Business as Core to the Mission of Your Church with Johnny Scott

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. I’m happy to be talking with Johnny Scott, the lead pastor of Generations Church in Trinity, Florida.

Ever wonder what a self-sustainable church might look like? Curious about how to use business as ministry? Listen in as Johnny Scott shares how churches can use holy-owned businesses to reach their communities in creative ways while also developing a revenue stream to fuel future missions.

  • Theology of city building. // At Generations Church, viewing business as missions is a core part of their DNA. From the very beginning of scripture we see God at work creating. Prior to Genesis 3 work was a gift from God rather than toil. We are invited to partner with God in meaningful work no matter our occupation.
  • An exile mindset. // In Jeremiah 29 God’s people living in Babylon are told to pray for and seek the good of their city because if it prospers, they too will prosper. Johnny believes it’s important for us to have an exile mindset while we are on earth. Instead of living comfortably separated from the world, we need to go out into the marketplace and serve our communities.
  • Go to them. // Churches can no longer simply wait for and expect our communities to come to us. Jesus taught in synagogues and the temple, but he also often went to the marketplace and into the city. We need to do the same.
  • Becoming self-sustainable to give more. // How do we turn the church into a place that is fully sustainable on its own? Johnny’s goal is to get to the point where the church doesn’t need to operate on the money people give. Instead every dollar will go straight to local and global missions.
  • Exhale and move forward. // One of the things Generations Church has learned is that they will probably do less in a year than they wanted to, but will do more in ten years than they ever imagined. Growth and reach may start slowly but it quickly becomes exponential. Believe that God wants to do more than you can imagine.
  • Change the church mindset. // There is a biblical principle never to be a slave to the lender. Scripture also teaches to use man’s currency to get kingdom currency, which is people. Leveraging the world’s resources to gain influence can help lead people to Jesus.
  • Cultivate the resources. // Every resource your church needs to dramatically impact the community around us is embedded in us. Our job is to cultivate that.

You can learn more about Generations Church and their ministries at www.generationscc.com.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well, hey, everybody. Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Super excited about today’s conversation. Today we’ve got Johnny Scott with us. He is the lead pastor at Generations Church – church in Florida, North Tampa, which has been through a few things ah, recently. Super excited to have Johnny on the show. Was recommended to us by a mutual friend, Chris Hahn. Welcome to the show, Johnny. So glad you’re here.

Johnny Scott — And so glad to be here, Rich. Heard about, you know, what you guys do from Chris and yeah, we’re we’re excited to be where God has us here, in Trinity actually, just north of Tampa ah, you know, kind of like a bedroom community of Tampa Bay. And you know when I started this position as lead pastor—the first time being a lead pastor um—never never never thought you know in 20 years of pretty much traveling the country and playing guitar and being a worship pastor that God would call me to this. But through a series of events [inaudible] and ministry, God does that. Um had an incredible time in bible college. But, you know, I kind of get the premise that you know some of the things, while I I learned how to exegete scripture and expository preaching…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — …and I had a great time there, some of the things that I’m called to do and I’m doing now in my daily, I just have to step back and be like like God, what what are you doing? Like this is…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …it’s crazy. And for us, you know, business as missions ah, we call it like maybe maybe even a church 2.0 model is just that idea of what what is a church like that’s you know self-sustainable okay? And and for me this is ah a deep theology of what I call the theology of city building. Um which is our God given DNA. You know the first time we see God, God is creating. That God is a creative God. God is a work God. There is there’s no toil in work before Genesis chapter 3. The famous chapter in my house is my boys quote all the time. Why are we doing this? Because of Genesis chapter 3. They’re like, they quote it. It’s this mantra because…

Rich Birch — Um, ah because we live in a fallen world.

Johnny Scott — But it’s toil.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — And you you guys, it’s you don’t know work without toil. Well God does work, right? And then Jesus Jesus says I’m going to prepare a place for you. Jesus is working. Our last picture of Jesus is working. I believe that there will be work when we get to heaven. The idea that we’re going to be lounging around on on clouds playing harps, that sounds boring. I’m with Kenny Chesney.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — I don’t want to go right now either if that’s what it’s like.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

Johnny Scott — It’s not going to be like that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — It’s going to be work with the most creative being ever, right? And and and then we’re going to have no inhibitions of toil. And until that we have got to have ah like a proper exile mindset. And we don’t have an exile mindset. We’re we’re comfortable. I’m comfortable. We live we live in a great neighborhood, and I’ve got you know TVs…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …in multiple rooms. Okay? I mean like there’s water…

Rich Birch — Yes. Yes.

Johnny Scott — …there’s running water. I don’t feel like, God saved me from Babylon.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — I don’t want to move.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — But when you get that exile mindset like Jera Jeremiah was preaching to a people that were exiled and they say, God, save us from where we’re at. God’s answer to them, and people misquote it all the time, “Surely I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.” You know, Jeremiah 29:11. That verse is tucked into a big fat NO from God. I’m not going to.

Rich Birch — Yes, it’s so true.

Johnny Scott — No, you’re gonna be here for 70 years. So if you’re my age, if you’re 46…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Johnny Scott — …you’re not going to live to see it. So what God tells them to do is plant gardens, marry your sons and daughters…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …pray for the city that you are in.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — And when it prospers, you will prosper. And it wasn’t, hole up in your synagogue, these bastions of isolationism, which is what, you know, church was when I grew up. As a youth pastor I would I would go and say, Hey, why don’t you quit coming to that school event on Wednesday night and come to church.

Rich Birch — And come to and come to our thing. Yeah, yeah, totally.

Johnny Scott — Yeah. And we would say, come to see our show (we never said that but that’s what it is) at 9am or 11am on Sunday morning, and we’ll be ready for you then.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Johnny Scott — It, the the hubris of that, and we never felt that way, you know…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — …in the 80s and 90s when I was growing up. And we’re in attractional church model. Jesus, you know, communicated the gospel at the end of the sermon on the mount. It says people were astounded and amazed.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — I have no problem with having art. And we spend money on that, and we do a good job at that. But we will not demand people, hey come to our show. So we started to get this idea of let’s be a serve first idea…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — …because Jesus was always invasive with the gospel.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — Jesus says, Zacchias, I’m going to your house today. We know he was in the synagogue.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Johnny Scott — But most of our stories, he’s out in the city and places where we should just go to the marketplace. So, the deep theology…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Johnny Scott — …the deep theology for this in my life goes back to Moses on the mountain. Marketplace ministry, business ministry, business as ministry um…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Johnny Scott — …for me, it goes to the setup of the temple. Okay, the setup of the temple, if you read Numbers 35, Moses is on the mountain. He’s getting all the all the culture. The first time in the history of humanity the culture has been, here it is. Like we go out and we invent culture through war, and crazy things that happen, in traditions that develop over hundreds of years, and that’s not how culture developed for the the God-made culture, this Judeo mindset. It was given. Here’s your seven festivals. Here’s when you work. Here’s when you party. That’s how it is.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — And wrapped up in that in Numbers 35 is how the temple will work. He says, I’m going to give you these cities.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Johnny Scott — I’m going to give you the land around these cities. You’re going to do all the livestock and all the wheat, barley, oats. All of that is for the temple. That is that is to sustain sustainability, the work, the Levite family will do at the temple.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Johnny Scott — God didn’t come to the people and say, I need you to tithe 10%…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …so that the temple can function. No the temple was going to function. So what was the 10% for? This is very clear throughout scripture. It’s a thread. It and one of the words used in the Old testament is the word lavish.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — It is for the 7 festivals that God sets up for us to regularly—7 the perfect number—how do we how do we party in God’s culture perfectly? That’s how we party.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it. Love it.

Johnny Scott — And so there’s this perfect setup of regular parties that the 10% goes… so the storehouse of the Lord is full. So there’s no party like a God party.

Rich Birch — Yes, love it.

Johnny Scott — He owns party.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — So Numbers gives us that, then you move to the old testament and we see paul Paul’s selling tents. Now Paul wasn’t selling christian tents.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — Paul wasn’t selling tents for christians.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — Paul was just selling tents. Now just I’m I’ve been living in this this scriptural narrative of Paul in a city like Corinth. I mean this is a major metropolitan port. Paul…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Johnny Scott — Paul rolls up in here and he’s like I’m gonna sell tents. And I’m just thinking you think that they don’t have tent sellers already, right?

Rich Birch — Yes, love it.

Johnny Scott — That the people of Corinth are like [inaudible] oh my goodness we’ve been looking for a tent guy. Hey everybody we got a tent guy finally.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — The tent guys in Corinth, they like: hey bro, I’ve been selling tents here. My dad sold tents here.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, my great Grand Pappy sold tents here.

Johnny Scott — And my grandpa sold…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Johnny Scott — Yeah, who are you? And so Paul is doing this commerce thing. And just think about how that is, you know. He’s not like inviting people over to watch the Superbowl and then the halftime show you know trying to get them at a multilevel…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — …marketing thing with tents. Okay. Like I’m going to work your [inaudible]. He’s that’s not what he’s doing, okay. Paul Paul is he’s he’s in the trade. And so I have this picture of Paul in the shop on Monday and he is a christian who’s living out his world faith, and he’s helping other businessmen. And after like a very short season because he is just for other people, there’s a guy’s like I’ve got to get tar. Well go see Paul. Well don’t that Paul guy sell tents? Well yeah, but he helps so and so out with shingles and I know that he does ship tar. Yeah.

Rich Birch — He knows a guy who knows a guy. Yeah.

Johnny Scott — He’s just he and and the word is like yeah but man if you go over there, I mean it’s it’s you’re going to have to put up with like this Jesus thing he’s talking about. You know it’s like yeah but he knows everybody.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — I think that if he would have had a poor quality tent or a tent that didn’t hold up and I’m like, well, you know, he’s a really good motivational speaker but the tents are just crap quality. That…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …what would that have done to the validity of his gospel?

Rich Birch — Right, right. Oh love that point.

Johnny Scott — So he he had to be in a marketplace, and compete in a marketplace, and go through the politics of the local Chamber of Commerce. And come in in such a way where he brought value, and served people, and did not defame the gospel he preached in any way. And it’s such a a word picture or like a narrative for us to get in and say, how do we is the church enter into a place that is actually our rightful place…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — …to be fully sustainable on our own…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …stand on our own feet. And when a when a preacher says, I’ve said this, God we don’t need your money. You you get to give to a church because that’s going to bless you.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — But then really to be able to say, like every dollar that you give here goes straight to local and global missions.

Rich Birch — Fascinating.

Johnny Scott — I’ve never I’ve never been able to say that.

Rich Birch — No, but that’s the goal? Is that is that ultimately like we… I love. Well first of all, this has been great so far. I love we it’s like we jumped in midstream, which is fantastic.

Johnny Scott — I know, I know.

Rich Birch — It’s so good.

Johnny Scott — We just we just went right there.

Rich Birch — But is that ultimately—let’s but let’s get to that—is that ultimately where where you’re hoping things will get to?

Johnny Scott — Um I’ve stated that goal from from the pulpit and there’s a couple of caveats to that. You know, ah first of all I’ve only been here 5 years, church has been around 50 years. There was a great church before the guy before me, before the guy before him. It’s been…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — …it’s a great church.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Johnny Scott — And so I didn’t come to this church with this missiology. You know when you come to a land…

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — …you come into a land, you’re like well what do you already have? And um I was just in ah a I just love church. I grew up – I love church. Church rescued me as a sixth grade boy when my family is going through divorce, and I was just loitering. And so everything about church I believe it is the answer for everything and culture. It’s our birthright.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — You know, Erwin McManus says in “Barbarian Way” it is the the birthright of the church to be the fountainhead of creativity to the world.

Rich Birch — So good.

Johnny Scott — I mean we could do an entire podcast on that.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Johnny Scott — We could just get wrapped up in what does that mean for business as ministry?

Rich Birch — Yeah, what does that look like. Yeah.

Johnny Scott — And that’s that’s a part of our fabric. And so as I come into like this church and I see what they have. And we start looking at this. And you’re like is the final goal here, Johnny, that you’ll be able to tell people on Sunday every dollar given 100% of it goes straight to… I would say yes. But however, however, what’s changed a little bit in my mind is, you know, Jesus says the gospel is Jerusalem, and Judea, then the ends of the earth. Okay?

Johnny Scott — And and I’ve told our people—like famously, I think they’re sick of the line—I’m not in charge of um, you know Target, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — The the national the my my wife is drawn to Target like a moth to flame.

Rich Birch — Mine too. Mine too.

Johnny Scott — You know she she’s like a diviner. She’s got a stick in the woods and she’s like it’s over here and she can just kind of find it, right?

Rich Birch — Yes. So true. Yeah.

Johnny Scott — Like finding water underground. And I’m not in charge of Target nationally it’s a national… man, but the Target up the road from our church, I call that my Target. Because I am spiritually responsible. James 3:1 – not many of you should presume to be teachers of law but knowing that you’ll be judged more strictly. That’s what that’s what that means deeply to me that I will be responsible for that Target. I’m not allowed to drive by Target. If my car drives by it on a regular basis, it is in my realm. It’s in my 360 degrees of being able to touch and care. And God always expands our care, right? He is this…

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Johnny Scott — And we’re creatures that like oh if I just care less. and we’ll eventually get our care down to not-very-much, and it will only be about things that give ah… So God is in this process of telling the people in Babylon, no, you’re not going to pray for just your synagogue of that which you can control, where people who agree with you. You’re going to pray for the whole city. Well you know what? The Jews didn’t care about? Babylonian holidays, Babylonian customs, Babylonian anything. They hated them. And God says, no, you’re going to pray. Think about how difficult that was.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely.

Johnny Scott — And what we were not there. I love the school across the street. I mean we we have a school across the street. It’s a high school, has 4000 kids in it. Then there’s a junior high next to it with 2000 kids in it.

Rich Birch — Wow.

And our church built a student center 6000 square feet with an occupants of 350.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — I mean it’s just like we said like well we’ll we’ll try…

Rich Birch — The majority that won’t come here. Yeah.

Johnny Scott — …that it’s it’s going to hell in a handbag.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — We’re we’re we’re looking at um, $380 million dollars worth of businesses mission growth in the next, I don’t know 2 years, on our property, and MPUD right now on a hundred acre live, work, play community that has no dedicated space for students.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Johnny Scott — And here’s why. Students just go to the business department and book whatever space you want for the rest of the year. You get first dibs. Come early. Because when you’re done booking it, we have a full on event center.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — The largest farmers market in the county. Um, you know a winter concert series.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — Just like guys you’ve got 20 bookable venues, like I don’t care. Book one.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — And so that mentality of are you going to stand on stage one day and say every dime… Well, when I pay a youth pastor, like we don’t have a youth pastor on our staff. We’re hiring missionary youth pastors. Instead we we have Florida Premier Soccer. They’re 11,000 families, probably one of the most successful soccer organizations on the East Coast, okay.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — They’re here on our campus. We have a turf field. We’re trying to build five more. That whole clubhouse and for-profit entity that is G-Sports for us has the elite of those kids practicing on our turf field on Wednesday nights.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — And when I first started this journey in my heart, the elders were like okay, we’re going to rent the field out. We’re going to get people here um, but we’re never going to have games on Sunday and we’re not going to let them be here on Wednesday night, right? And I’m like old school youth pastor. I’m like oh yeah, that makes sense. And then I’ve completely changed in the last two years of watching this happen and being on the field and seeing kids. And and now our mentality is instead of telling kids: stop being a soccer player, come to youth group on Wednesday night. We’ll have—today’s Wednesday for us—so we’ll have 300 kids at youth group. That’s just where we’re at right now during junior high and senior high. And I will show up at the beginning of high school tonight because my my whole family’s here. My kids are all here leading worship and serving. Whatever.

Johnny Scott — Then I’m going to walk over to a soccer field where we’re putting a missionary there. And we’re never going to tell the soccer kids to quit soccer and come to youth group. Instead we’re going to say how can we give them a small group experience and be in their coach’s lives, and start to win coaches to the Christ. And serve first, right? Before Jesus heals, before Jesus says follow me, Jesus always served.

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Johnny Scott — They never have to come to youth group to be a believer, man. Ever.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right, right. Love it.

Johnny Scott — It’s it’s revolutionary revolutionary.

Rich Birch — Let’s take it I so I love this. Let’s take a step back. One of the things I I love about this. I knew this was going to be a great conversation. For years I’ve said to people, and and you know I’ve been in, you know I think you and I in similar kind of circles in the church world. And for years I’ve said, listen when you read the bible, it is clear that God appears to prefer to work in the marketplace not in the holy places. That’s just scripturally true. He he constantly is reaching people when they’re out in the the real world. Not then it’s not that he doesn’t work in kind of holy places…

Johnny Scott — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …or set aside places, but he seems to prefer to work… Now I bump into your story. Now you as a church, this this minister’s business as ministry, give us kind of the handles. What does that look like for you? How would you be different than kind of the the typical church, you know, around the corner from you. What does that what does that look like for Generations?

Johnny Scott — First of all, this is we’ve not arrived at all.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Johnny Scott — And we we are we a, man, my goodness, everything that we have started has been harder than I thought. Um and I don’t regret any of it. And ah one of the axioms that we have is we can we will acknowledge that we’ll do less than a year than we want to. But we’ll probably do more in 10 years than we ever imagined. And that’s just given us this exhale, okay.

Johnny Scott — And so um there are about 9 business entities right now. We went from 17 church staff to over 100 church staff in the last seven months.

Rich Birch — Whoa.

Johnny Scott — We think we’ll be at 250 church staff or 250 staff overall businesses in the next eighteen months, but we see about a hundred businesses on a hundred acre property in the next five years.

Rich Birch — Wow. Okay, that’s a lot to take in.

Johnny Scott — Yeah it it is. I know dude. I’m…

Rich Birch — That is a lot. Like there’s so lot lots of churches have a coffee shop that like and they’re like oh my goodness we’ve got a coffee shop. I know what you’re doing is different – pull that apart. Why is it?

Johnny Scott — Um, yeah I will well for me God says he’ll do more than more than I can imagine. And I started to think about that. When he says I’ll do more than, I’m like I don’t know. I’m imagining some pretty crazy crap, and you’re telling me more? And I’m one of those guys that you know I’m telling you stuff on a podcast where, you know, people watch this podcast, they’re going to hear stuff that, you know, I don’t I don’t tell all my buddies around the country. Because unless you come here to get your boots on the ground, you’re just not going to get it.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — I’m having conversations where I’m like okay I’m not going to talk about this to anyone else because this is stupid. But we we are we’re we’re engaging right now with you know, an equity group to buy 49% of a MLS Next Pro Soccer team. The church is going to own 20% and um, we’ve already got a built in fan base. We believe by 2026 World Cup time that that prop, that entity this soccer club could be worth $25,000,000.

Johnny Scott — um that’s that’s cra that’s crazy, right? And like we’re getting into it I’m I’m answering your question in a backwards way because we’re getting into a gray space. because people start to say well, what are you gonna do if, you know, MLS Next Pro, which is their minor league team, if they start to say that franchise is going to do gay pride month, and demand that you have that on your Jerseys. Well here’s my first answer: I don’t know. I don’t know.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yes.

Johnny Scott — And but here but but here’s how this has worked. Grow me, you know, I’m an X’r, you know, son of boomers. I know the greatest generation ever, you know, because they were grandparents. And I I know where we’re at right now is we have this next generation these next generations that we’re trying to pull into ministry. And ah I’ve seen what we’ve done which is, you know, cast people out, tell people that they’ve got to believe before they can belong, and it’s not the model that Jesus had.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — And so all of these entities that we’re doing I’m willing to get into the gray space and say we’re going to make decisions based upon the leading of the Holy Spirit and the facts as they present themselves when we get there. How about that? And we can only move at the speed of trust. And um, we’re God has slowed us down and sped us up, and with the current things that we’re doing and how they’re interacting, our our fear of mission drift you know. Because we’ve got the classic examples. Well did you know that Harvard started out preaching? And how are you going to guarantee not doing mission drift? Well, how are you going to guarantee not doing anything crazy, and and not trying out of the box things are going to do… like seriously?

Johnny Scott — So we feel like we’re in the fight. We feel like the Holy Spirit is leading us. And while we’re not sustainable yet, I see within 18 months, you know, we could be to a place where you know there is 0 debt for our church. And we can say every dollar given goes straight to. But here’s what I’ll do it’s that Matthew 25. We we had a high level leader say to us, when when does this stop? And I just I had a like a a very clarifying moment. I said this is, by the way, this is never going to stop.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — This will never stop. Because when Jesus comes back in Matthew chapter 25, he doesn’t say, everyone without church debt stand in line. He says, I want to examine your point of leverage. That’s what he says.

Rich Birch — That’s a good question.

Johnny Scott — And so for us, um, you know I, man, I’m I’m getting I’m so I’m stepping on some toes, I know.

Rich Birch — It’s good. It’s good. Step away.

Johnny Scott — But but but here’s the deal, bro. Here’s the deal with this, and because it gets me frustrated. Um, we we’ve changed what, you know, like cleanliness is next to godliness. I’m like where is that exactly. And we’ve put like well debt-free is what God wants. And that’s not what God said. God said use man’s money, that’s man’s currency to get kingdom currency. Kingdom currency is people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — So we leverage man’s money to get that. And so if you’re a church and you have no debt and you’re worth, you know, $30,000,000, I think that our property in the next ten years could be valued at over $100,000,000. Easily, okay.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — And if our if our loan to debt is like well we just got all of debt. We do everything cash now. I’m like wait wait a minute, wait a minute. What if we leveraged say 35% of that? And put that into church planting globally, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — What could we do a $35,000,000? Because everyone’s like well you know what the payment on that… Because someone would say to me they’re like, I remember when our payment you know a monthly payment was something like $47,000. And someone said do you know what we could do with $47,000 a month? I was like yeah. A lot less than ten million now.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, right.

Johnny Scott — That’s what that’s what you can do. And and so I think that the biblical principle is never to be a slave to the lender. Well when you’re leveraged at such a point that regardless of an economic downturn, you know I think we’re in two we’re in two quarters of you know like GDP downturn right now. So we’re technically in a recession. There are still banks lending, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — And and we could still go out and get a lender who’s excited to do business with us as we build what’s going to be a ten acre facility with a soccer, a new soccer field, on top of 2 levels of parking.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — I mean this, it’s crazy architecturally what we’re getting ready to do. We’re not a slave to the lender, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — Because lenders want to be involved. And so changing church’s mindset to say we’re going to appropriately leverage man’s resources/dollars to get influence. I’m after influence.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — Because if we have influence. Um, now we can use that influence to make it all about lifting Jesus up, right? I mean five years ago when I when I got here I wasn’t meeting with people that didn’t know Jesus. And now I’m I’m in a meeting with people and I had a guy who I count as a dear friend. And he looked at me and he just said, hey man, you’re crazy. And I so and I said, no, I said I really want to reframe that for you. Because I want for you and I to start to have a conversation that I’m not crazy at all. I just believe that God is real, and that Jesus wants to be lifted up.

Johnny Scott — And so all the things I’m doing, it’s not so that you think, oh that pastor is crazy. Or he’s an entrepreneur. No, no, no. I want you to start to say he’s fully believing that Jesus is going to be lifted up in this. And I’m pushing the conversation to be about Jesus lifted up. He says, if I’m lifted up, men will look to me.

Johnny Scott — Then they’ll have to make a decision if he’s the Lord, liar, or lunatic. And he’s where he responds to me and he says, well soccer is my god. And I loved his response because…

Rich Birch — Yeah, now you’re having a real conversation. Right.

Johnny Scott — Because now we’re yeah, and so I said I said here’s the here’s the deal. I said I I’m gonna I I said I I like soccer, and I want to come and enjoy soccer. And God gave us soccer because soccer is super fun, but soccer makes a bad god. So I’m I want to have a God-off with you. And as as you and I enjoy soccer together, and high five, and grow soccer, I’m going to constantly be comparing my God to your god. And my assertion is that your god is fake, not real, and you’re worshipping something that should just be enjoyed. That’s a gift given to you by my God. And now we’re having a six month conversation about is God real?

Rich Birch — Right, now you’re engaged. Yeah, that’s amazing.

Johnny Scott — And you know what God’s doing? God’s showing himself that he’s real. Because this is where he gets glory. I don’t have to do it. I write spiritual checks all day and I’m like you better cash that one Lord it’s got your name on it. You’re you’re my you’re my guarantor. Right?

Rich Birch — Sure, sure, sure.

Johnny Scott — And this this business is ministry. You know as I’ve got ministry teams, because here’s here’s the the rub you get into. I’ve got pastors’ friends that are like oh my goodness, man, I don’t want to do that that sounds like such a headache. Oh yeah, I’ve got 3 schools on my property right now.

Rich Birch — Right. It’s a headache.

Johnny Scott — I’m I’m launching two more schools, 2000 learners in 5 years. Um curriculum is expensive. Startup costs is expensive. FF and E is expensive. Shared ministry space is horrible, and everyone’s fighting. And you know I’ve got traditional 1.0 ministries people going, well, you know, Johnny sometimes you spend too much time with businesses and stuff. Like well no, that’s what I hired you for you know and and guys it’s not businesses versus traditional ministry. Business is ministry.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — And to get that we are one, right? And this is why Jesus’ is last word to us, his last prayer and his his final discourse in John was all about unity. He didn’t pray for ideas. He didn’t pray for business performance. He didn’t pray for money. He prayed for unity. So here’s the premise I actually believe: that every resource our church needs to dramatically impact the community around us is embedded in us. My job is to cultivate that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — I continually fight for unity.

Rich Birch — When you so to pull apart a little bit you kind of were heading towards or hinting towards what, you know, there might be some skeptics that are listening in that would say like, isn’t this all just a distraction from church 1.0? Or you know, the preaching of the word? Insert whatever language in there. I understand at a personal level. I love that story because I think that’s a great, you know, soccer is god story – I think that’s at the heart of what you’re trying to do. But how do you do that at scale? I get that you have an opportunity to do that as a leader – you’re engaging with one other leader, but then how does the church do that? How do you kind of do that with the thousands of kids that are on the property and the ten thousands of people that come to watch soccer? Um, what what does that look like for you today?

Johnny Scott — Okay, I’m gonna I’m gonna do two things. I’m gonna dodge your question here real quick…

Rich Birch — At least you admit it.

Johnny Scott — …and I’m all and I am…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — …but then I’m also gonna give you some very practical things. Okay, my dodge is when I do this on a very personal level um to me that’s that’s stopping mission drift from my heart.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Johnny Scott — And speed of leader, speed a team.

Rich Birch — Yep yeah, absolutely.

Johnny Scott — And I want I want my team to have that ethos about us that, you know, we’re doing this on an individual level and if we do it at the smallest level, it’ll happen on the macro level, okay. And if and if I model that. So that’s how I’m keeping my way pure in all this. I’m keeping my religion undefiled, right?

Johnny Scott — Um, the second more practical answer to that is ah there’s profit from these businesses. I mean the fact that a youth pastor would walk into my office and say um, hey we’re going to take kids to camp and you know my budget is $50,000 this year. Like no one in the business world does that at all ever anywhere.

Rich Birch — Right, right, right, right, right, right.

Johnny Scott — Like and like what I remember, you know, one of my mentors in ministry like we made enough money off summer camp to fund our own intern for $7000.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — We made $7000 profit because we just built it in.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — So that we we’re completely backwards at how we run ministry.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — Like we’re ser… McDonald’s has got a sign that says 50,000 people served. Well we’re serving people.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — But why do they charge and we don’t?

Rich Birch — Right, right, right, right.

Johnny Scott — Do you not believe in what what you’re giving people?

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — So we need to have a total transformation on how we serve people. We’re offering a value and there’s something valuable to it. Ah, but on a very practical level. These businesses are making profit. Their performers are set up to make profit. And I’m I’m there’s profit that comes back to the elders oversee everything in our corporate structure. You know there’s no, there’s not a lot of boards set up. It just goes straight to the elders um through a very very really good list of, you know, organizations through with our our org lawyer. Um, and so we’re we are reinvesting those dollars with missionaries that are intentional.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — And we don’t pay people have coffee; people drink coffee for free. You know?

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — Like I never want to be that senior pastor that’s like, how big is your discipleship team? It’s like nine people. It’s like what like like that’s everyone to everyone disciples here at church.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — You know our one of our things is you are God’s plan for your street.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — When people walk up and say you know we should start a program for it like, great. Go do it. God put that on your heart not mine.

Rich Birch — Right.

Johnny Scott — So we’re we’re going to have metrics and like we’re working on what are metrics right now and deliverables for someone who is assigned to that school as a missionary. Because my ministry staff’s doing ministry 1.0. And there’s a piece of me even when you said it a minute ago a minute ago. You said to me, well you know the the gospel clearly shows us that you know missional effort and always happened in the workplace. I was like man he’s so right on the text. And there’s a part of me that reared up. And I was about came at you, I was like, hey bro, the church is the answer for the world man. Hey bro, you know? And so I have that fight within me, you know?

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah, yeah.

Johnny Scott — And ah so you know as a church, we’re extremely churchy. Like if you come we get to be churchy. I’m I’m pastor first with everything I do. Sunday is not for talking about like it’s the gospel gospel gospel; we preach the gospel Christ crucified on Sundays. And if you want to know about what’s happening like book a meeting on Monday, right?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Johnny Scott — So practically like we’re just putting embedded missionaries in these entities and giving them deliverables on what they’re really going to do to show that they’re making headway.

Rich Birch — That’s fascinating.

Johnny Scott — So that’s where we’re at, and it’s messy. We’ve not I’ve said it a few times we’ve not figured it all out, but we feel we feel like we’re not getting.

Rich Birch — No, no. Yeah, yeah. I love it.

Johnny Scott — We’re not doing something new I’m getting back to Paul’s framework. I’m just selling tents. Not Christian tents. Not tents to christians.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Johnny Scott — Right?

Rich Birch — Yep, yeah. I love it. I love it. Well, let’s kind of as we come to land. Rattle through we did I love this. We did this interview like completely backwards which is good.

Johnny Scott — I I know.

Rich Birch — Rattle through the 9 the 9 businesses, give us a framework. We talked about soccer. What are some of those other ones that they’re currently, you know, that are are currently running? What are that what do they look like or not all of them just like kind of a flavor of what they look like?

Johnny Scott — Yeah, so you know a full on convention center that serves ah the the entire community would be a big one. I mean the the farmers market might sound like a small deal. It really is a massive influence in in our community.

Rich Birch — Huge deal. Yep.

Johnny Scott — We have ah you know standard christian education on our campus, but the fact that I have non-faith based education franchise on our campus is a really big deal. A sports school, you know, that a parent’s paying $23,000 is a year to send their kid to um, that’s bringing life back to them. Two coffee shops um, that are actually international coffee shops while we’re roasting our own stuff and working with missionaries in 3 different continents around the world to bring single source, fair trade coffee.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Johnny Scott — Um putting all that together. That’s great.

Rich Birch — Fantastic.

Johnny Scott — Um, our sports brand is probably got four or five entities in it.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Johnny Scott — I could just do an entire thing with you on the sports brand. It’s I forget stuff like a counseling center I don’t I don’t even know man.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so good.

Johnny Scott — It’s it’s crazy. It’s crazy.

Rich Birch — This is so fantastic fantastic, Johnny. I this has been great. I I do think—just want to encourage you—I really do think you are scratching ah towards, like you say, Church 2.0. I don’t think you’re way off in the deep end on that. I think I think that what you’re doing is pushing towards what I think all of our churches need to do, and you’re asking the questions hey where do we go from here? What does it look like in a particularly in a post-christian culture to reach the culture around us to use the resources God’s given us to make an impact in the world around us. I just think it’s fantastic. Anything else you want to say as we kind of wrap up today’s conversation?

Johnny Scott — I you know I would just challenge pastors that you know might be overwhelmed. This was this didn’t happen in a year. This has been a 5-year journey and I’m not the guy, you know, that God is put together. I mean if I were just to talk about the team that God is miraculously assembled and and folks are like well you know, that’s just Johnny’s personality. It’s it’s not, it’s not. I think this is part of who Jesus is in saying I I want to have a church that, you know, is just out there serving. and maybe for guys like for us we started with just a Crossfit gym. That’s it, man.

Johnny Scott — And God started to put these other things together. And for you, you know, you got to contextualize all this. We we took this from missionaries overseas actually is where the dream started in Kenya – Nairobi, Kenya.

Rich Birch — Very cool.

Johnny Scott — And I challenge guys all the time that are like well that’s just you know that’s your personality. No no, it’s not. Like you can do just one of these things. And it will bring so much fun and you will start to have personal evangelism, and reach in your community like never before. Start somewhere.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good, Johnny. Appreciate that. Where do we want to send people online if they want to check, you know, check out the church, kind of track with your story. Where’s the best place for us to send them?

Johnny Scott — Ah, generations generationscc.com is a church’s address…

Rich Birch — Perfect.

Johnny Scott — …and then The Commons at Trinity is we renamed the property The Commons at Trinity. Um, and you know that that url is up and Instagram… you can follow the journey of the business develop the CDC cool.

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much – appreciate you being here today.

Johnny Scott — Thanks, man. Yeah, God bless, bro.

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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.