May 1, 2024

How to Talk About Faith “Non-Essentials” (with Pastor Dave Dummitt) – Episode 346

how to talk about faith “non essentials” (with pastor dave dummitt)

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How to Talk About the Tough Stuff (Part 4)

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We’ve made it to the end of our series on “How to Talk About the Tough Stuff.” It’s been fun to step away from our normal topics and have these tough but important conversations.

I hope you have found this series to be helpful and encouraging… And hey, we haven’t been cancelled yet 🙂 

HOW TO TALK ABOUT: THEOLOGY & “NON-ESSENTIALS”

“Discussing the non-essentials ought to help you make disciples, not hinder you from making disciples.”

To wrap up our series, I got to sit down with Dave Dummitt, the lead pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, a multisite church with 8 campuses in the Chicagoland area.

The circumstances under which Dave came to be in this role at Willow were obviously tough and controversial in themselves, so I think he has great wisdom to share around how to navigate tough topics. We discussed:

  • Why we shouldn’t “pull punches” with God’s truth
  • Navigating tension-filled topics with compassion
  • The 3 people you should focus on when preaching
  • Maintaining unity around non-essentials
"We don't need unity of opinion around non-essentials, but we do need unity of mission." — Dave Dummitt [episode 346] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "If debating non-essentials begins to negatively affect your mission of reaching people for Jesus and making disciples, that’s a good barometer of whether or not you’re doing it right." — Dave Dummitt [episode 346] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "Discussing the non-essentials ought to help you make disciples, not hinder you from making disciples." — Dave Dummitt [episode 346] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet "God cares more about discipling the people in your church and reaching your community than you do. So when you're trying to prepare a message and get it just right, you might feel alone, but you are not—God is right there helping you." — Dave Dummitt… Click To Tweet
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Transcript

Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. It’s true that many pastors feel it’s more difficult to keep their church unified than ever. So what if there was an approach to teach on tough topics in a way that creates more unity within our churches? On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on How to Talk About the Tough Stuff in church with a conversation with Pastor Dave Dummitt. Before we go there, though, if you’re new to the podcast, head to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the episode show notes. When you do, each week you’ll get resources to support that week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, bonus resources and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.

Tony (00:56):

You got into ministry because you feel compelled to lead people to meet and follow Jesus. But, as your church grows, it just becomes difficult to see individuals through the crowd. You may try to solve this by using a church management software but that mostly just houses the data you’ve gathered. It’s time to transform your data into discipleship with PATH. Using PATH’s clear, actionable reports to define reality, gain clarity and know your people, you can be more confident that you’re maximizing your data to shepherd and care for the people in your church when they need you the most. To learn more and receive your first free resource, visit pathengagement.com/unstuck.

Amy (01:42):

Well, Tony, it was great to be with you for a few days in Atlanta for our multisite cohort—what a great group of pastors.

Tony (01:48):

It was so fun, Amy. And we were, this one, it was all about multisite, but we have some upcoming cohorts for Executive Pastors and Senior Pastors. And, my goodness, I love getting in the same room with church leaders, and it’s, you know, it’s not like going to a conference where it’s all about whoever’s on the platform and the content, which is great. I mean, I enjoy those experiences, too.

Amy (02:12):

Mm-Hmm.

Tony (02:12):

But I really prefer being in these smaller environments with just a handful of leaders to really get to know each other and share what’s working, what’s not working in ministries. And so, I absolutely loved it, and it was just fun to hang out a little bit with some folks, too, and just enjoy some time together. So, yeah, lots of fun. And we got to, we got to be with friends in the same location rather than…

Amy (02:37):

That’s right.

Tony (02:37):

…over Zoom, which is always a good thing, too.

Amy (02:40):

Yeah. And of course, we have fun teeing up content and sharing things, you know, that we have learned, but I, my joy is really what they learned from one another, as well, and those relationships that get formed. All those churches were growing churches. Again, it reflects, I feel like, our tribe, the churches we’re connected with. God’s just doing some pretty amazing things, and I love them talking about their multisite visions and dreams. So, anyways.

Tony (03:04):

Mm-Hmm.

Amy (03:05):

We have made it to the end of our series here on How to Talk About the Tough Stuff. And it’s been fun to step away from our normal topics and have these tough but important conversations. And I hope, you guys, our listeners, have found this series to be helpful and encouraging. And hey, we haven’t been canceled yet.

Tony (03:22):

Well, not yet. So, to wrap our series, I got to sit down with Dave Dummitt. He’s the Lead Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. Willow, if you’re not familiar with them, they’re a multisite church with eight locations in the Chicagoland area. And the circumstances under which Dave came to be in his role at Willow were obviously very tough and controversial in themselves. So, I think he has some great wisdom to share about how to navigate tough topics. So here’s my conversation with Dave.

Tony (03:55):

Dave, it is so good to connect with you. And I, we have a lot of other questions on different topics to hit today, but, and you probably get this often, but I’m just curious. How are things at Willow? How, how, how are things doing? How are things going at Willow Church?

Dave (04:10):

For sure. Thanks for asking. Thanks for, thanks for asking that question. Things are good. God is doing something really beautiful at Willow Creek, and it is a privilege and honor to get a front row seat to watching him just heal and grow his church. We are seeing restored health, and by that I mean, you know, the things that many of the people in your audience are gonna care about, right? The metrics…

Tony (04:41):

Yeah.

Dave (04:41):

…are up into the right. Every one of those sort of key metrics that church leaders love to follow are up and to the right at Willow, and we’re so grateful about that. I would say a couple of things that I’d want to add to it is just giving God credit for, and the demographics at our church we’re seeing, I think that’s why I said God’s doing something beautiful at Willow and not just growing something bigger. Growth is happening, but like we’ve seen the greatest jump in diversity in Willow’s history. We’ve seen Willow’s growing younger, you know. It was sort of a, maybe a quintessential boomer church in the nineties and the eighties.

Tony (05:29):

Yep.

Dave (05:29):

And we’re seeing the greatest amount of growth with our millennial and Gen Z crew, which is awesome. And then, you know, Willow, I think probably was known for so long as it was a church that just was so passionate about reaching unchurched people, and that DNA hasn’t gone anywhere. And so we’re seeing a lot of unchurched people come, which is awesome. And then, for me, I like to say, you know, this is a very unscientific metric, but, the metric I would share is that we’re just having more fun than we’ve had. You know, Willow went through a lot of challenges, and they, I wouldn’t say fun was a part of the mix. But we’re seeing a lot of trust grow…

Tony (06:16):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (06:17):

…with staff, with our board, with our congregation. In fact, our lead team just got together and did two days retreat, and we came out of that really refreshed. And we kinda looked around and went, wait, we just spent two days, what working hard? Why are we so refreshed and energized? And somebody made the observation, “I think it’s because every one of the things we talked about were future issues and not trying to solve, you know, challenges from the past.” And so we’re excited. We’re bullish on Willow, and thanks for asking.

Tony (06:56):

Alright, Dave. It is just so good to hear those stories, and I love, especially that it’s fun. And when I engage with pastors and churches, I mean, yes, we wanna fulfill the gospel mission. But I, I wanna help pastors have fun engaging that mission, too, because it’s a good work that we’re a part of. So, it’s, it’s, I’m just glad to hear that Willow’s turned a corner and you’re moving in a positive direction, and it’s just good to engage in that mission again. So it’s fun to hear those updates, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today. We’re actually in the middle of a series on teaching on tough topics, and these are the topics that tend to create tension either for the audience or, or for the teaching pastor or both. And I, I was just, I kind of wanna begin here. Can you remember back to your early days of teaching and share your experience from that first time that you had to teach on a tough topic? What was the topic? What did you learn from that experience? Can you share a little bit about that?

Dave (07:54):

Sure. You know, I think I started teaching when we started 2|42 Community Church in Michigan. And, you know, here we were this fledgling church plant, and I just wanted to be so nice and attractive to everybody. I didn’t wanna, I didn’t want to talk on anything that was gonna be controversial. And I remember our, our, our management team was going, “Hey, man, you know, like, you need to talk on giving.” And I think that was probably one of the first things that we talked about that felt like a challenge.

Tony (08:29):

Yeah.

Dave (08:29):

And I’d never done that. I was 30, 30 years old, and, you know, so, I tried to do my best to put together a great teaching on giving. But I’m telling you I fumbled all over it. I was apologetic. I was pulling punches. I was, you know, I taught it like it was a necessary evil in the church rather than something to be celebrated, you know, or some sort of spiritual discipline or, you know, privilege to be able to partner with God in the mission. And, and I remember some great, you know, seasoned saint coming up to me afterwards, and he was so kin because the truth is I had just, I had just blown it. And he was just like, “Listen, when you, when you pull punches on God’s truths, then you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re kind of denying people some of the blessing of living in God’s truth.”

Tony (09:24):

Yeah.

Dave (09:24):

And, you know, I receives that. And, and, you know, I, I think that’s still true today. You know, there are, there are things today that, that are challenging things to talk about. And yet, man, if we, if we really believe that what we’re teaching is God’s truth, then we don’t wanna pull punches. We want it to be something that, that we, we throw out there and allow people to live in God’s truth ’cause that’s the best place to be. I, I, I just, saw, yeah, I, I studied Greek in seminary. I didn’t study a lot of Hebrew.

Tony (10:02):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (10:03):

And so every time I come across a great Hebrew discovery, it lights me up. And recently, I saw that the com, the word for commandment in scripture in the Hebrew is mitzvah. And that the root word for that, it’s tzavta, if I’m pronouncing that correctly. But that word means connection. And so this idea that God’s laws were actually God’s connections. They were ways, they were, they were, his truth was really the way to keep us close to him. To me is it’s just a phenomenal concept. And so, when I think about teaching God’s truth, even the hard truth, it is because we wanna be so close relationally to Jesus and, and God.

Tony (10:53):

Yeah, that’s so good.

Dave (10:53):

So, anyway, it’s a neat perspective that just I discovered recently.

Tony (10:57):

Yeah. So, okay, going back to the beginning, if money was the tension-filled topic, what do you, what, what would you, what’s your sense of the kind of the most tension-filled topics today for congregations or for teaching pastors? And do you think those topics have shifted at all over time?

Dave (11:13):

Yeah, probably. I mean, if you think about what were churches, what were tough topics years and years ago, maybe 50 years ago, maybe a hundred years ago, it seems like the topics of yesterday were probably more around the finer points of orthodox theology. And people were splitting churches over, are we, how do we feel about the charismatic gifts or reformed versus Armenian versus open theism? You know, those, those theologies seemed like those were the controversial topics of a hundred years ago. It feels like today, the, the controversy, the things that are tough topics are probably, probably revolve more around our engagement as a church with the culture. And so, I think about things like sexuality and gender. Things like, “Hey, you know, I, I go into work every day, and we’ve got a huge emphasis on diversity, equity, inclusion. And yet when I come into the church, I, I don’t really hear about that.” And, and so, you know, what are we doing and should we be doing? Is that a, is that a biblical concept? What do we need to do? Certainly political engagement, how much political engagement ought we to have? And if so, what should that look like? Mental health, I think, is a very difficult topic but a very important topic these days, especially the pandemic. You, you see some of the ways that mental health has, you know, the, the issues there have really skyrocketed. So yeah, probably some of those issues.

Tony (13:05):

So, when you know that you’re going to engage one of those topics, Dave, do you prepare any differently for those messages or do you prepare your team any differently when you know you’re gonna be diving into a topic like that that might be filled with some tension?

Dave (13:21):

Yeah, well, for sure. Those are the ones that I just ask our youth pastor to preach on, right? I don’t wanna touch those things. No.

Tony (13:33):

And you have him teach the Sunday after Thanksgiving so that there are few fewer people to hear it, too, then, right?

Dave (13:39):

Exactly. For sure. We’re gonna tackle that on the 4th of July weekend. And, no. Yeah. So, do we, do we prepare differently? Yeah, probably. I, I would say, so we, we have a pretty diverse content development team. So, I write messages with a team of people and, and we have tried to have diverse voices around the table. So, you know, we have a Willow Español ministry here—that pastor is around the table. I have an African American campus pastor. He sits around our table. I wanna see, I wanna hear ethnic perspectives when I’m developing content. We have young people. I’ve got some Gen Z, millennial folks around the table, men and women. So, we just, we try to have different voices around the table so that as we’re developing that content, what does mental health look like from those different perspectives?

Tony (14:48):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (14:50):

What does diversity, equity and inclusion look like from those different perspectives? And we’ve found that to be really, really helpful and important. We just did, we’re doing a series in the fall called Questions Our Kids Are Asking.

Tony (15:06):

Oh, I like that.

Dave (15:06):

And I honestly went into that going, “Oh, I know what the questions are that, that our kids are asking. We’re gonna talk about this, we’re gonna talk about that.” And then, we actually got a focus group of students together, and, you know, three out of the four messages are now different because those students, they’re not asking what I thought they were asking.

Tony (15:26):

Yeah.

Dave (15:26):

So, our content development, we, we always have a team, but it’s even more important, I think, on some of those challenging issues. The bigger challenge that we would address, I think, the, the longer lead time of work we do discipling people off of stage environments. So, you know, we’re, we’re gonna address sexuality and gender at Willow. But before we’re doing that, we are, we are working to disciple leaders, donors, our small groups, our staff because we wanna roll that out. My hope is that, and, and it doesn’t even have to be, when I say bigger challenge, sometimes it’s a big, you know, challenge of an opportunity.

Tony (16:21):

Right.

Dave (16:21):

Like, we’re gonna do a big building campaign. Well, I, before I’m challenging our whole community, I wanna try and roll that out so that when people hear it from the stage, you know, maybe 60, 70, 80% of the people have already really heard it. I, I don’t want the stage to be that place where we’re shocking people. So, we try and the bigger the challenge, the longer lead time. Couple more things: I would say we, I try to prepare my heart more. If I, if I’m thinking about, I mean, I try to prepare my heart every week because scripture, gospel’s always important. But when I think about tough issues that people are really leaning in to try and make sure that, are we getting our position right? Are, are we getting our position just right when it comes to sexuality and gender? Are we getting our position just right when it become, when, when we’re talking about, our, you know, how we work with refugees or political engagement or whatever.

Tony (17:30):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (17:30):

And we’re focused on the position, but what I find is maybe even more important sometimes is the posture, not the position.

Tony (17:38):

Yeah.

Dave (17:38):

But that’s important. But also the posture that I have. How much do I love refugees? How much do I care about, a person that’s confused about gender or sexual, sexuality, whatever it is.

Tony (17:53):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (17:53):

Like I, my posture needs to be the same posture that Jesus had. And sometimes, to be honest, my heart isn’t where it needs to be. And so I, I try really hard to maybe prepare my heart even more on those weekends. And then, for what, for what it’s worth, I, with all young communicators, I’ll tell ’em this because it is, it’s hard sometimes to pop up on a stage and know that man, even with online, it’s so easy. People are gonna take what you say outta context.

Tony (18:27):

Yeah.

Dave (18:27):

And I mean, the, the world can, can know what you’re about to say. So, that’s intimidating. I, I tell people, you know what, imagine three people. Imagine someone that’s in the crowd that’s hurting—they’re suffering right now—because that’s gonna keep me compassionate. I say try and rem, try and think of a second person, trying to think of somebody that’s skeptical, that’s really skeptical about what you’re trying to communicate because that’s gonna help you be clear. And then, the third person I try and imagine is a person that really likes me.

Tony (19:03):

Hmm.

Dave (19:04):

I feel like somebody that’s like, really on my side because that helps me stay calm.

Tony (19:09):

Yeah.

Dave (19:09):

A,nd so anyway, those are some of the ways that I prepare for tough topics.

Tony (19:16):

Alright. So, actually let’s, let’s keep those three people in mind here.

Dave (19:19):

Okay.

Tony (19:19):

When you’re in the message…

Dave (19:21):

Yep.

Tony (19:22):

And you’re, you have your congregation in front of you, they’re leaning in, and, you know, you’re starting to press into something that’s gonna be a bit more challenging, in that moment, which of those three people do you have in mind? Are you still thinking about all three in the moment when you’re on the platform teaching on that challenging topic?

Dave (19:42):

Yeah, I mean, it de I depends on the topic and probably depends on what, what part of the topic we’re pushing in on at that point.

Tony (19:50):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (19:51):

I’m trying to keep all three of those people in mind at the same time. If I get into a place where, you know, you can just sense the, it gets really quiet. You start to see people fidget a little bit.

Tony (20:09):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (20:11):

I, I, I just, I try to acknowledge it, “Hey, you know what? It, it’s getting tense. These are hard things to talk about.” And just give voice to what everybody in the room is thinking.

Tony (20:22):

Yeah, that’s right.

Dave (20:23):

This is really, really difficult. And I’ll just say that out loud. Another thing I’ll do is I’ll resonate with it. I, these are tough topics for me, too.

Tony (20:34):

Right.

Dave (20:35):

You know, I feel it, too. “I mean, I’ve been struggling with this, guys. I’ve been preparing for this. This is hard for me. You know, when Jesus says, love your enemy, that’s a tough teaching. And honestly, if, if he hadn’t predicted his own death and, and, and, and resurrection, and then did it, I don’t know that I, I don’t know that I’d believe him. But what his teaching is so countercultural, but he did.” And so, you know, but I resonate with the struggle to hear and to process some of those things. And then, I probably, I probably just try to use it for fuel, for greater compassion. I, I, I just trying to get really compassionate for how people are struggling with it in the room. And maybe even fuel when I get off the stage to go, hey, you know what? That got really, really tense when we started talking about the value of life or mental health or whatever. It got really tense. And so, I’m gonna use that as fuel to realize maybe this isn’t a topic for us to to, to avoid. This might be a topic we need to lean into.

Tony (21:56):

Yeah.

Dave (21:56):

It got really tense. So, maybe we need to pepper this into more messages or maybe we need to be doing more discipling in this area off in, in, in non-stage environments.

Tony (22:07):

Yeah. That’s so good. You know, Dave, one of the reasons why, well, we wanna equip pastors and help, especially those that are teaching pastors on how to engage on these tough topics. But, frankly, one of the reasons why I wanted to focus on this topic in this series was because I just think believers need help learning how to navigate these tough topics in their relationships with their friends, their coworkers, family members. And I’m just wondering, how do you think as teachers, we can help people balance that, that truth and love in the context of these relationships, especially when they’re kind of trying to navigate these tough topics, as well?

Dave (22:48):

Okay. So, number one is let’s all realize that the algorithms of our favorite socials are trying to feed us.

Tony (22:57):

That’s right.

Dave (22:59):

You know, that we’re, we’re all kind of in an echo chamber. And, you know, so be very careful trying to catch a vision or an understanding of what normal is or what quote unquote everybody thinks from socials.

Tony (23:14):

That’s right.

Dave (23:14):

And then, when you get off your socials, I would say probably a couple of, a couple of words. One would be empathy and really putting some, you know, I love how Jesus went out of his way. It said Jesus had to go through Samaria. Well, no, he didn’t have to go through Samaria to, to find that Samaritan woman. It’s like he was intentional to go and to be with somebody who wasn’t like him. And so, I would say do your best to try and get outside of whatever the echo chambers are. The people that are not like, you don’t look like you don’t vote like you, maybe don’t even believe like you.

Dave (23:55):

But to try and have relationship and develop a muscle of empathy that says, “I may not have the same position as this person, but I really want to try and understand their perspective.” This conversation that I’m having or this environment that I’m putting myself in isn’t necessarily because I’m trying to change their position or I’m open to having my position changed. But I do wanna understand people’s perspective better. And I, I just think empathy is something. And I’m 50 and I like our young staff, they are really helping me with this. I, I just, I just feel like they do such, just so much better job at that. And so, I, I’m really working on trying to get people around tables that can give me better perspective.

Dave (24:46):

Yeah.

Tony (24:46):

And then I, I think, man, asking questions more than you talk is, is just really practical advice.

Tony (24:57):

Yeah. That’s so good. All right. Well, Dave, it seems one of the reasons why people, and sometimes churches frankly, push people away from faith in churches because they begin to conflate the essentials and the non-essentials of faith.

Dave (25:11):

Mm-Hmm.

Tony (25:11):

Or to put another way we try to make personal convictions our corporate convictions as, as a church. So, what’s your advice to help people face and maybe even live with some tension around the non-essentials of our faith?

Dave (25:26):

It’s tough because the first, the first place you go to is you start to go, well, what should be an essential? And what is okay that it’s a non-essential? And, you know, moving that back and forth, it. Different tribes and different denominations, sometimes, it’s interesting to me what makes it into their essential list.

Tony (25:44):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (25:45):

And so, that’s an important thing to think through. But yeah, once you have those non-essentials, I mean, it was Augustine I think who first said, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity or in all things love.” And, you know, I would, I would probably say like in church world, we don’t necessarily always, when it comes to the non-essentials, I mean, it’s literally part of their definition. Like, I don’t need unity of opinion around non-essentials, but I do need unity of mission.

Tony (26:23):

Yeah.

Dave (26:23):

You know, Jesus in John 17 connects our unity to the effectiveness of our mission. You know, he’s praying, help them to be together, unified so that the world will know. And so what I would say is like, man, when you’re non-essentials in a faith community, man, debate ’em back and forth, discover them. I mean, that’s great. That’s, it helps us think more clearly. And that’s all awesome. But, if it begins to negatively affect your mission of reaching people for Jesus, discipling, making disciples of people, then that, that’s probably something you really need to, that, that, that’s probably a good barometer of whether you’re doing it right. Discussing the non-essentials ought to help you make disciples not hinder you from making disciples.

Tony (27:19):

Oh, that’s good. All right. Dave, I think there’s a myth out there, especially for those that are looking from the outside in at larger churches, that one of the reasons why they attract a lot of people is because they avoid teaching on tough topics. If you want, if you wanna reach more people, you have to avoid the tough topics. What’s your reaction to that? Do you, do you agree with that? Or my sense is, even from your opening comments, you, you might push back on that myth a little bit.

Dave (27:52):

I would. I think there’s an incredible opportunity with young people. People we’re trying to reach are changing. You know, culture’s changing.

Tony (28:01):

Right.

Dave (28:01):

Things are changing. There’s a great opportunity with young people. If you look at the, the clicks on our website, you know, people land on our website and then they go one of two places. They go to the what we believe statements ’cause they want to know. You know, they wanna know what, what is this, what is your stance on this? And what is your stance on that? And then, they go to our leadership team page. And as I’ve talked to young people, the reason they’re going to the leadership team, I mean, when I, when websites first started, I would go and like, I wanna see, I, I would go and watch a service because I wanted to see, you know, is the pastor wearing jeans.

Tony (28:39):

Mm-Hmm.

Dave (28:39):

Are they gonna have music that I think is, you know, cool or relevant? And that sort of. These young people, they’re going to the what we believe statement, and they’re going to the leadership team page ’cause they wanna see do you have diversity in your leadership?

Tony (28:51):

That’s right.

Dave (28:52):

So, you know, what I’m saying is young people care about these issues. I don’t think you turn them away by talking about those issues. I, I think, I think you’re helping to disciple them. I, I think the other thing, too, is, and this is a little bit, it kinda depends on your mission, and I think most folks would say their mission is building a church, not a crowd. And so, they really do see that weekend, even though it is, you know, the, one of the most public things we do, it’s still part of that discipling process. You know, you’re trying to help people take next steps, even on the weekend. And so, you know, you gotta talk about things that, that matter to people and that are relevant to people. So I, I don’t think you avoid the hard things. I, I think, I think you’re really strategic and intentional and compassionate about how you address them. You know, it has been a challenge here because there’s been such little trust. You know, trust was really broken. There was so much pain. And but as that trust is growing, and I feel it as we lean into some of these tough topics, you know, it’s not that people, people don’t, people aren’t leaving our church. They’re, they’re writing letters and saying, “Thank you for talking about mental health.”

Tony (30:25):

That’s right.

Dave (30:26):

“Thank you for talking about these things ’cause these are the things that we’re talking about around the dinner table. So, I’m glad my church is, is talking about these things.”

Tony (30:34):

Well, this has been a fun conversation. I really appreciate you sharing your heart. And some, some wisdom from your previous experiences on engaging these tough topics, Dave. But any final encouragement you want to give pastors as they’re preparing and delivering messages on the tough topics in today’s culture?

Dave (30:54):

Yeah. Yeah, encouragement, who couldn’t use more encouragement. I would say…

Tony (31:00):

Yeah. Yeah.

Dave (31:01):

Man, pastors, you know, God cares more about discipling the people in your church and reaching your community than you do. And so, you know, on Saturday night, when you’re trying to prepare that message and trying to get it just, just right, you feel so alone, but you are not—like God is right there, helping you pull it off. And he’s also right there in the delivering of it. And I don’t know how many times I’ve taught on, you know, some issue, even a non-controversial issue. And I thought either I did a poor job or my topic had nothing to do with somebody coming to Christ. And next thing I know, people are coming up and saying, this is the best message I’ve ever heard.

Tony (31:48):

Yeah.

Dave (31:49):

Or like, people are getting baptized that Sunday. So, I think the Holy Spirit is right there as we’re giving the message, too. So, I would encourage pastors like, you are not alone in this. What you believe is true. Like, God is right there with you. And the second thing I would say is like, we’re not supposed to do this on our own either. I said, we have a content creation team. Now, we, you know, we’ve got a staff that I can lean into. If you’re at a smaller context, reach out to other pastors. I mean that, when we were planting our church and, and it was pretty much just me, I, tough issues are not, I’m reaching out to other pastors and we’re helping each other prepare these messages. So, I guess my encouragement is just, you don’t have to do this alone.

Amy (32:39):

Tony, what a great conversation to end our series on these tough topics. And I think Dave did a great job of summarizing so much of the wisdom that the guests in this series have shared. I’m curious what points stood out to you in that conversation?

Tony (32:52):

Well, there are a couple things that he shared, Amy. One, I love this line: “If we really believe that what we’re teaching is God’s truth, then we don’t wanna pull punches. We want to allow people to live in God’s truth because that’s the best place to be.” And it’s just a good reflection of it all. It all turns back to God’s truth.

Amy (33:11):

Mm-Hmm.

Tony (33:12):

And it’s that truth was applicable 2,000 years ago, but it’s certainly applicable in today’s world, in our lives. And so, just that reminder that we need to present the truth and we need to encourage people to live in it. And then, I love what he said when things get tense, we tend to think maybe this is a topic to avoid, but he encouraged us. This might be a topic where we need to lean into it.

Amy (33:37):

Mm-Hmm.

Tony (33:38):

I, I get that even in my personal life. It’s the things where I start to feel uncomfortable. It’s the areas where I think I’m being pushed. Those are the times when I know I need to lean in because God’s going to use those circumstances, that experience to help me take a next step in my faith. So, love that encouragement from Dave.

Amy (34:00):

Yeah, personally, I loved how Dave phrased the, you know, air quote, unity of mission versus unity of opinion idea.

Tony (34:06):

Mm-Hmm.

Amy (34:06):

It brought me back to last week’s conversation with Andy Stanley, where he talked about the absolute necessity of unity in our churches, especially in today’s divided culture, that should be what sets us apart.

Tony (34:19):

Absolutely. And there was lots of other great practical advice from David like including a diversity of race, gender, age and so on, generations around the table when shaping our messages. Making sure that we’re discipling people off the stage first before addressing these things in the pulpit. But I think the quote that really stood out to me the most was this one from Dave: “Discussing the non-essentials ought to help you make disciples not hinder you from making disciples.” And I think that’s really a great challenge to end off the series with when we’re engaging these tough topics. Let’s focus on our posture more than our positions and make sure that we keep the main things, the main things.

Sean (35:01):

Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. At The Unstuck Group, our goal is to help pastors grow healthy churches by guiding them to align vision, strategy, team and action. In everything we do, our priority is to help churches help people meet and follow Jesus. And if there’s a way that we can serve you and your church, reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com. Next week, we’re back with another brand-new episode. Until then, have a great week.

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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