Podcast: Taking Over a Family-Run Ministry

When leadership changes hands within an organization, the chances for failure are high. However, when Brent Evans became the leader of XO Marriage (formerly known as Marriage Today, founded by Jimmy Evans), the ministry continued to grow. The biggest growth took place when Brent found his voice as a leader.
In this episode of Church InTension, Dr. Jon Chasteen talks with Brent Evans about the challenges of taking over a family-run ministry and how he was able to overcome them by being himself and not trying to fill his father’s shoes.

Jon Chasteen: Well, Brent, I appreciate you. But I’ve also learned so much from you. Brent is the CEO of XO Marriage. And I really want to dig into a lot of that. But really, he has a marketing major, went to Baylor, Go Bears.

Brent Evans: Go Bears.

Jon: And I learned today that you minored in music.

Brent: Yup. Then took music theory at Baylor, played piano. Actually, wanted to be in the music production business. I wanted to produce music. I wanted to get into the marketing aspect.

Jon: Okay. One of the things I want to … We can talk about whatever, we’ll just see where this goes. But one of the areas where I think I respect you the most is, first, you came on what was then called Marriage Today in 2005. Where did you come on, in what role?

Brent: I started … So, a little bit of a backstory. I went to Baylor for two years, I met my wife, Stephanie. I finished at West Texas A&M University. We got married in 1998. Lived in Amarillo for two years. And then right out of school, I graduated from West Texas A&M. I started a company called Eternal Media. And we were doing, at the time, it was the dot-com boom, so we were building e-commerce systems and websites and all these sorts of things for companies. And it was very difficult to do that in Amarillo. So we moved here in 2000, to Dallas.

And I had the company, I merged it with another group, another agency, and was just going back and forth with this agency life of taking our own clients and helping them use the web, which was very brand new at the time, how to leverage that for their business or for sometimes, it was nonprofits. And it was a fun time. It’s like what crypto is now, was the world back then. Everything was just blowing up. Everyone’s needing online, being able to sell online, being able to interact online, and to communicate online.

It was a fun time to take the marketing side of what I was doing and apply it to whatever the business scenario was or nonprofit side. I was with a group called Holland Simpson, shout out to David Holland and John Simpson, right before I started with Marriage Today. And I was helping a lot of different groups just develop online strategies. I took that knowledge. And my first position at Marriage Today was, I think, as a director of web and marketing for Marriage Today in that role. And then just grew from there.

Jon: Well, why I was excited to have you on the podcast, one, is because most people, when they think XO Marriage, they think Jimmy Evans, because he’s been … One, he was the founder, but also is the face. And what most people don’t know is that you’re the guy that is really running everything behind the scenes. And to see what you’ve done, even just in the past few years as transforming the way that that ministry has led and you’ve really made some really bold strategic moves that I think is important.

And we may talk, we may get into to marriage and help pastors in their marriages and some of those sort of things. But really, what you have brought to the table in XO Marriage is building the platform for the voice to go out, building the influence, building the marketing, building all those things. And I think it’s important to talk about, even in ministry, a lot of our listeners or viewers, maybe they know how to do ministry, they know how to preach, they know how to do that. But we don’t always do the best job in this day and age, in this culture of getting the voice out.

And you’re brilliant in this way. And I really respect you in that. One of the things you do that I want you to talk about that I think was a pivotal, but really a big leap of faith in a lot of ways, for most of the ministry existence, it was on TV, and it was Daystar TV and all those sort of things, and still on Daystar a little, I guess. But you made this radical move to really make a massive shift there. Walk us through what you saw coming or what was already happening, and how did you convince Pastor Jimmy to do that. Because that’s a big move. Tell us how that came about and why.

Brent: Well, he started the ministry in 1994. And it’s either TV or radio, you had two options to do something on a massive scale. He started it with the vision for television. There were already radio ministries out there, but he really had a passion to create a visual medium for marriage. WGN was their first station they were on. And then they gravitated towards the TV, and so they started the world. It was probably like 2015 that I had a conversation with my dad.

And the board was starting to look at me as the next visionary leader of the organization, which freaked me out because my dad was preaching and teaching when he was 29. I’ve still never preached a sermon. I’m not that type of person. I told the board, I said, “You guys are looking for Jimmy Jr, I’m not him.” And I said, “I don’t have the passion or the desire to do that. If that’s what you’re looking for, I don’t know that I’m your guy.” And they said, “Well, we really do believe you’re the next visionary leader. So we’re just going to figure all that out.”

And that took me on a process to figure out who I was, but also who the ministry was. Because it was defined by Jimmy Evans, the television ministry, and so much of his content. You just talk about Christian television, for example. And we have great friends at Daystar and TBN, and I respect both those ministries. But if you go past a certain age point and below, nobody’s watching them. I don’t personally know anybody that still got cable and somebody that is going to go to their Apple TV and go to a separate app just to watch a stream, those channels.

There is an audience for there, but I just don’t know enough of those people to be able to have some confidence that we could build that for the future. I was having a conversation. My dad has said, “If in 20 years we’re still relying on Christian television, we’re doomed. We’re not going to be able to make it, not only this Christian television in the whole … ESPN and all of them. They were all dealing with massive departures of viewers, massive. Christian television wasn’t the only one, but there was a lot of people leaving Christian television.

And so, for us, we were spending majority of our budget on Christian television. We’re trying to get results from it, but it was all going south. Another numbers were going up, they’re going south. I told my dad, I said, “We got to make a change.” And he said, “Well, what is it?” And I said, “I don’t know right now, but we’ve got to do something.” We’ve started a process of … What I was going to say, too, is we had a show on marriage. If you’re watching Joel Osteen on Sunday mornings and the next show is on marriage and you’re not married, you’re immediately turning it off.

Jon: Off.

Brent: We were just up against it when it came to that. And my dad was a great communicator. A lot of people just watched it because of my dad. But it was also when he’s talking about marriage, it just was very nuanced. My dad, for a period of time, is dealing with church stuff outside of Marriage Today. And it left me to start tinkering with the formula at the ministry. It allowed me to bring in some additional voices. It’s not just my dad anymore, it’s multiple voices. It allowed me to create different streams of revenue away from the television model.

You look at people like Ben Shapiro at The Daily Wire and they’re crushing it. Why are they crushing it? Well, you take a guy like Ben Shapiro, he’s not too different than a Jimmy Evans type. They’re both are producing content. But Ben Shapiro’s podcast is crushing it and he’s making eight figures on his podcast. Well, why can’t we do even a slice of that pie on our side for a podcast network? We developed a podcast network, started monetizing on YouTube.

Jon: Publisher.

Brent: We started a publishing arm because … God bless the publishers, all of them. I just …

Jon: They take a big piece of the pie.

Brent: I just have to make more stories from the publishing industry. We started XO publishing that’s done really well and created just a dynamic, where not just one thing is the crux of every bit of the future of the ministry. We can turn on and turn off some things. Since we’re not a church, I’ve aligned more to business principles. So brought on a COO last year. We have a very sophisticated marketing and digital team and events team. What we’re trying to do now, what I’m trying to do now, specifically, is capture the next generation coming and getting married. I don’t want to lose them, but I’m also trying not to lose the people my dad influence for so many years.

Jon: Today, yeah. That’s hard.

Brent: That takes intentionality, and it takes time and it takes … I have to have conversations. I just had a conversation with a donor who came in and wanted to give a gift to our new building that we’re building. And he said, “I’m still going to call it Marriage Today, even though I know it’s called XO Marriage.” I said, “That’s great. You can call it Marriage Today. It’s still my dad’s.” My parents have a podcast. They’re just recording it today called Marriage Today. It’s their podcast. Their social channel, still Marriage Today.

That’s their brand, but we have other sub brands with different couples that allows us to have that flexibility of content, of not just if my parents can’t show up and do the podcast, for some reason, we have other couples still doing stuff. It just helps to relieve the pressure of the future of the ministry.

Jon: Yeah, diversified.

Brent: And it’s also not … Yeah, it’s not going to rely on me either.

Jon: Well, I love this. And I think it’s important to our listeners. What I admire about you is, I think a lot of times, we see this a lot. We see as the succession plan. We’re going to see a lot more of this in future years with all of these churches that are coming to that maturity. Where a lot of times, the temptation might be for the next generation to just conform and be that same model. I watched this person do it for all these years, I just need to try to step up and try to be that person. And you could have done that. You could have tried to do that.

And I think you probably maybe could have leaned into that and gotten good. But instead of trying to be your dad, you just said, this is who I am and this is what I have to bring to the table. And if this can help, I think that’s really important for even some of our listeners that may be in that situation, where either they’re the one that’s fixing past the mantle or they maybe somebody, whether it’s family related or not. What giftings and talents do I have to bring to the table to help this organization in this ministry become all that it can be? How did your dad do through that process? Was he reluctant or was he like, okay, Brent, I trust you. How did it go?

Brent: Yeah. I think there were some … He was great, and we’re good friends. And so, he’s also in my top nine. He’s up there in the top nine of favorite. We were buddies and we love each other. We had a great relationship, both offline and when we’re working together. We can have real conversations. And my dad’s a very strong leader. He’s very type A personality, so he doesn’t hold anything back. He’ll tell you what he’s thinking.

Jon: Yes, he will.

Brent: But I had to learn how to deal with that and also develop my own style of leadership and have our conversations with him, and us be able to work through those things. But he was great. He’s always been patient. He’s always been very supportive and encouraging. But coming in, he wants to see results. And so, the good thing for me was, very quickly, we started seeing some results from some of the fruits of the labor. It wasn’t overnight where it was at the heyday of the television ministry. Very quickly, we started seeing some wins. And that’s just developed over time.

There’s just more and more things that have come online that all pulled together. It’s a much healthier ministry. So my dad now, he loves it. This is the first time it’s ever happened. Kansas City event, I mean, XO in Kansas City, shut out to City Center Church in Lenexa, Kansas. This was one of our first times there. And one of our board members passed away, and my dad and I had to go to the funeral. And so he couldn’t be at the conference, and neither can I. Because this was a close family friend. This was a conference that Annalisa stepped in and Hyung and we had Dan Lee in and Nirup, and Dave and Ashley. We had a great lineup there, and the pastors there. My dad wasn’t there.

Jon: For the first time ever, your dad wasn’t there.

Brent: We have a conference coming up, date night at Keystone church. Shout out to Brandon and Susan, and my dad is not part of that either.

Jon: Wow.

Brent: It’s Brandon and Susan, it’s Dave and Ashley, it’s Nirup and Sharon Lynett. And we’re going to have a full house there as well. I think my dad asked them that. I said, “Is that something …”

Jon: Bother you.

Brent: “Does it bother you that you’re not always there?” And he goes, “I love it.” He said …

Jon: Absolutely.

Brent:  … “I love that it actually frees me up to continue to do what I do best. But I don’t have to be at every single one.”

Jon: Well, I love the transition that you’ve made there, too, that you’re in the process of making. Because most churches, most organizations, if there’s a key prominent figure. I think what we just assume or we think that we got to find the next prominent figure. And what I love about the model you’re taking is it wasn’t about trying to find the next Jimmy Evans. It was about diversifying the speakers. And so, if you go to an XO conference now, there’s going to be a multitude of really, really talented speakers. And Jimmy is usually there, but Jimmy can’t do this forever.

And so, talk about that, where do you see the ministry going? Whenever that day comes, hopefully, it’s 100 years from now, which is impossible. But when Jimmy can’t do this anymore, what does XO look like?

Brent: Yeah. There’s a few things in play right now. I’m trying not to be all things to all people. I know my lane, under the lane of XO, what we’re trying to be. There’s some other great marriage ministers out there, family ministries out there. I’m trying to design XO to be a certain flavor. You can know what you’re going to get when you show up to our conference, when you go to our website, social media, whatever it is. In order to do that, you have to find content contributors that fall into certain categories. And so there’s great speakers and great talent out there.

Not all of them have a marriage message, not all of them are qualified to have a marriage message. Some of them, they have to have a good marriage themselves. And so, there’s all these nuances. And then my dad, he’s got wisdom, but he’s got humor. He’s got practicality. If somebody is … There’s clinical psychologists out there that are brilliant, they’ve never walked through the fire. Just because you have the knowledge doesn’t mean you have the wisdom that comes with it because you’ve gone through. My parents almost divorced, that’s real. They have a story to tell.

A lot of our speakers have personal stories. They have wisdom, mixed with humor, but also meaty content. So that no matter where you are on the spectrum of marriage, just getting married, you’ve been married for a while, you can find something that’s going to apply to …

Jon: It’s real.

Brent:  … your marriage. That’s the template for trying to find voices going forward. I’m 44. However long I’m doing this, my hope is I can pass the baton to the next generation in the metaverse or wherever it is. You give them a chance to take the XO brand, what we’re doing and applied to future generation. This should be a ministry where 100 years from now, it’s still going at a pace where content is coming out that’s relevant, practical, applicable for where people are, that people can consume and it’s not overly … That we don’t lose biblical values, but not overly churchy to where they can’t hear it. That’s the last thing you want.

Jon: I want to … For our listeners, a lot of our listeners are in full time ministry, not necessarily all of them. But I think there’s a cool parallel here between the transition you took XO through from predominantly TV ministry to now more focused in diversifying and across lots of different platforms and marketing and really, your expertise of marketing and the way you’ve led that. I see this parallel between the way church used to be done and the way church is going to be done. Maybe it’s not even there yet. But I think in a lot of ways, it is.

And we see some people that have really tapped into this, Mike Todd, some of these guys that have really tapped into the marketing of this. What would you say would be some really easy first steps? Because the average pastor out there, a pastor that’s pastoring a church of 200, 400, 500, they don’t have massive staffs, they don’t have podcast staff, and they don’t have all of these resources. But one, maybe try to convince them the importance of leaning into the space a little bit more. But then, are there some easy things to do to just begin that process of trying to get out of one system and have the boldness and the faith and the courage to lean into the space a little bit more?

Brent: Yeah, I think you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone a little bit, you’re going to have to do some things that you might not be always prone to do. Meaning like a podcast. Somebody asked me the other day, “Should I do a podcast?” And I said, “There are a billion podcasts out there. There’s so many podcasts. However, podcast for the new book. If you don’t have a podcast, you’re almost like you’re not on the scene to some degree. Now, what happens is because there are so many podcasts, but there are so many because people started them and then they never touch them again. They’ll go and they’ll do six episodes …

Jon: And then it’s done.

Brent:  … and then they’re done. I think the frustration that some pastors might feel or ministry leaders is they start something, they don’t see results. So they just give up.

Jon: Stop.

Brent: You got to keep with it for a while. It takes time to develop it. There’s always going to be this tipping point or moment where you’ve got a change of wind and direction with what you’re working on. But if you’re authentic and you’re doing something with the right intention and you’re putting time and effort into it, it’s not a guaranteed formula. But it’s pretty, for sure, that at some point, you’re going to find your tribe, you’re going to have enough viewers tuning in, they’re going to tell their friends, and then they’re going to be able to build from there.

But it’s very, very rare that it happens overnight. Mike Todd, first of all, he’s super talented, he’s got gobs of talent when it comes to how he translates his message into the visual aspect of it. And the relationship goal series that he had, he’ll say, he said it on a podcast I was on with him one time, he said that just something happened. That’s what lit the spark for him. He was already out there doing stuff. He was doing stuff on YouTube and stuff. But that relationship goal series is what set him on a trajectory like no other. It’s harder to define what that is.

Right now, for my dad, is in times message. That’s what’s putting him in a different orbit, is just he’s got a message right now that resonates with a lot of people. I’m trying to do my best just to give enough fuel to it to where it reaches the maximum amount of people. That’s what you’re hoping for in a ministry, is that your message will go far and wide. I think some people just need to have lower expectations. They may not be the Craig Groeschel of the world. The leadership podcast that they start, may not have as many followers as Craig, that’s okay. If your goal is metrics, that’s your only goal, and I think you’re going to be frustrated and all along the way.

Jon: That’s really good. Yeah, that’s really good. What challenge is a pastor going to have to … You said you’re going to have to get outside your comfort zone. What do you think some of those challenges might be for them? Does that make sense? I don’t know that I’m communicating the right way.

Brent: I understand what you’re saying.

Jon: Maybe it is just coming down to just to have the courage to try it, stick with it. Try something that you’re comfortable with and stick with it for a little while. Maybe it’s just as simple as that.

Brent: I think there’s a tendency amongst everyone, really, inside church, outside the church, just in business or whatever, to try to emulate people and try to become … Trying to be a Mike Todd. And then that comes across, like I said, as an authentic …

Jon: Just genuine.

Brent:  … and you don’t have that. You don’t have … Mike Todd is unique. He just is. And Steven Furtick and you got in the list of people. I mean, there will never be another Joel Osteen. His story is so unique and his message of hope and how he delivers and all that kind of stuff. What I look at, like what the Ben Shapiro’s and the Joe Rogan’s, I’m looking at the behind the scenes of how they’re doing what they’re doing, building the platform. And then the message is really up to the person delivering it.

The comfort zone I’m talking about is, a lot of times, pastors are feeling comfortable in front of a microphone like this, talking this is a dynamic that’s unique, we’re having a conversation, we’re really close to one another right now. We can touch. Plus, there’s cameras here. This is an environment where a lot of pastors feel like they need to be either super polished or sometimes they can be super casual. You have to know the medium, what you’re talking within. Being on stage, preaching a message on a weekend is totally different than doing a YouTube video or being real on social media. My dad will never get a phone and go, what’s up guys, just here to broadcast with Jon …

Jon: Right. Well, see, I think that’s what I’m referring to because you and I have talked about this. You’re, in my view, really, really talented in this space. And you’re coming to me some time saying, “Jon, you should do this and you should do this and you should do this with your social media, with this, with this.” And I think the comfort level for me is that … And you’re constantly telling me this is crazy. Honestly, what I struggle with is I don’t like to self-promote. I feel icky doing it.

And I think that’s maybe the struggle for a lot of pastors, is people that help run my social media might tell me, hey, yeah, shoot a video of yourself. And I’m like, I’m not the selfie guy. It’s hard for me to … Hey, guys out there. If I’m being really honest, there’s parts of it that feel unbiblical. We’re not called to promote ourselves and it’s not about me. And so I think I know the answer to that. I think I know about what you’re going to say, and I agree with you about, that it’s not about … I’m giving the message out. It’s about encouraging people. But there’s a part of making it look like it’s all about me that feels gross.

Brent: Yeah, also that.

Jon: I think that’s part of getting out of my comfort zone, is saying, okay, maybe this isn’t self-promotion, maybe people are wanting to hear what I have to say about a topic or a situation because I’m helping them, I’m encouraging them, or I’m challenging them. Maybe the comfort for me is getting outside of the discomfort of saying, no, this isn’t about me, and everyone look at Jon, it’s about I have something that I want to help people. I don’t know.

Brent: Yeah, but I think that’s the difference. When you see a pastor change his clothes to be different for the whatever generations, that doesn’t feel like it’s genuine to … You’ve seen the skinny jeans or whatever. For a while, pastors are trying their best to be relevant …

Jon: Look the part.

Brent: Look the part, but it looked ridiculous to some degree. Because it’s like they didn’t look like they really belonged in those clothes.

Jon: You’re a 60-year-old wearing skinny jeans and …

Brent: Yeah. It’s just one of the things where they’re trying their best. And to some degree, you want to be able … But if I was relying upon myself to become … I don’t know, get tatted up and to reach a group …

Jon: You look great with sleeves.

Brent: I’ve thought about that. I don’t know.

Jon: You would look great. I don’t know if Stephanie would be into it, but …

Brent: I just have a hard time committing to that much.

Jon: And you could get the tattoo on the side of your head.

Brent: I could. Doing my Tyson thing.

Jon: Sorry, I don’t know why I went through it.

Brent: Anyway. The designs that I think the younger people want or the styles or whatever it is, this is what I’ve said here again. Because I’ve had conversations with people about books, specifically, one of our XO speakers. He didn’t have a book and he was like, “I feel weird being on stage saying, buy my book.” And I said, “That’s great.” I said, “I understand that, but however … “

Jon: I feel weird with that too.

Brent: I said, “There are people in the audience. You only have 30 minutes for your message at the most, only give you like 20.”

Jon: You give me 20 minutes. How do you preach a sermon at 20? Okay, I’m …

Brent: People love that.

Jon:  … going to let that go.

Brent: Well …

Jon: I forgive you.

Brent: You squeezed out the biggest idea and you did a great job.

Jon: Did I do a pretty awesome job?

Brent: Yeah, you’re doing a great job. But I got you to keep it simple.

Jon: Imagine what I could do in 25 minutes.

Brent: Oh man. This moment where they are giving a message for 25, 30 minutes, whatever it is, and then people want more. And you’re giving somebody the opportunity to get more of that message. Now if you’re just writing books just to make money, then again, that’s going to come across as inauthentic. But if you have a message that God’s given you, that is part of what you’re trying to minister through and you give a portion of that and you say, hey, if you want more of this content, it’s in a book. That is a way that people consume their ministry these days.

Why would you not do that? And yes, I’ve seen people peddle books in a gross sway. It just feels ridiculous. It’s at the altar ministry or whatever it is, they’re doing it at times where the Holy Spirit’s moving and then they’re plugging a book. You’ve got to be more mature than that, obviously, to do that. In the space of what you’re talking about, in ministry of being on social media or whatever and it feeling gross, the world has changed. The world has changed.

And you’re not going to reach certain people, unless you’d have the ability to message them through the ways they’re consuming media these days. There’s going to be a generation that come up, TikTok, YouTube, they’re the primary sources of all information.

Jon: Wow.

Brent: And if you’re not on TikTok and you don’t … You don’t have to be doing dances on TikTok in order to be an influencer there. That’s what people have in their mind, is they have to be a certain way …

Jon: Right, TikTok dance.

Brent:  … they have to dress certain way. I think it’s just about being real giving access to yourself in a real way that allows you to be a reliable source of, I don’t know, encouragement or information, whatever it is. The people I follow on social media are on funny meme accounts, because I don’t want to go to social media …

Jon: We’d constantly send memes back and forth on each other all day, basically.

Brent: We do. But I never go to Twitter because it’s so toxic. I get on Twitter and my blood pressure just rises.

Jon: I deleted my Twitter account. I probably shouldn’t have done that, but I did.

Brent: I’ve deleted the app and I deleted my account too. But Facebook’s the same way. I don’t like being on Facebook a lot.

Jon: I don’t use Facebook.

Brent: Instagram, I get on there because it’s my core group of people that I want to know about their lives or whatever. And then it’s the funny memes.

Jon: Do you have a TikTok account?

Brent: I don’t, no. Because the Chinese government.

Jon: Oh, you don’t want them …

Brent: They sus. I don’t have any desire to be on Snapchat or TikTok.

Jon: Me neither. Me neither. Tell us about the new building. XO is building a new building, which will be the only marriage ministry building.

Brent: To our knowledge, it’s the only building with marriage on the outside, showcasing that it’s for marriage.

Jon: Yeah, solely.

Brent: The whole buildings dedicated to marriage. It’s here at South Lake. Gateway Church donated the land back in 2016. Very grateful for all their support and we just broke ground last month, was two months ago.

Jon: Yeah, I was there.

Brent: We had a groundbreaking ceremony. It was fantastic. There’s about to be concrete poured over there.

Jon: It’s really exciting.

Brent: They’re moving dirt. The builder has been poser friend and Ben Pogue is … He owns the company that’s building the building. And they’re telling us, it’s like 10 months. Because it’s a quick build, because we already have the materials. We bought them in the 2021 timeframe to get ahead of all of the supply chain issues.

Jon: Got you.

Brent: It really shouldn’t be that complicated. I just don’t believe any timelines these days.

Jon: I know. Always add 10%.

Brent: Yeah. But it’s going to be a fantastic building. First floor is all ministry space, second floor is admin, third floor is shelf space right now, hopefully, for future expansion and whatever we’re doing.


What’s something that a lot of us are trying to catch up with where culture is now, trying to get our ministries relevant enough to meet this current happening? What do you think’s going to happen? When you think into the future, what do you think some of the next steps are? Are there any other big disruptors coming that you sense? Any more big shifts? Or do you think it’s going to be the way it is for a little while? Do you think social media is going to change? And maybe you don’t know, I’m just at … You know the space better than me. What do you think are some of the next challenges or opportunities that are coming?

Brent: I mean, I don’t know who else listening to this, if there are pastors or church leaders. But I feel like the whole world changed in 2020, 2021.

Jon: Completely.

Brent: I still don’t feel like pastors, the pastors I’m dealing with, fully understand how to navigate. They don’t realize how many people are still watching online because they don’t want to come back to a physical church. They’ve gotten used to watching things virtually. I have friends, I’ve talked to them. They loved the cadence and the rhythm of watching church online. And I’m trying to encourage them, hey, you should come back. Where we are right now and most churches that I’m noticing are 60% where they were pre COVID. And will that slowly come back? I think so.

But I still think there’s been a psychological shift in the minds of most people. They’re getting used to having more influences in life. They realized they could just watch any church service. I think pastors need to have an understanding that people’s minds are different when it comes to church. That might slowly come back to where it was before COVID. I’m not saying right now. I’m saying that you have to have a digital presence, the very sophisticated digital presence, or else you’re going to leave so many other people behind.

If you’re just trying to get people back into physical church without having still the mind that there’s a lot of people watching remotely, then I feel like you’re still ignoring a big portion of the congregation that’s enjoying the content. They don’t feel connected. I know there’s still a lot. Craig Groeschel, who’s a friend of yours, I mean, he is the leader in that space. I mean, he started the first online church and he’s got a metaverse church.

Jon: Metaverse.

Brent: And so …

Jon: You don’t have a metaverse marriage ministry yet?

Brent: That might sound ridiculous, but you’d be surprised in five years, I don’t know that everyone will … I don’t want to wear the VR headset. I just don’t. Even the other day …

Jon: Totally cool wearing one of those.

Brent:  … we went to EVO here that’s opened up at town square. It’s like a PINSTACK kind of place. And as you’re getting in line to get your cards or whatever, there’s a VR game right here. And so you’re watching these people and they look ridiculous, because …

Jon: They’re like a fool.

Brent: Because they have this headset on. They’re just swiping and stuff. And my son want me to play with him and I was like, “Sorry, Luke, we’re not going to play that.” I couldn’t make myself sit in there and do just …

Jon: Look like a fool in front of people walking by.

Brent: And that’s what I feel right now, is until it gets to a point where tomorrow AR where you have a sunglasses on or something that …

Jon: It won’t really take.

Brent:  … gives you a Tony Stark kind of feel that you can see things other people can’t see. But you’re still in this space. Until it gets to there, I don’t think there’s going to be an adoption rate with it. I personally don’t believe. Now there’s another pandemic and things shut down, VR is making a way up.

Jon: Bobby Greenwald said that too. He was on Carey Nieuwhof’s podcast, which we’re going to have on our podcast soon, by the way. But Bobby told him the same thing. Until how it’s delivered changes a little bit, he’s not sure it’ll ever really take off. Are there any big things that you can share? Maybe some of them are too early on in the process or you can’t just share. But are there any future opportunities or things you’re looking at doing at XO? Because I know you’re always big and diversifying and more ideas, and let’s do this, let’s do this, do this, do this, which I’d love.

I love how you think out of the box on so many different levels. Are there any nuance that you see coming up that you would jump into? I know you’ve followed bitcoin, you followed metaverse, you followed all these things, crypto, all these different things that are happening. Is there any of that that’s causing you to think differently about what’s coming next?

Brent: I don’t know that I’m thinking differently about what’s coming next. Right now, I do think that you have to be extremely nimble and quick to pivot, you have to be. And if you’re in an organization that can’t do that, it causes problems. In order to do that, you have to have a culture that’s okay with that. You have to have a leader that’s okay with that. You cannot ever go … This is the way we’ve always done, this is the way we’re going to continue to do it until Jesus comes back. If you do that, you’re just burying your feet in the sand.

And you’re not moving with the rest of the world. I just think that you have to be willing to try different things. I tell my team that all the time, they get a little bit. You can wear them out on the other end of the spectrum by constantly doing stuff. I try to keep a core that’s consistent. But I’m always coming in and going, hey, let’s try this. Let’s do this, just to see if it works. I mean, it may not. It’s okay if it doesn’t. You don’t want to embarrass yourself. But what God’s been telling me recently in my heart is he’s not going to give the reward to the safe move, it’s going to have to be the step of faith, the risk.

Jon: It’s really good.

Brent: There has to be some sort of risk involved in order to, I think, reap the reward of whatever it is. I’m thinking about stuff that gets me into … That is a risk. I mean, it could be a massive failure and …

Jon: Just a step of faith.

Brent:  … But also, if you believe it or not, why wouldn’t you try it? There’s a line from Anchorman 2, I might get this wrong, but they’re sitting around …

Jon: He’s a good theologian.

Brent: I think they have to get like some sort of ratings or they get ranked. I can’t remember what the whole scene was. But Ron Burgundy says, “Why don’t we just give people what they want, instead of trying to … Still trying to do news our way, why don’t we just give people what they want?” And somebody said, “What are you talking about?” He’s like, “Let’s just give them what they want.” And they started doing police chases, from the helicopter and cutting into other stuff. I think about that line, that scene where he’s just like, “Why don’t we give people what they want?” I think sometimes we …

Jon: Interesting.

Brent:  … try to be cute with the content. Sometimes people just want certain things that you just need to give them. I mean, you might not like talking about certain things. But first of all, marriage if you’re a pastor living out there right now and you want to know how to get people to your church, I’m not trying to tell a shameless plug.

Jon: Marriage ministry.


Marriage ministry will get them there. 100% at the time. You have a class, you have a group, you have a weekend, whatever it is that you can promote …

Jon: You should promote outside your church and inside of your church.

Brent: Yeah. Marriage is a felt need and every community, everyone has … And you bring in couples, get them healthy, and then they turn in some of your best congregation members. You might have a great marriage and might not feel comfortable doing that, I understand that. There’s a lot of pastors out there right now that they’re struggling privately in their own marriage.

Jon: Let’s talk about that for a second. Because we’ve talked mainly about XO in the marketing side and the strategic side and the creativity side. But really, going back to the core of what XO is, it’s marriage. You guys are all about seeing marriages healed and healthy. And I love what Jimmy says, is there’s 100% chance of success in marriage if you do it God’s way. And so, even for some of our pastors out there, what are either for themselves or for people in their congregation. And I know you’re not as much on that side at XO, the ministering and the preaching side of it.

But what are some trends, you guys, if there’s any in this post COVID? Are you guys seeing certain things that marriages are struggling with more than other areas? Are there specific things or any trends you’re seeing? What do you think are …

Brent: I don’t know that there’s anything new in the marriage space so that …

Jon: That’s so true.

Brent:  … there’s problems have … They’re the same old thing. I mean, communication, just making poor choices when it comes to how you treat your spouse, giving up on the things that made you fall in love. The position of senior pastor is one of the hardest jobs on the planet. And I say that with firsthand knowledge of what my dad’s gone through. And people think, ah, pastor, that’s an easy job. All they do is going to preach. Well, they do. They don’t do anything.

The stress of a church on a pastor is 24/7, 7 days a week, 365, you never … And people want access to you all the time, especially for a smaller church. When you’re a larger church, you have a team of people there. But most pastors don’t have a large team. Some pastors doing most of the work. And so the marriage automatically gets pushed down the line, because you have weddings and funerals and church leadership, the staff meetings, and then the weekend services and all that.

What happens is, is that the marriage, at some point, just phrase so much that they can’t keep it together publicly anymore. And I honestly think that sometimes pastors make some of those mistakes because they don’t know how to make it work anymore. Their home life is miserable, they’re miserable at work. That’s real. And it’s unfortunate, because burnout should not be the case when it comes to church life. You should be able to be a pastor and sustain that for a long period of time. Some people not do that well, but just naturally, you’re going to go through times where the church is just wearing you out. I just …

Jon: We can wrap up with this final thought. I just thought about this as we were talking. There’s people out there who aren’t preaching. They’re not even pastors on staff, but they may be in a role similar to you or they may not be the CEO, but they’re this guy or girl that’s behind the scenes, marketing, video content, audio, all the things that help make ministry happen so that somebody can walk on the stage and deliver a message to heal a marriage or to heal someone’s soul. What would you say to those people?

How have you … I’m assuming you have figured out how to realize that you’re doing ministry just as much as the preacher. A lot of people, I go to the XO conferences, and when you guys are kind enough to let me speak, I usually try to mention you before I preach.

Brent: I appreciate it.

Jon: Because I love you so much. But really, everyone just thinks XO Marriage, Jimmy Evans. But really, behind every face of a ministry, there are … And I can even say that because I have … There’s a church that I pastor, and when people think Victory Church, they may think Jon Chasteen. But the truth be told, I’m a very small part of what really happens. And I’m a very small part of the real ministry that happens throughout the church. There’s got to be people out there who feel like fairly insignificant or they’re not a part of doing the real ministry and the real work.

Have you wrestled with that? Have you ever had times where no one knows who you are? Or is there moments where that creeps in? Or have you convinced yourself or encouraged yourself that you are doing ministry? How do you wrestle with that?

Brent: Yeah. I just told somebody the other day, we were talking and I said,” I finally feel like I’m in the best mental mindset that I’ve ever been in when it comes to who I am, what I’m doing, why I’m doing it.” We were actually at Ashley Willis’s birthday party, we had a big bunch of people. And I was sitting there. And I felt the greatest, I think, I felt in any time in my career.

Jon: Because I was there and …

Brent: Because you were there, you’re close. They’re just there. And I was able to be real. Everyone that was there was friends, but also work related too. But it was a good feeling. It wasn’t stressful. I enjoyed being with the people that I was doing friendship with, but also XO with, and just it was a great group of people. I could be real, I could be myself. I could sit there with Stephanie and have a glass of wine and be with friends and be open and just be who I am, personally, with the confidence that that’s what God made me. I’m being who I’m called to be without any reservation. I didn’t feel like that night, I was being somebody I wasn’t.

Jon: Wow.

Brent: And I feel that way now in my role at XO, is that I just really believe that what I’m doing is what God called me to do supporting my dad. You think that’s my comfort zone, would be preaching and teaching. I, honestly, just don’t have … I’ve never desire that. So I don’t know why I would try to force something that …

Jon: So good.

Brent:  … doesn’t have any resonation with me. It’s not like, oh, I would love to do that, but I’m scared. I’m not scared to do it. I just, honestly, don’t want it.

Jon: Don’t want to.

Brent: I’ve never … When you’re in the audience and see somebody preaching, you’re like, I just want to get there and talk. I want to …

Jon: 100%.

Brent:  … preach. And that’s what a preacher should do. They should want. What I’m thinking about is, and I think I’ve thought this over lunch, as I was watching a clip of you, I was like, how do I take that and get to the maximum amount of people? That’s what gets me excited. Why would I spend my time …

Jon: That’s so good.

Brent:  … trying to become a great preacher when I would rather help the preachers that I know become great in what they do.

Jon: That’s good. You’re being driven by your calling, not driven by some desire or ambition to be someone or to be noticed or to be recognized. And I think that that’s really where true happiness can be found.

Brent: We trickle that down to our team. So everyone on our team knows the conference afterwards, every person that came …

Jon: That’s good.

Brent:  … that was minister to was my part to …

Jon: You were a part of that.

Brent: Yes. And it’s true. There’s not one person on our team that’s not contributing to the ministry that’s happening at the conference.

Jon: That’s so important. Well, I don’t want to keep you and I don’t want to extend this podcast longer than it should be. But I could just hang out with you all day, Brent.

Brent: Why is there time limit on this thing? What’s it going to be … No, that’s great. I got to go pick my daughter up at school anyway.

Jon: Well, we hang out, we’re friends. But I just want you to know how proud I am of what you have done at XO and it’s been amazing to watch you flourish there. But also, just your ministry. You may never thought of it that way before, but you have a ministry. And so, appreciate you, appreciate your friendship. Our kids are the same age. Our kids go to the same school, our wives are friends. So it’s just been a pleasure to be your friend. Appreciate you, appreciate what you do. Thanks for being on the podcast.

Brent: Check out Jon’s message from the XO conference this year. It was amazing too. Thanks for having me on.

Jon: Thank you again for watching. Hey, if you want more content, go to churchintension.com, churchintension.com. There you can see all kinds of articles and resources from faculty at the King’s University and other resources and other pastors and leaders. You can contact us if you have suggestions or questions, please reach out. Thank you so much for watching today. We love you. Thank you, Brent, and we’ll see you guys next episode.

Church InTension
Church InTensionhttps://church-intension.simplecast.com
The Church InTension podcast is a place to have healthy conversations about areas of tension and the intentions of the Church. Hosted by Dr. Jon Chasteen and powered by The King's University and Gateway Church.