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What to do you when your life gets hard? Where do you turn? What’s your immediate reaction when pain, suffering, or challenge comes your way? Think honestly about what your answers to those questions might be. Everyone’s answers are likely to be different, especially if you’re approaching suffering, pain, or grief from the worldview of a Christian or not. If you’re listening right now and don’t personally identify as a believer, please don’t stop listening. Today’s episode might just be for you. My guest this week is Daniel Grothe, the teaching pastor at the influential New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO, and the author of Chasing Wisdom: The Lifelong Pursuit of Living Well. Daniel’s book draws upon his 10-year apprenticeship with Eugene Peterson, who translated The Message translation of the Bible. Daniel and his wife Lisa live on a small hobby farm outside of Colorado Springs with their three children, Lillian, Wilson, and Wakely. You’re going to love my chat with Daniel. This episode will go down as one of my top favorites, so jump right in and join me as Daniel shares about his life and the early challenges he went through early in his career at New Life Church.
Daniel is originally from Tulsa Oklahoma, the son of two pastors, he grew up in church and has traveled the world as a musician recording on albums with bands like Gungor.
He was in church all the time, and Daniel knew early on he was meant to work in the church too. Shortly after college, he married Lisa, and 12 days later they drove to Colorado Springs to start work at New Life Church.
Daniels parents never made him feel that church was the “family business” that he had to be a part of. They invited their children into their lives, teaching them their interests and bringing them along on adventures.
Many pastor’s kids resent the church because they sense that their parents were disinterested in their lives or that God is ripping their parents away from them. Daniel’s parents did do that and Daniel encourages parents to consider whether they may be giving their kids a reason to stay away from Jesus and the church.
Daniel has been with New Life Church for 15 years, but the road hasn’t always been easy there. The church was prospering when Daniel and Lisa arrived. The senior pastor was the president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and New Life was essentially the talking head for the evangelical church.
Two years after Daniel’s journey at New Life Church began, the bottom fell out. The senior pastor of the church was caught in a scandal, and the church went from riding high to scandal and also discovering the church was $26 million in debt as the US economy was tanking. The church had to fire 44 people overnight and had to look for a new pastor.
As things finally started to turn for the better and the staff started trusting a new pastor, the church was attacked on a Sunday morning by a gunman firing an assault rifle through the children’s area of the church. Two teenagers were killed in the parking lot of the church and the shooter committed suicide.
Daniel was only 25, and he and his wife had just had their first child. On his day off, Daniel went shopping in a local Goodwill, and found a book on the shelf called “The Contemplative Pastor” by Eugene H. Peterson. Daniel recognized Eugene as the person who translated The Message translation of the Bible.
Daniel read the book in one day. It grabbed his imagination and Daniel decided to write to Eugene to ask if he could spend a day with him. Eugene responded! He told Daniel that he’d be willing to spend a day with him…after Daniel writes a three-page paper on “what is church and a three page paper on what is pastor to see if we even have enough common ground to begin a conversation.
Eugene put Daniel through the gauntlet in response to the papers Daniel wrote as requested. At the end of that letter response, Eugene said, “If you think we have enough common ground after these letters, then I’d be happy to have you. I just don’t want to be a touristy visit.”
That started a 10-year long back and forth with Eugene and Daniel. Eugene challenged Daniel, made him read and write, asked questions, listened, and pastored. Daniel told Eugene in one of his last visits that Eugene changed his life with three words: Not so fast. Eugene knew what he was building in Daniel by making Daniel work for it and fight for it.
Eugene was not famous until well after completing The Message translation. He faithfully served the same congregation of 300 people for 30 years. As soon as he translates a bible, celebrities started calling. Had that happened when Eugene was younger, it would have crushed him, but the Lord knew that after decades of obscurity, he could trust Eugene with becoming available to the world.
The people we stand to learn the most from are the ones that will never make it on the front page of a newspaper. Daniel describes them as Saints who have been tested in the fields of obscurity.
Daniel’s book, Chasing Wisdom: The Lifelong Pursuit of Living Well draws upon his 10-year apprenticeship with Eugene and Daniel’s journey as a pastor.
Daniel wants people to know that there are wise sages and elders (like Eugene was for him) who can help you think through an appropriate response to life. They are hidden in plain sight. They won’t chase you down, but if you look for them, they’ll help put you on the right track.
Daniel and his wife Lisa recognize that their children are the greatest gift that God has given them and that they will return those gifts they will release to the world after 18 years.
As parents, we are to protect our children, but our jobs are also to invite them into the way life works with all its complexities, to shepherd them and help them develop nuance and abilities to think through life logically. Daniel tells his kids stories and then ask them what they would do in that scenario.
If we can’t manage our own families, what business do we have trying to manage God’s house? We need to start at home and do our best there first.
Daniel shares his recommendations of a favorite books with “wisdom from the old libraries,” his unusual talents, his pet peeves, and what his walk up song would be. I ask Daniel the question I ask all my guests, “What does it mean to you to run a business with purpose?” Be sure to stay tuned for his answer, it will be encouraging to you, no matter where you are in your business or chasing after your purpose.
10:10 – “That’s one of the great things that parents can make sure they’re thinking about: Are you giving your kids a reason to stiff-arm Jesus or the church?”
19:23 – “We think that if any kind of trouble washes ashore in our life, that this Jesus thing is a scam or our faith is weak…but a theology of suffering matters.”
28:14 – “I jokingly say that it only took Eugene (Peterson) 65 years to be an overnight success.”
28:51 – “When I look at Eugene, to me, he’s a provocation for living slowly and faithfully and letting God do what he wants to do over the course of decades.”
34:00 – “The Saints in obscurity who have been tested in the fields of obscurity and their lives have stood the test of time: Those are the people you should chase. Those are the people you should apprenticeship yourself to because they’re not looking for the wrong things. They’ve got all the unholy ambition out of them and if you’ll come close and ask good questions, if you’ll dignify them and honor them, and then just wait to listen, they’ll give you wisdom that it took them 87 years to gain. So ask!
39:18- “My job is to invite him into how life works and shepherd him along the way…so recognizing that these are our greatest gifts and our greatest gift to the world and trying our best not to give our ‘leftovers’ to our most important people.
About Daniel Grothe:
Daniel Grothe is the Teaching Pastor at the influential New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Daniel and his wife, Lisa, live on a small hobby farm outside of Colorado Springs with their three children: Lillian, Wilson, and Wakley. To learn more, visitDanielGrothe.com and connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Grothe is also the author of the book Chasing Wisdom: The Lifelong Pursuit of Living Well[Thomas Nelson, April 2020]. Drawing upon scripture and his own 10-year apprenticeship with Eugene Peterson, Grothe has been featured in Christian Post,Christian News Journal and Crosswalk showing us how to get wisdom for ourselves by examining what the Bible has to say about it and by providing practical steps for acquiring it, including learning to ask for help, living quietly, and above all, seeking those who are themselves wise.
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