Discover the power of faith in dreaming with the Father with Brad Lenardson, COO of Never Settle. Learn how to surrender dreams and trust God's plan.
Within the depths of our dreams lies the transformative power of faith. Embark on a journey of 'Dreaming with The Father,' surrendering our aspirations to God, trusting His plan, and committing our actions to the Lord. In this episode, host Brett Snodgrass sits with Brad Lenardson, COO of Never Settle, to talk about his journey with “Dreaming with The Father”. Brad shares his personal experience of deepening his relationship with God and the pivotal role it played in his pursuit of dreams. In Brad's season of breaking down and rebuilding, he shares how he found hope by dreaming with The Father. This transformed his struggles into chances for growth and transformation. Brett and Brad explore the importance of cultivating a faith-centered partnership and share inspiring stories of individuals who dedicated their lives to Christ. They also emphasize the importance of surrendering our dreams to God and trusting His plan for our lives, reminding listeners of the wisdom found in the scriptures. Tune in and equip yourself to chase your dreams alongside God!
In this episode, we are talking with my good friend, Brad Lenardson, about what it's like to dream with the Father. Let's go.
I'm with my good buddy, Brad Lenardson, from Indianapolis, Indiana. What's going on, Brad?
How are you doing, Brett? I'm good.
Thanks for being on the show. Brad is an awesome man of God. I got to know Brad in the last couple of years. He has poured into me. He has helped out our organization, Iron Deep. He has introduced me to many friends. He does our website. If you guys check out Iron Deep, his company, Never Settle, has designed and done our website and logo. I've heard a lot of you guys say, “I love your website.” Check out Never Settle, Brad Lenardson and our good buddy Kenn Kelly as well.
We're going to talk about Brad. The topic of this show is dreaming with the Father. When I think of you, I see the spirit pouring out of you. Every time I talk to you, I feel like you're this joyous kid. You have so much fun and joy but then there's so much wisdom behind you as well. Can you share with our audience a little bit of your story? I don't know if you've always been this way but I see this deep connection with God. You pour into other people. You love other people. Can you share a little bit of your story of how have you grown to this point in the past years?
I was thinking about this a little bit as I was preparing. The one thing that I will say and I know that not everybody has this opportunity, is one of the foundations for intimacy with God, the journey with God and walking with God has been the fact that my parents raised me in the way. I have not departed from it even though I have many times.
Anytime I talk about my story and intimacy with God, I have to start with gratitude to my parents for forming that at an early age. Anybody who's reading that has that, I encourage you to be grateful for that. I've seen countless stories where people come into intimacy with God later in life. That's awesome too. There is one instance or one place that is a good starting point for me. As I was thinking about this, I was a young adult. I was probably maybe late 20s or early 30s.
I had known and walked with God in terms of being a Christian and doing the thing, checking the boxes like a lot of us do. I was riding in a car with my friend, Matt, one night. We were listening to a worship song. I felt like the Father asked me a question. I wasn't used to Him asking me a lot of questions. I don't think or know when He was asking me questions. I felt like He asked me the question, “When are you going to stop being ashamed of who I am in your life?” That one hit me pretty hard.
I had a lot of friends that were non-believers growing up in high school and being in the cool crowd. I'd gone to a Christian school. I've known lots of Christians but there was this element of shame about who He was in my life. In that vehicle, I made a decision. I said, “Let's stop that now. I'll stop being ashamed of who you are in my life. I'm ready to own who you are in my life to anybody in my life from this point forward.” That surrender was a massive trigger in terms of that intimacy and conversation with God.
I don’t know if this is universal but for me, there was an element of surrender. It’s not like, “I surrender my life to you. I want to walk with you and know you,” that we think about as believers or sons. It’s this sense of, “I'm going to own this intimacy and be open about that in my life.” There was an element of surrender that was a huge callous for that.
I had this crazy encounter with Him the next day where I started to get a sense that there wasn't this sense of, “I always felt like I knew God. I maybe didn't ever realize He knew me.” It was a lot more of a dialogue and back and forth where He revealed himself to me as God who's with me and who's in the midst of my problems, fights and sorrows.
From that time, there's been a posture shift in me of with. It was that Emmanuel God With Us. I was realizing that He was with me. He listens to me. He wants to talk to me. It's a relationship. That's grown, fostered and shaped over the years to where I sit. I don’t know if that is as much texture as you want but we can start there.
I love that you talked about how you learned to have that dialogue with God, that back and forth or that conversation. Whenever I talk to you, you always seem like you're always having a conversation like He's sitting with you or walking with you. That's a huge shift. When a lot of people think of God, I always hear the word distant. They’re like, “He's distant but God is with you.” He not only loves you but He likes you too. He wants to be with you.
The terms that you've used quite often in our conversation are dreaming with the Father or you're walking with the Father. He is teaching you and molding you about using your life, your family's life and your property for His purposes. What does that exactly look like? He's continuously having that conversation with you on exactly what that looks like. I want to take us back a little bit.
You've had this season of destruction in your life. Something has happened at your house or property within your family. You've had to displace your family. It looks like this big ball of chaos in your life. Talk about that a little bit and then I want to shift into what that looks like. In some of the conversations that I've had, a lot of men are going through some struggle. You are there but you still come with that posture of, “The Father's doing something. He's molding and creating something. I'm still dreaming with Him.” Talk to us about that and what's going on.
Some short background on that, my wife and I got married. I started working. I was a financial consultant. We started building a business. We spent probably the first ten years of our lives doing that. It was pretty awesome. We formed a foundation of our family. We started life with our kids. It was a pretty normal American story.
In the midst of that, the Father started to stir me and invite me back to dreams that I even had as a kid of wanting to have a kingdom impact. This is probably not fair. I felt, oftentimes, that I was helping wealthy, grumpy old people get wealthier and grumpier. I found myself saying, “Am I having an impact?” I could have run that business in a different way and I learned that over time. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was in business. I'm in business and I love it. That was a catalyst for me in a journey of pursuing a life of ministry within work.
We launched our ministries. We partnered with ministries. We brought ministry to the marketplace. It was very much about what I felt like God was saying to me and what He was doing to me. It was several years ago that I felt like the Father said, “What I'm doing in your wife, I need you to be prepared to change everything that you're doing in your life to get behind what I'm doing in her. You may even move.” At the time, I was a consultant. It was before I was working at Never Settle. I was working in a gas equipment company that we were owners of. I was doing ministry with a bunch of organizations. I had 7 or 8 jobs.
Fast forward, I have one job that I can do from anywhere. We have moved. We moved into this property that was about my wife's dream to have space and a place that could be a refuge for women and people that have had a difficult road. She spends a lot of time of her life investing in that. She is counseling and being a place of safety for women, in particular, that have had rough journeys.
We did that. We made massive sacrifices to move on to this property, buy this house and move into that space. My wife had scheduled 7 or 8-day retreats on the property in 2022. About the time that we were starting to run, we had a windstorm. We were fixing our roof. Our entire house got wiped out. We've lived in multiple rental houses and a camper.
Our house is still leveled. We have not started reconstruction. We're still in the process of starting to work with the insurance company for them to start putting it back together. We found out that they were going to tear the whole roof that we had put on. That was the Genesis incident. We are in the middle of the deconstruction process. That’s how we got there. That's the background. That's the story of the deconstruction.
Can I ask a quick question? It was your response and Erin’s response too. You're on this journey. You feel like you're building this property into a kingdom or a refuge for women. You got these retreats planned. Everything is starting to move in that direction. All of a sudden, you have this huge storm that tears everything apart. What was your immediate response to that? What was that conversation like maybe 2 or 3 weeks even after that? What was that dynamic like with you guys? you were like, “We are doing your work. What is going on?” Can you take us into that a little bit in your dialogue with Erin?
I can take you into it. I was angry, frustrated, scared and overwhelmed. There was a decent season where we didn't even know if the insurance company was going to help us put it back together. There was a period or a portion that was like, “This is game over for us in terms of what we've built. We'll start over.” We would start over and it would be fine but it was like, “This is really bad.”
It was married to a season before but it was a season of, “God, if this is what it looks like to follow you and trust you, I can probably do that on my own. I could probably mess things up this badly on my own. Maybe I want to take it from here. We'll see how it goes.” I've discovered that's not true. I can do way more damage on my own than He can. Honestly, there was some of that in terms of the initial challenge of that internally.
Largely because of our community, we had 40 people show up that day and get our stuff moved out of our house on the day of. There were people on our doorstep not long after the sun came up at 6:00 or 6:15 in the morning saying, “What do we do?” There was also and we're seeing it every day, an awareness of His faithfulness. There's an awareness that we will never see the end of His goodness. We'll never see the end of His faithfulness no matter what happens to our house.
To get to the real heart of your question, it has been radically humiliating. This season has been one of bringing humility and creating a humbleness and lowliness that Jesus represented. I'm probably learning more in this season about what God says when He says, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.” It is in the sense that if we're going to dream with God, we're going to follow Him and this is going to be about the kingdom of God, which is what the invitation is from Jesus, then we have to start with an understanding that it's all about Him. It's His kingdom. He's the king and it's His sovereign power that is the driver of all this.
We get to do it with him and He gives us the dignity of causality. We get to walk together to co-labor and create outcomes on this earth but it is all about Him. That's probably the greatest fruit of this so far. It is realizing that I don't want to do anything without Him. I don't want to try to do anything alone. Even if it means living in two rental homes and a camper and this house not being rebuilt, I'd rather be with Him in the Kingdom of God than building my own kingdom.
Amen. I love that. That's an awesome response. Thank you so much for taking us into your heart behind all that and being vulnerable and real about the anger that was exactly going on. Let's fast forward. This topic is starting to dream with the Father. All of a sudden, you had this deconstruction. The house is leveled. You're in the midst of it. It's not like you're even on the other side. We've had this conversation about what exactly is going to happen. There are a lot of unknowns in there.
What's this looking like with you and Erin continuously walking with and dreaming with the Father? Your ultimate dream is to use this property. His hand is in this. I don't want to put words in your mouth but you’re building back up. Take us into that. What is this looking like during this season to continue to dream with the Father? What do those conversations and dialogues look like with you and God?
I'm going to hit on a few elements of this to try to make it practical. The first thing is it's been like a deeply personal one-on-one dialogue with God. I’m feeling like He has been saying things like, “Your foundation was sinking. Your roof was leaking.” We started to fix those things and then we got a flood. I felt like He said, “You worked on solidifying your foundation and patching your roof so that it's no longer leaking. Now, I want to work on the heart.”
He was utilizing the house as a metaphor for what it looks like to grow in deeper intimacy with Him. I let Him speak to and touch some of the broken and hard places in my heart of being in life and ministry. Part of it has been this deeply personal interaction between God and me about what He's doing in me, how He sees places in my heart that have been hardened and need softening and need to be healed and what it looks like to let Him be part of that restoration process in my heart. Some of this, practically, has been with my wife and me.
What does it look like to pursue what God is saying to both of us together? I'll talk about community because it was when you and some of the Iron Deep crew came out and walked to the property with me that this piece came to light. One of the things that I felt like He said was that it was critical for Erin and me to walk the property together. We asked the question, “God, what is it that you want to build and do here?”
Erin and I have been doing that. We've been pursuing together in a way that we probably never have before. We’re like, “What is it that you're trying to do in both of us? What are you inviting us to do together? What does this look like for us to walk this out in unity?” That goes back to the many years of us chasing after what God was doing in me and the shoot to say, “Let's go after what it feels like He's doing in Erin.” There is this sense of Him coming together and saying, “What do I want to do with the two of you together?” That's going to be the most powerful season for us in living out His kingdom.
There's been a practical reality of walking that out with my wife and our girls. There's this element of a community of inviting guys that I've known and walked with for a long time into the process. We are listening, praying and sharing what they're hearing and seeing. A great example of that is when probably 6, 7 or 8 of the Iron Deep crew came out and we walked the property and prayed. That was where someone shared and I can't remember who it was, that element of walking the property and listening to see what it is that He wanted to do and what He wanted to build there.
We're in the midst of that. We're starting to get a sense of, “He may want to build this here. This is a great example of the process.” I've been asking Him a lot like, “God, who is it that you want to send here?” We've talked a lot about whether it's women that are escaping from human trafficking, which our organization, Never Settle, is deeply engaged in and what we do on a daily basis. Is it people that are aging out of the foster system that doesn't have a place to live? It was some of these things that He has been stirring in us.
He started to say, “I want it to be for whomever I bring. I want you to build it with flexibility. I want you to have a passion that says, ‘We are going to be a place of respite for whomever God sends.’” That feels super vague to me at this stage but it's much clearer than it was. We keep doing that. Erin and I'll keep pushing and bouncing back and forth on that until we've got a clear idea of what that looks like.
It's a long answer but I would say that there's been very much, in my life, a one-on-one element with God and me that only He and I can interact. It is an element of my wife, me and God and who we are as one that chose to live this life together. It is an element being lived out in the community, pulling on and relying on the people that God has put in my life to help shape, confirm and stir words that I sometimes say, “That doesn't make any sense to me. I'm not sure that you didn't have something bad for lunch because that doesn't sound like God to me.”
Amen. I love that. Practically speaking, you hit it. That one-on-one personal connection with God and building that intimacy is crucial. It's so important to live that out. It's so important to live out the community. That's what we talk about all the time in the show. What we're trying to do in the most authentic way we can is to live in this community of other men and business guys coming together for the kingdom and His purposes.
I want to hit on this because I see this all the time. I see this even in my life. Sometimes, I struggle with this. I'm doing my thing, business or the ministry over here and then we're doing that for years. Your wife was maybe doing her thing and you guys are coming together and starting to do this together. What's that like for you? You've talked about that a lot. You've talked about what is God doing in her and how can you lean into that. As a man, can you speak into that a little bit? What has that been like for you emotionally and your growth of coming together with your wife on this?
I will tell you that initially, it’s hard. I don’t know if I’m unique or more like this as a man than some others but I’m very aware that my capacity for self and therefore, selfishness is high. There were years when we first made this transition or when I surrendered to God and said, “If you want to do this in Erin, let's go.”
It was years of feeling unsettled and insecure. I was not knowing even necessarily how to dream in some regards because I had been the sole focus of that in a lot of ways. One of the things that this has taught me is it's not about me. It's not my story. It's His story and about how Erin and I fit in that together. It starts with saying it sucked. It was hard. I learned a lot. I'm still learning a lot. I wasn't good at it. Sometimes, I'm still not good at it.
The other thing that rises is that in time with practice, it became more comfortable. For me, at the end of the day, probably the most difficult part of walking out and dreaming together with God and Erin is vulnerability. It's hard. My wife knows me better than anybody else. She knows all the crap that I'm capable of putting out there. She knows all the ways that I protect, pretend, hide and all these things that we do. It’s terrifying, honestly, to go to Erin and say, “I feel like God said this. I feel like we should do this. I've been up to this.” There's nowhere to hide.
As I've journeyed with Erin, I realized that she's trustworthy, that we are one and that we're pursuing the Kingdom of God. Whether we see it the same way, understand it to be the same or would do the same things or not, that has over time, proven to provide a lot more stability and foundation. What used to feel like this terrifying, vulnerable and shaky thing feels like one of the most solid, comforting and bedrock pieces to us being able to do this.
That has then transitioned into it being a lot of fun. It is a lot of fun to not be alone, do it together and see the ways that He's stirring her and the joy that she gets in the process of us doing this together. I’m starting to see that we're made to do this together. I see the ways that we are going to and are already complimenting each other in being His kingdom on earth. That's a long journey. For the dude that's out there that's like, “I'm trying to do this and it's never going to work,” it will. It may take years like it has for us but it will.
I love that, time and practice. I like what you said about how there's nowhere to hide. Our spouses know us typically better than anyone else. There's nowhere to hide from God and your spouse. Be really you. That's awesome. I love that. Thank you so much. I want to wrap up this show with this section that I've been thinking about. I want to get your feedback on this. There's a book out there by John Piper. He wrote a book called Don't Waste Your Life. He talks about two stories. I want to mention those two stories.
The first story was there were these two older ladies. They decided they gave their life to Christ. They wanted to reach unreached people groups in Cameroon. In April 2000, their brakes failed when they were driving. They went off a cliff and died instantly. The question is, is that a tragedy? John Piper says no because Mark 8:35 says, “Whoever loses his life for My sake, the gospel will save it.” That's one story. They gave their life to unreached people groups and got killed. I want to talk about a wasted life.
There's the second story and that's this. In February 1998, there was a couple. They had built a business. They took their early retirement. They were 59 and 51 years old. They moved to Florida. They did cruises, played softball and collected shells. This was their dream. This was the American dream. Come to the end of their life when they're standing before God, they spent the last couple of decades of their life playing softball and collecting shells. The question is, is that a tragedy?
I want to talk to you about the American dream versus God's dream. We're talking about dreaming with the Father. You've been down both roads. You've built a business. You were living out that American dream. You went the kingdom way and you're wanting to dream with the Father and your purposes. Can you talk to the person out there about your feedback on the wasted life? There are a lot of business people out there. They are building kingdoms of some sort. What are they going to do with that? What is your feedback on that?
What you point out as far as my journey is I started in the marketplace. I built a successful business, sold it, launched a ministry, did that for years and found myself back in the marketplace. I don't think the answer to your question lies in economics. I point that out to say the American dream is largely attached to money and what we can afford or those that we do life with as a result of being successful. I don't think the answer to your question is in money. There are people living in the kingdom with limitless resources and there are some that are living on support and figuring it out. I don't think that the answer is in the economy.
What I think is from what I see in the American dream versus dreaming with God, to use the language you've set this up with, is there are a couple of things that are radically different. One is the American dream has largely become individual by self or self with self. It's a journey of self in a lot of ways. Dreaming with God and living that dream is not self. It's selfless. It's unity with God. It's with other people in the kingdom and community. It's hard to see living out God's Kingdom by myself. You can live out the American dream by yourself. A lot of people do.
The other thing is you talk about a kingdom. I've seen this in the marketplace. I've seen this in ministry. They've oftentimes looked the same. There are only two kingdoms. There is God's Kingdom and not God's Kingdom. Any dream that's attached to building anything that's not God's Kingdom is not where I want to be.
Oftentimes, the American dream looks to be this element of building my kingdom so that I've got something that I can show. Legacy is a word that is a rough, bad word. It could be awesome. I see a lot of us focusing on, “I want to build this legacy,” which is saying, “I want to have a piece of me left.” I want my legacy to be God's Kingdom. That's a couple of elements where I see them being radically different.
The thing that I got the most out of it is it's not about economics. You're exactly right. There are some of the most amazing God's Kingdom builders that have a lot of money. That's the question I want to leave everybody with. There's God's Kingdom and not God's Kingdom. If you're not building God's Kingdom, then you're building not God's Kingdom. It all comes back to yourself. Thank you so much for the feedback. I love you. This is an awesome show with Brad Lenardson of Never Settle. I pray for you and Erin to build up God's Kingdom for His purposes and your property. I can't wait to be back out there. This is a wrap for the episode. Thanks a lot, Brad. I appreciate it.