One Pastor's Story: Overcoming Challenges Inside and Outside the Church with Blaine Braden
10:26PM Mar 22, 2023
It is far greater, to have pressure from the outside of the church and unity inside than to have pressure and problems inside in unity to the outside.
Welcome to Ideas have consequences the podcast of the disciple nations Alliance, a show where we examine how our mission as Christians is to not only spread the gospel around the world to all the nations, but to also transform the nations to increasingly reflect the truth, goodness and beauty of God's kingdom. Tragically, the church has largely neglected the second part of our mission. And today Christians have little influence on their surrounding cultures. Join us on this podcast as a rediscover what it means for each of us to disciple the nations and to create Christ honoring cultures that reflect the character of the living God.
Well, welcome again to another episode of ideas have consequences, the podcast of the disciple nations Alliance, my name is Scott Allen, I'm the president of the disciple nations Alliance. And today I'm here with my beloved team members, Shawn Carson, Tim Williams, Luke Allen. And we also today have a very special guest, Pastor Blaine Braden, from East month church in Bend, Oregon, Blaine, thank you so much for taking time to be with us today. We're so excited about the opportunity to talk with you. Absolutely, thank you for letting me be part of it. Yeah.
Eastmont church in Bend, Oregon is a church that both Luke and I are familiar with. I grew up in Bend and my parents live in, in Bend in Central Oregon. And so when I'm up there visiting, I love to attend Eastmont, Blaine and just really have come to really love and appreciate your teaching in particular, you know, and just so grateful for you. And
I know Luke feels the same way, Luke, that's the church that Luke and Sabrina are attending. And my daughter, Jenna is actually on staff there as a teacher, with the school that's associated with each month. So we have connections there. But
Blaine, you know, we, I thought it would be so fun to talk to a local local church pastor, because there's so much happening with the local church here in the United States today, and especially in a place like Oregon, coming out of, you know, really kind of turbulent times with both COVID. And also with, you know, for lack of a better word, the woke revolution, you know, just there's just been so much turmoil and change. And I know for my church, my pastor here in Phoenix, he says, it's been the most difficult season of His ministry career, you know, and I'm, you know, I'm sure you would probably relate to that. But I thought it would be really helpful to kind of talk to you about just how you With God's grace and help and that of your elders, you know, how did you kind of face some of these these challenges, because in my again, my observation was that God's really blessed each month through some of the choices that you've made, the church seems to be growing and rapidly anyways. But before we get into that, yeah, maybe Blaine, if you could just like give us a little background on. Just tell us a little bit about your story, kind of who you are, where you're from, and how did you end up kind of doing what you do? That'd be great. Yeah,
yeah, I, I've told our church I'm the most church kids you've ever met. My mom's water broke with me on a Sunday at church, and kind of set the trajectory for my life. My dad's a pastor. And so I grew up as a pastor's kid, and just close to church and close to church ministry. And I was not a rebellious kid, I was a pretty good kid. And, but I didn't really, I told someone when I graduated high school, I wanted to want Jesus like the people I knew, but I just had been around I had a hard time, whether it was my own pride or, or anything else, just asking questions of my own parents and or maybe my youth pastor when it came to issues of theology and who God was. And so by the mercy and grace of God, I went to a Christian school called masters had had zero desire to be a pastor that was just not on the list. I told my mom, I didn't care what I did. I just wanted to be rich. And so I went to college and, and began to ask questions, and I felt a calling in my life to ministry, but at the same time, I felt like I was wrestling with doubt in a crippling way. To the extent I remember sitting in a New Testament survey class, sitting in the back and I thought, man, everyone in here is in a cult, and and we're all paying to be here, which is a sign of a cult. You know? And I got to figure this out. And so I went back to my dorm room and I said, Okay, if this is real, I'll give my life to it. But if it's not real, I'm not going to play these games. And so that that began a process for me of reading and questioning. And I've used the analogy of walking out on a frozen lake and just kind of slowly beginning to step out, just thinking at any moment in my worldview of Jesus would collapse under the weight of life. And then it didn't, in I found that it was solid. And, and so it was during that time I met my wife, and, and really, I again, even in college, I didn't have a desire to be a pastor. I think if you were to ask me, you know, 2021 I don't think I knew what I wanted to do. I think I just was happy that just seems willing to marry me, and then we'd figure it out from there. And but I left college just thinking, Okay, if, if anyone in my life if I could do anything to help someone understand the scriptures in a way that these men in college did for me, and the way that my own dad did for me, like, if if I could do that in any small way, and I give my life to that, because it wasn't, it wasn't that I went to a really cool church, and they had great music, and they had all these programs. And I mean, it was just monotone, old, smart guys, just opening the Bible with me. And it just started coming alive to me. And so my, my commitment to even expositional preaching is not because of a seminary class that it told me to do it. You know, it was really because that was how the Lord really transformed my life. Just through seeing the word come alive. And so I've kind of an unintentional Pastor, I really didn't know that I was looking for it. And so I came to East my I was working with my dad's church and doing literally everything else.
You mentioned, Matt, just really quick lane. But for those who don't know, this is we're in Southern California. This is where you grew up, correct?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. So it's in Santa Clarita, and I grew up in SoCal and north of Los Angeles there. Yep. Yeah. I'm not a real Oregonian. And everyone knows it. Every time it gets called, I told you, I'm reminded that I have Southern California routes.
Did you so yeah, well, Rita. Is that is that was that your hometown?
No, I moved around a little bit. I lived in the Bay Area for awhile. Hume Lake for a little while. Some people may know a little bit about him. And I lived in Lake Arrowhead. That was the last stretch. So San Bernardino County. A little bit further south. Yeah. And so, um, yeah, coming out of college, I worked for my dad and worked everywhere else. I delivered flowers and loaded trucks. I was a, I was a full time maintenance worker at a hospital when I applied to work here at Eastman. And so you smart really rolled the dice on me. I had no, I had no experience I had no. I never worked full time at a church. I was just a young kid who had gotten married and had just a desire to teach the Bible. And actually didn't know anyone in Oregon. I had one friend in Oregon, actually. And he moved to San Diego two weeks before I moved to Oregon. And so we came up here without any family without any friends. And my wife actually had just found the Church Online and felt like it was a good theological fit. And we figured we don't have any kids. And we'll go spend a couple years in the wilderness up there with those people and come back to California and 10 years later, I'm still here.
What was the position you applied for Blaine? Was it? Was it youth or what was that first position? Yeah. Eastmont.
I came in as a youth pastor. Yeah. Yeah.
And that didn't last too long. Correct. I mean, how long were you the youth pastor at Eastman?
Yeah, you smart. So you smart spouts. I think we're 44 this year. And when I came, there was we were an older church, they were kind of coasting. The guys that I came to work for Love the Lord God, the man learned a ton from them. But within within 18 months of me getting here, every ministry leader quit, but me. Wow.
What was happening? Yeah. Tell us a little bit about Yeah, just Eastmont Yeah, I'd love to hear a little bit more of the story there. So that's amazing. Yeah.
Yeah. John Lodwick was the pastor here for a long time, he was the one that hired me. Like I say, he's one of the godless men I've ever known. I respect him so much. And I think when I came to Eastman, there was an aging church that realized they were aging. The analogy of us is kind of like running out of gas on the freeway, you're still moving. That's really hard to know exactly when you ran out of gas. But at some point, you know, you started slowing down. And so the, the idea was, let's hire some young guys to come in, and kind of bring some young people to church. And so a couple of us were hired, and we were in our 20s. And that's not really the way church works, though. If we're being honest, if you hire a couple of young guys that doesn't bring young people
and so Tim, you're nodding your head and you Are Tim has done some church work? You can relate there I guess.
Yeah, go Yeah, absolutely.
Yeah. So you just have a couple of young people on your staff, that's kind of all that happens. And there was, there was no scandal, there was no moral failure, there was none of the things that you would normally associate with that. I think there was just a attire group at the church. And the staff, I think, was tired, and it felt kind of dysfunctional. And so when they all had stepped out, yeah, we, it was actually a very interesting year. So I started January 1 of 2013. In November of 2014, we had already gone through a failed merger, we had lost all of our staff, with the exception of me. And, and I remember sitting, I'm actually in my office. Now I remember sitting in this room with a group of men actually, I think a majority of whom have now gone to be with the Lord just defeated. I mean, just we didn't know which way was up. And, and I remember I remember at one point in that meeting, we were talking about, well, who gets the building? Like when, when it when it finally comes to a close? Is that the termination or how does that? And so we kind of pivoted in that conversation, I remember telling the guys, I just believe that God has a plan for this place. And I had no objective reason to say that. Not I just, I just had this deep sense that God had not brought us here after 40 years to let us die like this. And so we had a couple more hard years of, I could write a book on how not to transition at church. No, we did a lot of things poorly, but in God's mercy and kindness, he he's carried the church through and the church is grown by about 1100 people in six years. Which is pretty Yeah, that's great. Yeah. Which is pretty cool. And see God redeem and just restore a place has been one of the joys of my young life is to be able to just be here for it. I mean, I wasn't because I had some great plans. God's just really merciful. And, and so it's, it's cool to see how God has just really preserved this place and protected this place. And even today, our staff is incredible. We have a school that we have ministry teams, we're hiring people, and just the caliber and the quality and the competency of the people that join this team. It shocks me, just to see God's faithfulness here. So that's a little bit of a story of our environmental Church up here.
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Yeah, well just just to add a few thoughts and just you know, because the story of East mine intersects my own story a little bit because I growing up in Bend I you know, we my parents my dad at that time wasn't a Christian My mom was a Christian so she was kind of the spiritual leader of the House. My dad did become a believer later, but we were attending the Methodist Church and bend and and mom finally had enough you know, she just needed some more Bible. You know, it was it was you know, it was just not you know, there wasn't Biblical preaching happening there. So we ended up she took us and I was in my junior high years to First Baptist Church in in Ben which is downtown. And that's the first time I heard the gospel and and not only did I hear the Gospel, the pastor at that time, who was just this wonderful man of God with plaid pants and a red sports coat I remember him just like in white cowboy boots. Anyways, he you know, come forward right if you accept Jesus as your savior that just shocked us we were like what in the world is happening here? You know, so? Yeah. But yeah, that
was actually the Mother Church. Yeah,
that's the Mother Church should be smart because smart you know, First Baptist and so you still that kind of is your history. Your connection, spiritually is through concerts, conservative Baptist, I believe. Background there But anyways, yeah, I just I really credit, you know that group for being truthful, faithful to the gospel and preaching it, you know, faithfully there so, and that gave birth the
one thing I would add, I'm a young pastor, I realized that I'm now 34. So I'm very old now. But when I started, I was 28 in the lead role, and I mean, I got a lot I in fact, I got carded at the hospital. I don't know if that's ever happened to you guys. But I walked in, I had like four people I needed to see. And I asked, you know what room they're in. And the sweet old lady said, Well, how do you know them? So Well, I'm a pastor of a church. And she looked at me and said, Well, do you have any identification to prove that? I was like, I don't know. I mean, I guess I could just start preaching my last sermon. And when you feel like you've heard enough, you can let me out. And so starting is such a young pastor, one of the things that I am, I just want to always tell our story is that like Eastmont is where it is today. Not because of young, energetic, fiery people. It's there because of really faithful seniors. We had a group of seniors who, in the midst of the church really coming and done. They stayed. Many of their friends left. They didn't leave. Yeah. In fact, we still have four of the seven founding families are in our church on on Sunday.
That's fantastic. Blaine, I didn't know that. That's, yeah, yeah.
And so that, that those seniors in our church artists, heroes to me, because they were the ones that, you know, they were the ones that lost friends, not me. They were the ones that that stayed when it when they didn't understand the music. They were the ones that, that sat through, you know, kids starting to show up to the church and the church changing and not knowing anyone. And it's cool. One of the one of the men who was one of the founding families a few years back, we went out to get coffee. And he told me he goes, we were praying things in the 70s that I haven't seen come to light until now. And I think that's a testimony of, of just the faithfulness of men and women who their names will never be told they'll never be interviewed. But they they're so godly and love this church so much and love the mission of what they felt God had put on their heart in 1976, I think it was to plant this place. And that still remains today. And so I always just tell people, I'm a I'm just another Lincoln a long chain. But I did start this and this is really not because of me, it's because of I find a credit any human being it would be that group of seniors in our church.
Well, it's very generous of you Blaine. And very humble. You know, at the same time, it's been very evident to me and others, I think, to see God using you. My parents remained through that. And that was a really I know, a lot of churches can relate to this aging group, and then you kind of aged out and you have to face this decision of do we, you know, do we change to accommodate kind of the next generation. And so that's a diff, those are difficult waters to navigate. And my parents remained at the church a lot, while a lot of their friends, my parents were in their 80s, you know, when a lot of their friends left. And something you said Blaine really impacted them. I don't know if they've ever mentioned this to you, but you said it's up to the older generation to be hospitable and accommodate the next generation, and not the other way around, or something to that effect that really impacted them. And I thought there was so much truth in that, you know, that, you know, it's it's kind of like the older folks saying, if you want to come to our church, you got to do things our way, you know, and the way we sing and the way we worship. Or you could be hospitable and open to the way that the younger generation is doing that. And totally you you had a big that's, that impacted them. They said, That's correct. And so they they remained and, and, and things really took off after that. I think that that kind of mindset kind of permeated the church that we need to be accommodating to this next generation. And,
yeah, so we had, I mean, it was tense. I think that in America, we have a lot of churches that are aging out we have a lot of churches that are being planted in high schools down the street, right, if there's a there's an inability to get to reconcile methodologies of ministry, to to actually see a continuation of legacy, which is heartbreaking. And so I go back to one of those meetings, it was a large group of the seniors invited me in and they had told me we want you to come and share ideas and how we can reach young families. And so I'm like, okay, cool. Like this is great. At this point, my My oldest is like, I don't know a couple years old, I got a little one and and so I just went into that meeting and just said, Hey, I've got a couple ideas. These aren't you know, I didn't come down from the mountain with these. They're just you know, I drove in today. I said, what, what if you didn't do Adult Bible study so that you could go to church with them? So what if you sat next to people you didn't know? And, and then after the service, you just bought them lunch? So what if we just did, let's do that. And that was that was well received by maybe 25% of the group. And so I use an analogy is okay, I'm a youth pastor. I said, I have never once had a high school kid buy me lunch. It has never happened. It never will happen. Right? They, they only want to hang out with their youth pastor, because they know there's food involved, right? We know the game. This is how it's played. And so I told him, I said, imagine if I had told the kid I said, Hey, I'll buy you much anything you want. But we're gonna meet at, you know, Taco Bell on the north side of town. And I know they don't have a car. And they're like, Why can't get there? I'm like, well, that's not my problem. I've told you I'd buy you lunch. If you don't want to show up to get the free lunch. That's a huge problem. I said, but deep down, it really isn't a hip problem. It would be a me problem, because I didn't actually try to make it work for him. And so what I challenged our seniors with I said, I said, What if we, what if we just said in the song that's being sung, I use this analogy with our seniors. And I think this is a really important conversation in America right now, how we, how we almost replant churches. So my grandpa, there was a certain him that my grandpa loved my grandpa was a tough man. He had a fourth grade education lied about his age to, to get into the Coast Guard and World War Two lived on the streets. I mean, the guy was, he was a tough, tough man. And yet, this one him would break him. Right? If it was saying at church, he would weep. And so I told our seniors, I said, we have two options when that happens in our life. One is we can write a note to the worship pastor and say, sing that song more. Right? Because when you sing it, I enjoyed it. And I felt the Lord reminded me and moving in my own heart and mind. I said, or you can praise God when it happens. And then in the song that is too fast, and it's too loud, and you have no idea what's going on and you feel disoriented. I said, you could just stand there quietly, and praise God that that song is doing that same thing and someone else's heart. And so we just tried to kind of reframe it. Like, what if we actually tried to outdo one another in order? What if we tried to and what God did in that is one of the most I think generationally diverse churches I've ever seen. It took and and we saw people do that. I remember seeing had a guy come in, he was a widowed guy still in our church. His wife had passed away, and I had been with them as that happened. About a couple months later, I see him at church, and he's sitting next to a row of college students. And, and he goes, It's the highlight of my week. You know, he knows their name. He's praying for him. He knows what their classes there. And I'm like, look at that, like, that's amazing. That's beautiful. That's so cool. Yeah. So those were cool things that we were seeing happen in those days. And again, that the growth wasn't happening, it was just health internally, and our people loved each other. And, and so they're the stories I could tell just that that being shaped is beautiful. And, and one of the cool things that is a lasting effect of that is our fastest growing group right now is 30 year olds with kids, young families, kids ministry is blowing up. Our second fastest demographic growth is retired couples
coming to our church. That's, that's unusual, isn't it?
It's unusual. I think that's a just a picture of God's grace and health. So
well, blamed. That's really encouraging. And I know you so you jumped right into the fire. You know, that was kind of right away. You had to deal with that, that challenge. But that didn't stop there. Right. I mean, you've been it's been kind of one after another. But I'm going to forgive me team here to Tim and Shawn and Luke, you guys can just chime in all you know, they know, I'll just kind of railroad these conversations here. So yeah, I really want to kind of move it up to more of the contemporary challenges we've had with COVID. And, you know, the woke revolution. But before we get into that, Blaine, tell us a little bit about Ben, you grew up in Southern California. So you said you had no connection with Oregon? What what's Oregon like what's bend like give our listeners a little bit of a flavor for you know, I think for a lot of people and we hear about Oregon, you know now because kind of post George Floyd we think of the riots in Portland and just kind of crazy. Far left stuff, but what's it like and bend?
Yeah, yeah, Portland's a mess. Oregon's interesting. You know, I think the big difference is they have city limits means something here, right? When you leave the city, you're in the you're in the sticks. Bend is Ben's a little bit of an isolated place. It's about 100,000 people now. You know, when I came to bend bend was politically conservative. And it was a place that politics really weren't a key point politically conservative in Oregon. It was it was on the other side of the mountains we hit gotten over here. And, and it was interesting when we came, I think people moved to Ben because they wanted to get away from that. Right, they wanted to kayak and mountain bike and they wanted to enjoy the mountains. And it was it's very much a recreational driven city, right. Everyone's got Subarus and kayaks and mountain bikes. And that's just kind of life appeared, you know, coming out of 2020, as the whole world became more political, but then has also shifted politically pretty heavily. And most of the transplants coming to bend are coming from the Bay Area in California, the Portland metro area, and then the Seattle metro area. So as as big cities as Portland, Seattle and San Francisco decline, or have people kind of leaving a good number of them find themselves here, I think a good amount of that was driven by remote work in 2020. Because if you're going to work remote, you might as well work in a place where you can go enjoy being outside. And so Ben's population continues to grow pretty quick. Same with Boise, which is another six hours east of us. But Ben does seems to be attracting a lot of those three areas, which does have political ramifications. And then coupled with that is a lot of kind of the more native central Oregonians they're leaving, they're going to Idaho, they're going to Tennessee to Florida to Texas. And so there has been
a lot of this shifting, we're seeing in the United States as a whole we're seeing kind of an Oregon in a microcosm, it seems like yeah, we're
kind of like a pitstop, like, on the way out of the coastal areas, you know, they stop and bend for a bit. So that has that has radically changed. And not only on a state level Bend, Oregon has always been a very blue state Bend has has kind of followed suit. And that we've seen that primarily we've seen it in our city council, we've seen it in our school boards, I have a lot of people that are good friends of mine who work and who had worked in very high levels in schooling and in government just being totally forced out. And so it's quite a shift that's happened and especially since 2020, that shift is really accelerated.
Yeah, you know, my time up in Oregon, for those who don't know, Oregon geographically, you know, the, the centers of population and culture are kind of on the, on the west side. In between Portland, Salem, and Eugene, those are the largest cities in Oregon. And they like you're saying Blaine are influenced by places like Seattle and San Francisco. But on the other side, so the Cascade Mountains run through the state on the other side of the mountains, it's its ranches and you know, it's bad, wet as West as West can get, you know, and, and with that comes very conservative values. So, culturally, it's very, it's very different, very diverse and bend is kind of right up against those two worlds, it seems to me, you know,
yeah, the shift in Bend if I, if I remember, right, we we voted more blue in the last election and bent than Eugene if I if I remember correctly. So bend has has kind of been lumped in now with with that. And so I think what if you are if you look at Ben's, you've got the outskirts of bend, which is ranching and, you know, people kind of still live in the country. And so yeah, bend is a, I think it's I think it's one of the most strategic cities in Oregon right now. Because of the way it's shifting. I mean, if you're in Multnomah County, it's poor. I mean, Portland is it's Portland, right in. But I think as far as watching, shifting, things happen, I think Ben is probably the most fluid right now. Based on just demographic change, and people movement and all that kind of stuff that comes with it.
What's happening with the church in Ben Blaine, what's How would you describe the situation with the Christian community there in the church? Broadly? Yeah. Is it growing?
I don't think so. Okay, I think there's there's a handful, I think church attendance across the states is down. It's, you know, the Northwest is, is interesting. It's, it's, it's less church than California, which it was kind of a surprise to me, if I'm being honest with you. It's, we didn't have a lot of people going to church before COVID. We got less now. I think there was a lot of churches that were planting in bed. I think that this is probably common in Hawaii, too.
very desirable place to live, right.
The Lord has called me and, and so we had a good number of church plants that didn't make it through 2020 2021. Some of the established churches, I think are still kind of coming back to, to normal and and some of that is tied to the response of mandates and how they were imposed on the church. And I know you know, for the was listening different states all had different rules and regulations and durations. Oregon was on the stricter side of things. And so there were churches that I mean, I know of a couple churches that still, I mean, I, as of a couple months ago, they're still not meeting in person. And so, you know, that they obviously there's kind of a spectrum, if you will, of kind of how they responded, and but I do think that that that took a lot of wind out of a lot of sails for a lot of churches. And I think it's, I don't know anything other than Ben, because I don't go anywhere I just hang out here. But I would think that what we're seeing as well as I think there's just a greater desire for truth. I don't think the the church growth programs and plans of the decades before are going to work anymore. I especially don't believe that to be true in a place like Oregon, there is no social credit for going to church. None, there's no social benefit. There's if anything, immediately labels you as something, and and so I think if if I look at like kind of church culture, this is true in our city to I think if if you try to appease the activists, which happened in 2020, activists don't care about the mission of God. They don't they care about the one area that they have activism in. And then you've got kind of the middle that's kind of, you know, casually Christian, they show up once every seven weeks, right, they, you know, dress up for Easter and sing at Christmas and do the thing and, and then I think you've got your people who are just faithfully committed to a local church. And I think what 2020 did is it, it, it put pressure on churches to kind of go certain directions, and I've seen some churches go completely the activist route, which is completely walk away from orthodoxy and doctrine, which is heartbreaking. Yes. And these were churches that were not fringe churches leading into this, they would have been considered kind of mainline evangelical in the in the tent, if you will. And then we've, we've seen a lot of churches in that middle camp that are just gonna hit what's the easiest way out? I mean, that was kind of how decisions I think, for many churches were made. So a mandate is coming down. Rather than going, What does God called us to do? It was, hey, what's the easiest way? What's the least amount of risk we face, within our own city, with our newspaper with, you know, OSHA with the state with what's the easiest way out legally. And I think a lot of credibility was lost during that year, as well, where I met with some pastors and I said, for 20 years, 30 years, we've told our people go to church churches important. And then in 2020, our people were coming to us going, Pastor go to church, church is important. You know, for 20 years, we told our people following Jesus may cost you a promotion, it may cost you your job. And now these people are coming back to their pastors going, Hey, Pastor, you know, following Jesus may cost you your job. And so I think there was a credibility crisis within the church based on where our convictions lied, and I, I don't think COVID created conviction, I think it exposed. So I think what you were convicted on leading into COVID was what was really true of you. And so if you had no convictions on the importance of the Sunday gathering, well, then you're going to play semantic games for the next 12 months about why what you're doing is actually more like the early church, right? If you didn't have a deep rooted conviction in the authority of the scriptures, well, then we're going to have messages that are more watered down to kind of tailor to the culture that we think what they want to hear. And so I do think that there has been a there's been a lot of dividing lines have been drawn. In some ways, it's unfortunate, because I think there's less friendship among churches, because of our different responses. But I also think is really important because truth matters. And church matters, and clarity matters. And so, unfortunately, one of the things we found is that I would preach a sermon and then someone come up to me go, Hey, Belinda, you were you were talking about so and so. Right. I'm like, No. And they're like, Oh, well, you didn't listen to that. I'm like, Listen, man, I don't have enough time. I'm not listening to 35 sermons of our town and then creating mine around that, I guess not. And so you know, there'll be times when we would preach things. And then another church would preach something, or they had preached something that was very different. And so I think in the eyes of Christians in our city, they're going, oh, man, there's some like mom and dad are fighting right now. And like, this is evidence of it. And I think what I was saying is actually I'm not I'm just trying to be faithful to the text and explaining why we are making the decisions we make and and so some of that got got was unhealthy and sad. And you can't control the gossip that happens in a smaller town, but I think some of it was people assuming that there was personal conflict between pastors when I think really what we were doing is just trying to be faithful and leading our Churches. So,
you know, I, you're getting into the area of the discussion that I'm anxious to talk a little bit more about Blaine, because a couple of things just observations on my part, because a lot of what you're saying is, was true in Phoenix and I think people around the country can relate to this and perhaps around the world. One of the things I observed is that people like you blame that I agree with you about how COVID this crisis kind of exposed convictions. And people that, you know, like us said, No, it's important that we meet, you know, and I know, the government is telling us that we shouldn't, but you know, that, so this is going to be tough here, we've got to make some difficult decisions that are going to put us at odds with local and state government here, but we're going to do it anyways. So they, they, they, you know, they remained open. And likewise, with the whole kind of woke ideology, you know, churches that said, hey, you know, this is wrong, you know, this is this is there's, there's some deep heresy here, you know, I know, they use Biblical words like justice, but there's something deeply wrong with this idea. It's a set of ideas. And they remained true to kind of biblical, the biblical text, what I noticed is that people began making choices between churches in a pretty significant way. And it was largely in one direction and I think you guys, you know, easement grew around those, those choices. And I saw the same thing here in Phoenix, people were leaving the churches that either remained, you know, shut or kind of drifted in the woke direction, they lost people. Now, not to say that the migration was all one way and not a little bit the other way. But by and large, it was one way, I thought that was very encouraging, actually, you know, kind of, you know, it gave us a little bit of a temperature check on where just your average Christian in the United States was that they weren't going the other direction on those things, you know? So I'd love your observation on that. But more than that, Blaine, we did a podcast a few months ago on just why is it that churches have a difficult time talking about issues in the culture, especially when the cultural issues in the culture right now are so I mean, they're just such major issues right now in the culture. And I think you do a particularly good job Blaine of balancing, you know, being very true to the scriptures, but not being afraid to, to not just make decisions, like, we're going to remain open, but then explaining to your congregation from the Bible, why we're doing that. So you're very open about, we're facing these challenges, the woke issue, the COVID issue that, you know, and here's what we're going to decide, and here's why. So, of all the pastors, I know, I mean, my pastor here in Phoenix is terrific at this as well. But you've done a really good job. And it's just really hoping we could glean some wisdom from you to share with others on how you navigate that, how did how did you? Because I think that's a hard line to balance for people, you know, and it seems to me that most evangelical pastors are just not dealing with cultural things, you know, they're just, you know, stick with the Bible. Good, good. You know, it's probably better than the other way. But anyways, enough said on that, ya
know, that's a really good observation, I think. We have three core values at our church, and we say they're not aspirational, we think they're real. We say that we want to be a family, which means families have have honest conversations. We want to be authentic, which I realize is the least authentic word in all church world. And we want to be driven by conviction. And so I think, like heading into heading into COVID and the lock downs, I think that those convictions pre existed, the crisis. You know, I think back to remember, there was a moment, speaking of kind of, we talked about our seniors group earlier, there was an older an older gentleman that came up to me one time, we were making some changes. I wasn't even the lead guy was the associate pastor at the time and, and he came up to me, he said, Blaine, you need to remember, we're the ones that pay your paycheck. You need to think about that when you make plans for this church. And I said, Well, why don't you take your money and go to another church then? And, but I did. But that wasn't me. I learned that from my dad. Like, I watched my dad, as a pastor, we were at a small church, a Baptist church when fighting over, you know, hymns and carpet color, because that's how we roll. And I remember he got invited to a home group, and they split up a paper and it had a list of demands. And at this time, I was working part time for my dad, and they said, if these things don't happen in the next three weeks, we're not giving anymore and my dad slid it back and said, then don't give and they didn't. And my dad took a huge pay cut, but like and I went from, hey, maybe I'll work full time here to hey, maybe I'll never work here. But I watched my dad model a deep rooted conviction and it didn't really matter. What was the cause? The point of that because it was it was right. It was it was wrong to do that it was wrong to allow that kind of thing to happen in our church. And so I think when when COVID showed up again, I think that conviction, you either had it or you didn't have it. And, and I think that my generation, specifically, in the church world is particularly weak. We are, we are afraid. We are terrified of being called things online. And I think there's also a as the, as technology changes the world we live in. I think it has changed the way pastors interact with their people. And what I mean by that is that we have our elders read a book that was written by the nine marks ministry, and one of the things in their thinking might be a chapter heading, it's just a smell like sheep. And the idea is like pastors are with their people. But if a pastor is is disconnected from his people, if he identifies primarily as a communicator, rather than a pastor, well, that's going to mean some things, right? It's going to mean that he's probably more influenced by blogs and articles in the news than he is by the people who are in his church. And so even in decisions about the importance of the gathering, it mattered to us, but also mattered to our people. Our people wanted to be together, they needed to be together. And so if you're, if you're disconnected from that, I think you can start to see, and I think we're seeing this culturally, I think you'll see that there's kind of an elite class, if you will, that are telling people to kind of everyday people how they should live. And then I think you have the everyday people going, No, we're not subscribing to this. And that's happening kind of across the board. I thought it was interesting when YouTube took away the dislike button on their videos, because they would put there would be a video that like, I mean, he would get put out by ABC News, or CBS or the Late Show or whatever it might be, and it would just get creamed. I mean, dislikes would be like 10 to one. And so what they said is they're like, Well, this is we're going to remove that for, you know, the mental health of our creators.
Yeah, rather than take the video down, they took the dislike button. That's right.
And so I think that's a actual a very real tension that we have. And because of the way social media works the way that Twitter is not the real world, right? It's just not. And so I think you had a lot of pastors that get caught up in the hype, and they want to be important, and they want to be seen as this. And it was interesting in the state of Oregon, the way that we were getting emails as pastors early on in the way that they talked to us at the beginning, as opposed to the way they talked to us at the end, was very telling. So early on, it was like, Pastor, you are so important. Like you you make such an impact in our community. You have a voice, it's just all the flattery, right? These are our city officials. You mean, it's just coming from the Governor's? Okay, I see. Yeah. Yeah. And so it was like, Hey, here's the message, you're really important. Go tell our message. And then if you didn't, it was like, All right, you'll go to jail. And you're like, well, that I mean, it felt like a really fast shift from you're like, so important in your city to will throw you in jail. And I think that a lot of guys like flattery is intoxicating, right? And so like, I think you have a lot of pastors that go man, it feels good. Like, I am important. I said, pride is the real problem of pride isn't, isn't what people say about you. So when you believe it, right? It's when you actually believe that you are more important than you actually are. And, and I think that had a big part of this to give you one story. We were open. And, and there was a guy that walked in our doors, he still comes to our church today. He walked in on a Sunday morning, and one of our pastors said hi to him, and, you know, said, Hey, is first time to church. He goes, Yeah, my brother died last night at the hospital. And it wasn't COVID related. He I think he had a heart attack. He said, and one of the nurses said, You guys are open mic, and I'll take that. Like, I'll take that any day of the week. Right? Like, like, I'm gonna get heat from from out there. The man that guy needed a place to go. And they knew, and I don't think that I was particularly popular at the hospital in those days. But it was cool that there was a this guy just needed to be somewhere. And so I think that's a difference of like, man, what's primarily driving my affections and my motivations as a pastor. Is it caring for the people that God has entrusted to me? Or is it trying to impress the outside and one last thing I'll say is, is right before COVID. We were in the book of Acts for a couple of years. And I think by God's mercy and grace, I pointed out to our church at the end of 2019, not knowing what was coming, but there's Luke seems to be to be pointing two things out to you. As you read the early part of the book of Acts. There's going to be pressure from outside there's going to be pressure inside. Right pressure outside galvanizes. And it strengthens right Crusher inside and corruption inside destroys. Right. So you've got Peter and John getting beaten, don't preach. They're gone. i We have to Yeah. And the church goes Yes, like, right. And then right after that what you have in an Essence of Fire, right is like you've got this pressure and I told our church in 2019 it is far greater to have pressure from the outside of the church in Unity inside than to have pressure and problems inside in unity to the outside. So when COVID
near Blaine, I love that I just just as a as a principal, I guess. Yeah, exactly, Shawn. Yeah, that's really helpful. Say that again.
So I said that. I said that, that, that the church has to choose at times, right, then pressure from the outside will strengthen the church. And it's more important to have unity inside than to have a good reputation outside. Right. And so, and actually, this led to some of the practical things that you mentioned earlier. We were open and we weren't looking for a fight. I told I told our churches, I didn't say anything, actually, We buried our announcements in the middle of sermons were like, if you're going to like, take us to court, you're going to hear us preach for a while. Like we were trying to be really covert. And because we weren't looking for it. And I take the Daniel principle, right when Nebuchadnezzar had signed the edict. Right? It says that he went in and did as he had always done, yes, right. He didn't go out and do something to gain attention. He wasn't trying to earn the wrath of of Nebuchadnezzar, he just was doing what you've always done that. And that was our posture, we're gonna do what we've always done, we're not looking for a fight, we're trying to stay quiet. Every person, every legal person I had talked to basically said, You're going to die. And so we're like, alright, well, if that's the case, then let's look Okay, keep quiet. But what what we started to notice as we had been open for a while was that there was a pressure building inside our church. Because I had not been clear. There was disunity. There was frustration over masking or over social distancing, or over whatever it might be. And the lack of clarity that we had chosen to walk in, to try to not draw the fire of the state was actually leading us to a meant there's some disunity inside our family now. And that is actually what drove us I did a standalone sermon, we just call it family talk. It's, we don't title our sermons or just the book in the passage that we're in. And that one, we just said, I went through all of it. I said, Here's what I knew. Here's when I knew it. And here's what we did. And we just kind of walked through all of it. And we knew that in doing that, we put all our cards on the table. And now we're open to kind of the fire of the state. And by God's mercy that didn't happen, they actually came after us with our school, that was the avenue that they chose with us, not the church side. But that was an application of that principle and acts, right, we're either going to try to appease the state to kind of be in their good graces. But in doing that, we're actually going to have disunity inside our church, or we can choose to have unity inside our church through clarity and truth. And in doing so, we know, we're going to draw the attention of our city and of our state. And so that principle that we saw in the book of Acts was really preparatory in God's you know, in His mercy, right that like you're in in, you know, x 3456. And you're going okay, like, and then that happens, you're going okay, we've, we've said this, and this is where conviction shows up, right? You preached it, then do you mean it now? Right, do you still hold to it? And so, that is one of the reasons the motivators that that kind of triggered a standalone sermon, to address specifically how we had dealt with the lock downs and why we had chosen to walk in civil disobedience when in regards to the gathering of the church,
how did your congregation respond to that? That sermon, Blaine or that talk that family time where you You came out and explained your your reasoning from, you know, and giving a biblical kind of basis for it? did really well, okay. Yeah.
I think people love to hear the truth. I think people love to go to hear when people go, Hey, here's what we knew. Here's what we did. In hindsight, we should have done this different, but this is what I knew. And I think for us, like we have tried to be a really authentic church. Like, I'm not trying to give a polished version of who we are. And so I think our people are drawn to it. If I can say like, what are people seeing it each time you think it's, it's pretty gritty, and it's pretty real, and it's pretty raw? Right? When we go through stuff, we talk about it, we deal with it, and that doesn't mean that everyone agrees, but I've found that even people who disagree, are willing to go along with you. Not because they would have made the same decision but at least they can understand the reasoning. Yeah. Where are you
from? Yeah, yeah.
As some When at the church, I was there that week that he gave the family talk. And what I really enjoyed about that is in a time of, I think it was fall 2020. But in the time of just people arguing over the science and people taking political stances, and just all the heat, the way you framed the sermon was out of an acknowledgement of authority, who has ultimate authority over the church. And I really appreciate that that was a take that I didn't hear too much. And when you bring it to that level, I mean, the Christian has to agree. God calls us to go to church on Sunday, to fellowship with the with the body believers. And that's where we're going to say, Chris, Stan, I really appreciate if I
could add on to that, I thought the same thing I was really moved by that sermon, or that you know, that family time talk Blaine for the same reason, and that you did such a beautiful job of explaining a topic that doesn't get a lot of attention, which is the authority and how God establishes authority. And there's, I think the word you used was lanes. In other words, there's limits. You know, no one has ultimate authority except God himself, you know, but on the human level, he established his civil authorities. And, you know, as it says, in Romans were, you know, I think our bench should be to submit, you know, but but they do have a lane, they don't have authority in areas like the family or in the church, there's other authorities, they need to respect those authorities. And even I think you talked about, and I love this, there's a sphere of authority, even at the level at the level of the individual, you know, this level of, you know, the choice that you have to make decisions, your conscience and your body, you know, and I think you, you mentioned that in relationship to vaccines. And so, you know, the state if the state is going to kind of move beyond encouragement, or even incentivizing but to coercion, with punishment associated with it, that's they're overstepping that line of authority, or that they're out of their lane, I think is the way you put it. And I just so appreciated that, that. I just thought that's something that is just so basic, biblical, but not well understood at all. Anyways, I just, I really,
thank you. You know, I told our team I told our church in that sermon, too, I said, I think a lot of our conversations are downstream. And what I mean by that is we're we're arguing over, if we use masks as an example that was a contentious one in church is should we be wearing masks or not wearing masks and all these kind of things? I said, like, let's get upstream from that, like, does the governor of a state have the authority to tell a pastor in a church, what their worship service looks like? Yes, right. In California, no singing? Well, has God given them that authority. And my argument is not that they won't claim that authority, right? The analogy I use is I have a My son is nine now. So is seven. During that I said, when my seven year old son walks down the stairs and declares himself King of the house. You can say it, but he doesn't, he doesn't have it right into into it. But if I then said, because you said it, now you have it, I've actually violated my lane of authority, as an under shepherd of the Lord Jesus in the church by giving to the state, which is, which is not the states to have. And so that's an important conversation for all pastors, we have. In the last three weeks, we've called our local police department probably four times about cases of abuse and assault. That's the civil link, there is a lane and a responsibility. And pastors that don't understand that get themselves in trouble. Because they go well, no, this is an inter This is a family issue. That's actually not because actually crossed over into a civil issue. And you need to understand and acknowledge that, or else you'll get hit with man, you are covering up abuse, and they're gonna know we were just trying to handle it inside. In the house. I'm going Yeah, but you don't understand the authority that God has granted to the state, because they actually do have a role. And so I think that's a really important principle. And one of the cool things is we saw that verbiage being used kind of around us. And, and it was a was an encouraging thing to me. Because I think people are looking for clarity, no one was citing us or referencing, I think it's just we're seeing it pop up in places. And that was encouraging for me to go, okay, like, it's helping people think biblically about the world that they live in. It's giving the framework and it's giving some, like some explanation to it. And in that sermon, I did say to that the authority that God has given the family is really important. And it will be very important in the years to come. And I think as we talked about, kind of woke ism and the idea of, I mean, this new push where parents are actually not the most important person, the most important person is a school counselor, or it's a therapist, or and we've seen it happen in our church where parents are being cut out and excluded. I'm going, the Christian has a category for that. Yeah. To then explain clearly. And I would argue, Romans two tells us that even when we don't know the law of God, we instinctively do the love of God. It's a picture of the conscience that the fingerprints of the Creator on His people. I think it's out actually an incredible evangelism tool to and what we found during that as people were coming and going, I agree with this church. They didn't know
why. But they had it on their heart. Right. Exactly.
Oh, totally. Yeah. I mean, I was invited to speak at a political rally. And I was like, I remember meeting with a guy he was telling me about this rally they were going to do and a bunch of people that you guys would know of in, in national politics were come in and, and I was like, why are you asking me to be there? He goes, Well, because of the stand you've taken. I said, because of the stand I'm taking, I would never go to that. Because my I'm a, I told them, I'm a local church pastor with no higher aspirations, right? This is it. And so actually, we had a lot of people that were walking into our church doors, and didn't have a didn't have a category for like, biblical thinking. There was kind of like, cultural Christianity kind of moralism that was built in and they were coming from the ranch, and they were driving in cowboy hats and flags and the whole thing, right, and they were coming and going, amen, hallelujah. And then you had other people in our city, stopping on our street, taking pictures of us reporting us to the state, like you had this massive, we became this focal point of pressure. And, and actually, I told him in that sermon, you probably remember this, Luke, I said, I'm gonna offend every one of you, right? It's just all of you are gonna leave here upset at me. And I'm okay with that. Because I want you to know what the Scriptures teach about how we interact with one another, and how we, by extension, will interact with the Lord. And so it was actually a good evangelistic opportunity for us too. Because that explanation gave some clarity to some of our people who just did not understand why they believed what they believed, which was cool.
You know, that's super cool. Yeah,
we take that framework of authority, you know, which is it's a biblical framework of authority. And it's been kind of built into our, you know, your right brain, it's written on the heart that, you know, I think that people have a sense of this, but it's also been kind of built into the fabric of our nation, because of, you know, the fact that the nation was largely built on biblical principles. And so there's been a respect for these lanes of authorities, you say, it's very beautiful, and it's very, it allows freedom to flourish, you know, when there's a kind of a balanced framework of authority. But, you know, in my studies of the woke worldview, what I one of the things I noticed was that there is there is no such framework, it's, there is no Blanes, there's no, you know, it's, it's basically, if you can get the kind of like your son, if you could get the power and get everyone else to submit, you're good to go. And it's it's, it's, it tears things apart, you know, when there's when there's that view of authority. So, I just, I personally love this biblical picture of authority, and just the way we're called to submit to respect but to know, kind of what these roles and, you know, spheres are. And I just, again, commend you for that, guys. I what questions has our conversation prompted for you? I'd really love to as we kind of got to wrap it up, unfortunately, here a little bit, but love to loop. Tim, Shawn, Luke, you guys seen a little bit as well, if you guys have some thoughts or questions? Yeah, go ahead, Shawn.
Yeah. Blaine, I really appreciated your everything. Really a lot of good stuff here. You mentioned though, early on in talking about the older generation, accommodating the younger generation. And, and so the word accommodate, or appeasement, you know, like in today's world is a is a catchphrase, you know, lots of people are accommodating. So, I want you to just kind of expound a little bit on the way you accommodate without appeasing in the sense that you're accommodating to the Scripture, you're holding to the the authority that God's given the church, to be the church without, you know, the will. And that's going to produce some conflict, without, without letting go of your conviction that the God of the Bible is the one that we're following. Because I can see, you know, just on our way to work or on our way to church, we pass churches who are very, they have become accommodating, there's rainbow flags, there's all sorts of things that are that they're standing for now as a way to accommodate to the culture. But your sort of accommodation seems to be quite different than that. Can you expand on that a little bit? I think that might help some people who are trying to accommodate without, you know, throwing the baby in the bathwater.
Well, and if you're a local pastor, what you'll hear is, Well, we're just asking you to compromise on my preferences, and you're just doing yours. And so, yeah, so I'd say a couple things. One, we try to we try, I tried to explain a framework of ministry, learned from a professor in school. And he gave us three tiers and I've never forgotten it's been very helpful in ministry for me is theology, philosophy and methods. ology, right. So if we start with theology with our doctrinal convictions that are close handed about who God is, and the nature of God and nature of sin and nature, salvation, that's, that's theology. And then we have a philosophy of ministry. This is kind of how we're taking that and understanding it in our context in our culture, which does tie into what you guys do, and how do we, how do we make Jesus known in a culture based on where they are, right? This is the Mars Hill approach, right? Like, that's a philosophy of ministry. And then there's the methodology of ministry at the very bottom. And I've always said, like, the further you get down, the more open handed you become, right? And so like, when we're talking about methods, those are are going to constantly change. That's not a bad thing. That's just the way that the world works.
And when I say methods playing what what would be in that category?
Yeah, so great example, with our we have worship wars here. If you're a Baptist listening, oh, yeah, we know this, right. So we would hear I would hear things like this from our seniors, hey, Blaine. I it just breaks my heart that we're not seeing the great hymns of the faith. Because there's so much truth there. And I said, okay, so couple of nuances. One, some hymns are terrible, right? We can just get out there and go, okay. And some hymns are great. I said, But what we've done in that is we've tied the methodology of Amazing Grace, How great thou art songs that we still sing in our church, but we've we've elevated them to the level of theology. And so what happens for a senior who's been in church for 5060 7080 years is there looking at the going, because you're departing from this method. By extension, you're departing from sound theological doctrine. And so what I would try to push back is go, Hey, challenge us on the content of our songs, and the content of our preaching. Right. And so like, you hold those two things to a theological standard, but the speed of the song The instruments used, right, that that is a method. And so that was a practical one that we would try to kind of unpack for our people. And then another thing that I would ask our seniors, I would say, hey, was there something that you guys did as young families in your 30s? That was, but I want two things. One that was effective one that was stupid, and they go, okay, yeah, we got two of them, right. So my dad's church, for example, they did a thing called that when I was in high school, they did the singing Christmas tree. And so it's basically really sketchy Baptist scaffolding with a little bit of garland on it. And then they would do a Christmas song, right? Well, in the, like, early 80s, when they started, it was really effective, right? I mean, people were like, my grandkids got saved in that, right? My I came to faith at the tree, right? I'm like, that's amazing. But the last year we were doing it, there's more people in the tree than in the auditorium. Like a really uncomfortable thing, right. And so I think the other thing, too, is I want to honor the ministry realities of what came before me not be disparaging of them. I think a lot of young guys make this mistake, they come in, they go, this is corny, and it's dumb. And I can't believe we do this. We're never doing this again. And what the people in their church are hearing is, so you think it's dumb, the way that my husband came to faith that year. And so what I always want to do is go, Hey, someone much older than you in the 80s thought that this tree idea was insane. They just thought that this was the wildest thing they'd ever heard. They'd never done this, who would build a scaffolding tree on a stage and sing from it? Like, what kind of I just would love to have been in that meeting? Right, where they're pitching that? And I said, but what did they do? They gave you the freedom to try something. I said, here's what I'm going to ask you to do in methodology. I'm going to ask you to to trust me enough in our team enough to let us try and possibly fail. Right? We're not walking away from thought, theological orthodoxy. We're not walking away from our philosophy of ministry to preach expositionally and see people get saved and baptized and discipled. All those things are still true. But would you let us try something here? In the same way that the generation before you let you try some things? And I think what helped our seniors is they, I think they saw that they went, Yeah, you're right. Like, there was a time when we were the guy I mentioned earlier, who said, hey, the things we prayed for he was my age when they planted the church. And so he's looking back going, man, we I can't believe we did that. That was crazy that they let us try this. And so I think that's another part is you're honoring the past while also asking them to come with you. And then the last thing I would say is one of the some of the seniors that we've talked to the cool things that they've seen is, hey, if people are getting baptized and saved in a regular basis in our church, now, I really don't care if I know the songs, honestly, there's a lot of things you go to see more of that, like I will, I'll walk away from a lot of things and, and when I first came to Eastman, we were seeing maybe two three baptisms a year. Last year, I think we had 62. And so I think that that changes the whole conversation. And so it's not because we're methodologically manipulating anything, but rather we're just trying to be relevant in a in an up appropriate way to the context and the culture in which we're living. And I think when people see that, that they're not being dishonored, that you see the value in what they have done that you. I mean, if I'm telling anyone who's in a replanting situation, man, be patient, be patient, be patient and be celebratory of all the things that God has done that got you to this place. I just want to I like regularly do that. Like, I'm just gonna regularly say, Hey, I am. I am not the one that is doing this stuff. I've been blessed to be part of this. But this story started way before me. I think when people feel honored, I think they're more willing to go hey, let's talk about what that might look like. And then I think the other part is your your if you got to especially a young lead pastor, he better be really quick to apologize. He's but he's got to be quick to own his stuff and go, Man, I was, I was dumb, wasn't it? And they go, Yeah, I was gonna be I'm sorry, I should have listened I, we tried it. It failed spectacularly. Right. And that's okay. Because if I think what I've seen is there's a doubling down, right, where it's like, he's rejecting kind of all the things that we value, and he's gone with, and you can leave. I mean, that's just so unhealthy. And I think Eastmont has been able to, by God's grace, kind of model A, we really do care for one another. And our seniors don't know some of our songs. Some of them think it's too loud. But man, if they're, I remember one guy coming up, he goes playing, I don't know the words, I felt like that was too loud. I brought my earplugs. And it's not loud. By the way, our church is not loud, but I brought my earplugs, he goes, but if people keep getting baptized, I'm in. And I'm like, I'll take that. Right. So I think that reframing and gospel language man, we were here for such a short time. Like, let's take ground, let's see people get saved. And let's head into eternity swinging. That's what I've told our team.
So back to Shawn's question, the accommodation that he's seeing with the rainbow flags, that's that's the level of theology and you're saying, you know, we're not going to accommodate at that level, but more at the level of methodology. Yeah. And I think that's, that's very, again, a very helpful principle, Blaine, thanks for sharing that. I think that's solid. Tim, any thoughts from you are questions?
Yeah, I'm, have really enjoyed it. Thanks. Thanks a lot. Pastor Blaine, for for the time, I'm having my own experiences in ministry. I've just kind of over here, you know, shaking my head. Yeah. Wow. Yeah, just really, really appreciating seeing and listening to the Spirit's work and in through your life, and grateful to have the opportunity to have you on here, you know, just want to celebrate that you've been in this space for 10 years, you know, starting starting on some, some difficult terrain, and just being committed, you know, I think that there's such a temptation in the human experience to want to run away and seek out greener pastures, but I just, you know, want to give thanks to God for the fruit of, of your labor by the gift of the Spirit, you know, and as you've been been humble, and, and worked there, so, thank you for doing that. Thank you for the the the ministry that you've done between generations, because that is I mean, that is the church. That is, I mean, we are a church of, of generations. And you've explained that really well. And, and so, I appreciate that I loved hearing you use the word one at one point, just talking about that as a strategic location. And I just think, you know, my, I would love to see all believers everywhere recognize, you know, that God Himself has for for such a time as this, you know, he's, he's given us as x 17, around verse 26. Talks about he's put us in specific locations at specific times, for specific reasons. So the people around us might perhaps reach out and find him though. He's not very far from us. In fact, in him, it's, it's in him that we live and move and have our being so yeah, I'm just encouraged. I could keep going on. But maybe I'll stop. So thanks. Thank
you. I really appreciate it. That's very kind.
Yeah, that's great, Tim. Yeah, just hearing you talk. Blaine. Is my I really just really enjoy how just in the word the preachings are each week, just straight out of the text, exegetical teaching. And yet at the same time, you don't shy away from what's going on in culture, what people the other six days a week are living through and in their workplaces and the conversations that they're having. And that's super important to hear from a church because if you're not hearing about what's going on in culture in your church, you're going to have to go somewhere else. And you know, what better place to hear about these things than inside of the church. I know. On the anniversary where we Roe v Wade decision every year there's the sanctity of life Sunday, where Easter Want to talk about that? Also, I mean, so that's, some would say a very political issue and yet we're hearing about that in the church. Same thing with when COVID came along. A lot of those. A lot of people from the outside would say, Wow, that's a very political church, you know, or what's going on with a CRT and woke agenda and when Eastmont steps up and mentions these things, a lot of people again while you guys are so political, what how do you respond to that? I know whenever a lot of times when when churches step up and address these little get all those labels, you know, your culture were more popular now. You know, your Christian nationalists. How dare you talking about politics inside of your church? Yeah. How do you respond to that? And how do you stand firm when I've seen a lot of times churches will kind of cower, cower to those those criticisms and titles?
That's a good question. I think we're still figuring it out. I got an email during, in 2020, from a lady goes to another church in town, sweet Christian woman, I believe. But in her email, she said that I had done more to dishonor the name of Christ in Central Oregon than any single person, because we had stayed open as a church. And so these things actually call there. We had a good conversation, we talked for a while. And I asked her, I said, How many sermons of mine have you heard? And she said, Well, the one and I said, Well, can I ask you to do me a favor? In 2020, I think we did four standalone sermons because we thought cultural issues rose to that level. That means that there's 48, others that are purely textually driven. So would you just listen to a couple of those, and then just simply ask if, if you believe II smart to be faithful to the Word, and I never heard back from her. And so she probably didn't. But I think that would be my push is that, like, we have a deep commitment to the expositional preaching of the word. Because God in that moment sets the agenda and the preaching calendar, not your pastors. And so I think like, first and foremost, there has to be a conviction that the preacher doesn't get to set the preaching agenda based on what they think people need to hear. Because in doing that, we actually undermine the very statement of the authority of the scriptures that we claim, right? So if we say, well, we really need to address this issue, I'm gonna just preach the Word, and he'll get there, right? We're gonna hit things and, and I've seen a model in in, in this church where people get saved on a Sunday, we're like, one that was terrible. And then like, secondly, why they're right. Like what in bad text? Like what, but God is faithful through his word to teach to, to, to train for all righteousness. Right, like? So I think that's a foundational principle we have the way that we've addressed it practically. And I'll tell you what, kind of what we did and how we're trying to think through it, because it's a really important question. If there is a, if there is a textual tie, like, I'll acknowledge it, for example, we did talk about vaccine mandates. We talked about appealing to the government, we talked about individual rights, and we were in Acts 22. I think it was and so you guys can fact check me out on my bone front of me. Were Paul is being beaten. And he goes, Hey, do you know I'm a Roman citizen? And so we're going okay, what are we learning from this, right? Like, in my argument was that if you are to, for example, a pastor who would file a lawsuit against the state hasn't violated Romans 13. By doing so, they've actually petitioned a co equal branch of government to seek clarity, right. And so even in that, because there's a lot of criticisms of pastors that we're entering to lawsuits, and all those kind of things. So when the text has a direct tie, I'll use it. And then there's certain moments we just go, man, this is an issue that's so big. And it's so important. We've got to address it sanctity of life, we've done that every year for seven years. And we've actually seen amazing stories of freedom that have come out of that, because someone talked about it, women in our church, every single year will come up to me and say, That's my story. And this is the first time I've been able to tell anyone about it, and 32 years or whatever it might be. So there are moments, we believe our justice issues, biblical justice issues that rise level, we need to say something, what we've tried to do, realizing that the culture is getting weirder, and that there's more and more to talk about. We do not want to sabotage Sunday morning. And we've seen this happen in our own town where there's some churches that took the activist route, but then there's other churches that kind of went really, really political. And during 2020 and 21, it produced great amounts of fruit, at least from a number standpoint, right? I mean, so all of a sudden, you have this massive increase in people that are showing up and yes, you guys are you're doing the right thing and you're preaching the truth and, and we didn't want to ever get to a point where Sunday morning became, you know, a casualty of the culture. And so, what we've done is we do equip seminars. And so these are, some of this is constrained by building we have a about 1500 people that will show up on a weekend, and we meet in the gym, so it doesn't work. Great. So we have three services. So the equip knights were, hey, we're going to talk about we're going to do a two part thing on CRT, we're gonna talk about what it is its origins, how we think about it biblically and how we navigate it. pastorelli Well, only only 600 People can show up to that. So with abortion, we felt like hey, that's an issue that does that deserves a Sunday morning acknowledgement. Because everyone, the hey, we're staying open as a church, we need to navigate that with you, we believe mandated a Sunday morning because it's the only time we can talk to our whole church. But outside of that, we try to do these quick nights. And then God who's our committee pastor does an incredible job. He's actually done things called skeptics welcome, which is when we go out into the community, and we bring it archaeologists and scientists, and we just go, Hey, let's just engage this content for the gospel, right? In at a, at a brewery or in these random places, we're gonna go, we're gonna go out, much like Paul did, we're gonna go into their place. And we're going to contend for Christ. And so Luke, you and I have talked, one of the things we're talking about is starting a podcast for our church, realizing that it's a simple method to reach people. So some of it is tied to the practicality. But we are very, very, it's a very high bar that has to be crossed. For us to walk away from our study in a book to address a topic, we will do it because we think there are issues that rise to that challenge. And then we try to have like a, almost a triage, if you will, right? Can that be done into quip. And that'd be done in a podcast or better medium that we have that we can address that so that we don't take away from the importance of the preaching of the Word. And the last thing I'll say to that, I want to be here a long time. So I'm probably, if God will let me and these people will let me I'll be here for a while. Which means I'm not in a huge hurry to preach fast through books, because you know, the No, you have to find someone new. And also, like, there is a, there is a spiritual growth that comes with decades of, of sitting under the Word of God, that can't be substituted, there's always going to be something, there's always going to be something that the pastor feels like they should bring up. And so it better be very rare because the cumulative effect of faithful expositional preaching over you know, 1020 3040 years, that cannot be replaced. And that will give more spiritual depth to your people than doing the kind of what's coming at us right now. There should be a timelessness to preaching almost right. I want my people to be able, in 20 years to go to our website and go, Man, they preach through Acts, what did they say about this, and it not be so tethered to the immediacy of our city, that you actually aren't learning the Bible. And so those are some of the things that like go through our minds as we, as we think and process but again, that's in the methodology level, right? Where you go on, hey, what are some different methods that we could try to, to make this stick but Sunday morning is really sacred to us. And we believe deeply in expositional preaching. So
there's no practical blame. Thank you for that. I mean, I love the way that you, you know, you have as your foundation, this kind of bedrock of preaching through books of the Bible, and just That's a deep commitment. But you've brought it you have ways of bringing in these really challenging and important issues that people are dealing with from the culture through, as you said, other times, what did you call them? Your equip, equip? Yeah, equip. I love that you're considering podcasts. And then occasionally, we'll bring it up right in the on Sunday morning, if it's important enough. So I think these are I think it's really important for pastors to find that that balance. And the other thing I would say is that you do a terrific job again, when you're dealing with those cultural issues, of bringing the wisdom of the Bible to bear on them, you know, helping people to think biblically about them. And I think that's really an important role. I think sometimes I feel like pastors that aren't doing that are just not dealing with these issues. It's almost like malpractice right now. Because there's such big issues in the culture. That yes, we've got to I agree with your conviction about being true to the scriptures and making that the bedrock and I'm you know, that's bet to not deal not to help people think biblically about these really challenging issues in our increasingly what what Aaron Wren calls negative world you know, this, this this world that's hostile to Christianity, you know, that that's not helping our people either. So you've done a terrific job of finding that balance. That should more similar questions. I would like to ask you, Blaine, I, I think maybe we'll have you back on. I think one of the questions maybe to tee that up would be just how do you how do you prepare yourself to think biblically about these issues in the culture because I think a lot of pastors struggle with that. They don't, you know, they're good, you know, if they need to unpack a book and in Acts, but when you have to speak to how does that relate to CRT died? I have no idea you know, so how do you prepare yourself to deal with some of these tricky She's would be a question. Maybe we'll tease for the next time we have you playing big. I'd love that. Yeah, I just so thank you for your faithful ministry. I just agree with everything Tim said about these these points of encouragement. So anyways, I hope for those that are listening, this has been, you know, there's been helpful principles and encouragement on how to be, you know, just a really faithful minister of God's Word and at the level of a local church in these days, so, Blaine, thank you. Thanks so much for your time and for your ministry. And we will continue to pray for for just God's hands upon you and continued good fruit for changing the city of Bend. So
now we're back at you guys. Appreciate you. Thanks for letting me be part of it. I feel really honored and grateful to be able to spend some time with you.
Yeah, thanks. All right. And thank you again for listening to another episode of ideas have consequences his podcast of the disciple missions Alliance.
Hi, friends. Thank you for joining us for this discussion with Blaine Braden. As always, for all things ideas have consequences. Go to the episode landing pages on our website, which you can find by clicking the link in the episode description below. Ideas have consequences is a podcast of the disciple nations Alliance. To learn more about our ministry you can find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube or on our website, which is disciple nations.org. Join us next Tuesday for our discussion with special guest, Neil Shen V. Who is one of the leading experts on all things critical theory. It's a really interesting discussion as we break down the worldview of critical theory and how as Christians we can respond to it. And what is the best route moving forward from this point in 2023. Again, that episode will be on next Tuesday right here on ideas have consequences. Thanks again for joining us today and have a great rest of your week.