How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church with Will Archer

Modern Church Leader feat. Will Archer
How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church feat. Will Archer on Modern Church Leader

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How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church

A church can be a great place to find comfort and build relationships, but sometimes the differences in our experiences and perspectives get in the way.

So, how do we come together as one?

The answer is simple: Serve together.

When we serve others, we automatically come closer as a whole. We are no longer just individuals who happen to attend the same church. Instead, we become one body working together to fulfill God’s purpose.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. When you serve others, it creates a sense of oneness. It can open the door to a deeper level of belonging. 

In the Book of Acts, it is clear that serving together is a key value of the early church. Through service to others, the church grew and spread, reaching across geographical and cultural divisions.

As it is today, serving together is a key value for us too. We should continue to put on the full armor of God and serve the community from the most basic relationships to the most complex issues. There is nothing we can do to bring service to a greater degree than serving the people around us. 

Serving others reminds us of the mission of our church and what we are called to do. The bonds we form in service can transcend social, racial, and economic differences and help us to become a unified body of believers.

In this episode, let's learn from pastor Will Archer's examples and practical steps of serving together as a church. This is a great way to have a deeper understanding of how we can serve more effectively as a church and find growth and unity in the body of Christ. 

"When we got here, a big part of the heart of the church was to serve the community. And we have seen how the Holy Spirit has really helped us to grow in the desire to learn from other people, engage with other people, live out what we would say. So it is a kind of a "cruciformed" approach, that we extend our arms to those on the right, as much as we do to those on the left."
-Will Archer

Will Archer serves as the Lead Evangelist for the Potomac Valley Church. Potomac Valley is a dynamic and diverse Northern Virginia congregation with a deep commitment to serving all people and multiplying authentic faith. He is deeply devoted to developing healthy communities of faith that engage both the business community and community partners committed to serving the poor. 

If you are looking for ways to strengthen your church and help it become a strong community of believers, serving together is an idea you will find helpful. Check out this podcast and let go of old ideas that keep you from leading your church into new and more fulfilling ways of serving together!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • Why serving together matters
  • How churches can engage with their communities
  • Why church leaders should have a clear vision for their ministry
  • Pastor Will's recollection of his conversion from Islam to Christianity
  • Strategies for improving online small groups

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[7:37] We're committed to engaging in the local community. When we got here, a big part of the heart of the church was to serve the community.

[10:10] It's important that leaders provide vision, communicate understanding, communicate compassion, and communicate a clear, compelling message that is also agile and responsive.

[11:20] If you're a minister, a pastor, or a Christian, if you're seeking the applause of people, you're always going to be frustrated. You really have to fix your eyes on, “what does Jesus want you to do?”

[15:26] If you care about people, you’ve got to care less about what they think about you and care more about them.

[20:37] You don't have to be a Christian to serve. You don't have to be a part of our church to serve; everybody can serve. You can be bright red and blue, and you can serve together.

[31:02] We've obviously not always got it right, and we've had to make adjustments. I think the pandemic has been devastating, but it has also provided a great opportunity.

[38:30] We need to have a very clear physical presence in the local community, where we can engage with people on the ground. But at the same time, we have to engage with people where most people live, which is on their devices

podcast transcript

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Will Archer (00:00):

You don't have to be a Christian to serve. You don't have to be a part of our church to serve. Everybody can serve. You can be bright red and bright blue and you can serve together. So service has been the thing that's brought us together where we're like, "Let's just serve people." And it's wild. When you get people focused on doing stuff to help other people, a lot of the other stuff gets worked out. It's results in people respecting each other more.

Frank Barry (00:39):

Hey guys, Frank here with Tithe.ly coming to you with another episode of Modern Church Leader. It's super exciting to talk with Will Archer today, who pastors a church out in the Potomac Valley, near DC, right?

Will Archer (00:50):

That's us. Yep.

Frank Barry (00:51):

And you almost snowed in.

Will Archer (00:54):

Almost snowed in. A bit snowed in. Yeah, we've got a blanket of snow here.

Frank Barry (00:58):

We might have you pick up the device and walk outside just to show all of us what...

Will Archer (01:02):

Sure. Sure. Sure.

Frank Barry (01:03):

I live in California, so I don't know what snow looks like.

Will Archer (01:05):

Well, we had like 12 to 14 inches and we were just having a blast sliding and having a lot of fun with us. But a number of folks didn't have power. And so we've been reaching out, supporting each other and being there for each other, but things are slowly getting back to normal here.

Frank Barry (01:24):

Oh man. So when the snow dumped, people lost power and everything?

Will Archer (01:29):

Yeah. A bunch of trees came down, power lines came down and probably about half of our church was without power. So folks went over to other folks' houses that had power, had generators.

Frank Barry (01:42):

Is it getting that much snow just not normal out there? And so it just-

Will Archer (01:46):

It's not. Yeah. So we're not really set up here in the DMV area for a lot of snow and it just came out of nowhere. It was supposed to be a dusting and then it became like Snowmageddon. So it's crazy.

Frank Barry (02:00):

But I mean, okay. There was some drama. Let's not minimize that, but sledding out of your front door and stuff, I'm sure is pretty cool.

Will Archer (02:09):

So much fun. Oh my gosh. My kids, we have so many great videos with them picking up speed and going straight into the street.

Frank Barry (02:17):

Yeah.

Will Archer (02:18):

It was pretty awesome. And the higher the hill, the more the fun.

Frank Barry (02:21):

The better. The better. Oh, that's so good. Well, man, we've got a pretty wide reaching audience. I'd love for you just to tell folks a little bit about yourself and how you got into ministry and where you're pastoring at and how you got there. Just a little bit of the Will story.

Will Archer (02:40):

Yeah. Thanks so much, Frank. I mean, I'm really grateful for this opportunity to be able to talk to you. So I've been in the ministry now for about 24 years. My wife and I, we've been married for 22 years. My wife Tasha, and she's from Georgia. I'm originally from Illinois. And my mom's from Chicago, but I've lived kind of all over the place.

Frank Barry (03:01):

Bulls fan?

Will Archer (03:02):

What's that?

Frank Barry (03:03):

Bulls fan.

Will Archer (03:05):

No, not a Bulls fan. I'm actually, I'm actually a Knicks fan.

Frank Barry (03:08):

Oh, wait a minute.

Will Archer (03:10):

Which is crazy.

Frank Barry (03:10):

Is that allowed?

Will Archer (03:12):

I don't think it is, but I lived in New York in the early '90s and I just got puled in there.

Frank Barry (03:18):

Patrick Ewing and all those guys. Yeah.

Will Archer (03:19):

Yes. John Starks and all that. Yeah. So yeah, way back got pulled in. Got pulled in. But yeah, my parents met in Illinois. My dad went to Northwestern. And while my dad was at university there, he converted to Islam. So I grew up semi-Muslim and my dad's Jamaican. So we moved back to Jamaica for my dad to run a school there. And I had the opportunity of living there for a number of years. And then my dad and I, we moved to Saudi Arabia and I went to Mecca with my dad when I was about eight years old. And that's really what starts my story, is going to Mecca. Because when I was there in Mecca, I just saw literally thousands of pilgrims kind of circumnavigating the Kaʿbah. And it really led to me asking some questions about religion and kind of why people go to places of worship.

Will Archer (04:17):

And about three years later, I read the Bible. Four years later, read the Bible for the first time. And I was blown away by Jesus and decided I really wanted to follow Jesus. And then another six years after that, I studied the Bible when I moved to New York and I got baptized and really committed to a life of discipleship. But the picture of seeing people circumnavigating places of worship really, I think is a formative picture that has stayed in my mind for almost 40 years now. And that's what really led me to ministry, is wanting to make sense of how to help people to have a relationship with God. That's just not circumnavigating religion, but really is an intimate relationship with God. And in my journey in the ministry, Tasha and I went in the ministry in Atlanta, started out in Atlanta. We've served in middle Georgia in Macon, in Philadelphia, in The Bahamas. And now we're here in Athens, Georgia. And now we're here in Potomac Valley in Virginia.

Frank Barry (05:30):

Yeah. You made the jump to The Bahamas and came back.

Will Archer (05:34):

I did, which is, I know it's crazy. It's so wild. I've lived in the Caribbean twice. I lived in Jamaica and I lived in The Bahamas. I love The Bahamas. I love the people of The Bahamas, but my wife's from America. She loves Walmart. And so, I got to be real with you. If it were up to me, I would've stayed with the beaches. But if it's up to my wife, she'll [crosstalk 00:06:00].

Frank Barry (06:00):

I heard a little bit of the accent right there when you said beaches.

Will Archer (06:03):

Beaches. Yeah.

Frank Barry (06:04):

There is. Yeah.

Will Archer (06:05):

Yeah, man. Yeah, but I've been really, really, really blessed. I mean, God's been very kind to me. But because of my early formation, growing up Muslim and then converting to Christianity, I just really do have a deep level of respect for people from all different backgrounds and a deep conviction about the movement of the Holy Spirit to really draw people to Jesus. So that's me.

Frank Barry (06:33):

Yeah. Wow. That's amazing. I mean, I feel like I want to ask you about your family, but we'll leave that for another time. Maybe we'll do another show-

Will Archer (06:40):

Absolutely.

Frank Barry (06:40):

... on your conversion because I know that's, I'm sure rather intense. So how did you get in... Tell us about the church where you're the lead guy at now and what's the church like, and how's your[crosstalk 00:06:55]?

Will Archer (06:55):

Yeah. We've been here seven years in Potomac Valley. So we are a incredibly diverse congregation, 20 miles south of DC. And by diverse, I mean we're racially diverse, generationally diverse. We are politically diverse. We have meat eaters like myself and lots of vegetarians as well. So about 60% of the congregation here are active or retired military.

Frank Barry (07:22):

Wow.

Will Archer (07:22):

We're just about five miles away from Quantico Marine base where the Marines are head out of and the FBI's out of here. And so, we're a real mixture of people and community of a couple 100 believers. And we're really committed to engaging in the local community. When we got here, that was a big part of the heart of the church, was to serve the community. And we've just seen the Holy Spirit really grow that desire to learn from other people, engage with other people and live out, what we would say is a kind of a cruciformed approach, that we extend our arms to those on the right as much as we do to those on the left.

Will Archer (08:09):

So we actually have elected officials that are Democrats and Republicans that regularly come to church with us and some that are part of our community. And so, that's been really a key part of what our experience has been, because we really have to make sense of what's going on in America because it's going on in our church in any given Sunday.

Frank Barry (08:33):

I mean, I don't even know... I've said this on other shows or chatted about lots of pastors. I mean, pastors are as frontline as it gets. Right. And frontline workers, man, the pandemic and all the other things going on have been extremely challenging. So I can only imagine, right. You're leading a church and you're leading through these times, what's it? I don't know. Give us your commentary on all this. What's it been like over the last 18, 24 months?

Will Archer (09:05):

Yeah. I'm in a doctoral program and I was listening to, I was a part of a lecture-

Frank Barry (09:11):

Doctor Archer. That's a good-

Will Archer (09:13):

Not yet. Trying to get there. I got a lot of papers to write, but one day hopefully. But in this class and the professor was talking, he's from the Institute of the future and he is talking about this acronym that the army war college used to define the world post, at the end of the cold war, post cold war. And it's VUCA. And VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. And I think that's probably, that's been the best way for me to distill down the past 24 months. It's been volatile, it's been uncertain, it's really complex. There's quick 140 character explanation for what's going on. And it's really ambiguous. There's been the fog of war that we're going through. And what's been offered by a number of theorists on how to move forward is in a situation like that, it's important that leaders provide vision, that they communicate understanding, that they really communicate compassion, but that they com communicate a clear, compelling message that also is agile and responsive.

Will Archer (10:30):

And so that's what we've been trying to do, is have a clear vision of who we are and what Jesus calls us to be. Communicate to people that we agree with or disagree with, that we can understand them. We might not agree or accept, but we understand, or we try to understand. And just be clear about where we're going. And for us, that's been very helpful for us. It's been very challenging though, honestly, Frank. Because if you dare to step into the arena, you got to be prepared for people to throw tomatoes.

Frank Barry (11:04):

Yeah. Right.

Will Archer (11:07):

And it's not always tomatoes. I mean, because when you address what's going on and you address it publicly from the pulpit, and you address it privately with people, not everybody responds well to that. So if you are, as a minister, as a pastor, as a Christian, if you're seeking the applause of people, you're going to always be frustrated. You really have to fix your eyes on, "Okay. What does Jesus want me to do? And also I'm a messed up person. So I'm going to get it wrong. I got to be willing to apologize and listen and learn."

Will Archer (11:44):

And honestly, we've made a ton of mistakes in the past 24 months. There are things I wish we hadn't said when we said it, how we said it and had to apologize for saying it, but I feel really excited about where we are and where we're going, because I'm convinced God's leading us. So it's crazy. You kind of come out of situations like this. You either hunker down and you want to be in a cave, or you just want to run for the hills, or you just want to engage. And I feel like both for myself and for our leadership, our eldership, we just really feel very compelled that the spirit's calling us forward.

Frank Barry (12:27):

Right. How do you or how have you, and I'm sure, again, nobody's perfect. We're not God, we don't exactly know what to do and all this kind of stuff. We're trying our best. How have you addressed a lot of these things, whether it's like the social stuff or the political stuff or just the pandemic and what that has done? I don't know, how are you head-on addressing these kinds of things and helping the church? Because the church is diverse, right. I'm in San Diego and where I go to church is very diverse. And opinion in age and gender and all the things, it's super diverse. So it's hard to bring everyone together. And I love one thing you said is, you have to have a clear vision and get it out there. So I'm guessing that has a little bit to do with it. But yeah, talk to us a little bit about diversity and all that.

Will Archer (13:21):

Yeah. Absolutely, I think we were really fortunate. Really, really fortunate. I mean we have been learning from a number of really great leaders, both in our fellowship and outside of our fellowship. And I was really fortunate. One of my mentors encouraged me to go to seminary and to really sit and listen and learn from folks outside of our denominational context. We've also been learning actively from our churches in Southeast Asia, who I think are a little bit ahead of the curve, because had to learn how to spread the gospel particularly our church in Indonesia, a country with the largest Muslim population in the world. And so you have to learn how to navigate difficult spaces. So I've been actively learning from those churches for about 13 years and our leadership has been learning from them actively for the seven years that I've been here. And we've taken about 50 people to Southeast Asia just to study what they're doing.

Will Archer (14:21):

So we are really fortunate to have been able to prepare ourselves as much as you could possibly prepare yourself for the craziness. But having said that, I think how do you engage directly? People can deal with you being honest. And so I think we've just been honest, hey, racism is wrong and we don't agree with it. We don't have it all figured out. We're not going to demonize anyone. And we're also not going to deify people. There are Republicans that are racist. There are Democrats that are racist. And there are people that don't even understand racism. And we're all messed up. I mean, you really have to call it. And I think what I've found is that people are really smart.

Will Archer (15:10):

If you are honest about the fact that you're messed up and you're just doing the best that you can, most people can stomach that and say, "Okay, then you're just being..." Now there's a group of people that no matter what you say, it will never be good enough. And so you can't live to try to please people, you really have to focus on God. And I think if you care about people, you got to care less about what they think about you and care more about them. And my experience is the same people that criticize you today, tomorrow will talk about how great you are. See. And then they'll criticize you the next day. So you just can't get caught up in that, which is really easy to say. But for me, I've had to pray. Our staff, our elders, we've had to pray. We've had to fast. We've had to... I run a lot, so I've had to run giving it to God.

Frank Barry (16:04):

That's why you're doing an ultra because you're just like, "I need to run more. I need to run more and-"

Will Archer (16:09):

I do.

Frank Barry (16:10):

... think about this, pray.

Will Archer (16:12):

I do, man. And honestly, I know now that I have no control. And I think that's one of the mistakes that most ministers and a lot of leaders in general fall into the trap of command and control. And the truth is no one has control, but what you can do is you can provide clear commander's intent. And that's what Jesus did. He didn't spell out like every church service has to have three songs and then a welcome. He's not into this rigid formulaic way of engaging. He says, I want you to love one another. "As I've loved you, so you should love one another. I want you to see in the face of every one, my face." Matthew 25, "What have you do for the least of these." These are very simple, clear directives, but they provide a framework for people to come together.

Will Archer (17:05):

And so that's what we are. We've been learning. Honestly, Frank, we blow it and we mess up more time than not. But we just keep trying. And I think that's what we've been doing here and I'm super proud of our elders. Super proud of the church here. I mean, everybody's just given it the best they've got.

Frank Barry (17:30):

Yeah. How have you... in terms of the vision side of things. Because getting everybody on the same page or everybody feeling like we're as a church, despite all the crazy stuff that could divide you, is dividing the world at large. But within the context of your church, how have you... what's been the vision? What's the direction and the vision that you're trying to kind of keep front and center with the people and unify them?

Will Archer (18:01):

Well, again, we took a lot of time to pray and fast. When we got here seven years ago, we took about two years just to study the scriptures, pray, we fasted. We got here in August of 2014, we spent four months just listening. Then eight months doing deep teaching. Then September of 2015, we fasted for a day as a whole church, three days in October, seven days in November, 21 days as we started 2016. And coming out of that time of prayer and fasting, really three things came together for us; Matthew 22, Matthew 25, Matthew 28. That we gather because we love God. That's why we gather for church. And we gathered in small groups. Matthew 25, we serve. We serve everybody no matter what background. We don't serve like as like a tool. It's the end in itself. It's just, "Hey, this is another human being made in the image of God. We're just going to serve them."

Will Archer (19:04):

And we multiply. We multiply disciples, Matthew 28. And I think in the context of our church tradition from the restoration churches, from the churches of Christ, from the ICOC, we've focused first on multiplication. Honestly, that's the end of the equation. What we've found is we needed Matthew 22 comes before Matthew 25, which comes before 28. The kind of disciples that you're forming result in the kind of disciples that you multiply. And so, those three compelling thoughts; to gather, serve, multiply. Matthew 22, Matthew 25, Matthew 28 have helped to provide a clear framework for us. And serving is central to that because for us serving creates this really cool space where you don't have to be a Christian, we serve with the mosque.

Will Archer (20:01):

Like right when the pandemic started, when the first things we did is I got with an Imam and we got in front of a camera and we said, "Hey, let's work together to make sure everybody has food." And we built a great friendship with the mosque, which is super crazy, because I come from a Muslim background and I'm a Christian minister. So just so you know, I'm the worst person for some extreme Muslims to engage with. But they're my family. They're not... they're my family. I really do want to persuade them to believe as I believe about Jesus. And I'm sure they want to persuade me too, but they're my family.

Will Archer (20:41):

But you don't have to be a Christian to serve. You don't have to be a part of our church to serve. Everybody can serve. You can be bright red and bright blue and you can serve together. So service has been the thing that's brought us together. We're like, "Let's just serve people." And it's wild. When you get people focused on doing stuff to help other people, a lot of the other stuff gets worked. And I'm not saying that results in people all agreeing. It results in people respecting each other more. And so that's kind of been something that's been helpful for us.

Frank Barry (21:18):

Yeah. I love that. I mean yeah, serving together, doing something like that where you're doing it with somebody, you're doing meaning stuff to serve other people, you're giving, you're thinking about others, not thinking about your stuff or right or wrong, or left or right. Or what like wear a mask, don't wear a mask. You're just thinking about helping other people and you do with other people and you're shoulder to shoulder, you put all the other stuff that's not all that important anyways aside and it creates that common bond and that common purpose and you're doing it together kind of thing. I mean, I love that. What kind of service projects have you guys done or how are you getting into the community? I know you said that's been a big part of what you guys are all about.

Will Archer (22:04):

Yeah. So we've been able to do some really cool things. I mean, one of the thing that we've done prior to the pandemic that we're going to bring back this year. For about two or three years, we started this thing called the great banquet, where we barbecue a thousand pounds of meat and we bring the whole community together. We have a common [crosstalk 00:22:23].

Frank Barry (22:22):

You're like, "We make mushrooms too, for all others."

Will Archer (22:25):

We do. Actually just so you know, there's a running joke, that we bring vegetables. I'm a true carnivore, right. So I just love meat and my family loves to cook. And so like every time we have the great banquet, I do about 200 pounds of jerk chicken and-

Frank Barry (22:43):

So good.

Will Archer (22:44):

And we have tons of food, but we've had to bring more vegetables. So there's this joke with all the vegetarians that we've brought in all the other sides, which has been great.

Frank Barry (22:53):

Yeah.

Will Archer (22:55):

And then we when we do that, we distribute hundreds of bags of groceries for anybody that's in need, bags of clothes, toiletry items. So that's kind of one big thing. We do a lot of small things where we engage with communities in need, whether it's kids that need help that are in Title 1 schools. During the pandemic, we're able to partner with a local community organization that was working with our local government. And we're part of a effort that helped to distribute $3 million worth of cares funds, 26 different organizations. And Potomac Valley specifically, we're able to distribute $450,000 worth of money for people to pay their rent, pay their utilities, medical bills.

Will Archer (23:42):

So literally keep people in their homes during the pandemic. So that was just really cool. And then we're able to work with our local jurisdiction with a vaccine effort. Not everybody in our church agrees with vaccination, but that's cool. But the majority of our church has been vaccinated and we're able to help get 12,000 people in our area signed up and get them vaccinated. And so, it's been really cool working with local government, working with community organizations. Some of the work we do though, isn't stuff that we spearhead, it's just stuff where we support organizations that do really good work. Like I said, for us service is not a means to an end. It's just an end in itself.

Frank Barry (24:35):

Yeah. How do you get the church actively involved in those kind of things? How do you get, you said it's a few hundred people. How do you know get them excited about the great banquet or the vaccine? I don't know exactly how the vaccine thing worked out or distributing the carers funds and other stuff you guys are doing? Do you find that having those things available inspires the church to serve more? They're like, "Oh, I love that. I'm going to go do that at." I don't know. Just how do you inspire the heart to serve within the people?

Will Archer (25:13):

Yeah. I think just, I want to give credit where credit to due. So the idea for the great banquet came because one of my mentors said to me, he worked with the NGO from many, many years. And he said, "Look, we've raised millions of dollars. We never just threw a barbecue to thank the people." And so he said, "Why don't you thank your people and do a barbecue?" So me and the staff, we did a barbecue for the church and the church loved it. And then we're trying to plan out Easter that couple weeks after that, and Logan and Ashley who were serving on our staff at the time we're talking about all these cool Easter egg hunt things. And they're like, "What about the parable? The great banquet where Jesus says, give food to everybody." And we're like, "What were we thinking?"

Will Archer (26:00):

So Easter Sunday for us, many churches dress up for Easter. They have big Easter productions. We dress down and we just serve. And so I think what's helped to mobilize the church is the church seeing A, that the leaders are committed to serving. And I think B, really just seeing that, it isn't a gimmick because people are smart. They're like, so we're just serving these people. Yeah. It's not like... And now we've had 100 baptisms. And I'm not saying that 100 baptisms after a great event isn't an amazing thing. We want to see that happen, but you don't do one for the other. You do one because people are hungry. And if that leads to a 100 people coming to Christ, that's awesome. And so I think that's what's been important. I don't know how it is in San Diego. Here in the DC area, people are cynical. And they're always looking for what's the angle? What's in it for me.

Frank Barry (27:00):

Yeah. I feel like that's just people in the world these days. The climate has created that in everyone.

Will Archer (27:07):

It has man. We just keep doing it and just keep showing up. I'm really encouraged because I feel like my friends, and these really are my friends who are not yet believers, know us because we actually care. I feel like they tell more people about what we're doing sometimes than even the members in the church. They're more evangelistic. They're like, "Hey, the great banquet you got to come."

Frank Barry (27:36):

You should come. Yeah. I love that idea. I mean, who doesn't like a big old barbecue with 1,000 pounds of meat.

Will Archer (27:42):

Yeah. Meat and vegetables.

Frank Barry (27:47):

Oh, okay. Related to you guys, but maybe a little bit of a different topic. I know that social media and digital ministry has been something you guys have focused a lot on and had some pretty cool success. Most, few 100 member churches, don't necessarily have the online reach that you guys do. Talk to us a little bit about your media internship and how social media's grown and how you guys see the use of social media for church online and digital ministry.

Will Archer (28:25):

Absolutely. I'd say probably about five years ago, the Holy Spirit just really made it plain through lots of interactions that our digital presence is our front door. I think that was a massive mind shift for me and for our leadership. I'm super proud again, of our board, which is mostly made up of really risk averse, older people that they were like, "Okay, we're going to support you." We raised money through missions contribution and we started a media internship and we brought in young people.

Frank Barry (29:00):

Was that a new thing?

Will Archer (29:00):

Absolutely.

Frank Barry (29:01):

Like didn't [crosstalk 00:29:02] a thing that you guys had done before, this media kind of position?

Will Archer (29:06):

No, we've always done these internships for like youth ministry. Then we said, let's try one for like young adult ministry or singles ministry, but then through a number of conversations, us listening to each other and collaborating. We just felt let's do a media internship and Logan Kreider and Brandon ye and Marcus Thomas, and a number of amazing young men Ashley Alexia really made a huge impact in saying let's actually bring in great young people. Then we just said, "Hey, look at our website, take it, rebuild it. look at our Instagram, take it, rebuild it. look at our Facebook presence, tell us what we need to do differently." Because we really recognize you need to put things in the hands of other people that are good at stuff.

Will Archer (30:03):

And I think that's one of the blessings that God's given us is we know that we're not good at everything. We're like, "Just hand your phone to a millennial." Honestly I was really proud of how that came together, honestly, that really set us up to win coming into 2020 because I always share this, this one story May 1st, 2020, we had less than 1500 followers on Instagram. Today just less than two years later have over 43,000, almost 44,000 followers on Instagram.

Frank Barry (30:44):

That's awesome.

Will Archer (30:47):

In any given month, we're talking to 100,000, 200,000, there have been months where we've been able to engage with a million people at a time with content that points them to Jesus content that encourages them and tries to really inspire them to positive change. I've been really proud of that. We've obviously not always got it right and we've had to make adjustments, but I think the pandemic has been devastating in one hand, but it's also provided a great opportunity. I think it's Sun Tzu that says in chaos opportunity. There's an opportunity and the Holy Spirit just prompted us this is a crazy time. The church needs to have a voice to say, we can come together. We can be unified. We can forgive people. We can call things that are wrong as wrong without being wrong about the way we go about calling them out. That's what we've sought to do. We've tried to make every effort not to avoid the difficult conversations about race and gender and injustice.

Will Archer (31:58):

But also not to take the talking points from the world, but really to look at God's word and seek to bring people together and not demonize and not deify, just call it just, "Hey, these are people who are messed up we need God and honestly God's blessed it."

Frank Barry (32:20):

Yeah. What just really practically you started the media internship thing. Did that evolve into anything, or do you still have an intern squad that does this for you? What does it look like today?

Will Archer (32:40):

Sure. It's taken so many different turns, honestly, Frank. It started with a media internship and then that led to us being able to have Marcus and Alexia Thomas who are our youth and family ministers and now they head up our digital campus. We are really fortunate to have Logan Kreider when he was here for a good while with us in the ministry. He did a lot of social media work with us and a number of volunteers. But at this point we have a ministry couple that they're dedicated to youth and family and media and worship. Then we have a team of volunteers that really help to support that. But like everything, I mean, the pandemic has been brutal. There have been some people that have been able to be with us at the beginning, and then they needed to take some time just to have some mental space that they're not currently actively a part of the group and then others that have joined in.

Will Archer (33:39):

Honestly, we're trying to make sense as we come into 2022 of how to really do church in the Metaverse. A little bit of what I was telling you is we're really trying to develop small groups in a digital setting, because with all the reach that we have, we actually have people from around the world that reach out to us and some of them are connected with local churches, but many of them are not and they're in all sorts of different places. I think one of the biggest challenges we found is that Jesus was right. Matthew 9:38, the harvest is plentiful of the workers are few. We honestly need more people to be with people online because people are crying out and talking about what's going on and sharing honestly, and very vulnerably and sometimes more vulnerably online than they do in person.

Frank Barry (34:38):

Right. Yeah. There's a little more, maybe you feel a little safer for a bit. You want to get people in person and all of that eventually, but like online is a big deal. In the Metaverse there might be people watching that don't even know what that is. I don't even know if I really know what it is yet, but it's here.

Will Archer (34:56):

It's here.

Frank Barry (34:57):

I have three, 10 year old boys and so I see them playing things like Minecraft and playing different games within like Roblox and you watch kids do things online. I was born in '78, so I'm like I don't know a crossover type generation where I grew up with a lot of tech, but it wasn't here when I was born yet. Whereas like my kids, your kids, they're going to have an iPhone in their hand from the beginning kind of thing. It's crazy watching them and the comfortability and the way doing things with the headset and I'm on my iPad or I'm playing my switch or whatever it is. They're in the Metaverse in an odd way and that way mine when they're still single digits in age.

Will Archer (35:54):

Yeah. No, absolutely.

Frank Barry (35:55):

Metaverse is here and our kids are going to church in it one day for sure.

Will Archer (35:59):

They are and I think they're going to church in it probably in the next one to five years. I mean, I think it's totally here and so we're really excited about that. Our team has been talking a lot about that and we're excited that's the next big jump for us. But admittedly, we have no idea what we're doing, so we're literally just following the spirits.

Frank Barry (36:26):

You got to buy a few NFTs, get some land in the sandbox and I feel like call up some of snoops guys who built the mansion.

Will Archer (36:34):

You got it.

Frank Barry (36:35):

Figure it out.

Will Archer (36:37):

Boom. The land grab is on.

Frank Barry (36:40):

If all the church did it, I mean.

Will Archer (36:43):

Oh my gosh, man. When I tell you that we were sharing pictures of all the stuff that I saw life church put out and I was like first to the egg. Oh my gosh, it's cool, we're going to drive backwards and get there.

Frank Barry (36:55):

Yeah. Get to it. Maybe as we wrap up here from a budgeting, staffing, organizational design, it's a few 100 members. Now you're a mega church by any means. That's representative of most churches in America. A few hundred people. Are you thinking about stuff into the future? How church staff looks, how budgeting might look. If you're thinking about some of this, I'm fast forwarding in this hybrid digital world. How are you thinking about as a pastor of a church that's a few hundred members?

Will Archer (37:40):

Yeah. There's one other thing that happened that's pretty significant in our congregation. In the middle of the pandemic, God opened up two amazing doors for us to buy two buildings.

Frank Barry (37:51):

What?

Will Archer (37:52):

Which is crazy. I know. Makes no sense. We decided, we have people in two big geographies to the south and to the north. We decided to go to build a multi-site with physical locations because we wanted to be able to be in local communities. But we also wanted to be able to use these facilities as community centers and to be able to diversify how we think about giving. This is again for a longer conversation with you that I'd love to have is because what we really think we have to do, we're going to have to walk and chew gum.

Will Archer (38:34):

We're going to have to have a very clearly defined physical presence in a local community where we can engage with people on the ground. But at the same time, we have to really engage with people where most people live, which is on their devices. The short answer is in terms of budgeting, we are praying that God will open up amazing doors for us to be able to make some big choices as it relates to staffing moving forward. The next few staff hires that we plan on having will be people that are able to help us to engage in physical spaces as well as on digital spaces. And so, Marcus and Lexi who are heading up our digital campus, they're really the first test model, if you will, for what this looks like because they are engaging with young people physically, but they're helping us to begin to figure out how to engage with people digitally.

Will Archer (39:34):

We envision a world where we have as many, if not more people that are leading small groups digitally, as we have small groups physically. To prepare for that step, we have taken a period over this past fall to reorganize the church from what had become many large, small groups because through the pandemic what happens is groups just get bigger and bigger because you can fit more squares on a Zoom box. To us breaking our groups down to groups of eight to 10 people. Now we have double the number of small groups so that we can receive more people and then we're going to begin the process of training people to be digital small group leaders. I am insanely excited.

Frank Barry (40:25):

You're coming back on the show in like six months, nine months whenever, after you've done that for a little bit and you have some learnings, because I think that's valuable for the church.

Will Archer (40:34):

Pray. Frank, we're giving it everything we've got. All of our chips are on this next move. Pray for us, I mean it's either the best decision or the craziest decision, but the whole church prayed about it.

Frank Barry (40:53):

Amen.

Will Archer (40:53):

No joke. We prayed about it. We brought it before the whole church and we said, "Look guys, it's a pandemic. We don't know when it's going to end. Are you guys okay with us buying a building?" Everybody was like, "We're scared, but yes." Then God opened up another door and we're like, "Are you guys good with us buying second building?"

Frank Barry (41:10):

Two, that is [crosstalk 00:41:12].

Will Archer (41:12):

Two buildings, which I'm genuinely telling you that makes no sense, except if you believe that a harvest is coming. That's what we really believe. We think this is the golden age of church. We really don't think the church that Jesus built is in decline. We do think that a lot of organized religion might be in decline, but the church Jesus built, and we're storming the gates.

Frank Barry (41:42):

Going strong. Going strong. Man I love it. Well, Pastor Will, this has been awesome. Thank you for your time. Where can folks go? Well, actually before that part, I want to asked you a couple quick questions.

Will Archer (41:56):

Yeah, sure anything.

Frank Barry (41:58):

Give me a book that you've read any time in your life. Something that you're like, "This book is one that I will recommend to everyone like inspiring practical, whatever may be where you're like, this is my book."

Will Archer (42:11):

Yeah, absolutely. Honestly there are a couple books, but one that I'd say for sure, it's an old book it's called Spiritual Leadership by Jay Oswell Sanders. Because I think that now and always, I think we have to recognize that spirituality comes before leadership. And that the key is to follow the spirit, not to try to follow a person. I think Sanders really breaking down the fact that it's all about spiritual leadership. And I think we need spiritual leadership in this world and we need to follow the spirit. Spiritual leadership for sure has been a formative book in my life.

Frank Barry (42:53):

Love that.

Will Archer (42:54):

In my journey.

Frank Barry (42:54):

Okay. Awesome. Did you say a couple?

Will Archer (42:58):

Yeah. Spiritual Leadership. The Master Plan of Evangelism is an old book that many people. But again, it's understanding principles. I really appreciate just Coleman's call for us to understand principle. Chasing a Lion on a Snowy Day by Batterson I was listening to it today. I think just this idea of just being willing to take big risks and step up and right now I'm going through Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I love a lot of the work that Francis has done. And last year, we're fortunate to go through Jim Putin's book, Real-Life Discipleship. The truth is I share all those things, all of those books are referencing the Bible and I just think that for me, I really do believe that God's word holds the answers. But I really found that other books sometimes help me to understand the Bible and put flesh in [crosstalk 00:44:10].

Frank Barry (44:10):

I mean, other people's thinking and perspectives and experiences applied to God's word. Because we're only one person, so I think there's value in learning from others in that way. Okay. Give me a podcast that you're listening to right now.

Will Archer (44:24):

Okay. I just finished The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill.

Frank Barry (44:29):

I've gotten that one a few times.

Will Archer (44:30):

Oh my gosh, so real talk, I don't have any judgment, so straight up. I'm a messed up preacher trying to do it. I don't have any judgment. I felt like that thing was just a straight up cautionary tale. Don't make it about yourself, make it all about God. And so I think every pastor had to be honest. And I think it's dangerous if you start trying to demonize people or deify people. But I listened to that thing and I was like, "Look, I got to have a quiet time. Let me just check myself." Because I think one of the things that's probably perhaps the most dangerous thing in the world is success. I think there are a number of churches and church leaders that are going to experience what perceived success in 2022 to 2030. Who you are when you are successful tells you a lot about who you are. And so that's what leads me back to spiritual leadership? It's all about your private walk with God.

Frank Barry (45:35):

Yeah. Amen to that. Well, where can folks go to check out the Potomac Valley church and what you guys are doing online?

Will Archer (45:42):

Yeah, absolutely. We try to be really easy to find. You can just type in potomacvalleychurch.com. We're easy to find on Instagram, on Facebook. We love to be able to connect with anyone that would like to connect with us. Admittedly though, we are messed up people. We are just messed up people trying to do it, but our God is good and we're happy to be able to share our journey.

Frank Barry (46:05):

Absolutely. I mean, if everybody in life just believe that we're all messed up, God is good and we're all trying hard, that's a good model to live by. Will, this has been great, man. Appreciate it. Appreciate everybody that's listened to this, whether you're watching it on the podcast or on YouTube. Appreciate you guys and we'll be back next week with another episode of Modern Church Leader. See you guys.

Narrator (44:17):If you enjoy this episode of the Modern Church Leader, consider sharing it with the pastor or minister you think would benefit the most from listening to this conversation. You can send them to modernchurchleader.com or share this episode directly from your podcast app. Be sure to subscribe for free on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or Spotify so you never miss an episode. And we'll see you again next week with another conversation here on the Modern Church Leader.

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How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church with Will Archer

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How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church with Will Archer

If you are looking for ways to strengthen your church and help it become a strong community of believers, serving together is an idea you will find helpful. Check out this podcast and let go of old ideas that keep you from leading your church into new and more fulfilling ways of serving together!

Show notes

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How Serving Together Can Bring Unity in the Church

A church can be a great place to find comfort and build relationships, but sometimes the differences in our experiences and perspectives get in the way.

So, how do we come together as one?

The answer is simple: Serve together.

When we serve others, we automatically come closer as a whole. We are no longer just individuals who happen to attend the same church. Instead, we become one body working together to fulfill God’s purpose.

It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from. When you serve others, it creates a sense of oneness. It can open the door to a deeper level of belonging. 

In the Book of Acts, it is clear that serving together is a key value of the early church. Through service to others, the church grew and spread, reaching across geographical and cultural divisions.

As it is today, serving together is a key value for us too. We should continue to put on the full armor of God and serve the community from the most basic relationships to the most complex issues. There is nothing we can do to bring service to a greater degree than serving the people around us. 

Serving others reminds us of the mission of our church and what we are called to do. The bonds we form in service can transcend social, racial, and economic differences and help us to become a unified body of believers.

In this episode, let's learn from pastor Will Archer's examples and practical steps of serving together as a church. This is a great way to have a deeper understanding of how we can serve more effectively as a church and find growth and unity in the body of Christ. 

"When we got here, a big part of the heart of the church was to serve the community. And we have seen how the Holy Spirit has really helped us to grow in the desire to learn from other people, engage with other people, live out what we would say. So it is a kind of a "cruciformed" approach, that we extend our arms to those on the right, as much as we do to those on the left."
-Will Archer

Will Archer serves as the Lead Evangelist for the Potomac Valley Church. Potomac Valley is a dynamic and diverse Northern Virginia congregation with a deep commitment to serving all people and multiplying authentic faith. He is deeply devoted to developing healthy communities of faith that engage both the business community and community partners committed to serving the poor. 

If you are looking for ways to strengthen your church and help it become a strong community of believers, serving together is an idea you will find helpful. Check out this podcast and let go of old ideas that keep you from leading your church into new and more fulfilling ways of serving together!

By the end of this episode, you will learn:

  • Why serving together matters
  • How churches can engage with their communities
  • Why church leaders should have a clear vision for their ministry
  • Pastor Will's recollection of his conversion from Islam to Christianity
  • Strategies for improving online small groups

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[7:37] We're committed to engaging in the local community. When we got here, a big part of the heart of the church was to serve the community.

[10:10] It's important that leaders provide vision, communicate understanding, communicate compassion, and communicate a clear, compelling message that is also agile and responsive.

[11:20] If you're a minister, a pastor, or a Christian, if you're seeking the applause of people, you're always going to be frustrated. You really have to fix your eyes on, “what does Jesus want you to do?”

[15:26] If you care about people, you’ve got to care less about what they think about you and care more about them.

[20:37] You don't have to be a Christian to serve. You don't have to be a part of our church to serve; everybody can serve. You can be bright red and blue, and you can serve together.

[31:02] We've obviously not always got it right, and we've had to make adjustments. I think the pandemic has been devastating, but it has also provided a great opportunity.

[38:30] We need to have a very clear physical presence in the local community, where we can engage with people on the ground. But at the same time, we have to engage with people where most people live, which is on their devices

video transcript

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