Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 164: Temptations for Growing Organizations Pt 2

Welcome to the 164th episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.


Roman Archer: Well, welcome to another episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. So thankful that you would join us for today’s conversation. We’re picking up the second part of a conversation so I just want to say, time out, if you haven’t yet listened to part 1 of this episode, you would do yourself good by going back and listening to that first.

Joshua Gagnon: Part one of this thought.

R: Part one of this thought, yes, and we’re picking up…

J: Cause this is part one of this episode.

R: This is part two…

J: Of the episode?

R: Well, no, technically this is another episode. So this is getting super confusing for all of our listeners. What you should do is just start back at the beginning. Go back to 2000…

J: There’s one called “The Camp.”

R: Yeah, “Cabin Talk.”

J: “Cabin Talk.”

R: Go back to “Cabin Talk” and we’ll see you in a couple weeks when you make it back to this episode.

J: Yeah thank you to all of our listeners. Man, I’m just so blown away by your faithfulness in listening and your willingness to listen. We started this thing in a cabin with just no one listening.

R: Literally.

J: No one listening. You know? I’m telling you, the first six months we had like 22 listens.

R: That was all staff. And I think, like, wives.

J: Yeah, 30,000 listens now, last month. So pretty crazy to think of. And so we’re thankful that God is using this and that it’s still a little podcast shot in a little…

R: If they saw this…

J: If you saw where this is being shot right now…

R: We’ve got a giant whiteboard, three gray, beat-up cabinets. We’ve actually got a cool basketball...what do you call this? Arcade shooting thing?

J: Yeah, yeah.

R: Like, two hoops and you compete against one another here, and…

J: Yeah, and this is where it’s shot. And we just are still gritty. Still gritty.

R: These are just the conversations that we’ve been having from day one, of wrestling with leading something that far out-paces our leadership experience.

J: I’ve never felt like I’ve been on top of this thing.

R: No.

J: I mean, you literally have a mental breakdown once a week.

R: At least.

J: ...saying like, I don’t even know what to do.

R: I’m clueless. I… Yep.

J: And I feel the same way. It’s just like, you know, by God’s grace we are here.

R: But how much have we been able to learn from relationships that God has breathed into your life and our team’s life but then also podcasts and books like this, and so for just our listeners I commend you for carving out the time because you might not always get that mentoring relationship. But it’s no excuse to not be learning.

J: Yeah, I think it’s better than conferences, personally, but speaking of conferences, there is one that’s not better than, and that’s the Sticky Teams Conference.

R: Oh, I thought you were going to say the… I guess that’s more of a …

J: That’s a coaching network, which at some point God’s going to move powerfully. But the Sticky Teams Conference that I’m speaking at. Me and Larry.

R: April 5th.

J: April 5th, is it April 5th? April 5th.

R: Yep, it’s the Boston Sticky Teams One Day. Just Google that. Sticky Teams One Day Boston.

J: Check that out. If you want to make the trip out, make sure you connect with our team. Send me an email.

R: Yeah, we’re going to have a bunch of our staff there, at least our location pastors.

J: We’re going to bring all of our location pastors down.

R: So if you’re a multi-site church or thinking about going multi-site or whatever that looks like, we’d love to exchange numbers and connect you with members of our team and say hi.

J: Come hang out with us, it will be fun. Alright we’re in part two of what he calls this episode.

R: This episode, which is actually last episode. So it’s a new episode.

J: Which is exciting. We’re talking about growth, which everyone loves to talk about. And we’re talking about how we can continue to do the things we once did, but how there is a naturally tendency within leadership to move towards doing things different.

R: Yeah.

J: Because of the hustle and bustle of growth, and because of the pressure of growth, the pace of growth, it causes the financial gain that comes with growth. It causes us to start to do things different, but not all things that we’re doing different…

R: ...are good.

J: We should be doing. And so.

R: Yeah. Yep. The first two we talked about, again, go back and listen to it as we instruct doers versus inspire dreamers, we talked about relying on what we have versus rally behind what we don’t yet have. And so we’re picking up two other thoughts that we have noticed as we’ve grown with our team and our church and that would be this idea: It’s easier to employ people looking for a career versus empower people who are called. And we’ve got that saying and anyone that has ever listened to the podcast, I’m sure that they’ve heard it before, it’s that this isn’t a career, this is a calling and that’s who we look for. But man, as your team starts growing, isn’t it easier to just start hiring people with more experience, the specialists, the people that you think you need that doesn’t always come with a calling.

J: No, we fell under that trap. That’s why this is one of the things that we’re fighting against and this list of things, by the way, could have gone on forever. But I wanted to do two on each episode. But hiring people looking for… Am I keeping you awake?

R: You are. This is engaging. I think it’s a nervous tick.

J: (laughs) He just… the biggest yawn I’ve ever seen. You just busted it out, it almost swallowed the microphone.

R: I probably could have.

J: Hey listen, go take a nap, I’ll wake you up when I...

R: Get the point. The next point.

J: Exactly. (laughs) The trap we fell in was hiring people to get jobs done. And hiring people that we thought we needed and hiring people with greater experience and greater resume. And we got away from a little bit of that calling, where it was like, I’ll go there for nothing.

R: And they had to.

J: Yeah, back in the day, like, if you didn’t come to NLC for nothing, you weren’t going to come here. There was only option: free. And that really, you’d be amazed when that was the only option, how many people jumped into that option.

R: Well, and the people had a passion to be here.

J: Yeah, I mean it was like the bad news bears, but we didn’t show up. You know, we like showed up on the field and people are like, “What in the world is that?” You know? We didn’t look as smooth, we didn’t look like we knew what we were doing cause we didn’t, but man, I’ll tell you what, we beat anybody in passion. You know? We stand against anyone in the world with grit and there was some comradery in that. There was something special in that. And then you create that culture and then you get to a point where you have a little bit more resources and many more needs and then you start hiring people who were good at video, and they come in and they’re going to be good at video, and they’re there for 6 months or a year because they weren’t really called to be a part of that unique vision, that unique family of God’s house, right? That unique church. And you know, you start recycling people. And then people say there’s a lot of turnover, and then the truth is it’s you were hiring people out of need versus accepting people who were already coming out of calling.

R: Yep. It was a career. You know, it’s interesting.

J: What’s that? Vanderbloomen… What do you call it?

R: Yeah…. (laughs) Yeah. Vanderbloomen.

J: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with those things. I know you’re trying to cut me off.

R: (laughs) I don’t know what you were going to say about…

J: I know you’re trying to cut me off, you don’t need to. I’m fully aware of what I’m going to say right now. I have no problem with them, at all. Whatsoever.

R: If you listen to the podcast, you’re actually a great company, and…

J: I have no problem if you want to sponsor. What I want to say is simply this: If they’re the ones placing everybody in the organization outside of those people being called, now I’m not saying called people can’t use that organization to find homes that they’ve been called to. That’s not what I’m saying. It can be a wonderful middle tool for called people to find homes they’ve been called to. But if we’re just using these big organizations to find minds and brains and hands and feet with great, great resumes, don’t be surprised when turnover, don’t be surprised. Listen, calling will keep you through storms far longer than a career will keep you. Right? And so don’t be surprised when all we do is look for outside companies to hire all of our people that don’t feel calling, they just need to get a job in ministry. Don’t be surprised when you lack passion, don’t be surprised when you ask people to pull all-nighters for a big projects where they may cross their eyes and roll their eyes and walk away. Don’t surprised when they gossip. Don’t be surprised when there’s division. Don’t be surprised when you bring a bunch of people that don’t want to be part of your family forever into your family, and expect them to act like they don’t want to be part of your family forever. So, once again, I don’t think the middle… We use churchstaff… looker, finder. We’ve used these things before, they’re not bad. But we make sure that while we’re using them there’s a long prayer process, there’s a long courting process to make sure that God’s calling is, this was put together for God to bring together a called man or a woman to this church versus just a career step.

R: I think one of the big things…

J: Are you happy with how I said that?

R: Yes, you did great. Very diplomatic. One of the things that contributes, I think to this problem is this idea that, again as more resources come in, we talked a little bit about this on the last episode, when needs come up, it’s easier to just hire for the need rather than develop. And we fell into that trap, where, okay, we’ve got to make this hire, let’s just pay someone to come in rather than developing someone in the house that has the passion for that, that is called to it. We’ll find someone that’s looking for a career rather than a calling and that’s a dangerous place to be, so again.

J: Because, you would agree, passion and calling is way more important than, I want to say competence. I want to say that, although clearly you’re not hiring people who can’t do the job at all, right? But you can train competence. It’s hard to train if at all, even able, if you’re even able to train passion, if you’re even able to train calling. You can’t train that, it’s a God-given...God, I believe breathed, type of thing within someone. For instance, you, right? There’s been a development, me, of our competence. But the reason we’re still here is because of the calling and the passion, right? And so I think that God will continue to grow competence in those that he’s called, He’ll continue to develop those that He’s called and those people that were called have passion. Passion follows calling, right? And so I think that’s the heartbeat behind this for our listeners. We understand that people get paid in ministry today. We understand there are organizations that place people. I am against organizations that place people or people that find churches just for a career move. I do not believe those type of people build a culture that is full of passion, loyalty, resiliency, grit. I don’t think you find the necessities that build a movement through people who are just looking for a career step.

R: Yeah. We had that question come up recently at a meeting, someone asked if you could teach passion.

J: I said no. And there was some pushback, a little bit, and I mean, like I can answer that question. What do I look like?

R: Well, I think we can create….

J: I think we can create excitement.

R: Cultivate. Yeah, exactly. We can cultivate excitement. Passion.

J: But can we create a passion in someone? I don’t know.

R: You can teach competence, like you said. But if they’re not called, if they’re not passionate, that’s a hard thing to teach.

J: Yeah, we’ve fallen into that trap, that’s why we’re telling our listeners. Hey, listen, you don’t have to believe me, you don’t have to agree with me, and you can do whatever you want to hire. I’ll love you either way. I’m just saying, I promise, one of the things that has happened in our last hires.. One guy we just hired, I’m not going to say who he is or what he was doing, but he listens to the podcast, he’s coming on the team, but he was doing very well. Very well. Outside of the church world. And he’s been in ministry before, and he’s going to be coming on staff here in the future, and he’s taking a large pay cut. And he said, “Listen, I tried to deny it, but I just can’t.” And we said, well we don’t know, we’re not sure, we’ve got a lot of timing to do, it’s for our Florida location. And so he said, “Well, I’m moving there anyways and I’ll get another job but I have to be a part of this.” Listen, that’s what you call a calling. Now when the road gets tough in a year, right? While he’s on staff, something happens, that’s not someone who just looks you in the eyes and says, “Peace, I’m out.”

R: Right, I got this offer.

J: No, they understood I was called here. And even though I’m getting higher up on the mountain and the wind’s blowing stronger I’m not going to leave the mountain cause I was called here. And it’s so much harder to leave a calling than it is to leave a career, and that’s why you want people who were called because sometimes it gets hard even in this profession, per se. That’s all. Thank you for listening.

R: The last one we have is this idea that the bigger we get, the more we rely on experience versus rely on God.

J: Yeah, and that’s a good one to end with, PR, Bradley Cooper, if you listened to the last episode. (laughs) That’s a good one to end with. Isn’t it true, though? You can start to rely on what we’ve seen in the past, which can sometimes damage what you believe God can do in the future. There’s so many people in ministry that have prayed big, bold prayers and they’ve shown up that Wednesday night at youth group or that Sunday morning in the kids ministry or get on stage to preach and they recognize the prayer that they’ve prayed the last week, it sounded and looked in their heart and mind a lot different than what it was they were seeing with their eyes. The reality is over the course of ministry you can experience a lot of disappointment, and that disappointment often aligns to the prayer life that we have. And so what happens is all of a sudden, what you used to trust God for, you trust experience now. Now, I’m not saying experience, listen. Come on. Wisdom is great, experience is great. Experience can help you succeed in the future. But if your experiences are holding you back from dreaming and praying, if your experiences are holding you back from taking steps of faith, if Peter won’t get back out on the water because experience told him he sank after he walked on it, if he won’t get back on the water he’s going to miss the opportunity to double up on something no other human has ever done before, other than, of course, Jesus, fully God. Right? He’s going to miss the opportunity to walk on water. And he walked on water, he didn’t just sink. That’s pretty darn good. And so for me it’s this pushback, continuously, “Josh, listen, when you started Next Level, you didn’t even know you were in the least-churched area of America. I had no clue. I didn’t know the statistics. I never read a church planting book. I had no clue about anything other than my friends didn’t know Jesus and they needed life here in the now. So when we started Next Level I had no experience, and now all of a sudden, well that location launch, last location launch was 410 people in attendance, and so it’s in a less populated area with less of this and less of this. We should probably only experience, we’ll never bring in 250 people with that launch because of this, this, this, this, and we’ll probably only ever grow to 300 people because of the metrics surrounding the village and the way that the leaves sit on trees blows the wind a certain way which creates an aroma… And it’s like, you can fall into this trap where it’s all experience, all experience, all experience, all experience. And it takes away the audacity and faith and brilliance of getting out on the water and still believing that God can do the impossible. And so I would just push down all of our ministry leaders that are listeners, all of our leaders, business or anybody. And if you have dreams in your heart, don’t let past experiences talk you out of what God can do in the future. God can do the impossible. That’s a little bit about the book I’m writing.

R: Yeah. I was going to say a lot of that, even this idea of how we even  pray sometimes.

J: Yeah, I’ve talked about tableside prayers and I signed a two-book deal with Thomas Nelson, so that’s what we’re talking about with the book, so I hope that you’ll pick it up and help me get the word out. I think God’s going to use it in big ways. It will come out in 2020, the beginning of the year. Prayer life, tableside prayers, where we just quickly say grace, but we’ve stopped praying prayers that we’re believing God will answer based on dreams that we’ve never seen come true. And I don’t think ministry leaders have a prayer problem. I don’t think Christians have a prayer problem, I think they have a dream problem. It’s hard to dream when you’ve seen so many dreams not come true. And it’s hard to keep praying. It’s when you don’t feel like your dreams are coming true. And so imagine if you prayed today as if anything is possible. And your mind wasn’t constantly whispering how the past probably should talk you out of that reality. My prayers would sound different.

R: My prayers would sound different as well .

J So, prayerfully, our listeners with me and you, we can start praying and believing for great things because when we started this church, when our ministry leaders started in ministry or wherever you are in business, when you started there’s a chance your dreams were bigger. And it’s not because your God has shrunk that they’ve shrunk, it’s because your experiences in the past have shrunk your dreams in the present. And we’ve got to push back on that. If God shrinks, let our dreams shrink. But if you don’t think your God has shrunk, keep dreaming big, bold prayers.

R: That’s good. Well thank you so much for taking the time to listen to this week’s episode and conversation.

J: Or last week’s. Or the first part of this week’s.

R: Yeah, however you broke it up. We’re glad that you did and we look forward to next week coming at you with some more great leadership content. Thanks for tuning in.