Behind the Leader: Ian Borkent’s Journey of Burnout and Relaunch

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We’re chatting with Ian Borkent from C3 Rivers Church in the Netherlands. Ian also started the ministry Grow a Healthy Soul to help church leaders take care of their souls.

Church leaders often focus on metrics such as attendance, salvations and finances to gauge the health of their church, but there are other health metrics to look at as well. The health of an organization often reflects the health of the leader. Tune in as Ian talks about his journey from burnout to recovery, and how uncovering emotions and subconscious thought processes can prevent burnout down the road.

  • Driven to burnout. // There are typically two types of people – those who run ahead of God and those who run behind God. People who are driven and tend to run ahead of God can be more prone to burnout because they do too much in their own strength while ignoring healthy, God-given limits.
  • Slow down and be present. // It’s good to be an achiever and allow God to use that gift, but we also need to learn to be content with imperfect things around us. Ian said that while he believed in the principle of the Sabbath—having one day where he could delight in God, enjoy his family and just slow down—he didn’t put it into practice. Like so many people, he didn’t notice the signs of burnout until he was too far gone and in need of an extended break.
  • Step back for rest. // One of the huge warning signs Ian experienced was back pain so severe that it impacted his sleep and daily life for months. Despite initial beliefs that his pain was physical or spiritual, he discovered that the root cause was emotional, specifically deep suppressed anger. The lack of sleep eventually broke Ian down and he took a step back from the church while hiring a coach to help him work through his burnout. During this time he focused on resting and becoming more aware of how his subconscious thinking was affecting him. Ian also went through marriage therapy with his wife. He took ten months of sick leave to rest and work deeply on his emotional health before returning to work.
  • Deal with the root issues. // People who burn out can fall into a second or third burnout when returning to work because they didn’t apply lessons during recovery. People burn out because they have deep convictions that are based on lies, or ambitions that are based on an identity that’s not rooted enough in Christ. While you are in the valley, take time to apply the lessons you are learning. Work on the root system of your wrong beliefs to keep yourself from falling into the same traps.
  • Be a new you. // God put limits on everything in creation, including us. Embrace the limits God has given you. Consciously make the decision to be in the moment. When returning to work, it’s important to stay with the new you. People may have to get used to limits on your availability or new boundaries you set. Teach people who you are now.
  • Community transformation. // Impacted by Ian’s journey through burnout, C3 Rivers Church underwent a transformation from an organizational/business structure to a more family-oriented model. The leadership removed titles and focused on the function of each individual within the body of Christ. This change eliminated the hierarchy that had been present before. Now instead of the leader dictating the plans and direction, they seek to discover what God’s vision is for the church as a whole. This has led to individuals taking the initiative to start ministries without being asked or rallied by the leader.
  • Grow a Healthy Soul. // If you’re on the way to burnout, slow down and talk to someone. Through his Grow a Healthy Soul ministry, Ian has provided a free PDF to download that has questions you can ask yourself to uncover some of your subconscious thought processes and how they affect you.

To explore more resources from Grow a Healthy Soul, visit www.growahealthysoul.com.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Super excited for today’s conversation. We’re going international today, friends. Normally we have guests from across the States, but today super honored to have a guest from the Netherlands, Ian Borkent. He leads C3 Rivers Church. This is a fantastic church and I’m really looking forward to hearing more of his story, particularly as he talks about his own journey to health. He founded a coaching ministry called Grow a Healthy Soul after his own experience with really just terrible burnout. They offer resources and we want to make sure that you get plugged in with them today. Ian, welcome to the show. So glad that you’re here.

Ian Borkent — Good to be here Rich.

Rich Birch — Well, I’m glad that you’ve that you’re on and that we can connect across such great distance. Tell us about C3 Rivers Church. Give us a sense of the kind of the climate. What’s it like to serve in the Netherlands? Yeah, tell me a little bit about that.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. We are a church in Arnhem, which is a city of about 170,000 people in the east of the Netherlands, close to the German border. We have a lot of international students, a lot of young people. And yeah, there’s quite a few modern churches here. Also very traditional churches, reformed churches. We are more in the modern Pentecostal area of of church life.

Rich Birch — Right. Love it. Now is it true, is this… I remember talking to a friend, I think it was in Netherlands where we were talking about like donor stuff and all this, and there’s like the state church gets like taxes or something like that, but then you guys don’t. Or how does all that work? There’s like a, you know, there isn’t there like a state church in the Netherlands. Is that true? Am I thinking about that right? Or am I not not thinking about that clearly?

Ian Borkent — No, I don’t think that that’s true. It was true.

Rich Birch — It was true years ago.

Ian Borkent — Yeah, like definitely a century ago so. But no, that’s not the case. It might work differently with tax deductibility.

Rich Birch — Oh, right.

Ian Borkent — I think in the Netherlands, for example, when people give to the church, then they can deduct taxes. And in some places, like the UK, the church itself can deduct taxes. So that those are some differences.

Rich Birch — Okay cool. And give us a sense of the spiritual climate. I’m not sure why my brain like went sideways on money stuff. I don’t sure why I jumped there right away. But tell me about, you know, the the spiritual climate of the Netherlands. What what must that be like? My assumption is that the Netherlands is a post-Christian kind of more, maybe even pre-Christian kind of community, not the kind of place that people go to church all the time. A tough place to serve. Give us a bit of the history of of C3, how you’ve been serving there, and talk to us a little bit about that.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, the Netherlands is very secular, has become very secular place, you know, with a lot of secular ideologies and very similar, I think in that case to, to America. Also there’s a lot of things happening politically with new parties rising up. And and so there is, however, more openness, especially amongst young people towards Christianity.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Ian Borkent — Because for them it’s not so loaded anymore, like their parents generation. You know, the parents were used to more religion and they might have left the church because of religion. And the younger generation is more, definitely more open towards it.

Rich Birch — Hmm. Okay, cool, cool. Well, let’s talk a little bit about I know ultimately today we want to talk about your own journey to health and, you know, some kind of a tough season that you went through. But why don’t we take a step back. Tell us your kind of personal journey there. So what led you to the place where, like, hey, you even realized maybe I wasn’t in a healthy spot? You know what, talk us through that a little bit. What was what kind of precipitated that? What came before that?

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, naturally, I’m a very driven person. And what you often see with people that get burnouts, they have a certain personality type, you know, the type T person, like with T stands for tension and or D, which stands for driven. And so you got two kind of people. George Meyer is always saying like you have people running ahead of God, or people running behind God. And I was in the first category. And you know, and that’s all fine and good if you keep that up for a few years. But what about if some crisis hit you, or if there’s a layer, or stacking, of multiple, multiple challenges. Then, you know, I was just doing too much in my own strength and not living within healthy limits, God-given limits, enough.

Ian Borkent — And then I think the final straw was the Corona Crisis, where many people, they said like, oh, this is quite nice to slow down, you know, and be in the home a lot, and do a lot of reading. But for me, leading a church was just very, very challenging…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Ian Borkent — …with all the different opinions like about masking or not masking, vaccinating or not vaccinating. And it’s like whichever position we chose, there was always someone not agreeing.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Ian Borkent — And so that yeah, that I think that was the final straw. But I went through it on adrenaline. And adrenaline, it’s it’s a chemical thing. It keeps you going for so long until it basically runs out.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — And then you collapse. And that’s what happened in my case.

Rich Birch — Yeah. I, you know, it’s funny, one of my very distinct memories during Corona was I was on a video call and I remember this, and I was feeling exactly what you were feeling the like, gosh, we are like running in a million directions here. We are pushing hard. We’re trying to figure out how do we reach people. And I remember this other church leader said, you know, maybe this is the Lord’s season for us to take a rest, and to slow down and to relax. And I was I remember thinking inside of me, I was like, what? Like what is happening? Like what? Who are you? Like what how can you say that? It’s crazy to think back to that.

Rich Birch — You know, you said something there running ahead of God. That’s an interesting statement. Tell me, what were some of those signs when you look back on that, that you would say, oh, I was running ahead of God. And, you know, because there might be people that are listening in today, or I know there’s people that are listening in today, they would say, no, I’m not running ahead of God. I’m just driven. I just the Lord’s just he’s got a lot of plans. We want to push forward. Help us understand what did it look like when you look back now and say, oh, I was running ahead of God.

Ian Borkent — Yeah, I think it’s good to be an achiever. And, you know, God definitely works through people. And sometimes God is waiting for us to do something. But if you are an achiever, and in my case, also perfectionistic, then what you want to do. You just want to always improve things, even at the detriment of your own health, or your own merits, or the raising of your kids. For example, in preaching, I was always trying to improve my sermon preparation and then thinking of some other example on Saturday and trying to add that in, and really supposed to be around the family table, but not really being present. I mean, I was sitting there in my body, but my mind was somewhere else. And just never really being content. And I had to learn to be content and to press the pause button or the stop button on Friday evening and just let the Sabbath be the Sabbath. You know, for me, I’m not religious about the Saturday having to be the Sabbath, but I do believe in the principle of of having one day where you can delight in God and and enjoy your family and just slow down. But it was very, I knew it in theory, but in practice I didn’t do it.

Rich Birch — Hmm. Interesting. Interesting. Okay, so bring us back. We’re we’re in the middle of the Corona Crisis, and, you know, things are are, you know, tough. It seems like every answer is not the right answer. Was there a particular breaking moment where you said, oh, okay, like this I have stepped on it here. Something has gone sideways. It’s just a moment or a series of things that you look back on and, you know, kind of indicated something’s in an unhealthy spot. I need to change what’s happening here.

Ian Borkent — Oh, yeah. Like as often is the case with burnout, is that people tend to not notice the signals until they’ve, you know, they’re too far gone. And when you’re too far gone, it becomes suddenly really obvious to yourself and to those around you. Like, for example, I remember I started crying out of nowhere for seemingly small, small matters. You know, like I developed back pain, which at first I thought was physical, but it turned out not to be physical, but emotional. It had an emotional cause. And, you know, eventually I couldn’t think straight anymore. I couldn’t even make small decisions about church life anymore. And so it became apparent to myself and to those around me that I needed a serious break, you know?

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — And to just rest first and recover and then to work on the underlying issues. Because there’s always underlying issues that that are there, but that you’ve kind of covered over with working hard or just trying to ignore things. And but it’s like, you know, it’s like a leak in your roof. If you’re trying to ignore it and put tape over it, well, eventually it will just grow bigger. And you will you will start seeing the flooding of of the rainwater come in.

Rich Birch — Wow. You know, those are interesting kind of, you know, signs in your own life. You know, I’ve heard people say similar on the emotions issue. It’s almost like the opposite end of that same spectrum where it’s like you, I’ve heard people who have gone through a similar experience say, you know, I stopped feeling anything. Where it’s like I would be at a funeral and of a dear friend and didn’t feel anything. It just was like, this was another day. You know, it’s the opposite of crying at everything. But it was having some sort of an emotional.You know, the back pain – that one’s interesting. Talk us through that a little bit. A physiological response to an emotional, spiritual pressure that you were feeling. Talk us through that.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. You know, in hindsight, I’m so happy and glad with how God has designed us as a triune being, you know, body, soul and spirit.

RIch Birch — Right. Yeah.

Ian Borkent — I never really saw the connection because I, I compartmentalize things too much in terms of, for example, the body. I thought if I have back pain, it must have a physical cause because I can feel it in my body.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Ian Borkent — You know, and as I went to the hospital and we did X-rays and blood tests and the works. And basically they said, well, you have normal abnormalities with… yeah, because they said if we scan a 45 year old, like if we scan 100 people that are 45 years of age, then 33% of them or something will have these kind of abnormalities.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay. Right.

Ian Borkent — But it doesn’t explain the severity of your back pain. The thing is, I had such severe back pain that I could not walk for longer than ten minutes without having to sit down.

Rich Birch — Oh my goodness.

Ian Borkent — I could not lie in bed without waking up from the pain. I had lots of nights where I just had hardly any sleep because I was in pain all the time. I, when I was sitting down, I had to stand up again after ten minutes. So it’s like when they what they say to people with back pain, what is the best position, the next position. So there’s always trying to find the next position.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Ian Borkent — And everything in my mind was convinced this is a physical problem, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Ian Borkent — Or it could be spiritual, maybe is demonic or something. You know, like I’ve learned that in the spiritual realm there can be things that cause you physical pain or sicknesses.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Ian Borkent — And so I was focusing on these two areas. So either going to a doctor or asking for prayer, you know, and doing spiritual battle.

Ian Borkent — What I had never considered was that the cause for my physical pain could be found in my soul. And that my body is simply expressing a pain. My body is like a prophet. I think Pete Scazzero says your body is a major prophet. So you know, my body knows first what my mind knows later.

Oh that’s good.

Ian Borkent — And and so I had to discover that my body was just giving me pain because I was having a lot of anger inside of me, to be honest. But I did not allow myself to feel that anger. Because being a good Christian, you cannot possibly be angry with friends or family about certain issues. You cannot possibly be angry. So I had hidden in a way and my body started to express it.

Rich Birch — Hmm. Interesting. Well, you went into rest and recovery. So what did that look like? How what were some of those? Was there a breaking point that led you to that? Or you know what, how did you, you know, how did you how did it come to you know, that you understood, Oh, like, hey, I’ve, I’ve got to make some changes here.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. You know, eventually I broke down because of lack of sleep.

Rich Birch — Okay. Yep.

Ian Borkent — The the pain was so severe that I did not sleep well for months in a row. And that, you know, if you if if you sleep not well for a few nights, that’s one thing. But if it’s months in a row, all the while staying busy with work and family life and everything, then eventually it just had such a negative effect on my marriage. My wife found it very difficult to deal with me. I did not know how to deal with me. And so it just became apparent, you know what? I need a break.

Rich Birch — Hmm, interesting. Okay, so what did that early rest in recovery look like? How do you how do you how does someone who goes from, Hey, I’m running ahead of God. You know, I’m an achiever. I’m a person who wants to get things done. I’m asking for a friend. How does a person like that rest and recover? How do you take a pause and say, hey, I need to slow down. What that look like?

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, in that case, I am an all or nothing type of person, so that did help me. Either I’m doing everything or I’m doing nothing. So I would just, Yeah, I just announced to to the team and the church like we need a break. And fortunately we were in a church movement, which is really like a family to us.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — So we have a lot of people around us that that could help us or pray with us or, you know, just be there for me. And and so I laid down my responsibilities and, and we focused on just resting and working on things in our merits and working on things in my soul. So I hired a coach in Australia. So I had online Zoom coaching…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Ian Borkent — …but honestly, it was like we were sitting in the same room. It was just incredible.

Rich Birch — It’s amazing.

Ian Borkent — And eventually I’ve also stumbled upon a book by a Dr. Sarno about healing back pain. And how you can get physical healing by working through emotional issues. And that that helped me incredibly to, yeah, to work on my emotional self. So to just basically become more self aware of how I’m thinking subconsciously. Because a lot of things are happening in the subconscious, but we need to uncover what’s happening there. And well, basically took ten months to to rest…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Ian Borkent — …and then to work on some things and, and and eventually I yeah, my back pain disappeared completely. And I knew where things came from. And we had some marriage therapy as well. And you know, we we could start afresh.

Rich Birch — Fascinating. You know, there’s, there’s a lot we can unpack there. But I know, you know, just even in my own life. You know, there I will have its upper back pain or kind of in the, you know, when I’m stressed out, I can you can physiologically feel it. You can feel the kind of tension. And it makes sense that if you hold that for a long period of time, the impact it’s going to have on us. When you say, you know, there was a ten month period there. So like, were you out of doing church stuff for that, that length. Or did you take a break or how did that look like, would that look like?

Ian Borkent — Yeah, well, I was in like on staff full time and, but I went on full time sickness leave.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Ian Borkent — And so yeah, I said we spoke with the board and they were really understanding.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Right.

Ian Borkent — And we have a great board that they said, look, you know, your health is is the most important thing.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yes.

Ian Borkent — And we also have great associate pastors who said, look, we will look after the church during your absence. And and so I’m really, really glad with with these people. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s incredible. What a what a gift to you. And and, you know, that’s an encouragement I think to leaders who are listening in. I sometimes think we we don’t, it’s like we underestimate how much people want to care. You know, the people that are around us who are will rally in a moment like that and say, yeah, like, I, I, you know, they love you dearly and they want to support you. They want to, in this case, you know, you had a group around you, Ian, that wanted to say, hey, we’ll, you know, we’ll help. That’s. Yeah. That’s great.

Ian Borkent — Exactly.

Rich Birch — So, so then how did you, you know, you come through this experience, obviously there’s a there’s rest. I love that you you know and there’s a lot we could talk there around the back stuff. And you start finding a place of, of health and, you know, in a better spot. Well, you can’t just jump back into how things were before. You know, you have to you have to change. And the way you serve has to change. Can you talk us through what that look like?

Ian Borkent — Yeah, I think it’s really important to take the time in the valley to eat all the grass that’s growing there.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good, I love it.

Ian Borkent — You know, as driven people, even in a burnout, driven people can still be driven. Why? Because they want to get out of the burnout, you know? And they they want to get going again. But my coach, he shared something with me that’s really helped me. He said his estimate is that one third of the people that he’s been coaching, they they have trouble, after working again, and they can fall back into a second or third burnout.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Ian Borkent — And he didn’t say this to say how bad of a coach he was. But as a warning, he said, as a warning, he said, you need to really apply the lessons that you are learning here in the valley. And you need to take the time as long as it takes, to get them deeply ingrained of you. Because it comes from a deep place. The reason why you burned out, it comes from a deep place of some convictions that are based on lies, some ambitions that are based on, on, on, you know, on an identity that’s not rooted in Christ enough. And so you have to work on the root system, and take the time to do that, because otherwise, once you start working again, it’s very easy to fall in the same traps or old tracks.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Interesting. Okay, so we’re in that phase, when you weren’t just kind of jumping to let’s look at what’s next, but you were taking time to try to examine, were there any particular learnings for you, or any convictions that came through, even extending that and continuing to say, hey, I want to I don’t want to just jump; I want to make sure that we’re, you know, I’m stepping in a healthy way into what’s next.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, one area I can mention is, is embracing limits. And that God has actually put limits in everything in creation. You know, the oceans have limits. The day has a limit. Everything is limited. We are limited by time and space, and and so, and energy. So just embracing how God has has wired us I think that’s just that’s just key. It’s just very important. And then, to live like that, and consciously make a decision, I’m going to be present in the moment. Now some people, they are a moment people, so they can be really there in the moment. And other people, they’re always like, especially visionaries, I think, they’re always looking at the next moment.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Ian Borkent — So for me, as a visionary, I, I had to just learn to enjoy the moment. So, for example, during a meal time with my family and my children, I am there. I’m not somewhere else. I’m not with other people or I’m not at tomorrow’s meeting. I’m sitting here right now with my wife, with my children, and we’re going to have a great meal and a great conversation.

Rich Birch — That’s really cool. Love that. Love that insight and love, you know, I think so many of us could learn that, you know, and do that more even in this, you know, in these days. Well, what what changes ended up shifting in on the church front? How did you obviously your you know, you’re still leading the church. You came through this this is the part that I’m you know, I you know, I’m excited about. Sometimes people go through these experiences and their conclusion at the end is, hey, I just shouldn’t be leading in the church. Like I, you know, I should do something different. And that’s okay. That’s a, you know, that’s not a that’s not a criticism. But we need leaders like you who have been able to go through that and then come back to the end of those things and say, oh, no, I’d like to continue to serve here. So talk to us about what what changes have happened on that front. How have you now been able to structure your life and the church’s life in a way that maybe is more conducive to health going forward?

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, you know, I understand it likewise. Like you were saying, if some people they they make a different choice, and I think it’s always looking at, you know, walking it through with God and praying about these things.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — You need to know that you know that you know that you’re still called for this time and place.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Ian Borkent — But you know, at the same time, when you’re starting again, it’s really, really important to stay with the new you, and and to live out of that new you.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Ian Borkent — And that means that some people, they will have to get used to that, and the church will have to get used to that. Because in the past you might have been more accessible, but you went across your own boundaries too much. So you need to actually teach people who you are now.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — And that means that you’re making some shifts in your availability. And then that also means just letting the body of Christ be the body of Christ. So it’s very, very important that we involve the fivefold ministry. You know, I’m more of an apostolic type person. But I’m I discovered, for example, during my burnout, that I’m not a shepherd, but I’m called pastor. Well, that’s confusing in people’s minds.

Rich Birch — Okay. Yeah.

Ian Borkent — And so we had to look at the fivefold ministry and appoint people as a pastor so that the church knows, this is a pastor, and you can expect shepherding from them. And and this person here is an apostolic visionary, and this person is a prophet. And so those things really helped the church, I think, to understand who is who.

Rich Birch — Love that. And so that that’s really super practical. Any other kind of shifts when you as you got clearer around the fivefold kind of approach to ministry that, you know, that that impacted—obviously we’re talking about Ephesians 4—you know, that it changed just even how you operate as a leadership team?

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Yeah. We we look at leadership now quite differently. I think we come from, we came from a church culture which was quite hierarchical, and with a lot of organization – I think too much organi,ation. So we started to look more like a company or a factory and less like a family.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Ian Borkent — Well, when I look at the scriptures you see that whole language of of family, you know, we’re called each other’s brothers and sisters, and God is our father. And so there’s more family language in the scriptures, I think, than organizational language. But we were just functioning like an organization. And we had too much distance between leadership and church members. And so we actually went through quite a transformation in discovering afresh what does the Bible say about the the body of Christ? So we’re moving now from a vision of being a house of God to being a body of Christ, where there is less distance between leader and church member. And there’s more that can also create more team transparency, where everyone, including the leader or leaders, can be vulnerable. And I think that’s very important in this day and age, where you see just so many leaders on a pedestal…

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — …and then, you know, they cannot live possibly up to people’s expectations. So what they do is they then have some hidden sin or whatever to try to cope. And then the thing collapses, you know. And there’s just too many church scandals, and I think it can have to do with, with this aspect.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Priesthood of all believers, I love it. This is this is great. I’d love to unpack that – what that’s kind of look like. And I agree, I think there’s an interesting thing, you know, in the in the Protestant church and the broadly Protestant church, you know, evangelical world, you know, charismatic world. We, you know, we you know, I’m we’re historically we corrected against what some of our Catholic brothers and sisters, some of their, you know, their worlds. But then what has happened is one of the weird trickle downs from that is instead of having a Pope somewhere, we have a whole bunch of mini-popes who are people who we look at as if they have some sort of completely different connection to God than the rest of us.

Rich Birch — We, you know, we look at them as, and that could be a lead pastor, could be a teaching pastor, we look at them in this kind of like they’re different than everyone else, which is not a very biblical view and has all kinds of negative outcomes in people’s lives. So let’s unpack that. What does that look like to be less like a factory—I like that —less like a factory, more like a family. Let’s talk about what some of those changes have looked like at C3 for you.

Ian Borkent — Well, one thing that we did, and I’m not saying every church needs to do this, but we felt God saying that to us was to remove titles and the use of titles. So, you know, we called everyone who had a serious leadership position in our church, we called them a pastor, you know?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Ian Borkent — So we we had a worship pastor, kids pastor, youth pastor, et cetera. Even though they might not even be a pastor, as in, they might not be a shepherd, but they might be prophetic or or something else. But somehow we call everyone a pastor. And then that created a distance between church members and these pastors. And so we said, look, what we need to do we need to focus on function and not on title. And we need to realize that everybody has a very important function in the body of Christ, whether you are the liver or the right toe or the eye or the nose.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Ian Borkent — So we’re we all have a different function and no one is more important than any other people. So you can just call me Ian. You know, I’m Ian, and I happen to have an apostolic function in this body. And some people are afraid that that, you know, that the culture of honor disappears if you do that and everything. But, you know, the Bible says that we need to honor one another. So I think if I as a leader, if I honor other people, then they will be honoring me. And so, you know, so I don’t think we have to be afraid of that. And I think it creates more health overall in the body of Christ.

Rich Birch — Interesting. Yeah, I love that. I love, you know, clarifying. Did you, what about your experiences, that kind of weekend experience? You know, there are um, in the way we craft what we do regularly that can sometimes reinforce values that we actually don’t believe. Like we actually, if we were to step back and say, what does this communicate? We, that doesn’t actually communicate what we think. And it sounds like you’ve gone through a season where you’ve thought carefully about that. Have you made any changes to what you do, even on a regular basis?

Ian Borkent — Yeah, we have made very, very significant changes. Because we used to have church services that tick like clockwork, where everything was planned on the minute through different run sheets, and they were like three people basically on stage determining the content of those 90 minutes. And, and we felt God challenging us to lay that down. With God, saying to us, look, if you want to experience what the body of Christ is like, then you need to let the body be the body. And that means that you need to get more people to participate…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Ian Borkent — …even spontaneously, you know? And I was I was at first I was like, whoa, you know, but God, what if they will say crazy things? Or what if, you know what? We have, we have actually laid things down. And we have said to people that they can participate in bringing a testimony or a prayer. And I have seen, we have seen the Holy Spirit at work, and people encouraging one another. And if something if someone says something weird and someone else has, has gently corrected it, or, you know, we have seen that the Holy Spirit is perfectly okay when we involve more people in a church gathering. And so now we have what we what we call open gatherings, where, yeah, where there is I mean, there is someone who opens the meeting and, and sets the tone. But then we, we basically say, look, let’s pray. And if God brings something on your heart, then we can pray for that right away. And it’s just been amazing to see what’s been happening there.

Rich Birch — Yeah. That’s cool. I love that. Like the Holy Spirit’s not nervous about what’s going to happen. Like I love it.

Ian Borkent — Yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s it doesn’t freak him out. He’s he’s okay. He’s good. He’s good.

Ian Borkent — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Now, so what’s the impact been on the community? Like love those changes. It reminds me early on when I was first a Christian, I was a part of, in this part of the world, it’s called the Plymouth Brethren movement. And they’re to this day, this still very much it’s like you go to the breaking of bread service, they would call it. And it’s, you know, they wait in silence at the beginning and, and and then, you know, as the Spirit moves, different people are sharing scripture and maybe giving a word, you know, that kind of thing. Beautiful, a beautiful experience. If you if you haven’t experienced that and you’re only, only experience is the run sheet world, man, you’re missing out on something. But what impact has that had on the church? You know, from an, you know, reaching people point of view, all that kind of thing? What what’s the, you know, or or maybe even ask the wrong question. But you know what what’s that been like in the life of the church?

Ian Borkent — Um, well, at first people had to get used to it…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Ian Borkent — …because, you know, we come from 12 years of the leader saying where we are going.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — And, you know, so people have been kind of waiting for me as the leader to say, we are going to do plan A…

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — …and then they’re going to rally behind it. But now I’ve said, look, what is God giving as vision? What is God, yeah, what is he giving as a vision to this body?

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — So basically we allow for more initiative to come from the community. And so that is taking some time, you know…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Ian Borkent — …to for people to grasp that, like, hey, I can actually run with something that… And for example, what we’ve seen happen is that someone has said, look, I have a ministry in the prophetic, so I’m going to train other people how to prophesy over each other. And so I haven’t asked them to do that. It’s not been something that I have been rallying people for, but they have started that out of the own accord.

Rich Birch — Wow – that’s great.

Ian Borkent — Yeah. And so those are the things we want to see happen. Of course, you know, within the values that we have as a church community, but not with a lot of control or a lot of top-down leadership or instruction, but rather the other way around, a bottom-up grassroots movement. As I think the church is supposed to be, which is the priesthood of all believers stepping into their God zone.

Rich Birch — Interesting. That’s cool. I love that. That’s, you know, so fun to hear. And there’s a lot we could unpack here. I know that there’s a there’s a ton here. The the idea of moving from, you know, a factory to a family. And, you know, there’s a lot we could unpack on that for sure.

Rich Birch — What would you say to a leader who’s listening in today who would say, you know, kind of pivoting back to the individual who say, hey, you know, I’m I might be burnt out. I’m, you know, I might be in that situation where I don’t know that I know yet, but I could be heading there.

Ian Borkent — Right.

Rich Birch — What would you say to them? What would be some of those initial steps that they should be thinking about or, or steps they should be taking?

Ian Borkent — Yeah. Well, definitely to slow down. Then to talk to someone. You know, a trusted friend or or a coach or someone that is recommended to them, and become more aware of their inner world. So their subconscious world. So I think I sent you some, some questions with this…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. We’ve got that PDF – we can put it we’ll share it in the show notes. I was going to ask you about that, but let’s walk through that.

Ian Borkent — In that download, if people just look at those questions and they sit down and they take the time to honestly ask themselves these questions, that can uncover some subconscious processes. Because a lot of our actions in life are subconsciously driven. And so you need to slow down to get to that point. And, and then you will know why you do things. And that’s often more important than what you do.

Rich Birch — Yeah. There’s… friends, I would encourage you to look on your show notes. Click that, download that. This is a great resource that you’ve provided. I really appreciate this. There’s, as I was preparing looking at some of these questions, I was like, oh, these are good questions that I think all of us should slow down. And like you say here, quality, not quantity. Like, let’s actually let’s actually answer the question. Think about it. Love that, love that.

Rich Birch — All right. Well, as we’re kind of wrapping up and landing the plane here, you this is you’ve ended up pivoting and launching a ministry to help people. Why don’t you talk to us about that? What does Grow a Healthy Soul look like? Give us a sense of of how that how that ministry helps people.

Ian Borkent — Yeah, well, I just have a heart for leaders – leaders in the church world, but also in the, you know, in the secular world. And Grow a Healthy Soul is about the soul of the leader. And it’s my own story, of course, getting in touch with my soul and with who I really am, and uncovering emotions and subconscious processes. And I see so many leaders, they look at certain metrics in their life, like church attendance, salvations, finances. And I think we can look at other health metrics. And I believe that the health of the organization comes after the health of the leader. And so of course, they’re connected as well.

Rich Birch — That’s so true. Yeah.

Ian Borkent — So we need to talk about these things. And prevention is better than cure. So if people check out my website – growahealthysoul.com – they will see some tools. They will see podcasts, mostly in the English language, but there are also Dutch episodes in between. And and that is there just to help them grow a healthy soul.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. I would encourage people to to drop by, take a look. Again, we’ll link to that in the show notes. But it’s just growahealthysoul.com. You know I love your heart there around, Hey we don’t it doesn’t, it seems like every leader I talked to goes through a season like this. And that doesn’t need to be the case. Like we could proactively, and I’ve seen this particularly with young leaders, who, you know, are proactively working ahead to say, hey, how do we ask these questions, pace our lives? Sure, still having impact, still leaning in and asking, hey, how can we reach people with the message of Jesus? But you know, there was a previous generation that it feels like it was all about like, you know, burning out for Jesus. And we don’t need to be like that. We can, there’s a different path. And so, Ian, I really appreciate that you are, you know, clearly pacing that out for us. Any kind of final words as we wrap up today’s episode, anything you’d like to say to us just as we wrap up today?

Ian Borkent — I think it’s important to talk about it to people, you know.

Rich Birch — Right.

Ian Borkent — So sometimes we as leaders, we tend to feel maybe embarrassed or ashamed. But I think people respect us more if we are actually open about the things that bother us. And what’s important is we need to look at the person behind the pastor, and at the life behind the leader. And so I’m a person before I am a pastor or a leader. And and we need to basically demystify leadership and make it more personable. So just be a person and talk to another person and, and share the things that that you want to share.

Rich Birch — So good, so good. Ian, I appreciate you being here today.

Rich Birch — Thank you so much for caring for us, and for taking time to help us today. If we want to send people online, where do we want to send them? You know, give us the website for the church and, you know, growing a healthy soul. Any place on social media, those kind of things where we could be following along, tracking with your story?

Ian Borkent — Yep. My website is growahealthysoul.com and my Instagram handle is my surname Borkent – B-O-R-K-E-N-T and then G-A-H-S, which stands for Grow Healthy Soul.

Rich Birch — Love it, love it. So good. Thanks so much for being here. Really appreciate you being here today, Sir.

Ian Borkent — Pleasure.

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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.