In-Person Community & Bold Digital Innovation in a Lonely World with Benjamin Windle

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with return guest Benjamin Windle from Life Place Church in Australia.

Whether or not churches are going to opt in to the digital revolution is no longer an option. Now the question is, how do churches operate and minister in a digital world, particularly to younger generations? Listen in to today’s podcast as Benjamin shares research and insights on what Millennials and Gen Z are really looking for, and how churches can reach them.

  • Understanding younger generations. // When it comes to digital ministry, we can be tempted to design our churches around convenience and comfort to such a degree that we shift the necessary convictions in our church. Part of this is because we may have misread what younger generations are looking for in church. We may wrongly think that they are shallow and interested primarily in entertainment and what’s “cool”, and focus our services on that. But instead we should see younger generations as a movement of thoughtful people in search of significance and authenticity.
  • Be part of a community. // One of our primary needs is community. Loneliness among Gen Z in particular is epidemic and coincides with the surge in social media. We may think that young people want everything to be fast and easy and on their phone, but we shouldn’t be afraid of challenging them to be a contributing part of a biblical community.
  • Seven layers of community. // Benjamin has found seven layers of practice to community in the bible. Preaching, worship, prayer, and evangelism can be done well online. But the other three are best done in-person: interpersonal responsibility, inconvenient hospitality, and institutional physicality.
  • Interpersonal responsibility. // We all have a spiritual fingerprint of God with unique gifts and need to understand that we each bring something special to the church and community. We aren’t in community simply to receive; we’re in community because we have a biblical responsibility to each other.
  • Inconvenient hospitality. // Benjamin challenges us with the idea that community or friendship doesn’t really exist until we are willing to inconvenience ourselves for each other. Inconvenient hospitality is a necessary and intentional part of God’s design for community, and it’s where richness is found in our relationships with each other.
  • Institutional physicality. // Barna discovered that the thing churchgoers missed the most during COVID was taking communion in-person. It’s likely that Gen Z will start to crave the physicality of what community really is, such as sharing a meal together, as their lives are primarily focused on the online world.
  • Reimagine, reevaluate, reconnect, and rebuild. //  Benjamin has put together a report with Barna called Digital Church in a Lonely World: 7 Ingredients of Church Community. It walks through the seven layers of community and also bold digital innovation. In this report Benjamin covers four words that form a framework for churches of any size to apply to any area of their ministry. These include: reimagine, reevaluate, reconnect, and rebuild. Download the full report from Barna.com.

Learn more about Benjamin and his work at www.benjaminwindle.com, and listen to Benjamin Windle’s previous unSeminary podcast interview, visit Millennials, Gen Z and Your Church with Benjamin Windle.

Thank You for Tuning In!

There are a lot of podcasts you could be tuning into today, but you chose unSeminary, and I’m grateful for that. If you enjoyed today’s show, please share it by using the social media buttons you see at the left hand side of this page. Also, kindly consider taking the 60-seconds it takes to leave an honest review and rating for the podcast on iTunes, they’re extremely helpful when it comes to the ranking of the show and you can bet that I read every single one of them personally!

Lastly, don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, to get automatic updates every time a new episode goes live!

Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953, CDF Capital has helped Christians and churches embrace their part in this story by providing the 3 kinds of capital every congregation needs for growth—Financial Capital, Leadership Capital, and Spiritual Capital. CDF Capital’s XP Summit Cohorts provide an exclusive, year-long experience that brings together hand-selected global ministry leaders and your peers in an intimate, small-group setting. Visit http://cdf.capital/UnCohort to learn more and enroll today!

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know every week on the episode we like to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you and today is no exception. Super excited to have a repeat guest which, friends, you know if you’ve been listening for a while we’re 600-some odd episodes and we very rarely actually have repeat guests. So you know you need to lean in and listen to Benjamin Windle today. He is from Australia – senior pastor at LifePlace Church in Australia. Always good to connect with someone else in the Commonwealth. Ah, Benjamin, welcome to the show. So glad you’re here.

Benjamin Windle — Well I feel extra blessed now knowing that I’m a special repeat guest. I’m going to put that down to the accent more than anything.

Rich Birch — Ah, no, not at all. I yeah, we’ll link to your past episod.e I just am so honored to that you’d take some time to be with us today. So so glad to be here. Why don’t you fill out the picture a little bit tell us a little bit more for folks that maybe didn’t didn’t catch your first episode, which I think was just over a year ago. Ah, give us a sense like again, tell us a bit of your story. Give us a bit of your background.

Benjamin Windle — Well I’ve been vocationally pastoring full-time for 20 years. Raised in the ministry, my father is a pastor; my father-in-law is a pastor. Oh my goodness – I couldn’t escape it. Um I now have a special focus on Millennials and Gen Z, from both a writing and content creation point, helping pastors think through some of the unique challenges of these generations, into which I fit, and that’s where a lot of my, I guess, writing and content comes out of.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well today we want to kind of reflect a little bit. Here we are two years on into this pandemic and into the impacts that it’s had, and you know one of the things I’m hearing from ministry leaders across the country is there is like this surprise, a little bit, that here we are, it’s still impacting us a couple years later. We’re still very much in this, um even if the impacts look a little different than they have in earlier phases. But what has it felt like for you? Kind of what’s it felt like for you to be two years into this um this pandemic? Where is it what does it feel like for you at this, you know in this season?

Benjamin Windle — Well I think it’s a moment, right? I mean to reach that two year mark. And as you said to kind of say, hey here we are. We’re still in it. Um, some things we we at least have a sense of this, Rich. Some things may return back to what they were. But I think what there’s a ah, degree of consensus on, is there are a number of things that have forever shifted and are evolving. And I think when it comes to the intersection of church and the digital space, that’s where we’re all asking a lot of questions and trying to navigate through what does the future look like here?

Rich Birch — Yeah I know we all, one of the things that you know when we reflect back on that two years ago, you know I’ve been doing at our church, church online since 2009 so it wasn’t really a new deal. It was obviously super intensified when we, you know, when we particularly in those early phases of the pandemic. But what has changed over the last two years is like everybody has some sort of digital aspect of their ministry where even that maybe wasn’t the case two years ago. What do you think the church will look like in the digital age? What do you think, as we kind of peer to the future, as we kind of from this precipice where we sit today. What what’s that going to look like when we look to the future?

Benjamin Windle — Well I think it’s important that we’re asking the right questions to know what our churches should look like. And I think we’re at we’re at an important juncture here in this conversation because we don’t get to choose whether or not we’re going to opt in to the digital revolution. I mean it’s fundamentally shifted everything about our lives long before covid, and in many ways we were laggards to um what it means to operate and minister into a digital world. So I think within that, asking the right questions around technology and that space is going to be crucial. And for me, you know we talk about this being a moment 2 years in, but here is a real moment for me. This is maybe six months in, Rich, um I passed ah in a beautiful state called Queensland in Australia—they may not have let us out of our state ah for two years—but it’s kind of like a prison paradise being locked in. So I go to the beach with my kids Sunday morning. Oh my goodness, first time in living memory I’m not in a church on a Sunday.

Rich Birch — Right. Ah yes, yes.

Benjamin Windle — Because we’re locked down. We’re shut down. I’d pre-recorded my sermon. I’m sitting there on the beach. There’s a little cafe. It sells baked Portuguese custard tarts, which I wish I could just right now bring you on a plane, just to get over here and and…

Rich Birch — Little taste of heaven.

Benjamin Windle — Oh my goodness. I got that; I got my coffee. My kids are playing in the beach in the sand. It’s wonderful, and I have this moment as a pastor: I could get used to this. This ain’t that bad, this online. I got on my phone, you know, the the Sunday service is streaming. Like this is…

Rich Birch — Right. Yes. Yes

Benjamin Windle — … a pretty good gig. Are you kidding me? If we asked this question, “what do people prefer,” we are at risk of architecturally designing our churches, and our faith, around convenience. And I guess I’m putting a little red flag, a marker, out saying, we need to be careful that we don’t orient around convenience, or comfort, to the degree that we fundamentally shift convictions in our church that are absolutely necessary. So this is, in some ways, somewhat of a cautionary tale.

Rich Birch — Absolutely. You know, it’s interesting you say this because I think this, for me, has been one of the reflections here, you know, when this—whatever this phase is we call intra-covid, post-covid—whatever the phase is we are right now, where there were those people who I think early in the pandemic we we kind of sold them this idea that it was like, hey go to church online and it will it’ll it’s just like attending in person. Like we said things like that. It’s exactly the same. And then, you know, just recently it was talking to or my wife was actually she was talking with a ah young mom who, you know, said I I am just drowning here, like I we haven’t returned. We haven’t come back and um for, you know, one reason or another. And you know my as a, you know, what am I an armchair kind of pastor leaning in on the conversation, I’m like, I think the problem is that they are disconnecting with culture. They’ve disconnected with friends.

Benjamin Windle — Yeah, yes.

Rich Birch — They’re disconnected with community, and sure they’re watching the stream, but that but they’re not driving ah, you know, to a deeper um you know deeper relationships. So when when we think about this issue… I think this is a good flag, and we think about, okay, how we don’t want to orient around convenience, we don’t want to you know we don’t want to make our ministries about, hey it’s just easier to do it this way. Is that does that point to like a bigger problem? Does that ah, do you see that um, we may be thinking about, particularly our Millennial and Gen Z friends, in a way that like we maybe have misdiagnosed, that we’ve misread, what it is they’re looking for, ah when you think about that question in relation to the two you know generations particularly that you said you spend your time thinking about… What have we maybe be mis… misthought about them as it comes to digital ministry or this, even this moment with them?

Benjamin Windle — Well one of those misreads is, when we think of these younger generations, how often we would say we think feel like they are shallow, or lack substance, or want everything faster, easier, preach shorter sermons and I think then as pastors we can buy into this idea that um services need to be more entertaining, stages and production sleeker, sermon shorter, more visual props. Um, and it leads to what I define or term as “cool fatigue” within the church.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Benjamin Windle — And I think it is a misread when we think about these generations to think that’s what they’re actually searching for. What if instead of thinking that way, rather we saw new generations as a movement of people in search of significance and authenticity. What if we saw them as thoughtful, considerate (which they are), educated, spiritual. They’re hungry for a mission, and if that’s the case we shouldn’t coddle this generation too much. And we should not be afraid of challenging them. And to me one of the crucial challenges is this: the challenge of what it means to be a contributing part of a biblical community—whether it’s convenient, whether you feel like it’s easy, whether it fits into your lifestyle—the willingness to challenge them. On here’s what biblical community, true biblical community really looks like.

Rich Birch — Love it. Okay, I Love this. There’s so much to dive in there on. I Love the “cool fatigue” idea. So I’m going to push you on that a little bit. Um, are you saying that churches shouldn’t have a primary orientation around um, how do we engage with the culture around us. Differentiate that for me because when I look around, I see some of the fastest growing churches in the country, I look at them and I’m like, wow, those ministries are cool. Ah you know as defined by, they seem to be trying to engage the the culture around them. Help help us understand that “cool fatigue” idea a little bit more.

Benjamin Windle — No, we should try and reach the culture. We’re just misreading them when we think that that’s what they want.

Rich Birch — Okay yep.

Benjamin Windle — Ah I’m I’m yet to speak to a young person, you know take a 25 year old, Rich, and I’m like, oh why did you leave the church? I mean Barna tells a 64% of this generation who are raised in the church walk away from the church, or have walked away from the church. Why why did you walk away from the church? Well you know what, there weren’t enough LED screens on the stage. The the logo wasn’t cool enough.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Benjamin Windle — The Instagram the color of the theme on the Instagram feed it, you know what, it should have been magenta Monday through Thursday. I mean it’s just it’s actually not the things that they’re truly searching for, and we have to go deeper. And one of the the key areas is there is a search for real community.

Rich Birch — Absolutely.

Benjamin Windle — Why? Because there is a loneliness epidemic. And this loneliness epidemic intersects with the surge in social media, online, and so we have 13 to 17 year olds that are spending over five hours a day on their screens. That goes up to nearly seven hours for older teens and yet loneliness – think of this – 79% of the same generation say they are lonely.

Rich Birch — Right.

Benjamin Windle — So you’re on your screen 7 hours a day and 79% of you say they are lonely. 45% of Gen Z say they feel lonely at least some of the time. These are staggering numbers that are coming out. So I look at that and when you say, you know, however you were to that reach in terms of like reaching the needs speaking to this generation. Well one of the primary needs is the need for community.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Benjamin Windle — Have we actually withdrawn and taken away the core of what they actually need because how we perceive them in our mind is: you guys don’t want any of that. You guys don’t want to be inconvenienced. You guys want it short, fast. You you want it on your phone. I’m not so sure about that. I think that there may be a reaction back the other way for a real search for what it means to be ah, a part of true community.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. I was listened to a pundit recently who kind of echoes what you were saying. That you know, he was wondering if in 50 years from now people will look back at our generation, this moment, this kind of social media-obsessed moment in the same way that we look back now and you you see like photographs from the 40s and 50s of doctors in hospitals smoking cigarettes…

Benjamin Windle — It’s our modern day cigarette. It’s our modern day cigarette. Yeah.

Rich Birch — …and you’re like I can’t believe they were doing that all, right? Its the same. It’s the same kind of thing. Weird. Like people are, you know, we are generating this incredible loneliness, or the systems are generating this loneliness which ultimately ah, makes us do what? It makes us be more addicted to them. Interesting. So so how do we form real community? What are you learning on this front? How do we, how do we do that? What is that look like? What are some of the hallmarks of the things we should be looking for? I love a couple of things you’ve said so far, but let’s let’s kind of dig into that a little deeper.

Benjamin Windle — Well it is the linchpin word – the word community. And actually defining what that means. So for example, we can say this: Well, we’re streaming an online church service and there’s a chat bar. So if people can chat, you know, we kind of we tick that off the list. That’s community. I’ve done a much deeper dive in this area, and I found biblically in the new testament there are seven layers of practice to the idea, the concept, of community. And many of those can be done very well online, and we need to know which ones can be done well online and which ones are best served in-person, at least at this point in time, so that when we have people in the room, we have people in-person, we know what we’re trying to achieve. So, for example, content can be done very well online – preaching, worship, um prayer, evangelism, but there are three layers to community – new testament community – that I believe are best served when we do them in-person.

Rich Birch — You’ve set me up. You got you got to tell me what the three layers are – you least got to give me an overview. Don’t leave me hanging, Benjamin!

Benjamin Windle — Ah, ah, of course – number one interpersonal responsibility, number 2 inconvenient hospitality, and number 3 institutional physicality. Now by means of just quick definition… Interpersonal responsibility: I was raised in an era of church—and I thank God for this—that there was somewhat of a demand placed on my life to give something out of the human qualities that God had put in me to others. And we all have gifts. We all have a spiritual fingerprint of God on our lives. We bring something special to a church community. We need to teach people this. You bring something that nobody else brings. You’re in community not to receive. You’re in community because you have a biblical responsibility to those group of people. And when you read through scriptures and in in the new testament, we truly do have a job description. Ah that aren’t just clergy or pastors or leaders welcoming guest warmly in the book of Acts. Um, working enthusiastically with people (1 Corinthians); loving each other as brothers and sisters (Hebrews); providing food and clothing (James) – I mean we could go on. So interpersonal responsibility or put it this way, Rich – are we actually a part of a community, until we’re responsible for other people? It’s it’s an interesting question.

Rich Birch — That’s a great question. Yeah.

Benjamin Windle — Next, inconvenient hospitality. This one for me is so important. Um I don’t think community or even friendship exists until we are willing to inconvenience ourselves for each other. Um I mean if we lived near each other and I get a text message from you one day, Rich, and you’re like, hey you know what? Um I need I need something – could you just pop over to my house and help me out? I’m like ah you know what? That’s probably going to take me like 8 minutes, and I’m sorry, but no, you’re just not that important to me. Um. Inconvenience is not an unwanted byproduct of community. It’s a necessary and intentional part of God’s design for community. We need to intentionally create communities that inconvenience people.

Rich Birch — Absolutely. That’s so good.

Benjamin Windle — Why? That’s where meaning is. That’s where richness is found in terms of other people. And then lastly ah when we talk about these three areas is institutional physicality. There’s more that we could say about this, but one example that Barna found is the number one thing that churchgoers missed during covid was taking communion in-person. And it’s likely that Millennials and Gen Z who live so much of their life online will start to craze the physicality aspect of what community actually is.

Rich Birch — Love it. You know it’s it’s, this such lines up, most of my experience has been in over the last twenty years has been in the attractional church movement. That’s where I’ve spent most of my time, most of my thinking. And you know for years I would as a communicator, I would say you know I think we’re doing people a disservice when we talk about small groups, community groups—whatever you call them—in our in our churches because we oversell them. Um, we we tell, we say to people, we say get in this it’s… getting community is just as easy as signing up for one of these groups. And all you’ve got to do is like show up on a Tuesday night and somehow the magic of community is going to happen. I said you know I don’t know that that’s actually true – the communities that I’ve been a part of—this is why I love your your middle part there of inconvenient hospitality—the communities that have been, meant the most to me, they require more of me. I’ve got to lean in; I’ve got to be a part of it. I can’t just um, you know, I can’t just show up. It’s not it’s not like a group of friends, it’s more like family than it is like friends. Friends, I get together, we all agree with each other; it’s fun. There’s something about when I get together with my brother who kind of slightly annoying to me, you know, my brother and my, you know, like my but my physical brother. Um that I but, but I like love him deeply I have it’s incredibly deep relationship with him. And I think it’s the same in biblical community…

Benjamin Windle — True.

Rich Birch — …that we we have to find a way to go beyond just these easy convenient ah, definitions I Just love this I think you pushed on the right button.

Benjamin Windle — Well ,well on that, Rich, and and I think you you’re pressing on a button right here when it comes to small groups. Okay, just for a moment right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Benjamin Windle — Think about what you just said there. We tell people like you’re you’re in our church. You’re literally in our church. But if you want community, come back midweek to somebody’s home and you’re going to find community. And I wrestle with that a little bit now, and I’ve been around it like you for a very long time, because I’m like, but hang on a second, you’re telling me that our primary gatherings, we are readily essentially acknowledging the central thing that these two generations are searching for in church, we don’t even have it here at a weekend.

Rich Birch — Cannot find it here. Yeah.

Benjamin Windle — We need to more closely examine that. It’s it’s like this: imagine going to a cafe to get a coffee and they’re like oh no, no, no, no come back. Come back on Tuesday night. We actually don’t do coffee here. Come back on a Tuesday night and you’ll get coffee to a small group. But you’re like, hang in a second, isn’t the whole purpose of what you guys do to serve this this item?

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Benjamin Windle — And so again that just registers on my radar. For me, we have to reimagine church that everything we do has a community layer to it, and we can no longer say: our weekend services, well we know they’re not great at community, but just come back midweek at a small group. I think we need to reexamine that.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good I love it. You know I think there’s yeah, there’s so much we could talk about here now. I one of the things I want to make sure people check out is this and just incredible report that you’ve put together for with our friends at at Barna called Digital Church in a Lonely World: 7 Ingredients of a Church Community or of church community. Tell us about this report. What what led you to say, okay I want to put this together. This is a significant resource I want people to pick up, but kind of give us the bit of the backstory, the kind of setting up. Obviously we’ve been talking about it when talking around it, but give us kind of the the story here. What what led you to this piece?

Benjamin Windle — Well I’m super grateful to be partnering with Barna and grateful for David Kinnaman, believing in this piece. We’ve put together a beautifully designed 69 page PDF that walks people through not just the seven layers of community—that’s part 1—but part 2 is bold digital innovation. And that tension is really important to me that on one hand we have an understanding of the layers in the dimensions to community, but on the other hand we have a pressing in to bold digital innovation because we are not immune to the digital era. If we fight against it we we will lose, but at the same time and I quote Christian Lewis Lang: technology is a useful servant, but a dangerous master. Technology both helps us and hurts us. And so I think it’s easy for us sometimes to become so grandiose or idealistic about the use of technology because it’s become essential to us. But I think we need to have a nuanced approach and within that nuance we are innovating in new and exciting ways, but that innovation needs to it needs to move, Rich. And it needs to become less about innovating in a space of content, and we need to start innovating in community when it comes to technology. Um I mean, for example, you think about this whole offline online thing. I can now order custom-made Nikes (my sons do this) on an app.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm

Benjamin Windle — Yeah, but they still physically arrive at my door and they physically put them on their feet.

Rich Birch — Right.

Benjamin Windle — You can go to McDonald’s now and use a touchscreen and put together your meal, but you still physically the food they serve you.

Rich Birch — Right.

Benjamin Windle — I order an Uber on my smartphone but a physical car still turns up, it’s not the replacement of offline with online. It’s knowing how these two marry together and how they can best marry together in terms of community formation.

Rich Birch — Okay, so I know you’ve got ideas on that in in the practical world. Let’s let’s kind of frame this in maybe a church of 500 people. They’ve you know they’re not ah just your average kind of church – couple team members. What should we be thinking about when we think about our digital strategy? So many churches are wondering this in this moment. It’s like we kind of backed ourselves into this thing, now where do we go? I want to get people connected. I I realize we are living in a digital world that people are connecting online. How do I use that to leverage ah, community? What’s that look like?

Benjamin Windle — Well we need to think of our digital strategy as a spiritual formation ecosystem. So we need to zoom out, look at it holistically. And there are 4 words that I cover in this PDF that form a framework for churches of any size to take a look at, which is number 1 to reimagine, number 2 to reevaluate, number 3 to reconnect, and number 4 to rebuild. Now if we apply that lens to areas of our church, like ministry, like what would it look like to reimagine social justice, and then reevaluate and then reconnect and rebuild it. What would it look like to do that with evangelism, or small groups, or missions, or pastoral care? And not feeling like—and and if you’re a pastor and you’re listening to this—not feeling like you need to be backed into a corner on this where everything now needs to be digital. Um I’m trying to give pastors permission to wrestle with the complexity, and to be able to say this intelligently, there are some things that digital does better. But there are also some things that in-person does better. Knowing the difference between those two is a conversation that churches of all sizes can have. And in fact, Rich, it’s entirely possible and I think likely that there will be churches just like what you mentioned who actually decided live streaming our Sunday service is not part of our digital ecosystem. We that is actually not the way that we’re good…

Rich Birch — You’re you’re heresy heresy, Benjamin! Heresy!

Benjamin Windle — Hey I’m over here in Australia, you know what I mean?

Rich Birch — Ah yeah yeah, exactly. Yeah, we can’t throw stones that far. No I get it. No I totally understand that that right that it might be, you know, we’re not looking for a one-size-fits-all kind of solution. We need to look carefully at what is it that God’s called our church to, and how do we design a ministry that that weaves these together. Yeah, that’s good I love it. Sorry I think I cut you off? Yeah.

Benjamin Windle — Um, and when I say they reached that maybe live streaming isn’t the core of a digital strategy. Yes, but it might be 10 other things, right?

Rich Birch — Right. Yep.

Benjamin Windle — That are done midweek in terms of digital tools and and there’s a surge in innovation in this space which for me is really exciting.

Rich Birch — Yeah. Are there churches out there that you’re running into that you think are particularly innovating well that aren’t the kind of, like I feel like we all look at like 15 churches in the world and we pay attention to those ones, is there… can you give me an example of a church that’s like maybe we haven’t heard of before that we could we could kind of look at closely, and be like, oh that that’s kind of they’re doing some interesting things there?

Benjamin Windle — Well I mean I think that’s a really great point because the digital space at this point, you know, there are certain churches that can just do that much better. And so I think that can be almost a little bit of a dangerous trend. I know it in my backyard in in the church that that that I’m a part of and and I pastor ah um, you know for example, one of the things that’s very important to us is asking this question: What can people, what do people get when they attend a Sunday service that they cannot get online? Well here’s one of the really simple things which they can’t get: a great coffee, and they can’t get a meal.

Rich Birch — Right.

Benjamin Windle — So I mean we we literally have a catering team and volunteers and our goal is to do the very best coffee you’re going to get all week. And that becomes not just an add-on like oh yeah, there’s coffee at the end. Um, ah our service starts with coffee for half an hour…

Rich Birch — Right. Right. Yes.

Benjamin Windle — …at the end we call it church part two. It it becomes ingrained in the culture: stay, eat, connect, talk. So I think there are churches all around the country and all around the world that are figuring out how to do what they need to do within their local context, and that’s a great thing.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. Well I I want to encourage people to pick up this report – I really do think it would be so helpful. Personally I see this as a great leadership tool. It could be a great thing for you to get your leadership team to buy. Don’t just buy one, and you know have a discussion around it. This could be the kind of thing that could lead easily to like a retreat away – you’re away for a day or two, really wrestling through this kind of content. Um, where do we want to send people if they want to pick up a copy of it – where how do we, how do we do that? What are we, what is the best way to do that?

Benjamin Windle — Just go to barna.com – it’s available there for download right now, so head over to Barna.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s so good, so helpful. Well as we’re coming to wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share? This has been just a kind of the beginning of the conversation – I hope we’ll have you back in the future. But what anything else you’d like to say as we as we go to wrap up today?

Benjamin Windle — Hey, can you even imagine if I get a third slot on this show?

Rich Birch — Ah, come on it’d be great.

Benjamin Windle — Ah, ah my central thesis in this paper is we need to embrace in-person community, whilst also boldly innovating in the digital space. A closing thought for me would be reflecting on the ministry of Jesus, and looking at how often he physically touched people when he prayed for them, when he broke bread around a table -like the beauty of that. Um, the physical moments of his journey that became a part of the spiritual sojourn he was taking the disciples on. You know, Peter physically getting out of a boat. Talking to the woman by the well – the well was an important part of that object lesson. And so the physicality of that has a beauty. It’s something that I think people are craving, and we need to go on the journey of innovating in the digital space whilst also maybe reimagining the wonder and the beauty of community and calling people into inconvenience, because inconvenience is where depth is; it’s where richness of friendship is, and it’s worth it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, Benjamin, I appreciate this. For folks that are listening in I cannot more heartily endorse this – I really do think you should pick this up. One of the things I appreciate about Benjamin is I think there are people who are um, who are like obsessed with getting people to come back into our boxes, like you got to come back and sit in our boxes and that seems to be that is missing the point. It’s not the point of just get people to sit. It’s not a point to fill up our rooms. Let’s not get back to that, friends, but I appreciate your thoughtful approach around, hey this is what are we trying to do to build deeper community, and how do we you know, do that in in a world that is increasingly digital. How do we blend that well. So I really heartily endorse that, folks – pick up this report. Use it. Hopefully it helps spur lots of conversation. Benjamin, thanks so much. Anywhere else we want to send people online maybe to your own website – where do we where do we want to send them if they want to track with you?

Benjamin Windle — Thank you so much, Rich. Yes, please head over to Benjamin Windle — (W I N D L E) dot com. I have whole whole bunch of resources and various white papers that I hope can be a help to you.

Rich Birch — That’s great. Thanks so much, Benjamin. Take care – thanks for being here today.

Benjamin Windle — Pleasure.

Leave a Response

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.