June 22, 2022

Fulfilling Your Calling and Finishing Strong with David Ashcraft – Episode 250 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

fulfilling ministry calling finishing strong

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Pastoring Pastors (Part 3)

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Have you ever questioned your ministry callingā€“or considered giving it up altogether?

In a recent survey, The Barna Group found that, despite all of the challenges, 77% of pastors could not see themselves doing anything other than pastoringā€”even though many of those pastors have considered quitting. With that many pastors committed to see their role through, it’s more important than ever that we’re prepared to finish strong.

In the first episode of our series, Lance Witt, former Executive and Teaching Pastor at Saddleback Church and founder of Replenish, joined us to discuss establishing healthy ministry rhythms, boundaries, Sabbath, and more. In part two, Sandra Stanley shared three key insights on how pastors can maintain humility and a healthy soul throughout their ministry. (In part 4, Jimmy and Irene Rollins share their own ministry and marriage journey as well asĀ practical wisdom for navigating personal and marriage crises.)


For part three of our series, I wanted to talk with a pastor who had been serving their church for a long time, because I wanted to hear their perspective on this unique season. I also wanted to learn how they’ve stayed the course, renewed their call to ministry through all the ups and downs of life and leadership, and could provide encouragement about finishing strong, especially given what we’ve come through.

With that focus in mind, I reached out to David Ashcraft, the senior pastor of LCBC Church in Pennsylvania. David became the pastor back in 1991, and over the last 31 years, the church has grown from one location with a weekly attendance of about 150 people to being in multiple locations across the state with close to 20,000 in weekly attendance. In this conversation, David and I unpacked:

  • The 90/10 rule for leading change
  • 3 ways pastors can avoid a moral failure
  • The importance of Godly decision making
  • Encouragement for your ministry calling
All of us are fallible and susceptible to sin. As leaders, we need to continually invite God into our thought processes and decision making. [episode 250] #unstuckchurch Share on X Pastors need to have the right people around us to challenge us and watch what we're doing. Living life in secret leads us to poor decisions. [episode 250] #unstuckchurch Share on X

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. In a recent survey, The Barna Group found that despite all of the challenges, 77% of pastors could not see themselves doing anything other than pastoring, even though many of those pastors have considered quitting. With that many pastors committed to see their role through, it’s more important than ever that we’re prepared to finish strong. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy share part three of our series on pastor health with a conversation with David Ashcraft, senior pastor at LCBC on how to fulfill your ministry calling. Make sure before you listen, though, to subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do, you’re gonna get tools to go along with each week’s conversation, all of the resources we mentioned and access to our podcast resource archive. You can sign up by going to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for this week’s conversation.

Amy (01:02):

Well, Tony, I’m loving this series that’s focused on pastoring pastors and church leaders. And in the first week, we heard from our friend, Lance Witt, on establishing healthy ministry, rhythms and boundaries. And then last week, Sandra Stanley provided some very practical coaching around soul care. So Tony, will you introduce where we’re going in today’s conversation?

Tony (01:21):

Yeah, when we decided to focus June on helping pastors and church leaders get healthy, we did that for a number of reasons. However, the biggest factor was certainly recognizing the challenging season that pastors have been through the last couple of years. And because of that, I purposely wanted to talk with a pastor who had been serving their church for a long time, because I wanted to hear their perspective on this unique season. But I also wanted to learn how they’ve stayed the course and renewed their call to ministry through all the ups and downs of life and leadership. And I wanted to hear from a pastor who could kind of talk to us about finishing strong, especially given what we’ve come through. And with that focus in mind, I reached out to David Ashcraft. He’s the senior pastor of LCBC church in Pennsylvania. And as he’ll explain, David became the pastor back in 1991. And over the last 31 years, the church has grown from one location with a weekly attendance of about 150 people to being in multiple locations across the state of Pennsylvania, and at least pre COVID, they were running close to 20,000 in weekly attendants. So it’s a very big church. And the story of the church is remarkable, but this conversation is more about David and his leadership through those 30 some years. And I think you’re gonna be encouraged by what he has to share. So here’s my conversation with David Ashcraft.

Tony (03:00):

David, for those who may not be familiar with LCBC, tell us a little bit about the church.

David (03:06):

Yeah, so Tony LCBC actually stands for “Lives Changed By Christ.” And when I first came 31 years ago, it was Lancaster County Bible Church. And everybody would always just shorten it to LCBC, but still Lancaster County Bible Church. As we began to expand outside of Lancaster County, then we said, well, that doesn’t really fit anymore. And everybody had kind of just used that acronym of “Lives Changed By Christ” all along. So everybody knows us as LCBC, LCBC Church, but we just say we are a group of people whose lives have continued to be changed by Jesus Christ. So that’s who we are at LCBC.

Tony (03:40):

So obviously your ministry parallels the history of the church to a large extent, but would you share the story, beginning with kinda your decision to pursue ministry and then eventually specifically to pastor LCBC?

David (03:54):

Yeah. My dad was a pastor. I grew up in the Dallas, Texas area, and he was a pastor. As a kid, I trusted Jesus when I was five. And so very young. People would always tell me I was gonna follow in my father’s footsteps. And I hated that. I was very determined not to be a pastor and not because I didn’t like what he was doing, but I didn’t like people telling me what I was gonna be. And so there was a stubbornness in me. When I got into high school, I really wasn’t walking with God at all. When I went off to college, figured this was my chance to get away from expectations of me and just the church culture. Went off to Texas Tech University, and I studied business. Thought I was gonna be a lawyer. And when I was between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I had an opportunity to work in a camp. It happened to be a Christian camp, which I had no business working in at that stage in my life. But God had me there. And about two weeks in as I was telling the kids in my cabin each night what they needed to do to have their life right with God, I became very convicted and realized I wasn’t doing any of those things myself. And so it was actually at a campfire out in Palo Duro Canyon, far west Texas, middle of nowhere, that I recommitted my life to God and said, okay, I’ll begin to follow you again, God, but still very determined not to be a pastor. So thought I was gonna be a lawyer. My senior year at Texas Tech, began to sense God leading me towards ministry. So I sat out a year, worked for the Whirlpool corporation for a year. Ruth and I were married that year, but then ended up applying at Dallas Seminary. Even at Dallas Seminary said I’ll be involved in ministry, but don’t wanna be a pastor. Started working in a church in Dallas. And even while working in the church said, okay, I’ll be a pastor, but don’t have to teach or preach. And it was kinda fun to watch God kinda take me as far as I was willing to go each step of the way. And so I was on staff at this church in Dallas for about 10 to 12 years before coming to Pennsylvania. And just really sensed a desire to lead more and kind of be the key leader. And so for about two years, we looked for a position in Texas. And if you grow up in Texas, you’re always told you don’t leave the state. Just different than most other environments that I’ve been in. Haven’t experienced that here in Pennsylvania. And so we never thought about leaving Texas, and we thought we were real open handed with God. We said, we’ll go anywhere you want us to go, in Texas. Part of that as well, we have two children. They’re both adopted, and we only had one adopted son at that point. And the agency that we worked with was in Texas, they said they would place a second child in your home as long as you were in Texas. And so it just seemed to us that there was no other recourse other than stay in Texas. And finally, after about two years, and we talked to about 30 churches over the course of two years in the Texas area, and none of them seemed right for us. And so June, we made a decision that, okay, God, we’ve been waiting three and a half years for this second child. If you want us to look and broaden our search and look outside of Texas, then we’ll do that. We’ll trust you to either provide us with a second child or make us content with what we have. And July 3rd, our daughter, Ashley, was three days old, and we got a call from the agency and said we have a daughter for you. And so very quickly God answered that prayer. Maybe three weeks after that heard from this church in Pennsylvania, LCBC, and spent some time with them throughout the fall and then came in January and just really felt like this is the place God wanted us to be. So not where we started in our thinking, but God brought us here. It’s been a great experience being here at LCBC. We love being here.

Tony (07:27):

So given that story and your journey into ministry, and then pastoring the church, have there ever been any moments along the way where you’ve kind of questioned that original calling to ministering or being a pastor, and David, even more specifically, especially in these last couple of years. I mean, there’s so many societal challenges related to the pandemic and politics and many others. I mean, have you ever thought, especially in the last couple years, I didn’t sign up for this.

David (07:58):

Well, you know, what’s interesting is, early days, so, no, I haven’t asked that question that many times, to be honest with you, and you always hear, Tony, people say, well, pastors, every Monday they wanna resign. I tended to wanna resign every Friday and Saturday mornings, I was having to finish up messages cause I did not enjoy and still don’t enjoy the preparation. I love the delivery. The preparation is just hard for me. And so I can’t tell you how many Fridays, even still, Friday rolls around and I’m like, what am I doing? And I’m ready to get out of this. But if I go back to our early days, LCBC was about 150 when Ruth and I first came, and there was a lot of tumultuous times, many tumultuous times in those first five or six years, figuring out what we were doing. And within the first six months that we were at LCBC, the chairman of the elders who had actually hired me, resigned in the middle of a meeting and was very ceremonious about the way he did it. He stood up and all the elders had keys to the church at that time. And so he takes off his key chain and takes the key off, pops it on the desk or the table. And there were only about five of us, I think, that were elders at that time. And he just said, “Obviously you don’t need me anymore. You’ve got David.” And so he walked out of the meeting and was gone. 12 months later, the second elder chairman did the same thing and took his key off. And then a little later, another elder resigned, and it was all over, initially, it was just over somewhat control. The initial chairman had been very controlling, and I was much more open handed, and he didn’t like that. And then it was just direction. What style of church were we gonna be? And so we were going through back, this was early nineties. So it was the music battles and what style of music and what are we gonna wear and all those kind of things that back then were a very big deal. Now they’re not so much. And so there were many times, but I had made a commitment, Tony, unless God moved me, I wasn’t gonna look anywhere else. I wasn’t gonna be peeking around the corner and saying, God, do you want me any place differently? I was committed to be here. Part of what even drove that, back in the early nineties, John Maxwell was doing cassettes back then, I guess what would be podcasts now, but he had cassettes, and I would listen to those talks, and he would often talk about pastors leaving too soon from the church that they’re in and the storm is on you. But if you just wait a little longer, then the linings of the clouds are there, and it’s gonna be sunny and bright on the other side. And so I bought into that and said, okay, I’m gonna stick this out. And five or six years in, things began to turn. And then once it turned, Ruth and I were like, why would we ever leave this and have to go through this again in another situation? So we went from that 150 to now we have 19 locations. I think last weekend we had about 21,000 people involved with us. And so it’s just been real exciting to see what God has done, but we had to stick it out through some hard times as well.

Tony (10:47):

Yeah. So I think that’s a unique part of your story actually. And I know there are a handful of churches that really have committed to a ministry role and a church for a long time. And this is really counter, not only to what I commonly see in churches, but even in the marketplace. I was just looking at some data that indicated the average tenure for a CEO is only seven to eight years. I mean, you’ve been the pastor and leader at LCBC now for, it’s more than 30 years, is that right?

David (11:20):

Right. It’s a little over 30 years. And I don’t know that I would like to tell everybody, oh, you need to stay and not ever make moves. And yet I know moves are necessary sometimes, but I also know that we do tend to bail out too soon. And if I look at the, and not that large means successful, but if I look at the largest churches across the country, almost every one have been pastored by a long-term pastor. And you have to kind of fight through the battles. You have to be there long enough where the church begins to take on your personality. And then you kind of keep moving. Now, had the church not been growing, I’m not a maintainer. And so if I were just having to maintain in a situation, I probably wouldn’t have done well, but because we’ve been able to grow, then that’s afforded me the luxury of being able to keep broadening, even my leadership and style. And so that’s helped from that standpoint.

Tony (12:09):

So maybe speak to the pastor, especially in this season, that’s considering kind of moving on, either to another ministry role or my goodness, David, if the stats are accurate, a lot of pastors, a lot of church leaders, they’re even considering stepping out of ministry. What encouragement would you give us to maybe renew that passion for ministry and that commitment, especially for those that are in your season of ministry too, where I don’t know what you’re thinking about, you know, retirement. I have to think that’s at least somewhere on the horizon for you. How do you commit to finishing strong, especially given all of the turmoil that we’ve experienced in our society, which has impacted a lot of churches too in this season?

David (12:56):

Well, I think, and you mentioned just the turmoil over the last several years, and it has been very tumultuous, and it’s even hard to know how to lead, and some of the greatest leaders, church leaders, across the country are saying, man, I thought I knew how to lead, and I thought I knew where we were going. I don’t so know so much anymore. I think even you’d ask earlier over the last several years, how has it impacted me? In some ways, it could almost sound like a sick kind of way, it’s been good for me. I enjoy leading through a crisis. It’s made me feel needed, and it’s made me feel like I need to be able to step up and truly give leadership, give stability to the organization and just our congregation as a whole. So in some ways, for me, it’s been reinvigorating, but it’s also been incredibly hard, because it’s hard to picture, you know, I think I know where we’re going, but man, everything is changing. And I think I know who comes to our church, but that’s changing. And everybody’s got an opinion right now. And so it’s hard. One of our values as a church, early on, was that you can’t please everybody. And so we’re not trying to please everybody. And I just watched in churches, especially when I was pastoring in Dallas, where the pastors, and I think we as pastors tend to be people pleasers. We wanna keep people happy and satisfied. And so we’re always wanting everybody to be happy. But back in the nineties, eighties, when the music wars were going on, then the idea back then was, well, let’s have a blended service. We’ll do hymns for some, and we’ll do choruses for others, and we’ll blend them together and everybody will be happy. But instead what happened is nobody was happy, and everybody was mad, and the people would come to church and just grumble. And so when I came to LCBC, I just said, you know what? We’re gonna pick a direction. And we know people aren’t gonna like it, but we’re gonna pick it and go. And the ones that like it, that’s great. And ones that don’t, that’s okay too. And so we kind of instituted a 90/10 rule, and we wanted 90% of our people to be just wildly enthusiastic. And then we said, it’s okay for 10% to be very upset with us. And so that gave us the freedom to have people mad at us. In the early years, we definitely had that 10%, if not more, that we’re real upset with us. It doesn’t necessarily get easier as you get bigger, because now with 20,000 people, if 10% are mad at us, then that’s 2000 people telling us they’re mad. And yet it usually isn’t that. Usually it’s just a few loud, vocal people. And so we constantly are catching ourselves and going, wait a minute, this is only 10 emails we’ve gotten complaining about something that we did. And so why are we all reacting to those 10 emails? If we get to 2000 emails, then let’s talk about it. So, we just know we can’t please everybody. And that’s helped me kind of navigate and move forward.

Tony (15:32):

I wish I could take that personality trait that you have of just being able to kind of push forward with what you know is a clear direction of the church and share that with other pastors, because I think you’re right, David, we get into ministry because we actually love people, and we want people to love us back, but, boy, in order to help the church move forward in its mission, sometimes we have to make tough decisions because we’re also committed to the mission that God’s called us to. So, I appreciate that conviction that you have.

David (16:07):

I think what happens to us as pastors too, is we get conflicting messages where we’ll hear about, it’s all about vision. It’s all about direction. So we want to charge ahead, but then we’ll read something else that says, but it’s all about the person. And it’s not about the organization. It’s about the person. And if you’re not interested in the people, then somehow you’re a lousy leader. And so then you kind of go, okay, we’re gonna march forward. But as soon as people start getting hurt or expressing unhappiness in that direction, then all of a sudden we feel like, oh, then I’ve gotta back down because I don’t want to have that person unhappy with me because it’s gonna hurt the relationship, and I wanna be a relational pastor. But the problem is at some point you have to say, you know what, it’s okay if you don’t like what we’re doing, and what we had to decide as a church is to say, you know what, there’s lots of good churches in Lancaster County as we were starting, but not all the churches are introducing more people to Jesus. And if that’s not you, that’s totally okay. You’re still gonna be in heaven someday. And we’re okay with that. But it’s hard because, again, you’re told, oh, but it’s a relational thing and it’s all about the person. And so you get these conflicted messages that make it hard.

Tony (17:11):

So David, kind of to shift gears, but in a way, it’s your recent book. By the way, thank you for sharing that with me. It’s called, “What Was I Thinking?” And I’ve read the book, and I think there are actually some important principles related to this conversation about finishing strong. But with that in mind, what were you thinking when you wrote the book?

David (17:35):

I had a friend, I have a friend, a mentor of mine that I just appreciate dearly. And he and I and Ruth, my wife, and about two other people about three years ago had opportunity to have dinner together. We were in his city. We had dinner. It was a three hour dinner. It was just, it was one of those magical evenings. And one of those kind of evenings, all of our staff here at LCBC knows this person. And so it’s one of those deals where you just couldn’t wait to get back on Monday to tell all the staff man, I had this incredible experience with this person. That was Wednesday, and before I could get back in the office on Monday, the news broke that this person was being accused by multiple people of just inappropriate behavior. And it just left me floored and thinking, oh my goodness, what, you know, what was he thinking to engage in some of the activities that he was engaging in? So it started me on a process of just self-reflection, asking that question of what was he thinking? What do I think sometimes that could lead me there? Ended up reaching out to a friend who’s a business psychologist and saying what goes on in a person’s mind to make some of those decisions? So he and I wrote the book together and just tried to think through a process, are there ways that would help make better decisions? And Tony, I think what happens a lot of times, for us as leaders, and it’s not even just poor moral choices that we need to be able to make good decisions. For me, as we were growing here at LCBC, I was doing well at making decisions. And so the staff would always say, well, what does David think? What does David think? And they would say things like, oh, well, David’s just got a good gut for those kind of things. And he’s good at making decisions. And so let’s trust David’s gut on those decisions. And the problem is, as we expanded, as we got bigger and bigger, I didn’t know most of what was going on anymore. And so my gut wasn’t near as safe to follow as everybody was making it out to be. And so we need to figure out what’s a very thoughtful process where we can be confident that the decisions we’re making are good decisions? And not just rely on gut. And even you talked about down the road, succession. That will come for all of us. And so how do we know that the people that follow us are gonna be making good decisions?

Tony (19:42):

It feels like that day’s coming sooner and sooner for me, David. So I don’t know. Well, so I’m reading the book and I’m thinking about kind of these stories that are popping to my mind, because it seems like every week I’m hearing another story of a pastor who at some point along the way, made some poor decisions that has led him or her to step down or be removed from ministry. And the stories of pastors at large churches, of course, make the news. We don’t typically see the stories of pastors of small churches in the news or on social media, but because I study churches and I’m engaging in church leadership for a living, I know that those stories of poor choices of pastors of small churches are just as prevalent. So, I mean, what advice do you give leaders to help them maybe avoid those poor choices so that they don’t become one of those stories? I just think, I mean, even each of us, we’re susceptible to that, just one poor choice. And honestly, David, I’m just kinda looking for some coaching for me in my life too, to hopefully finish strong as I finish my ministry too, to the church.

David (21:00):

I think, and all of these, everything I say, Tony, you know and every person listening knows this already. Obviously all of us are fallible. All of us are susceptible. And so I think, One is just acknowledging that fallibility and realizing we, I mean, we look at those stories of those other people and we kind of shake our heads and go, man, you know, glad I’m not doing that. And yet we all know we’re not that far away from that. And so we’re just a few decisions away. So I think that’s part of it. I think continually inviting God into our thought processes and our decision making, which again, sounds so trite. And so I almost feel guilty saying that to our audience and yet, I know for myself, I don’t always invite God into my decisions. And somebody will come and ask me for a quick decision and I’ll make it. And it may even have some pretty big ramifications, and maybe I’ll just superficially pray real quick and say, God bless the decision I just made. But so often I’m not even thinking, what would God think? What would God want in this situation? And so just a constant reminder that, okay, God, am I inviting you into this decision? And so many of the decisions where people have fallen, had they invited God into the process, they wouldn’t have done the behaviors or they wouldn’t have, and it never starts that big. I mean, again, you know, this too, it’s small decisions. Craig Groeschel recently talked about the decision to make his bed every day, and the importance of making his bed for him. And he’ll just say, making the bed starts him off the day in a disciplined manner where he is gonna make good choices. If he doesn’t make the bed, then it’s not gonna go well. And it’s not that okay, we’ve discovered now the secret to success, let’s make your bed every morning. It’s really living a disciplined life, but what are the little things that trigger that discipline for us? And so I think some of that is that. I think having the right people around us to challenge us and just to watch what we’re doing. When we don’t have anybody around us, when we’re living our life in secret or just alone, and there’s not other people that see what we’re doing. And I know for myself, the bigger we got as a church, the more I found myself wanting to escape and just needing to be away. And so for me, the way I was able to work through that was Ruth and I pretty consistently about every six weeks, we may go eight weeks, but we just gotta go somewhere. I have to go somewhere. And fortunately the kids are grown. She can go with me. I just need to go someplace else. And that probably could have been played out in different, very negative ways. But for me, it actually allows Ruth and I to be stronger, closer together. And so it’s just understanding maybe patterns that way, being careful not to do things in secret. I think even just becoming cynical about our own choices and saying, well, wait a minute, why am I thinking that way? And just questioning ourselves a lot makes a big difference. So I think there’s safeguards there, but all of us are susceptible, and it just continues to push how much we need God to be in the midst of all of our decisions.

Tony (23:55):

Yeah. It’s interesting. You mentioned getting to a lonely place, and I’ve heard so many leaders, especially of big organizations, not just in church, but even in marketplace, talk about as they’ve, kind of, grown in their leadership and been elevated in leadership positions and then the organization around them has grown, that they’ve become more lonely over time. And that’s always raised a bit of a red flag for me because I don’t doubt that as you elevate in your role and your leadership, you could be susceptible to getting to a place where you kind of, other people don’t have a voice around you like they did in the past. But to me, that’s just an indication that there needs to be some more intentionality then to make sure I actually do have the right people around me that aren’t just conforming to my thinking, but they’re willing to push a little bit when it’s appropriate. Do you find that’s true, David?

David (24:55):

Yeah, very much so. I would say what happens is that as you get isolated that way, there are still people coming at you all the time. So there are voices that are coming at you and it may be the wrong voices, all of a sudden. And so it’s people that are constantly saying, you’re good, you’re good. You’re great. Your messages have changed my life. This church has changed my life. You have changed my life. And so you get that coming at you. That’s kind of patting you on the back and giving you that sense of man, I am significant. I am powerful. I am influential. And then you have voices coming at you, that are powerful as well, because power attracts power. And so people see you as a person of influence. And so they want to get around you, other people of influence. And what happens with pastors is those other people, when they go off and are successful in business, they make a lot of money or they have a lot of perks that maybe we as pastors don’t. And so all of a sudden, well, because they have that money, I should have that money. Because they have these pleasures that I often don’t, then I should have them. And so then we start excusing our behavior and saying, well, sure, it’s okay if I skim a little bit off the expense account, or if I charge things that maybe aren’t exactly right, because I deserve it. I mean, look at what they’re experiencing. I should be able to experience that too. I’m just as successful. Or a relationship that’s inappropriate, and you know, I’m sacrificing for you, God. And I ought to get a little pleasure out of this as well. Plus I’m helping her. I’m helping him. So all of a sudden, deceit hits our heads, but it’s the position of power that we’re in. It’s the loneliness and the lonely place that we are. And you mix all those together and all of a sudden, it’s the perfect storm for bad decisions.

Tony (26:32):

All right, David, again, I really would encourage listeners to pick up your book because you do provide a clear framework on how we can process these decisions that we’re all making on a daily basis. And hopefully get us to a place where we’re making wise choices that allow us to flourish in life, but also in our leadership. But as we wrap up today’s conversation, any final encouragement you want to give pastors and church leaders that are listening to maybe encourage them to stick to their calling and finish strong in their ministry?

David (27:03):

I would just say, stay with it. Keep at it. Don’t give up. And the grass always looks greener someplace else. It’s not. We all know that, but when we’re in the midst of people yelling at us or complaining about us, then it’s easy to look at the other and think it looks better. You’re doing a good job, and you’re doing something significant. You’re pointing people to Jesus and changing their eternity. And so what you’re doing is incredibly important. And so don’t bail out and stick with it and bring the right people around you that can encourage you. And as you hear the negative voices, that’s okay. There will always be negative voices. And so don’t try to please everybody. Adopt the 90/10 rule, and know that there’ll be people that they’re mad. So stick with it and keep moving forward. And then the other thing I’d say, you asked me earlier, Tony, or you made the comment that at some point succession’s gonna come for me. And so it actually is. I announced last November that this November I’ll be stepping away from the role that I’m in currently. And it was an eight-year process to get to that point. Part of it was Jim Collins. I had opportunity to sit in a small group with him about eight or nine years ago. And he talks about his different levels of leadership and his level five leaders, he was defining it. He said, you’re not a level five leader until you’ve left the organization you’re in, and it’s better with you gone than when you’re in it. And so that really challenged me to say, okay, I wanna be a level five leader. I want LCBC to be better when I’m gone than when I’m here. And so I started an eight year kind of journey to say, what will it take for LCBC to be strong way beyond me? And so all of this, I mean, if we just kind of bail out and again, we always say, well, God’s moving me, and maybe God is, but maybe he’s wants you there. And maybe he’ll move you. But I think he also wants you to make sure that the church you’re in is really stable before you move too. So, yeah, so just be careful and not move too quick and make sure God truly is a part of that decision.

Amy (29:03):

That was so helpful. Tony, I don’t know if you know this or not, but I met David about 17 years ago. Our leadership team and David’s leadership team both joined a two year cohort to work out our multisite strategies because back in 2005, multisite, we didn’t know what the proven strategies were back then. And then after that cohort ended, we actually flew our leadership team out to LCBC. We just so connected with them as a team, and David and his team hosted us. And we got to see LCBC in action, and what a team. I mean, mission focused, healthy culture. They had an aligned and an empowered team, and they were obviously effective. So it was no surprise to me when you chose to interview David. He’s a great leader, and he’s a leader I would’ve been honored to serve with. So I’m glad he joined us. Tony, what stood out to you from that conversation?

Tony (29:54):

I mean, he had so much wisdom to share, but as he was talking about everything that he’s kind of experienced in his life and leadership through the years, the word that he used that really jumped out to me in the conversation was that word fallibility. I mean, every one of us is fallible to making a series of decisions that can lead to poor choices that could have significant consequences. As he was talking about that, I was just reminded of Emily’s dad. Emily’s my wife, and her dad passed away 10 years ago, but Emily and I met when we were only 12. And so I met her father when I was still very young, and he certainly had significant influence in my life, especially as a young guy. And I really would consider him to be a second dad in my life. And I remember having a conversation with Emily’s dad related to this topic that we’re talking about today, early in my relationship with her dad. And again, Emily’s dad, he was a man that I respected. He’s someone who I held in high regard for the way he lived his life, how he parented his four kids, how he loved his wife, how he served Jesus until the day he died. And yet even someone like him, who loved Jesus, loved his family, lived a life of integrity. He shared this with me. He said, Tony, every one of us, including me, is capable of making poor choices that can negatively impact our lives and the lives of the people that we love most. And it really was the first time I realized that one of the keys to winning at life is embracing humility. In other words, I can’t let my pride lie to me and suggest that I’m so much better than other people and other leaders that I’m not also fallible to making poor choices that can lead to significant consequences. And so similar to David, Emily’s dad was talking about the need for boundaries, the need for surrounding myself with people who would encourage me and help me stay the course. And now, I mean, here I am 30 years later, and I’m still recalling that conversation as if it were yesterday. So if you hear nothing else in today’s episode, I hope you’ll hear this. We really are. We’re all fallible. And because of that, we all need to pay attention and respond to the wisdom David shared in this conversation. I mean, I wanna finish strong. Amy, I know you do as well, and we want you, the listeners too, the pastors and church leaders that are listening. We want you to finish your life and finish your leadership strong as well.

Amy (32:43):

Well, Tony, any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Tony (32:46):

So as you know, this series, it’s all about your health as pastors and church leaders. And hopefully you heard something in today’s conversation that will prompt you to take a next step in your leadership, but I’d really like to know how I can be praying for you as well in the coming days. And if you’d like me to do that, please reach out with however I can pray for you. And you can email me directly at tony@theunstuckgroup.com. And again, don’t hesitate to let me know how we can continue to encourage you in your leadership and in your life.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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