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PODCAST 044: Jate Earhart & Constructing a Digital Church


This Episode of The Church Digital Podcast may challenge some established norms. If so, that’s cool. They probably need to be challenged. A small, but growing number of physical churches are finally seeing that community can be created in virtual spaces, and now more than ever churches are currently operating small groups online. However, church today views these small groups as complementary to the physical ministry of the church (primarily which happens during that one-hour-on-Sunday service).

Enter Jate Earhart. Jate is no stranger to the podcast, as we talked about his online discipleship ministry for video gamers (called Love Clan) back in the early days of the podcast. Well, Jate is once again challenging status quo, and I for one am grateful. Jate is expanding Love Clan, hoping to grow it into a Digital Church.

This is not a flippant decision. As a matter of fact, Jate is driven to validate and verify the ecclesiology of his Digital Church. He’s well grounded when it comes to defining what a church is and is not. As a matter of fact, Jate is studying right now with some church planting cohorts, essentially going through the same process a physical church planter will go through as he’s examining what his potential Digital Church could look like.

So, check out this episode where Jate Earhart and Jeff Reed dig into the foundation of Church in hopes of starting to build the Construct of a Digital Church.

If you're enjoying this episode, subscribe for free using your favorite podcast app below:

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Guest: Jate Earhart
Love Clan
Facebook // Discord: Jate0001#

Host: Jeff Reed
Twitter // Facebook // Instagram // LinkedIn



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Love you all! Praying for your Churches and your Ministry Online.
Jeff Reed


Jeff Reed: 00:00 Hey everybody, Episode 44 with The Church Digital Podcast. And I got to tell you, I am looking forward to this episode. I love this guy we're bringing back in Jate Earhart. You may remember him way back from Episode 13 here with The Church Digital Podcast. He leads a video game ministry and discipleship ministry. He disciples, video gamers, millennial, generation Z, he disciples, these guys towards leading others to Christ into evangelism and discipleship. He's creating disciple makers using an online platform called Discord, which is a video game. He's leading a video game, discipleship ministry. How crazy is that? And he's been very effective and he's doing some really interesting things. But I tell you the thing that to me, the thing that just happened that I heard he was doing and I was like, I really got unpacked this. He's actually in the process through his church.

Jeff Reed: 00:54 He does a lot of church planting. He's in the process of being part of a cohort for church planners. He's looking at turning his Love Clan, his online ministry, not into just the discipleship ministry, but into a fully functioning church. And if you've listened to the last podcast and what you'll hear in this podcast is Jate is overly concerned, overly maybe not the right word, but he's very concerned when it comes to the ecclesiology of what a church is and the standard that he is holding into place for his potentially future digital church and how he is exploring and holding himself and the others around him to the standard, to allow for this Love Clan, this online ministry to one day become a fully functioning digital church. And that's a crazy, that's an exciting thing. I love this conversation and I love where Jate's heart and his passion is. So here you go. I'm bringing in Jate Earhart into the conversation. Of course, Jate's with Love Clan and myself, Jeff with The Church Digital in a conversation that I'm calling Planting a Digital Church. Hey everybody. Here you go. Did you just roll out of bed?

Jate Earhart: 02:08 Oh yeah.

Jeff Reed: 02:09 Awesome. Way to go. I mean, my kid was jumping on top of me at 6:30 but good for you man.

Jate Earhart: 02:15 Yeah, yeah. I stayed up a little later. We were, I was playing, Beat Saber and stuff. So that's why my hair is all crazy cause I was sweating like crazy before I went to bed.

Jeff Reed: 02:26 I, you know, I just got, it's quest, right? Yeah. Oculus Quest. I got that for Christmas. It's, yeah. Yeah. Like I'm really enjoying kind of getting to get exposed to a little bit of this. I'll tell you this story. I was, I was alone in my house. my family had gone away for like a after Christmas that had, gone up to the in-laws up in West Palm beach just for a night. And so it's, it's like midnight, 1:00 AM and I've got Oculus quest on and I'm literally all by myself and I'm playing the Star Wars game. The Stars War game, came with it. And so, yeah, I'm in this thing where I'm in, I'm, I'm showing my Star Wars right here. I can't think of the name of the, giant 50 foot thing. It starts with an R anyway, like, I'm kinda chasing after this 50 foot monster to try to figure out and it's like clawing and tearing apart all the environments and I've got the, the headsets on where I can't see anything but I'm supposedly walking around in this safe space.

Jeff Reed: 03:29 What I didn't realize is the dog was in the middle of the safe space had my dog had laid down. Yeah. And so it was literally right by my feet as this, as this rain core is what it's called in the rain core is like tearing apart the thing and right when the rain core trashes like right where I am with, with these big long, thick nails, the dog stands up and jabs its nails into my feet. Exact timing scared the garbage out of me. My arms go flailing. You know, what I didn't realize was I was six inches away from the Christmas tree when my arms went flailing and ornaments are like scattered all over the place and I haven't told my wife yet who's not listening to this, but I broke a couple. She doesn't know about that, don't tell. It was so funny. It's like, man, that's VR man.

Jate Earhart: 04:24 Yeah. And everybody has some kind of story like that. Luckily you like spared your TV or whatever, who most people, it's like, you know, I forgot that my TV was in this space and like, yeah, for me I was using, I was playing some, I think it was playing like a pong game or something and those straps that it came with were like not that great. And like I let go of it and it like snapped the strap and it like bounced, like hit a wall and then at like smashed into a lamp and it just like shattered the bulb and there's like glass everywhere and it was just like, there's like, my roommate's like what the heck happen, so I actually got to meet the guys that like made the vibe. This is the one I have. Yeah. And I was like, what the heck happened with the strap? Like this thing sucks. It was like way broken and he was like, here, come with me. And then he like took me to a guy and he was like, this is the guy who's fault it is, you tell him.

Jate Earhart: 05:40 So it was good time. So what I did, I went to Best Buy or I know I went to a Game Stop and I just bought or actually just gave them to me. I just got we remote straps and they were like way better. So that's what I've been using.

Jeff Reed: 05:58 Thank you Nintendo for solving problems years ago. That we didn't even know we had so.

Jate Earhart: 06:02 Well we, they knew they had it because the, we remote, everybody was smashing and throwing we remotes into their TV and they got so fed up with it that they like came up with a better strap and they sent them out. I remember having the very first week they sent me like a thing that was an email that said, if you give us your address, we'll send you free of charge four straps that are like newly improved. So please, please replace your current straps.

Jeff Reed: 06:34 Man, you are, I want to hear and the reason I wanted to get with you is really to dig into this, what you're doing with Love Clan and the hopes and desires, doing church planting program through your church. And I honestly, I just really wanted to catch up and learn more about what you're doing. It kind of as you're trying to progress and build a digital church here. So as we're backing up, and some listeners may not remember, Jate was way back in the day, has already been on here early on, talking through, what Love Clan is, but maybe just give a quick synopsis minute or two. What is Love Clan? What are you guys doing?

Jate Earhart: 07:15 Love Clan is essentially, an online place for people to chat and we have a discord, that's where we do most of our ministry type stuff. It's grown into, into like starting to look into other stuff. But the basics of it is there's people out there that are looking for just something other than the cultural norm, which is I'm just trying to win in this game or I want to, I don't know. I'm trying to think of what the exact is. I don't know if I could put my finger on, what's out there, but I just wanted something else. Then kind of toxic or whatever. That's kind of the front face of it, I guess. The front door into it. The lobby into the church is kind of something we've talked about at one point.

Jate Earhart: 08:11 And then obviously the backend, the real goal is discipleship. So in the core team, that's our focus is in discipleship. And, we have a prayer channel, that's really active and we think about next steps. What does it mean for people to join for the first time just to looking for something else. And then what does that mean? If that person is willing to have a conversation with somebody, who's a Christian and if they're willing to have that conversation, then maybe they'd add something to the prayer channel. And if they'd had it for the prayer channel, would they be willing to have somebody reach out to them and ask them if, if they're okay, and if so, would they talk about maybe more in depth things like spirituality and then even into Gospel? And if so, then we just kind of think through that, that mindset, from both directions.

Jate Earhart: 09:04 You know, both people that are in our core team, who are Christians learning how to be disciples. And then also how do we, how do we meet people where they're at already on the internet and then what does, what does that look like to kind of join those two things? And that's Love Clan. It's like in there somewhere, you know, it was like a gaming chat, internet, you know, whatever. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 09:30 So how long have you been doing Love Clan?

Jate Earhart: 09:32 Oh, I should just know this off the top of my head. but it really feels more fluid because it was, it, there's, there's a whole story, you know, where you start with and we said this other one, but starting with, another organization called Game Church, and then breaking off, and doing our own separate thing. Then from there, I think it's been, Hmm man, seven, might be like three years I think. I think three years as the name Love Clan. And it may actually be way less than that. I don't, I have no idea. I honestly don't. It's 85 years I think. And, and running strong, you know.

Jeff Reed: 10:15 Wow. 85 years ago. Yeah. That's impressive. Yeah. You beat Al Gore to that. Well done.

Jate Earhart: 10:22 Sure. Yeah. We all, well we had the whole tin can with the string thing going for awhile, but we've upgraded.

Jeff Reed: 10:29 The thing I love about what you're doing is that you, you've taken a discipleship kind of process towards this, of training others to go as opposed to, you know, creating a walled off community, virtual community in this context where everybody comes in. And so the platform, a lot of it's funny is that as I talk about you and, and I say the word discord, actually a lot of people don't know Discord. Like if you're not a millennial and you don't play video games, I think discords not on the radar. So just kind of like get some basics. What does Discord look like and what is the digital context of what you're doing actually look like in context of Discord?

Jate Earhart: 11:09 Yeah, that's a, that's a good point. Yeah, discord is, I'd say most people probably that don't know Discord know Slack, which is kind of funny. But Discord looks a lot like Slack. If you, if you open the two side by side, but Discord has a much more, there's a lot more you can do with bots and with channels and setting it up so that it can run. if you don't know Slack, you probably know Skype. So there's a Skype element to it. There's video chat, voice chat, text channels. A lot of it is grouping people together into a space where they can chat and then separating those chats into different chat channels and having some of those chat channels be voice chat only channels, text chat only channels or the ability to do video. And then you can add bots, which the bots help sort through. Like if I, if I was to say yeah I'm looking for this. That might trigger a keyword and then it'll give a command that like lets people know, Whoa, you're, it looks like you're looking for this. Here's, here's where the channel you'd want to go to is for that. And so we can separate people into different games and so on and so forth. So to kind of help help people find other people, for what they're looking for. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 12:35 So over the past two or three years, you've been utilizing Discord as a platform to create a discipleship movement called love clan. Why are you going through a church planting training cohort? Like what's, what's going on in your head right now?

Jate Earhart: 12:49 This for me, is a calling. I don't know exactly where, where that stops or like where that line is. I'm trying to understand what God's calling is. I know that it's to reach, to reach gamers. That's like first and foremost my calling. First and foremost for everybody, for Christian should be to make disciples and, and be a disciple. But my personal calling is doing that for, for gamers. I had a moment where I felt like God really opened it up for me and said that this is it. And I'd been praying for it for like six months, with a group and it was very short. I don't know if it was just a thought in my head. To me it sounded like a different voice than what I was used to. So, but it was just, what about a game church?

Jate Earhart: 13:40 I that, that, that for me was just like, Oh gosh, that's so in line with, with passions, but even knowing who to reach and so on. And ever since then it's been trying to figure out what does that, what does that mean? And, and it's, it's fluctuated over the years. So I would say honestly, it's sort of like this, if it was something that was really already being done, or something that I could just point at and say, see how that person is doing it, I want to, I want to do it just like that. I would go and I would, I would go to that person and I would ask them what they're doing and I would follow that person. And then after, you know, six months, then I would kind of start to do some of the same things. And, but like we've said, that's just not, it's just not there.

Jate Earhart: 14:36 Like we're kind of, I don't want to say where we're writing that, but, you know, we're, we're figuring out what that looks like. Now. You, you don't, when you're, when you're doing something new, you don't just throw out with what already exists. Right? You want to, you want to take that and use it. And I think it'd be really foolish, at 27 years old for me to think that I'm gonna somehow be, you know, I'm so smart because the internet and so I can just, I can just forget anything else that's been, that's already been done ahead of whatever work we're trying to do and instead it's the same, the same idea you would do with any culture where you would take what's working, somewhere else and you just, you apply it to a different context. Doesn't mean, the truth is different or that the, even the method aren't necessarily applicable, but that there's a different spin to things.

Jate Earhart: 15:39 Or in some cases a different language or a different, you know, whatever. And that's how it feels with gamers like that they have kind of a different language. Sometimes they have kind of a different spin to how they see things. And so how do we, how do we bring things to where people are and change the context? You know, we're reading through Acts, we see that where when they're in front of one group of people, maybe the way things are presented is one way. And then if they're in this other context, a different culture that doesn't understand when there's the, they, he walks through, and he sees all the idols in the town and stuff, and then he goes to the same, he's written or whatever, but he's like, he goes in front of them and he's like, Hey, there's a, here's how your town is, you know, and like, let's talk about it. Do you want, you want to know about the unknown God, you know, and applying things that make sense in their context has been, has been really big for me, especially thinking towards gamers. So that's kind of just to lay the groundwork of where my mind's at with all of this.

Jeff Reed: 16:48 You're breaking a lot of paradigms and norms here. Like, let's just just spell this out. So first off, you're not in the physical space. You're in a digital space. So when you say gamer church, just out of clarity, you're not going to go rent a building over here and invite gamers in and do something. You're talking about doing this as a on a virtual platform. Is that true?

Jate Earhart: 17:10 Not yet. Not yet anyway. I mean, potentially, maybe, but yeah.

Jeff Reed: 17:14 Starting out in the digital realm first, maybe physical. So already, you know, the average pastor or the average church member in America defines ekklesia as the gathering and physical space. And so there's challenges isn't the right word, there's a reinterprets, a rereading of what that could be even the fact that, that you are targeting an audience of, of gamers as opposed to what the average person would do is target a physical location or something like that. I'm going to open a church in my community and I'm going to call it Community Christian Church and I'm going to invite everybody within five or 10 miles to that. You're more targeted towards a niche or an audience. Is it niche or niche? I never, whenever I say it, I feel awkward. I want to say.

Jate Earhart: 17:58 I believe it's, but I think honestly, both. Both pronunciations. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 18:02 So we're going to go with this. We're going to go with niche today, but very good. So niche, niche, no T, niche, niche. So you're targeting the niche of video. That's just sounds weird. I don't know where does it, you're going to target that. You're going to target the very tiny group of, video gamers compared to the grand scheme of things. So you're getting people who are, similar in characteristics their shared value isn't, they know where the closest Burger King is within the community and they know how to time the stop lights there. Their shared community, their shared value is, centered around video games or, or VR or, you know, the new thing that's come out. It's that type of person that you're kind of reaching out to. What are the strengths, the weaknesses, what are some things that you think that, that that's better. And what do you think some things that you've tried that you've struggled to kind of overcome with maybe as you're reaching out with this different reading of how to do church?

Jate Earhart: 19:01 This is something that I'm learning, as we're going, that's, that's difficult. I struggle, calling something a church or not. I even with with love clan, I don't want to, I don't want words to get in the way. I don't want it to, with anybody, with the big C church. I don't wanna I'm not, I'm not purposely trying to start fights or anything like that. You know, it's not like, Oh, I'll call this a church because I know it'll just really hit a chord with somebody and then, you know, that whatever. And on the flip side, even in the group, the people that I'm discipling or that I'm ministering to even there, like a lot of them are turned off by the idea of church. Like they feel like it hasn't listened to some of the things they're trying to say or that it didn't answer the questions that they had.

Jate Earhart: 20:00 And so they don't want it to be a church. Even the people in the core group, some of them are not there. They're not really. They're like, well, show me what that means. because where I came from, I, that wasn't, that wasn't something that was, that was good. I wasn't in a good healthy church and I have to kind of look at it from both angles and so that, that for us has been figuring out how do we define church? And I'm realizing that's not as easy as I thought it was. And I don't want to, I don't want to flippantly call something at church if it's not for the same reason that we talk about, we, we just say the word like the church says this and obviously there's a bunch of churches, you know, but, when we say the church thinks this way, what we're saying is, you know, things that have called themselves, churches have said this this way and I don't want to do the same thing for ours if it's not, if it's not what an actual church is, because who decides what a church is?

Jate Earhart: 21:12 It should be. It should be God, you know, he decides if something is his church, he's going to build it. Jesus builds the church rather than looking to what already exists and saying, are we that? And then we can call ourselves a church. It's let's look to the Bible and what does the Bible say at church is and if it fits the criteria of, of what I, you know, is this what Jesus is building and is does it fit in these things? Is it doing these things? Then we can call it a church. But if I talk to one person and they ask me, you know, is this a church? I, you know, I'm not really interested in church. I'm going to have no problems telling that person. Like, well, I mean, what is your, what is your view of a church?

Jate Earhart: 21:55 And it's, you know, well it does this and this and that. Okay, well then maybe it is or it isn't based on the definition you've just given. but, but here's what it is. You know, like this is a place where we're going to, we're going to love you and, we're going to respect you. And there's a, a place, that we would like you to get to where you can have a, a loving, respectful relationship with God. And how do we, how do we work there? We can do that together as a group. these are things that like I would expect from a church, but maybe that's not the, you know, the wording he wants to use. So there's just, there's power in the words that we use. and I the the best, the best list I've seen so far, for what a healthy churches, speaking specifically about minimal ecclesiology, all of that.

Jate Earhart: 22:48 It's, there's a book, Todd Wilson and Exponential, I think it's called activating the flywheel and it's a free online PDF thing that you can download and I wanna make sure I'm right. I think it's chapter six is where is all on the minimal ecclesiology of like, this is the very basics of what a church is. They go through, Larry Walkmeyer worked for, well, when I first heard it, he had been working on it for a year, but I think he's worked on it longer since then and since the publishing of that. But there's, I think seven. I think there's seven things that have, this is what the, the minimum of churches, and the, and what a healthy church is. And so I read through that you take everything at face value because one person might say one thing or one person might say another thing, but you should still, there's always some truth in criticism, right? So you look through those seven things, not meant as a criticism, but just as somebody that's trying to prayerfully consider what it means to be a church and an effective church. And, I don't want to just be the minimum a church can be, but what does it mean to be a really effective church? And, and looking through those, how do I apply those into my context? And even if I don't call myself at church, I would still want to make sure I'm doing these things.

Jeff Reed: 24:18 Yeah. I, I'm, I'm sitting here on Google while you're talking the mobilization flywheel.

Jate Earhart: 24:22 Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 24:26 Well, we'll put a link to it in the show notes.

Jate Earhart: 24:30 I believe it's chapter six, but it may not be. And then, you know, it's just like misquoting some. Anything else you'll find it. Minimal ecclesiology. It's a really good chapter. The whole book's good. But yeah.

Jeff Reed: 24:41 You're right. The church today, when people say the church, it means so many different things, but really it's different organizations, interpretation of, of scripture and even that changes in context of locations within the country, locations within other countries, other continents. The church operates in Africa different than it does here in America based on their interpretation of scripture. Because ultimately, and this is the one thing that I, that I think is very easy to forget, we're all operating on different models of what we think churches, right? Like, the, the most popular model at this point is the more energy goes into the one hour on Sunday service than anything else. Sure. And honestly, rather, you're a traditional service, a traditional church or a modern church. a contemporary, modern, Hispanic. There's a large Hispanic culture down here where I'm at in Miami. Different cultures within that one hour on Sunday, it's pretty much, you know, musical worship, some form of announcements and some form of long form teaching followed by more worship possibly. And at the end of the day, everybody goes home like that. Yeah. That's what the average person in America would define church as which is

Jate Earhart: 25:57 As an event. Yeah. An event. Yeah, sure. I would say yeah, the, as far as an hour on Sunday, that, you know, we need to have a, a bumper after this thing and this is where we give communion. And like right after we pray, then that's where people's hearts are the most tender and that's when we want to do the offering. You know, that the thought, those kinds of thoughts. one thing I really appreciated about, about that book was that it didn't say like, well, you know, one of the seven isn't a, you, you have a band with a three piece band, with, with at least a one drummer on rotation and a, you know, it's not, it's nothing like that. They're looking at the whys before the what. And what we're really is a what that might come from a good place.

Jate Earhart: 26:46 In the same way when we think about discipleship strategies, people could just copy what you're doing and have it be the Wyatt. If they're not focused on the why. First of why am I doing this? Why am I discipling people? Then the what's pretty useless. And I think that's kind of one of the problems that's happened with, with churches. Local churches have a tendency yes to kind of copy what's already happening and, and hoping out of doing the what really well that they'll, they'll find the why that it kind of comes out of that. That's not a catch all for sure. but if you, if you don't know, why we sing, and thinking about worship in that context and what does it look like? What does it look like to, for why am I worshiping or, or why is there spiritual, authority in the church?

Jate Earhart: 27:38 Like, like thinking through some of those things. And if you get to the, to the core of it, that's what most of the New Testament is, is here is what Old Testament was. And now I want you to think about the why, of why did I say these things are our key. Why are these things laws, why did I say not to do this? And, and people get got so stuck on the what of it that I'm going to just follow these rules. I'm going to follow it the right way and I'm going to do all these things that they, I think of the example of, well we, you know, we're, we're, we're doing sacrifice and he's like, it's become a stench to him, to my, you know, like I, it's a stench to me now because you're just doing it.

Jate Earhart: 28:27 You're doing the what, but you've completely lost the why of why I told you to do it in the first place. And I, I'm not going to say that local churches can have a tendency to become a stench. I think a lot of them have the right mindset. But if we're ever doing things just because it's the norm or just because it's what we think is right, rather than prayerfully thinking about what our context is. And is there something else that God would want us to do then? Yeah, that's, that's a problem. That's not, that's not expecting Jesus to build the church. That's just us following what other people have built. And we're just doing a 2.0 you know, and that's not, that's not, that's not good. That's not, yeah. I don't know. I, well I didn't really answer, I didn't really answer one of your questions or earlier, so I'll just, I'll pop it on it real quick.

Jate Earhart: 29:22 But yeah, thinking in context of specific people rather than in a local like a localization of people is, well I made the joke or earlier, but that I could, if I wanted to find a group, people that were, Christian emos, to go figure out what worship looks like with that would be kind of difficult without the internet. And now with the internet you can, you can be more niche with the person that you're, that you're targeting and I would say that while the, what we kind of do that anyway, cause like you said, Hispanic is really big in Florida. So how do we tailor the church service experience in that area? Or we're gonna make sure that we're having some type of Hispanic influence, you know, maybe the worship one of the songs is in, or most of the songs are in Spanish, you know, and the, how there are events look like and what are our small group communities and what are the things we think through.

Jate Earhart: 30:34 Like we do that just because it was local. We think about those things in the local context. But let's not forget that like the church is not the local physical location but the body of believers. And so we're already always doing this. Like it's just rather than you being, I'm going to go to this location where this group of people are now, it's, I'm going to find these people from all over. They're already online and, this is, this is my context, you know? And so it doesn't, it doesn't really feel too different. It's just people. But you, I have things that I can relate that make, that are maybe more specific, than something. If you, if you, rather than giving a sports team analogy to a local sports team in the area or about a specific event that happened locally, then you'd give an event that happened in the game or you'd give it about a specific game, you know, something like that. So it really isn't too different. I think it's just possible now, whereas maybe it wasn't fully possible before the internet.

Jeff Reed: 31:49 Yeah. I mean the internet definitely brought about more, I keep saying the word niche more of that. it's, it's one of the reasons like, I don't, I honestly, it's side note, you'll never have a band like the Beatles again, there will never be a single musical band to have that much influence. You kind of saw a little bit of it with U2, Coldplay maybe, but the, the musical genres are so sub genre that at this point, thanks to the internet that it's, you're never going to be able to get that, that influenced that power. And so instead of reaching the world, we're reaching these individual, these, these smaller groups of, of people, that we're able to have a much stronger influence because you can find tune, your message to that, the, excuse me message is the same Christ, the method of communicating them to that like you guys are doing with Love Clan.

Jate Earhart: 32:40 Well not fast, or just really fast on that, but like, yeah, you, you do tune things to the message. Like that's, you know, why don't we copy and paste sermons from everybody else? Why aren't there just like the same, one person writes the same sermon and we'd do it at every church because the sermon is specific to the heart of the people that you're speaking to. The same way that, you know, when he goes and he says to the unknown God, well that sermon wanted to really flown in Jerusalem, you know, because there would have been like unknown God. Like we're Jews. We know who God is so that your sermons do, they should change. You know, the message doesn't change. But like you're saying there, there is a context of the people that you're speaking to and in your sermons should reflect that.

Jate Earhart: 33:33 So yeah, that's one of the things that's been really difficult for us lately is, okay, what does that look like for, for a Love Clan in the future? Because we currently don't have sermons. that's not our like primary thing, but there are some people that that's the thing that they're going to want. And I do see a biblical precedent for some, for biblical teaching at least a, rather than right now we have a lot of biblical discussion and we have small groups, things like that where people can discuss. But I think as far as the specific spiritual authority, teaching the word, presenting the message in a way that makes sense of their context, the same way Jesus did, the same way Paul does, I think that's something that's going to be a next step for us. That we, we need to move more into and, get getting the why right first.

Jate Earhart: 34:28 You know, it's not just doing a sermon because that's what local churches do. We gotta be the local, you know, we gotta be just like every other church. But if there is a need for biblical teaching, and I, and I believe there is, then how do we present biblical teaching in the context of for gamers? And when I say it that way, that's, that is what a sermon is, is, is presenting biblical context in the context of your congregation. My small group was, was the first one to start, we call it, you know, alpha one, and it was the, just went through Acts. So we Bible-based, scripture base. Yeah, so we use the, the three-thirds, there's a thing called three-thirds method. You can Google it and it'll come up three-thirds. it's, I use, it's from a book called T4T, training for, yeah.

Jate Earhart: 35:28 And I think it's training for teachers, something like that. But it's the training for trainers training for trainers. Yeah, that's a very, that's a really good resource. The whole thing. Yin and Grace Chi, both awesome people and I've got to meet them in person there. I just, I'll just say T4T is an awesome resource, but three-thirds of that. The first half is kind of looking, looking back, at what God has done in the last week. So we'll use like pastoral care, worship. yeah, like, like thinking back and worshiping God for what he's done, worshiping, praying. So worship, right in our context, usually for the small group, rather than singing because it got difficult. I have done this once where I pressed play on a YouTube video and we just listened through it and this is so funny because I'm realizing the last time I was on this podcast was like, Oh man, a long time ago before we did our first small group, and I think I was saying we were gonna do a small group or that we were thinking about doing one. Maybe you were, you were just kicking the idea around, right? Okay. So cool. So this is kind of, you know, I'll look forward or whatever, but we ended up going with this model and so we, we look back at, worship, and I will generally pull through a Psalm or a verse that's just a praise of God. We'll read through that Psalm and then pray through that Psalm. So like in, if you haven't ever done this, it's actually a really cool extra thing I can throw in for another way for you to pray, but just read through a Psalm and then pray in the context of that Psalm.

Jate Earhart: 37:16 Like, yeah, God, like you are my rod and my staff and you protect me and you want to, you make a way for me to move forward. Even when I feel like I'm in the presence of enemies and you lead me by still waters, you know, and, thinking through the verses the same way that David would have when he's writing them, it's like, I, I feel this way, God, I feel exactly how he feels that the first half of this, but I believe the second half, you know, I believe that, that you can work through these things and that you do protect me. So anyway, we're worship and the first, the first half of that in the second half is, in most of them it will say lesson. and, and I think that's good.

Jate Earhart: 38:07 If you can write a lesson, we're actually figuring out right now how to maybe do smaller groups because, smaller meaning shorter periods of time because we have tried the extended long period of time groups, currently where it's just, there's no end date. It's, you just are in a small group and that has worked for some of the people that started small groups in our, in our group. I, there's also an easier end for some people to say this is a seven week series, like a seven week small group and at the end of seven weeks we'll disband. There's no, you know, beyond that if you don't want to. but then at that same time, right after that, we will start another group and we'll go from there. What I like especially about that is that it gives us an opportunity for, for well, for one to ask people very seriously to make this a priority and that they have this many days.

Jate Earhart: 39:10 I want you to give me this day, this day, this day, this day, this day, and make that a priority for me. And at the same time, it gives us an opportunity at the end of that group to ask people that we feel like could lead a group, Hey, you've been in this group, would you, you know, how are you feeling about this? Do you think you could lead one? And even if they say no, you've started that conversation and maybe in the next group they can be thinking about that. And then now you're, you know, in 14 weeks that person feels ready. Maybe even before that, maybe even halfway through that group, they're like, I feel like I could start leading this now. You know, and it should never just be, so we were talking about starting a group, I think in the last one. And then I started one.

Jate Earhart: 39:55 We then had, if you Ralph Moore, I'm just gonna do, we're just gonna point pointed everybody this time is great. Ralph Moore, man, I don't know what your organization even to look up, but if you're just like a broth more, you'll probably find him. Started tons of churches. He started, he's the only level five church planner we could find when looking through exponential. It's something I'm not even going to try to, I'll just miss quote, how many hundreds of thousands of people. but it's a lot. And how many? Tens of thousands or if not a hundred, if it's probably hundreds, thousands of churches at this point. But I went to one of his churches, one of the churches that was like a church of a church of a church of his in Japan when I went because they, they knew him because they knew this guy who knew this guy and they were like, Oh yeah, like Ralph, like we, yeah, we know Ralph.

Jate Earhart: 40:47 So he, it's crazy his, the impact there, but his, his method for even thinking about small groups and in church planning and so on, it a lot of it starts with this awesome method of one person starts a group and then from that, that person identifies three people that are like the key, the key leaders of that group. Usually that happens where you get some people that are just maybe a little bit more, they'll, they tend to do more of the work or they just study more. They have a tendency to have memorize more verses or, or so on. And from looking at that than saying, okay, I'm going to take, I'm going to take myself and maybe the third if you think about like your one and then two, three and four. Yeah. Like the one in the three will go together, stay together in the, in the group that you're at now and continue leading this group.

Jate Earhart: 41:48 Whereas like the two and the four will break off and start a group. And thinking through that, then it ends up becoming like the, the three is now the second in the group and the two becomes the one in the group and the four becomes the two in that group and the second group. And so everybody is, is moving in a direction that's, that's thinking higher up and like, Oh, I'm now in a higher level of leadership and so I need to, I need to think about that moving forward and I need to make sure other people are doing the same. So when now there's another group that starts.

Jeff Reed: 42:28 Yeah, so that's that. That's a similar model of what you're trying to do through through Love Clan to be the ones to find the two, three, fours. And then when they, when they break off, that's either a separate channel in Discord or is that where it gets into physical space?

Jate Earhart: 42:43 So for, for these, for this model right now that this is kind of what I'm, I'm using for our small groups. So for our community, we call them community groups, but, or life groups is probably a better, you know, term and church churchy term. But we do, that that happened in my group where I had, 10 people and identified some people from there and we've split, you know, we, not even split. We had a couple people who were like leaders in the group and said, okay, you, you to go and start a group, and we'll stay here and we're gonna rebuild some stuff, and so they did, they started, they started a group and there was still somebody in our group who is now second, you know, and everything kind of shifted again.

Jate Earhart: 43:35 And so when we started that right after that, not too long after, they, that person who is second then started his, his group. So we have currently three, three community groups now and they've all gone up and down, depends on the week and whatever, but they're all sitting at like basically max, there's 30 people in small groups now online and we're all going, we were all going through Acts. So I'm like in week 23, I think we do one chapter a week and they're in like week 13 or something like that of Acts cause it's offset.

Jeff Reed: 44:17 Sounds like you're due for one more, for another split here in the next little bit.

Jate Earhart: 44:21 Yeah. And we're going to need, that's actually why we're trying to get to the end of acts and in, in my group and the alpha group so that we can, so that we can start trying the like seven week thing. So our group will technically disband because we're gonna and if anybody wants to rejoin they can otherwise we're going to then look for another group of people and that gives people an off ramp if they're like access to, you know, too much, 28 weeks or whatever is like, you know, that's too many, too many weeks. So that, that's, that's what that is. And that's the, the middle half I was saying like lesson rather than right now we're not creating a lesson. It's a discussion we're discussing through, if we're looking at three thirds, this is the second, the second side, but the, we're doing discussion instead of lesson and they're discussing through Acts and then the last half being practice and prayer and goal setting, thinking, thinking.

Jate Earhart: 45:22 The first half is looking back at what God's done. The middle half is looking up. What does God want to say through these verses? And then the last half, looking forward, what does God want to do? Goal setting for our group, practice for the future. Making sure that people are trained so that like the last week we did, what's your story? Can you give a two minute testimony, you know, and as a leading the group, you know, people kind of give me blank stares of like I have to give it to, I have to like think about a two minute testimony and so I have to lead by example. You know, if I don't have a two minute testimony then I can't expect them to. So that that's it's just a thing that you.

Jeff Reed: 46:06 Well and that's all tied into T4T is the two minute and you don't think they even have a 30 second version as well that, that's tied into that. So, but that's where from a biblical standpoint, you're going through acts from a discipleship standpoint, you're going through the T4T simultaneously. That gives you a foundation to allow for a discipleship system to be trained and taught.

Jate Earhart: 46:31 Yeah. Which is also biblical. You know, like it's, it's all biblical, but it's, it's the biblical is where I'm getting my, my why from, you know, and then how, you know, like how do you do that? These things, in the current context is where a lot of that stuff like T4T, and even like the, activating the flywheel thinking through and looking like, okay, what, what does it, what does this actually look like? Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 46:57 The current the current existence of church today in America is a model. It's grounded on biblical truth, but it's a model. 500 years ago it looked different. 1500 years ago it looked different. At the time of Acts, it looked different. And so a lot of times, today we're making adjustments to the model to do things in a church online component or with what you're doing at digital church, digital model. And, and it's been, it's received negatively because, Oh no, that's not what church is when, when in fact, even the way that we do church today isn't really like the, it's a model. It's an interpretation of what they see scripturally the biggest challenge is with, with church online, is, Hey, what are you going to do with the kids' ministry? How are you going to do kids ministry online? And my response is, where do I see kids ministry in the Bible? Like that's, that's not a, that's not a Bible mandate that we have a separate children's church over here. You can make a very good argument for, Hey, it's our job as a church to disciple the parents, to disciple them.

Jate Earhart: 48:09 You know, what, why do people feel like there needs to be a children's ministry? And if it's, if it's grounded biblically, if it's because we're looking at stuff that says, you know, that you bring them up in the way they should walk. And when they grow up, then they won't turn from it. And so therefore, how do I bring my kids up into this? And like you're saying, that could be, that can mean a lot of things. That could mean that the church is helping doing that thing, that they're helping raise the child. You know, and we, that's usually in the church. What we'd say is we're gonna help you raise your child and so those are, those are good why questions? But if it's not from a, if it's not from that perspective, if people aren't thinking that way, if they're just thinking, I want the same thing I had, they should think a little deeper, I think is all, like, think about why, why you want those things. That's all.

Jeff Reed: 48:59 So let me ask this and we'll probably wrap with this, but where, at what point are you done, at what point will you look out? Have you thought of this and say, Love Clan the existence of a digital church when we, what is that?

Jate Earhart: 49:20 Oh, right. Well, okay. Actually, this is, this is an unintentionally a, a great answer to a lot of the questions because, you know, you're asking even from the very beginning, why would I go through a church planning training thing? And I don't know if we ever actually hit on that. Totally. We're bouncing around. It's okay. It's great. if I want to look at what currently exists, I'm not trying to, go in blind that I see so many dangers when you do things alone. So we want to look at what already has worked in the past with local fully understand the context of what's out there. You know, if you're going to write a good book, you should probably read some really good books first. So that's what is, and this is one of the things that, they, they point through all of this, going through that they'll talk about, right now we're talking about budget.

Jate Earhart: 50:21 I don't want to talk about budget in my personal, I'm probably not thinking about budget, but they said, Hey, in a church this is what you need to think about. You think about a budget, you need to think about your value statements, you need to think about mission statements. You need it, you know, and if it wasn't for them basically telling me to think through those things, then I probably wouldn't. So I will, stall and try to find my vision statement, from, you know, that I wrote up in the cohort that I otherwise wouldn't have, have written up.

Jeff Reed: 51:04 So basically they made you write a vision statement.

Jate Earhart: 51:06 They make you write all that stuff. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 51:09 You don't have a vision statement?

Jate Earhart: 51:12 Well, I do because I am in the cohort one. So they also told about the difference between a mission, a mission statement, and a vision statement. So our mission statement is to, there is a difference. So our mission statement is to help gamers find and follow Jesus. You know, and our, our vision, the, the big longterm only possible with God, right. Would be to have 1 million disciple-making gamers.

Jeff Reed: 51:47 Disciple-making gamers.

Jate Earhart: 51:48 Disciple-making gamers.

Jeff Reed: 51:56 So you've got this mission, vision. You've sat through the budget talk, although for pennies compared to what another church can do, you're doing, you know, that Discord is free.

Jate Earhart: 52:05 That's a whole other conversation. But we were trying, we're not that we're, I don't want to even say that, we're having a difficulty finding places to spend money. I mean, outside of like a, you know, some salary or something, that I would have more time for that, especially as I'm moving into freelance some stability to be able to write sermons would be nice. But yes, it is significantly cheaper in a large scale.

Jeff Reed: 52:35 International church planning movements. They'll tell you, money kills a movement.

Jate Earhart: 52:39 Well, we're 800 members and we haven't spent anything yet. We spent $5 to buy a color on a fake website. So that's it.

Jeff Reed: 52:50 I'll cut you the check. I'll reimburse it. I took it out of my personal, I, you know, that's awesome. I love your heart, Jate, of how you're utilizing Discord to connect, meet, help create these disciples and then unleash them in their local or virtual communities. That's, that's, that's a huge thing. So man, thanks for, thanks for jumping on the podcast with us and hanging out today, man. Any any closing thoughts as we're landing the plane?

Jate Earhart: 53:22 I'll just, if I can real quick, I'll try to do this fast as I'll just tell you a story of just something that just recently happened. So in our group we had our core meeting on Saturday and we were talking, I was explaining something that we do called step-cuts and it's the idea of like everybody has a next step but that you cut that step in half and how do you make it an easier step for somebody? And then what does it look like to make it basically a ramp? It was just this is the logical step for somebody to take. And, there's a guy in our group named Zilly and so I wanted to, I asked his permission if I could share this, but he, he shared his, his story basically. And, for him he was moving towards being reclusive and towards never hanging out with anybody who was inside his room.

Jate Earhart: 54:10 And so it was, yeah, and, but he bought this game called Garry's mod and it was like $10 and it was a multiplayer. He didn't realize. And so they was like, wow, I guess I wasted $10. But we did game nights. And so he joined a game night a friend invited him to the group and then he did the game night and then he started coming to the, all the other game nights and buying the games we were playing. And so it was like consistently playing. Then that friend invited him to, to do D and D in his house and he was like, I never would have done that if it wasn't for having some relationship with people. So we went and did D and D at his house. Then his friend invited him to church and he was like, okay, you know, like, that's sure, why not.

Jate Earhart: 54:56 So I went to church, at the same time, it kind of started, you started coming to our community groups, fast forward, you know, fast forward. Oh, it's been a while. He was at church and he was in our community groups for a while and, all this stuff, is, is going on. And so he's chatting, active in our group, love the guy to death and he's in our core group explaining like, this is, this is kind of my progression, you know, this is, these are the next steps I've taken and here's where I am today. And then he quickly had to go, he did like jet out of our group and, we were like, okay, cool. You know, some, somebody, I'll share it. And we moved on that night at like 9:30. He sent us a photo and it was, of him being baptized and, and he was like, I have wanted to make this decision for the last, you know, the last like two, three years.

Jate Earhart: 55:50 But it just never was at the time. I was at my local church today when I had to leave, I had to go to my local church where I have like a, another group and they were talking about baptism. They said, if anybody wants to make this decision now, let's not wait. And I just said, it's time, you know? And so he got baptized, that that night. And he has a fear of, of water and it always, he always has where he's like wading in water is actually really cool, but head underwater, he said being baptized might have doubled the number of times this has been underwater.

Jeff Reed: 56:26 Oh my gosh.

Jate Earhart: 56:27 So like, like actually, you know, like actual, very legitimate fear of that. So he's really taking, he's taking Lordship very seriously in his life. like that, that is, that's what we, what we want to figure out how, how do we, how do we have this where somebody who is in reclusive people aren't going to be able to get to them. Where do we meet that person? And when we look in the Bible and we say, where are the people at? Jesus goes to where the people are. If those people are online, then we go online. I'm not going to be able to find that person if they're in a house, they never leave. I got to go online to where that person is. And, so that's why, you know, that's what we're doing is really just meeting people where they're at, which everybody says that. And so we're, that's the reality is that they're online. So I appreciate it, Zilly, letting me share that. And, I didn't want to leave without throwing it in there because it's just such a cool story.

Jeff Reed: 57:30 Yeah. Well, and, and I love your passion for, you know, for people like that. I love your passion for that millennial, that gen Z crowd, and you're, you're kind of stuck in the middle right there of that group. I mean these are your people and the idea of using, I still, whenever I tell people about the video games, they're like, wait, you can disciple people through video games. What does that look like?

Jate Earhart: 57:57 Usually the people, usually people will say like, wait, we're still talking about online. Right. That's, that's, yeah, I get that a lot. Yeah.

Jeff Reed: 58:03 And I've always been enthralled with Love Clan and what you guys are doing and I am very much excited to see how God's going to continue to, to do things, there through Discord with it. So if anybody's interested in getting touch with you, we'll include, we'll include the links in the show notes, but I remember there was like, was a URL to get connected with Love Clan. What was it?

Jate Earhart: 58:28 Yeah. That's the easy, easy join.

Jeff Reed: 58:34 Cool. So check that out. Check out and see what Jate's doing, how he's doing unconventional ministry, definitely unconventional, but at the core of it, discipleship, in growing, even to the point of, you know, researching and training and growing into a fully functioning church. So, Hey, Jate, thanks for jumping on this with me. For Jate, my name's Jeff and, we'll see you next time. Thanks for coming. Bye.

Making Disciples
Understanding The Models of Today's Church

About Author

Jeff Reed
Jeff Reed

With about 20 years experience serving the church in the digital/technological realm, Jeff loves working with churches. As passionate about Discipleship as he is Technology, Jeff uses his passion to help Churches develop technology systems to bring people far from God closer to him. Oh, and he loves Digital Church & Church Online.

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