Wonderful: Charting the Path to Fulfillment in a World Overflowing with Options with Travis Spencer

Thanks for joining the unSeminary podcast. Today we have with us Travis Spencer, the lead pastor at The Fields Church in Mattoon, Illinois. We’re talking with Travis about his book Wonderful: How to Live a Fulfilled Life in a Very Full World.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Tune in as Travis discusses the strategic use of his book as a recall strategy for his church, and insights into book writing and how it can benefit your church and larger community.

  • Being filled with the wrong things. // Regardless of where people are in the world, their lives are busy and full. The problem is they are often full of the wrong things, which don’t lead to a life of fulfillment and satisfaction. In the end people feel “bloated” and barely surviving rather than thriving. Travis describes this feeling as a “life ache” in his book Wonderful.
  • Three buckets. // In his book, Travis talks about the three buckets people seem to have a life ache in: personal soul care, relationships with people, and our purpose – why we’re alive. Even when our lives include these things, we can still be unhealthy in them. And church leaders aren’t exempt from these struggles. We can work hard to see the numbers in our churches go up while hiding a depleted soul.
  • Tackling book writing. // Writing a book is a monumental task. It requires discipline and a great deal of vulnerability as you expose yourself to criticism. You need to have courage and push past fears and what might seem impossible. For Travis, getting into a rhythm of writing came more easily when he was able to sit in a relaxing place with his laptop and write about what he was passionate about.
  • Writing to help others. // Travis’s journey to writing Wonderful began with a compelling “why.” His goal wasn’t to write a book, rather he believed that by sharing what he was passionate about, he could help people and offer practical tools that would lead others to true fulfillment. Has God put a message in your heart to share? Consider what’s at stake if you don’t write that book.
  • A book as a recall strategy. // Travis’s book was a strategic tool that has significantly impacted his church community. The Fields Church used Wonderful as a recall strategy to bring people back to church in January after the Christmas season. Everyone who attended on a certain date would be able to get a copy of the book for free; after that it would be available for purchase only. There was such a positive response to the free book offer that The Fields broke an attendance barrier on a non-holiday and crossed over 1000 people. Offering something special that happens only one day is a great way to encourage people to invite friends and family to your church.
  • Creating momentum. // Not only did the book launch create momentum in January, but The Fields Church also used it to kick off a message series. In addition, it enhanced community credibility and created engagement with people at The Fields. Travis is in the process of developing more resources that other churches can also make use of, such as small group discussion guides and how to use the book for sermons.

You can learn more about the book at www.readwonderful.com and reach Travis at www.thefields.church.

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Episode Transcript

Rich Birch — Well hey, friends. welcome to the unSeminary podcast. So glad that you have decided to tune in. Really looking forward to today’s conversation. You know every week we bring you a leader who will both inspire and equip you. And I got to be honest, friends, most of the people I don’t know. Or I get a chance to meet them through the podcast. But today that’s not the case. Excited to have a friend and church leader that, you know, we’ve got a chance to know each other over these last number of years. Travis Spencer is at the fields church. This a fantastic church in Mattoon, Illinois in Coles County ah which is in Central Illinois. And they they have two locations. Travis is the lead pastor. This church is started over a hundred years ago if I’m doing my math right. Ah and this is a great church. You’re going to want to get to know them. Travis, so glad that you’re here today. We’re talking about a book that he recently released – this caught my attention and I want to bring that to you. Ah Travis, welcome to the show.

Travis Spencer — Rich, thanks so much. What an honor. I love our friendship and I love how you have impacted my life for the last couple years, so thanks so much.

Rich Birch — Appreciate that, man. Super super great to have you on. So um, yeah, love this. Why don’t we start tell us a little bit about The Fields, kind of fill out the… Well I’m going first before you do that, I’m going to tell you, I’ve I’ve said this to you in other contexts. I had a chance to visit, I’ve been at your location a couple times. And I, this funny thing happened when I pulled into your parking lot. You know, I thought like oh, you know, so many churches they have like these fun names. And The Fields is a great fun name. And it’s you know it’s like Impact Church or, you know, and they’re like these great metaphors. And I assumed that The Fields was like a metaphor, like it’s a metaphor for, you know, the the harvest is plenty, and you know all that kind of stuff. And then I I remember I distinctly remember pulling into the parking lot and I’m like oh no, there’s cornfields right there. This is The Fields Church. So tell us a little bit about it.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, we have dual purpose identity. So you you a re right on the spiritual side. It’s like the fields are reap with harvest.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — However, we are right smack dab in the middle of a agricultural area of Illinois. And so there are fields around us.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — And so makes great sense and it identifies with our community. It helps people understand there’s purpose, you know, even we talk about new life all the time and looking life-giving. And and I tell people I tell our team like listen like the fields are out there. The people are out there and we need to help them understand a, life-giving relationship with Jesus. And yeah, so our locations and we’re continuing to grow, and as you know you know we’re expanding in some additional locations. And I have a feeling they’re all going to be in fields. That’s just…

Rich Birch — The brand will stretch.

Travis Spencer — Yeah. I think rural ministry is going to be our, ah, niche.

Rich Birch — Yeah. It’s cool. I, you know, I love it. I Think that’s great. The thing, I don’t know how to say this. So this is the problem, I’m like a guy from the suburbs, spent most of my time ah, you know, in the suburbs. And I like I don’t want this to sound demeaning because it’s not at all. You know that I respect you and respect your ministry. But like your church to me doesn’t feel like, like when I’ve been to services, it’s like not what I would so I would think my assumption of like rural ministry would look like. Like it feels very much like, hey if I was, you know, in well obviously you guys are a growing church. But talk us through that a little bit. Like what what is the experience of showing, you have a beautiful, like your physical locations are amazing. Talk us through what what does that look like.

Travis Spencer — Yeah I mean it doesn’t really matter where you plop a building down. It’s it’s it’s figuring out what what people need and what they’re looking for. When you start learning and and learning what other good healthy growing churches are doing, you just take notes.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — And I don’t think it matters if you’re rural or urban or, you know, in the suburbs. It’s, you know, people want quality.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — People want they want to want to identify with, hey when I walk into this building, it feels like me. It feels like something I see in culture I see on TV. And so I think you actually have to stretch to like what the culture’s needing, not, well this is where God’s put me so I guess I’ll just, you know, have some dumpy little building, you know?

Rich Birch — Right, right. Yeah, that’s…

Travis Spencer — Yeah, and and we do. We try very hard at being a church that, we are over 100 years old and most people would think we’re less than five years old just because of…

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely.

Travis Spencer — …ah, the look, the feel, the vibe. We were very intentional in that.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s cool. That’s good. Well you’ve written written a book recently and I want to make sure we dive into that, get a chance to learn. It’s called “Wonderful: How to Live a Fulfilled Life in a Very Full World” and I want to hear all about this. People are living, you know, it doesn’t matter their context. You know one of the things, ah, one of the joys that I have in my life is interacting with church leaders across the country and getting a chance to visit lots of parts of the country. And everywhere I go people are like, well, you know, people in this part of the country, they’re really busy. They’re really, they’re, you know, they got lots going on. They got tons in their schedule. They’re… But, you know, we’re we’re trying to help people not just live, you know, not just thrive or not just survive but to thrive. It’s like a a universal problem, everywhere we go. And it it literally doesn’t matter. And I you know I always I nod politely and say like oh I totally get that I can understand why your part of the country is so different than the rest of the country. Ah, but it’s true. It’s universal. Talk talk to me about that. What are what kind of led you to think, oh I’ve got to, this is a problem that I want to tackle in written form.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, absolutely. Actually I’m entering my twenty-fifth year of ministry…

Rich Birch — Oh nice.

Travis Spencer — …so [inaudible] to say that.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Travis Spencer — So 25 years of ministry. And that’s not just church ministry. I was a I was a University Football Chaplain for about 7 years, and then I’m very involved in the community on boards and just I’m a huge believer in community advocacy. And so what you do over 25 years is you’re just with people all the time. And it’s not just church people. You know it’s not just people sitting in pews and rows. It’s like around boardrooms. It’s in…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …on football fields. It’s coaches. It’s all these things. And I’ve discovered it’s very easy to feel empty when your plate is full.

Rich Birch — Oh good.

And and that’s like that that’s not like that that that clash of how can I be empty yet I feel so full. But they’re what they’re what they’re full of is they’re bloated. They’re.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — I tell a story in the book. It’s like I remember I distinctly remember being on a cruise boat with my family. And ah my son gets up and goes… You know we’re sitting around the pool floating in the Caribbean going, oh this is great. He gets up he goes and it has a. I go, hey where are you going to, Cody? And he goes, I’m going to get a shrimp burrito. You know? And I’m like oh my goodness, we’re still eating. And then I say, oh pick me up a taco on the way back, you know? But but there’s that feeling that you at some point in that trip, you always feel kind of gross and full and bloated. And I think that’s life because everything is available.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Travis Spencer — It’s available all the time.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — There’s your calendar can be over full. You can say yes to everything. And so instead of us as humans having a stomachache I think we have a life-ache. I think we’re I think we’re like wow, why don’t I feel good? Why does it why do I feel bloated and full? And it’s because we’re putting all the wrong things in our life. And to be honestly we’re chasing something and it’s not leading to fulfillment or satisfaction. And I do think that’s a human problem. I don’t think that is a where you live in the United States.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — Like that’s that is everyone’s identifying with that, is I want to feel fulfilled I want to feel satisfied but I feel like everything I’m chasing for is not leading me to that. And so as a pastor I was like, okay like we have to help solve this problem for people. Yeah.

Rich Birch — We got to talk about this. Yeah, yeah, totally. Yeah, let’s let’s stick there for a little bit. I love… well, I don’t love that idea of the life-ache. But I love that um, you know, that concept I think that resonates deeply, you know this idea of we’re overfull. We’re stuffed. Our culture is, you know, time and again it’s like we all individually are living the lives that for most of human history, you know, only kings lived. You know, like we have instant access to food, instant access to snap our fingers and entertainment comes to us. Um, you know, we’re and we’re not built for that. Like we’re not built for you know this kind of constant consumption, constant… In in your own ministry, how have you seen that work its way, that kind of like, you know, people who are are full, but feel empty. Um tell talk to me about that. How how do you see that as a pastor in in the people you lead over the years?

Travis Spencer — Yeah, when I well so I asked a lot of people that question of like so what’s I tried to drill down into that…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …like what’s what’s the real cause. And and it seemed like after the literally hundreds of conversations, interviews – I have a journalism background, so I kind of like digging into this and I interviewed and asked a ton of questions. Seemed like there was three areas that that we were we were had this life-ache in and we were we needed we needed to find this fulfillment. And it was personal soul care. It was it was relationships, the people in our life. And it was the purpose of why we’re alive. So to boil that down, and the book kind of wraps around these three big lanes, is personal care personal soul care, people, and purpose. Because hundreds of conversations I like looked at all of the trends and it seemed like they all fell in one of those three buckets.

Travis Spencer — I asked it, and I actually asked the question not why do you feel gross, but what fulfills you; what makes you feel good? And their answers fell in one of those buckets. It was, well when I go to church and I have ah, you know, during worship. Okay, well, that’s a spiritual thing. Or when I’m around my kids, you know, and we go to, you know… So there was a people thing. And then it was why I love, you know, helping when I went on that missions trip, when I did something that was good. And so it really was, it’s either like soul care your personal care, people, or purpose. And then so then it’s like I think that we’re we are filling our lives with those things, but they’re still unhealthy.

Rich Birch — Um, okay, well let’s let’s dig into those a little bit. Was there as you’re writing this I know for me as I’ve written in the past there’s a part of it where um I feel like I’m writing for myself. It’s like the most convicting, the part that kind of points at me. Was there any of any of those three, one of those three, or a part of one of those three—whether it’s, you know, wonderful life, wonderful people, wonderful purpose—um, that was particularly kind of self-diagnosing and like self, you know, convicting as you were wrestling through it?

Travis Spencer — Oh, all three, because I think that’s what made the book so easy to write is I have personal stories in every single one of those categories. And it’s just so easy to identify that my goodness, like I’ve not I’m not taken care of myself or my soul in the right way. And here I am as a pastor; I have this spiritual title and yet we can feel very depleted spiritually. And um, you know I think we all have gauges and dashboards in our own life. And I told the story that my son one time his name was mentioned on the local police scanner because he ran out of gas. And our names were mentioned on the police scanner too, which is not good when you live in these rural areas. Everyone knows him. Um, he’s on the way.

Rich Birch — Ah, that’s Travis’s kid.

Travis Spencer — Yeah. So he’s on the way to work, or he’s on the way to class at the local hospital on one of our busiest highways. He runs out of gas. He pulls his car over but doesn’t get it all the way over so now over the police scanner is the vehicle owned by Travis Spencer is, you know, blocking traffic and blah, you know.

Travis Spencer — And and so we do the whole, son, you got to, you know, put gas in your tank. But if if you would have just looked at the dashboard and looked at the gauge he would have known like, hey, I can’t get all the way to my job today. And I think if we would take a look at our gauges and go, man, I don’t know if I’m filling up in God’s word. I don’t know if I’m spending some, I don’t know if there’s solitude. I don’t know if there’s…and I don’t know if I have enough rest. Why is there burnout in my life? And so I really think we have to look at the gauges. And I have plenty of personal diagnosis there. I’m like wow I’m, I think I ran on empty way too much, you know?

Rich Birch — Right, yeah yeah, you…

Travis Spencer — And so that that would be that would be one of those personal care kind of stories.

Rich Birch — Yeah, so when you um so I think it’s interesting that you with the way the book is structured, you know, I’ve got it open, I’m looking at the the um table of contents. It’s interesting you you you go from that kind of personal soul care, people, to purpose. And I wonder if, particularly church leaders—obviously there’s a lot of church leaders listening in today—if we go the other way around. We it’s like we start with purpose, like what we and we the thing that motivates us is the mission. We think about the thing we wake up in the morning. It’s a noble thing. We wake up in the morning and we think about lost people in our communities. But then we don’t we end up soul care can feel like, well, yeah, I’ll get to that. That feels like a that’s like a nice to have. Or like that’s like, when I slow down I’ll get to those things. Did you order that in this direction, you know, on purpose? And, you know, what kind of coaching would you give to us for folks that are in our in in ministry, that we do this for, you know, our jobs? We spend our days thinking about these things.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, absolutely. I ordered it on purpose. I don’t know if you’ve ever read like Dallas Willard, but Soul Care, if you don’t take care of your own soul like that’s the foundation of who we are.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — And so if you’re on an airplane, you’ve been you were on an airplane yesterday, and when we’re on an airplane, everyone hears the little, hey if cabin pressure goes down the oxygen masks, you know, fall down. And then it says if you have a child sitting next to you, make sure you put your mask on first…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …before you put the mask of the of the the child next to you. And like what parent is they or what pastor is going to go. Oh I I need to take care of me before I need to take care of the people are in my community that are dying. And so we immediately start putting the masks on other people and we’re saying, hey, I want to help that person, I want to help that person, I want to help that person. And the whole time we have not put the mask on ourselves. The oxygen is not on our in our own lives. And so, again we have to fill up our own lives with God before we can ever try to help someone else. And we mess we mess that up all the time [inaudible] pastors.

Rich Birch — Yeah, but what what I was going to say so… I know, so like so help us, pastor us here as pastors. Why? How do we how do we get around that? Like it it it feels like, well it’s like, why Dallas Willard exists because he’s pointing out an issue that that we seem to get wrong. And maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m the only one who who is listening or in but it’s like that you know we we go to putting the masks on other people first all the time. Um, so you know, coach us on that a little bit; talk us through…

Travis Spencer — So yeah, let’s let’s be raw here.

Rich Birch — Sure.

Travis Spencer — Like we can measure church metrics.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — So I can work really hard and see church numbers go up. I can see groups go up. I can see people through the front door go up. I can see finances go up.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — And so we measure those numbers and we prioritize those numbers.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — And the dashboard that I talked about, like your gas light of your soul…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …that’s a harder number to measure…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …and it’s an easier number to hide.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Travis Spencer — I think there’s a lot of unhealthy pastors that are bustin’ down. You know the numbers are great in their churches, but but how are they doing?

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Travis Spencer — You know, but but the problem is is it catches up with you.

Rich Birch — Yeah, it does

Travis Spencer — It really does. Like we can play that game. For some people can do it for seasons, or or years.

Rich Birch — Yeah, decades.

Travis Spencer — But if you don’t if you don’t tackle soul care, I think I think it could be a house of cards.

Rich Birch — Yeah, absolutely. Well you know, and I was just I was speaking to someone this week who we’re going to have on a future episode and we’re talking about this exact issue. And I said man, I’m just so tired of um leaders who—and I think this is turning around, which is a good thing—but like there’s there was a ah, real period there where it was like every conference I went to there would be some leader in some massive ministry who’s making huge, like huge influence, and then they would get up and say like don’t do it like me though, like I built this thing and then burnt out. Like I wish I hadn’t have done that. And I’m like where’s the person that’s like, you know, I’ve taken a measured life through my entire ministry, and at the same time had huge impact. And there are those people out there and I would count you as one of those, that it’s like okay, there’s a person who is is actually trying to tend their own garden while worrying about, you know, the people around them. Ah, but it it it’s, man, it just it seems like we run into those all the time. It feel like it’s getting better but I feel like we still got it so much so far to go on that front.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, it’d be interesting if as a leadership culture we could instead of so always celebrating the churches that blow up in the pastors to go from this number to some great number, we could celebrate incremental growth.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, like this pastor helped lead his church to a 7% growth for the last twenty years every year.

Rich Birch — Yes, yeah.

Travis Spencer — Instead of they were they they started in their living room with 12 people and three years later they have an auditorium of a thousand.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — And we hear that all the time, but it’s like one, it’s not very doable and two, I don’t know how you don’t get burnout in that.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — Like that’s a story of complete exhaustion.

Rich Birch — Yes, well and I love, yeah, so friends of mine in Omaha um Stonebridge Church, Mark Chitwood is the lead pastor there, and he that’s one of his jokes. Like they’re they’re a church of they’re sizable church. They’re south of 3000, like there’re probably 2500 people, something like that. And his joke is we’re the slowest growing church in America, you know. But when you hear their story, they literally it’s like they’ve grown 10 percent a year for 30 years. Like it’s just like, you know, and and that over time that has, and I’m like that’s what we want to do! Like that is, you know, that’s a whole other conversation. But you know, interesting, interesting stuff.

Rich Birch — Well, you know, I know that writing a book, this is a huge task, like actually sitting down. Let’s kind of flip and talk rather than about the content. Let’s talk about the process. So what led you to be like, okay we’ve got to, you know, now’s the time I want to write this. Had you been thinking about this for a while? Is this, you know, I feel like every pastor I’ve run into’s got a book in them or thinking about it. But talk us about that talk to us about that part.

Travis Spencer — Um, yeah, absolutely. if you would interview my wife she would say I have a hundred books inside of me…

Rich Birch — Yes, good!

Travis Spencer — …and and up and end up until this time I had zero on print.

Rich Birch — Yes, yes.

Travis Spencer — So you know, I think it’s um I I’m one who is always thinking, dreaming. I do have a journalism background. So I mean I um I enjoy writing. I enjoy that, but this really came down to okay 25 years of experience. if you were to just write one book…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …what’s the easiest one?

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — And then, Rich, you helped me. Like, you know, I want you to I want your listeners to hear this. Like you you said every lead pastor should write a book. And something inside of me said, okay, like I’ve been thinking about this. I’ve talked about it. I have a phone full of notes on it.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Travis Spencer — I have never sit down and did it. And and then you actually helped set that plan and go like okay, let’s let’s walk through this.

Rich Birch — Let’s do it. Yes, talk about a process for it.

Travis Spencer — And let’s let’s create an outline and and so really, it was getting thoughts into an outline. Outline into… and then in that and when when I was in the outline process is when I started, Okay, I know the direction of this book I’m going to start talking to a lot of people and getting content from…

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good. I like that.

Travis Spencer — …from friends, family, Facebook, everything and start asking, like I know I’m going to write on this. So now I want to hear stories from other people. I started categorizing categorizing or cataloging in my own mind my own personal stories that would connect to some of these. But I also did an audit of people in my life and said this person… so there’s a there’s a great lady in our church that’s a a comedian. And but she became a comedian because her father passed away and she couldn’t laugh for like a couple years. She was a very joyous lady who when her dad died, the the laughter stopped.

Rich Birch — Oh wow. Wow.

Travis Spencer — And then she had this awakening that, no, I was ah God put this in me; I need to help people laugh. And I’m like, I want to retell that story in the chapter of purpose.

Rich Birch — Oh wow.

Travis Spencer — Like God’s got that in you. So I was cataloging people that I know. We have some veterans in our church that like have incredible stories of hard work and grit. I tell my own dad’s story if he’s a welder and just smelled like old iron, you know, when he came home from work. But but grit, you know, and it’s missing, and so working hard. And so I was looking at my life, I’m looking at other people’s lives, and then you just have to start writing it.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Travis Spencer — You just [inaudible]. And to be honest for me, I sat on my back patio for like a couple hours every night when it was nice out, the sun went down, the patio lights were on. I grabbed my laptop and I just spent a couple hours writing or researching. Um and it just just actually was very enjoyable to me. Like it’s nice out, I’m gonna go sit on the back patio and I’m gonna work on this thing.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — And I thought if I could do one or two hours and just kind of keep plugging away at it. Now we had a deadline, so just a little bit… we I used this book also to to really catapult for a sermon series and to get back to church in January. So it was strategic. And because of that that put another pressure on you have a real deadline. Like it’s not a, hey I’m going to write a book in, you know, this calendar year…

Rich Birch — Sometimes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Travis Spencer — …like we want to hand this book out…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …in January, so then you had to you had to you had to go backwards and go, Okay, so for distributing it here… So I did have it so that’s why I was like, okay, one or two hours on my patio – I have to bust this out. But it wasn’t exhausting. I tell people all the time, you know, Rich, you gave me a plan, you gave me some, 4 or 5, simple steps, you opened the door into some relationships of editors, designers. You made it fairly simple and I was like it was much easier than I thought. And it really was.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — And if I have learned anything and people ask what do you learn reading but writing a book? It was like it was easier than I thought.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, it’s a little bit demystifying. Yeah, yeah.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, it’s not this massive mountain.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — You know, especially if you trust you know an editor to clean up your stuff. I think I think there’s vulnerability in writing a book. You know, like good grief. Not only is everyone going to read it and you’re going to look at your little Amazon stars and see if anybody commented.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — But you’re also giving it to an editor that’s doing a very deep dive…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — …and going I don’t like this chapter.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — Or I didn’t like the way you said this.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — I’m like, well, that’s that’s my favorite story.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah. That’s my son and I want to tell that story about him on the car. That’s a great story.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, yeah.

Rich Birch — You know like yeah you get pushback. Yeah for sure.

Travis Spencer — You push past vulnerability, you push past the fear of it’s impossible to do.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — And it’s doable.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — You know, and I’m like and I’ve already got the next one like, you know, rolling.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Travis Spencer — You know, I’m like, hey, I I can do this. It was very…

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s fun. I came… I I would can identify that feeling for sure. I just I literally just came off the release of a book, and and I have that feeling of like okay, let’s go going on the next one. Like it and, you know, I want to I personally I want to use that because I know that wanes, like eventually you’re like, okay, you know, you’re you kind of lose that momentum. But I’m like oh yeah, right, there are, you know, let’s let’s get working on this on this next one.

Rich Birch — Let’s go back to the moment. So, I appreciate the kind words and, you know, that’s nice of you to to say that, but like in that same group that we were encouraging, there was you know 8 or 9 pastors in that room. You know, half a dozen churches. Um, and you were the one that did it. I was challenging all of them. So if if it’s a measurement of coaching, I’m you know I’m batting 2 out of 10 or whatever you know, 20%, something like that. Ah what what was it in that initial phase that that you walked away saying, no, like let’s do this. Like let’s actually because because, you know, if I look at that and that’s not a criticism to other people actually one of the other churches is working on one as well. Um. But and and one of them had already done it. So maybe I’m I’m being self-critical. I shouldn’t be. But um, but what what think about put yourself in that headspace and what was it that helped you actually get over the like okay, let’s start. Let’s actually get the thing rolling. Um you know, kind of the what what gave you the the internal drive to make the commitment to do it?

Travis Spencer — Yeah, one thing was, someone believes that I can do this. Like someone is someone believes in me to write it. And then just some simple steps of I remember you you I think you when you write your books you you speak it out a lot, right? You use like some some…

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Travis Spencer — And so and I was like, man, who can’t talk for 30 or 45 minutes on something that’s so passionate in your life.

Rich Birch — Right, right.

Travis Spencer — So just get it out. Just get it out of you, and then you’ll clean it up later.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Travis Spencer — But just get it out of you. And I was like besides sitting in the room going, I have these thoughts. I have these…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …you know, I have these ideas. And then you if you match that with people need this content.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, true.

Travis Spencer — The why is very important.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Travis Spencer — The why is not I want to be an author.

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — You know, I want to be a, you know, church planting same thing. I just want to have extra campuses. No, that’s a horrible why, you know.

Rich Birch — Yes, true.

Travis Spencer — Because [inaudible]. So the why is I don’t want to I don’t want my name on a book – that can’t be the why and it can’t be ah, you know. It has to be I have a story to tell. I have content that can be valuable. I need to deliver practical tools and steps into someone’s life to help them find fulfillment. And so when you hold on to that and say I actually believe I have something that’s beneficial. And my audience usually is a Sunday morning…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …and then some people online but now this audience is like goes beyond that.

Rich Birch — Yep, yep.

Travis Spencer — And it’s it’s really incredible.

Rich Birch — Yeah that’s good. I yeah I want to underline what you said there just to um to encourage people that might be listening in. You know, if you have got something that will help your people, which I believe you do, like the most selfish thing you can do is to not do the work to release it. Like it’s actually ah it’s a gift of um compassion. I love Seth Godin’s work on that. It’s like a it’s a it’s an act of compassion to ultimately put this together and then to promote it to try to get other people to to actually read it. Um, you’re actually helping people. That’s the goal of it. You’re trying to help the folks that are in this case in your church or their friends or or broader community.

Rich Birch — Let’s talk a little bit about the impact that the book had. Um, I know it, you know you guys you use it as a recall strategy. Just for folks that are listening in, that’s, you know, the the kind of big idea there is coming out of a Big Day. Man, one of the best practices like Christmas is to have some really clear call to action to bring people back. You use this as a part of that for a January recall. Talk us through that from ah you know an impact point of view. How did how has it helped the church. Because I know that’s you know that was a part of the driver for you wanting to do it. It’s like hey I want to I want to do this to try to help us reach people and and help, you know, what we’re doing at The Fields.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, absolutely. At you know Christmas you have your peak attendance. You have a lot of people showing up at Christmas, but then there’s the lull of the new, you know, New Year’s Eve and that weird Sunday that no one shows up to church after after Christmas.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — And you know and we don’t even have church that Sunday and so…

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, like so on Christmas when we have everyone, we’re like coming back on (then we gave the specific day), everyone’s going to get a free copy of Pastor Travis’s new book called “Wonderful.” And and then we and then we’re very specific. If you come back the next weekend it’s for sale in the lobby. But on this date…

Rich Birch — It’s free.

Travis Spencer — …everyone’s getting everyone’s getting a free copy. And so there’s a little investment there, but for me, it’s like we’re getting this we’re getting the word out into everyone’s hands. It’s a huge callback. It’s really a great idea. And so we did that and, you know, we were. I’m I’m [inaudible] I don’t know if anyone’s going to show up to church for my for my book.

Rich Birch — You, but you said that on a call like the week before. We happened to be on a call and you were like you didn’t quite weren’t quite that pointed, but you were like, well we’ll see. Who knows? You know, we’ll see what happens. The books are here. We’ve got a big, giant pile of books.

Travis Spencer — Yeah, you have to preorder these things you’re like, man, do we like, are we going to have hundreds of books sitting in the closet? Like this is a bad idea? I was blown away by that. Our numbers – I don’t know if we were 20% higher than on average.

Rich Birch — Wow. Yeah.

Travis Spencer — And we hit ah an attendance barrier. I know numbers aren’t everything, but it was the first time we we broke the thousand barrier on a non-holiday.

Rich Birch — Yeah, that’s huge deal. Yeah.

Travis Spencer — And so here’s what’s fascinating is, okay, like that’s the free book day. And we were like 1100 or something like that. And next week, same number.

Rich Birch — Wow.

Travis Spencer — Next week maybe dropped a you know few families…

Rich Birch —Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Travis Spencer — But to be honest that whole series, and and today we’re out of that series we’re much higher today than we were pre-, you know, before this this book launch. And it did create some momentum. And the second thing is anywhere I go in community, I just hear people say, hey how’s your book doing?

Rich Birch — Sweet.

Travis Spencer — I know you said like you know it’s great for a callback. It’s great for your church. You know it’s good for that series. And that’s absolutely worked. But then the the other key is community credibility.

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — And you can be the pastor in town that’s an author. You can be the pastor in town that’s written a book. And and online you just keep sharing it and people seeing it. And that’s a conversation I hear all the time when I’m out at a restaurant or something. Like hey, I’ve been reading your book.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah, that’s amazing.

Travis Spencer — Or hey how’s it go and how’s the book going? And so there is community credibility. And now we’re going to be able to pass this book out all year long to like whether we haven’t decided if it’s new guests or people who graduate like a leadership program or something. But it’s the gift that keeps on giving. You know we have this tool. Let’s continue to use it. And now we’re packaging a ten week, it’s like 10 chapters, so we’re packaging like a discussion guides. I have pastor friends are like, hey, we’d like to do a small group.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Travis Spencer — So I’m leading a small group right now. I want to do it myself to see like what are the right questions in the discussion.

Rich Birch — Yeah, yeah.

Travis Spencer — So as I’m leading this I’m writing the curriculum. And it’s ah you know it’s ah just a small group discussion. But then we’ll be able to even make that available to, you know, some friends and ministry that they want to you know, take this and run with it.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — It’s been a huge gift for our church and it’s been great.

Rich Birch — That’s good. Well, that’s great, dude. I yeah I want to encourage people that are listening in well I want you I want you to go and pick up copies. I’m assuming you can get on on Amazon.

Travis Spencer — Yes.

Rich Birch — Is there somewhere we want to send them to pick up besides that or is any website or that kind of thing we want to send them to?

Travis Spencer — Amazon’s the easiest and then the other one the the tool that we’re developing especially for pastors because then we’ll do discussion guides and even…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …give links to how I use the the series…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …is just go to readwonderful.com, readwonderful.com

Rich Birch — readwonderful.com

Travis Spencer — And then here’s the here’s the you you touched on this is like people kind of are afraid to write a book. I ask myself this all the time, like what’s at stake? I think it’s a Don Miller.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Travis Spencer — Don Miller says this when he’s storytelling. He says one of the parts of the great story at the end of like a of any story is what’s at stake? What if we do do this, this happens. And if we don’t do this…

Rich Birch — Right.

Travis Spencer — …this happens. And what’s at stake if I don’t deliver practical tools and steps of helping people find fulfillment and satisfaction, is if I don’t, the culture will.

Travis Spencer — So so in my mind is if we don’t lead people to true fulfillment and satisfaction, they’re going to someone’s going to try to tell them, this is what satisfying is.

Rich Birch — Oh that’s good.

Travis Spencer — And this is what fulfillment is.

Rich Birch — That’s good.

Travis Spencer — And so I think we ask ourselves of any book topic or any message that we’re getting ready to teach or any, you know, big series that a church is getting ready to plan is what’s at stake if we don’t do this?

Rich Birch — So good.

Travis Spencer — And for me, it’s like I don’t want people finding fulfillment in other places…

Rich Birch — Right. Love it.

Travis Spencer — …because that will be empty fulfillment.

Rich Birch — Yes.

Travis Spencer — And they’re going to go right back to the life ache that they had before.

Rich Birch — Yeah, love it.

Travis Spencer — And so what’s at stake? Like what’s the cost of not doing this book?

Rich Birch — So good. So good, dude. I love it. What ah what encouragement. I yeah I just want to honor you for for actually doing it and for leaning in. And I think it would be a great, you know, there’s multiple things happening in today’s podcast here. I think it’d be a great book for. I think there’s leaders that are listening in that need to hear the message of this book and would find this as ah, friends, it’s an encouraging book. It’s positioned as, you know, Travis is your friend. This is not the kind of book you’re going to walk away from feeling crappy about yourself. You’re going to be like, okay, no I’ve got some practical steps empowered to take, you know, steps forward. I think it would be a great resource for your staff team, like you could be like hey let’s use this as ah as a resource for us as worth, you know, maybe a training thing this spring or maybe but you know post easter or something like that. Hey, let’s let’s read through this as a staff team. I think that could be a great place. I think, you know, it’s an encouragement to, you know, here’s ah, a leader who who did the work to write a book. I know there are there are literally thousands of pastors who are listening in who have thought the same thing. Well here’s like the 1% who actually did it, and you heard about the response which is amazing. So um, you know, maybe you would encourage you to take a step and and, you know, or maybe you want to do this as a series at your church – that kind of thing. So go to readwonderful.com that would be a great ah you know so starting point. Pickup copies on Amazon. I would really encourage you to to lean in with Travis on that.

Rich Birch — Going to give you the final words. Any final words, you’d love to say there, Travis, just as we kind of close out today’s episode?

Travis Spencer — So when Bob Golf wrote his book, “Love Does,” he put his phone number in the back. We were we were in the we were in my office and and myself and our executive Pastor Evan we called the number. He answered. He answered. Bob answers. And like Bob, your book has been so powerful in our life. Just thanks for writing. And in in his joyous Bob Goff voice he goes, Travis, you have a book in you, you know.

Rich Birch — Love it.

Travis Spencer — And he goes everybody should write a book, you know.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — So I tried calling the number again to tell him I wrote that book.

Rich Birch — Yeah.

Travis Spencer — And he didn’t answer.

Rich Birch — I love it.

Travis Spencer — But so if I had parting comments, one I really do believe everyone has a book in them. And then secondly I want to be as approachable as he is. If anyone has any questions or wants to dive a little deeper, you know, or you know we can get that contact and and reach out. I’d love to help and love to just walk alongside you…

Rich Birch — Yeah, where where do we want to send people if they want to connect with you to be at the church website.

Travis Spencer — Like let’s go to the yeah, let’s go to the church. Let’s go to thefields.church…

Rich Birch — Yep.

Travis Spencer — …and then that would be the easiest contact.

Rich Birch — Perfect. Well thanks, friends. Thanks for tuning in. Travis, just want to honor you. You’re a great leader. You’re the kind of people people should follow and so it’s been great to connect with you today. Thanks so much for being on the podcast today.

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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.