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The Quad King.

Do you know who I’m talking about?

In the recent 2018 Winter Olympics, U.S. Olympic figure skater, Nathan Chen performed the impossible. He became the first figure skater to perform six quads in one program.

Six quads!!

I still remember when Elvis Stojko landed the first quad combination!

Despite Chen’s heroics and the fact that he set an olympic record, he didn’t end up medaling.

In fact, according to the Washington Post, after his devastating short program where he placed 17th place, he “retreated to his room in the athletes’ village Friday and, for once, didn’t dissect his shortcomings in clinical detail. Nor did he torture himself for falling so terribly short and blowing any chance at an Olympic medal…

…Chen put his head on a pillow and fell asleep.”

Have you ever wondered what olympic athletes do after their competitions and what this has to do with leadership in the church?

After training and competing tirelessly to reach the pinnacle of their careers, what comes next? Do they start training for the next olympics? Do they set stretch goals to ensure a gold medal in four years? Do they consider retirement? Or do they take a day off? A couple weeks off?

What’s best for them?

For church leaders and pastors, Easter Sunday is like the Olympics.

It’s one of the few Sundays that both the unchurched and dechurched are open to coming on the arm of a friend or family member. And it’s through what happens on Easter Sunday that you hope a love for God will be developed, a relationship with Him will be formed, and a life will be transformed…

…and if the church grows as a result…hey, no one’s going to complain, right?

The olympics are to athletes, as Easter Sunday is to pastors and church leaders.
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Growing your church is not a bad thing, per se.

If your church grows, isn’t that a sign that you’re doing something right? That you’re reaching new people for Christ? And that you’re making an impact in your community?

After all, isn’t it better to desire growth than stagnation? Or the status quo?

The problem comes when your desire for growth becomes an obsession or idol.

And the tricky thing about this sort of spiritual ambition is that it’s really easy for your motives to be mixed as I articulate in this collection of articles.

Is your desire for growth an obsession or an idol in your life?
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Here’s my point: just like olympic athletes need to rest after the biggest event of their careers, shouldn’t church leaders and pastors do so as well?

What if, after this year’s Easter Sunday service, you didn’t push your team to start another service, a new church, or a new campus.

What if you rested?

And you put a moratorium on starting anything new?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should let your newcomers and guests go unnoticed.

And I’m not saying that every pastor and church leader should be released from their responsibilities and go on a year-long sabbatical.

Just listen to this 5LQ podcast episode where Todd Adkins and I interviewed Danny Franks, the Connections Pastor at the Summit Church, about leading a guest services team. You’ll quickly notice how much I actually believe in the importance of inviting and welcoming newcomers and guests! (Check out these two books on this very topic: People Are the Mission: How Churches Can Welcome Guests Without Compromising the Gospel by Danny Franks and Becoming a Welcoming Church by Thom Rainer)

As church leaders and pastors, we are so obsessed with growth that we don’t realize that growth without rest is a short-term solution.

Isn’t that why farmers let their ground rest in the winter? Or why they plant a cover crop? Or why they rotate their crops? Or why they let their fields lay fallow for longer than a year?

Or at least…why they should be doing such things?

Growth without rest is a short-term solution.
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Recent research shows that our soil today has less vitamins and minerals than soil from decades ago because many farmers aren’t resting the ground like they used to.


Have you ever considered the long-term effects of going, going, going without resting? For farming? For athletes? And for church leaders and pastors?

Our obsession for growth has led to a depletion of nutrients in our vegetables, emotional breakdowns for athletes, and burnout/fall out for church leaders and pastors.

So what can we do?

What if, after this year’s Easter service, instead of starting something new, you focused on follow up for the next month? Instead of a men’s breakfast, putting on a church conference, a women’s event, or anything extra, you just put a moratorium on all things new?

And with the extra time that would’ve been devoted to such events, you spent it connecting with your newcomers from Easter Sunday? And training up others to do the same?

Would a change in rhythm possibly set the stage to even greater growth?

Maybe? Maybe not?

In either case, I say we leave the growth up to God (1 Cor 3) and instead focus on doing the things that we are able to do: planting, watering, and resting.

Who’s with me?

Let’s leave the growth up to God and instead focus on doing what we can do.
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P.S. If you want to audit the current state of your church, and learn what you need to do today in order to take your next step, check out my book, No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts that will Transform Your Ministry.

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Are you discipling the stay-at-home moms in your church?

We often assume that a women’s ministry or a vibrant small group culture is sufficient, but is that enough? Are we missing an opportunity and a need? Is there something unique about the stay-at-home mom experience that requires or necessitates some careful thought? And ministry planning?

Having your first child (or second, third, fourth, etc.), is not only a gift from God and one of the most exciting privileges on this side of eternity, but it is also an occasion for change.

Nothing stays the same.

Date nights, sleeping in (or getting any sleep at all), car choices, impromptu road-trips, seeing family, holidays, meals, friends, and work are just some of the things that change when you have children.

Here’s the thing, when you have children, everything changes…but for stay-at-home moms, the change is greater than most of us might realize.

Here are a few ideas to help you disciple stay-at-home moms:

1. Before the baby comes

For expecting moms and dads, consider hosting or putting on a prep class or workshop at your church entitled something like, “What To Do When You’re Expecting,” “How Everything Will Change,” or “How Nothing Stays the Same.”

Don’t just focus on your church members; instead, use this as an opportunity to engage and minister broadly to your community. After all, every expecting parent is trying to prep as much as they can, so the unchurched and dechurched will likely be open to visiting your church and hanging out with Christians over a timely and helpful topic like this—especially if they are coming on the arm of a friend.

At the workshop, have a seasoned married couple from your church share out of their wisdom and experience. They don’t need to cover breathing exercises, since there are classes designed for that. Instead, use this as an opportunity to talk about keeping the romance alive, what to expect in the coming months, and anything else that would be helpful for new parents. Be sure to invite them to your Sunday service, into a group, or back for parenting classes to get them plugged into the life of the church.

2. After the baby comes

While parenting classes might help, most moms and dads don’t have time for this, since life with a newborn is just.plain.hazy. Parenting classes might be helpful for parents of older children, but when the newborn comes, it’s survival mode.

So after the baby comes, make sure that you have systems of support to care for new parents:

  • Are your small group leaders prepared to organize meals for new parents?
  • If the new parents aren’t in a small group, what systems do you have setup to care for them?
  • Do you have volunteers and leaders looking out for uber-pregnant women? (So that you can help them when the baby comes?)

What better way to show the love of Christ than to practically support and provide for parents in this way?

Do you have volunteers and leaders looking out for uber-pregnant women?
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3. When the dust settles

In a recent research study, I read that stay-at-home moms and dads are heavily biased against when they try to re-enter the workforce:

  • “15.3% of the employed mothers, 9.7% of the unemployed mothers, and 4.9% of the stay-at-home mothers received a callback.”
  • “The results were similar for fathers. While 14.6% of the employed fathers and 8.8% of unemployed fathers received a callback, only 5.4% of stay-at-home fathers did.”

The research puts it like this, “stay-at-home parents were about half as likely to get a callback as unemployed parents and only one-third as likely as employed parents.”

Stay-at-home parents were about half as likely to get a callback as unemployed parents.
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So if you’re a stay-at-home parent (dads, I didn’t forget you) getting ready to re-enter the workforce, what if you started by reconsidering your calling instead of going straight to LinkedIn? (Check out the article I wrote on What Is My Calling as a Christian?)

Who knows? Maybe you’ll go back to what you went to school for? Or maybe you’ll do something completely different?

But whatever you do, don’t make the decision alone:

  • Ask your spouse to pray with you
  • Be discipled or mentored by spiritually mature individuals
  • Ask your small group to pray with you

And in the mean time? In the months and years leading up to re-entering the workforce, what if you volunteered more actively at your church? At your children’s school? Drove Uber? Picked up a job on TaskRabbit? Crafted and sold something on Etsy? Audited a class? Went back to school?

In light of the research, doing one or more of these things will increase your likelihood of re-entering the workforce.

Here’s my last piece of advice:

While you’re waiting, do what you love doing (even if you don’t get paid for it), and do it with excellence. Who knows, God might open up a door!

If you’re looking for more reflections along these lines, be sure to check out the podcast that my wife and I started to encourage couples and parents! It’s called the IMbetween Podcast. Here are links to our first six episodes:

You can also subscribe by clicking here. I hope you can tune in!

While you’re waiting, do what you love doing, and do it with excellence.
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Churches that multiply do not see their volunteers as hirelings to carry out grunt work so that the pastors can do the real work of ministry.

Churches that multiply live out Ephesians 4:11–13 and believe that every member is a minister.

This is because leadership development is not just about teaching people leadership principles, or giving church members a place to serve. Leadership development is about helping every member discover their God giving calling, grow in their skills, and develop their competencies so that they can continue to grow in their kingdom impact.

Churches that multiply do not see their volunteers as hirelings to carry out grunt work.
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For example, while some churches may just be glad to find nursery workers to fill an empty spot, churches that multiply place each nursery worker on a development path, where that volunteer is not only serving, but also growing in their character and competencies.

In other words, being a nursery worker is not the end; it’s rather the means to maturity in Christ and the development of one’s leadership skills.

In Multiplication Today, Movements Tomorrow: Practices, Barriers, and an Ecosystem, Ed Stetzer and I outline the practices of churches that multiply based on our State of Church Planting Research with NewChurches.com and LifeWay Research.

A commitment to leadership development was one of the six practices that multiplying churches lived out and embodied.

According to our research, churches that focus on leadership development are not only being biblically faithful in living out Ephesians 4:11–13, but they are fruitfully experiencing more commitments to Christ, reaching financial self-sufficiency faster, and more than likely multiplying within their first five years of existence.

In addition, our research on leadership development revealed the following:

  • Church planters that mentored leaders of other new churches had a higher average worship attendance
  • Church planters who participated in, at least, a month-long leadership training course on church planting also experienced a higher average worship attendance
  • Church plants who had a leadership development plan for their membership saw a higher number of decisions made for Christ
  • Church plants who had a leadership development plan for their membership also became financially self-sufficient at a quicker rate

Multiplying churches are committed to leadership development.
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There’s nothing in our research here that surprises us, given that we believe maturity generally leads to depth, width, reproduction, and multiplication. But maturity doesn’t happen haphazardly—it requires intentionality. While I don’t think anyone will deny that leadership matters, what we are trying to point out is that developing a plan to develop leaders matters greatly!

It’s the difference between addition and multiplication.

So don’t wait until you get larger or more complex to focus on developing leaders. Make this a part of your DNA and culture from day one.

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As many of you know, this year I’ve committed to reading/listening to as much of Timothy J. Keller as possible (click here to learn more about the books I’m reading/listening to and why).

I likely won’t do this for every Keller book I read/listen to, but Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters was so incredibly rich, that for personal learning purposes, I wanted to revisit the book and pull out the quotes that punched me in the face. On a few of them, I’ll add some commentary.

Caveat: Since I listened to the book; instead of reading it, the following quotes might not match the exact wording, punctuation, and phrasing in the book.

  • “The incomplete joys of this world will never satisfy the human heart.”
  • “An idol is something we cannot live without. We must have it. Therefore it drives us to break rules we once honored to harm others, even ourselves, in order to get it.”
  • “Anything in life can serve as an idol, or a counterfeit god.”
  • “Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”
  • “An idol is anything more important to you than God. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give. Anything that is so central and essential to your life, that should lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.”

“An idol is anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God.”
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  • “If I have that, then I will feel like my life has meaning. Then I’ll know I have value. And I’ll feel significant and secure.”
    • The “that,” which he is referring to are the idols in our lives
  • “The Bible uses three basic metaphors to talk about how people relate to the idols of their hearts: they love idols, trust idols, and obey idols.”
  • “God should be our true spouse, but when we desire and delight in other things other than God, we commit spiritual adultery.”
  • “Idols give us a sense of being in control and we can locate them by looking at our nightmares: What do we fear the most? What if we lost it would make life not worth living?”
  • “Idols control us since we feel like we must have them or life is meaningless.”

“Idols control us since we feel like we must have them or life is meaningless.”
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  • “Whatever controls us is our Lord. The person who seeks power is controlled by power. The person who seeks acceptance is controlled by the people he or she wants to please. We do not control ourselves, we are controlled by the lord of our lives.”
  • “The only way to free ourselves from the destructive influence of counterfeit gods is to turn back to the true one, the living God….he’s the only one who if you find him, can truly fulfill you, and if you fail him, can truly forgive you.”
  • “The most painful times in our lives are times in which our Isaacs, or idols, are being threatened or removed.”
  • “You don’t realize Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have.”
  • “No person, not even the best one can give your soul all it needs…this cosmic disappointment and disillusionment is there in all of life, but we especially feel it in the things in which we set our hopes. When you finally realize this, there are four things you can do: You can blame the things that are disappointing you and try to move on to better ones (that’s the way of continued idolatry and spiritual addiction), you can blame yourself and beat yourself (that’s the way of self loathing and shame), you can blame the world (that’s how you get hard, cynical, and empty), or you can reorient the entire focus of your life on God.

“No person, not even the best one can give your soul all it needs.”
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  • “Jesus warns people far more often about greed than about sex, yet almost no one thinks they’re guilty of it. Therefore, we should all begin with the working hypothesis that this could easily be a problem for me. If greed hides itself so deeply, no one should be confident that it’s not a problem for them.”
  • “Have we received more of God’s revelation, truth, and grace than the Old Testament believers, or less? Are we more debtors to grace than they were, or less? Did Jesus tithe his life and blood to save us, or did he give it all? Tithing is a minimum standard for Christian believers. We certainly wouldn’t want to be in a position of giving less of our income than those who had so much less of an understanding of what God did to save them.”
    • Wow…what reasoning regarding giving and tithing.
  • “Counterfeit gods come in structures…sin in our hearts affects our basic motivational drives. Some people are strongly motivated by influence and power, while others are motivated by approval or appreciation. Some want emotional and physical comfort than anything else. Others want security and the control of their environment. People with the deep idol of power, do not mind being unpopular to gain influence. People who are most motivated by approval are the opposite. They’ll gladly lose power and control as long as everyone thinks well of them. Each deep idol, power, approval, comfort or control generates a different set of fears and hopes. Surface idols are things like money, spouse, children, through which our deep idols seek fulfillment. We’re often superficial in the analysis of our idol structures, for example money can be a surface idol that serves to satisfy more foundational influences. Some people want lots of money as a way to control their world and life, and such people usually don’t spend much money and they live very modestly. They keep it all safely saved and invested so that they can feel completely save in the world. Others want money for access to social circles and to make themselves beautiful and attractive. These people do spend their money on themselves in lavish ways. Other people want money because it gives them so much power over others. In every case, money functions as an idol, and yet because of various deep idols it results in very different patterns of behavior. The person using money to serve a deep idol of control will often feel superior to others and use money to obtain power or social approval. In every case however, money idolatry slaves and distorts lives.”
    • Wow…just wow…the insight in this paragraph is killer.

“Surface idols are things through which our deep idols seek fulfillment.”
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  • “There’s only one way to change at the heart level…and that’s through the gospel.”
  • “Achievement is the alcohol of our time. These days, the best people don’t abuse alcohol…they abuse their lives.” – Mary Bell (a counselor of high performing executives)
  • “One sign that you’ve made success an idol is the false sense of security it brings. The poor and the marginalized expect suffering. They know that life on this earth is nasty, brutish, and short. Successful people are much more shocked and overwhelmed by troubles.”
  • I’ve often heard people from the upper echelon say, “Life isn’t supposed to be this way” when they face tragedy. I have never heard this language among the working class and poor. This false sense of security comes from deifying our achievement and expecting it to keep us safe from the troubles of life when only god can.
  • If your success is more than just success to you, if it’s the measure of your value and worth, then accomplishment in one limited area of your life will make you believe that you have expertise in all others. This of course, leads to all kinds of bad choices and decisions. This distorted view of yourself is part of the blindness to reality that the Bible says always accompanies idolatry (Psalm 135:15-18; Ezek 36:22-36).
  • “The main sign that we are into success idolatry is that we find that we cannot maintain our self confidence in life unless we remain at the top of our chosen field.”
  • “I don’t believe the economic motive and the erotic motive account for everything that goes on in the world. It’s a lust…a longing to be inside, [which] takes many forms…You want…the delicious knowledge that just we four or five—we are the people who (really) know…As long as you are governed by that desire you will never be satisfied. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain…” – C.S. Lewis

“I don’t believe the economic motive and the erotic motive account for everything that goes on in…
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  • “Success can’t deliver the satisfaction we’re looking for.”
  • “The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart. It is impossible to understand a culture without discerning its idols.”
  • “If you ask for something that you don’t get…you may become sad and disappointed, then you go on. Those are not your functional masters. But when you pray and hope for something and you don’t get it and you respond with explosive anger or deep despair, then you may have found your real god.”
  • “What are you looking to in order to justify yourself? Whatever it is, is a counterfeit god. And to make a change in your life, you must identify it and reject it as such.”
  • “You may know about the love of Christ with your head, but not your heart. How can that be remedied? This takes spiritual disciplines.”
  • “Spiritual disciplines are forms of worship. And it is worship that is the final way to replace the idols of your heart. You can’t just get relief by figuring out your idols intellectually. You have to actually get the peace that Jesus gives…and that only comes when you worship. analysis can help you discover truths, but then you have to pray them into your heart. That takes time.”

“It is worship that is the final way to replace the idols of your heart.”
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Pick up a copy of Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters today. Seriously. You won’t regret it. It’s that good.
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I used to be good at people watching.

Now I never called it that because it was never a thing that people did intentionally.

Before smart phones, if you were going to get together with your friends or family, you would just set a time and a place and expect people to be there. If you got there before everyone else, you wouldn’t take your phone out and check Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, since that didn’t exist (I know, it is hard to remember that there was even such a time).

Instead, you just looked around.

If someone were doing something out of the ordinary, you would notice. If a mother were scolding her child for throwing a fit in public, you would look in that direction or slightly to the side, so as to not give the impression that you were eavesdropping. If a couple were on a date, you would try to guess where they were going, the status of their relationship, and if they were a good fit.

With the advent of smart phones and social media, you might have thought that people watching has turned into a lost art. Not so! People watching has merely moved from the physical sphere to the digital space.

People watching has merely moved from the physical sphere to the digital space.
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It has become incredibly easy to watch what others are doing by creeping on their social media profiles. Let alone the fact that there are some apps that will tell you where someone is—moment by moment!

With the increasing digitization of people watching, there are many that are advocating that we go back to the ways-of-old.

Believe it or not, you can even download a nine-step guide to learn how to people watch.

Pathetic? Perhaps.

Fascinating? Most definitely.

There are even websites where you can submit conversations you overheard while people watching!

A couple years ago, my wife and I celebrated our tenth year anniversary by taking a trip to New York.

We’ve lived in big cities like this before, but for some reason, New York just seemed more congested than we last recollected. It was fascinating to meet and pass by the different kinds of people who called New York home.

When we were walking through China town in Queens, a Chinese lady with a scarf over her head scattered bowlfuls of seed on the ground—at which dozens of pigeons descended, just like children do when a piñata bursts open. My wife and I began asking one another questions like:

  • “Why would she do that?”
  • “I wonder if it’s because of her religion?”
  • “Or, perhaps it’s good luck if a bird poops on her?”

Later on, when walking through Times Square during broad daylight, we noticed that there were several people in character costumes, like princesses and superheroes, wanting to have their picture taken with others for a few dollars. Our people watching continued with questions and comments like:

  • “I wonder who is in those costumes?”
  • “They must be sweating in there!”
  • “I wonder how much they actually make in a day?”

One evening when it was raining lightly, we walked by the Port Authority bus terminal and noticed many Middle Eastern families with small children, European couples, homeless panhandlers, and teenagers eating pizza by the slice. You can guess the conversation that ensued as we continued walking toward the Broadway show that we had tickets for…

The fact is, no one is the same. And though we all have unique stories, we all share the same need—a need for the gospel.

Everyone needs the gospel…no matter who they are, what they’ve done, or what they look like.
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Though everyone is loved by God, we don’t all live in light of this truth. Instead of putting our hope in the only one who will never let us down, and who gave up everything so that we would experience true life as he intended it and designed it, many of us put our hope and redemption in something else…in something less…

For some, it’s family values. For others, it’s work, wealth, or fame. And still for some it’s religion that’s all about doing, works, and self-righteousness.

In light of that, can you name one or two friends, neighbors, or co-workers who are far from God? What do they put their hope in? What do they see as their redemption and purpose in life?

What do you think would happen if you stopped people watching and instead began people engaging?

Creating margin in your life so that you can spend time with them? So that God can work in and through you?

To learn more, check out these two articles:

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Once Christina and I had Victoria, our first child, the way we went about life and ministry changed dramatically.

Instead of being on the front lines doing ministry together, Christina took a back seat. Not a back seat in regards to importance, but a back seat in regards to visibility and role.

So over the last year, a regular conversation that we would have while praying and Sabbathing together had been, “What are you going to do when the kids all go to school?”

“Are you going to go back to social work? To counseling? Back to school? Or start something new?”

While we still don’t have that fully figured out (and I think that’s okay), there is one thing that we’ve decided to do…and do together.

Start a podcast!!

We’re not moving, we’re not having another baby, and I don’t have a new job. But we are entering into a new chapter and season of our lives, marriage, and ministry.

Over the past 11 years of marriage, our home and dinner table have been a consistent place of encouragement and fun with other couples and families.

Even before we were married, we dreamed about our future home being a place where others would feel loved, appreciated, and comfortable to be themselves—flaws and all. This desire was rooted in our love for God and is actually summed up in the scripture passage engraved on the inside of our wedding bands, Romans 12:9-21!

So we’ve decided to start a podcast for couples and parents where we would take topics and break them down into practical and implementable principles for your life, marriage, and family. It’s called the IMbetween Podcast.

Topics include:

  • Double chins and getting older
  • Money saving hacks
  • How to not hate your in-laws
  • Extra curricular activities and slowing down
  • Keeping the romance alive
  • The new rules of dating and why it matters
  • …and more!

So we’d be honored if you would subscribe and listen to our weekly podcast (maybe even with your spouse). And if you don’t mind, sharing this podcast with others and an honest rating and review on Apple Podcasts would help A TON in getting the word out.

Here are four easy links to get started:

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