The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“A Flourishing Workplace that Reflects Christ to the World“
November 23, 2020
Intro: It’s a rare experience to be mentored by a leader who has a worldwide ministry, written books that have sold tens of millions of copies, and spoken to nearly 50 million people around the world. Today Josh McDowell shares his secrets to finishing strong and leading a flourishing workplace.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire you to build a flourishing workplace. As we all face today’s leadership challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we believe having a healthy culture is more important now than ever before. We are here to help you eliminate toxicity, improve your employees’ engagement, speed up new innovation, and grow your organization’s impact.
And before we meet our guest today, I urge you to subscribe to this podcast. As a result, you’ll receive our action guide. It’s our gift to help you lead your organization’s culture to the next level. To subscribe, simply go to bcwinstitute.org/podcast. Hit the Subscribe button and receive our free action guide.
If you can share this podcast with others, and rate it, it would mean a lot to me. Thank you.
And now, let’s meet today’s special guest.
Josh McDowell has been at the forefront of cultural trends and groundbreaking ministry for more than 50 years. In 1961, Josh joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ International, and not long after, he started the Josh McDowell Ministry, a ministry of Cru and a division of Campus Crusade for Christ International. Josh’s ministry is all about reaching young people worldwide with the truth and love of Jesus. As a speaker, Josh has addressed more than 46 million people in 139 countries. And his landmark book, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, was named one of the 20th century top 40 books and one of the 13 most influential books on Christian thought over the past 50 years by WORLD magazine.
Josh, welcome to Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Josh McDowell: Well, thank you. This is like dying and going to heaven.
Al: Okay, well, I look forward to hearing more—
Josh: Well, maybe it’s like dying, but not going to heaven.
Al: Well, I think we’re in glory here. Absolutely.
So, Josh, there’s a lot I’d love to cover with you. But first, let’s start with the classic book you wrote that engaged millions of people in a personal, life-changing faith in Christ, and, of course, I’m talking about Evidence That Demands a Verdict. And it came out in 1972, when I was a student at Penn State University and served high school kids with Young Life. And it was a great resource, and I really appreciate it as well because it was a great tool to work with kids we are working with to serve them. So tell us the story of how Evidence That Demands a Verdict came out.
Josh: I became very cognizant, with all my traveling, speaking on apologetics, that there was quite a vacuum in understanding the evidence for the resurrection, the deity of Christ, the Scriptures for the Christian faith. And I just felt the Lord would have me do a very unusual book that would help to substantiate the faith in people’s lives. So I did Evidence That Demands a Verdict.
I brought in about 18 students for two and a half months in Dallas, Texas, and I assigned them different things to do research, compile research for me. I had more research that probably anyone’s ever dreamed of having in writing a book. And I came out with a book that no publisher would take it. I broke every principle of publishing: the length, the footnoting. I totally changed footnoting. And all of them said, “Your paragraphs are too long, the quotes. There’s too much wrong.” And I said, “But you’re missing the point. So many people are taking truth out of context. So I put around all the quotes and everything the context so people could know that it’s legitimate the way they’re using it.”
I had to self-publish it. And I did it through a crusade, and we released it on a Friday, and by Monday, it was a runaway bestseller for 54 months in the top 10.
Josh: And that’s a long time.
Well, then, every publisher wanted it, and I—who’d I go with, with that? Oh, Word—
Al: Oh, yeah.
Josh: —and then Thomas Nelson, I think it is.
I think what happened was it met a niche in culture at that time, and it has ever since then. So many people tried to duplicate it, which is wonderful—there’s some great books out there—but Evidence is still just growing and going into the multimillions of copies and I don’t know how many languages all over the world. And so I’m quite excited about it because I feel I’m helping a lot of pastors to do their research and a lot of Christian leaders and to help parents how to teach things to their children. So that’s kind of the background of it.
Al: Yeah. I remember—it’s funny that you say it was self-published, that everybody was saying it’s too dense; it’s too… you know. And I remember thinking those exact things: this is really deep and well researched. And the footnotes, I mean, it just made it seem even more credible at a time when, like today, where we need credibility. That’s great. Yeah.
So given everything you lay out in the book, what really remains today as the most compelling evidence that resonates with your audiences around the world about the truth and life of Jesus? What’s changed since that time?
Josh: I don’t think it’s really changed. I think the number one piece of evidence is changed lives.
Josh: That’s why I did a whole chapter on it in the book. It’s changed lives. It’s key to have the evidence. It’s very key to back up your personal story or testimony. I believe Christ alive in a person’s life is the best evidence of the Christian faith.
Al: The same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, right?
Josh: That’s right.
Al: Yeah, right.
You know, as I started off our conversation talking about the publishing work, tell us about the current scope of the Josh McDowell Ministry overall.
Josh: Well, we’re a small ministry—I think about 38 staff—but we’re in about, I don’t know, 139 countries of the world. We have 690,000 pieces of technology in 139 countries. Every 60 seconds, 150 people all over the world download our resources. Every 60 seconds, 150. That’s exciting to me. It keeps me getting out of bed in the morning because you’ve got to feed that monster.
Josh: I think the key is when we went to technology. Like, we use something they call a hotspot, reconfigured it a little bit, and it has 14 of my talks on it. It has the Undaunted movie of my life. It has the Jesus Film. It has the Bible, all in these different languages. And it has most of my material on sexuality. Just a little white thing, about half the size of your cell phone.
And when we tested it, in a coffee shop in Cairo, we just placed it on the table, turned it on. Nobody can trace back to who’s doing it, but we can trace who’s doing it. They can’t trace it to us. And in one hour, 70-some people downloaded the entire Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I believe it was 70, 72 people. That’s incredible.
On one airplane flight, just turn it on, flipped it, and dropped it in the back of the pouch in the back of the seat in front of me, and 75 people on that plane locked onto it and downloaded 1,127 resources. That’s in one four-hour flight from Cairo to London. Now, boy, that’s exciting.
Al: That’s unbelievable.
Josh: And there’s technology. And so we’re very heavy into technology, and we have, like, 690,000 of them around the world. And so we write. We do a lot of books. Our books are in over, gosh, over 100-some languages. But the message is still the same: the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, His death to cross our sins, His burial and resurrection and ascension into heaven, and sending the Holy Spirit. The need for evidence for the Scriptures, the resurrection, the deity of Christ is so critical.
Al: Hm. You’ve kind of answered the next question. I just remember—well, first, I remember meeting you a couple of years ago at a leadership meeting in Orlando, and what struck me was that that night you were flying to Singapore, all-night flight, and there you were at a meeting all day and just, you know, fresh and enthusiastic. And I was really amazed what the global reach of your ministry. And I’m just curious. What are you seeing that really grabs the attention of today’s college students to follow Christ? What are some of the themes that you’re seeing? Where do students’ eyes light up when you talk?
Josh: Well, one of the changes is this: 15, 20 years ago on the student high school level, it was “I’m concerned about the problems of the world,” and solutions for world problems really went over big. That has shifted to the individual. Now the greatest comment is and everything “I have a problem,” not “I’m looking at the problems of the world.” “I’m looking at my own problem.” And I think with technology and everything else, it’s created a number of things, and most people are attributing this to the virus now. The virus didn’t cause any of these things. It just helped magnify it. But for a number of years, the top epidemics in almost every culture in the world has been loneliness, depression, mental illness, and pornography. Pornography is probably the number one. But those have been the top four epidemics in the world. And the church to be relevant, the pastor, we’ve got to address loneliness, depression, mental illness, and pornography.
For example, one that I keep doing—you can go to my website, josh.org—that’s easy to remember—josh.org/pornography. There’s eighteen hundred documented pages and 17 breakdowns of pornography. You can go to josh.org/loneliness. Same thing, /depression. The same thing and the same thing. And my day in and day out gets me out of bed is I’ve got to feed that monster and keep fresh material, everything, flowing into it.
It’s gone from problems of the world to “I have a problem.” And you have people’s attention today if you address individual problems, especially loneliness, depression, mental health, and pornography.
Al: Wow. From the world’s problems or others’ problems to “I have a problem.” That’s fascinating. Thanks.
You know, at the Best Christian Workplaces Institute, we’re all about equipping and inspiring Christian leaders to create a flourishing workplace. And the Josh McDowell Ministry’s been on the road to flourishing with us for the last five years. And during that time, the health of your workplace culture has improved nearly every year and is now in a flourishing-culture position. Duane Zook is your CEO, and he’s doing a great job. But I know, Josh, that if a top leader doesn’t support having a healthy culture, it wouldn’t be healthy. So would you share why the Josh McDowell Ministry’s culture is such a flourishing culture, and why is your team so important to you?
Josh: Well, just in a very personal basis, the happier people are, the harder they work. The more satisfied people are, the more they give. That’s true in my life. That’s true in my life. I believe I owe it to my staff because I have some incredible staff. I really do. I’m so humbled that they spend so many hours working to support me out on the field. I realize that what I do is a fulfillment of all the work they do.
So I believe, one, I need to create the healthiest working place there is. I want people to look forward to coming to work, and I want them to look forward to going home because they’ve got an outstanding family. Second, I believe it’s very important to always communicate back what’s happening as a result of your work. I think this is where we’re strong in the Josh McDowell Ministry is we always try to get back into the hands of all of our staff what’s happening out here, what’s going on, the impact we’re making, the lives we’re seeing changed. And I think that motivates our staff.
Plus, I have been working between 20 and 30 years with two people, Laurel Milton and Duane Zook. They’re are two of my heroes in life. They really are. I never thought your staff could become your heroes, but I sit in awe of Laurel and Duane. They’re so gifted, they’re so talented, but what I like about them, they’re so compassionate about people. They really care about people. They’re organized. They organized me. Without Duane and Laurel, we couldn’t have accomplished half of what the Lord has allowed us to accomplish. So I always want to acknowledge that. People say, “Oh, look what Josh is doing. Look what McDowell is doing.” Well, I want to say—and people think it’s kind of a trite phrase—it’s truly a team effort. To me that is not a trite phrase.
And then being associated with Cru, with Campus Crusade. I love Cru. I don’t know how any organization could treat its staff better than what Cru has treated me. I have so much freedom in everything and yet accountability because they give me so much freedom, I feel even more responsible to bear out that freedom. And so being with Cru opens up doors all over the world for me. And of course, I open up doors for Cru, too. But the Josh McDowell Ministry could not have had its impact if we’d gone off on our own.
I believe in being a part of a team and being held accountable. And when I look at the leadership we’ve had of Steve Douglass, Steve Sellers, and Mark Gauthier, and so many others, that’s why I contribute to we have such a healthy working place.
So over the last five years, Josh, we’ve really seen an improvement in the health of your workplace culture. And—
Josh: So you’re saying it was pretty bad before?
Al: No, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying there’s been an improvement. You were healthy; now you’re flourishing, kind of in our terms.
Josh: Well, thank you.
Al: And in fact, Duane has been on this podcast before, kind of giving some specific examples of the changes. But I’m curious what difference you’ve seen in the ministry, from your perspective, over these last five years as you’ve seen an improvement in the health of your culture overall.
Josh: I would say probably one of our biggest motivation things is seeing the results of using technology.
Josh: It’s so overwhelming. I mean, come on. One hundred and fifty people every 60 seconds downloading your material? And that comes out of my staff, our staff.
Al: Yeah, right.
Josh: And so I would say probably one of the biggest changes I’ve seen and healthiest things is having gone into technology and seeing the results of it.
Al: Yeah. And you know, of course, that requires innovation on the part of your staff. And when you have a flourishing culture, the chances of more innovation, using new technology improves dramatically. Yeah.
Josh: If I couldn’t be innovative and creative, I’d die in a bind. God created His people to be innovative. I really believe that. He’s given some more of a gift of it than others. Down through the years, we’ve done everything we could to be on cutting edge. We spend a lot of money on research. Whoo! A lot of money.
I am reading all the time because knowledge is power. Knowledge is power. And I want a lot of knowledge of what’s going on, what’s happening, what is needed, how to do it and all. I always say I read a lot, gain a lot of knowledge, and then I plagiarize. If you quote one person, you’re plagiarizing. If you quote many, you’re a scholar. So I’m a scholar because I quote many. Just read my book.
Al: And, you know, I was looking at your website, and I’ll have to say I haven’t been keeping up tremendously. But the number of resources that you’ve got on your website is just unbelievable. So, you know, congratulations.
Josh: It’s nothing compared to what it’s going to be.
Josh: Yeah. It’s so wonderful to work with Cru that gives us such freedom.
Al: Mm-hmm. As we reviewed your organization strengths, a key driver is something we call inspirational leadership. And for your close to 40 employees, they experience high trust in leadership; they experience leaders who demonstrate compassion—you’ve already mentioned that—and they see that the organization is well managed. And the other inspirational-leadership item on your top 10 is that the Josh McDowell Ministry reflects Christ to the world. So the actual ministry reflects Christ to the world. So, Josh, reflect with our audience the link between having a healthy, even flourishing culture and how that helps to reflect Christ to the world as a ministry.
Josh: You can have a flourishing culture as a nonbeliever.
Josh: You can have a very structured, well-organized, impactful organization and not be a Christian or be believers. And I think the one thing that makes the difference is I truly believe the love of one for each other, of one another, within the staff and then with me. I think my staff know that I love them, and I know that they love me. I mean they really do. They put up with a lot, too. But I would say then your message, if the centrality of your message is Christ, even though you might be speaking on apologetics, on sexual behavior, whatever, on leadership, whatever, if the centrality of that message is Christ, people will see that. People will see that.
Al: Yeah. So the love for each other, that comes about because of the centrality of Christ, and how with that love, then people will see actually Christ reflected in the world. I couldn’t agree with you more.
Al: I trust you’re enjoying our podcast today. We’ll be right back after an important word for leaders.
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Al: And now, back to today’s special guest.
At BCWI, we’ve identified eight key drivers to a flourishing workplace culture, and I’ve already mentioned one of them, inspirational leadership, and that measures the authenticity of a leader’s Christian faith and action. What are some of your own spiritual practices, Josh, that lead you to live a life of integrity, humility, transparency, and create the high levels of trust with your coworkers that our Survey brings out?
Josh: You take it for granted I do all that.
Al: I’m asking you.
Josh: I do some a lot better than others.
Al: I’m putting you right on the spot here, Josh. Yeah.
Josh: One of the key things in my life is I hear everybody say, “Well, my family comes before my ministry. My marriage comes before my ministry.” I think that’s awful. I think that’s in the pit of hell. My family and my marriage does not come before my ministry. My family and my marriage is my first ministry. And if I fail there, then I’d feel I’d lost the other privileges. So Dottie does not come before my ministry. When I come home and I walk through that front door, I’m not leaving my ministry; I’m walking into my first ministry. And when you have that attitude, you’re always thinking of building up people, and not “Well, I’m taking a break from ministry.” I never take a break from ministry, because of my wife and my children, my grandkids and all, and my staff. They are my first ministry, not— do you see that principle?
Al: I do. Yeah.
Josh: Oh, when I grasped that and started to try my best to live that, it really changed me, and I think it made our ministry a lot healthier. What was the other—ask your question again.
Al: Spiritual disciplines. What are the practices that lead you to live with integrity, humility, transparency, high levels of trust with your coworkers?
Josh: In Philippians it says pray without ceasing.
Josh: Years ago, I developed prayer as an attitude, and I kind of took that verse literally, and when I go through life, I literally pray about everything, even the shirt I’m going to put on, my shoes, right?, everything. Some people say, “Oh, that’s ridiculous.” No, it’s not. It says pray without ceasing. And so that means in everything. And so I think one of my keys has been a conscious awareness of Christ’s presence in everything that I do. Now, this may sound secular or carnal, but I really had to work at that. I had to work on my thought life. I had to keep telling myself, “Josh, where is your focus?” I don’t need to do that today, because it’s now part of my DNA. But to start out, it’s not that I just prayed a lot and it happened. I had to change my schedule. I had to constantly remind myself. I put little sticker Stick-Em Notes on my attaché bag. I put it on my iPad. I put it on the thing of my car. Pray without ceasing.
And to me that’s been, I think, one of the things that’s kept me, and I think any conscientious speaker, author is so fearful of sexual immorality. And I just try to build cautionary things all the way around me. For example, I try never to travel alone. Now, once in a while I need to, but I always like to be with someone, especially if my wife can travel with me.
I was standing in line where there was a big storm. The flights had been canceled. I stand in line to read a book. And there was this gorgeous woman behind me, and she started talking to me so I chatted with her. And she says, “Hey, if you don’t want to wait in line, why don’t you come over to my apartments near here?” And I said, “Oh, could I bring my wife? This is my wife, Dottie, sitting down here.” And this woman just took off. I said, “Yeah, I’d love to come over. Can I bring my wife?”
But I don’t care who you are. You can be vulnerable to those things, no matter how close you walk to Christ. So a lot of it is accountability—
Josh: —accountability financially, morally, thought life, ministry. Being held accountable. Those are some of the things that have helped me.
And then I always ask myself in decisions I see things and all, and I ask myself, How does the Bible relate to that? And often I can’t answer, so I go find out. And how does the Bible relate to that? And what that helps me to do is keep my focus on scripture. But I’m the first to admit there’s times that I haven’t, but it helps you to rebound real fast.
Al: Yeah. I love your thoughts there, Josh. Pray without ceasing, to be conscious of the awareness of Christ’s presence at all times. That’s fantastic.
You know, if you were to take us inside your ministry organization or maybe just even beyond, tell us about a colleague who’s inspired you to be a more complete leader in Christ.
Josh: That’s two people, Duane Zook and Laurel Milton, the co-directors of the Josh McDowell Ministry. I wouldn’t be what I am today if I hadn’t worked with them for so many years. I mean, it’s way over 20 years. I’m fortunate that most my staff stay with me for years. I think it gives our ministry a little more consistency. When somebody calls our ministry, they’re not talking with one person today and two weeks later with another person. But Laurel Milton and Duane Zook, I trust them. I trust their walk with Christ. I trust their counsel. I trust their love for me. And I really believe they want me and they want the Josh McDowell Ministry to win, and they play a major part in it. With Duane Zook, he used to be my personal assistant and then my manager and now he runs the whole shebang of everything. But I know him inside and out; he knows me inside and out. If I ever fail morally or something, my greatest fear would be facing Duane and facing Laurel.
Josh: I just—that I would hinder their walking in Christ in any way. Yeah.
Al: Yeah. That’s great.
Josh: If you have somebody impact you, you’ve got to spend time with them.
Josh: Over the years, I have with both of them.
Al: Great, Josh.
I want our listeners to get an even bigger appreciation for your ministry. And you’ve done a lot of research on relevant topics. You already talked about some of those things, like the impact that fathers have on their families and Gen-X and the largest American generation really coming along. And you’ve also studied the impact of pornography on society. And you’ve called that one of the four largest problems that people face.
Josh: It’s actually the number one, but it is one of the top four.
Al: Yeah, wow. Our audience is made up of church leaders, parachurch leaders, and leaders in Christian-led businesses.
Josh: Probably half of them are addicted to pornography.
Josh: As leaders.
Al: And the statistics would prove that, wouldn’t it.
Al: But these leaders want to make an impact for the kingdom. So what’s your encouragement and your challenge for them to increase their impact for the kingdom overall?
Josh: One, you’re never above being held accountable. If you don’t have people in your life to hold you accountable, you’re out of God’s will. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever stop working on your relationship with your wife and spending time with your children. When I spoke at the graduation of my son at Biola University, it was the shortest talk ever in history, even shorter than Churchill, and is probably one of the most quoted. Over 200 magazines covered it all over the world.
Josh: I researched out what is the one thing that would sideline these students going into Christian ministry. And so I stood up and said, “If you want your life to count for Christ, never, ever, ever stop pursuing a loving, intimate relationship with your wife and spend time with your children.” I repeated it twice and sat down. And everyone was stunned, and the students went to a rousing standing ovation. And I believe that’s true. That’s all my research showed. The biggest thing that will sideline you, it’s not theological or anything, it’s relationships. And so always pursue a loving, intimate relationship with your wife and spend time with your children. If you don’t spend time with your children, you don’t have a right to be in the ministry. You don’t. If you don’t pursue a loving, intimate relationship with your wife, go out and sell used cars, because it will catch up with you spiritually. It will. So that’s probably one of the biggest things right there.
Another one I say—I’ve already mentioned this before—practice the presence of Christ. If you have to leave yourself, like I did, Stick-Em Notes all over the place to remind me to be conscious of Christ in everything.
Another is keep your finances in order. Finances are one of the top three things that wreck ministries and individuals. Keep your finances righteous, keep yourself accountable financially, just be careful financially. Be careful. It’ll sideline you. Yeah.
Al: Wow, those are four really strong suggestions. Be accountable. If you’re not accountable to somebody or other people, you’re out of God’s will. That’s fantastic. Never stop loving your wife and children, and be sure that those relationships are healthy. Practice the presence of Christ. Keep your finances in order. Very practical, really good advice.
And as you travel around the world, Josh, I don’t know of anybody that probably runs into more leaders, Christian leaders, than you do. And where are they thriving? Where do you see Christian leaders thriving and growing today, and where do you see them struggling? You’ve already talked about probably areas that they’re struggling, but where do you see today’s leaders thriving? Where do you see them struggling?
Josh: As individuals or as a head of a ministry?
Al: As individuals.
Josh: I would say one of the most positive things I see, I find more and more, being held accountable. And most of them know they better say that to me because I will ask them. But I think being held more accountable.
In Campus Crusade, it was several years ago at one of our staff conferences, and one of the Cru leaders I saw in the hallway—and I do this with everyone all over. Some people get offended. And that’s not my problem; it’s theirs—and I look them right in the eye. And I usually put my hand on their shoulders, look them right in the eye, and say, “Are you being faithful?” This leader, three months later, came to me, said, “How did you know?” I said, “Know what.” “That I was having an affair.” I said, “I didn’t, but I sure do now.” And he was not being held accountable, and it shook him up when I asked him straight forward. I think all over the world that should be one of our greetings: Are you staying faithful? And not just meaning to the Christian, to theology, but morally, sexually, are you staying faithful? That should be one of our greetings. I would encourage Christian leaders to do that, to do that.
God has given you a gospel passion for reaching and equipping young people to take Christ to the world.
Josh: What else is there in life?
Al: When you look into their eyes and you hear their stories and hold their questions, what stirs your heart the most?
Josh: Probably what stirs my heart the most is when someone tells me how much they love their pastor and their church. Now, why? After—what, I’ve been in ministry about 57 years—man, when I joined Cru, that was years ago, but anyway, in all the years one thing I’ve seen is when somebody really loves their pastor and their church, they very seldom ever go astray, morally or theologically. And so that’s the most joyful thing that I hear. More than when people say, “I love Jesus” is when they say, “Oh, Josh. You’ve got to come to my church. I got the greatest pasture. I just love my church.” I mean, my whole soul just jumps with joy because I know they’re on pretty solid ground, about the best solid ground you can get on, because that usually means they really love Christ and they’re being ministered to and they’re growing and they’re expressing gratitude, which is one of the greatest sins today is a lack of gratitude. And so that’s the one thing that catches my attention all over the world.
Al: A little more personally, you and your wife, Dottie, you’ve mentioned you’ve been married for 48 years, and I’ll just say congratulations.
Josh: Actually, it’s going on 50.
Al: Going on 50. Congratulations.
So if you were mentoring a young, newly married leader, what would you say is most important, and what truth would you impart to them about treasuring, practicing, even growing in their marriage? And you’ve had a lot to say about that already, but what else would you say that you’d like to impart on a new, developing, emerging leader?
Josh: Oh, boy. That could get me going for half a day. Probably one of the biggest things I would say—now, let me tell you why I say this, which I’ll wait to say it—is probably 95 percent of all marital conflict and other conflict is different assumptions. Not good or bad, not worse. No. Different assumptions. And so I say to young people getting married and everything, listen, listen, listen, listen. And once you do that, then start over again. Listen, listen, listen. Because you need to get to know each other, otherwise you’re going to have different, not good or bad, but different assumptions. “Well, I assumed you meant this. Well, I assumed you did it because of this.” And then they get upset and everything. You need open communication.
Now, I’m not the best one at that. Oh, have I gotten better. Let me tell you. I’m 1,000 percent better than I was 30 years ago, because my wife wouldn’t let me do anything but get better. But my wife—oh, she’s so fantastic—she’s changed my life, I think, more than Jesus has. [unclear 37:15] Jesus through her, but I never know a woman could love a man as much as Dottie loves me. And I listen to her, and she’s helped me, and I know I’m in trouble, good trouble, when she says, “Honey, we need to talk.” Ooh! I used to say, I don’t know why she’d say we because she’d do all the talking. And when we’re with a group or something, I’m doing something, she said, “Honey, we need to go in another room and talk.” That’s when I know, and I close that door, my kids know Dad’s getting it. But it’s those times that have so helped me to be better, to be better. I wouldn’t be the listener that I am today without Dottie. I wouldn’t be. But I’m still not the best in the world, don’t get me wrong. I’m not the best in the world.
Al: Yeah. We all have opportunities to learn there. It’s interesting. Listening is also what makes leaders great leaders if they’re listening to their employees. And again, in our case, we’re working with other believers who have the Holy Spirit in them, and that’s an important relationship and garners respect as well.
But Josh, are you 81 years old? Is that right?
Josh: Let me see. Let me think. Yeah, I am.
Al: Yeah, yeah. All right.
Josh: Until next August.
Al: All right. I’m 68, and I’m usually the oldest guy in the room, so it’s great to be in this with you.
Josh: I walk in very few rooms that there’s somebody older than me or half is energetic.
Al: We’re seeing that true.
So unfortunately, we’ve seen way too many Christian leaders who don’t finish well. And what advice do you have for young leaders in the faith who want to finish well? Or even those that are in the middle of their careers, they’re approaching the later parts, what advice do you have?
Josh: Let me put it in this context. It’s not number one, but, one, never, ever, ever stop pursuing a loving, intimate relationship with your wife and spend time with your children. Interpersonal conflict in marriage and family, pride drives more people out of the ministry, and more people are walking without Christ. Always, always work on your marriage and your family. Second, oh, guard your finances. I’ve mentioned this before. So many marriages, ministries, everything are sidelined because of finances. Years ago I started the attitude when I went to bed at night, I never wanted to have to worry about finances, and very seldom have I. I’m on staff at Campus Crusade for Christ. We all raise our own support. And I believe I owe it to my wife, I owe it to my children, I owe it to myself, and I owe it to the ministry to get my support in so finances doesn’t become the determining factor in relationships, in ministry opportunities, everything. In our ministry, we try best to never spend any money we don’t have. We keep, I think now it’s one year, over a million dollars, one year of all potential expenses in an account so that I like it where if there’s a big bottom out culturally, whatever, we can maintain a healthy ministry for six months. And I have to tell you, I’ve had to put aside a lot of creative projects because Laurel or Duane would say we don’t have the money. But if I’m really dogmatic on it, they wholeheartedly support me. We’ve taken money out of that account but on the understanding we put it back in. And Duane and Laurel are very dogmatic. They’re religious at that.
Al: Yep. And as you say, if you’re guarding your finances, you don’t go to bed at night worrying about it. Yeah.
Josh: And the other is have the right kind of relationships. Right kind of—I don’t have a lot of friends. It takes time to be a true friend. I have a lot of acquaintances. But I’m very particular about the friends that I have. Why? I want people in my inner circle to be people that will be an encouragement to me to follow Christ, to stay in the ministry, to be faithful, to be honest, etc. I want those relationships around me to enhance my life, not, “Well, you don’t really need to do that. Josh, that’s not important or anything.” I don’t want people like that around me, in my close proximity.
And I’m very fortunate, oh, with my secretary. I like to call her my administrative assistant, Kim Riley. She motivates me towards Christ in every way. One, she is just so good. She’s always so positive. And I say, “Am I overloading you?” “That’s okay, Josh. We’ll get through it,” because I think she knows I wouldn’t overload her unless it was important. Or Duane Zook. There’s a fellow on my staff called Zack. That man motivates me—his integrity; his commitment to ministry, to JMM; his commitment to our staff. And he probably doesn’t even realize how much I watch him. But it affects my life. And I could go on with almost every staff member I have.
There was a person who was never on staff, but it was like he was. He was always a hired consultant for me. And this man I knew would always tell me the way it is. And sometimes he just ticked me off. He would make me mad, upset. But the only reason I endured it, he was usually right. He was usually right. He retired. I can’t imagine somebody retiring. So I don’t have that. I can still call him, but I don’t have that input into my life like David did.
Al: Yeah. A truth teller, yeah. Three great things, Josh, to finish well.
Josh: Not only a truth teller, but a man with godly insight. And that’s a gift.
Al: Mm-hmm. Yeah, I love these ideas on how to finish well, but—
Josh: Sounds like you’re going to write a book.
Al: I am writing a book, Josh. Yeah.
Josh: So you’ll beat me to the punch.
Al: Yeah. Oh, yeah. I’m only 50 years behind you.
So, when you think about the future and your days and the weeks and years still before you, what’s your prayer to God these days? Do you have one as you think about the future?
Josh: Yeah, that every morning when I wake up, my feet hit the floor. I pray to God. Satan says, “Oh no, he’s up.” When I got out of bed and my feet hit the floor, Satan just says, “Oh, my golly. He’s up.” I’ll leave the ministry. I’ll retire. Until then, why? If I can keep Satan shaking a little bit, that makes life wonderful.
Al: That’s a great challenge.
Josh, it’s been great to talk with you. We’ve learned so much. Thanks for sharing all that you’ve learned and experienced and really—
Josh: It’s not all that I’ve learned. It’s some of it.
Al: No, well, it’s some of what you’ve learned. All that we’ve learned from you today—
Josh: That I learned from others.
Al: —and, gosh, putting all this into context, I’ll bet you there’s one final thought or encouragement you’d like to leave with our listeners, again, leaders who are trying to make a difference every day.
Josh: This might sound so secular, might sound so carnal, unspiritual, but, oh, do I believe in it. Please get physical exercise. Just before this, I came back from doing my three miles on what I call my mountain, about two miles from here. It’s just one big hill, and I do it five to six days a week, when I’m home. I have found in my life when every day I work out, or at least five to six days a week, I not only feel better physically, I feel better spiritually. I really do. I’m able to commit myself more energetically to ministry items, to spiritual causes and everything. If I were to slow down my exercising, I’d probably die. So I tell anyone this is a spiritual mandate. Stay healthy.
Josh, thanks so much. Josh McDowell, founder of the Josh McDowell Ministry, a ministry of Cru, author of the Christian classic, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, and so many more books, thank you for sharing your wisdom, insights, and stories, and thank you for investing yourself in everyone who’s been listening and benefiting from all you’ve shared with us today. Thanks, Josh.
Josh: Well, without you, I couldn’t have done it. Thank you.
Al: Thank you.
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