Don Gentry: Executive Pastor at Journey Church
Mary Korch : [00:00:00] Well, thank you, Mr. Gentry for being here. We kind of talked about this yesterday, the purpose of these calls is to kind of dive into the economics, social, spiritual landscape, and how the virus and all of the kind of the current events are affecting individuals and institutions So we thank you for being willing to talk about your experience and answering some of our questions for us.
Don Gentry : [00:00:25] Yeah, absolutely. So what I would encourage you guys to do, and I'm also very curious about what your answer is because you guys have heard all the other guys talk about it so far. I'm going to present it from a church's standpoint, and I'm curious as to what you've heard in relation to what other businesses are doing in a way that they're pivoting their organizations.If it correlates at all with nonprofits and churches, and also it has drastically affected Journey. So Journey is a church. If I say Journey, that's the church where I pastor at. And I'm the executive pastor there in case you guys don't remember. And so I have to handle all the finances, all the business, all the leadership development.
And then I also provide oversight for all the spiritual care that goes out. So rather inclusive of a lot of things. And the Coronavirus has caused us to have to pivot in every single area. So the biggest one is our giving is down over $70,000, as the executive pastor and the one that pays the bills and also pays the salaries, I promised everybody that you know, that we're not going to cut their salary.
We're not going to cut their position. We're going to be able to ride the wave. But it was also kind of anticipating that people would continue to give. So, making sure to manage how, how we manage the money is actually a really big deal. And, fortunately, we went into the year with the best carry over that we've ever had.
I had a lot of different plans for what that was for. It wasn't so that we could maintain business as usual through a Coronavirus. But the cool thing about God is that God sees everything beyond our wildest imagination. And so what I, what I really, I count that as God gave us the wisdom last year to be making this.
I'd say just the savings that we were saving last year, and we thought we were saving for one thing, but he knew that it was going to be there for a whole other purpose. And so, when we're faithful with God in the little things, I mean, we went into the year with about $111,000 carry over from one year to the other.
And that's the first time Journey's ever done that in its history. But I would also say that it's because I'm at the helm of making sure that we're managing money. And so because of that, I believe if you manage, God is very faithful to his word. When he says, if you're faithful in a little, you'll be faithful withmuch.
And so we weren't stockpiling or storing up money. We were just being responsible, and I believe that that's the way God works in any of our businesses and organizations. When we're responsible and good stewards of what he's given us, he'll give us what we need to make it through. Then we get into the spiritual sideof things.
So outside of the money and you guys have heard part of our story, and I'm sure it Kareena has told you more of our story. So from my perspective, worrying about money is really ridiculous because it always works out. If we're being smart. I've also been really stupid with money before, and it never works out.
God lets you go through some horrible lessons, but if you're trying to be responsible with money and being good stewards of what he's given you, he'll always work it out. But we just have to determine with wisdom, are we being smarter or are we being stupid? And if we're being stupid, we just have to own that and realize thatGod will allow us to go through difficulties that are. Of her own making. Now moving to the spiritual side, we've had to do everything new with Journey. Fortunately, we already had an online experience, but now everything is online. All of our meetings, like what you guys are doing right now is zoom calls. I don't know if you guys like these things, but for an old guy like me, I hate these things.
I'd much rather be in a meeting face to face with someone one on one, but even for someone like me that is against technology, I'm not against technology. Who doesn't like to do everything with technology. Maybe that's a better statement, it's a blessing because it allows us to maintain connection with people.
So now the question we have to answer with church is every church out there, even Joe Schmo and Papa's church is doing everything online. So the question we have to ask ourselves now as church leaders is how do we make sure thatpeople that are a part of our church are getting ministered to as part of our church?
How do we provide spiritual care for those called Journey their home? And that's really the question that we've been trying to answer a lot. And so now we're in, I just had to scrub our, our database, which we had started 1500 people. Well, not all 1500 people come to Journey, but I had to, go through that list name by name and figure out, okay, how am I going to connect with those people?
Then I had to have a zoom call and I delegated out the list to all the people who were support staff leaders and then all the people that nobody knows, well, that's who the paid staff are going to get the call. And we're going to make sure that every single person in the church is being connected with and communicated with, but that adds a ton of time to our everyday schedule. So through that process though, we're hoping that the silver lining in all of it is that people that haven't been engaged with by a personal touch are now going to be engaged with. And so in the business world, you could call those people, you can be calling me or your cold calls. Your clients are your warm market, not your cold call. They'd be your potential individuals that are gonna buy something from you. But in a relevant church, they're just people that need geared for her spiritually. So it's really easy in times like this for people to, if there's, if they already had one foot out your door, this time's like, this is a perfect opportunity for them to take another step right out the door and then they're gone.
And if we're not going to meet for another two and a half months, which is what it looks like, this is going to transpire out to be. We have the potential to lose a lot of people. Then if our giving is already down that much, I can't imagine what it's going to look like by the end of this time. So we have to plan for those things.
And each person that leaves is another person that goes with their checkbook. But a lot of times with people that leave are people that aren't giving anyways. So, we just have to figure out why the people that we're giving aren't giving, but when they see their retirements taking and their savings account going away, and their jobs are now on unemployment versus a salary, people stop giving.
So those are the big things. The big items that we're looking at right now, we've had to do every, we're prerecording our services. The empty rooms which have your speaker, that sucks. Cause you’re you feed off of a crowd. And so just making all these different shifts trying to reach people with the gospel of Christ and not getting angry.
I don't know about you guys. Some people respond out of fear. I responded out of anger. And knowing your own personal presuppositions as to how you respond and interpret information, is a key component in how you lead. In the beginning stages, I told the other guys on the executive leadership team, I'm like, I don't get to talk like nobody.
I'm not posting anything. I'm not writing anything. Nobody gets to hear from me. It's just not going to be until I could get my own mind wrapped around it. Everything I was going to say was just going to make everybody mad cause I can do that well just by waking up in the morning. So I have to filter my thoughts greatly.
And in the beginning stages, they were not filtered well at all. And I knew that. So they got to do the communication with the church. So those are things that are affecting us as a church, as leadership. That's the big picture. But I want to know what questions do you guys have? What have you had for some of the other guys, as well.
Don Gentry : [00:07:59] Stacy wants to say hi real quick.
Stacy Gentry: [00:08:02] I hear your voices and like I have to just add from a woman's perspective. Yeah, it's really, really hard for the women and the kids. The kids are really missing social interaction and the moms are missing the connection piece. It's been very difficult for a lot of moms. Being cooped up in the house all the time trying to juggle online school.
Maybe you've already said all of this, but from the women's perspective, the coronavirus has really been a hard connection and they're missing seeing their friends at church. They're missing yeah, they're missing the social aspect of it
Mary Korch : [00:08:46] Great. Well, thank you, Mr. Gentry. That was a lot of really interesting information and definitely a perspective we haven't heard before. So I have a few questions and then we will open it up for some of the other students to ask questions too.
Don Gentry : [00:08:59] Okay.
Mary Korch : [00:09:00] All right. So, in terms of finances, I mean, Adventures in Missions, us as missionaries, we're kind of in a similar nonprofit sphere and disposable income is decreasing, you know, with the stock market and unemployment, everything going on. And I'm wondering if you think that a lot of the decrease in giving is because people are being faithful in the same percentage, but their disposable incomes increasing, so that's decreasing, or are people reacting out of fear because of the market and looking at it as an unnecessary expense and just stopping or cutting their giving.
Do you have any kind of insight or thoughts on that?
Don Gentry : [00:09:36] Well, I think it's a both, and I don't think it's a one or the other. the way that giving goes in our Christian faith giving is the last thing that people bring them to the surrender of God's control. Because God says he's authority over all things that we have in the realm of church and in ministry.
The average American gives away 1.5% of their income.So the steps are pretty out there on that. if everybody in the American church gave 10%, we'd be able to solve the world hunger problem 10 times over. But the average American doesn't give a 10% average Christian American doesn't.
That's the average evangelical Christian gives 1.5%. So the average American is given far less than that. So we know that the scriptures talked about a 10% time. The new Testament says, even in Jesus's own words, you shouldn't have forsaken the ties, but you should also give more than the average Jew gave away 23%.
Now we know that in our churches, people are not being that generous. So I think there's an element of spiritual immaturity. They don't understand the Lordship of their money, and so we were, that was one of the things that we were teaching this year. Now it's going to seem a littlejudgy if we continue down that path when we're not meeting, and now we're just going to be asking people for money. So we've got to figure out a way to navigate that. But helping people understand spiritual maturity is directly tied to, are you being faithful with the money that you're giving to God?
That's one where, yes, I think they're just drawing back because we're not faithful with it. And then. Because I don't think everybody's being spiritually immature. I think some of it is tied to the fact that the amount that they have is less than it was before. So if it's less than, than obviously what they're going to give, is it going to be less to, I don't know how much detail you want me to go into, I looked at like last year's.
And giving. You look at trends, you look at recorder, you look to year to year and I looked at last year's trends. I looked at last year's quarter of 2019 October through December and I looked at January through March quarter, and when I compared this first quarter of 2019 to both of those quarters.
If I've compared it to the last quarter, we were down almost 80,000 if I compared it to first quarter, it was almost 70,000 so no matter how we look at it, the Coronavirus has greatly impacted our giving this year. So whether it's their amount has decreased as far as what they have to give, or they're just hoarding it and fear of the unknown.
That's a decision that only God can judge in a person's heart, but we then have to teach it. Because if we're going to teach everything about God, Christ talked about money more than any other topic in all of the New Testament. So surrendering our money to God is a big deal to him.
Mary Korch : [00:12:20] That's good insight. Are there any ways that you're hopeful for the church coming through this?
Don Gentry : [00:12:26] His hope for the world. Of course, I'm hopeful for the church. I think it's going to take direct teaching. We're going to have to be very intentional about the way that we communicate to our congregation.
I believe that this is going to be a time where the church, where those who are genuine about their love of the Lord are going to dig deeper into understanding. Okay, what's really important to me. Times like this really cause people to reflect upon what's really important in their lives. I think we're going to find that family becomes an important commodity in people's lives.
Again, family time, we're being forced to spend a lot of it with each other and people that didn't like it before, hopefully figure out it can be a good thing. So, I hope that brings awareness back to the family, and then I think by not having the ability to go to church and that's taken away from them, I hope that that creates a desire within people to understand how important a local church really is.
And to realize that there though technology is great, it eliminates that ability to have that close connection with fellow believers. And that's the whole point of the local church. The local church is all about creating fellowship with one another, holding people accountable, walking alongside of people through the good times and the bad times.
Everything about the local church is about building community and technology is great, but it really limits what that community can look like, what Stacy was even talking about. So I pray, and I hope that because of this, that just reactivates the church. Then if we get that back in, then the giving, God promises that he'll take care of the giving.
So that's why I don't over worry about it. So I believe that if we're providing good spiritual disciplines and discipleship processes during this time, that God will always provide for us financially. And it will be a good time for us to do a good lesson on, you know, guys, this is why we still continue to give them moments like this one.
We're not meeting together so I think it has all kinds of great opportunities for, as we move forward. But as leaders, we're going to have to communicate differently and just be open about. There's going to have to be a different level of transparency, I think, from the different struggles that a church organization faces during times like this, but I think God's church is going to respond very well in it. So I'm very hopeful because I'm very optimistic about what God can do. So that's after I get over my anger, but my anger is totally isolated too. The American constitution, and my hope is very much driven by the biblical authority of God. Yeah, and I can separate those out very well. I just know that they are strong driving forces within this body.
Mary Korch : [00:15:08] Do you have any advice for us as young people of faith who want to build the church and the body of Christ? As well as entrepreneurs and fundraisers?
Don Gentry : [00:15:19] Sure. I always have advice.
I would say the biggest thing that I would encourage you guys to do is stay encouraged there's going to be a day coming soon. And obviously Jacob and Troy, you left as well.
You guys are going to go back into what we'll justcall the real world. You've, you've been isolated a bit living in a very protected environment where you have multiple people of like-mind thinking together, like-mindedly that creates a very positive sense of being able to make a difference in the world.
When you go back into your environments where you would go back home or whatever environment you're going to go into, work environment, whatever. There's a strong possibility that then you're going, it's like when you put burning embers together in a fire pit. Yup. It creates fire and heat. You draw one number out of that.
It goes out quickly and so what I would encourage you guys to do is to realize that when you draw that ember out just think of each one of you as an ember, you take your ember out of the fire that you guys have been around for the last, well by then it will have been, what, nine months?
So you draw that Ember out don't ever think that God can't use your ember to create a fire wherever you're planted. And that's the goal of the church. Like we are called by God to not stay in our circles, but to go into the dark world and carry the light of Christ. And I think that's the biggest thing that I would say is that no matter where you find your ember is taken that God can and will use you regardless of the circumstances around you, regardless of what other people may be pouring into you, regardless of the fear and the, man, I don't know if you guys watch the news, but the way people are responding in this is just fear. Fear-based decision making doesn't lead us anywhere positive.
And it can become a very negative world that we live in. So the body of Christ oftentimes wants to huddle up and just be close together. When in reality, that's the perfect time where we need to be out in the world spreading the light of Christ because these people need to know that there is hope outside of this.
So I don't know if that makes sense. That just, think of whatever business model that you guys are taking out there, whatever passion, we'll just say whatever passion project God has given you. Think ofthat as your ember to take to the world. And though you may have to make pivots, though, you may have to make adjustments to that.
Don't let the condition of the financial market in the world d2iscourage you from changing the world for Christ. You may not always have the encouragement of your fellow brothers and sisters around you helping you live in the protected environment that I was alluding to earlier, but we don't need that protected environment.
We need the passion of God and the fire of God inside of us to change the world around us. And we as individuals are responsible for keeping that fire going, not our brothers and sisters to keep that fire going. And I just challenge you guys wherever life takes you, you guys have your world ahead of you.
This could be one of many crises that you guys have to face in your lifetime, but the faith in God that you guys get now and the faith that you see being grown and developed in you now is going to be able to help you overcome anything that happens in the future. I've seen God do amazing things throughout my life.
What he's going to do through this one, I'm not even convinced he isn't causing this to happen. The world's freaking out because we lost control. We never had control in the first place. We had an illusion of control. Things just were going good. Moments like this caused us to realize just how little control we really have in this world, but as followers of Christ, we get to serve the one who has ultimate control and he hasn't lost a dollar.
You know, his money is still floating around out there. We just have to figure out where it is. If we're going to change the world with Christ and as entrepreneurs in the realm of spiritual ministry, you realize that you can't do ministry without money. So God knows we need money, but he says, don't worry about it.
Pagans run after all these things. I know. You need that. He promises I got you. So that's my encouragement to you guys.
Mary Korch : [00:19:36] Thank you for that. And now we're going to open it up to see if anyone else has questions as well.
Don Gentry : [00:19:44] Hey, gentlemen, how are you doing, man?
Tyler Young : [00:19:47] Very good. Thank you. As I see it so many, at least churches I've been a part of, there are so many people in the congregation that they give because they want to be seen or just because they don't want to be judged by the person next to them for not giving. And I think the whole social dynamic of moving online where they're not seeing and just goes back to being spiritually immature. But, I've always. Thought that the best times to grow closer to God and money's a huge avenue to trust God more. And what has been your church’s strategy, and I don't like to use the word strategy in this situation. To cause the congregation to trust God more. And how has your church been dealing with to get people to try some more and still give just in online?
Don Gentry : [00:20:34] Well, that would be, that would be an, I'll use the word strategy, our strategy is we already have 85% of our tithes and offerings come in online anyways. And we don't pass the plate at our church. We have tall wooden boxes and dark corners in the back of our auditorium. And then we invite people to, we are very strategic about helping people realize that their giving as a part of their worship, and the way that we give our money as a reflection of how we worship God.
And so we encourage them to, we have a book that we give out to everybody that comes into our church. Cause they're always like, why don't you pass the plate? It's because we don't want you the very thing that you're talking about. We don't want you to feel compelled to give outguilt and, or any type of pressure.
We want you to give out of a heart choice. It comes out of Corinthians where it says, choose this day in your heart what you're going to set aside. And we're supposed to set aside what. What we can afford based upon what we have, but we're supposed to do it with generosity. And so we really focus on trying to help people understand the terminology of generosity.
And so we already had three times where we were going to preach on generosity this year. We did one sermon on it already. We had another one come up that was just strictly on tithing, because a lot of people think that tithing doesn't exist in the New Testament, and we believe it does.
And then we had another one coming up in the fall. But our strategy is simply to teach what Christ taught about money and giving. And we believe that the power of the Holy Spirit is going to change people's hearts and minds. And so we would then take our strategy back even one step further.
We call it a part of discipleship. And our whole goal is to get people discipled through Christ, and so we have a thing called growth track. And it's a four-part series that we go through. It's partnering, growing, serving, leading. They have to, we believe in partnering means they partner with a local church.
Cause if you don't have a local body, kind of like what you guys have now, t's really easy to, it's really easy to get unaccountable. And so we need to be partnering with a local church. And then we also have, giving as a part of that. But a lot of people don't know how to give. So we wantthem to be discipled in that.
So we believe that giving is actually a part of a greater picture of discipleship. And so that's why we don't just focus on giving. So our goal is not just to strategize about how to make sure people are giving our goal through this time is how do we make sure we're discipling people when they're not meeting together?
Hmm. Does that make sense?
Tyler Young : [00:23:00] That's good. Yeah. Thanks so much.
Don Gentry : [00:23:01] It'sa great question. All right. Anyone else?
Lexi Gresanti : [00:23:07] Oh, you just said church is a business too. And that's interesting. Yesterday I was talking to a Christian entrepreneur and I was asking him are there any boundaries that he set in place from the beginning? In his faith walk that carry out to the business? And he told me first, view your company as a business and then the spirituality will flow out of that.
Do you agree with that? Do you think you should first set the stonesas a basis and then incorporate who you are in Christ after or how do you hear that word that a little bit differently.
Don Gentry : [00:23:39] I would have to dig deeper into what he really meant by that, but I would say that you treat church as, I don't know, cause church and business is a little bit different. But to not treat church as a business is where a lot of churches fail. And a lot of churches just think God is just going to magically take care of everything.
And then they go bankrupt and they fold and they go under because they never treated it as a business. So, I wouldn't treat church as a business. First. I would treat church. As church, but I understand with wisdom that it is fully a business as well. And businesses have to make decisions on data that they have to make business decisions based upon money and income.
The Bible tells us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Christ commended the servant who got fired by his boss and went out and cut everybody's bills in half and had jobs that he could go to when his original employer fired him. So some people would say, well, God reworded dishonesty. I'd say, no, God rewarded wisdom.
so, I would say we look at our business, whatever our business model is, we look at it with wisdom and realize that no matter what it is, God can use it. For spiritual purposes as Christians and Christian entrepreneurs, I would say your ultimate goal is to create a business model that reflects Christ in all that you do.
And when we reflect Christ and all we do, I think we're going to have a successful business model. So I would probably be saying the same thing he's saying. I might just word it a little bit differently.
Mary Korch : [00:25:20] All right, well, it looks like our time is up. But thank you for coming and sharing your wisdom and perspective with us. We really appreciate it and we've learned a lot. Can we pray for you before we go?
Don Gentry : [00:25:33] Of course, you can. Okay.
Mary Korch : [00:25:40] I could pray. Thank you, father, for Mr. Gentry and his church back in North Carolina. Father, I pray that, whatever, whatever you're doing in the Coronavirus, we're able to partner with you and your vision for your people and for the world. And the journey church is just a piece of that father.
I thank you for the hope and the faith that Mr. Gentry has in you. It's abundantly clear that he trusts you with so many things and I pray that we can just continue to learn from that, follow in those footsteps as well. So thank you for this time to be able to share together, in the midst of a time when it feels like personal interactions can be hard.
So thank you and I pray blessings over his ministry. Amen.
Don Gentry : [00:26:28] Amen. And I pray blessings over all you guys do. We are only three hours apart and someday I hope we can see each other again in person. you guys, enjoy your time.
It's fantastic seeing all of you guys.
Kelson Mudd : [00:26:40] Thank you so much.