Thrive
Podcast

Overview

Rev. Dr. Brian Ebel, Asbury Seminary alum, adjunct professor at the Seminary, church planter, and lead pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington, Ky. , joins me on the podcast today. We talk about how he came to Christ, his calling, how he and his wife Mandy planted Revolution United Methodist Church in Louisville. We talk about transition and women in ministry, too.

Let’s listen!

Rev. Dr. Brian Ebel, Senior Pastor, St. Luke United Methodist Church, Lexington, Ky.

Heidi Wilcox, host of the Thrive Podcast

Writer, podcaster, and social media manager, Heidi Wilcox shares stories of truth, justice, healing and hope. She is best known as the host of Spotlight, (especially her blooper reel) highlighting news, events, culturally relevant topics and stories of the ways alumni, current students and faculty are attempting something big for God. If you can’t find her, she’s probably cheering on her Kentucky Wildcats, enjoying a cup of coffee, reading or spending time with her husband, Wes.



Transcript

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey everyone. Welcome to this week’s episode of the Thrive with Asbury Seminary Podcast. I’m your host Heidi E. Wilcox, bringing you conversations with authors, thought leaders and people just like you who are looking to connect where your passion meets the world’s deep need.

Heidi Wilcox:
Today on the podcast I’m talking to Brian Ebel, pastor of St. Luke United Methodist Church in Lexington. Brian is also an Asbury Seminary alum and adjunct professor here at the Seminary. He also happens to be my pastor. I’m super excited to get to talk to him today and share that conversation with you. In today’s conversation we talk about his journey to Christ, how he and his wife Mandy planted Revolution United Methodist Church in Louisville, their transition to St. Luke this past summer and women in ministry. I hope you enjoy, let’s listen.

Heidi Wilcox:
Did you watch the game last night?

Brian Ebel:
I did. Actually, I was at it.

Heidi Wilcox:
You were at it?

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. Mandy and I went.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s so exciting!

Brian Ebel:
We had a good time.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s awesome. It was a good game.

Brian Ebel:
It was a good game. It was a little too good. They got up by 11 and then it got down to five, and then that was it. It was fun. It was a good game.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. We did watch, Kentucky is really good at this season. We have got to learn the kill instinct.

Brian Ebel:
They don’t pull away.

Heidi Wilcox:
No.

Brian Ebel:
No.

Heidi Wilcox:
We’ve got to do that.

Brian Ebel:
Yes. I think they were up by 13 at one point and it was sort of, “Go put them away. Let’s bring in the bench-warmers.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Right?

Brian Ebel:
Alas, it got interesting for a little bit but they pulled it out. Richards had a good game.

Heidi Wilcox:
I am impressed with Nick Richards, because I mean-

Brian Ebel:
He’s getting better.

Heidi Wilcox:
My gosh, for the past few years it’s like, “When are you going to start showing up?” He is showing up consistently more often.

Brian Ebel:
Hagans had a good game.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes. Yes.

Brian Ebel:
Maxey did not. But, this is basketball.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. I mean, we do this every year with Cal’s teams. It’s a roller coaster but then in March, most of the time, we usually wind up with a good team.

Brian Ebel:
They turn it on.

Heidi Wilcox:
We turn it on.

Brian Ebel:
I got high hopes for them. They didn’t fight like the guy at Kansas, so that was a win.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. That’s true.

Brian Ebel:
I mean, that’s big.

Heidi Wilcox:
That is big. Yeah, because I remember you’re my pastor not on the podcast. We go to St. Luke where you’re the pastor at, and so that was I think basically my first question for you when I met you. Because you came from Louisville at a church you planted there and I was like, “So are you a Louisville fan or a Kentucky fan?”

Brian Ebel:
That’s right. You said something to the effect of, “I might have a hard time if you’re a Louisville fan.” No, we’re rooting for the Cats.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s good. We can be friends.

Brian Ebel:
That’s right. Absolutely.

Heidi Wilcox:
So, I want to talk a little bit about how you got called into full-time ministry. Because I know you had a master in business and you’ve talked about that a little bit in church. How did you go from that to being a pastor?

Brian Ebel:
Okay. Well, just to be fair, so there’s clarity, I didn’t finish my MBA. That’s part of the story, though. It’s a good part of the story. I grew up Roman Catholic, love my roots now probably more than I appreciated before. Our family was a go to church every Sunday, it doesn’t matter if you’re sick or on the way out into the next life but you’re going. It was tough for me. I had a lot of questions and a lot of those questions really didn’t get answered along the way. I don’t think that’s anybody’s fault, I think it’s circumstantial and maybe even providential.

Brian Ebel:
At 15, I did confirmation and that was sort of the beginning of the end for me. A lot of the questions that I had really never got answered. One of the nagging ones was, “Okay, we rely on tradition a lot and I appreciate that, tradition is great, but what does scripture have to say?” It always went back to, “Well, this is just what we do, you need to get in line.” I couldn’t always buy that. So, I was going to be respectful to my parents and at the end of school figure it out from there.

Brian Ebel:
It was interesting, I can almost see the point of departure. I went away to a small Catholic private school on a golf scholarship.

Heidi Wilcox:
For college.

Brian Ebel:
For college, for undergrad. The first day we got there, there was this opening convocation kind of like what Asbury does. My parents, it was horribly disrespectful on my part, they said, “Hey, let’s go to mass” and I said, “Hey, I need to get this dorm room set up and if you guys want to go, go ahead.” It was interesting how from that point forward, and maybe even before while even I was going to church, I was really lost.

Brian Ebel:
Fast forward two years, what was interesting was all along the way there were these glimmers of God. For example, we had a huge tournament that we would go play in the Spring and it was on Easter weekend. Here we are and I wasn’t going to church at all and I’m thinking, “This can’t be good I’m playing golf on Easter Sunday.” I met Mandy, my wife now, my sophomore year of college.

Heidi Wilcox:
She’s the best.

Brian Ebel:
I like her. Thanks.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s good. I like her too.

Brian Ebel:
She introduced me to a very different Jesus than I knew. One who wanted a relationship and that was so foreign to me. Because God was existent but out there, uninterested, that kind of thing. We started to attend her dad’s church. She is the daughter of a United Methodist pastor.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow.

Brian Ebel:
Very different experience. Very different.

Heidi Wilcox:
Can I ask what they thought about you and their daughter in the beginning because you were Roman Catholic but weren’t even practicing Catholicism at that time, and then you show up at the United Methodist Church?

Brian Ebel:
We’ll just say it was a hard sell for a while.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay, okay.

Brian Ebel:
I don’t blame them. Somebody outside their tradition, somebody who’s trying to figure it all out and admittedly, Mandy was so much further down the road than I was in her faith. I still had lots of questions. Never doubting God’s existence but just, “Why does any of it matter?” By the end of school, we started to go to church some then there was a conversion experience that I had. It was on a Good Friday at an Assembly of God Church of all places.

Heidi Wilcox:
You’re getting to all the denominations.

Brian Ebel:
Exactly, and who would’ve thought I would’ve ended up there? My tradition, there was no altar call or anything like that. The pastor said, “If you’ve been away from God for a long time and you’re ready to come back and you want to know him personally and hear his voice and all of that, then I want you to close your eyes and stand up.” Everybody’s got their eyes closed and I stand up and I pulled Mandy with me because I didn’t know what was going to happen next.

Heidi Wilcox:
I’m not standing up by myself.

Brian Ebel:
Right. Right on. I did that. I opened my eyes and I figured, “Who isn’t going to stand up right now? There’s like 20 of us.” They whisk us off into this backroom and this guy is praying over us and praying in tongues. This was just so different for me but it was great. That was the start of it.

Brian Ebel:
During that period, I was working for a CPA firm, working on my MBA. We went to different churches. We went to Rob Bell’s Church, that was really big at the time Mars Hill in Grand Rapids. We went a few times to Ed Dobson’s Church, Calvary Baptist but we kept coming back to this Methodist Church where her dad was. The big thing was there was a banker, a guy who I knew who went to church there. He really started to disciple and mentor me. I didn’t know what that was because I had never experienced it before. He was good for me and so we really plugged in there and got involved in serving and those kinds of things. That’s where it started anyway.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, that’s awesome. How did you go from just being a layperson? What was that journey like to become a pastor?

Brian Ebel:
Unexpected, really. We were getting involved in serving. We had a great Sunday school class that we were a part of. It was filled with people who were pretty much our age, plus or minus five years or so. My father-in-law every once in a while he couldn’t make a hospital call because the church was about 30 minutes away from downtown where I worked and he would say, “Hey, would you mind stopping by and seeing such-and-such a person?” I would do it. You’re just going and saying “hi” to people and having a prayer for them and that kind of thing. Then we would lead on occasion some studies or that sort of thing. I just had a call experience.

Heidi Wilcox:
Tell me about that.

Brian Ebel:
One night, in the middle of the night, I had read through the Bible at this point and all of this was new and I was really growing and really felt and heard God’s voice so clear. It was “Brian, I want you to be a pastor in the Methodist system. I want you to love and lead my people. I want you to minister the word and bring revival everywhere you go.”

Heidi Wilcox:
This is an audible voice?

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. I mean, audible in the sense that I heard it clearly. Now, if you were in the same room, would you have heard it? I doubt it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Right. But, you knew.

Brian Ebel:
I knew. It was so scary because I’m in an MBA program, I’ve got a good career, I’m making good money. We’re serving in our church and I’m really learning how to love God and all those kinds of things. I didn’t have a frame of reference for any of that sort of thing. Pastors were the kids who grew up in church and they knew the Bible forwards, backwards and sideways and that wasn’t me. I really struggled with “Is this real?”, and I had some good friends and my mentor and we talked about it. I think it became a question of “Okay, maybe this call is real, but when do you really act on it?”

Heidi Wilcox:
After you knew, were there doubts after that? Or did you just like, “I know, and I’m going to go”?

Brian Ebel:
Tons of doubts.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay, good, good. I’m glad you’re normal.

Brian Ebel:
Tons. Oh my gosh, yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
Or at least, maybe I’m glad I’m normal.

Brian Ebel:
No, I’m not normal. You have a chance at it, that’s for sure. I’m definitely not normal. I mean, it was, “Is this real? Why me? I’ve got this four or five year period of my life that wasn’t rooted in Christianity or holy living or anything like that. Clearly God, you either had bad tacos or you got the wrong guy.” I told Mandy, my wife, we were married by then. We’d been married for a few years. I said, “Hey I really think God is calling me to be a pastor.” I told her in the middle of Meijer, which was not a very good idea.

Heidi Wilcox:
Great timing.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. She just basically dropped everything and said, “No, you have heard wrong. I’m not doing this. My family has done this. You have no idea what you’re in for.” I said, “Maybe you’re right.” I just started to pray and I said, “God, you gave me this amazing lady, who led me to you and turn my life around and all of these things. If you really want me to do this, you’re going to have to talk to her. I’m not going to try to win that battle.” A few weeks later, she said, “I really think you need to do this at some point.”

Brian Ebel:
It became this question of when? It’s funny, I think once we said yes, I figured it would be, “We’ll go do this when I’m 35 or 40, I wanted to make partner where I was all those kinds of things first, I’m in this MBA thing.”

Heidi Wilcox:
How old were you?

Brian Ebel:
The call experience I was about 25. I was four years into a career and three years into a career all kinds of different goals. It was like, once we said yes, my career started to… I started to have problems focusing at work, “Did I really want to be there? Is this really what I want to do with my life?” There are a number of experiences. My mentor and I, we got crossed ways about things and sort of, “Hey, we thought you were headed for partner and you seem to have it all wrong now.” All of a sudden I went, “Gosh, it’s not so rosy here, is now the time?” We came down to Asbury and visited and what within nine months we found out we had a church, two churches in Kentucky we were going to serve. We wrote our letters of resignation on the way back and gave our resignation and the rest is history.

Heidi Wilcox:
I know you planted a church in Louisville but it doesn’t sound like that happened. That wasn’t your next step, you left the CPA firm and did that and you came to Asbury. Tell me the next step.

Brian Ebel:
I quit the firm. We moved in May or July? No. Yeah, early July 2002, I had to come here and start an MDiv and first class I had was Philosophy and it was great. I was so excited. We moved from a town of 750,000 people to a town of 204.

Heidi Wilcox:
Were you living in Wilmore?

Brian Ebel:
No, we were living in a little town called Maxville.

Heidi Wilcox:
Okay.

Brian Ebel:
I had two churches, Mandy and I had two churches that we pastored and I really thought, “What I loved about Asbury was you didn’t just get the head knowledge, you got the heart knowledge too.” I figured if I could do something practical, pastor as you go. It would help give some great experience.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah. Practicing what you’re learning in the moment instead of waiting the three or four years after when you’ll graduate to then practice it.

Brian Ebel:
Exactly. Exactly. We just dove right in and pastored two churches and did my MDiv.

Heidi Wilcox:
Which has a lot when you’re going to school.

Brian Ebel:
Well, it helped. We didn’t have kids at the time.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. It’s still a lot.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah, it was. I mean, you got to manage your time.

Heidi Wilcox:
You got to hustle.

Brian Ebel:
You got to hustle. It was good and we love those churches, we still talk to a few of the folks from those churches and it was a great experience.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did she then plant a church, Revelation in Louisville?

Brian Ebel:
Sure. At the end of 2006 or middle of 2006 I graduated, I was moved or transferred, appointed is probably the right word to St. Paul in Louisville as associate pastor. About halfway through this Bishop came to town named Lindsey Davis.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes.

Brian Ebel:
Everybody loves and I love Bishop Davis, great man. We talked a bit and he said, “Hey, what do you think about church planting?” To be honest with you, I don’t think we were the greatest at church planting. There was one church here, two churches in Lexington that had done really well with church planting. Other than that, it really wasn’t a thing. I said, “Yeah, I’ll pray on it.” Eventually, there was a seminar and he said, “Hey look, why don’t you give the seminar a try.” I went to the seminar on it put on by path one and all the traits of church planters, being a bit of a maverick and wanting to do things differently and reach people with the gospel. I was like, “Man, this is me.” I said, “All right, I’m in.” He says, “Great. Give me a plan.” I’m thinking, “God, I’m going to have to go do this.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Give me a plan.

Brian Ebel:
The senior pastor at St. Paul, at the time was really great about, “Hey, what could it look like? Is it possible to plant a church out of here?” I came up with a mother daughter model of church planting. Basically, that means you’re going to take a certain size or population of people from an existing church and replant it into a new community of faith that might have a partnership, but it’s not a direct connection to the Mother Church. We took a 10th about 70 people from St. Paul, where we were and planted Revolution and that was in 2010.

Heidi Wilcox:
Wow. After that, what was the planting process? What did you learn as you were planting?

Brian Ebel:
Sure. Church planting is like the Wild West and it’s you start up with this group of people and we had… The process, I guess, let me back up. The process would be in January 2010, we put first a letter out, “Hey, are you interested in doing this thing?” By May, we had a commitment Sunday, we had about it was 65 or 70. Right about at the number of people to come and do this. There was a three year commitment from the annual conference to help us financially.

Heidi Wilcox:
Nice.

Brian Ebel:
We figured the thing that we need to do is just grow as fast as possible. The key for really any church not just church plant says, “Developing a culture of invitation.” Invite, invite, invite, invite, invite.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did you do that though?

Brian Ebel:
The big thing was we had people make a list of 50 people, who are 50 people that you can be actively praying for and inviting to come to church? A lot of the training methods that we tried to use for invitation was first recognizing that especially in we’ll call it the South Midwest or the northern part of the South. A lot of people will tell you that they go to church, the question you need to ask is how often?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah. Everybody goes.

Brian Ebel:
It’s unpopular to not go to church almost.

Heidi Wilcox:
Everybody believes in God and everybody goes to church.

Brian Ebel:
But, how often?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah.

Brian Ebel:
What we found was a lot of people would tell you, “I go to this big church because it’s just easy.” They might go Christmas and Easter. They might go once a month, they might go once a quarter. If you take a vested interest, because I mean, God calls us to love people. This isn’t a fake sort of a thing. If you love people and you begin to invite you’ll never cease to be amazed at what can happen. As we started the church in June 2010, we had it was about 70, 75 people our first Sunday and our idea was we’re going to do worship twice a month until we hit 100. We got to 4th July, the Sunday after 4th July, whatever that was we had over 100.

Brian Ebel:
I called my coach and I’m like, “Well, what do we do?” He goes, “Well, Brian, you dummy. You go.” I’m like, “We’re not ready.” He goes, “Well, this is how it works. This is Book of Acts stuff.” That’s exactly what it is. I think church planting is like building the 747 as it’s taking off down the runway.

Heidi Wilcox:
Which is frightening but fun at the same time.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
Especially, if you know because people who have done this in any calling because nothing is easy, right? They’re like, “You have to know that you know before you step out and do it, because it’s going to be hard at some point. Anything is, and you have to be sure that I’m doing the right thing.”

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. That’s exactly right. Then, you just go.

Heidi Wilcox:
It’s just hard to know. I think that this is the right thing, especially when it gets hard.

Brian Ebel:
I don’t think you ever do. I mean, you know but I don’t know if that you know exhaustively. Do you know what I mean?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brian Ebel:
I think there are a lot of life or ministry in any context. You have a pretty good basis of faith to go on like your call. You know God has called and yet all along the way there are these test points of are you going to keep going? That’s where you I think the spiritual formation part of that comes in of “Hey, if you’re not praying and reading your scriptures and learning and growing and being in community with other people, it’s just easy to stop.” But, you have enough of those disciplines in your life and the tendency is when it really gets hard. You run out of parts as you’re building the 747 going down the runway, that’s where the Holy Spirit really starts to take over and you see things you never thought you would. Does that make sense?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Can you tell me about one of those test points for you that helped you grow? Because I think the easy thing is when we’re talking about this, you planted this church nine years, 10 years ago now, and have transitioned to a different church since then. I think it’s easy to look at it now and it’s like, “Hit the high points.” We both know that it was always that way. What were some of the test points or one of them that you could share and how did that help you grow?

Brian Ebel:
That’s a good question. One of the early ones came maybe about two years after we were in, the church had grown to about 135 or 40 people, maybe not as quickly as you want. That’s hard because you go to great planting conferences like Expo or Asbury has put stuff on and there’s the sense of, “If you plant it, they will all come. If you’re not 1000 people big in your third year, you’re doing it wrong.” That’s one area of maybe some self doubt that starts to creep in. The thing that I found along the way was, it’s amazing to get catalytic growth like that more often than not it’s going to be the slow and steady grind that gets you there.

Brian Ebel:
In the middle of that, there were a few families who were maybe discontent is the right word with where the church was maybe a couple of theological distinctives and us being Wesleyan. They raised a ruckus, we’ll call it. There were about five or six families out of it, who I was really concerned, are they going to leave? I think you tend to go into protect mode. Like, “What if these people leave? Is the church going to make it? What does that say about me as a pastor and I’m supposed to love these people and be their guide and this kind of thing I’m supposed to be their pastor.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, but it’s hard.

Brian Ebel:
Painful. What I learned was, I had to let them go. I just said, “If this is really what you believe and you believe that God is calling you to something else. You’re not my people, you’re God’s people. I just want to bless you and let me know how I can help you land elsewhere.” They were shocked and they left and there was a lot of, “Brian, what are you doing?” I think if that hadn’t happened the church would have never broken the 200 barrier. It was a great growth experience for me, for our staff and for our community.

Heidi Wilcox:
How did that change how you looked at growth and discipleship?

Brian Ebel:
Growth and discipleship, I think-

Heidi Wilcox:
Because you were, I mean, I’m sorry, you’re thinking but if you’re three families that could be 15 people if there’re parents and kids and whatever. Thinking about it’s going to decrease your actual number but not that people leaving church is a good thing, but it ended up helping you guys grow in other ways too. How did you be content with that?

Brian Ebel:
John 15 was a great companion during that time, and just The nature of the cutting and the pruning of the vine and recognizing that I think that our tendency or at least my tendency, I’m going to speak generally too. Our tendency as pastors is our identity gets so wrapped up in the size of our church, how happy people are. The assumption gets made that unless there’s complete and total peace and unity, you’ve done it wrong. Yet, I don’t get that sense out of the book of Acts or anything like that. God really got a hold of me during that period.

Brian Ebel:
Churches try to be all things to all people but I’m not sure that’s really possible. Recognizing, “Hey, there’s a lot of great parts of the kingdom that can serve folks who aren’t content or who aren’t growing in their own relationship with God.” Let them serve them. Maybe the best thing for them is that God blesses them wherever they go next. God blesses the church that you’re at and allows it to grow and flourish because new people are required to step up. Does that make sense?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, that does make sense. Now, I’ll fast forward a little bit, now you’re at St. Luke and you came last summer, right?

Brian Ebel:
We love it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. We love having you.

Brian Ebel:
We love it. It’s great.

Heidi Wilcox:
What was that transition like? Because this obviously wasn’t your first transition. What was it like to and how do you end one season and start another season well? Because, you did not plant St. Luke but I think that as we’re talking to church planters or people who might be church planters starting a season ending it well, is the life of all of us but especially people in ministry.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. It was a shock. I think a lot of it was when you church plant it’s almost like your kid and that’s good and bad. It’s good because the church takes on an identity that you’ve helped form and protect and all of those kinds of things. It’s bad because you’ve got also recognize this isn’t your church, this is Christ’s Church.

Heidi Wilcox:
Like letting your kid go to college.

Brian Ebel:
That’s exactly what it felt like. There was grief to be sure, we were really excited about the prospects of St. Luke because we’d heard so many great things about it and knew of the long standing tradition of great leaders that St. Luke has had. It felt like it was a church that could fit us and some of the things we felt like we could help St. Luke do fit within what we had done in our own experiences in ministry, Mandy and I. That part was exciting, I think the hard part was just how do you let go and trust that whatever good parts you’ve done, because you know you’ve done bad ones too, right? That’s leadership.

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s life.

Brian Ebel:
Oh my gosh, that’s what matters and that’s what left a mark and that’s what God used you to do in that season. I guess, the good part is you got to do it, right? Not everybody gets to plant a church. The hard part is you’ve got to leave it and I think the part you’ve got to trust is no matter what when you leave because everybody is going to leave their church plant someday. That God used you in that specific season for a specific reason and that’s the peace that we made with it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. I listened to Annie F. Downs on the That Sounds Fun Podcast. I’m going to borrow this question from her because she likes to ask this to her guests. As you went through transition last year and still this year, because I think it takes a season of transition to actually be in a new season at least from my own experience. Which, I don’t have a ton of experience but you know.

Brian Ebel:
You have tons of experience.

Heidi Wilcox:
Tons, yes. No. What do you know about God this year that you didn’t know about him last year?

Brian Ebel:
Wow, that’s a great question. What do I know about God this year that I didn’t know last year? I think there’s a sense in which you know something to be true and then you experience it to be true.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, say more on that.

Brian Ebel:
Most people who have been around a church for a small or even great amount of time know the saying God is faithful. I think, I experienced it more this year than I have in a long time. The way I experienced that and Mandy experienced that is, we were in Louisville for 13 years, which is a decent amount of time and part of my family, well, all of my family moved there.

Heidi Wilcox:
Your kids grew up there, that’s the only home that they’ve known.

Brian Ebel:
Our kids, their buddies, the whole bit. You get uprooted from that and you move not really a very far distance, it’s only what 50 to 60 miles down the road to Lexington. The right side of I-64, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Brian Ebel:
You wonder… The question I was asking myself is, “Now that I’ve been out of the normal flow of church life, how does it work for a planter with this different set of experiences to walk into an established church? Is that going to be okay? Is it going to be good for them?” So far, so good. “Is it going to be okay for the kids?” I really think in so many ways, they flourished in moving here. “How is it going to be moving to a different neighborhood? Are we still going to be able to reach people?” All of those questions and really what I’ve come to see is as much doubt and concern and worry and all the other junk that builds up that’s so human.

Heidi Wilcox:
But, so real too.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah, good point. God just works it out. It’s like, “Hey, I got this. I’m faithful. I’m going to show you exactly why I’m sending you. I’m going to show you exactly what I want you to do. Your family? Yeah, I got them too.”

Heidi Wilcox:
How have you seen his faithfulness? Because, I hear people talk about God is faithful. How do you know that and know that it’s from him?

Brian Ebel:
Yeah, that’s a good question too.

Heidi Wilcox:
Sorry, I’m having you. I sent you questions before the people listening don’t know it. We’ve suddenly taken a dive in a different direction. I’m throwing him questions that he hasn’t seen before.

Brian Ebel:
I like it. I like it. I love curveballs, it’s proof that God is faithful, right?

Heidi Wilcox:
Right.

Brian Ebel:
Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s really it is that there’s so much that’s unexpected. Coming from the background that I do and being maybe a little off the chart Type A personality. And, “Hey, once we get the vision or once we have a direction, we’re going to run in that direction and it’s never going to change.” Then all of a sudden, it gets turned completely upside down. You realize in something that could be anxiety, riddled and painful and all of those kinds of things, there’s peace. To me, that’s where you see God’s faithfulness. It’s not to say that you have to experience peace to see God’s faithfulness.

Heidi Wilcox:
For sure.

Brian Ebel:
I mean, there can be a Warzone all around you, but you can still have not just a religious feeling but a belief, a knowing that goes deeper than a head knowledge, that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. To me, that’s witness to God’s faithfulness. Does that make sense?

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. That’s so good. I know this because I go to St. Luke but everybody who’s listening to this does not go to St. Luke.

Brian Ebel:
Sure.

Heidi Wilcox:
The goal of St. Luke is to have Jesus Christ in every life, but we don’t just want to stay inside the walls of St. Luke we want to go outside. I’m going to say St. Luke but there’s people at St. Luke’s are doing this. I feel like sometimes we talked about churches, it’s just like St. Luke is doing this but now there’s people behind that and I think that’s important. How is St. Luke and the people they’re equipping the people in the congregation to get outside and take the church? It’s not just the gospel isn’t just for us but it becomes for other people too.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah. There is a few different avenues that we’re starting to do that and to be sure, St. Luke’s been doing these things for a while.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure.

Brian Ebel:
Maybe we’re just trying to renew emphasis on these things. Developing a culture of invitation, if churches can help people to be aware of and be intentional about being an inviting culture. Lots of people get freaked out by the word evangelism because it presumes, “Well, I have to convert somebody.” Developing a culture of invitation, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been there for one Sunday, you’re not even sure who Jesus is to you’re the most seasoned mature Christian out there. Culture of invitation simply says, it takes a come and see approach and “Hey, God’s doing something in my life, God’s doing something in life of this church. Come and check it out with me.”

Brian Ebel:
You begin to build that and I think you do that in a lot of different ways. One, as it happens from the pulpit. Two, the staff starts to champion that value and we have amazing staff at St. Luke who does that all the time. Three, part of your discipleship process is to build that in and I know John Duff our discipleship pastor. He’s really big on that.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, John Duff.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah, John Duff. I think you build the culture and then outside the culture, you begin to develop some training components, whether it’s the studies or what happens on Sunday morning. That’s the start of it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Yeah.

Brian Ebel:
That’s the start of it.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Why do you think it’s so important to equip both men and women to share the gospel and to lead in all areas of the church?

Brian Ebel:
I’d say first, because it’s biblical. That’s what we lose sight of or let me rephrase that, some people lose sight of that. The original witnesses of the resurrection were the women.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure.

Brian Ebel:
Come on. I mean, we could probably just stop there. You get all sorts of snippets all throughout the New Testament, Luke Chapter 8. Brilliant piece of Scripture, Luke has left us with to really describe that from the very beginning of Jesus’s ministry women are an integral part of what’s happening. Book of Acts you get people like Lydia and Priscilla and it just builds throughout the whole course of the New Testament. So, it being biblical, if the scriptures are a witness to God’s desire for our lives and for the life of his church, it seems like that’s the right place to start.

Brian Ebel:
I think the beauty of God using both men and women to change the world and bring in the kingdom of God is that women have an opportunity to reach people in a way that men can’t. The way that a woman can appeal to other women. I recognize there’s a limitation to some degree, I’m not limiting the gospel. I’m simply saying that God is able to use men and women both, but in different ways at times to reach people within the church. Recognizing that culturally speaking, I think is huge. The distinctives that men and women bring to ministry are an important part of who we are and the way that we’re called to serve.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, totally. Because, this podcast is going to release in March, because it’s International Women’s Day and we’re talking to different leaders, male and female about women in leadership and ways that we can support and help them. I thought it’d be interesting to ask you from a man’s perspective, how can men support women in ministry as pastors, as leaders, as whatever it is that you have the opportunity to support them in?

Brian Ebel:
Sure. Maybe I’m coming at this because Theology is my academic gig.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. I saw that.

Brian Ebel:
Correct the Theology, the bad Theology that’s out there is one thing, maybe the starting place that men can begin to help redirect the conversation. For those voices who get a lot of airtime wouldn’t it be just as great as men taking the opportunity to say, “Well, actually on both biblical and theological grounds, what you’re saying is incoherent or incorrect.” Or, “Hey, we see things a different way. Whatever angle you want to take.” Beginning to correct the narrative or shape the narrative, I think that’s the starting place.

Brian Ebel:
Encourage-

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Because, there are several… I’m sorry to interrupt you.

Brian Ebel:
No, please.

Heidi Wilcox:
There are several women in leadership positions on staff at St. Luke.

Brian Ebel:
Encourage and especially as young women teens, young ladies are being raised up in the church as they begin to feel God’s call, they might need a bit more time and attention and encouragement to “Hey, maybe you’ve got a calling, let’s explore that. Let’s take the time to sit down and let’s process it and tell me what you’re thinking. Tell me how you’re feeling. What’s God doing in your life? What are the gifts and fruit that you’re starting to see?” Really encourage that, I don’t know. It seems like there’s this thread that happens for people entering ministry, where those who are in positions of leadership will say, “Well, if you can do anything else do that before you become a pastor.” I get that to some degree, but here are impressionable men and women of God who are seeking to know what God really wants for their lives and if there’s a call there and you discern it. Encourage men and women, and women especially, where they’re going to get all sorts of cultural stuff thrown at them. Encourage them, “Hey, run after it with all your heart.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Because, I think some… I mean, I’m not a woman in official ministry in the church. I think-

Brian Ebel:
What are you doing right now?

Heidi Wilcox:
True. I mean, as when we talk about women and ministry, I think pastors and things like that, but there’s a lot of… I think, for women in those kinds of roles, their call doesn’t get validated as quickly.

Brian Ebel:
I would agree. That’s unfortunate. Actually, it’s sad. If anything, men have the opportunity in those moments to say, “Hey, this is what we see. This is what we know you’re called to. We want to validate and we want to encourage and we want to lift you up.”

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah. Even mentor because off the podcast, you were telling me that you were mentoring a student at the seminary. Is that right?

Brian Ebel:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, yeah. Can you tell me about that? Not without getting too personal, can you talk to me a little bit about mentoring.

Brian Ebel:
I’ve probably walked with three or four women who have been or are in a ministerial role. I think it’s amazing to watch and to see the stories of transformation God is authoring and then just really try to help them hone in on, where am I gifted? What am I being called to? How does the process work? Encourage along the way and for the naysayers just say, “Well, if you don’t have anybody coming against you, you’re not doing it right or something.” Because, that’s just how it works. It doesn’t matter whether who you are if you’re a man or a woman or whatever, you’re going to get the naysayers and just take the opportunity to mentor and encourage and be that sounding board for people. I enjoy doing that.

Heidi Wilcox:
Is there anything else that you want to talk about before we end the podcast that we haven’t already talked about?

Brian Ebel:
No, given the fact that the podcast is geared towards the celebration of women in ministry, I just want to affirm that women in ministry, it’s biblical. Our culture needs it and really, I think there’s opportunity to lift up women in places of leadership and in pulpits to proclaim the gospel and change the world and we need to do that. I mean, we got one of the best female preachers in the country, I think right here in the Asbury pulpit.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yes, for sure. We have Jessica.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah, exactly. I got to tell the story.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, please.

Brian Ebel:
I was at… we were having coffee with an Asbury professor, and I won’t lift up his name, I’ll just say that it’s a man. As we’re making the appointment to meet and this person has been a mentor to me. He says, “Now, I got to be honest with you, I can meet for an hour and it’s going to be great to see you, but at this time I’m leaving because Jessica is preaching that day.” I’m like, “Hey man, I get it.”

Heidi Wilcox:
That’s awesome.

Brian Ebel:
Just what a great affirmation of her and her ministry here. I think, moments like that we need more of and I’m hopeful to see that in this next generation of leaders in the church.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure.

Brian Ebel:
Yep.

Heidi Wilcox:
For sure. Here’s a question that we always ask everybody as we wrap up the podcast. So, because the show is called The Thrive with Asbury Seminary Podcast, what is one practice it can be spiritual or something else that is helping you thrive in your life right now?

Brian Ebel:
Solitude.

Heidi Wilcox:
What does solitude look like for you?

Brian Ebel:
I’m a very extroverted person. I love being around people, but I’ve really come to value the time of just being alone as a way to recharge and to be present with God. There’s the scripture Book of Exodus and forgive me, I’m not going to be able to give you the chapter and verse right now.

Heidi Wilcox:
We’ll revoke your M.Div.

Brian Ebel:
You should. I’m telling you what all my old testament professors would chide me right now. The essence of the text is that, “And, Moses was alone on the mountain with God.” I think what I’ve come to appreciate, especially in the last four or five years is that having that time away from the church building, away from the church community and just being alone in God’s presence is so life giving. I don’t think you have to travel to the other side of the world, I’ve gone to Saint Meinrad a number of times to do this. I might just go take a long walk in the middle of nowhere to do this but it’s been life giving.

Heidi Wilcox:
Yeah, for sure. In a podcast conversation I was having this morning, we were talking about how we can just fill up our lives with so much stuff and never have to deal with anything or feel our feelings or anything like that. Yeah, so needed.

Brian Ebel:
Yeah.

Heidi Wilcox:
Well, thanks so much, Brian. I have really enjoyed getting to know you better because you’re my pastor but I’ve never had the opportunity to rally just sit down and talk to you mostly because I just see you on Sunday mornings and say hi and we talk about the Cats and go on. I really enjoyed this and I am just so grateful for getting to hearing your perspective and the work that you’re doing. Thank you.

Brian Ebel:
I love what you’re doing. Heidi, keep up the great work. I’m humbled to get the chance to spend the day with you.

Heidi Wilcox:
Thank you, you’re kind.

Heidi Wilcox:
Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining me for today’s conversation with Brian. I don’t know about you all, but I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know him better and just appreciate his honesty and the wisdom that he has from his journey and for his sharing that with us. Just so grateful for the work that he and his family are doing in the world. I hope you all enjoy the conversation as well. Until next time, I hope you all have a great day and go do something that helps you thrive.