Start in LA Podcast Episode 7 - Nick Warnes
Nick: Welcome back to the Start in LA podcast. Thanks so much for giving us your time and space. A couple of announcements for you as we head toward our second conference ever that we're quite as excited about. February one and February two, 2019 at Fuller Theological Seminary we will be hosting a conference. It's a Friday and a Saturday. Friday will be heavy on the academics and Saturday will be heavy on the practitioners. We hope that you will join us and you can do that by signing up at StartinLA.com. Also if you have any questions or have any additions or thoughts or redactions on what we ought to be doing with Start in LA, please leave us your comments, feedback at StartinLA.com. Enjoy the podcast.
Bethany: Hey everybody welcome to the Start in LA podcast today. We are pretty excited to be talking with Nick Warnes. Michaela and I are here with lots of questions on our minds. So, yeah just to hear about Nick's journey and his time with Cyclical beginning that. And other things that are relevant. So, Michaela, want to kick us off with a question for Nick?
Michaela: Yeah, I mean I think that's kind of a good place to start. Just sort of hearing Nick your journey. We just try to sort of hear people's narrative. What have you been up to, how'd you get there? So tell us your story.
Nick: I'm a seventh generation German American. And I come from a line of people who've started things. This is actually something my wife and I discovered later on. Basically because we didn't know to think this way and then we figured it out when we start thinking this way was that our grandparents, all of our grandparents, and our parents all started businesses. So we come from this lineage of people who are entrepreneurs. It just so happened that with Whitney and I starting new churches kind of caught our attention. And some of our preconceived notions on what starting new churches were limiting to us. There's lots of mis information that we were given about what it means to start a new church. A lot of people, I don't know if you know this, a lot of people have a lot of misinformation about what it means to start a new churches. Maybe that's something we could talk about it later, even.
Bethany: Yeah, it's shocking.
Nick: And so that misinformation was often times very a word that I just am going to be adopting from Dr. Michaela was very assaulting in our lives and we didn't quite know what to do with that. And then we kind of settled in like starting new churches meant that there is a person who is a pastor who would gather people to their charisma to try and start a sustainable system for that pastor to have a full time job. Kind of is what we were working with and we didn't quite feel okay with that but we started on the journey there.
Nick: And eventually led to what we have now with Cyclical LA, and Cyclical Incorporated. But a lots happened before then too, maybe you should talk about that.
Michaela: Yeah, and I think that what you have in Cyclical both in LA and Incorporated was birthed out of not just sort of these ideologies and philosophies but your own experience as a church starter, is that correct?
Nick: That's correct, yeah. So, I was really fortunate to get to go to grad school, and I went to grad school at this one school called the Fuller Theological Seminary.
Michaela: Capital T-H-E.
Nick: Capital T-H-E. Who happens to be a cosponsor on this podcast, my time at Fuller was very important, very empowering. But also my time at Fuller, the memories are very slim. What I remember from my time during graduate school was my practical experience at Glendale Presbyterian Church. It was the first church I became a member, first time I really committed to an ecclesial body. So when I think back on that top, I'm not thinking about studying soteriology in a classroom. I'm thinking about the experiences I had with the people at Glendale Presbyterian Church. So that was really important on multiple levels, certainly emotionally, certainly healing from a previous church experience that I'd had in Grand Rapids, Michigan where I was from originally.
Nick: But then also, being around a group of people who had I think a pretty distinct and clarifying understanding of the Holy Spirit, and how to run with the Holy Spirit in context. So, really a permission giving atmosphere that allowed us to test and innovate a bunch of new things while I was at Glendale Presbyterian Church. Which then led to this wild idea and it did feel wild at the time to start a new church. So often church starting is so extraordinary still. A big life goal that I have is to try and shift church starting from extraordinary to just quite normal. Like "Oh, so you're part of a church. Okay yeah, so you have small groups, you meet for worship, you serve the poor, and you start churches." Like all just very normal things that churches do. At the time though with Glendale Presbyterian, they hadn't been a part of ... depends on who you talk to ... any church starting efforts in their 125 year history when we started. Or there was a couple along the way that some people would note. Which even the lack of clarity on their own narrative is a whole nother podcast to talk about.
Nick: But there's certainly we're not a lot of existing imaginative structures for how to start a new church.
Michaela: Well that's kind of interesting right that your time in this particular community that didn't have a history of church starting is part of what propelled you to start a church.
Bethany: That is interesting.
Michaela: I mean what do you make of that?
Nick: Well from an entrepreneurial standpoint which I know Dr. Michaela has. We should actually talk a lot with Dr. Michaela this episode about compare and contrast between ecclesial innovation and more traditional entrepreneurship and the overlaps. But I mean from a strictly entrepreneurial perspective, it's like a buy low sell high kind of a thing right?
Nick: People who don't know what they're doing and they see the opportunity for massive impact, they're going to be really excited. So Whitney and I we had opportunities to start new churches with the RCA, the Reform Church of America and the ECC, the Evangelical Covenant Church. And they both had more advanced structures who were kind of further along in their church starting processes. So to get to work with not only Glendale Presbyterian Church but the PCUSA, Presbyterian Church USA, where I found my theological home which is very important to me being a ... I was a young life kid ... I heard about Jesus at a much older age and really was a mut of sorts of different church backgrounds from that point on.
Nick: So I found that theological home to be part of a system that is as historical and robust as the PCUSA and the Glendale Presbyterian Church but they didn't really know what they were doing when it came to starting new churches. Plus they were interested. It felt, again, from the distinctly entrepreneurial side I felt like a great opportunity from the more thoughtful ecclesial side, it was just naturally happening in our community. And it felt right at the time to a lot of people to birth this new church.
Michaela: Can I ask one more question there before you actually tell us about birthing the church. I mean to your point, is sort of traditional institutions have usually developed survival tactics which include becoming very risk adverse. And putting money into a new church something that has an unknown outcome even if it's sort of like any hope is great. Like the sort of buy low sell high thing. It's interesting what do you think made that community be able to take that risk? That's fascinating.
Nick: There's lot of reasons to not believe in God. And for me it's just a real practical like God must be real because it really didn't make any sense. In the real eminent presence of the Holy Spirit in those moments was just really clear. I remember sitting with their elders and we had to talk, I think I went to four of their meetings for over the course of four months and it was really intense thoughtful dialogue of real beautiful picture of a plural leadership in context discerning the Holy Spirit. And yeah, those are really positive memories in my life.
Michaela: Just to name what I think I heard you say there is that a group working to discern the Spirit together helps to mitigate our propensity of being risk adverse.
Nick: I think you should write a paper about that.
Michaela: Well, maybe you could write the paper. I just summed up what you said.
Nick: No, I think that's well said.
Bethany: So let's get into some of the nitty gritty of what happened next and so you guys discerned that together and then what happened next?
Nick: So ... the PCUSA has different governing bodies and one of the governing bodies is called the Presbytery which is like a region. So like 30 churches made up this region called the San Fernando Presbytery. The Presbytery said we want to start a church, we understand our crappy post world war II frameworks we're working on buy property in an emerging suburb, build a building, stick a professional Christian in the middle of the building, try and get that person to attract people to Sunday worship services and like Wednesday programs, leaning on denominational affiliations.
Nick: We understand that doesn't work any more. That process was also an empty protocol that left out the Holy Spirit in the first place. So whatever, that's a whole nother conversation. But for the presbytery they knew that they wanted to start a new movement based off of leadership rather than location, our old executive, prior to the existing one is named Jerry [Northom 00:10:28]. I'm actually having lunch with him here in like an hour and a half and quite excited.
Nick: He would say we're going to shift from location, location, location, to leadership, leadership, leadership, and everyone agreed but the question was where do we find leaders. PCUSA is poor at many things and while one of the things that they can be especially poor at is discipling people toward ecclesial innovation. And that kind of left this committee at the presbytery empty handed. Where are we going to find a leader? And I just happened to be coming on the scene at that time and started to work with that group of people. We didn't have any structures for how to train or assess my potential fitness for starting a new church at the time. So we were really grateful for the Evangelical Covenant Church, they welcomed us in to their both assessment centers and trainings.
Nick: And so I went through all of their stuff basically to learn the new set of rules. And then from there we got the thumbs up and the trainings went well and a group of people began to emerge and we began to gather people for bread and wine over a summer time. So summer of 2009, Sunday nights we started to have dinners together and that led to what we called our launch team gatherings. And so we met from the Sunday after Labor Day 2009 until April four, 2010, where we officially launched the public ministry of Northland Village Church.
Nick: And do you want to talk about that moment in the church? Or are you okay there what we actually did?
Michaela: Yeah, I mean Bethany you might think otherwise but I'm really interested because you have a different story than so many people we've been interviewing. I'm interested in the parts of your experience there that then led you on this journey to starting Cyclical. So whatever would be relevant there. I mean unless you want to pause and ...
Bethany: No that sounds great.
Nick: It's important to note, Tim Morey was a big influence on me. He actually was a part of one of the podcast that we did. I hope that you will listen to his podcast. And he said early on in the start of their new church which is called Life Covenant Church that they were going to be a church that would start other churches. And so early on and fortunately Dr Michaela was a part of that group as well.
Michaela: I know I was thinking about those meals. Those were delicious.
Nick: It's true. Remember the one at [Navard's 00:12:48] house?
Michaela: I do. I actually was going through my mind, I was like even now, I can still remember what we ate, they were like bountiful. That's how you start a new church, bountiful food.
Nick: It's true, and lots of wine.
Michaela: Lots of wine, yeah.
Nick: So, I knew that I wanted us to be a church that would start new churches and I knew that I wanted our church to focus on reconciliation. Those are like the two things and then I was excited to see, you know what would emerge from those two things. And right away we started trying to start new churches with a couple of early like mis starts and then I think what happened was our national church started this thing called A Thousand and One New Worshiping Communities. And that really gave us the financial means we needed to start new churches along with our Presbytery, which is like the regional body to be ... we knew we wanted to be a small church that would start lots of churches. So it's great to be a small church but how do you gather the resources necessary to start lots of churches out of a small church that barely has enough resources to stay afloat?
Nick: So when that national stuff came on the scene and when the Presbytery started to ramp up as well ... it's support, we ended up starting, I think 15 new worshiping communities out of Northland Village Church. And that led us to 2000 ... so fifteen new worshiping communities leading into 2014 when the region, again the Presbytery said "Hey Nick, would you consider going half time at Northland Village Church to be more intentional, kind of frame out what God's doing with all these new worshiping communities." And my wife and I prayed about it we thought about it and said "Yeah, let's go for this." So we took like six months working very closely again with Michaela and Long Winter Media, trying to figure out how to frame out what we're going to frame out. And from there, six months later we officially launched Cyclical LA.
Nick: What happened with Cyclical LA was early on we knew that what we had to work with was the fifteen existing new churches and their leaders. So we started to gather them for intentional monthly trainings, we said "We do the best food, and the best drink, and the best training." So that started to happen, what started to happen from there was people who wanted to start new churches actually started coming to these gatherings. And we thought, "Oh look at that, certainly these people are welcome to come and gain these competencies that are needed to starting new churches." But this whole season of time of being a discerner of thinking about starting a new church. We want to do good ministry here. We want to tend to this season well. We've all heard stories about people who didn't tend to the season of discernment well and maybe just jumped right in. And the disaster that then ensued from there.
Nick: So this is where we started to see this cycle form where discerning church starters will sometimes become church starters will sometimes become church starters which then sometimes turn into churches that ought to be producing then discerning church starters. So like a cycle between those three things. I remember meeting with Michaela and her husband Dan at Long Winter Media. So we were talking about what to call this and we kind of landed on calling this either Loop, remember that? Loop LA or Cyclical LA. And we thought Loop was a little too much like Lyft and Uber.
Michaela: A little techy.
Nick: A little techy, exactly. And we wanted something that was ridiculously hard to say like Cyclical.
Michaela: Hard to spell.
Nick: Cyclical. You should hear me try and say "Hey what's your email?" "Oh it's Nick@cyclicalla.com." "What is that sir?" Like on the phone. "Nick@ c-y-c-l-i-c-a-l-l-a" "Would you repeat that?" Like I've spent so much time over the past, I don't know two years of my life.
Michaela: Turn off your phone Nick.
Nick: Sorry. [crosstalk 00:16:37] it's 10:02 for those 10:02 people out there.
Michaela: It was always to pray. Yeah, I always ... and a part of that too I mean it's interesting starting something, naming something in the age of domain web addresses. Because it's like you're trying to name something that isn't saturated out there. I just remember that being part of it too.
Nick: Website optimization.
Michaela: That's right, yep.
Bethany: Can I throw out one thing about the discernment process because you were talking about how you feel like a lot of times folks will be in the discernment phase or skip it and just jump right into starting. I feel like the other thing that happens is that they're in the discernment phase and talk to people who are super discouraging and then they just decide not to do it. So I feel like that's like the other way it can go.
Nick: The assault of misinformation in the ecclesial innovation.
Bethany: Like "Oh you're going to start a church, that will never work."
Michaela: Yeah, give us an example of what you mean by that.
Bethany: I've had a couple of experiences, I mean a number actually were ... I'll talk to folks, especially folks who have been in an established church leadership for a long time. And we'll talk about starting a church and they'll throw out, I don't even know where they get the statistics, but it'll be like 95% of new churches fail. And I'm like "Ah. I feel called to this but like that feels hard."
Michaela: How do I exit this conversation?
Bethany: But yeah, so I just feel like it is a tender time that time of discernment where you're trying to listen to the Holy Spirit and just like you're saying I think it's really wise that you're letting people be in that and really discern with God and other people who are in that place instead of either just equipping them with tasks and being like this is how to move forward or kind of just crushing their vision.
Nick: So, personally that's my favorite work to do. I think that's the offering I have at this point in my life for humanity. The limited thing that I can offer is helping people through that discernment process and what it means to go from nothing to something. From zero to one. From it didn't used to be there to now all of a sudden there's a thing there that's hopefully helpful for communities and for individuals in communities. I think it's just a really, it's like a really holy moment, sort of a really special moment and tending to that time well really is important.
Michaela: It feels too, Nick, going back to Jerry's location, location, location, leadership, leadership, leadership, it feels like Cyclical is sort of a model or an answer because the question for the PCUSA [inaudible 00:19:11] presbytery is where are we going to find leaders and now you're actually talking about a process especially in the discernment phase of what you all offer that produces potential leaders who could be a good fit for this.
Nick: Right these are ... we're creating ecosystems right? I mean the Jennifer who's the producer of this podcast, we work together in Cyclical LA and I was joking that I wanted our mission statement to be we produce post industrial, highly new ontological multi tier relationship that works.
Nick: So, it's a joke but I'm dead serious with it. So post industrial meaning ... in industrial times think of like an assembly line. So there's a moment or two or dozens of actual moments in history for when starting new churches ... it was industrial. It was an assembly line, you do the same thing in different places with the same frameworks. So that no longer works, even like if you're going to start a church where we are right now in Pasadena versus where I live in Eagle Rock which is right next door the ecclesial expression is going to look totally different.
Nick: So, post industrial if we're going to be post industrial then we can no longer lean on the technical protocols and instead need to again, heaven forbid, discern the Holy Spirit in context. So highly ontological right? So, if we're going to be post industrial then we need to pay attention to the Holy Spirit, and how do we pay attention to the Holy Spirit? We do it together in community in multi tiered relationship networks. So for instance, Cyclical LA, someone who, for instance, is discerning starting a new church has access to me, to our executive presbyter, to our staff people, to therapists, to spiritual directors, to coaches, and to the mutual collegiality that happens not only around the discerners' table but also around the starters' table.
Nick: So we are going to be taking these risks we're going to do so in community discerning the Holy Spirit. Again, because of our post industrial setting. So that's really what we're creating which it functions in itself as an ecosystem of leaders who will, I mean back to what I said earlier, hopefully re normalize this activity within churches across Los Angeles and then hopefully beyond as well.
Bethany: Can you ... I feel like Nick, you and Michaela both use eco system a lot and maybe just talk a little bit about like what does that mean? What is an eco system?
Nick: Do you want to take that Michaela?
Michaela: I don't know, I'll just be very vague and then you can sort of argue it or contextualize it. I mean I quite literally think about biological ecosystems. And I think about oh I was just in the desert a few weeks ago and while I was there my mom's husband was like "Well nothing grows here, who'd want to live here?" And I was like that's not true. There's very different things like let's look and we sort of identified here's all the different things that grow. And he was like "Holy crap, you're right." And it was sort of this moment that there can be and there actually is life almost anywhere and that there's a shape around that life. But that there would be boundaries around the place where that life looks a certain way and when you leave those boundaries, you've left that ecosystem. So, when I think about ecosystem I think about what are the symbiotic relationships to produce life in that space. And what are the natural boundaries around an area using that as a kind of big word not just contextually or locationally for second in which those things happen and prosper.
Nick: My degree in college ended up being biology and chemistry and people kind of poked fun like "Oh the sciences and then into seminary." Yeah, obviously because the science is in the seminary as it should be a thing. For whatever, that's a whole nother conversation. When it comes to ecclesial ecosystems something I think that might bring us to the ground for this podcast would be when I'm working with Cyclical Incorporated which is the nonprofit that's working with various middle and upper judicatories around North America. For what we produce and what we say is if you in your region or your city or your middle judicatory, if you want to start a church amen, glory to God, you should do that but you should not work with us.
Nick: What we're into is starting whole gardens that will start multiple churches in an ecosystem over time. So a lot of the assault of misinformation around starting new churches often times comes from a very limited ecclesiology for what a new church is. And why ecosystem I think is very effective is because like what Michaela's talking about, in the desert the landscape is great for post Christen America. What we're talking about is multiple ecclesial expressions that can work together to support the whole ecosystem over time. So, this is the work that Cyclical LA's doing and other cyclical networks through Cyclical Incorporated the nonprofit are starting around North America.
Bethany: Nick you've mentioned a couple different times Cyclical Incorporated and that it works with different ... can you just give us the high level ... someone's sitting here in Kansas City, Missouri listening to what you're talking about, what is the difference there and how can people access that?
Nick: Yeah, so Cyclicalchurches.com is the way to get connected with that and what we're doing is creating post industrial, highly new ontological, multi tiered relationship networks in a very generative eco system in different cities to give leaders a place to not only connect but then to connect and be resourced over time in a city for starting new churches.
Michaela: And one of the things Nick that I love about the work that you're doing is that you're very sure of the way that it's different form other church starting movements. I'm wondering if you can just spell that out for us a bit and why that's so important to you and to the team.
Nick: Yeah, I mean the industrialization of starting new churches kind of sums up a lot of the church starting networks around America. So, for instance maybe I shouldn't name them in case it's offensive or whatever. Some we'll start on like launch large models, so you need to gather at least 70 people and then try and attract lots of people to a worship service through mailers and kind of get a big density of people to start a church. And again, that's fine if you want to do that. Cyclical LA welcomes that and we have numerous launch large churches in our network. But then there's other networks that might focus on house churches. And maybe there's some that would focus on generative house churches. So start a house church and every year make sure you start at least two other house churches out of your house church.
Nick: Again, great model but it's very industrial. With Cyclical LA what we focus on is the right leader in the right place with the right group of people around them and if they choose to be a launch large multi staff mega church at the start, amen, glory to God, let's go for it. We can do that. Versus if you want to start a house church movement none of them is better, amen, glory to God, let's go for it. It's just going to mean different amounts of money raised, different missiological initial expressions. So, I think what kind of separates Cyclical is our ability to focus first on the leadership, over and against the model and meet that leader where they are in place with our multi tiered relationship network to discern the Holy Spirit for them with wherever they want to go. I think that's kind of what separated us toward our success rates, if you will. "Success rates."
Nick: We should talk about life cycles in churches in the first place, but of the 31 new worshiping communities that have now come out of Cyclical LA, 30 are either asked to sustainability or moving towards sustainability as we speak. So I don't know about this 95% not lack of success rate. But I think what's separating that is this multi tiered relationship network for discerning the Holy Spirit together.
Bethany: So when you talk about maybe the relationship network, I think a lot of times when people think ecosystems in churches it feels like it's the church itself that's the ecosystem, just the church kind of and maybe the connection to the denominational grouping at the next level or something like that. So ... just to kind of clarify what you're saying with Cyclical, the idea is that yeah, that's a piece of the relational ecosystem for sure but then also you're going to have relationships with the other church starters in your area and they're part of the ecosystem as well as coaches, and spiritual directors, am I getting what the ecosystem looks like via Cyclical?
Bethany: Okay. Yeah, that's great.
Michaela: Yeah, I think it's empowering. I've seen multiple people go through the process and another thing that I appreciate about Cyclical is we've talked a lot about the PCUSA but I would really call this an ecclesial movement, can you talk about that a bit?
Nick: Yeah, within Cyclical LA we say we are an interdenominational movement because we are Presbyterian. So we lean on the ecumenical tenants of the PCUSA and think of ourselves really as a ministry for various leaders across the city of Los Angeles. I remember having a really meaningful conversation with a guy who's like the patriarch of our region. And he said "Remember Nick, Cyclical LA isn't a business. Cyclical LA is a ministry." And that's really what it is. And I think our Presbytery, our region of churches, has gotten there from what's our ROI on this. Like what are we going to get out of this to no, look at what we can do to support the Lutherans and the Anglicans and some nondenominational churches and some Episcopalians and so all these different groups of people around the city that we get to partner with to help them start their next generation of churches.
Michaela: Does that "We're not a business, we're a ministry," does that ever come in contention with your family, like you've got this DNA as an entrepreneur. You've got DNA to like make profit, and do these other things.
Nick: So you had your PhD in this right? So, there's ... if we have two circles, we have ... let's just call it ecclesial innovation and we have entrepreneurship, and we make a Venn diagram out of them, there's certainly overlap, but there's certainly difference as well. I would love to hear from you, well what's the overlap and what's the difference in the two?
Michaela: You know it's interesting, I've talked to a number of different people and people are trying to find themselves in that overlap, they're trying to figure out where they're situated. I've coached some people who sort of say this whole language of entrepreneurship feels very patriarchal and very hustle oriented and it doesn't feel like that's for me and I don't really want to be an entrepreneur. And I've had other people tell me I feel like I'm an entrepreneur, why don't you talk about church planters as entrepreneurs. And so there's really something interesting in there. And I named that just to say I think there has to be a fairly wide spectrum for what we say overlap and in individual ecosystems and even within individual leaders, certain Venn diagrams might have a much smaller section of overlap and others might have a much larger. And I think that's okay, I think that's okay because we're talking about contextual expressions.
Michaela: One of the biggest sort of core place of overlap for me is thinking about the fact that there is a lot of risk in starting something, whether it's the risk of being assaulted by misinformation and having to sort of weather the storm as a leader, whether it's the risk of ... I don't know I've actually started four businesses in the last eight years, right? Three of them are no longer living. One is doing great. I expect that that one that is doing great will at some point die. And it's sort of evolution. So there's even risk in that. And that risk ... one of the beautiful things about ecclesial innovation and/or theology in general is like we have a place to tether that risk that doesn't exist in traditional entrepreneurship language. So like we're tethering it to a process of courage to heart break to redemption. I'm describing the journey of the cross now, where's it's like yeah, what we do may very well but that failure is rooted in a narrative that actually thrives because of loss. And so I think there's a lot of overlap and most of the overlap I see Nick, is at that very deep level that I just described.
Michaela: People can find themselves wherever they want to on the spectrum of like tactics and models and approaches but when we get down to the very, very core of what the two are I see a lot of overlap.
Bethany: When I also feel like I guess I feel kind of uncomfortable with the language of failure.
Bethany: I feel like we can just say they ended. I mean why do we have to say they failed? Maybe it just that was how it was supposed to be and it lived out it's mission and now it's something else is going to be birthed out of that experience. And I think ... and it's like if we're trying to start new churches just so they look like the institutional churches we've had for a long time now. Because when we think of churches failing now, it means that a church closes it's doors or they stopped meeting, or something like that. And so that's what we're using as the same model for new churches. And so if a church stops meeting or a community stops getting together, they've now also failed. And I feel like that just feels like the wrong language to me because if we believe the God calls us to different things at different times and we see that throughout scripture that someone's doing one thing and then all of a sudden they're called to do something else. Was Moses a failed shepard, no he was a shepard for a long time and doing great and then he got called to this other thing and why can that be how we think about these churches starting and ending.
Bethany: And then that's part of the cycle. I mean sure with Cyclical, as the name, there is an idea, do you want to talk some about ending?
Nick: I think we should ... I mean probably for Cyclical LA and Cyclical Incorporated something we need to implement long term is remembering that the church is alive. I think most would agree the church is alive, theologically speaking. And anything that's alive has three things in common, it is birthed, it moves to moments ideally of homeostasis, and then it ceases to exist and dies. And the church's resistance to pay attention to the life cycle has ended up hurting a lot of people. We all know churches that have hung on for way too long. Sucking out every penny in their savings account into a think that was dead decades even prior. Rather than celebrating a theology let's just say Easter of a Good Friday and then an Easter Sunday kind of theology where out of death comes new life. The reason all of Cyclical LA, Northland Village Church and Cyclical LA exist is because a certain Presbyterian church ceased to be a church and it had a church building. Which by the way can we stop calling church buildings churches? Can we call them church buildings. That would be very helpful for the overarching understanding of church in society.
Nick: But anyways, a church died, a church building still existed, and we sold that church building and that turned into Northland Village Church and then Cyclical LA, and a lot of other churches found their birth because of the resources from the sale of that building. So, yeah, I don't know ... and there's also a time in homeostasis where a lot of organisms want to be generative and reproduce so that's another part of a life cycle that we can pay attention to. Yeah, to get used to like in Silicon Valley for instance, Michaela just said she had three businesses that are no longer in existence and one that still is. Silicon Valley if you want to get [broey 00:36:02] like that, Silicon Valley is celebrated when businesses are closed quickly. And people move along. Yeah, I don't know it's not the perfect place for us to go but it's a start and a movement that needs to happen in the church.
Bethany: And I also feel like the more churches get onboard with what you're saying in terms of just normalizing the idea that we're going to start new things, there's less fear around something ending because you know that there's a possibility for something new. The reality is people have just been in the same thing for decades and their family maybe was in that same thing for decades. And the idea is if that doesn't exist, then nothing will exist. But if we're in this community, just like you're saying where new life is sprouting up all the time, it's okay if this thing ends because there's going to be another thing and like we can be hoping. And our hope isn't in the institution anyway.
Bethany: I mean it's in God. So ...
Michaela: I think it would be interesting to test this out with you two, see if there's space for this. So first of all it's building in the assumption from the very beginning that at some point the thing that you create will die and that that's expected and anticipated even, and celebrated. Because it will mean it had a life. And then there's this other space and maybe this is where we could use failure but maybe it's still too strong of a word which is like "Oh we haven't discerned enough." And we sort of mislaunched and/or did things that actually didn't feel generative at all and we had to pull back. Those experiences I would sort of say, those ... even if we're calling them falling flat or whatever. They're actually just as generative and there's just as much learning even if sort of traditional frameworks would call those a bit more ... put those a bit more of a failure, if you will, bucket. Even that's too strong of a word. So I think there's two different kinds of endings, probably actually many more than two that one ... I just want to name that because it's like okay everything ends but if something sort of explodes a couple months in we'd want to be looking at that through a different set of lenses so we can learn in the appropriate ways.
Bethany: Totally. And I feel like ... and I guess that's why I'm not against the idea that people make mistakes and fail, like I don't want to just ... I'm not kind of like let's never say anyone fails and protects people's feelings, like that's kind of not what it's about. It's really, like what you're saying, there can be so much generativity that comes out of mistakes and failures that it feels weird to name it as failure. When then maybe the leader grows in a different way, or the community sees God redeem something. I mean then it kind of becomes hard to label something as a failure when that feels like it's something isn't ... that good doesn't come from it. I think that's ...
Michaela: What's that quote, it's like I don't know maybe church elder or somebody that basically says success is moving from failure to failure of doubt losing enthusiasm. And I feel like that kind of sums it up. Okay if we're going to use that harsh word or not going to use it, it's really not something to lose enthusiasm over. And/Or continue forward progress.
Bethany: Or fail better. Isn't that what they say? You keep failing but fail better.
Michaela: Oh yeah, there's like fail pastor stuff. Then we get into a whole nother area.
Nick: What we say in our network is fail short of the potential that was built into the life cycle. And that's been a way to kind of soften the failure language but also to honor that every new church has a life cycle.
Michaela: So Nick, one of the things I've always appreciated about you is sort of your posture as a white male and what I mean by that is very aware of your power and privilege and place and very intentional to disciple, amplify, support, get out of the way at times, people who don't look and think and act like you. I think we're living in an age where a lot of really good men are looking for examples of how to be helpful and how to be allies and how to navigate a loud world that in some ways is shaming patriarchy and therefore white men. Can you just talk to us a bit about how you live and how you do that?
Nick: I had a really formative experience in this program, I guess, called Journey to Mosaic. And we started in Oakland and took a business down to Los Angeles, stopped in the Central Valley. On this bus ride we were paired with someone of a different ethnicity and hopefully different gender as well than ourselves. And in Oakland we talked about the African America experience, in the Central Valley we talked about the Latino/Latina American experience, and in Los Angeles we talked about the Japanese American experience. And we're able to sit with people who are different from ourselves and kind of compare and contrast how we were experiencing these things. It was very important for both my wife and I to go through that.
Nick: As a seventh generation American, Nissan leaf driving like golfing white male, really important to go through that. And I think that's given us frameworks for everything from how are we dealing with our white fragility and what does that mean? To how are we stepping out of the way at the appropriate sociological times to step out of the way. So, all those kind of frames come into play as I'm having coffees or happy hours or meals with lots of different potential ecclesial innovators and people who are starting new things.
Nick: So, I don't know just being given sociological frameworks to be able to put into play while having intentional, mutual relationship with people has just been a helpful way, at least for me, to navigate such a time as this.
Michaela: I think it will be super interesting too to see just continually back toward a time before how Cyclical as an organization will evolve in it's practices as you continue to welcome in some of these voices, and stuff like that, and I'm excited to see where that goes.
Nick: Yeah, me too. I'm really proud of our board that we gathered. It's very diverse. And the imagination on that board is very wide and the potential is high and we'll see where the board takes us. And with regard to Cyclical LA, the ministry of the San Fernando Presbytery there's no shortage of support of people who want to get into God's kingdom initiatives which right now are ... need to be heavily focused on initiations on inclusivity, who's welcome, reconciliation, on bending the patriarchy over, all these sorts, everyone's on board with it in the PCUSA. The problem is actually embodying it as a group of people who are 93% white. The way that we hope that that helps to correct itself is indeed through starting new things to help fix that 93% white number.
Bethany: Great. So just as we're ... I know we're nearing the end. There was something I was wondering about and maybe you could talk to this a little bit. I was thinking about the different posture in you maybe, in starting a church versus starting Cyclical LA and then versus Cyclical Inc. and maybe just personally how that was different for you were there different things you had to be aware of? How is starting an organization like Cyclical that's still ecclesial but it's not a church per say. Like what are those differences and then just that whole journey from church starter, Cyclical LA starter, Cyclical Inc. starter, that progression?
Nick: I mean maybe if we think about it through a leadership lens that would be an effective place to go.
Nick: So Northland Village Church we decentralized the leadership literally like week four of our official gatherings we officially launched as a Presbyterian church which means you form, what's called a session, we call it a leadership team. So, all of the power ... not all of it ... the majority of the power of new church was immediately placed on the leadership team. In contrast many groups will say all the church planters given the vision. The church planters should give tasks not titles. The church planter should delegate what the Holy Spirit's saying. As if the church planter is set apart. I don't believe that. I believe in the Priesthood of all believers. I believe in the Holy Spirit and community, we've already talked about this.
Nick: So, that was kind of a different move that we made and if you centralize leadership and do top down kind of stuff there's strengths and weaknesses and if you decentralize leadership, there's strengths and weaknesses. So ... craziness ensues when you decentralize leadership and we had some of that happen. Michaela was a part of that, she was the first elder Northland Village Church. And there's difficult things and it's also slower moving and you can't adapt and move as quickly. But I just transitioned off as the pastor of Northland Village Church and something that really held it together, this is classic starfish in the spider stuff is the elders and the staff that were there really held it together because it wasn't about me on any level toward the end. So that's Northland Village. In contrast Cyclical LA, I kind of controlled every iota that happened in collaboration with Long Winter Media and collaboration with Stratton Glaze who also is the executive producer of this podcast, we were able to be very nimble and move very quickly on make all the decisions. So that again, it just has strengths and weaknesses to it.
Nick: Now if I were to transition out of Cyclical LA, does the Presbytery, the middle judicatory, the regional body have they owned Cyclical LA as much as we had hoped that they might? Probably not at this point, so that could be a potential problem. But at the same time we are able to go to scale with 40 church planters in two years. Like we can't take any more people who are starting new churches because we don't have the ability to coach and resource them all. So ... there's strengths and weaknesses there. And then starting Cyclical Incorporated, which is the nonprofit that's starting various Cyclical networks around North America, we have a board that does a lot of the big visioning and making the big decisions but really I'm kind of the one that's on the ground doing all of the things.
Nick: So, it's kind of a hybrid between the two and that's to be determined we're a year in on Cyclical Incorporated, we started 11 networks around North America and we're in a sharp, sharp learning curve right now. The cart is way in front of the horses. And we're working over time to get those horses back even with the cart.
Bethany: So, as we sort of come to a close, first of all thanks. It's always so interesting. I know you so well but yet when we sit and do this sort of thing you always learn new things and find your frameworks to be really generative. My last question is just like what's next, what's next for you, and then what's next for Cyclical?
Nick: Well for Cyclical LA it's continuing to start, we're trying to start six new churches per year and so continuing to try and churn out lots of new churches and then be supportive of those leaders in those churches as they're starting as well as we can. For Cyclical Incorporated it's ... we've discerned that starting more Cyclical networks around North America should be a part of our narrative so we're just starting a partnership right now with a Presbyterian church in Canada. It's very exciting. We're going to be starting various networks all around Canada and then also in conversation with a whole bunch of cities around North America that should probably remain unnamed right now and also nurturing those that already exists like Cyclical San Diego, Cyclical Los Ranchos which is in Orange County, Cyclical Southern California, the beta groups we have going in San Francisco and West Michigan. We're starting Cyclical Cascadia as we speak. Cyclical Spokane as we speak. So making sure we tend well into those groups that are starting while also being on the forefront with starting more networks.
Bethany: And do you have a conference coming up?
Nick: We do, yeah. With regard Start in LA which is a partnership between Cyclical LA and Fuller Seminary we have a big event that will gather all of the church planting networks and hopefully people that are a part of those networks together for mutual conversation basically about what's working and what's not working in our various networks so we can not compete which often times has been the case with different church groups. But we can learn from one another and get to know one another.
Bethany: Nick thank you again for sharing some of your story and your insights and your lessons with us. It's been really helpful to talk with you. And Michaela as always, thanks for your brain and insights, loveliness in the room. And thanks to all of you who have been listening to us today and we hope that this is also sparked some ideas and that the Holy Spirit might speak through some of the things that you've heard today to generate some new life in the world that we live in. And also big thanks to our executive producers Jennifer Kent and Stratton Glaze. And to the airtime group for their use of their space and just thanks for everybody who's helped make this happen.