To allow His Story to continue unfolding, we must conclude the current chapter and welcome the next. This week, Kep Crabb, the founder of Larger Story, and Kris Gamble, one of its first employees, have a bittersweet conversation as friends and coworkers as they discuss Kris’ upcoming transition to a full-time MBA program and the remarkable journey they’ve experienced personally and professionally while launching the ministry.
[00:00:28] Kep Crabb: Welcome everyone to the Larger Story podcast: Relational Spirituality. Where you belong, you become, and you can be known.
Today’s going to be a little different. I’m joined today by a colleague of mine for the past, almost five years. Five years here in about a month. Kris Gamble. Kris has been with me since basically the beginning of Larger Story, and I have been so grateful to have had Kris by my side as we’ve leaned on each other and hopefully relied on the Spirit’s guidance to get us to where we are now with what you know is Larger Story. Kris is, as you can guess, moving on to the next chapter of his journey and he’s going to be leaving us at Larger Story here pretty soon.
We just wanted to spend a little time chatting about his time here with Larger Story, what he’s leaving with, and what the Lord’s going to be doing with him in the rest of his journey. So I guess without any further ado, Kris, thanks for joining me today, brother.
[00:01:29] Kris Gamble: Hey Kep, good to be here. And hello everyone.
I will miss these times, if this is the last one I end up doing. Maybe I’ll make a guest appearance at one point in the future.
Kep Crabb: I sure hope so.
Kris Gamble: As I sat down to think about this conversation, Kep, I started to write some questions: How did I come to the conclusion of leaving? What’s my experience been working with Larger Story? What came out was a narration of my time with Larger Story over the last five years. What I mentioned to you just a little bit ago is, maybe I can jump into sharing some of that and you can chime in along the way, fill in details. I’d love to just share my smaller story within Larger Story here on this episode. I think that can lead up nicely to explaining the transition.
I was first introduced to you, Kep, five years ago, right around this time, by a good friend of yours and a mentor of mine, Rich Cannon. I was, at the time, a couple of years into launching a mobile app startup that was struggling to get off the ground. We had built this app around this idea for more meaningful event networking that was less random and hoping to run into the right people, but using an app to connect people with the right people in real time at the events.
Well, we built an app, but we weren’t making money. Rich knew that you were looking for help with Larger Story and building a website and that I was looking for income and connected me and you and said, “Kep, here’s a guy, if it works great. Kris, here’s a guy, if it works great. And if not, no problem.”
I think we had a good conversation because that first one turned into this, five years later.
[00:03:43] Kep Crabb: If you remember, it was going to be a very temporary situation. You were only going to do maybe six months to a year just to help me out in some ways and get a little dollars to do some of that, to continue to do what you were doing.
It kind of morphed into what it’s been for the last five years, which I always like to refer to as a very divine data point. I think our friend, who I’ve known for years and who’s been a spiritual mentor to you in many ways over the past several years of your life, was just used by the Holy Spirit to put us together.
It was really cool. It was fun to see, even in retrospect, how the Lord’s working and what the Lord’s up to.
[00:04:26] Kris Gamble: Yeah. It felt like a good fit for me because, prior to my app startup, I helped start a ministry in college that I then ran for a number of years after college. Also, Larger Story is the legacy ministry of Larry Crabb. Larry Crabb was a Christian psychologist. My degree was in psychology and my undergrad. And, personally, I did a lot of soul care within my ministry setting and didn’t even realize that term existed until getting into work with Larger Story. So, it felt like a God appointment on my end as well from the get-go.
It’s been quite a journey, Kep, that we’ve had over the last five years with Larger Story. Plenty of ups and downs and twists and turns, but we’ve come a long way since. Today I just wanted to take some time talking about how far we’ve come.
[00:05:37] Kep Crabb: Let me step in for just a second. I know you’re going off some notes, but I think at this point a lot of things happened in your life since you’ve been part of the team at Larger Story. You’ve gotten married, you’ve gotten your home, you got a dog, – which I always think is so cool – but a lot of big things have happened. You went through a lot of big things with me as we were continuing to build Larger Story: Kimmie’s diagnosis, Dad passing away, all these different things that were big pieces. You were in the trenches with me during a lot of those really intense moments that I think will always leave a mark on me, bro. You kept me energized, you kept me encouraged, you kept me moving when sometimes I felt like I really didn’t want to and there were times where it would’ve been easy to say, I want to walk away from this, we’ll do something else, maybe we can honor Dad some other way but this is too important. I think that’s been some of the lessons that I’ve learned in these last five years working with you.
[00:06:46] Kris Gamble: I may get to it here in a little bit, but it’s mutual; getting to go through my major life transitions with getting married and some of yours with your wife’s diagnosis, as you said. I’ll probably share a little bit more later, but you’ve been an inspiration to me through the journey.
Continuing on with the narrative, we hosted our first event since your dad passed – the Larger Story summit – which was a tribute to his life. I think it was a wonderful event. From that, we introduced some of your dad’s very good friends that have learned from your dad and embodied his teaching, but are now expressing those learnings in their own unique voices in their spheres of influence.
We had our first event without your dad. We’ve introduced new voices through that event and through our podcast, which we’ve launched this year. We’ve got another event coming up early next year. Lord willing, as many people know, we filmed the first of a three-part spiritual formation digital discipleship resources, what we call it, and we’ve got the next two on the way as we speak. We published the first of the last three of your dad’s books, Waiting for Heaven. We did that self-publishing when all of his others have been produced by a publishing house. We have a pretty regular following with our podcast, which is cool.
Kep, personally, you and Larger Story and the team have been a tremendous blessing to me in my life. Digging into that and, what you alluded to earlier, just a few months before I started with Larger Story, I had met a girl and started dating her. If I had not joined Larger Story within a few months, I wouldn’t have had the means to take her out on a date much longer, which probably meant she would think, “This guy is not capable of being a provider,” and may have dipped out. She’s probably not that shallow, but I say that to say that I got engaged to and married my wife while at Larger Story.
When I think about my time at Larger Story, a word that comes to mind is that it’s been stabilizing in my life. It’s been the first job where I did work but I didn’t have to fundraise myself personally. Knowing that I did my work and I had a paycheck coming in and it was relatively guaranteed felt stabilizing.
[00:10:14] Kep Crabb: I think what I’d want to chat more about with you today is, there’s a lot of logistical things that we’ve done. I think we’ve had a chance by the grace of God to do a lot of neat things and a lot of things that I think really do have some opportunity to be life-changing. We’re in the middle of some of those now, and that’s really the essence of it.
That’s where I want to go with you; you’ve now worked with this ministry. You didn’t know Larry Crabb from anybody before, you got a chance to meet Dad several times. You actually got a chance to go through the SSD before he passed away. What did it do to you from a relational standpoint in respect to how you look at yourself now as a husband? How you look at yourself now as a son of God? How you look at yourself in different ways? I think that’s where – I’ve said this to you before, Kris, and I really mean it – I’ve known you now for five years. I’ve seen so much growth and desire to know the Lord at a deeper level in a way that really does change how we live. I’ve seen that with you and that’s been the thing that’s been most exciting to me. I’m so grateful to have had you on the team, but now to send you off and keep doing that.
I’ve said this to you, you’re always going to be a part of Larger Story, that’s never going to change. You might not be working for Larger Story anymore, but you’re still going to be with Larger Story and involved in what we’re doing, because you’re part of God’s Larger Story; your smaller story is, my smaller story is and so how do we continue to keep this movement? I guess my big question is more, what has happened to you relationally since you’ve been with us?
When I first met you, you had really long hair and you were like, “I think I know what I’m doing here. I’m pretty sharp.” and you had all these things going on. Now you’re a mid 30 year old guy with a wife that you just celebrated – was it your three year anniversary? Four year anniversary. My gosh. Four years, just yesterday, congratulations on that. How are you different? I want to believe, and I really do, that you are a different person than the first Kris Gamble that I met in 2018. You’re not the same guy. If you were, I think I would be really disappointed in that you shouldn’t be the same guy and you’re not.
[00:12:56] Kris Gamble: That category is one of the ones that I’ve been thinking about. One way of saying it is, I’ve grown in awareness of how I impact others; which is something your dad emphasized knowing, how do we impact others? Some of the conclusions I’ve had are on the “need for growth” side.
I do think I’m aware of – and you kind of allude to it, long-haired guy that thinks he knows what’s up – I do think I’m aware that God impacts people through me in positive ways. But there are also some more difficult ways that I impact people, particularly on our team, that He has helped me to see. I don’t know that I’m over those things, but I can be very judgmental of others and I can wear that judgment or I can even express that judgment. I can be condescending. That is how my judgment can sound. Kep, you unfortunately have been the recipient of that. I’ve said this to you prior, but I’m sorry that you have been the recipient of that judgment and pride and condescending tone. I’m grateful that you’ve been gracious and patient with me in my process of sanctification that is uncovered as we relate authentically and closely, like we do on our team.
[00:14:49] Kep Crabb: One of the reasons, Kris, that I’ve been so patient with you in so many ways – we’ve had our times and I can handle somebody being condescending or any of those kinds of things – I think one of the things that really has given me hope is to see your desire to grow.
We talk about at Larger Story, what does it mean to put Jesus on display by how we relate to people? I’ve talked many times about, you can say the same thing in two very different ways to get your point across. One of my mentors talks about how you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
The growth process that I’ve seen in you in the last five years as a young man moving into now, where you wouldn’t be considered as young of a man anymore. You know, you’re five years older now, you’re a mid 30 year old man. I love to see the growth that you’ve made in respect to how you love people. I feel like you’ve challenged me in ways in these five years, which has been awesome. I’ve been grateful for that. I think I’ve challenged you in ways and I think that it’s been such a great example of an older guy – I’m 20 years older than you are – and a younger guy who are working together for the same purpose and yet still that iron sharpening iron piece. You know, we’ve had a chance to pray together a bunch. We’ve had a chance to cry together a bunch. We’ve had a chance to laugh together a bunch, and we’ve had a chance to see God’s work taking place – not just in creating courses and producing books and putting together groups and ambassador groups and prayer teams and all that stuff and all the spiritual directors – That stuff’s awesome. But what’s it doing to you? What’s going on in your soul, in your heart? As you get ready to leave us at Larger Story, what are you taking with you?
One thing that you’ve become aware of is, whether you’re on a team of two people, three people, four people, or 25 people, there’s going to be tension. It’s just the way it works. Remember what I said when we were going through some of those times? I said, if Peter, James, and John couldn’t pull it together at the Mount of Transfiguration – arguing who’s the coolest guy of us down here – we all don’t have a chance.
Dad used to say – I’ve said this to you Kris, and I love this line – It’s not about failing because we’re going to fail. But what do you do with that? Where do you go with that? How do you respond to your failure? Know that you’re completely covered in the blood of Christ and you’re completely redeemed, even though this side of heaven you still have that flesh-spirit battle.
I think you’re going to have that all the way up to the very end. I’ve had a chance to see a few people finish and my biggest prayer for all of us is that we understand what it means to finish well. I think what you and I have talked about is, what does it mean to finish well as you finish with Larger Story?
I think, Kris, you have been. I think you are in the process of doing that. I know you haven’t found a job yet, you’re looking for one – we’ll get into explaining that, I want to keep moving here so we can keep things rolling.
Just to tell you all, Kris is going to be starting a master’s degree program at Johns Hopkins University in some very cool things, and he’ll talk about that in a little bit. So, there’s some transition happening. He called me at the beginning of April and he said, very candidly, “Kep, I’ve really enjoyed this andI’m never going to leave you hanging, but I’m going to be looking for another job.”
And I said to Kris, if you remember, I said, “I’ve been waiting for this call. I knew this would happen at some point. This wasn’t going to be the last job you ever had. But let’s finish this thing well. Don’t give up on me and I won’t give up on you. Let’s do this well and continue to have this relationship that we’ve built.”
I love how we’re ending this professional relationship, Kris, but yet our personal relationship continues. That’s something that I’m excited about, because I would want to call you and say, “Kris, I got an idea. Give me your quick thoughts.” Just because I want your mind on it. I like the way you think. You’ve been probably the closest partner I’ve had as we started Larger Story, through all the ups and downs. You alluded to a few of them earlier, but it was rough early on. I didn’t know what I was doing. We didn’t know what we were trying to do. We knew we wanted to do something – this was when dad was still alive. Just so you people know too – I’m sitting here kind of giving Kris some accolades, but he deserves these – before zoom webinars became popular – which of course during Covid, all of us realized that’s how we lived, but probably about a year before we had to live that way – Kris said, let’s get your dad doing webinars and we’ll record them. We probably recorded a couple of dozen of those in that year. That’s material today that, when I watch some of those videos, I’m in tears listening to my father teaching the scriptures.
Those were your ideas. Those then turned into this. Then, dad, believe it or not, said, “Can I do something during Covid on Saturday nights to teach the Bible?” And I said, “Done. We’ll promote it and we’ll do it on our Zoom line, and you do whatever you want to do.”
He started to get excited about doing that, which by the way is a miracle in itself, as you know. All the stuff that you’ve been part of in helping create, helping develop, helping direct, has been so important and you’ve been a huge inspiration to me as we continue to move forward with Larger Story in the post Kris Gamble era.
I’d like you to unpack a little bit about what you’re going to be doing and what’s going to be happening. You’ve kind of alluded to some of the reasons that brought you to the fact that you need to move on. Talk a little bit about that for us now.
[00:20:48] Kris Gamble: I kind of had a “third of my life crisis” when I turned 35 and I realized that I’m getting close to 40 and to that stage where we start to establish ourselves, or at least historically, in a career direction. I’ve always been entrepreneurial minded, hence the startup as I got hired and starting up a ministry before that. I realized through helping you start Larger Story that there is still a lot I don’t know in business finance and product development. I came to this conclusion, maybe I need to go back to school. Not to mention my wife had just graduated with her masters. She got this job with a college starting here in Savannah. Everyone on their staff has at least one PhD, if not multiple. They are very inspiring to be around. It just got me thinking, I think I want to go back to school and learn how to do business and learn more about technology.
That was part of the seed there, and then I started looking at MBA schools; particularly remote ones so that I could continue to do Larger Story but also get the education in the evenings or on the weekends, however they structured it. I found this program. It’s a dual master degree program, so it’s an MBA at Johns Hopkins, and it’s a Master’s of Arts in what’s called “design leadership” at a school called Maryland Institute College of Arts – MICA for short. A master’s in design leadership is a degree in what’s known as design thinking; it’s a way to solve problems and it’s related to user experience design. How does a person experience a website? How does a person experience a software? How does a person experience walking into a store? That’s a user experience design. It’s related to strategic problem solving. So this alternative Masters of Arts in design leadership really perked my interest. That’s how I landed at the particular master’s program that I’m going to.
Then I started to think about the cost. It’s not cheap to get an MBA from a good school and it’s not cheap to get two master’s degrees. I thought, there are jobs out there that do tuition reimbursement. I bet Kep might want to work with me to help me go through school, but I was like, I don’t want to ask more of Larger Story. I then started thinking, what do I ultimately want to do? What direction do I want to go in?
Think about the world we’re in today. We’re in the middle of a technology revolution, and this is a little bit of what I was telling you in the team. We’re in the middle of a technology revolution, maybe like no other in history. I know you’ve mentioned it, but AI, artificial intelligence, is close to the point of being equitable to human intelligence. They think we’re only a couple years off from having a machine that’s as smart as a human and indistinguishable from a human and it sounds kind of sci-fi and farfetched. Elon Musk has a company called Neurolink and he’s implanting computer chips into brains so that brains can control things with their thoughts alone, and that the chip can also influence the brain, which is just scary. We’re in an age where augmented reality and virtual reality are also just around the corner.. I say this, but people are going to be living inside virtual reality worlds. They already do. It’s video games like Fortnite and World of Warcraft, they spend most of their days on these video games, and it’s got me thinking. What is the role of a Christian with all of this hitting us in our world today, and what’s the role of the church with all of this hitting us in our world today? What is biblically ethical? What should we speak out against and say that’s too far?
Something you said at one point or another Kep, at one point the church in history set the standard for culture in arts, in innovation, particularly around the Renaissance period. The church created the university system and hospitals, and commissioned much of the art in the world at that time. Now, this is what you had said, “It feels like the world is dictating our culture and the church is playing catch up.” If we want the church to have an influence on society – there are many aspects, but one aspect is what’s happening in technology – I hope to see more Christian minds in that sector contributing to what is ethical and innovative.
And I hope to be one of those by going into a master’s program at an innovative research institution like Johns Hopkins. Now as I look at this transition and thinking about all this and I was thinking, I want to move in the direction of more software technology, business, product development. It’s got me looking and applying to various companies. And that’s where I’m at.
[00:27:15] Kep Crabb: It’s been so fun, Kris, to see what the Lord’s done in your life and the commitment that you’ve made to Him and the growth that you’ve made in the last five years with Larger Story, with us. It’s been such a fun thing to be on the sidelines watching you grow and watching the Lord use you. I don’t think He’s done, man. I think He’s got big plans for you and I’m excited for you.
I mean, when you told me at the beginning of April, I knew it was of the Lord because I felt so relaxed and so at peace and said, I’ve been waiting for this call. I knew it was time, and you’re leaving Larger Story in a really good place. I think you’ve allowed me to understand what it means to help manage people a little bit and be the leader of this organization in ways that I’m super grateful for. I’m really grateful, Kris, for what the Lord’s doing in your life more than anything. I’m super thankful to have had you on my team for the last five years and I’m grateful for the relationship that we’ll have for the rest of our lives.
We just wanted you all to know what was going on with Kris, because so many of you guys have developed relationships with him as well, which of course will not end when his time working for Larger Story ends. Your relationships will continue, like mine will with Kris. I’m just really proud of what the Lord’s done in your life, Kris and the husband that He’s made you, the man that He’s made you. I hope I don’t sound condescending when I tell you I’m proud of you, but I’m grateful to have had you on my team and to have known you and I can’t wait to see what God’s going to do with you, man. So, anything you want to say as we conclude your time with this ministry?
[00:29:01] Kris Gamble: Yeah, I did have a few more thoughts. You asked how I’ve grown relationally and I could share a bunch of other ways that I’ve realized the sinful ways that I’ve impacted others. I’m just thankful to not just you, but the whole team for the team’s graciousness and patience in loving me through the way that my sin does impact folks. Like you’ve alluded to, it impacts the way that I relate to Allison and want to relate to her differently because if you guys are getting it, how much more is Allison experiencing that?
Also, just to touch on, I’ve developed so many skills vocationally within Larger Story related to website development and maintenance, podcasts, audio editing, marketing, and so on. What a blessing it has been to grow my tool belt while I’m here.
A couple more thoughts for me. You mentioned seeing your dad finish well. I know that I won’t forget how I got to watch your dad finish his life well. My last grandparent died 30 years ago, so I didn’t get to see that. I haven’t actually lived next to older generations passing. Sadly, as you know and we’ve alluded to, it’s common to see folks choose not to finish well, so what a privilege it was to watch your dad finish his life.
I wrote something that I wanted to say to you, Kep. I’m grateful for the risk you took of bringing somebody you didn’t know onto your team, and for what I’ve perceived as a genuine love and care for me and my wife and my spiritual well being, and for doing what it takes to keep the lights on and your employees paid, and that sense of stability that has brought in my life. Ultimately, I’m grateful for seeing you be obedient to God and trying to see the impact that your father had and the legacy that he has established continue on to reach a broader audience for God’s glory.
I also wanted to share that it’s been an honor. We talked about your father’s memory and legacy. It’s been an honor to participate in sharing and stewarding that memory and legacy, one that I hope that I haven’t taken lightly. As you mentioned, in the ups and downs and walking through significant seasons in one another’s life, it’s been an honor to walk next to you as your dad and friend, mentor, and hero passed into glory. It’s been an honor and inspiration to see how you’ve loved, served, cared for and sacrificed for your wife as she has battled for her life in her smaller story – because we know her life in the Larger Story is one that’s eternally sealed. I hope that if I ever have to face something as scary as you have with Kimmie, that I face it with the eternal perspective that you’ve had throughout it and the perspective I’ve seen ground you and keep you when it could be easy to lose hope to quit or to turn to other sources for comfort. So thank you for caring for me, Kep, and this team in the way that you sought to lead us through each step of this journey.
[00:33:13] Kep Crabb: That means a whole lot, Kris, thank you for those words. In respect to Kimmie and the cancer stuff with her, I don’t think I had that perspective early on. I think that’s what’s come. I think that God really put that in my life to allow me to have the perspective to be able to lead this ministry. I don’t think I would’ve had the maturity or the perspective to be able to lead this ministry in the way that I think I’ve been able to get because of the Holy Spirit’s work in my life in these last few years. That’s why, early on, I was operating out of fear, and then you came in and we started to get a little more confidence in what we were we were wanting to do, and made some changes and some decisions, and then all of a sudden we got hit with some big things. That’s just, God’s plan and God’s Larger Story is perfect. Even though it has our screwed up, smaller stories in it, it’s not going to be thwarted, and it’s going to come to fruition. And Kris, I’m just grateful for you, man. I’m grateful for where you’re going. You’ll always be a part of Larger Story, for sure; you’ll always be a big part of it and a big part of establishing where we are now. So Kris, I love you. Thanks for being part of my team and part of this team, and more importantly, part of God’s team, and none of that will ever change, you’re on the team.
Folks, thanks for joining us today. Be praying for Kris and this transition. Be praying for us with Larger Story during this transition as well. Our goal is to put Jesus on display as we wrap up this chapter, but it continues and life continues until Jesus comes back to take us home. Y’all have a great day. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you next Tuesday.
[00:35:09] Kris Gamble: Thanks guys.
And I love you too, Kep.