Planting a church is wrought with challenges. Pastor Preston Morrison of Gateway Church Scottsdale and Pastor Tim Ross of Embassy City Church experienced many when they were sent out by Gateway Church to lead their own congregations.
In this episode of Church InTension, The King’s University President, Dr. Jon Chasteen, talks with Preston and Tim about how they stayed afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic and the biggest things they’ve learned along the way.
Dr. Jon Chasteen: Our guest today is Preston Morrison. Preston Morrison is the senior pastor of Gateway Church in Scottsdale, Arizona. Been there since 2012, planted that church. He was on staff here at Gateway Church for a season before that. And he was on his way here to be on the podcast, and we’ve gotten to know each other the last couple years, and then coming to find out, Timmy was with him. Is it okay to call… Is that your name for him?
Pastor Preston Morrison: That’s his wife’s name for him but I jacked it unapologetically.
Jon: Okay. The cool thing is both of you went on to plant churches and both of you went on to be planted, correct me if I’m wrong, by Gateway Church. They helped you.
Jon: What I want to talk about that I think is really important is that most of our listeners are pastors. Not all of them, but most of our listeners are pastors, and a lot of our listeners may have a vision of something that they feel like God wants to do in and through them and maybe God’s even begun to give them snippets of what that looks like. All the while they’re having to serve someone else’s vision. Think about Joseph and the vision he was given, but then he had to go and serve other visions. Both of you can talk about this. I don’t care who goes first. Fight over it. I really don’t know if I want to ask a question because I want to just let you talk, but one of my questions is, you can say whatever you want. When did you start filling the itch to plant a church, and how long did you have to serve Gateway before you got to actually scratch that itch?
Preston: Well, when I was 18, I was looking at where to go to college. Never been to Arizona, went out to Arizona on my recruiting trip with my mom and dad and felt like the Lord told me I was going to eventually start a church there. And so, when I was finishing up college and Robert offered me the job, before I said yes, I told him what I felt like the Lord had said about Scottsdale. So, I actually knew I was going to plant before he hired me but I told him, you hear the Lord as clearly as anybody I’ve ever been around so you’ll never hear me say Scottsdale until God tells you it’s time for me to go to Scottsdale.
Jon: Oh wow.
Preston: I was at Gateway for 10 years before he sat me down over lunch and said, “It’s time to get you ready to go.” Kicked off a three-year process.
Preston: That’s my story of how long I was there, but what I’d say in answer to your question, I think the best way to prepare to pastor a church, and I’d say with somebody else’s vision, is to serve somebody else’s vision.
Preston: Jesus didn’t promise me he would build my church. I don’t actually have a vision for the church I pastor. He does. So, the best way to prepare to serve his vision of the church he’s asked me to pastor is to spend 13 years…
Jon: Serving his vision.
Preston: Serving his vision through somebody else. It’s the same thing. Just a different location. It’s a trick. It taught me how to not have a vision for my church because it’s not my church, which means it’s not my vision. It’s his. So, I need his vision.
Jon: Yep. Pastor T.
Pastor Tim Ross: I was at Gateway 2011. It’s when I joined. 2012 is when I came on staff. January of 2013 is when the lawyer spoke to me about Embassy City. May of 13 is when he told me where it would be. In Irving. Specifically, Las Colinas. I submitted it to Pastor Robert in September of 2013 and he confirmed that’s where I was supposed to go. But I submitted it to him. When I came to Pastor Robert originally, I thought I was going to plan a church in Keller and I had the name of it. 501C3 was almost done. We had a core team of like 50 people. Pastor Robert was in his Blessed Life series and he taught a message called am I generous? John chapter number 12. I’ll never forget it. Alabaster box of oil, cracked open over Jesus’ feet by Mary, and the holy spirit said in the same way that Mary poured this expensive oil over Jesus’ feet. I want you to take the anointing I’ve placed on your life and put it at Robert’s feet and don’t pick it up again until he hands it back to you.
Tim: And so, I submitted to him that there was a church that I wanted to plan in my heart, but I wasn’t going to start it until God spoke to him to speak to me. I think there’s a difference between laying something at somebody’s feet and burying it. If you lay something at someone’s feet, it’s still visible and it’s a constant reminder of Hey, when you going to get that? Are we going to talk about that? But I didn’t lay it at his feet, I buried it. And so, because I buried it died and it actually gave birth to the real thing he wanted me to do, which was not Freedom Church of Keller. It was Embassy City in Irving.
Jon: Both of you had this, obviously, had this submissiveness. Would you call it that word or would you identify it as something else?
Preston: That’s perfect word.
Tim: It is. It is. I know I speak on behalf of both of us when I say that is the secret sauce to everything God has done in our life. I would go into… If submission was a competition, I’d sign up for it. I can be beat a lot of ways. No one is going to beat the two of us submitting.
Jon: Wow. What happens to the person who… Obviously you guys were at a super healthy church with a super healthy leader. What does that look like if the person is at a church that’s not a bad church and there’s not necessarily a bad leader, but there’s not the same openness. Maybe they’re in a culture where the openness is not… Tim’s smiling already.
Tim: The exact same thing.
Preston: I knew you were going to say that. Because it’s not about the pastor that’s stewarding me. That’s between him and God. It’s between me and God, what I do in regards to what the pastor does with me. Our youth pastor in Scottsdale, was working at a church on the west coast and it was a difficult situation. He was being asked to do a lot and he was also having to be bi-vocational because he was severely underpaid, so he was doing boxes at UPS on the graveyard shift while youth pastoring.
I describe him as a little shepherd boy David, before anybody knew him. I always wondered in the beginning, how did this kid survive that? He was there a little over a year. Now, having stewarded him for the last five, six years, I figured out how it happened. God removed him and gave him to us and that… If I honor God and in this case, he did. He did everything he could to honor God and I believe God gave that pastor a chance to steward a David. When it didn’t go down that way, God said, “Okay, let me go find a steward.” And this kid didn’t… We didn’t know he existed. He didn’t know we existed. Through a third party, he landed in our field and it’s one of the best gifts God’s ever given us but it’s a stewardship thing. If I’ll just submit to God and trust him, he’ll move mountains and put me with a steward.
Jon: So, you guys both planted churches. Let’s talk to any church planters out there or maybe there’s people out there that are part of a church plant. What was the hardest thing in church planting? Personally or… You can talk about personally, you can talk about your marriage, you can talk about your teams. I don’t care what you talk about, but what was me of the biggest challenges for you guys?
Preston: Worrying about what everybody else thought. In the day in which we live, in the evangelical world, church planting is a thing. Everybody’s on social media, taking pictures of their attendance and their events and all stuff.
Jon: How many baptized and how many they, yeah.
Preston: And it’s great. It’s not inherently bad. Six weeks in, we were in a… I didn’t pick out where we were meeting. The Lord clearly said, this is where I wanted to start. It was an 850 seat room and I’d felt the Lord say, this isn’t going to start the way anybody thinks. It’s going to be much worse than they all think. That’s the word I got before I even moved sweet. When he says, “I want a 850 seat room”, and we start with 67 people and 850 seats… Six weeks in, we are in the middle of worship and at the beginning of worship, there are seven people on the stage and six people in the crowd and my wife leans over to me and she says, “Where are all of the people?”
And I don’t know why, but I snapped on the inside. I spent two entire songs screaming at the Lord. “Why did you send me here? I was a part of a movement of God back there. Why don’t I just go back? I don’t understand this. Just let me go back and be a part of stewarding what you’re doing there.” At the beginning of song three, I’ll never forget, and by then there are probably 50 people in the room. He’s goes, “Preston, it appears to me you are more concerned with who isn’t here than you are with who is, and if you’d like, I can leave.” And I fell on my face and I started weeping so loudly, my wife thought something was wrong.
The next week Gateway was having their pastor’s conference. I’m back in the back. Robert’s got his friends coming through and several of his friends are asking how’s the church going, right? So, I said… “How many are you running”, David asked. We had 70 people this last weekend and I’ll never forget one of them said, “I’m so sorry. But it will get better.” And you know those moments. We have those moments, and I felt like the Lord was watching going, how’s he going to respond? And I said to the Lord, I really only care now…
Jon: About the 70.
Preston: That you’re there, and I don’t care if the 70 leave me as long as you’re in the room. So, I think that, to me, calibrated me to go everyone else is going to have their opinions. They’re going to look at numbers and pictures online but is God in the room?
Jon: And COVID did that to all pastors.
Jon: Where did all the people go? And I’ve talked to so many pastors who have just been in a pretzel because we have become so obsessed with the faces in the pews instead of the presence of the Lord, and I think COVID has re-calibrated every, or I hope it’s beginning to recalibrate every pastor. You’re going to be re-calibrated whether you like it or not, because everything’s been changed. Everything’s been completely changed.
Tim: 2020 was a reset year whether you asked for it or didn’t and I believe the Lord emptied the room for me to give me my voice back. When we planted the church in September 2015, I didn’t know who I was. The week before I was on a platform being sent by our home church and I was a son of the house and seven days later I’m a father of the house and I didn’t know how to switch my voice that fast. I’m like, “I don’t even know my dad voice.”
Jon: It’s that feeling when you have your baby at the hospital and they’re like, “Here, take this baby home”, and you’re like, “I’m a dad now? This is mine?”
Tim: Yeah. I’m a dad. Yeah, because while the baby’s in the womb, you’re a dad still but you don’t interact with that baby. You haven’t had to yell at that baby. You haven’t had to try to figure out what’s wrong with that baby. You don’t know how to lead that baby. When I started in 2015, my voice… It took me the longest to find my voice. There was a lot of spiritual trauma there as well. I was afraid of the voice that I had prior to my hurt and afraid to reclaim that voice for what I thought it might imply. That took me a full five years to work through and in 2020, God literally emptied the church building and I got my voice back and we stayed gone long enough for people to determine if they liked the voice that they heard before they came back.
Jon: That’s a really good way to look at it.
Tim: And I was fine with whoever.
Jon: Well, we were stripped of what should not have, but maybe had validated us. When you’re stripped of all that… I went on my first sabbatical this past summer and when you don’t have phone or email or social media and preaching and universities and everything that you are is stripped away from you, for the first two weeks I was like, “I’m going to have a mental breakdown. What do I do?” And COVID has done that to all of us, in a sense, and we’re forced to deal with our own identity in Christ, even as pastors. It was yucky. It’s yucky. Not fun. What was hard for you in planting the church? Anything else? Pastor Tim?
Tim: Figuring out my seat. We always talk about, get the right staff and make sure everybody has the right seat on the bus, but for me as a lead pastor, I wasn’t in the right seat. There’s so many people that get pressured into thinking that you’re calling, came with a MBA. That just because you got called to preach, you must automatically now be a savvy business person as well and you also must be a quick CEO and you got to be able to do all this stuff.
I realized that it’s really basic for me. I fell in love with a book on January 15th, 1996. I gave my life to Christ the 14th, I opened to Genesis 1:1 the 15th, and I started reading the Bible and the Bible… When I read the Bible, it’s like a popup book. I watch it more than I’ve ever read it. When I preach, people show up. I don’t know what to do with those people. I’m not a COO. I’m not a… I just preach and people show up. I don’t know what to do with these people. If you all don’t get somebody in here that…
Jon: I love the honesty.
Tim: I don’t know what to do with these people. Except hug them.
Jon: Yeah. And you give great hugs.
Tim: I do.
Jon: You do. You give good ones.
Tim: But after that, I don’t… Okay, this person said they would love to be a part of the ministry. They seem excited. Put them over there. Give them a salary. Oh God. Seven months later I need to fire this person. They don’t have the capacity. Well, I shouldn’t have hired him. What am I doing hiring anybody?
Jon: What didn’t somebody tell me that?
Tim: I get a word I don’t get Indeed resumes coming through my inbox. I had to fire myself as the operating CEO of the organization. I’m a visionary. I get a word from the Lord and I know how to take a word and give it a tangible expression that people can interact with. That’s my gift. That’s my anointing. Outside of that I should not be doing what I was doing.
Jon: I love that thought. I needed to fire myself.
Tim: And I did.
Jon: I think every one of us has something we need to fire ourselves.
Jon: In some realm.
Tim: Yeah. So, I did. I fired myself and I’ve never been happier.
Jon: Somebody just fired themself outside our office right there. Did you hear that? Holy moly. What was that? Preston, were you about to say something?
Preston: Yeah. I think I’ve fired myself four times now in nine years and the first time I felt the Lord asked me to do it, it freaked me out a little bit. I thought I was losing my job literally. It was really just him saying church has stepped into a new season and that you cannot steward this bride and so I need you to fire that guy. And so I said, “Okay”. He said, “No, no I mean literally. I need you to write it up and I need you to fire the current senior pastor as the lead elder”, and so I fired him and then he said, “Now I want you to write up a new job description.”
And what’s amazing; it was laid out even more to my strengths than the first job description was. That’s what Tim’s describing. When we really figure out that God wires us a certain way and if we’ll operate in that manner, he will anoint us and bless us even more. When he sent me to Scottsdale, he said, “Do two things. Do everything I tell you to do and be exactly who I made you to be, and no one else.” That’s it. “Preston, I’ll bless everything you do. I don’t want you to be anybody else. Do what I say and be who I made you to be.” So, the times I’ve had to fire me have been when I was trying to be something I wasn’t. It’s amazing. When we get that off, we make more room to operate in the gifts he’s giving us. It’s an easier way to be employed and be a ministry.
Jon: And it ensures longevity, in ministry. I think there’s even… You guys can talk about this, because you’ve been pastoring for many, many years now and there’s seasons to that. For a season maybe you had to play that role’s and then I had to fire that and I’m stepping… It’s Jethro coming to Moses. “Hey Moses. What worked yesterday, isn’t going to work tomorrow, so let’s shift me stuff.” What are some of the things that you’ve seen shift? Maybe there’s a pastor that’s been pastoring for seven years and they’re still doing stuff they were doing in year one. So, what, what are some things that maybe you’ve had to shed, would be maybe a good word for it?
Tim: I think for me… I love people so much… I’ll give you a real practical example. I was in guest central hugging people longer than I was up preaching to them and I had to fire that guy. I didn’t want to be the pastor that was unaccessible and all that kind of stuff and blah, blah, blah and I wanted to show everybody I love them and I have time for them.
Jon: We need to talk about this because I wrestle with this too.
Tim: Yeah. And I realized that my role and I… And I talk to this with our Embassy City staff all the time. I’m the executive chef of the restaurant, so I’ll always ask them, “How many of you all have a favorite restaurant?”
Jon: This is good. Please tell this. Yes.
Tim: “How many of you all have a favorite restaurant?” “Oh, we have a favorite restaurant.” “How many of you all have a favorite dish?” “Oh, I have a favorite dish.” “How many of you all frequent that restaurant at least twice a month?” “Oh, I frequent that restaurant twice a month. I’ll go. I’ll take my friends. We love going to that restaurant.” “Cool. Have you ever met the chef?” The person that you…
Preston: That’s great.
Tim: That was there to cook the food…
Jon: Cooked it up.
Tim: Your favorite dish is consistent every single time. Have you ever met that guy? Because you’ve met the hostess and you’ve met half of the wait staff, But have you met that person? We’ve never met that person. Do you need to?
Preston: Still keep going don’t you?
Tim: Where do you want him to really be? Or where do you want her to really be? Because he could be there waiting for you when you walk in the door, but it’s going to take that much longer to get your dish. And you could have him serve your table, but if he has to serve everybody else’s table, it’s going to take that much longer to get your dish.
Jon: And it won’t taste the same either.
Tim: It’s not going to taste the same. It’s going to be cold. You don’t need as much as you think you do from the person that you came to get something from, and I had to change my perspective because I was the host and the executive chef. Right? Wasn’t I?
Preston: The host, the server, the bus boy.
Jon: Sweeping floors.
Preston: Head chef. You were everything for a long time.
Tim: I was, and so I had to… Right? Give myself permission to not leave that kitchen.
Jon: Preston spoke a message at the Gateway Conference that, if you haven’t listened to it, you need to go find it. I don’t know how to tell you to find it. Just Google Gateway Conference 2021 and watch it. Part of what he talked about a little bit, touched on it, was this idea of people pleasing. I preached a sermon a couple of months ago called Help, I’m a People Pleaser, because I am a recovering people pleaser and… I’d be in the lobby. I don’t want to be a green room pastor, but also if I stay in the lobby, then I’m going to be out there for two hours then I’m wore out and I go home to my family and I’m not a good dad, I’m not a good husband. How have you gotten better at saying no? Because really that’s what it comes down to. You got to disappoint somebody. You talked about this in your sermon.
Preston: Yeah. I think when we look to people for affirmation, we are going to… We won’t sleep well, because what they think, what they say, the look on their face, changes constantly. When we look to them to get our affirmation, we’re going to be doing 360s all the time because one person likes cinnamon in their dish and the other person will leave the restaurant if there’s cinnamon. If I’m trying to look at people, which way do I go? I think we have to get to the place where… Unfortunately I think the enemy has turned this kind of stuff into a cliche. I look for a smile on the Lord’s face. When I do what I do, is he smiling? Not are they clapping? Are they crying? Are they laughing? Are they happy with the dish? No, no, no. Did I cook it exactly the way he asked me to cook it? If he has that look on his face, that’s like, that a boy. That’s my boy.
Jon: You don’t need to read the reviews.
Preston: I don’t need to know. That’s why I’m not on social media. Why do I need to hear what you think when there’s only one person that… So, I think it makes it easier to say no when I’m not looking to them for my yes. Yes, Preston. No, no, no.
Tim: That was nasty, bro.
Preston: No, no.
Tim: Slow that down.
Jon: That was nasty. You should say that again.
Tim: Yeah. Slow that down homeboy.
Preston: As long as I’m not looking to them for my yes. Makes it easy to say no. I just need him to go, “Yes. Yes son. Yes. That’s what I wanted.” They can’t give me that. They will never be able…
Jon: Well their eyes are on the wrong thing. Saul did it. Saul’s was eyes were on the wrong thing. Peter. Peter denied Jesus three time because he was worried about some homeless person around a campfire. He was worried about what somebody thought about and you see it time and time again through scripture, this idea of being a people pleaser. Jonah was a people pleaser. Worried about… It’s over and over and over again. We know it’s human. We know it’s human nature because you see it all through the Bible. And you’d add… Go ahead Pastor.
Tim: The only thing I would add to that is, when I’m talking to leaders always tell them, I’ve always been so frustrated with pastors that say Monday mornings the most depressing day and I just feel like giving up every Monday. I’m like every Monday?
Jon: You might be doing the wrong thing.
Tim: What are you preaching if every Monday you feel horrible and you just… “I can’t get out of bed.” And I’m like, the only way I could feel like that on a Monday after a Sunday is if I didn’t say something he told me to say.
Jon: Preston tried to hold his “ooh” in and it didn’t work.
Tim: It’s too much pressure. I could have did this better, I could have did that, but did you get on base though? Because if we’re talking about hitting home runs, do you know how hard it is to hit a 99 mile per hour curve ball out the park?
Jon: Every game?
Tim: Every game. Hall of Famers are in Cooperstown with a .223 batting average. .22, not .37. A guy that’s hit the ball 22% of the time over the course of 17 years can have a bust in Cooperstown and we’re mad because we forgot .3? We’re just moving a needle. We’re not playing a whole record this Sunday. We’re just moving the needle. I just think the calibration of man I’m… My dad loves me and he’s pleased with me. He’s validated me.
Jon: I think there’s even something about those who would say Mondays are that… Maybe we spent all day Sunday worrying so much of what people thought about our sermon and getting the praise and the accolades or wondering and asking that, Monday, we wake up and there’s no clapping, there’s no feedback, there’s no nothing and so now I’m left with processing this all myself because maybe it’s because Sunday was spent so consumed with wondering how it came off. And did I do anything today to grow the church? Did I do anything to grow? Did I do the right thing? Did people notice how many times did get on my Instagram? How many times did people post about my sermon and mention my name? Well, there was only two. Oh my gosh. And then we look at Life Church and they baptized four million people yesterday and we’re like, oh my gosh, I’m a loser. I did nothing.
Tim: You know what my advice is to that?
Tim: Unfollow that.
Tim: You don’t have to see that. Life church did not call you to remind you.
Jon: That’s exactly right. You went looking.
Tim: Craig did not text you “Do you know what I did this weekend?” We keep bringing it to ourselves and then want to puke after we…
Jon: We pull up the poison and start forking it into our mouth.
Tim: That’s exactly right. Yeah.
Preston: You guys are describing one of my pet peeves. There’s a phrase out there about megachurch pastors, senior pastors, that we hear a lot. Pastors are typically narcissists. We hear that from counselors. Senior pastors and pastors of megachurches are almost always narcissists. I get upset every time I hear that, and here’s why. It isn’t that pastors of successful churches have to be a narcissist. Here’s what I would say. Orphans are narcissists. And there are a lot of pastors that are ministering as orphans. Here’s the deal. I think a lot of the reason that guys look for the praise of man; it’s because deep down, they’re not convinced that their daddy is in the stands, cheering everything they do. When our children were young, buddy, when they were playing five year old tee-ball…
Jon: When they were terrible.
Preston: Terrible. Running backwards on the bases.
Jon: Picking flowers in the outfield.
Preston: Were we not cheering and yelling and screaming? When my daughter scored in the wrong goal at five years old; and I’m screaming. Screaming. Why? Because that’s what daddys do. My daddy is watching every game I play and there’s no compliment you could give me in the lobby that makes me feel better than my daddy, after I struck out says, “Way to go son.” They have no idea how much courage it took you to say what you just said. Way to go. That’s my boy striking out. I just think if we would just care for the orphan in us, heal the brokenhearted orphan so that we could be sons and daughters of God most high, and remember daddy’s always in the stands.
Preston: And I don’t need to get on social media and see what the rest of the crowd is saying. He’s there, I saw him and I saw that look on his face and that compliment he spoke to my heart. I am good.
Jon: Yep. Jesus said I will not leave you as orphans.
Preston: That’s exactly right.
Tim: That’s what he said.
Jon: When this podcast airs, I don’t know if this one will have aired yet, but I just had a dude on my podcast, named Leif Hetland, who’s wrote in a couple books. One on “The Orphan Spirit” and one called, “Called to Reign”. I’m actually doing a whole series. It’s crazy that you mentioned this. I’m in the middle of doing a whole, I’ve preached like six sermons on the orphan heart.
Preston: Love it.
Jon: And I’m obsessed.
Preston: Love it.
Jon: With this topic. Anytime I hear the word orphan, I’m like, yes? Did someone just say orphan? Because I think it’s so… It’s running rampant. It’s one of the enemy’s greatest weapons, and this will be a repeat if this podcast has already played, but one of the things Leif says in his book is he says that the devil was the first orphan because he was in heaven with the father and his father cast him out of heaven, out of home, away from home, and so the enemy came the first orphan with a third of the angels and that the devil has spent the rest of his time trying to convince us to feel the same way that he feels.
Tim: He’s recruiting people for the…
Jon: He’s recruiting people for the orphanage.
Tim: For the orphanage. Hell is an orphanage.
Jon: If you’re a pastor and you’re an orphan, you have an orphanage. You’re creating a church full of orphans and it’s…
Preston: Here’s what’s scary. You can actually build a really strong church filled with orphans because orphans are driven to please. I hate to say this, but orphans can make great volunteers because they’ll do whatever you say and I’m telling you-
Jon: To belong.
Preston: That’s the deal.
Jon: That’s what orphans do.
Preston: Because they don’t see daddy up in the stands, they’re looking for someone to cheer for them.
Jon: Affirmation. Affirmation.
Preston: That’s right. So, they think if I hit this double for you right now, you’ll cheer me on, and I don’t have anybody in the stands.
Jon: Well, if you’re an orphan and there’s a couple coming to the orphanage to maybe adopt somebody, they’ll come to you and say, “Hey maybe, just maybe, if you’ll put on your best dress, comb your hair just right, put on the right outfit, and if you’re polite, maybe they’ll accept you. Maybe they’ll love you.” And so, we create these… We’ve almost done this to ourself and I’m kind of ranting here, but we’ve almost encouraged orphan behavior.
Jon: A production. A performance.
Jon: Performance. It’s the prodigal son that stayed home. Who said, “Well dad, you never did anything for me. I’ve stayed home and worked. I’ve worked in the field with the slaves”, and the dad’s like, “Well, I never asked you to work in the field with the slaves. You’re my son.” Sorry. I can really going here. I’m convinced you guys correct me if I’m wrong on this. I think I’m going to say something really bold. I don’t think this will get me in trouble. I think that I could build a big church without God being involved at all.
Preston: Isn’t that what Tozer said? Wasn’t that A. W. Tozer that said removed the holy spirit from the church in our day and most of what happens will continue to happen and no one would know the difference?
Jon: Nobody would know the difference.
Tim: I’ll give you Bible for it. The reason why the veil was rent from top to bottom was to expose the biggest farce, that Israel had continued to perpetrate. Once a year, the high priest was still going behind the Holies of Holies.
Jon: With a rope tied around his neck. Around his waist.
Tim: Rope tied around his ankle and sprinkling blood on walls. There was no tangible presence of God. The arc of the covenant was not there.
Jon: And nobody knew it.
Tim: But they were still going beyond that veil as if it was. That is the epitome of religion. Religion is I continue to do this whether you participate or not. Friday’s my date night with Juliet. I am religious about Fridays because of my relationship with Juliet. Religion is great when it’s all about the relationship. You remove the relationship, then religion is empty. All of us have been saying, “It’s not about religion. It’s about relationship.” No. Any relationship you really love, you do things religiously to keep it going. Friday’s date night with Juliet is amazing. Now, if Juliet gets a migraine and we always go to the movies on Fridays and I decide to go to the movie theater anyway, I’ve just changed what Friday’s all about.
Jon: That’s a great analogy.
Tim: Because now what I’m saying is whether you are present or not, I’ve got to go to the movies.
Preston: I knew you were going to go here.
Tim: The priest lost the tangible presence of God and at some point said, “But we’ve been doing it too long this way, so we got to keep it up.”
Jon: And maybe God’s not that upset about it because, all said, Hey, as long as they’re preaching Jesus… I don’t know. I’m just trying to make this case of I think that I could, if I was an evil person which I’m not, I could start a church, come up with a real cool trendy name, raise some money, have some nice stuff, get some great song leaders, sing some Maverick City, sing some all amazing worship songs. I could just rip a sermon. I’ll just rip one of Preston’s or Pastor Tim sermons. They’re great sermons. I could throw in some jokes. People like, “Man, I like this church. Cool church,” and people… I’m not even saying that this is evil and bad because people would probably get saved and people would probably come to know Jesus. All I’m saying is, is that we just need to be really careful as pastors sometimes. That makes sense?
Tim: It goes back to what Pres said earlier. His number one focus was I just care that God’s here. Which means the 70 can go away or it can turn into 1700. Is God still here? Is my dad still in the room?
Preston: What’s the point of date night if you don’t show?
Tim: If Juliet doesn’t come, why am I going to the movies? I lost the reason the movies was the attraction in the first place.
Preston: Doesn’t matter if the theater’s packed.
Tim: It doesn’t matter if the theater’s packed. If that seat’s empty next to me…
Jon: This is good.
Preston: It’s Exodus 33.
Tim: I’d rather be at the house. And I think that’s another thing, to call back to 2020, I think God needed to remind everybody that I should have always been in your house. You don’t have to miss me. You just miss a building. I’m here with you.
Jon: We didn’t go to the movies. We stayed home.
Tim: Yeah, we just stayed home.
Jon: The relationship’s still there.
Tim: That’s right.
Jon: That’s awesome. What else do you guys want to talk about? Hasn’t cut off yet. The light’s still… Is that green or red? I don’t know what color that is. It’s red? Well then are we still recording?
Tim: A warm salmon.
Jon: What else? What are you guys challenged by right now in your churches?
Preston: How weak it seems like we’re all becoming. This is frustrating me to no end because the book I read says we’re at our best when the obstacles get bigger and I’m going, this plays right into our hand. This is set up for us. Why would I be weak? Why would I complain about right now? The greater the needs out there, the easier it’s going to be.
Jon: I asked Joachim this. I had him on my podcast yesterday. I don’t know when it’s going to air. I said, “You’re a pastor of a church in a socialistic country”, and Americans, I’m not saying we shouldn’t stand up and fight. We should do all those things, and he said the same thing. He said, “Every great move of God has happened in the middle of some sort of persecution.”
Tim: Persecution and pestilence. It’s the two P’s. From Genesis to Revelation. Throw in some persecution or some pestilence.
Jon: And God shows up.
Tim: The church grows. From Exodus all the way to Nero’s persecution. The church always grew with persecution and or pestilence.
Jon: Man, Pastor Tim, Pastor Preston. It’s always so much fun to hang out with you guys. Thanks for coming on the show. Thanks for being who you are. Thanks for the ministry that you guys do. In the body of Christ. Listeners, thank you for listening. We can’t do this without you and we do this for you. I pray that you enjoy this podcast. As always, if you don’t mind giving us a share, take a snapshot picture of this, post it on social media.