Brandon Shields

On today's show, Ronnie Martin from Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio is sitting down with Brandon Shields from Soma in Indianapolis, Indiana. They talk about how Brandon moved from South Florida to Indy, planted Soma as an outsider, about how he grew Soma into a multi-site church, and about how they became a church-planting church. Oh yeah, and they talk a bit about how you fight ego as a pastor and church planter.

Learn more about Soma here.
Learn more about Sojourn Network here


Jamaal Williams: Hey, this is Jamaal Williams from Sojourn Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and this is Sojourn Network. 

Mike Cosper: Welcome to the podcast. My name is Mike Cosper and I'm one of the board members of Sojourn Network where we exist to plant, grow and multiply healthy churches that last. Each week on our show, pastors and leaders from within the network sit down to talk about church planting and ministry, what they've learned, how they've grown, and what they might be able to pass along to others. 

On today's show, Ronnie Martin from Substance Church in Ashland, Ohio is sitting down with Brandon Shields from Soma in Indianapolis. They'll talk about how Brandon moved from south Florida to Indy and planted Soma as an outsider, about how he grew Soma into a multi-site church and how they became a church planting church. And they'll talk about how you fight ego as a pastor in the church plan. We hope you enjoy it. Thanks for listening.

Ronnie Martin: Alright. Brandon Shields and Ronnie Martin making podcast history today.

We have talked in the past, Brandon Shields, and we share some similarities in that you moved from a big church in south Florida to Indiana, of all places. Talk about that transition and talk about some of the cultural challenges, just right off the top, that we have discussed in the past and what those look like for you.

Brandon Shields: Yeah, well I moved concurrently with LeBron. So LeBron and I both went to south Florida, made the decision around the same time, and then actually came back to the Midwest at the same time. So I don't know what that means. But yeah, man, it was a big change, going from a big church ... I became a Christian in a megachurch and I had never been a part of a church as small as Soma, meaning, just my family. That was weird to get used to the dynamics of really just being frontline, doing the [inaudible 00:02:29]. I was used to multi-million dollar budgets and facilities and management, and moving from management to being a church planner was a big adjustment. 

So I think on the family side, it was cultural dynamics were different here. We dealt with a lot of loneliness, being from the south moving ... with a southern accent, up to the Midwest with four kids living in the city where most people don't have a big family. And then being a Kentucky fan, just had a lot of strikes against me. 

Then the religious dynamics were really different for us. Just, the Midwest is very formal. So in the south, you go deeper faster but you stay a little bit more on the superficial. The Midwest, it's kind of flipped. It's slower to go deeper, but then when you get in there's a sense of loyalty and a tribalism in the Midwest. So it's kind of different to get used to. 

As a family, it took us a while to find our bearings. It was a really lonely, hard season. It felt two years, it really felt like it took us to make Indianapolis home and then we moved around. I think we had three different houses, the church has six different locations from the furthest northern suburbs, which is Carmel, which is the number one small city in America according to CNN Money, to downtown and then now we live in midtown. So it's been a lot of adjustments and tweaks and modifications and trying to just get ourselves feeling settled as a family and as a pastor.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, and those transitions, they take a lot of time. I think we always wish they were shorter and we could manage them a little bit better, and they just tend to take the time that they take.

Now, here's a question. Was the intention to move to Indiana to plant churches or was that something you fell in to? Give us a vision of what that looked like and what led you to Indiana to specifically plant churches. 

Brandon Shields: I was ... never felt a call to church planting. I always thought I was gonna be revitalization guy. So I went down to south Florida with my mentor, was my youth pastor growing up, to essentially learn how to do that. We were revitalizing a megachurch in downtown West Palm Beach and literally could look out and see Palm Beach Island and some of the fortresses there. And so our church was going in transition, so that was kind of the road I thought I was gonna take, and then in the midst of that it became clear to me that was not ... I was not gonna be effective ... I didn't have the patience or the disposition or the temperament or probably maturity for that. 

Through multi-site, I had been a part of ... all the megachurches that I've served at have been multi-site churches. Through that, I got exposed to the world of church planting, went to an Acts 29 conference in Orlando, boot camp in Orlando, and began to talk to other pastors and church planners and was really kind of praying about that. And in the midst of that, God just confirmed to us that He wanted us to step out and just to try to plant a church.

Indy, at the time, the North American Mission board had this initiative, this strategic cities initiative and so they were interested in planting a church in Indy. Emily and I grew up in Louisville, which is just two hours from Indy and there's all kinds of providential things that God had crossed our paths through Indianapolis in a number of different ways. So we came on a vision trip to Indianapolis and talked to some pastors and yeah, it was just clear this is where God wanted us to be. So we packed up in December 2011 and moved here not knowing a single person in the city. And up to that point, it had been decades since the SBC had planted a healthy church in Indianapolis. 

Ronnie Martin: So you guys were really ... you guys were doing something groundbreaking then for the SBC by coming all the way to Indy. 

Brandon Shields: Yeah. I mean, we kind of ... like one of those things you don't know what you don't know. If I'd knew what I was getting in to, I probably would have never done it. And I don't think I was emotionally prepared for the emotional and spiritual realities that were in front of us. I think up to that point [inaudible 00:06:14], I'm an achiever, I'm a type A, I'm a driver, and I experienced a lot of ... at least external success and growth as a pastor. I was not prepared for this. That side of it. Just the spiritual battle, the struggle just on a relational side to get to know people and to really care for my family well and to befriend this community while ... develop a pace of life that gave space for us to do that in a healthy way and redefine success in a totally different paradigm. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, and I think ... I mean, you obviously share a similar story. I feel like you're saying what I would tell many people. Different area, but just you're describing a lot of similarities that exist with our stories. 

You mentioned something about the first couple of years being hard and what that says to me is, man, there is spiritual, there is mental, emotional exhaustion. Where was that at for you when you came into the network in, I think, 2013.

Brandon Shields: We were in a bad pla- I mean, a pretty bad place. We just didn't, again, didn't feel settled, we didn't have any friends. I specifically remember a vacation where my wife and I just went away for a little bit of time. This is right as we were coming into the network and I had met some of the leadership at Sojourn Network and began a conversation with them about joining. 

We just had this deep desire to belong and to have friends, and yet, it seemed like as hard as we were working on the church plant to develop friendships, people kept leaving or moving away or turning away from us. It almost seemed like there was a withholding that was happening. [crosstalk 00:07:51] with my wife, looking around like, we didn't have friends, we had four small kids who had no friends, and I think the network was this place where all of sudden they were talking about soul care and being vulnerable, which was kind of a new concept for us, surprisingly, in ministry. 

Just being honest about the death of the wish dream and then what it looked like to come into realistic expectations and relationships in the context of the circle of people who just cared for you apart from what you could do for them, what you could bring to the table. And that was just ... That first retreat, it just literally was a paradigm shift for us, when Rich and Jim came and shared what they shared about marriage and ministry. It just was like, this is what we've been longing for. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, I know. That's amazing to hear. What do you think is so hard for a lot of pastors that have the role that we have, that are church planners? It's kind of a theme this lack of friendship. It's not something we don't desire but it's something that doesn't seem so readily available. Why do you think that is? 'Cause I can attest to everything you just said. 

Brandon Shields: Yeah. We've been teaching, actually, on friendship in our church this summer and it's been a good ... I think this has been like, seven years in the making for me to realize how impoverished I have been relationally. And really, throughout the church planting process, we left everything that had a semblance of friendship and relationship and moved here. I think what we realized is we have settled for something that is more transactional and utilitarian in our relationships. 

You know, kind of [inaudible 00:09:28] calls like, worldly friendships, which is like, we have some sort of mutual advantage that we're offering each other, but we're really not ... we don't have a real spiritual friendship. And I think for us, there's just been ... I don't know. I think some of it's just not having the skills. Some of that comes from the way you were raised and your early experiences in ministry. I think some of it just comes from, honestly, just the rhythms of ministry, in particularly in planting. It's so chaotic. There's just not a lot that's stable. 

Friendship just takes time and space and a glorious inefficiency to really be good at it. Like, I have to have a day where I can be in relationships and be present to my friends where I'm not looking to the next meeting or the next fundraising thing or the next ... You know what I mean? Church planting just runs completely against that in so many ways. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, I remember we had a talk on the beach. I think this was last year maybe, one of our retreats, or the year before. We talked about coming into midwest towns the way we came into midwest towns, and I think it was related to some of the struggles we'd each faced with finding friends. And also this idea that it seems like in the Midwest, people are prone to sticking close to their families. There's sort of a generationally stacked thing going on to where when you meet somebody, it seems like they're close ... the friends that they have that they're closest to are family, so it makes it really hard for us to get our feet into that because it's driven more generationally than it is by having outside friendships. Did you find that to be the case? Was that the culture?

Brandon Shields: Yeah. The kinship thing is so big. I mean, in Indy it's, where did you go to high school, and it's like, I didn't go to high school here. I don't have those memories. So I'm already kind of like an outsider. As reurbanization's happening, even in Indy there's a lot of talk about millennials moving around, but the reality is, everybody's moving home. Except for me. I'm staying in a place where I don't have those stories and those memories and then when people come home, they kind of ... They'll have one foot in the church and make some superficial connections and relationships. But then they'll have their other foot in those pre-existing relationships. So when it comes to holidays and how you spend your vacations and who you golf with or who you [crosstalk 00:11:46] with or whatever, you're always feeling like a little bit of an outsider. You just can't break into those kinship networks very easily. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, I know. I think that's so well said. I've experienced the same thing. What do you think ... How do you see ... What kind of a unique perspective do you think that has given you, as an outsider, in the way that you're able to speak into those issues and preach into those issues?

Brandon Shields: Yeah, man, it's just given me, I think, a compassion and empathy. Our church is full of people who are outsiders in a lot of ways, culturally, and so we tend to attract, I'd say, half our church is probably people who don't have those relationships. And I think, you know, I'm just able to speak to them as one who ... No one talks about having this solidarity in our loneliness. Being able to share our loneliness, not in an overly transparent weird way, but just being able to say, "Hey, man, I know what it's like to move here, to not know where the post office is, to know that you didn't go to high school with these people, or you didn't go to college with these people," and then to offer people, I think, a pathway forward of just saying, "Hey, be patient. Stay with your pain. Don't run away from it. Don't think you're weird. We've all been there. We all experience that." And then just to open up our home. One of the rhythms for us the first couple years has been just being really cognizant around holidays.

Brandon Shields: For us, the first couple years has been just being really cognizant around holidays and Race Day is a big deal in Indy. When people are doing things in those kinship networks, we've opened up our home and so we just have people over and we become this community of misfit toys who kind of displaced but also learning to find our place and not begrudge it, but just to accept and receive it as a gift that we can offer one another. 

Ronnie Martin: One of the things that I've found, I'm wondering if you found this to be the case. You mentioned it a little bit early on was that it takes some of these guys a little bit longer to pull you in. But, man, once they pull you in, it's like they don't let go. They have you for life and there's like a deep loyalty there that we are experiencing now eight years in in our time here. There's something really significant about that because I know that even in our churches it's not transient. People are there, they're dedicated, they stick to it. Is the same in Indy?

Brandon Shields: In our neighborhood, it's not. It is and it isn't. There's two dynamics at play. We did a survey last year of our congregation and found that about 70% of our church leaves the city every two to three years. You've got that typical urban transience. People are moving to much cooler cities, Denver, Miami, whatever, Seattle. Then, there's the 30% that are here are like they're here. They are loyal. They're committed. This is their home. That 30% is committed at a crazy level. Just a deep sense of a family. I think now we're seven and a half years in, we are definitely experiencing the other side of that. Now in my neighborhood, being here seven years makes you somewhat of a unicorn. We're forming this community of thick knotted loyal kinship relationships that there's kincentric circles. 

We're inside of one of those circles as a church family and then it kind of expands out to the other more natural bonds that people have with relative and things. Yeah. It's interesting to see that happen the longer that we're here, but I definitely feel like there's a lot more people that have our back than I did five years ago. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah. It's actually really it's a good feeling. I remember the first time we were in a leadership cohort together and I knew a little bit about you, but I didn't know much about your story. What I found out was that you are a dude that had planted five churches in five years. I'm thinking I'm cool because I planted two churches in three years. I'm like oh shoot, I ain't got nothing on Shields. Man, give us a little background on what that was like. Because, man, you plant one church and it's the most chaotic crazy thing of all time. You plant two, you double it. I mean, to quintuple it, talk about that for a second. 

Brandon Shields: Yeah. It's funny. There's so much I could say, but I've often compared our church to the Octomom of the kingdom in Indy. That's not always a good thing. We multiply immaturity around the city. Yeah, I think it was part of our vision. At the beginning, we really ... I'm a collaborative guy. I love to do things with a team. I love to do things with other people. For me coming from the megachurch world, I really wanted to put a governor on just our growth and our vertical, so to speak, and really say how could multiply the good things, whatever good things God does in us. This wasn't ever a goal to save five churches in five years. It was just God, whatever you do in us, we want to open up our hands and see this as kind of an open source kingdom thing, not an empire. 

How could we just reproduce and develop other leaders who might want to take some of the things they've learned at Soma and do that in their neighborhoods around the Indianapolis area. It really started with a guy that I baptized early on, Kent, who is now a pastor at our church, and took Kent through an internship and a residency, was a community leader here. Then, we just kept investing in him and training in him and God's hand was on him to be a pastor and so we installed him as a pastor and then sent him with about 80 people to start Soma Downtown about three years ago. Then, another guy name Aaron Lentz moved here from Dallas. He grew up just south of Indianapolis and wanted to get trained for ministry and had went to DTS and then was at the Village Church and we had a partnership with the Village Church and so they said "Hey, we want to send this guy Aaron to you guys. Can you train him?" 

We put him through another church planting residency and then sent him down and just kind of supported and resourced them. They also joined the Sojourn Network shortly thereafter. Then, Duane Gibbs came right after that. A similar situation. He was coming from South Florida. We had some mutual friends there and was coming to plant in Indy and wanted to do a residency with us and so we just took him through and then sent some staff and members with them to plant the district church. Those are both autonomous churches, not part of the Soma family. Then, the last and most recent one was nine months ago. Bobby Barber, a guy who'd been a member of our church for several years and wanted to be a pastor and was developing essentially a core team up on the northwest side of Indy. 

We just released those 60 or so people from both of our Soma congregations, midtown and downtown. Both of us sent 30 people up there with Bobby and his wife Jodi and now they're a community up there. It's kind of just been this we've had a vision for it, but God has just been gracious to help us figure it out as we go. It's been a lot of fun, so now we have a team of 10 elders spread around the city all collaborating together. I'm excited about future opportunities to continue doing that. 

Ronnie Martin: It sounds like what it was, was that God just kept bringing you dudes and it was more of an organic process, which is what it can be a lot of times. It wasn't anything. It sounds like you were really master planning, but these guys were just kind of coming your way and you were like "Hey, we can get you out there."

Brandon Shields: Yeah. I think there was not a master plan in terms of manufacturing. I think there was a desire. Then, that was something we were kind of naming as a community and just saying if this is what God wants, this is what we want. God, take our desires and either refine them and change them or fulfill them. Yeah, I think we were talking about it. As we were talking about it, I think that did help kind of create a little bit of a sense of this is a church that at least aspires towards this. Yeah. Like most of the how it happened and when it happened and the coming together of the resources and the leaders was a really crazy dynamic God thing, but it's been really cool for our church to own that together. It's not just something like the pastors are doing. 

Even seeing our members cross pollinate and work together, real estate agents in our church helping look for facilities, and educators and teachers helping make connections in the school system across the city, and healthcare professionals now starting vocational collectives together across the city. It's just been that stuff. We could've never planned that. It's just been a really cool thing to see God do. 

Ronnie Martin: Tell us something. I'd love to hear your heart on this. Again, this is going to really require you to narrow things down. What's a particular lesson, five church plants in five years, that has really stuck with you? I know we all have things that we would've done differently for sure. That's impossible for that not to be the case. What is something in particular that given what you've done at the rate that you've done it, some kind of lesson that's really, really just stuck with you that could help some of us?

Brandon Shields: Yeah. I was meditating just recently, a day of solitude and out of office and was just meditating in Proverbs and just really was moved again by this verse "He who waters will himself be watered and the blessing is on the head of him who sells and doesn't withhold." I think just kind of this idea that nothing we give up will ever be given back. Just I don't mean some quid pro quo way with God, but just God gives us exactly what we need and there's never been a time where we've invested leader or put a leader on loan, so to speak, with these churches where God is not more than compensated. Now, there's sacrifice in that. I never want to just glamorize or idealize. There's a hidden cost to this that's really hard and I think that if I had one maybe regret or one thing I would do differently, it's just slowing down the pace because it's really hard to push out five churches, all those leaders in that short amount of time. 

It's created an instability that we're still kind of working through. At the end of the day, I just think more is better. Joy and love and collaboration is not something that is a [inaudible 00:22:31] quality. It's something that is expansive and so just being able to multiply that love and joy across the city and across relationships and neighborhoods has been such an enriching experience that I just can't imagine not having that as an asset for our team now. 

Ronnie Martin: [00:22:45] Yeah. I know. It kind of brings me to this idea that it's interesting look all through scripture you see that God gives different paces to different men. For you, it's been kind of quick paced. What would you say to other pastors maybe in the network that either feel like they're going to slow or guys that feel like, man, things are going so fast, I can't even imagine starting to think about planning another church. What would you say to these guys that are maybe lodged into that particular category?

Brandon Shields: Yeah. I just think yeah, God has funny sense of humor. I think overall would just say to receive what's given. When we came here, I was used to a very quick pace. For me, I intentionally tried to slow down what for me was a fast pace according to the way I would define that 15 years ago and then God, like we stepped into a stream. Then, it really wasn't anything we were doing. These things that were coming together, prayers that were offered up and relationships that were happening long before, there was this religious architecture in Indianapolis we just kind of stepped into. It's ironic. I remember saying like "Man, if in five years, we just had a self sustaining church and we could be ready to plant another church, that would be a huge win." 

Then, it happens in less than two years. It's just kind of funny. We weren't trying to make that happen, but it did. Just receiving what's been given and not trying to make stuff happen because everybody wants to grow until they grow. Everybody wants to plant a church until you plant a church and then it's not as fun as you think it's going to be. 

Ronnie Martin: Right. 

Brandon Shields: The reality of growth and the pace that it brings in and the expectations and the sleepless nights and the arguments with your wife and the cost to your children. We haven't even talked about the family side of this. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah. 

Brandon Shields: It's rarely what you think it's going to be. 

Ronnie Martin: How much of it do you think pastors have to really guard against it being really primarily ego driven? We want to plant a church because we are in a church network where we feel the pressure to get out there and feel like we're doing something successful. 

Brandon Shields: Yeah. I think there's a lot of it. If I'm honest about my story, there was a lot of that. When I'm looking back on it, I want to be the guy that planted five churches. Even that can become an identity. Then, the reality is in the New Testament, I don't know that it's an expectation or even a like a biblical imperative that every church plant a church. 

Ronnie Martin: For sure. 

Brandon Shields: We talked about planting pregnant and things like that. I see groups of churches collaborating together to plant churches. I see apostles and prophets working together with pastors and shepherds and teachers and I see Paul with a network of 100 men and women helping to plant churches, but I don't see that one. There's not like ... Every church isn't a Church of Antioch. Some of that pressure is just I think internal to us that we feel just to make a name for ourselves, ego. I think just recognizing that, being able to name that and to own that and then to say "What if I'm not the guy that plants churches? Am I still going to be okay? Am I still going to have my identity firmly rooted in Christ if that doesn't happen?" 

For most people, I think that's going to be the story is you're probably not going to be the church that has a residency or plants x number of churches and Jesus is still pleased with us. 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah. I think that's a great word. 

Brandon Shields: Jesus is still pleased with us, you know?

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, and I think that's a great word to hear from the hyper planter of our network, right? To tell everybody else, hey, the big idea is not that you frantically get to the place where you can just hurriedly plant a church, but it's just see what God is doing. And if the time comes, and it's the right time, and you're prayerful, he'll put those pieces into place and give you the courage and the resources to dive in.

Brandon Shields: Oh, I tell guys that a lot. I mean, in our cohort we talked about that. My goal the next couple of years is to not plant any churches.

Ronnie Martin: Right, right.

Brandon Shields: I know. Because I want to slow down, I want to enjoy the journey with those that God's placed us on. I think sometimes we can get so cause-oriented and so, this is probably the shadow side of the missional movement is that, we're so cause-oriented that we just get very utilitarian with one another. And it's like, what about just being a community of friends? And then multiplying out of that, disciples, leaders, communities, and churches for some of us. But there's so many different ways to think about multiplication, and so many different levels of multiplication, and context for multiplication, that to reduce it down to, "I've got to plant X number of churches this year," is almost to co-op something beautiful and turn it into something corporate. I don't know.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, like putting undue pressure on ourselves to do something that maybe God hasn't even arranged for that particular [crosstalk 00:27:21]

Brandon Shields: Yeah, I just think we need to go back to the Bible and look at what has God actually commanded? What has God actually said? What are the realistic expectations for churches? We have a lot of descriptive stuff in the book of Acts, but when it comes to prescriptive ... 

Ronnie Martin: Yeah.

Brandon Shields: ... I wonder how much of that is just some kind of sense of insecurity or compulsiveness. Even within well intended social network churches.

Ronnie Martin: Right-

Brandon Shields: Because we walk around and we see other guys doing it and we highlight that in our videos and our conversations. And I don't think anybody's doing it on purpose. It's not like an indictment just as much as, like a-

Ronnie Martin: Sure.

Brandon Shields: ... A heart check, just to say, "Yeah, is that really been asked of me? Is that something that comes from a deep place of communion and prayer with God? Or, is it something that just comes from kind of the environment I'm in?"

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think that's good, and I think it's good to let our guys know that Sojourn doesn't have a quota for everybody, you know? But it can feel that way, right? Even if it's, even if nobody's putting that out there blatantly, it can tend to feel that way. And so it's good to hear that from you, I think that would encourage a lot of guys.

Hey, so you mentioned to me as we were corresponding before we did this that you are a contributing writer for a new book that's coming out. What can you tell us about that?

Brandon Shields: Yeah, I'm really excited about ... I was invited into a new project that's kind of a joint project with Crossway and The Gospel Coalition on pastoral ministry. It's called Faithful Endurance. And so I was asked to write a chapter alongside some other great pastors and men much more qualified than I to write on this. They didn't have anybody to write the money chapters, so they asked me to do finances. 

I think there's ... I'm excited about it because I hope it'll be a different kind of approach to how we typically talk about money, which is just more organizationally ... My chapter really deals with a lot of the shame and the silence around money and the church, both our personal finances and then, also, our church finances. 

I talk about in the chapter just, kind of, some different paradigms for money like a prosperity paradigm which, obviously, we know. We kind of talked about that, and poverty paradigm, but then I think the one that a lot of pastors fall into, particularly in our tribes, is a passivity framework. Where we just don't know how to talk about money because so much of it's rooted in our own stories and our own shame. I just wanted to kind of open up new pathways to think about and talk about money. To reclaim a sense of, kind of agency, over the decisions we're making, and the choices that we're making, and helping people be vulnerable about their struggles in ministry, because you're kind of in the double bind when it comes ministry finances, you know? It's like-

Ronnie Martin: Yeah.

Brandon Shields: ... Your whole wellbeing and your livelihood's tied up in the church and yet, you don't have some of the mobility and the freedoms that others have just to pick up and change jobs whenever you get in a tough situation. Just kind of thinking through all that and giving people a framework for how to talk about those things. I'm hopeful that it'll be a blessing to our Sojourn pastors.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, no. That sounds so interesting, especially, the last part that you mentioned about that. About, sort of, that a lot of us can feel very bound because, again, everything is so tied up in this. And yet, we feel like our skillset is so narrow. We can do this one thing, and if this one thing doesn't pan out, where do we go? What do we do? And so, to provide some sort of enduring framework with that, it sounds really timely, actually, because it doesn't feel like there's been a lot written about that. Would you say?

Brandon Shields: Yeah, I mean, I look back and did my research over the last 20 years or so. Richard Foster has a great book on money, sex, and power. It's, kind of, more about high level, look at those things ...

Ronnie Martin: Yeah. Wow.

Brandon Shields: ... With books written on organizational, non-profit finances, but I think the emotional side and the spiritual dynamics that are at work, and some of the unique contextual things ... So one of the things that I pointed out in the chapter is, there are things that we feel, the fragility financially that we feel, that are universal to every single American right now. 62% of Americans are dual-income, right? So if you're struggling with that, there's a lot of people that are dealing with that in your church, you know?

Ronnie Martin: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-

Brandon Shields: But then there's some unique factors that I think we need to be able to call out in ministry, like I mentioned, like mobility. If a guy in my church wants to, if he's struggling financially, he can work overtime, you know? I can't do that as a pastor. There's no overtime for me. He could pick up and move cities if he needs to get a job and make more money. If I do that it impacts and entire ... It disrupts, potentially, an entire community. Expectations on our wives are different. 

Just kind of naming some of those and, again, I don't really have a lot ... It's light on prescription, but hopefully, it's just more of a diagnostic to be able to ask ourselves how healthy is our approach to money and are we aware of how money is tied ... And Jesus talks about it in the Sermon of the Mount how money is tied to the deep underlying, longings, and emotions, and feelings, our inner worlds, our soul.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Brandon Shields: Just kind of making that connection and then inviting pastors to talk more, I guess, humanly about our money.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, I know, I'm excited. That sounds really, really good. Now, what kind of place do you find yourself in right now? What kind of season are you finding yourself in? You made that comment a few minutes back where you said, "We would just like to not plant some church ... Our strategy is to not plant churches right now." Planting churches, if you talk to anybody in the network, it's a traumatic thing. There's so many pieces to it. Where are you at right now in terms of how you're seeing the next couple of years, and what God might be uniquely doing as somebody who is saying, "We're trying not to plant churches."

Brandon Shields: So, a couple of things. Organizationally, I think we're moving into a season of adolescence. Which has all of the classic, stereotypical challenges, and also, opportunities for revisioning things. I think pastorally we are trying to restructure just for more sustainability, and just stability, instead of always changing things. That fluidity of the first couple years, now seven years in, just going, "Okay, like, we need some order. We need some structures in place, some policies in place." 

From compensation teams to ... Just, everything has to continue to pivot, and evolve, and change so that the relational unity is preserved, and the spiritual unity of our church is preserved. That has to mature. Our vision, as well as our structures and things, have to mature. We as leaders have to mature. 

I feel like there's an ... I'm about to be forty here in two years and I'm realizing, man, the things that got me here are not going to get me forward ... I'm just feeling this real call to a season of increased silence, solitude, prayerfulness and that's hopefully not because we're on this podcast, but just ... I've been reading a great book by Ruth Haley Barton called the Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, and I feel like that's probably, it would be the mantra for me in this next season, is wanting to really lead from a place of inner strength so that when I'm forty-five, fifty, sixty ... My wife and I, and my kids, and our church have a shot of being around. 

I'm excited about just, kind of, diving in to what that looks like in a complex environment like this, where we have multiple churches, and multiple pastors, and growing challenges and opportunities.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, and it just sounds like what you're describing is that there was a time where you were on the ground, you're running, and you're recognizing with wisdom that, it's just, that is not the time anymore. That time has passed. There's a time there where you gotta pull in, you gotta be able to, in a sense, rest your mind a little bit. Your team needs to mature in some ways. That when you're just running, you start missing things because you're so forward thinking, and you just are charging, and you're charging, and you're charging. 

And that sounds like a lot of wisdom, and sounds like a lot of things that we can grow from in terms of what kind of perspective you're going to bring from that. Yeah, dude. Thanks for the place that you have in the network. We know that you're on the board, and we know that you have one of these kind of minds that is able to steer things, and able to see things very comprehensibly. We all probably benefit from that in ways that we don't even know to its fullest. So thank you for the place that you have in the network for us.

Brandon Shields: And I'm really thankful to be a part, this network, in many ways, God used to save our lives, my wife and I. I mean, [Emily 00:35:21] and I. They were there for us, and the leaders were there for us in a time, a really hard season. I feel like it's just such an honor and a privilege to be able to invest back in what we've received. There's no way to repay that, but it's just been a real joy to be a part of it and to be in these relationships, man. These friendships are everything to us, and so we're really thankful for God's kindness and arranging the circumstances to put us together.

Ronnie Martin: Yeah, absolutely, man. And I couldn't agree more and we're better because you're here with us. We get to receive your wisdom, your friendship. Our hope is that all of this continues to flourish and blossom. Again, man, thanks for your time.

Mike Cosper: That's our show. Thanks again for listening. You can learn more about Sojourn network at to find a series of ebooks, articles on the blog, and information about our upcoming Leaders' Summit.

Today's episode was recorded by Ronnie Martin. Was produced and edited by TJ Hester. It was mixed by Mark Owens. Our music is by Sojourn music. Thanks for listening, we'll be back in two weeks.

This episode produced by Mike Cosper
Editing by Mike Cosper and TJ Hester
Mixed by Mark Owens
Music by Sojourn Music
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