Finding Hope When Your Ministry World Collapses : Steve Carter

Finding Hope When Your Ministry World Collapses - Steve Carter - 109 - FrontStage BackStage with Jason Daye

How can we respond in a healthy way when our ministry world comes crashing down around us? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Steve Carter. Steve is a pastor, speaker, and author. He is the host of the Craft and Character podcast and the former Lead Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Forest City Church, and his most recent book is entitled Grieve, Breathe, Receive. Together, Steve and Jason look at how to navigate disappointments and destabilizing seasons in our ministries. Steve shares from his own experiences as a pastor what God taught him about grieving, breathing, and receiving.

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Additional Resource Links – Visit Steve’s website to explore his book, inquire about speaking engagements, sign up for his newsletter, and uncover additional resources to enhance your faith journey.

Grieve, Breathe, Receive: Finding a Faith Strong Enough to Hold Us – What do you do when your world seems to be falling down all around you? When loss is too much to bear? When disappointment becomes your new reality? In his book, Pastor Steve Carter is certain you’ll find hope and life through these three simple yet profound steps: Grieve. Breathe. Receive. – Forest City Church is a place for anyone and everyone. That’s you. We want to help you find God, connect deeply with him and those who follow him, and develop a heart of generosity for others.

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Key Insights and Concepts

  • Excelling and achieving goals doesn’t always prepare us for coping with sudden loss; embracing grief is essential for holistic growth.
  • Unexpected life events prompt us to reevaluate our sense of purpose, resilience, and reliance on God’s plan and timing, especially in leadership roles like pastoral ministry.
  • Frameworks rooted in faith and in Christ provide profound guidance and comfort during times of crisis, even when the struggles may not be diminished.
  • The Easter story reveals parallels between stages of grief and the journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday, showing Friday as “Grieve”, Saturday as “Breathe”, and Sunday as “Receive”.
  • Understanding grief as a natural response to change allows us to honor our emotions and progress toward healing.
  • Identifying our place in the grief journey — whether in the grief of Friday, the uncertainty of Saturday, or the hope of Sunday — helps us navigate emotions more effectively.
  • Practicing forgiveness is crucial for releasing resentment and bitterness that weigh heavily on our hearts. A daily practice of extending grace and releasing our burdens is needed, rather than a one-time event.
  • Embracing forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation and allows us to experience the transformative power of redemption.
  • Studying forgiveness thoroughly deepens our understanding and practice of this essential action when it can seem difficult in a particular season.
  • Resisting cynicism in the face of disappointment is crucial for maintaining integrity and character, especially in leadership roles.
  • Going through the grieving and forgiveness process is a healthy way to avoid cynicism and embrace the fullness of hope that is “Sunday”.
  • Change and challenges in pastoral ministry evoke a range of emotions, but acknowledging and processing them is vital for long-term well-being.
  • Creating space to honor emotions and engage in self-care isn’t a sign of weakness but a necessary step towards finishing well in ministry.
  • Ultimately, trust in God’s faithfulness and consistency empowers us to navigate the complexities of pastoral leadership with grace and compassion.

Questions for Reflection

  • Have I had to deal with transitions between church communities? If so, what insights do these experiences offer about growth and change within congregations? What have been the benefits of ministering in a variety of church communities?
  • When have I faced sudden loss or unexpected life events? How did I have to reevaluate my sense of purpose, resilience, and reliance on God’s plan and timing in my pastoral ministry? 
  • In times of crisis, how do I find and lean on frameworks rooted in faith for guidance and comfort? What are some of these frameworks that help me?
  • Is there anything in my life that I have pushed down emotionally and avoided grieving? If so, how can I begin to name this and process the grief in a healthy way? What steps do I need to take? When will I take them?
  • Reflecting on the Easter story, how do I see parallels between stages of grief and the journey from Good Friday to Easter Sunday in my own life and ministry?
  • How do I understand grief as a natural response to change? How does this understanding influence my approach to emotional healing and growth?
  • When navigating the grief journey, how do I identify my current emotional state—whether in grief (Friday), uncertainty (Saturday), or hope (Sunday)? What practices help me navigate these emotions effectively?
  • What strategies do I employ to practice forgiveness in my ministry, both personally and in my interactions with others, to release resentment and bitterness from my heart? 
  • Is there anyone that comes to mind whom I need to forgive, either in my own heart or to them personally?
  • How does embracing forgiveness open the door to reconciliation and allow me to experience the transformative power of redemption in my life and ministry? Have I experienced this in the past and how did God work in that situation?
  • In what ways do I deepen my understanding and practice of forgiveness, especially during challenging seasons in pastoral ministry? 
  • When faced with disappointment, how do I resist cynicism and maintain integrity and character, particularly in leadership roles? How can I work on embracing the Holy Weekend process when disappointment or challenges come up?
  • How do I acknowledge and process the range of emotions evoked by change and challenges in pastoral ministry for my long-term well-being? What intentional practices do I engage in to create space for honoring my emotions?
  • How does my trust in God’s faithfulness and consistency empower me to navigate the complexities of pastoral leadership with grace and compassion? What are some times I can look back on to be reminded of God’s faithfulness and consistency in my life?
  • How do I integrate the insights gained from navigating transitions, grief, forgiveness, and emotional healing into my ongoing ministry practices?
  • What ongoing reflections and adjustments can I make to ensure that I continue to grow personally and spiritually as a pastor or ministry leader and make sure that I finish out my calling well?

Full-Text Transcript

How can we respond in a healthy way when our ministry world comes crashing down around us?

Jason Daye
In this episode, I’m joined by Steve Carter. Steve is a pastor, speaker, and author. He is the host of the Craft and Character podcast and the former Lead Teaching Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church. He currently serves as teaching pastor at Forest City Church, and his most recent book is entitled Grieve, Breathe, Receive. Together, Steve and I look at how to navigate disappointments and destabilizing seasons in our ministries. Steve shares from his own experiences as a pastor what God taught him about grieving, breathing, and receiving. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Jason Daye 
Hey, friends, I hope you are well. Welcome to another exciting episode of FrontStage BackStage. I’m your host, Jason Daye. Each and every week, I have the privilege, the honor, really, of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader and diving into a conversation, all in an effort to help you and ministry leaders just like you embrace healthy, sustainable rhythms for both your life and ministry. I’m proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. Every single week, not only do we have a conversation, but we also create a downloadable toolkit that complements the conversation. This gives you and the ministry team at your local church an opportunity to really dig more deeply into the topic at hand. And you can find that toolkit at There, you’ll find a lot of resources, including a Ministry Leaders Growth Guide. So be sure to avail yourself of that resource. Lots of great things in there. And then that Pastor Serve, we love walking alongside pastors and ministry leaders. Day in and day out our team of experienced coaches walk alongside pastors and if you’d be interested in learning more about how you could get a complimentary coaching session, you can find those details at So be sure to check that out as well. And if you’re joining us on YouTube, please give us a thumbs up, take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church in the comments below. We love getting to know our audience better and our team will be praying for you and for your ministry. Whether you’re following us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe and follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And as I said, I’m excited about this week’s conversation. At this time, I’d like to welcome Steve Carter to the show. Steve, welcome, brother.

Steve Carter 
Jason, so good to be with you. I’m not gonna go online right now and get that free complimentary coaching. I love that you guys do that. That’s fantastic.

Jason Daye 
Awesome, brother. Well, I’m very, very excited about our conversation, Steve. For those who may not know your ministry journey, I think it’d be great to kind of set the stage because we’re gonna talk about some heavy things but some powerful things. We’re gonna talk about grieving and what that looks like in ministry when things don’t go as expected, right? But everyone may not know your ministry journey. So could you kind of encapsulate kind of what you’ve experienced and kind of set the stage for our conversation?

Steve Carter 
For sure. So, I grew up in Southern California and didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Went to a small restoration movement church Camrio Christian Church and I would ride my bike there. Had the privilege to baptize my mom and my dad. My mom my senior year of high school and my dad on my 19th birthday as a sophomore in college. It was during that time that people just started to say, Hey, I think you should go into ministry. But I wanted to be a film major. I didn’t really see it. But when my dad got baptized, he came out of the water and just asked me, Hey, I feel like something told me to sell everything and go restore a relationship with my folks. He’s like, do you think that was God? I was like, we live in Southern California, and you think God wants us to move to Michigan? And he’s like, I do. I’m like, I think that’s God. He’s all about restoration and reconciliation. So, we moved to Michigan in 1999. We pulled in, and about six weeks after we got there a church had just begun called Mars Hill Bible Church. And my best friend, who was my roommate in college, Rob Bell, was his kind of intern when he was going to seminary and just said, Hey, go find this guy. And I showed up at Mars Hill at the very beginning and there were fire marshals. You couldn’t get in, there were too many people. So finally, on week three, I snuck in, and they were walking through, I think, Leviticus 9. They were just going through the book of Leviticus. That’s how they planted the church. So I was there for nine months, and that’s when I realized I wanted to go into ministry. Went back to Southern California to Hope International University, and studied Biblical Studies, emphasis on preaching. Then I was offered an internship at Mars Hill and went back to Grand Rapids, then was there, kind of overseeing cradle through college up until 2008. Then we left, went back to California, and joined a staff that I interned with when I was in college called Rock Harbor Church in Costa Mesa. A great church that’s being led out by Dr. Glenn Packiam, he’s amazing. I was at Rock Harbor for about five years, and then Bill Hybels called me. I had met him while I was in Michigan because his son-in-law was on staff at Mars Hill with me. So Bill was very kind early on. He knew I wanted to be a senior pastor and made space, made time during the summers when he was at his cottage. So he called me and invited me in 2012 to join the staff at Willow as a teacher at large and kind of overseeing all of evangelism. I said Yes and moved out there. I would say within the first week, I was brought into the succession process. There were a number of us internally that kind of got brought into it. In some ways, it became like the Christian Hunger Games. But I found myself there up until 2018 when kind of the wheels fell off, and the unfortunate events that many women carried for many years became public, and I just ended up stepping away just in response to how I felt the women were being treated and the church, honestly, was being treated. That kind of led us into a real desert season to try and figure out what to do when your dream job just disappears overnight. God has just been super kind, and I had to learn a lot about grief and have been traveling around over the last number of years, speaking at different churches, coaching, and hosting the Craft and Character podcast, which is all about preaching and character. Then just recently, really, joined the Forest City Church staff here in the northwest suburbs, we moved back to Chicago land, I’m serving here, and really enjoying being back in the Midwest.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, yeah. That’s a wild story and, Steve, as people hear that, pastors and ministry leaders, your story is obviously very unique. Your story is not the typical story, right? As pastors and ministry leaders are reflecting on their own ministries right now, they’re probably thinking, I wasn’t in on the ground floor of a massive megachurch that birthed, and the fire marshals had to turn people away, like Mars Hill, right? I mean, people know the story of Mars Hill pretty well. I didn’t get a call from Bill Hybels. At the time, Willow Creek was globally influential as a church, without a doubt, through the Willow Creek Association and all that. So there are a lot of pastors and ministry leaders who are like, okay, that’s an interesting story, Steve, but that’s nowhere near my story. I’m pastoring a rural church in Arkansas, we have 100 people on a good Sunday. This is where God has me, and it’s a beautiful thing. So, Steve, help us kind of process through because your newest book is entitled Grieve, Breathe, Receive. It is kind of birthed out of these experiences that you’ve had, just as we’ve all had our own journey. So can you help us, regardless of what context God has called us to in ministry, right? Whether it’s a rural church, an urban church, or a suburban church, whether we have a huge budget or not, right? Whatever that is, how does this relate when our ministry crashes down around us? Oftentimes, that happens from external circumstances, things are completely out of our control. Yet we’ve said, Okay, God, yes, I’m in this. And yet, whoa, what just happened? So, regardless of where we might find ourselves, what did God teach you through that that’s applicable to all of us in ministry when it comes to things just getting disruptive or kind of destabilizing in ministry?

Steve Carter 
Yeah. Well, I’m grateful that you even just kind of gave that overview. My experience is as a kid at Camrio Christian, a smaller, good little church. Mars Hill was just fast-growing. Rock Harbor was unique, it was growing. Willow, as you said. And now I’m at Forest City, I primarily teach at Forest City, Elgin. I think we had 185 adults there last Sunday that I taught. So I have been able to kind of live in this uniqueness of different sizes and spaces. What happened for me was I was really goal-oriented, like I knew how to achieve. I played college basketball, it was a dream of mine. Play is not the right word. I sat on the bench, but I got free shoes, you know? But I knew how to make a goal and achieve it. The problem was I didn’t know how to grieve. All of a sudden, this job, like Dr. B, had poured into Bill, Bill had poured into me, I saw the next 25 years of my life, like, I’m going to get a pour into the next person, and I’m going to continue this legacy. I saw what my life was gonna be. And then August 5th, it was gone. It was done. It wasn’t like I have a year-long retirement every week and I was getting to say goodbye. It was, I was done, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. It was a detox that just happened overnight where I felt like the Lord was saying, you can’t achieve your way out of this, you can only grieve your way through it. And I didn’t know how to grieve. I knew how to achieve. I just didn’t know how to sit in the pain and the sadness. The question that really was birthing within is, what do you do when life does what it so often does, when it surprises you when it punches you in the gut? Many of the pastors listening to this know it. It’s like when that staff person just leaves, or that elder who is on your side just leaves or bails, or you have that issue of moral failing with one of your volunteers or an elder. And all of a sudden, as you said, it’s external circumstances. But now it’s just plopped in your lap and you’re like, What am I going to do about this? So really what I found, and this is just the way my brain works is that I’m always looking for a framework because a healthy framework literally makes my life work. What I found was that phrase “in Christ”. When you look at Romans 6, it’s, you know, we have died with Christ, we are alive in Christ. Really what Paul was preaching so often was the power of Holy Weekend, Good Friday, Silent Saturday, and Easter Sunday. What I realized is I started to, we move to the desert, and I just started waking up and walking the trails. What I started to discover was Holy Weekend really is a grief journey. The perfect man who only did good unfairly went to the cross. So Jesus gets when something unfair, unjust, or not right happens to us because it happened to him. Then you look at Silent Saturday, which is just a day where the disciples had no idea. Yes, Jesus kind of talked about, how you could destroy the temple in three days and I’ll raise it back up. But what does that even mean? It’s just a rabbi talking. They’re thinking, are we gonna get arrested? Are we gonna get beat? What is what happened to him, is it gonna happen to us? They’re living in the liminality of uncertainty. In the Hebrew Scriptures, they’ve moved from Egypt now to the desert, and they’re wandering, wondering what’s going to happen here. And then the surprise happens of Sunday and nobody saw it coming. But it changed everything. That kind of became the framework of the grief journey, that on Friday, we are in grief. Then Saturday we actually think we can get through the grief. Then just as Jesus returns, and he still has the scars and the holes in his hands to show Thomas, it shows we don’t just get through it. We will walk with this grief, we’ll just walk with it differently. So “grieve’ was Friday, “breathe” is all about Saturday, and “receive” the surprise of what Sunday has to offer us became this kindness of God framework to help me make sense of what happens when life so often does what it does.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, that’s good, Steve. Let’s spend a little time on on grieving because, as you said, I think what you said in how you approach grieving in that, just not doing well, right? I think that’s the exact same way I feel. As I was reading the book and reflecting on my own ministry journey, I realized and I guess we say it this way, with human nature, we tend to gravitate toward extremes. So we look at grieving. One extreme is, hey, it happened, but guess what, we got to move on. We kind of insulate ourselves, put our heads down, plow through it, and move on. The other extreme would be, I’m grieving, I’m going to end up dwelling in that grief to such a degree that it becomes part of my identity. That’s who I am now. I’m the grieving guy, right? So those extremes and I think, for ministry leaders, what you said, I know from my own experience from a lot of my very, very close friends in ministry, we probably tend to gravitate more toward that first example, that first extreme. We’re just like, Hey, okay, for me, honestly, I was kind of like, I kind of knew what I was signing up for when I said yes to ministry, right? Ministry isn’t easy. We all know that. There are gonna be some disappointments, there are gonna be some times when things just crash and what we expected, something flies in and just destabilizes everything. Like, okay, but I mean, Jesus went to the cross, so what am I going to complain about? That sort of attitude, right? So help us, Steve, as we’re looking at this idea of grieving as a pastor or ministry leader and that could be one of our tendencies. Talk to us a little bit about that because I think that’s an important thing for us to pause and name, right?

Steve Carter 
Yeah, that’s really great. So let me start with semantics. My definition of grief is honoring what comes up when change shows up. So you can have a change where your youngest child is graduating this coming May or June, they’re preparing to move away to college, and you’re grieving the loss of your child being there. Even though they got their license, and they’re driving, it’s a good form of grief, but it’s a change. How do you honor that? You also could be grieving the loss of a parent, the loss of a close friendship, or someone who, post-COVID, was in your small group and just decided to move to a different state. You have to honor that. To your point, most of us have a lien on one of those three days. So one of the questions I had to ask myself is, hey, what day am I in right now? And it’s not necessarily linear. In one moment, you could feel like you are in Sunday, just receiving and then you open up Twitter, you read something, and it sends you right back to Friday. But I think you have to be able to be aware of where I am at because it helps you know how to best honor that. If I’m in Friday, I have to remember 1 Thessalonians 4, to grieve with hope. I have to remember, Oh, yes, I have the fortunate reality that I know how the story ends, that Sunday’s coming. That is a true tenant to what we hold as believers is we’re people of hope. Sunday is coming. God hasn’t forsaken us. God’s with us. But for some of us, as you said, and this is how I was, I just kept chasing the next shiny thing. So much so that I bright-sided, minimized, or just really stuffed down the kind of grief that was within me. I feel like it doesn’t really allow me to actually experience the fullness of what Sunday has to offer. I think what we have to realize is that if grief is like a negative 10 and joy and hope is like a positive 10, and we’re somewhere in the middle. If we only can experience a negative 2 in grief, I think we can only experience a positive 2 in joy and hope, I think they’re really connected. So learning to sit with it and say, yeah, that happened. That really, really happened. The hardest one though for many of us to actually name is when we feel like we’re in the desert. Jason, I haven’t talked about this too much. But in 2014 I happened to be in Israel and I saw a rabbi. Whenever I see a rabbi often I’ll try to just go and talk to him, whether at an airport or restaurant. I saw this rabbi and I went and talked to him and I said hey, can I ask you a random question? And he said, Sure. I said, there are three metaphors in the Hebrew Scriptures, Egypt, the desert, and the promised land. So this is a random question, but how much time do you think the average person spends in their lifetime in Egypt, then the desert, and the promised land? And he looks at me and he laughs, he goes, You Americans are so funny, you think everything is up and to the right. You think everything’s the promised land. Not so for us. We think 10 to 15% of your life is probably going to be in Egypt, 10 to 15% of your life is going to be in the Promised Land, and the remaining 70 to 80% is in the desert. You have to learn to live in the desert well. I just realized, for many of us, myself included, I’ve done whatever I could to bypass the desert, to not have to experience silent Saturday. I think really, what do we do in uncertainty? What do we do in a season of waiting? What is our relationship with waiting? So when you can name what day you’re in, it changes the posture of how you invite the goodness of God to meet you in that place. So, I think it’s really, really important to really identify Am I on Friday? Okay. Am I on Saturday at this moment? Okay. Am I on Sunday at this moment? Then begin to figure out what your next best right step is from there.

Jason Daye 
Yeah. Steve, that is so helpful. So let’s spend a little time in Saturday, the breathe piece. Can you share with us a little bit about what you were experiencing in your own journey, and what does that breathe, what does that Saturday, really look like when we’ve experienced the disruption, when we’ve experienced the pain? What’s really happening during that “breathe” time?

Steve Carter 
So early on, it was the day after I resigned, that’s when these three words came to me. God, just hold me. Grieve, breathe, receive. I went to this coffee shop, donut shop in downtown Madison, Wisconsin, and I just wrote, I gotta grieve what is, grieve what I thought it was going to be, grieve how key people let me down, breathe in new mercies, exhale all bitterness and resentment, and receive what I need to learn, receive if anything, I need to own, and receive who Christ wants me to become for the seasons ahead. What I’ve discovered for me, and it was probably not something I would often really ever think about prior to this moment, was that there was a lot of unforgiveness. I had heard John Ortberg, say, and Susie Larson has a title of her book, but closer than your very breath. There’s the kingdom of God, the love of God, is like closer than your very breath. You breathe it in. His steadfast love never ceases. His mercies are new each morning. This thought of breathing in and breathing out. And I just started to realize, people would often ask me, how can you still love the church? I mean, how can you still love Willow? I’m like, Well, Willow didn’t hurt me. The church didn’t hurt me. Five people did. My job during this Silent Saturday of uncertainty when a lot of me wanted justice, a lot of me wanted the truth to be told, and a lot of me wanted my job back. A lot of me wanted my old life back. But I realized the invitation was, Oh, if I don’t deal with this unforgiveness, it’s going to take over my heart and my mind, I’m going to become really bitter and jaded. I’m going to be really angry. I’m going to be really frustrated. I think about in John 20, when Jesus appears post-resurrection, he just kind of shows up. Again, the disciples are scared, and he says, Peace be with you. He says it again, Peace be with you, and breathes on them. He says, receive the Holy Spirit. Then he says the most common sense line ever. He says, Hey, if you forgive anyone, they’re forgiven, and if you don’t, they’re not. I think I just realized, Oh, my goodness, I’ve just gone through a lot of my life not forgiving people. I could talk about forgiveness, but not actually forgiving. And Steve arterburn says, The epidemic of the local church is unresolved grief and that’s usually caused by people. Once you start to name that grief, it’s usually tied to a person, or a person’s actions, words, or choices. Now you’re left with what am I going to do? Am I going to harbor that and let it begin to grow these weeds of bitterness? Or am I going to actually do what Christianity offers us that’s so special, which is to actually forgive and say, it’s not going to land in my heart? I’m just going to release it. I think forgiveness is a solo sport. Reconciliation is a team sport. You need more people to show up to the table. But forgiveness is a gift that God’s given us so that we can walk freely, we can walk lightly, and it does not have to hold our life in check. So that’s really what Saturday was for me. It was learning to breathe in that love, to breathe in that grace, and exhale all of that resentment, and really work on the unforgiveness that was flowing through my body.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, no, that’s good, Steve. Thank you for that visibility into your heart because I think that’s helpful for us. I’d like to stay here for a moment because it seems that the climate here in North America, within the church and in ministry, it seems like a lot of pastors and ministry leaders, that there’s a lot of cynicism growing among pastors and ministry leaders. There’s a bit of a cynical spirit, cynical heart, there’s this hardening almost in many conversations. Jump on X, Twitter, or whatever you wanna call it and you see this president, right? So I think this breathing is important because you said some really strong things in there, Steve, about not only breathing in the goodness, the love, and the compassion of Christ. But how do you exhale some of that bitterness? So, Steve, if you could, how would you recommend us in ministry, who are serving in ministry, to really reflect at this time and in this place, knowing everything that’s swirling around us in our culture right now? Softening our hearts, what can God do for us on that Saturday, as we’re breathing in? What are we missing, maybe, Steve?

Steve Carter 
Let me answer it two ways. Let me answer it with a practice and a perspective. So I’ll start with the practice. One of the the invitations I felt like the Lord led me to in the desert, as I’m just working through the Saturday was, that if I don’t know much about forgiveness, I should study it. A therapist told me, he actually pulled me aside and said, you know, if you did your job, I’d probably be out of my job. I’m like, What do you mean? He goes, 85% of the people who sit in my office don’t know how to forgive. And I was like, Oh, wow. Okay. So I looked at the two Greek words that were used for forgiveness, or forgive, and the first one is “Aphiemi” and it’s using the Lord’s Prayer. Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who are indebted to us. It has its roots in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, where the sins would be released on that scapegoat, and that goat would be sent out. So there’s the sense of forgiving in the way that Jesus uses as a release and send away. But then Paul uses a different word in Ephesians. He uses the word “charizomai”, which “chariz” is where we get grace, and the “zomai” is the grace I’ve received, I freely give away. So that brings you back to the cross. So what I started to realize was whenever one of the five people would come to mind, I had a decision. I had a decision to return to the cross, and actually go all of the grace I’ve received, am I going to choose to freely give that away, and will I release them and send that away back to the cross? I carried this small, little brown wooden cross in my pocket. Anytime I would get triggered, anytime a name would come to mind, or anytime I would even feel that cynicism building up. It’s always tied to a person. It’s tied to an action. It’s tied to an opportunity for me to just kind of practice really making my heart tender through this little breath prayer. So I took those two Greek words and I created this little practice of cross, release, send it away. To be honest, I would say that 100 times a day early on for a couple of those names that would come to mind because it’s a process. It’s not typically one-and-done. That just continually kept my heart tender to go, I needed grace. I needed that steadfast love. Also, if I don’t do the work right now, let’s say that those five do their work and they want to show up and actually reconcile. If my heart is cynical and my heart hasn’t done the forgiving work, I’m going to push them away, and I’m going to miss out on an opportunity for a redemption story. So that’s the practice and It’s a daily practice. The perspective brings me to a conversation. I had the privilege to go to the Vatican in 2017 and I got invited to meet the Pope. The night before we met the Pope we went out with his social media director, which is just hilarious to me. But he’s a historian of Catholicism. So we were just sitting there and having some good food. Then he goes, Hey, do any of you have questions about the Catholic Church? And I’m dumb enough, naive enough to look around and be like, I got a question. I said, Hey, and this was before I knew anything about Bill. I said, Hey, I’ve got a question. You’ve had some Popes that have been very celebrated over time for their theology, or their practice, or their integrity. But you’ve also had some really bad Popes. Popes who had kids and who were married. Popes who really abused the role and Popes who bought the role of Pope. How do you tell your history without just trying to move on from that? He said something that I thought was so fascinating, that I think is actually bubbling under the surface right here and now in our culture. He said We cannot dismiss or minimize what has happened in our history. It happened. But I will tell you this, in response to, let’s say, Pope Borgia, a new order was created. So the Jesuit order came in response to a bad Pope. So in the sense of like, when they got themselves off their axis of where they were headed, there was a new order created to say, we gotta get back to true north. I think right now, what you’re seeing is yes, cynicism, and I understand it. But what I also feel like is bubbling up is this new order for character, for integrity, for formation, for spiritual health. I mean, the stuff that Pastor Serve is doing around soul-keeping and emotional health. I mean this is what we were taught in Bible college and seminary decades ago. But a new order is rising up to say, let’s get back to being Christ-like as pastors and shepherds, which should be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, we’ve missed the plot. So give yourself a practice of cross, release, send it away. But also fight the urge for cynicism and see this as an invitation for this new character and integrity formation to be Christ-like because that’s what’s going to serve the future generations and that’s what they’re honestly looking for.

Jason Daye 
Yeah, I absolutely love that, man. What a good word, Steve. As we’re kind of winding down here, I want to give you an opportunity to, you’ve got the ears and eyes of brothers and sisters serving on the front lines, right? What words of encouragement would you speak into their lives right now?

Steve Carter 
Yeah, I mean, I think that for many of us, doing the role of a pastor isn’t easy. I mean, it feels like every day we’re getting a text from someone saying, Hey, can I go for a walk, and you know, if it’s a good talk, or if it’s a bad talk, you don’t know if someone’s leaving the church or staying. I think it just, for many of us, we’ve got cortisol just pumping through our body. I just want to give you the space to say, that it’s okay to create space and honor what comes up when change shows up. To actually go through the Friday, Saturday, Sunday process of Holy Weekend. I know for some of us, we feel like it will slow us down. I’m telling you, it’s not going to slow you down, it’s going to help you go the slow way to finish well. I think some of us are afraid that if we open up that Pandora’s box we’ll be out of control. But I think that one of the key reasons we’ve seen so many pastors not finish well is because they didn’t actually honor the truth of what had happened to them and what they had been carrying. I just want you to know that trust, for me, is a mathematical formula. Safe, plus consistent again, and again, over and over on repeat, make someone worthy of trust. I just want you to know that God is safe. He’s consistent. He’s worthy of your trust. When you can bring him in and let the Spirit, let the way of Jesus, let the love of God just begin to do a work in you, here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to be more empathetic, you’re going to be a much healthier Shepherd. But you’re going to be able to hold space and actually hold the full spectrum of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for your congregation and for your staff and for your elders who really need to see that embodied. So I’m cheering for you. Don’t grow weary in doing good. Keep making the good news your life’s work and what you do truly matters. So thanks for serving the local church.

Jason Daye 
Love that. Great word, brother. Well, I encourage you guys to read Grieve, Breathe, Receive, Steve’s latest book. This process, as he said, this Friday, Saturday, Sunday, this grieve, breathe, receive, powerful, powerful stuff. I encourage you guys to check the book out. Steve, if they want to connect with you, you’ve got your podcast. Share with us some ways that they can connect with you and what you’re doing in ministry.

Steve Carter 
Yeah, the simplest way is You can go online, or on Instagram, or x. It’s at @SteveRyanCarter. Or I teach at So you can listen to some of those teachings and then I host the Craft and Character podcast. So yeah, feel free to reach out anytime. We’d love to connect and hear ways that God’s teaching you about grief and teaching you about Sunday. So yeah, feel free anytime. Awesome.

Jason Daye 
Awesome. Love that, brother. For those of you who are watching and listening along, we will have links to Steve’s book, we’ll have links to his podcast, his social media, and all that fun stuff, his website, in the toolkit for this episode. You can find that again at There are tons of great resources for you and your team at your local church. So be sure to check that out. Steve, it’s been an absolute pleasure, brother. So thankful and grateful that you made time to hang out with us here on FrontStage BackStage.

Steve Carter 
Definitely, Jason, you’re really good at this. I’ve listened to you for many, many years and you create such a safe environment and ask such great questions. So thanks for all the guests that you bring on. It’s truly an honor to be with you today. So thanks for having me.

Jason Daye 
I appreciate that. Steve, God bless you, Brother,

Steve Carter 
You too.

Jason Daye
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at That’s And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.

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