Reset: Necessary Pivots & Why Leaders Keep Learning (Pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Christian Fellowship) – Episode 229 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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Reset: A New Mindset for A New Season (Part 4 with Pastor Greg Laurie)

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“I don’t want to live in the past. I don’t want to rest on my laurels. I want to keep trying to break new ground and do new things.”

This week is the final episode of our “Reset: A New Mindset for a New Season” series, where Amy and I are interviewing four pastors from churches of different sizes in the U.S. and Canada to hear how they are leaving the past behind and leading forward in 2022.

In Part 1, I sat down with Pastor William Attaway from Southview Community Church to discuss what his church experienced in the last couple years and how they’re shifting their mindset outward again. In Part 2, we were joined by Pastor Ty Bean from Cowboy Junction Church to hear about the unique challenges they faced during the pandemic and how they managed to come out stronger on the other side. Then in Part 3, Jonathan Smith, Lead Pastor of OneChurch.to, walked us through how his church clarified their vision and pivoted their priorities to reach their city, despite the challenges and disruptions.

RESET: HARVEST CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP

In the final episode of our Reset series, I had the privilege of sitting down with Pastor Greg Laurie from Harvest Christian Fellowship in California. I’ve actually been able to be a part of the team leading Harvest through our Unstuck Process these last couple years, so I was excited to have Pastor Greg share all that God has been doing in their church. Tune in as we discuss:

  • Why churches need to pivot (hint: Jesus did)
  • Being a leader who is always learning
  • Playing to your unique strengths as a church
  • The importance of pushing ministry downwards
Jesus did not say that the whole world should go to church. He said the church should go to the whole world. We have to go to where people are. [episode 229] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet Culture is changing. And the problem with a lot of preachers is that they're answering questions people aren't asking, and sometimes, not answering the ones they are asking. [episode 229] #unstuckchurch Click To Tweet People want to know that they’re needed. When people start serving, that's when they stop looking at the church as a “them” and it becomes “us.” [episode 229] #unstuckchurch 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. My name is Sean, and I’m here live today in the virtual studio with Tony Morgan. And we’re wrapping up our Reset series by sharing a fascinating conversation with pastor Greg Laurie from Harvest Church in Southern California. Greg is going to share more about how their church has made some key pivots through the pandemic, and they’ve hit reset on their ministry strategy and specifically what they’re doing in their online ministry and discipleship. Before we go there, if you are new to the podcast, head over to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe to get the show notes in your email. When you do each week, you’re going to get resources to go along with that week’s episode. That includes our leader conversation guide, bonus resources, and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunsuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Well, Tony, I’ve really, really enjoyed this series on Reset, the churches of various sizes are making on this side of the pandemic. And you know, we’ve talked with pastors from small churches, midsize, and large churches, and a mega church. And this week we’re wrapping up the series with one more conversation.

Tony (01:14):

I’m super excited about this week. I had the opportunity to sit down with Greg Laurie. If you don’t know Greg, he’s the senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, which has campuses both in California and Hawaii. Don’t you want to go to Hawaii right now, Sean?

Sean (01:29):

Absolutely.

Tony (01:30):

And they’re really one of the largest and most influential churches in the US. Through the years, they’ve also seen more than 500,000 people make professions of faith through their Harvest Crusade events, which is just incredible as well.

Sean (01:45):

That’s amazing.

Tony (01:46):

On top of that, their media ministry is engaging tens of thousands of people around the world. And Pastor Greg is going to talk about that in a moment. And then, Sean, you may not realize this, but together, Greg Laurie and I have authored well over 70 books. Of course, I’ve personally only written five of those. But what’s telling in this conversation, I think we tend to assume the very largest churches have not been impacted as significantly by the disruptions we’ve experienced over the last couple years. And that’s, of course, just not true. Like the three previous churches we’ve heard from in the series, Harvest has had to make some fairly significant pivots as well. And with that, I think every pastor will be encouraged by what pastor Greg has to share. It’s also going to be a good reminder of the mission that God’s called us to share with him. So let’s listen to my recent conversation with pastor Greg Laurie

Tony (02:53):

Pastor Greg, we’re going to be talking about your church in a moment, but before we get there, you actually have a unique story getting into ministry. Can you share a little bit of your backstory first?

Greg (03:03):

Sure. Tony, good to be with you. I love your podcast. I listen all the time and appreciate you having me on. Yeah, so we did a startup church back when we didn’t call him startup churches. This is in the days of the Jesus Movement around 1972. I became a Christian at the age of 17. I started preaching at 19, and I became a pastor at 20. And it was not my intention to become a pastor. I took over a little Bible study that was happening in an Episcopalian church cause they wanted their own expression of the Jesus Movement as well. And it began to grow and grow. And pretty soon we could see it was becoming a congregation. Being only 19 at the time, I was looking for somebody else to take it over who was older, and I couldn’t find anyone to do it. And people started calling me, Pastor Greg. And before I knew it, I was a pastor. So that’s how we started our church, and we built it really on the principles of Acts 2:47 and on where it says, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, the breaking of bread with gladness of heart. They went from house to house,” and then it says, “and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” So our focus has always been digging into the word of God, but also wanting to see people come to Christ. And so one of the earmarks of our ministry is we always invite people to come to Jesus Christ. So fast forward many years, we find ourself growing and one day I’m called, I don’t remember who called us exactly, but they said, “As a megachurch, we wanted to ask you…” I hadn’t even heard the term megachurch. And so we continued to grow. And so we’re closing in on 50 years of ministry. So I started when I was 20, and now I’m 69, and I’m the founding pastor. So that’s pretty unusual too, because when a pastor’s been with the church 50 years, they’re usually like in their eighties, and I’m in my sixties still, very late sixties, but I’m gonna stay there as long as I can. So that’s kind of the flyover of our church.

Tony (05:12):

Well, it’s beautiful. I’ve followed your ministry for many, many years, and there’s no doubt about it, Harvest, both through your events and through the ministry of the church itself, and we’ll talk in a moment now really, through your digital media too, you’re just having great kingdom impact around the world. And I know many thousands of people have come to Jesus because of your ministry. And so it’s a privilege for me to have the conversation with you today. And actually, it’s been a privilege to serve your church too, over these last number of months.

Greg (05:45):

Yes.

Tony (05:45):

In fact though, let’s look back, before the pandemic, can you give us a picture of where Harvest was about two years ago before the pandemic began? Where was the church? Where was the ministry at that point?

Greg (05:59):

Yeah, we were running probably around, you know, 8,000 to 10,000, three morning services. We had an online ministry that maybe 5,000 watched. It was just sort of a broadcast of our worship service, and things were just chugging along very nicely. We had a lot of ministries, a lot of midweek activities. And it literally, you know, that changed overnight with the pandemic. I mean, for us in California, they literally shut us down for a period of time. And so I had to pivot to online literally overnight. In fact, when I got the news that they were saying, you have to stay home. We ran over to the church and we captured two messages for the next couple of weekends. But the cool thing is I’ve been watching what others have been doing online, like Craig Groeschel. And I said to one of my associate pastors, you know, we need to up our game with the online outreach. Let’s start figuring out how to do something just for that audience. So we were sort of laying the track and getting it up and running. So when the pandemic hit, we were pretty much ready to pivot. And I would say that’s been the big word, Tony, is pivot. You know, I think of a story in the scripture where there’s a man named Jairus, ruler of the synagogue. His daughter was very sick. So he came to Jesus and said, would you come and heal my daughter? So Jesus is on his way to the home of Jairus. And suddenly there’s this woman who has some kind of a medical issue causing her to bleed continuously, saw him and in reasoned if I can touching him of his garment, I’ll be saved. She reaches out and touches Jesus. And the Bible says everyone was pushing on him, pulling on him. And Jesus stops and says, who touched me? The crowd parts. There’s that woman. Hi. Hey. He wanted to commend her. I, you know, I perceived that power has gone out of me. Well then someone comes right in the heels of this amazing miracle. And they say to Jairus, don’t bother Jesus anymore. Your daughter has died. And Jesus says, your daughter is only sleeping. Let’s go. And he arrives at the home of Jairus, and the people are mourning, and Jesus says the child will live again. They start laughing and derision. He clears the room. He goes in there with Peter, James and John. And he raises the little girl from the dead. So to me, it’s like, Jairus wanted a healing. Jesus wanted a resurrection. So what did Christ do? He pivoted. He was on his way to do one thing, but another need came, and he pivoted to the need of the woman. Then he went back to what he was doing. So to me, it’s like a church that has not pivoted during the pandemic is in trouble because you have to adapt. We have to go to where people are. Jesus did not say, you know, the whole world should go to church. He said, the church should go to the whole world. And so we have to go to where people are, and I just figured it out. Okay. Everybody is looking at these things right now. They’re looking at phones and tablets and TVs. And I’m thinking, I need you back here in person in church. That’s fine. And I can talk about what we did in person, but we really aggressively pursued this online ministry. So we went from 5,000 to 300,000 people viewing. Now it’s leveled off at around 200,000, but it’s become an entire online congregation. So then kind of talking about them. I thought, look, you know, in a perfect world, I’d like everybody to be in a church on Sunday morning. Our church, some church, a good Bible teaching church. But look, it’s not a perfect world. And for whatever reason, many are watching online. So I felt rather than beating people up for not being in church, in person, I want to give them the best worship experience possible online. Very long answer. You ask a preacher a question, you get a sermon.

Tony (09:56):

That’s very good, and it’s very helpful, and you’re actually bleeding into a little bit, and that’s okay, my follow up is here we are, two years later, a lot in our world has changed. And again, because we’ve been working with you and your team over these last 12 months, I know a lot about Harvest has changed as well. And so can you give a picture of where the church is today, now, two years into what we’ve been dealing with related to the pandemic and other things like that? So give us a picture of where the church is today.

Greg (10:27):

Sure. We’re rebuilding, we’re adapting. We’re wanting to do the best job of this huge online ministry. And we’ve even started small groups online, but one of the things we were, there was a couple of things I wanted to do pre COVID. You know, COVID is a bad thing. It’s taken many lives, it’s disrupted everything, but there have been some benefits that have come. I kind of see it a little bit as a Romans 8:28 moment. God’s caused all things to work together for good. A couple of goals I had pre-COVID was I wanted to reach younger families in our church. I wanted to continue to minister to the older folks, but I wanted to reach younger families. Another thing I wanted to do is I wanted to simplify. We had a lot of things, you know, things just happen. You don’t even know how some ministries get started, but there they are. And then they’re not as effective as they once were years ago. So you wonder why are we doing it? But it’s very hard to shut things down once they’ve started, right? So COVID kind of cleared the decks. And so we went to a very strong small group strategy, which we had not previously. We were a midweek meeting strategy. And so we decided we want to get more people into small groups. So right now we have around 38% of our congregation in small groups. You know, pretty much, 6,000 people, including in person and online. You know, there’s other churches that have more people in small groups. And our goal is to get at least 60% in them, but we didn’t have anybody in them. So it was kind of a seed change for us. But our strategy in small groups, Tony, was going back to our original strategy, which is teaching the word of God to people. So they’re very Bible-centric small groups, with a biblical curriculum, but getting people to know each other, because we’ve found that people that were in small groups pre-COVID did much better spiritually than those who were not. Cause they had a network, they had a family, they had people to pray with. We found when people are in small groups, they don’t need counseling as often. They don’t need so many of the things that the church provides, they already have cause they have this group of people. So this has worked very well for us. And then the interesting thing is though we, you know, not all of our people came back. Our congregation was smaller. We have in last year, we had a growth of around 25% and 27,000 people visiting for the first time over a couple of years. But we found, here’s what’s interesting is a lot of our growth has been young families. So it’s, you know, cause some of the older people, you know, maybe went to another church cause they didn’t like we were dealing with the pandemic or they just moved in out of state. A lot of Californians are leaving California, Tony, you know that. They’re coming to all these other states. Every time I travel, I have to apologize for all the Californians. Like in Texas, I’m sorry, all these Californians have come here. But so, you know, so a lot of interesting changes have happened, and I think our strategy is a little bit of a less is more, let’s be very intentional. Let’s be proactive rather than merely reactive and try to do what we can do to get more people into the word of God. You know? So as an example, we might have had 500 people in a midweek Bible study, which is great. But now we have 6,000 people in midweek Bible studies, which is far better.

Tony (14:07):

Absolutely. You were talking about, you know, through the years, and even great ministries, they do, they begin to accumulate some programs or ministries that worked fabulously in the past. But for this season just aren’t having the same momentum that they had in the past. You know, pastor Greg, I usually tell pastors, blame the previous pastor for those old ministries, but that doesn’t work for you guys.

Greg (14:31):

I can’t do that. I’d have to blame myself. But you know, it’s funny, I jokingly say that, you know, I’ve been married to five women all with the name of Kathy over the years, and that’s cause, you know, I’ve been married about 38 years. So you know, my wife, excuse me, 48 years. But my wife, you know, she’s changed, and I’ve changed, and we all change as people. So, you know, in fact we need to change. Change is good. Not just in general, some change can be bad obviously, but I think we all want to be maturing and deepening in our faith. And obviously a 69 year old me is gonna be different than the 19 year old me. But then there are some things that haven’t changed all that much, but over the years we’ve made dramatic changes in our worship team, always adapting, changing, dramatic changes with technology, embracing it, using it, trying to use it effectively, even in the design of our building, graphics, you name it, there’s been changes. But what we’ve tried to do is not change the essentials. We’ve sort of summed it up in the acronym, Well. W.E.L.L. Based on Acts 2:42-47. They were a worshiping church. They were an evangelistic church. They were a learning church. They were a loving church. So we keep that in play. But the way we apply it, I think, you know, we just look for the best way to do it. And you guys at Unstuck. Tony, you and Amy and your team, have been great at helping us. Cause sometimes when you’re in the middle of something, you can’t see the forest for the trees. It’s helpful to get an objective view where someone says, wait! What I loved is you guys came in and you didn’t say, here’s what you need to do. You asked us, what do you wanna do? Well, this is what we wanna do. Oh, well let us help you do that even more effectively. And so that’s something that you provide at Unstuck and also on your podcast in giving practical information, interviewing pastors of small, medium size, and large churches. I sound like I’m doing an ad for you.

Tony (16:39):

You kind of do. That’s alright. I appreciate that.

Greg (16:41):

Yeah. But I appreciate what you do.

Tony (16:43):

Yeah. And here’s something else I appreciate about you is, and you mentioned it, I wasn’t gonna give away your age, but you acknowledged you’re in your late sixties now, you’ve been in ministry for close to 50 years. And what has struck me about you among a number of things, pastor Greg, is that you’re still learning, that you’re still trying to figure out how do I take my next steps as a leader? So I’m curious over these last couple years in particular, what have you learned new about your leadership?

Greg (17:13):

Good question. Well, I think I’ve learned I don’t know as much as I think I know. You know, you should have met me at 21, brand new pastor. I knew everything. I had the answer to every question. I had a scripture, you know, I was fast on the draw with all that. Well, I’ve learned that I don’t know everything. I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn. But there are things you do pick up along the way. You know, I had the privilege of getting to know Billy Graham very well. I wrote a book called “Billy Graham: The Man I Knew.” And when I first got to know Billy, I was in my late thirties, and I was starting to do my evangelistic crusades as he was sort of coming toward the end of his. And so he reached out to me and asked me to be on his board of directors and then asked me to help him in the preparation of his messages, which to me was the greatest privilege of all time. But what fascinated me being around Billy is Billy was always a learner. I would be sitting with him, and he would be asking me questions. And I’m thinking, why are you, the greatest evangelist of all time, asking my opinion, some guy in his thirties, what do I know? But Billy was always a learner, a lifelong learner. And I think that’s very important. You know, when I’m around men of God, I’m always asking questions. Like how do you do this? How do you do that? You know? And I’ll often reach out to my friends and say, what do you think about this? How would you approach this other thing? And I just feel there’s always more to learn, and things are changing. Culture is changing. The problem with a lot of preachers is we’re answering questions people are not asking, and sometimes we’re not answering the ones they are asking. So we can become very easily disconnected from culture and end up in a little myopic world where we don’t really interact with normal people. But anyway, your question was, what have I learned? I’ve learned that this is an unusual time. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve never heard of a time quite like this, where we’re all collectively going through it together. That’s another interesting thing. And so I talk a lot to my pastor friends, like how are you handling in person, you know, meetings? How are you handling all these things? And so I’m constantly comparing notes and trying to do the best job I possibly can do. I don’t wanna live in the past. I don’t wanna rest on my laurels. I want to keep trying to break new ground and do new things, you know, coming back to pivoting. You know, another thing we did in addition to our online ministry is we started making some movies. I made a movie called “A Rush of Hope” because I couldn’t do a crusade one year. And we’ve been meeting at Angel Stadium for like 30 years. And for the first time we can’t do an in-person meeting because of restrictions. So we did an online cinematic crusade and ended up reaching more people. So I’m working on a new project now called “Fame.” The premise is basically so many people want to be rich and famous and think that will make them happy, but that’s empty. And here’s why. But it’s gonna be done in a beautiful cinematic way. But new ways to reach people. So I think, you know, for folks that are listening, anybody can do online. You know, you can literally do it with an iPhone and a Facebook page with a live feed.

Tony (20:34):

That’s right.

Greg (20:34):

You know, I think when the day is done, content is king. Deliver what people need, and administer to people and play to your strengths, not your weaknesses. In other words, if you were a larger congregation and now you’re a smaller congregation, stop running it like you’re a big thing and run it like you’re a small thing, cause there’s advantages to being a small thing. Like if I go into a room and there’s 30 people there, and seats, you know, 150, I’ll say, Hey, let’s all pull our seats closer together, and I’ll sit down and let’s run this like a home Bible’s study, and I’ll interact with the people I’m talking to, cause that’s a fun way to communicate. But I think sometimes we’re trying to do it like we always did it. And if you’re smaller, celebrate the difference and embrace the smallness because there’s certain qualities in the small group you don’t have in a larger group, right? So adapt to your situation.

Tony (21:27):

Pastor Greg, this is actually the final episode in this series on Reset.

Greg (21:32):

Sorry to drag it down at the end.

Tony (21:34):

No, it’s very good. And at the end of each of these interviews, we’ve been asking the pastors, what does the reset need to look like on this side of the pandemic? And if you would, I’d love to hear maybe a thought related specifically to Harvest’s ministry. But if you would, give us some idea of what you think the reset also needs to look like for the broader big C church.

Greg (21:59):

Well, I think we have to go back to our primary mission. We can never lose sight of that. It’s very clear. You know, the great commission is given to every follower of Jesus, it’s not just the pastors or missionaries or people who are in professional ministry. To go into all the world, preach the gospel and make disciples of all nations, teaching them all things that Christ commanded us, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then Jesus says, “And lo, I am with you, even to the end of the age.” Interesting thing about that. In the Greek, the implication is that is a specific promise for a specific group of people doing this specific thing. Yes, Jesus is with us because he says, I’ll never leave or forsake you, but that first contextually is saying, Jesus is saying, I’ll be with you to the end of the age, as you do this to I’m asking you to do. So then we have to ask ourselves, you know, how well are we doing this? Are we reaching our culture? We need to feed the flock, teach them the word of God, get them on their feet to be disciples. It’s sort of like wash, rinse, repeat, you know? Do it over and over. You just don’t stop up doing it. Just do it. Do it again. Do it again. Keep doing it, and then get those people into maturity. But I think also push ministry down. You know, another thing we’re realizing is our staff shrunk somewhat after COVID hit, and we’re finding we can do just as much, if not more, with less people. And I think real key for the church is to involve people because look, if I can go on my computer and watch 10 amazing preachers do their weekend services and I’m coming to your church, you know, what do you have to offer me that I can’t see there? Well, hopefully you work hard in your messages and do the best you can to give a great message from God’s word, that applies to people. and it helps them grow in their faith and calls them to Christ. But yet I think what we can offer in person, playing again to our strengths, is we need you here. We want to get you involved here because when people start serving, that’s when they stop looking at the church as them and it becomes us, you know, like I’m involved. I serve in children’s ministry, or I serve as a new convert counselor, or I serve as an usher, or I serve helping people park their cars, or I’m a greeter at the front door, or I reach out helping the convalescent ministry or this or that or whatever it is. You know, get people involved in your church, involved in serving. Because one of the ways I’ve found you discover your spiritual gift is through process of elimination. I encourage people that don’t know what they’re called to do to volunteer literally for everything. And I found it really quickly, okay. I’m not any good at this, not any good at that. And then surprisingly, I found he had a gifting in speaking, which I never thought I would have, and I was working more behind the scenes. So, you know, get people involved in your church, you know, in Ephesians 4, it talks about it gives apostle, prophets, pastor, teachers, evangelists for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry that it may grow thereby. So we’re to teach the word, but we are also to equip the saints.

Tony (25:23):

This has been such a great episode already, but I just wanted to a minute to thank our sponsor for today’s episode, “Text In Church.” We’ve been partnering with Text In Church, and we love how they find new ways to help church leaders thrive in ministry. And one of the incredible ways that they do that is through the Engage conference. So save the date, February 8th-10th. This conference is a free, online event for church leaders where you’ll be led by ministry experts who will help your church reach more people using the right technology the right way. No matter what your role in the church, whether you’re a pastor, a tech director or children’s minister, there will be something for you. And the best part? It’s 100% free, 100% online and requires zero travel. Trade technology confusion for proven tips and strategies by getting your ticket and joining over 18,000 other church leaders at this free conference. To register, go to theunstuckgroup.com/engage.

Sean (26:28):

Well Tony, after hearing that conversation, I got to tell you, honestly, I’m a bit jealous that you and Amy have had the opportunity to work directly with Greg and the Harvest team in recent months and I haven’t. I’ll get over it though. But what were some of the highlights that stood out to you from your conversation with Greg?

Tony (26:43):

Yeah, so, there are a couple of key quotes that jumped out to me. One of them, he said this, “A church that has not pivoted during the pandemic is in trouble because we have to adapt.” In other words, we have to make those pivots that we’ve been talking about. We do. We need to adapt to changing times, and we have to make the appropriate changes to reach a changing culture. And so just that reminder that we do. We have to be looking at what needs to change about how we’re engaging our mission going forward. And related to that, he said this, “We have to go where people are.” That sounds like one of those just basic quotes. But to kind of just further let that sink in, he said something along the lines of Jesus didn’t encourage the world to go to church, he encouraged the church to go into the world. And of course in today’s times, that that looks very different maybe than it did just a few years ago, and primarily with how we have to engage people online because that’s where people are in today’s day and age. Finally he talked about the need to get focused again, focused on key priorities, and he rattled off several of them that Harvest has begun to focus on in recent months, including their online media strategy, focusing on reaching young families, (and that was so encouraging to hear him talk about the phenomenal response they’re seeing around that initiative), focusing on this priority around simplifying ministry, and then he also talked about this key shift that they’re making in their ministry model from focusing on midweek gatherings for Bible study at the church, and instead encouraging people to engage in Bible centric, small groups throughout their community and online. And he talked about those gatherings going from 500 people that were showing up midweek, and that was even before the pandemic, if I remember correctly. And instead now they have 6,000 people connected in these Bible study groups meeting in people’s homes and meeting online. So that’s pretty incredible.

Sean (29:03):

That’s amazing.

Tony (29:03):

I, you know, I should also this, Sean, in times of change, and he reemphasized this, leaders have to keep learning, and among other things, we need to be learning about our culture. I think, pastor Greg shared it this way, culture is changing and he said, he said it, I didn’t say it. The problem with a lot of preachers is that we’re answering questions that people are not asking. And sometimes we aren’t answering the questions they are asking. And one of the ways that we understand those key questions that our culture is asking is we have to be a student of the culture as well.

Sean (29:43):

Well, Tony, based on that conversation that you had with pastor Greg, what’s one next step that church leaders should take in light of our need to hit the reset button?

Tony (29:51):

It shouldn’t be a surprise that Greg Laurie, probably one of the most gifted evangelists in the world today, is focused on reaching new people, focused on spreading the good news, helping point people towards Jesus. But wasn’t it so encouraging to hear over the last couple of years, Harvest has seen 27,000 new people that have come to visit the church. And I mean, that just kind of blows my mind away, but here’s the deal. Many, many, many pastors and ministry leaders are so focused right now on getting people to come back to church. But again, no surprise. That’s not what pastor Greg and Harvest are doing. Rather than focusing on getting back the 10,000 people who were attending the church before the pandemic, Harvest is focused on reaching the next 10,000 people. And here’s what’s crazy, that idealism with that focus, that fresh vision, that energy to accomplish something significant isn’t coming from some 20-something-year-old pastor that’s fresh out of seminary, it’s coming from someone who has been pastoring at the same church for nearly 50 years.

Sean (31:06):

That’s amazing.

Tony (31:07):

So if anybody could reasonably say, I’ve served God faithfully, I’ve served this church well for five decades, but I’m not the leader to pastor and shepherd the church in this new season, it should be Greg Laurie. If any pastor could honestly say, I didn’t sign up for this. And because of that, I’m gonna retire. It should be Greg Laurie. Instead, even with all the challenges in the world around us, he’s not waiting for normal to return. He’s not waiting for people to come back to church. He’s engaging the mission that God has called them to all over again. And I don’t know about you, Sean, and I don’t know about you, listening to today’s conversation, but I personally needed that encouragement. I needed that reminder. I needed that reminder that God called me to this mission, and now is not the time to give up, now is not the time to quit.

Sean (32:04):

That’s super inspiring. Well, Tony, it’s been a great conversation today. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?

Tony (32:11):

Well, because of God’s favor on our ministry at The Unstuck Group, we’ve had the chance to serve several of the very largest churches, like Harvest, through the years. And it’s an honor to have those opportunities. However, last week I was also with a small, primarily African American, church in Metro Atlanta. And it was just as much an honor for me to have that opportunity as well. All that to say, I know that there are many, many pastors and ministry leaders trying to clarify future direction for the church in this season. And it’s not just small churches. It’s the very largest of churches and everything in between. So with that, my final challenge is this: don’t wait. It’s time to move forward. It’s time for a fresh start. And if you’d like Sean, me or anyone else from our team to help you create that urgency that’s required right now in this season, bring fresh clarity and embrace the appropriate changes that are needed for a new season of ministry, please reach out to us today at theunstuckgroup.com.

Sean (33:18):

Well, Tony, this has been a conversation today and a great series. And for all of you who are listening, thanks for tuning in. If this podcast has been helpful for you in some way, we’d love your help in getting this podcast and the content out farther, and you can do that by hitting subscribe on your favorite podcasting platform or giving us a review or telling somebody else about the podcast. We’ll see you again for a new episode next 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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