Reflecting Back 5+ Years After a Sr. Leader Transition with Executive Pastor Kevin Cook

Thanks for tuning in for this week’s unSeminary podcast. We’re chatting with Kevin Cook, executive pastor at Cross Point Church in the greater Nashville, Tennessee, area. They have six locations in middle Tennessee plus online services.

God has entrusted those of us who are executive pastors with a significant leadership. While He may be preparing you for what’s coming next, it’s critical that we be present and pay attention to what God’s saying to us in the now. Listen in as Kevin shares how God prepared Cross Point Church for an unexpected senior leader transition and kept them from missing what He was doing.

  • What is He saying to you today? // Sometimes it’s difficult to see what God is doing in our lives, and we become restless, wanting to move ahead to something different. When Kevin joined the lead team at Cross Point as the Executive Pastor of Stewardship Operations, he struggled to see how his wiring connected with some of his responsibilities and wondered if he belonged elsewhere. After an especially draining season, Kevin learned that his relationship with God is more about being present with Him in the moment, following His promptings today, and being willing to say yes.
  • Focus on the now. // God is often preparing us for things we could have never imagined. When we are so focused on the next we can miss what God is calling us to do in the now. We get our to do list and try to take control, figuring things out on our own. Rather than focusing on the next thing you have to do, look for what it is He has for you here and now.
  • Say yes to God. // Kevin said yes to God and chose to stay at Cross Point, paying attention to what God was doing. Two months later there was an unexpected lead pastor transition. Cross Point approached Kevin about moving from Executive Pastor of Stewardship Operations to becoming the head Executive Pastor, leading the church through the transition. Kevin knew there was no way he could approach this transition on his own so he turned himself fully to God for guidance. God led him to pray for wisdom, discernment, clarity, unity, and peace. Peace sometimes doesn’t come until after the decision is made, but God will lead you to that peace in His time.
  • Don’t lead on your own. // Kevin didn’t dive into leading the church on his own. He started a small interim leadership team and with their help would follow where God was leading the church. What God has called us to do is more important than us as individuals. We need others to help us and we need to allow God to lead through us, but we also need to hold on loosely to what we’ve been given.
  • God will work in His time. // During the search for a new lead pastor the interim lead team kept the church up-to-date on the status of interviews and candidates. Six months into the lead pastor search Cross Point had said no to 10 candidates, but they knew the right person was out there and they had to wait for God to reveal who it was. God’s calendar is not our calendar and He will send the right candidate when it’s time.
  • Be there for the lead pastor. // There’s a huge amount of pressure on lead pastors, especially in larger churches, and it’s so important for the executive pastor to be a support to the lead pastor. Help hold the lead pastor up by praying for him. Be willing to charge the hill with him, be there for him, develop that relationship of trust, and help alleviate pressure in his work.

You can learn more about Cross Point Church at, and the message that impacted Kevin, Don’t Stop at Six by Steven Furtick.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: Chemistry Staffing

One of the things that they never teach you in seminary is when to move on from your current church. Over the last couple of years, we have been having a TON of conversations about this with pastors all over the United States. Of all the ministry decisions you make, leaving your position will be the toughest.

Download this two-in-one resource that walks you through the decision-making process.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, friend,s welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in and today. You’re going to be really blessed. We’ve got a fantastic conversation lined up with my friend new friend Kevin Cook from Cross Point Church in the greater Nashville area. This is one of the fastest growing churches in the country. They have, if I’m counting right, 6 locations in middle Tennessee plus an online campus, but do all kinds of amazing things. This is a great church that’s been around for a long time and Kevin is the executive pastor. You know we love executive pastors here at unSeminary. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Kevin Cook — Hey man, grateful to be here, honored to be here. I love I love your podcast.

Rich Birch — Oh thanks.

Kevin Cook — I don’t I didn’t go to seminary.

Rich Birch — Nice.

Kevin Cook — So when you talk about things you weren’t talking seminary I wasn’t even there.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Kevin Cook — I catch I get a lot of good tips from from your podcast, man. It’s great. So thanks for doing what you do.

Rich Birch — I appreciate that. I really appreciate that. You know my um actually my parents lived in Nashville for a while, and just for about eighteen months. And so Tennessee teacakes was the part I took away from that – these little treats. I don’t know if that’s like a thing but like a couple times I was there we had these really cool things to eat which I just thought was amazing. So ah, great part of the world to ah be from. Why don’t you fill out the picture. What did I miss about Cross Point? Kind of tell us more of the story; fill out the picture for us.

Kevin Cook — Okay, okay, Cross Point this year we’re—actually September—will celebrate 20 years…

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Kevin Cook — …so and it’s it’s crazy that it’s got here that fast. I’ve ah I began attending in 2007 myself um and at the time I was working in public accounting. I’d gone back and got my accounting degree, CPA degree working at a public accounting firm, and was approached to that we were gonna so launch our so I guess our second multisite campus, would have been our third campus – they approached me about being a campus pastor. I was I was 5 years into public accounting career. Um loving it. I grew up in my dad’s a pastor and I was like my dad was a pastor of Independent Baptist Church, didn’t make much money growing up. I’m like, that’s not for me. I don’t want any part in ministry. I want to have a job and make more money, and take care of my family, and I’ll serve. But all that changed. Ah 2008 our pastor and executive director approached me about coming on staff as a campus pastor. And really took me out of my comfort zone, but I said yes and day after tax season in 2009, I signed an offer to go work for Cross Point.

Rich Birch — Spoken like a true accountant. Spoken like a true accountant. Tax season’s done. Okay, now I can move on to life.

Kevin Cook — Ah, yeah, yeah, yeah, so in in may of 2009 I came on.

Rich Birch — Love it. I love it.

Kevin Cook — Um as a campus pastor and and was in that role for almost two years and they put together their first executive team. And and they asked me to pray about being Executive Pastor of Stewardship and Operations and so. Honest, it took a couple months to make that decision cause I felt like I was kind of coming back into my comfort zone, whereas as a campus pastor was out of my comfort zone. But I ended up doing doing that joined that executive team in 2011, and served in that row as Executive Pastor Stewardship Operations until September ’16 and transitioned just executive pastor at the point of a lead pastor transition. So yeah, that’s kind of my story and how I got to Cross Point a little bit.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Kevin Cook — And I’ve got ah my wife and 5 kids…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — …and we’ve been at cross point 14-15 years now and love it. So.

Rich Birch — That’s amazing. That’s so good – 5 kids that’s… I’ve got 2 and that keeps me you know I have no hair left after having 2. I you know, respect you with 5. That’s that’s incredible. Well we want to talk about that ah transition you know 2016. You know I think so many of us that are leading in this this role of executive pastor, we may find ourselves leading when our senior leader our senior pastor transitions – that might be planned or it might be unexpected. I’d love to dive in and kind of reflect back all these years later. First of all, it’s kudos to you, you’re still there, chugging along you know, being a part of the community. That’s a great thing. Don’t want to roll over that. But I would love to kind of pull that apart. Help us understand now looking back on that transition, what have you learned? How have you grown? Ah take us back to that. Let’s let’s let’s think about what, you know what that experience was like for you.

Kevin Cook — Okay, if you don’t mind, Rich, I think I want to rewind the tape maybe a couple more years…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Kevin Cook — …now that I’ve that I really look back and understand what the Lord was doing in my life. Um, back in you know, probably 2014 so just divulged just a few minutes that we’ll get back to that point.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook —But I think this is important for for maybe people to to understand and maybe even learn it. Maybe some of it will apply to their own life. But so I grew up… nothing against baptist. My dad was an independent baptist pastor then in a real conservative Southern Baptist Church all my life. Um I got saved at an early age of five years old, and and I don’t doubt any of that. I totally understood what I was doing on that day. But most of um, my life my relationship with Jesus was really about do’s and don’ts. It was, you know, don’t do this and don’t do that and read your bible and pray. And and you’d read your bible every day, and go to church 3 times a week. And and so it was really about dos and don’ts, and really what I found is that led to more guilt and shame because I’m human and most of the time I felt like I was failing in my relationship with him than succeeding.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — My wife didn’t grow up in a christian home and she came to the Lord at age 19. So her journey with Jesus has been different than mine, and and I actually learned a lot from her. And so it wasn’t really until 7, 8 years ago maybe I don’t know 8 or 9 years ago I just like I really began to understand what um ah a meaningful or ah, kind of real relationship with the Lord with Jesus was. And I’m not talking salvation, just like everyday life. And and what what I begin to learn is that it wasn’t as much about what I did, what I didn’t do, but just being sensitive to his presence in my life moment of a moment, hour by hour, day by day. Um, and then I learned that he’s just always wanting to like communicate with us. It’s like that’s what prayer is – just a constant communication. Um, someone had given me this prayer along the way, hey what do you want me to say, Jesus? What do you want me to say? What do want me to do? What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? Um, yeah, that’s applicable to about any situation you’re in. And and as I began to learn that I just noticed there was, I won’t say audible, but I began to understand the voice of him. I begin to understand his prompts. And as I begin to say yes to those prompts.

Rich Birch — Mmm-hmm.

Kevin Cook — Um, it sometimes we we get a glimpse of why he wanted us to do it. Sometimes we won’t know do we get to heaven. Um, but um, there’s a couple key moments in my life as it applies to my role and you can ask Jenni Catron. I know you know her – she’s she was our executive director…

Rich Birch — Yes, good friend.

Kevin Cook — And for 3 years I served under her leadership on this lead team, and I was always like, Jenni, ah can I just remove my… can you remove me from the leadership team? I’m a CPA. Let me be let me oversee the finances and operations. I don’t need to be in this room.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — I don’t have the creative mind. I don’t think like you guys do. I I just give me my spreadsheets, and balance sheet, and P and L, and we’ll be good. And she was like, no Kevin, no no I’m not ready to do that. I think you need to be here and you bring more value than you realize. And it wasn’t until we had an offsite like in ’15, late ’15 early ’16 that someone came and walked us through, I think it’s the Paterson Group Thinking Wavelength. Um and and there was like 6 questions that this man asked us and we all had to rate ourself.

Kevin Cook — And then he plotted it on the board. And at the time there was 4 of us on the lead team counting our lead pastor like in 2016. And it was like 7.2, 6.7, 6.8, and here I was at 2.3 that was my average plotted on that board.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — And that man who I’d never met before in my life turned around to me and he said, I bet you there are multiple times you want off this team.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — And I was like, yes sir.

Rich Birch — Yes, sir. That gets your attention.

Kevin Cook — He goes look at that board, look at that board. This is why you’re here. Because if you weren’t here, nothing against them, but they would be off the rails. And you’re the one that’s, yes, you’re less of a risk taker. You slow down the process, you pump the brakes, but you’re needed. Jenni wasn’t here at that time. I called her after that meeting. I said, I’m sorry – I had a light bulb moment…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — …and I and I’m want to embrace it and help me. Podcast? Books? What can I do to to learn and embrace that I need to be here? So that happened in I don’t know early ’16 I think.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — And then um, there was a moment in July of 2016 and I knew things weren’t right at Cross Point. I couldn’t pinpoint it. It was just been a tough several months. Honestly I was probably really close to burnout myself. Um, just needing a break. Um, and so I we took a ten or eleven day vacation to Florida. And um I was about day nine I’m sitting on the beach, and I just told my wife I said hey I’ve just got this prompting from the Lord I need to go back to the house and just spend some time with him. I’d been in the routine of get up, go to the beach, have a walk from my wife, eat lunch, go to pool, go to the beach. I mean we just beach bums. Nothing wrong with that, but my routine had been all about me and for 8 or nine days. She goes, that’s fine. So I go back and I get out my journal. I keep it with me to this day. It says July 6, 2016 and I just begin praying, I begin journaling, I write in that journal, Lord I don’t know what’s going on. Will you release me? Can I leave? Um my wife and I have always had a plan to like live in Florida someday. Like is there a church in Florida could use my gifts? I even stopped and went to and Vanderbloemen and someone else – is their executive pastor roles in Florida? Um, and just like I don’t… do I have a place of influence? What decisions are being made with me being out of town? All this lot of selfishness.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Kevin Cook — But just what this is where I was.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — And I felt like the Lord said, you I’ve got a… you need to listen to message. I’ve got a message for you. Open up Youtube. Right hand column’s got all these messages and the top message was a message from Steven Furtick.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Kevin Cook — And the title the the title of the message was “Don’t Stop at Six”. Let me give you backstory to that. Um, and this is just this is on me, nothing on Steven. I’ve written him a letter and apologize. I’d love to see him someday, and tell him. I went to a conference in 2010 after I first got on Cross Point, and he spoke and I wrote him off. I’m like he seems too arrogant.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Kevin Cook — Um, that’s on me, not him, but I wrote him off.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — I didn’t listen to anything. I didn’t listen to sermon, I didn’t read a book, until may of 2016 two months before this experience at the beach. I went to a conference at NewSpring.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kevin Cook — You probably know Stephen Brewster – he was on the team.

Rich Birch — Yep. yeah yep.

Kevin Cook — One of my best friends, still is to this day. Um, he’s like, hey Kevin, let’s go to this conference. And he said it’s a one day, we’ll drive over, spend the night, come back the next day. And I said okay, who’s what’s the lineup?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — I looked at the lineup and I literally said, I’ll go with you and I’ll tolerate Furtick.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Kevin Cook — So six years, six years I’ve been holding this.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yep.

Kevin Cook — Again my fault me being judgmental. We go to the conference, we have lunch, christian chicken, chick-fil-a chicken. We get our food. We get our food. We go to the far end…

Rich Birch — Oh yeah, no good christian conference without Chick-fil-a. It’s got to have chick-fil-a.

Kevin Cook — …That’s right, that’s right. We go to the far end of that mezzanine. It’s just huge glass window like looking out over the property at NewsSpring. We just happen to be right where the speakers are going to come out of the auditorium area upstairs, walk across the offices, and have their own lunch. So some of the some of the speakers begin coming out. And honestly it was a few speakers that I thought, hey they may wave or say hi or something like that.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — because we were only like maybe 2 of 8 people that were down at that end.

Rich Birch — Right. Okay.

Kevin Cook — Then Stephen Furtick walked out and I remember going, oh great. Well, he’s going to go straight from point a to point b. He ain’t talking to nobody. Again on me.

Rich Birch — Yep. Yep.

Kevin Cook — Well in the floor there, there’s about 6 people sitting there and they’re like, hey Pastor Steven, have you got lunch? What do you need? You know and it’s his team that’s with him. He talks in for a second he walks to to the door, but then he veers off to the right, he comes right over to me, puts his hand on my shoulder.

Rich Birch — Huh.

Kevin Cook — He says, how you doing man? You enjoying the conference? Glad you’re here. We had taken one of the buns and thrown it away, so we were eating chicken with one bun and he’s like he noticed that he goes, I guess you guys are trying to eat healthy, aren’t you? You only eat with one bun. And and it was it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

Kevin Cook — He’s like, I hope you enjoy the rest of the day and he walked off and went went his way and I just sat there. And I told Stephen I said that was for me.

Rich Birch — Right? right? right.

Kevin Cook — That was a God-wink to me. He is a human being. He’s just like me.

Rich Birch — Ah, yes, yes, yes.

Kevin Cook — I’ve been wrong for 6 years, writing him off.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — It’s all on me. He spoke that afternoon, I took 4 pages and notes, it was incredible.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — Let’s go back to July sixth.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kevin Cook — If that moment doesn’t happen, July 6th I probably wouldn’t listen to that message. I click on that message.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kevin Cook — I listen to the whole thing and basically the message is about the children of Israel. They’re walking around the city of Jericho once a day for six days they have no idea why they’re doing it. They’re doing it because Joshua said so. Joshua doesn’t even know exactly what’s going to happen. They go seventh day, 7 times around, and during the message he was like, too many people stop on lap 6. You get tired, you lose perspective, how long Lord? And when you stop on lap 6 you missed the miracle of lap 7.

Rich Birch — So good.

Kevin Cook — And I wrote I wrote in my journal and I said Lord, I want to go back. I don’t know what lap 7 is…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — I’m going back. Give me back my passion. I’m not leaving; that was for me, and I’ll go back and serve you and walk another lap.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — Two months later September 11th lead pastor unexpected transition that evening. The elders say no longer are you the executive pastor of stewardship operations. We want you to be the executive pastor.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — We know you’re not a communicator. We know you’ve never preached on stage. We can all figure that out, but we want to follow you and you lead us to the next.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — And I walked out that building not that night there’s a huge sign that says out in the front…

Rich Birch — Yes, yep, yep.

Kevin Cook — …it’s huge and I look up at that and I honestly I said, what the hell? What what? I literally said what the hell? What has happened?

Rich Birch — Wow. Dude, that’s a killer story man.

Kevin Cook — And then are then I remembered. I remembered and I said Lord is this lap 7?

Rich Birch — Wow! Ah dude so good.

Kevin Cook — So all that to say, it was me learning to that my relationship is more about being present with him in the moments of my life.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — And following his promptings and being willing to say yes, whatever he says. Um I look back now and it was all along the way. Um that he was preparing me for something…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Kevin Cook — …that I had no idea was gonna happen. I was beginning to focus on the next…

Rich Birch — Love it. Yes. Yes.

Kevin Cook — …like can I go somewhere else?

Rich Birch — Yep, yep, yep.

Kevin Cook — And I took my I took my focus off the now.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Kevin Cook — And I think there’s sometimes in the now where he’s preparing us for the next that we don’t even know about.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — And so anyway I know I talked a lot there, but…

Rich Birch — I love that. I let’s not jump onto that yet because there’s something I want to highlight for people. Friends, the thing. So I love this. I think you’re opening us to a really important reality which is I think sometimes in our roles as Executive Pastors, we can just spend a lot of time thinking about nickels and noses and spreadsheets, and we miss the story that God’s writing around us, right? We or we could miss the story…

Kevin Cook — Yes, yes.

Rich Birch — …that God’s writing around us. And I I love how you you know, went through that. How hey you know been for years. We’re kind of wrestling on these questions. Hey, God What do you want me to say? What do you want me to do? And like you were open to hey, like well what what’s his you know, what promptings, where what? What is he saying to me? What is… And sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Or I’m not sure how that works. And then but then that was all a clear pattern in hindsight. You don’t see it going forward. You only see it in hindsight, right? And then this whole thing with Furtick. I have a very similar story with ah a leader that, well tell you some other time because it’s not about me. But same kind of thing where I wrote off this leader, and then I I met them. And I was like, I’m such an idiot, God. That’s like ech… so your story very much echoes where I’ve seen him do the same kind of thing in my life. I love that. I think the word of encouragement I want to give leaders who are listening in today is, man God’s trusted us as executive pastors with a significant leadership. And and he may be preparing you for for what comes next, but man we need to be so present in the now. What is he saying to you today? So critical. Encourage us around not looking up over the horizon. Encourage us you know to continue with lap 7. We’ll we’ll stick with ah with Furtick’s Don’t, you know, don’t stop at 6. Ah yeah, help us think that through a little bit.

Kevin Cook — Yeah I think our tendency um you know, a lot of executive if we’re talking to mainly executive pastors here, a lot of times our role is behind the scenes, you know. And and very little front scenes, people don’t know who you are, and and and that’s okay. And and I think sometimes because we’re not the communicator. Um, it may be easy for us to just feel like that that that lead pastor has a relationship with the Lord that I’ll probably never be able to have or attain. Um and I just don’t believe that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — It’s for it’s for every it’s for the attendee, it’s for everybody. And I do think that too many there’s a lot of times is is we can we can begin looking at the next project. Um the next assignment. Maybe that’s maybe that’s in the church. Maybe it’s you know, there’s so many people these days moving outside the church, and going out into the market, or going moving on to another church. And and sometimes that’s that’s supposed to happen I think sometimes we can begin focusing so much on the next that we lose we just kind of lose focus of what’s happening in the moment. And I really think like going back to my story, if I would have taken that journey on down the road and gone on to a church in Florida, Cross Point would have been fine. Cross Point, God, it’s God’s church. It’s not my church.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Kevin Cook — It’s not any lead pastor’s church, but I would have missed everything that he’s done in me in the last six, seven years because of everything that he’s allowed us to go through. Um and if I’d been so focused on the next I want to missed that little message of, hey you need to hear this, or I’ve got this for you. Which all he was doing in the moment was preparing me now in the present for something in the next that I had no idea. And I think sometimes we can just kind of look to the next…

Rich Birch — Mmm, that’s so good.

Kevin Cook — …and we just and and it’s our own plans. I mean even the Jesus Calling for today was like, hey listen, listen to me continually. Like I’ve got plans for you now. And I think too many times, and maybe it’s part of an executive pastor, we get to our to do list. We we get we take things in our own control and try to figure things out on our own. And sometimes it comes out okay, but maybe it’s not really what it could have been. Because we just get focusing on that next thing that we need to do.

Rich Birch — Yeah, what’s coming next? Yeah yeah, yeah.

Kevin Cook — And I like to tell people just say, just just linger in his presence a little while, just linger in it.

Rich Birch — Love it. Love it.

Kevin Cook — You know so.

Rich Birch — So good. Well I I well first of all I hope as you’re listening in today, friends, there maybe some folks that maybe you are spent a little too much time on Vanderbloemen, or whoever, Chemistry Staffing, on there looking somewhere else and maybe the encouragement for you today is to: hey, Lord what is it you have for me here now in this you know in this time? You know I think that’s a good that’s a really good takeaway for sure. Let’s jump all the way kind of you know, looking back now from the vantage point. Here we are six, seven years later um you know, looking back on all of that transition when you looking back kind of reading into the history, what were some of the things that God used? I was saying to you this you before we began recording – I think there can be times when there is a transition, whether it’s planned or unplanned, where there’s maybe this unspoken question out there which is: what’s going to happen beyond that senior leader? Is it going to thrive or not thrive? And, man, Cross Point has, you guys have just continued to thrive, do great things in your community, reach people, see people take steps for for Jesus – just amazing. It’s so good. When you look back on it, what were some of those things that he did in your leadership in your, you know, broader team’s leadership that really positioned you to continue on to continue to thrive even you know all these years later?

Kevin Cook — Yeah I think—and I and I was as guilty as anyone then—I I think there was a season where things were going so well Cross Point was growing, you know to that point 2015 I think or was our best year ever. You know we were 12-13 years old at that time, thirteen years old. And I think we began relying too much on our own strength and our own ability. And um and and and we just we we just swung the pendulum too far that way. Um, so I think I remember the Monday morning after September 11 and and that night when the elders had, you know, said that to me about, would love for you to be just become the exec to pastor and lead us. I have a ah closet at my house that was actually my office (I call it the cloth-ice) and I’m laying um I was laying in the floor just crying out to the Lord.

Rich Birch — Wow wow.

Kevin Cook — Because I know there’s no I know there’s no way I could even approach this on my own. And he gave me a prayer that morning. Um, 5 words. I ended up having chalk art done on my office wall and put it on the office wall. But the 5 words that I that I that I prayed for and I shared with our team and just shared with staff and whoever is he gave me like, Lord give me wisdom, discernment, clarity, unity, and peace. Now I knew peace. Sometimes comes after a decision of whatever decisions we’re making; sometimes peace doesn’t come before. It’s nice to have a lot of it before you make a decision, but that that was just really power for me like man I just you know James 1:5 says if you like wisdom ask of him; He’ll give it to you abundantly.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yep.

Kevin Cook — That’s what Solomon asked for and he gave Solomon abundant wisdom, plus a lot of other things. And so ah, just prayer became just a vital part ah more so in an organization during that time than than but than before. And again I was on the leadership team…

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Kevin Cook — …I own that okay I own that. I’m not blaming anybody. Um and we we kind of focused on some soul care for our staff. I think we were kind of encouraging our staff to lead themselves with spiritual leadership. We would tend to focus more on organizational leadership. So during that time we but we know we think Ortberg had written a a book soul care Soulkeeper, and we know we went through that early part in that transition. Um, and then but then in a matter of few weeks, of the four on that lead team, I was the only one left.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — I knew of a knew of some of the transitions that were already in the works, going to happen, so it wasn’t just because lead pastor resigned. And I just I told the elders at night I said, guys I I can’t lead this on my own; I’ve got to build a team around I lead better through a team. And so there were 5 people on the team – 4 guys and a lady that just kind of brought around the table and said guys, this I consider myself interim executive pastor, and I want you guys to consider your I want I want I’m inviting you around the table as an interim leadership team. We just can’t grab the table tightly; we gotta hold it loosely. And I think ah the elders have asked me to lead; I’m asking you to come around me. I don’t know if this transition is gonna be three months or year or whatever, but let’s let’s let’s just allow God to use us to lead, but let’s hold the table loosely because I kind of compared it like…

Rich Birch — That’s good. That’s a good insight. That’s a very good insight there. Yeah, that’s good. I love that.

Kevin Cook — …I I saw myself like hey a head coach could come in and then decide a new offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator. And so I knew I was there for this time in in that if it wasn’t long term, then God had a plan for me. But I knew where I was supposed to be in the moment and so I just asked those you know people to come around the table. Four of them are still here.

Rich Birch — Right. Yeah.

Kevin Cook — Four four them are still here. One’s going into kind of sim…

Rich Birch — And you’re still here. Yeah.

Kevin Cook — Yes, yes, yes, um, so you know I we… prayer. Um, we had unified as a team. The other thing that I did as I said elders, because I used to lead the board of trustees kind of the the team that helped us oversee the finance and legal and facilities and expansion all that and, then our elders were our spiritual leaders and held the pastor accountable and you know that where theology was lining up, mission of the church, and scripture. And so now I’m leading both and in this interim so I just said the other thing is I would love a trustee to be at an elder meeting if we have an elder meeting. If we have a trustee meetings have an elder there, that way where the communication is unified. I’ll drop the ball. I’ll drop the ball if it’s just on me to keep everybody you know on the same page. Um, so I just say team chemistry and unity and God having and one of the two of the guys around the table that stepped into those roles were former pastors that had come to Cross Point – been there less than a year. And so God knew that we needed some of that pastoral care…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Kevin Cook — …and leadership to to guide our church during that season. And so prayer became a focal… leading leading as a team together and just like hey, we’re gonna do our best, but if we’re gonna lean on Him. And our goal was just not to mess it up.

Rich Birch — Yeah, don’t drop the ball.

Kevin Cook — So we we just worked real close worked real close together and and true really tried to keep communication clear with each other with staff and with the church.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love… yeah I love that. There’s so much there. You’ve just unloaded. You know the increased focus on prayer this whole idea around soul care, team chemistry. I love that idea of not holding the table tightly. I think that’s critical at all times. I was literally just saying that to a friend this week around, hey like we all need to position ourselves. I think think the the Lord wants us to position ourselves that like somebody else better could come along, and we’re happy to hand it over to them because the mission’s more important than our piece.

Kevin Cook — Right.

Rich Birch — You know what what we’re what God’s called our church to do is bigger than us as individuals. Love that. And then the communication channels thing. Were there other ways that you kind of kept the tried to increase the communication during that season, or or maybe even continued has that continued over these years?

Kevin Cook — Well we you know we we try to stay in communication. We I think we would send out to initially it was like weekly. You know some some form of an email. You know we have a a countdown like before the service and so one thing that. Most the time it was me for several weeks where I was a part of the countdown, and just kind of give it an update you know, like if we had interviewed some candidates. That that thing got really drawn out. We were six months in and we had said no to 10 guys.

Rich Birch — Wow. Oh my goodness.

Kevin Cook — Um that that the search firm had a wave of 6, and then a wave of 4. And we just we just knew that they were great candidates, but it just wasn’t our guy. And so we we continued to to update the church weekly or biweekly then six months in we had we had a Sunday and we just called it kind of the state of the church, and it was called Uncharted.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kevin Cook — And 1 of our guys on the team, Chris Nichols, gave a message you know and it was called Uncharted. and I gave about a 8 to 10 minute—that’s the only time I was really ever on stage—just kind of giving ah just kind of giving an update. And and I’ll tell you we we do run through on Thursday and they wanted to record what I said on Thursday, and that way if if power went out then the campuses would have that. And I mean, dude, it was horrible. I botched it. I didn’t even have really what I wanted to say. I finally say guys just quit recording.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Kevin Cook — After it’s over with our creative director and one of our lead communicators came into office and I said hey guys I’m sorry I know that was awful. And they said, yeah it was.

Rich Birch — As only friends can.

Kevin Cook — Um and but it wasn’t it wasn’t it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I felt like God gave me, I woke up early and he gave me what I needed to share.

Rich Birch — Interesting.

Kevin Cook — And basically it basically it was back to when Samuel came to anoint David the king, actually didn’t know who’s going anoint but he came to Jesse. One by one all the brothers came in and the one or two that you thought would be the king, no. And he’s like do you have anyone else? Yeah I’ve got one in the field, and they bring him in. And so I just shared that with the people we’re not looking for a king but we’re looking for our next pastor.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — and what I’ve learned is our calendar and timeline is not his calendar.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — And all of that I know is we’ve interviewed and met with 10 great guys, some in person, some Zoom. And our pastor just has to still be in the field. and God’s grooming him and I’m trusting he’s gonna send us send us our pastor in his time…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Kevin Cook — Within ten days we had our best 3 candidates.

Rich Birch — Wow!

Kevin Cook — It was crazy and and one of those was Kevin Queen, and that’s a story in itself, how he got here – just a whole God thing. Um, so yeah, we we did our best ah you know, update ‘er and we had that moment you know six months in.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Kevin Cook — And so it it was hard but you had to be intentional or else they’re gonna fill in the gap.

Rich Birch — Right? yeah.

Kevin Cook — You know your your your church attendees is gonna fill in the gap if you’re not giving them some updates, and they’ll fill in the gap and usually that’s not what you want. So.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love that. I love that. Well kind of keeping with the the spirit of the conversation, where are things today with you not looking next? Normally I would say what’s on the horizon. But what’s kind of what’s God teaching you today. What’s happening in your world? You know what are the things you’re wrestling with now as you’re as you’re leading at Cross Point.

Kevin Cook — Um, you know to to your point, you know we had a guy come in like one week after our lead pastor resigned in ’16. He’s like, hey you’re gonna see attendance drop 25%; you’re gonna see a giving drop 25-30%. All of that happened ten months. I mean it did, mainly at our broadcast campus. Um, but then Pastor Kevin came along with even a stronger emphasis on prayer. I mean just um, he just he just brought that – that was just in him. Um, and so um I think 2018-19 was our best year ever.

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — We recovered. We had more in attendance, and more giving, and baptisms, and salvations and opened the new campus a couple years ago. And so ah, we’ve learned a lot in the last couple years going through covid. And our main our national campus got hit by tornado six days before the world shut down with the covid…

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, that’s there’s so much.

Kevin Cook — …and so we still don’t have offices. We’re still, we’re still navigating that rebuild. Um, so again, just continue to depend on him. Um I think something that I’m actually in the in the moment wrestling with I’ve got a friend of mine on the team, Matt Warren, and he could probably unpack this more, but just seeing what’s happening with other pastors. And I just I think I think the model where you have a lead pastor. And how many ever report to him and that lead pastor is basically the only employee of the elders. There’s just a lot of pressure.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, so true.

Kevin Cook — I think there’s a lot of pressure that comes with that. So it’s kind of like, is there a better way? Is there a different way? And I don’t know if it’s a different model, but how can we um I’ve talked a lot about how navigated the transition to how God was preparing me but, how how can we maybe avoid…

Rich Birch — Right.

Kevin Cook — …a potential where a pastor just kind of succumbs to to that pressure…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — …no matter really how their walk with the Lord might be. It’s just a lot of pressure, especially in larger churches and. And so that’s just kind of something just kind of praying through and as an executive pastor I gave a talk one time to some other executive pastors on that executive pastor/lead pastor relationship. And and I think for executive pastors, it’s it’s really really important – a few things that the best way we can lift him up is on our knees, praying.

Rich Birch — Oh so good.

Kevin Cook — And and ah and and there’s a scripture you know where I think it’s Aaron and maybe Jethro that held Moses his hands up until they were steady. And I never had focus on until they were steady, so there was some intentionality there. And so I think holding our lead pastor up in prayer to hold his hands steady. Um, I think another thing that executive pastors can do is be willing to climb, charge the hill with him. Go you know to climb up on that mountain with him and then um, learn how to humbly lead up well.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Kevin Cook — And I think I think as you but develop a relationship with your lead pastor where you can both trust each other’s heart, then that’s an invitation to be able to to lead up and and potentially speak into some things just just to help…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Kevin Cook — …whether it’s to alleviate pressure or potential mistakes or whatever. So that’s that’s kind of some things to kind of focus on…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Kevin Cook — …now for you know that I’m continue to learn and I don’t have it now I’m not perfect in any of this. Um, so there are times I take control, bring things back in my hand and I get too much of my to do list, but just trying to stay focused in the moment, and lead as best if I can and in that second chair. So

Rich Birch — Love it. This has been so fantastic, Kevin. I really appreciate you being here today. We’re going to link to that “Don’t stop at Six” Steven Furtick message in our show notes. So if someone’s listening in they want to that be a great follow up at next kind of step in this conversation. Ah, but is there anything else, you’d like to share just as we wrap up as we kind of bring today’s conversation to a close.

Kevin Cook — Nah I think I’ve probably talked too much and shared everything I know.

Rich Birch — No, it’s good. Fantastic.

Kevin Cook — But I do I think I just think man just just lingering his presence, and and you know that that can be driving down the road. You know I don’t know how guys, ladies connect with God. it it may be in your in your favorite chair in the morning. It might be on a walk. It might be through worship, driving sitting in traffic. But I just think pay attention and just connect with him. Connect with him wherever wherever that might be. And if you have a favorite place, go there and linger awhile.

Rich Birch — Love it.

it’s it’s it’s rewarding. And there’s really nothing better than that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. Kevin I appreciate you being here today if people want to track with you or with the church where do we want to send them online?

Kevin Cook — Um, church website is cross Um I’ve so I’m on social media and that kind of stuff but use them just viewing…

Rich Birch — Ah, yes, yeah, yeah, nice. Love it.

Kevin Cook — …I hardly ever post anything or comment anything.

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

Kevin Cook — Um, my email is [email protected] I was the first Kevin there so I’ve got that [email protected] – um man I’d love to I’d love to connect. However I can help other executive pastors or listeners I can – feel free to shoot me an email love to love connect with them.

Rich Birch — Love it. Well Kevin I really appreciate you being here today appreciate your heart. Thanks for sharing the story and I love just hearing what what God’s doing in your life. So thanks so much buddy.

Kevin Cook — Appreciate it. Thanks 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.