On this episode of The Pastors Collective, Darrin Patrick interviews Greg Surratt about his career in ministry. It’s a story that begins with some serious bumps in the road – including being fired from one job by his own father. But it eventually led him to find a sense of calling as a church planter, and led him to found Seacoast Church in Charleston, South Carolina. It’s a story full of hard-earned wisdom and profound grace, and it’s led Pastor Greg to a new sense of calling for the next season of his life: that of a spiritual father to pastors and church planters across the country.
The Pastors Collective is a production of Narrativo.
Executive Produced by Greg Surratt and Darrin Patrick
Produced and edited by Mike Cosper
Mixed by TJ Hester
Music by Dan Phelps
Episode One: Greg Surratt
Greg Surratt: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome, my name's Greg Surratt.
[00:00:17]Darrin Patrick: And I'm Darrin Patrick.
[00:00:17]Greg Surratt: And you're listening to our new podcast, The Pastors Collective. Now on this show we're going to talk about pastoring, what it's like. Pastoring in the trenches, the real work, the real challenges, and the real joys of serving churches. You'll hear from us, and you'll hear from pastors all around the country. You'll also hear some unfiltered truth about what makes this work so hard and so rewarding.
[00:00:47]Darrin Patrick: So to kick things off, on our first couple of episodes, you're going to hear some conversations between Greg and I as we talk about our own calling, our journeys in ministry, and a little bit of our heart for the work we're trying to do [00:01:00] here.
[00:01:00] We're trying to serve other pastors with what we've learned along the way. Today that means I get to interview you, Pastor Greg.
[00:01:08]Greg Surratt: Oh, that's scary. I'm glad you are. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope that you guys are going to enjoy the conversation.
[00:01:26]Darrin Patrick: So what was it like, you were a pastor's kid in an assembly of God context. What was that like?
[00:01:37]Greg Surratt: I'm grateful to a large degree for my heritage, I really am. My father was ... when I was born, my father was a full time evangelist, and would travel from place to place. He started preaching when he was 14 years old. Always knew that he was going to do this. He was gifted, he was a [00:02:00] national debate champion. How would you like to have a national debate champion as a father? You just don't argue with that.
[00:02:06] Actually the story is I was born in Oklahoma. I've never been there. I think there's a Three Dog Night's song about that or something. He dropped my mother off to have me. A week later, we're back on the road again. So I was going to church-
[00:02:23]Darrin Patrick: So literally like going through Oklahoma and, "Oh, let's have the baby at this hospital?"
[00:02:28]Greg Surratt: Well, mom was from Oklahoma. So he dropped her off at her home town.
[00:02:33]Darrin Patrick: I got you.
[00:02:34]Greg Surratt: He probably was around for some of that. It was like a real quick, let's stop, have a baby, hit the road. So from the time I was literally a week old, I was in church, every night. He preached every night, and he preached for a week or two, or maybe three at a place. And then we moved on. Of course I don't remember the early days. But I do remember as I got a little bit [00:03:00] older, going to church every night.
[00:03:03] So there was kind of an instilled in us ... it was my mother who would say, "You don't have to go to church, you get to go to church." There were no excuses for not going. If you're an evangelist, this isn't fair. If you're a pastor and you have a ... we don't call them evangelists so much anymore, although maybe it's coming back a little bit. But you have a guest speaker. Everybody says, "Man, that was the best message I've ever heard." Which is, by the way if you're listening to this and you're in a church, don't tell your pastor that when there's a guest speaker. He doesn't want to hear that.
[00:03:41] The truth is, Darrin you're a guest speaker, I'm a guest speaker. Not in our role at Seacoast, but when you go somewhere else, you've got a message or a couple of messages, or four messages, or whatever. Maybe it's the message for that year, and it just gets better and better, and better.
[00:03:59]Darrin Patrick: It's the [00:04:00] greatest hits.
[00:04:00]Greg Surratt: It's the greatest hits. So I had heard my dad's greatest hits over and over, and over, and over again. But we couldn't even get sick and not go to church. Because my mother would say being assemblies of God, we believed in all of the gifts. Hey, you're liable to catch a healing. We needed to be dead in order to not to go to church. I was raised in that environment. My dad was a pastor then for a good while, while I was growing up.
[00:04:39] So for the most part, I'd say that was a great foundation. There are parts of it that I didn't get. We would have Jericho marches, we'd call them. Usually on Sunday night, I often wondered if dad just didn't have anything to say. So he'd say, "Let's get to ... sing it again."
[00:04:59]Darrin Patrick: [00:05:00] Yeah. Just one more verse.
[00:05:01]Greg Surratt: One more verse. Maybe a runner will go. That was always hard for me. I think it speaks more to a lack in me than it does in ... because I think I always grew up in small churches. People were very, very sincere. Sometimes experience God in ways that maybe I was distant from. But anyway, that's kind of what it was like for me.
[00:05:28]Darrin Patrick: But you probably had some cognitive dissonance. Rationally you're going, "How is this helping my life? There are some real legitimate doubts there, right? About these things.
[00:05:42]Greg Surratt: It was more like I would never invite my girlfriend to this service. A little bit later on, and friend of mine, through a series of circumstances, came to Christ and wanted to come to our church. I thought, "No." [00:06:00] I lost a girlfriend one time who came to my church on a Wednesday night when a missionary was there. That's as boring as it gets. Still it was too crazy.
[00:06:08] So there was a little bit of a disconnect for me. But again, and maybe it's my guilt appreciative from growing up. There were a lot of really, really good things. I have friends that are life long friends. But yeah, I began to wonder early on, "How does this practically relate to my life outside of, when we walked out of the doors? How does what we're doing here ... " and it didn't seem to relate a whole lot to that.
[00:06:38]Darrin Patrick: You were an athlete, you were a wrestler.
[00:06:40]Greg Surratt: A wrestler, yeah.
[00:06:41]Darrin Patrick: And so you're in the athletic world.
[00:06:44]Greg Surratt: Right.
[00:06:44]Darrin Patrick: So when did it all come together? When did Jesus make sense, and you trusted him?
[00:06:51]Greg Surratt: Wow. There's probably a couple of ... you know, I think I always followed Jesus from the time I was a little kid. I just [00:07:00] followed him at a real distance at times. There was some of that in high school. My freshman year, I won a championship in wrestling. A couple of months later, I got strep throat or something, and it settled into my kidneys, and ultimately destroyed some things. I battled with that for about three years. When I was a junior in high school, after the wrestling season was over, I'd talk my coaches ... doctor's actually, into let me wrestle. Hadn't done well, and I knew that I was in trouble physically, and I wasn't telling anybody. Because you can't wrestle if you're ... I'm losing anyway.
[00:07:47] So the seasons over and I tell my dad right away I said, "Listen, the reason this has been a bad season, I've got a problem. I'm peeing blood basically. My [00:08:00] kidneys are not working." We went back to the specialist. I didn't even finish my ninth grade year. I spent the last month or so in the hospital. So fast forward to junior year. So we went through and re did the test. And they said you're going to have to have a transplant. I can remember in my father's car, my mom and dad both. Dad's kind of trying to make it where I can't see him, but he's crying. Mom was openly crying.
[00:08:33] I remember Andrae Crouch was a big artist at the time. He had a song, I don't remember the name of it, but it said something ... God had brought us this far to leave a second thing. I can remember saying that to my parents. That God hasn't brought us this far to leave us, and something happened. I was healed of-
[00:08:55]Darrin Patrick: In that moment?
[00:08:58]Greg Surratt: I think so. I [00:09:00] think so. I had been being prayed for by every healing evangelist for three years, and it was embarrassing, it really was. My daughter's going through a cancer thing, and I try to protect her a little bit. Because I know what it's like to every time you come into a building, "Oh, there's little Greg. Let's pray for him." Especially with my not resonating with some of the emotional part of how I was brought up. I think in that moment, I do.
[00:09:32] Anyway, we went back and over the next week, they ran the test again, and I'm fine.
[00:09:38]Darrin Patrick: Wow.
[00:09:39]Greg Surratt: And I've been fine ever since. Even some of the symptoms that they said would be life long because of the ... what was destroyed in those three years, aren't even there.
[00:09:49] So I experienced that, and knew that. But really after I graduated from high school, I went to college. Got kicked out of [00:10:00] college, it was the 70s. I was working in Denver and I was thinking, "I know this stuff is true for dad and mom." I even knew that I had been touched, but is it true for me?
[00:10:18] So I searched and researched. Everybody was into eastern religion at that time. Then I knew. The Beatles and all this kind of stuff. So I just went on a search of my own, and read they ebook of Acts, and read the book of John, and came to a reality. There was a book, Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Who wrote that?
[00:10:45]Darrin Patrick: Josh McDowell.
[00:10:46]Greg Surratt: Josh McDowell. For most people, the original book would have been boring as a box of rocks. But for me, I was in research. Because it was written from a scholarly, lawyerly kind of a deal. Through that book, I really came into my own [00:11:00] faith in God.
[00:11:01] Started a bible study with my buddies, and none of us had read the bible. I'm a kid, grew up in church, I didn't read the bible. So I said, "We're going to study the book of John." And as long as I keep a page or two ahead, I'm going to be fine. We started a bible study there in our crash pad. There were seven of us living together, including some girlfriends, not mine. We parked our motorcycles in the house. It was just a crash pad, it was terrible. But we had a bible study once a week. That's kind of where it took off for me.
[00:11:36]Darrin Patrick: Then you became a pastor pretty quick after that?
[00:11:41]Greg Surratt: No real quick after that. I was going to community college in Denver, and did some correspondence stuff with The Assemblies of God, it used to be called Berean College at the time. I got married, started working for Hewlett Packard company. My father in law was real proud of me. He was a union guy, and [00:12:00] I actually had a real job. Started going to a small Assembly of God church in Fort Collins Colorado, worked in Loveland Colorado.
[00:12:10] We just moved up, got married, and didn't like the church. It was more of what I had gone to as a child, but something drew me there. Some people, actually. I remember Debbie and I went, and there were some people that met us in the parking lot, as we were trying to leave quickly. They said, "You've got to come back." So I came back that night. During the ... we call it forced fellowship at Seacoast. During the greeting time. Somebody gave me a bank deposit slip. Somebody going to give me some money, I could use that. They had circled their phone number, and an invitation to come over their house, have a game night or something.
[00:12:48] Debbie and I didn't like the church, but we liked the people. We ended up connecting in with the church, and ultimately went on staff as their first staff member, youth [00:13:00] pastor, worship leader, janitor, secretary, I did it all and that was kind of our initiation into ministry.
[00:13:11]Darrin Patrick: Okay, so let's fast forward. You got a story about you being fired by your dad.
[00:13:20]Greg Surratt: Well, I was fired from my first three jobs-
[00:13:23]Darrin Patrick: In ministry?
[00:13:24]Greg Surratt: In ministry, yeah, as youth pastor. My dad, I was in college at the time in the Springfield Missouri at evangel college. Dad pastored a church in Joplin, just down the road, 60, 70 miles. I had a little Honda car that got 50 miles to the gallon. And they paid me $5 a week. Come and do a youth service on a weekend. Dad thought I was overpaid a little bit. But anyway.
[00:13:54] Our church, we didn't go to movies. I grew up ... I don't know if [00:14:00] anybody can related to this but we had a long list of things that we were against. We weren't real clear what we were for, but we knew what we were against. Movies was one of those, you didn't go to movies.
[00:14:12] So I took a couple of girls in the youth group. They were the same age as me, they were seniors and I'm in college. Took them to see Towering Inferno. I remember to this day.
[00:14:24]Darrin Patrick: Google that, listeners, that's a little bit older.
[00:14:28]Greg Surratt: That is an amazing movie. There was a guy in the church that was at the movie apparently that ratted me out to my dad. This was Saturday night. Ratted me out to my dad on Sunday morning. Said, "How did Greg like the movie?" Dad said, "What movie?" So he explained it. Soon as dad was done shaking hands at the door, he called me into the office. He said something like this, "Did you go to the movie?" I said, "Yes I did." "Did you take some girls in the church?" I said, "Yes I did." He said, "You know, you can go to hell if you want to, but you're not going to corrupt the [00:15:00] morals of the young women in this church, you are fired." So dad fired me right there, $5 a week. So that was the first time.
[00:15:07] Then I got fired at the church in Fort Collins after I think a year or two. He told me, he said, "I'd go back to work for Hewlett Packard if I was you, because you don't have any future in ministry." So that kind of fired me up a little bit.
[00:15:24] That's my resume, would you hire me?
[00:15:28]Darrin Patrick: Probably not.
[00:15:30]Greg Surratt: So that's why I've always had to start churches.
[00:15:33]Darrin Patrick: Nobody would hire you.
[00:15:33]Greg Surratt: Nobody would hire me.
[00:15:34]Darrin Patrick: So you get a vision for planning a church. How did that all happen?
[00:15:40]Greg Surratt: Actually my wife gave me a book called All Originality Makes A Dull Church, Dan Baumann, I think his name was. She got it in a bargain books, .25 still got the sticker on it. Basically the premise was, you don't have to reinvent the wheel. [00:16:00] That God is doing some things in various places, and just kind of look at that and see what he's doing.
[00:16:06] There was this study of Calvary Chapel. You got to understand, this was back in the 70s, so all of this is new. A guy named Robert Schuller and it wasn't Crystal Cathedral then, it was Garden Grove Community Church.
[00:16:20]Darrin Patrick: The Drive In church.
[00:16:21]Greg Surratt: The Drive In church, yeah. I had a chapter on him. Gene Getz Bible Church. I don't remember who all was in it, but it had like six or seven different chapters. I had never been to another church, other than the little Assembly of God church's that I had been in. I thought, "Wow, this is amazing."
[00:16:42] They had a bibliography in the back, and I bought every book that these guys ... now I didn't have any money, but somehow we got them. I studied them, and studied them, and studied them. I said, "I want to be a part of a different kind of church. I had [00:17:00] no idea what that meant. But I want to someday be a part of that.
[00:17:04] We ended up, after getting fired in Colorado, we ended up living in my parents basement in St. Louis and no, I didn't become a Cardinal fan. But dad was pastoring there.
[00:17:16]Darrin Patrick: So close to The Kingdom.
[00:17:17]Greg Surratt: So close to The Kingdom. He was actually pastoring real close to where you pastored Darrin.
[00:17:21]Darrin Patrick: Yeah.
[00:17:22]Greg Surratt: Inner City Church. My uncle was a denominational official in Illinois with the Assembly's of God. Dad told him I wanted to pastor a church. What a great background. Fired three times as youth pastor, he wants to pastor now.
[00:17:38] I had a burning vision inside. Didn't know exactly what that meant, but I wanted to reach people that didn't normally go to church. I think that's kind of where it was. So my uncle hooked me up with a place where I could ... candidate they call you. You come in to preach, and they vote on you. It was in Pana Illinois, I'll never forget that, central Illinois. Little [00:18:00] church, it had a church building. Nice little church building. It only had nine people there. My wife and I, and our oldest child made 12. I preached, I taught Sunday school, and then they voted. They said, "No thank you." Not even nothing, "No thank you."
[00:18:17] So my wife was really glad because she didn't want to live there. I was like, "Really?"
[00:18:24]Darrin Patrick: A lot of corn.
[00:18:26]Greg Surratt: Yeah, a lot of corn, that's what my uncle said. Next week we've got another one. It's up in Freeport, up in the northwest corner. They've been without a pastor for seven months, I think. They're going to vote on you, but they really don't have a voice in this, we control it. You're in, but you go do your best.
[00:18:42] So I felt much more confident that week. Quite a bit bigger church, they had 13 members. So anyway, they voted 11 yes, and 2 abstentions. So it was almost like church planting, only you didn't really have your core [00:19:00] team. Your launch team, we call it now.
[00:19:05] So we started 1979, Freeport Illinois in a little Assembly of God church.
[00:19:09]Darrin Patrick: And then what happened with that church?
[00:19:12]Greg Surratt: You know, it was a slow go. God blessed it. Some incredible things happened in me, I can remember I really got a vision for the future of my life. That's a whole nother story. But over time, it grew. It grew with young adults. It was a very difficult time. It was during the 80s, there was a recession going on. Unemployment was high. We were all poor. It was cold, but it grew to probably 300 or 400 people.
[00:19:40] Then I began to really sense that I wanted to plant a church in a larger city. It was a small farming community. And that's how we ended up in Charleston
[00:19:53]Darrin Patrick: One of the craziest stories that I've ever heard of a church planter experiencing trauma and crisis. Take us [00:20:00] through what happened when you guys got here.
[00:20:02]Greg Surratt: Oh wow.
[00:20:03]Darrin Patrick: In Charleston.
[00:20:03]Greg Surratt: We moved to Charleston ... actually we came here to go on staff at a local church here, Northwood Assembly. It used to be Assembly of God, now it was non-denominational pastored by the husband of my cousin here. Nepotism runs all through my story, you just need to know that. Anyway, we're on staff. Largest church I've ever been a part of then, about 1000 people. I got real comfortable with that. "We can do this, we can be a staff member here."
[00:20:37] But we were only here for, I think three weeks and my mother had cancer at the time. She and my father came up from Houston to visit us, and we had one of these minivans we all hopped into a minivan to go see one of the sites here in Charleston. We were in a really bad car accident. My kids are [00:21:00] laying all over the highway. My oldest son Jason is unconscious. My daughter Jessica ... I hand her out of this van that we were in. It rolled over, and we got hit by a semi truck from behind. Just is a miracle that we lived. It tolled out I think four or five cars in the accident.
[00:21:22] I handed my daughter out of the van, thinking she was dead. She wasn't breathing. Her eyes were fixed and all of this kind of thing. But fortunately there were some nurses that got caught in the accident and did CPR on her and brought her to life.
[00:21:41] So we find ourselves in a foreign city, literally. And we're on the eight floor of MUSC Children's Hospital. My son's still in a coma. My daughter is stitched up, and making progress. We looked out over the [00:22:00] city at night, I can remember doing that. Saying, "My God, why have you brought us here? We don't know anybody.
[00:22:06] It was kind of like you exaggerate when you're down. We knew a few people, but we said, "We don't know anybody. We're feal like we're following you." And now our life has come apart. So that was our welcome to the city.
[00:22:22]Darrin Patrick: Wow. And then what was the process in planting Seacoast from there?
[00:22:27]Greg Surratt: Yeah, Fred Richard, about three months into ... he was the pastor at Northwood three months into being here, took me out to Shoney's after church on a Sunday night. That's never a good thing, never a good thing.
[00:22:41]Darrin Patrick: Getting asked to lunch, and then to Shoney's. Both are not good things.
[00:22:44]Greg Surratt: No, that's not good. Well, Shoney's wasn't bad.
[00:22:47]Darrin Patrick: I think they are out of business pastor.
[00:22:49]Greg Surratt: are they out of business? Well, it probably wasn't a good thing.
[00:22:53]Darrin Patrick: Board of Health issues as I recall.
[00:22:55]Greg Surratt: As I remember, he said, "This is probably [00:23:00] not working well." It totally caught me by surprise because this is good. We've got a regular paycheck, which is something we hadn't had up in Illinois. We're leading young adults, and I think we're doing a good job, and all of this. He said, "No, you're a senior leader." Which I had questions about at that time, really. Even though I had been a senior leader for about eight years, I thought maybe my best avenue is second chair, third chair, I have no problem with that. I think God for those that are called to second chair, and third chair in church. At Seacoast, those are some of the people that really contributed to the growth of this thing.
[00:23:46] I thought I could be one of those and he said, "No, you're a senior leader. There's a church inside of you." Is what he said. Basically he was prophesying to me, it felt like rebuke [00:24:00] in a sense. He was-
[00:24:02]Darrin Patrick: Of after being fired three times you thought (crosstalk) .
[00:24:05]Greg Surratt: I'm a little gun shy, just a little bit. In fact I was talking to a counselor the other day and he said that my rejection meter is kind of high. That's how I felt. He saw something in me that I didn't see in myself. He's one of the most generous men I've ever met in my life. He said, "We have a vision of planting churches in the Charleston area." I think he had four circles that he wanted to do. And he said, "We want you to plant one in Mount Pleasant." Which I lived in Summerville, hadn't been to Mount Pleasant, had no idea what it was like. Maybe been through to go to the beach.
[00:24:42] He said, "We want you to start a church, and anybody that lives in that area, they're free game." So they're very supportive of doing that. That's kind of how we settled on planting a church here.
[00:24:56]Darrin Patrick: So you've made a comment, "We were [00:25:00] the slowest growing mega church in the history." I don't know if you said world or United States.
[00:25:07]Greg Surratt: I think the galaxy.
[00:25:09]Darrin Patrick: Galaxy, okay.
[00:25:11]Greg Surratt: In fact I was just digging through some old archives just recently. I came on some of the advertisement we did in the early days. We did marketing program called, I think it was The Phone's For You. Anyway, we called people. Way back when phones were attached to the wall by a cord. We called 16,000 homes, that's how many lived over here. We did a religious survey right at dinner time. "Do you attend church? If so, yes, great, awesome, keep going." End of conversation. "If not, why do you think people don't attend?" And we did a little survey. Figured out that people's problem with church, at least here, was not theological it was sociological. We don't have a problem with God, we've got a problem with [00:26:00] people, church, whatever.
[00:26:01] So we worked it, and we had 340 people our first week. It was a large launch, which was unusual back then. It's kind of how we aim at it with art now. So I thought. I didn't read any books. Nobody told me that you'd have less people, that it would settle down. I fully expected it to just explode. So I called my buddy Terry Hilgers back in Denver Colorado who was in our home church, great job. I said, "Terry, you got to get out here. Revival is going on." I said, "We had 340 people our first week and we'll probably have 500 next week, I would imagine. Service was so good, preaching was just incredible. We'll have 1000 people, they'll be writing, 'I need your help'".
[00:26:57] So he moved out in the middle of the summer, and [00:27:00] our revival was a Gideon revival. It was less people every week than it was the week before. It was that way for three years, imagine that. Every year you have less people than the year before. You've been fired three times, and I'm beginning wonder what's up here.
[00:27:26] I remember Terry would go visit one of our friends in Colorado, Dery Northrop was his name. He had a great church in Fort Collins. It's just growing. Terry would come back and he'd say, "When does this vision thing kick in?" I'd say, "Get out of my office before I kick you." Or whatever. I tried to resign three times to the elders at our planting church. And they said, "No, you started this, you're going to see it through."
[00:27:52] So we didn't really see growth until year five. So I like to say we're the slowest growing mega church [00:28:00] on the planet, or galaxy now. We're going to claim galaxy.
[00:28:04]Darrin Patrick: You tell this story so many times. You guys try to build a building, they wouldn't let you. That's kind of how multi site was one of the pioneers of multi site. Then the ARC, you had a vision with Billy Hornsby. Just talk about that a little bit.
[00:28:19]Greg Surratt: Billy came in to do a small group leaders gathering for us. He was at Bethany, great church, Larry Stockstill down in Baton Rouge, and they had a cell conference. And he ran that, the ran their cell network. So I didn't-
[00:28:35]Darrin Patrick: One of the first doing small groups like cell church. They were like the pioneers.
[00:28:38]Greg Surratt: They were incredible. We wanted to have a leader meeting. So we said, "Well, Billy Hornsby, I've heard of him. Let's bring him in." So we brought him in, and did a Friday night and Saturday. Normally what he would do is then he'd preach on Sunday morning. I said, "You're not going to preach, I don't know you. We do ministry out of relationship." I'm not sure how he took that at the time, [00:29:00] but he stayed and saw the service. Then he came back two weeks later on his own dime, brought his wife and we played golf. I've told this story 1000 times, but it was like an interview session the whole time we're playing golf. It was weird, I thought he was interviewing me for a job. I've got a good job, I like it.
[00:29:21] But he was interviewing me for the dream of my life, really. That's what Billy would do. Billy would always have a conversation with somebody and say at some point, "What's the dream in your heart?" In fact, with ARC with young couples who want to pastor churches, it's what's God planted there? What's the dream in your heart?
[00:29:42] So he asked me that. And in an unguarded moment, I said, "The dream in my heart is to plan 2000 church's." And he said, "Well, awesome. How are you doing?" I said, "We're 0 or 3." We had planted three, and all of them had closed. [00:30:00] He said, "I think you've got a model that is something that other people could learn from." He said, "What you don't know how to do is to put together the systems that it takes to reproduce that."
[00:30:18] Even in the business world, there are a lot of entrepreneurs that they have a dream, they have a vision. They kind of know the product, whatever that is. But to replicate that, takes an entirely different gift. Billy had a different gift. Billy never pastored a large church. He just loved all kinds of people. He had a brain for systems.
[00:30:42] So we said, "Let's do this together." Out of that grew the first church plants were Church of the Highlands in Birmingham. Then New Life Church in Little Rock, Rick [00:31:00] Bezet. Chris Hodge's was Billy's son in law. Rick was Chris's friend and had been on staff with Billy. That kind of grew out of that conversation on a golf course.
[00:31:11]Darrin Patrick: And now I want to say what's the number now? 800?
[00:31:16]Greg Surratt: There's over 800 churches that have been planted, yeah.
[00:31:20]Darrin Patrick: And then another 1500 that relate to it, or something close.
[00:31:25]Greg Surratt: Probably close to that, yeah.
[00:31:27]Darrin Patrick: So in that process, you have been a father, a spiritual father to tons of young pastors. How has that, including me, take us through how that happened. Because you didn't experience a lot of spiritual fathering.
[00:31:47]Greg Surratt: Not a lot. My dad was a great guy, and I still respect him. He lives with me now. So he minds my rules now.
[00:31:59]Darrin Patrick: Payback.
[00:32:00]Greg Surratt: [00:32:00] Yeah, payback. It's my honor ... just on another note, it is my honor to honor my father in his final years, it really is. But as far as a spiritual father, my uncle was a mentor to me, and that was great.
[00:32:20] I remember when I was a young pastor in northern Illinois and feeling like we're all out there on our own, and actually you know Mark Batterson, his father in law, Bob Schmidgall planted a great church in Naperville Illinois, Calvery Assembly. Or Calvery Temple, I think it was. I remember him reaching out to me, and other young guys. Just bringing us in, and he'd do a one day. He'd take care of us. He'd feed us, and he'd tell us we're okay. "You're going to be alright." That's as close to fathering, probably, as I had. It was from a [00:33:00] distance most of the time.
[00:33:01] I remember how I felt with that. To this day, I know recently I opened my schedule a little bit because we've gone through transition at Seacoast and to the next generation. I asked the ARC team, I said, "I want to give a certain number of weeks to just the newest and the smallest churches." Because I was there. I remember that. I love going in and speaking to them and experiencing it. And just sitting down with a couple and saying, "What's the dream in your heart?"
[00:33:36] I guess just anecdotally, or intuitively, you look around the landscape today. Just in America, and with the divorce rate, broken homes, all of that kind of thing. There's a crisis of fathering. Not even spiritually. What does it mean to have a dad? To be a [00:34:00] dad? Then as I began to look at the landscape of the church planters in the organization that I'm a part of. I thought, "That's carried through."
[00:34:08] I was talking to a young guy not long ago, and I sense some things in him. So I said to him, "Tell me about your relationship with your dad." He didn't have one. Dad walked out on him when he was four to five years old. I said, "Well, talk to me about your spiritual fathers." And there had been rejection there.
[00:34:28] Here's a guy out here on his own, trying to plant a church without a father figure cheering him on. I also have seen some guys who try to be father's but they compete with their sons, and that's weird.
[00:34:45]Darrin Patrick: Yeah, it's like I think I heard the term, sonning. There's a difference between fathering and sonning someone.
[00:34:51]Greg Surratt: Oh wow, I haven't heard that.
[00:34:54]Darrin Patrick: Yeah, like you've been sonned.
[00:34:55]Greg Surratt: You've been sonned, but you haven't really been fathered. And [00:35:00] fathers competing for resources and competing even at the whole atmosphere of whatever it means to be a planter, or a pastor. I didn't want to see myself as a father, because I was too young. I went to a life coach, a Christian guy, great guy. As I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up. About five or six years ago. He went through I think what is it, six levels of a man's life? It wasn't original with him. I don't know where it came from originally. I know that the Wild At Heart guy, Eldridge has written a book, Fathered By God. It talks about those things.
[00:35:44] Anyway, he said, "In this next season for you, you're going to be a wise sage." I don't know about the wise part, but that resonated with me. Suddenly ... I don't [00:36:00] want to say suddenly, but it was a process. I said, I felt in my heart, "I can get excited about this."
[00:36:07] I've taken a lot of mountains. And I think about Caleb in the Old Testament. Of course Caleb was what, 40 years old, or something like that? He wanted to take the mountain and him and Joshua come back. And give a good report. "Hey, there's giants in the land, but we can whip them. Come on, let's do this thing."
[00:36:28] They chose not to, and 40 years later, they're entering the promised land and Caleb says, "Hey, I can still take that mountain." I'm as young now as I was then. I think he was delusional.
[00:36:42]Darrin Patrick: Yeah.
[00:36:42]Greg Surratt: Because an 80 year old guy has got some things in his body that are not like they were at 40. But here's what he had, he had a young mind and he had a young vision. As I look at that, at 40 Caleb would have gone on the mountain and whip the giant himself. At 80, he [00:37:00] says, "I've got a good looking daughter. If you can whip that giant, you can have my daughter." In other words, he thinks it through. And I don't want to go through all the sexism of that. That's a whole nother era in time, I understand that. But he knew that he still was valuable, had a gift.
[00:37:21] Chip Judd, my friend told me not long ago he said, "I'm not sure you can build a church for the next generation. But you can build the next generation leaders that will build that church." So that's been ... for me, that's marching orders.
[00:37:36]Darrin Patrick: That's awesome. I've been reading, again, looking into the New Testament specifically Paul with that fathering thing in mind, based on our relationship. We're going to talk about that in the next episode. Just how you have fathered me through the worst part of my life.
[00:37:54] And you see Paul literally would not go ... it says in 2 Corinthians, he's [00:38:00] got this effective door for ministry that the Lord has opened. But he wouldn't go there because Titus wasn't there. Then later on, he meets up with Titus and he says, "My spirit was refreshed by Titus."
[00:38:14] So here's Paul saying, "God opened this door, but I'm not going." Not because my mentor's not there, or my peer but my son's not there. So I just thought that was so interesting that not only was it a situation of, "Hey, we're trying to get all of this ministry stuff done." And I think what he was saying is, "If I just go there without a way to replicate ministry. If I just go there, and I'm not developing my son's, it's built on me. And I like Titus, and I want to be with him."
[00:38:55] So it's like this two fold thing of, "Hey, I need to like [00:39:00] equip you, but also I want to be with you, I don't want to do this by myself, it's just better."
[00:39:04]Greg Surratt: That's so good. And you know what? At Pauls' stage in ministry, there were probably a lot of open doors. But he's not going to go through an open door unless he can bring somebody with him.
[00:39:19]Darrin Patrick: No.
[00:39:20]Greg Surratt: Part of the joy of this era of my life, that are open doors. Is to be able to bring somebody else through a door they could never go through. That's part of being a father.
[00:39:34]Darrin Patrick: That's what dad's do. So as we've talked about doing something like this for a couple of years now, just how can we encourage pastors? What do you see as the vision of this podcast? How does this father, son, sagely wisdom, your stage in life, what do you see?
[00:40:00]Greg Surratt: [00:40:00] Well first of all, there are no perfect fathers. There are no perfect people, we all have flaws and a lot of times that can hold you back from even wanting to put a foot in the water. So I would just encourage anyone who's listening who maybe has a heart for that. If you remember your first child, if you have a child. You weren't a perfect father, and none of us are. So we've just got to figure this thing out.
[00:40:34] What's incredible is that we have ... Darrin, you and I, and others have incredible conversations around all kinds of topics. What's incredible about the age that we live in, is that these conversations can become conversations with not just two people, but with hundreds or even 1000s of people. [00:41:00] If a podcast like this can become a conversation that helps stimulate the desire for some to be fathers, and some to open up as son's. That's probably not the only thing we're going to talk about, but all of life is kind of about that.
[00:41:19] I know my dad would ... when I was a kid, would take me to University of Colorado football games. It was in the car on the way, or running through the ... because we never finished the game. We always wanted to be the first car out of there. Now I see myself doing the same thing with my grandson's. But it was the conversations that happen along the way.
[00:41:40] I think we're going to have conversations about a lot of things in this podcast. But if along the way, we can encourage one another and spark some things. And see that fathering gap, that aloneness deal [00:42:00] that is lonely to your core, we've all felt it. If we could see some of that dissipate, that will be a good thing.
[00:42:08]Darrin Patrick: Yeah.
[00:42:09]Greg Surratt: What do you see? What do you see your role as here?
[00:42:13]Darrin Patrick: I think really just what you said. Having people over here, vulnerable, real conversations about life and ministry. Really just giving people permission to not have it all together, and to be conversation partners. No matter, and we're seeing this now, unfortunately in the Christian world ... a lot of people we thought had it together, didn't have it together.
[00:42:45] I think that what I would love to see is a place where people can acknowledge and own their weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and [00:43:00] yet still say, "But God can use me." In my weakness, along with 2 Corinthians 12, just preach that sermon. Why would God take away the thing that's going to trigger his power? Well that was the thorn that was weakness. I think we're all a little thorny. We're all walking with a limp. Sometimes we don't know it. We hide it with swagger and we hide it with gifts.
[00:43:23] But the truth is underneath everything, those of us who are pastors, we're scared little boys. A lot of us trying to act like we're not, but we are. If we can encourage each other to go, "Hey, yeah. There's some fear there, but here's a community of brothers and sisters that we can learn from." I think that would be a win.
[00:43:43]Greg Surratt: Definitely.
[00:43:54]Speaker 3: If you're enjoying our show, please subscribe today and give it a rating and a review in iTunes, or wherever [00:44:00] you're listening. It helps other people find the show. The Pastors Collective is a production of Seacoast Church and Narrativo. It was produced by Mike Cosper. It was edited by (Quinnette Connor) . It was mixed by T.J. Hester. Our Music is by Dan Phelps. The Pastors Collective is executive produced by Greg Surratt, and Darrin Patrick. You can learn more about our show, and find transcripts at www.pastorscollective.com.
[00:44:27] Thanks for listening, we'll be back in a couple of weeks.