40 Day All-In Campaigns for Your Church: Unleashing Discipleship & Growth with Zach Zehnder

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re talking with Zach Zehnder, the co-founder of Red Letter Living. Zach is a pioneer in creating 40-day challenges that have transformed discipleship and church growth in over 1000 churches. He’s also the teaching pastor at King of Kings in Omaha, Nebraska.

You know that disciple-making is important, but do you feel stuck on how to make it happen at your church? Wondering how to align your whole church, from kindergarten to adult, so everyone is focused on the same teaching and growing together? Tune in as Zach shares how a 40-day challenge can jumpstart your church’s growth and discipleship.

  • Discipleship-centered challenges. // The 40-day challenges offered by Red Letter Living are not just about absorbing information; they are about taking action and experiencing life change. Included are message series, daily readings, and small group materials. There are also resources for kids and students. The beauty of this approach is its ability to align the entire church around a common idea, focusing on Jesus at the center. Whether you use one of Red Letter Living’s 40-day challenges or not, Zach recommends that you rollout an all-in church series once or twice a year.
  • A huge impact on churches. // Over 1000 churches have participated in Red Letter Living’s 40-day challenges and the results speak for themselves. Most notably, it has helped to grow church small groups by about 40% during the 40-day challenge. A church could spend about 700 hours creating just first drafts of all the resources Red Letter Living already provides. Taking advantage of this turnkey solution removes a huge burden so church staff can focus on other aspects of ministry. And in times when division can easily creep into our congregations, these challenges also serve as a unifying force, centering us on Jesus and his teachings.
  • The best way to follow Him. // The premise of the Red Letter Challenge is that the best way to follow Jesus is to simply do what he said and did. Rather than reinventing discipleship, this and other challenges by Red Letter Living focus on the words, life, and habits of Jesus. The Red Letter Challenge revolves around five key targets found in Jesus’ words: being, forgiving, serving, giving, and going. The first five days of the challenge introduces those five targets, and then a full week is spent on each of the targets, equaling 40 days. Each week participants engage in daily challenges and devotions that bring Jesus’ words to life.
  • More challenges to offer. // In addition to the Red Letter Challenge, Red Letter Living offers other 40-day challenges that zero in on a particular topic Jesus talks about. For example, the Being Challenge focuses on practicing the five keystone habits of Jesus. The Forgiving Challenge is about receiving God’s freedom for yourself and then giving it away to others. The Serving Challenge looks at five aspects of how Jesus served us and then how to implement them.
  • Special offer and more resources. // Any pastors and church leaders who would like a free copy of a Red Letter Living book can request one here. You can choose which book you’d like to sample and Red Letter Living will cover shipping costs within the United States. If you’re outside the US, a free digital copy is available. There are other supplies for the challenges that are offered for free on Red Letter Living’s website, including sermon manuscripts, videos, kids church curriculum, small group guides and videos, and more. Plus check out Red Letter Challenge in Spanish too.

You can find out more about the Red Letter Challenge and the other 40-day challenges available at www.redletterchallenge.com. Plus, join us Wednesday, May 1, 2024 at 12:00pm ET/9:00am PT for a webinar with Zach to talk about discipleship processes churches should be thinking about.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Listen, listen – this is not a normal podcast. Today you are going to want to listen in, lean in. This is gonna be packed full. You’re gonna try to pack as much value into the next thirty minutes of your life as possible and I really do believe what we’re talking about today could not only grow your church but help your people take steps closer to Jesus. We’ve got my friend Zach Zehnder with us. He has he and his wife Allison founded Red Letter Living. They’re really on a mission of challenging all people to become greater followers of Jesus. They offer turnkey churchwide 40-day challenges that are simple to understand, challenging in concept, highly practical and always squarely aimed at Jesus. Zach has written and co-authored 10 books that have helped people literally hundreds of thousands of people ah, become greater followers of Jesus. And he currently serves as a teaching pastor at one of my favorite churches in the country, King of Kings in Omaha, Nebraska. Zach, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Zach Zehnder — Thanks, Rich! And yeah man, super pumped to be back with you. Thank you for all that you do. You know, you you said we’re gonna pack as much value into 30 minutes as we can. You are a value packer, my friend, so I appreciate I appreciate all that you do. I’m ah I’m a longtime listener and and great supporter and friend of yours and um, and really just super super honored to be with you today, my friend.

Rich Birch — Yeah, good. Okay listeners I want to tip off tip you off here. You’re going to want to listen right till the end of today’s episode. Because Zach just before we got on told me something crazy that he’s going to do but it’s going to be at the end so you’re going to want to stay until the end. Ah, because yeah, yeah, he’s doing something pretty amazing for you. So you’re going to want to be here um all the way to the end. But I wanted to get Zach on because he’s really, he’s an expert in these 40 day challenges that we’ve seen many churches do. And I love these because really I like to say they’re like the peanut butter and chocolate of church growth and discipleship. They they are great from a church growth point of view because they focus us they are you know they’re something that we can kind of rally our whole church around. They’re easy to invite friends to. But then they’re also like this amazing discipleship opportunity because you’re getting people into groups. You’re focusing them in a short period of time on like a great common idea and it all points towards Jesus. And Zach really is the expert on this. He is the guy who who you want to talk to about this today. And so I’m just going to say it right upfront folks my bias is I want to convince you to do one of these this fall. That’s that’s where we’re headed here. I want to spend the next thirty minutes of your life trying to convince you that you should do it at your church. But Zach, let’s let’s unpack that. When you say 40 day challenge, what do you mean by that? Kind of unpack that – what does that look like?

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, thanks, Rich. So for us a 40 day challenge would be for forty days what would it look like for each of us to be challenged in our faith to grow as disciples of Jesus. So our 40 day experiences, um, they’re not just any type of experience. They are discipleship-centered experiences as well. And so for us we love working with churches. We worked with over a thousand churches up to date now through these 40 day experiences. And several of them done multiple with us.

Zach Zehnder — But but really it’s an opportunity to for everybody to come in and be doing the same thing um for 40 days. And so on a weekend message series, the message series is all all there about the topic. You’ve got daily readings through the books for individuals. You’ve got small group materials for those that want to jump into a small group. And then we even have kids and students stuff to go alongside of it. So it really is kind of an all-in – we want everybody in.

Zach Zehnder — You know as pastor, you can’t all the time every single week of the year get everybody in on the same thing. But growing churches um, ah usually can pull that off once, maybe even twice a year. And so that’s our plea to churches is whether you use our material materials or not, once or twice a year you should be doing an all-in church series because it does exactly what you just said. I like the chocolate and peanut butter analogy – I might use that. It gets all the church growth stuff but it also adds the discipleship metrics that were really um, important for each of our churches too.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love this. So just to be completely honest friends, like at Liquid Church—church I was at in in New Jersey—this is a part of their strategy. Twice a year they do one of these – in the fall in the spring or in the winter um, and you know and kind of the Lent timeframe. And and I’ve seen this you know, front row I’ve seen the stats. It drives more people into small groups. It increases our overall attendance. We see you know all kinds of great stuff come back from families as they’re kind of all talking about stuff. So this is not, you know, it’s like the hair club for men guy. I’m like not only do you know do I love it, but I’ve also seen it for myself. So, you know this is a great thing. Talk to me more about why why the alignment is so important for us. Why you know going across both our adult teaching, kids, kind of the you know small groups, having all of those kind of, you know, hammering in the same direction. Why does that why is that so important with these series?

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, I think it’s super important whenever you are wanting to really reinforce like what some of your values are, what what’s important to your church. Again I don’t I don’t think every single week you have to although I think it’s really great when when we’re aligned with our whole church.

Zach Zehnder — And so there are certain things, and to me discipleship is one of those, where we want to really make sure we’re speaking the same language um from from newborn all the way up until ah 100+ years old. Um and that’s really I think the the problem with so many churches in our day today is ah when it comes to discipleship is we don’t know what we’re even shooting at. We know that we need making great disciples. Um, but but what where churches really struggle is identifying what targets they ought to be shooting at.

Zach Zehnder — And so that’s what our materials hopefully hopefully provide is common language that everyone in the church can be using throughout the forty days that we hope then of course would be language that carries on um into into the future. And so that’s really the power of alignment is we’re all sort of saying the same thing for forty days.

Zach Zehnder — And, Rich, I know you’re unSeminary but I’m I’m thinking back to my seminary days of you know there were certain classes—I’ll be real with you—where I didn’t always do the homework and didn’t do the reading.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Zach Zehnder — Shocker, right, I know.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Zach Zehnder — How how dare I. But then there were some professors that really did pull the best out of me and I actually wanted to do the homework because I knew the discussions were gonna be really great. And I’ll tell you every time I went into a class where I’d done the reading, my energy level and my focus was so much better.

Zach Zehnder — The energy is just palpable when everybody’s doing the same things, hearing the same things. They’re doing the readings. In ours, we actually make them a challenge. So there’s actually things to do each day outside of just the reading because a disciple is a hearer and a doer. And so there’s just this real palpable, tangible excitement and energy when everybody’s doing the same thing for forty days um that you can capture that we believe and we’ve seen um, doesn’t just impact the forty days but can carry on into the future as well.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so true. That’s that’s amazing. I love that. Talk to me a little bit about what you know maybe think of a church who has gone who’s done one of these. Talk to me on the results side. So I get a sense I get ah you know hopefully people have a sense of the kind of thing we’re talking about. It’s a lot of work. You got to pull things together. You gotta, which we’ll get to, but it’s like you know how can you help, but but we’ll get to that in a minute. But let’s talk about the results side first. Maybe a church describe, you know, how what do they what do they do, what kind of impact do they see, how has that helped them as they’ve done maybe one or multiple of these over the years?

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, it’s great. So so first off, there’s lots of individual wins as well. So if a person is really going through this, they’re going to see fruit in their own life.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — But but you asked about the church. So let’s talk about the church. What what happens in a church when they do an all-in series, at least one of ours. What we’ve seen and what we what we love talking about is more than anything else they’re going to learn great discipleship stuff, but they’re going to you’re going to grow your small groups. We’ve we’ve done this enough we actually have a free downloadable that I’d be happy to send um called Our 5 Step Simple Super Simple, Easily Doable Guide to Grow Your Small Groups. Ah, we’ve seen small groups grow by an average of 40% in just forty days.

Rich Birch — That’s crazy.

Zach Zehnder — Now Rich, what I what I want to be careful here because what I I want to pitch this in the way that’s most appropriate. And so like what I look at this as as a pastor is if you’re like out at the ocean and you’re riding the waves…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …um, what what a 40 day challenge or what an all-in series will do is it’ll give you a really a nice wave. It’ll be a big boost. You’ll see 40% increase. Now what happens after the wave is the current will come. And so the current will come and it will draw back and that’s normal and to be expected. And we can talk about things and it’s important to make sure that as the current draws back, we don’t lose all the momentum.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — Um, but what these once-a-year or twice-a-year things do is they *boom* they bring another wave, they bring another wave, they bring another wave. And we’re hoping that as they do this year after year after year that of course that wave is bigger every year.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And so we can be a catalyst to either jumpstart small groups from nothing to something really great, or we can grow your small groups by 40% in just forty days. Um expect some current but it’ll be better than it was. And then when you come back six months or a year later with another one. So that’s a huge piece is the small small group piece.

Zach Zehnder — On the church side as well, Rich, we I am a pastor. I’ve led a church myself and now I get to serve in team ministry as a Teaching Pastor. Ah I know the grind of what what it takes for Ministry day in and day out. And so ah we say a church can create their own stuff. Any church can do that. We’ve estimated it takes about 700 hours to create first drafts of all the resources we provide.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Zach Zehnder — And so you have ah you you probably have in each of ours 3000+ hours of work…

Rich Birch — Wow. Right.

Zach Zehnder — …that have gone into each one of these. And so there’s just so much. And so we love creating every resource from scratch so that everyone on your church team doesn’t need to create anything from scratch. Now they can add to it. They can take our graphics and insert their logo. Um they can look at my sermons and nitpick what they want and take what they want but nobody’s starting from scratch. And so from a church burnout side of things, staff burnout um, these things are are wonderful.

Zach Zehnder — And then the last thing—there’s so many more I can tell you about—but the the other tangible one that I think is going to be even more evident this year in 2024, um is our challenges really focus on the words, life, and habits of Jesus. And and trying to get people to do his words and practices, habits. And we have found that an all-in series that includes kids and students and has stuff to do during the week, it really brings great unity.

Zach Zehnder — And and so I’m thinking fall of 2024 there’s going to be a thing happening here in the U.S. of A.

Rich Birch — What what possibly could be that that will potentially strain the unity…

Zach Zehnder — Right.

Rich Birch — …of our churches…

Zach Zehnder — It happens. Yeah.

Rich Birch — …in say you know early November?

Zach Zehnder — It happens every 4 years and we’ve seen this…

Rich Birch — Yes, exactly.

Zach Zehnder — …cast characters before and how divisive it was…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Zach Zehnder — …just four years ago. So here’s what I’m saying, it’s going to be a divisive time.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — So one of the best things you can do for your church is to bring unity in a divisive time.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And I’ve just found there’s nothing more unifying in a Christian church than centering in on Jesus – what did he say, what did he do – let’s focus on his words. Let’s do what he said. That’s a premise that’s really hard to argue against and brings just a ton of unity as more and more jumping in. So those are a few things um that we’ve seen from from churches that implement these.

Rich Birch — First of all, ah that I love that you’re hitting on that. Because this is a conversation that I’ve had with multiple leaders as we’ve gone into this year. I know we were kind of joking about you know the election and all that and what’s going to happen there. But but this is a real issue. People are worried about this. Like I I was at a church a month ago and they were having their all staff meeting. And I pop my head in and they were at the all staff meeting talking about the boundaries around posting about political things. And they were you know and they the boundary was don’t do it um on social media. And um, you know and they it was all in the context of, friends, we don’t want to do anything that would you know that would drive disunity in our churches. And so I could see I think that for that reason alone if you’ve never done one of these, doing an all-in series this fall could be a great thing. Like if you started maybe after Labor Day, somewhere in there, it wouldn’t look like you’re trying to just avoid, you know. But it would line up and it would be like, hey we’re in this this same timeframe, really trying to push towards unity. I love that.

Rich Birch — Can we take a step back? You talked about groups – coach me on this. We might have been doing this incorrectly. When we’ve launched these in the past we’ve talked used language like, hey join us for the, you know, the Red Letter Jesus series, or the whatever we’re calling it. And and we’re saying this a very special series. It’s only forty days long and it’s so X number of weeks. And we would love to we want everyone to sample a group. And we’ve deliberately said hey why don’t you try a group. We tell people you don’t have to be in it. You only have to do it for the weeks of this series. Is that a good idea or is that like bad practice and we should think about something different when it comes to small groups?

Zach Zehnder — No I think it’s great, Rich. I think and I think that’s the key to jumping and and bolstering small groups to being a catalyst, or to go from X number to Y number – whatever that is…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …is offering a season that has an an easy entrance and an easy exit. Now we hope and we believe that as people are jumping into our small groups and through the small groups that you’re providing, especially if they’re ones that like you are really focusing on and everybody’s in this. Like it’s got to be a material you believe you believe in.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And so if it’s a material you believe in and that’s actually doing something in somebody’s life, we of course believe that um a number of those people, significant number of those people are going to want to continue in groups afterward. And so it’s it’s good to think about what to do following one of these. But but we also need strategic times—again I say at least once, maybe twice a year—we need strategic times where we’re helping ourselves by offering something that is really polished, well done, produced, got proven results um to get those numbers up.

Zach Zehnder — And then of course as you’re going through this and even in the early process, training those leaders on on identifying potential future leaders, and what does it look like to then proceed after you know, a 40 day series. What does that what does that look like? And we we love, like one of our partners is Right Now Media, all of our stuff’s on Right Now Media so if yout churches, I know many of them are. We love Right Now Media and you know the library of small group studies they have, and so there’s so many great ones on there that people can jump into after one of these all-in series. And maybe even find some of those on Right Now Media as well. Um, so I think that’s a totally ah absolutely great strategy. Keep keep at it and again, if the material you’re providing is is moving people in the right direction in their lives, they’re going to want to stay in groups.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Zach Zehnder — Um, here’s I think maybe a key distinction with our materials than than most others that I think is really important and why they want to keep in it. Is the the word “challenge” at the end of ours is intentional. Um, it’s it’s we want you to not just read and get the information from this particular study. We want you to do something with it.

Rich Birch — Right right.

Zach Zehnder — And so life change for me, Rich, happens um with information at times. But it also happens with experience.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And with me me being challenged.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And I’ll tell you, the times in my life where I’ve grown the most are the times when either life has come at me and it’s been a challenge, or when I’ve challenged myself. And that’s when the Spirit of God moves and does something. And so that’s where I think if you can if you can match um, a small group series that has ah a cause where people are doing something with it, I think you’re going to find the retention in the future seasons to be higher than just an information only series, which I’m all for those – we need those.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Zach Zehnder — But that’s what I’m saying that there’s a difference there.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. I love that. That’s that’s so great. Well, let’s talk about specifically your challenges. So um, if people want more kind of information on this, they can dive in at redletterterchallenge.com, but kind of talk us through so the thing that I’ve I’ve been impressed with what you do is the quality of of your work, the actual like printed materials, everything you provide. It’s like ah you know it’s like a whole menu of different resources that you provide for each of these. But kind of talk us through maybe the core offerings. What are the challenges? How do they fit together, that sort of thing.

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, so yeah, our initial our initial 40 day challenge is called Red Letter Challenge – obviously the red letters of Jesus. And it’s a 40 Day Challenge where our premises is this: the best way to follow Jesus is to follow Jesus. We don’t need to reinvent discipleship.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — Let’s get back to see, to do what he said. He he already told us that in the final words in the sermon of the mount, blessed are you who are hearing these words and putting them into practice. And so it’s a 40 day challenge to help people put his words into practice.

Zach Zehnder — The human element I think, Rich, is I looked at all the red letters of Jesus with specific emphasis on the commands, the imperatives, um, especially in the Greek language – not that I know Greek but I I know enough to find where the imperatives are. And and and in that I located what I believe are the 5 targets that came out of his mouth the most often.

Rich Birch — Ok.

Zach Zehnder — And so it’s organized around those 5 targets which for us are being um, being in a real relationship, growing in a relationship of God being, forgiving, serving, giving and going. And so we spend the first five days just introducing each one of those 5 targets. And then we spend a week on each of those 5 targets, and obviously that equals a perfect forty days.

Zach Zehnder — And and so the Red Letter Challenge what it’ll do is it’ll take a command of Jesus and then it will um have a little devotion on that, something to read as well um, from the word of God. And then it will give them a challenge to practically do that day.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — So a couple quick examples. So like in the “being” week, you know, uh Jesus once said, abide in my word. And so the challenge that day is hey let’s everybody spend 30 minutes reading God’s word and reflecting on that. Um in the serving week, that you know Jesus once said, um, let us love our neighbors as ourselves. And so the challenge that day is to physically, literally do something to love your neighbor.

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Zach Zehnder — Do something. And then of course share what you did. And and so as we do these things, and obviously there’s way more than just that…

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — …as we do what Jesus said, um, what happens is your church grows, your community’s always better when you put the words of Jesus into practice, and the one that surprised me the most—because we did this at our church and that I planted in Florida several times before it even became a book—the one that surprised me the most, Rich, was people who had been longtime Christians talked about how fulfilling and rewarding it was, even though it was outside of their comfort zone to actually do the words of Jesus. But because they knew we were in a challenge and they knew other people in the church were doing it, they were more inclined to do it and it took them out of their comfort zone.

Zach Zehnder — And so um, that’s what started it was Red Letter Challenge. And um from there you know churches had great ah experiences with it and many pastors were um asking my wife and I to consider writing more discipleship centered stuff. And so we really prayed and pondered that. Um and and and we stepped into that and actually left being the full-time lead pastor of that church in Florida to be a part time teaching pastor at a church I love, that I grew up here in Omaha. Um, so that I can spend time so that we can spend time creating these resources.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Zach Zehnder — And and so we have more challenges than just that. We we encourage a church to start with Red Letter Challenge.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Zach Zehnder — That’s kind of our our pinnacle one.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — But since then we’ve got ah ah 40 day challenges and we’re we’re in the process of writing one on each of those 5 targets.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Zach Zehnder — And so we have Being Challenge which is all about practicing the 5 keystone habits of Jesus. We have Forgiving Challenge which is all about receiving God’s freedom for yourself. And then of course giving it away to others. And then we have Serving Challenge which is looking at how Jesus served us and implementing the 5 aspects. And and then we’ve got a few more years of writing to finish Giving Challenge and Going Challenge. So…

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

Zach Zehnder — …anyway, it’s a chance for them if they had a good experience in Red Letter Challenge to go deeper in one of the 5 targets, or maybe even all 5 if they would consider going, you know, every year, annually perhaps um through this just to reinforce the importance of discipleship.

Rich Birch — Love it. And so help me understand at like a church level. So if I’m let’s say so let’s say I’m listening in. I’m like, okay, I’m a church of a thousand people. I’m like,Hey I’d be interested in in talking a little bit more about this. So the idea would be we would have books that we make available for people at our church. They pick them up, but we also have kids materials. How how does that part of it all work, like how. um, yeah, how to talk us through what that kind of the practical like takeaway side of it is.

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, great question. So what we always say is to really have an effective 40-day like all you all you really need from a ah purchasing standpoint is the books. We have books that we we have a regular books and then we have kids books…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …that are designed for K through 5. Um, the the the normal books I write in a simple enough way to understand um that student ministry, middle school and up actually do really well with them, including older adults as well.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Zach Zehnder — Um, so um, get the books on site for your church. Get them ah there a few weeks early. We we recommend about a four week lead in time with promotion and distribution.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay.

Zach Zehnder — And and we have we can coach we can coach churches on how to do this well um, that get in. But then outside of the books, there are a few other things you can purchase but you don’t have to. And then everything else is free.

Rich Birch — Right, It’s crazy.

Zach Zehnder — So if a church wants to purchase wrist bands or shirts or something too, you know, because atmosphere and vibe is important. Awesome. We’ve got that ready to go. But you don’t need those things. And then everything else is free. So Rich, I’m talking we have sermon manuscripts for the pastor. Both manuscripts that are fully written out as well as videos if they’d rather watch it by video. We’ve got um Sunday school or kids church curriculum that is free. The kids’ books are a cost, but the kids’ curriculum for Sunday school or kids church is free that’s going to reinforce what you know we’re learning um in big church. We’ve got small group guides and videos that are free on our website. They’re also on Right Now Media, as I mentioned earlier for those that have Right Now Media.

Zach Zehnder — We’ve got a graphics package that has graphics for you every day of the challenge um, as well as things that lead into the challenge to help with promotion, distribution. And again we’ve done this over 1000 times. And so we typically listened early on like what more can we provide? And we have provided all of that. It is very rare that someone says, hey do you have this? And the answer for us is no. It’s like of course we do.

Rich Birch — Right, right. Yes.

Zach Zehnder — Um and so again, our hope, I have a pastoral heart to want to help a not just a lead pastor but an entire church staff. So for forty days, think, you don’t have to think from scratch. Which means you can get ahead on your other sermon planning. Or you can plan um more deeper um conversations with your staff for those forty days. Or you can plan to see more people in the hospital those forty…

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — Whatever it might be because you’ve got this ready to go.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. So friends, like just to recap here. So a thousand churches have done this. The question is why hasn’t your church? That really is what we’re trying to get you to think about today. I really do think um, you know, like friends like Zach’s not paying me to say this. He’s not like he’s a friend. I would I love his resources. I’ve seen churches, churches that I’ve coached have used them. It’s been super helpful. And I want it to help you as well. It’s here we are the end of April, we’re still in time for this fall. I know, friends, that you there’s a bunch of you that don’t have your fall planned out yet. I know you I know that’s true and you’re thinking about what are you going to do in October, November, September, October, November, somewhere in there. This would be you know great for you. I love all the resources you provide to try to make it so easy for a church. I also notice that you provide your core book in Spanish as well, which is fantastic. Am I seeing that correctly?

Zach Zehnder — That’s correct. Yeah, we have the original Red Letter Challenge also available in Spanish.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — So for those that have the the dual speaking or ah Hispanic Ministry…

Rich Birch — Yep. Love it.

Zach Zehnder — …Yeah, we wanted to come alongside and provide that.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Zach Zehnder — And you’re you’re definitely right about the fall. Earlier you said, Rich, um that fall any falls a great time. This fall is a really great time because of what we talked about earlier. But that Sunday after labor day is really ah a awesome time to launch, and again that’ll get you kind of through mid -October…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …and and and so that’s a really strategic time.

Rich Birch — Perfect.

Zach Zehnder — Of course it’s totally good if a church launches, you know, in October as well. But yeah September…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Zach Zehnder — …that’s Sunday after Labor Day is a great one.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I also thought this could be an interesting you know launch kind of backing up against Thanksgiving. So like going from this into the Christmas season could be a really cool, so a little bit later in the fall could be another time. Okay, so again, I I had told you, friends, that the Zach’s got this crazy thing he wants to give people. You’ve listened here. You know, you’re 26, 27 minutes in. Ah so what is it that that you’re going to give people – this is crazy. I can’t believe this.

Zach Zehnder — Hey Rich, we’re happy to give free copies of our books away…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Zach Zehnder — …to ah to pastors and church leaders…

Rich Birch — Okay.

Zach Zehnder — …and well we’ll cover the shipping too. That’s of course to anyone in the United States.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — To Canada we can send a digital sample…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …and and work out it deal with shipping only if if that’s of interest. Um, but we want to get this book in your hand. We’re we’re confident in it. Um, we’ve got the proven results of over 1000 churches.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Zach Zehnder — And so we want you to thumb through it and see it for yourself. There was like, you mentioned earlier, heavy investment on the the graphic look feel design. Um, it’s ah it’s a unique book size. It’s a lay flat bind… like it’s just a really like awesome…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Zach Zehnder — …thing to hold and to look through that your people get excited about too. And so we’re happy to do that. And so I imagine link, Rich, the link will be kind of in the show notes for folks.

Rich Birch — Yep, we’ll link to it there.

Zach Zehnder — I can send you that link and…

Rich Birch — Yep for sure.

Zach Zehnder — …we’ll send them directly to it, and they can choose a challenge of their choice. If they want to see a kid’s book too, just put it in the notes. But we want to be as generous as possible as getting this material to you. Um, as we said it’s it’s late April now. Um, this fall’s a great chance and so that way you have time to look through it a little bit with your leadership team and and see. And we’ve we’ve got plenty of time to get ready for fall. Our materials get to you super quick as well.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — And so we’d be happy to resource any church that would want to link in with us. But yeah, free book for any pastor leader out there.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s fun. I was just thinking while we were talking here what about like if if I’m say a network, you know, I’m I’ve got a network of churches that I meet with with you know that are folks that I either lead. I’m in a denomination – that sort of thing. Would you send me a book that I could take a look at? Ah, what would that look like?

Zach Zehnder — Totally. Yeah, we’d love to do that. We’ve worked with a couple denominations and then a couple of districts as well, inside of a denomination.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

Zach Zehnder — And and so yeah, we’d love to send that. I would say if that’s you, um and anybody can email [email protected] – let’s talk about that. We’ve done some things before where, you know, obviously the the more churches that can get in on one…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Zach Zehnder — …um, we can do even greater rates than you can find on our website…

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — …when we do it in bulk um through discount or through denominations in districts. And so ah, it can really save and it can be something that a denomination or district can help even fund, and get into their their district or denomination for a really powerful forty days that that we know is going to not just change each church but could change a whole denomination or district in forty days. It was pretty cool.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great. I could see where like, yeah, let’s say yeah maybe I had maybe we had three or four churches in our in our kind of direct close, you know, network you could get them all shipped to one place. Get cheaper price for everybody. You know, we’re all going to be together in the summertime anyways. We’ll put the boxes in the back of your car, go home, that kind of thing. I think that could be ah, you know, super amazing. We friends, so again, the link’s in the show notes we’ll make it super obvious there. Click that link, pick up that that free copy.

Rich Birch — Now’s the time though, friends. Don’t don’t wait. Don’t like don’t put this off till like next month. Pick up that copy now. It’ll arrive in a bit and then you can make that decision here in May and get that slotted in for this fall. I think that would be that would be amazing. Actually, we also have another thing that we want to say to folks that are listening in. Next week on May 1st, Wednesday May 1st we’re at 12 noon Eastern, or 9am for our friends on the Pacific coast, we’re actually going to host a webinar with Zach which will be amazing. Kind of dual purpose of this – one if you if you want to talk directly to Zach, you got questions you could come to that. We’ll make sure we get those questions. We can talk specifically about if you want to you know more questions on you know 40-day all-in church challenges. But then we also this is really one piece of an overall kind of discipleship process that churches should be thinking about. Help us help me understand a little bit about what we’re gonna be talking about on that that webinar.

Zach Zehnder — Yeah. Rich, we’ve seen our materials work super well and and give 40-day experiences that are unparalleled. And and early on a church would say, now what? And I’m like I don’t know, man. I’m a lead pastor. You you do, you do you and I’ll do me.

Rich Birch — You go figure it out.

Zach Zehnder — But but over the over the last um 7 years especially, but really decade, I’ve been blessed to be able um to sit in this discipleship space more than most, and really look at Jesus as the answer. And not just create materials for forty days, but my heart, like where I find the most fulfillment and joy is when I can help a pastor.

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — Um, I’m a 4 generation pastor myself and I love resourcing and helping pastors. And so, Rich, I’ve taken everything that I’ve kind of learned in the discipleship space over the last seven to ten years, and I’m I’m really now wanting to help church leaders and pastors develop a full-on disciple-making strategy at their church.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Zach Zehnder — So think going beyond the forty days, but long term what does it look like to do disciple making in our nation right now? And I’m just convinced that it is the answer um to the perennial problem we’re having in the western church that we know how to create believers but we don’t know how to create followers.

Zach Zehnder — And and so I’ve spent years in this and tailor-made some content specific to pastors and church leaders for how to help them get going. And I’ll say one last thing about that and then I can’t wait to talk with you more. In 2022 Lifeway Research did a study, and on the greatest needs of pastors, the one that they knew they needed to invest needed to invest in and were willing to invest in, at the very top of the list 63%—above technology, communication, internet, all those things—63% said disciple-making which tells me pastors and church leaders know it’s important but they don’t know how to do it.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Zach Zehnder — And and I get the grind of daily taking care of your people. And to to know that disciple making is important and to not think that you’re crushing it can lead you to feel guilty and with a lot of shame. And so I want to come alongside as an ally and say I’ve got a decade into this. I can I can help you get started. We can help you get started. And that way you can do what God’s called you to do, but hopefully with the start we can give, we can really start making disciples, not just for forty days…

Rich Birch — Right.

Zach Zehnder — …but for 40 years and and beyond.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Zach Zehnder — So anyway I can’t wait to get into it and talk about more of the disciple-making high level church stuff for pastors and leaders.

Rich Birch — So good. This is going to be good. So that’s next week, that’s May 1st. You know click the link in there, you’ll you’ll see you’ll see all that. Sign-up, we’d love to see you. I love that soundbite. Hey we you know we’re going to have a conversation on that day that’s going to help you. It’s going to help frame this whole idea around, you know, not just creating believers but ultimately followers. How do we how do we become the kind of church that that is behind us is a wake of discipled people who are following Jesus ah, you know for years to come? That’s the kind of change we need to see in our churches. So really looking forward to that conversation. This is going to be fantastic.

Rich Birch — Zach, this has been a great conversation today. Thank you so much for ah for being on. Any kind of last words as we before we wrap up today’s conversation?

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, for me, you know, this whole thing started with ah sometimes pastors, church leaders can be guilty of this as well. Sometimes that we you know, we can put off that following Jesus is a burden and ah we have a cross to bear. And I don’t want to minimize the fact that ministry has its challenges and its burdens. Um, but following Jesus is the opportunity of our lifetimes and none of us deserve it. And not only have we been saved but we’ve been called to follow. And my heart just reaches out um to pastors and church leaders specifically um because for far too long like we’ve struggled in this area of discipleship specifically. And God’s been too good in all of our stories to settle for this mediocre, halfhearted, unintentional shadow at best representation. Um, and we have answers and we have answers in the name of Jesus.

Zach Zehnder — And and so um, yeah, I’m just really grateful for pastors that care about discipleship and are intentionally trying and and want to help in as many ways as possible. Because this really is the opportunity of a lifetime that none of us deserve and I’m grateful. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um, it’s so good. Well Zach, I appreciate you being here where do we want to send people online if they want to connect with you, learn more about what you’re up to, that sort of thing. Where do we want to send them?

Zach Zehnder — Yeah, they can go to our main website redletterterchallenge.com and again I’ll give you the link, Rich, that you can put in, you can hyperlink it on the show notes for where to find the free book. They can also Google “free book for pastors Red Letter” and it’ll it’ll pop up at the top there too.

Rich Birch — Perfect.

Zach Zehnder — But, yeah, redletterterchallenge.com is the best place and if you want to email me or my team [email protected]. We we’re there and would love to ah would love to help.

Rich Birch — Thanks so much, Zach – appreciate you being here today.

Zach Zehnder — Appreciate you, Rich! Thanks, man.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.