God is stirring in cities across the globe. We are part of a global community of active city leaders who believe deeply in the unity of the church. We hold deeply in the power of the Gospel to change lives, cities, and cultures. The 100 Cities Summit will gather a movement of global Christian leaders, committed to advancing the Gospel by unifying the church.
Empathy is a rare commodity, but needed more than ever.
Recently, a story has been circulating newsrooms across the country. The family of Sgt. La David T. Johnson, one of four soldiers killed in an ambush in Niger, felt disrespected when President Donald Trump said to the grieving widow that the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/18/us/politics/trump-widow-johnson-call.html) Whether you take this exchange as valid or believe it is “fake news”, the sentiments reportedly expressed raises questions about how we value empathy in today’s culture and society.
According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of empathy is:
the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. (Source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/empathy)
You may not have experienced a specific tragedy or disappointment. You may not have endured another’s pain. Yet, when you value empathy, you can extend compassion and connect deeply to their experience. Too often, the value of empathy is being dismissed and replaced with a callousness and apathy that permeates every sector of society. If you are attempting to start a new business and fail during your first try, rather than being greeted with words of compassion or being coached, you may be on the receiving end of words such as “You should have prepared more” or “Your business plan was weak” or “You needed to do more research before making the leap”. Apathy’s default is always what you could have done better and how you are a victim of your own weakness and lack of preparedness. It never considers circumstances out of your control, unexpected roadblocks or the emotional roller coaster endured to reach a particular goal.
The lack of empathy doesn’t end in the business arena, but extends in relationships, employment, and other areas of life. If you’re relationship or friendship failed, you don’t have what it takes. If you still are unemployed, you didn’t look hard enough. If you’re in need of assistance, you’re lazy. If you are having a hard time loosing the weight, you’re undisciplined. See the pattern? Apathy immediately resorts to what is wrong with you or what’s missing. Empathy relates to your pain, demonstrates compassion and serves to journey with you to healing and wholeness. Your pain may have been a result of wrong decisions. Your condition may have been a consequence of your poor planning. But, when you are bleeding, you need to address the wound with tender love and care. If I’m bleeding, I simply don’t need good thoughts my way or feeling sorry for me (pity or sympathy). I need sympathy with a compassionate response. I need empathy.
Whether you are in a leadership role or serving others, we all can grow in valuing empathy for our fellow man and woman. When I review the Scriptures, I see a man by the name of Jesus who spoke truth but in love. I witnessed a man who showed compassion, coupled with correction. I see a man who took time to tackle the problem and not the person. We can all learn from Jesus’ example. And if you find yourself having difficulty showing empathy to others, I would suggest you ask yourself this question: “How would I like to be treated?” – RF
Since the start of my own blog, I’ve had the unique opportunity to interview some of my peers who are doing extraordinary work in extraordinary times. Their insights, perspectives and wisdom have sharpened me as a servant, husband, pastor and leader. Based on the numerous e-mails, calls and texts, I am confident to report that these interviews have impacted our readers as well.
To start 2017 off right, I knew I needed to interview someone whose passion and drive represented this generation well. I thought. I prayed. And a name popped up: Landon Schott. Some of you may be very familiar with Landon and his ministry. For others, this may be your first time hearing of him. But, his impact has made an indelible mark on how this generation receives Christ-centered quality content. Landon is a preacher, leader and trailblazer. Along with his wife Heather, Landon is the founder of REV Ministries and REVtv.com, a global media ministry serving youth and young adults. Landon is a profound preacher, prolific writer, and a proven leader. During our conversation, it was evident that God is working through Landon in ways that will continue to reverberate for generations to come.
It’s my prayer that your heart, mind and spirit will be strengthened and encouraged through this conversation.
RF: Landon, as the founder of REV Ministries and REVTv.com, your mission is to turn the hearts of a generation to God. You unapologetically emphasize the need of making Jesus famous. With this passion, what is your deepest desire to see among our generation of millennials and young adults?
Landon: Thanks Ryan. My deepest desire is to see a developing passion for God in our generation. At the start of 2017, we are embarking on a 21-Day Challenge of calling our nation to prayer and fasting (To find out more or to download the app for the 21-Day Challenge, check here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/21-dc/id946555591?mt=8). I found out that more you are in His Presence, you reflect Him more. It’s my desire to see the Holy Spirit move in our generation due to our passion to know Him more.
My other desire is to see disciplining take place. Our generation is know to do the BIG, BRIGHT AND RELEVANT. We are good at great events but horrible at follow-up and follow through. We make a BIG SPLASH but wind up TREADING WATER. My desire is to see a greater focus on corporate discipleship in the church and individual discipleship within families and communities. Being a leader in student ministry for 18 years, I championed daily discipleship. You can’t just do a bible reading plan (while this is needed). It’s a daily walk with God.
Recently, God released this revelation to me. In the Scriptures, Samson gave up his secret and he lost his strength. God said,
“When you give up your secret place, you lose your strength!”
We cannot afford to lose our strength!
I also desire to see greater biblical literacy on a national level. False teaching is rampant because many Christ-followers are biblically illiterate. We must go back to prayer and reading of God’s Word. For me, it must be the center of my life. I pray that same desire and passion will grow in our generation.
JESUS FOR A GENERATION
RF: It’s evident in your mission and vision that you desire to see Jesus made famous. How does this generation do that, even in the midst of opposition and apathy?
Landon: One time, a gay Christian leader told me that there is a difference between “good news” and “good advice”. They followed up by saying that not all of the Bible is “good news”. Immediately, I thought this was faulty perspective. The Bible is the Good News representing the Hope of the World. This hope is reflected in the person of Jesus Christ. Making Jesus famous is one day at a time. One decision at a time.
Practically, it’s obedience. Daily obedience to His Word. In the small things and the big things!
RF: You recently wrote a book called “Gay Awareness: Discovering the Heart of the Father and the Mind of Christ On Sexuality”. It caused quite a stir and a buzz, especially on social media. You’ve addressed many questions surrounding the book in the media, but here’s my question: why did you write this book?
Landon: Obedience is the reason I wrote it. A book for those who have a heart after God but their true temptation is same-sex attraction. I have taught on this subject before and are drawn to the gay community. I love the gay community. And writing this book was an assignment within an assignment. When writing the book, “Jezebel: The Witch Is Back”, I shared how she promoted homosexuality. I wanted to address this issue with sensitivity, compassion and His grace.
I say obedience because I didn’t want to write this book. I knew the response would be intimidating. I had a prayer walk with God. And the Holy Spirit said, “It is worth fighting.” After that, I was more afraid NOT TO OBEY that the consequences of obeying. The first way of responses was attack driven. But as the dust settled, it became an Amazon Best Seller overnight.
In the book, I cite 400 Scriptures on sexuality and the heart of God surrounding it. I’ve been encouraged by the numerous testimonies of how the book changed their lives. One reader shared how Gay Awareness was like a spiritual detox. After reading the book, the reader shared how they struggled with the temptation of same-sex attraction but had to follow God’s leading to go to Bible College. Ryan, this is one of my assignments.
And I’m grieved. I’m grieved at the gay Christian contradictions. I’m grieved how gay rights have been on marketed as on par with the Civil Rights movement. But, if we don’t have these conversations with the gay community, we forfeit the opportunity to share the love of God.
RF: You speak of the Civil Rights Movement in relation to the gay rights. As a leader, what do you feel is the civil rights movement of our day?
Landon: We need to talk directly and frankly about justice. But, not the politically correct social justice like the world tries to quench the thirst. Even the Civil Rights Movement did not quench the thirst. We are still thirsting after justice, now!
What I speak of is CIVIL RIGHTEOUSNESS: Heaven’s justice, not our own. I will be leading a prophetic conference in 2017 in Chicago to prophesy justice to our nation. Here’s the issue: We want to work on justice issues in the midst of heightened tensions sweeping our nation. It’s like the wise saying of working on your marriage in a time of peace, not a time of war. This will be an ongoing issue, but the conversation around civil righteousness must start with us.
RF: Our nation has endured a very bitter political election season. Over 65 million people voted for Secretary Hillary Clinton as the next President. But, approximately 63 million voted for Donald J. Trump and with his win in the electoral college, he will be the 45th President of the United States. Based on numbers and demographics alone, there is a large divide in our nation. After the election, I talked to many young adults. Some voted for Clinton. Some voted for Trump. Some didn’t vote at all. There were mixed emotions: some experienced severe disappointment and others experienced sheer joy. What’s your perspective and how do bridge the divide, Landon?
Landon: Ryan, this is a challenging subject. There are so many biases. It was characterized as the lesser of two evils and the greater response to the greater sin. My personal convictions surround the national genocide of abortion. God hates the shedding of innocent blood.
RF: I understand your grievance and convictions surrounding abortion. With that said, there were many other issues on the ballot including immigration, economic policy, foreign policy, civil rights and justice that others are as equally grieved about. Even in my conversations with young adults, I could see a tension while they didn’t agree with a candidate on every issue, they voted their convictions and conscience based on the issues or the qualifications of the candidate. How would address them?
Landon: I understand and my point is that we cannot have this conversation every four years during a presidential election. This is an ongoing conversation that needs to happen. I have come to this conclusion: Jesus is King and Lord. No political party is the answer. We have to roll up our sleeves and get to work in healing our nation and reconciling one to another. Again, not dealing with issues in a fight, but in a time of peace and unity. As we pray for the leadership of our nation, I also pray for the people of our great country.
PARTING WORDS OF WISDOM
RF: There are young adults, millennials and other leaders reading this interview. They may be facing challenges they never expected to face. Roadblocks may be in their way. What words of encouragement would you share with them on their journey?
Landon: [Pause] Don’t underestimate faithfulness.
God is truly faithful. In your 20s, many times you are fighting so hard and trying to make it. To make a mark. But I found out that its in your 30s that you start seeing the provision and faithfulness of God in response to your faithfulness to Him. And it will never be an equal return. It’s always an abundance!
I would also encourage your readers to value leadership, strategies and how to grow. Value the leadership that you are held accountable to. Promote strategies that stir healthy growth, not simply fast growth. And learn the lessons of how to grow in a balanced way.
But once again, value faithfulness. I’ll leave you with this: When you are faithful in your 20s, you will see the hand of God in your 30s. In other words, don’t get weary in well doing. In your season of hard work, expect great harvest!
RF: Thanks Landon! Let’s expect great harvest in 2017!
Discover More! About Landon Schott:
Twitter: @LandonSchott // @RevTVNetwork // @Heather_Schott
It’s that time of year once again! The expected “New You” slogans are populating the airwaves and saturating the marketplace. Whenever we approach a new year, the predictable appeals to look forward to new beginnings are always meeting us. And if you’re a millennial (approximately ages 18 to 34), you’re expected to be on the frontlines of change and pursuing new ventures in 2017. As a fellow millennial, I can attest to the burden and expectation to reach further and aim higher. With every challenge I’ve faced, my faith in God has been an anchor through life’s ups and downs. Here’s my challenge to you: While the weight of expectation increases, why not give faith in God a chance in this New Year? Here are some quick tips in activating your faith in 2017:
Step #1: Digest God’s Word – everyday!
I wish I could tell you there were some quick way to grow your faith. I must report that there is no shortcut to faith in God! But, there is a sure way to grow your faith starting today – digest God’s Word everyday. I liken it to eating food. Sometimes, I admittedly eat my food too fast. As a result, I deny myself the opportunity to enjoy the taste of the food for the satisfying a momentary hunger. I’m learning to chew my food properly so that it can digest properly. I apply the same approach to the Word of God. It is our living Bread! Why rush it?
If you already do this, I want to applaud you and encourage you to keep going! If this hasn’t been a habit for you, start today! Rather than taking large sums of Scripture, take a portion and reflect on the passage. Search faith scriptures on Google via BibleGateway.com or Blble.com and read these life-giving verses. If you’re hungry for God to move in your life without hindrance, build your faith in His Word. It’s His promises!
Step #2: Devote time in prayer.
I used to think I couldn’t pray because I heard other people pray publicly. From my observations, I did not measure up at all! Their poetry and prose was on point! They talked to God with eloquent language. I thought I was at a poetry jam! But, I laid down on those insecurities to pick up the mantle of prayer. It’s talking with God and listening to God. I know our schedules and lives can be hectic and quite overwhelming. But, the Giver of your life wants to connect with you. He wants to hear your heart and desires that you hear His.
Before ending my seminary pastoral internship in Trenton, NJ, a member of the church came up to me and lovingly said, “Ryan, God misses your times with Him.” My heart sank. I knew exactly what they meant. It wasn’t that I failed to pray. It was how I was praying. I wasn’t all in. I wasn’t completely devoted to sharing the depths of my heart and hearing what grieves God. Almost a decade later, I remember those loving, corrective words. I never thought about how God felt when I didn’t seek Him. Faith is built when you trust the Father in relationship and conversation.
Step #3: Develop an appetite for faith-filled risks!
My fellow millennial: Face your giants. Confront your fears. Courageously address the elephant in the room. Look around. There are many examples of people taking risks without any evidence that it will work out for their good. They’re making an attempt to try something new or as Aerosmith would put it, “Living on the Edge”! How much more should we be taking risks for God that is rooted in our faith? This kind of living requires an appetite for it. If you are used to playing it safe, you’ll find that your hunger to try new things wane. You may even be tempted to think, “That’s crazy. It doesn’t take all of that!” But that’s the crazy, radical, mind-boggling deal! It does TAKE ALL OF THAT and ALL OF YOU!
The biggest obstacle standing in our way is that four lettered word: FEAR. It is the enemy of faith, handicapping us from pursuing our purpose and calling. It will keep us on the sidelines, unwilling to open up and share our deepest passions and dreams. But it doesn’t have to be this way! When the voice of doubt says, “You can’t! Don’t bother!” turn to the voice of God that says, “You can! Move forward in Me!” Surround yourself with faith-filled adventurers! Keep them close and if you don’t have it in your circle, seek them out! Faith is contagious and will spread like wildfire when you are around those who keep the fire lit with their devotion and discipline. Before taking a faith-filled risk in 2017, I’m encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:17:
“God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting Him really lives.” (The Message)
As you navigate the hopes and challenges of 2017, I rest in the confidence that this three-point guide for faith will help you move into new realms of thought, creativity and passion as you pursue your goals and your purpose. And remember – the world is waiting on you. Let’s take a faith-filled adventure in 2017! -RF
I cannot count the many times I have been on an elevator. My experiences have varied. Sometimes, the ride was so smooth that it felt as though the elevator never moved. Other times, I cannot wait to get off due to the uncertainty of the ride! But, when I get on an elevator while someone else is already there, they will ask me the question, “What floor?” Since I know where I’m going, I can confidently give the floor with hesitation. When I arrive on the floor, I don’t second guess. I get off the elevator ready to place my feet on that level.
I’ve been thinking about my real-life elevator experiences as it pertains to our lives. When we are called to elevate, do we know what level we’re ready for? If someone was to ask us, “what floor?”, do we know what to say? In my counseling and casual conversation, the topic of feeling stuck or not moving inevitably is discussed. In those conversations, it becomes glaringly apparent that most of our frustrations is not the lack of passion to elevate to a new level. It’s the questioning if we are ready to move and take on the responsibility for that level.
This blog post serves as a challenge. You are not meant to be satisfied with mediocrity or the status quo. The call to elevate is wooing each of us. It’s to champion a cause greater than ourselves. It’s to seize opportunities that affect life-change. It’s to make an indelible mark on a generation accustomed to fleeting moments. Even at my church (Christ Church), we have an event called ELEVATE for kids, teens, singles/young adults and married couples. There is a recognition that our lives are meant to have a greater impact than we are currently experiencing. I encourage you to even be a part of that time — go to www.ElevateFamilyConference.org for more information on the event and how to register. Ultimately, we are all called to elevate and move to the next level of maturity, growth and development.
The question remains — what floor? In other words, what level are you ready to occupy? If you don’t know the answer to this question, it’s no time to sit in shame or condemnation. Rather, it’s time to pray for insight, seek wise counsel and reflect upon where you are and where you desire to be.
Years ago, recording artists Stacie Orrico sang a song titled “(There’s Gotta Be) More To Life”. The chorus says,
There’s gotta be more to life, then chasing down every temporary high to satisfy me
Cause the more that I’m tripping out thinking there must be more to life
Well it’s life but I’m sure there’s gotta be more than wanting more…
Our lives are not simply reduced with the accumulation of more things but being who we were designed to be. It’s more about being than simply more doing. What will you do to be who God has destined for you be? Deep down, there may be this insatiable desire for more, greater and going higher. I have one question — what floor? – REF
Ryan will be sharing at Mission 10:20 Leadership Conference, hosted by Jack Redmond and 4th Gen Ministries
Jack Redmond is a man on a mission.
A pastor, evangelist, speaker, teacher and author of several books, including his latest, Let Your Voice Be Heard: Transforming from Church Goer to Active Soul Winner, Jack sat down with me to discuss his book. As you will discover through this interview, Jack is passionate to share this truth — anyone who follows Christ can help others connect with Jesus. Now, the interview:
RF: Jack – you’ve written many books like People Matter to God, Infusion and Wounded Heart. What compelled you to write your latest book, Let Your Voice Be Heard?
JR: If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity.There’s a big difference between how modern Christians live compared to how the early Christians lived. The early Church was very much face-to-face and relational. They had a personal relationship with Jesus and told others — it was contagious! When I think of the first 300 years of Christianity, there was a 40% growth of Christianity each decade within those 300 years. But when you look at the statistics from 1970 to 2010, Christianity on a global scale is the same — around 33%. With all of our modern technology, conferences, mega-watt pastors, and resources, we are not growing at the rate the early Church grew.
Changing those statistics is bringing us back to relationship and sharing our stories. Let Your Voice Be Heard is a book that equips people to share their faith with people they already know.
If I could do one thing in my life, it would be to end spectator Christianity. – Jack Redmond
RF: Jack, you mentioned the decline or stagnation of Christianity…
JR: Christianity in the Western World is statistically stagnating, but that could change. D. James Kennedy, in his book Evangelism Explosion, talks about 95% of born-again Evangelicals never led someone to Christ. That book was written about 40 years ago. I haven’t been able to find any statistics to update or confirm that study. But, most church-going Christians do not have soul winning on their mind. I found this when I traveled to churches and even in my own church. When you start to have conversations with people, it’s amazing that many have not led someone to Christ — the Savior that changed and is changing their lives.
RF: Why do you think that there has been a disconnect or Christians don’t feel compelled to share Christ?
JR: I go into great detail about this in my book Infusion when in the 4th century, Constantine (Roman Emperor) made Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire. Some say he was converted, others contend that Christianity was taken over and he simply wanted to “roll with it”. But, what he did was to make Christianity acceptable and gave it many benefits it didn’t have before. Christianity spread as a persecuted religion — one that was relational in nature. The benefit of Christianity for 300 years was that people knew Christ. With Constantine made it the religion of the Roman Empire, it became valuable to the larger society. It became an IN thing to be a Christian. But Constantine would also build cathedrals that had one person speaking up front while others looked on. This changed the dynamics of Christianity being founded on relationships and conversation.
Christianity was taken on by Roman Catholicism that relegated much power to the priest. Without going into too much history, the Dark Ages and other historical milestones saw the Bible being taken away from people experiencing it themselves. Now, it was belonging to an organization. Even the Reformation was to clean up Roman Catholicism. Protestant tradition transitioned from a priest to a pastor. There have been many changes historically, but it was widely accepted to have a point person speaking and others listening, rather than being engaged.
Presently, where Christianity is exploding is where people are engaged and connecting. Let Your Voice Be Heard serves to help people share the Gospel wherever they go.
RF: Would you concede that while the advent of technology has spread the Gospel in a global fashion, it has also been a proxy voice for Christians rather than Christ-followers speaking up themselves?
JR: In terms of technology, even before its boom — it was an attraction model. If you have good preaching, singing and a good environment, it is attractive. But, the “modern church” mentality is about filling churches in order for people to give to maintain the church. It’s a maintenance mentality as opposed to a Great Commission mentality.
Around 86% of people come to church because they were personally invited. Technology has its place but doesn’t replace relationships. I use technology. God uses it. But, it should never replace the importance of interacting with others.
RF: I noticed on the cover of your new book — you have a photo of young people. I’m sure that was intentional. Why did you include young people and do you believe this book is for everyone of every age?
JR: The first answer is yes — the book is for all ages. As Christians, we are here to seek and save the lost and connect them with Christ. As far as young people, the stats are that 85% of people that come to Christ come before the reach the age of 18. Young people are the greatest mission field on the planet. Young people, oftentimes, are the greatest minister to their generation. Ministry is what God has done in your life. I’ve seen teens and young adults to share their faith in a real, transparent way. If you are serious about the Gospel, you must be invested in the next generation.
Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. That’s the focus of the average church. In order for them to keep coming back, we have to keep them happy. Since many pastors have limited time, that’s what they do. It’s another reason why we must train the Body of Christ to do the work of ministry. The church is an equipping place. The five-fold ministry is designed for the church to do ministry outside the church walls. As it pertains to young people — they are passionate and they have time to invest. They are able to make a big difference. I was saved at the age 0f 27. If I was saved a bit younger and shared my faith with who I partied with, I would have won many to Christ. But, no one had ever shared Christ with me until I was 27.
Part of the reason why some churches aren’t growing is because their priority is keeping saved people happy. – Jack Redmond
RF: On page 99 of your new book, you have what’s called THE REDMOND SCALE. I thought it was quite good. How did you come up with this scale and what do you want readers to glean from it?
JR: I have to laugh — I have named scales after me! I wrestled with it and it almost postponed the book because of it.
But, the REDMOND SCALE is a reminder that evangelism is a PROCESS. It’s not a point in time. Theologically, yes — salvation is a moment when you are saved by faith…when you cross from death to life. The reality is that there is a process leading up to that. If someone has had a certain perspective or philosophy of life for 40 years, their perspective may not change overnight. Be prepared to invest in the PROCESS. It takes time!
Some don’t share their faith because they are in church and watching the preacher preach the message and share a call for salvation — thinking if they can’t do the same, they are disqualified or not doing right. But, every time you help someone get closer to God, you are invested and engaged in the PROCESS. If you can get a militant atheist to wonder, “Hmmm, I wonder if God is real”, then you are making an impact! That is a huge breakthrough and it may take a couple of years.
I just talked with someone yesterday who is a nanny and cleaning lady for a Jewish lady for 20 years. The Jewish lady recently gave her life to Christ. But, it took a 20 year relationship of interaction to bring this woman to faith in Christ. When we are asking people to come to Christ, we are asking them to reject what they have known.
Here’s another example: I had a lady come to me who took an evangelism class. She was a foster parent to two teenagers who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. She was upset because they wouldn’t come to church. I shared with her that if someone is a Jehovah’s Witness (and I may not be exactly correct on their theological position), they believe the only way to God and Heaven is through the Kingdom Hall. If they walk away, they are doomed to soul annihilation. You are not asking these kids to come to church or try something new. You are asking them to risk, according to their theological position, soul annihilation by coming to church. Sometimes we don’t think about that…
RF: …what you’re saying Jack is that sometimes (or too often) we are not considering the consequences and the risks others are taking to embrace Jesus Christ as their Savior…
JR: Exactly! And what they have to wrestle with. What would it take for a Christian to go to Mecca and proclaim Allah is superior to Jesus. Think about it. When you share your faith with a Muslim, you are asking them to bear consequences. When I was in India, I didn’t know what the dot (bindi) meant on the foreheads of the females. I asked and was told that the smaller bindi are for single girls of the Hindu faith. If the women are married, they have a larger bindi. If the woman is a widow, she loses her bindi. They are deemed as worthless or useless because they are widow. So now you have a 20 year old Hindu girl who comes to the Lord. She loses her bindi. She is looked upon as worthless and useless – like a widow. Rejected by her family and no Hindu man would marry her. Yet, she may be in a Hindu village or Hindu city. When we are asking people to come to Christ, it’s a big decision. This is why it’s a PROCESS.
The REDMOND SCALE looks at the process of where people are and how to address them in a way that’s inviting and engaging. Some people may have a five minute conversation and conversion happens suddenly. Biblically, it happened with the Ethiopian eunuch. But, for many — that is a rare occurrence. For most, it will be a PROCESS. It’s the PROCESS that causes people to see Jesus as a Savior moving towards their need for the Savior.
Evangelism is a process. – Jack Redmond
RF: How long did it take you to write this book? I’m not referring to the actual writing and editing process. When did you know you were ready to release this type of book?
JR: I think I finished writing it in 2012 and then I was going through the publishing process and offered bad book deals. Then, I started up again in 2015 and re-edited the book. I was chewing on the concept for five years. I think its BASIC CHRISTIANITY. Unfortunately, the Church-at-large may not focus on BASIC CHRISTIANITY as it should – like how do I become a good this or that. When I came to Christ in 1997, this message made sense to me. I lived it before I wrote it. No more spectators but soul winners. I’ve heard people say its insulting to call them church goers only. But, the question is are you winning souls?
RF: Jack, you’re a pastor (fellow pastor with me at Christ Church), you’re a husband, a father, a coach, a mentor with many responsibilities. How do you win souls in your schedule? Do you feel satisfied in your approach to soul winning or success?
JR: I don’t feel satisfied that I have fulfilled what God wants me to do. In terms of personally sharing faith with others, I face the same challenges such as busyness. Being married with children with multiple jobs, writing and traveling — I reconcile it by standing on this truth — I’m not called to do everything. I can do what I can do. If I can help others be soul winners, it’s impact that’s beyond what I can do personally.
I found a new pizza spot and I was so excited. I received my two pizzas and a flyer was stapled on the top of the box saying that a psychic would be visiting the pizza place. I looked at that as an opportunity to build relationship with the owner. He may or may not have spiritual convictions. He may be thinking the psychic coming will help me sell some pizzas. Whatever the case, I view it as an opportunity to learn more about him and gradually ask appropriate questions that will help foster Christ conversations. But, I recognize it will be a PROCESS. Before you go to people about God, go to God about people.
RF: Jack, would you pray for the readers of this interview that they would be soul winners in their generation?
Jack Redmond is an author, speaker Church Mobilization Pastor at Christ Church in Montclair, NJ since July, 2000. He is also Founder and President of Fourth Generation Ministries. For more information, connect with Jack at www.4thgen.org.
Check out the new Pursuit NYC podcast // Episode 24. Sam Won and I share on leadership, character and lessons learned along the way.
As a part of the REFlections Interview Series, I’m honored to present an interview that speaks to the successes and challenges of ministry and our life of faith in Christ. As one of the emerging voices in our generation, Ken Hester has proven through word and deed that his faith in God is real! Ken is the campus pastor at Elevation Church, overseeing the Gaston campus in Gastonia, North Carolina. I became acquainted with Ken about 6 years ago when he was the College Pastor at Crossroads Fellowship in Raleigh, North Carolina. Presently, as an Elevation Church campus pastor, Ken shared some of the lessons he’s learned along the way.
It’s my prayer that this interview blesses you like it blessed me. Thank you Ken for sharing!
KEY – RF: Ryan Faison | KH: Ken Hester
RF: If I had to describe Ken Hester, how would you want me to describe you?
KH: A passionate leader. I’m not afraid of change (and I could be accused of embracing too much of it)! I like fun stuff and I’m certainly a thrill seeker. I’m a husband. This year on June 2nd, my wife and I will celebrate 8 years of marriage. I’m a coach. I’ve enjoyed my experiences as a basketball coach over the years and even thought it would be my career. I’m a pastor. As a thrill-seeker, it is awesome that every weekend, GOD WINS! Jesus is #1 on the scoreboard! There’s salvations and baptisms every week. This is my greatest joy.
RF: In this season of your life, what is the most rewarding?
KH: Rewarding for me is that my staff, leaders and volunteers feel cared for. I find my reward in the great consistency rather than the great moments. We often times celebrate the moment rather than the consistency. Christ celebrates the consistency. In the NBA Playoffs, Derrick Rose hit a major shot but lost the playoffs. It may be SportsCenter moment, but we may dismiss the team’s consistent effort. The same thing applies to our spiritual life. When I see a congregation consistent in giving, serving and loving, this is my greatest reward.
“Christ celebrates the consistency!”
– Pastor Ken Hester
RF: Consistency is important to you. How do you value this in your life?
KH: I value it but working on the discipline of consistency. I tried to find a formula for devotion before God. What I realized that for me its one Scripture (maybe two), praying specifically that God reveals Himself in that Scripture, worship in my car (blasting worship in my car for 20-30 minutes), praying on my way home. I realized over the years that it’s not about a formula, but a relationship. I desire to be consistent in that area of my life.
RF: What would you say to someone who is focused on “formulas”?
KH: It’s about how God is stretching your faith, not a set formula. Too often, our culture is focused on calculated risk. Faith is “I’m jumping out an airplane and I don’t have a parachute but I know God will catch me!” I’m encouraged by a couple of folks in our apprenticeship program. One apprentice moved from South Africa to serve in Gastonia, North Carolina to be a part of what God is doing. That faith inspires my faith. Another couple just recently got married and moved from Sacramento, California to serve here at Elevation. This is the faith that is demonstrated in the Bible. I need to be challenged in faith. I encourage others to look for everyday faith. If God did it before, He can do it again!
RF: What’s the most challenging area of your life?
KH: One of the most challenging areas on my life (and my wife) is regarding family. We are beginning to share more and more about it with others. We’re been trying to start a family for five years. To say its been a struggle is an understatement. You get a monthly reminder that God has not chosen you to have a family yet. What have you tried for five years and still not seeing fruit from? Not many things. If you go to school for years, you received a degree. We’ve been trying to have a family for five years and haven’t seen that reward yet. It challenges our faith. We’re mad and hopeful. An array of emotions. What’s challenging for us is to remember that God’s promises never return void. When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith. We’re reminded of Abraham. I hope I don’t have to wait 35+ years (lol), but we trust in God’s promise to have a family. We can’t see it now, but it doesn’t mean it won’t happen.
“When all you see is void — it can be a direct challenge to your faith.”
– Pastor Ken Hester
RF: How do you minister to your wife during this challenging season?
KH: Supporting my wife in the small things makes the difference. It’s not only about extravagant gifts. It’s praying for my wife when she’s not aware I’m doing so. Doing little things around the house that relieve pressure. When we are battling, we are in this together. My wife’s not battling infertility – we are battling infertility. It’s a team effort. We are in this together.
RF: In the midst of your own challenge and the challenges your church faces everyday, how do you encourage them not to get discouraged when promises come to pass in someone else’s life but you’re still waiting?
KH: I’m always reminded of Pastor Steven’s (Furtick) words: “Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel!” The highlight reel is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, etc. But, what are others struggling with that they don’t want you to see? They may have a child, or a spouse, or blessed with a job that you think that you want, but they also have behind-the-scenes. They just haven’t told you about it. If you were to go through my social media platform, you would not know the struggles. Even on a campus level — people see the moments, but not the struggles. It’s death by comparison. Don’t be discouraged by a post that doesn’t tell the whole story. If someone receives a blessing, celebrate it! It’s their blessing, not yours. The comparison game is a slippery slope. Focus on what gives you joy and write them out. You’ll be surprised — you have more joys than struggles. We tend to focus more on the struggles than the joys.
“Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes to someone else’s highlight reel.”
– Pastor Steven Furtick (quoted by Pastor Ken Hester)
RF: What brings you joy being a part of Elevation Church family?
KH: I want to thank Pastor Steven for the opportunity to serve. I appreciate the passion and consistency in pursuing the vision of people far away from God being raised to life in Christ! Pastor Steven has shared with all the campus pastors that this is not his vision, but our vision. As the Gaston campus, it is Elevation but its own feel and identity. It is a joy to see the growth and the love of God shared throughout all the campuses.
RF: Where do you see your campus going in a year?
KH: We’re believing God for 3,000 people. Right now, we are averaging 1,100. If God did it once, He can do it again. If I see in Acts 2:41, it can happen now. It is not out of the realm of God’s perspective. It will take work, prep, innovation, creativity, people and prayer. I want our campus to align with God’s will in every way.
“If God can do it before, He can do it again!”
– Pastor Ken Hester
RF: Last question Ken. If you could talk to younger Ken, what would you say?
KH: I would probably say — don’t make too many plans for yourself because God will change them. I went to school to be a basketball coach. I was one. I won 5 championships. I was successful (or what I thought was successful). As I look back, I learned so much in coaching that informs how I pastor and serve people. I think I would be a bit more generic and leave room for God to change my plans. Let God change your plans! I was stubborn especially since I was up for an Athletic Coordinator job. But, they went in another direction. Three days later, I received a notification from the Senior Pastor of my church inviting me to be the College Pastor. The rest is history. Let God change your plans. It’s my prayer that sharing the struggles helps others see that God has a plan for your life and He will accomplish it through you.
Ken Hester is the campus pastor at Elevation Church Gaston. An innovative and proven leader, Pastor Ken leads along with a team of devoted Christ-followers at Elevation Gaston to see people far away from God being raised to life in Christ. Ken studied Sports Administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. He is married to the love of his life, Ashley Hester.
When a leader “has it”, you just know it.
The “has it” quality includes their vision, character, integrity and how they value their team. When you are in conversation with them, you can immediately tell that their focus is on others and not themselves. Their words are seasoned with grace and convictions anchored in their deep-seeded values. Jonathan Burgio is one of those leaders.
Jonathan serves as the Executive Director of BASIC College Ministries, headquartered in Rochester, New York. This life-changing ministry has been transforming the lives of college students in the Upstate NY area. BASIC is now expanding the ministry outreach with their first New Jersey conference on November 21-22 at Christ Church in Rockaway, NJ. I had the opportunity to ask Jonathan some questions in this special #REFlections interview:
How would you characterize your transition as the new Executive Director of BASIC?
A huge life change. Being in charge of an organization isn’t just a job title change or a responsibilities increase, it is a total life change. At the end of the day the success or failure of BASIC comes back to me. I love BASIC with all my heart and want the best for the organization so I take it with me wherever I go. This is no longer a 9-5 kind of job. Everything I see or do can become something I am doing for work. I love it so it is easy to get wrapped up in it and talk about it all day but now I am also in charge of it which makes it even easier to be in every aspect of my life.
If you could describe this generation in one word, what would it be and why?
New – Never before has there been such a demand to have new stuff constantly. The obvious is the demand on the newest technology, iPhones being sold out the minute they come out, or the constant change in clothing styles. We see this also in music, art, trends, etc. But there is more than that. There is a need to be constantly engaged, impressed, or whatever it is to have something new. I don’t say this to be negative it also has many benefits. For example, our technology is increasing at a bigger rate than ever because demand is higher than ever and so on.
What is your ultimate prayer for this generation and the one to come?
That the ones sharing Jesus would be better examples of who He is.
From my interaction with you, I have witnessed first hand how you value teamwork. How has the BASIC College Ministry team added to your leadership?
The BASIC staff is incredible so it makes leading them easy. The ability to allow others to express themselves and have ownership over their work has greatly effected the way I lead. Once I find someone and discover what their talents and abilities are and what they enjoy doing then I take a huge leap of faith and I trust them to do a great job in whatever I ask them to do. I do not micromanage them. I have learned I need to clarify exactly what we want but in the end they have a lot of control over how to get us there. I take the heat if something goes wrong but all in the effort to show them my trust and belief that they can create something better. We are raising up individuals who are mastering certain areas of ministry. None of us can do everything so I rely on others to do what I can’t do so I can do what I am good at.
Where do you see BASIC in five years?
I see BASIC reaching college students on 50 different campuses reaching thousands of students each week, and having 3 conferences in the fall and one huge conference in the Spring.
What wakes you up in the morning? What do you go to bed thinking about?
What wakes me up each day is thinking about what I can accomplish today to reach my goals in the future. I go to bed thinking about how to reach more people than we currently do. What do we need to change. By changing our approach what are we at risk to loose?
How would describe yourself as a leader?
Laid back, relational, and empowering. I try to stay relaxed and confident. I enjoy being friends with my co-workers and most importantly I go out of my way to empower others to not only do there jobs but to become better at it.
What challenges have you faced that have caused you to draw even closer to Christ?
The challenge I think about often is battling whether I am trying to reach more people to become famous or to make Jesus famous. I never want to be successful so I can be successful. I want to be successful in making Jesus’ name great.
You recently married your wife Nicki. How has your marriage affected your leadership and service to the next generation?
My wife enhances everything I do. Her vision is my vision, her talents compliment mine. I am very, very fortunate to have allowed God to bring me the perfect woman to partner with me in ministry. It hasn’t been a year yet but I feel like she has only made my ministry better. (I have to add an AWWW)
How would like to grow personally as you continue to serve others?
I’d like to always help others to achieve their best. First I believe people will enjoy working with me more but second by doing this we will be able to do whatever we want to do better.
MY CLOSING NOTE: I want to personally thank Jonathan for his leadership and brotherhood. I look forward to the BASIC Conference in New Jersey (BASICConJersey for short) on Friday-Saturday, November 21-22, 2014 at Christ Church in Rockaway, NJ! Get ready to hear more details soon! In the meantime, check out all the great things BASIC is doing at www.thebasicsite.org!