Welcome back to Monday Morning Church. Today’s guest is Cord Bear from to Tomoka Christian Church in Ormond Beach, Florida. Great to have your Cord.
I appreciate you letting me be a part of the podcast today Courtney.
Yeah, definitely. Cord, you are the executive pastor at Tomoka would you share a bit of your journey to get to your current position?
Absolutely. Got here in 2010, the gentleman who’s the senior pastor here, his name is Joe Putting, been here about twenty-five years. I was living and working back in Illinois, where I was born and raised doing of the temp ministry, preaching at two smaller churches and working six other part time jobs, raising my children where I grew up and living what I thought was the dream and expected to live and die there. Joe, who I went to college with and we were best friends told me one wintery evening in February and asked me if he was ready… if I was ready for him to mess up my life, he had been diagnosed with leukemia, and the elders of the church had approached him and said it’s time for you to get an Executive Pastor. They were running about two thousand people at the time and didn’t have one. And they told him he needed to get one, went home and told his wife, and she said, “You need to call Cord.” And he did, and voila, here I am.
Wow, that’s quite a start.
It was quite a journey, it started with him calling me a few months before that and saying “Hey, we’re going to Ethiopia, we think you’re supposed to go with us.” And so we prayed about it. My wife said, “I think I’m supposed to go with them.” And I said, “I think I’m supposed to stay in America. But because I love you, I’ll go with you.” And then they called two months later to say, “the trip was off,” because Joe had been diagnosed with leukemia, and then that was the three-month law and then in February, one night, he just called me and asked me to consider it, the next morning after he asked me, I got up, had to be at work at eleven, sat down that morning in my office at home to do my devotion, and the devotion was “If any man wants to be my disciple. He must leave mother and father home and land all that he has, and come and follow me.”
So it was very clear the next morning that my decision didn’t have to do with figuring out whether this was from God or whether this work for my friend. But whether I wanted to be a disciple or not, and was very tough decision.
Yeah, that really is a start. Tell me a little bit. When you started, then he… the main pastor has leukemia. What was that like coming into this executive pastor position to church, out of state from what you’re used to with the main pastor sick?
It was challenging, it was funny, we came down in April to find a place to live, and when we did, the day we got ready to leave to fly back up to Illinois. My wife and I, and my sister was with us, we’d his had met at the church office, and we were meeting with them and they did a morning prayer time every morning at nine. And so we happened to be there and we were praying with the staff, and we got into the car and we were leaving my wife said, and I’m so glad she said, “You’re going to get to come here”, she said, “because it’s going to be so good for you to be part of that team to where you don’t have to lead and you don’t have to always be on.” And I just looked at her and said, “Honey that church that we just left will not be the same church when we get there six weeks from now.” And she gave me the “Oh, you’re just being negative.” And I just knew in my spirit that God knew who I was, and that I wasn’t a good wader into the water, I needed to jump in on the high dive. And sure enough by the time I got here that situation had escalated to the point that the leadership, the church had asked our senior pastor to take a sabbatical. He’d been going nine hundred miles for twenty plus years, leading the church from a hundred and forty something people to over two thousand, and so when I walked in to the staff, it was unsettled, there was some uncertainty, and it was a challenge to find the balance between my role because I was the executive pastor. But one day in the office, the first day in the office, one of the elders came to me and said, “we don’t have anybody to preach. Can you step into the pulpit?” And so I assumed both roles out of the gate, and that was awkward, and was awkward for Joe, we were good friends, but it was an awkward thing for him. But once we got through the summer and Joe came back from sabbatical, it’s been awesome ever since.
How long ago was that, to get a feel of the timeline?
That was… I came on staff my first day in the office was June the first 2010 and so that’s when it was, Joe took a sabbatical, and he came back mid-September 2010 and it’s been great ever since.
So tell me a little about the last seven years then, once Joe was able to come back and you were able to resume the more traditional executive pastor role, what are some of your roles and responsibilities today?
We were in the middle of a transition, one of the things that I typically do… was a nursing home administrator for many years, and then was the director of multiple nursing homes for several years and then I went into restaurant management. It was a restaurant general manager for ten years, and also was an area manager of restaurants as well and so I’ve always had the mentality that my primary job as a manager is to mealy walk in and find my replacement. It’s the first thing I think about when I walk into a position. And so when I came on, the very first thing I wanted to do was find the person or to determine whether the person was on my staff that could replace me. And it didn’t take me long to find that person and to realize that person was on staff. And so from that moment, I began to groom her and to train her and to help her see that she had the potential. And just this past year, just this year in June, on June first, we made the transition where she became the director of operations, took that fight of the executive pastor thing, and now I’m transitioning into oversight of her, and then focusing my time primarily on ministry.
So how is your role changed now that you’re transitioning out of directly working with operations? What parts of the ministry do you focus on?
Well, I’m figuring that out. It’s funny. I’ve had no trouble giving up operations. I love it, I love facility management, finance, communications. You can’t come to work and not be busy because it’s just the way it is and sometimes I’ll sit in my office and watch her walking from meeting to meeting and just sort of smile and chuckle, but I’m glad she’s doing it. I’m trying to figure that part out. It’s been… I’ve always stayed pulpit, but have always been, it’s been rare to find somebody like the role that I’ve been given here, but we have a Wednesday night service, we have children’s ministry, student ministry, lots of things going on, but we have a full blown worship service on Wednesday. That’s been a part of this church’s culture for a while. And I preach those. So I get to do my own series. I get to preach almost every Wednesday, then I’m blessed to be able to fill in the pulpit on the weekends for Joe. So I get twelve to thirteen weekends, so have a lot of those co-pastor duties as well. So those will continue, but I’m figuring that out. I’m figuring out what my role looks like as the executive pastor who focuses primarily on ministry, we’re in the middle of the change of our model to try to become more streamlined and focused and reproducible, because we planted our first campus last year and we found out what everybody else said, what happened is, when you plant a campus, you reproduce your good and your bad, and that’s helped us learn where we need to be better at. So that’s what I’ve been primarily focused on.
What are some of the administrative challenges that you face?
I think as the church gets bigger, we’ve got multi campus about ninety-five miles down on the road in Palm Bay. We’ve added our online community which continues to explode. The churches increased from two thousand when we moved into our new building to last weekend, thirty-four hundred people. So I think as the truth grows and at least in my position, the biggest challenge for me is making sure that I communicate enough because it is such a big operation, as most of your listeners will know that it doesn’t take long for poor communication or lack of communication to catch up with you. And so trying to find that balance between always giving your staff enough trust to do what they’re supposed to do and yet giving them enough clarity or enough information so that they can do what you’ve entrusted them to do. And so that’s one of my biggest challenges is making sure that I communicate enough to make sure that we’re not having to use sideways energy to deal with something we could have caught proactively.
I think that resonate with a lot of people listening.
I also… because it consumes way too much of your time if you don’t.
Yeah, definitely, how have you incorporated technology into how you administrate? Into some of these communication issues?
Well, one of things that we’ve really learned as we’ve grown is that your software package your church management software pack is huge because when I got here, we were using servant keeper, which I have no doubt that in lots of ways servant keeper was an amazing tool to churches when it first came out. But as our societies changed and as churches grew, and as the focus became small group oriented, and ministry oriented, a program like servant keeper just didn’t work. It wasn’t capable of helping you do church in real time. And so, one of things that we did last year was we brought in our new software package for the data management, and we landed on Alexio and we spent a lot of time interviewing a lot of different companies and we landed on Alexio. And what we’re learning is, is that if it works, you can really do ministry in real time. And so the challenge has been, getting our staff to learn how to do it, and we’ve had two remarkable woman, one lady Barb Kennedy, who’s our director of operations, and then my admin assistant, Christina Moore, those two have taken lead on implementing it and teaching our staff and honestly, it’s been the best thing that we’ve probably done here in a long time, but it’s allowing us to learn how to stay connected to people when it’s thirty four hundred people across two campuses and an online community. It’s really making us able to do that without often to be in twelve different locations at one time. And so I think I’m excited about that as much as anything that we’ve done. Of course, we use all the same stuff that other people do. I love Fifteen Five, it’s a great way for me to conduct meetings with my direct reports without forcing them to sit into the room. I’m a very verbal person, so, I thrive on face-to-face, but as I began to interact with my direct reports, I realized they were much better communicating, they are much better processing when they can write it down. And so sifting Fifteen Five has been invaluable to use, we’ve just started using Trained Up… I think it’s going to be amazing, planning center, Google Suite, all that stuff, it’s invaluable to us.
Wow, that’s great. Where you go to learn more about being a great executive pastor and some of these resources?
Well, the very first thing, what happened was before I came, when I got the job or took the job here at Tomoka, one of my good friends was an executive pastor at Harvester Christian Church in St. Charles, Missouri. And I went over and I spent the day with him. He’d been doing it for a while. And one of the first things he did for me was invited me to be a part of a google group of executive pastors, sent me an email, and I signed up that was in June, the following January I found myself at an executive pastors’ conference for that google group that they did once a year. I’ve been part of that now for, this will be my eighth year. Absolutely an invaluable group, not just because over once a year meeting that we have, but on the fact that every day I can get on that group and know that there are threads that are ongoing every day. The questions that are real for executive pastors are being asked and real answers are being given. Real policies are being uploaded. Real procedures being uploaded. It’s been the absolute probably saving grace of my job is that google group. But then I listen to podcasts and read books. The leadership podcast between Gregory Stanley and Greg Russel, and those have just been game changers to me and my team, and now Monday morning church. And there’s been some incredible stuff come across through Monday morning church. And so just it’s impossible to get better unless you’re learning. And so it’s a constant challenge to do that, but podcast, that google group, and then just reading lots of different things invaluable.
That’s great, I hope you’re ready to get some requests from people listening to join your Google group.
I hope so man, I just bought on a gentleman on that I met this week from Terre Haute, Indiana, and so, yeah, it’s just an amazing, amazing group of people.
Cord, what encouragement would you give to other executive pastors?
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned over the seven years, and before I got here, I worked in for profit business, my bonus checks depended on my success at running a great nursing home and running a great restaurant and making the panel look good. So I was good at what I did, which made me think I was really good at being a leader. And I finally had to come to the terms in my job here as executive pastor that the leader that I was in, that for profit world wasn’t the leader that God needed in the nonprofit world. And somebody told me when I took the job, “the person that you need to be to do the job that God’s called you to do is not the person that you are today.” And I heard it didn’t believe it. And boy, I tell what is proven to be true. And so the thing I’ve had to learn and thing that I encourage every executive pastor to embrace is the journey that God takes you on to be humble, because it is so easy to look at your job as executive pastor and want to plant your flag in so many areas, because you just sit and you think, and you believe with all your heart, this is the way you should do it and you wanna take ownership of every decision, and so you go and buy a lifetime supply of flags to plant them in the ground and you realize though that as God is working on you, that there just isn’t a need for that and learning how to embrace the journey of God turning you to become humble in that second chair is what I would encourage executive pastors to embrace because we’re not in lead chair, and our job is not to do that. And when you plant your flag in places that cost you blood, you have to shut on that hill. You forsake the opportunity that down the road God can use you for if you simply learn, that first shall be last, and last shall be first. And if you wanna be greatest, you’ve gotta be serving a ball. And so I would just encourage people in this position to embrace that part of the journey because it’s truly in that part of the journey that you get to really, really not just to enjoy your job but to see all the things that God wants to do for you and through you.
That’s fantastic. Cord thank you so much for being on the show today.
Appreciate it very, very much.