The Discipleship Opportunity: Blueprint for a Post-Everything Church with Daniel Im

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. We have Daniel Im joining us, the Lead Pastor of Beulah Alliance Church in Alberta, Canada. 

The world is a very different place from what it was just a few years ago. While it’s tempting for churches to try to find a way back to how things used to be, is that actually the best way forward? Tune in as Daniel challenges churches to change their leadership strategies and approach making disciples, evangelism, and preaching in a different way.

  • Spiritual hunger. // Beulah Alliance Church has experienced significant growth while accommodating the expanding population of Edmonton, Alberta. The city is a microcosm of the global shifts we’re seeing, with its post-Christian culture and increasing diversity. Yet even in this context there’s a noticeable spiritual hunger and a quest for deeper meaning. People are more open to exploring the supernatural and are seeking purpose beyond the material world, including exploring Christianity.
  • Post-everything world. // Everything in today’s world is vying for our attention as church leaders. During the pandemic it was racial tensions and masking mandates. Now it’s everything happening politically. Jesus needs to be our North Star above everything else. Experience the move of the Holy Spirit and share the truth from scripture. Orient yourselves around King Jesus and hold to your convictions.
  • Church and growth. // Daniel began digging into the church growth movement asking what assumptions are we still believing? He looked back seventy years to the beginning of the movement and discovered we have assumptions about church and growth, which lead to a lot of shame. We need to lay aside assumptions that, of course, people will come to church and, of course, the church will grow today.
  • Focus on the interested. // Most churches focus either more on discipleship for believers or evangelism for unbelievers. Daniel challenges us to consider another axis. Rather than trying to attract and create interest, what if we shifted our focus to engaging those who are already interested? Shift your focus in preaching, discipleship, and evangelism to be focused on the interested, whether they are Christians or non-Christians.
  • Leaving room for the Holy Spirit. // Rather than trying to be better than the church next door, give people the truth and word of God in a way that peaks curiosity and holds attention. Be compelling in preaching and have excellence, but also leave room for the Holy Spirit to move.
  • The Great Commission. // Daniel wrote a book called “The Discipleship Opportunity: Leading a Great-Commission Church in a Post-Everything World” which digs more deeply into this framework. Here he explores the four quadrants of engagement which include: sleepers (uninterested non-Christians), consumers (uninterested Christians), seekers (interested non-Christians), and fully discipled individuals (interested Christians). The first half of Daniel’s book focuses on deconstructing our assumptions about the church growth movement. The second half explores strategies for reaching, discipling, and preaching to the sleepers, seekers, consumers, and disciples in our post-everything world.

You can learn more about Daniel’s books at www.danielim.com and follow Beulah Alliance Church at www.beulah.ca.

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Thank You to This Episode’s Sponsor: CDF Capital

Since 1953 CDF Capital has helped church leaders and individuals bring light to the world through the thoughtful stewardship of their capital. The Church, including your church, requires more than just financial capital, it also needs spiritual and leadership capital. While separate in purpose, these three forms of capital are intertwined and inseparable for the cause of kingdom growth. Together, when we partner with the Lord to bring spiritual, leadership, and financial capital to a church, the results are transformational. At CDF Capital our ministry is simple: we lend money to churches.

CDF Capital, in partnership with Barna Group, conducted a research study to better understand what happens in churches after a new leader comes in. Barna Group interviewed 111 pastors online who have experienced a leadership transition within the last 12 years. Click here to get your free download of the study.

Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey, friends, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. Super excited about today’s conversation. You know from time to time I get to have repeat guests, and you know when we have repeat guests on they’re they’re on because they’ve got something really important to say and today is no exception. Super excited to have Daniel Im with us. He’s the lead pastor of a church that you should be tracking with – Beulah Alliance Church in Alberta, Canada. This is a fantastic church. Daniel, you might know him from there, but he’s also a podcaster, a bible teacher, writer and really has an incredible passion for the local church. He’s got a book coming up that I want to make sure that you pick up for your team. But before we get to that we’re going to hear, talk about lots of other stuff. Daniel, welcome to the podcast.

Daniel Im — Rich, it’s a joy just to hang out with you and to see you know have the record button pushed as well. It’s going to be fun.

Rich Birch — Yeah, glad to have you on today and it’s nice to always connect with other podcasters because you know you got good mic…

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …and I know that we’re going to get good audio.

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — We’re definitely going to get a good audio.

Daniel Im — It’s important.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it’s a good thing. Okay, so fill out the picture a little bit give me the Daniel Daniel Im story and give us talk about Beulah kind of tell us a little bit more there.

Daniel Im — Yeah, so in a nutshell Beulah is 102 years old, a multiplying church, over 30 churches have been started from this.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Daniel Im — Started streaming not in 2020 but in the 1930’s. So’ve been doing that for a little bit. And yeah, just a a legacy of multiplication in this church. It’s my second time back. So I had served here before and then I lived in Nashville, worked at Lifeway, consulting with churches across North America and and in Australia quite a bit doing just what does multiplication look like? Started something called newchurches.com, did that with Ed Stetszer. So yeah, it’s essentially was loving that, loving living in Nashville. The country music thing didn’t work out so life way was my backup.

Rich Birch —Nice. That would be good, I would love that.

Daniel Im — Not really, not really.

Daniel Im — No, really no, but I ended up coming back to Canada after 5 years living there to do succession. So it wasn’t necessarily something that was on my radar, but as we prayed through the opportunity to come back I was following the footsteps of a incredible leader, Keith Taylor. Led for 30 years so faithfully. And yeah to to do succession here was it’s a long story but definitely sensed God’s leading in it. And it’s been 3 years since, 5 years since I came back and 3 years being in the lead pastor seat. So yeah.

Rich Birch — Love it. So good. When when did you actually move back to Canada? Was that was it 2019, was it right before covid?

Daniel Im — Yeah, August 2019. So, yeah…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s amazing.

Daniel Im — Succession not trying not to be the scapegoat following a 30 year legacy guy…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Daniel Im — …but also doing it through covid was lots of fun.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …lots of fun. Yeah.

Rich Birch — Well there’s there’s so much we yeah we could talk about there. But ah, but the thing I want to talk about today. So for folks that aren’t listening I think… so first of all things are really happening at Beulah Alliance. There’s some really so exciting times. I want you to tell us a little bit about that. But but before we get there. Um, just some context. So folks that don’t know um Alberta, you’re in Canada, Edmonton. Um, you know I really do think that the context that you’re serving in, man, so many of us can um, can learn from. I think you have a really unique seat as a as a person as a Canadian serving in Canada.

Rich Birch — Because in a lot of ways I feel like our culture here, it’s like 2 or 3 steps—I don’t know is it forward? Is it backward? I don’t know—then then the States.

Daniel Im — Um, yeah.

Rich Birch — It’s kind of like where it’s where our American context is is heading. It feels like the kind of thing and then it’s inside of all of that man, you’re leading a church that’s thriving that’s multiplying. Man, there’s so much there. But kind of give us some of the bullet points about what’s happening at Beulah and then let’s talk about, you know, the context that you’re in.

Daniel Im — Yeah, a hundred percent. So Beulah so we’re four campuses. We just got our a new building that we’re going to be launching a fifth campus in.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Daniel Im — So we’re multiplying within greater Edmonton. We do multi-site outside of greater Edmonton. Our focus is church planting. So that’s a strategic decision in that. Um, but when it comes to Bula and when it comes to Edmonton and we’re the home of the Edmonton Oilers. So that’s often why people know us. If you ah speak at conferences, you probably have come to Edmonton for something…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …conference that was called Break Forth ah, for some reason always happen in the winter.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — So that’s typically the second reason people might know Edmonton but…

Rich Birch — Yes, ah their impression plays to stereotype, Edmonton plays to stereotype in the winter time for sure, you know, so cold.

Daniel Im — Ah yes yeah winter five, six months out of the year.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — But beyond that we’re around 1.6 million people as a kind of a metropolis area, very multiethnic, multigenerational. Just to give you a sense, Canada is about 10% the size of the States. So Canada in 2023 grew by 1,000,000 people, okay, which may not seem like a lot compared to how big the US is, but compared in Canada that’s that’s quite a big jump for us.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — And 200,000 of those 1,000,000 people moved to Alberta. Okay, so…

Rich Birch — Wow. Oh my goodness.

Daniel Im — Yes. So just if you think about that growth and then you think about the city of Edmonton and and and the fact that about 50,000 people have moved from elsewhere in the country into Alberta.

Rich Birch — Yeah

Daniel Im — So a lot of the growth is immigration, but 50,000 people are from other provinces. And then in Edmonton over the last five years has experienced probably a 200,000, 300,000 growth in population. Okay,

Rich Birch — Wow, wow.

Daniel Im — So all of that to say the world is moving, You know…

Rich Birch — To Edmonton!

Daniel Im — The world is moving to Edmonton. Yeah yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Im — Experiencing a real winter for the first time. Right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, oh my goodness.

Daniel Im — But having said that, there are so many people who are moving here. And as a result when it comes to our church context, we are seeing rapid growth happening by and large by a lot of the new people that are coming here and and and either, and um, it’s not just christians but non-christians as well. Just it’s change. It’s transition.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — And in this post-pandemic, post-truth, really post-everything world that we’re living in, there’s a I’m seeing a greater hunger spiritually than I’ve ever seen before. It’s not it’s not the atheists that are saying God is dead. No, people are like no there is a supernatural. There is more to life than what I see with my eyes…

Rich Birch — So true.

Daniel Im — …and they’re they’re they’re coming to a church.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — They’re they’re finding us. And and I’m not only seeing that in our church, I’m seeing that in other sister churches across Edmonton too.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. I love that. There’s so much I want to unpack there. That part at the end, um, so I would agree. There seems to be some sort of movement. I remember when I started and this is me talking about me, not about you, Daniel, because I’m about to say something self-deprecating. Most of my experience has been in the broadly attractional church movement. You know that’s where and and I was thinking about this and talking about this recently with a leader, a friend of mine who I’ve been leading with for years. And I said you know when we first started leading a lot of what we were trying to do well we used to say we ain’t your mama’s church.

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — But now I feel like so many people come into our churches who they they’ve never been to church. Their parents haven’t been to church.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Their grandparents have not been to church. This deconstruction, people are showing up hungry.

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — They’re showing up. No one is no one is stumbling into our churches, like oh I came because you got a great band.

Daniel Im — No.

Rich Birch — It’s like I’m showing up, I’ve got questions and I am looking for some sort of encounter. You said this here and you said this in another context and it grabbed my attention: post-everything. That really struck me. Talk to me. What do you mean by post-everything?

Daniel Im — Yeah, so so when I sat down and I’m trying to do succession, I’m trying to lead this church to emerge out of the pandemic. I’m trying to make sure that Jesus is our north star. Okay because it was so easy for it to be the racial tensions that was going on politically, masking mandates. Everything was vying I feel for our attention as church leaders. And for us here at Beulah and with our board we were like, no how do we just make sure that King Jesus is our north star, right? And that’s why that’s why we even put that in our vision awakening greater Edmonton to King Jesus.

Rich Birch — So good.

Daniel Im — So with that being our filter um, the the context that we are living in, it’s fascinating right? Because the truth the truth is, according to our world, in you, right? I hate when people say “you be you”. I like I hate that because I know it’s It’s one of those popular slogans.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it sounds good.

Daniel Im — People just say it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Im — Yeah, sounds good. It sounds accepting.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — And and I actually think a lot of Christians say it without really understanding the worldview that they’re perpetuating.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Because you be you essentially is saying truth is inside of you. The truth isn’t objectively, here are the scriptures…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …here is the truth.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — God is the truth creator, the maker, all… the truth isn’t what you feel, you know. Here’s the truth. It’s outside of you. Tim Keller’s talked a lot about it like before he passed. Um, so with all that being said, yes we live in a post-truth world. We live in a post-christian world. Um, we we live in this world where where people actually now we are seeing that it’s it’s not necessarily, Oh you’re Christian no I’m going to check out everything except Christianity. We’re not seeing that anymore, right? People are like well not actually…talk to me about what you believe. What what what what who is Jesus. Like what what is this all about? Like we’re seeing that.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — And and some call it post-Christian. Some now say it’s pre-Christianian.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Daniel Im — There’s there’s there’s all these terms flying around. But we’re really seeing a a fresh, it’s really a fresh opportunity to not attract people with our tactics and strategies, to not try to stir up interest but to actually share the truth, be real about our convictions, talk about Jesus, experience the move of the Holy Spirit. People are longing for the supernatural. We’re not we’re not an overly charismatic church. We’re a Christian a Missionary Alliance Church which is a little bit of a centrist middle of the road sort of denomination. But we are seeing the Spirit of God move and and that’s that’s that post-everything world we’re living in.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. A. B. Simpson’s tribe. Love love…

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …love them. Savior, sanctifier, healer, coming King – gotta love it.

Daniel Im — Yeah, you got it man.

Rich Birch — That’s so good. That’s that’s fantastic. Now so let’s let’s talk about that a little bit more. So if so I think you’re I think you’re assessment of the culture is really true. I think we are living in this culture where you know things have shifted. They’ve changed. That is obviously going to impact the way we ah lead people closer to Jesus, the way we help them grow. What are you seeing, maybe some of the shifts and changes that are different than say. 20 years ago or when, you know, five years ago when you were in seminary, you know

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I like to have yeah like I saw to think it was just a few years ago…

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — …but I know it was longer than that.

Daniel Im —Yeah, full on full on.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — So so, Rich, you you said earlier that you were you grew up in this attractional movement and and I think most pastors that are pastoring today are heavily influenced…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — …either positively or negatively or some ah it’s in the air that we breathe right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yep.

Daniel Im — The attractional movement, which you know…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — …the predecessor is that that church growth movement right?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — So so it it is just in the air that we are a part of. It’s in the air that our seminaries were formed out of. I graduated from Fuller, which was the center and hub of the church growth movement in many respects. So with that being said, what’s changed? Because as we’ve emerged out of this pandemic, so I didn’t want to write a pandemic book or a post-pandemic book. But as we have emerged out of it, it’s interesting how normal some things feel and how different other things feel. And and and when I think about the books that are on my bookshelf, and the things that I’ve that I learned in seminary, and didn’t learn in seminary, and all that, it’s so easy in a world that sort of feels like it used to, it’s so easy just to go back to what worked and what I was taught.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — And to go back to those tried and true resources. But the world that we’re living in is actually very different.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — It’s very different the the philosophy the worldviews. All of that is is very different. So what I essentially did was I went back as far as I could, seventy years, seventy years to the beginning of the church growth movement. I did a literature review, went to the fathers the fathers and the grandfathers of that movement. And then I was like, my my main question was what are we still doing that is actually from all the way back then, seventy years old, what are the assumptions that we are still believing? We would never attribute it to church growth movement.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — We would never attribute it to seeker sensitive, attractional and we would never do that. But it’s just ah, such a part of our the foundation of our thinking.

Rich Birch —Yeah, it’s just in the water, right? It’s in the air. Yeah yeah for sure. Yeah.

Daniel Im — Yeah yeah, and and the two assumptions I uncovered were, of course church, and of course growth.

Daniel Im — And that those two assumptions are still in the bones. It’s in our water that that actually I’m not going to say who said this who wrote it because I don’t want to throw shade. But this is from the 50s and one of the fathers of all this said this: a shrinking church is a sinning church.

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Daniel Im — Like you never you never hear anyone say that today, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah, right, right.

Daniel Im — Ah, but but but he said a shrinking church is a sinning church. And I think for most pastors if your church isn’t growing, and and I’m I’m I’m so grateful that we are actually larger than we were pre-covid. And and I’m not the only one saying that there’s many who are saying that. But for everyone who’s like actually we haven’t recovered, we’re smaller than we were. That line, right…

Rich Birch — Weighs heavy.

Daniel Im — No one’s going to say that.

Rich Birch — Yeah for sure.

Daniel Im — But it weighs heavy, and I think how we feel it as church leaders today is we feel shame. We feel guilt. We may not say, “I’m sinning,” but we feel the shame. We feel as, we feel as if what am I doing wrong? What is wrong with me? And what shame says is, you are not enough.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — So so it’s this sense of it’s this weight that church leaders are carrying around. And I just start off I’m like no you know those are assumptions that are no longer true, right? We can’t lead our churches believing that, of course people are going to come to church. Of course people are interested in church, or of course growth is natural. Of course. No, we we need to lay those assumptions aside and lead in a different way today.

Rich Birch — Well, that’s yeah, that’s you know convicting. Obviously it’s you know there’s those that notion that you know hey if we’re shrinking we’re sinning. You know I think that lands hard for people. I you know I think and there are you know I I talk to a number churches who are um, you know who are kind of above covid numbers. As much as we’ve said like I feel like it was two years ago we kept saying please stop talking about you know, comparing ourselves there.

Daniel Im — Right.

Rich Birch — But we’re still you know four or five years later…

Daniel Im — We still are. Yeah yeah.

Rich Birch — …we’re still thinking about that right? And you know the the reality of it is, it’s all of our churches are a brand new church…

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — …from where we were in 2019, and you know in more ways than one. So being that that’s the case. So I understand the kind of deconstruction part of it. What were some of those steps that you believe, either you’re taking at Beulah or you believe as churches we should be pivoting towards? What would that what what would be some of those?

Daniel Im — Yeah, okay, so the so the major one would be, it’s it’s from the Engel scale. It is the Engel scale. And and if and if you’re not familiar, if listeners aren’t familiar with that scale, essentially it’s it’s a linear scale left to right: How far away are you from God on the non-christian side of things and how and then and then zero that point is conversion. And then on the other side, the plus side is your discipleship journey, right? So by and large most of our churches either focused on the left side. We’re evangelistic. We want to reach the non-christians, or focus are the non-christians and then we’ll disciple.

Daniel Im — Or you had churches on the right side who are like, no, our focus is discipleship. It’s reaching Christians, and then we’re going to do evangelism. And whether, and this is broad strokes, but but whether you are on more focusing on reaching non-christians or focusing on christians, both had their strengths and both had their weaknesses. What I noticed, and this is that the major paradigm shift that I want to propose and that I propose in this book, is instead of forming and focusing your churches either on the left or the right, either on reaching non-christians or Christians.

Daniel Im — What if we realized that there’s another axis? That there are both the uninterested and the interested. And this wasn’t a pandemic thing. I think what happened in the pandemic is these people revealed their levels of interest and we begin we began seeing this in our churches and in our communities. But this is this has been in in around for a while. I was just harder to see.

Daniel Im — So when you think about it and you think about your community. Yeah, you know what, through the pandemic I’m sure you heard people and and I’m sure you heard people saying, hey wow like I love that I’m watching you. And then watching them and what… Like in following Jesus, watching is not a verb that should be in our vocabulary.

Rich Birch — Right. Come watch me.

Daniel Im — Right? That’s not that’s that’s all so heavily consumeristic, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s yep. Yeah, it’s so true.

Daniel Im — And and and I heard Christians talking about it in a positive regard…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …and a positive way. We’re watching. It’s like no, we should worship…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …actively follow. So so we saw that, right? We saw this this level of interest and faith level of interest in discipleship to Jesus where Jesus says come and die. We saw that interest level go down among many people. They became uninterested Christians, which I call consumers. But I also saw the interest level go up. I don’t know if you saw this too, but I saw so many people I’ve never seen people as frequently come and worship and get involved than I’ve than I’ve ever seen. And and it’s it’s like is frequency every other week, is frequency once a month?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Among some yes, but among others, no, it’s more than once a week again

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — And I’m seeing that interest grow. So I saw that interest/uninterest divide happened on the christian side but I also saw it happen on the non-christian side where it’s like all of a sudden Mother’s Day, Christmas Eve, Easter I’m not going anymore…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …because there’s no point.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — There’s no benefit. I want to be safe. I’m gonna stay at home. I’m gonna watch. Are you actually watching, right?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — And there’s this there’s this sense where people spiritually on on we saw this divide some went to sleep, right? They’re the sleepers, and others actually increased in their interest to the point where, I’ll I’ll share a quick story…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — …where where this one guy he had not been in church for over two decades.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Daniel Im — He moved to Edmonton from Toronto last year and stuff’s going on in his life that he doesn’t have answers to. He’s not a person of faith, doesn’t have answers. He’s seeking. Last time he’s been in church is over two decades.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Daniel Im — And he grew up going to catholic school. So he was like, you know what, I’m going to let me try Christianity.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Let me see… right? And it was an option. So he googles catholic churches near me.

Rich Birch — And he gets Beulah Alliance.

Daniel Im — Beulah Alliance Church is the number one top result. Okay, and I gotta tell you, Rich, I gotta tell you this…

Rich Birch — Ah, don’t tell the arch don’t tell the archbishop.

Daniel Im — …yeah, yeah! I got to this isn’t this isn’t some like ninja style…

Rich Birch — Yeah yes, it’s a church growth hack.

Daniel Im — …search engine marketing search engine optimization hack.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — We are not doing any sort of Catholic Church keywords.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — We’re not targeting. That’s that’s not a part of this at all.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — And we tried repeating this on multiple devices and it doesn’t work.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — We were the number one search result we can’t repeat it. And every other search result is a Catholic Church in Edmonton.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Daniel Im — Okay, you try to tell me that that’s not God working through Google.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah, absolutely.

Daniel Im — Right?

Rich Birch — That’s cool.

Daniel Im — So so what’s interesting is this individual, he would not maybe he would have been asleep.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — But what’s happening in his life. God is stirring, right? He’s moving. We know that Jesus leaves a ninety-nine, goes after the one, that he’s pursuing people. He’s calling people to himself. He is calling this guy to himself

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Stirs him up. He now moves from uninterested to interested. We didn’t do that. It wasn’t our ads.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — The Holy spirit is moving people from uninterested to interested, right?

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — We are mindful of our Google reviews. We are mindful of of of being visible. There there’s all the best practices that we are very mindful of he finds us not by our own accord or our own effort. He comes, and he experiences church like he’s never experienced before. He experiences God moving.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Daniel Im — This isn’t a dead religious thing that some people are observing. He experienced a vibrant church family where the Spirit of God is moving powerfully. He experienced that. He experienced people crying in the service. He experienced people singing with all of their heart.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — He experienced a full room of multiple generations and not just gray hair and a dwindling church right? He experienced that. Like you try to tell me that that’s not God…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …stirring in the stirring in his heart, calling him back to himself. And that’s what we’re seeing that there’s this interested and uninterested divide happening.

Rich Birch — Okay so I’ve got the quadrant on my paper in front of me.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — We’ve got kind of the the far from God and then the fully discipled.

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — That’s one way. And then we’ve got uninterested and interested.

Daniel Im — Yes.

Rich Birch — So the far from God uninterested, they’re asleep. That’s the category title. Is that the title you’re using?

Daniel Im — Yeah, yes, sleepers.

Rich Birch — They’re sleepers.

Daniel Im — Then the uninterested non-christians yes sleepers.

Rich Birch — Yeah, and then you’ve got consumers are uninterested christians.

Daniel Im — Yes, that’s right. Yeah.

Rich Birch — And then you’ve got the ah the ah the the interested non-believers are stirred…

Daniel Im — Seekers.

Rich Birch — …seekers. Okay, oh nice, we’re using that word again.

Daniel Im — Yeah yes, read yeah exactly, because they are, right? They are using they are seeking.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, and then and then the fourth quadrant that kind of interested…

Daniel Im — Yeah, yeah would be disciples.

Rich Birch — …disciples, fully discipled.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — And so when you when you think about our opportunity, like are what we should be thinking about or wrestling with, which of those quadrants should we really be thinking through and and you know if we’re rallying our team together. Um I love a good four-quadrant conversation.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — So yeah, let’s talk to us about that.

Daniel Im — And and and what I’m not doing is I’m not saying, hey we were you know bilateral linear, left or right, non-christian or Christian, and now there’s four. No, within each quadrant there’s a spectrum, right? Because.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — Because you can be a brand new disciple and you can grow to be a disciple maker…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — …and you’re right, there’s all of that within there. So what I’m proposing and what we’re doing at Beulah and what I’m seeing happen more and more is instead of focusing on either non-christians or christians, and wrestling with that age-old are you more discipleship or evangelism or evangelism or discipleship?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Like that’s been a ah constant conversation…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …for the last couple decades.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — What if we actually flipped it and said I’m I’m I’m going to be our everything that we do, our preaching, our evangelism, our disippleship, our everything is actually going to be on the interested.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Daniel Im — We’re going to reach actively both the interested non-christians and the interested christians.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Daniel Im — So what we’re not going to do is we’re not going to try to attract, right? And and we’re not going to we’re not going to try to be better than the church next door. We’re not going to be we’re not going to try to do any of that sort of stuff anymore.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Because the reality is no matter how great your band was and playing um, ah, Coldplay decades ago…

Rich Birch — Right, yep.

Daniel Im — …like no matter how good even if you try to pull off a Taylor Swift song today, like no matter how good you are today…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — …right, people don’t care anymore, right?

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it’s true.

Daniel Im — That’s not that’s they don’t because they’re you’re not going to be as good, right? And we were never really as good.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes, that is true.

Daniel Im — We tried right? We tried.

Rich Birch — Yeah and we tried. Yeah.

Daniel Im — Yeah yeah, um, Snow Patrol remember.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it’s so true. It’s so true.

Daniel Im — So instead of doing that, right, instead of doing that and instead of trying to to teach actually more like a TED talk or with less time because people’s attention spans aren’t as long as they used to be, right? What would it look like for us instead to to give people the truth?

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Daniel Im — To give people the word of God in a way that my preaching coaches taught me, in a way where you’re both your peaking curiosity and your holding attention. So so what I’m not saying is be boring.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …and right you you need to be compelling. You need to have excellence.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — That’s that’s all there. But how do we do so in a way where our assumption isn’t we’re trying to stir interest. Our assumption is people are interested.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Daniel Im — Now let’s give them the truth.

Rich Birch — That’s so good. Now talk to me about how this paradigm has shifted. But maybe we’ll talk about just you know there’s a lot we could talk about I can see the implications from this even in you know I in my church I volunteer as an Alpha leader you know, an Alpha helper. And like I’ve seen this I am constantly amazed at the people that end up in my Alpha Group.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — I’m like the you know I last time round we we had this woman you know, a couple, I don’t know, we’re a couple, maybe week, two week, three couple weeks in. And she sits down at the discussion time and she’s like my mind is blown away. So you’re telling me that Jesus is God? Like you’re telling me that, you know tell me more. Like she’s she’s interested.

Daniel Im — Yes, yeah.

Rich Birch — She’s leaning in like she’s not, you know we’re not having to do jazz hands like that you know which is great. But let’s talk about maybe even just the teaching piece, particularly using this kind of paradigm. How how does this impact the way you communicate or the way you structure services or the way you do you know weekends or that sort of thing you know in your context? What’s that look like?

Daniel Im — Yeah, full on. So we are trying to create an experience with moments, right? So so if our if our if our focus is the interested, and we know that there are both non-christians and christians. What we are seeing in our society today is there is an acknowledgement that there is more to life than this, right? that there is more to life than what we see with our eyes. I don’t know if you ever saw this at Costco, but I recently came across a magazine for witches. And it looked…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Daniel Im — Yeah, it looked like you’re watch you’re you’re picking up Home and Garden. It looks like it looks like a Oprah magazine…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …and it was witches.

Rich Birch — Wow. Crazy.

Daniel Im — Yeah yeah, so the normalization of of the of the supernatural.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Daniel Im — The expectation that yeah, there is a supernatural. How do I access the supernatural? What we are saying and what we are doing is, hey yeah there is a supernatural and its God and Jesus is the way. So let’s create moments and experiences where yeah, we’re going to leave room for the Spirit to move in the way that only the Spirit can move.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Let’s sow prayer into our service. That old Charles Spurgeon, right? Like what what did what he do? There is like a furnace room underneath his auditorium, underneath the sanctuary of people praying, right?

Rich Birch — Love it.

Daniel Im — Like that’s the fire. What does it look like to do that and to expect God to move in supernatural ways…

Rich Birch — That’s so good.

Daniel Im — …not getting weird, right? Um, um, we’re not, we’re not trying to to to chase an experience over the truth. But we know that Jesus said to his disciples in John 20:21, As the Father has sent me so now I send you.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s good.

Daniel Im — And then we know we know that the very next verse that 22 comes after 21. Like we know that, right? In math 22 always comes after 21.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Daniel Im — But in our mindset of of being tribal in our in our faith and tribal in our theology and tribal in all of that. And we’re like oh yeah, mission missions first, missions. You know as a Father of sent me I send you. Let’s go. Let’s do this. Let’s ah, let’s accomplish the great commission. Let’s go. But we forget that Jesus in the very next breath said to his disciples receive the Holy Spirit right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — Like like it’s not a different book. It’s literally the next verse.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yes.

Daniel Im — And and and we forget that.

Rich Birch — Right, right. Good.

Daniel Im — So how do we do this? Yeah we expect the spirit to move. This this isn’t something that we try to do that we are planning to do. Um but I can’t tell you the number of people who when they enter into our space of worship, they just start crying.

Rich Birch — Um, yeah, yeah, yeah, right.

Daniel Im — Like and and it’s not not like ugly crying right? But there’s there’s there’s some there. It’s the Spirit of God right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — Like it’s it’s it’s it’s the prayers of the saints over the last 102 years that’s being poured out right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — It’s the presence of God, people are entering into the presence, right? And we know that yes we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we are you know temples of you know there’s all of that. But when they enter into this space of worship that’s been saturated with prayer, it’s amazing to see how people are like Okay, what what is this place? What is going on?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — And they want to seek God, so let’s give him God right?

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Daniel Im — Let’s give him the truth.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Our you know our mutual Friend Carey Nieuwhof and he said for years like wouldn’t it be sad if people came to church and all they found was us, you know.

Daniel Im — Wow.

Rich Birch — And and, you know and I’m like oh that’s so true right?

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like I you know I Tim Lucas lead pastor I work for at at Liquid Church, I deeply respect, well respect Carey too. I remember him years ago saying he went through a personal I would say kind of transformation where he he came to the end of himself and it was like listen if if this is just about me, if this is just about coming up with some sort of sticky statements, this isn’t enough.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Like this will not transform people’s lives. We we have to provide an accessible encounter for people. We have to find a way to usher people to the throne room ultimately.

Daniel Im — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Love that, love that.

Daniel Im — Yeah, and I and yeah, and yeah…

Rich Birch — Well you’ve got a…

Daniel Im — And I don’t think it’s through the newest tactic.

Rich Birch — Right. Yes. Hundred percent. Yes

Daniel Im — I don’t think it’s through any kitschy thing…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …or or through like airy worship music trying to stir up emotions, right? That’s that’s not the tactic…

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — …and that’s not what you and I believe nor it’s what either of us write about.

Rich Birch — No.

Daniel Im — There’s best practices. And there are things that we need to do create to create welcoming environments and not be distracting, right? And all this isn’t an excuse to throw all that away. But we’re not trying to manufacture something, right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — We’re we’re crafting our services. We’re preaching the truth. And I love what John Stott says about preaching. And and this is this is it’s my it’s my motto. It’s how I it’s how I live. I love this. And and I’m going to butcher it because it’s just to paraphrase right?

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — But he said the most holiest moment in a service, right, it’s not the music. It’s not the preacher. It’s not any of this. The most holiest moment in a service is the moment after the preacher has spoken, and before the words have entered into the hearts and minds and ears of the congregation, right?

Rich Birch — So good.

Daniel Im — It’s that split second where the spirit of God transforms what’s been prayerfully prepared and said and transforms it into manna, right? It transforms it into our daily bread, transforms it into what we all need to hear. And and and who does that right? Yes I got to I got to I got to grow as a preacher. I gotta got to learn how to build tension. I got to learn how to craft compelling talks and sermons. But it’s not that’s not what’s going to change people right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — It’s the ministry of Holy Spirit.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so good. Love it. So good. This is fantastic. Now, you’ve got a book coming out that I I want to make sure people pick up. It’s called “The Discipleship Opportunity: Leading a Great-Commission Church in a Post-Everything World”. Obviously we’ve been kind of talking around those those issues today, but give us some context a little bit more kind of flesh out specifically around the book. You know what were you thinking when you pulled this together? What are, you know, what are you hoping for, that kind of thing?

Daniel Im — Yeah, yeah, so the premise of the book is let’s focus on the interested. Let’s stop doing this old divide of being a church that’s more about reaching the lost or more about ah equipping the saints and and discipling. What if we actually could focus on both…

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Daniel Im — …through a new paradigm of the interested. This isn’t a both/and, either/or sort of debate either.

Rich Birch — Right.

Daniel Im — It’s a new quadrant. It’s a new perspective on that, right?

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Daniel Im — So what would it look like for us to do that. So essentially the first half unpacks the the foundation of that deconstructing some of the assumptions we believe about the church growth movement, not in its entirety because there’s so much good that’s come out of that. But what are the things that we need to stop assuming and carrying. I present this new framework and then essentially I wanted to write, I mean this is the shortest book I’ve ever written.

Daniel Im — When I did “Planting Missional Churches” with Ed when we rewrote that I think that was like 120-, 130,000 words.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Daniel Im — Ah “No Silver Bullets” was like 77-, 78,000 words. “You Are What You Do” was like 60-

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — 50-, 60-. This is like 30-something thousand words.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Daniel Im — So I’m like my attention spans lower.

Rich Birch — Yeah way more compressed. That’s good.

Daniel Im — Yeah, so I want it to be punchy.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Daniel Im — And essentially the second whole part of the book is there’s a chapter on how do we reach disciple and preach to the sleepers, to the seekers, to the consumers, and to the disciples. Basically evangelism, discipleship, and preaching – what needs to shift what needs to change.

Rich Birch — So good.

Daniel Im — What does our focus need to be for each of those categories as we move into this post-everything world. So.

Rich Birch — That’s great. It’s this struck me as a great book, you know we’re coming up here maybe this fall, as like a fall leadership book. You could read it together as a team. Um, you know, go through it and really ask the question, Okay, so in light of what Daniel’s unpacking here, what does that mean for our ministry? How you know how I would really encourage leaders to do that. Where do where can people pick up copies of this book? Where do we want to send them online to kind of learn more to dive deep?

Daniel Im — Yeah, totally. So you can get it anywhere books are sold anywhere you like buying your books. It’ll be available everywhere. But if you go to my website danielim.com/thediscipleshipopportunity or and I know that’s a crazy long url. Or you just go daniellem.com and you’ll find the link. There’s some preorder and order bonuses and all that stuff just for more helps as you unpack this with your team. But yeah, you can get the book anywhere.

Rich Birch — Um, so good. Yeah I would encourage people to pick it up. I really do think this could be a great resource for you and for your church as a you know as we look forward as we’re all trying to figure out how do we lead in ah in this context. Well Danielle, I really appreciate you being here today. Where do we want to send people online, obviously daniellim.com, is there anywhere else if they want to track with you, with the church, that sort of thing?

Daniel Im — Yeah, so daniellim.com will get all the links. Beulah Alliance Church is the church. And I I all preaching all that stuff is there and on Youtube. And on social media I’d love to connect. I’m probably the most active on Instagram. Facebook’s a little bit of a necessary evil.

Rich Birch — Nice.

Daniel Im — Ah X or Twitter is just whatever it is now.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, exactly remember when it was fun? It used to be fun.

Daniel Im — Yeah, so it it used to be fun. But yeah, so I’m on the I’m on all the platforms and my my handle is Daniel and then it’s my korean name SANGI – @danielsangi – so love to connect.

Rich Birch — Love it. Daniel, appreciate you being here today cheering for you and thanks for being on the podcast. Look forward to having you come back at some point in the future. I just love what you’re up to. Thanks so much, brother.

Daniel Im — Hey Rich, you have been a staple in my podcasting my podcasting rounds. Like not sorry, not rounds, but what I listen to…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Daniel Im — …and and your books…

Rich Birch — Sure.

Daniel Im — …and your influence. I’ve just been and your friendship has just been I’ve just been so grateful. So thank you, Rich.

Rich Birch — Thanks. Thanks so much, man.

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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.