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Ep. 15 | Stephen Kimbrell – Mindset Series: Photobombing Jesus?


October 12, 2021

2:12 pm

On this episode of The Rich Equation Podcast, Ashish is joined by Pastor Stephen Kimbrell. Ashish and Stephen speak about the business of God and some of the challenges Stephen has faced within the church during COVID-19. Ashish and Stephen also discuss anxiety and how to manage anxiety along with some other helpful topics. To finish this episode, there is a surprise from Pastor Stephen!


Stephen Kimbrell is the Founding and Lead Pastor of Grace City Church in Irvine, CA. He moved to Irvine from North Carolina in the Fall of 2015 with a team of 4 other families for the purpose of starting a new church that would reach people of all nations. Stephen received his Masters in Christian Ministry from Liberty University. He’s also the founder of California Church Planting Inc. and a National Leadership Team Member with The Bonhoeffer Project. Stephen is married to his best friend, Lauren. They have 3 beautiful and hilarious children: Lily, Ainsley, and Carter.


0:00 – Intro 0:03 – Ashish shares a brief description about his guest Stephen Kimbrell 0:21 – Ashish explains how this episode will discuss the business of God and the challenges pastor Stephen has faced during COVID-19. There will also be a surprise at the end of this episode 3:29 – Stephen informs us about where he grew up and how it has been moving to and living in California 4:49 – Stephen speaks about how he grew his following and dealt with some of the challenges he faced on his journey 8:30 – Ashish speaks about how he is very spiritual and very intuitive 10:25 – Stephen shares a recent personal story about the stock market 14:29 – Stephen talks about seeing fatigue and burnout within his field during COVID-19 16:33 – Stephen explains how he combated political opinions and his view on wearing a mask or not wearing a mask and how he maneuverer those topics within the church 18:50 – Ashish asks Stephen what are some of the most frequent challenges he’s seeing people have following COVID-19 22:34 – Stephen discusses anxiety and how to deal with it 25:21 – Ashish mentions how he found routine helpful during COVID-19 so he was doing more exercise and connecting with nature, not consuming and just really trying to slow things down 28:45 – Ashish speaks about how he has had to learn how to co-create solutions and learn to delegate 29:49 – Stephen talks about how he controls himself to not just solve people’s problems but to listen to what they’re saying and let them get what they need off their chest 33:57 – Stephen states that you can’t just have a bunch of yes people around you, you need people who’s going to call you out in a helpful manor 25:27 – Ashish speaks about how he doesn’t take positive criticism very well 37:17 – Stephen shares the quote ‘if you let compliments go to your head, you’ll also let criticism go to your heart’ 38:20 – Stephen talks about what he’s speaking about most currently in the church and what he has planned to speak about in the church in the coming weeks 40:39 – Ashish states that during COVID-19 he released that we really had to get deeper on who we were as business people, teams and individuals 41:06 – Stephen discusses a personality test called Enneagram that focuses on core motivation 43:55 – Stephen states that there are three things that sum up richness for him; knowing God, loving people and living out Gods purpose 46:30 – Stephen finishes this episode with a prayer



Welcome back to the rich equation podcast. I have a special one for you today. Stephen Kimbrell is the founder and leading pastor of the great city church in Irvine, California. He moved to Irvine from North Carolina in the fall of 2015, with a team of four other families for the purpose of starting a new church that would reach people of all new nations. On this episode, we get into the business of God and the challenges pastor Steven had to face during COVID. We talk about how ego can even show up in a pastor and how we can all stay grounded as high achievers. And we even have a special surprise for you at the end of this episode, I hope you enjoy it. Here it is pastor Stephen Kimbrell. And remember if you enjoy this episode, be sure to share it with someone that would be inspired by this or this information could be helpful and subscribe right now to the podcast and leave a review so we can continue to bring value to you.

Welcome to the Rich Equation podcast. Are you ready to discover how to live rich today and not wait for retirement? If you’re tired of struggling and want to live your best life now, you are in the right place.

Outdated principles will no longer work in today’s environment. It’s time for a new approach. Your host Ashish Nathu will help you discover methods to live the new American dream. It’s time to start living the good life on your own terms and experience a new way to live rich. Now here’s your host Ashish Nathu.

Ashish Nathu: Pastor Stephen, Welcome to the show.

Stephen Kimbrell: Thank you.

Ashish Nathu: I really appreciate you being here. This is really cool.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah, I’m honored. Thanks for the invitation.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah, I think I, I ought to share a little bit of our backstory because we’ve had this like fun run in relationship. where I didn’t really know you, but we’re friends with an entrepreneur named Ed Chan. Who’s a really close friend of mine and he goes to your church.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah, he does.

Ashish Nathu: And we’ve run into each other with Ed a couple of times, actually probably 6, 7, 8 times. And I’ve reached out to you to get some deep, personal help on some issues that I’ve been dealing with. And so we’ve just kind of built a relationship in the hallways and it’s been really fun to engage with you and interact with you.

Stephen Kimbrell: We have a budding Bromance.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah, we do. Exactly. And I just thought it’d be really fun to bring you on the podcast, because I think you have this really interesting perspective as a man of God, as a pastor of a church, but you’re also a businessman building a company, building a, I’ll call it a community of customers you’re in the business of people. You have this relationship with God that influences you and how you think about the world and life and strategy. And so I just thought that it was time and I thought it would be a really cool conversation to have so welcome to the show.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. Well, thank you. Thank you. I’m excited about it. looking forward to it.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. So I guess one of the things I’ll start with is, you know, as a pastor, you moved out to Southern California about five years ago or six years ago now. And with the intention of building a community and building a fellowship here in Southern California, and remind me where you came from before this.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. So I grew up in Alabama and then lived in North Carolina for 12 years. So completely different world than Southern California grew up on a farm. two miles down a dirt road. And so yeah, never dreamed in a million years I’d be here, but you know, that’s kind of where life’s led me.

Ashish Nathu: And how’s Southern California treating you so far?

Stephen Kimbrell: So far it’s great. Our family loves it. Like we think we’re lifers and our kids, our kids are Californian. You know, they joke me because I still have my Southern accent. Although it’s fading, like it’s really fading. It’s hard for people to believe here. But my kids tell me all the time, like dad you’re losing it and, but my kids don’t have it. They’re Californian. And so we love it here. The weather’s hard to beat, I mean, the beach year round. And just the diversity, like it’s one of the most diverse places on the planet and we really love that. So it’s a great place.

Ashish Nathu: Well, again, it’s super amazing to have you here. And what I wanted to, I guess, start off with is talk a little bit about your journey as in this process of building your fellowship here in Southern California, coming out here with a small group of people with no followers, you know, essentially I think about you as an entrepreneur, but an entrepreneur of God. And so I want you to explain a little bit about that process, that journey of starting up your practice how you were, you know, how you dealt with your challenges and how you built your following and some of the challenges that you faced.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. yeah, I think you know, it is a little bit of like, it’s different than in the business world, but it’s still you know, an entrepreneur mindset. And I think, you know, I didn’t always know that about myself. I don’t know that we really understand how we’re wired until later in life we start to look back and see patterns and, you know, it’s like, wait a second. I’ve always kind of been starting stuff, you know whether it was, you know, as a kid, like coming up with these ideas and these project and things that, you know, we were going to do and you look back and you’re like, man, yeah, I started that. And then you kind of see this pattern in your life. And so I think it took me a long time to just kind of realize how I was wired and how I operate. But as far as like, you know, starting the church, that actually that idea was birthed back in 2011. And we were actually in California for a wedding. My brother-in-law was marrying a girl, got married up in Pismo beach. And so we were like, most southerners, you know, were like, I don’t care to go to California. That’s just the way most everybody on the east coast thinks like, I didn’t lose anything in California.

Ashish Nathu: We have a bad reputation. it’s like a hate it or love it type of thing.

Stephen Kimbrell: It’s true. and most of it’s just false, but anyway, that was my mentality, but we came out for a wedding. And so we came out and did vacation afterwards and, you know, did the whole Hollywood thing and all that stuff. And we were just traveling from LA down to San Diego and drove Irvine and where our church is at now. And just saw this city that was just exploding with growth. And you could just tell from the freeway, like this place is just man, people are moving here like crazy. And so I just was intrigued and I read about it on my phone, on Google, on that trip. And that’s where I read, like people were moving here from the middle east, from Asia, from all over the world. And being a pastor, like my next thought was, man, you know, there are people that are moving here, like someone, I hope someone’s sharing the gospel message, the Christian gospel message with these people that may have never heard. And again, kind of that entrepreneur, like, man, people have never heard need to hear this. And so then I felt like, you know, on that trip, like God kind of heard that around on me and said, well, you know, well, what if that was you? And my first thought is like, absolutely not. You know I’m a southerner, it would never work in Southern California. You know, people couldn’t understand, you just think of all of these ideas in your head about why it wouldn’t work. And, but then I would say over the next two to three years, that was a seed that just kept coming back and just became something that was just kind of gnawing at my heart and soul and my wife and I discussed it from time to time and make a long, long story short. it just became something that was just such a draw we couldn’t get away from it. And we just felt like we really think this is what God is calling us to do. And it sounds crazy, but there’re just many things pointing us in this direction. And so we knew it was something we didn’t want to do along. And so our next step was we need to find some people to come with us. And so we approached several families in our church and we’re like, Hey, look know this is crazy. This is a big ask, but this is what we’re doing. And we’d love for you to pray about this. And move across the country with us. And we asked one guy to come on staff with us and two other families just to come and get jobs. And to our surprise, like they said, yes, and they were like, we’re in. And so they did that. And we, so we moved out four families total didn’t know anybody in the city and just began relationships and eventually launched the church after that. So that’s kind of the fly by version of what’s happened.

Ashish Nathu: That is amazing. And you know, that, that reminds me that, you know, I think, I don’t know if I would consider myself a religious person by say, but I’m very spiritual. I feel very intuitive. I focus on that. yeah, so I would definitely consider myself spiritual. We grow up as Indians in the Hindu religion, but I think the Hindu religion is an incredibly complex religion. And as a young kid growing up in America, you don’t know everything about what’s going on and why. We can get into religion if we really want.

Stephen Kimbrell: May be another podcast.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. Maybe it’s another podcast, but I love how you, you know, and as a man of God, like you felt called to do something your mind played a ton of game on you of why that was a crazy idea. you could never do that, like, right, you’re leaving Alabama and all this, all the people you know, like, and I think that’s, it’s pretty amazing how you were able to connect to that and lean into it, and then people were following you.

Stephen Kimbrell: Thankfully.

Ashish Nathu: Well, even if they didn’t, you probably would’ve done it anyways.

Stephen Kimbrell: Right, right. Absolutely. You know, there’s that old say, like, you know, how do you know if you’re a leader? Like, if you look behind you, nobody’s following you, then you’re not leading, you’re just taking a walk. And so it did help confirm things that, Hey, people are on board with this, so, yeah.

Ashish Nathu: So when you’re, I mean, what are this, some of the challenges let’s talk about COVID I suppose. And some of the challenges that you’ve experienced now getting together with your, what do you call it? Fellowship?

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. There’s a lot of names. Fellowship, church, flock.

Ashish Nathu: So we’ll call it fellowship. I don’t want to be disrespectful. So you know, what are the challenges your fellowship has gone through? How have you been interacting with people? What are you seeing in the overall spirit of it all?

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. You know, it’s funny. Like I can remember back before the pandemic. I can remember being in the gym, here actually at this building that we’re videoing again. There was, there’s a gym and I was there, I was working out. I know you can tell, obviously and so I’m in there and there’s this news show that’s on. And they’re talking about the stop market at the time. So this is February 2020. And at the time the stop market was just up until to the right. I mean, just climbing, climbing, climbing, and they give the stock report. And the guy’s just like, I mean, everything’s to the roof. And he looks at his partner after he gives a report and he goes, I mean, do you see anything that could slow down this stock market? And I’ll never forget, the guy looked at him. And he said, I don’t see anything on the horizon that can slow this down. And of course, you know, we look at that now and laugh and we’re like, yeah, two weeks later there was this pandemic that just swept across the world. And at least for the time killed the stop market. but, you know, at the time, like, that’s how I felt like our church was, like our first two and a half years as a church. You expect some bumps in the road, but honestly from the start, things just went according to plan, like we had this plan, we had this strategy and it went according to plan and people would ask me then, like, what’s the most difficult thing you’re facing. And there were obviously some difficulties, but sometimes I struggled and then all that changed in 2020 when this pandemic hit. And, you know, when you’re in the business of like working with people and all of a sudden they can’t get together anymore. I mean, that’s a big deal. And so, you know, we had to do, I mean, you know, the word of 2020, we made major pivot, right. and everybody’s sick of that word, but we’re still doing it. And so for us, it was, how do you continue to engage with your people? Because the church, the whole concept of a church is people getting together. like, the root meaning of the word [12:25 inaudible] the Greek word for church. And it means those that are called out and gathered together. And so how do you continue together people together if you can’t meet in person? And so, of course, you know, we went online you know, I was mentioning before the podcast, like every pastor, all of a sudden had to become this, you know, high tech guru and stuff. And so we had to learn a lot in a really short amount of time and just try to find, you know, how are ways that we can connect with our people, whether zoom or Facebook live or all of these different things. And so we’d did that for a season. And then things began to open up where we could at least meet outside. And so our church actually met, we met in a soccer field for 11 months and we just went completely portable and we’re outside spread out, setting up a stage and stuff every single week in a soccer field, in the middle of this neighborhood. And so we really, we really had to get flexible to continue to, you know, the hard thing was not to get so locked into what we always did, but to get locked into why we did it and what our goal was. And our goal was to gather people whether it’s digitally or whether it’s in person so that they could interact. And so that they could hear the truth of this message that we’re promoting. But yeah, so those are some of the pivots we made. It’s been a long year and a half, just to be honest with you, it’s been a long, difficult year and a half. But we’re still here and we’re still going.

Ashish Nathu: Do you find that, you know, I feel like within our companies, within any flock of people, let’s call it that I think being together, building culture with people, having that human interaction and connection, we were able to lean on those relationships we built pre COVID mm-hmm <affirmative> during the COVID pandemic. As people are separated, you remember all of your comradery or your relationship upsets, you built pre COVID, but as we were separated, we started to see that sort of erode over time and people were getting fatigued. Did you see that in your community?

Stephen Kimbrell: I’d love to say no, but absolutely. And, you know, I think the church worldwide, or especially in America, you know, the church is averaging 50% of its pre COVID numbers as far as attending in person. And so one of the things that every pastor across America is going through right now is asking questions of, okay, we’re trying to figure out, are some of these people, are they just nervous about coming to church? Are they upset about the way something was handled during the pandemic? Because you know, the last year and a half, we’ve had some major crisis in America that were like these 50, 50 crisis that nobody agreed on whether it’s political crisis or re stuff, or it’s how the pandemic’s handled, whether it’s mask or vaccines or all those things. And so every pastor’s, you know, trying to figure out where their people are, are they not attending because of fear of COVID, are they not attending because, you know, they’re just not going anywhere.

Ashish Nathu: They have an opinion about one of these subject matter and disagrees with others.

Stephen Kimbrell: And so you know, probably the same thing in business, you really, you know, someone told me recently crisis exposes where people are as far as their allegiance to your organization. And so you find out, well, are they really on board or were they, you know, just kind of coming and, and now things have changed. And so they’re not in involved anymore. So yeah, I would say to answer your question. Yeah. We’ve definitely seen that take place in our churches where, whether it’s leaders or whether it’s people who are attending, trying to figure out where people are as far since COVID started.

Ashish Nathu: As sort of the leader and as the pastor, how do you stay neutral to these political or, you know, masks or this or that, like all these different Situations, right? People maybe look to you for advice or guidance and almost expect you to have an opinion. Are you allowed to have an opinion? Do you not have an opinion? And I’d love to share that from a leadership perspective.

Stephen Kimbrell: You know I am allowed to have an opinion.

Ashish Nathu: Of course you’re allowed to have an opinion, but does that serve you or are you thoughtful? Like how do you have to be sensitive to that?

Stephen Kimbrell: You know, and it depends on the church. There are some pastors that have been very vocal on politics very vocal on everything this year. We actually just, and we try to coach our church through these things. And I think in any organization, like you always want to be talking about why you’re doing what you’re doing. And people don’t care so much about what you’re doing, but why you’re doing it. And we just talked a couple of weeks ago in the message about why we do things and why we do them the way we do them. And so we talked about the gospel, which is our core message as Christians that, you know, comes from the Bible. And the gospel is just simply this, it’s a declaration that, that Jesus, that he died, he was buried, he resurrected, and he’s now been declared the Supreme ruler of the universe. Like that is in a core, that is the gospel message. And we believe from that message, that declaration of an event that happened, that everything is now different because of that. So that’s at the heartbeat should be the heartbeat of every church. Sometimes that gets muddled, right? And so we just talked to our church about this and said, look there’s a lot of different opinions on politics. But Our calling is not to speak to that. Now we can give values and things that we believe should be, you know, in the way that you see politics. But if you look at the life of Jesus himself, there’s so many times where they tried to pull him into politics. Well, what do you think about this? And what do you think about that? And if you look within his group of disciples of followers, you know, he actually had a guy that worked for the Roman government and he had a guy that was trying to overthrow the Roman government and they were both in the same group. And so we just told our church, like, do you think there was some conflict in there? Absolutely. And so our main thing is not to speak to you know, politics and those kind of things. Are there values that Christianity has? Absolutely. And we want to speak to those. But which, and it’s difficult sometimes. Cause obviously I have my opinion of politics and things like that. But we try to keep the main thing, the main thing in our church.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. That’s so good. What do you see as some of the things that people are struggling with right now? I mean, people come to you for help, advice, Coaching, I mean, I did. And so, you know, there’s a lot of things that people are going through psychologically, emotionally, what are some of the patterns that you get to see show up? And then why do you think those things are showing up right now in this time of the world and what can we do differently? And what can we learn from that?

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. You know, I think it is interesting being in the seat of a pastor because you interact with so many different people and yet you realize that there’s common themes of problems that people have. And some of those were the same before the pandemic and they’re the same now. And some of those have, you know, they’re different now that were in the pandemic. I would say two that stand in my mind, the things that I hear the most one is relational problems. Whether it’s husband and wife that’s obviously a big one. And I think, I don’t think the pandemic caused those problems.

Ashish Nathu: I don’t know about that. We’re all cooped together in small little spaces for long periods of time. So I’m not surprised about that.

Stephen Kimbrell: I think that, you know, one of the things we told our church early on in the pandemic is a crisis doesn’t cause problems, but it does reveal.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. It exposes.

Stephen Kimbrell: It exposes some of the issues already there. It’s kind of like, you know, that tea bag that’s in that hot tea, or in the water, that hot water doesn’t cause that flavor to come out of the tea, it kind of draws out what’s already there. And when we get put in crisis, it kind of pulls out what’s inside of us. And if that’s selfishness or ego or those kind of things, like when we’re under pressure, we don’t do what we think we should do. We just do what’s inside. Like, you know, we tell our kids, like if our kids say something bad, we’ll say, you know, they’re like, well, I got mad. Well, you got out and it came out what was in your heart and in your mind you just didn’t filter it. Right. And I think that’s, what’s happening in a lot of marriages. Some of those things that were already underlying issues, they got pressed on during COVID. And so it came to the surface, they’re spending time with each other, you know, all the time and those kind of things came out. So I definitely see relational issues. One of the things that’s popping up now, more so than ever is anxiety with people. And you know, that was something that pre COVID you definitely saw. But man, it seems like it’s almost an epidemic or pandemic and anxiety right now.

Ashish Nathu: Anxiety caused by work stress, life stress.

Stephen Kimbrell: I think right now it seems, Yeah, You know, honestly it seems to be all of those things. And I think that’s why people are struggling with it because maybe pre COVID, they could pin it down and say, you know, it’s my finances it’s causing it. it’s my work. Now it’s those things and it’s uncertainty it’s you know, I read this morning that this pandemic that we’re in has turned from like this acute crisis of that almost rallied people like, Hey, come on, let’s go, let’s do this to now, It’s turned in this prolonged crisis that it’s a chronic crisis that’s just ongoing. And that’s almost, that’s more exhausting because where’s this thing end? And so I think people are all of those things together.

Ashish Nathu: I think we can all buy into that.

Speaker 2: Absolutely.

Ashish Nathu: What is your advice to that? like when people come to you say, pastor, I’m exhausted. Yeah. I’m feeling tired. I’m feeling stressed. There’s so much uncertainty, which, you know, I’m always in the school of thought. There’s really never any certainty, but I get it. Like what you say to those people. What is the advice?

Stephen Kimbrell: You know, anxiety’s something like, I’ve never really struggled with anxiety in my life until I would say probably in this last year. And I found even myself dealing with some anxiety and so I’ve had to, I think, you know, I think of myself, I’ve really had to, some of the things I’ve always done and always thought I’ve had to rethink in a way you know, at least in my habits and the way I do things, you know, I think we’re both enneagram 3s. And I feel like my habit before in life has always been, I can outwork any problem. I can outwork it. I can work longer. You know, if I need to do 15 hours a day, we can make it happen. What do we need to do to make it happen.

Ashish Nathu: I don’t know that at all.

Stephen Kimbrell: You know, it’s almost like you outwork your anxiety to get to a point of feeling good. And I know for me personally, there was a point in the middle of this pandemic where I just came to this realization. I don’t know if I can outwork this. And that was a humbling thing to get to. but I think what I’ve been sharing, you know, with my people is for us one, you have to be grounded in something when you’re not grounded, that’s where anxiety starts to come in and you don’t, you’re unstable. And so for us, obviously our grounding is our relationship with God. God’s always been here. He always will be here. This isn’t his first pandemic. It won’t be his last all the things that he said are still true. And so you have to anchor ourself towards what is true and what is stable. And consistently go back to that when you’re unstable, it just feels like everything’s out of line. And so and the other thing is just for me putting in rhythms in my life healthier rhythms. And I think that’s a part of stabilizing yourself too. And, and so for me, that’s been, you know putting in embracing limits and that’s really, really hard for an enneagram 3 to embrace limits and say, you know what, I’m going to take this time to actually rest. Because I mean, for me working is a hobby, you know, it feels good to be productive. And so setting a part time to rest, setting a part time to actually just withdraw and focus on what I believe. And for me that looks like you know, every morning for 45 minutes to an hour to just, I take time and I spend in my Bible and I spend time praying and I just spend time thinking through the things that are grounding to me. And so those are some of the same things that I’m preaching over and over and over again to our people.

Ashish Nathu: I love that. And one of the pillars of the rich equation concept is that is daily routine and what I just heard was, you know, in a time of uncertainty, how do we go back to looking for truth? And for me, I was doing more exercise, Walks, connecting with nature. Really trying to slow things down and find space. not consuming, not watching the news, and finding more information to digest and consume. So I think that’s pretty powerful that you’re able to use routine, you know, do people I mean, you’re a man, you’re a pastor people expect you to have the answers I’m sure. Or come to you all the time. And I know that I’ve had a couple of discussions with you. How do you not make other people’s problems yours? And I think that in leadership, at least for me, that’s always been really challenging in jumping a conclusion. every problem is our problem. Solving everybody else’s problems. And I won’t say that completely universally, like, we don’t always do that, but there’s definitely a proclivity of owning it. And it’s not healthy. you can’t absorb everyone’s problem as especially because they’re trying to get answers or get clarity or understand references, etc. But like, how do you process that? And what has been your experience?

Stephen Kimbrell: Absolutely. I’m a man, so I want to fix stuff. and, you know, going back to the enneagram, I’m a three, so I like fixing stuff. I like let’s get a solution, let’s get a strategy in place. Let’s go ahead and do this. Why do we need to sit here and talk about it when there’s an answer? and that’s one of the things, I had a tough time learning that early on in my marriage. I’ve been married for 15 years now. And so obviously I learned it at some point, but my wife would come to me and she would just start talking to about something that was bothering her and like halfway through the conversation, I already had it solved, you know and I just wanted to tell her what it was. And she’s like, I, I don’t want you to solve it. I just want you to listen and in my mind I’m like, well, what’s the point of listening if we can solve it, you know? So I had to learn that.

Ashish Nathu: Husbands everywhere, that is the lesson of the day.

Stephen Kimbrell: I had to learn that the hard way, but the same thing is true with people in my church, cause obviously I have opinions and I, I see things and I see patterns and I see if they would do things differently in their life, it would go differently, we would solve this problem and that kind of thing. But that’s not always what people are looking for and that’s not always the best way to approach it. And obviously I can’t take on, like you said, everybody’s problem. And again, that’s something I’ve been learning, I think even more so during the pandemic. My wife and I have talked a lot about this concept of what’s called over-functioning of you know, going beyond what we should do and how we should be in taken on people’s problems. And I think for me, that’s a part of embracing my limits again, of realizing I only have a small portion of time and so yes, I need to love everyone. I need to care for everyone. I need to be present when I’m engaged in a conversation, but also realizing I can’t take home every problem and fix it and go back to them with a solution or walk them through every problem. So I think realizing that I can’t over function has been a really big thing for me. I don’t know if I fully answered that question.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah, no it does. And two things come to mind actually, because I’ve experienced this in the last year or two that, I’ve really had to learn to what I call co-create like co-create solutions, co-create problem solving. learn to delegate more and not selfishly just worrying about yourself. Like you, you know, you were mentioning like learning how to create boundaries in a healthy way means that you’re not solving everybody else’s problem ones for them, but they’re actually, you’re co-creating the solution with them saying you need to now take accountability for the next five, six steps and that’s a process in its own but there’s a lot of ego that shows up for us as leaders in being able to solve people’s problems. In growing companies feeling good about solving problems. Does that happen to you? Are you victim to that in, you know, your journey of growing your pastorship or you know, solving other people’s problems and making that feel really good? Like how do you deal with the mind component of that?

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah, I think, you know, and that kind of goes back to your other question when people are coming to you for, you know, asking questions it’s obviously cause they respect your opinion. And so it’s easy to fall in this mindset of like, oh yeah, I am indispensable and you know, I have, and that’s a temptation in and of itself to just step in and solve the problems, whether it’s people in our church or our staff or our volunteers. And I’ll just go back to that for a second because I think this goes across the board in church or business, whatever you’re in. I found myself solving so many problems, whether it be for our staff or whatever and because, you know, maybe there was something that I could do it at a certain level, you know, and maybe this person was doing it like a 75% level of that and I just didn’t want it to suffer, you know? And so I just kept doing it and I had to get to the point of realizing, man, like you said, I’ve got to let this drop a little bit. And that hurts my ego that hurts my pride, because know, for instance, in our church, maybe it’s our online streaming. So we stream our services and so maybe someone else takes it over and I’m looking at the online service afterwards and I’m like, oh man, that quality is not what it ought to be. And so the easy thing is to step back in and say, dude, you got to start doing this. You got to start doing that. But being willing to let something suffer for a little bit so that that person can grow into it. And I don’t just take back over ownership of it. Anyway, that’s a big lesson that I’m still learning about getting better at. But to get to your question of ego, yeah I think that’s a human struggle. Deep inside, I believe that every single person, whether they admit it or not, there’s something in us that wants to be worshiped. There’s something in us that wants to be worshiped. That’s why social media is so enticing. That’s why, you know, that’s why everybody checks their social media a hundred times a day or more. And that’s why influencers on social media are, you know, people will look up to them. because we all have a desire inside of us to be worshiped. now from a Christian perspective, We believe that worship’s due to God. but we all have that tendency of wanting to be liked of wanting to be elevated of wanting to be praised. And so any form that, that comes, if it’s on social media or, you know, someone for a pastor like after service, Oh, that was the best message I’ve ever heard, you know whatever it is. it does, it goes straight to your ego and you know, and I think it’s one of those things. I’ve had enough pastors over time that have kind of, you know, tried to help mentor me and warn me about those things. Because you know, it’s almost like a poison, right? You start to drink that you start to believe your own headlines and you really start to think you’re so much more awesome than you really are or worthy of all the praise you should be getting. And so yeah, and so for me, honestly, it, it’s so hard to have the right motives, even as a pastor and people think, well, you know, you’re doing this for God. Shouldn’t all your motives be pure. I heard a guy the other day say, you know what, it’s easy to be doing stuff in the name of God. And actually he called it your photo bombing Jesus, where it’s like, you’re doing this stuff with Jesus. And in the background, you’re throwing up the peace sign, making sure you’re getting in the video or the picture. And it creeps up on you. And so anyway, it’s a long way of getting to answer your question. My wife helps with that. She’s really good at you know,

Ashish Nathu: We are human, we are human. And so you still have natural instincts.

Stephen Kimbrell: Absolutely. absolutely. And so my wife helps. She’ll be honest with me. I’m like, you know, babe, just be honest with me. Do you see this in me right now? And she’ll be upfront and honest and like, you know what yeah, I do or whatever. And so that definitely helps. And then I’ve got other men in my church that are around me. I think Ed’s one of those guys, he’s very blunt.

Ashish Nathu: Yes, he’s very blunt.

Stephen Kimbrell: I need that. and I think leaders need people like that in their life that you know, you can’t just have a bunch of, yes, people are around you. You need somebody, you know, that’s not going to tear you down.

Ashish Nathu: Even a pastor.

Stephen Kimbrell: Absolutely. He’s going to give you a kick in the pants and say, Hey dude man, I just see this in your life right now. And I just want to be honest with you and have a person that, like, Ed’s not scared to say that. And we have that relationship where he can say those things I’ve given him that freedom. And I think having those key people in your life are huge. And then of course, for me, again, my relationship with God going back to God’s word and, and that’s a filter for me, cause it constantly is reminding me that it’s not about me, it’s about him and what he’s called me to do. So, I don’t know, maybe an answer’s in there somewhere.

Ashish Nathu: That was so good. I find that, there’s well, so I’m going to comment on this a couple different ways. I think that, I’ve also been pretty lucky to have a group of people who are not shy to be blunt with me. And part of why I wanted to have this podcast forum and this build this community is that, you know, there are groups of people who are having these honest conversations and calling people out and talking about these things vulnerably, like how can we have it more of a public forum, but I also am good about reaching out to people and saying like, I need you to give me the truth right now like you otherwise may not have, but I’m giving you full permission to just rip into me on what’s showing up for me and how am I behaving in. And so I’ve been pretty lucky on that. The other thing that I see on an ego perspective is, you know, you kind of mentioned is like when people come up to you and say good things. So there’s a couple things that show up. for me, being able to like, I don’t really take positive criticism well, and I started realizing that recently is that when people give me positive criticism, like, oh, you did a great job or thank you so much. Or like, you know, whatever. I actually wasn’t accepting or receiving of that. And I think within my own subconscious, I was like, well, duh.

Stephen Kimbrell: Why are you telling me this? I already know it.

Ashish Nathu: That was one of the things that started showing up. And I actually had to learn how to be more graceful and say like, thank you, you know, because selfishly I wasn’t giving receipt of that praise. And I think a lot of people do that. And I don’t know if I really noticed that before. And the second thing is I think there are a ton of day to day behaviors and you just mentioned social media, for me, it’s email is there are a ton of day to day behaviors that we go to that feed our ego. that if we can learn and be aware of those specific daily activities and say, how is this serving me? Am I going to my email because I really need to work on my email or am I going to my email? Because I think there’s a problem in there that I’m going to be able to solve and it’s going to make me feel really, really good.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. Yeah. You get that little dopamine rush.

Ashish Nathu: It’s a dopamine rush. And for me, like there’s so many little things that I, to be aware of how do I eliminate those things out of my life? And if I’m under to do it, I just have to go in much more aware of how I interact. I’m still victim to it.

Stephen Kimbrell: Absolutely. Yeah. You know, I’m thinking about this quote that I heard recently and I think it kind of goes in line with this. The guy said, if you let compliments go to your head, you’ll also let criticism go to your heart. And it’s kind of this double edged sword with our ego, where, what people say about us and our successes, if we value that too much, it just goes to our head. But the flip side of that is when we’re criticized, whether somebody criticizes our success or they criticizes or point out a failure and we all have those it can go to our heart and just completely cripple us. And both of those are really dangerous things, but they tend to live on like the flip side of the same coin.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. It’s so good. So this is the mindset series. And so what are you guys talking about now? Like what are you communicating to the fellowship now in terms of, what’s the message going on right now?

Stephen Kimbrell: You mean like going forward in this pandemic?

Ashish Nathu: Just in the last few weeks, like, what are you finding yourself talking a lot about right now?

Stephen Kimbrell: Well, we just finished so in our church, in our setting, we like to do series. And so we feel like, you know, that just kind of helps people get involved and get engaged and you can really drill down on a subject, or sometimes it’s a book of the Bible that we want to dive into. And so you know, we really try to think ahead of time and figure out like, okay, where do we need to go in this period of time? And then sometimes in this past year, we’ve just had to pivot real quickly. But we just finished like a 10 week series this summer on the gospel, which again is our foundation or our core as Christians. And so really try trying to draw people back to why we do what we do. Really trying to strip away a lot of the, you know, just kind of the trappings or the extras and like, Hey, look, this is who we are. This is what we believe. This is why we do what we do. And so, and I think again, you can apply that to, that goes across the spectrum of business culture and everything of just getting back to that why and I think that’s, you know, you got to really make sure your core is fully engaged in that no matter what you’re involved in. And so then we’re actually this Sunday, next Sunday, we’re just kind of in a one off, you know, it’s not really a series, got a couple standalone sermons and then we’ve got coming up, we’re doing a three week series on mental health. And so it’s something, it’s kind of something that maybe the church culture has avoided for a long time. And I think is coming around to a little bit more, it’s almost like, I think a lot of pastors have thought, you know, well, we’ll let mental health people deal with that or, you know, mental Health’s not really a big issue, but you actually find it in the Bible, lot of stuff about mental health and your mind and you know, your mind’s just kind of its own battlefield. So how do you navigate what’s going on between your ears?

Ashish Nathu: How do we navigate that?

Stephen Kimbrell: You have to come to the series.

Ashish Nathu: I may have to.

Stephen Kimbrell: You have to be there, it starts September 26th at gray city church. Check it out.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. I wanted you to have the opportunity to talk about enneagram because I learned about enneagram a couple years ago, but I never really got into it, but you’re like big into that. and you’ve identified both of us as engram three and I think you’re right. I think I’m two, but I’m not sure exactly. Like, I think I’m three and seven or three and eleven or something. anyways, like during COVID what I realized was we really had to get deeper on who we were as businesspeople, as teams, as individuals, and, you know, there’s a lot of different tools out there to like personality tests. Why do you like enneagram? What is an enneagram three? Let’s talk about that, but like, why do you like enneagram and you know, what can people learn from that?

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. I got introduced to it a couple years ago and I think for anybody that’s listening and wants to check it out, it’s another personality test. It’s been around for years and years and years. But just recently I’d last 5 or 10 years. Some guys really kind of made it popular again and added some things to it. I like it, Just because it seems to simplify things. And it seems to me, in my experience, it seems to be the most accurate, like I’ve done the disc stuff. I’ve done Myers Briggs, and I love all those things. I think they’re really neat and helpful. They help me know how to better relate to other people. for years, I thought everybody saw the world. Like I see it, you know, and I’m just like, why can’t they do it the way I do it? Like, you know, I would see, you know, we come cross an obstacle and I’m like, all right, let’s go, let’s conquer this mountain. And then other people are like analyzing it to death. And I’m like, why is this guy doing this? Just come on. And then you start realizing, well, different people see the world differently. And so it’s really helped me with that. My wife is the guru, like she’s licensed in it and everything. You need to bring her on sometimes. She’d diagnose all of us and stuff.

Ashish Nathu: I mean, that stuff is so valuable, so important. And like you said, to understand how people show up in the world really helps you interact with them much better. you know, Enneagram, you said Meyers Briggs disc. We use predictive index within the company. All those personality tests really help us have much healthier interactions with people.

Stephen Kimbrell: Absolutely.

Ashish Nathu: Yeah. It’s so fun.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. And I think, you know, it’s, I won’t go into all of it, but it’s interesting because the Enneagram basically says every, you know, it’s like others, every number has its strengths and its weakness. And the Enneagram really focuses on kind of core motivation. And so I don’t know. It’s more so than any other test, it really makes you feel vulnerable. You know, the three is the achiever, like we want to achieve, we want to produce. But kind of the dark side of the three is that we want people to see us achieving. And so sometimes, for a three the fear of failure, or the fear of not being seen as an excess can be a core motivation. And so you know, figuring out, okay, how do I address this? How do I know this about myself? And then how do I relate to others that, you know, feel differently about things. So it’s, I’d encourage anybody to check it out. A guy who’s written a lot on it lately is a guy named Ian Kron. And he’s got a book out called the road back to you.

Ashish Nathu: We’ll put it in the show notes.

Stephen Kimbrell: He really does a good job of breaking everything down more so than I can do.

Ashish Nathu: So I’ll ask you one question and then I’d actually like to close off with a prayer if you want to. what does richness mean to you?

Stephen Kimbrell: Oh, man, that’s a big one. You know, I would say for me, I think it’s, I think first of all, it’s knowing God, I would sum it up in three things. I would say it’s knowing God, loving people, and living out God’s purpose for your life, knowing God, loving people, living out God’s purpose for your life. I think that Jesus himself talked about living the rich life. And a lot of people don’t know that. But he talked about those that come to him. He says, I’ll give you life and life abundantly. And what that simply means is I’ll give you life and life richly, you know, like an overflowing. And obviously some people have taken that and twisted it and be like, Hey, if you believe enough, you’ll become a millionaire or whatever. And that’s not what he’s saying, but he is saying that you’ll have a rich life. And then he goes through scripture and he begins, his teachings are basically like, Hey, this is how you navigate life. And so from a Christian perspective, we believe you either you know, come along the ways that he taught and follow those ways and live the way that he taught life, or you try to go out and figure things out on your own, which usually doesn’t work out well. So to sum up what he said and sum up what I believe about it. It’s knowing God which I think every person it was created to know God, I think we’re created in the image of God. I think we have this desire within us whether we grew up in America or somewhere in the jungles of Africa, like there’s this desire to know God that just screams out from us. But then also I think loving people, I think that’s what we were put here to do. We’re not just here to live on an island, it’s in community with other people. And at the end of our life, when we look back you know, the truth is when I’m on my death bed, I’m not going to look back and be like, honey, you know, play those great sermons that are preached or, you know, let’s talk about all these things nobody’s doing that. It’s not going to be how much money you made. It’s all going to be about your relationships, right? Those are the things that mean something during the end. Those are the pictures that you look back on. So the relationships and then living out God’s purpose for your life. So what is it that God put me here on this earth for. the book of Ephesians, So the Bible talks about that God created us as his workmanship or his masterpiece. And he, before ordained, before we ever born, he ordained good works that we’re supposed to do. And so as a three, I love that. Like God’s given me something to do. I’ve got responsibility, I’ve got a meaning, I’ve got a purpose on this earth. And so, yeah, I would say all three of those things for me or what it means to live a rich life.

Ashish Nathu: That was awesome. Let’s close up.

Stephen Kimbrell: All right, so we’re praying.

Ashish Nathu: Yes, sir. you lead.

Stephen Kimbrell: All right. Let’s pray. God, we love you. And Lord, we just thank you so much for this opportunity. I thank you for this conversation with my friend, Ashish. And Lord, I just, I thank you for everybody listening today. Lord, I have no idea who they are. They may be wondering who this guy is talking to them right now. But Lord, I don’t believe in coincidence. I think obviously that Lord there’s purpose in everything and God, even the fact that they’re listening today there’s a reason behind that. And Lord, if they’re still listening to this point, no doubt God, you have a purpose in this and God, I just pray right now that you would help them to know that first of all, there is a God and there’s a God that loves them. There’s a God that cares for them. There’s a God that sent his son on the cross to die for them. And Lord I’m sure, maybe for some, there’s a lot of questions about what that even means and why his son even died and all of that. And, but God, I just pray that you would help them to search out these things. Lord, I pray that they would reach out to someone and just begin asking questions, begin having a conversation. And Lord, I just pray for their personal lives, their relationships that could be God, So tricky so much harder to handle than even a business. But Lord, I pray for their relationships at home, God, their spouse, their kids, and other relationships in their life. And Lord, I pray for their purpose. God, I just pray that you would help them to know meaning a purpose in life and Lord, if they are dealing with some of these relational problems and anxiety, whatever it is they’re facing to know that God, there are people in their life that care about them that love them. And most of all, there’s a God that cares for them and loves them. And God, we just, we pray these things in the name of your son Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Ashish Nathu: Amen. Thanks brother.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah, man.

Ashish Nathu: That was so good.

Stephen Kimbrell: Yeah. Thanks for having me. Enjoyed it. Good stuff.

Thank you for listening to the Rich Equation podcast with Ashish Nathu. Do you want more ideas on how to live rich? Go to for show notes and resources. Then take one minute to leave Ashish, a five-star review on apple podcasts, and we’ll see you on the next episode.

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