CNLP 224: Levi Lusko on Planting Churches Where Nobody Plants Churches, Being Yourself in a Different Culture and Declaring War on the Issues that Plague You As a Leader

12 years ago, Levi Lusko left Southern California to plant a church in Montana. Today, Fresh Life Church has 12 locations, most of them in very small towns where few people would plant churches.

Levi talks about why and how they did it, how he handled the cultural gap, and about how he’s met some of the personal challenges he’s faced as a leader along the way.

Welcome to Episode 224 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

Levi on Instagram | Twitter | I Declare War

CNLP 213: Levi and Jennie Lusko on Losing their Daughter, and How to Fight through Grief to Keep Living and Leading

Fresh Life Church Locations


Episode Links

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3 Insights from Levi Lusko

1.  Planting in small towns can lead to big growth

Have you fever felt called to break ground in an area that just doesn’t make sense on paper? The gospel seems to be going dark in a lot of small towns – poverty, drugs, suicides. Clearly plenty of people need to find hope in Jesus outside of large cities. If the church doesn’t reach out, who will?

Levi and the team at Fresh Life Church are building the mold for growing churches in towns with smaller populations. Through innovation and a lot of heart, Fresh Life Church is celebrating successful launch after successful launch because they’ve learned how to adapt common strategies on a smaller scale and offset the load at the central location so the smaller campuses can be viable and sustainable.

2. Leading yourself through leadership funk can be the hardest part of leadership

Often times the most difficult part of leadership is self-leadership. Ever had to lead a team when you’re having a really bad personal day? The leader’s mood can positively or negatively affect the pace of a meeting or the tone in the office if you struggle with keeping leadership funk under control. Levi’s new book I Declare War breaks down how God can help you with words, thoughts and habits so you can lead at your best.

3. Depending on the Holy Spirit is a daily commitment 

What does dependence on the Holy Spirit look like in your week?

Some days are just hard. Some days can feel like we’re inauthentically going through the motions of what we’re expected to do.

That’s why we can’t ignore the importance of committing to daily dependance on God. Our strength simply can’t compare. Every day, trust and ask for it and then wake up the next day to repeat the request. Only the Holy Spirit can give us the energy necessary to be the leaders we were called to be.

Quotes from Episode 224

In business and church planting you have to really think through how much the pendulum should swing to the global side and the local side. @levilusko Click To Tweet

No one ever told me that you could be having the best of times and the worst of times simultaneously. @levilusko Click To Tweet

Our culture places such a high value on authenticity that we excuse bad behavior in the name of living our truth. @levilusko Click To Tweet

Your emotions eventually catch up to your obedience but your obedience has to go first. @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 224

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Grow Beyond 200

Would you like to see your church grow to more than 200 in weekly attendance?

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Each session will include an interactive workbook with exercises to help you and your team apply what you’re learning to your ministry context right away.

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If you want practical help overcoming some of the biggest challenges leaders face, my new book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That Nobody Expects and Everyone Experiences tackles the seven core issues that take people out: cynicism, compromise, disconnectedness, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and the emptiness of success and provides strategies on how to combat each.

I wrote the book because no 18 year old sets out to be cynical, jaded and disconnected by age 35. Yet it happens all the time.

The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Here’s what top leaders are saying about Didn’t See It Coming:

“Seriously, this may be the most important book you read this year.” Jud Wilhite, Lead Pastor, Central Church

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“Whatever challenge you’re facing, whatever obstacle you’re hoping to overcome, whatever future you dream or imagine, there is something powerful for you here.” Andy Stanley, Founder, North Point Ministries

“Uncommonly perceptive and generous…You have to read this book.” Ann Voskamp, NYT bestselling author

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“Deep biblical insight, straightforward truth, and practical wisdom to help you grow.” Craig Groeschel, Pastor and NYT bestselling author

“This book is sure to help you.” Daniel H. Pink, NYT bestselling author

Over the years, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being a public speaker is having opportunities to hang out with Carey…It’s not a matter of if you’ll run into these challenges; it’s a matter of when. Be prepared by spending a little time with a leader who has already been there.” Jon Acuff, NYT best-selling author

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You can learn more and get your copy of Didn’t See It Coming here.

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Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Joshua Gagnon & Daniel King 

Josh Gagnon started Next Level Church in New England with 30 people on day one…in an auditorium that sat 800. Not a great recipe for success.

On the second Sunday, Daniel King volunteered to join Josh’s team, and they’ve seen Next Level grow to 5000 people in 9 locations and four states. They share all their challenges, principles and secrets on breaking all the attendance barriers between 30 and 5000.

Guess what? The first 200 was the hardest, and they share why.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 225.

CNLP 224: Levi Lusko on Planting Churches Where Nobody Plants Churches, Being Yourself in a Different Culture and Declaring War on the Issues that Plague You As a Leader


  1. Sally Stearns on May 19, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    What a JOKE! You plant churches where there are already good ones that actually follow the heart of Jesus and do what He commands. You come in, cause division, and present a horrible witness! These churches are nothing but money making machines for Levi Leskos pocket! Don’t waste your time, there’s absolutely no meat (substance) to these messages and this churches do nothing to support the community. Just take money from Churches that would. But you will be held accountable for that according to Matthew 25:31-46

  2. Me on June 11, 2019 at 2:31 am

    It’s sad that the picture painted for the city of Kalispell was such a sad one. We have a very healthy community of churches, we are a very safe town and are not against new churches coming in. However, when a newcomer starts to tear down historic buildings as well as not provide parking for your congregation so that all of the downtown city parking is taken up, you start to step on some toes. They even rope off three to four spaces every Sunday in front of their doors like it’s their domain. It’s like getting a new neighbor that take up all of the space around you and has no consideration for you. Kalispell has a lot of history downtown and he just wiped some of it away. He tried in Whitefish as well. There is still a movie theatre 5 minutes away from the location he chose that would’ve been exactly what he needed. No tearing town historic buildings, no infringing on the public parking, and still be able to accomplish what he has today. He obviously wanted to make a statement and he achieved it. Bravo. I guess us rednecks just don’t know how to change…. It would’ve helped had you respected our town a little more. I’m glad you’ve had success but there are still people that disagree with your actions. Here’s a quote from the whitefish meeting… “Fresh Life has shown in Kalispell that they do not care to comply with the existing downtown character. This corporation wants to tear down a 109-year-old building that is part of our historic downtown and add Whitefish to another notch in its belt.” The new building is up and honestly it’s an eyesore compared to the historic beauty that once stood. And a note on the suicide rates – our mental healthcare system is among the worst there is. Want to make a difference, start there.

    • Sally Stearns on May 20, 2020 at 9:24 am

      Maybe could have something to do with the Lyme disease problem there? True hipsters would understand. Unfortunately modern Christians choose to remain blind! Too bad Fresh Life in Butte doesn’t believe in practicing “Pure and Undefiled Religion” according to James 1:27? I would think Levi losing his child would have some compassion as my grandchild on the way is in danger of this as it was passed from my womb to my daughters and killed her brother Josiah at 20 months. I have the worst type of Lyme confection in existence yet. What the 6% of us chronic lymies with this go through, makes what Job did look like recess! Why? Because our country denies it to cover their liability. And we’re left with it by our country. Fresh Life in Butte refused to even help me with a couple hundred bucks to fix my car so I can drive out of town to medical appointments, further putting my grandchild’s life at risk. Very sad! Christian?? More like the “Levites” from the Good Samaritan parable! More like supporting the firey darts of the enemy aimed at the young and innocent. I poured my heart out for why I’ve fought through this, for the children, their children, so many affected. But Fresh Life doesn’t care to support someone fighting to raise awareness so the enemy cannot claim the lives of future generations! What a huge problem Lyme disease is, and people in this country have no clue how prevalent it is and how much it’s affecting the health of millions already. 25% that get afflicted now are children, and acute treatment doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone, it just hides in your organs undetectable destroying you from the inside. Jesus had such a heart for the children and in my situation, FL has hooked up with the enemy here on this one! I guess my next YouTube vid will be to politicians requesting they tax churches (Using my story and how “Christians” have also left me for dead, even my own family!) tax churches because they are not being obedient to what Christ called the church to do, what was close to His heart, what was commanded! Actually, the so called pastor here said he’s going to call Salvation Army and tell them to not let any churches help me (which they don’t anyways! Well besides the Mormans, JW’s and Catholics which are putting the Evangelicals to shame! This defiles the name of Christ Christians carry and another reason the world wants nothing to do with church, a big part of why America is being judged! I was a Dugway Proving Grounds baby in 1976 after the premiere of all the funky stuff dropped in 1975, millions from the government toward MKNaomi programs that the documents were destroyed from, especially the Project 112 that involved involuntary human experimentation. Doctors in the Salt Lake area knowing that some “funky vaccines” were given to certain “qualifying” babies. Could be why the DoD moved my dad to that particular sight for me to be born there?? Anyways, however it happened, the enemy has had a serious scope on my head since birth, but churches don’t care to support the ones the enemy is trying so hard to take out! Weird! Why? Not a good battle move!! I urge FL “ministries” to purchase gold refined by fire and salve for your eyes so you may see! #2020 #spiritualeyesopened but hey, God has miraculously sustained me through this and will continue to! Too bad FL is opposed to potentially saving the lives of their own children and the future generations by actually working AGAINST my life being saved! It’s unreal!!

      • Sally Stearns on May 20, 2020 at 9:26 am

        And I would think Samuel Gonzalez would have had had some discernment and compassion as he’s from Salt Lake?? Or his phone number says so. But NOPE

  3. Joey A on October 30, 2018 at 3:05 pm

    Carey, wow, thank you for this! So much relevancy and authenticity from Levi. Needed to hear it. Encouraged my soul.

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