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EP 231 – Listening to the Field will Lead you to the Future

Replant Bootcamp
Replant Bootcamp
EP 231 - Listening to the Field will Lead you to the Future

In the latest episode of Replant Bootcamp, we will address a significant change – the departure of co-host Bob Bickford. Bob is doing great work with Three One Three but will no longer be the official co-host of the Bootcamp. Learn more about what Bob Bickford is up to at Three One Three by clicking here.

We do hope to talk Bob Bickford into coming back on periodically as a guest host.

We are joined in this episode by another Bob, Bob Bumgarner, a good friend and mentor, to share insights on shaping the replant bootcamp moving forward.

Listening to the Field Will Lead You to the Future – Bob Bumgarner introduces a valuable principle: “If you listen to the field, it will lead you to the future.” This concept originated in his experiences consulting and coaching churches, realizing that coaching, rather than consulting, proved more effective. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the field’s needs and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide the process.

Cultural Exegesis and Community Engagement – Bob Bumgarner delves into the significance of cultural exegesis, drawing parallels between understanding a community and the principles of foreign mission trips. He discusses the relevance of studying a community’s values, fears, and needs, emphasizing the role of pastors as cultural exegetes. The conversation highlights Acts 6, 17 and other biblical examples as models for engaging with culture.

  • Bob Bumgarner offers practical steps for exegeting your community
    • pray with humility
    • observe without judgment
    • ask questions,
    • join God in what He is already doing in the community

“You can’t exegete your community from your desk”

SUGGEST A GUEST – We would love to encourage you to participate in shaping the podcast’s future.  Visit the Replant Bootcamp website and suggest guests or topics. Whether sharing personal experiences or recommending someone with valuable insights, the goal is to foster a community of learners.

Bob Bumgarner offers practical steps – pray with humility, observe without judgment, ask questions, and join God in what He is already doing in the community.

JimBo Stewart: Here we are back at it again, back at the bootcamp. I hope you’re ready for the next episode. you may have noticed that in the last few episodes we have been missing our beloved, beautiful butterfly kisses, singing Bob Bickford. Bob is doing some pretty great things with 313. we will have a link to their website and some things you ought to see in the show notes.

313. You’ve heard about it on, podcast before, just an awesome organization that helps churches utilize their unused space for community, greater community engagement, but also as a funding source for the church. they come in and do some really great things with, shared office space or coffee shops or things like that.

We have a whole episode on that. We’ll link in the show notes as well. We brought on the founder, Brennan, and Bob is, got a lot of great things going on there and he will not be continuing as a co host on the podcast. Although I do hope to twist his [00:01:00] arm into coming back as a guest periodically and, bring him back on just to share what he’s doing, what he’s learning, while he is out there.

And so we will trudge along. Bravely without our beloved Bob Bickford. And, so for today to be a a balm salve on, on my wound, I’ve got another Bob, Bob Bumgarner, who’s been a guest on here before, good friend and mentor, to talk about some concepts of what will shape the replant bootcamp moving forward.

Bob Bumgarner: It’s my pleasure to be here. always honored to be in the company of greatness, even if it’s the shadow greatness of Dr. Bickford. So it’s awesome to be here.

JimBo Stewart: I’m glad to have you, man. you know, lately most of our meetings have been, breakfast or brunch meetings. And so I’ve decided, one day I’m just going to write a book called Breakfast with Bob and It’ll be all the things that you’ve taught me over, over the years. And

Bob Bumgarner: It’d be a whole new spin on the breakfast [00:02:00] club. So there you go.

JimBo Stewart: one of the things that I’ve learned having breakfast with Bob is in, in denominational work, a phrase that I pulled from you is, if you listen to the field, it will lead you to the future. talk to us about like, where did that come from? Is that an original Bumgarnerism, or are we pulling that from somebody else?

Bob Bumgarner: far as I know, it’s original, uh, with me. In 1997, I went to, which, gosh, that sounds like really a long time ago, but, near the year 2000, I joined the Florida Baptist Convention and, started consulting and coaching churches, and if I’m brutally honest, when I, when they invited me to come on the staff, I thought, man, they must think I have exactly what the churches in Florida need to turn around and become These health centers and but anyway, what I found as I put on a consultative hat and started engaging Small churches medium sized churches large churches what I found is there was a kind of like a foreign [00:03:00] tissue rejection They’d have been inoculated To a consulting kind of model and so, as I listened to them and as I as I tried to figure out how to Find the opening.

What I discovered was that coaching, not consulting, worked. And so you may know the difference. Consulting is when an expert assesses something and comes in with a briefcase and says, hey, let’s do this. But coaching is where you start by asking questions and listening to them, letting the Holy Spirit kind of unpack.

And so when somebody asked me shortly after that, they said, why did you move from consulting to coaching? Because it was working so well. I said, well, that’s what the field wanted. And I said, what do you mean what the field one? I said, if you listen to the field, it will lead you to the future.

And so that’s where it started. That was about 2004. and one of the things I would say that I think is helpful. Or at least it was for me. It seems like when God does something like that in me, it’s not usually something I researched. It’s not a paper I’ve written. Though I’ve done those things.

It’s like, it’s something that becomes just so [00:04:00] obvious you can’t miss it. If you’re, if you’re listening. And that’s why the listening to the future, culture. Or listening to the field. Listening to the future is where it came from.

JimBo Stewart: Well, I love that idea of, especially in, denominational work, but even, even not just in denominational work. But, I’ve heard you talk about it being connected to even the idea of like exegeting the culture. And I think about we we’ve talked about this before on the podcast when I’ve had Josh Dreyer on talking about demographics.

And, he was talking about a church and you you would know the church if I said it to you. Bob, that he was, I think an interim at the point and he did some demographics for them and they wanted to do like, you know, a free garage sale and give clothes away or a food, you know, give food away to the people in the community.

But what they hadn’t paid attention to is their community had changed so much in the last, you know, 20 years since they started going to that church or 30 years or whatever, that it’s now a [00:05:00] very fluent community and, they don’t need a, they’re not, they’re not going to be pulling in anybody from the community.

If they’re doing a closed drive or they’re doing, you know, you know, there’s, they could, they could pull close from those communities and go places,

Bob Bumgarner: And resource somewhere else. Yeah. Yeah.

JimBo Stewart: but meeting, meeting those types of needs in that community, was, was tone deaf. It’s, they hadn’t been listening to the field and understanding what it is that’s going on.

and so talk to us about That connection of the idea of listening to the field. So you and I are both in network denominational work. A lot of the listeners of this podcast are pastors in smaller normative size churches in need of replanting or revitalization. how would this principle apply to their work?

Bob Bumgarner: Sure. Well, the first place I ever heard about cultural exegesis was somebody said they quoted Karl Barth and said, you have, if you’re going to be a pastor, you have to have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, and you have to [00:06:00] figure out how to bring those two things together. That’s, that’s a metaphor for cultural exegesis if I’ve ever seen it.

So what you’re doing is you’re studying. the culture that you’re trying to serve. You’re looking for what do they love? What do they fear? What do they value? and what’s interesting about it is, and this is the kind of the conundrum for me. If we take a foreign mission trip, even if it’s a week long, we study the culture of Brazil or, you know, Uruguay or wherever we Nicaragua, wherever we’re going, but we’ve lived here so long that it’s not, there’s an arrogance to us that we think that we don’t, uh, I love your phrase, tone deaf.

We’re tone deaf to where we live and so we don’t listen to that. And so cultural exegetes are simply students of the culture and really you’re being a student of at least. Two groups is what I found. Your stakeholders, that’s the people in your church. What are they willing to do? What do they have gifting to do?

And then the people you’re trying to reach, which is the actual, [00:07:00] you know, lost field. You know, what is it that is the, the, the gap, if you will. And so as you, I even see this in scripture. I mean, even if you, you know that Acts chapter six is my verses one through seven is kind of my go to church, health kind of metaphor, but if you listen to it, let’s just, I don’t have it in front of me, but just in your mind’s eye, go to that passage and just, so what does it say?

It says the number of the disciples were increasing. And so it’s working. But then there arose a complaint among the Hellenists that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. And so somewhere between verse 1 and verse 2, somebody exegeted the culture. They figured out what’s the fear, what is not happening here.

And then if you read verses two through six, that’s a complete cultural response. In other words, internally they changed who preached, and when they preached, and who set up tables, and, and, um, who, and then they actually, the solution was actually a Greek solution. [00:08:00] All those names you read in there, those are Greek folks.

And so, then if you look at verse seven, it, you see that the gospel continued in three different expressions. And so, in other words, I think you see cultural exegesis. in the text of scripture as well. And so, I do think that’s a helpful, I think it’s missiologically correct to be able to take a look at, to take a look at it that way.

JimBo Stewart: I think, yeah, one of the things I’ve always thought about in exegetic culture, scripturally is Acts 17. you know, the different approaches that we see from Paul in Acts 17, we see, you know, Paul Thessalonica and they take one kind of approach. And then we see them in Rhea and they take a very different approach.

And then we see them in Athens and we see, you know, a different approach and then they’re at Areopagus, Mars Hill. And, you know, it’s an entirely different approach. And, and then, you know, you, if you keep going 18, then there he’s in Corinth. And, the message stays the same, it doesn’t [00:09:00] change, but the way that Paul, deals with or addresses the community, it’s obvious he knows and understands things about where he’s at.

I also think about like. you know, Henry Blackaby, I think is fresh on everybody’s brains right now in the recent passing. And, and just that idea that he, you know, brought to us of, you know, see where God’s kind of already at work and join him in that. And that was when I got to redemption to be a part of replanting that, that was one of my first initiatives was, was just like feet on the ground, walk around.

And just talk to people and figure out what God is up to and what he’s doing with all of that. and so I think it’s, I think it’s key and it’s such an important part of this. One of the reasons, I wanted to talk about this topic for this episode is. as we, you know, announce, address that Bigford will no longer be a co host of the [00:10:00] episode, and as a result of that, I, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of, what does the bootcamp look like moving forward without Bob Bigford in, One of the things I have come to the realization of is I want to use this podcast as a way to listen to the field and learn, uh, you know, I, I was blessed to be a part of, as, as a lead pastor role, replanting what is now Redemption Church, Pastor, Pastor Jared Reed is there now, and he’s doing a great job, but it’s been a few years since I’ve been in that role and I’ve been largely in a denominational role. With First Coast Churches and with NAMM. And, one of the things I want to make sure is moving forward that this podcast stays true to its original roots of, boots on the ground, you know, listening to, what’s going on.

And man, when, when Bickford and I started this, we were both leading replants

Bob Bumgarner: Sure.

JimBo Stewart: [00:11:00] and then I stepped away first so that I can focus just full time on Nam and then he stepped away. And, I want to make sure that the stuff we’re talking about on this podcast stays fresh and relevant and helpful to those that are listening.

Bob Bumgarner: Yeah. you know, there’s actually, Kind of a, not a metaphor, but a parallel to this when I, uh, this would have been in the early 2000s. I had the opportunity to go to, the Air Force Academy and not as, not as a soldier, but as just as somebody learning their educational model, really their discipleship model of how they took a, like a, a plebe who was a civilian and took him all the way to where he would lead men into battle.

And one of the things I got to talk to, I cannot think of the position as called, but it’s a presidential appointment. It’s the person who’s actually over the educational, process of the, of the cadets. And, and so one of the things he talked about was, who gets to be in front of the cadets and teach them in the various years.

And what he said is, is that for instance, in the mathematics department, [00:12:00] in any department, A classroom teacher can never be more than five years removed from The, battlefield, the field, like, and so, because they want soldiers teaching math, not mathematicians teaching soldiers, and so if you’re a mathematician, you might be a department director, but if you’re going to interface with the people that are actually flying the planes and doing all this stuff, then you’re going to be somebody who’s really good at geometry, but you really know the battlefield.

And so I think that’s a, I think there’s a real lesson in that. And, and one of the things that I want to say to both you and Bob is, you know, every movement changes, every movement morphs. And so, you know, I, I applaud you both for understanding the wisdom, and, you know, staying close, as close to the field as is, is humanly possible, but that doesn’t take away any of the, any of the comments, any of the information and content that’s gone on in the last several hundred, episodes for sure.

JimBo Stewart: No, it’s been such a blast to have. Bickford on here and,[00:13:00] knowing that, I have to move forward without him is not, exciting or fun. And, I mean, over the last, I think it’s been over four years, we’ve been doing this podcast together and, at this point getting close to five years that we’ve been doing this podcast and, it’s been.

So interesting to see all the things that we’ve discussed and all the guests that we’ve been able to have on. And so moving forward, one of the things I want to focus on is, is having guests on, listening to that field and, making sure that we are hearing fresh from the battlefield, boots on the ground experiences from replanters, revitalizers, network leaders, and subject matter experts that might not be boots on the ground, but they’re, they could be department heads at the


Bob Bumgarner: yeah, sure. Sure.

JimBo Stewart: and so one of the things is we’re gonna be putting check the website, replant, and we’re gonna be putting some avenues for you to make some suggestions of who we should [00:14:00] talk to.

Bob Bumgarner: Oh, that’s a great idea.

JimBo Stewart: So there’ll be, a, a link at the bot at the top of the page, replant, where you can suggest a guest.

and you can suggest yourself or you can suggest, uh, and here’s, here’s what I’d say. I, you know, and, and Bumgarner, you know, this. I am not afraid to try to network my way into somebody that you think I can’t get on this podcast.

Bob Bumgarner: Yes.

JimBo Stewart: and, so if there’s some book that you’ve read and you think, man, I would love to hear that guy’s perspective on this topic.

I’ll do my best to track them down and get them on the podcast and, and ask what questions they have. if you’ve got things that you are learning as you are out there, revitalizing, replanting or network leaders, man, I, I want to talk to AMSs and state convention guys and other network guys are out there.

Cause you guys are boots on the ground out there, helping as well. and you’re learning a lot as you’re on the field. And so, suggest a guest it’s it’s not [00:15:00] arrogant to suggest yourself if you have something to talk about, I would love to hear from you.

Bob Bumgarner: Yeah. You know, one of the things that I, that I like about what you’re talking about is so you want the replant bootcamp to be this for the people that are watching it, but the people that are watching it, they can exegete their culture as well. I mean, in other words, they, they can listen to the field, to get to the future.

So that they can, so that they can be a guest so that they can come on and help other folks. And there are some basic things that I think happen when you are exegeting the culture. Like this is just kind of a, I don’t want to call it a template, but it’s a couple of steps. I think the first thing you do is pray.

and, you pray with humility, you know, not the kind of prayer that is, You know, um, kind of telling God what you’re going to do, but just pray, ask God what you need to see and then move in and out of the go into the community and watch, watch what you see. Don’t think, and don’t think you understand everything you see.

Just watch what makes some observations and, and try to make [00:16:00] observations without judgment. You know, we’re in such a Twitter world right this minute that, you know, if there’s something that we don’t agree with, we’re quick to cancel it or judge it. And I’m not saying ultimately, That you won’t do that, but what I am saying is, observe what’s happening in culture, and try to suspend judgment, because remember, Christ was above culture, Christ was in culture, and there’s Christ against culture, and so, you know, so we, so anyway.

Observe without judgment, and then ask questions. One of the things I think you can’t do, you can’t exegete culture from your desk. you can exegete it from a ball game, or from a, you know, coffee shop, or, whatever, playing frisbee golf with whoever that’s in the, you know, you can’t, uh, take notes, and then, and then what I would just say is, when you’re exegeting it, merge wisely.

You know, I’d never said that I never consulted again My starting point was coaching the way that I [00:17:00] ascertained what was needed by somebody in the field was through coaching. But there are times that a measured assessment that you come in and you’re an expert in the assessment, just like your, revitalizers assessment, you know, there’s, there’s some value to a consultative.

Approach. and so merge them wisely. Combine them wisely. I think what you’re looking for every time you exegete culture is you’re looking for complaints. You know, you’re listening to what people complain about your kind of the pain points. When what are the challenges and the Holy Spirit is going to help you see that those are opportunities.

You know, if you want to, if you want to hack on exegeting a community, go to any principle of an elementary school or a middle school. and buy them coffee and sit with them for 40 minutes and just listen to them. you will have, cause everything that’s happening in that community is happening in that school.

and so those are kind of, things that I, I think [00:18:00] could be helpful from your perspective as you ask who you need to bring on, but also from the local, you know, replanter or plant, you know, revitalizer perspective, to try to listen to the field. Oh

JimBo Stewart: I love that. Pray with humility. watch, see what you see. observe without judgment and ask questions. I love the phrase you can’t exegete from your desk. I was thinking the Observe Without Judgment, the elementary school next to Redemption was one of the areas where I helped exegete the culture of redemption and spent a lot of time there and, and built rapport and relationships.

And at one point they asked me and my associate pastor at the time, Chris Litton, to go over and meet with this, these four young boys that had gotten into a fight. And in that fight, they had picked up bricks and thrown them at a kid’s head. and fortunately they didn’t have great aim and miss the kid.[00:19:00]

but you know, it could have been a pretty serious situation. And so they wanted us to, as men, cause almost everybody that worked at that school at the time was female. and they said, we just need some men to come talk to these boys. And so we came over and we sat with them and it was, you know.

We were observing what’s going on. And it was so interesting because, we were talking to them and asking questions and, as we’re asking questions, we learned, Chris asked, he goes, what would your mom and dad think? And they said, they’d be proud. They would have told me to take the brick and throw it at them.

And what it taught us was, they weren’t just violent boys, that there was something else going on. There was, there was something deeper to the issue. And if we would have just reprimanded them and told them to behave better, it wouldn’t even computed with their own culture. And, uh, and so we were like, we, okay, as we listen to this field, we’ve got to engage with mom and dad.

And what we ended up being able to do [00:20:00] is the school, has a funded position called, student parent, uh, school parent liaison. And, so we were able to put, Chris Litton into that role of parent liaison. And so he now became on behalf of the school board, someone who would go talk to those kids, parents and say, Hey, what’s, what’s going on here.

and that opened a lot of doors for us, but if we wouldn’t have observed without judgment and we didn’t ask questions, we wouldn’t have known that. And we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have that conversation if we hadn’t already been engaging with our community.

Bob Bumgarner: Yeah, so that’s such a beautiful example of how, the Holy Spirit uncovers things. Like in other words, even if Chris Linton would have been willing to be a parent liaison, you don’t know to ask for that. Like, I mean, you like, and so there’s so many things we can do. There’s some, but, but it’s, it’s not usually on our agenda.

That’s part of the issue here. is churches have models of what they want to do for their community. [00:21:00] But what they need to do is join their community. We, I, I did a lot of work with church planters in the Northeast and one, a common story that I heard from church planters in the Northeast, especially in the Boston area and Boston has is a big city, but it has all these little sub communities.

And, The church planters went up there and they said, you know, we’re gonna create community here at our church But the only planters that did it well were those who said no, we’re not creating community. We’re joining your community Tell us how we can make your community better and those had an exponentially longer life Than those who thought they were gonna create community and get the Bostonians to join their community And so that’s exactly the illustration you just gave.

That’s beautiful.

JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So, all right, guys, uh, go to the website, replantbootcamp. com and look at the top and you’ll find you a button, where you can suggest a guest or a topic, for us to talk about as we listen to the field and it leads us to the future, but also beyond the [00:22:00] podcast. as you look at your community that God has placed you in as a missionary, look at it with missionary eyes.

And pray with humility and ask God to show you what he’s up to and see what you observe without judgment, ask good questions and, join God in what he’s already doing in the community where he’s called you to serve.

Bob Bumgarner: Awesome

bickford, Bob Bickford, bob bumgarner, Exegeting your community, First Coast Churches, listen, listening, Missional, missionary

Jimbo Stewart

Replant Bootcamp Co-Host

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