7 Questions with Jonathan Gullo

Name: Jonathan Gullo

Current title: Lead Pastor

Current organisation: Suncoast Church & Impact Church

Have been leading Suncoast Church for 6 years, and in 2020 have taken on the leadership of Impact Church in Canberra as well. Married to Chloe for 9 years and have two daughters. Prior to current position was a youth and young adult pastor for 10 years.

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1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?

Learning to relinquish control for the things that are not mine to control, and to trust God for the outcome. As basic as that sounds, it's been a huge journey for me to understand the tension between leadership diligence and ultimately trusting God. The axiom - "When I'm working, I'm working. When I'm praying, God is working." has taken me longer than I'm proud of to understand.

2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

To be honest, I've felt 'called' into church leadership since I was a child. I grew up as a pastor's kid, and eventually took on the leadership of the church that my parents led for almost 20 years. I tried to 'fight' it, but in the end God won. During university I was working part-time as a youth pastor, then when I graduated I came on full-time as youth and young adults pastor. When I got married, my wife and I moved to London for a change of trajectory, but about 18 months in we got the call to come back to Australia and take on the leadership of Suncoast Church.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

Love this question! I'm a big believer that the majority of our 'successes' (whatever that means) are found in our habits and disciplines. I get up early before the rest of the household to pray and read scripture. Then I do exercise. Then help get everyone ready for the day. When I'm 'at work' I'm at work. When I get home, I'm FULLY home. Help with dinner and I put my kids to bed. I always try to finish my day reading an hour at night (I read a book a month), then I spend time praying once everyone is in bed for about 10 minutes. I really feel strongly about 'being in the room'. When you're at work, be there. When you're in prayer, be there. When you're at home, be there.

4. What one book had the most profound impact on your church leadership? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

Deep and Wide by Andy Stanley. It completely altered how I viewed church leadership. Fundamentally, Stanley argues that a local church can be both deep spiritually whilst still having a wide reach to the community. You don't have to 'pick' one or the other. It arrested my heart as a church leader. I wrestled with it for about a year until I started doing something about it. I'm more committed than ever to looking at the ways in which we create environments and culture that encourage spiritual growth, not just consumerism. Whilst at the same time being super intentional about how we create environments that are irresistible to the unchurched. I think we can do both!

5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

During these initial six months of the COVID19 pandemic, the core tenant in leadership of 'encouragement' has been pressed hard on me. I have no clue where we're going, what's next, how long the disturbance will happen, etc. BUT that shouldn't stop be from being a vessel that pours out hope, encouragement and life. They may seem super simple, but I've learnt in a new way that they're more important than we often give credit for.

6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?

I've wrestled with this for years. The philosophical picture that makes most sense to me (at the moment, anyways) is that church community is much more like a garden than a machine. Jesus used so many agricultural pictures to teach on the Kingdom. Partly I think because that's what would have made most sense to his audience at the time, but also because there's a deep truth to it.

Peoples’ leadership growth is as much of an art as it is a science. I think it prudent to have all the 'mechanisms' in place to impart leadership acumen in people, but I also think because people are so complicated, we need to allow room for unconventional pipelines to be appreciated. People grow in leadership in so many ways, and I'm committed to having a culture that allows grace for this.

7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a church leader so far?

About a year into our journey of leading Suncoast, Chloe and I felt strongly to begin leading our church through 'change'. That's when all the fun began. Many people left. We were criticized so much. And sure, we could have done things so much better, but we were convinced, and still are, that the changes were necessary and that we had felt led by God to do it. It tested our mettle like nothing else.

Fast forward several years, we were told a story earlier this year about one of our older couples in the church who 'stayed' through all the changes. Another couple who left during the changes had recently returned to Suncoast and asked this other couple 'why they stayed'. Their answer - 'we decided to'. The maturity, grace and Christ-likeness that I learnt from that has left it's mark on my heart. I want to be like them when I'm old.