What's in this session?

  • The Come-Up (02:40)
  • The Story (06:50)
  • The Blueprint (28:20)
  • The Preaching (37:55)
  • Technique #1 (46:15)
  • Technique #2 (50:20)
  • Technique #3 (52:45)
  • TOP 5 (1:01:10)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Brady Shearer: Well, hey there and welcome to the Pro Church Tools Show, the show that helps your church navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m Brady Shearer, joined to my right, your left, as always, it’s Alex Mills.

Alex Mills: Hello, hello.

Brady Shearer: You can subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts, Apple podcasts, Spotify, or watch the video version on You Tube at YouTube.com/prochurchtools. Make sure you subscribe and hit the like button. If this format of show is something that you like, if you subscribe, if you hit the like button, if you comment, that actually signals to the algorithm to show more church leaders this type of content.

So if it’s helpful for you, make sure that you hit those buttons so that it can also be helpful to other people beyond just you.

Alex Mills: So good.

Brady Shearer: And in this episode we are breaking down the blueprint for both preaching and ministry of one Mike Todd, the elite pastor of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

This is the second episode we’ve done following this framework where we breakdown the communication devices and stylistic choices of influential pastors of churches.

We did a previous one on Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church. So if you like this format, make sure to go back and watch or listen that episode and we got a lot of feedback on that episode from Pro Church nation saying, “Do more episodes like this one.” And I think the most popular request that we got for a leader was of Mike Todd.

Alex Mills: Yes, we asked the people who watched that video, “Hey, if you want us to do more of these, let us know who you want us to do.” Tons of great suggestions. We have a list of all the suggestions.

Like you said, one name kind of stood out, and it’s Mike Todd which I find amazing because this time last year we may not have even known who Mike Todd was. If you don’t have Instagram and you’re hearing this today, you still might not know who Mike Todd is. I’m just getting familiar with Mike Todd and the work that he’s doing, and his family and his church is doing, at Transformation Church like you said, in Oklahoma.

Mike’s story is incredible. Mike, I don’t know Mike but Mike seems incredible. So I’m really excited to chat about Mike and kind of learn about, yeah, how he got to where he is and what kind of work he’s engaged with at Transformation Church.

Brady Shearer: One of the coolest parts about these episodes for me is doing the prep work because I stumble across so much that I don’t know.

And when all you’re doing is observing someone from Instagram, from YouTube, you can really only learn so much about that person. You start to do a deep dive and you get more of a full picture of who they are and where they came from. It’s fascinating. That’s what this episode is for.

I want to first lay out the things that I knew about Mike Todd before I dove into this episode. The observations I was making from afar, and then we’ll kind of fill in the gaps.

So Pastor Mike Todd, married to Natalie Todd, lead pastors of Transformation Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. They were entrusted with those leadership roles in February of 2015, and they were given to them from the founding pastor of that church, Bishop Gary McIntosh. He was the lead pastor of Transformation Church for about 15 years prior to this. Natalie and Mike, married since 2010. They’ve got three kids.

Here’s what’s interesting. Mike Todd, as of this moment, as of this recording, not verified on Instagram which is notable because the guy has about a million followers on Instagram.

In fact, even though I follow him I will go into Instagram, into the search bar, type in Mike Todd.

Alex Mills: Wait. What is this about?

Brady Shearer: And Instagram doesn’t even bring him up.

Alex Mills: He’s like the sixth result if you type in the right thing.

Brady Shearer: I follow him on Instagram, like they should know. Oh, is he searching for the Mike Todd that he follows, or some other Mike Todd that he does not follow? It’s fascinating.

Alex Mills: But like his Instagram growth has been so drastic and so fast it’s almost like Instagram hasn’t had a chance to keep up.

Brady Shearer: Right. Like, who’s Mike Todd? We don’t know. This seems like a bot, because who gets this many followers this fast? But that’s what’s happened with Mike on Instagram.

Let’s talk about the come up, September 1, 2017, Mike Todd. @iammiketodd, not verified as of this recording on Instagram. 4,533 followers on September 1, 2017. For comparison, on September 1, 2017, I had 7,419 followers. Fast forward to three months later from December 1 to December 3, 2017. Mike goes from 4,533 followers to 94,000. Fast forward to now, and we’re about to eclipse a million followers.

So observing that from far away is something that I’m looking at in preparation for this episode. And I’m asking myself, “What happened here?”

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: How could this type of overnight burst occur? What were the driving factors? I have the answer. You will learn it in the episode it is absolutely fascinating.

Other things I observed about Mike Todd from afar, the dude has a shoe game like no other.

Alex Mills: It’s something else.

Brady Shearer: For me. As a sneaker-head myself, with many, many pairs of shoes, to see the shoes that he has on his feet while preaching, to see the shoes that he has going into church as warmup shoes before he puts on the real shoes.

Alex Mills: I know.

Brady Shearer: It’s discouraging.

Alex Mills: And he’s so unashamed about it too. We’ve talked about the Instagram account, PreachersNSneakers before. Where they basically out preachers for wearing expensive sneakers. Mike just unashamedly wears the most outrageous shoes. He’s like, “Yeah, these are my preaching shoes. I took off these other shoes that were my warmup shoes, and I’m probably going to put on some cool down shoes. Like what’s it to you?”

Brady Shearer: And interestingly, in one of the interviews that I heard from him, prior to the existence of PreachersNSneakers, he talked about the way that he dresses and his style, and his shoes. And he’s like, “I don’t know what to tell you, I can’t afford any of these shoes. I make no money, these were all gifts.”

Which has become kind of like a cliché statement, “This was a gift, because of PreachersNSneakers.” But this statement was made prior to that account even existing.

Alex Mills: Which is hilarious because you and I both have a friend who got a really nice pair of sneakers as a gift, and he’s a pastor, and we’ve joked with him like, “You can’t wear those on stage, because you’re going to get ousted, and you’re going to say, ‘These were a gift.’ And nobody is going to believe you.” But, we literally know they were a gift.

Brady Shearer: Mike Todd is also an outstanding drummer, incredibly skilled.

Alex Mills: Did you see the video of him-

Brady Shearer: Oh I saw the video.

Alex Mills: He’s on stage with like Rich, Chad, Judah, Carl, and they’re at some youth conference, I think it was the Elevation Youth Conference, and they’re like, “So Mike we hear you’re a drummer.” And he’s like, “Why don’t you start drumming right now.”

Brady Shearer: Do it, do it.

Alex Mills: The whole crowd goes wild, and he goes on the drums and he doesn’t just play them. He goes … And, he kind of leans into it a little bit, he starts off … And then he goes completely off. Like I was surprised.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, amazing. Those were the things that I knew about Mike Todd. Let’s fill in the gaps. Talk about his story. How did this overnight come up take place? A lot of this information comes from an interview Mike did with Rich Wilkerson Jr., make sure we link that episode in the description for this show.

So, if you want to watch the full version, make sure to click over to that. It is available in both podcast and video form.

So Mike met his wife Natalie when he was 15 and she was 14. Mike is professionally trained as a music producer. Which speaks to his outstanding drumming ability.

Prior to him ever entering into ministry, he’s producing for HBO, for Universal, he’s traveling around the world. Him and his wife were thinking about moving to Los Angeles when his parents come to Mike and say, “You can’t leave because we, your parents at the age of 50, are planting a church.”

Now, his parents at this time are traveling preachers as their vocation. So they can only do Sunday night services. And Mike basically says to them, “This is a bad idea. You are old. Too old to start a church. You’re already full-time in ministry. So to start a Sunday night service, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.”

The way Mike describes it, he says, “The only way he would have ever gotten into ministry is for God to at first use his parents to then kind of coerce him into helping them out. ‘We have this new Sunday night thing, we need someone to run sound. It’s struggling. What are you, not going to help us son?” Son decides to help out.

A little bit later, mom comes back to Mike and says, “God has spoken to me.”

Alex Mills: Classic mom.

Brady Shearer: Classic Pentecostal Charismatic mom. “The Lord has spoken to me and you are supposed to do something with the youth. The Lord has also spoken to me the name of said youth ministry.”

Alex Mills: So bad.

Brady Shearer: So Fly. Which is an acronym for Sold Out Free Life Youth. Now, I am not certain about this, because I have not seen it written, I’ve only heard it spoken. I am convinced Sold Out is not spelled S-O-L-D.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: It is spelled S-O-U-L-‘D.

Alex Mills: And even worse than that, you know what their mascot was?

Brady Shearer: What was it Alex?

Alex Mills: A literal fly. Like so fly.

Brady Shearer: Because so fly.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: And up to this point, Mike’s only job ever, had been producing music.

Alex Mills: It’s true.

Brady Shearer: Did you know that?

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Like he’s only ever been a producer and now a pastor. Like that’s it. … So at this point Mike Todd has never preached before. He’s helping his parents out with this Sunday night music.

Alex Mills: He’s inheriting a youth group with a terrible name.

Brady Shearer: I mean at that point, he’s inheriting a name, there really isn’t much youth group to speak of at all. But, he’s also running Sunday Morning Sound for another church that is connected to his parents in some way, when he’s not traveling because music production is brings you all around the country. When he’s at home on Sunday mornings, he’s helping out with both churches, Sunday morning, Sunday evening.

So the way Mike Todd describes it is, he’s going in to run this youth ministry and he’s about to preach for the first time. He said, “This is what God told me.” He’s never preached, never studied, no professional training. God said these four things, “Be real, tell on yourself. Love them first and don’t judge them.” Those were the four mandates that God gives to Mike Todd when you’re preaching, don’t worry about all of being perfect and the excellent framework of a message, just do these four things and you’ll be fine.

Fast forward six months, this youth group has 150 people coming, compared to the church, which still only has 15 adults. And the way that Mike Todd articulates this, he says, “My parents were faithful over what God called them to. Even though it was an incubator for something much bigger.” Which I think is fascinating, what a fascinating description.

At the same time, like I said, Todd’s helping on Sunday morning at this other church. That church is called Greenville Christian Center. By the way, I want to make sure I mention the name of the Sunday night church, which was, Spirit and Truth Praise and Worship Center.

Alex Mills: … It’s like Transformation Church is probably a little bit better.

Brady Shearer: I would say so. Todd also may mention of the logo, which he said would never see the light of day.

So, he’s running sound on Sunday mornings, he’s helping out with the youth in the evening, and he’s got no budget, no leadership. Fast forward a bit more, and now he’s got 500 people in the youth group. So he suggests to these two churches, “What if we merge together because both of you are kind of doing your own thing, but I think we’d be a lot stronger if we come together.” At first these churches were a little bit resistant, but over time they start to see what I think Mike was seeing and they decide to come together.

Now, you’ve got this one church, and Todd is doing all of the morning churchy church things, and then in the evening he’s got the crazy youth thing. And at this point he gets elevated to the executive pastor position at the age of 26. Again, no experience, no professional training, and so what does he do? He starts going to every single conference that he can, learning things, picking up things on the fly, because I think he asked his pastor like, “What does an executive pastor do?”

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: And the lead pastor was like, “I don’t know, but I think that you need to do that.” Then, his lead pastor tragically suffers a heart attack. Now, his pastor survives, but there is a recovery period of about eight months. Well executive pastor, you are now about to be the only public communicator, you’re going to do Sunday morning to the uptight church folk, you’re going to preach Sunday night to, in Todd’s words, “the horny teenagers.”

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: Wednesday night for the crowd that wants to go deeper, the ones that want the real deep truth that you can’t do as much of on Sundays, and then Saturdays the more professional executive training for the internship. So now, in four very different contexts, with no experience, and no training, Mike Todd is the one that’s preaching to all of these things, and he says, “it’s like look, I didn’t go to seminary, I went to seminary in this way, they just threw me in the deep end. And I had to figure it out as I went.”

Pastor recovers, he’s feeling better, he’s ready to start preaching again. At this time, Mike Todd is like, “Look at all that we’ve done. I helped my parents, we developed this vibrant youth ministry, I help them out. I helped out this Sunday morning church, we merged these two ministries and we’ve now got significant momentum, and we’re ready to move forward, and I’m not going to go get my money. I’m going to go back into the music production world, I’m going to move to LA, which was my plan before all of this happened. And I’m ready to make that leap.”

Spoiler alert! That’s not what happened. The senior leadership comes to Todd and they’re like, “We don’t have any real vision for the next season.” And Todd’s like, “Okay, well I mean I can help you find it.” They’re like, “No, you have the vision.” He’s like, “What? No, I’m going to go be a music producer.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, “Like my vision is to produce music.”

Brady Shearer: “I’m going to get paid and I can help fund ministries through my flashy music producers salary, but this isn’t for me.” They’re like, “No, no, no, Mike you are the one that’s going to take over for me in a few years. And this is the plan that gets set in motion after Mike and Natalie like seek God and are like, “Okay, maybe this is the right thing for us.”

This is what’s really fascinating about this entire transitionary period. Bishop Gary McIntosh is a white pastor in his 60s that came to a neighborhood in Tulsa that had some very significant racial tensions dating all the way back to 1921, and I was reading some articles that were written by the journalists and newspapers within Tulsa. They were like not so happy about this white pastor coming into this black neighborhood to start this church because obviously the optics of that are not necessarily great. But, Bishop Gary McIntosh felt called and so he does that.

And now what you have is in 2015, and older white leader in his 60s, a boomer, handing the church to a millennial black pastor who is in his mid-20s, this is something that is almost unprecedented.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: For that to happen, just on its own, a boomer pastor in the midst of considerable growth handing over the reigns to a mid-20s lead pastor.

Alex Mills: With no formal training.

Brady Shearer: No formal training whatsoever. Then you add in the racial difference, like the white man handing it to the black man, and that is also something that almost never happens because as much as our churches strive to be multi-generational and multi-ethnic, rarely are we able to accomplish one of those things, much less both in a neighborhood that had significant racial tensions for decades.

So we’re talking about serious miraculous work at hand here. At this point it’s 2015, now remember what we said about the growth earlier with Mike Todd. It happened in 2017, so there is this two year period where Mike Todd takes over with his wife Natalie, they are the now lead pastors of this church. And the regular person of the rest of the world, we don’t hear anything-

Alex Mills: Yeah, just Pastor Mike Todd of Tulsa, Oklahoma with 4,000 followers on Instagram, just like the rest of us.

Brady Shearer: And then in like 2016/2017 they’ve been doing their thing this whole time. The word that God gives to Mike Todd is we’re going into 2017, the word is stride. Which basically just means, you need to stay at the pace that you’re at do less so I, God, can do more.

Alex Mills: Which is hilarious because when God spoke that word to him, Mike was like, “I’m not sure I even really know what that means, we had to look it up, get the definition for stride and then apply it to his context.” He’s like, “I don’t even know what God is trying to say.” But he said, “Yeah, just lean into the pace that you’re at, start saying ‘no’ to some things and let me show off and do the work here.”

Brady Shearer: In all of 2017, Mike had four speaking engagements, not because he was trying to make sure he’s staying at home with his kids and his family. Nobody wanted him. Four speaking engagement requests in all of 2017. In his words, “The first five months of 2018, 650 requests. But, he had this word from God, stride, take things slower, you do less I, God, will do more.”

And he says at this point, he’s like, “I was not making any money.” Like I have a lead pastor’s salary of like a regular church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m not stunting on anyone at this point. These speaking engagements because of my Instagram growth, they’re big money.

Alex Mills: Big money, and he’s saying, “no”, to them.

Brady Shearer: He’s saying no, because this is the word that God gave me. And then we see this radical crazy growth, almost within a single quarter of the year. We’re talking 5,000 Instagram followers to 100,000 and the same thing is happening in his church. More and more people are coming and what’s amazing is it’s not just young black people. As Mike describes it, it’s older white people. It’s younger white people, it’s people from all different ethnicities and backgrounds, and generation, and it’s highly unusual. But, he’s just still doing what he’s been doing this entire time, staying true to himself.

So I’m watching this interview and I’m fascinated, and I’m waiting for the part where he’s like, “And the thing that we did, that brought all of this massive growth was X.”

And people were asking him this at the same time as well, people were like, “Mike, who was the marketing person that you hired?”

Alex Mills: Yes, “What was your social strategy?”

Brady Shearer: “What was the change that you’ve made?” And, what’s fascinating is, you know Mike’s like, “I was just doing the thing I’d been doing this whole time.” So, I started going back to his Instagram, way before this massive growth took place, and it takes a while because you got to scroll down and then get a circle and then scroll down a bit more.

I went down to one of his videos that he’s preaching at, newly appointed lead pastor, 2015/2016. The Instagram video has 436 views, which for Instagram video views is not that much at all.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Like I have 20,000 followers on Insta, and we’ll get 10X that on average, no problem. You can have 972 followers, not out of the ordinary for a church, and get 476 views and zero comments.

And there’s Mike Todd, on stage, in a black leather jacket, hair, the fade as dope as it can be. As crispy as possible, Jordan XI on his feet. Preaching in the exact same attitude, demeanor, and countenance that you see on stage from him today, but the audience isn’t there, yet.

Now before we get into a little bit of what happened. I wanted to talk about some of the things that stood out to me as I’m listening to this story. Because this whole time I’m trying to fill in the gaps, there isn’t some story that Mike has written that explains everything. There are interviews, he drops pieces of it here and there, and that Rich Wilkerson interview was the best one I found that goes through things pretty sequentially. But there are things I was noticing, that I thought were important, that I wanted to make note of.

So his parents come to him and say, “We want to start this church.” And one of the first things that he recounts saying to them is like, “Look, you’re traveling preachers, you could only preach Sunday nights, that’s going to be too much travel. Strategically, just from a logistical standpoint, this does not seem wise.”

He makes a little bit of fun about the name, Spirit and Truth Praise and Worship Center, and he’s like, “You should’ve seen the logo, but I’m not going to show it to you.”

He thinks his parents in their 50s are too old. It’s too late in the game. Again, strategically, logistically, this isn’t the type of thing that would generally work. When he’s talking about merging the two churches, Sunday morning one, and the Charismatic Sunday night one. He’s looking at his parents church, they’re doing the Sunday night services, they are three hours in length, we’ve all been to these types of services if you grew Pentecostal Charismatic. He says, “They need some structure. This cannot grow with this current format, it’s too long for the average person. It’s not at the right time, it needs to be in the morning.”

He is the one that spearheads the church merger, in his early 20s he’s looking at these two different organizations led by people that are 50 plus, that have been doing ministry for decades. He’s the one that spearheads that merger, with no budget in his youth group. He teaches young people how to give, raises up 12 leaders through internships to form a leadership committee. The guy has no budget, he’s teaching the hardest age group how to give, how to be a generous people, and that’s where the budget comes from.

He implements sermon series that his church has never done before. His formula in his words, “I was relying on the Holy Spirit and ripping everyone else off.” Because he’s not professionally trained. So he’s looking down the street, “Well it looks like they’re doing sermons here, maybe that’s something that we can implement.”

He said, “I could never be a pastor, I don’t like people that much.” That stood out to me because I have thought that about myself so many times. Mike Todd had in his mind what a pastor was meant to be, he saw it in his parents. “This is what a pastor is supposed to be, I’m just not that into … I can’t spend all day with people. I can’t be a pastor because this is my view of what a pastor is and I don’t identify myself as that.”

And then, he has that preaching blueprint, “Be real, tell on yourself, love them first, don’t judge them.” All of these things stood out to me, because what do we know about Mike? We know that he’s professionally trained as a music producer in a highly competitive space, music. And we know that that has very little to do with the church world in the way that it’s run.

So, he’s coming into the ministry world with very different types of training, with a very different background and experience. And he’s taking all of that strategic understanding and he’s applying it to the church world. And this is unique for most pastors because most pastors are trained in exposition, they’re trained in public communication, maybe they’re trained in work with individuals when it comes to like counseling or relationships, that type of thing. But when it comes to leading an organization and the strategic components that come along with that, and the need for structure and vision, and forecasting, evaluation. Most pastors don’t have that type of training.

I went to Bible college, I have my degree, we didn’t get any of that. And so Mike is coming at it from a very different perspective and I think that’s what gave him the ability to … see all of the massive growth that he’s seen. Because it’s fascinating, his preaching blueprint is incredibly basic, just “Be real, tell on yourself, love them first, don’t judge them.” He had almost nothing when it came to the exposition, when it came to the theological understanding, when it came all of the things that we were trained in the Bible college. He had all the other things, and it’s a fascinating, just difference and well now look what happened.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and he used the perfect analogy, because he says, “Hey, if you look at my Instagram growth or our church growth as Transformation Church.” You would probably assume, without knowing any better that this just happened over night. But, he used the analogy of a plane taking off. He’s like, “Planes don’t take off with this much runways, it requires a lot of runway to get something like that up and off the ground and for it to take flight.”

And he said, “The same thing is true here. This didn’t happen over night, we’ve been at this stuff for a long time. And we’ve used a lot of runway here.” And like you said Brady, pointing out this kind of pragmatic approach to implementing systems and structures that are very important when it comes to leading a big group of people that often get overlooked in church spaces. Implementing this pragmatic approach to system and structures on that runway to set yourself up for success when it does take off, because now when you have hundreds, then thousands, and then tens of thousands of people belonging to some movement. You have to have those things in place first to be able to lead people well, to be able to learn how to lead a group of interns so that when you have a big influx of staff, you know how to lead that group well.

And so they’ve been doing the work, Mike Todd’s been doing the work for a long time. Now, we’re all privy to the fruit of it. But, I mean this investigative research that we did over the last week or so has been really helpful to learn about the actually work, the blood, the sweat, and the tears often that goes in to building a faith community that can grow in size, and measure in influence in a local community, and then in Mike’s case, as well online. Because the growth that they’ve seen on their YouTube channel, on their Instagram page as just been out of this world.

He said that he was watching his page grow by the 10,000s overnight. Like he would walk up the next morning and see 10,000 more people. They were having 100s of YouTube views that went to hundreds of thousands of YouTube views in a week. They would post their sermons and by the next Saturday, would have hundreds of thousands of views. And that growth is due to the work that they put in. Mostly in systems and structures to help get that plane off the runway to use the analogy that he used.

Brady Shearer: I love that analogy because if you are sitting in a seat on a plane and you’re on the runway, you never know when you’re about the takeoff.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: All you know is that you’re on the runway and you can’t see how far ahead you have left. You don’t know how much longer you’re going to be ramping up before you take off, and I don’t know if you’ve had this experience, I’ve been in planes before and I’m like, “We’ve been going without getting off the ground for a long time.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, “Are we going to make it?”

Brady Shearer: I always think that. Like, “Are we just going to fall off the edge of the cliff before we get in the air?” That’s the same thing with your ministry, with church and recognizing that it’s like that Bible verse that Pastor Steven preached on the episode we did on Furtick’s exposition of how he preaches. He’s talking about Ecclesiastes, he’s like, “Your job is to plant the seeds. And as the person that’s sowing the seeds, you don’t really know which ones are going to take to the ground and how the wind is going to blow and what’s going to happen. All your job is to do, is to plant the seeds and then God’s going to be the one that actually brings everything together.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, and something that I appreciate about Mike Todd and you hear in this interview that we’re going to link in the description so you can watch for yourselves. In a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that I’ve been exposed to of him, he’s always one to bring it back to like, “Yeah, we’re just relying on God here.”

And so it’s almost like he was in the passenger seat as well, like not in the pilot’s seat, but in the passenger seat and just doing the work and on that runway, and not knowing when it was going to liftoff. Because to expand the analogy a little bit, it’s like well God’s in the pilot seat, so we’re going to take off whenever we do, but I’m going to keep my seatbelt on in the meantime.

And that’s something like a thread that’s just woven through all this stuff we’ve heard Mike talk about, it’s like “Yeah, we did the work but we were just depending on God here. Like depending on the Holy Spirit.” He’s like, “I don’t know how to preach, I don’t know how to do this stuff. But, I know I’ve been called. I got that word from my parents and I got that personal word. So I’m just going to go for it in faith.” And we’re seeing the fruit of it now.

Brady Shearer: So lets about the blueprint of what happened here. There are five main takeaways that I think I’ve observed from the Mike Todd story, and we’re going to get into how he preaches in a moment, which has some fascinating insights.

But the blueprint of this story, five things that we can all take and implement or at least just reestablish in our own ministries.

Firstly, the quote that Mike Todd says, “I can’t be a pastor, I’m not as into people as I need to be for that.” And maybe we’ve all said that about ourselves in its own way. “I can’t be a pastor, I’m not … insert traditional expectation here.” Or I can’t lead the social media at my church, I’m not … I can’t do the creative work at my work, I’m not creative enough.

We had these ideas of what a person in specific ministry roles should look like. Have ideas of the skills that we would need as prerequisites to be that type of person. And then, we say these almost self-fulfilling prophecies about ourselves. “Oh, I could never be that, I’m not XYZ.”

And I think that we need to have more people in ministry roles, lead pastors, creatives within the church, youth pastors, children’s pastors, worship leaders, digital pastors, that don’t fit the mold of what the expectation is. There is a large group of people that is quite obvious, evidenced by the massive growth that Mike Todd and Transformation Church has seen.

There’s a large group of people that resonates with the way that he presents the gospel and lives out his faith in Christ, and there were not that many people before him that look like him.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: That’s unusual, it wasn’t as popular. And so seeing someone whose young and a person of color, a black man, living in the south, who’s living this way. Like that is not the traditional view or the traditional look that we’ve come to associate with “Evangelical Christianity” or “Pentecostal Christianity” or “Charismatic Christianity”. We need more people that look different than everyone else looks.

And that’s important because when you stay true to yourself and you don’t try to be other people, you get the opportunity to reach a people group that maybe was not previously reached.

Alex Mills: Yeah, and that takes like personal responsibility for you when you look at a certain position or opportunity and say like, “Well, I don’t look like that, I don’t talk like that. I don’t think that way, so I can’t do this.” It takes self-awareness from you and a measure of faith to be able to jump out and go for it, even when you don’t think you don’t fit the bill. But, it ties perfectly into the next part of the blueprint, is it takes older people often older leaders to see something in a younger person to see something almost prophetically in something … See something in somebody that maybe doesn’t quite exist yet. Call that out of them, and then pave the way for them to step into that opportunity.

So in Mike’s case, it was that Bishop in Tulsa who was like, who was leading a growing community, and who had the foresight to say, “I’m going to hand this over to you now, and you don’t look like me, you don’t talk like me, you don’t sound like me, you don’t-

Brady Shearer: You’re 26, or 24.

Alex Mills: “We don’t do the things the same way I do, but I’m going to take a step of faith towards you in my position so that you can take a step of faith towards this and I can pave that path for you to watch you grow.”

So there’s a responsibility on both parties here. People who don’t think that they can do something, and older leaders who need to prophetically look into younger folk and call that out in them, like almost mine something out in them that maybe nobody knows exists yet.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, and from an outsider’s perspective, we see Mike Todd with this massive influence, what we don’t see is Bishop Gary McIntosh who had served as the leader of that church for 15 years prior, and his parents, who served at this church that I had trouble even finding online when I googled the name of it. But, it’s his parents and his senior leadership that were the ones that paved the way for decades and they never saw this massive level of influence, they never saw this level of growth, but to use that perfect term that Mike did. They understood or at least acknowledged the potential that their ministries were being used as incubators for what was to come.

And not to make this about me, but I remember my mom said this to me dozens of times growing up, for the first 25 years of my life, she was like, “When I was younger, I always thought that I was going to do crazy amazing things, and I had all these goals and visions for myself and then my health was never what I wanted it to be.” My mom has since passed away.

“My health was never what I wanted it to be, and things took place, mistakes I made.” And she’s like, “But then, I see you. And I start to think, ‘Wow, if I can give you the confidence that you need and I could put you in the positions to succeed, maybe this has all been a set up sort of thing for what you can do.'” And heck hearing that as a teenager, like “Oh my God, that’s a bit of a burden mom [inaudible 00:33:29]”.

But there is this truth that you can only take care of what you’re entrusted with, and as strategic as Mike Todd is, was, and will continue to be. There’s an element, there’s this dichotomy of you need to do as much as you can with what you have but recognize that God’s working behind the scenes, and you can never truly know what’s about to come and maybe you’ll spend your whole life like Mike Todd’s parents. Doing the right thing and doing the best you can with what you have, and you’ll never see a certain type of growth and then you’ll be Mike Todd, his parents will force you into something and you’ll reluctantly take the reins, but you’ll do the best you can with what you have. And you’ll be taken down a different path.

And to be a dad here, it reminds me of Frozen II, Alex, my daughter has seen it thrice in the first week of its release. Every movie has that moment where all hope is lost. Where it feels like our protagonist, they’re in a difficult position, how are they going to pull themselves out of this?

And there’s this song that Anna, sister of Queen Elsa sings at the end. And the song is called, Do The Next Right Thing. And it’s in her darkest moment where everything seems lost, and she has the choice, I can abandon all hope and just throw in the towel, or I can just take the next step and just do the next right thing in front of me.

And, in ministry, in leading Pro Church Tools, in our marriages, in our relationships, and our friendships, that really is the mandate that we have. With all the information that you have right now, with your understanding as best as you can, you need to make the next right decision and do the next right thing that’s in front of you right now. Because as much as we want to, we can’t see the full picture, and as much as we want to forecast for the next 3, 5, 10 years, and we need to make decisions with long-term thinking, and again it’s this weird dichotomy, it’s this paradox that we need to do everything we can with what we have and keep making the next right decision, understanding that we’ll never truly know how things are working together, and we’ll never know when on December 3, 2017 will have 93,000 followers. When three months prior we were getting 436 views and no comments on any single video.

And sometimes, the growth is going to look like this stagnant line, and then a hockey stick, that L straight up. Sometimes it’ll look like just constant growth, bit by bit for months, and months, and months and never have this massive increase, but all you can do is do the next right thing.

Alex Mills: Yeah, there’s a spiritual element of truth to all of that, right? Like the prayers we pray, like give us this day, our daily bread. Like Jesus in Matthew 6, like don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow’s got its own worries, here we are today, the scripture says, “His mercies are new every morning.” It’s about that daily reset of yeah, we can have goals and forecasts and all that, but we can’t get there if we don’t live through tomorrow first.

So although taking that next right step, it just resonates with me so much, the parables about the seed and the sower, and the harvest, and the reaping, it’s like some of us plant seeds, and some of us water seeds, and some of us get to harvest seeds, but we don’t know … At least I found this in my own life, you don’t often get to see the harvest of the things that you plant. And that means that you get to harvest things that other people have planted. So there’s a lot of tension in that. But if we just open our hearts to that and see that to be true in our own lives first, but then also in the life of our communities, and the life of our leaders that we’re raising up. It’s like, “Yeah, maybe I’m planting things that somebody else is going to harvest.” And that’s okay, because I’m harvesting things that somebody else has planted for me.

And the scripture says, “That the Lord brings the harvest of it all.” So it’s like relying on God’s timing and leaning into what we’ve been entrusted with for today is, I think, the key to it all.

Brady Shearer: And the inverse of that, is that when we don’t play our part we jeopardize what could be happening in decades to come. When we don’t do the next right thing and instead we’re trying to focus on something that it’s not our responsibility, it’s not our privilege, it’s not our season. We try to focus on something that someone else is going to be needing to do in another eight months or eight years. We actually can jeopardize the entire trajectory of what’s to come.

And so that’s why we need to be mindful, we need to be pragmatic and strategic and think about all the information that we have, what is the next right decision I can make.

Let’s talk about Mike Todd’s preaching style. Fascinatingly, he gets asked, “In all that you communicate, you seem to resonate, Mike, with people in a unique way, what is it?” And Mike says, “In everything I communicate with preaching, social, with my leadership team, we cast vision, I have a single individual in mind.”

And this is a business practice that you’re taught, if you do any type of business training, the customer avatar, the target audience-

Alex Mills: Hypothetical person.

Brady Shearer: The person you’re trying to meet. Trying to reach. So Mike Todd has a name for this individual, his name is Stormy. And in Mike Todd’s words, “Stormy is these following things. He’s culturally relevant. He’s a 28 year old dad, not married. He’s obsessed with convenience, he wants a crew in his community. He desires part of what is cool in culture, what’s to live in the moment, what’s happening right now, what’s in. He’s looking for peace, and he’s concerned about his image.”

So when Mike Todd crafts a message, when Mike Todd considers how he wants to dress, when Mike Todd makes decisions for his church, he’s always thinking about this single individual. He’s thinking about Stormy. Will this decision enable us, empower us to reach Stormy better or will it distance us from him. And keeping that in mind, he has this true north, this do north target in his mind, and he’s doing everything he can to reach that person.

And frankly, it’s sometimes difficult to talk about this. I was thinking about this on the drive over. Like, if you are a person that cares about image, and we know with the rise of digital culture, we are now more image obsessed as a culture than perhaps ever before.

If you are someone who cares deeply about image, and you’re listening to someone speak from stage, or speak online that in your mind does not care about image. You will not validate that individual’s message as much as you would someone that you resonate with and looks like you aspire to be.

And we all do this, and we do this to varying degrees. So, the level to which I, or Mike Todd does it, you might find uncomfortable. But, you have showers in the morning too, and you try to look your best when you leave the house. You try to look at least presentable, if you’re going to preach from stage, you’re not going to do it in stained sweat pants. Maybe you might not do it in a suit, maybe you’re going to do it in jeans. But, we all have a certain level of image consideration. And it’s all to varying degrees. And the problem is we look at other people and how they manage their image whether good or bad, and then we either credit them or denigrate them based on how it matches our standard.

And, I don’t think we should do that, because it’s very lacking in self-awareness and silly, and does not look good on all of us. But, when it comes to reaching a certain people group, you do need to look a certain way. And the key is, to be yourself and not try to be someone else, and this works in both directions.

So if you’re Mike Todd and you grow up in a certain culture that means that you’ve been wearing a certain … you’ve been wearing Jordan’s since you were a kid. And, you’ve been going to the barber shops since you were a kid, and you always want to look fresh. Are you supposed to then aspire to look like your white senior leadership because that’s what a pastor is supposed to look like?

Inversely, if you look up to these young, cool, hip pastors that come from a culture that this is truly who they are, and then you think, “I need to dress a certain way to be cool like them.” You’re being equally untrue to yourself.

And so, one, we need to stop judging everybody else, because it’s stupid. And then secondly, we need to be true to ourselves. Don’t try to be someone else, if you are young and you dress a certain way, don’t feel like you need to dress yourself up to reach a certain group because you’re not being true to yourself. And then that works in the other way as well.

Mike says how he dresses, how he communicates, his entire countenance keep Stormy in mind. Sorry, I cut you off.

Alex Mills: No it’s okay, and what this doesn’t mean is that anyone who doesn’t look like his hyper targeted audience. Anyone who’s not a single dad of 28 gets missed. That’s not what it means at all, because Mike uses the analogy of a tennis ball that’s soaked in wet paint.

So if I were to soak a tennis ball in wet paint and throw it at the target, even if I hit the target on the bullseye. Anything like peripherally to that the flight of that ball would’ve gotten splattered with wet paint. And that’s the imagery that Mike uses. Like, yeah, we have this target audience of this hypothetical character of Stormy, but that doesn’t mean that our whole community is 28 year old single men.

People get splattered in the trajectory and our community is diverse because of it. We’ve talked about it before, you can’t be everything to everybody and so in Mike’s case, and at Transformation Church, they know who they want to serve, they’re trying to serve them. And in the wake of that other people are getting served as well. Their community is diverse, it’s multi-ethnic, it’s huge, so it’s working. So to have that image in mind is really helpful and kind of gives you permission to have a hyper targeted audience knowing that you’re not really excluding people, but you’re not trying to be everything to all people.

Brady Shearer: Imagine that tennis ball soaked in paint, to get the splatter effect you have to throw it with a certain velocity at your hyper target. If that pitch, if that throw isn’t hyper targeted, and isn’t thrown at a high velocity where you’re aggressively going after that single spot on the wall, the splatter never takes place.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: If you roll the ball on the ground, because you’re like, “Look, we’re not trying to-

Alex Mills: Is it going to be safe?

Brady Shearer: We want to reach every people, is the gospel not for everyone?

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: If you roll it one the ground and just touches the wall, not only do you not hit the single target and then you don’t get the splatter effect, you literally don’t hit anything. Like nothing gets hit, that paint doesn’t stick on the wall where the ball rolls to where it gently hits, and it definitely doesn’t splatter beyond that.

And this is so true, it’s one of the things that churches miss and it’s a critical error because if you don’t have an individual in mind that you want to reach, unfortunately the inevitable side effect, generally in most cases, is that you end up not reaching anyone.

And how do I know that Mike Todd has had this individual in mind and he’s been true to himself for all of these years? Before he became a household Christian pastor name?

Because I went back and I watched those old videos, and what is he doing? He’s preaching, he’s got these one minute, he’s doing the same type of preaching effects and techniques and we’ll get into in just a moment. And he’s taking a Drake song and he’s ripped out the lyrics, and he’s using the instrumental. And it’s amazing to see because I know that Mike did that himself. He did not have someone on staff … He’s published the Instagram video, it’s 16×9.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It’s not 4×5 like it should be, and it’s not taking up as much real estate. And at the first three seconds, it’s just a Transformation Church logo, or it’s the series artwork logo, which is not the best practice. Show your face Mike, that’s what I want to see, not your artwork.

But what is he doing? He’s doing the thing that he’s always done. He knows that his target audience will hear that song and immediately think, why is Madiba Riddim from More Life 2017, Drake’s best album in my opinion. Why is that playing underneath a pastor? And now that they’re listening, they have a chance to hear the message.

Another thing that Mike Todd does, is he knows who he’s trying to reach, he knows that other people will not resonate with him. So what does he do? Transformation church has this amazing thing, it’s called, The Not Your Cup of Tea card. Think of it like a connection card. It’s the opposite of a connection card. On it, there are 15 other churches in Tulsa and it basically says, “We like our music loud, and we are pretty unashamedly crazy.”

Alex Mills: “These shoes are very expensive. If that offends you-

Brady Shearer: And bright.

Alex Mills: Yes. There’s 15 other churches, address, he’ll post on social, he’ll tag other pastors, post their pictures, and be like, “Hey, if we’re not for you, these people might be. So you should go and visit them.” This is amazing, the anti-connection card. The de-connect card. The disconnect card. Got it. I found it.

Brady Shearer: Wow. That’s a great job.

Three individual preaching techniques that we want to highlight from Mike Todd. The first is what I call, The Hold Me Back. … This is Mike Todd preaching at VOUS Conference, and we want to play a small clip, take a listen.

Mike Todd: And so what I need you to do is go back to the place where they don’t know who you are yet. And I need you to serve that like you’re the king now. I’m going to step on everybody’s toes even in the balcony. Because the problem is, many of us has a burden and a passion from God and we know we’re marked by God, but we’re ready for everybody to see it now.

But, I’m trying to tell you, that you cannot develop the character that God wants you to have in front of everybody, it’s his grace that many times puts you in the shadows so that you can develop what you need to be able to sustain where you are.

Rich, they mad at me. Because they thought that they were going to come to VOUS Conference and hear go out and do it tomorrow, but what God is saying is, “Will you give me the space to do the thing in you that nothing else can do in you?”

Brady Shearer: So in hip hop music, you have often what’s called ad libs, you have a hype man, which is basically you’re rapping, you’re putting down your verse and your flow. And someone in the background, sometimes you, Migos definitely made this … they put their mark on it in a unique way.

You know you’re saying things in between the moment. Dah, dah, dah woo, dah, dah, dah Ay, dah, dah, dah yeah, yeah. It’s lit, yeah, Oh my God.

Not you can’t really do that on stage, or can you? We’re looking for non-traditional people, I’m looking for a pastor to implement this.

Alex Mills: Yeah, I can’t fill volunteer positions at my church for kitchen staff, but I’ve got hype men lining up at the door to come and join me on stage while I’m preaching.

Brady Shearer: “Welcome Playvo and Takeoff joining us on stage today.”

Alex Mills: Or just have one of those little iPad triggers where I trigger my own.

Brady Shearer: Oh nice, and you’re like, “And that’s what the Lord Jesus did on the cross, off set. He off set the sins of you and he took it upon himself.”

Alex Mills: And this is how long our Daniel fast is going to be, 21, 21, 21, 21. … We’re onto something here. We need to cut this and keep this for ourselves, and not publish it on the internet yet.

Brady Shearer: Oh that’s the strategy that we need to work on internally before sharing it with the world. It’s not ready yet.

Alex Mills: Our next product.

Brady Shearer: So Mike is almost doing this himself and he’s staying true to himself, he’s staying true to his culture. There are certain things that Mike Todd does from stage, that you should not.

Alex Mills: Right.

Brady Shearer: Because you are not from this culture, it would not be cool if you did these things. And so, he’ll preach something, and it’s a bit of a hard word. He’s like, “Rich, they don’t like it, they don’t want to hear this today.” And it’s a fascinating dynamic within the preaching because it’s like he’ll make a statement and then he’ll almost like preach back at himself, make another statement, preach back at himself. It’s like in the NBA, this is where I got the name the, Hold Me Back.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: In the NBA on the bench, this happens in a lot of sports, this is especially true in the NBA because of the cultural framework. So someone does something crazy-

Alex Mills: There’s a big ol’ nasty dunk.

Brady Shearer: They dunk on your face. Your face has been dunked on. And what’ll happen is you’ll have people on the bench, and they’re like outstretching their arms like, “Don’t run on the court. Hold me back.” Because that’s another thing in black culture, where it’s like you look at something funny and then you all just run off in opposite directions, it’s amazing.

And you can’t do that on the NBA bench, because if you enter the court, you get suspended. So everyone is like hold me back. People are falling over and it’s just a way to hype up.

Alex Mills: It’s like a ploy, no one’s actually trying to run on the court.

Brady Shearer: But, that’s true and so he’s taking that and it manifests itself in different ways. You see something funny in your phone, you all run in opposite directions. On the NBA bench, you’re holding each other back, you’re falling over. On stage, it’s just you, it’s one person with the spotlight, you got to do it to yourself. I love it, you love to see it.

Technique number two: the tell on yourself. For someone who has reached such a level of influence, 1 million followers on Instagram, his YouTube channel is absolutely callosal. Mike still has a level of almost dangerous transparency, that I respect in a huge way.

Here’s an example, on an IG Story from a couple of weeks ago-

Alex Mills: This one is not safe.

Brady Shearer: It’s amazing, Mike and Natalie, husband and wife leaving a counseling session. Doing what you should be doing, working on your marriage. And-

Alex Mills: Mike doing what he should not be doing-

Brady Shearer: What?

Alex Mills: Broadcasting this exact moment to the internet.

Brady Shearer: Seems like there was some conflict … happening between husband and wife.

Alex Mills: Maybe a wife was upset.

Brady Shearer: And, you’re doing that thing where you’re filming something on your phone and your wife is like, no don’t publish this. We’ve all been there. We’ve all been there.

Alex Mills: Right, but instead of you having like 172 followers on Instagram and being relatively harmless if you post it. He’s pushing a million strangers on the internet, be like, “Honey, please don’t post that to a million people on the internet.” He’s like, “No, I’m going to post it.”

Brady Shearer: At one point, Natalie, I think, no, I know, give him the finger.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: It’s amazing. What does Mike do? Puts the emoji over on top of it.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: Publishes it. It had been up for a dozen plus hours, so it wasn’t one of those things that you publish and take down. And then it was like the next story, and they went to the gym together, his wife is working out, he’s filming her while doing a workout like, “Still mad at me? Still mad at me?” The amount of abandon and in this instance, lack of image management showed a certain level of like again, maybe reckless transparency that I’m here for.

Because you rarely see someone with that level of influence just like look this is real, and maybe I talked to my wife after and obviously he wouldn’t have kept it up for a dozen plus hours after he had posted it his wife would be like, “Please take that down.” Of course, he would’ve taken it down.

Alex Mills: This type of content, this type of transparency is what makes Mike lovable, right? We see our own humanity in what he’s portraying on the internet, which is hard when you see someone who has a million followers, it’s like well we exist in different worlds. It’s like no, we go to counseling too, my wife’s mad at me too. … It opens a door for us to share the same humanity and that’s what makes him lovable online at least for me.

Brady Shearer: Final preaching technique: know yourself and know the people you’re trying to reach. I mentioned that clip of him preaching with the Drake track Underneath, take a listen, take a watch at what that sounds like.

Mike Todd: You’re the church, and God’s asking you to complete the picture. Let your faith and your actions line up so that the picture is full and that people are able to see what God intended for the church to be. I want you to remember because some of you are saying right now, “Well I’m not a perfect person.” Nobody is, in fact, the guy who started it all, who Jesus said I’m going to build my church on you, it was Peter, he was an imperfect guy, he messed up all the time. He was not doing everything right, he even denied Jesus three times when he was on the cross, but when he came back he said, “I see something in you that I can use. And if you would not hide your imperfection, but bring them to me, I’ll use that and I’ll build my church through you.” That’s the same thing I say to you this morning, don’t hide your imperfections, bring them to God, be the reverse church and he will use you to complete the picture. Somebody say, “Complete the picture.”

Brady Shearer: So this is Mike preaching in 2017, he’s on a small stage, like I said, 476 views, zero comments, it’s a 16×9 aspect ratio.

Alex Mills: You should’ve dropped a comment, you did all the work to scroll down there, you should’ve dropped a comment.

Brady Shearer: Oh yeah, that’s totally cool, when you go back four years and you start commenting on people’s posts, that’s not weird at all.

Alex Mills: Should’ve been like, “Hey Mike, just doing some research into your personal life, really thanks for this. Just love the Jordan XI, respect.”

Brady Shearer: It’s funny, those Jordan XI are dropping again this month, they’re coming back. Not my silhouette, the Jordan XI, more of a low top guy, I struggle with those AJ I, I’m just so short, you know, high top shoes make you look even shorter. This could be a video from 2019-

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: The only difference is that it has 400 views instead of 400,000. But, Mike is still doing his thing back then, and he was doing his thing faithfully. The prerequisite, he knew who he was and he knew who he was trying to reach, and he was hyper targeted on that mission, he stayed on it. This is something that we all can improve on. Our churches, our leadership here at Pro Church Tools, who are we trying to reach and let’s stay hyper focused on them and it doesn’t matter if we reach 100, 1000, or 100,000. We know what we’re called to do, and maybe we are the incubator for the next great thing. Maybe we are one day, one year, one decade away from that acceleration of growth, we don’t know those things. We can’t know those things, all we can do is do the next right thing.

And if you don’t have the person in your mind that your church is trying to reach, we did an episode recently about the three major hurdles that churches need to confront if they want to succeed in the next decade, and one of them was knowing your identity, because the audience is shrinking, you can’t just expect to set up shop as a church and have everyone roll in because people done attend church in that way, especially if you want to reach those 40 and under because they’re attending church at rates that are lower than we have ever seen in the prior century. You need to know who you are and you need to know who you’re trying to reach.

Alex Mills: And this is like two sides of the same coin, like this coin of this sense of identity. It’s being aware of who you are and having a strong sense of identity of yourself, but also having a strong sense of identity of the folks you’re trying to reach, and if it doesn’t turn into the growth that Mike has seen, that’s okay. Because Mike was just faithful in who he knew he was, and who God told him to serve. And we all have that opportunity, wherever we’re at, whatever we’re doing.

God has surely spoken something to each one of us to tell us who we are, our personal sense of identity and has given us, entrusted us with an influence over a group of people. Whether it’s 5, 10, 500, 1000, 100,000, it doesn’t matter, but just staying faithful to that task and yeah being that safe incubator for whatever’s next. I mean, Mike is clearly in a season of reaping what he has sown, but also reaping what others have sown, he seems in what’s like a season of harvest. But, there’s other’s of us who are in a season of sowing and may never see that season of harvest, that doesn’t mean that what we have been doing wasn’t right or was wrong. No, as long as I have a clear sense of identity of who got has called me to be, and who he’s called me to serve, then I’m being faithful to what God has called me to do.

Brady Shearer: And let’s not play one against the other and glamorize one and denigrate the other because when you have that level of growth, anything that grows comes with pain.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: Remember when you were a teenager, “I am so tall right now, but I wasn’t always this tall.” Okay, I’m 5’8 now, but when I was 5’2 in grade nine, and my body was like, “We need to get to 5’8.”

Alex Mills: Yeah, go through growing pains.

Brady Shearer: Growing pains, anything that grows comes with pain, and so this massive harvest like, “Wow, look at all this overnight growth.” That certainly came with interpersonal conflict. Do you think that a 60 year old white pastor handing over the church’s leadership role to a 25 year old black pastor with no training, do you think everyone was like, “We’re okay with this.”?

Alex Mills: No, he lost all of his staff in that transition, and that was hard and painful and they had to work through that. So sure, we see the fruit, we don’t quite see the pain, but we can be assured that in any type of growing there are growing pains, those are pains worth enduring, but surely you can’t grow without that sort of pain.

Brady Shearer: Absolutely, want to encourage you to follow Mike Todd, get this man verified, @iammiketodd on Instagram can follow Transformation Church on YouTube and they’ve even started a more vlog type channel, and so we want to encourage you to check that out on YouTube as well. All the links will be in the description, and well be back in just a moment with Top Five. …

I received a message yesterday from one of our Nucleus users, her name is Jenn and it said, “The social is worth it, I was in the same boat unsure of whether to upgrade, but I did. Glad I pulled the trigger.” This is the best part. “Grr, Brady’s right again.”

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: #throughtheroof.

Alex Mills: I saw that this morning, she was angry that we were right and that we helped her.

Brady Shearer: The reference here is, of course, we added Daily, Done-For-You, social media to our nucleus platform. Which is our church website builder and next steps platform, For Churches. And some people had to upgrade to the full nucleus price to get it included and we always say, if you use this content, you’re going to get a huge boost in engagement. And sometimes people are angry that that’s true. I don’t really care as long as it’s true.

Alex Mills: Yes.

Brady Shearer: And we talked earlier about Mike Todd back in the day, he’s posting on social himself because he’s the lead pastor and no one else has that creative acumen and so it’s up to him. Maybe you’re in the same spot, let us take care of it for you with Nucleus Social. It’s Daily, Done-for-you social media, we’ll send you the after effects project files, Photoshop files if you want to get real custom about it. If you can’t do that yourself we can do it for you.

Alex Mills: Do you want to know the best part?

Brady Shearer: I would love to know the best part.

Alex Mills: Okay, so we’ve got a free trial for Nucleus, go to nucleus.church and you can sign up, no credit card, just your name and your email, and with the free trial, you get 30 social posts, it’s what we’re talking about. So you can have them, download them, and you can post them. So you just don’t get to look at them, you can post them and let us know in 30 days how this works for you. You can come back angry if it works, that’s fine. But, just let us know how it works for you because we’re pretty confident it’s going to work for you.

Brady Shearer: Yeah, and we do the free trial, because we don’t want to just sit here and be like, “Our social posts are awesome.”

Alex Mills: No, give it a try.

Brady Shearer: If it works for you and you want to use it more, there are many more. A new one every single day, nucleus.church is the place to sign up for that 30 day free trial. No credit card required, all we need from you is a name, an email, and a password.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: So you can log in and download all of that content, you’ll also get 30 free 4K stock footage files, 30 days free on Nucleus web, and Nucleus sermons. And the cost after that, if you want to keep going, just $99 a month, for all of that. Oh, and there’s so much more good stuff.

Alex Mills: Maybe that’s the best part. The price, maybe the price is the best part.

Brady Shearer: Well, we wanted to make it more accessible to as many churches as possible, and so if you are a smaller church or a startup church, we also have Nucleus Scholarships.

Alex Mills: That’s the best part.

Brady Shearer: Although, you should not really, don’t request one because we sent out an email announcing them to Pro Church nation yesterday and we got how many scholarships in the next hours?

Alex Mills: A lot. It was amazing and we had people crying, like it was happy tears, it was good, it was all good.

Brady Shearer: That’s true, nucleus.church. Now, in this episode we talked about an organization in Transformation Church that knew who it’s target audience was, they knew who they were trying to reach. And they knew that it wasn’t the traditional way that a lot of others churches had done it.

A thriving organization that had gone against the grain and reached millennials in a way that previous churches in the area, organizations couldn’t. And in our top five today, we’re highlighting another organization that did the same thing in an unprecedented success story, and that organization is, La Croix Sparkling Water.

Alex Mills: Can we talk about the name before we get into it?

Brady Shearer: LaCroix rhymes with enjoy.

Alex Mills: So this is an affront on everything that we know, because growing up in Canada, you go to French classes, which you do, and you know that LaCroix is not pronounced LaCroix, and you know that it actually has a meaning because it’s a French word, like “The belief”, like LaCroix is “to believe”, so LaCroix is an American invention, I guess.

Brady Shearer: No, it’s weird because America never does this, America never takes a word that isn’t English and butchers it. It’s not like you can just take words and like, “Let’s remove that vowel because …” Wow, I’m being very condescending towards America, I apologize America.

Alex Mills: What’s so outrageous, so I was exposed to LaCroix from my wife, my Southern wife from South Carolina. She says, “Hey, try this sparkling water, it’s flavored, it’s called LaCroix.” And I’m like, “Wow, that’s not how you say that, but that’s okay.”

Brady Shearer: It’s called LaCroix, but …

Alex Mills: Yeah, and so I just agreed to disagree, until LaCroix the company comes out and says, “LaCroix rhymes with enjoy.” No it doesn’t, you can’t just do that.

Brady Shearer: You done been got.

Alex Mills: But, it is the best flavored sparkling water in our shared opinion.

Brady Shearer: What do we need to know about the organization LaCroix? All flavors of LaCroix gluten free, vegan and kosher. Why? Because it’s water.

Alex Mills: It’s water.

Brady Shearer: There’s no meat, dairy, wheat, or nuts used in the product, or production of the product.

Alex Mills: Sure, it’s still water.

Brady Shearer: It’s not a miracle product, except it is. Free of sugars, free of calories, free of sodium, free of artificial ingredients, it’s non-GMO, because it’s water.

Alex Mills: Sure.

Brady Shearer: LaCroix sparkling water, locally sourced water at various locations throughout the US, using a triple filtration system and bottling its water in-house in its own facilities. All LaCroix flavors derived from the natural essence oils extracted from the named fruit used in each of the LaCroix flavors. No sugars or artificial ingredients contained in or added to these extracted flavors. How? It’s a miracle product.

Alex Mills: Well, you know what’s funny about natural flavors? If you look at LaCroix, the ingredients are like, “water, natural flavors.” Or other health foods, where it’s like, “This and natural flavors.” And you look at it and it’s like, “Oh my God, natural flavors, I feel so good about this.” Until you do just a quick Google search, you’re like, “What is allowed to be called a natural flavor?” And there are a lot of things under that umbrella that are just super not natural.

Brady Shearer: Why are you doing this?

Alex Mills: Sorry, I had to blow the whistle.

Brady Shearer: Don’t do this.

Alex Mills: Unashamedly, I’m a LaCroix drinker, I feel good about drinking it, no sugar, no cals, no unnatural flavors. Derived from essence.

Brady Shearer: Essence.

Alex Mills: Of the named fruit.

Brady Shearer: What about this company? What do we need to know about LaCroix, 1981, the G. Heileman Brewing Company of La Crosse, Wisconsin introduced LaCroix as one of the first anti-Perrier brands.

Alex Mills: In what year?

Brady Shearer: ’81.

Alex Mills: They’ve been kicking since ’81?

Brady Shearer: Meant to appeal to sparkling water consumers who thought that Perrier’s snobbish positioning was a bit off putting.

Alex Mills: It is, Perrier is pretty snobbish.

Brady Shearer: A little too pretentious Perrier. LaCroix marketed to its niche by imagining itself as an all occasion beverage. Now, in 2002 LaCroix sought to rebrand, and they ended up settling on the design that was least favored by management.

This is going to preach so hard. But, it won over target consumers in a landslide-

Alex Mills: Sorry, at target consumers? Or, “Target” consumers? Like the store Target, because that’s where you buy LaCroix?

Brady Shearer: This is my week, just stop, listen. Listen to this amazing story of LaCroix. Against all odds, against Perrier, not “Perrier” by the way. … Okay, I never realized that … America couldn’t take Perrier’s pronunciation so they made a French word and were like, “We’re not going to pronounce it that way.” The whole not snobbish pretentious thing was like, “We’re going to butcher a word.” … Wow, I’m realizing this live. Oh, we’re going to do it live, let’s do it live. Oh my goodness.

So they do this rebrand in 2002, and they go to management and management’s like, “No, no, no the look needs to be clean, it needs to be sophisticated, elegant.” And the LaCroix rebranding team was like, “Well, we did a test with all of our consumers and they more liked the radical psychedelic, just throw colors everywhere. Stop the scroll, in the form of a can.”

Alex Mills: You’re on to something.

Brady Shearer: And so, the LaCroix leadership goes, “Look, we care about reaching this consumer base, we think it looks ugly, but if you say so, let’s go for it.” And the successful execution of the anti-Perrier strategy in all its forms has been a key factor in enabling LaCroix to become one of the top sparkling water brands, in spring of 2015 with sugary soda sales plummeting in a 30 year low in America. LaCroix saw a chance, and opportunity, sliver of a moment to expand their consumer base, what do they do? This is their moment.

Subsequently, launching a marketing campaign for the beverage on social media, specifically targeting who?

Alex Mills: Millennials.

Brady Shearer: Of course. Their marketing efforts have since helped position LaCroix with mainstream news outlets as a healthier alternative to sugary soda. Does my dentist say to stop drinking it 800 times a day? Yes. Will I listen? Never. … Sorry, doctor.

Alex Mills: I don’t get it, how can a sugarless … how can a sugarless carbonated water pose a threat to your dental health? There’s no sugar in it.

Brady Shearer: Enamel.

Alex Mills: What about it?

Brady Shearer: Bubbles. Air, not safe. … Market research suggests LaCroix holds a 30% market share in sparkling water sales in the US, double that of its main competitor, Perrier.

Alex Mills: Amazing.

Brady Shearer: America loves it, they don’t want the pretentious French brand, they want the local mom-and-pop shop.

Alex Mills: And it’s incredible because you’ve seen other brands try and catch up, so Pepsi, a gigantic conglomerate of a company launches Bubly, which sucks. And have you ever had the lime one? Because it tastes like Pepsi, its very strange. So Bubly sucks, Perrier has started putting their pretentious sparkling water in tall slim aluminum cans, getting rid of the glass bottles.

Brady Shearer: Who did that?

Alex Mills: LaCroix.

Brady Shearer: LaCroix. All LaCroix’s matter, 25 total flavors.

Alex Mills: That’s not a fact. All LaCroix’s do not matter. No.

Brady Shearer: Coconut does not matter.

Alex Mills: No.

Brady Shearer: And it is terrible.

Alex Mills: So bad.

Brady Shearer: No one wants it.

Alex Mills: Also, do they have a plain flavor?

Brady Shearer: Yeah, it’s called Pure. Did you know, actually from their website, gluten free, vegan, kosher, non-GMO.

Alex Mills: Are there any meat products in there?

Brady Shearer: No meat, dairy, or wheat products. All LaCroix’s matter, not they don’t. The top five. … Number five: Passion fruit, an excellent crisp flavor of LaCroix, not one you normally think to reach for, but I have a LaCroix fridge in my home. That’s right, a LaCroix fridge. What’s in it?

Alex Mills: As you do, LaCroix.

Brady Shearer: Nothing else. Dozens and dozens of cans and flavors of LaCroix fill the fridge at the absolute best temperature to drink it at, extremely cold and chilled, and I find myself reaching for passion fruit more than I ever expected myself to.

Alex Mills: I’ve always wondered about passion fruit, especially for North Americans, because if I didn’t live in Uganda for six or seven months, I might not know, I might not have a frame of reference for passion fruit. There were fresh passion fruits everywhere, quickly became one of my favorite fruits. So when I saw the passion fruit, LaCroix is like, “Yes, please.”

But, for other folks like who don’t have any context for it, I wonder because there’s 25 flavors, and it’s not a very common one, I wonder if it just gets overlooked. But, it’s so good.

Brady Shearer: I think that’s one of the reasons why I like it, because I’m not super familiar with the fruit itself. So I don’t immediately take a sip and then compare it to my frame of reference for the fruit.

Number four, the first of two of the top five, not the short and stubby LaCroix’s, the tall 12 ounce cans, what are they called? Curate with some type of accent over the U. Available in eight packs.

Alex Mills: As if they have to put a French accent on an English word. What are they doing?

Brady Shearer: They’re holding 30% of the market share, what are you doing?

Alex Mills: I guess, I’m getting outraged as a French speaker.

Brady Shearer: Packaged in boldly designed 12 ounce tall cans, they make for the ideal on the go beverage Alex.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: Drink LaCroix, except this is Canada Dry.

Alex Mills: Yes. It always is.

Brady Shearer: Number four, Muller Pepino, which flavor is that? One of your favorites, blackberry cucumber.

Alex Mills: Yeah, I mean … This is an all-time flavor for me.

Brady Shearer: It’s unique, there’s really nothing else like it in the 25 flavor line up of LaCroix. Very sophisticated.

Alex Mills: On it’s own, it’s great, and let me tell you, as a mix drink it’s even better.

Brady Shearer: Excellent. Number three on the list, it’s a good one.

Alex Mills: I’m getting nervous now.

Brady Shearer: Tangerine, now it’s the Christmas season, what is better than a tangerine around this time of the year. Why? Because it reminds me of a clementine.

Alex Mills: Okay.

Brady Shearer: And there’s no clementine LaCroix, until there is I’m reaching for a tangerine.

Alex Mills: And those two fruits are so non-distinguishable anyways, so like-

Brady Shearer: It’s all the same, I could’ve put orange here, but I didn’t, because tangerine is slightly better.

Alex Mills: Or they could’ve put clementine on the can, and you wouldn’t have known any difference.

Brady Shearer: I would’ve gone for it. Number two, the second instance of the Curate LaCroix, it’s the ideal on the go beverage Alex, did you know that?

Alex Mills: So I’ve heard.

Brady Shearer: Melon Pomelo, cantaloupe pink grapefruit. Woo.

Alex Mills: How have I never had this one?

Brady Shearer: Outstanding, I can-

Alex Mills: Is this a new addition to your fridge?

Brady Shearer: No, it’s just one of the 12 ounce tall cans that you can only really get at Target, you can’t buy it online, Canadian retail of LaCroix is a little hit and miss.

I have drank this flavor 100,000 times, and … you think surely I jest, I do not. All of these flavors have changed my top five. You drink one, like back when it was just peach-pear basically, you drink enough peach-pear and you’re like, “Ugh.” This one, I have had repeatedly, and I am never tired of.

Alex Mills: You need to hook me up with one of these.

Brady Shearer: It’s a good one, it is not as good.

Alex Mills: My problem is, whenever I’m at your place, I’m either reaching for a blackberry cucumber or passion fruit.

Brady Shearer: That’s the problem, you need expand your horizons.

Alex Mills: Yeah, I really am getting nervous about how far you’ve expanded your horizons at number one.

Brady Shearer: Okay, well before I get into number one. Would you care to add some of your favorites, not necessarily in particular order.

Alex Mills: Oh, I’ve to the hottest take.

Brady Shearer: We already dismissed coconut.

Alex Mills: Right. But, that’s not a hot take, everyone knows that one sucks. It’s key-lime.

Brady Shearer: Oh yeah, you like key-lime.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Tell them about the first time we had it.

Alex Mills: Well the first time we had it, we were in the middle of the desert in Moab, Utah somewhere.

Brady Shearer: At the hotel 6, Motel 6.

Alex Mills: Yeah.

Brady Shearer: Bad luck, tough look for your guys.

Alex Mills: But, I don’t even remember where we got it, but that trip was like, it’s desert out there. It’s wilderness and we had been eating things that we don’t normally eat. We had Subway in a gas station.

Brady Shearer: You got to do what you got to do.

Alex Mills: And we got to the promise land of Moab, where they had … Oh, we bought it at that coffee shop, right?

Brady Shearer: Yeah, and we were like, “What is that?”

Alex Mills: Yeah, we found a nice coffee shop, they had LaCroix and we’re like, “Thank you Jesus.” And then we get served with key-lime.

Brady Shearer: Key-lime.

Alex Mills: And so we had to try it, and it’s good.

Brady Shearer: It tastes like a key-lime pie, the reason I don’t love it, is because it feels a bit too dessert-like. And, I’m trying to get a crisp, refreshing, hydrating beverage.

Alex Mills: It’s almost like an after dinner like in the same way you might have ice-wine like a dessert drink, key-lime for a dessert drink.

Brady Shearer: Any other terrible takes you want to get off before I get to number one?

Alex Mills: No man-

Brady Shearer: Number one, one the LaCroix top five list. The best flavor of LaCroix, pronounced differently, Ap or Ape Apricot, the best LaCroix flavor of the 25.

Alex Mills: I am so thankful that you said that, and not something else.

Brady Shearer: What did you think that I was going to come up with? Cran-Raz?

Alex Mills: Yeah, something just offensive like that.

Brady Shearer: Basic. You’re basic.

Alex Mills: Apricot, it’s paired in with the tangerine, like it’s just, it’s so good, it is the perfect summer drink. It’s not too sweet, it’s not too apricoty or apricot as our Southern listeners say for some reason. It’s so good.

Brady Shearer: Absolutely amazing. Go get yourself a LaCroix this weekend, just a crisp, it’s good for the summer, it’s good for the holidays, it’s good for the cold, it’s good for the warm, wherever you might be and if you have any disparaging comments about my LaCroix choices. Feel free to send them, full send into the comments on YouTube. Subscribe, like, notifications, rate and review. And if you think someone would benefit from this episode, make sure you send it to that friend in ministry, that pastoral companion of yours.

Alex Mills: We’re going to do more of these, more of these sermon communication breakdowns of pastors, teachers. But, we’re always looking to add more, so we’d love to hear from you if you want to see us do some more of these, who would you like to see us break down. We’re getting good at like investigative research.

Brady Shearer: Well, we’re getting there.

Alex Mills: We’re getting somewhere.

Brady Shearer: We’re going in some direction. Hopefully, it’s useful to you and your church. That’ll do it for this episode of the Pro Church Show, we’ll talk soon. …

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