when I worked there, I noticed that they didn’t do online getting. And so I asked, why don’t we do online giving? And the pastor said, well, our financial person won’t let us do it. I said, what? Yeah, the person over the finances won’t let us do it. So I went to that person and I said, why don’t we do online giving? And they told me, it’s not biblical. And I said, why is it not biblical? And they said, because the Bible says you’re supposed to pass the plate. And I said, okay, pull your Bible out and show me that one. And their point was, that giving is supposed to be an act of worship. Well, you can do an act of worship at your home.

Absolutely.

But that was, I mean, that was just shocking to me. We did finally get the church to change and update. And do you know what the wild thing was? About 60 percent of our giving came on line after we changed.

That’s right.

Because society, that’s where it’s at. But because of my age, you know, I’m going to be 60 pretty soon, I’ve got gray hair. I love the old people, I’m not an anti-old person. I believe everything we have in the church today, is built on the shoulders of those older members of our church and those in the graveyard. I believe that, so I don’t want to dishonor them. But it’s not dishonoring to look at the old people say, folks, we got to change to reach your grandkids, and your great grandkids. The message does not change, but the methods have to have to.

Yep, yep. Good stuff. Well, let’s turn the corner, let’s talk about your book, you recently wrote a book called, Stalled. Why did you write it? What’s it about? Give us some insight on it.

My story. So when I met with Tony Morgan, when I launched my new ministry, or the new Dale Sellers Leadership Ministry back in February of 2014. As I told you, I’d been out of the loop or, you know, I didn’t know what was going on for 14 years. Well, my oldest daughter works at Unstuck, and she works for Tony. And so, and I knew Tony, and so I just reached out to Tony. This was in April, after I launched the ministry in February. I just wanted to talk to him, and just get some updates on where things were.

And Jason, I had to make a phone appointment. I didn’t know what that was, I thought you could just call people. But no, I had to make a phone appointment, and so it’s like a month later before I can talk to him. So I’m talking to Tony in April of 2014, and I’m all fired up, and I’m all excited, and I’m talking about what I’m going to do. And I really look up to Tony, I view him as a mentor and especially now, is a dear friend. But I’m talking, and about 15 minutes to the conversation, he says Dale, Dale, Dale, I need to tell you something. I’m like waiting with bated breath, Tony Morgan’s going to give me a word from God. And he goes, I can’t relate to you at all. I’m going, what? He goes, I can’t relate to you at all. He says, all I’ve ever done is work in large churches, or large organizations, or I work in city government. I’ve never worked in a small church, I can’t relate to you at all.

And I said, Tony, I want to say something to you today that I’ve never told anyone, I said, I feel like a failure. I’d been in ministry at that point now, almost 35 years, and I said I thought I’d be there by now. I said I’m ashamed of myself. I’m ashamed of the fact that I pastored a church for 12 years that started with 30 people when I was there, grew to 300, and fell back down to 150 because we had a terrible split. And I said, I feel like a failure, I feel like Jesus is mad at me. And I said, and I’ve never told anybody this, I said, Tony, I thought I’d be there by now. And he goes, Dale, that’s fascinating, why don’t you write what you just shared with me in an article form? I’ll put it on Tony Morgan Live, let’s put it out there and just see if you get any feedback.

So I wrote an article, it was released, I think, in May of 2014, called I Thought I’d Be There By Now, Confessions of a Small Church Pastor. And Jason, I heard from pastors all over America going, I feel like you just describe how I feel about myself. I felt like I was less than, I felt like Jesus was disappointed with me. Part of it was how I grew up, I grew up in a Southern Baptist church here in the south. And I would go to these youth rallies, and they would tell us things like, here are people that God has called you to reach, and if you don’t reach those people, they will go to hell because of you. Or when you get to heaven, there’s going to be a big video camera of it, a big screen, showing your life and showing you all the people in hell you didn’t reach. Well, being wired as I am, and being a first born, I took all that stuff literally. So I mean, when I walked through my high school, I felt guilty because I didn’t get everybody in the high school saved.

And so what happened to me, that got down on the inside of me to the point that I reached this place in my life where I was very unhealthy. It created stress in my life, five years ago last week, I had quadruple bypass surgery, I was fifty three years old. I had a widowmaker, which means my heart was blocked, I had one artery a hundred percent blocked, and three arteries 90 percent blocked, and didn’t know it. And I asked my doctor and I said, how does this happen to me? He said, hypertension and high blood pressure because of your vocation. I said, are you saying the ministry almost killed me? He said, that’s exactly what I’m telling you. The stress that I was under, and look, it wasn’t just the stress of the performance, it was the stress of I’m not good enough, I can’t arrive there. I didn’t know where there was, Jason, I didn’t. I was so discontented and so disappointed with myself, that I felt like I couldn’t get there, because I didn’t know where there was. And so I’d have a pastor or two ask me, Dale, what’s it going to take for you to feel like a success? And I’d go, I don’t know. So I was really, really unhealthy, and so God had to do a work in my physical heart, but he also did a healing in my spiritual heart, to let me know he’s not mad at me. And I have a friend at NewSpring Church who tweeted one day, his name is Shane, on Twitter he said, You can’t let God down because you’re not holding him up. Well, that’s not all that deep, but for me, that was life changing. Because for the first 50 years of my life, I was like, I’ve got to hold it. If I don’t come through in this arena, if I don’t come through, then these people are going to go to hell because of me. And Jesus must be so disappointed with me, because I haven’t achieved what he wanted me to do. So that is the basis for the book.

And so what I did, I just wrote the book called Stalled: Hope and Help for Pastors Who Thought They’d Be There by Now. And it’s really my story, it’s very transparent. And just kind of walk you through how, the first section is, Why Can’t I Get There? The second section is, What Will I Find There? And then the third section is, The Fulfillment Of Living There. Which is where I’m finally at now, you know, and now I’ve only got what, thirty years left?

You’re just getting started.

Whatever God determines, it doesn’t matter anymore.

Wow. What a great resource for pastors, young and old, it doesn’t matter. You know, it doesn’t matter, you’re always on the journey.

Well, you know, one of the things I was, when we named it, Help And Hope For Pastors Who Thought They’d Be There. I didn’t really want to call it that, because there’s 30 year olds who feel like they thought they’d be there by now. You know, the end of the Millennials and the beginning of the Next Generation, if they haven’t changed the world by the time they’re thirty, they feel that their life’s a waste. So the book speaks to young and old, but it’s been, Jason, the response to has been amazing. I mean, I literally, I just talked to a pastor yesterday in Tennessee who read the book and just reached out to me. It’s crazy, man, it’s just crazy, it’s just so weird.

Well, that is so cool how God’s using your past, and your ministry experience. And there’s a reason why you went through all that, you know, his purpose, his plan.

And, well, I was just so performance oriented. I just, I gauged everything…I know you’re saved, but listen, pastors, listen. I know what you believe theologically, and I knew theologically. You’re saved by grace, free gift, free gift, free gift. But I grew up in a culture that would preach your saved by grace, it’s a free gift, but then you prove how saved you are by what you do. And that got inside of me, to the point that I didn’t even know it. So I could never be happy, I could never be satisfied, I had three areas of my life that I was always gauging. I was gauging my spiritual life, my family life, and then my vocational, you know, the pastoring side. And I never allowed myself to ever score high in all three categories, there was always one category that felt like it was lagging way behind the other two. I will say the one thing that I think I did right in those years, was I made my family first priority. I would not, I did not, sacrifice my wife or my kids. I have three daughters, I would not sacrifice them on the altar of ministry. And I’m so thankful I didn’t do that, because then I wouldn’t be talking to you today.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that makes sense. Well, we work with, we’re blessed and fortunate to be serving a lot of small churches around the country, that I think are doing amazing things. And I think this can be really encouraging for them, so if you haven’t got Dales book, get it. Right, go to Amazon or wherever you go…

It’s on Amazon. David S. Cooke Publishing published the book, it came out last September. It’s on Amazon, and it’s also in a Kindle version as well. We are actually creating a new resource, it’s called From Stalled To Freedom. That’s going to be, I’ve shot three videos that we have done for our virtual conferences, it’ll be like…You can see over my shoulder there’s a blue box that we call a VisionBox, that’s a resource we have in 95Network. We’re going to have the StalledBox, that’s coming out pretty soon, too.

Oh, good.

And it will have videos with it to kind of work through, so you can actually take your staff through that as well.

Yeah. Yeah. Well it sounds like there’s two things you need to do church, you need to buy the book, and then you should become a member of 95Network. It’s ninety five bucks for the year?

It’s for the year, and we are literally, as we speak today, we are overhauling our website, and we’re overhauling our membership process, to even make it even more engaging and more valuable. I mean there’s just incredible things in there, like Tony Morgan did a course a couple of years ago called Leading an Unstuck Church. Well, if you buy that, if you go straight to Unstuck and buy this, it’s four hundred ninety nine dollars, you know, and he gave it to us. So if you join 95Network, you get that course for free.

Well there’s the value right there.

Well, he loves the small church, and it’s a twelve twelve lesson course to work your staff, or your board, through on how to make sure your church isn’t stuck. And that’s just one of the resources that’s in there.

Hmm, that’s awesome. Okay so you’ve talked about, you get inspiration from John Maxwell, pretty good leader, you get inspiration from Tony Morgan, another phenomenal leader. Is there anywhere else that you find inspiration, or what are you reading these days, or what blogs are you following?

I don’t read a lot at this point because I’m writing, and I don’t want to plagiarize. And I love, love, love, Andy Stanley, I think Andy Stanley is a next generational leader. I love Robert Morris, I love his heart, he’s a very passionate pastor type of person I love. I’m connected to Rick Warren, somewhat, with Purpose Driven. Dabo Swinney, the football coach at Clemson is an inspiration to me, because I’m a big Clemson fan. And he takes so much heat because of his standing up for his faith, and that, you know, that is very encouraging. He’s just living his life, you know, he’s just being who he is in that setting. So all the Ohio State people won’t like that, but anyway. Of course this year they just beat the snot out of us. But anyway, those people inspire me.

But probably my greatest inspiration, and you’re not old enough to even remember this group. There was a group in the 70s and 80s and 90s called Truth, and a guy named Roger Breland founded that group. And he took me under his wing when we were doing our music ministry, and he was the guy that I had to fall back on. There are a couple of moments in my life where I had really tough decisions to make, and I reached out to him. The first one, and this will speak to our pastors who are listening. So we’ve launched our music group, we went full time from part time, you know, for the first two years we would work jobs during the week and travel on the weekend. So we do Friday night, Saturday, and two concerts on Sunday, then be back at work on Monday morning at eight o’clock, that about killed us. Well we’ll go to full time, but once we go full time, man, we hit just a season where there was just a lull in scheduling events, and it looked like we weren’t going to make it. So I called Roger Breland, this is pre-cell phone days, that’s how old I am. And I just, I called, and I left something, I left…He had a thing called an answering machine, okay, so you don’t even know that is probably. I left him a message, and I just said, hey, I said. Mr. Breland, this is Dale, we’re dying out here, and call back if you care. And so he calls back and he goes, what’s your problem? I said, man, I said, we’re dying out here. We can’t, you know, we’re not making it financially, we can’t get bookings. How do you know when it’s time to quit? And I want to say this, because I want the pastor’s listening right now to catch this. How do you know when it’s time to quit? He goes, okay, he said, well, they Dale, did God call you to start? I said, yes, sir. He said, did God call you to quit. I said, no, sir. He said, do you want to honor God with your life? I said, yes, sir. He goes, well, it sounds to me like you’re going to have to hang in there through the tough times, because if you quit and you want to honor God, you’re gonna have to start over again, but you’re gonna be further behind me. Jason, I cannot tell you the impact that had in my life, because we stuck it out and then things just went wide open for us. But he helped me to understand there are ups and downs, there are springs, and summers, and winters, and falls, there are seasons in life, and seasons in ministry. There are times when you have great success, and it’s just like every sermon you’re preaching, everybody goes, oh, my goodness, that’s the greatest pastor I’ve ever heard. And there’s other times you preach the best message you ever heard, and nobody likes it. It’s not about that, it’s not about how you feel, it’s about resting and in who you are and what you called to do. And the other thing, I called him one time, I had to fire somebody and that was very difficult, I didn’t know how to fire somebody in ministry. And I asked him, I said, how do you do that? He says, well, I look at what we’re doing here, and he said, I pull myself back out of it and I say what’s best for our ministry. And those two pieces of advice, man, he shapeed a lot of my life, you know, because he paid a lot of dues and he was willing to share with me. So he’s a major, major influencer in my life, just, almost a father figure.

Hmm. Well, thank you for sharing all that. So if people want to get connected, 95Network.org, go buy the book, become a member, and get connected. You know, it’s a tough season right now, we’re still in it, and a lot of churches can’t meet.

Oh, we’re going to be in it the rest of the year. Here’s the thing, Jason, I think a lot of churches are like, we just want to get back to the way things were. That’s not happening.

And you don’t want that.

No, we’re never going back, it’s never going to be like it was before. And again, at 95Network, we exist to help the small and mid-sized church. And if you need help, if you don’t know what to do, please reach out to us. I talk to pastors every week all across America and some around the world. Every week I have calls where people reach out and just say, man, we don’t know what to do. And listen, if I don’t know what to do, I’ll say, listen, let me connect you to my friend Jason, he’ll tell you. I mean, I will connect you to whoever. But we don’t, hear the thing, I don’t want you laying on the floor of your office like I did for years, and cry, because you don’t have a friend. And we want to be that friend for you, and we love the small church. And if anybody asks me, why do you do what you do at 95Network, this is it. When I get to heaven, I want Jesus to walk up and give me a fist bump, say, hey, thanks for helping the small church. That’s why we do it.

It matters, it matters. Thank you, Dale, we appreciate your insight.

Thank you, sir.

All right, We’ll talk to you soon.

Well, as I recap this podcast, a big thank you to Dale. Dale, we appreciate the fact that you have poured decades of your life into ministry, and God is using you in a mighty way. And thank you for writing that book, I think a lot of us will benefit from that, especially if you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, or stalled. And church, you should do two things. Number one, go get his book, a great read, a lot of insight. And so go get his book, find it on Amazon. Second, is go to 95Network.org and subscribe, it’s pretty cost effective. You’re going to get those five CS, and I love that they’re offering so much value for a very small investment, and so tune into that.

Here at Missional Marketing, we desperately care about all churches, but especially smaller churches that may not have all the resources. And so our heart, and our desire, is to educate and equip. Educate and equip, so that you’re informed, and you have knowledge, and you can make good decisions, about what it takes to to grow your church and reach more people.

And so using digital tools is a great way to go about doing it. You don’t have to be an expert, in fact, if you don’t know anything, that’s okay, let’s start right there. Man, we want to help you. And so on Missionalmarketing.com, we have a ton of resources in our blog, certainly all the podcasts that we do. And throughout all the pages of Missional Marketing, we offer free reports and free forms. We would also love to have a conversation with you, a complimentary conversation to explain what you’re looking at, and that way we’re educating, informing you, so take advantage of that. So from there on, we’re excited about where we’re headed, and hopefully we’re going to be getting out of this season where we are with COVID. But it’s so important, we can never go back, I don’t think we’ll go back to the way it used to be, we have to look towards the future. And so I encourage you to to tune in, and and get plugged in. Alright, until next time, God bless.

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