Under the Hood of a Multiplying Church of Nearly 30 Church Plants with Josh Husmann

Welcome back to the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m excited today to be talking with Josh Husmann, lead pastor at Mercy Road Church in Indiana. Mercy Road is one of the top reproducing churches in the country with a passion for multiplying disciples, leaders, churches, and expanding the reach of the gospel throughout the state of Indiana.

If churches want to exponentially expand their reach for Christ, they need to think differently about how they are multiplying. Listen in as Josh shares about church planting, disciple-making movements, and empowering the body of believers to do the work of the ministry.

  • Family of Churches. // When Josh and his family moved to Indiana, the goal was not to build a big church but rather to to reach as many people for Christ as they could in their lifetime. They decided that the best way to do that was by planting new churches. Mercy Road wanted to see people live on mission so as the church grew and ran out of space, they sent people out in all four directions around the original location. From there, the Mercy Road Family of Churches came to life, each operating as an individual church but with with the Mercy Road DNA, name, vision, and values.
  • Multiply Indiana. // In addition to the Mercy Road Family of Churches, Josh has helped start Multiply Indiana which is a separate church planting nonprofit that partners with national church planting networks to focus on planting churches all across Indiana. To date they’ve seen over 20 churches planted in the state through the nonprofit, not including any in the Mercy Road Family of Churches.
  • Work in teams. // One thing that has helped Mercy Road multiply is doing everything in teams. Rather than preach every Sunday of the year, Josh does it once or twice a month while developing other communicators. The same goes for other ministry teams. Mercy Road teaches its people to live on mission with the goal of being sent out. As a result they build a pool of leaders and communicators that continually help plant new churches.
  • A common pitfall. // Mercy Road Church has the big goal of reaching a million people for Christ in the state of Indiana. Josh acknowledges that’s a crazy goal that will only happen through discipling and sending. A downside of this model is slower short term growth. If Josh had preached every week, he knows the church would have grown more quickly, but that was not the culture that they were trying to create. By not giving people what they want, it can cause financial challenges, but it’s worth breaking those norms to see people understand and join the mission.
  • Empower and align. // Mercy Road is passionate about empowering the priesthood of believers and decentralizing ministry. But this can feel chaotic when things don’t align with what you’ve envisioned. Think about how you can work together to support and empower others to live on mission while not messing up the other work you’re doing.
  • Ministry is free. // On the monetary side of ministry, the first thing Josh reminds his staff is that ministry is free and it doesn’t cost you anything to talk to someone about Christ. On the practical side, Mercy Road doesn’t want the vast majority of their money going to buildings and staff, but rather to serving the community. Part of the way they do that is by allowing people to designate their financial gifts in addition to tithing. In this way they are able to give away 50% of the total giving outside the walls of the church in a given year.
  • Developing pastors. // For the churches that have been planted from Mercy Road, Josh gets on a weekly call with the other lead pastors to talk about what they need help with in their work. They also have a one-on-one with Josh once a month, and he’s always available for calls or texts when they need coaching.

To learn more about Mercy Road Church, visit mercyroad.cc, or mercyroad.church to explore the Mercy Road Family of Churches. You can also check out Multiply Indiana at multiplyindiana.com and find Josh on social media @joshhusmann.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. You know every week we try to bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you, and I’m super excited for today’s conversation because I know it’s going to do both. Super excited to have Josh Husmann with Husmann with us today. A fantastic leader from a church called Mercy Road Church in Indiana. It was started in 2010. They have a vision to plant churches that plant churches and they to create disciple making culture that impacts the world outside of the walls of the church. Excited to learn from you today, Josh. Thanks for being here.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, thanks much for having me on. I’m pumped and I love that you’re making practical impact saying, Okay, what are what’s actually working? What can we do to expand the kingdom?

Rich Birch — Love it.

Josh Husmann — So I’m excited to be here. Thanks for asking.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so fill out the picture a little bit. So you know you have, if I’m counting right, five kind of churches in the family—the Mercy Road family—and you’re looking at planting more. Kind of tell us a bit of the story; fill in the picture.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, our story was I moved from California, believe it or not, to Indiana to started church. Why would you do that? I don’t know.

Rich Birch — As people do. Yes.

Josh Husmann — Ah, but you know it was just a calling. God, in a moment of prayer, said do this, and it was a crazy story, and it all happened, even told me these three friends of mine from high school would help us start a church. One wasn’t a Christian, one was working for Entertainment Tonight in Los Angeles, and you know all of it happened. And it’s just a wild time the last 12 years of our lives.

Josh Husmann — And so we moved to Indiana and the goal was never to to start a big church. The the goal was to reach as many people for Christ as we could in our lifetime, which I’ve been reading a lot of books like Ed Stetzer’s Viral Churches and others that talked about the fastest form of evangelism was new churches. Knew I was called to plant a church, but didn’t know anything practically about how to do that or what that meant. And so we just started with that vision from day one. We wanted to be more about ah multiplying disciples, multiplying leaders, ah multiplying services, and multiplying churches, and networks. And and that’s what um I mean praise God over the last 11 now 12 years, we’ve got to see that occur.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Josh Husmann — Um, there are five soon to be five Mercy Road Churches. We also before we began starting Mercy Road Churches we just planted churches, and we planted, including the Mercy Road Churches, it’ll soon be I believe 28 churches through Multiply Indiana…

Rich Birch — Wow.

Josh Husmann — …which is a separate church planting nonprofit we helped start to partner with national church planting networks for church planting only in the state of Indiana. And so yeah, we’ve got to see a lot of multiplication occur.

Rich Birch — Love it. There’s so much I want to dig into there, but um, you know so many churches talk about being a multiplying church and wanting to have, you know, actually raising up leaders, and the thing I’m excited for, Josh, to lean in with you is because you are actually doing that. That’s actually a part of the story here, which is incredible. So why don’t you pull back… So first of all, why Indiana? I love that you have a, you know, a pretty solid line built around, hey God’s called us to this state. Tell us that story. What’s what’s going on there?

Josh Husmann — Yeah, so the story – it makes a little sense. I grew up in a small town in Indiana but ah, my adult life had been in California. My wife’s from Southern California. We had her first son out there. But in that moment I had I’d gone to this conference, heard a pastor speak. It was the recession was starting – 2010 actually gotten worse. And I remember just ah, being there and being like God, we love our church. We want to be there forever. But if you would have us do anything what would it be? And in that moment of prayer I had the most real moment with God I ever had in my life. It knew he wanted us to move to Indiana, start a church, and these three friends I mentioned would help us. And you know I think the calling to Indiana was largely based on I was going to tell people about my faith in Christ, and in California all my adult life and these people I knew growing up I didn’t know where they stood spiritually. And I think in that moment of prayer God gave me a burden ah for the state of Indiana specifically.

Josh Husmann — And so we we never even had what most church planters had which was we want to plant in this city, or this county. Like we had no clue. We mainly planted in Carmel, Indiana because my wife was from the suburbs of California and it was the most easy for her to make the cultural adjustment to. But the vision was always to just plant throughout the state. And so that that’s why we we put the parameters on the state of Indiana itself. What would it look like if we did a regional focus rather than just going anywhere?

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. So talk through how you’re structured. You’ve made a couple different distinctions – there obviously are you’ve planted these 28 churches. There’s a subset of those that are Mercy Roads. Um. But you’re not multisite; these are independent churches if I’m reading this correctly.

Josh Husmann — Yes.

Rich Birch — So help me kind of understand how that all fits together.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, and and and with Multiply Indiana we will only plant plant in Indiana. With Mercy Roads someday we might do something beyond that, but that’s not really our our we’re not really thinking about those things.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — Our the the heart behind it was we just wanted to reach more people for Christ. And we always looked around and said what resources and ability did we have? And we had grown rapidly as a church. As a three-year-old church we bought a old Borders bookstore, moved into it. The church began to grow more, and and we were really planting out of the culture, reaching on church people.

Josh Husmann — And what started happening was we were running out of space at the building that we had. We had to make a decision. Are we going to build on? Do a project? And we ultimately decided we’re we’re church planters, and if we could raise significant resources we probably wouldn’t invest it in one building.

Josh Husmann — And so we started dreaming if we had those resources, what would we do? Well we want to get people to live on mission, and to go reach more people. So what if we just set them out four different directions from Mercy Road to plant churches? And that’s where the Mercy Road family of churches came from, was ah that we wanted to get more people to leave because we were out of space at our building.

Josh Husmann — But if you go back even a few years before that when we moved to town and it grew rapidly in those first few years, when we were moving into that first building as a three almost four year old church, ah, we had decided to start multiplying Indiana then. And so we moved into our first building and planted another church a mile down the road, and we had a few families go with it and so we just kept doing that. And what we found was ah it wasn’t that hard to connect with planters, send resources, and, you know, we might have ten people go with them and plant a church.

Josh Husmann — Um, and so we were able to do that pretty rapidly, but over time we weren’t getting enough to go, and so that’s why we eventually started the Mercy Road family of churches to plant with our DNA, name, vision, and values. And when we plant those even though they’re one legal entity when they start, we use “church” not “campus” from day one because we want them to get the vision this is going to become a self-sufficient, autonomous church. We just spun off the very first one. Um, they’ve been growing very rapidly and are about 2 years schedule. So ah yeah.

Rich Birch — That’s cool.

Josh Husmann — As they get that to that state that they’re able to be autonomous, we spin them off.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so the goal would be, it sounds like the goal is obviously to get they’re not necessarily autonomous from the beginning but the goal be to get there eventually. That’s kind of the the hope.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, and they really from day one operate self-sufficiently, they set up an advisory team. It’s not the legal board, but they set up an advisory team that becomes the legal board. They their staff runs everything; I’m just coaching the lead pastor.

Rich Birch — Right. Okay.

Josh Husmann — That’s that’s pretty much how it works.

Rich Birch — So so obviously behind all this, the kind of substrate ah underneath all of that, has got to be a pretty robust discipleship development, you know, leadership engine. Talk us through that. How what does that look like? What’s the best way for us to understand that? What’s God kind of teaching you through that piece of the equation?

Josh Husmann — Yeah, well ah first I would say this: I think in in all of this I have never met anybody, and we’re certainly not that the plug and play solution just do this and you’re gonna do this amazing thing for God.

Rich Birch — Sure, sure.

Josh Husmann — Right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes, yeah, yeah.

Josh Husmann — Like there’s a lot of messiness that goes into this.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Josh Husmann — And for us ah, the one thing we had right was we do everything in teams. I’ve never preached ah, you know, more than three Sundays in a month from day one. And most most of the time I preach two Sundays a month and sometimes now only one Sunday a month. And we raise up communicators. Our worship team – we always have teams leading worship. Ah we partner with other great communicators and bring them in as regular guest speakers. And so we developed people. When we planted those churches, we had a backlog of communicators and worship leaders.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Josh Husmann — And and that’s just the Sunday stuff. You know, for us church is not just a worship gathering. It’s a community on mission. And so we had taught people through our discipleship huddles and through our outposts how to be discipled, and then how to live on mission. And so they got that we did not want to be the church where it was come to our gathering, get into a small group so you find friends and stick around here. Our goal was we’re trying to disciple people and send them out.

Josh Husmann — The biggest book that I gave to our board to really help get the vision for them was J.D. Greear’s book Gaining by Losing, that they would get the concept of being known for your sending capacity, not your seating capacity.

Rich Birch — Yeah, okay, so why do so many of us resist doing things in teams? So I think this is one of those things it’s like we all know intuitively, yeah yeah yeah – I can’t do this alone. We all intuitively and as communicators we’re like, man, yeah I shouldn’t be the only one up here. But then here we are 48 weeks a year the same person’s up front.

Josh Husmann — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Why are we not pushing against that? What have you been able to unlock in your culture?

Josh Husmann — I’m gonna give you my opinion.

Rich Birch — Yes, great.

Josh Husmann — My idea, you know, I think we tend to like almost demonize people for why they’re doing these selfish things. I actually think a lot of times it comes from a heart of wanting to reach people for Christ and grow the local church, but we’re we’re not able to see the forest for the tree. And what I mean by that is um, we use the analogy of people are trying to reach as many people as they can for Christ, and they think that means they have to grow their local church as big as it can be. We set this vision from day one when there was 40 people in the church. We want to reach a million people for Christ in the state of Indiana.

Rich Birch — Okay, wow. That’s a huge vision. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah; it’s huge.

Josh Husmann — That’s silly, there’s less than 7,000,000 people in the whole state. It’s ridiculous. Ah, but if we were actually discipling and sending it could occur. And so you know we talk about we’ll never gather a million people in a place…

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — …but if we disciple and send we actually could. So we use the analogy of we don’t want to be the redwood tree. We want to be the aspen tree. The aspen tree is the largest living organism according to mass in the world. And the reason for that is you can have a five thousand square mile forest that operates as one living organism – it’s called a clonal colony. It’s where, in the movie Avatar, they get the concept of these trees thinking. James Cameron’s wife is a big fan. The director of that movie – his wife is a big fan of aspen trees. And you know that vision to ah see this whole forest develop rather than just our one tree, that’s what we’ve tried to communicate to our church.

Josh Husmann — We don’t, you know, if if I spoke 52 year weeks a year, and ah Eric, our worship pastor when we first planted, led worship every every Sunday, we would have grown faster. I know we would have. People would come to us all the time. Well why don’t you just preach every week? Why don’t you… and we had to tell people because we’re not building that type of culture.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Josh Husmann — We’re looking at the long run – the forest, not the tree. And I think they eventually came around and started getting it.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. I love that, you know, vision of like, hey we should be looking to the long term win here. The long term game. What are we trying to end up. That’s that’s fantastic. Now you joked about the messiness of that.

Josh Husmann — Yep.

Rich Birch — What are some of those common pitfalls you’re finding in there your approach, kind of common ways that are like ooh, this is something we’re struggling with. We’re still working through.

Josh Husmann — Yeah I think there’s there’s a lot. And I mentioned one – you could kind of hurt the short term growth…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Josh Husmann — …because you you know aren’t giving people what they want. And and that’s really hard, if we’re being honest, in the Megachurch world. I have a lot of friends in that area and if the lead pastor who preaches 48 to 50 times a year doesn’t preach, 40% of the people don’t show up, right? Like but if we’re ever going to break those cultural norms, we have to fight that battle. And so that’s ah that is a hard pitfall that it creates financial trouble. You know we could have grown faster if we’d done it had done it differently.

Josh Husmann — I think the other thing that gets really messy though is when you are about decentralized ah empowering of the priesthood of all believers—something we talk about a lot…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Josh Husmann — …you get people doing things that… I’m not even talking about the people who are doing bad things, sinful things right?

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — Like I’m just talking about people who are doing great mission-driven things who don’t perfectly align with everything you envisioned.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — And so it can feel like very chaotic. I can give you a great example of that.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Josh Husmann — So we we have, rather than small groups, we have a outpost network that includes a variety of different ah communities on mission. Outposts are just groups or communities living on missions. Some of them are micro-churches in the home, and some of them are livi… like doing outreaches or ministries in the community. And we allow people to apply for financial grants that we empower them. We give them video announcements. We give them space in the lobby. We do all this stuff. We tell them if it’s not sinful and the Lord’s calling you to do it, we’re not going to say no. Go do it.

Rich Birch — Okay, yep, yeah.

Josh Husmann — Well we made that decision early on and I had a guy come to me who was a new christian, who had come to Christ in the ah, through a bar ministry we were supporting. And he’s like Josh, I was at my lowest of my lows. I found amazing friends through the local church, changed my life, I got Jesus, I want other people to experience this. So he’s like I’m a big WWE fan…

Rich Birch — Okay.

Josh Husmann — …and I want to start an an an outpost for ah wrestling fans. We’re gonna watch Monday Night Raw and then do a bible study. I’m like okay, that sounds cool.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Josh Husmann — That’s your passion. Go for it. Not my thing, but go for it. So he does. He get six dudes showing up on Monday night. They’re watching Raw.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — They’re doing a bible study. Some of them aren’t Christians. It’s awesome.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — I’m I’m high fiving him in my office. He killed it. And I thought that was the vision. He goes well I’m glad you liked it because ah you guys are we are moving into our first building and at first property had high ceilings. And he said when you get that building done, I want to do a live wrestling show. And I want to I want to, you know…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Josh Husmann — …raise money for charity and talk to people about my faith. And that’s when I was like you know sometimes you like have inner dialogue and it it acts I couldn’t keep it in. I accidentally said like, dude, I think that’s a terrible idea. I would never come to it. But we had just decided I had to say yes to him so I was like, you know, ah, yeah, you can do it.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Josh Husmann — And so he started wrestling theology. Long story short he did it once a month that entire first year; he had about 150 to 200 people show up every week. They reached more atheists for Christ through that outpost than all our other outposts combined that year.

Rich Birch — Wow. Wow. Right.

Josh Husmann — I would have squelched that in a second because I was like I don’t want our young church being associated with something that I don’t get.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh Husmann — Well after we saw that it was like, this is amazing.

Rich Birch — Interesting, interesting.

Josh Husmann — But, you know, you think, Well, that’s a great story. That’s great to celebrate. No, it’s messy.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — So, Rich, called it wrestling theology fellowship. One day I show up and the outposts get to put stuff in our lobby and hang up posters and stuff. And he had a life-size cut out of Brock Lesnar in a speedo in the lobby of the church when I showed up on Sunday. And then he had posted posters all over our bathrooms, and they had just gone through a rebranding. And wrestling theology fellowship now was using the acronym WTF on all of their promotions. And I’m getting all these comments from parents with young kids that’s what in the world’s going on?! What is this?! You know… and so we had to walk through like, hey this is a good thing, but also how can we work together and have it not mess up the other stuff we’re doing? And and we’ve worked through those things, and why can’t the spirit of God help us work through those things.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love it. I love that. I had a friend of mine who said you know one of the things when you’re when you set yourself out to say we want to develop leaders or surround yourself with leaders is they’ll lead, which is great and also messy at the same time. Totally love that. What a great story.

Josh Husmann — Yes.

Rich Birch — I love that wrestling theology fellowship. Love it. WTF. That’s hilarious.

Josh Husmann — But it’s worth it right?

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Josh Husmann — Like I mean we’re a big believer in that God. The same spirit of God that is in me when I preach is in that other person…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Josh Husmann — …if they’ve received Christ and so their body’s a temple the Holy Spirit. We got to empower them to live on mission in the same way.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. So there’s a lot of Executive Pastor types who are listening in, and um oftentimes when we think about multiplication efforts, one of the things that comes in is just the financial stuff. Is like how do we do this financially? How do we kind of fund something – by definition we have to we have to get give resources to something before it’s something to make it become something, and so how do we do that? What does that look like for you guys?

Josh Husmann — So I think that for one we, you know, I try and keep in mind um, church has been done for two thousand plus years, lived on mission in ways where you didn’t have to have the things that we think we have to have…

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — …in twenty first century culture in order for a church to exist.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — So I start there. I tell our staff ministry is free. It doesn’t cost anything to talk to somebody about your faith in Christ and disciple them. That said, I get the practical side. I think the one thing that we don’t do, we want to envision the future of the church, and I love that – that’s my heart think how can we do this differently, be more generous. My atheist and agnostic friends often critique the church as you get a 501c3 from the federal government because you’re supposed to be helping the community, but today all of your money goes to your buildings and your staff – how is that meeting the needs of the community? And so we said from day one we didn’t want them to be able to say that about us.

Josh Husmann — And so as a church plant just starting from day one, you know, a healthy church usually tries to give away 10% of their resources. We we gave away 20%.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Josh Husmann — And then we set a goal about year 2 or 3 of over the next decade we wanted to give away, get to the place where we’re giving away 50% of the total giving outside the walls of the church in a given year.

Rich Birch — Wow, wow.

Josh Husmann — And we we’ve achieved that the last couple of years. Um, it’s not as hard as it sounds. And I’ll tell you the one thing I was going to say is as crazy as that is…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yes.

Josh Husmann — …it doesn’t mean that we don’t utilize intelligent stewardship that people who have spent a lot of time and energy for decades on have learned. Ah, we have a person on our board who is our treasurer, who is um has been a managing partner for CapinCrouse, one of, you know, the the big consulting firm for churches financially. I we invite him in so that we can learn…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Josh Husmann —…but then we don’t let that limit us for what we believe God is calling us to do, if that makes sense. And so with that that 50% of the total giving sounds a lot harder than I believe it actually is. It’s not 50% of the general tithe. It usually doesn’t end up being more than ah, 20% of the general tithe, sometimes 15%. And and the rest of that is all in committed designated giving.

Rich Birch — Okay.

Josh Husmann — It does mean at the end of year the year you’re usually doing an end of year giving campaign for a outside-the-walls mission opportunity – for us has been largely church planting.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Josh Husmann — That’s how we’ve been able to plant all these churches is we we were trying to hit our giving goals.

Rich Birch — Yeah I love that. I love that. Ah so if I understand that a part of what you’re doing is folks are giving… is it the kind of thing where like there’s say ah a food bank in town and the church is giving X amount of dollars to that. There may be people in your church who are designating through the church to give to that food bank.

Josh Husmann — Yes.

Rich Birch — So that’s where you’re driving up the 50% number. That’s what…

Josh Husmann — Yeah, yes, yeah.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Josh Husmann — And I think that is a failure of ah local churches to learn from the nonprofit world.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Josh Husmann — Every nonprofit finance expert will tell you that ah people prefer to designate their their financial gifts.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Josh Husmann — Now that said we teach biblical tithing. I believe as a follower of Jesus…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Josh Husmann — …the first 10% should go to the local church. But you know in ah and our world people could give way beyond that 10% in wealthier communities and make an impact.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Josh Husmann — And you know I don’t we’ve proven this in suburban communities. We haven’t proven this in inner city communities. So to my friends who are planting in the inner city, it could look totally different. This is just what we’ve done because we think God placed us in the community we’re in to siphon resources to places of greater need in our world.

Josh Husmann — Um, and so, yeah, we’re trying to spend less on our buildings and staff so that we can give more resources away. But we do we open up the floodgates if you are a mission partner of our church, you’re listed on our ah on our online giving that you can select the tab and give directly to them. We also have had people… we give hundreds of thousands of dollars to micro-churches in Africa that we’re helping start. And that’s been largely in partnership with someone who was doing that, heard that we were willing to do church differently like this, and and combined and partnered with us, and we do that together now. So it’s a, you know, it it sounds harder than it is, one. And I actually think that you would actually grow resources financially significantly by doing this.

Rich Birch — Sure. Yeah, I well and I could see that. I think so I’ve done something similar, not at that scale. But there are definitely… my experience has been with donors particularly there are donors who would love to kind of give through the church and have frankly the church be able to celebrate the fact that they’re giving more than themselves. Like they, you know, they would rather the, you know, kind of the good news be the good news story be like, wow this Mercy Road has done a bunch of great stuff with all these different organizations. And so yeah, that’s coo.l I love love that. That’s that’s fantastic.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, it it does have its challenges too.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Josh Husmann — You know one of the things we did then was ah… all of our mission partners… So we we don’t work with ah some of the larger mission partners out there for sponsoring a child but we have a local one here that we work with. And when they do child sponsorship, for instance, when they come to the church, we have all the give and go through the church. And some would say well that’s just a ah passthrough. And I argued, no, it’s fighting for the the local church and saying we gotta stop cutting the church out of these things, because the church isn’t gaining anything financially. It’s more work for us.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Josh Husmann — But what it does is. It gets us to actually participate…

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Josh Husmann — …and stop handing off mission work to the parachurch world. And that’s just a personal ah of theological view of for me is I think the local church has to be more invested in mission, and and that means ah not just handing that off all the time.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love that. Yeah and and friends I’d encourage you to to go check out ah their website mercyroad.cc in drive right through. It’s actually one of the things that caught my attention when you drive through to your giving page and then right there. I don’t know that I’ve seen a church do that where you literally list, you know, The Significant Marriage, Multiply Indiana, Dotted Line Divas, Center Ice Ministries – you know 2:8 Ministries. That’s pretty amazing. That’s pretty cool. I love that.

Josh Husmann — Yeah, yeah, no and and that list was longer when we planted the churches. Some of them took some of those mission partners with them.

Rich Birch — Okay, cool.

Josh Husmann — And so you know it’s kind of neat to see each church now beginning to grow that list, and and that’s the stuff that also motivates us gets us excited to see resources going through that.

Rich Birch — Love it. Let’s ah pivot in a slightly different direction, back to the kind of coaching and leading of the churches that that have been planted from Mercy Road. How do you structure your time to care for, lead, provide guidance and coaching for the lead pastors who are in that that network? What are you doing – is that do you meet with them weekly, monthly? Is it informal, formal?

Josh Husmann — Yeah.

Rich Birch — Is it you have like a 2-year residence program? What’s that look like?

Josh Husmann — With the Mercy Road family of churches it, you know, and you know again I’m not gonna say… we’re church planters so you know half the time you’re you’re you’re building the plane as you’re flying it, right? And get ready, ready, fire, aim.

Josh Husmann — And I think for us ah what we did was we thought God was calling us to send the church in four different directions so we began to raise resources, send people out, found lead pastors for each of those. Some of them came within our church and actually a couple of them came outside the church that just got excited for what we were doing – the DNA of the type of church we were planting.

Josh Husmann — And ah, but then as we sent people out, they get on ah a phone call or a Zoom call with me every Monday for at least an hour. We do one-on-ones every month. I’m always available if they call, text, email, whatever. Ah I I find what happens too, if you if you hire good church planters, you know, coaching Church planters is always a unique experience.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Josh Husmann — And sometimes they really want your help. It usually has to do with setting up systems, or finances, or opinions about next steps as a church, or or building stuff. But sometimes some of the things that that need coaching, they don’t always want that coaching. And so, you know, it’s that’s messy too.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Josh Husmann — We’ve had to figure that out along the way because part of it with what we did that was also unique was we bought buildings for a couple of these churches as we planted them…

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Josh Husmann — …and ah you know that’s something in midwestern culture. Yeah I used to be in Southern California that’d be a way harder thing to do, but here you could do something like that.

Josh Husmann — And but that meant that the sending church had a lot invested in this, and so we had to walk through hey we gotta work with you in the early years. And if I had to do it again, I’d be really strict the the first year – this is what we’re doing. And then I would really give them a lot of freedoms after that first year um because the lead pastors we’ve we were very critical about who we hired for that and so far they’ve all worked out great. We have an amazing team.

Rich Birch — That’s great.

Josh Husmann — And what’s been interesting is I had to be open to to learning from them and them doing some things differently than the way we originally did them.

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — Um and that that’s been great too because sometimes God wires people differently.

Rich Birch — Yeah, I love it. So when you look up over the horizon, you think about the future, you think about kind of where’s God taking Mercy Road next, any kind of questions you’re asking, things that you’re wondering about as you look look down the road around this whole multiplication and kind of where where is God leading you around that you know that whole aspect of your ministry?

Josh Husmann — Yeah, I’m thinking a lot about it. In fact, we just had some of our team up at Chicago last week with some of the New Thing networking…

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. I love those guys.

Josh Husmann — …with Dave Ferguson at Community Christian, and ah you know he was talking about the future of the church, both in person, the meta church, ah, they’re doing some church work in prisons, and ah you know, thinking through like all the different aspects of what we’re trying to accomplish. And for us I think that the next thing in the Mercy Road family of churches we’ve really proven, hey if we send out hundreds of people and we’re highly invested early on, this works.

Josh Husmann — But we’re now looking at, hey if if we sent a $100,000 of resources and ah gave you the whole playbook; we wrote we wrote a whole Church Planting Playbook that’s going into print, and here’s how we do this. It’s a different model of ministry because we don’t just do small groups. We do one-year discipling huddles ah, we do ah communities on mission, these outposts. And and then we financially resource those, the the finances operate differently. So here’s how we do it, and then ah I’ll personally coach you, but you could plant this anywhere in the world. That’s kind of the next step for us.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Josh Husmann — We’re a little ways from that next leap. But I think that’s what gets me excited is we’re trying to reach so many people for Christ, and and when it doesn’t require so much investment up front and people can have more freedom, that gets me excited to partner with planters that way.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love that.

Josh Husmann — And then also within that you mentioned a residency program. We’re actually working in partnership with Indiana Wesleylan to create that at our church.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it. So good, Josh. This is been a great, you know, I got a page of notes here. Lots of things to chew on – really appreciate this. Is there anything else you’d love to share just as we wrap up today’s episode?

Josh Husmann — Well yeah I think in general the thing that I always encourage people that I think they miss is, this is the the practical stuff I wish somebody would have told me, which why I love this podcast.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Josh Husmann — But you get beyond that and then get practical in your context means take this stuff and go, okay, but in our area what is the Spirit of God telling me? I always think we we hear from these great leaders. Not me but like, you know, they’re really great leaders at the conferences and all that kind of stuff, and we just think I could never be like that. I couldn’t achieve that. And you can’t. You probably are never gonna be as the amazing communicator that some of those people are, or or I know I won’t be.

Josh Husmann — So what I’ve had to do is go, Okay, but what is the Spirit of God telling me?

Rich Birch — So good.

Josh Husmann — Like if we just listen take take this kind of stuff and go, okay but in our context, what would this look like?

Rich Birch — Right.

Josh Husmann — And stop thinking that we if that if I don’t find the cookie cutter version from the person down the road, I can’t do this. No you you can. And it’ll probably do it better than ah, we ever did it. Because we’re not that organized. We’re kind of crazy church planters. You could probably do this way better. And but be believe that the spirit of God still speaks and could use you in that way. Man I’m telling you really amazing things will happen in the American Church if we start thinking like that.

Rich Birch — Love it. Yeah I love that – just that whole like stop trying to live somebody else’s vision, right? Like what’s God called you to do?

Josh Husmann — Yes.

Rich Birch — What’s he uniquely set you up to be, and and why not run towards that. This has been so fantastic today, Josh. I appreciate it. Where do we want to send people online if they want to track with you or with the church or the network? Where do we want to send them?

Josh Husmann — Yeah, ah mercyroad.cc is the original Carmel church – mercyroad.church is the Mercy Road family of churches. And Multiply Indiana is the greater umbrella for church planting in Indiana…

Rich Birch — Love it.

Josh Husmann — …that we’re doing and you can find me on most social media just Josh Husmann – one S, two Ns.

Rich Birch — Love it. Thanks so much, Josh – appreciate you being here, and thanks for being on the show today.

Josh Husmann — Thank you.


  1. I’m curious about the meaning of this quote, “if Josh had preached every week, he knows the church would have grown much faster”. Thank you.

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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.