Leading in the Unchangeable Present with Larry Osborne

Thanks for joining us for the unSeminary podcast. Today we’re talking with Larry Osborne, the Teaching Pastor and Kingdom Ambassador at North Coast Church. North Coast has nine locations in California, one in Ohio, one in Hawaii, and one in both Mexico and Japan.

Churches can be tempted to look back to the old way of doing things and wish we were there. But we’ve been trusted, empowered and equipped to lead in this new, strange time. Listen in as Larry Osborne offers advice to church leaders in this season and how we can lead in the unchangeable present.

  • Know where you are. // Churches need to have a clear understanding of their goals when moving forward, but Larry says they also have to know where they currently are. Right now a lot of churches don’t know where they are. They were on one road prior to COVID and didn’t just move backward – now they are on a completely different road. Our churches may still be heading for the same goal, and have a lot of the same things on the new road toward that goal, but are starting from a different point and we need to accept that.
  • The effect of choice on the world. // We’ve always lived in echo chambers, but they used to be geographical, rather than by choice. In today’s world we have so many choices that it naturally creates these echo chambers. Larry believes that more choices in our culture will increase our inability to communicate because we are choosing the information world we want to live in.
  • Kingdoms, not castles. // The result of more choices means our ministry lanes need to be narrower, but we also have to be more supportive of the lanes right across the street. In other words, we have to be more supportive of churches that are different from us because different churches may be able to reach people that we can’t reach. If we think ‘Kingdom’ instead of ‘Castle’ we will be as excited about the church across the street as we are about our own, rather than viewing them as competition.
  • Connect people in all ways. // A lot of worship leaders and speakers desperately want to get everyone back in the room for church services. They may feel like their church is failing if people aren’t physically in the church. Internet services used to be viewed as only a way to introduce people to a church, but they can be so much more than that. An entrepreneurial leader can transform church online into a community where people truly connect.
  • Focus on relationships. // What we need to focus on in the church is relationships and iron sharpening iron, rather than whether services should be only in person or online. Believing that gathering with a large group of acquaintances is the only way that we can meet according to Hebrews 10:24-25 is a modern idea. Some people can better focus and absorb the teaching in a small group or through an online service that they are able to pause and think about. Others focus better in person with the pastor in front of them.
  • Serve more people with more services. // Larry doesn’t think mega churches will be going away, rather the churches are adjusting their services to serve more people as needed. Rather than build bigger buildings, offer more services across your campuses to reach people in smaller settings.

You can learn more about North Coast Church at www.northcoastchurch.com and reach Larry at www.larryosborne.com.

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: Portable Church Industries

Doing Church in a Rented Facility can be a Challenge.

Questions about Multisiting or Portability?
Click here to connect with our Multisite Specialist for a free evaluation.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in today. We’re in for a real treat today. We’ve got Larry Osborne with us. Larry’s been connected with North Coast Church for a long time. It’s one of the fastest growing churches in the country, if you’re not aware of it. Larry’s been at the front of so many different innovations—North Coast has been as well—video venues, you know, so ah small groups, multisite. Larry was the lead pastor there and then co-senior pastor from 1980 to 2019, if I’m doing my math right. Ah, but he’s currently serves as the teaching pastor and kingdom ambassador, which I love, mentoring pastors and church leaders around the nation. He’s also so authored several books. Larry, welcome to the show – I’m so glad you’re here today.

Larry Osborne — Well thank you. Glad to be with you.

Rich Birch — Larry, fill out the story. What did I miss there if people aren’t, you know, aware of you or the church? What what what do we want to make sure they know?

Larry Osborne — Not a lot. I just tell people we came… a lot of people think I founded North Coast Church. I didn’t. It was a small group of 70 about a year and a half old meeting a high school cafeteria. So much of the church planting thing I went through, borrowed desk on the trash of the big church I’d been a youth pastor at and uh my office was a parishioner’s garage, and we had skateboarders out the window while I’m trying to preach.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Larry Osborne — So I kind of knew that thing, but it’s just it’s been a fun journey. You know like everything and has it’s hard times. But I tell people basically North Coast is a church I always wanted to go to.

Rich Birch — Oh love it.

Larry Osborne — Often when I work with church planters talking about how to plant a church, I go, plant the one you want to go to and see if anybody else wants to go to it.

Rich Birch — Oh so good.

Larry Osborne — Now to my shock quite a few people wanted to go to one just like that. So it’s a youth group for adults.

Rich Birch — Yeah yeah, love it. That’s great. Love it. You know and like I was saying in the intro, you really you know God’s used you in a bunch of I think really strategic ways over your ministry career. And there’s lots of innovations that have ended up impacting hundreds, thousands of churches across the country that that your you particularly were early on in, and so I’m eager to kind of tap your brain today as we kind of come out of covid, or I’m not even sure what this season is as we kind of pivot beyond that, what are you seeing in in churches? As you’re talking with church leaders in this kingdom ambassador role, what are some of those things that you’re, either problems that churches are facing, or advice you find yourself continuing to give…

Larry Osborne — Sure.

Rich Birch — …what are you talking to churches about these days?

Larry Osborne — Well if if you’re going to lead anything you have to have a clear understanding of what you’re headed towards, what your goal is, right? But you also have to know where you are, and I think coming out of covid the problem is that that most churches don’t know where they’re trying to go, but an awful lot of them don’t understand where they are.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Larry Osborne — If I had a whiteboard I would draw kind of a highway if you will that’s heading up towards ah a star in the upper right corner, whatever it would be, and I would put a church three quarters of the way up pre-covid, and that’s a road we’re on and we’re heading in this direction. And now most people think okay, we went backwards for a period of time. Ah, but we’re on the same road. And so I get lots of pastors saying hey, help me figure out how to get back to where we were and then back in the race.

Larry Osborne — I had two kids who ran distance, and on the track side, not cross-country side. If you had your heels clipped or clipped somebody’s heels you would stumble or maybe even fall. You had to get up and run faster than everybody else to get back in the pack and see if you had anything left. And I think that’s the picture that a lot of us have. How do I get back to where I was, and then move on? But the truth is if you can see the word picture of this road with a church where it was and then lost some ground but gaining it back. The reality is we’re not on that road anymore. We’re somewhere over here…

Rich Birch — Oh nice. Wow.

Larry Osborne — …on the far left hand corner, and we’re in a completely different place. Now we’re still heading for the same goal.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And we still have much of the same things we had on the previous road. It’s kind of like the second temple. When the second temple was built, there are a lot of people, the older heads of households, older priests, older Levites, wept and mourned because it wasn’t as big as the first temple, even though in Haggai it says the glory the second is going to be great in the glory first, and by the way you never even saw the first with this, you kind of glory in it. But they’d they’d experienced something bigger, and they thought better. And that’s kind of where we are now.

Larry Osborne — The the second temple still had a Court of the Gentiles, still had a Holy a Holies. It still had, you know, it still had all the same elements. And so in that sense I don’t think church has changed.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — But we’re in a completely different place.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And then the second thing was I really believe that ah the whole internet conversation. And the online realities in the church have been sped up by about 10 years…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Larry Osborne — …and a lot of churches are still confused by that. They’re trying to get people back, rather than from this new place saying, Okay, we’re leading people to Jesus and we’re not done until we’ve taught them to obey everything he taught us. What is the best way to do it? And some of the old things, but there’s a bunch of new things, and just old stuff won’t work anymore.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, let’s dive into that. That’s I think is a really clear word picture – not surprising from you. What what when you think about the kind of road that the fact that it shifted, what would be a couple of those things that you’ve seen, either in North Coast or in churches that you’ve kind of talked with that, are like here’s some new realities we need to be thinking about, we need to be kind of wrestling with? Maybe the internet is one of them. Are there others?

Larry Osborne — Yeah I would say you definitely have to come back to a couple things about the internet…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Larry Osborne — …but there’s been a cultural shift, and it’s caused by echo chambers. We’ve always lived in echo chambers, but they used to be geographic, and now they’re by choice. And so you have people who live in MSNBC and people who live in Fox News…

Rich Birch — That’s so true.

Larry Osborne — …and everything in between. And the only thing they know about the other side is what their source tells them about the other side. And we’re becoming angrier and angrier. And I I believe part of it is there’s this phenomenon of choice. Everybody I talk to hates echo chambers, and what what they’ve done our inability to dialogue. But nobody’s willing to get rid of choice. So I’ll ask 500,000 pastors at a conference, how many of you hate it? Every hand goes up. How many of you are willing to go back to just three network news stations? No hands go up.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Larry Osborne — I mean you’ve gone one AM or or one FM radio station instead of your…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — My phone has eight days of music on it. Whatever mood I’m in, my choice. So I don’t you know, when I look forward, no one can see the future but we can see the unchangeable present. And ah change, I mean choice coming into our culture is going to increase our inability to communicate…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — …because we’re choosing the information world we want to live in. And I’m always telling people, all the angry people over the last few years didn’t suddenly become stupid and immoral on whatever side you’re on, the other side.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Larry Osborne — …I believe going forward we’ve got to understand that just like a missionary understands when they move into a country, hey this is a red flag word. This is a concept. This is you know it’s relational time not chronological time. Whatever it would be the new world in is one in which I think our lanes of ministry have to be more narrow and our support of other lanes right across the street has to be tighter. You know it used to be kingdom ministry started overseas, or more than 40 minutes away…

Rich Birch — Right. Right.

Larry Osborne — …now it’s just right across the street. We literally…

Rich Birch — Yeah unpack…

Larry Osborne — We literally…

Rich Birch — Yeah, unpack that a bit more.

Larry Osborne — Another free church. That’s our tribe…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Larry Osborne — …plant across the street from one of our campuses.

Rich Birch — Wow. Okay.

Larry Osborne — Why? Because they’re not a threat.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Larry Osborne — We’re all reaching very much narrower than we ever did in the past, and the I would love my church to be like heaven.

Larry Osborne — If I’m really reaching lost people, they ain’t going to heaven. They’re in hell.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Larry Osborne — And then I started saying, okay this is what heaven’s like, that they won’t they won’t even listen. So I think that’s one of the things in Romans chapter one, it talks about the downward cycle of a culture that ignores God, which I think many of us feel we’ve done. Most Christians think you ought to read it romans 1:18-32 – read it carefully and you’ll be shocked, because most Christians think the bottom cycle is sexual decadence. It’s not. The final said when he says he gave him over to a depraved mind to do what ought not be done. It’s slander, gossip, no faithfulness, no mercy, knowing these things are wrong, but approving – talk about virtual signaling – those who do them. It’s every single thing is relational destruction in that list, not sexual decadence.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Larry Osborne — And that’s where we are right now and if I gripe about it…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Larry Osborne — …instead of saying, wow Lord you put people behind enemy lines. How exciting is this? We’ll never be able to move forward.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, so how do we as… so I think I think that’s ah, a searing insight I think a very good insight for us to be thinking about – this idea of echo chambers and the idea that we’re living in a, you know, a more maybe more fractured culture than before. One of the the complexities of leading a larger church, at least I found it, as we go beyond 1000, 2000 is you you do have to become broader. It’s like you have to figure out how do you appeal to more people in your community um, and North Coast has done this over the years, you know, you did that with the kind of multiple venue thing that we found different ways to do that. So how does how does that those lessons, those principles apply to where we are today, if if we are living in a kind of an increasingly echoey chambery world. What what does that look like for us going forward do you think?

Larry Osborne — Well if we would think Kingdom instead of Castle, which is excited about the church across the street as we are about ours. We we had a real life experience of this a going and blowing college ministry where that college pastor wanted to start a church but wanted to stay in the area because his daughters were in high school, his kids were in high school.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — He ended up planting a church um about five miles from our house.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — It was a little more charismatic leaning than we were, so we told him, hey Assembly of God give you 75 grand to do it, go with them. We’re still gonna give you the $100K. Ah, well, you just didn’t you just didn’t do that fifteen years ago…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — …because it was almost like a church splinter.

Rich Birch — Competitive thing. Yeah.

Larry Osborne — And it’s not a church plant reaching lost people, it’s it’s just a new church. But in this day and age of all the narrow things, if I think Kingdom, there is no competition of another church. And the irony is, excuse me, at one point he came up to ah and said there’s this church of another tribe in the town that had kind of died and they were looking at him to maybe come and be their pastor. And our first response is, oh man, that’s so close to us – I don’t know. And then when we walked out the room, Chris Brown, myself and one other, we looked at each other said, Lord have mercy on us. Because if he said this dead church wants to be called North Coast Church campus with live preaching instead of video we would high five how much God is blessing us, but because it had another tag…

Rich Birch — Oh gosh. Yes.

Larry Osborne — …we we had a brief hesitancy.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — And so that to me is a real practicalness of like, you know, the the people listening are are leaders in this. It’s like are you helping the new church plant buy chairs? Are you letting them use your building? Are you constantly in touch with a way where you’re not trying to become one thing? Blended services were a great way to make no one happy, and blended churches are a great way to make no one happy.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Larry Osborne — But let’s just celebrate these different little ah lanes we have and support that.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — Starbucks doesn’t care if I quit going to the one I go to and go to another…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — …you know, ah, eighth mile away.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — The branch manager does. They don’t care if I go to Seattle’s Best because they own that too.

Rich Birch — Right, right. Okay, good good great insights there. Let’s get back to the internet conversation. So our, you know, I I like that insight of like, and I think it’s true, you know the internet has, you know, what has happened through covid in a lot of ways is just accelerated trends that are already there for sure, kind of church online. You guys have been doing church online for a long time. We’ve been involved in that for a long time, and it went from like this fringe thing even two years ago, I was surprised at how many people really looked at that suspiciously, to like okay now it’s a part of who we are. As you look up over the horizon, what should we be thinking about or wrestling with on that front?

Larry Osborne — Well what happened in the past is when churches got a little bit larger because of mobility, they start having two services instead of one, people said we can’t do that we won’t be a church. Yeah, we were. Then you had three, then you had a night service, and you had another day. Same complaint.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Larry Osborne — So then you had different places, or you put something on video. Oh we’re not one church. And then afterward you go, oh we absolutely are. Because what makes us one church is our focus on Jesus Christ, it’s the discipleship that happens through the life on life connections that are happening. And the transformations take place through the word of God, the renewing of a mind. And so in this new place we are we’re at we need to start realizing there are other ways that people get the key information that renews their mind than just physically in the room. What I find is worship leaders and speakers desperately want everybody back in the room.

Rich Birch — We want we want big crowds. Right.

Larry Osborne — Yeah. And so like at North Coast one of the things we’ve done is, now we’re in a very blue state and a bunch of different things and some other people, but what we did is we said we’re happy that we can offer a live option, rather than the word ‘come back’.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And that broadened the number of people we could reach because if we said, hey you can come back now, for all those who choose not to come back for whatever reasons, but they’re still involved, there they just been subconsciously called the second class citizen.

Larry Osborne — My friend Nathan Artt of Ministry Solutions does some great stuff on on this. He talks about Home Depot. And I’ve had the privilege of being in a situation with Frank Blake the guy who turned them into the internet focus. And I might be off—’cause it’s off top of my head—a percent or 2, but something like ah I believe they’re the fourth largest online retailer.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Larry Osborne — But only about 5% of their sales come online. They don’t capitalize. People go back and forth. So any of our listeners right now that live near a Home Depot know there’s sometimes I want to go there and see the thing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — Because can’t quite get it. There’s other times I know exactly what I’m getting and I don’t need it right now, so I go online order it and they ship it to me. There’s other times where I know what I’m getting, I go online, I order it, and then I go get it from the locker box that they have. And I’m just interchanging all the way and we used to think of the internet as a funnel to get you to church.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And and it isn’t.

Rich Birch — No.

Larry Osborne — It’s just an alternative way to get the information.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And people will go back and forth and how they’re comfortable. And that changes the way you introduce it, who you have leading it…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — If it’s a funnel to lead you back to the church. You probably have a shepherd as your campus pastor online. If you see it as another opportunity, you have an entrepreneurial leader over that ministry, a person who has industry of building things, not just loving on people because the opportunities are massive.

Rich Birch — Right. Where would…

Larry Osborne — You don’t cannibal…

Rich Birch — Yeah I like that I think that’s a good call. I think we we all have to figure out how this fits in into our overall ministry mix that there are… I think the thing we’ve all seen—I hear this time and again when I talk with church leaders—is we we we know we have people that are connecting with us online, they’re they’re connect they continue to connect with us online. And even if you were in that category of like, oh I really hope all these people will come back um, you realize not all those people are “coming back”. They’re going to connect with us online, and they want to connect with us online, and we don’t want to like turn it off, which is but very terrible idea. But what would you say are maybe some of the limitations, or are there any limitations? Are we just got to work through some of those limitations?

Larry Osborne — Well…

Rich Birch — What where would we kind of say it’s maybe not a full expression?

Larry Osborne — Yeah, we we’ve defined ‘forsake not the gathering yourselves together as the manner of some is’ from Hebrews 10:24-25 as a large group gathering, when it was written to people in house churches.

Larry Osborne — So our idea that you have to be in a larger group where you have acquaintances, not affinity and relationships, is very much we’re like a fish in water – you have fish, house, water. What water? That’s all it knows.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Larry Osborne — So ah, we tend to read the bible in scripture and experiences through our our modern day lens. Ah, but you need iron sharpening iron. But if this idea that everybody needs to be back in a group setting in rows, whether there’s lots of rows or few rows, listening to one person talk up front, I want to go well, you do realize that didn’t happen for a few hundred years of Christianity.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. Right, right.

Larry Osborne — Right?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Larry Osborne — I mean what what we need is relationships; we need iron sharpening iron. So one of my best friends will probably never come back to North Coast Church physically. But what he does he meets with his life group. They watch the sermon together, then they have a brunch, they pray for one another, they love on one another, somebody’s going through a medical… I mean they’re being the church in a house church model.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — But we’re going, oh no, you need the crowd. And yes, some personalities need the crowd. I get more out of the time shifted sermon the weeks I’m not preaching. You know I only preach about 20 times a year and when I’m in live, I’m wondering why that gal’s given that guy a back rub, and why they don’t just get rent a room ah, two rows in front of me. And then I’m noticing the little noise from an air conditioner over here. All of these distractions.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — But when I’m listening online or a podcast, I can pause I can think about it. My wife and I can talk – I get way more content by my personality…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — …by not being in the room, believe it or not.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Larry Osborne — And I think a lot of pastors who are, and and executive pastors and leaders, who are trying to drive everybody back are actually the same way. When they go to a conference, they sit on the back row on an aisle…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — …but they’re upset when their people sit on the back row on an aisle.

Rich Birch — See this is what I like about you, Larry. You have some pretty searing insights that I think are true. You know and I think it was you that said, I’ve requoted or I keep quoting it to you, that it’s only pastors that like big churches, that you know that actually functionally, like the average person that attends it’s a hassle when our churches are packed out. When there’s 2000 people all trying to cram into a room somewhere that we like it because we stand up on the stage and we look at and we think isn’t that cool? Um, but actually if you were to talk to most people in our congregations they wouldn’t necessarily say I prefer that – that there’s a lot of people that would say I would actually like a smaller environment.

Larry Osborne — Yeah, what they’re pursuing is quality. That’s why it gets big. They’re not pursuing big.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Larry Osborne — They want enough energy…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — …the room’s got to be half full and enough energy wherever the room is, whatever its size is to feel like something’s happening here.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Larry Osborne — But but they’re not pursuing big. They’re pursuing quality.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — And because of mobility, it being ubiquitous today…

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Larry Osborne — …ah, people can now chase after the the best or the better instead of the closest…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — …which is for almost all of human history where you had to go.

Rich Birch — Right. Interesting. So in kind of related issue, you know you’ve been at the core of the megachurch movement for as long as it was called the megachurch movement, and there seems to be people out there now, relating to a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about, that are are kind of ringing this death knell for ah that particular kind of form of church. What’s your thoughts on that? Where where is where do you think this is is going long term? Are we are we going to all end up in ah you know a lot of smaller churches? What what do you think that’s going to look like?

Larry Osborne — Well I’ve I’ve heard this before and it’s a both/and. Part of it is dead. The culture has shifted. Big thanks to video venues and or the multi-congregational model. What we’ve done is when people drive more than 20 minutes, two things disappear: come and see evangelism, and youth involvement. Which is why we do our campuses. We’re not trying to grow. We’re we’re actually going where we have feet on the ground of people driving too far, and come and see evangelism is a major way adults come to Jesus Christ. So the really big buildings were before we could had the ability just even financial and quality to use video and some of the stuff we can use now. So had we not come up with that, somebody else would have in the next two to five years. I mean it was just like duh.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — Um but ah in that sense I don’t think people are going to be building 5-, 6-, 7000 seat…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — …buildings anymore.

Rich Birch — No, that’s true.

Larry Osborne — Because that is an event that takes you 30 minutes to get out of, and what people do is they go to an event sporadically. But if you’re talking about megachurches with lots of services and thousands and thousands of people, that’s not going away.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — The first, you know, megachurches were created for the same reason big box stores were created.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — The Automobile. You know when I was a young kid, we had one car. Now every apartment you drive by doesn’t have enough parking because if there’s three people in the apartment, there’s four cars. And that ability now, as I said earlier, we don’t have to go to the close we can go to the best, or in our moment the better or best. So that creates big but once big becomes too much of a hassle, you’re like that restaurant with a long line. And after a while you only go there on a special occasion.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — Ah, but I don’t think big churches are going to be gone. You know for a while there was this millennial millennials don’t like megachurches. No they didn’t like boomers’ megachurches.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — But soon as they had their own, they loved them.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, it’s so true.

Larry Osborne — And that’ll be true with Z, and every group – that we have the ability to make large and the moment it becomes congestive… Like we have a rule at North Coast, you got to get out of the parking lots of any place in 7 minutes.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Larry Osborne — Okay, and if not and that’s why we don’t build bigger and bigger buildings. We had more and more services. Pre-covid time, place and local campuses we had 56 services. Why? Because we could reach a ton of people in a lot of smaller settings that didn’t tell them…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — …this is too much of a hassle to check your kid in or whatever.

Rich Birch — Yeah and that parking thing that is that’s so true. Like over the years I’ve we’ve written on parking on our blog and talked about it and and it is one of those like unseen things that, and typically because lots of church leaders are in the building when there’s when there’s hassle out in the parking lot and they don’t see it, and they don’t realize what pain that is. And so we’ve got to lean in on that issue. It seems like a funny practical thing, and I’ve said that to church leaders over the years how long to take people to get out of the parking lot and they look at me like I don’t know what you’re talking about like you know, but it’s a it’s a huge issue.

Larry Osborne — Yeah, here’s what happens when anything gets large, you get sucked to the middle.

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne — You want an illustration of it think of a high school Principal of a really large high school. He or she will only know the worst kids and the best kids and have no idea what a regular student’s like.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — So you have to fight to the fringe. So one of the things I’ve done over all the years I continue to do at North Coast is I like to arrive 4 minutes before the service starts, every now and then when I’m not preaching to see if I can jet out of there like right at… because because that’s the only way I can know.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Larry Osborne — I wonder how many pastors walk around and see of a larger church and actually take a look at at at the line people trying to check their kids in.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s so true.

Larry Osborne — And we’re here early, leave late, so we think it’s all great, and then we have no idea what people are experiencing. You got to fight to the fringe.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good. That’s very good. Larry, if you were, you know, you’ve been like I say I’ve been a part of so many innovations over the years. How do you personally stay fresh and personally stay engaged with you know where culture is going? What does that look like for you like you you? You seem to be always have these effervescent kind of just ideas bubbling from that are you know, just from the world around us. How do you stay fresh personally?

Larry Osborne — Well I think part of it’s a natural giftedness. I get asked that all the time. But even as a young kid I could mentally model outcomes, and say if we do this this is going to happen just quickly. Like some people on a chessboard can see a few moves ahead, if I do this or if we do this, or whatever, which by the way I can’t.

Larry Osborne – So but I’ve always noticed that about organizations and cultures. Not so much about an individual…

Rich Birch — Right.

Larry Osborne – …but ah organization. Ah, and I don’t think anybody can see the future. I’m not a big fan of the books that tell us where we’re heading because when you read the old books by the people they’re all wrong…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — …but I’m a big fan of the unchangeable future.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Larry Osborne — So I’m always looking around like like what we tend to do is we straight line today and say this is where we’re headed. Well if that’s true, I’d still have a ponytail and be living out of a VW van. You know?

Rich Birch — Right. Yes.

Larry Osborne — It’s like no suddenly boomers got jobs, and millennials got jobs. You have kids and it’s like we don’t stay the same. Life changes. As life changes culture. But when Peter Drucker forty years ago said Europe is going to have a massive social problem of all their pensions and social safety net and immigration problem, he wasn’t seeing the future. He was seeing the unchangeable present. Zero birth rates. If we have zero birth rates today, we won’t have enough workers to feed the pension 20, 30, 40 years from now.

Rich Birch — Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Larry Osborne — And so that’s what I’m looking for. That’s why I said echo chambers. I think I can be spot on. Time’s shifting. No one’s willing to go back.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Larry Osborne — Having to turn on the TV game right when it starts that there are certain things you realize are unchangeable future. Building bigger and bigger buildings – what’s what that’s what video venues came out of is we’ve got to find a way to make it small, and nowadays we have incredible sound systems projectors and cameras. And here’s the other unchangeable, when I was in a big room after the seventh row they were watching the screen anyway.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Larry Osborne — So everybody was watching a video venue anyway. Anybody’s spoken there knows like, look at me look at me and they’re all looking at the side.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes, everyone’s eyes are off to the side. Yeah, absolutely.

Larry Osborne — Yeah, unchangeable future.

Rich Birch — Yeah, for sure and you know and I’ve seen that from you over the years, even that today you know the conversation, you know, could have been like convenience and choice. Those are consistent cultural that is just baked in seems to be baked into the culture that and we look to the future people are going to be asking more questions around how do I have more choice and how do I how can I access those things in a more convenient way? Um, those are that has been true for 50 years, 50+ years, 100 years, 1000 years will continue to be true. It’s like it’s like Jeff Bezos for years has been talking about you know, hey we know that 10 years from now at Amazon people are going to want product products faster and cheaper, like that’s just true, right? Like and so how do we build over an extended period of time towards being faster and cheaper, which they have. They’ve marched in that direction and made a huge difference. Well I really appreciate this, Larry. As we wrap up today’s episode anything else you’d like to share before we we close it down?

Larry Osborne — Well just remind everybody what an incredible privilege it is to be doing ministry in some of these strange and unique times. You know I’m over here by the Marine Corps base and the the Navy down in San Diego, and it’s the greatest honor ever to be a Navy Seal. And they put you behind the lines in those kind of situations only when they think you can handle it. And and we should in no way, be looking back at the old days and wish we were there. We’ve we’ve been trusted and empowered and given all we need to do what we need in this new, strange situation. And so we should wake up every day going, wow. How can I charge that hill?

Rich Birch — Love it. Well, Larry, I appreciate you being here today. I appreciate your investment in us. Um, if where do we want to send people online if they want to track with you or if they want to track with the church, where do we want to send them?

Larry Osborne — Northcoastchurch.com has our stuff and our sermons and all that. And there’s ah, a site called Larry Osborne live which sometimes is pretty dead; I don’t do a lot of social media. But it’s got things in my books and stuff like that kind of connected to it. But…

Rich Birch — Great.

Larry Osborne — And then there’s a North Coast Training Network which is a part of Northcoastchurch.com so that’s off … see all the stuff we’re doing.

Rich Birch — Great. We’ll link to all those things. Again, Larry, appreciate you being here today; appreciate your leadership over the years. Thank you so much.

Larry Osborne — Thank you.

1 Comment

  1. I always love to hear what Larry Osborne is thinking. He truly is one of the unique thought leaders out there. I love how he thinks and the love for Jesus he has that drives those ideas into ministry impact. Just a side note. It is difficult to listen to because there is so much affirmation, sounds, etc. that interrupt the thinking on my part. It shows up too in the written podcast. I don’t want to hurt anyone but let the guy talk without comment.

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.