Welcome to Startup Revival, the number one podcast for Christian entrepreneurs, with your hosts Matthew Bell and Rafael Simpson. The world needs more entrepreneurs. Build something.
Matthew Bell: Hello everyone, this is Matthew Bell. Thanks for tuning in to Startup Revival.
Before we get started, I just want to remind you of a few things. Startup Revival is all about the community. So if you have any feedback or comments or questions you’d like us to address in the podcast, feel free to let us know. You can send us an email at [email protected]. And also, be sure to join the online community. Go to Facebook.com/groups/startuprevival. It’s a great place to meet other entrepreneurs and learn some new and interesting things. Thanks, everyone. Enjoy the podcast.
Alright, welcome to Startup Revival. This is Matt Bell, cohost and founder of Startup Revival. Today, I am super-excited. As I mentioned in the introduction, I have a very special guest. His name is Guy Rodgers. He has a profound career in leadership and consulting and in the nonprofit sector, and today he currently serves as the President and CEO of Pinnacle Forum. Without any further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my good friend, Guy Rodgers. Guy, thank you for joining us. It’s great to have you on the show.
Guy Rodgers: It’s my pleasure, Matthew. Thank you.
Matthew Bell: Excellent. With the mission of Startup Revival, we’re focused on the mountain of business, so for folks who are listening who understand the seven mountains of culture, we’re focused on business. But tell me a little bit about yourself, what you’ve been doing in the nonprofit sector, and then what you’re doing with Pinnacle Forum and what is Pinnacle Forum. But let’s first start with you. We’re really interested in knowing a little bit about your background and what God has done to your life to lead up to this point.
Guy Rodgers: Oh gosh. Well, I’ll give you a short Reader’s Digest Condensed version.
Matthew Bell: That works.
Guy Rodgers: Yeah, you’re talking to a man who grew up in a totally un-churched home Didn’t know why crosses were on churches when I was 16 years old. Got saved at a Young Life camp, summer of 1973 when I was 18, right after I graduated from high school. That began a 44-year journey that included being discipled for four years by the president of a Bible school who really was instrumental in helping me to understand the importance of a biblical world view; what that looks like; how to live that out in the culture; how to be a 24/7 discipline of Christ; and how to look at the world around you as not fragmented and segmented, as sacred and secular, things we do that are a secular calling and sacred, but the fact that under the Lordship of Christ everything we do is under his Lordship.
And so that set the stage for what I did then for going back to the early 1980s, so about 35 years now, which has crossed multiple sectors. You mentioned nonprofits. I’ve been involved in the political world. I was a campaign consultant for a number of years – issues advocacy, public policy issues. I pioneered a class, Christian Education Foundation. I was the vice president of a public opinion research and polling company. So I’ve done all these different things over the years always against the backdrop of knowing that I believe we are called as believers to live out that salt and light that Jesus talked about in the culture, which means we work to make the world around us reflect more and more what Jesus said when he said, “Thy Kingdom come,” reflect the Kingdom of God and all the goodness, the beauty and truth that goes with that, and even if it means that there are people around us who never come to know Jesus but they get to experience the benefits of living in a thriving, flourishing culture.
And so when I was made aware of Pinnacle Forum looking for a new president and CEO about two-and-a-half years ago, the thing that most struck me immediately was its tagline, “Transforming leaders to transform culture.” And that just grabbed me like a hungry fish grabbing a hook because it just seemed to me that, wow, this is something that God had really spent decades preparing me for, to work with leaders, many of them in the business world, in that part of the marketplace, but in all seven mountains of culture, and help them to build their understanding of what this means to be a culture-changing leader, to network with other leaders who are doing that and, therefore, to do our part in advancing the kingdom to create a thriving flourishing culture.
Matthew Bell: That’s excellent. So yeah, you’ve led quite a distinguished career, and I am really interested in hearing more about Pinnacle Forum. But just for the benefit of the audience, would you mind if you could briefly explain what the “seven mountains of culture” philosophy really means?
Guy Rodgers: Well, seven mountains of culture, the story we like to tell is that about 40 years ago, in the mid-1970s, Bill Bright who I think many of your listeners know who was the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, and Loren Cunningham who was the founder of Youth With a Mission, YWAM, came together for lunch. Both of them had heard a message from the Lord about seven mountains of culture and how cultures are impacted in seven areas from business to arts and entertainment, media, religion, family, education, and so on, and interestingly enough when they came together, both realized they’d been hearing the same thing. And out of that came what people have called the seven-mountains-of-culture understanding of culture.
So that informed Bill Bright’s vision for something like Pinnacle Forum, when he gathered a small group of successful business leaders together in the mid-1990s and challenged them and said, “Gentlemen, we have a lot of great churches in this country, we’ve got a lot of great parachurch ministries, but the culture continues to decline,” and of course, one could only imagine what he’d say 21 years later looking at the state of culture today. And he said, “I believe that what is missing is high-capacity influential leaders who are stewarding not [00:06:58] treasure towns and resources but their influence to create networks that are going to produce constructive change across all seven mountains of culture.” And see, what that means, Matthew, is that you may be a successful businessperson, you may have run a successful company, be a successful entrepreneur, but God has called you to be a change agent in the world of education, and business is one aspect of what you do but it’s not the end-all and be-all. Then again, for another businessperson, it may be the business seven mountain of culture where you are called to be a cultural change agent.
And with that understanding, what we realized in Pinnacle Forum is that this frees people up to recognize that we all have a unique calling and preparation by God to [00:07:51] the larger Body of Christ and to impact the world around us, a role that no one else can fill precisely the way each of us can. That’s a very empowering thing. It creates great purpose. It gives a sense of great identity in Christ. It gives great meaning to life. And unfortunately, Matthew, there are far too many people in our Christian churches including very successful Christian leaders who can’t answer that question, “What has God uniquely created and called you to be and do in the Body of Christ for the purpose of advancing the Kingdom of God in the culture?”
Matthew Bell: Yeah, that’s a really interesting point of view. Just to clarify for the audience if you haven’t heard the seven-mountains-of-culture philosophy, it’s a way to segment the culture and understand the big buckets of areas of influence and they include arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. And the concept is, and this is what Pinnacle Forum is a proponent of and a leader in, is if we can raise up leaders in those areas we can influence culture in a meaning way for the Kingdom of God. So mostly I personally have been operating in the business realm, but it’s really interesting to hear you say how now that the Lord has birthed Startup Revival I’m being transitioned into more of an educational realm under the educational mountain.
Guy Rodgers: Mm-hmm.
Matthew Bell: So that’s really interesting. So just one practical question that comes to mind, Guy, is, what does it mean to be a leader in the mountain that the Lord has appointed you or in the area of influence? How can you practically be a leader in that realm and influence culture to be a change agent, as you put it, for the Kingdom of God?
Guy Rodgers: Well, first of all, there’s a whole genre of books and seminars and studies on this topic of leadership, from a John Maxwell to a Hans Finzel to a Ken Blanchard. There’s an enormous amount of material out there of how I as a Christian, how God would help me to be a servant leader, a Christ-centered servant leader. And that’s where it has to start. We can’t try to take the mantle of leadership upon our self and say, “Well, okay, I’m called to be a leader, so I need to go lead.” We need to understand what that actually means in a biblical context.
Our recent national conference, the theme was, “Living the fullness of Christ-centered leadership in turbulent times,” because what we’re saying to them is that before you even venture out, before you even say, “Well, I’m going to get serious about impacting culture for Christ and advancing the Kingdom of God,” what does it mean to even be a leader in a biblical context? We don’t have the time to get into the details of that today but there are a lot of great [00:10:55] like Jesus, Ken Blanchard and Hans Finzel have a number of great books, John Maxwell. There’s a lot of material out there.
So when we get beyond that though, then how do we specifically—say we’ve grasped the great biblical principles of leadership, we’re beginning to live those out in our lives, this is where a lot of Christian leaders begin to hit walls because we don’t get a lot of guidance or teaching about being kingdom advancers in culture in our churches. It’s an unfortunate reality of 20th- and 21st-century evangelicalism and Christianity in America. And so we encounter men and women all the time who when we discuss this topic with them they seem somewhat confused. They have a passion for wanting to make a difference, they just don’t quite know how to do it.
And so what we try to do, and there are other organizations that are doing it as well, what we try to do through Pinnacle Forum is to give them a vehicle through forums, through interacting with other leaders, a way in which they could begin to develop, “What does this look like to be a kingdom change agent, a person who is advancing the Kingdom of God in culture?” And inevitably what we find is that out of this process bubbles to the surface passion for, “Wow, God’s got to do something here.” I like to put it this way. Ask a question of somebody, when you look around at the world around you, when you see all the problems and challenges of the world—and by the way, a need is not a call, and there’s no end of needs but that doesn’t mean you and I are particularly called to deal with every single one of those—what do I see that makes me want to pound the table and scream out, “God, somebody needs to do something about this?” That’s a great litmus test to [00:12:51] even understand, “Boy, Lord, you put a passionate burden in my heart for this.”
And at Pinnacle Forum, we see people who their passionate burdens, they cover the whole gamut of things that the Body of Christ is doing, from a man who has created an entire network of training and leading for pastors and farmers in Cambodia to one who has set up the largest crisis pregnancy center network in the country in the State of Arizona, to those who are involved in faith and family films. I mean, you name it, Pinnacle Forum people in some way, shape or form touch all of these mountains of culture in different ways and each of them are experiencing what it means to know, “I’m called to make a change difference here and live out my leadership and life service in this area, and then connect with others and encourage others to do the same.”
Matthew Bell: Interesting, interesting. Yeah. So what really struck me with what you just said is when you’re looking to identify I guess the area where you’re called and your purpose, it’s that thing that makes you pound your fist on the table to really want to make a change. And for me, the genesis of Startup Revival is that I was getting tired of not seeing more and more Christians using their God-given creativity to go out and start businesses and create apps and create mobile apps and technology and just regular brick-and-mortar businesses as well.
Guy Rodgers: Right, right.
Matthew Bell: So that’s like kind of my battle cry, is I want to see, if we have the creative nature of God living in us, why can’t we be the one leading innovation? Why do the top 10 most valuable companies in the world—Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oracle—why are they only controlled by non-Christians? Because we have the access to the creativity of heaven, we should be leading innovation and leading business, etc. So that’s kind of how I’m picking up the torch to do it in our area of influence. That’s really interesting. So that resonates with me really well because I have a burning passion for what we’re doing.
Guy Rodgers: Well, that’s a really good observation, Matthew, because here’s one of the things that we’ve inherited as a result of something implicit and sometimes explicit in 20th-century Christianity, and that is that if you really want to serve God you get involved in a ministry or you become a pastor or you become a missionary. Now, I’m not saying there’s anything…and not to diminish anything about any of those callings, but the problem is it’s limiting and it’s really not biblical, because the truth of the matter is we are all called. We are all called to serve a place in the Body of Christ and a role that no one else can fill. So one person’ s calling may be, “My calling is to be an entrepreneur and start a successful business and impact the business world, and then as a result of creating wealth I can touch other things in the culture as well,” and that is no less a high calling in Christ as being a pastor. And that is a hard thing to break through in Christianity because it has been so instilled in us for so long that somehow there is a higher and a lower calling, which ends up becoming translated as a sacred and a secular calling.
So when I hear the phrase, “Well, my ministry is this,” well, our ministry is our work and our work is our ministry, and that’s how we worship God, through the things that he has given us – the creativity you talked about and in the productive work of our minds, our hands, our bodies. We are worshipping God through all of that. And as a result of that, we have let the notion that all these other realms of culture somehow are secular and therefore we approach them in a very different way than we approach what we would consider to be “our ministry.”
And the good news is that’s beginning to change. There is a growing what’s called “faith and work movement” in the Body of Christ – theology of work and some of these kinds of things. So it’s beginning to little by little change within the broader Body of Christ, and it needs to.
Matthew Bell: Hmm. Interesting. It’s almost like there is a pervasive undertone, almost like an unspoken lie that we all believe within the church is that if you want to serve God you have to be in full-time ministry, and it was something that I believed about 10 years ago when I had an encounter with God for the first time and really changed my life. I immediately started going to a church and I told my pastor one day I had made the decision to leave my career to go into full-time ministry. And I remember it vividly because I went to my pastor and she said to me—I told her, and I was expecting open arms and, “Welcome, you finally decided to serve God with your life”—but she said to me, “Why? Why do you want to do that?” And I was puzzled. I didn’t know what that meant because I had believed what the church culture had taught me.
Guy Rodgers: Right, right. Right.
Matthew Bell: And she said, “You’re called to business.”
Guy Rodgers: Yup.
Matthew Bell: And I didn’t realize it at the time because it was confusing, because here I was trying to serve God and my pastor who in her great wisdom and counsel—I really just recognize that as one of the greatest pieces of advice I ever got because she steered me away from a mistake that I would have made—she directed me towards what is my true calling, which is in terms of be in business. And now God has evolved that and He’s changing that into kind of now I’m giving back to the church in a different way, which I wouldn’t have been able to do had I left my career and focused on full-time ministry back then.
Guy Rodgers: Yeah.
Matthew Bell: So I think that this is, for follow who are listening to this and grabbing hold of this, this is one of the most powerful things that Guy is touching on, is that you’re called to what you’re skilled and gifted and purposed for, and it doesn’t necessarily look like what other people are doing and it doesn’t necessarily fit within the walls of the church. It may be a different calling in a business capacity or a different area of culture. So that is wildly important for us to grab hold of.
Guy Rodgers: Matthew, it is a profound paradigm shift.
Matthew Bell: Yeah, exactly.
Guy Rodgers: And you’re in good company there, by the way – a man named William Wilberforce, who I suspect some if not many of your listeners are at least a little bit familiar with, probably one of the most profound impactful Christian leaders in the history of the church, certainly within the last I would say two to three centuries. And so Wilberforce came to this what he called “the great change.” Basically, I think he just finally, after he’d grown up in church [00:19:56] or so on, he was born again, and he had a change of heart and change of mind. And here he was, a young Member of Parliament and he says to his friend, Prime Minister Pitt, “I think I need to leave Parliament. I need to go out and do this and that and the other thing and serve God,” and William Pitt said to him, “Why can’t you serve God through your work as a Member of Parliament?”
Matthew Bell: Hmm. Interesting.
Guy Rodgers: And as a result of that, look at the things that he and his colleagues in what was called the Clapham Circle accomplished – the abolition of the slave trade, the emancipation of slavery in the British Empire. Would that have happened without his leadership? Hard to say, but I would say doubtful. It eventually would have happened but probably wouldn’t have happened then.
So this notion, unfortunately, and what ends up happening, I remember I first heard this , a pastor teaching this about 37 years ago, and he meant it with all good intention—I don’t mean to diminish this at all—but he said, “You know, if you really want to serve God, become a pastor or missionary.” And again, all good intention and so on, but I remember thinking, “Well, I don’t feel called to be a pastor. I don’t feel called to be a missionary. So does that make me a second-class Christian?”
Matthew Bell: Hmm. Interesting.
Guy Rodgers: And it’s interesting because several years later I found myself working in the political realm and I actually had Christian friends of mine who said, “You are working against the Will of God by doing this.” And see, so that’s the kind of—now, the good news, Matthew, as I said, things are beginning to change, at least from my vantage point, and I think we’re on the cusp of seeing a form of awakening in the Body of Christ that recaptures the fullness of calling and therefore the fullness of what it means to be the body. Because if you’re not living out God’s unique calling and purpose for your life, that means there’s a hole left in the body that’s going to make it limp a little bit. And to the degree that’s happening across Christianity, to the degree the Body of Christ is limping instead of running.
Matthew Bell: Yeah, interesting. I do agree with you. I agree that it is happening and it’s more obvious to me in the areas, in the circles that I run in, particularly around enterprise, technology startups, etc.
Guy Rodgers: Mm-hmm.
Matthew Bell: I remember I used to work out of a tech accelerator here in Austin and when I came out—I call it “coming out”—when I came out as a Christian and started to tell people about my faith, it was interesting to me because I started to realize that there are so many more Christians in this tech space in Austin, and then they just started to hear about what I was doing and then we started to meet, and then there is a Christian tech meetup that it all started to become more obvious and really it was just under the surface. So I do agree with you. I think something’s happening on a macro scale, God’s doing something big, and we’re going to see more and more of it and I declare that we will, which is really exciting.
So we’ve talked about it a little bit, Guy. You are the President and CEO of Pinnacle Forum. For the folks who are listening, could you share with us just a little bit more about Pinnacle Forum? I’m going to read your vision statement before you do because I think it’s really interesting.
Guy Rodgers: Okay.
Matthew Bell: So I’m on the Pinnacle Forum website. It says that, “Our vision is to see influential leaders execute their God-given purpose and foster a flourishing God-honoring culture.” So how does Pinnacle Forum achieve that? What are you guys doing on a practical level to execute on that? And what is Pinnacle Forum exactly?
Guy Rodgers: Well, Pinnacle Forum is a network of high-capacity leaders, and the way we are going about accomplishing the achievement of our mission and therefore to see that vision lived out is we connect these leaders through confidential peer-to-peer forums. For instance, here in, I live in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, we have about 20 forums in this area and the forums are a place where Christian leaders come together and they develop really close, authentic, transparent confidential relationships with other peers, something [00:24:17] that’s really missing for many Christian leaders. We call it the “lonely Christian leader syndrome.” And so they find a place where they can be around six, eight, 10 other men, if they’re a men’s forum—we have some women’s forums as well—and be able to develop those kinds of relationships, in other words, that kind of community that Jesus modeled for us when he picked out 12 men to follow Him.
Now, it’s not just about being in a group and encouraging each other but that’s a big part of what we do, but our forums are really designed to facilitate what we call a Four “E” Strategy, and that’s Encourage, Equip, Engage, and Execute. So in the forum we have, it’s encouraging each other to grow in Christ and encourage each other to walk out what God has called us to be and do. The second, equip, is using not only resources such as really important books like Lead Like Jesus, things of that nature. We use materials to help equip each other through the materials as well as our peer-to-peer relationships to grow in Christ and, again, to live out what God has called us to be and do.
The last two E’s, engage and execute, really are what differentiate us from the typical bible study men’s group type of thing, and that is we have a specific objective in mind here and that goes back to the tagline I said earlier, “Transforming leaders to transform culture.” The objective here is that as you are growing and maturing in Christ, discovering what you are called to be and do in the culture, you will begin to engage the culture, the world around you, and execute strategies for cultural change, both personally and also in synergy with other people not just in Pinnacle Forum but outside of Pinnacle Forum. The strategy for this, by the way, is age-old. There’s a book, it was written by James Davison Hunter who’s a professor at University of Virginia—it’s called To Change the World—and what he did is he looked at the history of change in culture. And one of his theses is that cultures change when networks—he calls them elites, he’s referring to basically high-capacity leaders—when networks of elites, high-capacity leaders, steward their relationships, their human capital, their relationship capital, other resources – finances and so on, and move towards common goals to impact the culture around them, and he gives numerous examples of this both good and bad. On the good side, it would be a William Wilberforce and his Clapham Circle. On the bad side, it would be Lenin and his 17 original men that gathered around him and launched Marxist communism that basically destroyed the lives of tens of millions of people and put people in bondage and slavery throughout the world. His point being that history shows us that change at a cultural level happens through networks of leaders.
Matthew Bell: Hmm. Interesting.
Guy Rodgers: I think it’s very biblical, by the way. I mean, Jesus picked out 12 men and he turned them into leaders.
Matthew Bell: Mm-hmm.
Guy Rodgers: He turned them into leaders, is what he did. He made them servant leaders through his equipping and those 12 men, upon their shoulders the world was changed.
Matthew Bell: That’s amazing. Yeah, it’s an interesting way—Jesus created the original forum, if you think about it the way.
Guy Rodgers: Jesus created—that’s a good way to put it. And you know, I hear sometimes people talk about, “Well, it’s this ragtag group of 12 and so on and so forth,” let’s look a little closer at who these men were. John was obviously sufficiently learned because look at the quality of the writing of his gospels, okay? Luke, now he wasn’t part of the original 12 but he was a physician, right? I mean, and he traveled—and look at Paul who came along later, Paul who was, my goodness, a giant in Judaism.
Matthew Bell: Yeah.
Guy Rodgers: Peter was an entrepreneur, my friend. He was a fisherman. He owned his own fishing business. They had the potential for great servant leadership within them and Jesus picked them out and said, “Follow me.”
Matthew was a tax collector, okay? What does that tell us? Influence, finance and so on.
Matthew Bell: Yeah.
Guy Rodgers: It’s an interesting way to look at how Jesus did what he did. And then you look at the early church in the first 200 years, great church leaders that rose up, the early church fathers, and the enormous impact they had. And then of course the living out among the masses of Christians set the example in the communities, and then the leaders of the church provided intellectual scholarly rationale for this among other leaders, among peers.
Matthew Bell: Interesting. I love it. It’s great. I love what you guys are doing, really blessed. So for anyone who’s listening who’s interested and this has piqued your curiosity and even been inspired, you can go to pinnacleforum.com. Check it out. You can join the newsletter. What’s the best way to get connected for folks that are interested in hearing more about this?
Guy Rodgers: You know what? The easiest way to do this is to send us an email. There are ways on there to connect as well, but [email protected].
Matthew Bell: There you go.
Guy Rodgers: Just send an email. We pick those up [00:29:37] if you say, “Hey listen, I want to be on your email list. I want to find out if there’s a forum in my area.” That you can get to the website, but if you don’t even want to take the time to do that, just shoot an email to [email protected] and we’ll run with it.
Matthew Bell: Perfect. Yup, go check it out. You can go to pinnacleforum.com. You can read more about it. You can see some videos of Guy speaking, etc. And then, email [email protected] for more information. So Guy, thank you so much for joining us.
Before we wrap up here, we typically like to leave the audience with something practical to think about and chew on until next time. So, in the spirit of Pinnacle Forum and your vision and your mission to rise up leaders to be influential leaders and to execute their God-given purpose and foster god-honoring cultural, for our audience who’s very entrepreneurial-minded and business-minded and who may be wondering what their God-given purpose is and has those question marks spinning around their head, what would be one piece of practical advice that you would offer that person or whoever’s thinking that way about how they can understand and have revelation of their God-given purpose and go out and ultimately become a leader in the area God has called them?
Guy Rodgers: I think the biggest thing is to find material, find a book, find material that speaks to two things: One, the Kingdom of God, and secondly, calling. Because, these are two areas where I think Christianity has not done a good job of equipping us to understand. I mean, do you know in the New Testament there are close to 280 references to the Kingdom of God? When you talk about salvation, you can talk about the number of references specifically to salvation on a few hands. What were they trying to tell us? They weren’t telling us, “You’re not supposed to get saved.” They were telling us that salvation by being reconciled to God is the door through which we enter into becoming part of His Kingdom and we are called to advance the Kingdom.
And you know what? Anybody who doubts that, go back to Jesus’ prayer for us. What does he say? “Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.” What did he say? “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven.” Not just when we get to heaven, but on Earth.
Matthew Bell: Yeah.
Guy Rodgers: So that’s the first, and the second is to find something that talks about what calling really means and to start figuring that out for yourself, because we just haven’t gotten good guidance on this, generally speaking. And out of that, trust me, if you’re serious about wanting to know this, you will find it. Jesus said, “Seek and you will find.”
Matthew Bell: Yup. Amen. Well, Guy, thank you so much. This has been really powerful. It’s been great talking to you. Thanks for joining us. I look forward to having you on again, meeting in person, and learning more about what you’re doing and just having fellowship together.
Guy Rodgers: As I said, Matthew, it’s my pleasure, and my prayer is that your listeners, they’ll see an enlightenment here, they’ll see something that they didn’t see before, something [00:32:52] will move in them by the Spirit, and God will be praised.
Matthew Bell: Excellent. Thank you so much. And everyone, thanks for listening. Have a great and blessed week.
That was Startup Revival, brought to you by your hosts Matt Bell and Rafael Simpson. Tune in next week to hear more stories from entrepreneurs and businesspeople to inspire, encourage and motivate you in your business journey. Have a great week.
This is where a lot of Christian leaders begin to hit walls because we don’t get a lot of guidance or teaching about being kingdom advancers in culture in our churches.