Ep 158: Interview with Mark Clark
Welcome to the 158th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!
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Today's episode features an interview with Mark Clark, the lead pastor of Village Church, a multi-site church in Canada. You can learn more about Mark and his church at thisisvillagechurch.com.
You can read the full transcription of this episode below.
Hello this is Joshua Gagnon, thanks so much for listening to the podcast. Man, I am so honored by what God is doing through this podcast. We meet people all across the country who listen to the podcast and I never would have imagined. You know, sometimes I say that and I kind of imagined it. You know there are things in life I am blown away by, kind of, but I kind of expected it. This podcast is one of those things that i just never, ever, ever expected it. And even as much just a year into it, it was doing wonderful, but not phenomenal. And over the last six months, it has just literally blow up to tens of thousands of unique listeners every single month. So thank you so much for listening and hanging out. It is my desperate prayer that God would use this podcast to bless you in some way every single week. I have the honor of hosting a coaching network that we are doing. It’s the first time we have done one, I have fought against doing one for a long time, but I do feel like we can add a lot of value to many people in ministry. So if you are a senior leader, and you listen to this podcast, or if you are a senior leader and you don’t listen to the podcast, I would love to hang out with you for a few months. We are going to invite some of our executive team members, Carey Nieuwhof is going to join us for a week. It’s going to be a a lot of fun, and I believe God is going to use it in great ways. So you can go to leadbetter.church and you can learn all the information there. It would be an honor to hang out, we’re going to be innovative. It’s not going to be a typical coaching network, its going to be as authentic as it possibly can be. And I hope that we all, including my self, leave the conversations just feeling better. We’re gonna grow together, learn together, love one another, and we’ll see where God takes it. And so leadbetter.church, I’d love you to check that out, and if not I still love you, and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.
Joshua Gagnon: Well, welcome to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast, it is yours truly, Joshua Gagnon. And I don’t get to do a lot of interviews, I get interviewed a lot on my whole podcast, but today I am interviewing the King of Canada..
Mark Clark: I thought you were going to say the King of Kings! What!
J: No, you aren’t the King of Kings…
M: No, no.
J: But you’re the king of Canada. Mark Clark (in a New England accent) is how we would say it from my neck of the woods. Pastoring a movement of God in Canada, now Mark, welcome to your favorite podcast, clearly.
M: Indeed, indeed, subscribed, listen to every episode.
J: Welcome to the podcast.
M: It’s great.
J: Me and Mark connected about a what, a year ago, two years ago?
M: Yeah, I called you for advice I think.
J: Yeah, he calls me for advice, and come to find out, he pastors the church twenty times the size of the church I pastor.
M: Yeah right!
J: He called for some advice and we connected, then we went away together. I had the opportunity to connect in California, and there’s some guys you just connect with, and it just comes easy, they become a quick friend. And I consider you a quick friend and a growing friend and I look forward to many years of friendship, Mark. But today I really want to unplug, unpack, and give our listeners some incredible momentum. I think this is going to motivate a lot of people. Talk a little bit about the church you pastor, where it’s at, how you’re doing. I don’t want to give it all away. Go ahead and unpack it, I know you can talk for at least 20 minutes straight. So just go ahead.
M: One of my staff members said to me, “One day, you open your mouth and ten minutes fall out,” so I don’t know how to take that. So anyways, our church right now, we’re about five sites in Vancouver and Calvary. Those are two different cities in Canada. We started about nine years ago. About sixteen of us in my house, just kind of grown out from there. And we have about sixty staff and God’s just kind of blown the church up and people are meeting Jesus and families are getting changed and lots of lives getting transformed, which was part of our vision to begin with. Full of a bunch of de-chuched, but a lot of un-churched, people. My story, which we’ll get into, is kind of from skeptic to believer to ministry to pastor. So I go after skeptics pretty hard. Week in and week out. So our church tends to be full of skeptics, or you know, maybe people who just didn’t have faith to deal with church, and maybe they were another religion or whatever. They come in and I try to speak to them and try to convince them that Christianity is the best idea in the market place of ideas.
J: Is that just the way you think, has that always been kind of your DNA? Are you argumentative at your core? So do you like a good argument? Is that where that comes in from?
M: No, I don’t think, no I’m not argumentative. I like a debate.
J: So you are argumentative, okay.
M: No, I’m not argumentative, I think because of where I came from, my upbringing, the way that I came to faith. I quickly had to be able to defend Christianity in front of my whole life. My whole network, all family, all friends, overnight. I mean, I was the drugs, I was the partying, you know, a garage full of thirty of us on a Friday night, sitting there smoking weed, you know, doing what you do. And then three weeks later, after I become a Christian…
J: You planted a church.
M: No, but, I’m back having to defend Christianity having to defend it in front of that same garage full of people. And so, I learned, I think early, how important talking to un-churched people about the rational reality, the evidential, the moralistic, you know that things that undergird why Christianity is not only some crutch, but actually makes a ton of sense.
J: So before we go any further, give me your pitch. I think what we find, Mark, and I know you’ll agree, is that every church in today’s culture, whether your in Canada or America, the United States, wherever you are, most churches today, wouldn’t say, Mark, they are about the un-churched. We’re about un-churched, we’re about un-churched. And I mean, it’s almost like you’re going to hell if that’s not on the front of your building.
J: So we get that, most people say they teach to un-churched, we talk to un-churched, but when you say I want to get into the core, what would you say to somebody, how do you prepare your message? How do you think, when you go a little bit deeper too, it’s not just a crutch, just give me a little bit of that. I know you have written a book that you are pretty passionate about, so if you want to bring it up now you can. But give me your pitch in that, because I think it’s important…
M: A cheap marketing ploy! Well the problem with God Josh, I mention ten ways, and number four will blow your mind. So there’s my clickbait, go check it out. No, I think what I do, I try to approach every passage, I preach kind of through Biblical books. Every time I am preaching, I put it through the filter of, agnostic and atheism, Buddhism, Muslim, and Jew and whatever and go, okay how would they actually read this? And then I not only speak to that, but I acknowledge it in the room. When I say, “For God so loved the world..” okay, let’s stop, “For God”, lets’ stop, “God”. You’re here and you’re agnostic, or maybe you’re an atheist, you’re a naturalist, you say your concept of God is a flying spaghetti monster, you know he’s distant and he just wants, you know, whatever. And so, I immediately address, you know, the assumptions in the room of what people think about God. Then I kind of deconstruct it, and I say here’s what Christianity says about God. And here’s why this rationally makes sense, and Biblically why it makes sense. So I am constantly using this conversational partner. And then I say ,“For God,” and we have learned up who God is, done that in ten minutes, “For God so loved,” okay let’s stop. Love. When you think about love, you think of romance movies, you think of butterflies in your stomach, you think of Jennifer Aniston and blah blah blah blah. So here’s the thing, that’s not what God means, that’s not what the Bible means when it says love. So what I’ve found is that if you do that, even if you know that every single person in your church, let’s say you have a church of 150 people, and you baptized every single one of them, you know them all by name, and you know they are all Christians. If you talk like that, people will start to show up like that. Because you have created the culture before, and then they can bring your neighbors. If you never address the worldview issues, and I think that’s probably the best way to summarize it, I do worldview preaching. That I really try to speak to people’s constructs, because now it’s not really about, it’s about how they think. I mean, it’s about them, now you are talking about concepts or ways of approaching things or whatever, and that’s kind of what I go after, over and over and over again. What I try to do is aggressively, in a good way, that their world view is actually not logical. That is has holes all over it. For instance, I’ll say, some of you, you are naturals. This was my family growing up. Still they think I am part of a cult. Literally my brother texted me yesterday, “Tell those cult people to pray for my kid.” So when I look at them, I look at my family, and they go, Mark, this spirituality nonsense, okay fine. So we are people who are just objective. We’re born, we have a white slate, and we just deal with the data of the world, so we don’t come up with crazy theories about metaphysics, about the afterlife. So anyways, fine you don’t believe in the afterlife, okay great. So I go home, my grandma dies, 2 summers ago I go home. And they said something, they were sitting in a room, and my cousin says, “At least she's not suffering anymore.” And I stopped and I said, “Wait a minute. How do you know? How do you know she’s not suffering more than she was when she was on this earth?” Are you making a metaphysical statement about what happens to someone in the afterlife? Where is the evidence for your construct of the afterlife? Because you actually have a faith position. So what is your faith position actually informed by? Is it informed by any kind of historical document, any kind of meta-narrative that has authority over you at all? Or is it constructed around the dinner table, sitting around going I don't know, I feel this, I feel that and I feel this. It’s crazy. I’m constantly trying to show them the weakness of what they built their life on, and show them that Jesus is a way better person to build their life on than whatever they thought up.
J: Yeah, and really just allowing them to ask questions, it seems, too. It’s almost giving them permission to be okay having questions, having doubts, having wonders, and almost empowering them, that questions aren’t the problem. But not finding the answer, the solution is a problem. So do you do that at all funerals? How do you know this person’s okay?
M: No! You don’t know! I know Joe!
J: So here you are, nine years ago, starting a church, you said sixteen people in the living room. And I think that it’s important for our listeners to know, you know starting a church in Canada, you know, we’re talking a post Christian culture. And you know, the way you communicate clearly has been an attraction towards a culture that is looking less for a church to give them goosebumps and more for a church to really prove their point as to who Jesus is. And so, I think if you are kind of teaching un-churched, de-churched, I should say post-Christian cultures, you’re going to want to get seats filled with people who are skeptics, you are going to have to do better than just saying, “Jesus loves you.” You are really going to have to speak to their reality, the one they are living in. And so you start doing that, do you see growth right away? You open the first weekend and here you are, a hail Mary story? It’s unbelievable, biggest church in the history of Canada.
M: No, it was not that way at all. So at the start of the scene, we started with fifty, we found an elementary school. I drove around to every elementary school, and it was no, no, no, no. Because in Canada, we are probably a generation or two ahead of America in regards to secularization, even from an educational standpoint, we don’t want churches in our buildings.
But, it ’s a revenue stream for them, so I finally convince one principal, because you have to get the principal in to let us go. We went in there with fifty people. Our home church, that I was a part of, that I planted, gave us thirty-five. We went and found fifteen more random people, neighbors and whatever. We started the church with fifty people in the gym. The first pre-launch Sunday, we turned the lights on, the coffee makers on, figure out if the keyboard works, you know, that kind of stuff. That was fifty people, and then we just started. We launched with one hundred and sixty, and usually you have a lunch day, and then it goes down and settles down. So it went down to about a hundred, for the first year we had about a hundred.
J: For the whole first year, about a hundred people.
M: A hundred people for the first year. Kinda slugging away at it and doing our best. I think it takes people, especially if you are reaching un-churched people, or de-churched people, time to trust you. And so, they’re not just going to show up with all their neighbors and their friends, you know, week two. They want to figure out, hold on a sec, are you actually legit? Like, what is this? So they come and test it out for a little while.
J: And you have a big vision in your heart at that point. You saw the church becoming something that was reaching the masses. How did you deal with it that first year when you looked out, and the vision in your heart was so much larger than what your eyes saw? How did you deal with that?
M: I have always had this, um, I don’t even know how to say this, without it sounding odd.
J: You’re pretty odd, so go for it.
M: Yeah, I have this sense of patience. I always have the long game in mind. I know the marathon, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Ministry, life, whatever. So I’m like if it happens, it happens. It’s interesting, we were about a hundred and forty people, I did this video, you can probably find it online, it’s funny. And I’m standing infant of the elementary school, hundred and thirty people, and I say on the video, “Our vision is to plant sites and campuses and churches across Canada, to try and change our entire country.” And we’re a hundred and forty people sitting in a gym at this point, you know, it’s pouring rain on me in the middle of Vancouver. I don’t know what I was thinking. And I actually got up and said that to the church, I’m like “We’re going to take care, we’re going to plant churches!”
J: Yeah, that’s funny. That’s cool, that’s funny you say that. Literally the first month of our story, I tell that a lot, I stood up and did the exact same thing. We had nobody coming, maybe a hundred, small, small church, you know what I mean? And I stood up and did the same exact thing. “We are going to launch locations all over!” And I remember just looking at people thinking “That’s so cute, what a big dream,” you know. It’s funny that, I mean, I didn’t tell everybody their loved ones were suffering…
M: But it was my loved one!
J: Alright, yeah, and so. I had that big dream in my heart, too. So, year one passes and hundred, a hundred and twenty, a hundred and thirty people. Take me to year two, when do we start seeing the growth? Everybody listening, all of our church planters listening, they want to know, what’s the secret sauce? You know, when did you start seeing the growth? Did you do a marketing push, to just one Sunday did you just wake up and and “Wow, we doubled!”
M: Yeah, not to sound crazy, but the secret sauce is the Spirit. You know, Isiah 51: “The Spirit of the Lord..” What started happening about a year, a year and a half in, we had done some skeptic series, but as I said, we preach to skeptics all the time. We had done some series to address them. And non-Christians started to show up, they started getting baptized, they started to hear those stories and their lives started to get changed. Like literally, I was preaching these fifty-minute, Gospel-centered things, but I was hitting their life, I’m like, “Your marriage is a wreck.” In our culture, where everybody’s perfect, they needed to be told that they aren’t perfect, and that Jesus is perfect for them. But they don’t have a perfect life. Because that’s like psychology, that religious psychology burdens people down, and weighs people down because they think they have to perform and be good and whatever. And so, I grew up, non-Christian home, I got Tourette Syndrome when I was like ten years old. So I was this making weird noises, doing habits kind of kid, you know, swearing randomly.
J: You still do that, but we’re getting through it!
M: It happens, it’s all the Tourettes. so I would just throw around F-bombs, sitting around a bus stop, you know. So the last job you are ever going to get when you randomly say F-bombs in the middle, is a pastor. Right? It’s just confusing for everyone. So, it’s kind of interesting that this ends up being my job. But, this perfect town, I was scared to kind of plant there, because I’m upfront, I’m kind of twitching my face around, silly noises into the microphone. How is anyone in this perfect town, in their perfect homes and their perfect marriages, perfect cars, how are they ever be able to connect to this? And I remember my mentor at the time, “They are going to connect to it. It is going to work because you are going to give them permission. From the front to be broken and messed up and not normal and whatever.” And I’m like, “I’m a gong show man!” I’m up there twitching my face around, like looking, doing twitches. And so these perfect people started seeing freedom and liberty in that. And like if he can, if God can use this clown, to do anything, to speak to thirty people, then maybe He can do something with my life. So literally people started coming around that story and bringing friends and getting baptized. We’d go down to the ocean in the middle of February, which we still do, we started baptizing five, ten, twenty, thirty at a time. And then momentum started to happen. So about year two, year one and a half, something along those lines, the room started to get full. And people started standing, and we had to pull all, you know we had these curtains, and the lights it was all kind of standing. It was three hundred people and I was said “Oh man, what are we gonna do?” So some guy, “Well you have to go to two services.” And I said “Oh, I’ve never done that before.” Like the church I belonged to was once service everybody’s together, you preach once, you know, you nail it or you fail it. I just thought that up right now, you nail it or fail it. I like that! Starting to sound like a preacher. So anyways, I was like, “I can’t do two,” he said, “Just do two.” So I remember reading Tim Keller and he said, “The more opportunities the more people opt.” And I was like, okay, we’ll go to two and see what happens. So we went to two services, and I remember a woman came up to us and she said, “This is going to be the nail in our coffin. This is going to be the end of us, you can’t go to two services. Because I got to have lunch with Suzy and have Matt over to my house and we all have to be one community.” So I remember I got up and I preached a sermon, and I said, “Listen, I didn’t start a church so you could get more friends. I started a church because every day, people like my father, who passed away when I was fifteen and didn’t know Jesus, everyday people like my father die and go to hell. We started a church to reach them. So if you want to go to a church down the road, you don’t have to come back here, but we are going to two services and we’re doing it next week. So choose one, 9 or 11, you know, goodbye.” And so, went to 9 and 11, and we grew by fifty people in a week. Well, forty-nine, she left. Fifty people in one week, and I was like, “Wow, this might be a thing.” And I was talking to people at the front door, and they’re like “Well, I have to go to soccer at 9, or I had to do this, or I had to go to work, or whatever, and now there are these options.” And I was like “Wow, okay.” So within about a year of that, both of those services had grown to full. So there were six hundred people, we were like, “Okay what are we gonna do?” They’re standing…you know, all those crazy stories where the doors are open at the back, we wired a television outside to the courtyard and the people are on chairs on Good Friday and all that kind of stuff. And we’re still in this gym and it’s rammed and there’s this energy and I mean, these great, crazy days right? And so I’m doing two of these services, I don’t even need a microphone, they have me miked but I’m just yelling 200 feet from me. And so, then it was like, hey we gotta do three. I’m like, “Oh my goodness, three?” I’m like, this is getting chaotic. So we go to three services. And then that starts to grow. And people are parking like, ten minutes away. I mean it’s a funny, ridiculous. It’s pouring rain, people are parked ten minutes away, they’re walking up, and people have bought these houses, Josh, in these cul-de-sacs for three million dollars because it’s quiet on the weekends. So here we are, right? We got cars parked everywhere, people are walking… It looked like The Walking Dead. It was just like, people walking up the streets. Anyway so we grow to twelve hundred people in this elementary school gym. Okay? Three services rammed, and I’m still working out of a Starbucks by myself. I didn’t hire a second pastor until we were twelve hundred people. And so, yeah, that’s not a good healthy ratio. I was not living a healthy life in regard to work, but that was just the situation we were in. And so we were just making stuff up as we went. But here’s the thing: we were reaching these raw people. Like, one guy parked up on a guy’s lawn with his truck and got out of his car, I remember I got the phone call on Monday and the guy said, “This guy parked on my lawn. What do you guys think you’re doing? And he got out of the car and I said to him, ‘Get your truck off my lawn.’ And the guy walking with his little family turned around, gave me the finger, and said, ‘F you, I’m going to church!’” Right? And I’m just on the phone, I’m like, “Oh, that’s legit!” I’m like, so happy that that guy’s at my church.
J: The strangest part was that they found out that it was you parking your truck on the lawn.
M: “F you, I gotta preach! I have Tourettes!” So anyways, so dude, it was crazy. And so then we found, by God’s grace, we got given this auditorium, this performing arts center about ten minutes from the school, and it sat fifteen hundred people. And I was like, “Okay, uh.” We went up there, and the guy met with me for coffee, the pastor they were meeting in there. They were probably a church of about a hundred and fifty, and he said, “We’re just going to leave. We just don’t have enough. It doesn’t justify us.” So he said, “But I wanted you to take the first crack at it.” I was like, “Okay.” So we went up there and I was like, “I do not want to do this.” I mean these seats…it’s huge, and there’s a balcony and it’s legit. It’s not like we’re putting up chairs and doing lights anymore. It’s like, it’s in a box now. And I’m like, “Oh man.” It was intimidating. So I was like, okay. And the energy of the small room, and blah blah blah. So I’m like, okay. So we went up there, but I’m like, “It’s one service only,” and everyone’s like, “No, that’s a stupid plan, we need two services so we can reach…” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, two half-full rooms? I don’t know what’s going on.” So they convinced me, they said two services, I said fine. So we go to two services. We launch in the fall, we’re about twelve hundred. We grew by, I think that first year we grew by about six hundred people in a week and I was like, “Uh oh, I don’t know what to do.” So we were like, “Okay, we gotta figure this out.” So we tried to get them in community, and they stayed.”
J: Did you do marketing? Or you just…
M: We used to do a fall, like, hey, put it on the doors and invite people to this skeptic series. We only do one or two of those intentional, topical. We leveraged the fall a ton. That’s the number one time of growth for us, in the fall for sure. And so we tried to do those topical 6, 7 weeks and then get them back into a Biblical series, so we’ve kind of reached them here, and then we go, okay now we’re Bible people. And so we do a couple of those a year. And so that’s what we did. And so we grew by about six hundred and then I was like, well that’s the most we’ll ever grow. And so then we did a marriage series in the fall and we grew by nine hundred people in a week. In a single week we went from two thousand to twenty-eight hundred or something in a week. And I was like, “What do I do? What do we do with all these people?” So we’re trying to hire people we’re trying to get people connected.
J: How did people know about the marriage series?
M: Promo, video, you know probably little Facebook video, you know I did some video stuff. I don’t think we were doing door knockers or anything at that point. When we launched the church we did door knockers but I think at this point it was mostly a Facebook thing. Probably a promo video or something like that. And then cards. We always do cards that you can grab and you can take. Hey, take twenty, give them out to family and friends. I think we did a mac thing around the church where we just kind of put it in people’s doors or in the slots or whatever. So a nice card, kind of welcoming them and then labeling the topics in the certain weeks. So if you want to come for the divorce week or the communication week or whatever. So anyway, so they stayed, and so we were like, oh man. So we just kind of started doing church for now twenty-eight hundred people and then three thousand and then thirty-five hundred and then we started planting churches and we were like, okay we gotta get these localized people into… cause we started realizing, oh they’re driving from thirty minutes away. What if we could find a spot near them and then just empty them out of the building and then free up seats here and then they can be more on mission in their own city. And so that’s when we planted our first site. Sixteen hundred people went over there and we launched that site with sixteen hundred, and then we launched one in Calgary and another one locally and then another one after that.
J: And some of those are full video. We’ve talked a little bit about that with others, but never on this podcast of course. Some of those are full video and full video worship, video teaching. I know video teaching’s very popular, but video worship is something that is different and you’re kind of pushing that forward.
M: Yeah, all the sites are video teaching and then some of the sites are what we call “cinema sites” which are in a movie theater, which you know all about, which includes the worship on video as well. So we have these lead pastors at all the sites and then they preach a number of times a year, say between four to ten or twelve times a year and then the rest is video teaching. And then the video worship in the movie theaters.
J: Yeah we’re actually this weekend coming up doing our first full video experience. We have a location in a movie theater that’s going to be completely packed out. And as you know, time is always an issue inside of a movie theater. And so instead of trying to do a super early one that no one comes to, what we’re doing is we’re doing one, our normal experience and then the overflow is going to be a full video experience from Thursday night.
M: Oh, that’s great.
J: Yeah, excited to push that out. So let me ask you this question: at your broadcast location, have you still seen that type of growth, or are you guys growing now through multi-location more than the broadcast location?
M: Yeah, we’re growing through multi-location. And so for us, so what we had to do is we had to switch to video for even what you’re calling the broadcast location. So now I only preach at the 8:00 service there, and then everything else, even that that location is video from the week before. So what we didn’t want to do was to create a broadcast location culture versus the other sites. And so the only way to do that, to make everybody on the same page was that, okay, I’m doing this 8:00, which you have to be very Christian to get up for, and it’s in front of four hundred people with twenty empty rows in front of me because we didn’t want people in front of the camera to kind of break that fourth wall, so we put everyone behind the camera. So I’m literally preaching that services, and there’s like a warning almost, when you come in, on the screen, and it says, “You’re part of a live video capture” basically, you’re in front of a live studio audience or whatever. So things are going to happen in the service that are just different, but it’s because we’re doing it for all the other services. So we wanted to make it that way, so the broadcast location has the same level of growth trajectory as the other sites as well, which isn’t, now nine years in it’s not a thousand people in a given week, it’s more of a slow, progressive growth now. Which I think is more healthy.
J: I agree. Yeah, I think it’s important - let me just unpack that real quick cause our listeners I’m sure are intrigued right now by this story. Certainly, God has chosen to breathe on it, and clearly, I know you and it’s only Jesus. I think it’s important to understand, so he preaches - just so everyone understands - he teaches 8AM on Sunday morning, and that’s the only time he’ll teach in person that weekend, and everything else will be from the weekend before. So that 8AM that he preaches in person will now play at all locations the weekend after. And it’s similar to what we do. We’re same week - you’re a week delay. I teach Thursday nights and then we go video, even at the broadcast location all weekend long. The only time I teach in person is on Thursday night. And so I think we have a similar model where we believe that, hey listen, if we’re going to go ahead and do video and believe in this model then we want to go ahead and truly believe in it. So I know that a lot of guys, what they’re doing in today’s culture, I’m sure you hear is they’re jumping around and they’re going everywhere to get in person and they feel insecure about showing video at the broadcast, but I know you’re probably passionate, it doesn’t make it right or wrong, it’s just I’m pretty passionate about the idea that if you’re going to trust video, trust video everywhere.
M: Yeah, I was doing the jump around live thing at the different sites, I was driving. And so what we had as a model for a while was, so if you could picture at the one location there was four services, at the other location there was two at the time and now there’s three. But what I would do is I would show up and preach and if you showed up, you might come one week and I’m live and then the next week I’m video and then I’d drive out. So it was all just kind of like, hey, don’t worry about it.
J: And then you have people asking, “Is he going to be in person?”
M: Yeah, the groan as the screen comes down.
J: Yep, absolutely. That is true though, it’s what our team faced. My team looked at me, Mark, and they were like, “Listen, stop doing…” Cause I’d say, “I’ll let you know if I’m going to be there.” And finally, the team came to me like, “Can you please stop doing that because we lose so much energy the moment they recognize that you’re not there.” And it’s not necessarily because video’s worse or better, it’s simply just expectation. Expectation is changing. So let people come to what they’re expecting to get and they’re going to experience something great.
M: One hundred percent. And so that’s a reflection of the audience, but as the communicator, as a pastor I was just burning out, man. I mean, I was just sitting back stage and even during the week I just wasn’t as sharp, I was tired, I’m like, I don’t even know, I’m just a monkey. Like, I’m just walking out from behind a stage, clanging cymbals together and riding a…you know.
J: The gong show. The gong show, which you love to say.
M: So I’m like, forget it. We’ll go 8:00 and everything else is video. And I stood up and I said, “Look, if this is the end of the road for you, like if the fact that you’re now being told you will likely never see me live on a stage preaching again and this isn’t the church for you,” then that’s it. But we have to do it for the next twenty… sake of the next ten years so that I’m not done in four years and my marriage is a disaster and I’m completely out of energy and I hate you and I hate my life and I make some stupid mistakes. So that that doesn’t happen, we’re trying to prevent that by making this decision so if it’s not the church for you, I get it, but we gotta think about the bigger picture.
J: Did you see people leave? Was there a dip?
M: So no, we saw no fall, we got no email, no anything. So that was a positive. I would say the only negative - I was just talking to someone about this just before we jumped on the call. I would say, and this is the constant trade-off that we struggle with. I would say if I preached those four services at the broadcast location, if I preached those live every week, I can pretty well guarantee we’d be up six or seven hundred people. But that’s the trade-off. It’s like, am I willing to give away the long tail of growth and family and energy and all of that for another six hundred people? We’re constantly in that mode of trade-offs, right? And so I really think, cause I constantly hear people, they go, “You know, I would totally come, and I came and it was awesome, but I just can’t get over the video so I’d bring friends and everything it wasn’t video, so anyway, dude, I love it, I’ll listen to it on my walks, on my podcast, but, you know…” It’s just like I know I would love to be live, but I just can’t and so it’s a trade-off.
J: I know, it’s incredible. I feel like I’m talking to my clone. I say this all the time. I say the exact same thing. People ask and I say, “We definitely at the broadcast would be larger if I taught in person. However I do think it would, like you’re saying, it would damage me and not only that, I think that my focus going elsewhere is actually really important as well and so, and what you value from stage I think shows what you ultimately value. And when we value video everywhere it shows that it’s a DNA and a cultural thing within our team and so that’s pretty important as well. As we start to - you and I could talk forever - as we start to kind of just tie a bow on this and ship it away…you liked that, didn’t you? You liked that. I just came up with that like the push and pull or whatever you said. Nail it and send it.
M: (Singing) Tie a bow on it and ship it away…
J: The, uh…
M: The Problem of God.
J: Right, The Problem of God, chapter four. Let me say this and then I’ll go into my question. Larry Osborne is a good friend of both of ours. He’s a good friend of both of ours. He said something: purpose and calling. Talk about that.
M: Purpose and calling. In life, what do you mean?
J: No, remember how he says, “You can chase after your potential or you can live in your calling.”
M: Oh yeah.
J: That’s powerful.
M: Very powerful. So yeah, we were down learning from him and he was talking about, you know, you can have all these opportunities but you only have so much time. And you have all this potential of all the great things you could accomplish, but what are you actually called to in regard to your… You gotta limit yourself or you’re never going to be able to accomplish anything strategically. So he gives a story about, he was writing a lot, and people were like, “Hey, write books, write books,” right? He had written some great books, he’s a brilliant guy, and he summarizes in two sentences what takes me two pages to say. It’s just like he’s pure Yoda and it’s ridiculous. So everyone’s like, “Write a book, write a book, write a book.” And his kid, who was like, I don’t know, fourteen or twelve or ten or whatever he was at the time.
M: Younger, okay, eight…walked to him, he said, “Daddy, you play with me less when you’re writing books.” And Larry said, “Okay, you know what?” And before the Lord he just said, “I’m not going to write another book til my kids are out of college.” And he didn’t, he went on a thirteen, fifteen, whatever it was year hiatus and never wrote another book because he said, you know, we have all the… I mean, Josh, you’re Josh Gagnon, man, you could speak all over the world.”
J: Not my clock.
M: You get requests…How do you like them apples? You get requests all over the world, “Hey, come here, come here, come here, come here, blah blah blah.” You could do all of that, but you gotta go, okay what, I have to recognize my own limitations so I can make an impact in these areas. I could speak other places 52 weeks of the year, but my church is gonna suck and my life’s gonna suck and my family’s gonna hate me.
J: I love what he said: Potential is everything you could do, calling is everything you should do. I thought that was just powerful. I just figured I’d clean that up for you.
M: Yeah, tie a bow, ship it.
J: There you go. So difficulty. What are you facing right now and then we’ll finish this up, just kind of give us some reality because everybody’s gonna hear this story and here’s what happens, and you know it and I know it: “Nine hundred people in a week??” On and on.
M: Yeah, that doesn’t happen even week and it doesn’t happen every year either, just so we’re clear.
J: But for most people it doesn’t happen in a lifetime.
M: Right, or with me, or I thought.
J: Yeah, exactly, I understand. God did it, and that’s still, people looking in on it and think, “Wow,” right? Give us a reality. Do you wake up everyday and think to yourself, “My goodness, this is perfect and wonderful and we have everything we need.”
M: Birds are chirping, skip on into the office.
J: Take away the highlight reel and let our listeners know that there’s a lot of faithfulness in the midst of pain and that’s why God’s probably blessing you like He is.
M: Maybe I can illustrate it by, I’ll give you this picture. So, people, when they look at preaching, for instance, they look at my preaching and they go, “Man, you’re up there, it honestly looks like you’re winging it. You don’t look at your notes, you’re talking about crazy stuff, you’re yelling and screaming, you’re telling stories.” One lady described it as a punch and play system. I punch you and then I play, I play and then I slam… So it looks like I’m just randomly doing stuff. So then I tell them, “Okay, you want to know what that looks like?” So Thursday afternoon, sermon prep, reading. Friday during the day, I’m writing. I transcribe twelve pages word for word of a sermon manuscript. Saturday I play with my family, Saturday 5PM I kiss all my family goodbye, I say, “Bye.” I go back to the office, and I work on a manuscript and I get it down to about six pages by about 8PM. And then I stare at that six pages and I memorize it until midnight. Then I get up at 5AM on Sunday and memorize it more, I preach it out loud to myself so that by the time I’m standing up there, all this prep has gone into my soul and my mind so that I can then stand up in front of people and deliver. My point in telling that story is to say what could look like an easy life or a winging it in the background is actually the hardest, most grueling work of my job. Preaching is the bane of my existence. I actually hate it. It’s the most painful, lonely,…
M: Right? It destroys my soul…
J: I walk away from the Lord every week.
M: Every week it’s like I’m a Pagan. But then you do it because in that moment, you know there’s nothing like, when I’m back stage I get all the confusion of leadership development and whether the principles of my church are right and staffing, but I’m about to walk out and I got a Bible in my hand and I’m like, okay here’s the freeing thing, I’m coming under this and now I’m not even in charge. And that’s the most freeing moment of my week, to be honest. So biggest challenge for me, point being, is the grueling soul work of life in ministry. It’s how do I stay on track with the Lord, how do I do the grueling psychological, spiritual work that it’s going to take to lead this thing, stay faithful to Jesus, protect my life and doctrine? Friendships: who’s my friend, who isn’t my friend? Marriage: making sure it’s legit, being a good dad, I got three daughters, twelve, ten, and eight, how do I make sure they love Jesus and love the church in the end? How do I do staffing? I got sixty-one staff now. So it’s like, how do I make them flourish? How do I put them on performance improvement programs? How do I take the twenty-four year old who has so much potential and shape them into who they really need to be at thirty-five? How do I get them to give? How do I get the church to give? You know, all of…So underneath all that story, the podcast story is all these weeds that keep me awake at night still, and I stare at the ceiling, and go, “How…”
J: The only thing that’s changed is the zeros on the numbers. The reality is is that same weight, the same questions that you had are pretty similar to what they’ve always been, they just are asked a little bit different now. Giving is still, “How do I get these people to trust God financially?” when you had no one is still the question today.
M: It’s still the question today. And the interesting thing is I had this approach when we were small where I would just look at people and go, “Give! Stop being cheap!” And then the temptation is to stop doing that when you get big because you’re more professional. And so I forced myself. Like last week I got up and preached and I just said, “Look, we got a million dollars to raise in December, we got a twenty-eight million dollar building we need to build in 2019.” We need to raise twenty-eight million dollars over the course of three years to build a headquarters, a hub out of which to do this ministry. And so I actually looked - in Canadian culture you don’t do this, but I forced myself to do it. I said, “I got my executive pastor to print out your giving, okay? So I saw a number beside your name, which means when I’m sitting in the foyer and you’re talking to me and complaining to me about something, I see a number over your head. Okay? A little number, a green number of what you gave.”
J: You did not say this.
M: I said, “Listen, some of you have given nothing. It’s pathetic. So here’s the issue: Don’t be a non-contributing zero. Do one of two things: Either start to give or go to the church down the street so that they can drag your bones around and entertain you because we can’t do it.” That is literally a quote from my sermon.
M: Because the reality is, and I’m not trying to troll people by guilt, I’m just being honest.
J: Did you tell them their family’s going to hell at the same time?
M: Yes, your family went to hell, and…no. What are you actually doing here, sitting in a seat, taking up space, sucking resources, and not contributing? There’s no free lunch! You think these lights just stay on? And you’re gonna let the single mom giving her fifteen hundred bucks to the twenty million dollar project carry you? I know what you do for a living. I said, some of you I know what you drive, I know what you make, and then I look down the list: zero. What are you doing here? This is insane.
J: Have you gotten any feedback?
M: There was a couple of people who said they felt uncomfortable, but the reality is…
J: I didn’t see that coming.
M: The reality is what is… I mean, Josh, you know this okay? You and me go out and guys want to be mentored and they want to be discipled through their porn problem. And Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there is your money.” That’s your soul. So what am I gonna do? Shepherd you and not ask questions about your money? I can’t do that. I need to know where your soul actually is. And so part of it is just looking at the church and going, “Look, Jesus is the one who set this up. He told me to look to treasure to figure out where you’re at spiritually. And I can’t shepherd you without looking at…” Anyways, that’s a whole money thing.
J: Yeah well, we’re going to have to make sure, I’m going to go listen to it, I can tell you that much.
M: Yeah, I’ll send you the link.
J: Hey listen, we’ve already gone over our time. I always try to keep it to thirty minutes, we’ve gone a little over that. I appreciate you, man. We’ll have you back on once you raise the twenty-eight million dollars this year.
M: Any of your listeners have any? Tie it up in a bow and ship it.
J: If any of the listeners want to send Mark your giving statement for the year, that will be what he’ll look over. But I do, in all sincerity, appreciate you. God has a huge calling over your life. I love your story. I love that things that once were seen as weaknesses are now seen as platforms and opportunities and God’s using you in amazing ways.
M: That’s all the Lord.
J: My friend.
M: Thank you.
M: Okay brother, don’t know what that means.
Thanks so much for joining us on the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast today. If you have benefitted from this podcast, we’d ask that you take a moment to show your support by subscribing, rating, and reviewing the podcast on Apple Podcasts and sharing the episode with your friends on social media. Thanks again for joining us and we will see you next time right here at the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast.