Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Pay Dirt

Written by: on January 18, 2024

When I saw the cover of “Mining for Gold” by Tom Camacho, my mind raced back several years to when my wife and I binged a reality TV show called “Gold Rush,” which follows crews mining for gold in the Yukon Territory.  By the end of the second season, we were experts ready to set out and stake our claim.  We learned the lingo and threw around terms like “Pay Dirt” and “Efficient Volume” with a tone of expertise. It is fascinating to consider the resources they are willing to expend for one speck of gold.  Thousands of hours, thousands of gallons of diesel fuel, tons upon tons of dirt.  It is mining at an industrial scale with the goal of a high-efficiency rate. 

This mining is very different from the panning process described by Camacho, where a miner would take a pan along a creek or riverbed, scoop up some gravel and dirt from the bottom, and allow the running water to remove lighter dirt and rocks, leaving behind the heavier gold pieces (Camacho, 59).  When you do find gold, according to my expertise gained from hours of “Gold Rush,” the dirt you are sifting is called “Pay Dirt.” 

We are all “Pay Dirt,” a mixture of debris with deposits of gold God has placed in us.  However, it requires mining.  Camacho explains a four-part Mining for Gold process in Chapter 4, which I find beneficial: 

  1. Deep listening
  2. Asking great questions
  3. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit 
  4. Determining the right next steps

As I consider this four-part process, I can’t help but see it as a slow and steady process, requiring patience and waiting on the Lord.  Camacho contends it is a simple and powerful process that requires cooperation with the Holy Spirit, but according to his own story, it is not expedient.  In the same way that panning for gold is a significantly different approach to mining than the industrialized mining used in the Yukon Territory, this Mining for Gold coaching process is a slower process that may conflict with the productivity and results-driven priorities in our current culture. I wonder if we aren’t more industrialized in our approach and need to consider the patient Holy Spirit-dependent process encouraged by Camacho.

In my leadership experience as a Senior Pastor, I have been using a coaching model similar to the one explained by Camacho with my team.  It takes time, patience, and trust.  When done well, it helps cultivate a flourishing culture by prioritizing people’s development over task accomplishment.  It’s the paradigm shift of freeing people vs. filling positions Camacho describes in Chapter 2.  Coaching in a way that gives room and freedom for gifts, callings, and passions to surface. However, Camacho seems to leave out the challenges this can pose in an organizational context.   Organizations inherently require a certain infrastructure complete with org charts and job descriptions.  People are hired to fill specific roles that come with specific responsibilities.  The Mining for Gold process empowers people and can result in people changing roles or even leaving the organization altogether, generating further transitions churning up confusion and, in some cases, fear.  For an organization to facilitate the development of people, it needs to develop a flexible structure and appreciate the leading of the Holy Spirit in the life of its members as he unearths and refines the gold deposits. In light of this, I appreciate the emphasis in chapter 3 Camacho places on the thriving a good coach can help bring by helping people through pain and fear by bringing clarity.   Camacho states, “Clarity changes everything.  With clarity, we can see the larger story.  When we get clarity around our Christ-centered identity, thriving is the natural result.”

As I read “Mining for Gold” this week, I was studying through John 14-16 with my church family. I’ve read those chapters of John several times before, but this time, I couldn’t help but notice Jesus coaching his disciples, bringing clarity in areas similar to those Camacho references in Chapter 3.  Camacho identifies those areas needing clarity as:

  • The goodness of God
  • Our identity as his sons and daughters
  • Our design
  • Our motives
  • Our passions
  • Our pain
  • Our time

In John 14-16, Jesus gives his disciples the gift of clarity.  He shows the goodness of God with the promise of the coming Holy Spirit, their advocate, and comforter, who will guide them long after Jesus departs. He assures them of God’s ability to overcome the evil one.  Jesus confirms their identity in him as those who love him and keep his commands.  He expresses they are appointed and designed to flourish as they abide in him.  Rather than be motivated by fear or sorrow when it seems the opposition is winning, they are to remember that he told them it would happen and that he has handled it. As they abide in him, his joy will fulfill them.  He assures them that their sorrow and pain will become joy, which no one will be able to take from them.  He concludes by telling them in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  He gives them the gift of clarity, which Camacho points out leads to momentum.  This momentum continues today as Jesus, the “living water,” removes the debris, revealing his image in us, showing we are more than just mud; we are “Pay Dirt!” 

About the Author

Chad Warren

A husband, father, pastor, teacher, and student seeking to help others flourish.

15 responses to “Pay Dirt”

  1. Graham English says:

    Chad, great to hear that you’ve been using a coaching model with your staff. We were training peer group coaching facilitators and the issue came up about how to manage the “power dynamic” on staff when a senior leader coaches a person who is accountable to them. A staff person did not want to be coached yet felt that they were obligated to because of the work dynamic. Have you encountered that? How do you manage that, or is it even an issue?

    • Chad Warren says:

      I have not encountered what you described regarding a staff person not wanting to be coached yet feeling obligated. I make it available to those on my team that want it. I’m glad you brought it up so I can be more aware and sensitive to the potential.

  2. Daren Jaime says:

    Hey Chad! Thanks for sharing. Reading through the lens of another Senior Pastor I was encouraged to know it just was not me. I also wanted to hear more about the challenges about filling positions. You nailed it when you said, “Organizations inherently require a certain infrastructure complete with org charts and job descriptions.” Task accomplishment is certainly what many of us face, but I do like Camacho’s approach which leads us to become more spirit-led.

  3. Adam Cheney says:

    I appreciate your thoughts on the industrialization of our current process in which we often are simply trying to fill positions. I like the comparison you make to the personalized approach to coaching. The challenge is that we do have to fill positions and we do need certain roles filled. Everyone can’t be the senior pastor. Yet, I imagine that through the coaching dynamic we might come to recognize the potential of other senior pastors around us who we might be able to coach to fulfill the role the Holy Spirit is equipping them for. This obviously requires a desire to listen to the Holy Spirit and be open handed with our resources, including personnel.

    • Chad Warren says:

      Adam, thank you for the comment. The challenge you recognize is all too real. In my context, we are trying to develop some avenues of leadership development that allow for that. For instance, we are developing an intern program to implement coaching in a ministry context so people can explore things like God-given Design and Sweet Spots. They are not being brought in to fill a specific position, but brought in to allow the Holy Spirit to bring clarity for filling future positions, whether with us or elsewhere.

  4. Christy Liner says:

    Hi Chad, thanks for your post.

    I love the thought of freeing people vs. filling positions. But indeed coaching poses some challenges in an organizational context. I wrestle with the same things
    and feel that there must be more nuance between organizational hierarchy, authority, structure, etc. and coaching.

    How has that played out well in your context? What pitfalls do you think others should be aware of?

    • Chad Warren says:

      Christy, I can speak to one example of it playing well in my context. About a year ago we went through some major senior leadership transitions in our church. During that time we were able to ask questions concerning sweet spots and preferred roles. With that input we made some changes to the org chart. From this I learned there may be seasons in the life of an organization where some of the shifting causes less confusion and turmoil than at other times.

  5. mm Chris Blackman says:

    Hey Chad! LOVED your Gold Rush analogy!! I am a huge fan, and I think there are some similarities between this book and that show. (it has been incredible to watch Parker grow from a spoiled kid to a successful young man). I reflected on Parker’s wisdom, thoughtfulness, and patience in getting things done vs Tony Beet’s shotgun approach to everything he does. What I thought about in reading your post and your John references is that we need to slow down, be methodical, and have a firm plan on how to reach potential leaders, how to mentor them, and how to have them duplicate what they learned rather than the Beets way of jumping in with a water cannon and creating chaos. (although, I can’t take away his success either.. what do I know?). I don’t have a question for you; I really enjoyed your post. Thank you!

  6. Akwése Nkemontoh says:

    Hey Chad, I really enjoyed this analogy and how you weaved in scripture. Reading this gave me insight into your preaching style and I would love to see it in action! It’s great to know that you are already using a similar model of coaching with your team. Seeing that you highlight the limitations of Camacho’s model as it pertains to organizational application, I’m curious where and how you’ve seen this same challenge show up in your ministry.

    I would imagine that your ministry has a handful of part-time and/or voluntary workers ( though this may be wrong) which might require you to be extra creative in how you value/ prioritize people’s gifts and maintain the 80/20 rule, while still ensuring all roles are filled and tasks being done. Has this has been an issue at any point and how you navigated it so that you too could remain in your gifts 80% of the time?

  7. mm Kari says:

    Hi Chad,

    I am thrilled that you use a coaching approach to your staff. In my opinion individual churches and the global Church would look very different if more pastors and leaders implemented coaching in their leadership style. In your experience coaching, which of the four-step process that Camacho explains has been the most difficult for you to implement? What has most empowered you?

    • Chad Warren says:

      Kari, in my experience coaching, the first step of deep listening, is my greatest struggle. I can struggle to listen deeply and completely without thinking about what I might say next. I am most empowered by helping to determine the next steps.

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