Joshua Gagnon

thoughts on Jesus, leadership, and the Church.

Ep 173: How To Be a Leader Worth Following Pt 1

Daniel King: Welcome to another episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast. Thank you once again for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us. We hope, as always, that this episode is an encouragement to you and that you enjoy it. My name is Daniel and I’m the Operations Pastor here at Next Level Church and I get the privilege of hosting this week’s episode, and actually this week and next week. This is going to be a two-parter for you. And I’m here with…

Roman Archer: Two-parter.

D: ...with the master of content, the leadership guru, Mr. Roman Archer.

R: Not sure about that. I was expecting you to introduce somebody else. Like they were going to bust into the room and…

D: (laughs) Roman’s here today and we’re going to be talking about what it looks like to be a leader worth following for these next couple episodes. And this is some awesome content that Roman wrote and shared with our location pastors a few weeks ago and we thought it would be great to share with you guys as well. So I’m going to kind of hand the floor over to him and let him jump into the content here as we get started today.

R: I think the reality is, Daniel, is this is a subject, and you weren’t part of the original conversation that we had had with the location pastors, I’ll give you a little bit of context to where the talk comes from, but this is going to be a subject that you’re going to be able to relate a lot to as well, because we’re both in the same boat. Essentially it came out of this idea and this thought, this past October I got to celebrate the ten year mark of being on the team and the leadership here at Next Level Church, and that’s been various roles and hasn’t even been paid really, the whole time when it started, but it’s like the ten year mark for us. And that was this past October, you know, obviously, that was fun to celebrate, a cool milestone, but as I really stepped back and got to context, I know you can relate to this as well, you know I think it has more to do with the leader that I’m following than it does me. And from that I was able to really boil down I think some characteristics that have allowed me to walk in longevity in this role. And I think they’re the same that you would experience and ultimate it comes down from our lead pastor, so I’m going to be talking through the context of the relationship that we have. But really talking about a leader worth following. And these are traits, characteristics that I’ve tried to develop and integrate into my own life. Some come easier than others, kind of based on your wiring and how you are. But these are all different characteristics that have allowed me some longevity and the reality is that it really does have more to do with the person that I’m following. And so these are some characteristics I hope to demonstrate in my leadership over the long haul. And I think this is probably going to be a two-parter as well, just because I think there’s ten of them, because every good preacher has…

D: I think the biggest thing just for you to tackle that is just recognizing that when we see something good in someone above us, I guess, for lack of a better term, when we see a leader who’s leading us and we like what they’re doing, we should try to emulate that, right? And I think that’s really the value in this, is, man, these are the things that meant a lot to me in the way that Pastor Josh has led me or led you in this case, and so how can I lead others that way? Right? And so I think for our listeners that’s the real takeaway here.

R: Absolutely. Yeah. So some characteristics of a leader worth following. The first one is a leader that’s generous and readily accessible. A leader that is generous and readily accessible. And when we’re talking about generosity, we’re not just talking about finances, although being generous isn’t just something that we do, it really is a lifestyle. And so it’s kind of a pourover into all areas of our life. But what I’m really talking about is someone that even though they have limited access and limited amounts of time, which is true for anyone as an organization, as a church grows, the responsibilities tend to become greater, they tend to be a little bit stretched thin, this is where it becomes very important for a leader to define what it is that only they can do, and focusing on those things. But even still, they’re going to be pulled in different directions. And that tension, we all experience it as leaders, is trying to give your attention and time to all of the things that matter. But a leader worth following is generous and readily accessible to the ones that they are directly leading. One of the stories that I love and I forget where I heard it. We’ve got a guy on our leadership team named Walt. He loves being called Walt, but I’m pretty sure I heard it from him, because he’s a huge Walt Disney fan. He tells this story though of Walt Disney being a little bit like a bumble bee. And they would talk about the Disney offices back in the old days, he would fly from room to room, from meeting to meeting, from office to office, almost as a bee would, kind of spreading his creative pollen. And he was just readily accessible to his team. And that’s one of the things that I have been a recipient of in Pastor Josh is he’s readily accessible. Now that’s not to everybody. Everybody has various degrees, but he is my direct report and he’s always been able to take the phone call, he’s always been able to answer the question, and certainly there’s an understanding of I’m respectful of his time, and so I think there’s been a healthy dynamic and balance there. But he’s always been available. He’s always accessible for that leadership dilemma, for the questions, for the information that I need. I’ve heard it said the value of life is measured by how much is given away. And I think you can say that the value of leadership is always measured by how much you give away as well. And certainly that has to do with your time, your attention, and the deposits that you’re making in other people.

D: Yeah, so I think that’s very important. So let me ask you the flip question. What’s, when you aren’t available, when it’s hard to get ahold of somebody for somebody that you’re leading, when it’s hard to get ahold of you, what does that communicate to them? What’s the opposite, what’s the negative side?

R: Well I think it communicates value. But let me also say this little caveat as well, that I think being accessible also has to do with authenticity. Cause you can be an accessible leader when it comes to time, but if they don’t really feel like they’re accessible getting into your life and getting you into theirs, it doesn’t really matter how much time you give them, you're not an accessible leader if you’re not an authentic leader. And os I think part of that does have to do with that dynamic of ust being willing to be yourself. There’s this tension, I heard a lot of leaders, they want very firm lines in between boss and co-worker, employee, employer and all of that, and for me I think being generous and readily accessible also speaks to this idea of being authentic. That there are times where maybe he hasn’t been able to meet with me, but he’s real with me in the moment. He’s like, hey, I’m being dad right now. And there’s that level of transparency, that level of authenticity, like hey, can we talk about this in the morning? I’m going to go hit some golf balls with my son. It’s like, I’m being able to see that, that authenticity and transparency. I walk away from that and I don’t feel jipped, I know I’m going to have his time and attention, but I see him as an authentic person and leader. Not just a machine, not just a boss, not just a CEO, not just a lead pastor, accessible, authentic.

D: And the irony of that is even in saying no, you’re leading by example. You’re, even in saying no, you’re saying it’s okay for you to say I’m off work mode and I’m on family time, or I’m doing X, Y, or Z and it’s okay to not always be available.

R: And what that’s doing is that’s sharing your life. You know what I mean? That’s being real. That’s that transparency that’s accessibility. It makes him more accessible to me in the sense that I see him as a real person and I understand a little bit more. So that’s been huge over the last ten years, having a leader that is readily accessible and by accessible, it’s not just a time thing but it’s also an authenticity thing. I think another reason why he’s been a leader worth following, and when I look at the last ten years of ministry, and get to celebrate that, I think one of the reasons why is because I follow a leader that’s passionate about developing and promoting people. One of the things we always say around here, we’re always telling our team is we don’t have a job to do, but we have a team to build. And so essentially, we don’t want to be a bottleneck, and I’ve watched him live that out as well. And so I’ve been able to mirror that in my own leadership where I don’t want to hold onto leadership, I want to identify and develop other people. I want to promote other people. If a matter is not a decision for the president or you delegate it. This is a quote from Donald Rumsfeld, and I just absolutely love it. He says, “Don’t be a bottleneck. If a matter is not a decision for the president or you, delegate it. Force responsibility down and out. Find problem areas, add structure, and delegate. The pressure is to do the reverse. Resist it.” That was Donald Rumsfeld, obviously Secretary of Defense for many years. And, you know, as Christians I think we’re really good at saying things like, “Let go and let God,” but we’re not so good at the opposite as leaders sometimes of, “Let go and let people.” Of just let other people share that burden. We don’t have to have the answer. If we’re not the only one that can answer it, our default shouldn’t be to answer it, it should be let someone else figure it out. And I’ve watched him lead in this, and have that desire to give ownership away. Give responsibility away. And that’s an exciting thing for other leaders to be able to step into and experience, that I can carry part of this story. I can carry part of this vision myself.

D: Yeah, that’s something he’s, I’ve definitely learned, cause it’s not my natural tendency. If I have an opinion, I want to give it. That’s my personality. A, it makes you feel valuable and needed. If people come and ask you for something it’s like, yeah, my opinion matters, my job’s important, I have a reason for being here. And sometimes, when you’re spending more of your time leading others and less of your time doing, you start to wonder of like, do I even really need to, like why am I here? What am I good for? And so it feels good when people ask you those. I think that’s part of it, and part of it’s just that I’m opinionated and I think my opinions are good. That’s why they’re my opinion, right? I think that my ideas are good ideas. And so you do have a tendency to want to share when somebody asks you a question. And one of the things that he taught me is to always be able to look back at people and if at all possible, the best answer you can give when someone asks your opinion is, what do you think? Or what would you do? What do you want it to be? What do you recommend? And being able to give that back to them, even though I have a recommendation and I’m hoping that they think what I think, I don’t always have to give it. I want to turn that back and let them make the decision and empower them.

R: There’s been so many meetings that I’ve sat in with my boss, Pastor Josh, and I’ve watched him just kind of sit there quietly so that other people will fill the dead space or he’ll even sometimes throw out a disclaimer before he says something where he's’ like, hey guys, I just want to be clear, I’m just brainstorming in this moment, I don’t want us to take my idea and run with it, this is just a thought, and then he’ll share his idea. Because again, he recognizes the authority that that voice and that position will hold and he doesn’t want it. Because ultimately if you hold onto everything, leaders will not stick around you, if you’re taking all of the stage time, all of the responsibility, all of the decision making, and all of the leading. They will go somewhere else where they will feel empowered. And if in meetings, you’re the strongest voice, you’re the one that talks the most, and you are the senior leader, those around you ultimately are going to feel the inability to lead, naturally. And so you gotta create that, and that’s what he does. He loves seeing other people step in and step up. He pushes it down and out. Decisions that he doesn’t have to make, he allows other people to make them. Right or wrong, he allows other people to make them.

D: Yeah, I think the irony of the situation is there’s many leaders who think, man, I don’t have many leaders under me, I’m struggling to develop people under me, and the reality is they actually might have had people with the leadership personality to start with, but because they’re so consumed with micromanaging or being the one who has the final say or whatever that characteristic is, they’ve turned that person who had leadership potential into just a “yes” man or a “yes” woman or a task-doer.

R: A great visual that helps me in that is even in the context of meeting sometimes is this idea that I want to leave leadership crumbs out there for other voices. If I’m there, and again my voice is just so dominant, and even if it’s going to be a leadership talk or it’s going to be a presentation, if I go in and I have all of the good, like we know as leaders, we know all of the things that sound really good and if we do all of that, but we don’t leave anything on the table for those under us or those around us to feel empowered and to be leading as well, it’s that idea of just leaving some leadership breath. Some margin there for other people to step into.

D: Cool, what’s the next one?

R: Another reason why, and again, this is just about longevity and having a leader worth following, is he’s been curious about people as people. Curious about people as people. You know, I’ve watched him in so many different environments, whether it be with a business leader, whether it be with a religious leader, whether it be with a writer, whatever it is, he’s really just curious and able to ask questions. And just the idea of being able to be invested into people. Not just them as that position, but them as the person that they are. I think that is so key and so not only does he learn from people outside, but even those within the organization he cares enough to be curious in the person. What are you reading? He’ll have certain go-to questions. How’s your heart? What is Jesus teaching you? How’s your marriage? These are all questions that for the last ten years I’ve been accustomed to getting weekly or monthly, or we’ll be on a drive to a meeting somewhere and I’ll get some of those questions. It’s not just about, hey what percentage are we up year after year, or what are the action steps moving forward on this? Certainly we have those moments, but we also have in there a true sense that he cares for me as a person. And I’ve seen that kind of layered down over and over again.

D: Yeah, I think the benefit of that is that it gives you credibility, I guess is maybe the right word. Gives you this credibility, gives chips on your side when you do have to have a work conversation, that nobody’s wondering, oh, does he just hate me? When it’s a hard moment, you have this built in relational chips that you can cash in in those moments, right? Where it’s like, alright, last year he took me to this thing and he got me this gift and he told me he appreciated me about this and he asked me about my family and he counseled me in this. All those things have happened over ten years, right? And so when you do have those moments where it’s like, hey, you really gotta step up in this, you really gotta work on that, yeah, it still doesn’t feel good of course, but I never left that conversation wondering, does he even believe in me? Is he looking for somebody else? No, cause I already know, and I don’t think that’s why he’s doing it. I think he genuinely sincerely does care, but that’s the side benefit on the leadership side, is that you get this buy-in from people.

R: Yeah. It breaks my heart everytime I talk with someone that is at a large and fast-growing church and one that people look up to only to hear how one of the leaders is very dismissive when it comes to the people that serve there, and the value that they have outside of their position. One of the things that we always say is we build the person, not the position. Cause ultimately, if someone comes into our ministry or under your leadership or wherever you are, and they’re with you for a substantial amount of time and they leave a better worship leader, but a worse husband or a worse father or they leave a better location pastor or kids pastor or they leave a better technician…

D: But their family is in ruins.

R: Yes, but everything’s falling apart around them, we failed them. We never got involved and discipled them. People love talking about themselves. One of the keys I’ve seen him to is simply asking questions that shows interest. How are you? What are you reading? All those questions again. And so I would encourage our listeners, have questions in your phone if this isn’t natural, if you’re not a natural relationally driven leader, where you care about those things, a lot of type A leaders might not. Discipline yourself in that. One of the reasons why you are where you are is because if you are Type A, you have a certain level of discipline in certain areas, so make this a discipline. Make questions in your phone, set an alarm in your phone that says I’m going to find someone and engage someone in the office and have a conversation about them.

D: Yeah, I used to have a calendar alert that said take someone to lunch not about work, and it would just pop up and remind me. I just do it naturally now, but it was a habit I had to create to do that.

R: Absolutely. Another one, again a leader worth following, I would say, is they’re excited about the work that everyone is doing. And that “everyone” is key. The ability that I’ve watched Pastor Josh be able to show gratitude and to be interested and to allow people to see the purpose over function of what they’re doing has been so critical. I think great leaders and vision casters have an ability to connect the dots is the terminology I would use for that. Being able to connect the dots and see the connection in things is so key. It isn’t just a task for the sake of a task, but what is this task accomplishing, and helping bring that to life for people so that they stay focused and passionate about the work that they are doing. Again, it’s this idea of purpose over function. So Sunday mornings, there’s a crew of people that will come in and if you’re portable, set up chairs in the auditorium to make it ready. Their function is setting up chairs, their purpose is very different. And so our job as leaders is to help them not just see the function of what they’re doing, they’re setting up chairs, but the purpose behind it. You’re setting these chairs up so when people come in they can find a comfortable place to sit, engage in worship, have their life transformed, hear the Gospel message, be encouraged, be challenged. When you’re running a camera, when you’re on a soundboard, the purpose and the function are two different things. And I think if you can genuinely be excited about the work that everyone is doing, you’re able to create that excitement in them. And that is so key, cause in the seasons of ministry where it’s been just a grind, and the monotony of things, and we’re doing the right things but we know that having a leader that’s been able to show the dots connecting. And celebrate with me every little decision, every little task, that hey, look what it’s accomplishing, look at the big picture, has just been huge, absolutely huge.

D: Yeah, that’s so good. So I think that’s a great spot to hit pause for this week. And we’ll pick it up again next week, but I feel like we put a lot of meat out there and some great stuff you got going on, so listeners, as always, let us know on Twitter, Facebook, email, whatever it is, let us know how this is helping you. Love to hear ways that you’re putting some of these things into practice even this week. Hope you plan to tune in with us next week as we finish up the second half of how to be a leader worth following.

Look out for part two of this conversation, coming next week!

Ep 172: Two More Paths that Lead to Discontentment

Welcome to the 172nd episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

If you enjoy listening to this podcast and it has helped you and your team in any way, please leave us a review on Apple Podcast or Stitcher or take the time to share it on social media.

Do you have a question for Pastor Josh about leadership, ministry, or any other topic we’ve covered on the podcast so far? Submit your questions to or @joshgagnon on Twitter and Pastor Josh might answer it on a future episode!

You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Roman Archer: And we’re live. (laughs) I’m gonna start toying with some different openers.

Joshua Gagnon: Can you do the Will Ferrell?

R: Will Ferrell. I mean there’s so many. There’s the whole idea of...His was a sign off.

J: San Diego. Yeah.

R: Stay classy, San Diego. Which, you know, we’ll own it. This is a pretty for real. That’s one of my favorite movies.

J: Why couldn’t you say that?

R: I think some people might be offended by some of the movie.

J: Oh really. That’s too bad.

R: Yeah it is too bad.

J: I mean, I’m offended by you, too.

R: That’s fine. I offend people.

J: I wouldn’t watch a lot of the things you watch.

R: You wouldn’t do a lot of the things I do.

J: Matter of fact, how many times have you been like, hey, I watched that, I was like, dude, I wouldn’t.

R: You shut it off.

J: Yeah, I shut it off. Do you ever feel guilty? Truthfully, do you ever feel like...or do you just kind of live in that reality that it’s not a conviction for you?

R: Um, no, because I have a different aversion than you do. I think the things that bother you bother me different.

J: Yeah. I think that that’s good, by the way. I’ve always kind of said what I struggle with, what you struggle with are two different things and we don’t need to pretend that Christianity is wrapped up in one bubble.

R: Yeah. Just don’t tell that to the Christians.

J: Yeah. Just keep that quiet and pretend we don’t dance.

R: Yep. Exactly.

J: I don’t floss (laughs). Actually, this morning when I was in the kitchen.

R: Your son?

J: Nehemiah was teaching…

R: He can floss.

J: For real. But he was doing it with my wife and so he was showing her the casual floss this morning.

R: I haven’t seen it.

J: He kinda just lets his arms really loose.

R: Yeah, it’s kind of like the cool floss.

J: And he got into the habit where he was flossing all the time but like, but he would do it just standing in the living room and he would be just doing it. And we would be going to the store and someone’s like, “Hey! Oh Pastor Josh, hi! I’d love to meet you!” And I’d look and he’s flossing next to us. It just became this thing that he just did.

R: Like me chewing on pens. He would be flossing.

J: Yeah, it’s not like a nervous tick, but it would be just what he did. I was like, “Dude, we’ve got to work through this man. You can’t just be flossing all of the time, you know?” So anyways he was teaching Jen how to do that today.

R: The boys are doing football right now, too. That’s a perfect touchdown dance for you.

J: They practiced their touchdown dances, but they’re not allowed to do them. Cause if they do them, I’m the coach.

R: It’s unsportsmanlike, is it that?

J: Yeah, here’s the thing with the touchdown dance. Here’s the thing. I would never do one. Never. Never.

R: As you’re saying this, I’m processing. Cause you’re a basketball player by heart, and we played a lot of basketball. Well, we’ve played like 5 footballs, but mainly, competitively, it’s been basketball.

J: I’m pretty athletic… I can talk.

R: Okay, how’s that different then? Cause basketball doesn’t have a 3-point dance… You’ve done a 3-point dance, actually, so I’ve seen you…

J: Yeah, you know I can talk with the best of them out there, you know what I mean? I’d get it on. But I wouldn’t do a touchdown dance, and here’s why. I’m never going to celebrate something that I expected to do. You know what I mean? I would just scored a touchdown, put the football down, and run back.

R: What about in times in basketball?

J: Now if you’re the game winner, if you catch the game winner, you put your hands up and scream “Come on!” That’s great. But these dances where you’re bowling and people are falling over, it’s like listen, I want a football team and my players, they’re going to score touchdowns like this. It’s all business.

R: Stone-faced.

J: It’s business. We are business. How bad is that? If you’re playing a team when they score touchdowns, they just go and put their business suit back on? Like that’s when you’re like, woah.

R: I feel like it’s have celebrated on the basketball court, so I feel like this is a little bit like…

J: Celebration with your hands in the air saying, “Yes!”

R: You’ve done a little shimmy-shake. I’ve seen a shimmy-shake.

J: I might have a little floss.

R: So I guess the difference is, unless there’s a time out, usually game play continues, and so it has to be quick.

J: Yes. It’s in the game.

R: But there’s clearly some celebration.

J: Yeah, well, you’ll never know.

R: I don’t even know how we got on this. What were we talking about?

J: We were talking about discontentment.

R: Discontentment, yes.

J: Carrying on from last week’s episode.

R: Yes, we were talking about 3 things that cause or accelerate discontentment. I think we can pack these 2.

J: You have to listen to the first episode of discontentment. Honestly, like shut off right now. Just go listen to the first episode. I think you’ll catch right up to speed.

R: It’s worth it.

J: You know, why not? If you’re going to listen to this episode, go listen to the other one if you haven’t heard it.

R: Yep, especially in this season, as human beings, not just as ministry leaders, but as human beings we all struggle with this idea of discontentment. You identified 3 areas or 3 accelerants that cause discontentment.

J: Just things in my life. Comparison was the first one. Do I hear a doorbell on our offices?

R: Yeah, we installed a doorbell cause that front door locks.

J: Really?

R: Yeah, that way people can ring it without just walking through our offices

J: That’s cool.

R: Yeah, so if you ever come to the…

J: If I ever come to the offices I can ring it?

R: You can’t get in. Yeah. We changed the locks. Just ring the bell and Isha will let you in. Shoutout to Isha.

J: Cool. Good to know.

R: So the two that we’re talking about today would be hunger pains and I’m not going to reveal the third one until we get there.

J: Hunger pains.

R: Hunger pains causes discontentment.

J: Well we talked a lot about hunger pains causing discontentment. I’d like to hear your unpacking of that.

R: Hunger pain. I think it shows up in… I dropped my pen.

J: You don’t drop your pen, you’re eating it right now while you’re on a podcast.

R: Well, we were talking about flossing and…

J: You get anxious.

R: Yes. Hunger pains is essentially this idea that, just like when we’re hungry there’s this visceral response.

J: It would be funny if you said, “It’s this idea of when we’re hungry, we have pains. What is your take on it?”

R: Yeah, when you’re hungry, there’s this painful sensation. No, there’s this visceral reaction that we kind of have.

J: Visceral, you’re just throwing out these words. Good job.

R: I’ve used that before. There’s this reaction that we have and it will cause us, for instance one of the problems I have when I’m hungry is I’ll snack. And you’re always making fun of me on this. And so what I do is I find these little things that I’m trying to mask that hunger pain with. I think we often do that. We have these little tinges of hunger pains that are just underlying discontentment that we can’t get to the root of. Maybe it’s afraid of resting, of being still, of whatever, and it creates this discontent, cause when we’re alone in it that’s a very scary thing. And so we do these little things, hunger pains.

J: Yeah, hunger pains are the response to the discontentment in our life we haven’t yet fulfilled with rest or peace or contentment, ultimately. So for instance, we’ll go with a big one. I may be discontent in a relationship, right? Or someone may be discontent in their marriage. And that discontentment could lead to a hunger pain of wanting something new. So now they’re online and they’re looking at new, they’re maybe involved in pornography.

R: Right, so fantasizing.

J: So fantasizing. So now that hunger pain of discontent in my marriage all of a sudden now becomes this desire for pornography, this desire to fill that contentment, fill that contentment which becomes this affair, which becomes this nightmare, right? So the hunger pains are really the response to undealt with discontentment. You actually just had a hunger pain. Do you want to talk about the hunger pain Saturday?

R: Um, not quite sure I do. (laughs)

J: The bunny.

R: Yeah, so our family just got a bunny.

J: Now, we laughed about it because it was a hunger pain, you would agree, but however we’ve now tried to mature this idea of hunger pains to not all hunger pains are actually bad.

R: I would encourage any, this is specific to ministry leaders, don’t make any decisions in the ten days following a big weekend like Easter. Because I think, you know, we laugh but there’s that discontentment that keeps you…

J: Last week you wanted to buy a…

R & J: truck.

J: An old truck.

R: I had to talk to somebody on staff who texted me, they texted me from the Monday after Easter Sunday.

J: I’m getting a tattoo today and this is what it is.

R: Yeah.

J: You’re like…

R: That’s a terrible idea. Don’t. Leave now.

J: Abort mission.

R: Because there’s that adrenaline, there’s that high, and then you kind of come down and you realize that if you’re not okay with just being okay, and for me specifically, you can become obsessive over what’s new, what’s next. And so, yeah, our family went and we got a bunny.

J: Out of nowhere.

R: Yeah. Literally out of nowhere. We were running errands.

J: And we talked about that being a funny hunger pain. Cause I can see you waking up, like I feel like I need something, I need to do something and you went out and literally bought a bunny, right? Which we then said, not all hunger pains are bad, right? Not all hunger pains are bad. Matter of fact, some hunger pains simply just are okay. It’s being willing to, and understanding when you’re having a hunger pain, if you understand where it’s coming from, and then making the conscious decision to say, you know what, I do want to do this today. And I think if many of us pause before doing it, we would recognize the ones that are going to damage us. We can have a hunger pain in our life of feeling discontent, so the hunger pain is something new. So you go and quit your job with one day thought. You quit the ministry position. It’s like, what are you doing? Right? Well, I wanted something new. No, that was a hunger pain, you probably should have thought through a little bit more, prayed through a little bit more, made a better decision. What are some other hunger pains?

R: Well, I think for ministry leaders, it’s launching a location. It’s buying a new building. It’s making a new hire. It’s all of those decisions where we think for the progress of new, for the progress of growth, we just make those decisions. They tend to be, like you said, rash decisions. Where it’s like, in the moment, had we stepped back and had that margin of deciding is this a wise thing to do? What are the implications of this on the other side of the decision? Because in any season, no matter where we are, there’s always that idea of discontentment we’re going to deal with it. But if we’re not careful with some of these hunger pains, we get ourselves in situations that just fuel that even more and it becomes even more obsessive.

J: Yeah, it’s one thing about eating, it’s another thing about eating to the point of obesity. And we want to be careful that we’re not so discontent we’re becoming obese in our decisions.

R: Yeah. Absolutely. And so we’re aware of the hunger pains.

J: Aware of the hunger pains. Be aware of the hunger pains that are born out of your discontentment because they’re going to cause you to often make decisions that are contrary to what’s best for you. They’re just born out of trying to fulfill an empty void in your life that needs to be filled with contentment in Christ, I know that’s so easy. I mean Paul said it, right? I know what it’s like to live with nothing or with everything, with a full stomach, empty stomach, on and on and on, it’s like man, he’s chained to a guard 24 hours a day at the time and you’re thinking man, I want to know what that’s like.

R: Yep.

J: I want to know what that’s like. Solomon says, give me just two things: I never want to lie and I want to live with just enough so that I’m never too poor, or I steal and I’m never too rich and I don’t need You. But his idea was I want to have just enough. Just enough. It’s like, man I wish I was okay with just enough. But sometimes I don’t feel okay with just enough. Sometimes I’m not living in the security of my walk in Christ like Paul was, where I know what it’s like on both sides of this extreme and I’m okay. I’m not living in that place of peace or that Sabbath, you know? The Sabbath. Rest. And the reality is when I’m not living in there, those hunger pains become really loud and if I don’t recognize those hunger pains, I can start making those decisions that are going to pull me away from what’s best.

R: I think one of the important things to even mention here is having a safe place to navigate through some of those hunger pains. Having a friend or a group of friends that you get with and can help you kind of process, create that margin and step back, ask the right questions like hey, you’re needing something right now.

J: You think that Ferrari was a great decision?

R: Exactly. Like, what is it? What is it that you think that thing is going to give you or bring you, and is there something else that we need to address here? If you’re saying you need this, but what is it that you really need? And let’s make sure that they’re not hunger pains.

J: You think that you make 30,000 a year, that Lamborghini was really the best decision?

R: Not even quite sure how you got financing for that. Exactly. So there’s hunger pains. There’s comparing, there’s hunger pains, and then this next one is so critical. We all fall into this. But it accelerates this idea of discontentment. It’s the idea of entitlement. When we start feeling entitled, we become more discontentment over what we have because we feel entitled for what we don’t have.

J: Yeah, we want more. We feel entitled to more so we start to neglect the blessings that we have. Because we’re entitled to more, right? I’ve worked for it, I’ve earned it, I’ve prayed for it, I deserve it, my friend has it, my parents have it, you’re smiling.

R: I’m just…

J: You’re literally looking at me, shaking your head, smiling. I don’t know if I want to punch that or if I want to hug that or if you’re going to punch me, it’s almost a little creepy.

R: What you’re saying is so good and I was thinking of this illustration and then as I was thinking of the illustration I was thinking about how proud you would be, just because I haven’t told you it yet. Continue.

J: Then you’ll tell me after.

R: Yeah.

J: After the podcast.

R: Oh, I can tell you now. Cause it has to do with discontentment and just this idea of entitlement.

J: I’ll hear it now.

R: So I think outside of ministry, one of the areas that I’ve learned a ton from you on has just been parenting. You and Jen do a tremendous job with your boys, Malachi and Neo. One of the areas I think you’re just gifted in is that, and we’ve got 2 girls, love them to death.

J: I love them to death, too.

R: Me and Michelle constantly look up to you guys on how you parent. It was funny, this was the Saturday night before Easter, we were down at one of our locations, we were staying in a hotel, and we had, so our girls ate and, for our listeners, 2 queen beds. So I’m laying in bed, we’re getting ready, and they’re watching a movie in the other bed, and Ellie says she wants a snack, which is something we’ve talked about. So there’s this idea of just like discontentment, we had already had dinner, so we said, okay, you can have an orange. And so we give her an orange and, I kid you not, 10 seconds did not pass by from when I gave her an orange to her younger sister asking her, can I have some of that orange? And Ellie said, no. And this idea of just entitlement, that that was her orange, so I told her, Ellie, go ahead and peel your orange, and so I made her peel the entire orange, and then have her go and throw the orange away. And she was so upset, didn’t understand why. Yeah, exactly, because I made her. She even looked at me after, why did you make me peel the orange? And it was just that moment that, and I know you’ve done similar things with your boys, but that idea that she felt entitled to it, the very thing that I had given her, she wasn’t willing to be generous with, and so I wanted her to learn, listen, that was a gift, you’re not entitled to that. Daddy gave it to you and you should be able to be generous with it. And I know you’ve told an illustration before with the chicken nuggets, but it’s that idea, how often I’ve fallen into that very trap where I feel like, this is mine, I deserve this, this is for me, and how that fuels discontentment.

J: And I deserve more. Entitlement of I deserve more. The entitlement of more never leaves us feeling content.

R: No. And there was a day where we had nothing and now we have something.

J: If you looked at what you have today versus what you used to have you’d think, man, I am a blessed person. But you often look at today through the eyes of what you’re entitled, because you feel like you’ve earned more. Time causes us to feel like we’re entitled to more. And we live in that state of discontentment.

R: Yeah. That's really good.

J: Entitled, entitled, entitled.

R: I’ve never really thought about that.

J: We always say gratitude sustains joy. So how do you overcome that state of entitlement? I know it sounds simplistic. You remain thankful for what it is you have. Gratitude sustains joy. And it’s hard to be thankfully discontent.

R: That’s good.

J: It’s hard to be thankfully discontent. I’ve never been in a season or a situation, I’ve never been in a situation of gratitude or a season of gratitude or a response of gratitude and felt entitled and discontent. There's something about gratitude that, they can’t share the same platform. And so when I’m thanking God for my ministry position, I have a hard time in that same breath feeling discontent and entitled to more.When I’m thankful for for relationships, when I’m thankful God for, you name it. It’s hard to feel entitled and discontent.

R: Yeah. I think some of us, if not all of us listening to this, there’s probably some areas where if we really took inventory and searched our heart, there’s some areas of entitlement we probably need to let go of. Some areas where we feel like God has owed us something or a spouse has owed us something or a boss or coworkers or our employees have owed us something. And getting to a place where we can let that entitlement go. Because until then we’re going to live in that discontentment.

J Yeah and I really do believe that opening your hands and letting entitlement go frees your hands to receive what God has next. I really do believe that. And it’s not just preacher talk, I really do believe that some of our hands are gripped on things that are unhealthy and until we ungrip the unhealthy we can't receive the healthy. And so, just to kind of bring this two week conversation to a close, discontentment is something we all struggle with. It’s a root within side of us that often goes unnoticed. And until we notice that many of the decisions we’re making and the ways we’re feeling are coming from places of discontentment, we’re not going to recognize how discontentment is what we need to kill in order to overcome some of our other things. And we do that by recognizing the comparison, we’re not going to compare ourselves to others. The fastest way to forget what God thinks about you is to become consumed by what everybody else does. We’re also not going to feed the hunger pains that are unhealthy. We’re going to make sure that we recognize hunger pains and then we make conscious decisions on what to do with them.

R: Filter them.

J: Filter them. And then were’ going to make sure that we don’t live in a state of entitlement because it’s impossible to be thankfully discontent. So we’re going to be thankful. Gratitude is going to sustain our joy. Those are a few things we’re working on instead of living in a constant state of discontentment. I wish I could tell our listeners that we have full contentment right now, like I live in a place of just contentment. And that would be an absolute lie. But I do think, I feel more content now than I’ve felt my whole, as far as I can remember as an adult.

R: Well, hunger pains. I’m going to grab some lunch, I don’t know what you’re doing next. I don’t know what our listeners are doing next.

J: Your second lunch.

R: My second lunch.

Ep 171: Three Paths That Lead to Discontentment

Welcome to the 171st episode of the Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast!

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You can read the full transcription of this episode below.

Roman Archer: Well what is going on, podcast world. Thanks so much for tuning into another episode. Here with Pastor Josh, and excited for the conversation we’re going to have today. How are you feeling?

Joshua Gagnon: Feeling good.

R: Awesome. We are going to start a conversation today and it may end today, it may go on multiple weeks. I can promise you one thing, there will not be a resolution to today’s topic. We’re going to talk about being discontent. Discontentment seems to be a big thing culturally, but especially in the heart of leaders. It seems like we’re seeing more and more leaders either disqualify themselves or even just walk away, and I think a lot of it has to do with this idea of discontentment. And you’ve been teaching us through a series of conversations this idea of discontent, both in our leadership and personally and you had some pretty cool thoughts around this.

J: When you say personally, what does that mean?

R: I think probably pulling it apart is probably pretty difficult now that I think of it, because so much of a leader’s life is intertwined, but I think there’s even major discontentment in, not just in leadership, in vocation, but also personal stuff: finances, and the house we live in.

J: Do you ever find yourself there?

R: Oh, all the time. I pretty much constantly live there.

J: Live in where?

R: In discontent. I’ve got an annual pass to the discontentment amusement park. I think a lot of leaders do.

J: Just leaders?

R: No, it definitely plays out in a certain personality, I would think. But I definitely think it’s more of a cultural thing. I think it’s something that we all struggle with.

J: Yeah, I think it’s hard not to.

R: Yeah. Yep. And so you gave these three principles, these three categories that cause discontentment, and not sure how far we’ll get, but let’s talk about the first one today: Being comparing. Comparing.

J: Being comparing? Being comparing.

R: Well, did I say being comparing?

J: (laughs)

R: Is that what I said? Or just comparing?

J: I was actually, I didn’t mean to say that out loud. I was actually thinking, how would you phrase that? Just comparing, right?

R: Yeah, or comparison, you could say comparison.

J: But you could add “being” there, right? Being compar… No, you couldn’t add being to the beginning of that sentence. Being someone who compares, you could say.

R: Being someone who compares, yeah. Comparing is something you do.

J: But you really walked yourself into a corner when you started with “being”.  

R: Being discontent…

J & R: ...through…

J: ...the art…

R: ...of comparing.

J: ...of simulation…

R: (laughs)

J: Right. Um, yeah, I think for me, I think for many of our listeners, discontentment is something that’s not a new idea, although I do think it’s a root that often goes unnoticed. Many of the decisions we make, I believe, personally, as I’ve put some thought into this, they are born out of the root of discontentment. We don’t typically just wake up and think, “I’m going to screw up my life today.” Typically we don’t wait up and fall into an affair that morning because it just happened that morning, right? Typically it’s something that’s been cooking for a little bit of time. Thoughts have been cooking, actions have been evolving.

R: Yeah, there’s a journey behind it.

J: Yeah, and I think it’s the same with the mental health, emotional health, I think spiritual health, in all these areas of our life we don’t just end up somewhere, typically, in an instant, it’s a journey. And so I traced that back to what causes many of us to land in the places we land? What causes me to land different places and seasons of discouragement and as I look around our culture, our friends, I think what we find is there’s this deep root of discontentment, and if you don’t notice where the problem begins or where the root is beginning, it’s hard to overcome it, right? So you’re trying to learn, like what’s the problem? Why do I feel this way? And I wonder how many of us really it’s just discontentment.

R: Yeah. I think these three things that we’ve talked about act as an accelerant. If discontentment is already there, if there’s already a spark of it, you combine any one of these three things and it turns into a wildfire if you’re not careful.

J:  Yeah, so you said comparison. Even in the day and age we live in, we’re comparing ourselves to everybody. You know, I’ve talked to some of my friends in leadership in all different arenas of influence. Some of my older friends who have been faithfully pastoring a smaller ministry, but God called them to that and they’ve been faithful and they love it. And then of course, some of my older friends who are pastoring larger ministries in the terms of how many people are impacted on a daily level. And both have said, because I was wondering if it was just social media today that really caused this comparison trap, and they said it’s definitely at our fingertips like never before, but they said, you know, and they’re 70, 80 years old, and they said, you know in my day and age it was radio. They said everybody was on the radio. And if you had a radio slot, you were happening.

R: Listeners.

J: Yeah, exactly. They had listeners, and so if you got on the radio, you were one of the happening preachers. And so they said there’s always been the ability or opportunity to compare that even in their generation as a young leader, they were comparing themselves to other people’s radio shows. But they did say it’s never been more at our fingertips at a constant basis.

R: Quite literally.

J: You can’t escape it. You just have to one, ignore it, or two, grow to a point where it doesn’t influence you. But you can’t escape the opportunity to compare in the culture we live in. You know we just passed Easter, and we had a good Easter at Next Level Church, and there were some metrics that I couldn’t have announced, and I do announce metrics on Facebook and I don’t do much Twitter and I don’t even think I have a...I do have an Instagram account. Go follow me on Instagram, would you? Help me out.

R: I don’t know what your…

J: I don’t know, I’ve never been on it.

R: Check the show notes. They’ll go back through.

J: Yeah, I’ve never been on my Instagram. I don’t even have on my phone or know how to do it.

R: But we promise if you get to a certain amount of followers, you’ll start doing it.

J: And I’ll be the most active. But I have to do it for the book release coming up. And so…

R: We have Instagram, we have all sorts of, Facebook and Twitter and all of these opportunities, and you were saying even coming out of Easter there’s this opportunity to…

J: Don’t you love when people call you from a number? Like New York, New York, some strange number.

R: Yeah, I wouldn’t answer it. It’s a robocall.

J: Yeah. So we have all these opportunities to compare at our fingertips like never before. So Easter came and I could have thrown out metrics, but I actually, and I will, I do many weekends. Matter of fact, we just had 140, 138 salvations in the last two weeks. Something like that. 118 maybe. Something like that. And so I put that out on Facebook because that’s something to celebrate, man. I want people that don’t believe God’s that moving in the church to see that God’s still moving in His church. But on Easter I put out, I don’t want to add to the Easter highlight reel. I don’t want to add to the numbers that cause so many discouragement. Because I know so many compare themselves against what God is doing at Next Level and I hate to feel like I’m adding to that, because I’ve known Next Level for years, less now more than ever, had compared itself to what everybody else was doing.

R: Yeah, well I think a quick survey of our listeners, how many listeners were excited by their Easter until they got on Facebook or Twitter and saw, and began to compare their Easter and their highlight reel and the photos of their Easter to those around you. Comparison accelerates discontentment.

J: I feel like if I never knew how God was using anyone else, I would be blown away by how God was using me. But the moment I recognize that there may be people being used in a greater, more influential way than me, I immediately start to discredit my calling based on other people’s anointing and calling. And if I just literally, if I just had no idea what God was doing in the lives of anyone else, I’d be amazed! I would be like, what in the world?! And I think we can carry that over into all sorts of arenas of our life. Financially. If I had no idea what other people drove, I’d be thankful that I didn't’t have to walk. If I didn’t know where other people lived, if I had never been to that house, if I had never seen...I’d be like, man, this crib’s alright! Like, man, this is alright, I can make this work. It’s funny, because if you think about it, if we never knew what other people had, what would we not like of ours and what would we be thankful for? There’s still things I’d still do if I knew no one else’s material things or emotional things or success, I’d still keep my home clean, I’d still work hard in my yard to make it look my best, right? All those things would still happen because those are driven by who I am and what I like. But there’d be a lot of things that I wouldn’t have and there’d be a lot of things I wouldn’t do, cause some of the things aren’t driven by just what I want and what I like and who I am, they’re driven by how I compare to others. And so I become super discontent when I compare myself to everybody else’s highlight reel. And we just like, Facebook, man, I mean is there anything more evil in daily in our lives? The gossip, the political harassment, the jealousy, the comparison, the pride. You know, comparison always leads to a few things. It’s either going to lead to pride, cause I feel really good about me when I compare myself to you, Roman. For real, when I compare myself, right now in this moment….

R: (laughs)

J: You don’t even know what I’m going to say! When I’m comparing… (laughs) When I’m comparing myself right now in this moment, I’m feeling my beard is more on point than yours. I’m just letting you know. So that’s going to create a little bit of pride in me, okay? Now, when I compare myself to you in your height, you got a few inches on me. You got a few inches. You can reach things that I can’t reach, and it kind of drives me a little nuts, and I can find a little bit of insecurity in that. And then there are moments where you can find jealousy when you’re comparing. So you’re going to find pride in comparison, it’s always going to lead to three things: Pride, insecurity, and jealousy. Which of all, I think are pretty bad. I think our spiritual enemy, known as Lucifer,...

R: Or Facebook.

J: (laughs) I think promotes, it promotes pride, insecurity, and jealousy.

R: And this all fuels the idea of discontentment.

J: Can humans have a platform like Facebook and not.. I’m not saying everybody submits to those. But can humans, in our carnal nature, have a platform like Facebook and not allow it to be a vice of comparison, jealousy, insecurity, pride?

R: No, I think as long as there’s…

J: Maybe it’s just me.

R: I think as long as there’s humans behind it, there’s going to be those values that…

J: I mean the simple fact that you are wondering what people are going to think when you post something tells, is the simple reality that there’s a desire to impress.

R: Yeah. Yep. One hundred percent.

J: And if there’s a desire to impress, there’s a desire to compare. Comparison comes from the desire to impress.

R: Yep. How many decisions have we made as leaders based on even just the idea of comparison?

J: I hate it, man. Remember what I said yesterday? We were looking at one of our locations and we were making a decision based on this location. And I said, man, what if, sometimes I feel like if we make decisions in life based on what others are going to think about our decision, would we have like a…

R: Yeah, I don’t know if they’re going to hear that on the podcast or not. Our offices are…

J: Below our auditorium.

R: And it sounds like they’re doing river dancing up there. (laughs)

J: But, what were we just talking about? What are you, texting?

R: I’m texting somebody to take a look at that. Who knows if this is going to stay in the podcast? We generally don’t edit things out.

J: No, it should stay in.

R: Yeah, it should stay in. I lost… Oh, we were talking about this location and some decisions that we need to make, and really just stepping back and saying if we disconnected ourselves from the pride of comparison, what are people going to think? What are people going to say?

J: I said, we were the elders of… That was the most silent… Those were two sneezes that just happened.

R: I learned that from my mom, to hold them in. Which I think long term is probably going to cause some medical conditions (laughs) that I don’t yet know about.

J:  (laughs) You have more air in your body than it should be, we find out.

R: Maybe that’s why… (laughs) I’m not fat, I’m just full of air, cause I don’t sneeze.

J: We were saying we’ve been put into a position to be elders here at this church and that’s our responsibility. And it’s bad leadership to make decisions based on what we think others are going to think, especially when it comes to our pride and feeling good about ourselves. But that comes from comparison. It comes from pride, insecurity. Yeah I think this idea of discontentment, this reality of discontentment, this disease of discontentment is largely contributed to by comparing ourselves to everybody else. And I think as leaders we have to fight. If we could solve this, we’d all drink the Kool Aid. We have to continue to tell ourselves that we’ve been called by God to be who God’s called us to be, and we can’t live our life comparing ourselves to everybody else because if we compare ourselves to everybody else, we’re going to find reasons why we’re not happy with who it is we are. And I do feel like you can grow in it. Do you think you feel like you’ve grown in it at all?

R: Yeah, I think so. So one of the things to even wrap this conversation up was some practical ideas on how to destroy comparison. I think one would be something that we’ve done before where we kind of took a fast from social media, from even church conferences would be another one. We didn’t really talk much about it, but the entire idea that we go to conferences, which are good, and they equip, but then at the same time there’s this comparison that plays there and so we actually went through a season where we kind of stepped back from the Outreach magazines, from the church conferences, from social media, from other church websites.

J: We actually stepped back, we’re not doing Outreach this year. We just decided this week that we’re not doing it this year. The whole hundred fastest, cause we’d be in it again. But we’re not going to it again this year because it’s just like, man, in many ways that entire...I don’t know. I don’t want to say anything else.

R: Yep. So what are other ways though, practically speaking that as you’ve grown…

J: We didn’t count for a while, remember?

R: Yeah, that was another thing.

J: Did you say that?

R: No, that’s not one.

J: We didn’t count for a while. I think we can talk about not counting. Because once again that comparison, even among our locations.

R: Yeah, I think that’s an interesting component too, for multisite churches.

J: I don’t listen to many of the preachers that are like me, so I listen to people that are not like me.

R: Because it takes away that desire to compare.

J: It takes away my desire to become just a little bit more like them because I see a lot of me in them, right? So when I listen and watch preachers that are totally opposite of me, I have no desire to be like them. Because I know that that’s not who I am, but I can learn a lot from them. From their wisdom. However, if I listen to people who teach like me, I get a little bit jealous because I’m like man, that was a little bit better in that area or I find myself becoming a little bit just more like… So I haven’t listened to many preachers.

R: What about other podcasts, things like that.

J: Yeah, I like podcasts. Because those are just people being people. Those are just conversations, typically. But I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts.

R: So here’s an interesting dynamic that I know. We bring up conferences but I know one of the things that you have an aversion to is even some of the gatherings that we’ve been invited to that might not be considered a conference, but a roundtable, and one of the reasons you say that you don’t like going is because it’s a comparison contest.

J: I used to want to go to all the things because I get invited to a lot of things, and it felt really good to go to the things, why? Because I was invited and I could compare myself to those that aren’t invited. And now, all of a sudden, I don’t go to many, I go to very few things, but I say no to most things, because I have no desire to sit in a little room with a bunch of leaders in ministry that will want to tell everybody how many people they have in attendance and, I don’t even get it. I’m even getting annoyed thinking about it right now. Who cares? We’re all a part of our own elected Bible group study, right? We’re just Sunday School teachers. We’re all just running our little Sunday Schools. And so it annoys me to no degree. You get these preachers out there wanting certain types of M&Ms to come preach somewhere, certain type of water. You’d think they were Jesus Christ, and it’s like give me a break, dude. How did you even get there? I can tell you how they get there. They compared themselves to somebody who was treated that way and couldn’t wait for the day that they were treated that way.

R: So would you say a component of that comparison trap is for you’ve been learning the arenas that create that comparison in you and then being guarded against those?

J: Yeah. I have to be aware of what brings out the worst in me so I can make sure I put myself in the environments that help me be the best me. And when I get in those comparison environments, I become a bad me. If I stay away from them, I stay way more pure. And so I’ve found that many Christian environments actually make me very impure.

R: Yeah. That’s definitely a strong quote there that I would agree with. That’s tweetable. Many Christian environments bring out the worst in me. I think some of the best places for people to hide is within the church. One of the best places for hypocrisy and religion to live.

J: We wrap it all in holiness. So then all of our bragging and comparing, we say it’s all for the numbers, for God. And I agree. I do agree that numbers matter. And I’m not shy of numbers. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said numbers matter so that I can prove to everybody else how great God’s using me (laughs).

R: That’s real. And I think that’s one of the reasons why the podcast continues to grow.

J: Yeah, I want to talk about numbers, I can tell you about these numbers on the podcast and I never have told anybody other than a few people because this thing has blown up. People wouldn’t believe how many people are listening to this thing. I could boast on it all day long but I try to stay guarded against it. Then again, I just did.

R: Well I think the reality of that is just being real. And just owning that that’s a temptation that we all have. Is that it boosts our pride. It feels good.

J: Yeah, this has never really done that for me. No.

R: Do you get to see the audience, do you think that’s why?

J: I mean we have 30, 40 thousand listeners every 4 weeks. Unique. And I’ve never felt really, I don’t know. I enjoy it, it’s just a conversation. I feel like we’re all friends. Alright, we’ve got to shut this one down.

R: Yeah. We will pick this back up. We’ve got two other things, accelerants to discontentment that we’ll talk about. We’ll either get through them or we won’t.

J: Accelerants to discontentment, this kid’s got on point.

R: Get on back.