Season 2 | EPISODE 4

How Trust in Jesus Shapes Your Leadership

1:02 · September 26, 2023

Join Jim as he sits down with Denine Blevins, Executive Director at Parakaleo to explore the essence of gospel-rooted leadership. Denine shares her journey through multicultural leadership, recognizing burnout, and navigating the nuances of humble yet influential leadership within God’s kingdom work. Her story is a powerful testament to how cultivating an ongoing trust in Jesus can free us from the distractions of people-pleasing, ambition, and workaholism to become the Christ-like leaders we aspire to be.

Join Jim as he sits down with Denine Blevins, Executive Director at Parakaleo to explore the essence of gospel-rooted leadership. Denine shares her journey through multicultural leadership, recognizing burnout, and navigating the nuances of humble yet influential leadership within God’s kingdom work. Her story is a powerful testament to how cultivating an ongoing trust in Jesus can free us from the distractions of people-pleasing, ambition, and workaholism to become the Christ-like leaders we aspire to be.

In this episode, they discuss...

  • How the gospel liberates us from the need for approval from others  [8:17]
  • Understanding the unique difficulties of being a pastor’s wife in 2023 [20:01]
  • What happens when the church forgets to include women in ministry [24:29]
  • The top warning signs that you’re approaching burnout [28:43]
  • What it looks like to lead through weakness [36:47]
  • What happens when we try to lead from our own abilities  [43:43]
  • How ministry exposes who we want to be and who we really are [48:24] 
  • How to avoid the “new law” of getting gospel-centered Christian leadership “right” [56:06]

Thank you for listening! If you found this conversation encouraging or helpful, please share this episode with your friends and loved ones. Or please leave us a review—it really helps!

Referenced in the episode...


Our guest for this episode was Denine Blevins, the Executive Director of Parakaleo, a ministry for women involved with church planting and church revitalization. This episode was hosted by Jim Lovelady. Production by Anna Madsen, Aaron Gray, Brooke Herron, Ashlie Kodsy, and Sunny Chi. Music by Tommy Leahy

𝑮𝒓𝒂𝒄𝒆 𝒂𝒕 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑭𝒓𝒂𝒚 𝑷𝒐𝒅𝒄𝒂𝒔𝒕 is produced by SERGE, an international missions agency that sends and cares for missionaries and develops gospel-centered programs and resources for ongoing spiritual renewal. Learn more and get involved at serge.org.

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Questions or comments? Feel free to reach out to Serge’s Renewal Team anytime at podcast@serge.org



Welcome to the Grace at the Fray—a podcast that explores the many dimensions of God’s grace that we find at the frayed edges of life. Come explore how God’s grace works to renew your life and send you on mission in His Kingdom.


00:24 Jim Lovelady: Hello, beloved! Welcome to season two, episode four of Grace at the Fray. So on my social media feeds, I get a lot of people offering me like seven or ten steps to becoming the most interesting person in the room. You know, seven ways to become the life of the party. You’ll never believe number seven. And the first one on that list is always wake up early. And that is when I always immediately keep scrolling. But then you go to a party and you meet someone who, so it would seem, has been doing the things on that list, like waking up early. And they’re the person who everyone says, “Oh, man, that person, they’re so great.” And at the party, you get a chance to talk with them about, you know, whatever it may be.

When suddenly an hour and a half has gone by because everyone was right, that person is great. Well, that’s what my interview with Denine Blevins felt like. If we were really at a party, everyone would have gathered around her because she would have been the most interesting person in the room. She’s the Executive Director of Parakaleo, a ministry for women involved with church planting and church revitalization. And I don’t want to spoil anything for you from our conversation but this ministry is an absolute blessing. You’ll see. And she also just finished taking Serge’s new course called Leadership Lab. And I really appreciated hearing about how that course gave her the tools and wisdom to practice leading the way that Jesus leads.

So we’re going to talk about those ministries and much more in such a way that I hope sparks curiosity in you so that you want to investigate more. And of course, I’m going to give you all the links and information that you need to investigate those different ministries and opportunities for yourself. But the conversation that you’re about to hear, it really was, it was kind of like a party. It was an honor to talk with Denine about what it’s been like for her to lead an organization, how she’s learned to trust Jesus in new ways. How she’s learned to rest and fight against burnout and how to stay humble as an influencer for God’s kingdom work. And it all reminded me of Paul in Philippians 3, where he lays out all his credentials and then he says, I count all those personal gains as a loss for the sake of knowing Christ. So my question for you as you join the party is this. As you consider your areas of influence and then your temptation to lean on your gifts and status for your own sense of righteousness and self-worth, what would it mean for you to count those things as a loss for the sake of knowing Christ? 

0:03:21.1 Jim Lovelady: It’s really cool to finally meet you and…

0:03:24.4 Denine Blevins: Well, I feel like I know you because I’ve been listening to… I listened to like maybe four episodes this week because I hadn’t been listening. And now I’m like, oh, my gosh, this podcast is great. I also wanna say like the ChatGPT thing, I mean, I die… I just died especially at the end where you were like… When they were like, “Keep it 100,” and you were like, “I don’t know what that means.” And then at the end, you’re like, “No cap.” That’s great.

0:03:53.0 Jim Lovelady: Oh, man. My daughter is 15 and she’s like, “Oh, dad. Come on.” Anyway. So, yeah, Denine, thank you so much for hanging out. I want to do three things. I want to hear your testimony again. A lot of what you talked about at the kinship conference was the struggle with workaholism and kind of meeting Jesus in the midst of all that. So I want to talk about that. I’d love to hear about the Parakaleo stuff. My wife years ago, back in 2014, went through Parakaleo. And so I have a really warm place in my heart for that ministry. But first, I want you to talk about dance. And I want…

0:04:46.9 Denine Blevins: See my face light up. 

0:04:49.8 Jim Lovelady: I want to hear, where do you meet Jesus in dance? Yeah. Your face showed it all, you know.

0:04:57.4 Denine Blevins: So my disclaimer and my husband is always like, “Don’t downplay it.” But honestly, just, you know, humility is having a right estimation of yourself.

0:05:04.7 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:05:05.7 Denine Blevins: I’m not a good dancer in any way but I absolutely love it. Like my favorite form of dance is Hip hop, which, you know, Jim, I turned 50 this year. So there are kids that really dance Hip hop. I don’t do that. But I just love that music, the beat, the energy behind it. I can watch breakdance videos all day long. I don’t know what is it. I do experience God. There was a time where I would do more kind of like Christian liturgical dance. And that was the season where I was dancing with some women that were going through some horrendous things. And I would watch God use just movement to bring up emotions that would normally just be really hard to process. I’ve used it to connect women from different walks of life that normally wouldn’t be in the same room together not because they hate each other but just because, you know, just they don’t cross paths. And it’s such a great equalizer. It kind of puts everybody on the same page because it’s just about the fun. And, you know, you’re focused on… It’s like you’re all doing the same thing together all at once. And the unity that comes out of that. And I think for me, just times that I’m frustrated or can’t get to the bottom of what I’m feeling, if I can dance it out… I don’t do it as much as I used to, unfortunately but this conversation has inspired me to go back to it.

0:06:41.7 Jim Lovelady: It’s actually what Jesus does in the midst of that. That’s really interesting to me because… Okay, the reason why I say this is because here’s a little secret. I’ve been dancing in the car while I’m driving.

0:06:56.1 Denine Blevins: What? 

0:06:56.9 Jim Lovelady: Don’t tell anybody.

0:07:00.3 Denine Blevins: I need more. I need more…

0:07:01.8 Jim Lovelady: Okay. So this is what it is. You know, and everyone has a story. All the way back to when I was a kid… And it’s all about shame. So I feel like the Spirit has been going, “Hey, you need to dance away the shame.” And so like opening my body and letting my body be goofy and dumb and just… Like I am such an awkward… You know, Hip hop is amazing.

0:07:32.7 Denine Blevins: It is.

0:07:33.0 Jim Lovelady: I’m the opposite.

0:07:33.5 Denine Blevins: I get it. [laughter]

0:07:35.0 Jim Lovelady: I am like goofy, clumsy. I’ll dance around the house and…

0:07:42.5 Denine Blevins: And there’s your 15 year old girl, “Dad.”

0:07:43.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. My three kids are like, “Oh, my Lord. This is awful.” You know, and even Lori, my wife, she’s like, “Oh, God.” You know. But my story is one of like I was too cool to dance. You know, that was my way of hiding. I was too ashamed to dance. So I’ve been driving down the road and there’s like a Taylor Swift song that like gets me going. And the shut up and dance with me song, I can’t remember who sings that. And I was just going crazy in the car and I started to cry.

0:08:16.9 Denine Blevins: Oh.

0:08:17.6 Jim Lovelady: And just exactly what you’re saying, that there’s something about when our body engages, there’s something there. You know, and I’m not sure what it… I still don’t know yet. My shame has been too shy. Has been too powerful and made me too shy to want to engage with that. And so right now it’s just it’s in my car. That’s as far as I can get.

0:08:39.6 Denine Blevins: That’s good. Well, one of my favorite things to do is to lead people in dance who don’t think they can dance and who would never ever do it in front of other people. You know, I’ve never… I don’t think I’ve ever done that with guys. I usually do it with women’s groups. But yeah, there’s just so much beauty in that. And they just… I mean, they tell me, “Oh, remember that time five years ago when we just danced?” I’ve had dance parties in my house just because all we do is we just dance three hours straight.

0:09:09.5 Jim Lovelady: So like, how do you describe it? Use words to describe what happens.

0:09:14.7 Denine Blevins: Some words, delight, pure delight, freedom. It’s just community. It’s play, like childlike play. You know, what it’s not is performance. I mean, there’s a performance aspect to it but it’s like… But not for any purpose. Performance without purpose. I don’t know how you say it. And I think for me and I know we’re going to be talking about working soon but for me, that is so driven and so accomplishment based. To be able to just dance with no outcome… Yeah. I mean, like when we talk about freedom in the gospel, isn’t it that like just the freedom to be without having to constrict and control and worry about the approval of others. Although there’s an element of that if you’re like a professional dancer of course. But not when I do it. It’s just dancing just to dance.

0:10:11.9 Jim Lovelady: But I think this is like… My son loves video games. And so it’s like this is boss level for me. You have to not be ashamed in order to let your body just move and do whatever and just start moving. It makes it where it’s like, oh, gosh, everyone’s looking at you and it’s not like they’re enjoying it.

0:10:33.5 Denine Blevins: And like maybe they are. But I think you need to, one or the other or both. One of an environment… Like someone needs to cultivate an environment where that’s okay, where that’s not even just okay but it’s welcome. Like goofy is welcome. And so it’s like, “Oh, okay.” Like you need to cultivate that kind of environment and/or you need a gospel that’s going to say, “I don’t care.” You need a gospel that’s like, “I am who God created me to be. I don’t have to prove myself to anybody. I can’t lose anything by what I just did. It’s cool. It’s cool. It’s good.”

0:11:09.2 Jim Lovelady: Yeah.

0:11:10.7 Denine Blevins: So if you have both, that’s the sweet spot. And that’s what I did with… You know, when I experienced Parakaleo, I was like, oh, the gospel and dance. What if we merge those two things together and bring in together women from all walks of life and mix all that up and let’s see what happens. And for about a year, I would do these, I called it perfecting freestyle because we’re always on this mission to be perfect and God’s always inviting us to just free…

0:11:38.9 Jim Lovelady: But this is freestyling.

0:11:40.3 Denine Blevins: And walk in the Spirit. And so it’s like I’m perfecting the art of freestyling. And so we would have these perfecting freestyle classes with just this diverse… I mean, I’d have women and… You know, once I had a woman who couldn’t stand up. I’ve had women with disabilities, women… You know, just all… And just madness. It was great. So much fun.

0:12:00.3 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that’s so beautiful to me. I want that… The dance motif to like kind of be the aura of our conversation, because I want to understand and hear how you have been doing freestyle ministry with the women in Parakaleo. But I know that that starts with, you know, hearing your story. So back up. Tell me your story and we’ll go from there.

0:12:24.5 Denine Blevins: Yeah. So I was born in Queens, New York, raised by both my parents. I have an older brother. I had stability in the sense that financially we were good and, you know, I never wondered about where my next meal was coming from and all that. Emotionally, it was hard. And I’ll just kind of leave that there just for the sake of other people’s stories. But I think something that formed in me was that… I think two messages. One is if I just stay busy, I don’t have to deal with some of the stuff going on around me. And two, I’m responsible for the well-being and the peace of my house. And so if I make good grades, if I make good choices, if I’m a good daughter, like that brings kind of happiness and it pushes away conflict. Right? So I grew up in Queens for the first part of my life in the city of New York and then upstate New York for the second part of my life. A part of my ongoing story is existing as an African American woman in predominantly White spaces. But had periods of time where I went to a college that was predominantly Black. It’s Hampton University Historical Black College and University, HBCU. And then went overseas for a little while, served as a missionary in the Dominican Republic. So those two spaces and also a little stint in New York in church planting. So those spaces were very either predominantly Black or multicultural. I find myself feeling more at home in like multicultural spaces where many different peoples from different walks of life come together. But being in the minority in the majority of especially Christian spaces is a common theme. And God using me as either a bridge builder or maybe a disruptor in some sense, like a gentle disruptor because I’m not the one that’s going to come in and blow things up. That’s my husband.

0:14:24.8 Jim Lovelady: Well, I appreciate that you say it that way because being a woman of color means that you are automatically going to have a prophetic voice.

0:14:34.1 Denine Blevins: Yeah, especially if I’m just going to be who I am. So anyway back to where… I became a Christian when I was… Oh wow 28, through… One, through a roommate that had just become a Christian and was just obnoxious and did all the things that you’re not supposed to do as a new believer. Yeah, she just put a lot of pressure on me to go to church and do the right things and stuff like that. But because I was such a people pleaser, I eventually just like, “Fine, I’ll go to church.” And yeah that’s when I just saw Jesus in a way that I had never seen Him before and was like, “Oh, I really need this.” So that was at 25. But it wasn’t until 28 that I was like, oh, Jesus isn’t just my Savior. He is my Lord. Like everything falls under submission to Him. So got connected to a good, solid Bible believing church in North Carolina and then was involved in nonprofit leadership. But that’s really where I got my heart for helping leaders bring things from idea to implementation, served as a missionary for five years, like I said, in the Dominican Republic, where I was on a Hip hop dance team with kids half my age. It was glorious and really hard because it wasn’t the healthiest environment, to be honest. And it was there that I started listening to all these reformed pastors. And they talked about two things. The centrality of Christ and… Three things; church planting and engagement with the culture. And that started to like reframe, I guess, my theological vision. Like, what does it mean to be a faithful presence in this world and to let your actions flow out of your identity in Christ rather than being obligated to do these things. But it’s more of like an invitation. And I went to a church in the DR that was led by a Dominican New York pastor that eventually worked under Tim Keller at City to City. And so when I left, went back to New York, started working with him at the church that he was planting but also at City to City. And then that’s when I saw the gospel in a way that just exploded for me. And then later went to Parakaleo and it made it… Like I think Tim’s teaching helped my mind embrace the gospel and my heart. But like mostly conceptually, “Oh, this is the gospel.” And then Parakaleo helped me apply it to those everyday issues that I was facing. So like Patric’s podcast the other day about the everydayness of the gospel, like that was Parakaleo for me. And then for me, that’s so visual and I need to draw something out or wave my hands to understand something, that kinesthetic aspect of it helped cement it for me.

0:17:23.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, I told you my wife went through I guess it was a week-long Parakaleo thing. And I stayed home. I was with the kids, you know, and I had a different week than she had. [laughter] And so she walks in the door and she like floats in like a Jedi Knight. She floats in and hovering above the ground and I’m glowing, you know, and I’m like, “Something happened to you.” And then later that evening, I said something, you know, I said something. And she goes, “You don’t have to make excuses to justify yourself. Jesus loves you.” And I was like, “What?”

0:18:11.5 Denine Blevins: Wow. [laughter] “What did you do to my wife?”

0:18:12.9 Jim Lovelady: She’s like… It’s like, these are not the idolatrous tendencies that you are looking for. Find yourself hidden in Christ. You know, I was just like, “What happened to you at Parakaleo? Something happened to you at Parakaleo.” And yeah, it was amazing. That week for her was… For us, for our marriage was really great. And so, yeah. So tell me about Parakaleo.

0:18:37.7 Denine Blevins: Yeah. So Parakaleo, just giving you a snapshot of who it is. I know that you’ve been around it for a while but, so our mission is to build what we call gospel-based resilience for women in church planting and help them feel less alone in that season. And so by gospel resilience we just mean the ability to embrace the truth of the gospel, the truth of the story of Jesus for the everyday situations that they’re facing in life and ministry. ‘Cause we know that in church planting, there’s so many ups and downs, there’s so many twists and turns, there’s a tendency to look to the approval to other people rather than the Christ. And we just need to be grounded. And so that experience that your wife had, I had that same thing. And I find that even being in a position where I get to lead this ministry, like I need this every day. I came to faith by believing the gospel but I rest in it by remembering it. And so I need a community that’s gonna remind me every day who I am, whose I am, that I don’t need to prove myself, that Jesus, He’s got me. And so that’s what Parakaleo provides. We provide learning experiences. We provide groups led by women that understand their unique context and reality and just kind of help shepherd their hearts and bring them closer to Jesus.

0:20:01.0 Jim Lovelady: And so what are the things nowadays that you’re seeing, in terms of what it means… The difficulty of what it means to be a pastor’s wife nowadays? Post-pandemic, I guess, just in 2023.

0:20:17.4 Denine Blevins: Yeah. I think at the core of it, it comes back to identity. Being the wife of a pastor is one of the… It may be similar to being a doctor’s wife but it’s… But when you are the wife of the pastor, this is the leader that everybody is counting on. [laughter] For better or for worse, we need to count on Jesus but the fact of the matter is if stuff goes down, who are we gonna blame? We are gonna blame you. [laughter]

0:20:42.9 Jim Lovelady: Correct. Right.

0:20:43.4 Denine Blevins: And she is right there. She doesn’t have a role. She doesn’t have a vote. Some denomination, she does if she is in a different role but she doesn’t have access to resolve all the conflicts that he tells her about and then later resolve but forgot to tell her about. [laughter] So there is that ambiguity. So she doesn’t have a clearly defined role and yet she is expected to be and do all these things for all these people. And so her ability to navigate that dynamic is gonna make the difference between whether she thrives or drowns. I think today where I see some shifts is that more and more, there is a recognition that the church… I mean, we specifically focus on the church planting phase now but that the pastor’s wife, her role is to be a congregant, like anyone else. And so there is… I don’t think there is as much expectation that she perform all these responsibilities in most cases.

0:21:57.0 Jim Lovelady: It’s shifting.

0:21:58.3 Denine Blevins: It is shifting. Yeah. And we see more and more women going into vocational ministry even in the church planting phase. And so the pressure isn’t on the wife. So like when I served as a church member… I was that key woman that was taking on ministry responsibilities that nobody wanted. Whereas my pastor’s wife was like, I know what I need to do. I’m at home. I’m with the kids. This is my job. [laughter]

0:22:22.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I don’t work there.

0:22:23.4 Denine Blevins: You got that right. Yeah. And she didn’t and we all respected her for that. So we see more of that now. And so there is less… I think there is less pressure functionally on the wife. But the pressure is still there, because she is still carrying the emotional weight of all this. And sometimes she is the one carrying the financial sustainability of the household and even part of the church, because she is working full-time, he is working full-time but at the church [laughter] plant and so there is…

0:22:50.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Which doesn’t make lots of money.

0:22:51.7 Denine Blevins: Which doesn’t make lots of money, let’s face it. [laughter]

0:22:53.6 Jim Lovelady: It is encouraging to hear that there is a culture shift where more and more churches are like, yeah, you don’t work here. You know? This is your husband. But the day in, day out nature of it is like, “Hey, your husband, that sermon,” or whatever.

0:23:13.8 Denine Blevins: And sometimes it’s hard when it was their idea to start the church or even her idea to start the church. And they go into it with this shared vision and energy and then over time, she feels sort of pushed out because more and more people either come on staff or men come onto the session. And so she doesn’t have that central role anymore. And she starts wondering, who am I? What am I supposed to do now? And so all eyes on her, yet nobody knows her. That’s what I hear a lot. Like, I feel like…

0:23:52.3 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing.

0:23:53.2 Denine Blevins: Everybody is looking at me, yet nobody knows who I am.

0:23:55.7 Jim Lovelady: Wow. Yeah. Again, I’m very thankful that Parakaleo exists. [laughter] My wife has said that, I know a lot of pastor’s wives who have said that. I know a lot of single women who have been very eager to jump into ministry and have struggled to find a place because they are like, no one knows what to do with a single person, much less a single woman. What ministry trajectory am I supposed to be on? You know? 

0:24:29.2 Denine Blevins: Oh and that always makes me so sad. I mean, I had a much better experience. I mean, I was in New York and so there is a little bit more openness to it but it was just a different context there and yet I still deeply resonate with that. But churches really miss out when they don’t tap into not just the output of single women who tend to have more… A little bit more time, a little more flexibility. Although we should never ever, ever take advantage of that. But also seeking out their input. I mean, she’s got wisdom and she’s got experiences and she’s got perspectives that the church needs. And so the failure to seek that out, it actually just puts burden on people that may not be called to operate in those roles. And so we actually do… We don’t just do women a disservice when we don’t seek out their input. We actually do… The leadership actually does a disservice to themselves ’cause they are missing something.

0:25:22.2 Jim Lovelady: That’s absolutely right. Yeah. I used to be with another ministry, a parachurch organization that said, look for fat people, faithful, available and teachable and it seemed like you were faithful, available and teachable. And then the Lord would just put you in all of these ministry opportunities. And then He gifted you in such a way as a leader to where those places started to thrive. So talk about how that happened.

0:25:51.6 Denine Blevins: I mean, I think the similar theme in all those is that I just, when I see a problem, I can also see a solution and not in any kind of prophetic way but everything can be figured out. You can google it, you find somebody who knows what they are doing, you have a conversation, you create something new. And so like that, the creative energy, that privilege of co-creating with God to solve a problem that hurts people that He loves, I love that. So I helped start a substance abuse recovery home for women. That was one of the first things that God led me into. Actually before that, I helped a missionary get to the Ukraine. He sent me a newsletter asking for support and there was no giving information on the newsletter. [laughter] Then I thought I can help make this better. And it ended up being his US support person when he went overseas. I mean this is just this random dude going overseas to Ukraine and years later sends…

0:26:52.8 Jim Lovelady: That’s amazing.

0:26:54.5 Denine Blevins: It was amazing. And so that’s where I really started to see, oh, I can use these administrative gifts that I have, like my attention for detail, my love of spreadsheets, [laughter] which my husband thinks I’m so weird for that. I love spreadsheets.

0:27:07.0 Jim Lovelady: You are weird.

0:27:07.8 Denine Blevins: I love spreadsheets. Alright? [laughter] Someone asked my husband what I like to do for fun and he’s like, “Strategic planning.” Like I just… I love like just processes and organization and all that. But, I think when I would see those needs, if I felt passionate enough about the cause or the vision, I would just say, okay, how can I step into that and help. And then to see the Lord meet us… ‘Cause it was always with some kind of scrappy team that had no resources and no clue what they were doing, including me. And so to see the Lord say, okay, if you put this part in, this is what I’m gonna put in. I’m actually gonna make the whole thing happen [laughter] but you’re gonna think that you did this and I did this. And just saw Him show up in miraculous ways. I remember at that recovery home, someone offering to furnish the whole house, brand new furniture for free. ‘Cause they owned a furniture company or in the Dominican Republic us being able to raise a hundred thousand dollars in like two weeks, insane in the Dominican Republic. Like who does that but God. And so having those experiences of witnessing His miraculous on time provision, not only of finances but just of people and ideas and structures, it’s just exciting and also a little bit addictive. It’s a little bit addictive because…

0:28:31.4 Jim Lovelady: The adrenaline rush.

0:28:32.7 Denine Blevins: It’s an adrenaline rush. And I think if you wanna go there, that’s where the overworking comes in.

0:28:39.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. When did you get tired? 

0:28:42.5 Denine Blevins: You said, when did I get tired? 

0:28:43.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Alright. Did you not? ‘Cause you just live on adrenaline.

0:28:47.8 Denine Blevins: No, all the time. I’m still tired. I think I’m actually hitting… I just signed up for a retreat this morning actually, because I feel it, I feel it in my body. I feel my heart racing. I’m actually to that point now again of like, okay, you’ve been doing this at Parakaleo for three years, started in the middle of a pandemic, went through a hundred percent staff turnover. It’s just gotten to… It’s too much. But now the difference is I see the, we call it the canary in the coal mine. Like I can pick up on those things that are saying, hey…

0:29:26.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. What are those for you? 

0:29:27.8 Denine Blevins: Anxiety. It’s just my body, just feeling just not right. Not being able to sleep. Yeah. It’s actually not as bad as it has been in the past, which says, oh good, there’s a little bit of progress there.

0:29:45.5 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. In 2014, I burned out and left ministry for a year and worked odd jobs, scraping lead paint off of a guy’s window. One of those… Scraping lead paint is the important part of that ’cause [laughter] it’s like, what am I doing? This was better than ministry. [laughter]

0:30:09.9 Denine Blevins: Yeah. Oh God, my heart goes out for pastors. The emotional toll… ‘Cause it’s not just the stuff, it’s not just the work, it’s the stories that you have to carry.

0:30:18.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. So for me it was like, oh my vigilance to spot burnout from miles and miles and miles away, I have like 20/20 vision for seeing the things… And you said a lot of them, if I’m not sleeping well, if I start to get really short and grumpy, if I start to notice I’m lacking empathy. I have to just be on the lookout for these things. But then I’ve also put in place certain kinds of rhythms that are like some major speed bumps. As burnout is heading my way, it’s gotta go through that vacation that I’m taking. It’s gotta go through that day of silence that I’m taking. It has to go through that… And normally it’s like something where I go be alone. That’s so like… Yeah. It’s a major roadblock for burnout. As burnout is like a roaring lion seeking to devour me, it has to go through a day of just be alone and be quiet. And that’s so instructive for me and just convicting, like I need better rhythms. Part of me was terrified to come on this podcast because [laughter] I’m like, I can’t be anything other than honest about where I am right now. So either…

0:31:38.9 Jim Lovelady: Which I appreciate.

0:31:39.7 Denine Blevins: Walk away with like, “Oh, that’s what you do? We can’t trust her.” or… [laughter] But at the very least, I’m gonna walk away with some better tools and some accountability. So this is really good.

0:31:52.4 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. So how do you do being alone? What’s that like for you? 

0:31:56.1 Denine Blevins: Yeah. I don’t do it often and I don’t do it intentionally but when I am alone, I really love it. I just love being alone. The times I have been able to get away, I love it. I don’t know why I don’t do it more often.

0:32:11.7 Jim Lovelady: A lot of people I talk to go, “I don’t like it when I have to go be alone because I have to… Who’s gonna take care of the spinning plates when I go away? And who’s going to silence all the criticism that just floods my mind when I sit quietly and alone? Or who’s gonna…” Yeah. What am I gonna do with the antsy… I don’t know how to be still, all of that stuff. But it’s important…

0:32:38.4 Denine Blevins: It’s interesting, isn’t it? I struggle with many things. [laughter] I struggle with many things. But one of the things that by God’s grace, I don’t think I struggle with and maybe I do and I’m just in denial about it but I’ve really just about always felt God’s delight and pleasure over me. And that’s a miracle because I come from a background where there were some expectations about who I should be and what I should do. And for some reason I didn’t project that onto God. So when I’m feeling like I need to work, I don’t think it’s because I feel like I owe something to God or that He’s gonna be disappointed in me. I think that God is… I feel God’s delight and His smile all the time but most when I make choices not to work. Yeah.

0:33:32.8 Jim Lovelady: Jesus is in the corner, like, “Yes. Got her.”

0:33:35.7 Denine Blevins: Right. I think He’s like… Yeah, exactly. He is like, “Cool. Yay. Let’s go play. Let’s go have some fun.”

0:33:43.1 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Let’s go dance. Let’s go do nothing.

0:33:44.6 Denine Blevins: And I’m gonna make the wrong choice and I overwork nor do I think that He’s like, “See, I told you not to do that.” I think He’s like, “Okay. Yeah, we’ll do… We’re on our way. We’re getting close, we’re doing better.” [laughter] The pressure is just so much internal. And it’s the approval of other people. Like, I don’t… I was thinking about this earlier today. I don’t wanna fail, you know? If things fall apart, it’s fine. Just don’t let it be my fault. If other people mess up and make mistakes, so much grace, it’s fine. God’s got us, it’s fine. But if I do it, ugh. And it’s not that I beat myself up over it but I’m gonna like, do what I can to prevent saying the wrong thing or making the wrong decision. That’s a big one for me as a new leader. I do not wanna make a decision that’s gonna hurt other people on my team, on our staff, our leaders that have been a part of this ministry longer than I have. I mean, that would be devastating for me. And I have… And actually those very same leaders are the ones that speak the gospel back to me when I’m feeling that way, when I start spiraling.

0:35:00.2 Jim Lovelady: And that’s a miracle too.

0:35:00.4 Denine Blevins: Yes.

0:35:03.6 Jim Lovelady: That you feel the pleasure of God, that the idea that so many people struggle with and I included. And so to not struggle with that. And then the second miracle being you have people around you who can speak the God-like pleasure into your life with an embodied touch, a hug, sound waves of God’s pleasure coming out of somebody’s mouth, you know? 

0:35:32.0 Denine Blevins: A hundred percent. So that’s true for our two staff members. That’s true for our global leadership team. And I was in a board meeting a couple of weeks ago and there’s a particular project that I had in mind and they knew what it was gonna require to do this project. And I was like, “No, no, I think I can do it.” It was more falling on me. I was like, “I think I can do it because of this, that and the other thing.” And someone said, “It’s not that I doubt your capacity to do it, I’m just wondering if you should.” And the amount of care that the board of directors, which is not common for many organizations to say, we care about you as an individual more than the institution. Like, that’s a gift. That’s such a…

0:36:17.2 Jim Lovelady: Another miracle.

0:36:18.4 Denine Blevins: And so I think that’s another part of like… I’m like processing as I’m talking to you, Jim, that’s another part of God saying to me like, unlike past situations, I’ve actually set you up where you can prioritize rest and pacing and underwhelm instead of overwhelm, what can you do poorly just so that you can take a nap today? 

0:36:42.4 Jim Lovelady: Wow.

0:36:44.1 Denine Blevins: Yes. I think those are the things He’s saying to me recently.

0:36:47.0 Jim Lovelady: You’ve been talking about what it means to be a good leader. I mean, a lot of this and I’ve been taking mental notes but it’s very interesting because I know that you just finished taking Serge’s Leadership Lab. And so tell me how much of this… Tell me what doing Leadership Lab was like because you’re just kind of being you and I’m like… You’re a remarkable leader but you have all of these things kind of floating at the front of your mind that are just good leadership. It’s just good leadership and that doesn’t make it easy. To be a good leader doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be easy. It’s always gonna be hard. But yeah so… And this is not a braggadocious thing. It’s humility. You said it at the beginning humility is just having the right view of yourself and I’m just affirming that where it’s like yeah you’ve been put in places of leadership because you’re a good leader. Okay. So how do you do that? [laughter]

0:37:51.9 Denine Blevins: That’s so funny. I so appreciated Bob Osborne’s episode on Leading Through Weakness. I know I have some strengths, don’t get me wrong. I know my strengths. I think I… Yeah, I have strengths but I think what trips me up the most in my leadership is maybe disappointment about my weaknesses. And so I think well the biggest thing that I’ve learned is to submit those and count on the wisdom of the people around me. I remember being in a meeting, this is… I think this is last year and I don’t even know what we were talking about. It was me and two staff members and maybe… I think we had a strategic consultant that was leading us and I clearly was not the smartest person in the room. I clearly knew the least about what we were talking about, had the least to contribute [laughter] and I remember in Parakaleo we talk about the practice of attending. Just attending to what’s going on in your mind in a situation in real time. And I was just like, okay, Denine what’s happening here? Are you feeling the need to posture? Like, I’m the Executive Director, I need to sound blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. What are you feeling like you’re gonna lose by not being that thing you think you need to be and then…

0:39:21.9 Jim Lovelady: Oh this is so good.

0:39:23.5 Denine Blevins: And I was like I’m not gonna lose anything. I’m not gonna lose the respect of my team. I’m not gonna lose the respect of the consultant. And even if I did, who cares? Because the reality is I don’t know what I’m talking about. And the goal here isn’t for Denine to come across as someone who knows what she’s talking about. The goal is to get the thing done. And so it will be much better if I sat back listen and process what people were saying maybe I become the note taker so that we can facilitate the conversation and it ended up… Praise God, it ended up being a great meeting. Because there are also days where I just start fumbling for answers because I feel like I’ve got to be the smartest person in the room. But I do find that more often than not I’m tending towards receiving. And so I see my role as… I don’t know, it’s like if you’re a waiter and you’re about to serve a meal, I’m the tray that the good stuff sits on and I’m like, “There you go.” I’m not the best trainer in Parakaleo. I love being a group leader and I know I’m good at facilitating groups. I’m just not the best trainer. It takes me forever to prepare. I haven’t been doing it as long. But I know how to make a solid tray to carry trainers to where they need to go. I know how to build good systems and infrastructure. I know how to hire good people and empower them to do what they do best. And so yeah I think that’s a big part of leadership just being that tray that provides that stability to bring the goods where they need to go. In an affordable way where everybody has access and everybody gets there.

0:41:10.6 Jim Lovelady: Amen. Amen. It’s interesting because your story of being in that meeting, the art of attending is prayer. You’re preaching the gospel to yourself. And it’s just like these truths are coming to you from somewhere and it’s like the Spirit is just giving you these little truths. And I think that’s what having the mind of Christ is. Where it’s like is this true? And then the Spirit goes, yeah it’s true. You are not the smartest person in the room. And then how our heart wants to take that and run with it in all sorts of really bad directions. But the Spirit goes, hey but it’s okay. And so the art of attending is paying attention to those things and I love that you go… And there are plenty of times where I haven’t done that. I haven’t attended well and I’ve just blubbered my way through a meeting and it’s like, oh I missed out on opportunities that the Spirit was wanting to liberate me from my anxieties that come from me thinking that I need to be the greatest in this moment. And whatever that might look like. I mean that’s a significant aspect of what leading from weakness could be, right? What are other aspects of leading from weakness that… Yeah, especially from Leadership Lab stuff that you picked up. ‘Cause I know that that’s a huge theme in Leadership Lab but I haven’t taken Leadership Lab, so I don’t know.

0:42:39.8 Denine Blevins: Oh yeah, I really appreciated Leadership Lab. I didn’t as much in the moment as I did after it was over because in the moment… So I took it in… It was last year in 2022 but I think I didn’t know what I was getting myself into and so I probably didn’t count the cost for the amount of time that I needed to dedicate. And I feel like I want to even go through it again in a better season where I have kind of more clarity. But I think that’s okay. We find the same thing in Parakaleo where women will go through it and it’s like, “It didn’t do anything for me,” and two years later it just… The penny drops and those start happening. And so I kept thinking about that same dynamic as I was going through it. That being said, it was amazing, it was transformative and any kind of leadership development I do has to have those elements. It has to have that distinctive of gospel-rooted leadership at the core because otherwise it just becomes about trying to get people on your agenda… To follow your agenda, right? 

0:43:43.1 Jim Lovelady: So unpack that. I heard you just say gospel…

0:43:50.0 Denine Blevins: Gospel-rooted leadership.

0:43:50.1 Jim Lovelady: Rooted. Yeah, gospel-rooted. Yeah, unpack that one.

0:43:52.9 Denine Blevins: So I would say that the way that we lead should flow out of who God created us to be in Christ. So it doesn’t flow out of giftedness, skill, charisma, force, position. It flows out of God created us to be a certain way in His image, He’s given us a purpose, He’s given us a passion for certain things. He has given us gifts and skills and abilities but our leadership flows out of that. And so to the degree that we’re whole… We talk about integrity as this aspect of being whole. To the degree that we’re whole, we’re anchored, that’s how well we’re gonna do as leaders. But if we’re fragmented and we’re one way on Tuesday and another way on Sunday or we’re always posturing and performing, it’s not authentic. It doesn’t come from a place of wholeness, it comes from a place of fragmentation. And man, those… When you got fragmented pieces it’s gonna cut some people. We’ve seen that happen. And sometimes I look at myself and I’m like, oh Denine you could just be only four decisions away from going down that same path. ‘Cause it’s not about the big… You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about these leaders that we’re seeing just falling. And as we look at them it’s like, oh that’s horrible, I would never do that. That’s a red flag.

0:45:32.8 Jim Lovelady: Exactly.

0:45:34.2 Denine Blevins: That’s a canary for me.

0:45:36.1 Jim Lovelady: That’s right.

0:45:38.1 Denine Blevins: I would never do that. But nobody woke up and said, “Oh, I’m gonna blow up my church today. I’m gonna ruin some people today.” Nobody wakes up saying that. It’s just little decisions. You start believing your own press, you get disconnected from community, you don’t let other people override you in decisions. And I have to think about where am I tempted to do all those things? 

0:46:04.5 Jim Lovelady: And see them a mile away, see them 10 miles away tomorrow, see them 100 miles away the day after that. Hopefully Lord willing, I wanna see those things. Yeah, that’s convicting. Believing your own hype is the fantasy world that I can create in my own mind where it’s like, oh yeah Jim? Jim’s pretty great. And it’s like, oh man you got a… That’s a red flag. That’s a big, big red flag.

0:46:37.6 Denine Blevins: And I just think I had a revelation about my overworking. I think that maybe help me with the theology, pastor, but at the core of our sin is we’re trying to be like God. And so I always say that the lie that Satan tells me is not that you can’t do it or that you’re not good enough. The lie that Satan tells me is that you’re good enough to do that and more.

0:47:02.5 Jim Lovelady: Oh yeah.

0:47:04.2 Denine Blevins: So God is omnipotent and omniscient and omnipresent but Denine tries to be all those things which does sound too much. And so like, if I’m gonna go down one day, if you’re gonna read about me doing this one day… I mean I hate… I don’t mean to make…

0:47:22.0 Jim Lovelady: I know, I know, I know. We’re not superstitious. Lord save us from ourselves is the preface. Now go ahead, say what you were about to say.

0:47:28.5 Denine Blevins: Yeah. But if I’m gonna go down it’s gonna be… It’s probably gonna be because I was like, oh yeah I can handle it, whatever it is.

0:47:37.7 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. For me it’s… Oh yeah, he thinks he’s… He’s bought into the fantasy that he’s amazing. That’s what it is. And that the rules don’t apply to him because he’s so amazing. That one. Another thing that came into my mind when you were giving your testimony was Philippians 3 when Paul’s… He unpacks his cred, his ministry cred and then he goes, everything that I thought was gain I now consider loss. And I know that you have that story. That’s a Philippians 3:7 thing that you… I know that you had that moment. Whatever was a gain to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. Where was it that that hit you? 

0:48:24.8 Denine Blevins: Yeah. I mean so there’s the conversion story of being a certain way and you’re like, oh I don’t need it. But I think what I’m thinking more specifically about it is, so I’d said I started this recovery home for women. It’s in this missional discipleship way of life. By then I was maybe mid 30s, I had just done a lot of stuff for the Lord. By then I’d had a graduate degree and I mean just an accomplished person relatively speaking. I mean it wasn’t that big of a deal at 35. But I had done some stuff and so when I was called to the mission field, I really felt like I had a lot to offer them. I was gonna be working with an all Dominican team. There was just me and one other American living in this big house. I was about the same age as my director. And she had shared some things that she wanted… Some movements that she wanted to make. And I was like, oh yeah I’ve done strategic planning. I’ve started nonprofits, I’ve done this, I’ve done that. And I’m Black. So unlike the White missionaries that come over I’m just gonna fit right in.

0:49:32.3 Jim Lovelady: Immediate credibility.

0:49:33.8 Denine Blevins: Immediate credibility. So yet I got over there and I would spend like four hours a day just folding sheets and cleaning bathrooms and it was not what I thought it was gonna be [laughter] in any way. I was older than most of the people on our team. I was mainly with 20-year-olds. There were a couple of women my age but I had no control, no say over my schedule. We’d be eating dinner and be like, okay we’re going on outreach tonight. Had no idea and we would just have to get in the car and go. And ended up being on this dance team where we would just practice hours on the end. I remember one time practicing for like four hours and then all the water ran out, so we couldn’t take showers. I mean it was just… It was insane and I was thinking I’m 36, I have a master’s degree. I’ve started some nonprofits…

0:50:29.3 Jim Lovelady: What am I doing here? 

0:50:31.4 Denine Blevins: Why am I cleaning bathrooms after high school boys? 

0:50:35.8 Jim Lovelady: My gifts are all being wasted.

0:50:38.1 Denine Blevins: All my gifts are being wasted here. [laughter] But what I didn’t understand is… I mean there were a number of things that I didn’t understand. I remember when one of my teammates who was this 20-some… 20-nothing year old kid who was like, “You know what? You think you understand my people? You don’t understand my people. You come over here with all your American ideas but you never even asked us what we wanted to do.” And it was like a knife in my heart because I thought that I was the smart, godly, culturally-agile, unlike other missionaries. I was doing the same thing to them that other missionaries had done by coming in, “We need to do things this way and we’re gonna do things this way.” No, and as problematic as certain situations were there, my leader had the wisdom not to put me in leadership over my fellow teammates because she knew the dynamics that played out on the mission field. Americans… And I love our country but Americans have this mindset that we know what’s best.

0:51:49.5 Jim Lovelady: Yep.

0:51:49.9 Denine Blevins: But she intentionally sat me down for probably the first four years before… Maybe the first three years before I had any leadership responsibility over fellow missionaries.

0:52:02.2 Jim Lovelady: Wow. What wisdom. 

0:52:03.5 Denine Blevins: Yeah.

0:52:06.1 Jim Lovelady: So where did Jesus meet you in that? 

0:52:08.8 Denine Blevins: He brought me back to my identity as a daughter, like as a child. You know, I like say that… You’ll appreciate this working for a missions agency, but I like to say that the mission field brought out the best in me and then that flew away and I was left with what really was.

0:52:29.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah, that’s right.

0:52:30.1 Denine Blevins: And he was… So a couple of things. One is, He brought me back to my identity as a daughter and it’s like without the titles, without the accolades, without the authority. Like this is who you are. Mine. That’s who you are. M-I-N-E. Mine. He showed me that I am not what I do and because most of… The blessing that came out of that time was not the programs that I didn’t start or the systems that I didn’t get to build. It was the relationships that I formed. It was the kids who trusted me enough with the depths of… The deepest places of their heart. It was the relationships. And so being able to see, oh I can just be Denine. I don’t have to do all these things. I mean there was a lot to do but I don’t have to do all these things, I can just be. So coming back to a sense of being rather than doing was probably the best part of that experience and how God met me there.

0:53:29.6 Jim Lovelady: What were you attending to that the Spirit was able to break in? You know what I mean? Where was it that you were like, “Alright, fine. You win.”

0:53:39.9 Denine Blevins: There were definitely a few key conversations. So He really did use my Dominican roommates.

0:53:46.3 Jim Lovelady: He used people? 

0:53:47.8 Denine Blevins: Yeah. To confront me in the best possible way. I mean it didn’t… I didn’t like it.

0:53:53.1 Jim Lovelady: Right.

0:53:55.2 Denine Blevins: I think what he used was opening my eyes to how I’d hurt them.

0:54:03.5 Jim Lovelady: Oh.

0:54:04.5 Denine Blevins: Yeah. So the very… And that… Oh, I just got emotional thinking about that because the thing that I cared about the most was that they would feel honored by me, that they would feel supported by me. That they would feel loved and respected. And some of my actions communicated the exact opposite. And I think to hear that, like a core identity for me is being an empathetic person, being a nice person, a kind person, like to hear that, all those things. And I think I was saying like, yeah that’s who I’ve created you to be. But is it about you wanting everybody to think that’s who you are? Again, it should flow. All those things should have flowed out of what was in my heart and not out of posturing.

0:55:02.9 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. You had been calculated for so long and people saw through that BS and called you on it and thank God that He made you empathetic enough to see how non-empathetic you were being. And then He goes, “Hey don’t you want to be the way I made you to be?” And you’re like, “I don’t wanna hurt people. I don’t want people to feel this way.” And He goes, “Okay, come follow me.”

0:55:34.4 Denine Blevins: It was a returning to self. And so many times we think about discipleship as becoming somebody different. It really just goes back to who you are, right? 

0:55:45.4 Jim Lovelady: That’s right. Yeah. I mean that’s what Paul does all the time. Every one of his letters is just like, this is who you are, now go be who you are. You belong to Jesus. M-I-N-E. I am my beloved’s and He is mine. And when I believe that and when I function as if that’s true, go behave as if Jesus is alive.

0:56:06.4 Denine Blevins: And I think that’s why we can rest in all of this. Because even when we talk about gospel renewal and gospel rootedness and gospel centrality and all that gospel stuff, we can even start putting pressure on ourselves to get it right.

0:56:18.7 Jim Lovelady: That’s right. It’s a new law. That’s right.

0:56:20.6 Denine Blevins: It’s a new law. It is a new law. But like resting in the fact that Jesus chases after us. I mean, just yesterday, I was like, oh, I need to be in a Parakaleo group. Like I needed Parakaleo, like I need to be in a group. I need to go through a training. I find it’s leaking, the gospel. We talk about a calendar to drain spaghetti and how the gospel leaks and I feel leaky [laughter] and I need a gospel community for myself. And I was like but I don’t have access to one right now because I can’t just jump in ’cause it just messes up the dynamic. So I’ll just say… Our program director told me, “Oh, I’m launching these groups and it’s just gonna be for our leadership community.” No other participants, it’s just for our leadership community to kind of retool and retrain and all that. And I was like, “Can I do it?” And she was like, “Yeah, of course.”

0:57:20.5 Jim Lovelady: Of course.

0:57:20.8 Denine Blevins: It’s not gonna be disrupted by me being there. Thank you Lord. Jesus heard my cry, He saw how I… Yeah. He saw how much I needed this and so we don’t have to worry about trying to get ourselves together, like pull yourselves together. We don’t have to pull ourselves together. Jesus pulls us together and he knows what we need when we need it.

0:57:43.1 Jim Lovelady: I love that you’re smoking what you’re selling. [laughter] Yeah. Oh, that’s so good. Yeah, I think back about the last hour and a half of us talking and it’s like, what is this about? It’s a vibe.

0:58:03.0 Denine Blevins: It’s a vibe.

0:58:04.2 Jim Lovelady: There’s two people who are kind of learning how to fumble through life with our beautiful Savior just a few steps ahead. And He’s putting you in certain places that I go, “Oh, man tell me about that.” And so we’re just kind of sitting here where it’s like, “Hey why do you think Jesus is beautiful?” And you’re like, “Well, He taught me how to lead in humility because he’s beautiful.” And I go, “He’s been showing me… ” Knowledge of self has been so much a part of this conversation. “He’s been showing me what He sees, the way He sees and the way He sees is twofold. It’s, I’m not as amazing as I thought but I’m way more loved than I imagined.”

0:58:45.5 Denine Blevins: Perfect. For me this conversation has been perfecting the art of freestyle. Not having to come in with a plan or an agenda, just flowing with the Spirit.

0:58:57.0 Jim Lovelady: Yeah. I’ll end it with dance because we started it with dance. Jesus dances over us with His love and so I wanna… I’m gonna… I promise you, when I drive home today I’m gonna put dance music on and I’m gonna dance. All right? Because I need to dance away the shame and I need to… Like David danced before the Lord because he knows who the real king is. And so I’ll become even more undignified.

0:59:31.8 Denine Blevins: That’s right.

0:59:32.5 Jim Lovelady: Who cares? And that’s what a good leader is. I’ll become even more undignified than this.

0:59:37.9 Denine Blevins: To dance for the king.

0:59:39.1 Jim Lovelady: Because Jesus is king and I dance for Him. Anyway. Thank you so much.

0:59:51.5 Denine Blevins: Thank you.

0:59:53.5 Jim Lovelady: Whatever was to my gain I now consider loss for the sake of knowing Christ. I started off this conversation with Denine really fascinated with how interesting she is. Her experiences and the work that she’s been doing. But by the end I realized that we were actually gathered around the Holy Spirit, the real life of the party. And together we were just talking about our beautiful Savior. So look, you don’t primarily need seven to 10 steps for becoming the most interesting person in the room. I mean I could probably stand to wake up a little earlier but what you really need is proximity to the most interesting person in the room. I felt like this conversation with Denine helped me begin to push through the crowd of temptations that leaders face like influence and ambition, people pleasing, workaholism, believing your own hype, the attempt to become the most interesting person, the life of the party. Pushing through all of those distractions to discover the satisfaction of being close to Jesus.

Jesus is the real life of the party. And my guess is you’re gonna find the life of the party on the dance floor. And spending time with Him means you become more like Him. And whatever else you thought was a gain in your life is… Well, you’re no longer thinking about those things. They’ve gone strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. So do you need help pushing through your crowd of temptations so that you can get close to Jesus? Are you struggling to maintain undistracted attention on your beautiful Savior or having a hard time learning how to listen to Him during a board meeting or while you’re emptying the dishwasher or walking the dog or taking the kids to gymnastics or whatever role you have as a leader? If you wanna learn to lead the way Jesus leads, let me encourage you to sign up for the Leadership Lab. Just go to serge.org/leadershiplab for more information. And if you’re a woman in ministry whether you realize it or not, you absolutely unequivocally need Parakaleo in your life. This is a ministry that sees you and understands the unique challenges that you face as you follow Jesus into the frayed edges of life.

So go to parakaleo.us. That’s P-A-R-A-K-A-L-E-O.U-S for more information. And now as you gather up all the gains in your life that tempt you to distraction from your beautiful Savior, as you fumble through learning how to lead the people and oversee the projects that the Lord has given to you, I wanna remind you that it’s in your weakness that He demonstrates His kind of strength. And whatever that weakness has looked like for you, those frayed edges of your life be confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ. And the beauty of all of this, remember this, is that no matter how distracted you get, as you’re looking for the life of the party, He’s got His eye on you and His grace is sufficient for you. So receive this blessing. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make His face to smile down on you. May the Lord be gracious to you and turn His bright eyes to you and give you His peace. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, life everlasting.

Denine Blevins

Denine Blevins is proud to be a New Yorker and loves bringing together people who normally wouldn’t share the same space.  Over the years, Denine has helped launch several initiatives, such as a women's recovery home and a bilingual Manhattan church. She now serves as the executive director of Parakaleo, a global nonprofit that builds gospel-based resilience in women.


Jim Lovelady

Jim Lovelady is a Texas-born pastor, musician, and liturgist, doing ministry in Philadelphia with his wife, Lori, and 3 kids, Lucia, Ephram, and Talitha. He is passionate about the ministry of liberating religious people from the anxieties of religion and liberating secular people from the anxieties of secularism through the story of the gospel.

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