Larry Osborne pastors North Coast Church, a church in Vista, California, with seven campuses and weekly attendance of 13,000. He has authored a number of books, including “Thriving in Babylon,” “Accidental Pharisees” and “Lead Like a Shepherd.” He and his wife Nancy have three married children.
You’ve been in ministry more than four decades now. What would you tell your younger self?
Osborne started serving as a senior pastor at North Coast in 1980. Osborne didn’t give a spiritual answer—read the Bible and pray more, witness or spend more time on sermons—rather, he said he would loosen up a bit.
“I would relax more, take a nap and not stress as much about my circumstances,” Osborne said. “To trust that God is the one who’s building His church. My job is to prepare the horse for battle. It’s His job to decide the outcome, whether I win or lose. The same mental math I used to take too much of the credit, I also used to take too much of the blame. I wish I would have gotten off the performance treadmill because the results are up to Him. In the book of Joshua, the Battle of Ai was lost because of one man named Achan. Samson had 18 years of a successful run, and he was a fraud the whole time. We don’t always know all the things that are going on in the unseen realm.”
What advice would you tell young leaders?
Osborne said most job postings list education and experience as the first and second requirements, but he doesn’t think in those terms.
“I believe experience and education are not as significant as anointing and character,” Osborne said. “Being young, hungry and teachable is far more valuable. I choose character over giftedness. You can’t always tell someone’s character ahead of time, and you can’t guarantee good character in the long run, but I never want to overlook bad character because I’m blinded by their giftedness. Great players who have bad character are flawed.”
Osborne tries to answer these questions to determine a young leader’s character:
1. Do they have a healthy walk with God?
2. Are they honest?
3. Do they have a sense of cynicism?
4. Are they proud or do they have haughty eyes?
5. Do they slander or gossip?
Can you share your watering schedule idea?
In an age with heaps of Christian literature, it’s easy to try to follow everyone’s advice. Whether it’s to journal or not, how to read the Bible, when and how to pray, how to raise kids the right way or how to better our marriage, Osborne said this can cause us to worry we’re not doing things correctly.
He said it is freeing when we understand our way isn’t the only way and what we read from “experts” isn’t either.
“I thought we had a great marriage until I went to a marriage conference and found out we were doing everything wrong,” Osborne said. “I judge the fruit, not the watering schedule. I pass on giving out recipes because we too easily turn tools into rules. It’s always hard to live in your lane. Legalism is the essence of a watering schedule. I look at the fruit in someone’s life even if their watering schedule looks different from my own. I know a lot of disciples who are jerks even though they are spiritually disciplined on the outside.”
A topic you’re currently passionate about is getting outside your echo chamber. Can you explain that?
An echo chamber is an environment in which a person encounters only similar beliefs or opinions, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.
Whether it’s the music we listen to, a podcast we enjoy or the news we consume, Osborne said we have to work harder than ever to get outside of our echo chamber.
“We live in echo chambers whereas we used to be restricted by our geography based on certain cultures or regions,” Osborne said. “Now we get our choice of media—MSNBC, FOX, CNN, self-made radio stations—and we spend a whole lot of time with people who think like us. Even in our denominations—Calvinist or Arminian, Baptist or Assemblies of God—I intentionally try to make my ministry as broad as possible.”
Osborne said we should seek thinkers outside of our “tribes” so that we can grow and learn from others.
“When we stay inside our echo chamber, we miss our blind spots,” Osborne added. “I get a narrow lens and lose my heart for people. I love to find common ground with people. It’s not compromise. Every morning I spend about 35 to 40 minutes perusing the news, from culture, entertainment, sports, medical to finance—areas that I have the privilege of ministering to. If I’m going to preach to them, I need to understand their world.”