Encouragement For You From Nearly 4 Decades of Ministry Experience with Greg Surratt

Welcome to the unSeminary podcast. We’re chatting with Greg Surratt, the founding pastor of Seacoast Church in the Carolinas and also a founding member of ARC, Association of Related Churches, which trains, coaches, and equips church plants across the country.

So many pastors are wrestling with similar concerns and soul care issues today. They are wanting to know, “Is it ok where my church is right now?” Listen in as Greg shares from his own ministry experience over the decades and offers wisdom and encouragement to struggling church leaders.

  • You’re not alone in your struggles. // The last couple of years have been some of the hardest between the pandemic changing everything, racial tensions, the elections, division about vaccines, mask-wearing, and more. Church leaders are dealing with so many emotional issues from all of these burdens in addition to their concerns about their church. Depression, anxiety, trauma, and grief are all very real for many pastors right now.
  • Go by faith. // Discouragement can be an occupational hazard in ministry. There are times in your life when you don’t feel encouraged, but you still need to encourage others. By faith keep doing what you need to do. But having internal disconnect should be the exception and not the norm. Examine your life to make sure you have an integrated inside and outside. Living with this sort of integrity is the only way to sustain ministry for the long haul.
  • Find friends who can help you. // Get a group of people around you who love you and are an encouragement to you, but also people who are not impressed with you and will call out pride in your life. Surround yourself with people who know you, are concerned about your future, and want to help you get from here to there.
  • Focus on what God has given. // Don’t look at your church’s pre-COVID attendance numbers. That’s in the past. We aren’t entitled to thousands, or hundreds, or even tens. Express gratitude for the people God has brought to you and be the best pastor you can be to the people you have right now.
  • Culture trumps vision. // Greg believes that the most important part of the founding team for a new church is having someone who can create culture. Culture is treating people right and creating a place where they all feel valued and part of something bigger than themselves. If you can get a visionary leader who knows how to treat people right, create culture, develop leaders, and call out the potential in those around them, it’s a strong recipe for future success.
  • Live well and finish strong. // Many pastors don’t have a group of friends who understand what they are struggling with and can come around them. This need led Greg to start taking groups of church leaders on retreats. During this time away there is no agenda, but rather attendees can just rest, relax and experience the peace of God. At night they process with each other what God is doing in their lives, and allow time for friendships to be built with each other.
  • Don’t give up. // God never wastes a crisis. It’s in these seasons that he establishes us and our leadership is built. If we remain faithful and persevere, we will see a harvest and realize what a privilege it is to lead at this time.

If you want to follow along with Seacoast Church, find them at www.seacoast.org. Or if you’d like to know more about the retreats Greg mentions, visit www.retreatatchurchcreek.org

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Super excited to have you with us today. I’m super excited for our guest. His name’s Pastor Greg Surratt – he’s a fantastic leader from a church that if you don’t know, I don’t know where you’ve been. Greg is the founding pastor of Seacoast Church. They have, if I’m counting correctly, 12 physical locations in North and South Carolina, plus church online. It began way back in 1988 with 65 people in an apartment clubhouse and has really become a preeminent church across the country. Greg is also a a founding member of ARC – Association of Related Churches. We’ve had a ton of ARC pastors on over these last number of years, and just just love it so much. ARC is a fantastic organization that trains, coaches, and equips hundreds of church planters. They’ve done I think a thousand church plants across the country. Super excited to have you on the podcast today, Pastor Greg.

Greg Surratt — Glad to be here. It’s an honor, Rich, appreciate it.

Rich Birch — Now this will be great. We for folks that maybe have been following in they’ll know we’re closing in on 600 episodes, and I know I said this to you, but I was like who are the people I’d love to have on that I’ve never had on and you were at the top of the list. So glad that you’re here. Why don’t you fill out the story a little bit kind of what am I missing? What piece of the puzzle do you know do I need to we need to bring people up to speed on?

Greg Surratt — Well, the most most important part is I’m married to my girlfriend of 45 years and we were high school sweethearts and I think we’re still sweethearts.

Rich Birch — Nice.

Greg Surratt — She still makes my heart go you know whatever pitter patter. And I think I don’t irritate her too much, so that’s good.

Rich Birch — Oh nice.

Greg Surratt — We have four kids they all live in the area and we have 14 grandkids, and that’s the best part. And so that’s kind of my life right now.

Rich Birch — That’s fantastic. Well through your work, through ARC, and and just you know your heart I know you have just ah, just a huge bandwidth a huge love for leaders and church leaders, and and so I really wanted to pick your brain as we’re, you know, kind of 2 years out from the pandemic, we came through which was historically significant time as we you know, kind of wrestle through what’s next, I wanted to get your sense of the kind of conversations that you’re having with leaders ah these days. Whatw hat would you say are some of the things that are kind of top of mind as church leaders reach out to you, or you’re chatting with people these days? What are the things that you’re you’re wrestling with with them?

Greg Surratt — Lots of soul care issues. As you mentioned, I think the last couple of years are the toughest leadership challenge that I’ve seen in my lifetime. And you know with the pandemic and racial tension, elections, you know, the craziness of you know vaccines or no vaccines…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — …all the stuff that we’ve all had. And what’s interesting is I’ve talked to… we we started a retreat center about a year ago just to deal with soul care for pastors, and so I’ve talked to over 500 pastors over the last year in pretty in-depth situations and circumstances, and everybody’s feeling the same thing. Everybody wants to know is it okay where I’m at…

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — …as far as my church you know, um. We’re nowhere close to where we were pre-pandemic – is that okay? Where where’s everybody else? There’s kind of you know I don’t know if it’s comparison as much as it’s just want to know, am I okay? And then you know dealing with heart issues, emotional issues, the trauma of the last few months. I know I was talking to one psychologist and I said it’s almost like PTSD. And he said, no, in a lot of cases it is PTSD. You know it’s it’s just traumatic, traumatic stuff. And then you know then where do we go from here? What do you think? You know is is the church done? Are people coming back? Who’s coming back? You know, just all of those kinds of questions.

Rich Birch — Yeah, well I’d love to dive into the soul care question a little bit. So I’ve spent most of my ministry career two, almost three decades, two and a half decades ah, in that second seat, at that kind of executive pastor seat, and have served with just incredible people as the lead pastor in the churches, you know I’ve had a privilege to serve in. And one of the things I’ve observed from my seat is there’s this interesting um, it could be occupational hazard of, particularly lead pastors. I think I think we all do it to a certain extent but I think particularly lead pastors can be prone to this or or it’s kind of built into their job where what we project publicly, and how we’re doing privately ah, there can be a disconnect there. And so there’s a part of that that’s like healthy, because it’s like hey we do have to kind of lead. We want to push people forward. We want to you know help understand you know want to give people hope for the future. And then that eventually if we if we if that if there continues to be a distance a gap between those two, wow we get into a dangerous, dangerous place. Help us understand that gap a little bit more why why you know is that an occupational hazard? What should we be thinking about when we think about this kind of gap and and and where does it go from being reasonable, responsible leadership to like oh, now you’re in a dangerous zone, when that gap gets too large.

Greg Surratt — Yeah, um, and I’ve never heard it as an occupational hazard. That’s totally right.

Rich Birch — I think it is.

Greg Surratt — You know I always say that I always say that discouragement is an occupational hazard of Ministry…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — …and that you’re going to get there. You just got to figure out um, how do I not stay there.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — You know David encouraged his heart in the Lord and so that’s a whole nother issue. But yeah, um, it’s amazing how weekends come about every seven days.

Rich Birch — Right. So true.

Greg Surratt — And and ah every seven days you’ve got to be an encourager with your you know with ah with a word from God. And there are times in your life where you don’t feel encouraged. I mean I know I you know I’ve done over the years marriage series and actually we don’t do as many series on those anymore because every week when I would do a marriage message we would have the biggest fight that we’ve had you know in years.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — And I have to get up on the weekend and go…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — …hey here’s how to have a biblical marriage.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — So I couldn’t I couldn’t sustain a whole series on that so you know with that.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Greg Surratt — You know you’ve got you’ve got those types situation, if you have family, you know and and I would say you know one one antidote is to always drive two cars to church on the weekend.

Rich Birch — Nice, give me some extra time. little extra time.

Greg Surratt — I think that one I know well you don’t have a fight on the way there.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, yeah. Nice.

Greg Surratt — You might have a fight before you leave but you don’t have one on the way there. And you know those are little disconnects that that happen and if you’re in any kind of leadership and if you’re expected you know to um, you know produce a message or a lesson or whatever it happens to be that you’re doing, there are going to be days you just don’t feel like it, and you don’t feel it, and you’ve got to, by faith, do what you need to do. But if you find yourself… that should be the exception.

Rich Birch — Okay, that’s good.

Greg Surratt — Okay and it is an exception that happens to all of us. But it needs to be the exception if that’s the world you’re living in then, Houston we have a problem.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Greg Surratt — Because integrity is… I heard somebody define integrity as just being integrated – that the inside is integrated with the outside. And if you’re going to sustain ministry over the long haul you need to have an integrated inside/outside, this-is-who-you-are. And that’s sustainable. Putting on you know, putting on the the uniform and stocking it up. You got to do it every once in a while, but that is not sustainable.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — In the long run and that’s where people crash.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. How do you… what’s your encouragement to leaders on who they should be reaching out to? A part of what I love—and I’m I’m not trying to pre-answer your question but—a part of the way I love how ARC is designed at a kind of um, you know fiduciary level with overseers who are leaders from other churches – I think there’s so much wisdom in that because because there’s something about being able to reach out to leaders who are a little farther down the road than you. But but let’s say you’re listening in today and there’s a leader who feels like, wow it’s not the exception, it’s become the rule. I am living this gap all the time and I don’t know who to reach out to. Where do we send them? Where should we where should they be reaching out to?

Greg Surratt — Yeah, first of all I like to say that every leader needs to sit at a table with a group of people who love you, but are not impressed with you.

Rich Birch — Oh so good.

Greg Surratt — Where you can be real. You know because your church is impressed, and they they should be. I hope we’re living a life you know such that um people are proud of that, or people will celebrate that. Um, but you’ve got to get a group of people around you that love you, love you, love you. They are for you. They want to help you. But they’re not impressed with you. And they can see things. You know, what I do with the the and and we’ll more specifically try to answer your question in a minute. But in my own life um, what I try to do with the men that are around me, and I’ve got two or three groups of them, is encourage that I need men who will look for, that will encourage me but will also look for pride in my life. If there’s pride there there may be other, you know, issues and other types of sin according to the bible. And so I need people who are they love me, but they they are concerned about my future, and they want to help me to get from here to there. Now the question is what do you do if you don’t have anybody like that…

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — …and that’s where a lot of lot of pastors find themselves. One of the reasons we started a retreat here in Charleston a year ago was to gather groups of about 12 to 15 people. And then usually at the end of that, almost always at the end of that, you’ve got a small band of brothers. Not everybody you know takes the journey, but most do. And you’ve got somebody that that you can call on Sunday afternoon when you want to quit.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — You know, ah here’s what I want to do, I just want to watch a violent movie on Sunday afternoon. I dont want to talk to anybody.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — I don’t want to plan anything. Just let me let me you know, chill out. But you’ve got to find friends…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Greg Surratt — …in ministry. That’s why we say don’t do ministry alone. You got to find friends. A band of Brothers who go, yeah I know, I know. I know, I’ve been there. I am there. Don’t quit. We’re gonna be okay. Let’s talk it through. You got to find that. And where do you find those? You know, you mentioned overseers…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Greg Surratt — Ah, that’s one avenue of of you know, use that. Some people just appoint overseers, which are elders, pastors, outside of the local church. Some people just you know, assign them, but don’t really use that…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Greg Surratt — …and use that avenue and that’s that’s important. Other friends in Ministry, sometimes in the same town, sometimes that gets weird. Um, and so you know another ah possibility are mentors.

Rich Birch — Yep yep.

Greg Surratt — Ah, just and I like to say you know, don’t ever say no for somebody else. You know you say, boy I’d love to have so-and-so speak into my life a little bit – well ask them.

Rich Birch — Right. Ask, reach out. That’s absolutely true. Yeah.

Greg Surratt — Ask it. Yeah, give him a Starbucks card…

Rich Birch — Right, totally.

Greg Surratt — …you know and let’s stay on it. Let’s talk or can we do it once a month you know or once a quarter. And what’s been very effective to me too also our counselors.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Greg Surratt — And I have a counselor who happens to be on our staff. It’s cheaper that way.

Rich Birch — Nice. Love that fantastic.

Greg Surratt — But yeah, but he’s my friend. And he also is an 8 on the enneagram, so he loves to you know, get to the issues.

Rich Birch — Lean in.

Greg Surratt — Lean in, yeah. And I’m a 3 so I want to lean out and look good, you know.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, exactly.

Greg Surratt — And but it’s you’ve got to have men, women in your life who care, care enough to confront, care enough to you know encourage, in the in the confrontation is encouragement. I mean if you don’t know me, don’t confront me, you know. I’m not listening.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Greg Surratt — But if you know me, um I want people around me that can that can do that, and sometimes a counselor can get you through a stuck point so.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. Well, we’ll come back to the retreat center. I want to hear more about that. But I want to loop back on something you said about you know that question that you keep hearing people ask is that like where do we go from here? Um, you know I think there has been a lot of questions. You know we’re all seem to be wrestling with this. You know you know what is what does our church online attendance mean? What does our weekend attendance mean? Who knows? What does all this mean? Is anyone ever going to come back? You know. So what are you seeing on that front? What are you coaching churches to be thinking about, church leaders to be thinking about on that front?

Greg Surratt — Um, yeah, um, first of all, um, pre-covid attendance ought to be a number that you write down somewhere, put away, and don’t look at anymore.

Rich Birch — Yes, amen, brother. Amen.

Greg Surratt — You know that’s I was… hell is yesterday and this is today. And you know, um, some people are are looking at it as ah, a relaunch, you know. And maybe you’ve got 50 people on your relaunch team. Well, that’s pretty good.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Greg Surratt — Or 100, or you know five hundred, or a thousand. If I didn’t know what the pre covid number was I’d probably be pretty excited…

Rich Birch — Yes, true.

Greg Surratt — …about you know where we are, and what we’re doing right now. And so first of all, but let’s put that number away. Um, secondly um, who who is, let’s let’s take care of the people that we have right now. You know I I look around sometimes in the parking lot or on a weekend and go, my goodness. I’m amazed that this group of people has shown up today to worship Jesus and listen to a message. It’s an amazing thing. It’s an that that God would use you, that God would use me to do that is absolutely amazing. I’m not entitled to thousands or hundreds or even tens, I just need to to say God, thank you. And I am going to be the best pastor that I can be possibly. I had a an anecdote. I had a you know the online thing, you never know who was watching online.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — And I did a message the other day and ah, um, a fairly prominent person I had no idea was watching online and um and took issue with something I said, so we had a conversation. And in the conversation I realized that this guy I didn’t know I had opinions about is looking to me to be his Pastor.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Greg Surratt — He doesn’t need a critic. He doesn’t need somebody that’s you know, worried about why we don’t have as many people as we had before the the the pandemic. He needs a pastor. He needs…

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — He needs somebody to love him and care for him. And you know I re-upped in that moment…

Rich Birch — So good.

Greg Surratt — …to just care for the people that God has placed around me. If God put him on our online or in our church, then I need to do my best to care for what God has given me. You know while it’s true that if I’ll be faithful and little God’ll give me much, that’s not the motivation. The motivation for me is am I the best pastor I can be for the people that God has given me. And then he’s he’s well able to… Galatians 6:9 is you know, kind of my life verse. Everybody else gets a word every year, I’ve only gotten one verse in my lifetime…

Rich Birch — Sure sure.

Greg Surratt — …and it it’s the same one every year. And just a little new insight into it, but it says don’t be weary in doing good for in due season, He’ll bring a harvest. Harvest is coming…

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — …if we don’t quit. And what do we worry about, we stress over? The harvest. And you know when you take responsibility for an area you don’t have authority over, that’s God’s authority, then you’re gonna be stressed a lot. And so harvest is coming, whether that’s one, five, 5000 – God knows what’s best for me and for our situation. But yeah, I’m going to forget pre-covid numbers and I’m gonna I’m going to pay real close attention to who is there.

Rich Birch — Yes

Greg Surratt — Because they need a pastor.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s great. I love that. And you know we hear that time and again so many church leaders I’ve heard say that in this season where, you know they’re like I stand in my lobby on Sunday or in our lobby on Sunday morning, or on the weekends and like there’s a ton of people who are who I just do not recognize. There’s a bunch of new people that have come back to our churches, or are at our church. And, man, we do not want to miss those people. We don’t want because we’re thinking of people who might have been here you know two, three years ago. Gosh that would be a huge, huge mistake. I love that. That’s great coaching, Greg, for sure. So pivoting to ARC. I I just love ARC. I I think what God’s done through the band of friends that you pull together there to do the thing that you know has happened is is just amazing. When you think about those thousand now plus churches, what would be a few of those standout traits of um, the core teams – the people who are going and launching churches that seem to thrive and and make it? I’m sure there’s things that bubble to the surface of like, here’s a couple of those things that we just see time and again are the kinds of ah, groups of people who ah plant churches that that make a difference and thrive over the long haul.

Greg Surratt — Well I think, you know, I think you need a visionary leader that, you know, has a vision for a community. Um I used to think that’s probably the most important. It is an important aspect, but I think I think somebody that can create culture is hugely important to last. So what does that mean? In its simplest form, culture is just treating people right. Jesus, you know, said, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That’s not that’s not real deep. That’s not real… it’s it’s hard. It’s not it is kind of simple, but it’s difficult to pull off. Paul says treat older men as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, and he says by the way don’t hit on the sisters. He says do it in all purity.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Greg Surratt — That’s not rocket science. That’s family. But he’s talking about difficult difficult conversations in that particular passage. But if we can create a culture. If I if a pastor can create a culture where people feel loved, they feel valued, they feel you know that their needs are are important, and there’s not this hierarchy of who’s important and who’s not. Boy I’ll tell you what if if you get somebody with a vision that can create that kind of culture, and and then empower leaders, you know. They don’t feel like they have to do it all themselves, and can trust God that the leadership that we need is probably either in the house or in the harvest. And so we’re going to believe God for it and look for it. That’s one of the things I love doing is you know, speaking prophetically into somebody’s life.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Greg Surratt — Like like Jesus did where he said you know you you were this, to to Peter, he said you you were kind of swayed in the in the wind, you know and now you are Peter. You are a rock. You were Simon, now you’re Peter. And we see that several places in in scripture. You know, with with the Apostle Paul who was Saul, now he’s Paul. And the the symbolism there for me is is to take a look at the people that God has given you, and rather than wishing for someone or something you didn’t have, it’s let’s call out, prophetically, what is in those that God has given us, and develope those. So if you so kind of a long answer.

Rich Birch — No, that’s good. I love it.

Greg Surratt — But if you get if you get a visionary leader who knows how to treat people right, create culture, and can can develop leaders, can call out um the the potential in those around them, to me that’s a real strong um recipe for future success.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. And you had mentioned there that you feel like you’ve had a shift or nuance in your time, particularly with you know, adding that culture creator piece in there. You’ve seen that it’s not that you didn’t think that was important. You’ve seen that as more important. Um, maybe talk a little bit more about that. What has what has shifted in your thinking around that over the years?

Greg Surratt — I don’t I don’t know that I wouldn’t say that I didn’t think it was important.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Greg Surratt — I I didn’t I never thought about it.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — You know we started Seacoast 35 years or 34 years ago just about exactly, and um I was all about vision.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — You know vision, vision, vision. And I really didn’t pay a lot of attention to culture. I didn’t know how to spell the word. And and then when you you know when you start to add people to the team… every organization that has more than one person is gonna have issues.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Greg Surratt — You’re gonna have church dealings. You’re gonna have you’re gonna have issues. You’re gonna have hard conversations. You’re gonna want to avoid them, or or push in too strong with them. And that’s that’s where culture culture meets vision and culture will will eat vision all day long.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — If you have a bad culture where you’re turning over people, and turning over people or maybe it’s just negative, negative, negative. That’s gonna that’s gonna chew up vision every time. And so as I began to see that, I mean it’s important it’s hugely important – the environment that we work in, the environment that we worship in – that’s when for me, it made a shift to say vision’s good. Vision’s important, but culture trumps vision every time.

Rich Birch — Well just to honor you you know publicly, one of the things I love about Seacoast is, you know, I’ve been in ministry long enough that you hear rumors of other churches, and one of the things that resonates off of Seacoast is, that’s a good place. That’s a good place. Ah you know, that’s ah you know that’s a that’s a good house. That’s a place where, you know, that you guys treat your people well, you treat your staff well, you know there’s good things there. So that you know clearly something’s happened under your leadership over the years there so. I wouldn’t want to let that moment pass.

Greg Surratt — Well thank you.

Rich Birch — So thank you for you know way, you’ve led that for sure.

Greg Surratt — We do the best we can. And I want to you know I want to I want to have a house that I’d like to work in.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah.

Greg Surratt — If I wasn’t if I wasn’t the first one there you know, which is basically the reason I was in charge is because I was the first one there.

Rich Birch — Nice.

Greg Surratt — Yeah, and if I’m not the first one there, why would I stay?

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — Why would I why would I want to be here? And so that’s what we’ve tried to create.

Rich Birch — Nice. Well, one last area I’d love to pick your brain on is just you’ve been such a strong advocate over the years of reaching unchurched people – that has been you know a key part of of your ministry, at least as an outsider. It’s been someone… I’ve seen you advocate for decades for that. How have unchurched people changed over your time? How how has the you know, what’s what’s different today than than maybe 35 years ago when you first got started in this?

Greg Surratt — Yeah, you know 35 years ago it was about kind of leave them alone, and let them be anonymous, and you know all that went around went around that. And you know I mean there are some ah, fundamental values that probably are similar. But I think today people want to be a part.

Rich Birch — So true.

Greg Surratt — We we have a lot of people that join our serving teams before they ever join the church, or make a commitment to Christ, or you know anything like that. It’s they want to they want to make a difference with their life. And they um, and when I say they you know, that’s a broad brush there. There are as many different kinds of people as there as there are methods. But um, I feel like a lot of people that we’re in contact with. Don’t expect you to be perfect. In fact, they they suspect if it’s too perfect. If if the…

Rich Birch — Right. Okay. It’s too glossy.

Greg Surratt — …if it’s too glossy – that I’ve said for years and years and years rough it up, put some sandpaper on it. That’s too that’s too slick, that’s too glossy. And I not just of the experience, but I think of the leaders too. We want to be examples. But if we’re all the time you know, nailing it and it’s wonderful, and life’s great, there’s not going to be very many people that really are interested in that, because their life isn’t. And so help me… how do you navigate the hard stuff in life. How do you navigate? You know how have you gotten through? And so I don’t think you have to be as perfect.

Rich Birch — Yes.

In fact, if you’re if you’re more perfect, it’s probably not a good thing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt —More authenticity, and more involvement, participation. In fact, we’ve changed our worship over the years from being, hey you don’t have to participate in this, to highly, highly, highly participatory.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah I just recently was talking to some 20-something leaders, and we were reflecting on this exact point. And I said you know, when I started in ministry, there was this idea that that church leaders were like the perfect example. They were like… In fact, you wanted… it was like people wanted distant leaders who were kind of like they were super human. That was kind of what and and you could see these leaders look at me like, what are you talking about? That’s terrible. I can’t believe that! But I’m like, it’s true. Like that was that was, it was almost like that was the framework we were given. And that we all know that’s just not true anymore. I love that. That’s that’s so great. Greg, I wonder if you could tell us about the retreats you’ve been running. Give us a bit of insight into that – a little bit more what does that look like? And and if there’s people that are listening in today, we’ve touched on a couple issues that they might say, hm maybe that’s a kind of thing I’d love to be a part of.

Greg Surratt — Sure.

Rich Birch — Tell me a little little bit about that.

Greg Surratt — Yeah I I began to, we began to notice a few years ago that we were doing a pretty good job of cranking out church plants.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Greg Surratt — You know we’ve we’ve got we’ve helped people plant a thousand of them, and we’re going to do a thousand more you know I’m excited about that. We’re not going to stop doing that. But it was a little bit more difficult when it comes to keeping guys in the game. And I think we’ve all seen and heard examples. Is it a pandemic right now of pastors falling? I’m not sure that it is. I think that social media amplifies whatever is done. But if there’s one it’s not good.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — And we’ve all heard about many. And so the idea was, what can we do to to help guys live well and finish strong. That’s that’s kind of my motto.

Rich Birch — Oh love that.

Greg Surratt — I want to live well and I want to finish strong. And so we nosed around in it a little bit. I’ve I’ve taken guys on some retreats. And and then um, ah absolutely beautiful piece of land—66, actually 110 acres—on the water, just 30 minutes from downtown Charleston, which by the way is one of the most beautiful, romantic cities you can bring you know your spouse to. But place opened up and we almost immediately began hosting groups of pastors, 12 to 15 pastors, for Monday through Thursday. And they come in and we tell them right away, there’s no agenda. You can take a guilt-free nap if you need to. In fact, one guy took took a guilt free nap every day – hadn’t taken one in his life.

Rich Birch — Ah, yes.

Greg Surratt — I think he had 6 or 7 kids and planted a church during covid. He needed a nap, desperately.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Greg Surratt — But we’ve got all kinds of things to do: fishing is just world-class, and just a lot of things that that we can do, and we make provision for. But the idea is to come and just relax, experience the peace of God. At night we process around a table what God may be saying, what he’s doing. And it has been just amazing. It really has. It’s… we’ve done we’ve had 500 leaders and we’re still looking for the first dud group.

Rich Birch — Well it could be this week. Who knows?

Greg Surratt — You know the the group the group that it doesn’t connect. Yeah, the group it could be you, right? But the group that does it?

Rich Birch — Ah yes, what an advertisement. Come! Be the dud.

Greg Surratt — Yeah, it’s fun. Let me tell you it’s fun.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so good.

Greg Surratt — I mean we’ve done all guys. We’ve done church staffs. We’ve done guys who are friends that come. And they’re all fun, but the most fun is when you get a group of guys who don’t know each other.

Rich Birch — Right.

Greg Surratt — And oftentimes don’t have that friend and ministry that we were talking about earlier and…

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, if if people want more information on that, is that the kind of thing like they have to know you?

Greg Surratt — No.

Rich Birch — Like a secret handshake to find out, how do they?

Greg Surratt — No.

Rich Birch — How do they find out about it?

Greg Surratt — Go online at retreatatchurchcreek.org…

Rich Birch — Okay, retreat.

Greg Surratt — …retreatatchurchcreek.org – get all the information you need, send us an email, sign up, come…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Greg Surratt — …and we’d we’d love to have you.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well this has been a fantastic conversation, Greg. I will put that we’ll link that in show notes, friends. So if you’re wondering, you can just scroll down, click on that – we’ll make sure you you get there. But, Greg, is there anything else you want to share just as we’re wrapping up our time together? I really am just so honored that you take some time to be with us today.

Greg Surratt — You know, just what a if you’re a leader what a privilege it is. It’s been a tough 2 years. But you know what? Um those types of experiences establish leadership I think of Joshua – Old Testament who was you know the assistant to Moses. Moses dies. First thing Joshua has got to do is get people across a river at you know the flood season. I’m sure there were complaining, you know. You know, ah this is the wrong time. If Moses was here he would have thought all this through. All that kind of thing, and God takes Joshua aside and he said, watch this. I’m going to establish you in this crisis, and they’re going to know that I’m with you just like I’m with Moses. And I just want really want to say to leaders right now, God is establishing you in this crisis. He never wastes a crisis. You hang in there. God has God’s got this. He really does. And I believe, and boy that’d be another longer conversation. But I believe just like when I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, and it was a crazy time. And people wondered where is America going, and where is the church. Um the largest revival of our generation broke out in the Jesus people movement and I think that we’re on the edge of that kind of breakthrough. And what a privilege it is to be a leader during these times.

Rich Birch — Greg, what a great encouraging word. I appreciate you. Thank you so much – appreciate you being on the show today. Thank you.

Greg Surratt — Thanks.

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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.