Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 163: Temptations for Growing Organizations Pt 1

Welcome to the 163rd episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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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 lot of fun, and I believe God is going to use it in great ways. So you can go to 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, it’s going to be as authentic as it possibly can be. And I hope that we all, including myself, leave the conversations just feeling better. We’re going to grow together, learn together, love one another, and we’ll see where God takes it. And so, I’d love for you to check that out, and if not, I still love you and I hope you enjoy today’s episode.

Roman Archer: Well, what’s going on? Welcome to the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. My name is Roman and super excited to be with you today for another episode of the podcast. Sitting down with my boss and mentor, Pastor Josh, who is struggling with his mic right now. He’s wrestling it, and…

Joshua Gagnon: Think it will be alright?

R: We need to give a little bit of a disclaimer so that people will think it’s actually you because your voice is… you sound like, Barry White. Or Marvin Gaye.

J: I wish I knew a song. What is it? (singing) Let’s get it on. Oh wow!

R: Is Barry White? It might not be Barry White, the other famous R&B singer.

J: I think it is.

R: Is it?

J: Yeah. It’s definitely not Barry Bonds.

R: Not, definitely not Barry Bonds. Definitely not. Is it Barry Manilow, too?

J: I have no idea. You’re the pop guy.

R: Yeah.

J: You’re strange.

R: Yes, that is true. Well your voice is low and raspy.

J. Low and raspy.

R: What’s that from?

J: I think I’m getting a cold.

R: That’s not good. Sipping on the OJ.

J: Yeah, and I think preaching last night probably makes it a little bit…

R: True story.

J: ...raspy.

R: It’s a Friday morning.

J: It is.

R: Yep. I don’t know when our listeners are listening to this episode, but we are talking on a Friday morning, just had church last night and you preached. Great message. Great series that we’re in. So for all of our listeners anyway if you think we have an impersonator here that is impersonating Pastor Josh, we’re not.

J: You’re not so lucky.

R: It’s truly him, it’s just a different sounding..

J: Unfortunately it will be only the wisdom I have.

R: And then I think after this episode we’re going to give him a pad of paper and pen and not let him speak for the rest of today so you can save your voice.

J: Impossible.

R: You can just go ahead and write everything down. Got a conversation we’re going to have today around maybe some temptations that a church or an organization or maybe even a team will have as it grows. There are certain temptations that begin to sneak in and you’ve often said it, but there’s this idea that to a certain degree the things that have gotten us to where we are, some of them need to change and some of them need to remain the same. And I think the good things that get us to where we are, once you grow to a certain size business-wise, church-wise, team-wise, staffing-wise, it can be really easy to stop doing maybe some of those fundamental things that you did early on.

J: Yeah, growing pains.

R: Growing pains. Talk about that for a second. What does that look like?

J: It’s a somewhat similar to working out. You almost have to trick your body at times to continue to be effective in the routine of potentially losing weight or gaining muscle or becoming jack like you.

R: Thank you.

J: With a six-pack and… (laughs). The first time anyone’s ever told you… Is it? Honestly…

R: So many jokes I want to make right now.

J: But how does it feel to know that there’s thousands of listeners that may believe…

R: Believe that I have a six pack.

J: Does it kind of feel good?

R: It’s true. As long as no one Googles me. I go by my other name online, Bradley Cooper. So if you’re actually looking me up via Google you have to type in “Bradley Cooper six pack”. That’s what I look like.

J: But as we grow in ministry, as we grow in the organization we call the church, as we grow within our teams, the reality is is it’s hard to always continue to think about the things that you should be thinking of because of the pressures of growth. You know? Sometimes growth causes us to start doing things or stop doing things we once did that were good and to start doing things that aren’t good and I think that that’s a tension for all of us in leadership and ministry, is that as things grow things change and unfortunately in that change, we can lose some very valuable things that got us to where we are.

R: Even the idea of just maintaining, even just trying to keep the status quo, pretty soon all of our energy can start going towards that. We were having a conversation even before this that often times, what we build ends up controlling us. There was a day where you make decisions to get to where you are and then where you are starts dictating the decisions to you and you start being more reactive rather than proactive.

J: Yeah, we were telling the location pastors yesterday, we had a meeting, or, what would you call it?

R: A huddle.

J: A huddle, yeah okay. We hung out for the morning and did some leadership talks and such and we were talking to them about how early on, the grit that we had, and early on, you know, taking a drill - cause the northeast was the only location we started - and we would drill holes in the ground to put yard signs and contractor signs in the winter to get through the solid ice ground so that people would have, we’d have marking tools out there. Even if you had one out there it was a hook in the water and you’d drive past that sign every day and just pray over it and believe for God to do the impossible. And then as ministry grows, now all of a sudden it feels like everybody in the organization thinks that we need to do a 10,000-piece, or 10,000-dollar, or 50,000 or 100,000-piece mailer at a location for it to be a real marketing push. And what we lose is we lose a little bit of that tenacity, a little bit of that grit, a little bit of that fire in our belly that we once had and so it’s not that as ministry grows you don’t learn many times how to become more wise. Many times how to do things better the longer you’re in it, but there is a tendency to lose some of the things that you once did as the church grows, as it grows larger you lose some of the things that helped you get to where you are.

R: Yeah. It’s almost as if, even as you’re talking I’m trying to think of, and you’re way better at illustrations and the symbolism behind things, but it’s almost as if the tools that have gotten us here, we now have the ability to buy different tools, so you stop using them.

J: It’s not always bad, but you don’t want to change all your tools.

R: Exactly, it’s like expanding the tool belt rather than just forgetting the old and gaining the new. Sometimes you have to build upon those things.

J: There’s some things that have been made well and there’s some things that you should just keep using, like a wrench. Like, let’s not complicate the wrench, you know?

R: Or a hammer.

J: Don’t complicate it. You go to Home Depot now and they have all different angles and all different shapes, and it’s like, at the end of the day just give me a piece of iron, let me whack away at stuff, you know what I mean? Like, what are you doing? And so one of the things that we were talking about that as we get bigger it becomes difficult to make sure that we keep in check is, we start to instruct doers versus inspired dreamers. You know, back in the day it was all about the dream, right? It was all about inspiring people to believe that we were going to see God do the impossible and as you begin to walk in a lot of what it was you once dreamed, you then start to just ask people to come along and partake in the dream that’s been, rather than believe in a new dream to come. You know, the dream has to grow with the church, with the organization, with, we have a lot of business leaders that listen, with the business, like, that dream has to continue to outpace where you’re at and I think a lot of times we start just trying to now keep up with the dream that we’re living in and so it’s all about just instructing people to do, to do, to do, to do, you need to do, you need to do, you need to do. And really, we lose the margin to inspire people to dream. And so when you go around an organization with a large staff, you could run into this circumstance where you look at everybody, they’re not dreaming about what it is they’re apart of, they’re just doing what it is they’ve been told to do. And there’s so much more passion involved when I have the liberty to dream about what it is I’m a part of and where it’s going and what it could become in Christ. There’s a lot of liberty there, there’s a lot of freedom there, there’s a lot of passion involved in that. But if I’m just doing a job because, man, I’m living in the dream already and we’re just trying to keep up with the dream that we’re living in, and you know what? I’m doing, I’m doing, I’m doing, I’m doing, then you’ll look around and your staff, man it’s just a bunch of doers and not a lot of dreamers, but when we started, it was all about the dream. And even when we had staff…

R: More ownership.

J: Yeah, more ownership. There was more resilience, there was more grit. And that comes along with that word you said, ownership. If I really believe that I’m an owner in this dream and that I have the liberty to actually add to the dream, I have the liberty to actually say a couple things that would even inspire a bigger dream. When I feel like I can actually be a part of building the dream, adding to the dream, working towards it, it changes the way I work versus now I’m just simply a doer. For instance, it’s like an architect on a home. If you give a framer the freedom to make changes while they’re building a home, they’ll be more inspired to do their work then if you told them, “Stick to the absolute structure of the architect.” Right? Stick to it. Like, you give someone a paintbrush, a creative person, and you say, “Paint...Here’s the structure you have to live within.” Cause we know creative people have to live within a structure. You don’t want to just give them a paintbrush, they need a structure to live in. But if you give them a paintbrush and say, “Go ahead, in this structure, what are your dreams? What do you see? Paint it.” Versus, “I want you to put a tree, I want you to put a mountain, I want you to put a field, and a cow.” Right? Now all of a sudden they’re just going to do that. They’re not inspired to do it, they’re not excited to do it, they have no ownership in it, their opinion didn’t matter. And so what happens, we’ve noticed, is a lot of times we’re just like, get the job done, get the job done, get the job done, we’re going to keep the ball rolling, we’ve got to keep the ball rolling, we’re living in the dream. And all of a sudden you look around someday and you have a bunch of doers and not a lot of dreamers.

R: Yeah, absolutely. And I think a lot of things have come along with that is the ability to hire more staff, suddenly you just start giving them the tasks to do and they no longer have that ownership, which is really big.

J: We’ve talked a lot about trying to stay even as small of a staff as we possibly can each step of the way. And sometimes I get jealous because I’ll be sitting in circles with some of my friends and mentors and whatever and they’re like, “We have 400 staff” or “We have 100 staff. How many do you have?” And I’m like, “Not that.” You know what I mean? And sometimes you’re like, oh maybe I need more staff. You know? And of course we all get in this peeing contest towards, you know, a big game about what we look like and we all struggle with that, at least, I mean, I do so if our listeners don’t, maybe they should do the next episode of how to overcome that. I think we’re all fighting that identity crisis ever since the Garden. However, I would say that we have decided to stay thin as long as we possibly can because we have become a little bit fat at times and we recognize we have staff we’re paying that’s bad stewardship, that we could just double up responsibilities and get a lot more accomplished with people who are dreaming rather than just doing.

R: Yeah. So let me ask you this: what are some ways that you inspire dreamers versus just create doers?

J: Give back power.

R: Yeah. The ownership. Decision-making.

J: Give back ownership. What do you think I should do? Or when you’re even leading a team and you’re giving instructions for what’s next to come, giving liberty and freedom inside the instruction for them to add their piece of pie. For them to add their flavor to the shake. You know, and I think it’s allowing them to feel like they have a voice in the midst of the organization rather than the voice is above them and they’re just following the voice.

R: Instructions step-by-step.

J: Yeah. There’s of course structure, of course systems, of course levels of power and authority and influence, we understand that. But I don’t think anybody should feel like they’re just a cog in the wheel.

R: Yeah. I think one of the things that even contributes to that is this desire to remove even the mess at times. Like, inspiring dreamers? It’s messy. There’s a messy component to that and being okay with, yes, guardrails, and yes structures, but allowing people to fail, allowing people to make decisions that maybe you wouldn’t make, it allows them to have that level of ownership that inspires them to take things further than you could.

J: And live in that freedom.

R: Yep. So the first one is instruct doers versus inspire dreamers is one of the things that we begin to do the bigger that we get. So we’ve got to watch that. The second one.

J: The second one was rely on what we have versus rally behind what we don’t have.

R: This is a big one. This is really kind of what started that conversation yesterday when we were talking about grit early on as a church plant, which is what we are, we’re ten years removed from those church planting days. And there’s definite temptation that comes with that.

J: Yeah, you say 10 years and when I hear you say 10 years from the church plant, I think two things: I think, boy that was fast, and then I think, that was the longest 10 years of my life.

R: You threw up a little bit in your mouth.

J: I just think, like, wow, we got 30 more at this. Like, it’s God-willing of course. Yeah, man it’s really easy to get to a point where you start to just rely on what it is that you have and you’re not innovative and you’re not urgent and you’re not passionate and you’re not thoughtful over creating opportunities that don’t come easy. And now all of a sudden you need these type of lights for worship. You know, your band can’t play unless they have movers, you can’t move.

R: Unless it’s the three thousand dollar lights.

J: It’s impossible. It’s impossible for Jesus to show up unless he has the correct lighting in the room. We all know that, right? And so now we need that and now we need the soundboard that costs enough to buy a Lamborghini. You know, now we need this soundboard because, you know, goodness gracious. And I’m not putting all of that down.

R: No, it’s such an interesting tension because even for us, a multi-site church, we could easily start slowing down launching the locations based on the facilities that we now have. So we would go and launch locations before, like, does it have a floor and a ceiling? Okay, we’ll do church now. And now there are standards so it’s this interesting tension of balancing what we have and what we’re going to continue to do.

J: And I think that tension comes down to effectiveness. I think that if I’ve learned over years that doing it this way is less effective than doing it the other way, waiting longer to do it more effective is wise. But waiting longer to just do it better for no gain of more effectiveness isn’t wise. And so I do think that, you know, for instance, like you just said, as an example of how we would launch locations in every movie theater we could find. Not that we won’t do that now, but we would rather launch permanent because we’ve found that it’s more effective and it costs a little more money so we have to wait a little bit longer, but it’s effective, you know? And there’s things we’ve learned. Now, that’s not that we’re not going to launch portable locations in great situations, but if given the opportunity to wait a little longer, we would go permanent. If there’s an opportunity because we’ve learned just a little bit quicker a little bit more self-sustaining, there’s some things that come along with it that are better for the model. But what we started talking about yesterday was, I said, “What are our locations doing for marketing right now?” And you looked at me like a ghost. And I said…

R: Well, what do you mean we don’t have billboards out right now? And a 30,000-piece mailer.

J: We haven’t called the US Army and asked them to do a jet-fly over. And it’s like, listen, you know, and that’s why you called the meeting this morning because you saw that I was quite serious about getting together and making sure that we’re doing every little thing that we should be doing. Cause now we stop bringing coffee and donuts to the fire station every week to bless them when we should be doing it, but why do we have to do that? We get lazy at doing that because it seems insignificant. It’s not insignificant. It’s what we do. It’s who we are. It’s what we were built upon, is thoughtfulness and love and aggression and grit. We don’t put out the one sign at the intersection to get people to come or invite people, because we can’t do 150 potentially. Right? And so what we’re saying is at one point you just thought of innovative ways to reach people. You thought outside the box. There was a “Yes, we can” attitude. Let me just say it this way: far too many churches and businesses have a “Yes, we can” attitude at the beginning, have more years later have a “No, we can’t” attitude. They had a “Yes, we can” attitude with less.

R: Yep, it’s so true. For me, it reminds me back to the days, we had a word for a while that we would use: occupy. And basically it was just this idea that we were just going to take the land and so we would say just occupy it. And so often we would have to be innovative or we would just be scrappy, gritty, hustle, whatever you want, call it, and now, as you get bigger, and this is truth, any team, any organization, any business, whatever it is that you’re dreaming about doing, I guarantee you that if you went back to your past leader three years ago and said, “This is what I have to accomplish this”, they would laugh at you. Because you’ve accomplished way more with way less, but we get scared, we get comfortable. I think it’s so true.

J: Yeah. There’s a tendency to get away from the things we once did that made us who it is we are now. And I think we need to grow, I think we need to get wise, but I don’t think we should get away from inspiring people to dream and just start inspiring people or instructing people what to do. I don’t think we should get away from rallying around what we don’t have and how we can be innovative and how to dream of being possible with less. I don’t think we should get to the point where now we just sit back because we’ve done bigger things with more money so now there’s no reason to do the little things anymore. I think we continue to do what it is we once did that same grit, and that’s a cultural thing that will stay throughout the entire organization. I want to say just one more time cause we’re going to close this podcast. We’ll finish these next two thoughts on the next podcast, cause I want this to stay short enough for people who don’t like to run long to be able to listen to it. I want to say that one thing because I really felt like that was something that really sparked an interest in me when I said early on we do…

R: We have the “Yes, we can attitude.”

J: We have the “Yes, we can attitude” with less than we have now. Isn’t that amazing? I don’t know if our leaders can relate to that, but I know that sometimes that’s how I am. It’s almost like my “Yes, I can” attitude was so much more dominant when I had so much little, but when you get a little bit more, the “No, I can’t” attitude starts to creep in because now the measure of what it takes is so much larger. But what if the measure of what it takes to successful and to see success in God’s Kingdom and just see people meet Jesus, what if the measure that it takes didn’t grow, you were just given more? The measure is still the same. You could still do it with very little as long as you have faithfulness and obedience. Cool, well that was a lot of fun. I hope our listeners had a fun time hanging out with us.

R: Yeah, we’ll pick this up on the next episode. Again, talking about the temptations, the bigger we get. What are we fighting? So join us back on the next episode.