By Maina Mwaura
Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and a frequent speaker and author on the subjects of Christian leadership.
In his latest book Didn’t See it Coming (available September 2018), Nieuwhof says he wants to help Christian leaders avoid and overcome some of the biggest challenges that can cripple a ministry.
“I would say that our interior journey is the hardest journey and the most rewarding,” says Nieuwhof. “It’s so easy to blame everybody and everything about what goes wrong in our lives.”
Nieuwhof says the older he gets the more he’s come to realize that success in life is defined by a person’s character. “Almost weekly, there is someone influential falling morally, and it’s not because of their competency,” Nieuwhof told Facts & Trends.
“In fact, they are usually at the top of their game when it comes it competency, but it’s usually because of their character. Writing this book helped me connect the dots in my own life over the last two decades.”
You mention in the book seven challenges we have to face: cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and emptiness. Where did the list come from?
There were originally nine, and I narrowed it down to seven. The process of coming up with the list of seven was a three-step process, I began looking at other leaders, then I looked at myself, then I looked at universally what we all struggle with.
For example, moral failure was on the list, however not everyone has a moral failure. When I began to look at the list in a universal way in what we all struggle with it helped me come up with the list of seven.
Cynicism is first on the list. How can leaders overcome cynicism in a culture that thrives on it?
There are two different levels of hope and optimism that as people we all journey through.
When we’re 19 and young, we have so much hope and optimism and were open to taking on the world. I had so much hope and encouragement at that age.
When we get older, we usually grow jaded and most people, unfortunately, live there.[epq-quote align=”align-right”]Good leaders keep their heart engaged knowing the risk and understanding that life is what it is.[/epq-quote]Over a decade ago, I came to realize I had become cynical. I was 95 percent jaded and 5 percent hope at that time in my life.
Before I burned out, I felt I really struggled in this area. I had to come to realize that I didn’t want to live like that. I came to the point in my life that I was going to live in and hope again even if people are going to hurt me.
I had to come to the realization that 9 out of 10 times that most of the people we surround ourselves with don’t hurt us emotionally. When you discover that most people are great, it helps you become less cynical.
I spend time with a lot of leaders, and I’ve come to learn that leaders who thrive are people who see life for what it is, and they keep their hearts engaged.
The cynic stops and sees life for what it is and wants to tell us how terrible life is. Good leaders keep their heart engaged knowing the risk and understanding that life is what it is.
What advice would you give to the leader who is in the middle of dealing with cynicism because people have hurt them?
I would caution them to know that if you close your heart to people, you will end up closing your heart to God.
You mention in the book that progress begins when we become honest. How can pastors help the people in their church become honest with themselves?
We have to help people bridge the gap between their private walk and their public talk. It’s a constant battle for most of us.
We have to help people become authentic with themselves, which I believe is done by helping people discover the spiritual discipline of confession.
I think confession is a lost art, which is why we have to help people become authentic with themselves.
Most people can’t become authentic with others because they aren’t even authentic with themselves. There’s great reward when we show people how to live an authentic life.
You speak and write often on the areas of church growth and culture. What forecast would you give to a pastor who may be wondering where the church is headed in the area of culture and growth?
I study this stuff daily and everything is changing, even in what we would call the big and successful churches. There is a seismic shift occurring in our culture right now, and churches are panicking.
One example of the change that’s taking place is with technology. Back in the ’90s, if you wanted to see a TV show you had to be home to watch that show when it came on TV. Now you can watch a show at anytime and anywhere.
Most churches spend most of their time and budget on their one-hour worship services that only take place at that same time of the week.
We have to live between an analog and digital world; I think we can do both. Churches that pay attention to culture and where it’s going will do well.
MAINA MWAURA is a minister and freelance journalist who lives in the Atlanta area with his wife, Tiffiney, and daughter Zyan.