Help to Fight the Scourge of Predictability in Your Church Services with Lance Burch

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. I’m talking with Lance Burch from Reality Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He often explores and identifies current cultural phenomena and then tries to find a way to connect them to biblical truth.

Listen in as Lance shares how to pay attention to the questions the culture around us is asking while presenting ancient truths in a novel way.

  • Do what Jesus did. // Our churches can be way too predictable, which can hold us back from what God calls us to do. By contrast, Jesus was never predictable; his stories often had surprise endings yet communicated truth in a way that resonated with the culture. If we are to be like Jesus, then we need to do things the way he did.
  • Look at things in a new way. // One of Reality Church’s core values is surprise. Adding even small elements of surprise, such as a prop during a sermon or spontaneous baptisms in a service, keeps things from being too predictable. One way the church incorporated this value on New Year’s Day was by changing the seating to be in a circle and sharing stories of God’s faithfulness.
  • Holding to the truth. // While digging into scripture and singing truth to each other will always be core, Reality Church looks for novel ways to present these ancient truths. The goal isn’t to change the truth of scripture, but rather to have the church experience it in a new way.
  • Be clear to your listeners. // When writing messages and engaging culture, Reality Church is careful to stay true to the Bible by using a framework that asks: Is this accurate? Is it clear? They want to stay true to the scriptures while also creating a bridge to listeners in their cultural context. How are your listeners interpreting their entire world? What “language” do they speak? What questions are they asking? One way to tap into this is by paying attention to the questions that popular music and entertainment are asking.
  • Connecting with the culture. // One of the elements of surprise that Reality Church has used is rewriting popular songs to create parodies that can be used for teaching moments and to convey a certain idea from scripture. These songs are fun and really accessible, plus serve as a great invite tool on “big days” like Christmas. A couple of songs from the last few years include We Don’t Talk About Rudolph, which is a parody of Encanto’s We Don’t Talk About Bruno, and also a parody of a song from Hamilton.
  • Be clear that it’s a parody. // Creating parodies are legal under fair use, however make it evident that your work is a parody and that you’re not trying to appear as if the music or other content is your original work. It’s not legal to claim that the music or media is yours, so do reference the original work that you’re making the parody from.

You can learn more about Reality Church at reality.church and you can see their parody videos on YouTube at Reality Church Omaha.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you’ve decided to tune in. Listen I’m really excited for my conversation today with my friend and brother from another mother, Lance Burch. Now he spells his last name differently, probably the right way. Actually surprisingly when people spell my name wrong, they spell it the way he spells it. You have to look on your player to see how to spell it the right way. From Reality Church in Omaha, Nebraska – fantastic church. He really is I think one of the most gifted people in the country around looking and identifying kind of cultural phenomena, things that are out there, and then trying to find a way to connect that to biblical truth; obviously the goal is ultimately to point people back. Um, Reality’s a fantastic church. And Omaha, I don’t know there’s like a concentration of just amazing people in Omaha and so I’m so glad to have you on the show, Lance. But thanks for being here today. What did I miss? Build that picture a little bit. Tell us a bit about Reality.

Lance Burch — Well okay, Reality is something that we we call an entry level church. It’s something that we came on when somebody left our church. And and I think on the way out the door said you guys are an entry level church. And at first I was like what!? And I got super super kind of mad about it. And then I sat back in my chair and I thought you know, ah like of course we are.

Rich Birch — Yeah, don’t we want to be?

Lance Burch — Yeah. I’m so glad that Jesus is an entry level savior.

Lance Burch — That there wasn’t some sort of hoops or something that I had to jump through, that he finished the work. And so we’re trying to we’re trying to make that really clear. That ah, we don’t want to be cool. We don’t want to be um, like ah kind of out there, or we’re we’re “better than” at all because we’re not, and I’m not cool. But we do want to be really clear and we do want to make it clear that we’re listening to culture. That’s an important thing.

Rich Birch — This is…

Lance Burch — Ah one more thing about the Omaha churches.

Rich Birch — Yup. Yeah.

Lance Burch —You could not be more correct. This is a great place to do ministry. I’m a part of ah a network called Within Reach and the pastors here ah just a great place to move the Kingdom forward.

Rich Birch — Yeah. It it is is fantastic. Like I I am consistently amazed I bump into all kinds of great people from Omaha, and I yeah I just think it’s so so fun.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Such a great great community. So so friends I need to let you in on kind of tear down the third wall of the pretend radio show that we run here called the podcast. And um, you know Lance and I have connected a number number of times over the year.

Lance Burch — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — I’ve been to Reality, we’ve talked multisite, ah, count him as a friend, and he and I have had kind of a bubbling conversation in the background over the years around a number of things that recently I was like, listen, I just want to get you on the show and have this conversation in front of everybody so that you can benefit from it. Um, and so you’re going to hear that kind of unfold out here in in front of us and one of the things. You’ve talked about predictability and why this is it’s like the scourge of predictability. Our churches are just can be way too predictable. Why is that a problem? Why is predictability a problem, like big “P” Problem for the gospel, holding us back from what God’s calling us to do?

Lance Burch — Well one of the the big “P” Problem here is that Jesus wasn’t predictable. And we are called to be, you know, with a body of Christ, we’re the hands and feet of Jesus and we’re also you know to develop the mind of Christ. Now ah he told the rich young ruler to sell everything. He didn’t tell Zach he didn’t tell Zacchaeus to sell everything. He said I’m coming to your house; come down out of that tree. He didn’t tell the woman at the well to sell everything. He didn’t tell Nicodemus, you know? Ah it was just like, you got to be born again, Nicodemus. Why? Because Nicodemus was building his world around how he was born, his his heritage. That rich young ruler was building his world around his stuff. And this woman at the well was building her world around like relationships, and you know the next person.

Lance Burch — I think since Jesus knows that we’re individual, ah when he when he comes on the scene, I think he comes to us that way. And if he said the same thing over and over again, then maybe we’d be right to do that. But he didn’t.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — He’s he’s ah surprising in the way that he teaches, and the the authority that he takes in the way that he’s listening, and the illustrations that he uses. Almost all of his stories had a surprise ending. So that’s the big problem, if we are are saying we’re following this guy, we’re following Jesus, then we ought to do it the way that he did.

Rich Birch — Love that. So okay, so what does that look like? So I would say the thing when I when we first when I first kind of heard you talk a little bit about that, I was like oh I would say that does um that’s my experience of your ministry is your… my experience of reality is that you’re predictably unpredictable. Like there’s I I know that there’s you guys do things that kind of capture people’s imagination. Ah in ah in a good way. So what does that actually look like for your church? Like what be some of the ways that you’ve tried to lead out of that as a you know as the lead pastor?

Lance Burch — Yeah, you know it’s one of our values. It’s one of our core values. It’s surprise. That… it’s at the end of… it’s the last one: surprise. And the way it shows up is, well like New Year’s day we changed the seating in here to be in the round. Um I didn’t I didn’t talk that day. We just had stories and worship. And really when people we just told them something was going to happen. It’s incredibly powerful to have stories. It’s incredibly powerful to just to see each other for once and kind of use that day.

Lance Burch — Ah, the deal is that we don’t want people to show up, and number one, we don’t want it to feel like chaos. Of course there are going to be some things that we’re gonna do um, we’re gonna go to the scripture. We’re gonna we’re gonna sing truth to each other. But the novelty and the way the perspective the new angle on the same ancient truth is kind of what we want them to experience. So that um so it’s kind of like when you when you see something um and then you see it from a slightly different angle and it it changes the way you view it. We want to somehow do that with… We don’t change scripture. We don’t change the ancient truths. We don’t change what Jesus said, but we say to them what if you were looking at like this, what would that mean? So that we hope that we get emails and maybe lobby talk that says you know I did I knew that, but I never really thought of it that way. And…

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. So I’m not I’m not a preacher. Folks that have followed the podcast know that’s not what I do. That’s not my primary thing. But one of I but I have a deep respect for that, and I had deep respect for that function within the church, and love to kind of help create cultures and climates that allow that to happen. And what you’re touching on one of the core problems that I that I see so clearly. For someone like yourself that has to teach every week is, we we teach from a fixed text. Like we we don’t actually want super innovative ideas, like we don’t actually want things to be so different. You know, we and so because it’s a fixed text. Ultimately there are only so many words that we’re going to bring people back to. There’s one message, one core of Christ.

Lance Burch — Right.

Rich Birch — Actually don’t want the most innovative teacher ever to preach at me because it’s like I don’t actually want something new. I want I need scripture to be I need the teaching to be based in scripture. But so pull that apart. How do you as a communicator…

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …how do you flirt with that line? What does that look like? How do we do that? How do we how do we give people a new angle but don’t step into heresy?

Lance Burch — Right. Yeah, the other day we we preached a sermon, and and our bottom line statement, the the sticky statement was: if it’s new, it’s probably not true. You know…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — …if somebody’s if somebody’s coming on the scene and I got a new revelation. No the we learn the the truths of christianity at a deeper level, but we don’t learn new truths.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — So um, the way we pick that apart is well first of all I’ve got a team…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Lance Burch — …that helps me construct the series and does a pretty cool eval. And I have this framework that asks: is this accurate? Is it is it clear? Is it passionate, delivered with passion? That came from me from my kind of mentor and ministry Joe Duke at LifePoint in in ah Reisterstown, Maryland. He has this framework and I use it. And so we really do look at the accuracy of what we’re talking about. It’s if that’s not there, then that’s an F immediately. I mean you you failed at your one job to make these truths really clear and to lean into scripture. Um at the same time, ah, while you’re being accurate, you’ve got to be clear.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — And now what clarity means in any given cultural context is this bridge between this always true thing, absolutely true thing and how they’re interpreting their entire world. Like, what language do they speak? Um, what what questions are they asking? And you don’t know the questions that a culture is asking unless you know what their music is saying. You can’t.

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

Lance Burch — Nobody asks questions like music.

Rich Birch — Right

Lance Burch — I mean movies do, um TV shows do, I guess in a little little sense. But man the music of any given culture…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Lance Burch — …will tell you what do people are what are they really craving, what do they what do they want.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — So that gap, that that there’s the gap – clarity to accuracy.

Rich Birch — Okay, I love that. Now. So there’s people that are listening in who are probably thinking wait a second I’ve heard some of this before; this this is that sneaky old attractional church. You’re just trying to entertain people. You’re just a carnival barker. I know that’s not your heart. Obviously I know that’s you know that’s not who you are, ah but how does that fit out in your mind? And then well and I’d love to get into a specific tactic; I want to push you on a specific thing that I’ve seen you do.

Lance Burch — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — But kind of at a philosophical level, what’s entertainment? What… yeah we don’t want to entertain people, do we?

Lance Burch — Absolutely we do. Um, we absolutely want to entertain people. Jesus did this. Um Jesus, I know that I’m we’re not, the pastor is not Jesus and even the church itself is not going to perfectly embody who Jesus was. However, Jesus used creative stories, illustrations, and why? Why? He could have, you know what? He could have just given propositional truths about God. But you know he didn’t. And the reason he didn’t is because he loved the people in the crowd.

Lance Burch — He could say things that they couldn’t understand but they’d be absolutely true. And he could walk away from that, and he could say I gave him the truth; they didn’t do anything with it. But you know what he did instead? He said here’s these people made out of dirt and I’m going to try to communicate incredible truths that they can’t comprehend. But how can I do it? Let me talk about a farmer. Let me talk about some vineyard workers. Let me talk about a tower that fell on some dudes. Let me ah you know even current events.

Lance Burch — So if Jesus did that, um, what what in the world would a pastor want to do with standing up on a platform, saying if you don’t understand me then that just means I’m doing the right thing. That doesn’t make any that doesn’t make any sense to me.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Lance Burch — Um, but you know to your argument about the attractional thing, did the American Church um, spend too much money or or too much energy in putting on a show? Now there’s a difference for me between entertainment and a show.

Rich Birch — Yes, Yes, yeah.

Lance Burch — Entertainment to me means to entertain someone means to hold their attention.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — Jesus did that consistently.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Lance Burch — Jesus never put on a show. In fact, he he rejected that when it was a a temptation in the wilderness. I’m not gonna put on it…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Lance Burch — …I’m not here to put on a show. But when I show up and when my truths are are proclaimed, they are attractional. They are. The only thing that’s really not attraction about christianity is the is um, is the sacrifice that it requires to to be like Jesus. The the teaching and the truths, they are attractional, and we don’t need to make church um, what’s the word. Ah you know we we don’t want to you know repel people from church. When when they show up I think every pastor’s glad. You know?

Rich Birch — Right, right. Yeah, yeah, totally. Well…

Lance Burch — I hope I’ve answered that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. No, it’s good. I think it’s you know that’s a good ah, you mean the other context, I’ve said listen I’m proudly have come from and that is my background is kind of the attractional church movement. And I and yeah have there been excesses like in any movement? Absolutely. Ah, but I think at its core I would agree with you that at the end of the day, I look at so much of Jesus’s teaching was attempting to grab people’s attention to get their engagement, and then ultimately to move some you know closer along obviously to move everyone. But you know that you need to do that and that if you call that entertainment or attractction, that’s fine with me.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Okay, so I want to talk about a specific tactic that you do at your church. So for so in my brain I was like, oh I I think for the last number of years Reality has been doing these um like parody songs at like Christmas, and other kind of special times during the year. And then I poked you on it I’m like oh there’s like a deep well here. Oh my goodness this is like decades of work that Lance has been doing. Talk to us about this particular tactic. Kind of describe it first. How have you used these kind of parody songs as a part of your you know, big days. A part of you know, kind of the communications you do as a church.

Lance Burch — You know I went to Creative Church Conference at Fellowship in…

Rich Birch — Nice.

Lance Burch — …in Dallas.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Lance Burch — And I was young in ministry um, and well not not not terribly, but I saw a new tactic. And in their student ministry, this guy was rewriting songs. Um and I was trying to change a culture in Student Ministry at LifePoint that was kind of a toxic kind of cutting people down. So I said, why don’t we take this idea of rewriting songs and make it about an individual. So we called it the comfy chair song.

Lance Burch — And we had kids nominate a kid. They would I would say, Okay, what’s their favorite song? They would tell me their favorite song, and then I would say, would just tell me about them. And they would give me a page of stuff about this person – their quirks, their what they love to eat or what they, you know, what they love to do, or what they were good at. And I just would by a specific set of criteria, syllables and vowel shapings, rewrite that song for them. They would sit in the comfy chair, listen to the song, and then kids would line up at the microphone and say nice things about him. And it changed the culture.

Rich Birch — Ah, that’s so cool.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah. Love that.

Lance Burch — So so it got me into this heck I was doing that like 50 times a year, you know.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Lance Burch — So I wrote a ton of them.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — And it it got me to where I was I was pretty good at it, like I could count count the syllables, even the you know the emphasis needs to be the same. And so so I had a lot of fun at it.

Lance Burch — And out there at Saddleback, another guy was doing that – one of their youth workers. And he did a couple of videos that I emulated. And now we we found out that the kids were just they loved it. And I thought I wonder if it would work in the church setting. And you know, Weird Al made a career out of this; I’m nowhere near Weird Al status but ah, but he made a career out of it. And while it’s cheesy, it’s also fun and accessible. And so we we started we did Queen, we did that one one time for Christmas Eve, we did of course the Hamilton thing. And this past year we did We Don’t Talk About Rudolph and it…

Rich Birch — Yes. So good. So you just breezed over those. Take just slow down and give us a bit of those like you did Queen and like talk through that what you’ve done the last couple years just to give a sense.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — We’re going to put links in the show notes, friends; this really is going to be a bit of an incomplete podcast until you go and watch some of these things. So.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — We’re going to try to describe this. It’s hard to describe in, you know, 30 seconds but kind of talk us through what some of those look like.

Lance Burch — Well ah, the Queen thing was Bohemian Rhapsody, and I remember one of the lines was like ah drama at Christmas time, instead of “Mama”, you know?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — And ah we we took it through that whole kind of chaos of Christmas, like things are going on and then kids are up, and so it’s kind of a chaotic scene. And then and then I think we ended with Christmas really matters at Reality. Chris…

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. Love it. Yes.

Lance Burch — The Hamilton thing happened during covid, you know.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Lance Burch — We had a church member who actually had a barn. That we we didn’t do this on our platform at all; we had a church member that had a barn.

Rich Birch — Oh, I wondered where you shot that.

Lance Burch — Oh my goodness. And we had just hired a guy who had a connection to Midwest Light and Sound; they came in and they lit it on to emulate the Hamilton lighting. Ah, got a choreographer in there. We thought let’s do something special for covid; everybody’s at home. We were doing a Christmas eve video. And I thought baby born in Bethlehem / Alexander Hamilton – same syllables.

Rich Birch — Ah, love it. Love it.

Lance Burch — So we just we wrote it. We wrote it based on that and I loved every minute of that one.

Rich Birch — Love it. Okay, so now the the thing and then this year you did Ah We Don’t Talk About Rudolph which is kind of like a retelling of the Rudolph story, but to the “Encanto” you know that We Don’t Talk About Bruno

Lance Burch — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — …ah, which which was funny. It was you know I and I’ve joked about this on you know Facebook and stuff I’m like these these have become required viewing for me when it comes up in my feed, does not matter what I’m doing I you know. I apologize, clients, if I’m doing work for you, or I stop and I’m like okay I have to watch these because they’re they’re so well done; they’re so creative. Talk to me about song selection. So I was saying to you this before we got on, I don’t know and I find particularly the last couple of years—the Hamilton one, the Rudolph one, but even the Queen one like you seem to be able to tap the zeitgeist you you. You talked about this a little bit, the music, ah you talked about this, it’s like the questions that are being asked by music are the questions of a generation or questions of a culture.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Ah unpack that a little bit. How do you how do you find these songs? How do you find… I feel like I’m pretty connected culturally, but I’m like you just seem to nail it like that is the song that is like perfect for what we’re talking about.

Lance Burch — Yeah, well we we start talking about it, and we um I mean we have a good team of people that are that are really looking around and and kind of thinking about it. What’s weird is old music is new again because of playlist and things like that or it shows up in a movie. Um, and there’s usually one when we land on it it’s like like what you said, of course.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Lance Burch — Of course it’s this one. and we haven’t of course we we haven’t landed on this next year’s.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — But when when it happens, it’s just this it cuts across the culture.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Lance Burch — Um I felt a ah little bit of pull toward the Encanto. We adopted two girls from Columbia; the movies about Columbia.

Rich Birch — Okay, okay. That would do it.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What what were some of the ones that were in the running for this year – do you remember some of the other ones? I’m trying to catch like what is the…

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I’m trying to unpack what is kind of… I’m trying to get inside your brain.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What is the what are some of the other ones that were thinking of there?

Lance Burch — Well one of the other one was from Encanto. It’s the pressure song about…

Rich Birch — Yep yep.

Lance Burch — …can you imagine a family on Christmas Eve who has the family coming over. They haven’t they haven’t completed the the menu; they haven’t bought all their gifts. That just that kind of tick tick tick pressure thing…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah, yeah.

Lance Burch — …which would have been a good one, but we opted against it. We we always choose like there’s always a pop song in there somewhere, like a Meghan Trainor – something that’s you know, vocally sort of interesting. Um and you know Wednesday right now if we were going to do it like say today. Um I think we would probably and this might I don’t know what how people feel about this…

Rich Birch — Who knows? Yeah, yeah.

Lance Burch — But ah, but the Wednesday phenomena.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — Why why is that popular, you know?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. Yes.

Lance Burch — I think it’s because a lot of people feel like Wednesday, like kind of kind of out there, a little quirky. If people knew the real me they wouldn’t like me. And now I’m going to now I’m going to pretend like I don’t care. Or maybe Wednesday’s being for real. I don’t know.

Lance Burch — But that’s the idea. We try to figure out what is what cuts across all of the the lines. And we don’t always hit. Maybe some people didn’t even know We Don’t Talk About Bruno but…

Rich Birch — Yeah I don’t… yeah, that’s if you were, had anyone who’s anywhere near any, you know, childhood age of at all, you knew that song. You continue to know that song. It’s one of those that that’s out there.

Rich Birch — Ah, you know I think the other so the other interesting piece of this for me, as someone on the outside looking in, so pull back a little bit from a strategy point of view. Friends that are listening in, these big days—Christmas, Easter, maybe Mother’s Day—you have 3 or 4 days during the year where two things happen, and you’ve heard me say this before, friends. Two things happen. One, your people are more likely to invite their friends, and two their friends are more likely to attend.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Now when their friends come, they are thinking—and this brings us back to the predictability thing—they have a framework of what church is. And then Lance and his team rolls out We Don’t Talk About Rudolph and, man, their expectations are shifted. They’re like, this is different. You know over the years I used to love, I would say the same thing, I used to love when we would people would say in New Jersey particularly I loved we would get like ah somebody would kind of greet us on the way out and they would say, man mass has really changed a lot since I was a kid. And I’m like yes, okay, we are we’ve hit it, right? We’re close to where we’re trying to get to. but these days are important for us to put extra effort into. They’re important for us because we are going to have extra people in the you know in the room that are not don’t necessarily attend church.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Um, so talk to me about how that fits into that part of your strategy, the kind of like hey we want to do, put extra effort – like this is disproportionate amount of work.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — You’re thinking about, you heard it, friends. I don’t know if you heard that roll by. He’s already thinking about next year’s Christmas. It’s in… somewhere there’s like a little there’s a bucket open that currently Wednesday’s in, and eventually something else will eventually – it might be Wednesday by next fall. We’ll we’ll kind of click in and then you guys will do something. Tell me how that strategically fits into your kind of when it comes to reaching unchurched people or the friends of the people we’re trying to attend our church.

Lance Burch — Yeah I want our people to have an easy invite. When we we usually promote this like we want it to be a surprise.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Lance Burch — We don’t tell everybody what the song’s going to be. We might throw a little hint out there. But we so but we let them know that there’s going to be something…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — …that is going to surprise their friends, and it gives them the easy invite. One thing that you hit on, we do do a lot of work on this. And so I tell our team, and I think this is super important, that if the product looks fantastic and everybody’s ticked off at each other at the end, then we failed. There’s the product goal, and then there’s this process goal. We made a real big goal this year to say let’s have fun the entire time. Let’s laugh…

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Lance Burch — …and not get not get kind of angsty about this, because if we do we’re going off track. And it was fun the whole time. One of the things one of the deliverables about the parody song is that it’s fun for our team, and it’s fun for the volunteers that are a part of it. They get to be in on the secret and they invite, you know, ah a lot of people because they know they’re going to be in it. This year… can I can I mention somebody?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. Totally.

Lance Burch — We we had this girl – um, eighth grader. Her name is Addison, and Addison played our new reindeer in town. And she could… our new elf and she couldn’t wait to meet Rudolph. Maybe you didn’t see the skit before the song, but it’s not on the video. But Addison improvved in front of a group of adults, and she was phenomenal. It was that’s another good side of this. Just let people use their gifts. There are people gifted at singing and dancing and lighting and sound, and I don’t think God wants us to just use those gifts. He does want us to use them in the community. But it’s another way for us to praise to to use ah skillfully use the things that he’s given us, the gifts that he’s given us. And Addison did that in such a great way. So it was cool to see an eighth grader be a part of it too.

Rich Birch — That’s so cool. I love that. The the process again, friends, I know this is like it’s like a half step. Ah when I, folk, I’m going to we’re going to email out on this one and I’m going to send the links ahead of time and say hey you should watch these before you come because it’ll it’ll give you a little more context. If you’re already mid midstream, you got to go watch them. But the the interesting thing on, or another part of this this puzzle, is I’ve heard people push back. In fact, on one of my posts about this I had someone pushed back on the legal side of this.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — So for the people who are thinking about this thing, talk is talk to us about parody. Why is parody okay.

Lance Burch — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Ah talk that through from a legal point. Because it’s like Disney is a major company that you’re you, you know, you’re using their, you know, their music.

Lance Burch — Yeah, exactly. And there was a church that did something ah that they used the name Alexander Hamilton; they did a full length thing…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yep.

Lance Burch — …and it was called Scamilton in social media. It was really wrong. I mean they they tweaked the story a little bit, used a lot of the lyrics. Parody songs are completely legal. Parody songs are what they call fair use. It’s what Weird Al made his ah lifestyle on. It is a protected form of speech and it’s great. I mean I think that we ought to be able to parody things. It’s what Babylon Bee does. It’s what ah ah, in in and in a news format. And ah, what the Wittenburg Door did.

Rich Birch — You know, like yeah Saturday Night Live.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like there’s like there’s tons of, you know, there’s tons of parody. The the trick I think from and I listen obviously I’m not a lawyer, I don’t play one on the internet, but my understanding of the line on parody is it needs to be self-evident that it’s parody. That you’re not trying to ah, you know, trying to put yourself off as you know it’s like it it needs to be tongue in cheek. It needs to be like, hey this is you know this is a parody. Um, that’s that’s the line ultimately that you’re um, you know, going to follow. And so some of that you could I’ve seen some churches do these where, which I can’t remember whether you guys do this or not, they literally will sit put like on YouTube it’ll it’ll say like parody song…

Lance Burch — We do.

Rich Birch — …like we’re being as explicit as that so that it’s, you know, super obvious. Yeah.

Lance Burch — Yeah we put that on there. I mean I don’t, but whoever is smarter than me puts that stuff on there.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s so good. Okay I love this. Well let’s bring this back to predictability. When you think about predictability, the thing that’s interesting here, friends, that I want to pick apart is the thing that’s predictable in this case is, which is important for inviting, is that you’re going to do something special. That’s that’s Predictable.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — You’re going to make that happen. The thing that’s not predictable is what you’re going to do. Ah, how does this how is this permeated… so this obviously is on your big days. How any other examples of how this kind of thinking has permeated other aspects of your ministry throughout the year? Other just examples that we could kind of as we go to and close this thing down.

Lance Burch — Yeah I think every week um, since surprise is one of our values, every week we want to bring in surprise. And that could be mild; I mean it could be just the use of a prop. Um, we had another surprise on Christmas Eve which was we were doing a candle lighting service and there was there was a canister on the stage and it had the candle. We always lit from the front. But I said, you know, in the context of the last few years darkness is a really good context to to see the light, you know?

Lance Burch — And we get distracted with all it and then I walk over to this thing you couldn’t even see a candle was there and I lit my candle from it and every candle was lit from that. A very mild surprise…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — …but it’s just different. And I think the deal is we don’t have to spend bucks on this. In fact, creativity I think keeps you from throwing money at stuff. And we don’t need to just invest. We can’t we can’t outsplash Hollywood or Nashville or any of the studios. What we can do is we can use the gifts that God gave us, and on a weekly basis um use a prop or bring somebody up or um, you know, tell the Gospel in ah in ah in an engaging way. Or we do spontaneous baptisms at our church…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s cool.

Lance Burch — …where we you might you might have shown up, you didn’t know that you were going to get baptized, but you just heard the gospel. We got everything you need. And and hearing that story is a surprise. I mean heck every time Jesus interacts with somebody, ah, they don’t know we don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Lance Burch — Only he does.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — And that’s that’s really cool. So that’s why I like coming in on Sunday and sometimes it’s Jesus that is doing the surprising and not us.

Rich Birch — So Good. This is this is great. Kind of final topic of of conversation and I hope our relationship can sustain this. One of the things I find fascinating about your leadership as a leader you seem to like to have fun with your people. Like you you know like I’ve seen you like a part of these parody videos, you know friends, again, you got to watch these things. It’s not like this is like a group of people doing them and then Lance is standing off stage, clapping. Oh isn’t that great. Like I’ve seen you do all kinds of funny things that are, you know, great, engaging, um, you know you know surprising ah. And I think there would be a lot of pastors that would look at that and say, yeah I’m not doing that. There’s no way. I would love for that to happen on my church, but like I’m not dressing up in the giant um… or the the the head to toe um, ah jack-o-lantern suit I remember seeing you in once. I was like what?! Like talk to me about that. What is you have this fun playful side…

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …that I think is super endearing from a from a leadership point of view. I think people want to follow people like that, but talk to me about that.

Lance Burch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — What’s what’s what’s that all about?

Lance Burch — Yeah, that it might not be everybody. I grew up kind of in theater; I did comedy for a while. Um, ah, quick throwaway I’ve got this cover band called Silly Joel where we do we go out and we play Billy Joel things. I love karaoke. So part of this is just kind of personality.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — However, let me encourage people who wouldn’t maybe be drawn to this. Nobody nobody comes in here thinking the pastor is gonna do something like that no matter what my personality is.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Lance Burch — So when they see that, all the sudden this inaccessible guy with barriers, and I could never be like that guy. If we if we choose to say, I’m gonna act silly. And they might think, well I think I could approach him; he just wore a pumpkin suit in front of me. Um then I think that could be a good thing.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Lance Burch — So I would encourage, you know, stretch a little bit. You don’t have to do everything, but um, surprise your crowd with your willingness to to maybe step. We’re asking them all the time to step outside of their comfort zone.

Rich Birch — Right.

Lance Burch — We’re asking them all the time to do stuff that maybe stretches them a little bit. And so I’d say to leaders, don’t be afraid to act silly; it’s it’s it’s vulnerable, it’s authentic. And we all act silly anyway, sometimes when people aren’t watching. So use that, if you can, to to gain access to, you know, just to somebody’s attention.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. Well, love it, friends. So good. We know you know that the human mind is a predictability engine. We just ah, you know we we watch patterns – pattern pattern pattern pattern pattern. And then when we can change that pattern when we can do something that’s out of pattern, in this case, you don’t expect the pastor to be in whatever – the the Hamilton play, the you know the orange suit that you know, whatever um that that that causes them literally your brain leans in on that and is like oh that’s different. Something is different about this organization. Well, Lance, I’ve really appreciated your friendship. I appreciate this conversation today. I appreciate you being on. Any final words, and and where do we want to send people if they want to track with you, with the church, that sort of thing.

Lance Burch — Sure. I guess my final word was it’s really easy to be like the guy on the platform or the or the guy, you know. I have an amazing team. The team at Reality Church, my staff, the people that support me. I’m only good at like two things; I can’t even keep a calendar. There’s so there’s so many things that people do for me. So um I just I don’t want to let this thing go without saying ah ah, it’s a privilege to to be able to be here.

Lance Burch — Though the last thing um if people want to see what we do Reality Church Omaha on YouTube, if you search, but you’re gonna have the links anyway. Reality.church is our website. Um, and um I think we’re gonna be out there ah eventually with a podcast called Things I Used to Think which is hopefully…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Lance Burch — Yeah, it’s just basically we start out with some things that um, you know, we used to think. Like I used to think if there was a car following me while I was walking home from my friend’s house that they were going to shoot me. You know there’s all sorts of things that just live in our head and and I think it teaches us something…

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Lance Burch — …when we we talk about the things we so look for that. But reality.church is our website, and we’re on YouTube and Facebook and Instagram and all the socials as well.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Appreciate you, sir. Thanks for being on here. Thanks for for sharing with us today.

Lance Burch — Yeah, thank you, Rich. I appreciate it so much.

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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.