EP. 093 – Shifting Sands: Developing Young Leaders in a Changing Landscape (Kyle Goings, Joanna Chapa & Wendell Loewen)

DEC 14, 2023

USMB recently hosted a live webinar where we addressed the topic of the perceived leadership gap in our churches today. Statistics show that pastors are getting older, enrollment in ministry majors is on the decline, and our culture at large is dismissive of careers in the local church. With this truth in our USMB churches and other denominations around the country, how we can address this issue now and start preparing the emerging generation of leaders?

On this final episode of 2023, we hear from Kyle Goings, Wendell Loewen, and Joanna Chapa to discuss this growing concern. The presenters share a wealth of stats and background that led to this decline, what trends they're currently witnessing, and some initial steps we can take to better prepare leaders for TODAY--not just the future.

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EP. 092 – Life as a College President (Dr. André Stephens & Dr. David Janzen)

NOV 30, 2023

This is a very interesting and crucial time to be involved in Christian higher education. In our denomination, we have two colleges we support that teach within the USMB Confession of Faith, and this week we talk with the two presidents leading these institutions.

Dr. David Janzen is in his third year as the president of Tabor College, while Dr. André Stephens is in his second year as president of Fresno Pacific University. Since they started their positions around the same time and their schools are similar in many ways, these men are often linked together as leaders of our MB education initiatives.

We cover a lot of ground in this episode. Both presidents share encouraging updates about the spiritual climates on their campuses, plus what they're currently working on to prepare future leaders of the church. Issues surrounding the cost of college and student loan debt are also high on their minds, and they share how both Fresno and Tabor are actually more affordable than you might think.

Preparing young Christian leaders should be a crucial goal for all of us in the MB family, so be encouraged by these stories and remember to pray for Dr. Stephens and Dr. Janzen as they lead our education institutions.

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EP. 091 – MB History & Heroes (Peggy Goertzen)

NOV 16, 2023

Our MB faith tradition is full of incredible stories and faithful heroes. In this week's episode, Peggy Goertzen (the director of the Center for Mennonite Brethren Studies) shares insight and introduces us to some of the first MB leaders established in the U.S.

She shares two particularly interesting and noteworthy stories of how early MB pastors took huge risks to start a school for black children in North Carolina (at a time when this was unheard of!), plus early and important outreach to the Comanche tribes in Oklahoma.

We have a rich history to be proud of, and these stories highlight the common thread of our ongoing efforts to care for others while sharing the Gospel.

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EP. 090 – Prioritizing Peace in a Divisive World (Larry Nikkel)

NOV 02, 2023

If there's one single issue MBs are known for, it might be the idea of peacemaking. While that may still be true today, our official and documented views on peace and war have shifted in recent history. Our denominational leaders reworded Article 13 of our USMB Confession of Faith ten years ago now, with a strategic shift away from addressing only violence and war and instead broadening what it looks like to live a life of peace.

On this week's episode, we talk with Larry Nikkel, who was chair of the USMB Board of Faith and Life at the time of this change. Larry shares how this shift came about, what kinds of impact the change had on our churches, and what it looks like to be a peacemaker today.

Sadly, headlines of war around the world are very common today, and division among friends and family members is likely more common now than it was ten years ago. So how can we be agents of peace in our churches, families, and other relationships? Larry has some thought-provoking questions and advice to share that we would all be wise to consider.

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EP. 089 – Looking Back and Looking Ahead (Tim & Donna Sullivan)

OCT 19, 2023

Tim and Donna Sullivan have served in USMB leadership for 30+ years. As they are both in the process of transitioning into retirement, we take time in this episode to hear them reflect on our denomination and the southern district specifically. What has changed over the years, what opportunities are they currently excited about, and does anything make them nervous in this season of ministry? Why are denominations important, and how can we continue to work together to serve and mutually benefit each other? They also share thoughts on succession and how to work together as husband/wife ministry partners.

Tim and Donna have served well, and their heart for ministry will encourage you as they share stories from their ministry.

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EP. 088 – Retirement, Succession, & the Future of the Eastern District (Terry Hunt)

OCT 05, 2023

Pastor Terry Hunt has served as a leader on the USMB national level for several decades now. As he prepares for retirement from one of these roles, Terry reflects on his tenure as the Eastern District minister, which included major growth in the district; a name change; and the addition of several Ethiopian, Hispanic, and Congolese immigrant churches.

Terry chose the timing of this transition strategically so he can serve and encourage future leaders. His focus and dedication to succession is a wise model for all leaders to follow, and Terry encourages us to move forward with prayer and faith in God that He will continue to provide quality leadership across the USMB family.

Enjoy hearing these reflections and encourgements from Pastor Terry, and join us in praying for all of the areas of USMB where new leadership will be needed in this new season of ministry.

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EP. 087 – Reading the Old Testament with the New Testament in Mind (Dr. Tim Geddert)

SEPT 21, 2023

If we're honest, many of us don't really know what to do with the Old Testament. We know it's important, but some of the stories are hard for us to understand in our modern American evangelical context.

In this week's episode, we talk with Dr. Tim Geddert about his new book "The Beginning of the Story: Understanding the Old Testament in the Story of Scripture." Tim has been teaching Bible courses at Fresno Pacific University for 37 years. Although Tim has focused on the New Testament in his career, his new book tackles common questions and misconceptions that Christians have about the Old Testament.

He says properly understanding the Old Testament is crucial for understanding the New Testament and Jesus' teachings. Tim discusses several challenging aspects of the Old Testament, such as violence and war, Old Testament law, and the reward/punishment narrative. He emphasizes the importance of reading the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus and the New Testament writers.

We hope today's episode and Tim's book will be helpful tools to better understand the Old Testament as an essential part of the biblical story.

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EP. 086 – Living on Mission with the LDS Community (Jason Quiring & Drew Pankratz)

SEPT 07, 2023

Every successful church, ministry, or business needs to do the hard work of getting to know and serving its local community. Jason Quiring & Drew Pankratz are doing just that in Saratoga Springs, Utah, where evangelical Christians are in a significant minority compared to the hugely influential Latter-Day Saints churches around them. Jason, Drew, and the other leaders of Greenhouse Community Church are very intentional in how they invest in their local community, and the language they use--and don't use--as part of their ministry efforts.

As the North American culture continues to become increasingly post-Christian, we can all learn lessons from Jason and Drew and their "slow/fast" approach to befriend their neighbors, earn their trust, and establish relationships where conversations about faith are more effective.

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EP. 085 – Living Missionally in the Neighborhood (Jon Fiester & Abby Giwojna)

AUG 25, 2023

Jon Fiester and Abby Giwojna know their neighborhood well--and it can be a rough neighborhood. Renewal MB Church in Rapid City, South Dakota is located in a part of town known for drugs, gang activity, and (frankly) a lack of hope. While planting a church in this type of community brings a set of challenges, it also brings unique opportunities.

In this week's LEAD Pods, Jon and Abby share how they "live missionally" in their community day-to-day by intentionally working alongside police officers, offering free coffee to teenagers, and being ok with a broken foosball table. Your community likely doesn't look like theirs, but their dedication to knowing and loving their neighbors is something we can all learn from!

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EP. 084 – Should Pastors Use AI Tools? (Jason Moore)

AUG 10, 2023

Like it or not, artificial intelligence is here and.... well, everywhere. Technologies like Chat GPT have evolved rapidly, and nearly every week we see headlines of new ways AI is being used in virtually every industry.

So how does this affect the church? Are there tools that can help pastors be more effective? What are the moral issues we need to wrestle with? How much can we rely on these tools before it starts to be too much?

As you'll hear in this episode, AI isn't a pastor. We still have a relationship with Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, so we are uniquely positioned to lead our churches in ways machines never could. Still, it's also possible AI could help us with some elements of our work that could make us more effective.

We dive into this crazy new world with some help from Jason Moore, one of the leading voices in the early days of AI in the church.

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EP. 083 – Growing & Developing an Intentional Online Ministry (Alan George)

JULY 27, 2023

Most U.S. churches were forced to develop at least some type of online ministry during the COVID shutdown. Now that we're past that stage, how should we think about our online presence? Does online church "count," or are we just giving our congregations excuses to be lazy? Are there times when online church might be more beneficial than in-person worship? What new tools do we need to keep an eye on, and how can we develop those strategies?

Today we're talking with Alan George, a pioneer in the online church space. Alan was the online pastor for Life.Church for more than a decade, and he has really helpful insight for how we should view online ministry, regardless of the size of your church staff or budget.

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EP. 082 – The Unexpected Birth of SouthLife Church (Kevin Friedberg & Andy Owen)

JULY 13, 2023

After decades of planning and a few failed attempts, Ridgepoint Church recently launched their first church plant--with a path and strategy that no one expected. On today's episode, we hear from SouthLife pastor Kevin Friedberg and Andy Owen from Ridgepoint share the story of how this new church came to be, with pieces fitting together from literally around the world to benefit an underserved community in Wichita.

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EP. 081 – Conquering Porn & Depression, Embracing the Holy Spirit (Brad Burkholder)

JUNE 29, 2023

So many people in our culture today struggle with anxiety and depression. Addictions and temptations related to pornography are also incredibly common. Since Christians are humans too, these struggles and addictions are often found within the walls of the church, and even some of the best Christian leaders in the world wrestle with these issues.

We want to make one thing really clear in this episode: Whatever your role or title is, there is hope, encouragement, and light within reach for you if you're facing any of these struggles. Hiding and ignoring these issues often make them worse, and you were never meant to face this alone.

On this episode, Pastor Brad Burkholder openly shares his story of overcoming depression and pornography and re-discovering a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit. After years of struggle, Brad has a pretty incredible testimony of discovering a newfound desire for Jesus and freedom from the bondage of depression and anxiety.

You're not alone, and we hope Brad's hope-filled transparency encourages and inspires you.

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EP. 080 – Bringing Hope to Ukraine through MCC (Ann Graber Hershberger, Yvette Ngale, & Anna Rubel)

JUNE 15, 2023

The war in Ukraine has been continuing for over a year now, and there continues to be a lot of darkness in the midst of so much destruction. It's also true that our friends in MCC (Mennonite Central Committee) have been directly involved with providing aid and resources to help those affected with material, emotional and spiritual support.

On this week's episode, we're joined by three ladies directly involved with MCC's relief and peacemaking efforts. Ann Graber Hershberger (MCC's executive director), Pastor Yvette Ngale (MCC U.S. board member) and Anna Rubel (MCC staff member from Ukraine) have firsthand insight and stories to share about what's happening on the ground in Ukraine, how MCC is helping, and what we can do to help provide for and support those affected the most from the ongoing war.

Learn more about MCC's efforts in Ukraine here: https://mcc.org/stories/crisis-ukraine

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EP. 079 – Giving Meaning to Money (Jon Wiebe)

JUNE 01, 2023

MB Foundation has been an important and influential ministry of USMB for more than 30 years now, and many good things are happening there! On this week's episode, President & CEO Jon Wiebe shares insightful history of the Foundation, as well as some exciting stories of how their growth has led to increased generosity to churches in our denomination as well as to individuals in need around the world.

We should all strive to honor God with our finances and practice biblical stewardship, and MB Foundation offers several tools to individuals, local churches, and other ministries to help us do that. Along with the stories and tools outlined in this episode, you can also learn more at mbfoundation.com.

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EP. 078 – Senior Resources & Preparing for End of Life (Robert Carlton)

MAY 18, 2023

Many of us try to avoid talking about it, but EVERYONE benefits from a thorough plan for the end of life. Robert Carlton (active member at Hesston MB) spent his career helping individuals and families navigate through the world of Hospice, senior resources, wills, and end-of-life planning, and he shares important things we should all think through on this week's episode. Some of these conversations can be hard and awkward, but a well thought-out plan now can bring peace and even joy when your family faces the loss of a loved one.

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EP. 077 – The Hand of God on an Immigrant Pastor (Alex Mutabazi & Terry Hunt)

MAY 04, 2023

In recent years we've shared several stories of how immigrant pastors from around the world are getting established in the U.S. and joining our USMB church family. In today's episode, we hear the encouraging story of how Pastor Alex Mutabazi left a difficult life in the Congo to become an MB pastor in Nashville. In his words, the "hand of God" has been upon him and his church with miracle after miracle leading to where he is today.

Pastor Terry Hunt has been an influential leader in Alex's life, as well as several other immigrant pastors who are doing amazing and important work of helping immigrants get established with new lives in the U.S. There is so much hope and potential for these new MB church plants, so be encouraged and inspired as you hear from Pastors Terry & Alex!

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EP. 076 – Redeeming Money--Live! (Dr. Paul David Tripp & MB Foundation)

APR 20, 2023

This is a pretty historic episode of LEAD Pods for several reasons! First, we talk to bestselling author and pastor Paul David Tripp, author of more than 30 books ranging all kinds of topics related to faith and church leadership. Second, we recorded this conversation LIVE as part of a recent MB Foundation webinar that was co-hosted by our friends Rick Eshbaugh and Bruce Jost.

We've talked about finances a few times before, but instead of getting into the weeds with spreadsheets, budgets, and debt-reduction strategies, today Dr. Tripp shares about the heart behind our finances. Everyone is worshiping something, and our money typically goes to what our heart is most drawn to. So what about you? Are you honoring God with your finances, and how can you train and encourage your church family to "redeem" money?

Check out https://mbfoundation.com/redeemingmoney for more resources on this topic for your church, including free copies of Dr. Tripp's book.

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EP. 075 – Dying to Self, Miracle by Miracle (Vanlalhmachhuani [Amy] Gelatt)

APR 06, 2023

Vanlalhmachhuani Gelatt, who you may know as Amy, has an incredible story of God's faithfulness. Born in India with a very interesting family history, Amy has experienced miracle after miracle in her life that led to her coming to study in the U.S. Now she and her husband Josh lead North Oak Community Church in Hays, Kansas where she is active in ministry and evangelism.

Throughout her story, Amy learned to trust and lean on God's plan when things didn't always work out as she had hoped, but she also experienced amazing amounts of God's favor and blessing that led to where she is today. Her story will encourage and inspire you, and remind you of God's relentless faithfulness!

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EP. 074 – How Flourishing Pastors Avoid Burnout (Bill Clem)

MAR 23, 2023

Being a pastor--at any level--is hard work. Especially over the past few years, church leaders have had to deal with stresses and challenges that can be uniquely difficult. We all want to lead flourishing ministries while also maintaining healthy families and stable mental health. That may seem increasingly difficult, but it is possible with the right boundaries and right guardrails in place.

On this episode, we talk with Bill Clem. Bill is the director of the Center for Pastoral Flourishing at Western Seminary, and he has a big heart for helping pastors avoid burnout in ministry. He has decades of church leadership experience in a variety of roles, including several years at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He has first-hand experience and tons of research/resources to help lead your ministry and keep your sanity in modern church leadership.

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EP. 073 – A Fresh Perspective on Prayer (Jana Hildebrandt)

MAR 09, 2023

Planting new churches continues to be a high priority for USMB leadership, which notably led to hiring Brian Harris as our church planting mobilizer last summer. Brian has been on the job for several months now, and on this week's episode, Brian shares the latest news after his travels around the country and what he's learned so far as he speaks to leaders and develops his longer-term strategy.

Many of us feel guilty when we're honest about our personal prayer lives. Maybe you feel like you don't pray often enough, or you're intimidated when asked to pray out loud, or--if you're honest--the idea of leading or attending prayer meetings feels boring and irrelevant.

Of course that's not how God wants you to feel, and there is a lot of freedom to pray in ways that feel natural to you and fit your personality. On today's episode, Jana Hildebrandt has some helpful tools for us and also shares her personal journey through prayer. What used to feel like a guilt-ridden necessity has really come to life for her, and her story and perspective will hopefully encourage and inspire you as well.

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EP. 072 – Latest USMB Church Planting News (Brian Harris)

FEB 23, 2023

Planting new churches continues to be a high priority for USMB leadership, which notably led to hiring Brian Harris as our church planting mobilizer last summer. Brian has been on the job for several months now, and on this week's episode, Brian shares the latest news after his travels around the country and what he's learned so far as he speaks to leaders and develops his longer-term strategy.

As the familiar verse from Matthew says, the harvest is indeed plentiful. Brian reminds us there is definitely still a need for more churches in our communities, and there are unique ways established churches can work together to plant new churches or help resource other teams who are looking to plant. Regardless of the size of your church or your position in leadership, there are ways all of us can work together to help bring the gospel to those near and far ready to hear the good news.

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EP. 071 – Chat GPT Interviews Chat GPT about Chat GPT

FEB 09, 2023

"In our latest podcast episode, we dive into the exciting world of Chat GPT and its potential uses for local churches. Our guest discusses how this innovative technology can revolutionize worship services by assisting with song lyrics, prayers, and even sermons. Additionally, we explore the many ways Chat GPT can streamline day-to-day operations, making church staff more effective and efficient. Whether you're a pastor, church administrator, or just someone interested in technology, this episode is a must-listen. We explain what Chat GPT is and give a comprehensive overview of its future uses in the church, so don't miss out!"

... Ok, if you know about Chat GPT, you know the drill here. That paragraph above was written by an intelligent, new AI system called Chat GPT. This incredibly smart computer is quickly taking the world by storm, and most of its users are blown away by the many ways it could affect our lives moving forward. Among the implications and questions to wrestle with is how (and if) we should use this technology in the church.

In this episode, we asked Chat GPT to generate interview questions on this topic, and then we asked those questions to Chat GPT. It's basically interviewing itself, with a little help from our host, Matt.

Whether you're excited or a little creeped out by this tech, these are questions that leaders need to wrestle with, so we hope this conversation is helpful as we begin to wrap our minds around how AI might be used to better serve the church.

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EP. 070 – The Importance and the Future of Immigrant Churches (Henri Ngolo)

JAN 26, 2023

America is often referred to as a "melting pot" with a wide variety of cultures and ethnicities represented. Clearly we believe the Gospel is good news for everyone, and it's wise for us to be on the lookout for ways we can more effectively serve and minister to under-represented and under-served groups in our American culture. With more immigrants and refugees coming to our shores every day, how can the Church minister to these communities, and how can the USMB family work with them to prepare for the church of tomorrow?

Henri Ngolo is a minister and church leader from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who recently came on staff with the USMB team as our new integrated immigrant coordinator. Henri is working with many immigrant leaders who are forming new MB churches around the States, and many exciting opportunities are in the early stages through initiatives like the CORD program. Henri shares parts of his story on this episode and ways we can work together to better serve and minister to these immigrant families.

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EP. 069 – Reading the Bible, Missing the Gospel (Ben Connelly)

JAN 05, 2023

When you spend time reading the Bible, what kinds of things are you looking for? Does your understanding of the New Testament affect your view of the Old Testament, and vice versa? As you read, are you thinking mostly of yourself, or about God?

We all slip into ruts with our personal devotions, and sometimes a fresh perspective or reminder of biblical truths can bring life and deeper understanding of the stories and teachings found in the Bible. Today we're talking with author and pastor Ben Connelly about his new book, Reading the Bible, Missing the Gospel, and he has some compelling and thought-providing ideas that may change how you read the Bible this year.

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