From Leadership


6 Things Christians Say That Sound Like Faithfulness…But Aren’t

I’ve heard it so many times.

Well, we’re just being faithful.

Sometimes I just want to look them in the eye and say, No, you’re not being faithful. You’re being ________ (fill in the blank with whatever is a more accurate description of what I think they’re being).

Of all the lies we tell, the lies we tell ourselves are the most destructive.

They prevent us from

Seeing ourselves accurately.

Clearly hearing what God has to say.

Seeing ourselves as others see us.

Self-deception is one of the most intense enemies a person can face.

One of the best things you can do is tell yourself the truth. And then live and lead out of that truth.

So, in the name of increasing self-awareness, here are six things Christians think are signs of faithfulness that most often…just aren’t.

faithulness1. I’m just speaking the truth

How many times have you been told by another Christian that they’re ‘just speaking the truth’, when a more honest assessment might be “no you’re not, you’re just being a jerk.”

Too many Christians try to pass off being abrasive and being self-righteous as being truthful.

If you’re speaking for Jesus, you just can’t separate grace and truth. You can’t.

Speak the truth in love. You’d be amazed at how much more effective it is.

2. We’re small, but we’re faithful

This of course, might actually be true. Small churches have many faithful leaders and people in them. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a small church.

But being a small church does not automatically mean you are being faithful. I’ve heard many leaders claim to be small and faithful when in fact, the more likely case is they’re small because they’re being ineffective.

This post on why most churches never break the 200 attendance mark sparked quite a debate and a good deal of defensiveness on the part of many church leaders.

Being small is not a sign of faithfulness. Not inherently. Sometimes you’re small because you’re ineffective. And sometimes you’re small for legitimate reasons. Just be honest about it.

3. We’re big because God is blessing us

Being a big church doesn’t necessarily mean that God is blessing your church. By that logic, anything that’s growing could claim God’s blessing (like an expanding street gang or a thriving black market business).

Large does not automatically equal faithful any more than small does.

You can grow a church without Christ. You shouldn’t, but you could.

Growth is, in my view, a sign of health. But being big does not mean you’re being faithful or healthy.

On the other hand (and I say this because so many people take easy shots at large churches), many large churches are faithful. Being large is not evidence you are unfaithful.

You can be small and be faithful. And you can be large and faithful. And the opposite is true.

By the way, if you want a refreshing take on the large church v. small church debate, listen to my interview with Karl Vaters. I’m from a larger church. He’s from a smaller church, and we actually get along. Here’s the direct link to iTunes where the interview is Episode 30.

4. I’m just misunderstood

A surprising number of people feel misunderstood.

And they say things like “Jesus was misunderstood, and so were the prophets.”  Well, yes. But the people who frequently claim to be misunderstood might find that changes if they learn to communicate more directly and more clearly.

Often Christians who claim to be misunderstood simply lack self-awareness.

Sure, there are moments in every person’s life where each of us is genuinely misunderstood. Some people, though, seem to frequently feel misunderstood. As in almost all the time. 

If you want to increase your self-awareness, here’s a post on four things self-aware people know that others don’t.

5. I’m being persecuted for my faith 

I live in North America. So do about 80% of the readers of this blog.

Move outside North America or the West, and you quickly find yourself in a world in which people get burned alive or beheaded for attending church or worshipping Christ. A world in which families lose their homes and livelihood for their allegiance to Jesus.

That is persecution.

Many North American Christian claim to be persecuted when in reality, their social skills need improving (see numbers 1 and 4 above).

Having someone get mad at you is not always persecution.

Having someone laugh at you for your faith is not persecution.

Nor is the brake job you need on your car ‘persecution’ (it’s just a brake job).

Or losing your bid on a dream home in a bidding war. Even if you lost out because someone doesn’t like Christians, that’s not exactly suffering for your faith.

If you think you’re being persecuted for your faith in North America, travel more.

6. I’m taking a Biblical approach

I’ve seen more than a few leaders claim to be taking a Biblical approach as soon as they start to feel threatened or inferior to someone else.

Implicit in this claim is a sense that anyone who is doing better, growing faster or seeing more traction has cheated or sold out. Undertone: I’m being biblical…they’re not.

Progress doesn’t always come immediately, and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. Sometimes Christians claim to be faithful when, in fact, they’re just being ineffective.

What’s needed is greater diligence, a better strategy, a better team, a fresh perspective and a push past the jealousy and envy we all sometimes feel.

So get some gut level honesty.

Why not just say “I’m happy for them” and then get to work on the things God has given you?

Anything You’d Add?

I know this is a bit of a tough post. But if we learned to call things for what they really are, wouldn’t we all be further ahead?

I’d love for you to add to this list. What else have you seen people call ‘faithfulness’ that isn’t?

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CNLP 051: The Nerdist’s Guide to Awesome Social Media for Your Church or Organization—An Interview with NewSpring’s Chris Dunagan

Almost everyone has a social media presence these days, but how do you make it awesome?

NewSpring Church’s Social Media Director Chris Dunagan explains, in super helpful detail, their approach to social media and how to truly connect with the people you’re trying to impact.

Welcome to Episode 51 of the Podcast.


Guest Links: Chris Dunagan

NewSpring Church

NewSpring Church on Facebook 

NewSpring Church on Twitter

NewSpring Church on Instagram

NewSpring Church on Periscope

NewSpring Church on YouTube

Chris Dunagan on Facebook

Chris Dunagan on Twitter

Chris Dunagan on Instagram

Chris Dunagan on Periscope

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Carey’s Facebook

Carey’s Blog



Perry Noble’s Blog

How I Believe Christians Should Repond to the Supreme Court’s Decision on Gay Marriage 



Some Advice on Same-Sex Marriage for US Church Leaders From a Canadian

CNLP 034: 21 Practical Tech Hacks That Will Free Up Your Time To Lead—An Interview with Geek Pastor Wayne Cordova

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Chris Dunagan sought opportunities to connect audiences with the gospel through social media. These are some of his tips for producing successful platforms:

  1. Focus on connecting with people. When you engage with your audience on social media, you want to connect with people where they’re already having conversations. Ask yourself, “What are people asking that we have an answer for?” When you approach social, you’re able to help people be better people with what you know from the Bible. And make it something your audience wants to engage with. Your social channels are not a bulletin board or an appropriate place to post rants. It’s an opportunity for a front porch conversation that offers new avenues for others to have a relationship with Christ.
  2. Tailor your message to each platform. How you tell your story will change across each media. The conversation you have on twitter will be different than the conversation you have on facebook. The age, gender and background of each demographic is vastly different, and you want to cater your messages around the interests of each audience. You don’t have to say the same thing on every channel. Switch up the language, be attentive to your audience and humanize your church’s voice. Our message goes further when we diversify our language, not when we say the same thing.
  3. View social as a mission field. Take a look at the Book of Acts and refresh your memory. If you look at the unified Roman culture and how they used technology of their era to advance the gospel, that’s where we are right now. If you can shift your view to a mission opportunity where you can reach people for Jesus, start there. When you spread the gospel as a mission opportunity, you’re going to reap the benefits. You’re doing the things we’re called to as believers.

Quotes from Chris

Pre-Orders and Free Bonuses For My New Book, Lasting Impact, Starts Today!

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Next Episode: Craig Groeschel

Almost everyone has a social media presence these days, but how do you make it awesome? NewSpring Church’s Social Media Director Chris Dunagan explains, in super helpful detail, their approach to social media and how to truly connect with the people you’re trying to impact.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 52.

Plus, you’ll get the bonus 1 year anniversary episodes and special Ask Carey episodes in September.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

rarely talked about tips

5 Rarely Talked About Tips For Every Communicator and Writer

If you write anything for a living, you know the pressure that comes with staring at a blank screen with a deadline approaching.

If you communicate within the context of the local church, like I do, you quickly discover that Sundays come around whether you’re ready or not.

I get asked regularly what I do to prepare for my messages, and there are a few things I practice and that I’ve seen other leaders do that I think can gain any communicator an edge.

They’re not talked about that often, but they work for me and for other communicators I admire. But even more than that, it took me years to get there.

Here’s to shortcuts. Five of them actually—for every communicator and writer.

counterintuitive tips

1. Focus initially on the quality of your thinking instead of the quality of your writing

So how do you get to a killer message, article or post? You think your way there before you write your way there.

Look, I admire great writers. They can make anything sound interesting, fun or even meaningful.

But I appreciate great thinking even more.

So will your audience.

A great idea adequately expressed is worth more than a bad idea eloquently expressed.

If you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.

If you’re trying to develop fresh angles, perspectives and insights, time is your best friend. I often start thinking through a sermon series or book a year or two in advance. I’ll keep notes in Evernote and just let the ideas simmer, refining them or adding to them regularly.

If time is your best friend, change of venue is your next best friend. I personally find that ideas get better not when I’m sitting at a computer keyboard, but when I’m doing something else: cycling, cutting the grass, washing the car, listening to a podcast or music or even cooking. Something in the back of my brain will connect dots I didn’t think connected.

When that happens, all you need is a place to record the idea. Again, Evernote is so handy. I have recorded dozens of voice files in Evernote during bike rides. It’s a convenient way to save key ideas I don’t want to lose without stopping.

This approach may not get you to next Sunday or your Wednesday deadline, but don’t get discouraged.

Instead, this week, why not start keeping notes on future series, articles and posts? Use whatever system you want, but just write your ideas down and let them gestate.

If you keep notes like this and refine your thinking over weeks and months, you’ll develop a catalogue of great ideas that can be put into use at any point in the future.

A good idea gets better over time. A bad idea gets worse over time. So give yourself time as a communicator or writer.

When you jot down your ideas and revisit them as time passes, you’ll have a much clearer sense of which is which, and the pressure to get to Sunday disappears. Plus you can keep refining them and making them better.

2. Spend a lot of time on a few key words or thoughts

When you’re keeping your journal of ideas and concepts for the future, keep them simple.

My notes look like a series of key phrases and ideas that I keep refining until they resonate.

If your thinking is strong (see #1 above), then the next most important thing is to phrase your thinking so it’s both memorable and impactful.

Many communicators I know and respect summarize their thinking in a bottom line: a short, memorable statement that outlines the main point of the message you’re delivering.

Here are some examples of bottom lines I’ve written recently:

Changing your mind can change your life. (For a message on Romans 12 on renewing your mind.)

Moral compromise compromises you. (For a future message on relative morality.)

You can make excuses or you can make progress but you can’t make both. (Originally for a blog post but also for a message and for a future book.)

God is bigger than your circumstances, and he’s better than your than your circumstances. (For a message on how to pray through tough circumstances.)

It can take me weeks or months of letting an idea simmer to reduce to a simple statement like the statements above, but it’s so worth it.

I find that once I have a key idea stated as simply as that, the message becomes relatively easy to write, because the statement has so much pre-loaded into it.

If you want more, I outline in detail how to write killer bottom lines here.

Why is this so important? It’s simple. If you’re not clear on what your message is about, no one else will be either.

If you can’t state the main point of your message in a simple phrase, then you don’t understand it well enough to deliver it.

3. Test your key ideas on a team

I personally do a lot of my writing alone, but I employ a team at key stages.

Some of my favourite writing moments happen when I walk a rough draft of the bottom lines and a short summary of the talk or series I’m working on into a meeting and bounce them off my team.

Three things happens when I present my outline to a team:

1. I learn which ideas resonate and which don’t. Better to find this out now than when giving the talk.

2. The team will frequently offer better ways to phrase key ideas than I’ve developed on my own. This makes the message or talk far better.

3. Verbally processing my ideas in front of a team often helps me discover better ways to say things than I would have discovered on my own.

I like to walk ideas into a meeting like this a month or two before I need to finish the message.

This works when you’re writing a piece too. Bouncing it off other people will almost always make your thinking and phrasing better.

Then I go back and finish up the talk on my own, sometimes checking back in, but sometimes not if the talk or piece is now resonating well.

4. Think more about God and your audience than you think about yourself

Most of us naturally over-focus on ourselves.

Will I deliver this well?

Will people laugh at my jokes?

Will I knock it out of the park?

I have those thoughts too. But when I focus on them, I tend to do less well than when I focus on two other elements: God and my audience.

A sermon is not really about how you ‘did’ as a communicator; it’s about God’s interaction with his people.

A talk isn’t about how you ‘did’ as a speaker; it’s about whether you helped your audience.

Ditto with a book.

Put a filter on your thoughts about you.

For sure, you need some personal elements in your talk…some stories, and maybe even some humour. But even while those elements are about you, they’re not. They’re about God using you and about your audience.

When you take the focus off of yourself, your insecurities lessen their grip. You begin to serve God and serve your audience through your communication, and you find you actually help people far more.

5. Focus on understanding your message, not memorizing it

This one’s for speakers.

How do you memorize a 45 minute talk?

I have no idea. But I regularly give 45 minute talks without using notes.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received on how to ‘learn’ a talk is this: don’t memorize your talk, understand it.

Think about the next conversation you have today at work or with your family. You don’t memorize what you’re going to say before you say it. Instead, you understand what you’re trying to accomplish (I need to talk about the third quarter results, or what we’re doing for dinner.)

A talk is obviously more complex, but not much more.

I think of my talk as having 4 or 5 larger components:


A story or bridge or some kind to get to the main point

The main point



If you do this, all you have to remember is the big idea of what fits in each part of the talk. Sometimes it’s as simple as thinking “How do I get to the main point again? Right, the story about last summer’s vacation!”

Personally, I will write out some stories and key phrasing in detail, but I don’t write a full manuscript any more.

I just write enough so I understand what I’m going to say.

That takes the pressure off of you as a communicator, because if you forget something the only person who knows is you. And the talk is shorter, so everyone wins. I wrote more about this subject in the post How To Deliver A Talk Without Using Notes.

More on Writing and Preaching

If you want more on writing, New York Times best selling author and preacher Mark Batterson shares his method of writing with me in this podcast. You can you listen directly on iTunes here or simply listen below.

Jeff Henderson, Lead Pastor of Gwinnett Church and founder of Preaching Rocket, gives a ton of great tips for preachings in this interview. You can listen below or go direct to iTunes here and listen to Episode 16 of my leadership podcast.

Any Tips?

What tips have you discovered for better communicating and writing?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

radical change

How Long Will It Take For My Church To Really, Actually Change?

One of the most common questions I hear from church leaders is “How long will it take my church to permanently change?”

It’s such a great question because change sometimes feels, well, impossible.

You hear a constant stream of complaints

You’ve run into too many people who like things the way they are now (or the way they were a long time ago)

You’ve got too many friends who got hurt badly trying to lead change

The committees keep meeting and they keep stalling

You’re starting to feel like Moses in the desert with no Promised Land in sight

I get that, I’ve been there.

But don’t get discouraged. Change—even radical change—is possible.

The bottom line? Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in one year. Don’t underestimate what you can do in five years.

radical change

Our Story: From Slow Death to Radical Transformation

I’ve led change in a local church for 20 years with many of the same core group of people I started with when I was a seminary grad.

I began ministry with three small mainline churches whose total average attendance was less than 50. These churches were about as traditional as churches get: century old buildings, organs, choirs, committees, few kids and zero growth.

Within 5 years we had sold all three buildings and merged the three churches into a new church with a new name and a new mission. In the process, we changed the structure of leadership, engineered a radical overhaul of the style of worship, moved to an elementary school and launched a building campaign. In the process, we grew to over 10 times our original size.

Then 7 years ago, a core of us left the denomination we were a part of. We left a nearly paid for building to start again in neighbouring communities as Connexus, launching two locations at once. We moved from a permanent building to rented facilities and planted as a North Point Strategic Partner. Now, we see over 1000 people on weekends, 60% of whom have little to no regular church attendance in their background. This has helped us realize our vision to be a church that unchurched people love to attend.

I realize, that’s a lot of change. Have we lost people? Of course.

But we have reached many more. And many didn’t leave. Some have been with us through the entire 20 year journey.

Change refuses to make peace with the status quo. Change bridges the gap between what is and what could be.

I share those things not to boast—God receives the credit—but to let you know that change is possible. Radical change is possible.

Radical Change IS Possible

Your church doesn’t have to be stalled or dying to experience the benefits of change.

One of the best examples of this is how Jud Whilite took over the senior pastor role at Central Christian Church in Las Vegas after Gene Appel had led it from 400 to over 8000 in attendance. If you follow church world at all, you know those transitions don’t always go well (that’s an understatement). How do you build on that? Under Jud’s leadership, Central has become a distinctly different church and grown even more.

It changed. And reached more people. (Jud will be a guest on my podcast this fall by the way. You can subscribe for here free.)

Two more stories of rapid change can inspire you.

Both Ron Edmondson and Jeff Price have turned their churches around radically within a two year window.  While transformation will still take longer, their stories demonstrate without a doubt that change is possible sooner than you’d think.  Both interviews are (in my view) worth the listen, especially if you need hope and strategy as a leader.

To access Ron’s episode directly on your smart phone go here.

For Jeff’s, go here.

How to Begin Change

Before you start engineering change, there are at least three prerequisites:

1. A clear and compelling vision, mission and strategy. Most people have a vision and mission, but few have a strategy. Mission answers the question of what we’re called to do. Vision answers why we’re called to do it. But strategy is about how we will accomplish it. Strategy is often the difference between success and failure. And please, understand, I’m talking about embarking on good change here—godly, biblical, wise and courageous change that will result in a mission being accomplished.  Not some whim of a dictator-like leader.

2. A team committed to bringing about the change. You can’t do this alone. You need at least a handful of people committed to the change. People who will pray with you and help broker the change. You can usually find them. You just have to look.

3. A deep resolve. Are people going to enthusiastically embrace even good change? Many will not, but most will—if you know how to lead them. Leading Change Without Losing It is a guide to help leaders navigate the nerve-wracking opposition that comes with change.

So HOW Long? (A Reasonable Time Frame for Change)

So how fast can you change? While times will vary, here’s what I believe is a reasonable timeframe for change based on an organization that is currently not on a path way to change:

12-18 Month Prep Period. Again, assuming you are going to bring up change in a change resistant culture, it might take you 12-18 months to get the prerequisites outlined above in place.

If you have a change-friendly context, you might be able to do this in 3-6 months. Either way, you’ll need to cast vision for change, create a vision, mission and strategy that will lead your church forward and share it all enough that is owned by at least a small group of people other than yourself (in our church of 50, we had maybe a dozen truly onboard to start).

One thing you can start changing in this window is your attitude. You can preach better, bring hope to meetings and inspire people. Attitude is something always in your control.

The goal of this prep period is to cast as clear and compelling picture as you can of who you are going to be and what you’re going to look like 5 years from now.

Then break the change down into short term (One year), medium term (2-3 years) and long term (3-5 year) goals.

Year 1. Year one is the time to get some quick wins under your belt. Move to a better curriculum. Preach better series. Introduce some new music. Change your meeting structure or frequency. Paint something. Pick some changes that are easy to make and will result in a better experience now.  Remember, these are clear steps that are going to help you get to your five year goal, not just random and unstrategic changes.

2-3 Years. Choose some structural changes you want to make. We reformed our governance structure, made initial plans to sell our historic buildings, started introducing new musicians and a band (as we moved away from traditional music), introduced some new spiritual growth initiatives and moved our kids ministry to where we wanted it to be. You need to start laying the structural support system for change now or by the time you get to year 5, your change won’t be sustainable.

4-5 Years. Make your final changes. For us, it meant that our transformation in Sunday service style, governance, structure and more was complete. The last 10% is always the hardest, so don’t quit. Don’t overestimate what you can accomplish in 1 year, but don’t underestimate what you can accomplish in 5.

5+ Years. Keep changing. You’re never done. And now you’ve got new issues to solve and anticipate that didn’t exist when you started. So keep going.

Change v. Transformation

You can create a lot of change in 5 years. But when does transformation happen?

What’s the difference between change and transformation? It’s two fold:

Transformation happens when the changes you make become embedded in the organizational culture. What was new has become normal. People assume it’s just going to be this way. And what was novel is now a foundation for all future decisions. The change has become a part of your organizational culture.

Most people no longer want to go back; they want to move forward. I say most people, because you’ll always have the dissenters. But most people want to move forward. They’re excited. Their vision has moved from being about the past to now embracing the present and future. The best is yet to come, and you can feel it.

So exactly when does transformation happen?

I believe transformation happens somewhere between Year 5 and Year 7.  

Once you’ve made the change, have demonstrated that you’re not turning back, and you’ve begun to see some of the benefits of change (you’re healthier and likely growing), then the shift in values and culture happens —almost silently.

You know it’s a new day when people can’t imagine going back to the way they once were.

And that is an incredible reward for those who navigate change. Not to mention to the people who will benefit from your renewed mission.

Another way to look at transformation is this: transformation happens when externally imposed change creates a set of new, internally owned values.

In other words, people have changed. They now believe and embrace what they once resisted.

What have you learned about change?

What stumbling blocks—or accelerants—have you discovered?

If you want more practical help for you and your team in leading  your church through change, my book Leading Change without Losing It is available with a DVD and study guide designed for elder board and staff discussions at a discounted price ($18.99 for both—regularly $31.98). Get your book and DVD study guide bundle here

As always, you can get an eBook only version of Leading Change Without Losing It on Amazon (no study guide)  or iBooks.

character tests

5 Character Tests Every Great Leader Passes

The longer I lead and the more I see, the more I’m convinced that character ultimately determines a leader’s true success.

Moral failure takes out more leaders than it should. But real success is deeper than just avoiding the ditch.

So where does the deepest level of leadership success come from? Ultimately it doesn’t come from a leader’s skill set; it comes from a leader’s character.

Your character determines your true capacity.

Why is that?

Character—far more than skill set—determines how deeply and passionately people follow you. A leader with character is a leader worth following.

A leader who lacks integrity may have followers, but he’ll never gain their full trust or their hearts.

After all, we all know highly skilled leaders who are never truly embraced; they’re merely tolerated.

Character, more than anything else, draws the hearts of people to your leadership.

The greatest leaders are highly skilled people whom other people love to be around. They’re people others admire, not just because they’re smart, but because they’re the kind of person other people want to become.

character testsSo how do you know whether your character passes the test?

In my view, the greatest leaders I know pass all five of these character tests many others fail.

1. Handling success

Often people will ask you how you handled your last failure. And that’s not an entirely bad question.

But how you handle your success is a far greater test.

Failure is, by nature, humiliating. It crushes pride.

Success does the opposite. It naturally inflates a leader’s pride. It’s intoxicating.

It takes both great self-awareness and great self-control to handle success. To not let the reports of your own brilliance or accomplishments go to your head.

The very best leaders remain humble, grounded and even self-deprecating. They don’t claim every perk of office and regularly help people who can’t help them back.

They avoid the gravitational pull of self-focus and, instead, stay focused on the mission before them and before everyone.

The ultimate test of a leader’s character is not failure, it’s success.

2. Being misunderstood

At some point, every leader will be misunderstood.

People will say things about you behind your back (or to your face) that aren’t true. People will judge your motives and get it wrong.

Sometimes you’ll only be allowed to say certain things in public, not because you’re being secretive, but because revealing all the information would make others look bad or would be breaking confidence. So instead, you look bad.

That’s just the territory of leadership.

Leadership is a bit like parenting. You have to do the right thing even if it’s not the popular thing. I’ve been there many times as a leader (and as a parent).

Great leaders have forged enough character to overcome the incessant desire to be liked. (Here are 3 hard but powerful truths about likability and leadership).

They are prepared to be misunderstood for a season, knowing that usually the truth comes out in the end.

And even if the truth doesn’t emerge in a particular instance, great leaders know that the overall track record of their leadership and character will speak for itself over time.

3. How it’s going at home

Success is intoxicating. And leadership is rewarding.

People generally do what you ask them to do. Results can be measured. And progress is steady. Sometimes its even exponential.

If only it was that easy to home.

Many leaders who are successes at work end up being failures at home, and that’s not success.

Your spouse isn’t impressed with your stats. Your kids don’t care about your awards.

They just need you.

They simply want you.

Too many leaders impose the high standards they carry at work on their family at home.

Your family doesn’t work for you.

They love you (or at least they used to). And they want you to love them.

4. Who you are when no one’s looking

What is character?

It’s who you are when the spotlight’s not on you.

The best leaders are the same on stage or in the boardroom as they are in a private meeting.

They’re the same when they’re with one person as they are when they’re with a thousand.

And the truly great ones are the same when absolutely no one is around.

As John Wooden famously said, he true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.

5. Helping people who can’t help you

If you’re not careful, the more successful you become, the more likely you will be to spend time only with those who can help you get to the next stage of whatever you’re trying to do.

You almost naturally become a social climber.

The greatest leaders will resist this pull. It’s not that they won’t spend time with other people who are as successful or more successful than they are. It’s that they will still spend time with people who aren’t.

The greatest leaders regularly find time to help people who can’t help them back.

And not just as a charity project…but because it’s just who they are.

They’re not so impressed by themselves that they can’t spend time with people who might not be impressed with them.

They’re not so caught up in what’s next that they can’t spend meaningful time with someone who isn’t on the same journey.

Sure…they’re still strategic with their time, but they have a deep sense of grounding that reminds them that life is indeed about others, not just about them.

What Would You Add?

The great leaders I know pass all five of these character tests.

What are you seeing? Is there another character test you’d add to this list?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

Barnabas_Piper (2)

CNLP 050: Growing Up As the Pastor’s Kid—An Honest Conversation with Barnabas Piper

What’s it like to grow up as the pastor’s kid?

Better yet, what’s it like to grow up as John Piper’s son?

Barnabas Piper talks openly and honestly about the pressures of being a PK and how it messed with  his faith before he found the grace of Jesus Christ.

Welcome to Episode 50 of the Podcast.

Barnabas_Piper (2)


Guest Links: Barnabas Piper

Help My Unbelief: Why Doubt Is Not the Enemy of Faith

The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity

Barnabas on Twitter

The Happy Rant Podcast

The Blazing Center

Links Mentioned in this Episode

John Piper

The Activate Conference

Josh Gagnon

Playback Sermon Series

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

Barnabas Piper speaks candidly about the struggles of being a pastor’s son and how the experiences helped him distinguish the difference between theology and having a relationship with Christ. Here’s his advice to those who have relationships with the pastor’s kid:

  1. Be a parent, not the preacher. Being a dad doesn’t come naturally. (Does it ever?) But when your child asks you a question, remember they’re not sitting in your office asking for counseling. They’re not looking for you to be a pastor, they’re looking to you to be a dad. Have a hobby that you can invite your kids into, and generously share that with them. Your children just want to be part of your life that doesn’t necessarily involve your ministry, so define a boundary that differentiates your responsibilities as a pastor and as a father.  Have those heart-to-heart talks.
  2. If you’re the kid, be honest. As a PK, you may feel as if you’re living in a fish bowl. ­The difficulty comes from the observation that everyone knows something about you that you didn’t tell them. It’s not a self-consciousness issue; they ask questions about things they don’t have business knowing, and it builds a sense that people are watching you. You have a sense that you don’t question dad’s calling, so if you say something that disagrees with the church, you’re demeaning their ministry. So, when you talk to them, focus on the relationship as you’re trying to sort through things. Get over the fear and be bold with your parents. They may not know how to start the conversation because they don’t understand how you’re feeling.
  3. If you’re a church member, show genuine love. Most church members love their pastor’s family, although, truthfully, there are few jerks. Your love for the pastor’s family has to be shown the right way. You can’t just barge into their kid’s life. If you have the opportunity as a Youth Leader or Sunday School teacher, be the person who says, “I’m here because I care about you, and I want you to express yourself freely.” That kind of friend is a powerful thing. Pastors’ kids often don’t find that friendship. For most people, it’s going to be more of a sense of awareness of the pressures on the pastor’s family, so you lead with prayer to support them, and try to remember they’re not any different than you are and crave deep love and acceptance like anyone.

Quotes from Barnabas

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

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Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets 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: Chris Dunagan

Almost everyone has a social media presence these days, but how do you make it awesome? NewSpring Church’s Social Media Director Chris Dunagan explains, in super helpful detail, their approach to social media and how to truly connect with the people you’re trying to impact.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 51.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

attracting and keeping great leaders

Beyond Thank You—5 Non-Financial Keys to Attracting and Keeping Great Leaders

So you want to attract and keep great people. Who doesn’t?

Connexus, the church in which I serve, relies on hundreds of volunteers and several staff each week to do some incredibly demanding roles. How do you keep great people engaged?

Whether it’s staff or volunteers, you want to keep people engaged, motivated and committed to a common cause. While there are a variety of ways to do that, there’s one truth underneath it all that often gets missed.

Here’s how I believe people behave:

People gravitate to where they are valued most.

attracting and keeping great leaders

Think about it. You behave this way.

Your best friends are the people who make you feel valued.

The family members you talk to most regularly are the ones who make you feel most valued.

You’ve left jobs because you didn’t feel like you were valued.

You willingly give your time to organizations or causes where you feel like you are appreciated and making a contribution.

If you do this, why would your team be any different?

So as a leader, how can you make sure you are adequately valuing people?

You might think the key is to say thanks a lot or simply pay people. Well, maybe not.

Thanks. I believe that saying thanks should be the daily currency of every leader. Never underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note or the power of looking someone in the eye and commending them for something specific they’ve done. Do it daily. But people still walk away from their jobs and roles after being thanked for what they’ve done. So thank people, but don’t stop there.

Money. Even for paid employees, once you reach a certain salary level, money alone is not a motivator. If your entire strategy is based on compensation, you will not make people feel valued. Many well-paid people hate their jobs. And it’s of zero help when dealing with volunteers.

So how do you really value people?

I think there are at least five things leaders can do to help people feel like they are valued. And they’re free. All they require is your attitude and heart as a leader.

5 Non-Financial Ways To Value Leaders

Here are five non-financial keys to attracting and keeping great leaders:

1. Listen 

Everyone wants to be heard. One of the best ways you can value people is to listen.

Ask them questions. Don’t jump to conclusions. Look them in the eye. Maintain undistracted focus. Take notes. Use your ears far more than you use your mouth.

This can be a behaviour you learn. I know because I’m a natural talker (plus I have convinced myself I can solve anyone’s problem in 20 seconds).

Practice the skill of listening. People will feel valued, because you actually are valuing them.

2. Trust

Trust people. Sure, I know you’ve been burned before. Join the line.

I’m not talking about blind trust, but I am talking about trusting people when they’ve shown even an inkling of character, skill and aptitude. Most people want to be believed in. You do.

And when you trust leaders, the best ones will rise to the occasion. They might even rise beyond it. And the others, well, you can deal with that when it happens. In the meantime, don’t punish the good people because you’ve run into a few bad ones.

Make trust, not suspicion, your default.

3. Respect 

When your talent or contribution is not respected or valued, it’s hard to want to stay. So respect the leaders you lead.

Give them your time, your attention, your ear, your heart and your gratitude. Men, in particular, crave respect.

4. Challenge

This one’s a bit counter-intuitive, but make sure you have high expectations of the people you lead. Challenge them! Higher standards motivate people. It calls out their best.

Very few high capacity leaders want to give their lives to something uninspiring or insignificant. High expectations usually yield higher returns.

5. Empower

Give them something significant to do. As my friend Reggie Joiner says, people will not believe they are significant until you give them something significant to do. So empower them. Give them something real. If you only have small tasks, you will attract small leaders.

But if you start to give away significant tasks and authority, you will attract the best and brightest leaders.

People gravitate to where they are valued most.

If you value them, guess where they’ll likely hang out?

What would you add to this list? Scroll down and leave a comment!


CNLP 049: Stop the Hate: How Christians Can Get Along When They Disagree. An Interview with Scott Sauls

It seems Christian dialogue these days is characterized by a intolerance, misunderstanding and hatred.

How do you love people you disagree with? How do you keep your cool when you have strong feelings?

And what is our intolerance of each other doing to the mission of the church?

Pastor and author Scott Sauls discusses how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Welcome to Episode 49 of the Podcast.

Guest Links: Scott Sauls

Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides

Christ Presbyterian Church

Scott on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode

Tim Keller 

The Orange Tour

The Year of Outrage 2014

Francis Schaeffer

John Dickson

Jon Tyson

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

There is a gracious and civil way to engage others through controversial discussions. Scott Sauls shares his advice for conversing with others who have conflicting views.

  1. Show grace to outsiders. Christians are called to have integrity to their conventions. Like anything, the first thing is to start with a question: Where did Jesus go with this? There are many instances we see Christ engage with the sexual minority, from prostitutes to adulterers. In all the heated debate and discussion over sexuality, think about how Christ addressed those of his day. There are striking consistencies in how Christ conversed with them. The only people Jesus scolds are those who shame others. Christ enters with grace and starts the conversation without condemnation. When you come from a place of love and kindness, it’s easier to transition to the ethics out of that context.
  2. Avoid the cowardice of grace without truth and the cruelty of truth without grace. Grace without truth, or truth without grace, have the same root. Our fear of God has been replaced by the fear of man because we care too much about how we look in front of other people. But how God sees us should matter more than anything else because we get our significance from what God thinks. There is a cowardice in what we call grace, and it comes from the fear of a socially awkward moment when we speak the truth. We’re more about self-preservation in that moment than we are about helping the person in front of us become more of what God created them to become. Remember that Grace is not a license to sin. It’s the freedom God gives us to surrender to Him.
  3. Watch your tone. Jesus said that you’re going to be persecuted, “Everyone will hate you because of Me …” The only thing that runs the risk of being offensive is the truth itself that Christ said you need to tell the world around you. Sometimes we deliver offensive truths that don’t have to be delivered in an offensive way. The apostle Paul tells us to start with affirmation before the critique. Begin with a story, those bridge-building moments that allow you to walk the journey together. Just treat people with simple dignity and respect, and let your words be gracious. Scott says 90% of it has a lot less to do with what we’re saying and more to do with how we deliver it.

Quotes from Scott

A New Episode Every Week…Just Subscribe

The podcast releases every Tuesday morning.

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from great leaders such as  Jon Acuff, Mark Batterson, Pete Wilson, David Kinnaman, Caleb Kaltenbach, Kara Powell, Casey Graham, Perry Noble, and Andy Stanley.

Subscribe via



TuneIn Radio

Appreciate This? Rate the Podcast.

Hopefully this episode has helped you lead like never before. That’s my goal. If you appreciated it, could you share the love?

The best way to do that is to rate the podcast in iTunes and leave us a brief review! You can do the same on Stitcher and on TuneIn Radio as well.

Your rating and review helps gets 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: Barnabas Piper

What’s it like to grow up as the pastor’s kid? Better yet, what’s it like to grow up as John Piper’s son? Barnabas Piper talks openly and honestly about the pressures of being a PK and how it messed up his faith before he found the grace of Jesus Christ.

Subscribe for free now, and you won’t miss Episode 50.

In the meantime, got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

church is going extinct

11 Signs Your Church Is Going Extinct

In all the conversation among church leaders about the future of the church and declining attendance, the question remains, how’s your church doing?

Sometimes that can be difficult to discern.

Unless you’re in a free fall right now, it can be hard to know whether your congregation will thrive, survive or take a dive in the next decade.

But like most things in life, there are signs right now that will point to the direction in which you’re headed.

And if you can know now, why wait?

I am a firm believer that The Church (capital C Church) will survive and even thrive, but it will look different than it does now.

But in the meantime, amidst a rapidly changing culture, many individual congregations are endangered species. They could easily become extinct.

Change always brings dislocation, death and renewal. Personally, I want as many churches as possible to be on the side of renewal.

And that starts with an honest assessment of where you are as a church today.

church is going extinctI believe there are signs you can observe today that will tell you whether your church is going extinct.

These signs are quick gut checks that you can assess easily that will hopefully lead to deeper conversation and change.

If you want to go deeper, listen in on my conversation with Thom Rainer who outlines some other characteristics he sees in dying churches. You can listen on iTunes here or tune in below.  (You can  also check out more from Thom here on his blog.)

11 Signs Your Church Is Going Extinct

If your church is showing one or two of these signs, some change is in order to optimally position your congregation for the future.

If it’s showing more than half of the signs, then in my view there’s some serious work to be done. If it’s showing most or all of the signs, it’s time for some prayerful and radical repentance and reinvention before it’s too late.

1. No sense of urgency

Growing churches have an exceptional sense of urgency. Stagnant and declining churches don’t.

If every Sunday is just another Sunday—and you don’t have a burning sense that lives and eternity hang in the balance—then you’ve lost the edge that all great churches, preachers and movements share.

2. Urgency about the wrong things

It’s not that dying churches don’t have any sense of urgency. In fact, they will often feel urgency about two things: the budget and survival.

If your motive for growth is financial, you should probably close your doors or open your heart. Unchurched people can smell it a mile away when you see them as simply a means to an end.

Resources and people follow vision. If your only vision is to stay afloat, the end is near.

3. Decline has made you cautious

Growing churches take risks. Stagnant or declining churches don’t.

Churches that aren’t growing often end up in preservation mode—they try to converse what little they already have rather than risk it to grow again.

This is a critical mistake.

Ask yourself, when was the last time we took a real risk? If you can’t answer that, you’re far too cautious.

4. Success has made you cautious

It’s not just stagnation or decline that makes leaders cautious, success does it too.

Sometimes you become so successful you become afraid to break the formula. So you become cautious. You stop innovating. You risk little.

The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.

5. Your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future

Stuck or declining churches are nostalgic churches. They remember when everything was amazing, which clearly isn’t today.

To figure this out, listen to the way people talk. Is there an excitement for what’s next, or mostly a longing for what was?

When your affection for the past is greater than your excitement for the future, you’re in trouble.

6. You don’t understand the changing culture

Stagnant and declining churches often see a gap develop between them and the culture.

Because nothing has changed in a decade—or several decades—the world is seen at best as something they don’t understand, or at worst, as an enemy.

Outsiders who come in see a church like that as, at best, quaint, and more likely as irrelevant and misguided.

Jesus loved the world enough to die for it. The church should love the world enough to reach it.

7. You haven’t got new leaders around the table

Look around you. Are most of the people on your team the same people who were there five years ago?

I’m not advocating for high turnover in staff, but in far too many churches there is no plan to renew leadership.

Churches who position themselves for future impact intentionally integrate new voices and new leaders around the table.  I try to keep a balance of established, trusted voices and new voices around our table.

If all the people around your table are the same as 5 years ago, you might just all be 5 years older, not 5 years better.

8. You mostly listen to the voices of current members

When you make decisions, who are you listening to?

Hopefully, (naturally) to the voice of God and to scripture.

But when it comes to human voices…whose wins the day?

Too often, the voice of current church members drowns out the voice of the unchurched people you’re trying to reach.

In fact, smart church leaders will intentionally hang out with unchurched people and bring their voice to the table. How you do that is up to you. That you do it is critical.

9. Your conflict is about all the wrong things

There will always be some level of conflict whenever human beings gather, so what’s your conflict about?

Dying churches spend their energy fighting each other and fighting change.

Growing churches spend their energy fighting for new opportunities to reach unchurched people and speaking up for the change that will impact their lives.

10. Any growth you have is transfer growth

But wait, some will say, we’re growing. We had some new members last year!

That’s awesome. But who are you reaching?

If your growth is mostly transfer growth, you’re pulling from an ever-smaller pool of people.

If you’re reaching unchurched people with little or no church background, the future is much brighter.

11. The core team is not fundamentally healthy

How does your leadership get along?

Do you like hanging out with each other? Do you resolve conflict directly, quickly and effectively?

Are you growing in your faith and in your skill set?

Are you living in a way today-physically, spiritually, emotionally, and relationally—that will help you thrive tomorrow?

Are you aligned around a common mission, vision and strategy? (Here are five things North Point has taught me about team alignment.)

If you can answer yes to most of those questions, you’re healthy.

If not, there’s some work to do.

But here’s the truth: health at the top is health at the bottom. Dysfunction at the top is dysfunction at the bottom.

If you want a healthy church, grow a healthy leadership team.

Other Signs?

Those are 11 signs I see that a congregation might be going extinct.

What would you add to this list?  Scroll down and leave a comment!


Want More Conversation?

Interested in helping your church grow and get healthy? My new book, Lasting Impact: Seven Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow, launches next month (September 2015).

Sign up here to get all the details when Lasting Impact releases so you don’t miss a thing.

I’m also on Periscope (I’m @careynieuwhof) and will be Periscoping some Q and A on this post the week of its release.

ready to handle more

Want More As A Leader? 5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle It

So you’re probably hoping for more. Almost every leader does.

More people.

More team.

More responsibility.

More money.

More opportunity.

More of, well you know, more of almost anything.

Most of us leader types are rarely satisfied with the status quo.

You may want more, but are you ready for more?

Could you handle it if it came your way?

ready to handle more

When I think back to when I was a young leader, I know there were more than a few seasons when I wasn’t ready for more, even when more came my way.

I was a solo pastor for the first few years, working alone out of my basement because none of the churches I served even had an office.

We had hired a few part time staff, and after a few years of part timers, I was ready to hire our first other full time staff member.

I remember a corporate coach who attended our church asking me “Are you ready to handle leading a team?”

And I remember telling her, more out of pride and bravado than wisdom, that I was, thank you very much.

It was a polite conversation, but I was wrong. Actually, it was just foolish not to take her advice.

As my friend Casey Graham told me, more people make your problems more apparent.

I would learn over the next few years what it meant to lead a team in a rapidly growing church. I could have gone further faster had I listened.

So how do you know if you’re ready?

5 Signs You’re Ready to Handle More as A Leader

Here are the signs I’ve seen in myself and in the leaders around me that signal I might be ready to handle more. And the inverse has been true too—when these signs aren’t present, I haven’t been ready.

Here are 5 signs you’re ready to handle more as a leader and some links if you want to dig deeper:

1. You’ve built a better system

As you grow, you need better systems. A system is simply  a way of operating.

You have a system. Your church has a system – a way of doing things. For most smaller organizations, the system might be as simple as ‘wing it’.  But even if you’re winging it, that’s a system. And it’s a system that won’t scale.

If you drill down and ask around, you would discover that you do have a system, even if it’s not a great one.

And, as we all know, your current system is designed to get you the results you’re currently getting.  If you don’t like the results, change your system.

I wrote about systems that handle growth in this post on how to break the 200 attendance barrier, and again in this post on the systems needed to guide your church beyond 200, 400 and 800.

2. You’re working through your personal issues

Having more won’t make your personal issues go away…having more will make them worse.

You’re going to have more problems as you grow, and the problems will be more complex. This demands a greater degree of focus and leadership and naturally gives you less margin.

That’s a perfect recipe for your unresolved issues to bubble up.

Suddenly you’ll discover you’re more jealous, envious, angry, paranoid, worried, reclusive or fill-in-the-issue-here than you ever thought you were.

As we grew, I found I had to wrestle down my personal issues or I would implode or explode. I spent significant amounts of time in the office of Christian counselors working through my issues.

Obviously, that’s a life long process (sanctification always is). But hopefully you’re not working on exactly the same issues year after year.

As you work through your personal issues, your ability to handle challenges, people and responsibility grows.

3. You’re passing the character test

As I outlined in this post, character, not competency, determines your true capacity.

Character is related to working through your personal issues (above, #2). But it’s deeper than that.

Character is the foundation that a solid ministry and organization is built on. You will only go as far as your character will take you.

If you want a quick gut check on how you character is these days, this post outlines 5 signs you lack integrity.

And this post lists five ways to build your integrity.

You will only go as far as your character will take you. If you’ve been working hard on your character, it’s a sign you may be ready for more.

4.  You have the right senior leaders in place

You’ve heard it said, if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team.

That’s just true.

But you also need to have the right team.

I look for leaders with character, who are aligned with the mission, vision and strategy, and leaders who have a spiritual maturity and tactical ability to advance our mission.

If you are wondering why you don’t have more high capacity leaders on your team, this post outlines 6 reasons many leaders lose high capacity volunteers.

And this post outlines 3 key ingredients I look for in people who form my inner circle.

Finally, my interview with Chris Lema, below, explains how to build a high performing team from scratch.

5. You’re more mature than you were a few years ago

Another year older does not equal another year of maturity.

I’ve known some exceptionally mature 25 year olds and some exceptionally immature 45 year olds. I’ll take a mature 25 year old over an immature 45 year old any day.

Maturity is a combination of time, skill and character.

So the question is: are you growing in maturity? Are you wiser than you were two years ago or five years ago? If the answer is yes, you might be ready for more.

We’ve covered the character issues above, but if you’re looking for a short cut to the skill part as a young leader (there are short cuts), this post outlines 7 practical things younger leaders can do to help them excel in the workplace.

More of Everything

The upside, of course, is that if you work on your character, systems, team and skill set, you will be positioned to handle more.

What’s really awesome is that you’ll be positioned to handle more not just in ministry, but at home and in life. The skills are directly transferrable.

Growing in all these things have helped me not only become a better leader, but a better husband, father, neighbour and even friend. I’ve got a long way to go, but it’s good to see progress.

What has helped you get ready to handle more?

Anything you’ve seen that signals someone’s ready for more?

Leave a comment!