The Flourishing Culture Podcast Series
“Expanding God’s Kingdom in You Through Healthy Workplace Culture“
October 4, 2021
Intro: Have you ever wondered how important improving your workplace culture is? Well, today our guest says that of all the changes that you can make in your organization, there is one that matters more than all the others: the culture of your organization. Listen in as this pastor describes how working on cultural health is actually at the core of Christian discipleship for any leader.
Al Lopus: Welcome to another episode of the Flourishing Culture Podcast, where our goal is to equip and inspire Christian leaders to create a flourishing workplace. As we face today’s leadership challenges, we are here to keep you from experiencing the pain of losing your best people and facing the resulting disruptions. Listen in as we help you attract and keep fantastic teams of engaged people who love one another while accomplishing great things for a higher purpose. Yes, we believe a flourishing culture is more important now than ever before. I’m Al Lopus and will be your guide today as we have a conversation about actions you can take that put you in the driver’s seat on the road to flourishing.
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is getting to know innovative leaders that are making a difference for the kingdom. And one of these leaders is Jeff Lockyer, the lead pastor at Southridge Community Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, in the Niagara region. And Jeff has just published a very thoughtful book called Finding Our Way: Reclaiming the First-Century Church in the Twenty-First Century, and it’s a fascinating story of how a church transformed for the next generation. And I particularly like the way Jeff walks his readers through the underlying theology behind some of these decisions as they move forward, including their focus on workplace culture. And whether you’re a church leader, a leader in a Christian nonprofit, or a Christian business leader, you’ll find our conversation today inspirational.
So, Jeff, welcome back to the Flourishing Culture Podcast.
Jeff Lockyer: Thanks, Al, for having me. It’s always a pleasure. And I feel like saying long time, no talk.
Al: Yeah, it’s been a while, absolutely. And I look forward to having you be able to get across the border one of these days, right?
Jeff: Yeah, seriously.
Well, first, congratulations on the new book. I really enjoyed reading it and sharing it with our team and others. And for our listeners, let’s start at the beginning of your story at Southridge. You’ve talked about it before on this podcast, but I think it’s worth repeating. You’ve got a really unique and fascinating story about how you ended up as the lead pastor.
Jeff: Sure. So put real simply, I lead the church that I have grown up in since I was a 10-year-old kid. And our church originally started in 1980 with a few founding families that wanted to kind of make a difference in the lives of their kids, do church in a way where their kids would grow up loving and knowing and wanting to serve Jesus. By about the mid-90s, when the pastor was ready to retire, they’d had some struggles with search committees and search processes. And so, as I understand, one of them kind of looked around the boardroom to the other board members and said, “Hey, if we’re all in a season of our professional lives where we’re starting to think about handing these family businesses over to our kids, why wouldn’t we think about that in the church, especially considering why we founded it in the first place?” And so in the mid-90s, there were a handful of us, somewhat friends at the time, who were kind of entrusted with the leadership of the church, what you would probably formally call a generational transfer. And I’ve been involved with these buddies for almost now, just over 24 years. Next September, we’ll celebrate our 25-year anniversary leading it. But that’s kind of been the story, and we haven’t looked back since.
Al: Well, yeah, that’s a great story. I love it. So that’s truly thinking long term.
Well, over time, the church has become focused on discovering God’s way from consumption to devotion, as the way you kind of phrase it in the book. So what did that look like?
Jeff: Yeah. I would say originally my buddies and myself all started in ministry, with both a love for the church and a love for our church and some discontent about it. There were aspects unique but kind of common to all of us. There were aspects of how the church functioned and what the church was that didn’t make sense to us and probably more importantly didn’t make sense of Jesus. There’s the famous Gandhi quote where Gandhi says, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians,” or “Christians are so unlike your Christ.” And not in a judgmental way to people kind of out there, but actually in an introspective way, about us and about our community and about what we were doing, we started to ask what it would take for us to close that gap. And so, you know, when people talk even about—they use words like calling or, you know, what’s your role as a leader, you feel like, what I get out of bed to do is try to make a church, at least our church, if not contribute more broadly to the church, I want to help make the church work in a way where it makes more sense of Jesus. I want to make the church make sense of Jesus to people. And so our journey back then, just as much as it is today, has really only ever always been looking at Jesus as we see Him and understand His life and teaching and whatnot through the scriptures and contrast that to where we are and try to close that gap. That’s my whole life. And ministry is at one big gap analysis, I guess you could say.
Al: Well, unfortunately, that’s a gap, Jeff, yeah, to make the church make sense of Jesus. And I love your Gandhi quote there, “I like your Christ and not Christians,” and he wouldn’t be the only one that’s expressing it that way, that’s for sure.
The story I love to hear and the way you tell it is how the church, then, became focused on this innovative idea of anchor causes. Tell us about that.
Jeff: Yeah. So, in the early years, and again, this is contextualized in the mid-90s, so listeners who were just born in the mid-90s are going to have to kind of use your imagination. But some of us were around in the mid-90s, and we know that in that era, you know, there was kind of a seismic shift in the church in regard to how it contemporized its worship. And that was really where we started. We started in that whole hymns-to-choruses transition and the sort of seeker sensitivity and going from wearing suits to ripped blue jeans and serving coffee and all that kind of stuff. And really, that was what we kind of walked into was contemporizing our weekend services. And because we were young and sort of fresh—I won’t say hip or cool; I’ll just say fresh—that really resonated with people. And so we started growing very rapidly very early on.
And it was after probably two or three years of year over year over year growth of 35, 40 percent, lots of good indicators to be able to share with your pastor buddies, a friend of ours, who’s now on our leadership team, who was pastoring in Calgary at the time, shared a book with us written by a pastor out of Little Rock, Arkansas. And the question of the book basically asked was, if your church suddenly disappeared, would anyone in the surrounding society even notice? And when you talk about this gap and when you talk about making sense of Jesus and the difference between Christ and Christians, that question ravaged us so to our core that it convicted us, Al, at a level where one day we thought we were an amazing church; the next day we wondered whether we even were a church, because as we looked out at the time, we were located in a very rural area of the Niagara region. There was vineyards far and wide from our church building. There literally were no people around us. So there literally were no people who would notice if we were gone. And we were wrecked by that.
And so long story short is instead of further expanding to accommodate this numerical growth in that location, what we did is decided over about three- or four-year process, we decided to relocate the church and reposition ourselves about a mile from the downtown core of our city. And the goal of repositioning wasn’t just to gain square footage; it was to put us in a proximity to people and particularly people in need so that we could start to make a more noticeable difference. We could start to actually be Jesus incarnate in our community. Instead of just convening on Sundays to talk about Jesus, we were going to try to become Jesus with skin on.
And so, again, you’re fast forwarding years, but after a couple of years in this new location, after experimenting with some different kinds of ministry, especially compassion justice ministry, we ended up opening around 2005 what eventually became the Niagara region’s largest homeless shelter in our church building. And so instead of our facility being this place where Christians gathered for an hour or so a week, our facility now for the last 16, almost 17 years, has been a place where homeless people live and are encouraged out of homelessness into more affordable or sustainable housing, and Christians visit on occasion. So, it’s a really totally different dynamic.
And from there, then, as we continued to expand numerically, we started to imagine becoming a multisite church. But what was cool is that when we started to have these meetings about going multisite, the first questions weren’t “Where would our worship facility be? Would we rent or buy, and how would we administer teaching?” or all of those Sunday-gathering centric questions. The first and the most pervasive question was, “Well, what would the homeless-shelter equivalent be in these other locations across Niagara?” which was super encouraging to us because that meant that people were catching the whole vision, the whole point of becoming this church and relocating in the first place, that we actually wanted to make a noticeable difference and be Jesus in our communities.
And so we launched these new locations that have different initiatives of compassion and justice among them, according to the community need, where they find themselves, and we’ve coined this phrase to describe all of these initiatives—our initiatives with homeless; our initiatives with migrant, seasonal farm workers; and our initiatives with low-income families and particularly the kids at risk in another location—as our anchor causes. And so every Southridge location that has been launched across Niagara is organized around most primarily and most predominantly an anchor cause of compassion and justice, to make that noticeable difference, and be Jesus with skin on in the part of the region where it finds itself.
Al: I love this story, Jeff. Yeah. Anchor causes, to be Jesus in each location. I even think, as I’m just listening to you and I’m thinking about our audience and the Christian-owned businesses and different places, how they could just pick an anchor cause even for their locations and how that could work for them.
But, you know, I admit, the beginning line in chapter 15 was a high point for me as I was reading your book. And after all of the innovation you’ve talked about in the first 14 chapters, and we’ve already talked about some of it now, you start chapter 15 with this direct statement: “Of all the changes you can make in your church on the journey of finding our way, there’s one that matters more than the others: the culture of your organization.” That’s the opposite story I’ve heard from a recent leader that I was talking to, who said, “Why should I focus on culture? Shouldn’t people just do what they’re told?” But you say you need to focus on culture to get work done. So give us a little background. What brought you to this conclusion about the importance of culture and how this actually, as you stated, is one of the most important things that you’ve discovered?
Jeff: That chapter opens, as you said, after summarizing and kind of archiving a number of different areas of our church’s life, where God has led us through and innovated a number of really cool things and different ways of approaching what it means to bring the kingdom, usher in the realities of the kingdom on Earth as it is in heaven in your locality, and to try to be Jesus with skin on. And so, obviously, I would encourage anyone to read it, find it on Amazon, whatever you can do, the selling of it. I just want to sort of share the message of it.
But by that point, and this is kind of a spoiler alert in the whole chapter, there were certain eras in our church’s life where increasingly I appreciated the value of culture. I did not start—I was very much like that pastor. I probably rejected that you were even to pay attention to your culture, that it was almost discriminatory to have a culture. You know, I was so against it. But the long story short, Al, is that when I think back, and I do this in chapter 15, and reflect on all these different eras where we increasingly focused on aspects of our culture, what I realized is that for senior leaders to focus on and make changes to their workplace culture is nothing more than for them to allow themselves and the people that they work with to be sanctified. Rather than being in the business of expanding the kingdom, paying attention to culture is allowing the kingdom to transform and expand in you.
And I say that because of all of the practicalities of what it means to pay attention to culture. You know, at some level—and I know you’re familiar with this because this is what you guys do for a living—I think at some level, you’re trying to define reality. You’re trying to survey or audit reality. You’re trying to get input from people. You’re trying to listen. You’re trying to discover areas that require change or, you know, problems or even areas of sin or dysfunction. You’re trying to face those head on, honestly. You’re trying to be confessional about them and admit that they’re real. You’re trying to make changes, which someone would call repenting. You’re trying to turn about. And you’re trying to remain committed in community to those. People would call that accountability. And when you take those behaviors, behaviors like reflection, introspection, analysis, reality testing, confession, honesty, repentance, accountability, community, those are the most basic building blocks of Christian discipleship. They’re what it means to follow Jesus.
And so to any leader, especially first chair or senior leaders, who are listening to this podcast, I would say the greatest way that you usher in the realities of the kingdom in your life as a leader and the greatest ways that you follow Jesus for the 40 or 60 or whatever hours of the week it is that you invest yourself at work is probably mostly by paying attention to your culture, to how people are treated, to their impact in meetings and their impact on your leadership and supervision and some of the policies and the way people are empowered. And it is so significant when, admittedly, I was like that pastor, that, “Well, this is a waste of my time because it distracts me from doing kingdom work.” Now, I believe the opposite, that this is the actual epicenter of the kingdom work you do from which and out of which everything else flows.
Al: I just have to catch my breath here, Jeff, just because you’re just speaking to my heart there. Amen. I’ll just say amen. And to think of it, it is, as you describe it, a great discipleship tool. And as I think about our workplace cultures in the church and Christian nonprofits, we have to really focus on helping and leading our people in their discipleship and their growth and in their own faith. There’s no question, yeah.
So, you know our mission at BCWI, Jeff, and that is that Christian workplaces, Christian organizations set the standard as the best, most effective places to work in the world. And sometimes we run into churches—I’ll be really interested in your observations here—sometimes we run into churches that are totally grace based. It’s all about grace, and it’s not very much about being productive. But at Southridge, you’ve kind of looked at the theology, and what have you concluded when it comes to that?
Jeff: Yeah. That’s an excellent question, Al. And I would feel like even real time in our context today, navigating the reality of a workplace and the reality of a Christian environment is a tremendously challenging and precarious tension to manage. So whether you’re a local-church leader or a nonprofit or ministry leader or just a Christian businessperson, someone who works in the marketplace and wants to see your workplace or your department or your office-cubicle area work more Christianly, this is extremely, extremely difficult.
And here’s, from my perspective, why. I was reading one day—it almost happened by accident—and it was during my morning quiet time, I was reading through some of the early chapters of the book of Romans. And if you’re unfamiliar with the book of Romans, it’s probably the Apostle Paul’s kind of most comprehensive theological treatise on the nature of the good news of Jesus, on what the gospel actually is, and more specifically, he’s contrasting the uniqueness of the gospel with what religious people in his day understood, which was the Jewish law. He’s contrasting the grace-based system of the gospel with the workspace system of the Jewish law. And throughout the course, especially the early chapters in Romans, he uses some analogies to kind of compare and contrast the two. And in the beginning of Romans chapter four, in Romans chapter four and verse four, in fact, he says, when people work, their wages are not a gift. But in Christ… And he goes on to basically say that the free gift of eternal life through Jesus, that is grace based, works in direct contrast to how this system, the works-based system, of employment works, that when people work, their wages aren’t a gift; they’re earned. But in Christ, your life in Christ, your salvation, is not earned; it’s a gift, is what he’s saying. But in doing that, I think what knocked me off my chair—this is now years ago—and reflecting on that was that he doesn’t negate that that’s how employment works, that when people work, their wages aren’t a gift, because employment doesn’t work according to the grace-based system. An employment works according to the works-based system. That’s why it’s called work.
And what I realized for the first time is that church work is kind of the union and almost the juxtaposition of the two realities, where on the one hand, you have the covenantal dynamic of grace-based community, but at the same time, you have the contractual dynamic of work, where if the terms of the contract don’t deliver, it’s over. You have the grace based, all inclusiveness of the church, and you have the works-based discernment and discretion around hiring. So not everybody gets hired. You have the grace-based system of we’re all one, and you have the works-based system of reporting levels and hierarchy and power differentiation and things like that. You have the grace-based system of we’re all free in Christ, and you have the works-based system of compensation. Like, there are so many, just directly contrary realities between the way that the grace-based system of Jesus and the system of employment work, that when you choose to take on both of them at the same time, you have to at least be super clear on what you’re taking on, because if you’re not desiring to, or at least not aware, that you’re taking on both of these systems fully and completely, you’re going to mess things up one way or the other or on both sides of the spectrum.
Al: Covenantal and contractual. Yeah, I love the differentiation and in the church, in a way, we’re working with both, aren’t we.
Jeff: Well, and sometimes you’ll have people who, they believe that this is just work, that this is a workplace and it’s all business. And they feel like there’s no obligation to be different. There’s no obligation to be Christian. There’s no obligation to want to give second chances where maybe a different employment environment might not or whatever. There should be a Jesus difference in the workplace. But at the same time, what this isn’t is people from your church being compensated to be Christians, to be compensated to just sit around and be a small group together, sing Kumbaya together. Like, there are Luke 19, parable-of-the-talent stewardship obligations for employees to deliver results. And so, you know, especially for managers, the hardest thing is to look at these people, especially if you’re a pastor, and on Sundays, you’re telling them that God loves them, and He has a wonderful plan for their life, to look at them and say, in Christ’s love, “Listen. You’re not delivering on what you’re being paid to do. And if that doesn’t change, you’re going to be out of a job.” There are some people who have no concept that they could ever be terminated from their employment because it’s a church. Churches would never do that. But churches have to do that. And yet if they do that and have to do that, they ought to do that in a way that even in that case reveals Jesus and operates and behaves differently than a Christless marketplace would.
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.
Jeff, as I read your book, I was struck by your church’s desire to love God and to love your neighbors while being inclusive and while serving the least of these. But you found out that when it comes to staff working together, fit is important. And this is kind of a question that’s taking us now to the next level. Tell us the story of how you came up with your five cultural distinctives and the whole question around fit and how that applies to your staff.
Jeff: Again, Al, this is a very dangerous question to ask because as a pastor, I rejected this for years. I believed—again, and what we just talked about, and not understanding the full union of family of God and employment, you know, workplace—I actually believed that because we were a church, this was to be an all-inclusive environment. And as a church and even as an employer, this should be an all-inclusive environment. Everyone should be welcome. I believe those things. But as a workplace, not everybody fits with your workplace culture. For years, we would run into situations where people were doing a decent job. They weren’t bad people. They love Jesus, but just something wasn’t working. And I could never point my finger on why this something wasn’t working.
And so all of a sudden, we called a leadership-team retreat, and the senior leaders among us, we went away for two days, and we just retreated around this one and only subject: why are some people really working out and some people not? And so we went through this exercise—and I don’t know if I would advise every leader to do this, but it worked for us. And so if it worked for us, maybe it’ll work for you—but we started off.
And the first session was to go around the table and for every leader to share the two leaders that they felt were the best fit or were thriving the most in our workplace and the two leaders that they felt were the worst fit or who were struggling the most. And what was interesting is as we went around the room, there were only two people that were unilaterally described on both of those ends of the spectrum. There wasn’t a lot of debate. It was like super, super obvious. So that sort of struck me, like, wow, this is that noticeable.
The next session, then, was to audit the reasons why. Why are these two individuals the best examples of who we are and these two individuals, the ones that struggle the most and the worst fit? We did that exercise.
Then, the third session was to look at those lists and to kind of compare and contrast. And what we realized, Al—this was really the aha moment—was that the very reasons that were being articulated as to why certain people thrive the most were the same but inverse reasons as to why people struggled the most.
And so we started to kind of compare and contrast these reasons and to summarize some themes. And what we ended up doing was boiling this and distilling this exercise down to five basic themes that we wordsmithed a little bit, and we kind of summarized as our Southridge Community Church five workplace cultural distinctives. They’re not our Sunday-morning-attendance distinctives. They’re not—if you serve in an anchor cause, you belong to a life group, or you’re participating in our family ministry, you probably wouldn’t experience these. But if you’re employed and you’re in the office-workplace day-to-day culture, you would experience these things.
So things like we’re fanatically collaborative, where we don’t operate as an I, we operate as a we, and everything that we do is in collaboration, believing that we’re better together than alone. But we admittedly move more slowly to collaborate in order over time to go slow, to go fast.
One of the values is that we’re never satisfied. We live out of a very kind of citius, altius, fortius like the Olympic motto. We’re always striving and aspiring for better. So a lot of our meetings are not really congratulatory; they’re more critical. “Okay. That was a good service.” Quick clap, quick pat on the back. “Now, how do we do better next week” kind of thing. And if you don’t track with that, if you need a lot of encouragement and only a little critique, you might not fit with the workplace culture around here.
One of the workplace cultural values is that we’re oriented to outsiders. So we actually find ourselves kind of averse to typical insider speak and your stereotypical evangelical Christian subculture. We actually feel more comfortable with our neighbors, you know, at the hockey arena or soccer field or that kind of thing. And we try to orient our ministry and our language and our ethos to the outsider. If that doesn’t track with you, you’re probably not going to fit as well.
One of the values is we totally own this. So we take an ownership mentality to our work rather than a punch-clock mentality. And more than that, as staff, we also own the ministry. We own the way of life that it invites people into. And so we’re full and active participants in the life of the church, not just employees of it. We own all of that.
And then finally, the fifth one is an adage that says we go there, that we care about Christ, care about His church, and care about each other enough to bring what we call the last 2 or 3 percent of what we’re thinking and feeling to each other in hopes of that light of truth, setting us free, and helping us to move forward in a better and healthier way. And so, again, if you really don’t do conflict or you don’t like difficult conversations or that’s awkward, you’ll struggle around here because we use candor and frankness quite efficiently to be able to address issues as thoroughly as possible.
Al: In your Best Christian Workplace debriefings, we’ve actually observed this behavior, and particularly the one where you’ve got great scores but you’re never satisfied, and how can you improve? I love that.
And that really leads us to the next question, Jeff. For nearly a decade, Southridge has been on the road to flourishing, as we’re describing it. Each year, you come back and rediscover the strengths and maybe opportunities for improvement in your culture. And again, you know, congratulations on the tremendous improvements in the health of your culture you’ve made over the last decade. But tell us the process and what you do with the information when you get your team together and review the results of your staff engagement survey.
Jeff: Yeah. So, again, remember kind of where I came from and kind of the core part behind our leadership. When I joke that we are one big gap analysis, there is a sense in which that’s how we see the world. We’re trying to solve a problem. We’re trying to close the gap. And so when BCWI came along and we were exposed to your ministry and to the survey instrument, in a lot of ways, it just resonated with my spirit because it gave us one more analytical tool that created a gap analysis that showed us where we were falling short from a fuller degree of Christlikeness and a fuller degree of flourishing. And so in that gap analysis kind of context or from a context or with that mindset, I like to tell people that our approach to BCWI has been nothing more complicated than the bottleneck approach.
So quite simply, we’ll take a survey, and we’ll debrief with your consultants and find out what the two or three worst things are about our survey score. What are the two or three themes or issues where we’re doing the worst? And we’re going to spend a year action planning and strategizing on how to improve those scores so that by next year, when we take the survey again, what were our worst scores are no longer our worst scores. They’ve improved. And if nothing else has improved, then we’re going to face some new worst scores. Our cumulative score will have gone up, the cumulative experience of our workplace will have improved, but now we’re going to have new worse scores, new bottlenecks to pay attention to.
For, like, almost a decade, I think, this is what we’ve done. In the annual routine of BCWI, we found two or three things, and over the years they’ve been different every year. One year it was pay- and benefits- and time-away related things. One year it was teamwork and interdepartmental relationships. One year it was having fun at work, which when you’re super intense and you’re never satisfied and you go there and these difficult conversations becomes a more challenging year than you think to shift into having more fun at work. But in every one of these years, there’s been a new bottleneck emerge. And interestingly, now that we’ve done it for so many years, some former bottlenecks are now reemerging as, again, the annual bottleneck that we need to pour more gasoline on and fan into flame to a greater degree.
And so the survey instrument, I mean, I can’t say enough of the palpable, noticeable, experiential difference that it makes in our office environment. The qualitative, not just the quantitative, the qualitative experiential difference it makes in meetings and performance-management conversations, in conflict resolution, in retreats, in celebrations, I mean, I know in my gut what a department or what a ministry that’s at 4.00, I know what it feels like. I know what 4.25 feels like. I know what 4.5 feels like, and I know what 4.75 feels like. Like, I can feel the differences, and it’s amazing how much your instrument has served to help define our reality in certain ways so that at the end of the day our goal was to get every single one of our departments over that statistical threshold of flourishing so that we as an employer could know that every single employee of Southridge Community Church drives on and then drives off the parking lot, participating, no matter where they serve, in a flourishing workplace environment.
Al: Yep. And a great job along the way. You know, Jeff, you’ve concluded that cultural health is not just a leadership thing; it’s more about our personal discipleship. You really hit on that point earlier. And that our relationship with Christ is at the core. And one of the things I’ve enjoyed about our relationship is that you really look at this through spiritual eyes, and you help to actually describe engagement through spiritual eyes. Help us understand this even a little more.
Jeff: Yeah. That’s a great question because if all I’m communicating is that a survey instrument and some organizational commitment to it, coupled by the consultative support of a ministry and some strategic action planning, is how you change the culture in the direction of Jesus, I would be remiss and missing the whole point. The whole point of all of this is that when as a leadership or as an organization, when you take time for reflection and introspection, when you face reality and allow the light of truth to shine on you, when you face the facts and confess and acknowledge what’s broken and what isn’t working and your flaws and weaknesses, when you turn from them—and again, the word is repentance—when you seek to change and try to—like, when you’re doing—these are the basic building blocks of what following Jesus is. You’re just following Jesus collectively as a leadership team or following Jesus in an application towards your workplace. But the truth is, from start to finish, you’re following Jesus. And so you actually need the light of truth from God to help you see reality, to help you understand what’s really going on, good, bad, and ugly, in your organization. You need the wisdom of God to confront you with the truth of what’s happening in your organizational culture. You need the courage and the spiritual stimulation of His Holy Spirit to confess those dysfunctions and sin, to turn about, to engage in transformation, let alone the transforming work of the Spirit of God to continue and to faithfully work in and among your people so that you are becoming more Jesus resembling and more kingdom centric as an organization and therefore as a culture. So if Jesus isn’t at the center of this and if Jesus isn’t the whole reason, never mind the whole resource of this process, then this is just a garden variety—they call it a SWOT analysis—strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—that any old company or organizational department can perform. And it loses all of the spiritual punch and the transformational value, let alone all the Jesus resemblance of it.
Al: Fantastic. Jeff, we could talk about this for a long time. We’re coming to the end of our time, unfortunately, and I’ve certainly enjoyed everything that we’ve learned. Just going through your story, as you’ve described it, and I’m particularly reflecting on the Christian connection, the discipleship connection that you’ve just described, how this helps you in your faith as we reflect, as we look at truth, as we learn how to express confession and change and transformation. All just really great stuff.
How about something else? Is there something else that you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about yet?
Jeff: Maybe to lay it on a little thicker, just for the icing on the cake, I would ask this question. And again, this comes from my background and this gap between “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” For many of us in ministry, we are trying to bring the message, the life, and the reality of Jesus to the world to a greater degree, either as a local church or in some other ministry form. I guess the most convicting part for me in all of this is if the number one way that I’m bringing more of Jesus into the world isn’t through my own life, then I’m wasting my time and missing the point. And I say that because, you know, especially these days, even, I mean, you can talk about church scandals throughout history, but even in recent years, with church blow ups and “MeToo” movements, even “ChurchToo” and all this kind of stuff, there seems to be this intense, highly gifted, charismatic leadership, and full commitment to advancing the purposes of Christ and revealing Jesus as a ministry that is completely devoid of the leader actually revealing more of Jesus themselves. And I mean, I’ve said in a number of kind of private settings, at the end of my life, I want the people who knew me the best to respect me the most. I want my kids, my wife, the senior leaders that I work with most closely to say, “You didn’t get to see as much of Jesus in this person as I did, because I got to really know them.” And I feel like if that isn’t our starting point and that isn’t what we’re most aspiring to, then all this conversation about workplace culture is a waste of time. And frankly, all this conversation about ministry and ushering in the reality of the kingdom and bringing Jesus to our part of the world, that’s all a waste of time if it doesn’t start with us. So we’ve probably already said that. But I probably, if I was going to say anything else, I’d want to say that more directly, because for those of us in ministry who, especially vocationally, are in the business of sorts of bringing Jesus to the world, it starts with you.
Al: Yeah. Yeah. We can’t give what we don’t have is another way of looking at that. Exactly.
And now, Jeff, here’s one more bottom-line thought. What encouragement would you like to leave with our listeners about your book? And I think our listeners can see and just from listening that this is going to be a book that they’re going to want to read, for sure. So what would you like to leave with our listeners about your book?
Jeff: Well, other than desiring every listener to buy a copy for their entire congregation, Al, I’ll say this. The book is called Finding Our Way, and it’s a bit of a play on words because some of us in ministry and church work find ourselves lost, so we need to find our way. Some of us think that we’re clear. We don’t feel like we’re lost, but we’ve actually copied or have adopted someone else’s or some other organization’s ministry that really doesn’t make as much sense in our context as it ought to, and so we need to find our own way. And then most importantly, I think that some of us in church and Christian ministry have really lost what it means to reclaim the way of life of Jesus, stimulating that among their people so that their communities and ministries reveal more of Jesus to the world. And so, you know, if you find yourself as a ministry leader, as a church member, or running a nonprofit or parachurch organization or a local-church leader, I think all of those levels this can be helpful for you. I will say that the book is intended to not be prescriptive, like that this is the one way to do church or ministry, but rather just descriptive of our story and how we navigated some things. The goal is not to tell you what you should do, but rather to present to practitioner’s example of how one local church has navigated some of these things. And the heart of it is that it’s written by a practitioner and by practitioners for practitioners, meant to drive ministry practitioners together through kind of an accompanying ministry that we’ve launched called the Leaders’ Village. And so the book and the Leaders’ Village ministry, that’s a part of our local church, kind of go hand in hand. And I would encourage everyone to get the book and to join in.
Al: Yeah, great.
Jeff Lockyer, lead pastor at Southridge Community Church, thank you for your contributions today. I just can’t thank you enough. And most of all, I appreciate your devotion and service to our loving God, and I appreciate your gap-analysis approach. Let’s bring people so that they are closer to Jesus and that there’s no gap between this Jesus that we know and love and how we behave. So thanks so much for your time today, Jeff.
Jeff: Yeah. Thanks for having me, Al. I would say the same to you and your team. I mean, you guys don’t just do excellent work at a quality level, but your heart to see the person of Jesus pervade into workplaces and invade the lives of the leaders of those workplaces to a greater degree is really why it’s such a great kingdom synergy, and it’s such a privilege to partner with you.
I would encourage people to join in with us. You can follow us at southridgechurch.ca is our website or leadersvillage.ca. Or if you’re curious to know more about Leaders’ Village, you can follow us @leadersvillage on any social-media channel.
Al: And one phrase, what is Leaders’ Village?
Jeff: Leaders’ Village is the community of Christ-centered church or ministry leaders that are trying to band together to pursue the operationalizing a Jesus way of life in and among our communities to a greater degree.
Al: That’s fantastic.
Jeff: Thanks, Al.
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