5 Questions to Ask Before Planting

Over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to be deeply involved with church planting. My wife Stacie and I have planted two churches, Breakthrough Church in Arlington Texas while attending seminary and the other being Echo Church which launched in 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Framing a Talk with Jonathan Pokluda

Jonathan Pokluda believes that good teachers are exceptional listeners. As the lead pastor of Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, TX, he’s intentional about checking the pulse of his people. Every Friday he hosts a Q&A session on Instagram Live, often with his wife and kids in the car. Of the 2,000-ish questions that pour in weekly, he tackles 50-100 of them. Inquiries come from people of all ages一boomers to Gen Z, and span all topics: sex, marriage, faith, divorce, friendship, you name it. At 3pm every Thursday, a small group of people from his church listen to his full sermon, then offer honest feedback.

LILR 054 | Burnout & Sabbatical with Alan Briggs

“I don’t even know what I’m like rested if I live marginless.” Meet Alan Briggs, Director of Culture & Coaching at Stay Forth, an organization passionate about getting leaders healthy. In this episode, Alan addresses burnout, the role sabbaticals play in avoiding it (and how to receive them well).

The Last Supper on the Moon with Levi Lusko

What Bible verse did Buzz Aldrin take to outer space? What was the first meal eaten on the moon? What do space travel and the Christian life have in common? In this fascinating conversation, Steve Carter interviews Levi Lusko, the founder and lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, located in Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Utah and everywhere online, about his new book, The Last Supper on the Moon, which plays off NASA’s 1969 lunar voyage to draw powerful principles about what it means to follow Jesus. Sometimes we need to hear age-old truths in a new way, which is arguably Levi’s forte. Whether curating a user-friendly digital livestream, or requiring all church employees to read a Michelin-rated restaurateur’s manual on hospitality, Fresh Life Church is leading the way in engaging our cultural moment. At the core of his sermon prep and writing is a practice Levi calls “collect and connect,” which is a relentless quest to learn, catalog stories and ideas, then use them as illustrations. He also shares how suffering has shaped him as a pastor, and how something as simple as taking a deep breath can be instrumental in cultivating character.

LILR 053 | Creating Margin, Avoiding Burnout with Jonathan & Lindsey Hansen

Jonathan and Lindsey Hansen moved their two young children and a seventy pound labradoodle across the country. They were packed up and loaded down with passion, excitement, and vision for the church in California God was calling them to lead. What they walked into was a failed transition from the Founding Pastor/Planter, a church split, and a congregation that was in pain from all the change. What they thought would be a new beginning was actually a triage situation of people, of a church, who desperately needed care. In this episode, they reflect back on the “honeymoon phase” of their transition, what they would do differently in hindsight, and what encouragement they would give to others (and themselves) stepping into transition.

How We Love Matters with Albert Tate

For Albert Tate, a sermon isn’t about words streaming from your mouth, but truths running through your life. He explains how the best sermons start in the head, move to the heart, then lodge in your gut一until the Spirit grips you with conviction, you aren’t actually preaching yet. A cursory glance at Tate’s dynamic teaching reveals not only a willingness to say hard things, but to preach them to himself first. Steve Carter interviews Tate about his forthcoming book, How We Love Matters: A Call To Relentless Racial Reconciliation. With his trademark blend of creativity and conviction, Tate tackles a culturally contentious issue, building off his upbringing in Mississippi and decades of church ministry in Southern California. He views the Table as utterly transformative一a place where, like Jesus, we sit with people drastically different than ourselves. When we learn to listen well, we learn to love well.

LILR 052 | Jay Kim on Staying Curious and Finding Opportunities

Jay Kim’s transition story is so uniquely woven that it puts God’s perfect architecture of our lives on full display. With a story that stems from a longing to lead and a deep calling to shape culture, Jay invites us into the intimate details of his transition from WestGate Church to Vintage Church, and eventually back to WestGate. He talks us through the journey that he’s still on, the right pace of change during his transition, and the opportunities and challenges he faced along the way. “I had to untangle myself enough from my own ego, ambition, and insecurity, to be able to engage the transition process in a healthy way.” His number one piece of advice to leaders in transition? Put yourself in rooms with people who love you, admire you, truly know you, and who will name and shame the stuff that will eat you alive if you allow it. Oh and get comfortable with that feeling.

Living Undistracted with Bob Goff

Whether in his books or live talks, Bob Goff seems to have ten lifetimes worth of stories. He has an uncanny knack for putting himself in unlikely places with unlikely people. He talks to dozens of strangers every week, because he listed his cell phone number in the back of his New York Times bestselling book, Love Does. He teaches classes at Pepperdine University and San Quentin State Prison. After the Taliban took control of major cities in Afghanistan in 2021, Bob called them to ask if they would allow women to return to a school he helped launch there. They said yes. Steve Carter talks with Bob about his forthcoming book, Undistracted一a manual for navigating life with purpose and passion. As always, Steve chops it up with Bob about how to put together a talk. They discuss how to spark action in people’s lives, rather than spoon-feeding an audience prepackaged to-do’s. The thread running through this whole conversation is Galatians 5:6, a verse that could easily serve as Bob’s mantra: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”

LILR 051 | Eugene Cho on Clarity of Calling and Self Care

“God’s call upon our lives doesn’t change. Our context may change, but our call never does.” Meet Eugene Cho, former Senior Pastor of Quest Church and President/CEO of Bread of the World. In this episode, Eugene shares insights about God’s calling for your life, defining your life’s values, and practical ways to monitor your health as a church leader. He encourages us to embodied leadership. To show up. When we feel like we have people on every side of the aisle hijacking the message of Jesus… Eugene reminds us how to place Jesus at the center of it all.

If the Tomb Is Empty with Joby Martin

Few aspects of Joby Martin’s ministry journey have been predictable. His first sermon was an impromptu talk at a youth camp, thanks to a coach who believed in him and tossed him into the deep end. He planted a church almost without realizing it. On Mondays he prepares sermons while hunting, tucked away in the woods, or poised quietly in a tree stand. He rarely plans sermon illustrations beforehand一they just sort of come to him in the moment.

LILR 050 | The Best Of Leaders in Living Rooms

For just over two years, you’ve been invited into the living rooms of over forty leaders; getting privileged insights into their life that few others have access to. Today’s show is a podcast milestone, marking the fiftieth episode of Leaders in Living Rooms! To celebrate 50 episodes, we’ve compiled seven of the top highlights and learnings from our guests. We invite you to listen in on the “cliff notes” from topics like leading your board well with Jud Wilhite to leading on empty with Wayne Cordeiro. You will be encouraged by all seven of these leaders as they speak incredible words of wisdom over the next generation of church leaders.

Fighting Racism Through Preaching with Jemar Tisby

“We are living in times that demand a decision on justice.” In this episode, Steve Carter interviews Historian, Author, and Speaker, Jemar Tisby. Tisby walks listeners through why we have to be pushing people towards the gospel truth, his expansive understanding of what progress looks like, and why the transformation of the heart as people pursue racial justice still gives him hope. He encourages pastors not only on WHY to lead your church well through racial justice, but provides priceless and practical recommendations on HOW to bake racial justice into the core of your culture. Finally, Tisby reminds pastors that as you pursue racial justice, you don’t have to come up with it yourself. If you are ready to proclaim the good news for everyone in your preaching, you won’t be disappointed.

Wanderlust and the Power of Place with Daniel Grothe

In this episode, Steve Carter interviews Pastor, Teacher, and Author, Daniel Grothe. The vow of stability and place is counter cultural. We live in a world of cultural impermanence… and Daniel challenges us with the question, “How is that going for us?” Place matters. Stability matters. You have to fight to stay. “If salvation is going to break into the world, it’s going to be local and personal.”

LILR 048 | Daniel Grothe on The Power of Place, Staying Rooted, and Transitioning Well

There is both fulfillment and fruitfulness in staying in your current leadership role and in transitioning well to something new if God calls you to go. “We don’t always have to leave to build a life of significance.” Meet Daniel Grothe from New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO who shares his personal story of the road that led him to stay at New Life. If you are in a season of difficulty at your church, you will be inspired by Daniel’s story. He will encourage you that these are the moments where the spirit of the Lord will empower you to live a vow of stability, so you can stand and stay.

A Yearlong Quest of Jesus with Mark Moore

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews teaching pastor and author of Quest 52 Mark Moore about how to intentionally pursue Jesus. Mark Moore is an NT scholar that has the ability to unpack the person, preaching, power, and passion of Jesus in ways that are wildly accessible. Steve and Mark discuss different passages that Mark writes about in Quest 52, playing off one another, diving deeper into the text to discover what it meant then and what it means for us today. Mark ends the podcast by examining the humility required to pastor today. The lessons learned in this alone are worth the entire episode.

LILR 047 | Seacoast Leadership Transition with Greg and Josh Surratt - Part 2

Part 2 of 2 – Seacoast has been a pioneering church for decades and now continues a legacy of fruitful ministry through a senior leadership transition from father to son. Greg and Josh talk about the highs and lows of that transition and offer sage advice to anyone in a leadership transition.

Finding True Rest with Dr. Paul Alexander

In the latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter interviews Hope International University President Dr. Paul Alexander about the importance of soul care and his findings in a study he conducted with over 2200 pastors about depression and anxiety in the pastorate. Dr. Alexander is an ordained pastor, licensed therapist, and has a doctorate in organizational leadership. His love for the local church, his compassion for the loneliness from which many pastors suffer, his transparency, and the way in which he walks you through how you can find true rest and care for your soul is deeply refreshing.

LILR 046 | Seacoast Leadership Transition with Greg and Josh Surratt - Part 1

Seacoast has been a pioneering church for decades and now continues a legacy of fruitful ministry through a senior leadership transition from father to son. Greg and Josh talk about the highs and lows of that transition, and offer sage advice to anyone in a leadership transition.

Carlos Whittaker on the Art of Storytelling

For over a decade, Carlos Whittaker was one of the leading worship voices in the Church, but he began to feel a stirring toward preaching and teaching. A little over 4 years ago, he took that brave step and hasn’t looked back. In this latest Craft & Character episode, Steve Carter asks Carlos about the process of obedience to move into the communicator’s space and the keys that Carlos uses for effective storytelling. His comments are pure gold for anyone desiring to master this craft. Finally, Steve and Carlos discuss the importance of consecrating your day and how doing this regularly prepares Carlos for what God has in store for him.

Spirit and Truth with Daniel Im