When pastor Chase Replogle became a writer, he had no idea how hard it would be! Before long, he started the podcast Pastor Writer to interview pastors, authors, and writing experts––such as Eugene Petersen, Os Guinness, and Janet Grant––all to gain a better understanding of the writing journey. And now he’s sharing that wisdom and insight with us!
About Chase Replogle
Chase Replogle is the pastor of Bent Oak Church in Springfield, Missouri. He has a degree in Biblical Studies and an M.A. in New Testament. He hosts the Pastor Writer Podcast, interviewing Christian authors on the calling and craft of writing. Guests have included: Tim Challies, Barnabas Piper, Dick Foth, Os Guinness, Pete Scazzero, and Scott Sauls. The podcast was recently featured by The Gospel Coalition. The site chronicles Chase’s ongoing writing projects, attracting many new listeners each month.
A native of the Ozark woods, he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two kids: fly-fishing, playing the mandolin (badly), and quail hunting with his bird dog Millie.
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Karen: Hey guys, we’re in the deep today, and we welcome you here with us. We have a new guest, Chase Replogle. Erin, you’re on.
Erin: You know, guys, I am excited to have Chase here with us. I discovered him through his podcast, and then I discovered that Karen and I have a lot of friends in common with Chase. So that was really fun to just meet people across the internet. So, Chase does this podcast called Pastor Writer, and it’s all about a deeper look at the calling and craft of writing. Naturally, Karen and I are interested right away. Chase is also a pastor at Bent Oak church. He’s a freelance web designer and a writer. And the podcast Pastor Writer is his journey to better understand this very unique vocation of being a pastor and a writer. And so, we’re going to talk about that—the challenges and the struggles—so we’re going to have all kinds of fun with that today. Chase, welcome.
Chase: Thank you very much. It’s an honor to be on the show.
Erin: So, you know we always put our guests through the wringer here. We always want to talk about the deep, and we love to ask what is your concept of the deep? What does the deep mean to you?
Chase: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think everybody answers the question differently. I know I’ve heard and listened to a little bit of your show before too. And I think for me the question is, “What am I trying to reach when I write?” And everyone comes at that differently—well, there’s that famous Flannery O’Connor line, “I don’t know what I actually think until I write it.” I think that’s one of the quotes.
Erin: That’s me.
Chase: Yeah, “I write because it helps me clarify.” Or I think there’s George Orwell—I don’t remember the quote—but he talks about that he writes because there’s a lie that he has to expose. He knows there’s something that he needs people to understand. So everyone comes…their motivation for writing I think can be different, and trying to get to that spot where you do feel like—the phrase you use in the deep—you’re sort of in that place, that vocation, that calling for writing.
For me, as I was reflecting on it, and this has been a process of learning, you know. Early on I felt this conviction to write and this calling to write. But really quickly what happens is it fills in with other people’s explanations for why you should write or how you should write. And you start picking up advice, and you’re trying to write out of what other people have told you or what worked for them. It’s a long road to start figuring out, “Okay what is it that actually motivates me and compels me to sit down and actually do the writing more than wanting to do it?”
I’m starting to realize that I think I write to remind myself of what I believe, is the way I’ve been thinking about it. And the reason I put it that way is, there are certain truths about my faith, or my life, or things that are deep convictions that just in the busyness of life, in sort of the consumption of life, the advice of life, slowly gets pushed to the margins. And I can find myself sometimes reacting to something or having an opinion about something that, if I stopped for more than 30 seconds and thought about, might not actually be what I think or feel about that subject. I’m dragged into what everyone else is thinking or feeling. Or I’m clicking like on a social media post before I’ve really considered about if that’s actually what I think about this thing.
So, writing for me is an opportunity to withdraw from that noise; to sort of quiet myself from it and to put myself through a discipline of really trying to stop and consider what is true. What do I actually believe about this? Outside of everything culture is telling me, what do I find in Scripture? Where is the Spirit leading me? What is that thing that I want to hold on to that’s so easily forced out from me?
Sometimes I write without sensing that. Sometimes I write into it and find it as I’m writing. Sometimes I’m brought to the page because I very much am feeling that thing I want to hold on to. But there’s always that moment in writing when it goes well. Where I feel myself sinking into it and recognizing this is what’s true, this is what I actually believe, and finding a way to say it to myself first, even before I say it to an audience or someone else.
Karen: Finding that sense of purpose, and that sense of motivation without the chaos and without the cacophony around you, like you were saying of what everyone else says: “You’re so good at this, and you’re so good at that.” I’ve been working with writers for a lot of years and I find, especially when writers contact me about possibly editing their manuscripts, they’re like, “Well whatever you say, I’ll do.”
And I’m like, no, you don’t understand. My job is to come alongside you and bring your story out. It’s not to re-write your story. You’ve got to know—like you said Chase—what’s true for you and what you are writing and the message that you have, and you need to hold fast to that. Because that is what God is breathing into you to write and you can’t let go of that just because people come in and say, “Oh no, you need to be doing this, and you need to be doing that.”
Chase: Yeah, I think that’s the pressure—that you start writing to what you know the audience is wanting to hear. And the unfortunate thing that happens is—and it’s a combination and I can get to that—but the thing that happens is you end up losing your voice in the process because you end up writing what everyone else is writing. Because everyone else recognizes that is what’s getting shared or getting clicked or what’s controversial.
And so, it becomes this big tension of coming to terms with what is important and significant to you, what you want to hold on to, and at the same time, trying to figure out, “Okay how do I say that to an audience of people? How do I bring them into that place?” Which oftentimes means expanding what you originally had in your mind or the way you were getting into the subject, but not losing that thing that brought you to the page in the first place. That to me is one of the real challenges of writing.
Erin: So how are you balancing this challenge with writing? You know, you’re doing that, but you’re also a pastor, and you’re also a freelance web designer, you have all these vocations going on at the same time. How are you managing that?
Chase: Yeah, like everyone else, that’s one of the hardest parts. I wish I woke up every morning and brewed my cup of coffee and sat down in my leather chair in the corner and read for a couple hours. But that’s not the reality. Also, I have two kids, a four-year-old and a one-year-old.
My first calling was to pastor. I would give up everything else to be faithful to the congregation that I pastor. It’s a small congregation – about fifty people. And that’s my heart. I know everyone by name, they’ve been in my home. That’s what I’m most committed to. Freelance came out of that, doing web design and development and marketing because it allowed me to have the flexibility of schedule to pastor and sort of control my own schedule when pastoral needs dictated it. And I really feel like the Lord sort of helped guide me into that to find a proper balance.
Writing has always been one of the things that sort of—it’s been in my heart and I’ve just sort of kicked the can and kicked the can. I’ve done little things, you know, I write all of my sermons. I intentionally made the choice to do full transcriptions because I wanted the discipline of practicing. That’s usually around thirty-five hundred to four thousand words a week I’m writing, and I take that discipline seriously. So I’ve been doing it but kind of in quiet.
Then a couple of years ago I had a pastoral friend that was just saying, “You’ve really got a set up here between pastoring and doing your own freelance work, where you can work hard and carve out a few hours here and there and control your own schedule to take the writing more seriously.”
Initially, you know, you hear the advice, “Set a daily writing goal every day; stick to it no matter what.” I know that works for some people. Hopefully someday I’ll live in that world, but that’s just not the world I’m in right now. So I tend to think about seasons of writing. Coming up in December I’ve got some guest speakers at church, usually client work will kind of slow down at the end of the year. And so, I try to be really strategic about it—there are going to be three or four weeks where I’m doing more writing than normal in that period of time.
Then the other side of that equation, besides sort of handling it in seasons is: I’m always writing even when I’m not in front of the computer. I tend to do that with sermon preparation, also with writing. My notes app on my phone is just full of half sentences and phrases and ideas and thoughts. I tend to write off of an outline, so those outlines are just…I’m always working on them and rearranging and adding. So when the writing comes time to sit down and do it, I usually have a pretty good sense of what I’m wanting to accomplish in that time. But that’s just proved out of trying to find a way to make it work in life and in this schedule. I think that’s different for everyone.
Karen: We’ve come to call that fodder. Erin and I when we are preparing podcasts or when we’re just having our meetings or when we read our devotional—every time we’re together to work we have a time reading Streams in the Desert and then we have a time of prayer together—and we’ll be reading Streams in the Desert, and we’ll just stop and be like, “That would be such a good podcast.” So, we have this whole file that’s full of fodder for the podcasts that we want to do, and we jump in there whether we’re together or whether we’re not, so that’s where we save all that.
I love that idea that you’re constantly writing in your head. I think everyone is like that. That’s why when we go to writers’ conferences—as you had mentioned we met enough to have a handshake at Mount Hermon in 2018—the writers’ conferences are so much fun because you’re with a bunch of other people who are writing in their heads and talking with their characters, and no one thinks they’re crazy. So it’s a good environment.
Erin: Chase, tell me what—as we’re talking about this you had mentioned that Janet Grant is your agent now, and you had met her at a writing conference. So you’re really walking this writing journey. What has surprised you most? You know, nobody comes in and has it all figured out. What do you feel was the biggest surprise about how this whole writing/publishing thing goes?
Chase: That’s an easy one for me: how slow the process is. I had no idea. I’m a pastor and I’m self-employed, so if I want to start something then I buy the domain name, and we’re off and running a couple days later. And it’s not a complaint because I’m learning more and more why it’s slow. It does matter and giving yourself the time, the writing space, the editing space.
Right now, I have a completed manuscript and proposal, and we’re just beginning to pitch it to publishers. But trying to pick up the right endorsements, which takes an incredible amount of time, it’s an incredibly slow process. But more and more I’m learning that that’s okay. I can settle into that. Right? It’s more of your own desperation to know how that’s going to end and that makes you so impatient. But picking up a second project and getting started on something else instead of putting all your hopes and dreams into one project. That’s been helpful. But yeah, it is a long patient process, especially that traditional publishing route.
Karen: You mention a really good point, and that’s not just putting all your eggs in one basket and sitting back and just waiting for a response to a proposal you sent out. Janet is an excellent agent, and you’re really fortunate to have her. She’s a very smart lady. Plus, she’s a lot of fun. But the whole idea that once you send something out, the next step is to start working on the next thing. Because you can never tell. You can get all kinds of rejections, and you set it aside, and you go to the next thing. Then down the road is the right timing for that thing that everyone rejected, and suddenly they’re rabid to get it.
Chase: Yeah one of my other big surprises from the process was—maybe this is a blunt way to put it—but nobody reads the manuscript. So I actually write the whole book, because I wanted to prove to myself that I can. And it’s like, nobody along the way has actually read the thing but me. It feels very bizarre to have proposals and editor conversations.
But to make the point, I underestimated how significant the concept is and getting that concept right. That has to be there. The writing has to be there, too, but before you’re even going to get to that conversation, to really know what it is and how it’s positioned. Janet has been a huge help for me on that. And figuring out the right way to be able to pitch the book and the audience, I just underestimated how significant that was.
Karen: So, I’m curious with all these things that you’re doing—you’re doing the pastoring, you’re a dad, you’re doing the writing. What made you do a podcast?
Chase: Most of your listeners are writers or doing their own writing. Everyone knows the platform question is one of the big questions when it comes to traditional publishing, and so I was getting that from lots of directions. Did I mention that my church has fifty people? I do not have a large pastoral platform. I’m not getting a lot of invitations to major conferences.
I knew I needed to take the platform piece more seriously, but I also knew I wanted to do it in such a way that felt like it was true to who I am. And one of the things I love is the personal aspect of a podcast. The conversations, the ability to build relationships, and for those relationships to be more than just a tweet or an article share, but actually getting to have deep conversations about things.
So for me the podcast, it felt like strategically a good decision to help build the platform. It was also a strategic decision that it let me be able to have great conversations with editors like you guys, and people in the industry that I wouldn’t have access to without a show. It was strategic because I have a lot of pastors on, which I know a lot of my writing is geared towards, you know, really important relationships for book spreading in churches.
So, there were some good strategy pieces to it, but again it felt more natural for who I am as a person—these kinds conversations—than just sort of, you know, articles or Facebook Lives. Those can be great tools for other people, but the audio conversation just fit me personally really well. It’s been a blast. It’s one of the best decisions that I’ve made. I just love it every week.
Erin: And I’ve enjoyed—like I said I discovered you through that—and I have enjoyed listening to the episodes I’ve had time to listen to so far. I’ve had to work my way through your back episodes.
Chase: Yeah, I know how hard that is, too. We all have big lists of them pilling up.
Erin: So what are some of, maybe, some of the incites you’ve discovered or gotten from your guests that have impacted you personally?
Chase: I alluded to this earlier. I used to think that writing was a very sort of monolithic thing, like the process was: you had to do it a certain way, and people approach it a certain way. I’m surprised by how differently people approach writing and how important it is to figure out why you do it.
But the other big thing that I’ve learned from my guests is, besides them just having a different approach to writing or a different tactic for getting the actual writing done, all of them seem to have audiences that are in totally different parts of the internet. And topics that are very different to them. And some of the guests I’ll have on, no one has ever heard of, but I’ve stumbled across a book or met them online.
But when you get talking to them, they’re phenomenal writers and they have really engaged audiences. I look at my bookshelves, especially within Christian publishing, and there’s like these big names that everyone would recognize, and you go into a Christian bookstore and their books are always there. But there’s a massive amount of faithful, really excellent writers out there who are writing on these important topics to important audiences, and so many of them are doing really good, faithful work, but they’re not household names. More and more I’m coming to respect the people who do that. You know I think about Drew Dyck, one of the guys I’ve had on here recently. We were talking about Eugene Peterson. I think of him as a kind of grinder when it comes to writing. He’s had three or four books out now. None of them have been New York Times best-selling books, but really, really good books. And books that have had a really good impact on certain segments of the audience. He may never be a household name, but the work he is doing is really, really important work.
I had a relatively new author on the other day, Ben Vrbicek, who is writing a book about how pastors make transitions in churches. I was joking with him about how no one is going to be able to sell this book because you can’t get caught reading it, right? So, nobody writes it, you know in a very practical sense, like no one is going to publish it, and he self-published the book because it’s just not a book that’s going to be able to be marketable.
Karen: And it’s packaged in brown paper bags, right?
Chase: Yeah, that’s actually a great idea. But it’s a super important topic and one that a lot of pastors need and so I just, I have more and more respect for those kinds of authors who are just putting in the work, and publishing work, and finding the right audience. We may not know their names but God’s using them. And they’re fulfilling that calling. And they’re a really important part of the reading and the writing that’s happening that most of us may never know about.
Karen: We stress to writers, both in our work as editors and coaches, and we stress in our podcast that the task that God has given you isn’t to get published. The task that He has given you is to write, and you never know what the audience is that God wants you to reach with your message. But you need to be obedient to that task that He has given you because nobody can deliver the message that He has given you the way that you can. And even if you only change one person’s life, you’ve changed a person’s life. You’ve impacted them through God and that’s a powerful, powerful thing.
Erin: Yeah, yeah. I love that because I think the majority of writers are out there working in obscurity or for those few people that will read it. We tend to think of the household names as: these are the real writers. That’s not true at all, exactly as you were saying, Chase. There’s an army of writers out there doing excellent work that most of us can’t ever know who they all are, but they’re there, you know. What do you do, Chase, when you’re discouraged? Have you ever been discouraged, tempted to give up?
Karen: He’s a pastor. Of course he has!
Chase: Yes, yes, do you mean today or yesterday?
Karen: You mean this morning?
Chase: Again, seasons have become really important to me. So you know having the discipline to walk away for a time. My wife is really helpful at that. She recognizes when I’m like, you know—it’s not fun anymore. That’s a little too simplistic, but when it’s getting desperate, is the way I’ll normally describe it on the podcast. You feel it inside of you, it’s this tendency to overwork and to start working on the things that you really can’t control but you’re trying to. That desperation, “How can I get more shares on this thing? How can I get more numbers on this?”
I’m starting to know myself well enough to recognize that earlier on and being able to walk away from it. In fact, that’s one of the things that being bi-vocational has been a real gift for is when I start to sense that with writing, I know it is just time to stop. Leo Tolstoy has a great quote about Sabbath, and he says, “For God’s sake just stop.” That’s the way he describes Sabbath.
We do a really awkward thing with the Sabbath. We turn the Sabbath into, like, I’ll take one of seven days off, so it will rejuvenate me, and I can get more done on the other six days. We turn the Sabbath into a productivity hack so we’ll get more done. I really think the point of Sabbath is to put an intentional check on yourself. “I could go further with this work but I’m going to stop short intentionally to remind myself that this is not in my hands, and it’s not about me figuring out the best way to get this done.” So, trying to put intentional checks on that desperation says, “When I start to feel that I’m just going to stop. I’m going to walk away from the Facebook analytics. I’m going to close Google analytics. I’m going to walk away from the blog, and I’m going to go have coffee with the people I pastor. I’m going to work on some client work, and I’m going to come back to it down the road.”
I’m trying to learn to do the work I can do and stop doing the work that’s been done out of desperation. And that takes…you’ve got to know yourself, and you’ve got to be willing to push back against yourself and check yourself in some really determined ways.
Karen: I think that’s an awesome idea. I think we all need to put a little note on our computers that says: Step away from the statistics. Find the Sabbath.
Chase: Yep, because no matter how you dissect them and pull them apart—and this is helpful information—but you’re not going to change the numbers, right?
Karen: You have no control, folks. Control is an illusion, especially where publishing is concerned.
Erin: That is very true. So we’re getting close to the end of our time here, Chase. If you could leave our listeners with one most important thought or final words of wisdom or encouragement, what would you want to say to them?
Chase: I think the best thing you can do as a writer—and again I’m an unpublished writer who’s trying to find my way through this, so take it for what it’s worth—but I think you have to figure out for yourself what you enjoy in the process and do it.
There’s always going to be hard work. There’s always going to be things you don’t want to do in the process, things that are difficult to get through. But if you know what part of the process you actually enjoy for the sake of the work—not just what you imagine it’s going to pay off and be, or where it’s going to take you, but the actual—I mean, for me it’s revision. Writing is hard, but I love the process of revisions. Knowing that that’s the thing, whether it gets published or it gets deleted off my hard drive. I have backups so hopefully that won’t happen. But if everything was lost there was still something beneficial to my spiritual development, my enjoyment, and just a part of the process that I love. If you can figure that out then lean into that and just know that’s the work, that enjoyment. That’s what you’re being called to do, and you’ll find the motivation to do the other stuff that you have to that may not be as enjoyable if you can find that place.
Karen: Chase, you have been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for sharing your journey, for sharing your wisdom and experiences with us. I know that our readers are going to be blessed by it and find new truths that maybe they’ve never considered.
I’m going to be spending a lot of time thinking about the idea of Sabbath and what that really needs to be for me, not just as a writer but in everything that I do. And so, thank you for being with us. We hope that our listeners will all flood to listen to Pastor Writer and hear the amazing interviews that you do with these folks, and we’re looking forward to what God is going to do in you in the future.
Chase: Well, thank you so much. It’s a real honor. I take that very seriously. And I love the work that you guys do. I know first-hand how much work goes into it that no one really sees or realizes. So thank you for all the work that you do, too. Sometimes podcasting is like speaking into a black hole. You look at this microphone, people are downloading it, I have no idea who these people are. I know how that can feel. So I appreciate so much the work that you do. We need more of it. So thank you as well.
Erin: Well thank you!
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Chase has many roles to juggle in his life. What about you? What helps you prioritize?
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