Church After Mars Hill with Dr. J. Derek McNeil and Joel Kiekintveld | Podcast Season 04, Episode 01

by Jun 6, 2023Transforming Engagement: the Podcast

The term “deconstruction” is widely used in the Evangelical and post-Evangelical community, but what does it actually mean and what purpose does it serve? How does it relate to addressing the pain, anger, and disillusionment experienced in the wake of the fall of trusted leaders and churches like Mars Hill? Furthermore, how does it influence our relationship with institutions, communities, and our own spirituality?

In the first episode of this season, host Joel Kiekintveld engages in a conversation with Dr. J. Derek McNeil, President of The Seattle School for Theology and Psychology and co-founder of the Center for Transforming Engagement. With his unique perspective as a leader of a faith-centered institution in Seattle, Derek sheds light on the cyclic process of deconstruction and rebuilding at the institutional level, within our communities, and in our own faith journeys.

This season of the Transforming Engagement Podcast is a response to Christianity Today Media’s wildly popular podcast, The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. 

As listeners of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill podcast, we could take two approaches: one as a mere observation of a captivating soap opera, providing voyeuristic pleasure through the shocking and scandalous true story of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. The other option is to utilize it as an opportunity for introspection, allowing us to examine our own involvement in personality-driven spirituality and dysfunctional church systems, seeking lessons from Mars Hill’s downfall to shape our future.

Hosted by contributor and pastor Joel Kiekintveld, we’re seeking to learn what we can from the case study that is Mars Hill Church in an effort to uncover what the church looks like after Mars Hill. After the destruction left by the collapse of that Seattle-based mega-church, the conversations in this podcast season are our offerings towards a rebuilding.

As you listen to this season, please let us know what you think. We value your feedback and questions!

About this season’s host:

Joel Kiekintveld is the Co-Director of the Anchorage Urban Training Collaborative. Street Psalms Senior Fellow, and an adjunct professor at The Seattle School of Theology and PsychologyFor 17 years he served Parachutes Teen Club and Resource Center (Anchorage, AK), which he helped found in 2003, as Executive Director and Founding Director. Parachutes serves teens ages thirteen to eighteen years old. Many of the active members of the drop-in center were high-risk and street-involved. Joel has served as a pastor and youth pastor in both Michigan and Alaska.  

Joel holds a PhD in Practical Theology from the University of Pretoria (South Africa), a Master of Arts in Global Urban Ministry degree from Bakke Graduate University, a Bachelor of Religious Education degree from Reformed Bible College (now Kuyper College), and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from The Foraker Group/ University of Alaska Fairbanks. He was ordained as a Commissioned Pastor by the Christian Reformed Church in 2008.

Joel lives, works, and plays in Anchorage, AK, with his wife Stacey, and has three daughters Naomi, Emma (and wife Kelsy), and Sydney. Joel lives in intentional community in the Dimond Estates trailer park.

About our guest:

Dr. J. Derek McNeil is the president of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. Dr. McNeil has a PhD in Counseling Psychology from Northwestern University and an MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary. Prior to his tenure at The Seattle School, Dr. McNeil served as faculty in the PsyD program at Wheaton College Graduate School for over 15 years.

Dr. McNeil has worked as a clinician in private practice, a diversity advisor, an organizational consultant, and an administrator. His research, writing, and speaking have focused on issues of ethnic and racial socialization, the role of forgiveness in peacemaking, the identity development of African-American males, leadership in living systems, and resilience.

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Episode Transcript:

Joel Kiekintveld: I’m a late-night documentary viewer – always have been. There are loads of documentaries out there, but there might be more documentaries on World War II than any other subject. Those black and white documentary films about World War II are loaded with images of the destruction left in the wake of that six-year long war. Many of us can conjure up pictures of piles of rubble, bombed out cities and decimated landscapes that we’ve seen as we’ve watched.

In London alone more than 70,000 buildings were destroyed, and another 1.7 million were damaged. In Germany, 4.8 million housing units were destroyed leaving 14 billion cubic feet of rubble behind. Nearly 10% of all housing in Pre-War East Germany was lost, and in West Germany the number was 18.5%. In some areas the number of lost housing units was as high as 25%. The destruction across Europe after the end of World War II was simply staggering.

When we watch those documentaries with their grainy footage, we have a choice. We can view the destruction voyeuristically – gawking like rubberneckers on the highway at the scene of a car crash – mesmerized and entertained by the destruction we’re watching.

Or, the other option, is to view the destruction as a cautionary tale – a lesson to be learned. We can seek to change how we live in the present, in light of the lessons we’re watching from the past.

In June of 2021 Christianity Today Media released a Podcast titled The Rise And Fall of Mars Hill. Over the next year and a half, 19 episodes chronicled the history of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Just two months into the run of the podcast Christianity Today reported that there had been 2.5 million downloads and that the show was ranked #1 on Apple Podcasts’ Religion and Spirituality chart.

In that same article Christianity Today gave a brief overview of the Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. They wrote:

Founded in 1996, Seattle’s Mars Hill Church was poised to be an undeniable force in evangelicalism—that is until its spiraling collapse in 2014. The church and its charismatic founder, Mark Driscoll, had a promising start. But the perils of power, conflict, and church celebrity eroded and eventually shipwrecked both the preacher and his multimillion-dollar platform.

The wildly successful podcast – The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – is lot like those World War II documentaries. One can listen voyeuristically. The podcast can be interacted with like a soap opera where one takes delight in eavesdropping in on the shocking, scandalous, and salacious true story of Mars Hill and Mark Driscoll. 

The other option is to use the same story as a chance to look in the mirror and see where we, each of us, have participated in personality-driven spirituality and dysfunctional church systems. We can listen for the ways that the Mars Hill story has lessons to teach us – how one church’s fall might inform our future.

On the campus of Harvard University in June of 1947, US Secretary of State, George C. Marshall, gave a speech. In that speech he proposed a plan called the European Recovery Plan. The idea was for the US to help Europe rebuild from the devastation brought across that continent by the conflict. In the end 16 countries signed up for aid and the US spent 13 Billion dollars to assist countries in modernization, and with things like food and agricultural products, raw materials, tools and industrial equipment. The European Recovery Program became known simply as the Marshall Plan. What George C. Marshall and the US government knew was that you can’t just destroy, you also have to rebuild. 

This season of the podcast is a response to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill. We’re seeking to learn what we can from the case study that is Mars Hill Church in an effort to uncover what church looks like after Mars Hill. This podcast is the Marshall plan for destruction left by the collapse of that Seattle-based mega-church. This season is a rebuilding.

When we come back I’ll be talking with Dr. J Derek McNeil, the President of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology about deconstruction and reconstruction.

So Derek, I know that many listeners to this podcast are probably familiar with you, but for those who may be new or aren’t as familiar with you, would you introduce yourself, however you would like to do that?

Derek McNeil: Wow, that’s a good entree: however I’d like to do that. Well, first of all, it’s a pleasure to be with you, Joel, and to kind of begin this process with you and begin these conversations with you. I am currently the President of The Seattle School, and I’ve been in this role for about three and a half years. Formerly I was the academic dean, and so I’ve been here probably a total of close to 12 years all total. And background is in psychology and also with an MDiv. So doctoral work in psychology and master’s level work in theology. So I bring a mixture of things. It was always nice to say: I’m a husband of one wife at the, and two children, two adult children and who live in Los Angeles. And so that’s a bit of my life. And we have a little dog named Bella, so that gives you some of my social relating as well.

Joel Kiekintveld: Yeah. So on this season we’re talking about church after Mars Hill, and we’re doing a little bit of deconstruction, but hopefully a lot of reconstruction. But I want to start with deconstruction. So deconstruction seems to be a pretty popular word in the world these days. So where do you hear folks using that word and how are they using that word in the world where you interact?

Derek McNeil: Good question. It’s interesting how I would say maybe even in relationship to the school, when I first got here, actually when I first heard of the school, even before I came, the issue of post-modernity and deconstructing and the notion of the sort of narrative, grand-narratives, the sense of the story that shaped our frame or how we view things– I think that’s not talked about as much. And I think the way we talk about deconstruction now is much more political as opposed to say philosophical or theological. And so critical theory, and specifically critical race theory, will talk about deconstructing power and understanding how power exerts itself. And so in some ways it’s moved to a conversation of reframing modernity to a conversation of power dynamics, if I just use, and so I think there’s many more conversations, particularly with say with students when they talk about deconstructing, they’ll think about structures and systems of oppression and things like that. And so I would say that the word or the term, or I would say the metaphor, it’s actually much more of a metaphor has been used in different ways.

Joel Kiekintveld: So it was interesting. I looked up the word deconstruction in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and they felt the need to add kind of a comment at the bottom. They do this “did you know” section, and they said, deconstruction doesn’t actually mean demolition. Instead it means breaking down or analyzing something to discover its true significance. I wonder if in the ways that you’re hearing deconstruction, have we gotten deconstruction and demolition confused?

Derek McNeil: Yeah, and that’s an interesting sort of little caveat they put there because I think it may be someplace in between. I think we’d like to use it for getting to the essence of a thing, but I think it does, when you de-construct something, you pull it apart, you can certainly use that for analysis or you can certainly use that to tear something down to demolish it. And so even though there’s an attempt to maybe correct that usage, I think both are, they have some, in this case, some relation to the other. I think this is why you heard me use the word metaphor, as opposed to a strict dictionary definition. I think we’re talking when we speak about deconstruction now almost metaphorically, and it means hopefully to get to some essence, but I don’t, when you reach the point of essence quark, if you will, in quantum physics or some other layer, some other smaller particle, what is it that you know, and the assumption is that we know the meaning in life or we know have more meaning.

And I’m not sure if there are exercises, particularly the political one right now leads us to deeper meaning as much as we hope it would. There’s almost a bit of a, I don’t want to call it a fantasy, I don’t want to be insulting in that way, but it’s close where there’s a sense of if we can get to the bottom of it, then it would fix everything. And I don’t think that’s true. I think in a way, if we actually take much more of a quantum sense of how are things linked together becomes important to think about. How are things connected? How are they ravelled together? How are they merged together? Maybe actually the exercise we need to engage now that we’ve actually worked at trying to pull things apart.

Joel Kiekintveld: I know in the places where I’m having, or where I’m hearing that word most often in my work, is in theology and in kind of practical theology, it’s folks talking about deconstructing their faith. And often it feels like sort of deconstructing a cabbage where people are pulling off leaf after leaf after leaf after leaf, and then in a sense arriving at, no, to use your term, quark in the middle. It’s sort of left in the end with this disassembled thing that doesn’t have any semblance of what it started out as. So I’m wondering if you’re seeing that as well, this movement towards sort of deconstructing to the point where there’s almost nothing left.

Derek McNeil : Yes, and I think that, and it actually, I understand it and it confuses me at the same time. Let’s see if I can …

Joel Kiekintveld: Gotcha.

Derek McNeil: I understand the sense of loss or the disillusionment around our faith and the sense that something, since that something has gone wrong, something has been distorted, it’s been corrupted, and maybe if I get to this sort of, again, core of it, the nugget of it, the centrality of it, it will somehow revitalize me. And I think often it’s debilitating. It leads us to kind of like–what is there? Yes, it is cultural pieces to it, and yes, there are pieces that are more human-derived than divine, if you will, but I think the venture itself is not necessarily flawed, but it’s incomplete if the purpose is simply to break something down and not rebuild something up. And so it is one thing to say, Hey, my job is to break something down to a smallest particle. That’s very different than say, can I break something down to rebuild something?

Because something else has to be built here that contains and holds us, and that means I’ve got to figure out how things get put back together, and are nuanced or how they make sense. So I think you’re right. I do hear a lot of, “I have to deconstruct my faith.” I don’t fully know what that means. As a person who was raised in Black Baptist context and African American tradition and community, my faith is not only a rational thing to deconstruct. So sometimes I hear it as an intellectual exercise as well, and it’s about my belief system as opposed to the sense of my embodied experience. So as I grew up in a Christian home, and I have some real strong sense that I could not have reached this level of life without not just simply believing in something, but being held by something, by being known by something, by having mystery and magic around something.

And so I don’t know how you deconstruct the mystery and the magic. I don’t have as much intellectual control over that, though I may have control over things people have said to me textually or narratively. And so, for me, faith, at least my faith has been constructed a bit more experientially as well as intellectually. And so one is easier to have accessibility to deconstruct, if you will, the other less so. It is like me deconstructing a mystery. I don’t have all the tools to understand, and I’m able to intellectually accept that lack of understanding and accept the mystery of a thing.

Joel Kiekintveld: It makes me think of, Bruce Springsteen says at one point, I mean once you’re Catholic, there’s no getting out. That’s like all there is to it. And it kind of is speaking to that sense of it becomes so ingrained that even if you don’t feel connected to it, there’s still things at work there.

Derek McNeil: There. There’s still a part of you, yeah. And what he’s also saying in that sense, if you’re not just simply Catholic in personal identity, you’re Catholic in belonging to a community. And so this is where I think in a very more Western individual frame, it says, I am, because I think, I sort of a Cartesian sort of notion, and I would suggest that no, we are too, we are something together. And part of my sense of self, doesn’t it come from my only my individual decisions about something or my breaking it down to the smallest particle, but also my collective and the groups that I find myself belonging to.

Joel Kiekintveld: That’s interesting to me as we’ve been talking, it occurs to me that I’ve heard lots of people say things like, I’m deconstructing my faith or I’m deconstructing my relationship with whatever my organized faith is, but I’ve never heard anybody say, I’m deconstructing my community, which I think is a different, just a different way of thinking about how we embody what it means to have sort of faith interactions.

Derek McNeil: And I think it may even, the deconstruction of our communities may begin before we deconstruct our faith. In other words, a wounding experience in my community said, there’s something wrong with it. There’s some, there’s some distortion, some corruption, some wounding, this hurts. And I am having a hard time staying in this context of oppression. And then I think it actually leads then to me questioning– what is it? And of the things I’ve been taught, are they the things that have, but I think again, this is a cultural lens where at least in the US, and I would say most Western cultures tend to be more individually focused versus collectively focused, which means they’re going to ask questions of my width as opposed to our being. And I think a lot of behaviors shaped by ours, us, and the woundedness of us on us, but we tend to ask the question of more individual or atomistic question.

Joel Kiekintveld: Yeah, that’s true. I think breaking it down to speaking about, breaking it down to its, what do you think the core concept is? Is it community or is it the individual? Yeah. Really does change how you think about deconstruction for sure. Yes. So you’ve mentioned already as we’ve talked, and I’ve heard you say this a number of times over the last couple years, that you can’t just deconstruct, you have to reconstruct as well. [Derek: Yeah.] What does that mean to you? What does that look like for you?

Derek McNeil: I’ll acknowledge that some part of me is much more a builder than a breaker downer or a pull-aparter. And so my, there’s something in me that gets inspired and excited when I can see something grow or build or develop. And I think that’s what drew me into teaching. I’d love to see students grow and develop in a certain way. So with that inherent bias, I think what that has meant for me is deconstruction is necessary. Out of the textual pieces, there’s a textual piece in the Old Testament talks about tearing up, pulling up, rooting out tearing downs, like three deconstructive things, plant, build. So there is a sense of we’re not finished when we deconstruct, that part of the creative task is that you pull something apart or pull it down or uproot it in an attempt to build something new or for something else to emerge.

And so more so than I would kind of pit deconstruction against reconstruction, I say, Hey, finish the process, or think about this organically. Think about it as a plant that dies or seed that dies, it goes in the ground and produces fruit. So think about in cycles as opposed to a linear exercise of deconstruction. So it is, I probably would want to say, let’s put these things together and think of them a bit more organically. And then to think of them in the breaking down of a building on a corner that’s no longer useful. Now that occurs too, but often you’ll see when you see a hole on the ground where something has been deconstructed, you’ll see we’re going to build this image, this imagination of something that’s coming. And I think in this moment where our institutions are failing, or at least they’re not as trustworthy and they’re struggling with corruption, it’s hard to name one institution, say, I trust that institution.

In that moment, we do need new institutions. Some do need to deconstruct, but that’s the beginning of our work. The harder work is what do we build in its place? And the reason I think we need institutions, because you often we’re either talking about deconstructing faith with, again, more like institutions that hold faith or the collective that holds faith. We need institutions, and I want define institutions not as granite buildings on a corner, but really social, rules of social relationship. How do I know how to act with you? How do I know how to engage with you? What are the rules we’ve established together? We need that for community, for multiple generations, for my children, and my children’s children, we need to have some sense of how are we going to engage each other in an ethical manner, in a caring manner, in a compassionate manner. Now that can get corrupted. That’s that way of interacting, but we still need them. And how do we, again, sometimes it’s rebuild and sometimes it’s build anew those social institutions that hold us. And so that’s a deconstruction and a reconstruction process for me, not just simply deconstruction.

Joel Kiekintveld: A couple of things went through my mind while you were speaking. I think it’s really helpful to think of it as a cycle. One of my mentors talks about the diabolical mind takes things apart, the theological mind puts things together. And that feels a little too binary in a lot of ways, or dualistic. But almost like what I hear you saying, if you think about like a building metaphor, it’s the folks that go in and reclaim pieces of the building and salvage things before you take it down, and then those things get made into something new or different. Yes, those pieces. But I love that idea even of a natural cycle. We have a fall and a winter so that we can have a spring and a summer. [Derek: Yes] It’s It’s all part of the same thing. Not either or.

Derek McNeil: Yes. And which might help us not hold on so tightly to things that we need to let go. So sometimes the metaphor of a journey is about letting go of home to find a new home. And so we’re in this period of what things do we need to let go to find our new home? And so some of the conversation about Mars Hill, if you try to build that cathedral, you try to build that monument, you try to build that thing that has permanence in a human way, I think you have to, it may last a long time, but it won’t have permanence. And there will be moments when it becomes corrupt and it will need a new cycle of life. And so in that same way, I do think the metaphor, at least one we should add to linear, is cycle. I’m trying to avoid this sort of either or because there’s a lot of either ORs and I think this is a both-and your body goes through times, but you live on a cycle daily. But do you are also going through time, there’s something, there’s some linearity, but there’s also some cycles and a regular daily basis that we live into.

Joel Kiekintveld: So you mentioned Mars Hill, and that’s, we’re kind of using that as a case study this season. And I think one way, we’ve talked about this before, and I mentioned it in the intro, one way you can kind of listen to that podcast is very voyeuristically, kind of like, oh my goodness, I can’t believe this happened. Almost like you would listen to a soap opera or telenovela. And the tendency there, I think would be to just throw the whole thing out. Like I don’t want anything to do with that. I don’t want to think about it. I want to reject all of it. But what we’re trying to think about is how do we move forward? How do we continue in that cycle? How do we replant, regrow, or rebuild as we move forward? So I would love to hear you talk just a little bit about, like, what would be your hope for this series as we begin to think about what does the church look like after Mars Hill? What would you hope that we would build together as listeners and as guests in these conversations?

Derek McNeil: That’s a good question. First of all, let me say, I think that there’s a sadness that comes from, one reviewing Mars Hill as a case. The sadness feels appropriate in the sense that we should recognize we could be there. That could be us. It’s very easy or the easiest thing to do. And I think the least learning comes from saying– that’s them. And I would never, and how in the world could I? And I think the most learning comes from entering into it a bit to say, Hey, we are vulnerable to this maybe in various degrees, but even as a country, we’re struggling with narcissistic leadership. And what does that mean for us? And why is it so attractive? Why? What’s the certainty that it offers that helps us with our anxiety? So there’s some part of me that wants us to know that human ventures are difficult and more challenging, and, the, messy, and in some real ways. It’s interesting, the sort of seductive nature of leadership, but also seductive nature for followers.

We feel special connected to our leaders. And so I’m sure there’s a certain specialness that came from being connected to Mark, or least believing Mark is connected to God, therefore we’re connected to God in some sort of way. [Derek: Excuse me.]  And it’s not so much, it is not even true, but the issue is always our distortion, that we can begin with high values and high principles and high, et cetera, et cetera. And if we don’t recognize our capacity to be corrupted along the way, I think we are much more vulnerable to finding ourselves in similar situations or destructive situations. Maybe not like that one, but other sorts of ways. So the seduction, and I’m in all truth as a president, even of an organization that has a mind of its own at times, you can feel the seductive power of being in charge, and you can feel the sense and the moment, the possibilities of utilizing it to feed your own self.

I love the sort of challenges that Christ is put through taken into the wilderness. And the devil comes to Christ and tempts Christ with this sort of turn bread, turn stones into bread. Well, in leadership roles, you can feel moments when you can turn stones into bread. And the realization, Christ says, Hey, it’s more meaningful than that. It’s not just by bread alone. So it is, as leaders trying to find the higher purpose in something and realizing it’s not as dependent on you or your quote unquote success. So there’s a lot of lessons to learn, but some of them means we have to engage the painfulness empathetically of the folk who were part of the church and Mark as well at some level. And to understand our own woundedness and our brokenness and the vulnerabilities that we are also capable of, at the very least capable of.

So that way, my hope that there’s a growth, I think there’s awareness of the misuse of authority and how we both respect authority. But, you know, my sense is you can’t think of authority just simply coming from top down, that we also have to agree that this is a leadership we should follow, and that should be some reciprocal bottom up, if you will. And the care to hear from both authorizations from God, if you will, but also the people, and to listen carefully and to hear the, not just simply the hungers, because we all have hungers, but also hear a sense of the mission and the call and the purpose. And that should be critiqued. So those at least some things that cross my mind right away as we begin this series.

Joel Kiekintveld : I love that you start with the individual. And so introspection there. I feel over the last couple of years, it’s become clear to me that works of media, whether they’re books or podcasts or whatever, the nature of The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill work best as mirrors, so that if we interact with them and then be able to critique ourselves. So I know for me, listening through the series, I had to go like, oh yeah, I participated in this in this way. I early on went to a service at Mars Hill cause I was really curious about what was going on there. I had some of the music. I had followed Mark’s like writing a little bit and some of those, and then also other issues, having been reared in Evangelicalism and part of that in the same period of time, having to go back and look at where I had participated in the same way. And I think it’s easy to talk about The Church as if it’s something other than people or something other than us. And I think I appreciate that you start out with this idea of building something starts with looking in the mirror a bit.

Derek McNeil: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s the chief learning. And then there’s other learnings about organization leadership when it goes south and how it can go south and what sort of, again, I, I’ll use a language of  seduction, what sort of seductive things can happen. And if you aren’t in touch with some of your own hungers and your own needs that come out of your own family of origin, how that sets you up to kind of build something to meet your needs. All those sorts of things, I think can be learned. But I do think it begins with some degree of empathy. The rejecting of –it could never be me, will sometimes lead me to a place of looking up later on saying, that is me.

How in the world, David, how in the world I can’t? Well, that’s you. And I think that mirror as you’re talking about Joel, is an important one. And it doesn’t come just in isolation. It comes in fellowship, it comes in partnership. And so I know I need people to help me say, Hey, what are you doing? And what is this about? And what are the needs being met by you? And what are your fears? Because often our defensive set is around the things that make us an anxious and fearful. And if I see movements that really can’t at all talk about the things that concern them or in, we might talk about it as humility. We might talk about it as vulnerability, but some ability to say, Hey, these are the things I find myself working against even when I don’t want to. These are the things that capture me. And I find myself working to be known because I’m fearful of not being known, or I’m fearful of the shame that may come or, so I think those are the things we have to be sensitive to, to avoid some of the pitfalls. And then we also need communities around us to help us avoid the others.

Joel Kiekintveld: Absolutely. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for sitting in and helping us frame this conversation as we begin to deconstruct a little bit and hopefully construct a whole lot moving forward through this season. So thank you very much.

Derek McNeil : Well blessings to you. Thank you for inviting me as a guest. And we have much to do. I, I’ll say this last bit before I go, we, we’re– particularly in the United States–teetering on some really important critical social events or social experiences. And so we have some deterioration as a society, we have fragmentation. And I think the need to reconstruct and rebuild is more important for people who follow Jesus more than ever. And so my hope is that we are able to kind of move past some of the political dialogue and your team, my team, sorts of things, that I think aren’t necessarily from the mysteries of God, but more the fears of humans and find a way to rebuild some of the society that’s fragmenting and broken.

Joel Kiekintveld: Amen. I agree.

Derek McNeil: Thank you.

Joel Kiekintveld : Thank you. My thanks to Dr. McNeil for joining me on the podcast as we begin our journey talking about church after Mars Hill. In the coming weeks we will be discussing ways to be the church that create flourishing for everyone involved and rebuild what spiritual community looks like.

If you are enjoying this conversation and you want to concentrate more thought on your community and context, I invite you to check out the low-residency Master of Arts in Theology & Culture (MATC) programs at The Seattle School. Those programs are designed for artists, activists, and ministry leaders who want to serve God and neighbor. More information at:

I also invite you to check out the Center For Transforming Engagement. We know that church leadership has never been more difficult and that 1 in 3 pastors is at risk of burnout. That’s why the Center for Transforming Engagement offers support to leaders like you. Through cohort groups, coaching, and consulting, they equip leaders and their teams to transform their service of God and neighbor in their local contexts – and in the process, to be transformed. You can learn more and get connected with a cohort group or a coach at

Until Next Time, I’m Joel Kiekintveld. Grace & Peace.