Wednesday morning at Orange Conference 2020 was filled with some incredibly heavy but important topics of pain, suffering, hurt, grace, love, and more.

Below, you will see a collection of my notes from Main Session 2 speakers like Jimmy Mellado, Jon Williams, Mike Foster, Reggie Joiner, Kara Powell, Kristen Ivy, Nona Jones, Simon Sinek, and Joel Manby. All of what you will see are either direct quotes or paraphrases of what the speakers said.

Interview: Jimmy Mellado (President of Compassion)

Topic: Everything changes but navigating change requires courageous leaders

His mom once told him, “Don’t assume that because a family doesn’t have money that they aren’t rich in other ways.”

Something like a pandemic is a level-setter. It will hit the rich and poor, those in power and those not, etc. 

“I’ve always said that leadership is influence plus courage.”

If you want to lead someone well, inspire them to do something new, to move them to a better place.

Serving other people is one of the most important things you can do. And as you serve others, your soul will benefit too.

Leadership is about taking people to a new and better place. In the church, transformation is about innovating to the original. When the church isn’t reflecting Jesus, something is wrong. Change in the church is about deconstructing the human part to focus more on Jesus’ example.

Speaker: Jon Williams

Jon was incredibly vulnerable and shared an important part of his story. Due to the nature of his story, I have chosen not to share the details here.

Instead, here is the Scripture he shared and the challenge he issued at the end:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

There are many in our churches trying to deal with stuff privately. We need to encourage people to be vulnerable and to open up. We also need to set the example. And we need to point people to Jesus by showing them Christ’s comfort.

Speaker: Mike Foster

Mike encouraged us that we need to create safe places to open up and share their stories. 

We have to set the pace and the tone by sharing our own stories. 

When people do open up and share their pain and suffering, do these 3 things:

  1. Validate: Confirm their feelings. Don’t dismiss it, even with a Bible verse.
  2. Appreciate: Honor their bravery for sharing.
  3. Refer: You don’t have to have all the answers.

Conversation: Reggie Joiner, Kara Powell, Mike Foster, Kristen Ivy

Reggie: What do you think about our current situation?

Mike: We have a unique opportunity right now to learn more about ourselves and step into others’ suffering.

Kara: Before we were quarantined, it was always tough to see people’s struggles. Now it’s even harder. So how can we get a gauge on how people are doing?

Mike: We really need to be present with people right now. Listen for what people are saying between what they are saying. The best thing we can do is be a great listener, ask a lot of questions, and be fully present.

Kristen: There seems to be an art of holding the door open but also allowing them to walk through it.

Mike: If we try to share happy thoughts in those moments, it’s really about us taking control of the situation. So what we really need to do is hold open the door for others. We can’t fix them and stop their emotions. We can only remind them we are there and that it is their work that needs to be done.

Kara: This reminds me why it is so important to partner with parents. They are able to have conversations with their kids. We need to remind parents to have those open and honest conversations. What are some other tips as we work with parents?

Mike: We need to help them to look for the basic signs and not ignore things. They need to listen, look at rhythms, and more. Be very present and don’t just delegate the mental health of your child to someone else.

Reggie: What are 2 or 3 things parents need to say to their kids consistently?

Kara: Here is a question I got from a therapist — On a scale of 1-10, how are you doing? And then see how they respond, taking action on the higher numbers.

Mike: Anything we can do to create specificity will help. Whether it be numbers, drawings, etc. Parents should also help their kids do a daily check-in with their minds (thoughts), hearts (emotions), and body (tension/breathing/stomach).

Kristen: We also need to lean into parents and remind them that we all miss the signs sometimes. We need to give ourselves grace and help parents give themselves grace.

Reggie: There is this sense that we carry guilt more than others.

Mike: The stigma is part of the problem. Having conversations like this removes the stigma. Shame and guilt will only perpetuate the problem. We need to move into open and honest conversations so we don’t have to quietly suffer anymore. 

Reggie: After going through some huge tragedies with some kids and families, I noticed everyone had a different “weather report,” and so I simply began asking them, “How’s the weather?” That’s helped them identify their feelings. 

Kara: How do we know when we’re over our heads, Mike, and when we need to refer?

Mike: The framework we need to always work with is community care. We should always be looking to bring in additional help and resources. We also need to be aware of is our own heart, motives, and biases. 

Reggie: We need to keep this conversation up front and keep pushing in this area.

Package to help leaders with this sort of thing found at

Speaker: Kristen Ivy

Topic: The Gospel is still good news

Have you ever wondered when you were talking to someone if the hope that you have to offer is enough or even makes sense? 

Why is the Gospel good news?

When you begin to ask that question, ask why five times to really dig down deep into the answer. Why is it good news? And why is that? And why is that? Etc.

The Apostle Paul was a master of this. We need to understand people before we understand how the Gospel gives them good news.

“If you want the good news to sound like good news, you need to understand why it’s good news for everyone.”

Theological Worlds by Paul Jones: The Gospel message is good news for about five types of people. He’s basically saying that the Gospel is good news for everyone from about five essential perspectives: 

  1. Separation & Reunion
  2. Conflict & Vindication
  3. Emptiness & Fulfillment
  4. Condemnation & Forgiveness
  5. Suffering & Endurance

(All these perspectives are available with a LOT more details and notes at

When we take the Gospel out of context or leave out parts entirely, we risk not connecting with all people and worldviews.

If we want the Good News to sound like good news, we need variety.

What if we approached our music, messages, etc. to account for all five views?

There is a richness in the Gospel to appeal to everyone.

Speaker: Nona Jones

Topic: The grace you give yourself changes everything.

Peter, in Matthew 16, was asked by Jesus who he says Jesus is. Peter responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus then tells Peter who Peter really is.

Soon before Jesus’ arrest and death, he tells His disciples that they will scatter. Peter says he won’t, but Jesus tells him that he will, in fact, disown Jesus three times.

A bit later, we see Peter cursing and disowning Jesus those three times. Peter then wept bitterly, grieving what he did.

Roosters don’t have teeth. Instead, they ingest rocks that stay in their gizzard, which helps to break down their food and digestion.

Unlike guilt, which is about something I did, shame is about who I am.

We learn from Peter, there are two identities inside us: The rock Jesus says we are and the lie that the rooster tells us we are.

You are never beyond the reaches of God’s grace.

God gets glory out of our weakness, where we make room for His power.

Paul speaks about his “thorn in the flesh” to remind us that God is powerful in weakness.

Leadership isn’t about title or position; it’s about influence. God has given us influence. And the world needs to hear this message.

The rooster told Peter he couldn’t be trusted, but Jesus told Peter the truth.

What Satan wants more than anything is to silence our witness. 

We need to give ourselves the grace to release all guilt and shame, and we need to accept what God has for us!

Interview: Nona Jones

Topic: How to Build Digital Community

Reggie: What would you say to people who are wondering what to do now?

Nona: No matter what I think I don’t know, I don’t know what tomorrow holds. This is an opportunity. Many are looking at it with fear. But this is an opportunity. We have to develop skills and abilities that we didn’t have before. We need to let go of normal. Remember Jesus only put His name on people, not a building. 

Reggie: What are a few things people should do?

Nona: Here are 3 encouragements:

  1. Don’t be offended by tech and tech companies. Investigate and explore. 
  2. Dive right in.
  3. Don’t relegate tech only to your tech team or communication team.

Reggie: What else would you say to leaders?

Nona: God knew this was going to happen. Don’t be overwhelmed by the enemy, and remember that God wants to use you in this time.

Interview: Simon Sinek

Topic: You can still play

(My apologies. I was not fast enough to get Reggie’s questions. 

There have been many big changes that force us to adjust. This is just more sudden than we are used to. It’s not unprecedented. We just have to make decisions much quicker. There is amazing opportunity during these times. 

We have an opportunity to reevaluate why we started all this in the beginning. Is it still worth it? If so, we just need to figure out the new way of how we are going to go after that original why. The good thing is that our standards have been lowered during this time, as people are more patient right now as we are fixing things as we go. This also creates more opportunity.

Crisis is a great revealer: of people, inner strength, relationships, and the stupidity of how we have been living our lives. Crisis help us to go up and see the bigger picture from a different perspective. 

This is really a time to embrace vulnerability. Leaders before COVID thought they could do it all. Now we are realizing we cannot do it all. We have to be open and honest about that and ask others for help, embracing the strength of others.

Ideas from his “The Infinite Game” book: There are games we play like they end, but there are many games that are not. For example, you cannot win being a spouse or leading a business. Being aware of the game we are in means that we play with the right mindset. So what we are going through now is not going to last forever. It is awful, but we will get through this. Life is infinite, but this period is not.

Speaker: Joel Manby

Reading of 1 Corinthians 13

Love really does work as a leadership principle. 

Culture is not a really big focus area of most churches. But now we have the opportunity to show people that love is at the heart of what we do.

Without culture, we don’t keep the great people. Culture is critical for people to say and be engaged.

The level of enthusiasm will never rise any higher than the level of enthusiasm of your leadership. Teaching the words of love can create a great culture.

Love is not only Jesus’ greatest commandment, but it also has proved to be very effective. For example, in the companies I have led, it has helped increase engagement.

As we put love into practice, we need to do 2 things:

  • Define the specifics of how to show love.
  • Measure it and encourage when done well.

Joel has a book called Love Works with more details on this topic.

Interview: Joel Manby

Reggie: What would you say to people about being more intentional about creating a Love Works culture?

Joel: Leaders often think they have a good culture, because they have it defined. But many aren’t teaching it or reinforcement behind it. 

Reggie: How do we start that process?

Joel: Deciding is the first step. Find out what your culture really is. The first step is buy-in. The second step is putting behaviors behind each value. Then it comes to top-down and bottom-up surveys to find out how you are doing. Leadership then needs to continually evaluate those ongoing results. Brutal honesty is key, and that goes both ways.

Main Session 2 dealt with some heavy topics. Please remember to reach out to someone you trust if you are dealing with anything like this yourself! We are in this together. Let’s help each other remain as healthy as possible, so we can do all that God wants to do through us.

Click here to read what you can expect from me during Orange Conference 2020.

Click here to see all of my Orange Conference 2020 posts.

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