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Reporting the Truth.
Restoring the Church.

Were Pastors Meant To Be Atlas?

The Roys Report
The Roys Report
Were Pastors Meant To Be Atlas?

Everything rises or falls on leadership. Ever heard that line? Think about what it means when applied to a pastor’s role in a church. What about the priesthood of all believers? And where is Jesus in that equation?

In this edition of The Roys Report, veteran church planter and pastor, Lance Ford, challenges popular views of leadership, showing how they’re the opposite of what Scripture teaches. In the Body of Christ, the pastor is not the head; Jesus is!

In 2012, Lance Ford’s landmark work UnLeader exposed how unbiblical models of leadership have become an obsession in the church. Now The Atlas Factor, which is about shifting leadership onto the shoulders of Jesus, serves as a sequel to that book.

One of the most eye-opening truths of The Atlas Factor is that leadership, when presented as a key to organizational success, is a relatively new concept. The multi-billion-dollar industry built around teaching and training people in leadership—in both the corporate world and the church—has emerged only within the past 40 to 50 years. And this model of leadership didn’t come from Scripture; it came from the world.

Lance was featured in a recent podcast with his message from the Restore Conference titled, “It’s the System, Stupid.” If you caught that message, then you heard a preview of what Lance and Julie delve into in-depth in this podcast.

Lance’s prophetic message is a clarion call to the church to return to Jesus’ way of doing things—or continue to face disastrous consequences.

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Lance Ford

Lance Ford is an author, church planter, coach, and consultant who has designed unique training systems currently being used by networks, seminaries, and leaders throughout the world. He has written several books including The Atlas Factor, UnLeader, The Missional Quest, and The Starfish and the Spirit. Lance holds a master’s degree in Global Leadership from Fuller Theological Seminary. Learn more at

Show Transcript

LANCE FORD, Julie Roys

Julie Roys  00:04
Everything rises or falls on leadership. Ever heard that line? Certainly, great leaders can make a big difference in the success of an organization. But think about what that line applied to the church really means. Does everything rise or fall on the pastor? What about the priesthood of all believers? What about the body of Christ, where each member plays a vital role? And most importantly, what about Jesus? Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and joining me today is Lance Ford, who spent decades planting and pastoring churches. And recently we published his talk from the RESTORE conference where he argued that so many of the scandals and issues that we see in the church today stem from our toxic model of leadership. Well, today you’re in for a treat, because Lance is joining me to discuss his new book, The Atlas Factor. And this book eviscerates the conventional wisdom that leadership is everything. In fact, one of the most eye-opening things I learned in this book is that leadership is a relatively new concept. Sure, there have always been people who lead and manage organizations. But leadership as this thing that’s crucial to the success of organizations is relatively new. And certainly, the industry that’s been built around teaching and training people in leadership in both the corporate world and the church is super new, like within the past 40 to 50 years. But I think the pressing question, especially in the church concerns whether these notions of leadership we’re training pastors to follow are actually biblical. And if they’re not, what’s the alternative? We’ll dig into those questions in just a minute.


Julie Roys  01:46

But first, I’d like to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. If you’re looking for a top ranked Christian University, providing a caring community and an excellent college experience, Judson University is for you. Judson is located on 90 acres, just 40 miles west of Chicago in Elgin, Illinois. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities, and strong financial aid. Plus, you can take classes online as well as in person. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity, and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity, to check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM.


Julie Roys  02:49

Well, again, joining me is Lance Ford, a church planter, coach, and consultant who spent decades pastoring and planting churches. And out of that experience and biblical study, he’s designed unique training systems that are being used by seminaries, church networks, and leaders throughout the world. Lance is also the author of several books, including one of my favorites called Unleader. This book exposes the obsession in the church to unbiblical models of leadership. It’s fantastic and eye opening. And Lance’s latest book, The Atlas Factor, is essentially a sequel to Unleader, and it’s quickly become one of my favorites as well. So, Lance, thanks so much for joining me. I’m really, really looking forward to our discussion.



It’s always one of my favorite things to do is visit with you, Julie.


Julie Roys  03:32

I’m glad to hear that. And I should mention that you also are a recent addition to The Roys Report board. So, we’re pretty excited about that. But I know you spoke at RESTORE and I heard from so so many people, but our board as well, just saying, hey, we need to get this guy on our board. So just really, really glad for all the wisdom that you’re going to bring to the board. So, thanks for being willing to do that.



Well, it’s a huge honor to be invited to be a part of y’all. The boardroom didn’t get smarter because I showed up it probably got a little dumber When I joined.


Julie Roys  04:04

I do not believe that. But as I mentioned, you spoke at RESTORE and gave a great talk on toxic leadership and  our obsession with it and probably had the best line of the entire conference I have to say, which became the title of the podcast that we put out with your talk, which is, It’s the System, Stupid! Just briefly for those who didn’t hear your talk, which if you didn’t hear Lance’s talk, it’s the System, Stupid!, I think it was like back in mid-December, we published that. Go back and listen to his talk. It is so so good. But talk about what you meant by that, that it’s the system stupid.



I think probably Julie one day I was probably somewhere along the midst of listening to The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill  podcast, and I was just thinking, they just keep talking about symptoms, symptoms. They never get to the solution, and I just said it out loud. It’s the system stupid. And it reminded me, James Carville’s deal with Clinton. It’s the economy stupid. So that’s kind of where that came from is that all these problems that we have are downstream from a messed-up system. And you can’t just deal with the symptoms and try to throw drugs at the symptoms. You have to bandage the wounds, pouring the oil on the wine, that’s necessary to say the least. Well, let’s do some preventative medicine. Let’s go back to the headwaters of this thing and try to nip some of this stuff in the bud. And it just seems that the answer almost every time, especially internally, from the groups that are in the midst of these falls and these breakdowns in leadership, usually their answer is, well, we just need better accountability. But it’s the same type of what they call accountability. So rare is it that when you hear a group say, well, we need new leadership, they don’t mean they need new leadership systems. They mean, we need a new hero leader.


Julie Roys  06:05

Yeah. Oh, exactly. I mean, I remember when Rick Warren was stepping down. And of course, there’s all sorts of issues with Andy Wood, who was picked as his successor. And we’ve published many articles on how he apparently is a horribly abusive leader. But he’s now in that position. And when I heard the language, though, it was like we need to find a successor for Rick. And I thought, really, who can be the successor to Rick Warren, and who is capable of being in a position over so many churches and having so many people following you? And I sit there and wonder, because there’s this idea that there’s going to be this really good, noble, full of integrity leader that can handle those kinds of pressures. And I sit there, and I look at that, and I’m like, I don’t know that I can handle that. That’s an awful lot to shoulder. And I think that really is at the root of what you’re talking about in this book, The Atlas Factor. The metaphor is great of you know, Atlas with the weight of the world on his shoulders. But essentially, that’s what we’ve set up leaders to be, to be Atlas, to do the impossible, and then we’re surprised when they fail. Here’s a quote that’s very early in your book from the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, they’re irrefutable.



Be careful, Julie.


Julie Roys  07:17

But the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership is this quote from LeRoy Eims, “a leader is one who sees more than others see, who sees further than others see, and who sees before others do.” And then there’s the quote that I said at the beginning of the podcast, that “everything rises or falls on leadership.” It’s almost like we have made these men into gods; talk about that whole dynamic and what it’s doing to pastors.



The thing about the typical the prevailing leadership system in the overwhelming majority of churches today, it puts a weight up on the senior, and I might as well just say senior guy, cuz 99% of them are guys. But there are a few women in senior leadership positions, but just the job description, and then even the unwritten expectations that are placed upon them. I know I was a pastor for well over 20 years and was a church planter and a senior pastor for 10 years. So, if you just look at the job description, you’re basically the CEO. In fact, some of them call themselves CEOs, you’re the face of the church, the organization, you’re the top fundraiser, you are the top theologian, you’re supposed to be a marriage expert, a family expert, a child rearer. I mean, just go on and on and by the way, you need to give 45 to 50 fantastic talks a year too. No one’s built for that. And certainly when you go to the New Testament of any description of any type of leadership in the church, you don’t see that. In fact, Paul mentioned several times that he wasn’t even a good speaker. So, it’s a burden. And so that created the metaphor for The Atlas Factor for the book. It’s the weight of the world. It’s like Atlas, and a lot of people look at Atlas and they go, he was this hero. No, that was a punishment, Zeus gave him the punishment of having to hold the weight of the world on his shoulders. It’s out of order. It’s a misalignment. So, a lot of these pastors are victims too; Even the ones that don’t abuse, they’re being abused by this system of expectations, this fault system of leadership as it’s been cast upon them. And then of course, the ones as you said, that are narcissistic, have the tendencies, then they take that power, and then they become the abusers. And basically, then they take that weight, and they place it up on the shoulders of their staff or the volunteers and church members, and then they crush others with that weight.


Julie Roys  09:49

I have heard that so much from these churches where there is this big celebrity pastor, and they have to put on the big show and it’s really impossible to do. I mean, I have I always said, When my husband and I used to be youth pastors and we always said, The World entertains better than we do. So, if you want to be entertained, like go see a movie, go to all those things, but in the church, we’re gonna focus on worship and prayer and discipleship and Bible study. That’s what we do. But I think we’ve gotten away from that. And we’ve certainly gotten to this model where man we have to put on the show every week, and it’s crushing. And the staffs are getting crushed too. You quote this in your book that there’s a 2021 Barna study, 38% of pastors say they’ve considered quitting within the past year. And then if you look at pastors who are just 45 or younger, that jumps to 46%. So, I mean, if this plays out, we’re looking at a crisis in the church, we’re not going to have pastors willing to take these jobs.



Yeah well, there’s some stats that came out, I forget if it was Barna or who it was a couple of weeks ago. But it said that right now, currently, between four and 5000 pastors a month, are leaving the ministry. So you’re talking about a huge under the watermark in the boat of the church right now. So not only are people leaving the church, but you’ve got pastors leaving the church. So, it is a crisis, as you said.


Julie Roys  11:09

Although, I have to say at the same time, like I’m in this small house church, and he said recently, if we get a pastor, I’m gone. I’m gone. I mean, I think we’re a unique group, because there’s some pretty highly competent, mature Christians in there. So, you kind of have more leaders than you know what to do with. So, God help the pastor that would come in and try to pastor that. But yeah, I think there is sort of a suspicion about pastors. But really, because I think exactly what you’re talking about in this book is that we have merged this idea of leadership that really is worldly based with, we’ve kind of baptized it in Christian lingo. So that now so many people think that leadership, the way it’s being taught, you know, by people who claim they’re Christian, so that, you know, this must be biblical, is biblical. But leadership, it’s not really talked about very much in Scripture is it?



It’s not that there’s not leaders in Scripture, there’s leaders all throughout Scripture, but the leadership system as we know it today, in fact, leader or leadership is not even mentioned. It’s like, a half a dozen times in the entire New Testament. And it’s not spoken favorably, most of those times. But if you really get down to it, and I do try to make a delineation between attorney leader in leadership, because it’s become such a in our nomenclature today, but it’s a real new term. I’ve said that before some well-known authors that immediately react, and just like push back. Okay, first off, definitely, there’s been leadership forever. And it’s been studied. I mean, the Chinese going back to the 1300s. I mean, you can look at Plato and Machiavelli and others that studied leadership, but not leadership as we know it today. And what got me on this was just doing some research on it. And I just got curious one day and thought, Well, I’m gonna look up the word leadership. And I went to my old 1955 Oxford Dictionary, which is probably the best because it gives the evolution of words. And it wasn’t even defined there. I couldn’t even find the term and a definition, I finally found at one time in about a seven- or eight-word definition for the word leader, but then it didn’t even define leadership. That pushed me back further, you start reverse engineering, you know, how you are doing research, and I found the 1915 Webster dictionary. The word leadership was not even in there. And that really took me down a rabbit hole of finding out after just doing a couple of years of research, in searching even secular scholars that had done research on the word leadership and come to find out you couldn’t even find the word leadership until the mid-19th century. So, you’re not finding publications anywhere that mentioned it until the early 1900s. Even the term. Now the reason I say that, and it should stand out to us as a stark contrast, because leadership is an $87 billion dollar industry today. 87 billion, I mean, that’s more than entertainment, media and everything put together. So, it’s a huge thing that’s evolved over the last 100 years. And it didn’t even really start entering in the church, which is a gigantic thing in the church now, it didn’t even start entering into the church until I would say the 1970s. Because you can’t even find a dozen books with the term leadership in the title, even in the 1960s. So, it’s a really new thing. And now, and I say it as its defined, because you could interchange the word management and you’d be just fine because that’s really what it is. It’s management theory. It goes back to Peter Drucker 1966, his famous book, The Effective Executive. There were some significant church growth leaders took that book, they parlayed it into the Church Growth Movement because some leaders such as Robert Schuller, for instance, with Crystal Cathedral, Robert Schuller doesn’t get enough if you want to call it credit or blame for really being the biggest shaper of what we have today. And my research bears this out. You can track Bill Hybels in Willow Creek, they go right back to Schuler, although they scrubbed a lot of that from their history, because Schuler became so controversial that they just didn’t want to be associated with him. Rick Warren was a disciple of Schuler. Schuler was a disciple of Norman Vincent Peale. That’s where he got all of his positive thinking and everything. But then all of them went to Peter Drucker to get the management systems. And then Bob Buford, who created Leadership Network, which a lot of people, the listeners would say, I’ve never heard of a guy named Bob Buford. Well, he was way behind the scenes. But he was hugely shaping of what we have today with Leadership Network and funded and raised up and platformed and helped develop a lot of those leaders such as Hybels and Warren and others. And then a lot of the newer leaders that lead these prevailing, what I call Neo attractional churches today, their heritage, the family tree goes straight back to Peter Drucker and these management systems. And these management systems just conflict with what Jesus said Matthew 20, of the Gentiles, or the world systems; it’s a metaphor, he where if he was in the Old Testament would have said, The Babylonians or the Egyptians. But when he says the Gentiles practice dominating one another, or lorded over one another, it will not be this way among you. But the first will be last, the greatest will be the servant, which basically was pushing back against power, and against dominating one another in any system in his kingdom. But that’s the very thing that we have today. And it goes right back to management systems that we imported straight into the church.


Julie Roys  17:06

And you alluded to this, that we don’t see lead or leader much in Scripture. You write, and this was in Unleader as well, and this just blew me away, that we see the word disciple 260 times, as opposed to leader. Leader, I think is mentioned like seven times. So, it’s a 37:1 ratio. We used to think of the pastor as the shepherd. Even when I was a kid, that was really the prevailing metaphor was that our pastor was the shepherd, that changed. And I remember even when I was at Willow Creek because my husband and I spent several years there. And I just remember Hybels talking about how they had found shepherds to do the shepherding within the church, because he didn’t do it. It was kind of like, yeah, they have been put in as pastors, but they’re really more Shepherd. So, we’re putting them over here to let them Shepherd. Meanwhile, I’ll do the pastor thing, which is being the great orator and charismatic leader, and all that. And that became our model for pastor and then of course, Bill Hybels brought in so many worldly leadership. In fact, if you go and read about the Global Leadership Summit, like I’ve read some of the articles that were published in secular publications saying, Man, this is like the best business school that’s out there, like, I know, it’s at a church, but this is like, this is a great business school. Everybody in business, whether you’re a Christian or not, whatever you profess, just go to this really good. And we love that as Christians, because we constantly were seeking the world’s affirmation, which is really sad. Like we wanted that credibility in the church. So again, you’re putting language into things I felt for so long, and that the research in your book, you even go back farther, and I found some of this stuff that gave birth to our modern leadership movement was fascinating. And you start with 1840s, 1900, around there with this thing called Great Man theory. Describe what this is, and how it’s impacted our view of leadership today.



Great Man theory was the prevailing ideology of where great leaders came from. That was the term that they used. And so, when you go back and you look at even, I was able to even trace back and find some of the speaking topics for some conventions, conferences that were taking place back in the 1920s and 1930s. And so Great Man theory was basically the idea that leaders are born, they’re not made. And so, you’re gonna think about Teddy Roosevelt, you’re gonna think about Abraham Lincoln, Napoleon, people like this, that just have this ability to lead, and you can’t make it. So that that would that would mean there’s a real limitation if you don’t happen to have a great man walk into the room, you know. So, then they started studying the traits of the great man and that about 20 years after Great Man theory was the prevailing theory. Then by the 1930s, 1940s was what was called Trait Theory, and they basically were studying the traits of the great man and saying, Well, maybe it’s possible that we can teach these traits, we can mimic these traits, and we can actually make great leaders. That’s how it started evolving. Then there became for a while it became what was called Group theory, which they said, well, leadership really is an effect upon a group of people. They actually started getting a little closer to what was right about what  I would call leadership, that leadership is a fruit product. It’s not a position, I would say a faithfully following Jesus as a servant. But then they moved away from the group theory, and that really went back into a person at the top. And then Management theory, by the 1950s, to corporate America, and the Industrial Revolution had matured and was getting old by that time. By that time, it really became Management theory. And then we replaced it with the word leadership. And like you said, earlier, Julie, I was just reflecting a while back and thinking, you know, when I was growing up, if you walked into a Denny’s, there were no Starbucks back then. So, if you walk through a breakfast place, and let’s say that there was and we used to have in small towns, they would call it the Ministerial Alliance. And pastors of local churches that actually liked each other, and they get together about once a month. So if you were to see a group of those guys sitting around, have a breakfast together, I say, 1980. I’ll guarantee you; the word leader and leadership would not even been uttered at that table while they’re having breakfast. It wouldn’t even come into their mind. They might have called themselves pastors or shepherds, they probably call themselves ministers. And certainly, the people from the local community sitting around would look over and said, Oh, yeah, that’s the ministers. They wouldn’t say that’s the leaders. That’s the leaders of the faith community. It just wasn’t in their thinking, right? Because the word Minister means servant, but it’s washed out today. And so, I mean, who wants to be a servant? You want to be a leader. This was the problem with the disciples of Jesus, and they watched him be a servant, and he still had to, you know, thump upside of the head, more than one occasion.


Julie Roys  22:20

I want to read a section of your book because I think it really crystallizes the moment that we’re living in right now. You write, “The industrial leadership approach to church leadership caused us to abandon the understanding of the church as a body and turn to a view of the church as a machine. Our language and titles changed as we veered away from the code of the New Testament in Jesus. It became normal to hear terms and titles such as strategic initiative, ROI, return on investment scale, engineering, management, leader, executive, superior, replace biblical language, such as steward, disciple, co-laborers, servant, minister, elder, brothers and sisters, et cetera. Noncompetes, and NDAs, and  HR became leverage points in place of loving your brother, blessing those you believed were your enemy and letting your Yes be Yes and your No be No.” Bingo. Right there. I mean, I talk a lot about the Evangelical industrial complex. And of course, that gets into the money and everything that’s involved. But it’s also once you become a corporation, you’ve got to manage that image. And that is the situation that we’re in. I’m guessing some people who have been really, really schooled in this, because I mean, leadership is everywhere, right? I mean, from the time kids are like teenagers, even maybe younger, in our church, we’re training them to be leaders. But it does beg the question, and I’m sure people are wondering right now is if everything doesn’t rise or fall on leadership, and what does it rise or fall on?



I believe it rises or falls on the headship of Jesus. And I believe that’s where we land on the problem of what’s happened in the church. That’s the other part of the metaphor for this book, The Atlas Factor was. I had written something one day, about three years ago on Facebook or X, it was Twitter then; we had the pretty little blue bird. But I just said something about leadership in the church being misaligned with the headship of Jesus, and the body. Had a buddy that reposted that and then his chiropractor made a comment. And he said, Yeah, that’s like subluxation with the C-1 and the C-2 vertebra in the body. Then he said something that really got my attention. He said, Yeah, when you have a problem with the Atlas vertebra, and the Axis vertebra, it misaligns the body with the head. And I was like, Whoa, that really got my attention because I’ve been playing around with this Atlas metaphor before. And little did I know, and you know, this is as a journalist and a researcher, then it sends me down into this wormhole. I ended up reading three or four books in chiropractic.


Julie Roys  24:57

You sound like my husband. My husband would do that. Give me the Cliff Notes honey.



My wife’s like land it, land it. Yeah, but it was fascinating Julie because he said C-1, the first vertebra is called the Atlas. So, in fact, this particular doctor had written a little book, a real tiny little pamphlet size book called, It Just Makes Sense. Well come to find out there’s a certain amount of chiropractors, it’s a small percentage of chiropractors that just practice, they call it upper cervical care. And so, they only focus on the two top vertebra, because they’re convinced that if you line those up, everything below is going to come in order and align. In fact, they’ve got some pretty large claims of incredible maladies that get healed and come into order when the body, the neurological system starts functioning like it should. In fact, my buddy that had posted this, his chiropractor, so my buddy has a very rare form of cancer. And I forget what it’s called, but it should not kill him. But he’s had it for several years. And so, he’s always having to watch his T counts and everything. And under Dr. Weller’s care, his numbers have totally come in order. And that’s been going on for about four or five years now. So, it’s really amazing. So, one of the quotes that he said, and I did quote it in Atlas, so that Atlas vertebra, that’s where the brain stem sits into. So, he’s talking about the relationship between the head and the body. And he says, there’s that extra something inside each and every one of us that gives life; the inborn, innate intelligence knows what to do and how to do it. The intelligence that came from our Creator travels in and through your nervous system, which is commonly referred to as the neurological system. Neuro logic or intelligence within the nerve, the neurological communication between the brain and the body through the brainstem is imperative for allowing the body the best ability to function at its optimum. We believe that the body does not need any assistance, just no interference in its functioning. When you apply that to what Paul said about the body of Christ, and the relationship to the head, which he really goes in depth in Ephesians 4, he mentioned the other places, but in Ephesians 4, which Ephesians. The whole book of Ephesians is scholars say this is the book for the church. And it’s not a book about leadership. Ephesians 4 is not text about leaders, it’s about the body, it’s a text, read to the body, corporately, it’s talking about the body when he says the apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, and teacher – that’s within the body. These are not professional positions. And I would say, and I know you would agree, Julie, that your house church, you guys already have at least one, you have multiple pastors there already. So, you don’t need some pro that comes in leveraging authority and power. They’re gifted. So, the body of Christ is already gifted in these functions. But the problem is, is when humans try to occupy the place of headship and playing Atlas, then it creates a disjointedness, between the Atlas vertebra and the rest of the body. And so, what happens is, we get paralyzed, we can’t move. We get all these maladies in these atrophy that sets in below the neck because somebody else has stepped in and cause misalignment with our true head Jesus. And so, I really believe that the first job of a church leader, or a pastor that wants to try to change is it’s kind of what Dr. Eddie Weller said is that we need to eliminate interference between Jesus in the body. And usually, it’s our system of leadership that’s causing the interference, and is bringing that paralysis and those maladies that go along the neckline.


Julie Roys  28:54

That’s so interesting. As you’re saying this, I’m beginning to get an image in my head of a body trying to function with just the brain. Right? And the rest of the body being literally paralyzed or just limp and not able to move. And I think about that in the church because we have made these guys at the head who communicate truth to us. I mean, most of the people come into our churches right now, they don’t know how to read the scripture for themselves and listen to the Holy Spirit themselves. They need that pastor to interpret for them what’s going on, which is scary. I remember going to one of these, you know, video, Pastor churches, and I’m like, and it had a celebrity pastor who was in from, you know, states away, who was preaching to them, telling them what to do. And I thought to myself, that guy who was preaching, nothing he said was heretical; however, he was not explicating scripture right. He was making it say things it didn’t say, and it scared me because I thought, that guy anything he says will get swallowed by this mass of people, because they don’t know they are not equipped. They are not connected to the head. They’re connected to the pastor, right? Who really functions in a godlike way with so many of these people? And I think that’s why when you see one of these falls, you see, just huge disillusionment. You know, for a lot of us, it’s been hurtful. It’s been disillusioning. Yes. But not to that foundational level, because my pastor was never my God. He was always just a man. Right? That’s all he was. And so yeah, we’d have lost that idea that really, it’s a functioning body, and all the members have to be functioning for this thing to work. And the guy at the top is not the pastor. It’s Jesus Himself, which is a radical idea, the biblical idea.



You know, the word radical and radish have the same root. Radical literally means root. So, it’s funny how that when you talk about people that are radicals, man, they’re so radical. That’s usually the people that have gone back to the roots of things that we call the radicals. It  was like the hippies back in the 70s, they were reading Mother Earth News, you know, and they’re, you know, got their gardens out the backyard, and they’re doing all this stuff, you know, are they radical? No, they’re doing what people have done for thousands of years. So sometimes that’s the hint that the people that we call the radicals may just be the ones that have tapped back into something that’s at the root of our beginnings as the church. And so that’s one of the things that when you get to this misalignment of the body, the real job description of a pastor or if you believe in those FIFO gifts, the apostle, prophet, Pastor, shepherd, and evangelists and teacher, their job description, Paul says, is to equip or resource and train and supply the saints for the work of ministry. So, it’s not to do everything, it’s not to be the chief speaker to be the end all. Really your job there, when you wake up in the morning, I don’t care what your title is, if you’re on staff at a church, no matter what your rank is, first thing you wake up in the morning and think what I need to do is how can I best resource and equip and serve the people that are around me? So, during your day, you shouldn’t be telling people what to do, you should be asking people, how can I help you? How can I serve you? What do you need youth pastor? How can I help you today to fulfill your calling? But that’s not the way it is. I mean, it’s usually everybody’s here to serve my needs. That’s leadership. That’s the system.


Julie Roys  32:37

I mean, we have a professional pastorate. So, we pay for you to do things for us.



You’re a vendor of religious goods and services, and I’m a consumer. So, give it up.


Julie Roys  32:48

Exactly. And that’s where I don’t put all the blame on the guy at the top. It’s what we’ve allowed as consumers. It’s what we’ve allowed as the body that is not doing what the Bereans did, and going back and saying, is what they’re teaching us right now, is this biblical, or is it not?



One of the things I thought about is you look at iteration or a church says today, most people are biblically illiterate. We don’t expect them to read their Bibles. We don’t. I mean, that’s why we project every scripture on screen. We don’t expect people even to bring a Bible. When you and I were growing up. I mean, people were bringing a Bible to church. I grew up spent a lot of time in the Baptist Church. every other weekend, the whole family would load up and we go spend the weekend with my grandparents about an hour away. They were Nazarene. They were in a little Nazarene church. And so, I literally spent half my time in a Nazarene church. So, I got a lot of Nazarene in me. And that little church of about 60 people and 55 of them were my kinfolks. I mean, you talk about a pastor not having a chance. Stay in line buddy because the Browns and the Fords will kick you to the curb. Anyway, it was a sweet fellowship and all my great aunts and great uncles and everything, They had the little board on the side of the pulpit that told the attendance from the week before, it told the offering. And I’m not making this up, even had a place it said Bibles present, you know, which was always funny to me, because I’ve looked back, and I thought they were trying to make a point. And those folks knew their scriptures. I mean, they knew the Bible, and they may have been misapplying it, but they still knew the Scriptures. And we just don’t have that today. We really have dumbed people down. And that’s part of the entertainment and this all comes from the secret church evolvement but if you go into the prevailing church today, if you go anywhere on a Sunday morning, most of the churches especially of any size you walk in, you don’t even know what denomination you’re in because most of them are singing the same songs. And the style is the same you’re going to go into a dark room. The ceiling is going to be black. The stage is going to be well lit depending on how much money and resource they have. It may even have some smoke machines which I call that the Shekindof. Glory, by the way,


Julie Roys  35:03

When I see the smoke machine, I am so over the top that I just I cannot I just cannot. And by the way, though, when you talked about Nazarene, this is going to warm the heart of Christine Jones, who’s one of our board members because she’s Nazarene. But I did Bible Quizzing. So, when I heard she was a Nazarene I’m like, Oh, dang! Oh, man! You know, and I am was pretty good Bible quizzer.



I bet you were.


Julie Roys  35:29

We went to Nationals a couple times. Our Bible Quizzing, my mom was our coach, but I’m telling you, I learned 100 you know, 150 verses every single year I did Bible Quizzing. I mean, that’s how I learned the scripture. But those Nazarenes they memorized the whole book. They memorized the whole thing.



I had a niece that does the Bible Quizzing in the Nazarene church, and  I don’t ever want to go toe to toe with her.


Julie Roys  35:52

But here’s the thing. Like I know Christine to this day says when they say a passage, she’s going over the passage in her mind, because it’s still there, the memory is still there of that passage. And you can’t distort something that people know. But we’re in a situation where people don’t know it., and so it creates just this fertile ground for everything to be messed up, and it’s gotten really messed up. So, you’re talking about realignment, how do we realign? Like in this situation that we’re in, how can we realign because we’ve got some major, major vertebrae out of whack?



So, you have to start off not with just looking at and saying, Well, yeah, I gotta choose a different way lady. No, you have to repent. This is an issue of repentance. Because we disobey Jesus and the word disobedient in many places. In fact, Paul uses it when he talks about your disobedience coming into a line. It means to, to hearken to not just to hear, but to listen and obey. We’ve disobeyed Jesus disobeyed Jesus, not only with our systems, but just some of those things that you mentioned, when you read the quote from the book earlier, even our what we call ourselves as leaders is disobedient to Jesus. Jesus could not have been more plain, don’t call yourself Father, don’t call yourself Teacher, don’t call yourself leader, because he says it causes you to lift yourself up above your brothers and sisters. Because he’s trying to create a peer type of a culture, a sibling culture. And this is the nomenclature that you see throughout the New Testament, co-laborer, coworker, fellow worker, is mentioned dozens of times those terms. You never see employee and boss. Because what happens is, that’s a power difference, right? It differentiates between the power, every time those words are mentioned, every time those terms and those rank-based titles are mentioned. So, the first thing a leader has to do is say I have to change the culture, I have to repent. And I have to admit this, and then I have to be willing to start changing the culture. So, I think the first thing that a leader has to do is then move into saying, I’m going to ditch the management systems. And I’m going to try to learn what it would look like if people on our team are able self-manage. And as I’m doing that, not only am I changing my titles, which that’s probably the first thing you need to do, because it will just freak everybody out. But what you do is you change your role. And so, you wake up in the morning and saying, I’m no longer going to act like I am chief, and everybody’s here to serve me. But I’m going to do what Jesus said, I’m gonna become a chief servant. I’m gonna out serve everybody here. And I’m gonna go back to the very thing that Paul said in Ephesians 4. I am going to work myself silly in helping the people around me to fulfill their calling. I’m going to do everything I can to resource them, to equip them, and just watch this rising tide lift all the boats around. So that’s the  first moves. And I always say this is when you’re looking at moving from a centralized leadership to a decentralized leadership, you can’t just wipe everything out, because then it’s just chaos and anarchy. So, you have to replace the systems with other processes and agreements. And that’s one of the things I’ve tried to write a lot about, wrote about a lot book called The Starfish in the Spirit. And in this, try to give some processes in some systems and some agreements of how you can rebuild your system into working this way. Because it doesn’t just happen in a vacuum. It’s too enormous of a change to move into it. But it has to be biblical, because that’s where the safety and that’s where the joy is. And this doesn’t mean that everything’s going to be rainbows and unicorns. There’s still stress and hard things and difficulty. I mean, Paul talked about the anxiety he had in the churches, but a lot of that was him trying to straighten stuff like this out.


Julie Roys  39:58

The book that I interviewed Scott McKnight and Laura Behringer on, Pivot, you know, is talking a lot about sort of similar things making this pivot from realizing you have a toxic culture. You guys are talking about it from the same idea, but a little different vantage points. And given, you know, he’s more of a theologian, you’re more of a boots on the ground kind of guy. But I think saying a lot of the same things. And one thing I wonder is that we’re often thinking about it in terms of like you said, we’ve got this church that needs to change. I was very interested in church planting in my 20s. And a lot of people would say that a lot of time, it takes way more energy to change an existing church than it does to grow a new one. And it’s just something I’ve been wondering, you know, out of these ashes, because what’s happening in the evangelical church right now, I mean, it is, it’s imploding, which I know is painful for everybody involved in you know, to see these kinds of implosions. But I’ve really been asking myself, Should we be putting energy into changing the existing church, or should we be saying, we just need to close some churches, we need to scrap this model? Because I mean, even so often, when you get rid of like the toxic guy at the top, it’s a toxic system throughout,  it is so hard. You have so much inertia, that to change that church is so hard. So, I know you don’t get into this really in your book, but it’s something I’ve been wrestling with. And even wondering once you do start that new thing. How can we do it differently because this is what we’ve seen modeled?


Julie Roys  40:02

What you’re touching on there is the whole wineskin issue that Jesus taught. You can’t put new wine in an old wineskin. But can you create a new wineskin for the old wine? Heard a lot of people talk about that. Which yeah, well,  maybe you can, I think is very difficult for the reasons you said. Now, two out of the last three houses that my wife and I have lived in, we built ourselves. And when I say that, I mean, we built it ourselves. I didn’t contract it. Our hands, blood and sweat, and skin. And I just kind of grew up with that, my grandpa was a carpenter. So, I kind of grew up with that.



We built one house. We didn’t do everything ourselves. But yeah, I thought, general contracting, how hard can that be?



Oh yeah, you got that lesson, then, you found out. And you promise, I will never do this again, which I said I would never do it again after the first one.


Julie Roys  42:22

Well, no, actually, I said, I learned so much by making so many stupid mistakes in that first one that I want to do it again, so that I can capitalize on the lessons learned.



Now that’s good. And it is a fun process. And it was very cathartic. This one that we built was a smaller house. And it was very cathartic. But also, we’ve rehabbed houses. And I would say as hard as it is to build from the ground up, it’s easier than rehabbing a house.


Julie Roys  42:47

Cuz you never know what you’re gonna get into.



You don’t know what’s behind that wall, you know, and you think that you know, and you peel it back, and you just discover, oh, it’s deeper, and you’re taking it down to the studs, and you get down the studs and go, Oh, the termites were here before I was here, right? All kinds of stuff. So yeah, those issues come into place. I tell you, one of the things that we’ve seen a lot of success, and I say we because I do work with a few others. I’m a part of a team that we do help churches in consulting and coaching. we talk about terms of a parallel track, just trying smaller little projects, and seeing how they go. In fact, several of the largest churches, and we’ve worked with large churches that realize that they just cannot completely turn that thing around. So, what they do is they start investing in different types of church plants, or micro churches, or whatever. And I think their hearts are good and right in that. And so, I’ve got some friends that do lead large mega churches. And I think that they are, some of them have developed some leadership systems that are closest to what I would hope to see. And I think it’s probably about as close as they can get without just killing the thing.



Our time is getting short. But there’s one term that I thought was so good when you’re talking about developing a culture of equality, and you talked about this term, I’ve never heard this this term before, but equa-potency, thank you. But yeah, explain what you mean by that, because I thought that was actually a pretty key component to what you’re talking about.



What equa-potency basically, is kind of a culture of equals. When you talk about a quality in a leadership system, it freaks a lot of people out because immediately the pushback is somebody has to be in charge. The buck has to stop somewhere. You can’t have equality, everybody’s not equal. You can just look at him. Okay, so let’s start right there. And Paul talks about this in Romans 12. In fact, Romans 12:1-2 you know, we usually start out with be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind right? So that you can prove what is the good, perfect, pleasing will of God. And we usually stop there. And so, people usually read that verse and say, Oh, that’s the verse about not being worldly, you know, don’t drink, don’t chew, don’t run around with girls that do, right? And always blame a woman, right? That was the little saying growing up. But don’t stop there, keep reading the rest of the of the text, because then he’s really going into how gifts that the Lord pours out should be functioning. And so, one of the things that he says he talks about the different gifts, in fact, he talks about people that do have a gift of administration, or what we would call leadership. And he talks about, then he says, but do it with sobriety, be sober, and then he starts talking about don’t look on your own things and be selfish. And he starts going into this whole thing about different people have different measures for their giftings. So, in any room, if you have a sizable room, and you think about just outstanding, let’s say the great men or the great women that are great into gifting or whatever. And you and I, Julie may have a similar gifting. But we can just look like I’ve got a couple of friends that are mentors of mine. And I’m thinking about one in particular. He’s been an incredible mentor in my life. And he and I have similar gifts. Mine, I can’t even touch his abilities in some of this stuff. He is just far out. Well, Paul will call that he has a greater measure of faith. It’s not faith like we think about it all. Oh yeah, he’s confident and all that. No, it’s really the term there, really iterates it’s the ability to use that gift. And some people just have that, have a greater measure. And so, Paul warns them to treat the others as equals. And so, this particular mentor in my life, he’s always treated me that way. And in the first few years, we started working together, man, I mean, there was no way I could touch what he did. But he always encouraged me genuinely, not patronizing me. But really, he just thought you never know when what the Lord wants to say or do is going to come through Lance or Jill or Rob or Steve in the room, just because I’ve got the big platform, I’m speaking as him, I can use any of them. So that’s equa-potency. So, it’s potent. So, when you get a group of people together, and you have an equal atmosphere, not meaning that everybody has the same has equal gifts, but they have equal opportunity. And so that’s really what we’re saying. It’s a culture that everybody is treated as equals to have equal opportunity, even if they don’t have the equal faith in the giftings that they have. Does that make sense?


Julie Roys  47:55

Absolutely it does. And as you’re talking about this, we do think of the people that that are incredibly gifted. And we have examples of that in scripture. But we also have probably the greatest leader, or one of the ones that we look to in the Old Testament was Moses, who couldn’t speak, had all sorts of failings. And yet God used him in amazing ways. Because he had that spiritual connection to God. He knew God, and he had a heart after God. And we have majored on the minors, right? We’ve made the gifting so important instead of the heart for God. And there’s so much in your book, we could discuss, and I would love to discuss, you get into how spiritual warfare, how that plays out in this practical steps. And so, I really encourage people, this is going to be our book for this month, for anybody who gives a donation of $30 or more, we’ll get you a copy of The Atlas Factor, just a phenomenal phenomenal book. So, if you want to do that, support our work here at The Roys report, but also get this incredible resource, just go to JULIEROYS.COM/DONATE. And we can get this book in your hands. And I want to get this book as many hands as I can. Because I think it’s a paradigm shift is what you’re talking about. And you’ve been talking about it now for 11 years since you wrote your first one, Unleader. And I think there’s a lot of resistance. But the more and more we see the crash and burns, the more and more we’re going to have to say we’ve got to do it a different way. And so, I feel like you’re very much a prophetic voice when it comes to this issue. Just so grateful for it. So, Lance, thank you. Thank you for taking the time. Thank you for speaking at RESTORE. Thank you for being on our board. Thanks for writing this book, The Atlas Factor. Really awesome.


Julie Roys  48:13

Always a joy, Julie, thank you.


Julie Roys  49:41

Well, again, that was Lance Ford, an experienced church planter, pastor, consultant, and author of The Atlas Factor, Shifting Leadership Onto the Shoulders of Jesus. And as we mentioned, this book releases this month, and we’re actually giving away copies of The Atlas Factor to anyone who gives a gift of $30 or more  to The Roys Report this month. Again, we don’t have any big donors or advertisers almost all the funding for The Roys Report comes from you, the people who care about exposing abuse and corruption in the church and caring for abuse victims. So, if you can please go to JJULIEROYS.COM/DONATE  and give what you’re able to this ministry. And when you give, we’ll gladly send you a copy of The Atlas Factor. Also, just a quick reminder to subscribe to The Roys Report on Apple podcast, Google podcasts or Spotify. That way you won’t miss any of these episodes. And while you’re at it, I’d really appreciate it if you’d help us spread the word about the podcast by leaving a review. And then please share the podcast on social media so more people can hear about this great content. Again, thanks so much for joining me. Hope you are blessed and encouraged.


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10 Responses

  1. I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am to see this. YES, it’s the system, stupid!! I spent 12 years in an abusive church, so I tend to see things through that experience, what I call the system gone to seed. I put up my own post on this just recently, my own thoughts on the whole concept of trashing the entire institutional church system. I also used the old/new wineskin reference, and am loving the chiropractic connections. Now of course, I’m getting Unleader and the sequel Atlas Factor. So very glad to find an author who has expressed all this so much better than I can!!

  2. Yes. Leadership model practiced by mainstream church is mostly secular and unscriptural. Especially, the top-down, CEO, director this and that, hero celebrity worship, can’t touch the anointed- type of leadership. The WHOLE counsel of scripture suggest that Leadership should indeed make or break ministries. In scripture, YHVH did blame the priests, elders and shepherds of Israel for being responsible for the peoples’ transgressions, violation of HIS commandments and lawlessness. And YHVH did definitely fault the leaders for the ultimate destruction and dispersion of Israel. The prophets were mainly sent to the kings, the princes and to the shepherds when the people went astray. Yeshua said, anyone who want to be chief, and first, need be servant and last. HE did not trivialize leadership. Shaul, the apostle warned shepherds with tears to be careful of the flock entrusted to them, watch out for wolves; and gave guidelines for and expected behavior of church leadership. Shaul took the burden of overseeing the well-being, the responsibility and the outcome of all churches very seriously; labored in fathering and in presenting them as virgin brides before Yeshua. Sounds like Shaul thought leadership to be of utmost importance. Jezebel was a leader of one of 7 churches, and was chastened for her wicked teachings and that her children (congregants) will be killed in the great tribulation. It sounds like Yeshua highlighted leadership and its influence can make or break a church. Leadership should absolutely make or break ministries. If church leadership saw it this way, some of the rot in the leadership of the church will lessen. As they will begin to consider that their ill behaviors will totally break their ministry empires. What needs to be restructured is HOW leadership is done; with focus being on the flock of Yeshua’s pasture.

  3. Lots of good food for thought here. I love the idea of going back to the root of the way Jesus intended things to be in the church. The challenge, however, in realigning our church leadership models with the Bible is that we have to then be equally radical with other new testament teachings on the church, such as the prohibition against women in teaching positions. Are the many feminists in the church willing to do that?

    1. Yes, Jesus was always complaining about women in ministry. Where are all these feminists in the evangelical church who are controlling things? Oh I get it, when in doubt in the evangelical church blame the women.

  4. Dear Julie, I have been a pastor for 34 years and have seen EVERYTHING Lance talked about in this interview. When I heard him speak at Restore I thought it was one of the most important talks I have heard because IT IS THE SYSTEM STUPID, but unfortunately it is going to be a hard message for the church to act on. The question about whether it is easier to remodel an existing church, or start with a new fresh slate was a good one. I believe if the church is small, “undenominational” and has the right composition it can be saved, but any large church where the leadership roles are entrenched, buildings are large, programs are the focus and the people have been conditioned to these things, it would be impossible. Saying that we know things with God can be possible, but outside of God moving it would be impossible. 7 years ago I transitioned out of professional paid ministry. I teach public school and start home gatherings. I love ministering freely as Paul did, and I will never go back. Starting home gatherings has challenges as well because if the people have come from an organized church setting their wounds and expectations have to be dealt with, but it sure is easier than trying to unmega a church. ;o). Redefining the word pastor to fit what we see in scripture is key, and the next word that needs to be reexamined is the word CHURCH, (thanks alot King James) because until the true understanding of the EKKLESIA is brought back, the American “Church” is going to struggle or worse, implode. Julie, your work is so important, keep going, I am praying for you. This article I wrote parallels Lance’s.

  5. I’ve been advocating this for years and it has stunted the laity instead of taking on their burden, they let the Pastor do it. Hebrews 5:11-14 Paul discusses milkfed and maturity in Christ. The pastoral system as now used is not biblical, obviously Jesus can make it work despite our efforts to the contrary. But consider the State of the Church, is this not Ezekiel digging into the walls of our temples?

  6. A former pastor of mine was fond of saying, “as the leader goes so goes the church.” I had no idea this philosophy had much more to do with Peter Drucker than Jesus. Thanks for opening my eyes!

  7. I listened yesterday and the atlas/axis metaphor was just so spot on. I thought about it all night. Listening again and taking notes. Praying that sheep by sheep and flock by flock, Jesus followers will lean into the Word as it relates to the community of believers and decide to walk the way He calls. Thanks for this podcast. It’s a great voice in the desert.

  8. If one were to review the history of reformations, restorations, revivals, renewals, whatever you want to call them, it would become clear they have all failed miserably, eventually. THE Reformation has split the Roman church into thousands of denominational offshoots. My own cynical exercise involves counting the number of one-congregation denominations, so-called non-denominational. If you are part of a “Protestant” church, you are part of the problem. My own denomination where I was ordained a “minister”, the Stone-Campbell Restoration Movement had high ideals. It, too, quickly split into multiple factions, it’s also partly responsible for spawning Mormonism. The kind of re-imagining required to get us out of this quagmire seems to be out of reach for most people. We can’t just dust off and repackage old Protestant ideas and methods and hope to come out better. Been there, done that. Each one of us who names Jesus as Lord must recommit ourselves to a deeper love of Him and a deeper understanding of what HE thinks it means to be a disciple. And then start living it. Enough with deconstruction that turns believers into wounded doubters and cynics. Been there, done that, too. I don’t want to go the route of Frank Schaeffer.

  9. Interesting talk with many good points. I noticed that both speakers said “Biblical” a great deal, as if it were perfectly clear what one thing is “Biblical” in every situation.

    Every kind of church polity says that it is “Biblical”: elder-rule, one-pastor rule, congregational, episcopal … each one supports its position using the Bible. Ms. Roys, as I recall, has been in a variety of churches, and surely she considered each to be “Bibilical” at the time.

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