Restoring Health and Hope for Pastors Beyond COVID-19 | Shawn Lovejoy

Bart Blair Leave a Comment

Shawn Lovejoy shares his heart for the health and hope of pastors, especially beyond COVID-19, as healthy pastors encourage healthy Churches

Podcast Transcription


Welcome to the Church Growth Interviews podcast from Missional Marketing. I’m Bart Blair, I’m one of the team members at Missional Marketing, and I’m joined, as always, with the CEO of Mission Marketing and my friend Jason Hamrock.

Hi, my friend Bart. How are you today?

I’m doing very well. I was going to do, you know, Britney on our team, every time she sends out an email and says that you’re going to be a meeting. She always prefaces it with the one and only Jason Hamrock. So there might be more, I don’t know of any more. But…

Please Lord, let there not be.

Yeah, I know if you if you Google my name, Bart Blair, there are a few Bart Blairs that come up. But I have better SEO than most of them, so I’m usually at the top of the page. Just so you know.

Yeah, that’s a little bug.

Just so you know, my CEO is way better. So hey…

If you want your name to be at the top of Google, talk to Bart.

Yeah. Talk to me, I’ll give you some pointers.

Hey, Jason. Man, we have had some really fantastic guests on this podcast. We’ve been recording them kind of fast and furious, it seems, lately. And one of the things that we set out to do when we started this podcast a little over a year ago, like I think our original vision was, well, we do digital marketing, and digital outreach, and we do communications. And so we really kind of honed in on bringing guests onto the podcast that, you know, those are their specialties. And we have a lot of them, and we have more coming as our listeners are listening, if they’re subscribed. By the way, if you’re not subscribed, please make sure you subscribe. You canq subscribe on any of those platforms that you listen to podcasts on, Apple podcast, Google podcasts, Stitcher Radio, I think all of those. And of course, YouTube, you can subscribe to YouTube because you don’t want to miss any of this good stuff.

But one of the things that I found to be interesting as we produced this podcast for the last year or so, is that some of our most popular episodes have been episodes that have nothing at all to do with marketing, or communications, or digital strategies. A lot of them have had to do with church leadership, and ministry, and discipleship, and things that aren’t necessarily in our wheelhouse organizationally, but we’ve been blessed with some really great conversations with people who have a lot to add in those areas.

And that’s what we got today. Do you want to introduce the guests that we’re going to be sharing the interview with today?

Yeah, I’d love to. Before I get there, just to kind of piggyback on what you just said. You know, church growth can be defined in a number of ways, right? It could be. you’re growing your congregation by numbers of new families, it could be your discipling your families, and they’re growing deeper in their following of Jesus. Maybe it’s you personally, it’s leadership growth, right, it’s church leadership growth. And and it doesn’t matter really what it is, we just want to help you get better, we want to equip, and we want to teach, and we want to learn from people like our guests today.

And so I’m really excited, we get to hear from Shawn Lovejoy, and he runs a thing called Courage to Lead. And so you really want to check, and he’s written a couple of books. We’ll talk about that a little bit, but he speaks into some leadership principles here. I’m really excited to have you listen in today, because he he goes pretty deep into how to help pastors get better. And he speaks to both lead pastor and executive pastors, and he’s created quite the company in that, he speaks into how they’re leading.

And so we go back and forth, and I think this is going to be one of those podcasts that you’re going to want to share with your leadership team. And so not only do we want you to subscribe, I think this is going to be really fruitful for your entire team to listen to, and you will learn something new.

Shawn might poke the bear on a few things, if you listen to this with your leadership team. One of the things I like about Shawn is that he speaks it as he sees it, and he’s a guy who has a lot of ministry experience and is seasoned as a pastor. But now, you know, he and his team coach pastors and their teams.

And, you know, one of the things, in spite of everything else that he says, in spite of what you might think you hear at times, what’s at Shawn’s heart is the health of pastors. Because you can’t have healthy churches if you don’t have healthy pastors, and I just love his passion for helping pastors in this area. And I thought it was, man, if I were to be honest with you, this might be, it’s up there, this might be my favorite podcast episode that we’ve had so far,

Yeah, this one speaks to everybody, right? It doesn’t matter what position, you’ve got to think about it, it doesn’t matter if you’re the lead pastor or you’re an assistant. It doesn’t matter, everybody’s leading somebody. And so when you think about that, even if you’re leading your family, even if you’re a volunteer listening to this and you’re like, well, I have another job, well, you’re probably leading in that job, or you’re retired, okay, but you’re leading somebody. You’re leading yourself for sure, and so Shawn speaks into this, and I’m really excited for it. So without further ado, here’s Shawn.

Here we go. Yeah, Shawn Lovejoy of Courage to Lead.

Yeah, we’ve got a guy that does all the post-production and I can give him directions to find the spots that we say Cut Shawn, shake your MacBook a little bit, because I think that’s all you did last time was just kind of shook it a little bit and it came back on. So I’ve got to start recording here. I’m going to go ahead and get a role in any any questions or anything else that you need to know before we get going on now. Ready to go? OK, Jason, I’ll lead us off and then I’ll hand it over to you to lead the discussion. The conversation

Sounds good.

Well, hey, Shawn Lovejoy, welcome to the Missional Marketing Church Growth Interviews podcast. We’re glad that you could join us for an interview today. Thanks so much.

I’m so honored to be with you guys.

Yeah, so first of all, tell us a little bit of your background. What led you to launching Courage to Lead? And a little bit about your family history and where you live? And give our listeners an update on that.

Yeah, so I was a marketplace leader, a real estate developer, you know, knocking it down. God calls me to vocational ministry, I started a church in metro Atlanta in 1999. And I always felt like I was better between Sundays, and realized most pastors are really good on Sundays and struggle between Sundays, and just started utilizing that gift to consult and coach with pastors, actually 20 years ago now.


Back in 2001, so it’s been a wild ride ever since. And so coaching was always my side hustle, where I got to flex my entrepreneurial muscles. And even though the church grew rapidly and became a multisite megachurch, like my heart was always on the leadership coaching side of things. And just realize, your spiritual gifts bubble up, and really they’re ratified by other people as well. And even my church spokesman said, man, when you preach, we love it, but when you teach on leadership. And so I realized over time, like, I’m a good pastor, but I’m really good coach when I’m in a boardroom, so made this second scariest decision I’ve ever made six years ago, seven years ago, to hand off my church and coach fulltime.

I want to get you to rewind just a little bit, because one thing that you have in common with both Jason and myself, is that we all started in marketplace before going into ministry. Just talk a little bit about your transition from working in the marketplace, doing real estate, real estate development, and your call into ministry and what that looked like for you.

Well, one, you know, you realize that some of the things that we argue about in ministry world, like most people don’t care about, you know, and I was an executive trapped in a pastor’s body. And probably one of the reasons why I always gravitated more toward hanging out with executive pastors, is they want to talk nuts and bolts. You know, senior pastors want to sit around, argue about theology, you know, and where we disagree, and all of that stuff. And so I just realized all along, like, it’s not about this, that, or the other, our little theological nuance are programmatic nuance, it’s really about having a healthy culture, and a healthy team, and healthy systems. So I always gravitated more toward that, I always felt like an executive trapped in a pastor’s body, and that’s kind of why I’m doing what I’m doing today.

So you have this really unique perspective of, I like what you said there, you’re more interested in the the days between Sundays, right, of being able to get deep into the trenches and help pastors lead better, and probably help business people need better as well. But you have that different perspective of, you’ve sat on both sides, so you fully understand what lead pastors are dealing with, and what executive the pastors and churches staff dealing with, but you also have the business side of things. So when you, when you’re working with a pastor, what’s your approach to helping them lead better?

Well, what we don’t do is try to teach them how to do church. They’re actually a lot of networks, denominations, tribes that do that, and I’m actually convinced almost any model will work if it’s healthy. I think there are lots of ways to do church, lots of ways to disciple people, lots of ways to reach lost people, but it really does come down to organizational help and leadership, I believe. I think, I get lit up on Facebook, and you guys will really appreciate this I think, because I say to pastors all the time, there is a God element and there is a human element to church growth. And a lot of pastors want to excuse, and over-spiritualize, the lack of growth in their church. And they’re not willing to do the heavy lifting, the hard work, have the courageous conversations, make the courageous decisions, they need to make to grow, Jesus wants their church to grow, he’s waiting on them. And, you know, what we try to do is come along and give leaders courage to have the conversations, confront the brutal facts, make the courageous decisions, not worry about who’s going to leave, but who you’re going to reach. And to me, the answer is simple why churches stop growing, they choose to, they choose to. They choose not to to go into the uncomfortable chaos and be willing to be pruned personally, corporately, for the church to become everything Jesus wants it to become. So you can see why I end up in the crosshairs of critics sometimes with that kind of language. But I believe it, I think I can defend it, you know, with the gospel and the New Testament, I really do

Break that down, break that down a little bit, when you say that pastors are afraid to do the work, or are afraid to have the the courageous conversations, and to step into those those dangerous, scary places, what does that mean practically? Like what are some of those things that you would say, this is a top two or three things that every pastor that I encounter who’s in a spot where he’s not where he wants to be, or his church isn’t healthy, or he’s not healthy, what are the things that he’s avoiding?

Well, you know, a lot of senior pastors, of course, they want to blame the staff. You know, when in doubt, blame the worship leader, blame the student pastor, you know, all of that when in reality you’ve got an insecure, defensive senior pastor who doesn’t want to be, is not willing to be, confronted himself, you know, about some things, about some blind spots. And things are usually not as healthy as the senior leader thinks they are, so thus some robust dialogue needs to happen, you know, and some humility needs to equation of the senior leader spot. But then, you know, we get calls all the time from second chair, third chair, fourth chair leaders, and they’re like all my senior pastor this, and our executive team this. And my first question is always, well, have you told them what you just told me? And do you know what the answer is 99 out of 100 times? Well, no, I mean, not just like, you know, not just like I told you. And I said, well, the number one thing you’ve got to do is be more honest with your leader, you know? And so we get to go in and, you know, just facilitate, and sometimes referee, some robust dialogue. And have it in healthy ways, and actually mine for some healthy conflict on teams. To confront the elephant in the room because there are always some elephants in the room, and to be willing to talk about those, you know, and sometimes they’re tensions, sometimes they’re people, you know, that aren’t in the right seat, or have character issues, you know, and nobody wants to confront it or confront them. And so, you know, we try to get everybody to become a little bit more courageous in their culture, and in their dialogue, as a team. And man, revival happens in a lot of the things we work with.

Yeah. My pastor, who was my boss, for years he always said, if you’ve got to swallow a frog, don’t stare at it too long because it just gets uglier and uglier.

It does, and it gets more difficult and more difficult. You know, I use Proverbs 27:6, “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” And so when we work with teams, we’re like we don’t want to be a team, you don’t want to be a team that multiplies kisses, you know, where we’re kissing each other’s behinds. Can I say that on your podcast? And then stabbing each other in the back at the same time, and talking about each other, you know, rather than to each other, and having meetings after the meeting. Let’s cut all that out, and let’s get real, let’s start talking to each other. And the opposite of conflict is not peace, it’s artificial harmony. And somehow a lot of pastors have thought, you know, well, to have a healthy team, we shouldn’t have any conflict on the team. But I think it’s an errant way of looking at the gospel, the New Testament, they had tons of conflict, but they handled it much more courageously than a lot of pastors that we’ve worked with over time.

It is remarkable to me, and I’ve been a pastor, and I have the opportunity and the privilege to work with a lot of different churches, some very, very small, some very, very large. What I repeatedly find, that is sometimes discouraging to me, is how often a church staff will allow unhealthy patterns and unhealthy communication to exist within the context of the staff culture, that they would never allow to exist in the context of the church culture as a whole. So you have this tension where we’re encouraging the family life, the body life, in our church to be authentic, and transparent, and have good communication, strong communication, that we’re building one another up. Yet, in the offices in the corner of the building, we’re tearing each other down, we don’t have that same openness and that same spirit of building one another up, and that can be a real discouragement to me when I discover churches that are in that space. I’m sure that that’s something that you see frequently.

It very much is. And, you know, years ago as a pastor, I mean, I tried to live this out, and it’s why I’m kind of coaching people to do it this day. I made a covenant to my pastors, my direct reports, you know, 20 years ago, I’m never going to go home and say something to my spouse about you that I’m not willing to say to you. But guess what, then that gives me moral authority to expect the same thing from you. You know, she’s not going to listen to my preaching, you and I’ll be okay next week. But you go home and you vent to her, and we don’t talk about it as brothers, you know, she’s never going to take notes in one of my sermons again, you know? So don’t do that to your family, don’t do that to your children, don’t do that to the church, don’t do that to the team. Hey, let’s talk to each other, you know, and live out what Patrick Lencioni calls the last 10 percent. People say 90 percent of what they’re thinking, and hold back, let’s build a last 10 percent culture. And now we try to help teams build that, and it’s amazing the sense of trust, and commitment, and unity, and synergy, that happens when we really start talking about what matters in the room.

Yeah, we’ve been talking a little bit about the conflict that you see as you walk into a church. Can you speak to what’s on the other side? So as a listeners hearing this and is going, that’s exactly what we’re dealing with in our culture. The advice is, have the courage of those conversations. What happens after that conversation? What have you experienced when that has happened?

One, you get to choose who you keep on your team, you really do. You know, elite talent will leave if they don’t have a voice and they don’t feel valued. And senior pastor’s a lot of times are scared to death to just open it up, because they’re afraid their idea is not going to win the day. My observation is most of the time, like leaders don’t have to make the decision in the second or third chair, they just want the value of being heard, you know? And so, man, we run into pastors all the time that just can’t keep good people on their team, you know, there’s like this cycle runs through all the time. And it’s because their leaders don’t feel valued, they don’t feel cared for, you know, on their team. And so I’ve told our leaders over the years, like, if there’s one of two things I’m going to be accused of, wow, Shawn cares too much about what’s going on in my area, or Shawn really doesn’t care, and he’s going to do what he’s going to do, and he’s building his kingdom. You know, I want to be over here, I want to care and be in your business too much, and really value your opinion, and get you to speak into what’s going on. So I would say, you know, retaining great talent, you know, as a lay person and as, you know, vocational ministers on your team. And then the cool thing is when we start talking about what really matters, and confronting the elephants in the room, and fixing what’s broke, and killing the sacred cows, and confronting passive aggressive behavior and toxicity, and all artificial harmony, man, we start having amazing conversations. Like God’s added the members of the body the way he sees fit. We just got to allow it to breathe, you know, and let everybody get, make sure we build that culture of trust and honesty where everybody can bring their best ideas to the table and not fear getting fired for confronting what’s not working, and what they don’t enjoy doing. And help the guy who thinks he’s gifted at this realize that’s not his best gift, and get him in the right seat on the bus, you know, man, church growth starts happening, it’s amazing.

So with this pandemic that we’re experiencing, what’s something that’s good that’s come out of this, in your opinion, that you have seen as a result of changes, literally churches having to pivot and go a completely different direction?

Well, churches haven’t been historically good at pivoting, surprise, surprise. We just had our most innovative year and perhaps one hundred years of church, think about it. I mean, hundreds of thousands of churches got a thousand percent better on their digital platforms, hundreds of thousands got better. We were behind, you know, it’s easy to look at the top fifteen hundred two thousand churches in America and think churches are setting the pace. But the other two hundred ninety eight thousand are not, you know, decades behind with their web presence, and their social media, and just every way they communicate, you know, to a watching world. So we had no choice but to get better, and scarcity brings innovation, so we had to get better. And churches have realized they’re reaching more people than ever before, right now, you know, because we had to. So let’s not lose that mentality now. Let’s stay scrappy, you know, so I attend, you know, one of the largest churches in North America. Are momentum made us look better than we were, we got exposed, you know, by some things. So we had to get better, had to rebuild some blocking and tackling, rework some systems, we had outgrown some of our systems. And, man, it’s going to make us better for the next ten years, perhaps lengthen the growth curve, because we had no choice but to circle around and get better on all of our processes. And the church is better for this. God didn’t cause this, to be clear about that, but I do believe he is using this, and will continue to do so.

Yeah, that’s really hopeful, you know, to think that in just a matter of weeks, which is about a year ago, everybody had to pivot. And we got to see that first hand with a lot of churches, and I think from those conversations, it sure has caused lead pastors to ask harder questions. And, you know, for us at Missional Marketing, we’re all about helping churches reach more people digitally. So we’re going, yay, this is awesome. Because they’re just. It’s not about them hiring us, it’s about them thinking differently and then reacting well. By giving resources, staff, money, space, to get into this space more and more and more, and that’s been super refreshing for me.

I can’t tell you how many pastors we’ve talked to who have said, we did it, we knew we needed it a long time ago. We put money, we put resources, and we put staffing behind all things digital, and we should have done that a long time ago. But Sunday’s coming every seven days, you know, when do you change? When you have no other choice.

Yeah, been we’ve been telling churches for years that you need to be online, you need to be investing online, you need to be expanding your digital footprint online, because the people that God is calling you to reach are online. And to look at the way pastors and churches pivoted initially, most of them didn’t pivot a year ago to do better online to reach the people that they weren’t reaching. They pivoted to do better online, to actually continue to stay connected to their own people. And by doing so, the byproduct has been, wait a minute, now all of a sudden, we’re actually paying attention to what’s happening online and we’re realizing that we’re actually connecting with more and more people online. I remember having a conversation and probably May or June of last year with a small church in rural Pennsylvania that had started live streaming their services for the first time. And I got on the call with the pastor and he said, I got two donation checks in the mail this week, one from Washington State and one from Minnesota, I have no idea what to do with that. I mean, I said well deposit the checks, that’s the first thing that you want to do. I said, yeah, cash it. But, you know, but these are all of a sudden we’re seeing that, you know, your microphone, your megaphone as a pastor, as a communicator of the gospel, as a discipler, has just been amplified exponentially by use of the Internet. And now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to do it more strategically, so we’re not just throwing up on the Internet, but that we actually have a plan and a strategy for utilizing it for real connections and real discipleship.

Well, and I know that you guys have a lot of churches with this. But another thing, another key learning from the pandemic, was a lot of churches realized we need to do a better job communicating internally, not just externally. Like church newsletters, and come to this, sign up for this, show up for this, hey, come to this, sign up for this, RSVP for this. Look what we’re doing, look what we’re doing, look what we’re doing, look at us, look at us, look at us, look at us, attend our thing, join our thing. That is, that wears people out, and a lot of churches we work with realize, we’ve got to start adding value internally better, we’ve got to start communicating differently with our church attenders. And all of a sudden when there was nothing to sign up for, and nothing to attend, like we had nothing to say in our church newsletter that went out in email now. You know, and so we realized, what if we just started adding value to families and oh yeah, by the way, P.S. here’s something you can opt into and sign up for. And leading with value internally, they had no choice because leaders are turning over, leaders and getting tired, burned out, feel useless, you know, running the programs that they used to run. And so I feel like we’re going to get better at internal communication, you know, on the back side of this, and adding value to the body as well as adding value out there to the world. And I’m excited about both of those.

Yeah. One thing that, you know, that we’re having this podcast, we’re talking about the courage to lead. It has been interesting to see when COVID broke, and churches had to pivot, and it caused lead pastors to be vulnerable. And for the first time in their ministry, the building was no longer that sacred cow because it didn’t exist anymore, you couldn’t even walk in the building. And I think it was pretty refreshing for staff, because they could have the courage to say, hey, lead pastor or executive pastor, we’ve got to do things different. And they know this, and they’re in that spot where they are somewhat vulnerable to say, what are we going to do and how are we going to do this? And it put everybody on the same kind of playing field, if you will. And I got to see it, as we work with a lot of churches, those budgets go up. But that staff to have that confidence to say we got to do this, and the lead pastor is going, what do we got to do? And I just felt really good about that. And as you mentioned this just a minute ago about that, hopefully this momentum keeps keeps steamrolling ahead, and don’t let up because I think God gave us an opportunity here to do something pretty important, and reaching more people. Pretty refreshing stuff, but with that kind of just sharing that with you. When you think about where you’re going, and how you’re going to continue to work with churches in the future, what does that look like as you have more conversation? You’re probably using Zoom like you’ve never before, not as in person. How do you expand and reach more pastors to help them?

Well, you know, we talk about helping leaders and their teams grow healthier and grow faster. And the order is important, I’m all for the great commission, just not at the expense of the great commandment, you know, so health precedes growth. And if you get those out of order, that’s when you read about them in the news. You know, Christianity Today picks up that one and runs with it, you know, and CNN and the like, so we’ve got to get healthy. So I’m encouraged for pastors, I think the fall of 2021, you know, there’s opportunity for a ton of pastors to gather 100 percent to 200 percent of their original momentum. You know, so you don’t presume on growth, you get prepared for growth. So right now is a great opportunity, you’re going to see a little spike on Easter, and all the pastors are going to feel like God loves them again. And then Memorial Day happens, and Fourth of July, we think he’s forgotten this all over, you know, we won’t be able to find people this summer, but they’re going to be around.

But the churches that are working on their culture, working on getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, COVID provides an excuse for that, buttoning up their processes and their systems. If we’re prepared for growth, this fall, when everybody comes crawling out of the beach and the mountains, you know, the Lord is looking for churches to trust lost people. I just believe that, I can trust them, I can trust them, it won’t crush them, they’ll be good stewards of it. You know, so our whole posture, to answer your question, [inaudible] helping pastors get prepared for a potential great harvest this fall.

Now, we got six months to get ready, and we ought to be able to do that, we ought to be able to get prepared to handle more. Who knows how large the Lord wants the church to grow, that’s not our job, our job is to get prepared for whatever he wants to do. And that’s what we’re trying to help pastors do, just get postured for growth, get prepared to handle more, and then let’s see what Jesus does.

Shawn, let me let me ask you a question, you know, we the three of us, it’s clear I think all of us are kind of excited by what we see as potential. We all know churches that have benefited significantly from the pivot to a stronger online presence, stronger online ministry. We’ve talked to many churches, that 2020 was one of their best years financially in spite of the pandemic. But for as many of those churches, and as many of those pastors, who are saying, you know, Jehovah Jireh, the Lord provided we’re doing well, there are a lot of beat up pastors out there. And it might not even necessarily be because their attendance dropped, or their offerings dropped. but obviously COVID, and the political climate, and social issues have created so much tension. How many times, you know, I’m on social media a little bit and you just hear pastor after pastor say, you know, if I do this I’m wrong, if I do this I’m wrong, how do I figure out what to do? As you encounter some of these pastors that are struggling in this space, and maybe they’ve lost some loyalty, or lost confidence even in their own ability to lead because of those tensions, how are you coaching them in those spaces?

Well, I think I heard Henry Cloud say this, you know, that every pastor right now is dealing with some PTSD. You know, and there’s, man, wow, trauma, stress, 2020, hello, so the struggle is real. I think sometimes the reason why pastors break down and quit suddenly, or moral failure out, you know, it’s an escape, frankly, is because they weren’t willing to admit, hey, I’m grieving, I’m hurting, people have left, they were my friends. And now when I see them in the restaurant down the street, they treat me differently, and I’m hurting. And of course, you know, God’s people, the Israelites, they had a time of grieving, a public symbol of grieving, and it’s called sackcloth and ashes. You know, they would literally sit out publicly and and grieve and let everybody know, just leave me alone. You know, I just need to be with God, I need to process my emotions, and I need to grieve. Don’t give me cliché, you know? So I think pastor’s right now need to say, okay, we survived this, okay, now we got to grieve a little bit. Okay, but then there’s that time when sackcloth and ashes, you get up out of the sackcloth and ashes, you dust yourself off, and you stop focusing on the loss, and you start focusing on the future. And we’ve been telling pastors, hey, there’s going to come a time soon when you got to get up out of the sackcloth and ashes, you’ve got to stop focusing on who’s left, and the staff coup that happened last year, three years ago, and let’s start talking about who were going to reach. Some have stayed, and that’s a miracle, you know, if they knew everything like we knew everything, they might leave too. But some people have left, I mean, have stayed and we’ve got an army. So let’s just call it, you know, plug in the name Church 2.0, and let’s go. Let’s start, you know, let’s restart the church, let’s reboot the church, and let’s storm hell with a water gun. And that’s what we’re trying to help pastors get focused on right now. So it’s both embracing your emotions, while at the same time realizing there needs to come a day when I block all that out of you and forget what’s behind, and strain toward the prize, and go for it, and go for it.

You know, it’s interesting that you say that Shawn. The Lord’s been teaching me through a personal trial that my family has been going through lately, and there is a time when we find ourselves all of a sudden in the valley of the shadow of death, whatever that means for you, and whatever suffering, whatever trial, whatever challenges you’re facing. And there’s a natural season, and we see this through the Psalms, where we ask the question, why? Why, why, why, why did this have to happen to me? Why am I in this place? How did I end up here? And the lesson that the Lord has really been teaching me is that it’s okay to spend time asking that question, but there does come a time where you have to change the question, and the question that you begin to ask is, where do we go from here? And I think that there are a lot of pastors, and a lot of churches, that have kind of, they’ve spent that time in that season of mourning, sackcloth and ashes, where it’s not been easy, it’s been really hard, and it’s okay to grieve that. But you can’t stay in that grief state forever, at some point, you have to begin to say, okay, where do we go from here, Lord, where do we go from here? What are the next steps forward? Because it’s not God’s desire for that church to stay stuck, to stay broken, to stay unhealthy, to stay ineffective in their ministry reach, it’s God’s desire for that church to actually reflect his glory and bring his good news to the people in the community that he’s called them to reach. So that’s just, as you said, that I just realized that’s work that God has been doing in my life personally, individually, and I think maybe there’s a pastor out there that just needs to hear that. That just needs to hear that it’s okay to ask the question why, but at some point, you have to begin to ask the question, where do we go from here?

Yeah, we talk about moving from why to what now? So what, and what now? And I tell these pastors, listen, keep this in mind, okay, they’ll be unpacking what happened in this person that left, and this person that got mad, and this thing that happened three years ago. And there’s not a single person that visits your church for the first time this Sunday, online or in person, that gives a care about anything you just told me, they don’t care about any of that stuff. Their marriage is on the rocks, you know, their middle school daughter’s having suicidal tendencies and cutting herself, like we don’t have time for all of that drama, and to sit in that forever because people are coming this Sunday and are going to engage with us, and they’re going to give Jesus and the church one more shot. We’ve got to get ready, and they don’t care about all this stuff up under the hood, they’re looking for hope. And the churches that kind of get focused, you know, out of all that minutia, and all that drama, and the hurt, and can pull themselves out of that and really get focused on that family that could show up online or in person this Sunday, and give Jesus and the church another shot, there’s power to that, there’s power to that. And realizing they don’t care about all this other stuff, they don’t know, and they don’t see what we see, they’re just broken and they need help. And there’s more opportunity to be salt and light than ever before as the church.

Yeah. Yeah, and I think from this season we’re in, it sounds and it feels like, you know, this year, the latter part of this year, is going to be hopefully, Lord willing, some kind of a little bit of a revival as people find this normal, whatever that is. And I think the churches that are, they’re actually thinking that and planning for that, they’re in good company. You know, they’re the ones that are, I think, going to see the fruit from that. And just kind of echo what you guys were saying, it seems like when churches realized when this happened, yeah attendance was off and we couldn’t have events, but giving still was pretty solid. People are still sticking around, like they can’t come, but they’re tuning in online and they’re still committed. That’s certainly a whew kind of a moment, to recognize that it’s still okay, God’s still in control. You know, it’s his church, you know, we’re stewards and we’re shepherding as best we can. And I look forward to, you know, the rest of this year as a result of a lot of careful planning and prayer. And like you said, just kind of moving, getting out of where we were, and moving towards the future, and so that’s pretty exciting for me. So you’re a leader in that you bring other pastors, in your counseling and coaching and encouraging other pastors. Where do you get some of your inspiration?

Well, I want to quit every Monday, just like everybody else. I tell pastors, don’t ever quit on Monday, you know, usually it gets better on Tuesday, you know. So to me, it’s one of the great values of coaching, you know, I’ve had great coaches in my life. John Maxwell’s former right hand guy, Dan Reiland, a guy you guys are probably familiar with over at 12 Stone Church. Sam Chan, even Andy Stanley for a season, and Chris Hodges, my pastor, now. I just, I can’t tell you how many times I went into this conversation with my tail between my legs, you know, discouraged, defeated, disillusioned. You know, we tend to overestimate what we can do in a short period of time, and underestimate what we do in a long period of time, you know. And so the biggest mistake pastors make, on the contrary, is isolation. You know, that’s what pride goes before a fall, because you’re not willing to admit you’re struggling. So I’m always looking for ways to, you know, be in a relationship with someone who can encourage me, give me permission, believes in me. So I have my Knights of the Roundtable, you know, that I call when stuff hits the fan, and even when it’s not, you know, to process through conversations. And then I’m always reading, I’m always stewarding, you know, my own mind. I’m reading Craig Groeschel latest book, Winning the War in the Mind. You know, and I battle, you know, spiritually every single day.

And I tell pastors all the time, if you think about it, like if God called you to do this. If you know, if, that’s a big if, sometimes it’s not the Holy Spirit, it’s testosterone when we go to do something as man. But if God called you to do this and you quit on it just because you’re discouraged, that is the essence of missing the mark. So you never quit, that’s why you never quit in the dip, you never quit when you’re tired, you never quit when you’re discouraged. You know, what do you do? You buckle down, you do spiritual warfare, and you surround yourself with some people who believe in you that can help you get up out of the ashes, you know, dust yourself off, and get back in the game. I lived this, I’ve had to live this, and learn to run at a healthy rhythm, and surround myself with people who believe in me, and that are for me, and not listen to your critics, and your naysayers, and your skeptics, and your haters, and go with the goers, the people that are for you. And there’s power in that, there’s great power in that. And so I call it your spiritual swagger, you know, not arrogance, but we need some spiritual swagger, the confidence in the gifts that God’s given us, and the willingness to use them for his glory.

Well said.

Yeah, thanks for sharing that, Shawn, that’s pretty personal and I appreciate that. We want to kind of wrap things up here, and I want to give you an opportunity to just share with our listeners. You’ve written a couple of books, both of which I have read. And I want you to kind of share a little bit about those books that you’ve written, and also let people know how they can connect with you. You create a boatload of content online, and you provide a lot of stuff that is helpful and free for pastors and church leaders who are looking to just improve in their leadership and grow a healthier team. But you also offer services, and coaching services, that can help them kind of level that out. Why don’t you share a little bit both about the books that you’ve written, and then also about how people can connect with you, and how Courage to Lead can help local church pastors?

Sure, thanks man. One, the books just flowed out of years of coaching, we just took years of coaching and put it in. The personal leadership side, Measuring Success: Your Path To Significance, Satisfaction, & Leading Yourself To The Next Level. And then, Be Mean About The Vision. Nailing down the vision, drilling down, getting clearer about the vision with your team, drilling it down to every level of the organization, as a ministry or marketplace leader, it works. Both of them are written to both, so it’s a great resource for pastors to give high capacity people in their church to invest in them as well. But honestly, that just flows out of our coaching at And our content is put out there for free, to hopefully show the value that we can provide to be their coach. You know, we put a pastor coach on retainer, one on one, for a pastor and their leadership team, you know, and that’s what we love to do and serve guys. And it’s all housed there at

All right, well, I’m going to link to a whole bunch of stuff in the show notes, because you just have so much content that’s available and helpful for people. And Shawn, we really appreciate you carving out the time for us today. As we talked a little bit before we started recording that, you know, a lot of what we do in terms of the way we resource churches is through a lot of digital communication, internal, external, digital marketing, and that sort of thing. But we know that we have a lot of folks listening to this podcast who will benefit really greatly from the insight and the things that you’ve shared today. And Lord willing, if there’s a pastor that’s out there listening who needs a coach, needs some encouragement, need someone to help them rethink the way that they’re leading, help them rethink the way that their team is functioning and operating together. Boy, we’re going to send them your way, we really hope that they’ll reach out and connect with you.

God bless you guys, keep doing what you’re doing.

Will do. Thanks, Shawn, appreciate it.

Thank you, Shawn.



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