Welcome back to the Monday Morning Church podcast. Today, we’ve got Greg Bearss on the show coming to us from LakePointe Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Greg, great to have you on the show.
Well, it is my pleasure. I’m so excited to be here and to share what God’s doing with your listeners.
Yeah, absolutely. So let’s start with this, Greg. Let us know how did you get to your position there at LakePointe.
Yeah, so what happened is I’m a second career pastor, meaning that I was in the business sector in Dallas, Texas, worked with NationsBank of America for about 10 years and really was heavily involved with church, but the Lord called me to become a pastor after my business experience and really it kind of came to a crossroads where I recognized that things in my life, I could continue down the same trajectory in the path that I was going on and things would be okay, but I wouldn’t actually be in line with what God had planned for me. And you know, we are doing really well and things on the outside look really good, but really there was a lot of struggles within my marriage, within my family at the time, because I really wasn’t in line with the plan that God wanted for my life. So we did a lot of soul searching and really came to a crossroads and as I began asking God like “What do you have planned for me, what do you want from my life? How could I serve you best with the gifts and talents you blessed me with?” Ministry was just glaring and really the reality is I kind of straight away, not really straight away, but just ran away from that calling of ministry at a younger age. My father was a pastor and I saw, what I tell people, I saw the back side of a church and sometimes behind then wasn’t the prettiest to see, and people saying one thing, doing another and hypocrisy, and then even some of the hurting things that my father went through in ministry with people that were just really really mean…So what ended up happening is that the Lord really called me into ministry and my wife at the time, who’s still my wife today, by the way, she didn’t marry a pastor, but we talked about it and she loves Jesus and she really agreed that that’s what the Lord was calling us to, was to be in ministry. So really a long story short, I went to seminary, Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and then out of seminary really I was asking God, “Okay, where do you want us to serve you?” I had an opportunity when my professor said, “There’s somebody here talking about church planting.” And he said, I really think you’d be good at it, would you have this conversation, which turned into an interview, and then that’s really how it all began. We were invited to look at several locations around the country that wanted to start new churches, and one of them was in this tiny town called Hot Springs in Arkansas. We’d only been in Arkansas one time, we were mountain biking and we got lost. It was when we lived in Dallas and Arkansas is a beautiful state, and lots of rivers and mountain bike trails and camping and so we knew a little bit about the terrain. But then when we visited the church there, the pastor that wanted us to come there to start a new ministry, a new church in the city said some words that really resonated. He said, “I don’t care what you name the church, I don’t care if people go to First Baptist, First Methodist, First Lutheran, I just want people to go to heaven in our city, and I’m really praying that you would reach people that we can’t reach as a church.” When that lead pastor said that as a young man at the time, and not hearing a lot of churches speak in that way, this kind of unity factor, I said, you know, I can really get behind that. And that’s what brought us to Hot Springs, Arkansas. We started LakePointe Church, it was 13 years ago in March, so our 13th birthday, and we started with about 10 families, and on any given Sunday, there’s anywhere from 600 to 800 plus people. And the neat thing about our church, I think that’s different, is we really are concentrating on the hard to reach. We have a really strong addiction ministry and a lot of really broken people find their selves coming through our doors, which we just really see that is God’s grace and mercy. And by the way, it wasn’t what we set out to do, but it’s what the Lord did and is still doing. So it’s been a pretty amazing journey. So my wife and I are the founders of the ministry, and we are also a training center. We started five churches out of LakePointe around the mid-south area from Nashville to Knoxville, to Memphis, and even in Chicago. So we’ve really been blessed to be a part of a church that plants churches and really feel God calling us to continue to birth new ministries in His name.
Wow. One question I have from all that, then thinking how you started on the business side, which is obviously, I mean it’s not necessarily more organized, but at least there’s the appearance of more systems and organization, and now you’re a part of a church that is focusing on the hurting and the broken, which there’s not always a formula for. How has it been for you to be in such a different world, a different type of organization sometimes or different focuses?
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. The big difference between being a manager and an executive in a bank, and you know, I had 50 something salesmen, banking center, salespeople that were loan officers underneath me. The difference from ministry to that is it’s really hard to fire volunteers, right? So if you have a situation where somebody’s not doing the job you want them to do, it’s not like the business sector. We just feel like we can’t fire people, we need to love people like Jesus and in ministry, and we talk about it like we call it messy spirituality. It’s really dirty and messy, and you do get hurt in trying to help people. Not everybody makes it and I wish there was a formula and a magic system, but it’s really, it is putting certain things in place that you’ve got your core values and then it’s lining up in helping people as you can while recognizing not everybody really wants help, and they’re going to be people that come through that they’re just going to use you, knowing they’re trying to get something that they want, and it’s not always Jesus. So for us to really be discerning and what God continues to do, that’s just amazing to me, is bringing the right people at the right time to help lead ministries. They get it that are in it not for a paycheck, they’re not in it for their glory, they’re in it because they want to see lads transformed like theirs are transformed and have been transformed by the spirit of God. And so that’s really been a helpful force. We have a lot of systems in place that I could bore your audience with, but I think the biggest thing is really being open to the holy spirit’s leading and guidance and the discernment through the process, and then loving people where they’re at and trying to help them get to where God wants to take them.
Into the nitty gritty a little bit. How is LakePointe structured and who is on staff? Are these mostly people then who have come out of volunteer roles in your church or are these people you have hired from outside?
Yeah, we love to hire from within, and I think any pastor of any sizable church would say it’s always easier and it’s always better in the long run because we have our own DNA. I think every church has its own flair and DNA, but we’re a church of the “least of these” as Matthew 25 describes, and so it really takes somebody that understands the “least of these” and wants to help the “least of these”. We’ve got to look in the mirror and recognize the “least of these” as me without Jesus and by His grace and His mercy, I have a relationship with Him, and now I want to help others understand the love that God has for him and what Jesus brings to the table and reconciliation and joy into our life, and the answer to our struggles and our problems, whether it’s addiction, whether it’s marriage, whether it’s raising kids or financial struggles, we line up with Jesus, we find ourselves on the right path and the right trajectory where He wants us to go. So the people that we hire and the people that are part of our staff, there’s 8 people on our staff and out of those 8, there’s 3 that are full time, but they don’t get paid, they’re volunteers. They get the mission and vision and they want to give their life for it. The ones that we brought in that are hired, every one of them has been a part of the ministry for at least, I would say at least a year, or many of them a lot further than that. One thing that we do here at LakePointe is we bring pastors in that come right out of a seminary and we train them. We spend six months to a year with them before we launch them out to start a new ministry and a new church. We want to infuse them with the DNA, so they are coming in from the outside and they’re going to be trained and they’re going to see all the facets of LakePointe and understand why we do what we do. So that’s always interesting. And it’s really neat because our staff realizes when we bring a guy that’s been studying, maybe he’s been at the seminary for four years, he’s got his Masters of divinity or whatever, they know that he’s going to need a lot of work, he’s going to need to really understand, he’s got great theology, but his practicum, he’s never sat toe to toe with somebody’s struggling with addiction or somebody that’s about to lose their house or struggling with their marriage. Most of these guys come pretty wet behind the ears, but the Lord blessed us with some great pastors that have understood what God’s called us to do and want to be a part of it. So it’s always better though from within because they have a grasp of our mission and vision, why we do what we do.
Sure. So you’re obviously involved on a front end with these church plants and kind of discipling these new ministers coming out of seminary. What is your relationship with the churches that have begun kind of after they began? Is that something that they kind of fall under the authority of LakePointe, or they’re their own individual entity? How does that work?
That’s a great question and we’ve done things. The way that we’ve done things to this point is we’ve blessed them and it’s kind of like your kids going off to college, we bless them, hey, let us know how things are going, but we’ve let them be on their own and be independent. One of the things that’s really good about that is it gives them an opportunity to really discover who God’s called them to be versus a franchise of LakePointe and I think there’s been a lot of good with that. On the flip side of that, what we’re recognizing in the next couple of church plants that we have planned, we’re looking at networking on a little bit more closely related to LakePointe. We call LakePointe, it’s LakePointe City Church and so we’re looking at other areas that God wants us to start a ministry that doesn’t have a ministry reaching people in their city that are struggling and those hard to reach. We’re calling it a city church and we’re saying there is something about being stronger together, and there’s something about helping the church that’s starting out brand new and really helping them with milestones that they go through, helping them with systems that they’re having to create and many for the first time. So there’s something about having a closer knit relationship than what we’ve done in the past. So that’s really our next strategic move, is to say, hey, we’re going to continue to do more mentoring post their time here, post launch. And even on into the years to come we want to, we feel like God has shown us some things over the last 13 years that would be beneficial to walk these other churches through and not just send them off and say, okay, hey, go get them and God bless. So that’s something that we’re in process of really trying it differently, not necessarily franchising, but saying, hey, we’re going to have a tighter relationship than what we’ve done in the past and we believe you’ll be better and you’ll go further faster with us helping and be more in your corner than what we’ve done in the past five church clients.
That’s great. And it might be related to these church plants, but what is one solution or best practice that you guys have implemented there at LakePointe, so your church, that might be interesting to some others listening?
I think one of the things that comes to mind immediately is we really, and I think every lead pastor would say, hey, I want an open door policy, and at the same time, probably in the same breath, or at least in the back of our mind, we’re praying that people don’t just keep coming through our doors. And especially when you’re talking about staff, I was praying with some pastors this morning and we have a network in our city, a group of pastors that we get together and our only desire is to pray for each other and to talk about maybe the struggles or things that we’re dealing with, that we really can’t talk to anybody else about. And when the pastors were sharing with me staffing struggles, he is in a church that’s about a similar size as us, and with 2000 members the different struggles that are there, but then with a multi staff…and how do you coach your staff, how do you help lead your staff. And sometimes that can be some of the larger headaches that pastors have is dealing with employees and team members, whether they’re paid or not. One of the things that we’ve instituted at LakePointe that I think has really been helpful is what we call 10% time. We have this thing that we do and what we say and the way we propose it is like 90% of the time we can have conversation in front of our team, if it’s a staff meeting, or it’s a team meeting, we can say 90%, but there are times where there’s a 10%. There’s something that’s going on in our life that we need one on one with and we need to have the ability to have this time and this conversation, and we want to have it sooner than later. So for instance, if my worship leader has got heartburn about something that’s happening or he doesn’t understand why we’re doing an initiative that we’re doing, and maybe he’s got some anger towards me or maybe towards another team member, it’s not necessarily conversation we want to have in front of everybody, but you’ll say, hey, I really need some 10% time. And in that 10% time, he and I will meet and they can schedule it at any time, this 10% time can be scheduled. And if it’s something that’s really pertinent, we’ll stop and we’ll do it right there at that moment that he brings it to me and I’ll always ask them, “is it something we need to talk about now, or is it okay to schedule it for later this afternoon or say tomorrow, depending on schedules?” But that 10% time is so important because sometimes it could be a hurt and pain, something that I’ve said that’s been misinterpreted or something that I have said that has hurt feelings, that was never meant to, or it could be something where maybe somebody’s struggling with their marriage or they’re really having a tough situation and they really need me as the lead pastor, as their boss, but also as their pastor – it’s just those hats that we wear – they really need some time and this is time that they know if something comes up that they can have it with me and we have a conversation. And that’s one of those things. I’m sure that I didn’t invent that. I’m sure somewhere along the way I heard somebody that had done that, but that’s really opened the doors of communication. When you have a multi staff in a team and people are bound to have struggles, misunderstandings or get their feelings hurt, it really opens that door in a good way that helps us address things that ordinarily are either going to get swept under the carpet, or sometimes we hold on to them and they over the long run really hurt relationships and cause a lot of deep-rooted pain that surfaces in some crazy way down the road. So we try to alleviate that on the front end by opening that door of communication. And everybody knows they’ve got that silver bullet in their pocket, that if they need a conversation, they know they can have one.
That’s great. It’s one of those things that you can implement it, but you have to keep encouraging the trust required to actually make it work.
Yeah, absolutely. And people don’t care what they know until they know that you care. So as leaders, we’re always trying to give leadership lessons and trying to teach them and grow them, and then ultimately they really want to know that we care that they…You know, a lot of times ministry is difficult and tough, but we want to be there for them when they have a need. We’re so busy sometimes helping others, it’s like the cobbler that doesn’t fix his own kids’ shoes, he’s too busy fixing everybody else’s shoes and his kids’ shoes are falling apart. We certainly don’t want the people that we do ministry to be hurting, we’re trying to help everybody else, and then we find ourselves as dead men and women running, and it doesn’t go very well.
Yeah, definitely. So on the flip side of this, what is something going on right now that you haven’t quite found a solution for?
Yeah, that’s great. But how much time do we have, you know…There’s always things out there that we’re just…we’re asking God some big questions right now. We’re in this mode, the beginning of the year, at our church we always like to do a time of current fasting. We’re doing a 40-day fast and we’re taking our lunch time and we’re going before God, we’re spending just an hour with Him in prayer. We are in this initiative now where we’re really seeking Him for what He has planned for 2018. Our word of the year, every year I’m praying to God in November and December, for a word that He would use and I know a lot of other leaders do this, but we’re really asking God, “What’s that word that you have for our ministry that’s going to set the path, the tone, the trajectory for what you have planned in the coming year?” And our word this year that the Lord just laid on me is birth, which is kind of a crazy word. Last year was a year of honor and jubilee, the year before that was generosity. And so this word birth kind of came in and I was asking, what does this mean? And it’s not a word that I chose, but it’s the word that just kept coming up, and the Lord just kept showing me, this is a year of birth. So really right now, what we’re figuring out is “God, what do you mean by that?” I joke with our church, you know, I’m about to be 47, and we have four kids, I said, so birth doesn’t mean we’re going to have another child, we’ve done our job populating the earth, but there’s something else God wants to birth in me.
I was wondering if your wife got nervous.
She did. She sent me a text message and I’ve got a 21-year old, I’ve got a 16-year old, I’ve got a 15-year old and she’s like, I’m praying that doesn’t mean for our family yet. And we kind of had a good laugh, but as I really began seeking the word and begin thinking about that word birth and what that could mean, there is a birth that God wants to do inside me, a new birth that he wants to do. There’s a Nicodemus in our community that needs to be born again. There’s ministries that we believe God wants to birth for our city that will make an impact and change lives. And so we start looking at this word birth and so what we hadn’t quite figured out, and I’m real transparent with our church and saying, hey, I don’t know exactly the details of it, but I do know that there’s some things that God is going to do this year that are going to be new and it is going to deal with the birth. And there’s a couple of church plants that we’re looking at, a couple of new ministries within our church, and I don’t have all the details for that yet. And for a guy that likes to have the details, that’s kind of disconcerting, but at the same time, it’s that safe journey. It’s that walk that we’re on together and His pieces of the puzzle kind of reveal themselves as you start putting them together, we get a clear picture and not get to live out what I tell my churches, hey, we don’t always get the full picture, but as the Lord gives us glances and shows us the things, we walk in that and it is a faith walk. And so that’s kind of where we’re at in this new journey in 2018, saying, “okay, Lord, you’re going to birth some things, I think I know some pieces of the puzzle and I want to be found faithful walking in them.” And so that’s really what we’re discerning. We’re in a really big discerning moment in the next 40 days of really asking God show us more, show us what that means, and that we be found faithful as you reveal.
That’s pretty exciting. So Greg, where do you go to learn more about being better at your role?
That is a great question. I’ve been so blessed with relationships with other pastors. I’ve always, even in the business sector, tried to find somebody that’s five years ahead, ten years ahead. What I realized in the business sector and it’s really transposed into ministry, it’s always a lot more fun to learn from your mistakes than have to go through the mistake myself. Right? I mean it’s always less painful to hear about how to avoid a landmine versus having to step on the landmine and deal with the carnage afterwards. So having mentors in my life has been huge and the Lord has been so gracious to have guys that have been there for me, guys like Larry Osborn, guys like Dave Pope and other pastors that are out there that I’ve gotten to really have conversations with face to face, Wilman Seney, people that the Lord has put just in my path and build relationships. But for guys that are out there that may not have opportunities to know maybe some of these guys that are out there and writing the books and doing it, I also learned so much from guys like John Maxwell and Michael Hyatt, guys that I don’t know personally, but I’m learning through their leadership lessons and through the books that they’ve written and the podcasts and even listening like today and just learning from people that are doing things at maybe five steps ahead of you. They may be where God wants to take you and they’ve navigated some waters that would help you ultimately get where God wants you to go. I love reading books and so I’m really always looking for that next book that would be helping me in the discipleship process. So those are a few of the ways that I learned. And then I like to go back to books that have had an impact and go back and kind of re-read. I just took our team through The Seven Habits, Stephen Covey’s book, and it was a great reminder really ten years ago, but just to be rekindling those best practices that really transpose well in faithfulness and ministry.
What kind of encouragement would you give to others in church leadership?
I tell you, I was really encouraged this morning meeting with my pastor buddies in our city, and again, it’s really an eclectic group from the Catholic priest that’s there to the assemblies of God, to the Nondenominational, to the Lutherans, to the Baptists, it’s a hodgepodge of men that love Jesus and are talking about the struggles. I would just say, if you don’t have somebody that you can talk to, you need to find somebody that you can talk to. I’d be more than happy, you can give them my email address, or you can go to lakepointefamily.com, and you can reach me if you’re struggling in ministry, you don’t have to struggle alone. There are people out there that will pray for you and pray with you, and that’s probably saved my life to be real transparent and honest. That’s probably what’s allowed me to continue because ministry is tough. It will take every moment that you have. And I’ve watched too many of my buddies fall into sin and infidelity, and other landmines that are out there just waiting as the enemy hates us. And so if you have somebody in your corner that you can talk to, you know, it can be very lonely being a pastor and leading the church, no matter what size the church is. And I really do believe that the Lord has put people in my life that were encouragers, that were great listeners, and that were people that were willing to be there for me when I didn’t feel like I could maybe even talk to my wife about this struggle or the situation the Lord has put people in my life that it’s a no judgment zone and they’re there to pray with me, not necessarily they’re knowing the answer, just saying, “hey, I’m with you.” And I think that’s super uber important, it’s to have somebody that you can network if possible, but at least one or two people that you can call at 2 in the morning that are ready to listen and to pray with you, to cry with you, to help you in that time of need.
That’s great encouragement. Greg, thanks so much for being on the podcast today.
It’s my pleasure and God bless you, guys. Keep doing the good work you’re doing.