Kyle Garrison: Relentless Church
It’s a September afternoon as I click the link to Facetime Kyle. I’ve known Kyle Garrison for what seems like forever. We worked together at Starbucks; he helped me host a Bible study; he even performed my wedding ceremony! In the years I’ve known Kyle, he’s been creating a truly inspirational story. One that shows true courage and innovation. Who among us hasn’t been frozen by fear when we know in our hearts we’re not pursuing our dreams? But where we’re at seems safe and easy, and venturing into the unknown is dangerous and scary. Regardless of whether you’re a devout Christian, a believer in the power of the Universe, or strictly scientific, Kyle’s message will uplift and inspire you.
Dylan: Hi Kyle! Thanks so much for talking to me today.
Dylan: Just to give Kyle a little bit of an introduction: he is the founder and pastor of Relentless Church in Savannah, Georgia. So, Kyle, I know a little bit about your back story. I remember when you left Starbucks to start preaching full time, but why don’t you go ahead and tell us a little bit about your journey.
Kyle: Yeah, so I started out in 2004. I was on track to do medical school. I wanted to do cardiology. Two years in I was playing music a lot in Christian avenues. About two years in I just realized I wanted to go into ministry. So I left a full scholarship that would have taken care of medical school, and all that kind of stuff, to go into a ministry at a church in Hardyville, South Carolina. I was doing youth and music.
So, I was there for about seven years, and then, God moved me to another church two years after that. In that two years- it was a really crazy two years- I went through a big traumatic brain surgery, and all kinds of stuff like that. Then, in those two years, God kind of gave me this idea. I didn’t know it was for a church back then; I just kind of had these ideas to improve the church I was at. The more I wrote it down, the more I realized I had a vision to start something new. Something that maybe hadn’t been seen before. That’s kinda how Relentless came about- in a short version. Haha.
Dylan: That’s really cool. I love your story so much. Just cause you had such a dramatic shift in your life going from wanting to be a cardiologist to then starting your own church- it’s just such a big leap. It takes a lot of courage to make a leap like that.
Kyle: Yeah, for sure. Especially on the financial end of things.
“Every businessman had a simple idea that he made into something.”
Dylan: Yeah! So what was really the driving force behind wanting to start your own church as opposed to maybe taking an “easier” route and getting a job somewhere else?
Kyle: So when I was having all these ideas, the biggest thing for me- I don’t necessarily like the idea of creating things that people have already done. If it’s already been done, my kind of mindset is “let’s support what’s done and make it better” or you know, “strengthen the nuts and the bolts”, that kind of thing. So, when I was getting this idea for a church, the thing that I was intentional about, and the thing that made me realize I was going to start something, not partner with something, is it was going to look different and be different than what had been done. Maybe not in the first few years of the start-up, but I knew that the end goal: it was going to look different than what most churches do.
So that excited me because God- He makes us creative beings. Every great business man had a simple idea that he made into something. You talk about Starbucks where we met- [Howard Schultz] just wanted to serve coffee, but he did it in a different way than anyone ever saw. So for me, if I was going to start [a church] it needed to be different.
Dylan: Awesome. You know, going [to the church], Relentless- it has this really clear vision for the type of environment that you guys want to create. It’s probably one of the more welcoming churches that I’ve ever been to- not to diss on any other congregations (lol). But you guys just really have this vision that you’re trying to create. So what are some of the core principles that really help bring Relentless to life?
Kyle: So that’s actually our mission statement: to see people come alive in Christ. We gear everything to make sure that whatever we do, it encourages people to come alive in who they are, what their abilities are. There are so many times in the church environment where it’s all about making the pastor’s dreams come true. But I wanted to be the avenue to make Christian’s dreams come true- [the dreams] that God’s given them. Instead of trying to build my thing, I wanna build your thing, and then together we build something great.
So, with Relentless, some of the biggest core values we have: Number One is Family. Everything starts with family, in my opinion. As far as what I’m trying to do with the church, it’s one thing to come together and hear a sermon, but when you have people build a life together, and you create a support system without having to seek out another support group, or if you’re creating friendships within the church to where you can’t wait to get together to glorify God, it’s a whole different stream. You don’t have to beg people get involved because they’re so connected that they want to do it anyways. And then, with that family, it creates a really nice atmosphere of no judgement. Because since we all know each others faults, it’s not hard to welcome other people who have faults- because we all do! So, that’s a big driving factor for the church. Making sure we’re all transparent and take off masks- if you will.
And then, we are very passionate about excellence. Nothing should be half way done. If we really want to glorify God, it should all be to the extreme. The third thing is we’re really passionate about seeing another move of God. The thing about the move of God is it’s gotta look different than before. And it goes back to that whole driving factor that started the church, if we really want to see a move of God, if we really believe God is so big, then his next thing is probably completely different from the former thing. He’s just never-ending. His ideas are never-ending. His creativity is never-ending. So, if that makes sense, those are kind of the driving factors behind the church.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s great. So how does Relentless reflect your own personal beliefs and values?
“Part of the environment, and part of what we believe, is making a place where anyone can come in and feel like they just walked through the door of their own living room.”
Kyle: So, I grew up in a couple different denominations, worked in a few different denominations, and I’ve never liked the “us” and “them” mentality. Even when I worked for Starbucks, or when I went to college, you can tell there’s different people in different areas. You have the people who hang out here, and the people who hang out there.
I like to be the guy who says, “Hey. I’m me. Let’s just all be together. And if you don’t like me, that’s ok.” I don’t try to prove myself, personally, to fit in. I’m just- I’m Kyle. You see what you get. So with Relentless, I love that we’re not a white church. We’re not a black church. We’re not a young church. We’re not an old church. It’s just- “Hey, we’re all here to come together and worship God.” So part of the environment, and part of what we believe, is making a place where anyone can come in and feel like they just walked through the door of their own living room. If that answers the question at all.
Dylan: Yeah, absolutely. When I think of Relentless, I always think about how you were really clear with the people who were helping you put the church services together, you were really clear about “Hey. I have some friends who might come. They’re gay. That doesn’t mean we’re gonna be mean to them or tell them anything. We’re just inviting them in.” And I always thought that was so great. I even had a boyfriend for a little while who would go with me, and he didn’t believe in God at all, but he was okay going because no one was going to come up to him and be finger waving.
Kyle: Right! Like, “Oh, you’re going to Hell. You need to get saved!”
Dylan: Yeah! So that’s what I always think about when I think about Relentless- is that it’s really for everybody. So where do you find inspiration for the sermons that you give?
Kyle: So one thing that think the church lacks, from my end, is that we’re really great about teaching that Jesus saves people from sin, but we don’t really spend a lot of time teaching people the other how-to’s. Like we say we believe in healing, but no one teaches on how to heal. We say we believe in all these different foundations of Christianity, but we don’t dive into it. We don’t dive into the hard questions. So when I form messages… like I’m teaching about David right now, and he was a man who was called after God’s heart, but if you read the whole story, he messed up like every other Bible verse. He was just a regular man.
So when I craft my messages, I try to make sure that they reach people who have never heard about Jesus. They reach people that have just accepted Jesus, and they reach people who have known about Jesus for twenty years. So, it’s a good, applicable way to say, “Oh? You believe? Well this is your next step.” or “Oh? You’ve listened to sermons for thirty years? This is what you’re not doing.”
I try to make sure they’re very relevant to the culture, but not excusing culture. I think one of the biggest issues in my field of work is that sometimes the church tries to be so cultural that they almost compromise on what they’re doing- just to get people in the seats. You know, our vision’s kind of changed where we’re not even driven to fill the seats. We’re just driven for whoever comes- let’s just take you on a walk. If that makes sense, that’s kind of how I craft the messages.
Dylan: Yeah, that’s great! So, what three pieces of advice would you give to people who are trying to find their purpose?
“He said, “I have all these people, and there is something about this one person that I need to get on this Earth to make it that much better.”
Kyle: Number One: Stay true to you. People think they have to bend who they are to fit in and find their purpose. But often times, in the bend, we forget that the reason we’re so uniquely made is that we have something special to bring to the table that the world needs. I always refer to the Scripture that says, “God knew us before we were in our mother’s womb.” So, like, He created us before we were created. So there was an intentional thing about us that was needed, that no one else had.
He said, “I have all these people, and there is something about this one person that I need to get on this Earth to make it that much better.” So stay true to you, because there’s something about you that nothing else has. There’s something about Donald Trump that no one else has. There’s something about President Obama that no one else has. There’s something about me that no one else has. Everyone has something different.
“I would rather spend my whole life pursuing the application of something I’m passionate about than just settling to fit in a mold so I can pay bills until I die.”
The second thing I would say is don’t discount your dreams. A lot of times we think, “Oh, well, I’m just a dreamer.” No. Every good idea starts as a dream. So it doesn’t matter how crazy it is, if you’ve got a dream… I would rather spend my whole life pursuing the application of something I’m passionate about than just settling to fit in a mold so I can pay bills until I die.
I think we’re all built to be creative to some degree. Maybe not creative in the idea of art, but create conversations, create great atmospheres at a job. So, don’t discount your dreams; run after them; there’s a reason you had them.
And then the third, would be to not compromise your beliefs in pursuing what you’re called to do or want to do. So many times, we compromise our beliefs, and I think a good steer in your life is if you have compromise your beliefs, it’s probably not the path you were meant to take. If there’s a place you have to compromise, steer the wheel because God’s trying to tell you that that’s an exit off the interstate. “Stay on the interstate until I show you the right exit.”Dylan: Those are great. Those are great pieces of advice. I hope somebody really takes them, and uses them, because I think they’re amazing. So, thank you again, for taking the time to meet with me today. One last kind of weird question, before I let you go- what’s your spirit animal?
Kyle: My spirit animal?!
Kyle: I don’t know if I’ve ever thought about that. Probably a lion.
Dylan: A lion? I like it. I can see that.
Kyle: I don’t know much about all that, but I do know that I’m real chill, but when it comes time to go at it- I’m all in.
Dylan: That’s awesome. You guys can find more information about Relentless at relentlesschurchsav.com [S-A-V: that’s for Savannah 😉] or on instagram @relentlesschurchsav. (Cause we love Savannah). Thank you Kyle!
Kyle: Thank you so much.
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