David Chadwick – The Leadership Crucible of the Local Church

“I think about all the second chances my Lord has given me. His grace and mercy have been extended to me regularly!” -David Chadwick

[00:00:00] David Chadwick: Probably the first question you’d hear from me is tell me the time you were broken.

Tell me the time you failed and how did that influence your life and how did you respond to that? That’s the most important quality I look for in a future employee. How have you failed? How have you been broken and how did the Lord teach you through that? Humility is the most important earmark I look for in someone’s life. And if they’ve not gone through a tough time, if they’ve not had rejection, if they’ve not experienced failure, they probably come in with some degree of arrogance, and that will be seen at some point.


[00:00:40] Tommy Thomas:   This week, we’re continuing the conversation that we began last week with David Chadwick – Lead Pastor of Moments of Hope Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.  If you missed last week’s conversation, David shared in-depth the life and leadership lessons he learned from playing basketball for the legendary Coach Dean Smith at UNC. This week, we’re shifting the conversation to the 44 years that David has served as pastor in the local church. He’s very transparent about the crucible for leadership training that the local church provides.

[00:01:11] Tommy Thomas: Let’s change gears a little bit. And obviously, after you played ball in Europe, you came back and finally got into the ministry. I guess you were doing the Jonah thing and it finally got into the ministry. What do you remember about your first management job when you actually had people reporting to you?

[00:01:26] David Chadwick: I came back from Europe in 1974. I played three years in the professional leagues there and then two years at the University of Florida and got a graduate degree in counseling. In my undergraduate degree, a broadcasting degree, I learned how to talk, and in my graduate degree, I learned how to listen. So, I was prepared to go to seminary and then got some great theological training.

Seminary does as good a job as it can do to prepare you for ministry, but it doesn’t give you great courses on how to manage difficult people and how to handle a staff and all of that. Tommy, I came to a church here in Charlotte in 1980. It was a rather small church, and it had a couple of people on staff. I just tried to commit myself to leading them as I saw Coach Smith lead his staff and my dad as well. And that’s just my highest priority – to love people, to care for people, to help them succeed, listen to them, get their input, and try to advance the church as best I can. My first management job was at that church for those first few years, just trying to manage folks as best I knew how, love my neighbor, and I made some mistakes along the way, but also had some successes too.

[00:02:39] Tommy Thomas: So successful people are often asked what makes you so successful? I like to reframe the question and say, what’s a factor that has helped you succeed that most people on the outside wouldn’t recognize or realize?

[00:02:54] David Chadwick: I don’t know if I’m successful or not. All of that’s measured by the Lord and I hope I am in His eyes. But I think, Tommy, that most success is not outward, it’s done in privacy. And I would say whatever success I’ve had in being able to grow a church and see it, be able to minister in a community where no one sees what you do behind the scenes.

The phone calls made the prayers that were offered. The love that’s extended to different people going through different crises, the hospital visitations, the counseling sessions, nobody sees that. Yet I would argue that those were the real stones used by the Lord to build a strong church.

Everything that’s successful in life comes through relationships. And in those behind-the-scenes, unseen relationship-building and love of other people, that’s where true success happens. And then it’s just seen on the outside. And again, in ministry, that’s where true success really is built, in the relationships you’ve given to people.

[00:04:08] Tommy Thomas: Richard Paul Evans, the bestselling novelist, said that sometimes the greatest hope in our lives is just a second chance to do what we should have done right in the first place. What’s going on in your heart and in your decision-making process when you think about giving an employee a second chance?

I think about all the second chances my Lord has given me.
His grace and mercy have been extended to me regularly!

[00:04:29] David Chadwick: First of all, I think about all the second chances my Lord has given me. And His grace and mercy have been extended to me regularly. Mercy’s not receiving what we do deserve, and grace is receiving what we don’t deserve. And through Jesus, I’ve not received what I do deserve, and that’s Hell.

And Jesus died on the cross to give me the gift of eternal life, not by anything I’ve done, but by His mercy, but also grace. You just think upon the gifts, upon gifts God has given me that I don’t deserve, but He has chosen to. When I look at that which has been given to me, the forgiveness of my billion-dollar debt I could have never repaid, why can’t I do that same for other people who have failed as well? Giving them the second chance that the Lord’s given me repeatedly throughout my life and career.

There have been several people I know who have messed up and I’ve worked with them and tried to give them a second chance. Realizing that in that second chance, you’ve got to make sure that you’re not putting them in a position where they could hurt somebody else by the decision they made in the first place.

That’s not wise at all. But if you really can give them that second chance, you try to because you know how many second chances the Lord has given you.

[00:05:39] Tommy Thomas: I’m in the South and I guess we can say that Charlotte is in the South. We have an expression that says you tested your metal. Can you think of a time in your life when you had your metal tested and how did you come out of it?

[00:05:57] David Chadwick: Which one do you want to talk about? I went through a bit of a crisis some four years ago when the church I had pastored for 39 years decided they wanted to go in a different direction, and they felt like I, after 39 years, was too old to lead the church and that I didn’t have the ability to relate to younger people anymore, which I didn’t understand because the church was still growing and it was still reaching a lot of people and there were baptisms taking place.

But for whatever reason, the leadership of the church decided that my time had ended. And it really hurt, Tommy, because I had given so much of my life to the church, as had my wife. Again, it didn’t look to me on the outside like it was not successful, but I had a certain number of staff and elders who thought it was my time to go.

You really didn’t have any control over that. And so, I had to leave and my heart was really hurt over that. I think for the first time I really understood what someone going through a divorce feels like because, after 39 years, you have maybe a spouse say to you, I don’t love you anymore.

Plus, I want all the assets and get out of here. And that’s pretty much what happened. I had a choice. Either to quit, resign, to not do ministry anymore, or I still felt a call to ministry. And that was the real question. Was God still calling me to minister in the local church? At the age of 69, I started a new church.

Which is quite a challenge for a 69-year-old. It’s the hardest work in ministry. No question about it. I gathered around me a group of people who were my friends and felt like my ministry years weren’t over with, so we started from scratch, Tommy, from nothing. Over the last few years, we’ve seen a growing, thriving, serving, giving body of Christ form here in the city as well.

And I’ve had to start all over, but in a real way, it’s been some of the richest years in my life. I guess I’ve had to live by that whole idea of, never giving up. When you get that call from God, and you know it’s what you’re supposed to do, keep on keeping on, persevere, and watch the Lord work.


[00:08:13] Tommy Thomas: Let’s go to some of the more mundane aspects of ministry and leadership, and that would be hiring and firing.  When you’re hiring somebody on your staff, what do the qualities look like? And if I were to come tomorrow and apply for a job, what would the interview process look like?

Probably the first question you’d hear from me is tell me the time you were broken.  Tell me the time you failed and how did that influence your life and how did you respond to that?

[00:08:29] David Chadwick: Probably the first question you’d hear from me is tell me the time you were broken.

Tell me the time you failed and how did that influence your life and how did you respond to that? The most important quality I look for in a future employee is, how have you failed? How have you been broken and how did the Lord teach you through that? Humility is the most important earmark I look for in someone’s life. And if they’ve not gone through a tough time, if they’ve not had rejection, if they’ve not experienced failure, they probably come in with some degree of arrogance, and that will be seen at some point. Tommy, that’s the first question I go to, and it’s probably the last question I ask as well.

Humility is the most important earmark I look for in someone’s life. 
If they’ve not gone through a tough time, if they’ve not had rejection, if they’ve not experienced failure, they probably come in with some degree of arrogance.

[00:09:17] Tommy Thomas: On the flip side of that, you’ve probably had to terminate people over the years. What have you found is the best way to let somebody go?

[00:09:24] David Chadwick:  If you find a good way to let somebody go, please tell me, I would love to know that, but in the dismissals I’ve had to oversee during the years, the very best thing you can do is to appreciate the work they have done and then give them an explanation clearly for why you’re having to let them go. Don’t let the question mark linger in their minds or they’ll always wonder. And our minds, because of our broken flesh, run to the negative so quickly. And then because of that, we will live under the cloud of I’m a bad person. I’m a failure. I’m not worth anything. So let them know why. And then if you can, in any other way, help them find something else.

And then I’ve discovered that most all of those people I’ve had to let go, five years later, they’ll call back and say you know what, at the time it was painful, I was even angry at you, but that turned out to be the best thing that ever happened in my life.

[00:10:32] Tommy Thomas: If I were to come to one of your staff meetings next week, and I had a chance to meet with your leadership team and then we excused you and I asked them two questions.

One, what would be the most exciting thing about working for David? What kind of response would I get? And then the flip side of that, what’s the most difficult aspect of working for David Chadwick?

[00:10:55] David Chadwick: I think they would probably say the most exciting thing about working for me is that there’s always vision.

There’s always something out there we’re striving for, and that vision keeps division from happening, and it keeps the people fresh and moving forward. I think they would say the most frustrating thing working for David is that there’s always a fresh vision. And he’s always got a new mountain that he wants to try to conquer, and he doesn’t get satisfied with the way things are.  So probably my greatest strength is my greatest weakness in a way.

[00:11:40] Tommy Thomas: What was the most significant leadership or management thing that you learned from COVID that you’re going to take forward in ministry?

[00:11:47] David Chadwick:  Don’t necessarily believe the narrative. When people are afraid, they’ll give up control, and giving up control is dangerous, and seldom do people who have power, who get more power, give that power back.

I would say that. So be careful when the crisis hits, that you don’t make decisions out of fear, that you make decisions out of real knowledge, and also courage. I think the second thing I would say is that isolating is dangerous. I would say the church is essential.

How crazy that the government would shut down, for example, the church, but keep ABC stores open because they consider them essential. 
The church is essential.

We’re not to forsake the gathering together of believers. We need each other, and when we don’t come together and don’t have fellowship, we see what happens, and that is the rapid increase of suicide, depression, discouragement, learning capabilities, being retarded, all of those things.  We need each other. We need to come together.

[00:13:04] Tommy Thomas: Frederick Wilcox said that progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base with your foot on first. What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken, and how did you come out of it?

[00:13:17] David Chadwick: I would allude back to four years ago when I took the risk at my age and stage of life to plant a church. What came out of it is a very successful, vibrant church with people who love Jesus deeply like I’ve never seen before.

So, I’m so glad I took that risk. It would have been easier to take their severance package and all the money they offered me and just run. I turned down that severance package. I didn’t think it was right for me to take their money and then go plant a church. I think I didn’t take the money because I didn’t think I agreed with their narrative.

So, I thought by taking the money, I would concur with their narrative. I didn’t think that was wise. So that would be the first. The second one would be back in 1986, we moved from a very small church on a small piece of property and purchased 26 acres in a larger place in Charlotte. And the cost was 5 million.

And we only had, at that point, about seven or 800 members. It was a huge leap of faith and we took it not knowing what was going to happen, but Tommy, it was so cool at every moment. And we had to incur some debt at that point to be able to pay for it all. But at every moment we needed something in order to advance forward, to have that property given to us.

There’d be a check that would come in the mail or somebody would step forward or something supernatural would happen And we were able to secure that property and I look back and go it was just a miracle of the Lord that we did that but I don’t think we could have ever experienced those miracles had we not stepped forward off the plank, if you will, and risked everything.

[00:14:54] Tommy Thomas: My friend, Barry Corey, the President of Biola University told me last week he’s writing a book on the burdens of leadership, the burdens of leadership that the presidents and CEOs uniquely bear.

If you were writing such a book, what topics might you cover?

[00:15:10] David Chadwick: Probably first of all, carrying the burdens of your staff people, because people with whom you work, if you really commit yourself to serve people as a servant leader, to help them become all they’re supposed to become, and not use people for your own personal benefit, then that means you’re entering into the Galatians 6 area of carrying their burdens.

And, at that point, you really do become a servant to them and what they feel you feel. And everybody, Tommy, everybody’s going through difficult times, but especially people on your staff. When you carry their burdens, it makes your life more burdensome. And yet, that’s the very essence of servant leadership.

That means you’ve got to know them. You’ve got to talk to them. So, every week we have a staff meeting. A time when people can just share and they can share their lives, what they’re going through. So, all of us carry each other’s burdens, but I know that I as the leader must do so even above the other staff members.

[00:16:11] Tommy Thomas: Speaking of your staff, any particular team-building exercises or processes that you found that helped bring a team together?

A church staff should have fun together. 
Take a day every quarter and go bowling or go for a nature retreat. 
Whatever it might be – have fun together.

[00:16:23] David Chadwick: One thing is just go have some fun together. Take a day every quarter, for example, and go bowling, or go for a retreat in nature with them, or whatever it might be, just have some fun together.

The other thing is, that we’ve developed four core areas that we think are so important for our body, the church, to know, and particularly our staff needs to understand and model it. And that’s in the areas of scripture, theology outreach, and wholeness of life. That means body, soul, and spirit all together.

We regularly offer courses and teachings in these four areas so that staff can grow in these areas together and apart. And we’ve just learned that they have fun together and they also grow in those four areas together. It unites us better as well.

[00:17:16] Tommy Thomas: What’s the most dangerous trait that you’ve observed that derails a leader’s career?

[00:17:20] David Chadwick:  Selfish ambition. Period. James 3:13 says that where there’s selfish ambition, there’s every evil thing. I just think it opens the door for every other demonic force in the universe to come in and attack the leader and his or her organization or enterprise. And personal ambition is that the organization and its successes are all about me and that I’m the focal point of everything.  And when you have that perspective, you are surely setting yourself up for a fall. Your pride does truly come before the fall.


[00:18:06] Tommy Thomas: You mentioned when I asked you about what was this, what would your staff say? You said it was a double-edged sword. You always had a new idea. And that involves change.

Charles Darwin said it’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who survive, but those who can best manage change. So how do you work with yourself to embrace this notion that everything is always changing?

[00:18:29] David Chadwick: Who is it that said the only people who like change are babies with wet diapers?

I think there’s some truth to that. I think you first have to realize and accept that this world is changing rapidly. And that, Tommy, you and I are about the same age, the world we were brought up in is not the world we’re living in today and you’d better try to understand it and grow as best you can or you’re going to be left behind.

And so the leader has to continually help those on the staff to understand that change as well. And it’s just, almost weekly you talk about that change and weekly you acknowledge that change. And I think for those of us in the kingdom of God, we recognize that if we don’t change, we’re not going to reach people today.

The most important aspect of ministry is still someone’s eternal soul. And so we think about how we can creatively reach people for Christ, and that’s going to involve using the different mechanisms that are out there to do so and that’s going to mean changing constantly the way that we do it.

You make your mission what’s most important and then the mission always is open to new ways for that mission to be accomplished. When people buy the mission, they then are open to changes that will allow the mission to occur.

[00:19:47] Tommy Thomas: On that same line, maybe, give us two or three innovations that you and your staff have developed over the years that worked?

[00:19:57] David Chadwick: One of them would be in our church right now. In forming a new church you don’t have a big building with all the amenities that you have when you have been in a ministry like I was in 39 years. We had six different locations with six buildings that were all debt-free. That didn’t happen overnight.

That happened over a long period of time of building up those resources and building them. Now we’re in a building where we don’t have any capacity for caring for children beyond the age of five. Where before you had this big church where you could have the children in their areas doing their thing, the parents in the worship time.

We just finally said, you know what, if we want children to know the Lord, they need to be in worship with their parents. We’ve developed a worship service that is holistic and allows children from the age of six upward with adults and their parents to participate and be a part of it. And it’s been really interesting to see parents slowly but surely say, I don’t need my kids in some kind of nursery program where they’re babysat so I can listen to a message. I want them here. And they’re hearing more than I realized. And they’re using that worship time as a way to springboard into spiritual discussions with their children. We don’t have the space. We just don’t have the rooms.

We used it to adapt to a family worship service that’s been really powerful and meaningful for hundreds of people.

[00:21:33] Tommy Thomas: Somebody comes to you this week and they want to talk about going into the ministry. What is some basic counsel you’re giving?

Has God called you into the ministry? 
Can you imagine yourself doing anything else but this?

[00:21:43] David Chadwick: I think the first question that they’ve got to answer is, has God called you to do this? And then they go I think so. And then the next question is, can you imagine yourself doing anything else but this?

And if they answer yes, I tell them to go do it because ministry is so hard and so difficult that there are going to be days when you just don’t know why in the world you’re doing this. Where you go to then, when you have those feelings, is that sense of call. You go back to, for me, 1976.

When I knew I’d run away from the Lord long enough and the Lord backed me into the corner. And Tommy, I hope it’s not too spooky for all of your listeners, but I heard a voice. And that voice spoke to my heart and said, don’t you know, David, I have formed you from the foundations of the Earth to preach My gospel throughout the world and the local church.

And Tommy, when I heard that, I went to my knees and wept. Then I called my mom and dad and told them what happened. And then a month later, I entered seminary. And so on those dark days, when I wonder, what in the world are You doing, Lord? Why did I do this? This is so painful. This is so difficult. I remember that July moment in 1976 in that Gainesville apartment when I know that I know that I know that I know God called me into ministry.

And I knew at that moment there was nothing else I was called to do. And so I would ask a person, are you called? Is there anything else you can imagine yourself doing? If so, go do it. And then if you’re still at that point feeling like God’s called you into ministry, come back and let’s talk. God probably has then called you into ministry.

That would be my prelude to understanding a true call.

[00:23:33] Tommy Thomas: My former pastor and I guess the guy that mentored me a lot was Frank Barker at the Broadwood Church in Birmingham. And Frank had a saying, he said, you don’t go into ministry, you grow into ministry. Your thoughts there?

[00:23:46] David Chadwick: I think first of all, there has to be the call.  And if that call is certain, the longer you’re in that call, the more you just know that God truly did call you into ministry and you become wiser simply by experience and going through the years of ministry.

And I think Frank’s absolutely right. You do grow into ministry and that calling does become more real.  And now after 44 years in ministry, I can say from the bottom of my heart, I not only know that I was called, but I have also grown into that calling in a real way.


[00:24:24] Tommy Thomas:  I want to touch briefly on board service, and of course in the context of a church, it would be the elders or the deacons. What have you learned over the years about putting together that leadership team, and board, and reporting to and working with?

[00:24:42] David Chadwick: It could be born out of some of my experiences a few years ago where I thought the board was too large, and I really didn’t know a good number of the board members personally. We had six campuses; it was a church that had a weekly attendance of six plus thousand or so.

And I was convinced by other people that I needed to have representatives from all the campuses on that board. And I thought, okay, that makes sense since it’s such a large church influencing such a large area. But when those folks came on board, I didn’t really know them. And I hadn’t spent time with them.

And they didn’t know my heart. They didn’t know who I was. They didn’t know my family or anything like that. Many of those board members had only been on the board a couple of months, and they made decisions regarding my life that I don’t think they really understood. So from that, Tommy, I’ve taken two truths and whether they’re right or not, I’m not sure, but I’m operating by them today. First of all, I need to know my board and the people on the board need to be friends.

They need to know my heart. They need to trust me, and I need to be able to trust them. If they need to agree with decisions for the direction of the church, they need to know who I am, know my heart, know that it’s mostly pure that I’m trying to serve the Lord. And then the second thing I learned is that the former board was 12 people or so. That’s too many people.

We have a board now of five people. And it’s a board that operates quickly, and succinctly, and can make decisions that are good for the church. And we just don’t get bogged down in long-term discussions with other people’s agendas. We can operate swiftly and quickly for the sake of the kingdom.

Our hearts are unified. We really do experience love and unity together. So, for me, that’s worked really well. I know my board well. It’s a smaller board and it allows us to make decisions well. And these are men I trust and know and love and really care for me as well.

[00:26:46] Tommy Thomas: Anything I hadn’t asked you that you thought I would that you want to share?

If you don’t come apart, you’ll come apart.

If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re not as bright as you think you are.

[00:26:55] David Chadwick: I think I would just say from my experience vision is everything. Without a vision, people perish. And I would just encourage all leaders out there to have time alone, to take time to think. If you don’t come apart, you’ll come apart. If you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re not as bright as you think you are.

So make sure you get away on a regular basis just to think and just to be and hear the Lord and hear his vision for your organization, your church, or whatever it is that you lead. Clarify it, put it down on paper if you have to, and get people to buy into the vision for it. A true vision unites and where there’s no vision, there’s division.

So for me and my leadership through the years, I would just say to everybody, get a vision, buy in, and then pursue it with every ounce of your being.


Tommy Thomas: If you’ve been listening to this podcast for a while, you’ve noticed that occasionally I interview a leader who played team sports on the intercollegiate level. This is because I believe a person can learn a lot about teamwork from playing team sports.

I’ve referred to this thread of interviews as Life and Leadership Lessons Learned from The Coaches In My Life. In addition to these conversations with David Chadwick, I’ve interviewed:

  • Dr. Linda Livingstone – President Baylor University
  • Brody Croyle – Executive Director of the Big Oak Ranch.
  • Dr. Terry Franson – former Track and Field Coach at Azusa Pacific University and
  • Shelby Livingstone – Assistant Volleyball Coach – Liberty University.

The common thread in each of these people’s lives is that they have excelled in intercollegiate athletics. And they will tell you that they learned a lot about life and leadership from the coaches in their lives.

“A church staff should have fun together.  Take a day a quarter and go bowling or go for a nature retreat.  Whatever it might be – have fun together.” -David Chadwick

Links and Resources

JobfitMatters Website

Next Gen Nonprofit Leadership with Tommy Thomas

Moments of Hope Church

Books by David Chadwick:

Moving Beyond Anxiety: 12 Practical Strategies to Renew Your Mind

Hearing the Voice of God: He Knows You, He Loves You, He’s Always with You

It’s How You Play the Game: The 12 Leadership Principles of Dean Smith

Eight Great Ways to Honor Your Wife


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