10 Things That Demonstrate The World You Grew Up In No Longer Exists

no longer exists

You know things are changing, but the real questions is how quickly and how deeply.

Well, the change is pretty fast and pretty deep.

In fact, unless you’re under 25, the world into which you’re born doesn’t really exist anymore.

You may have heard of the the Beloit College Mindset list. It comes out every year and often makes the news.

The list is designed to get college faculty (and others) into the headspace of the entry class of mostly 18-year-olds. Essentially, it’s a tutorial on how much the world has changed since the people who will be teaching that class were in college.

Here are a few random snippets from the Class of 2019 mindset list (the entering students are on average 18 years old):

  1. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
  2. They have never licked a postage stamp.
  3. Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa have never been alive.
  4. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
  5. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.

Clearly, the world has changed.

It’s changed for church leaders too—radically.

So what happens when church leaders move on unaware of what’s going on around them?

It’s simple. Church leaders who are out of touch never touch the culture.

Church leaders who are out of touch never touch the culture. Click To Tweet

Missing the change around you means you will:

Increasingly speak a language people younger than you won’t understand.

Make assumptions that aren’t widely shared or are just erroneous.

End up answering questions no one is asking.

So what changes do church leaders need to know?

I can think of at least 10.

Church leaders who don't understand cultural change end up answering questions no one is asking. Click To Tweet

1. Church Attendance Is Now a Fringe Activity

With the exception of a few US communities (deep in the Bible Belt), nobody asks which church you attend anymore, because the assumption is you don’t go to church.

If respect for scripture is any indication of how people feel about Christianity, according to a Barna study, it’s pretty clear most cities in the United States are moving quickly away from some of the historic tenets of Christianity.

In most cities, nobody asks which church you go to. Because almost nobody goes to church. Click To Tweet

That doesn’t mean church attendance is impossible. It just means it’s not normal.

Take Las Vegas, Nevada. Only 14% of Las Vegans both read the Bible and believe its accurate in its principles.

Yet Vegas has more than a few thriving churches, including Central Church with 8 locations and upwards of 20,000 attenders. (You can hear Lead Pastor Jud Wilhite’s story on Episode 54 of my Leadership Podcast).

Churches like Central don’t fill up because people in Vegas are looking for a church to attend. Almost no one in Vegas is looking for a church to attend on a Sunday.

Churches like Central fill up because Christians invite their friends.

Increasingly, church attendance is a fringe activity.

Increasingly, church attendance is a fringe activity. Click To Tweet

2. “All Welcome” Means Nothing

Almost every dying church has an “All Welcome” sign nobody takes seriously.

Think about it, if you didn’t go to church, would you take that as an invitation?

Next time you drive by a church building, ask yourself “What would it take to convince me that I can walk in uninvited and participate in what they’re doing?”

Increasingly, I think unchurched people think about walking into a church the way you might think about randomly walking into a wedding to which you weren’t invited or into a corporate retreat for a company for which you don’t work. It would just be weird.

In the future, about the only way non-Christians will keep showing up at Christian churches is via personal invitation.

Regardless of what any sign might say, the real welcome comes from your members.

Regardless of what any sign might say, the real welcome comes from your members. Click To Tweet

3. Regular Church Attendance is Irregular

The assumption used to be that if you were a committed Christian, you would go to church every week. In fact, even most growing churches still silently run on that assumption, even as the leaders admit that weekly church attendance is far from the norm.

Culture has changed so radically in the last decade or two that even committed Christians aren’t in church as regularly as they used to be. (Here are 10 reasons why.)

Honestly, this has got most church leaders still scrambling. Many church leaders are trying to figure out how to help people grow when they don’t go.

Innovators will have to figure out how to make sure that a step away from church attendance isn’t a step away from Christ, which, despite people’s best intentions, seems to be the case more often than not.

Before you start to rail on the organized church and argue that ‘nobody needs church,’  read this.

The new regular church attendance is irregular. Click To Tweet

4. A Band, Lights and Haze are Traditional

You might have cashed in a lot of chips to redo your church’s approach to music over the last decade or two. And that’s wonderful.

But increasingly, having a band and even lights and haze is pretty normal in many churches.

In fact, as Tony Morgan first noted a number of years ago, the way we do worship music in the ‘contemporary’ church is not that contemporary. In fact, the band, guitar, keyboard and lights is the new traditional ‘rock’ worship.

The culture has moved on to other music; hip hop, R&B, DJ, pop and so much more.

Many ‘contemporary’ churches sound like they’re programmed for 50 year olds.

Culture sounds less like Coldplay or U2 and more like Bruno Mars, Drake or Chainsmokers.

I’m not saying we should mimic everything. I’m just saying don’t think you’re current when you’re not.

If you find this irritating, trust me, it is. It’s just that self-awareness is the key to so much. So be aware.

Church leaders, don't think you're current when you're not. Click To Tweet

5. The Show No Longer Captivates

If you’re over 30, you remember the church of your childhood was probably trying to be ‘contemporary,’ they just weren’t very good at it.

Church often provided a fairly low level of excellence in terms of singing, production and sometimes, speaking.

That has changed massively.

With the connection that’s happened online, many preachers and musicians have become so much better at their craft. Production levels have soared at local churches.

And it’s not enough.

I mean it’s good that we’re doing things well. But reaching people is about more than just doing what you do with excellence.

It used to be that great preaching and great music grew a church.

Now it’s more like the cost of doing business.

Bad preaching and bad music can kill a church, but great preaching and great music don’t automatically generate church growth.

Sometime more fundamental is shifting. And it’s not all bad. In fact, it could be the rebirth of the church based on God’s movement and activity.

Cool church is dying (here’s why) and something else is connecting with young adults in its place (I wrote about that here).

Great preaching and great music no longer automatically generate church growth. Click To Tweet

6. Your Church Members Follow A Dozen Ministry Leaders Who Are Not You

Go back to 40 years ago. Chances are the only pastor a church member knew was the pastor at their local church or their neighbourhood church or someone they heard on TV or radio.

Even in the 90s and early 2000s, as culture changed, to ‘follow’ another preacher meant ordering their cassettes or CDs or tracking them in a very limited way in the early days of the internet.

Contrast that to today, when many Christians actively listen to, read, follow and more than a few other ministry leaders, subscribing to their podcast, reading their blogs and otherwise tracking with their church.

Insecure pastors might struggle with this.

But if you can get over your insecurity, it’s not a bad thing.

Secure leaders don’t compete with other church leaders, they complement them. Most of us may never preach like some of the top leaders out there. That’s okay.

We need to be us. They need to be them. When you realize it’s a complement, not a competition, everyone benefits.

Secure leaders don't compete with other church leaders, they complement them. Click To Tweet

7. God Has Become Generic

As the Barna Group’s research has shown, even though most Americans self-identify as Christian, almost 50% function as post-Christian in their practices and beliefs.

In other words, what people define as Christian and what constitutes genuine Christianity may be two different things.

Communicators and leaders, take note. It changes how we use the term ‘God’.

Trying to lead people into a relationship with God can mean almost anything to post-Christians, including their own definition of whatever spirituality might look like or feel like.

Leading them into a relationship with Jesus is very different.

In a post-Christian culture, God is generic. Jesus is specific, and personal.

In a post-Christian culture, God is generic. Jesus is specific, and personal. Click To Tweet

8. People Don’t Know What They’re Converting To

It’s so easy to make assumptions that people who attend your church know what they’re stepping into. After all, don’t most people know what it means to be a Christian?

Well, no they don’t.

This problem has become so widespread in our post-Christian Canadian culture that, a few years ago, I devoted an entire series (called Non-Committal) to explaining what people are converting to when they convert to Christianity.

Church leaders will have to become far more innovative in the language and metaphors we use to help people understand the basics of the Christian faith.

It’s very difficult to become a Christian if you don’t even understand what that means.

It's very difficult to become a Christian if you don't even understand what that means. Click To Tweet

9. Background Understanding is Often Zero

In the same way that people don’t understand what becoming a Christian means or why it matters, post-Christian people have very little Christian background from which to draw.

Again, that’s a communication challenge for church leaders.

Gone is the era where any preacher can say “As we all know…”

No, we don’t all know. We don’t know who Moses was, who David, who Sarah was, was or even really who Jesus was. But can you tell us? Can you explain it in a way we all understand?

The big surprise, of course, is that if you do this well, many Christians will thank you too. Because they didn’t really understand it either.

Gone is the era where any preacher can say 'As we all know...' Because we don't. Click To Tweet

10. Having No Church Background Can Be Better Than Having Some Church Background

Our culture has gone through a few decades of people leaving the church.

Often there are stories of heartbreak and disappointment there that really sting. Just read through the thousands of comments on this blog. You’ll see many. And it breaks my heart.

But we’re moving in real time away from a generation of people who are done with church to a generation that doesn’t know church at all.

You would think that’s an obstacle, but perhaps it’s an opportunity.

Having never attended church is as much an opportunity as an obstacle. Click To Tweet

Practical Help On Church Growth in a Post-Modern Culture

Getting a stuck church growing, or helping a church that’s reaching new people grow even further can seem daunting.

It doesn’t have to be.

Whether you’re a church that isn’t growing, has plateaued, or whether you wish your church was growing faster than it is, I’d love to help you break through. That’s why I created the Church Growth Masterclass.

The Church Growth Masterclass is everything I wish I knew about church growth when I got into ministry more than 20 years ago.

Naturally, I can’t make a church grow. You can’t make a church grow. Only God can do that.

But I believe you can position your church to grow.

You can knock down the barriers that keep you from growing. You can eliminate the things that keep your church from growing and implement some strategies that will help you reach far more people.  You can clarify why your current approach isn’t working with a post-modern culture and how to fix that, without changing the message.

I’d love to help you with all of this in the Church Growth Masterclass.

In the Masterclass I’ll help you discover:

  • The 10 reasons your church isn’t growing
  • Why even committed church-goers aren’t attending as often as before
  • How to tell if your church leaders are getting burned out
  • The 5 keys to your church better impacting millennials.
  • What to do when a church wants to grow … but not change
  • 5 essentials for church growth
  • 5 disruptive church trends to watch—and how to respond
  • How to increase church attendance by increasing engagement.

The Masterclass includes a complete set of videos that you can play with your team, board or staff, PDF workbooks that will help you tackle the issues you’re facing, and bonus materials that will help you navigate the most pressing issues facing churches that want to reach their cities today.

You can learn more and gain instant access to the course today.

What Signs Do You See?

Those are the signs I see that the world we were born into no longer exists.

There are many others. What do you see? Scroll down and leave a comment.

10 Things That Demonstrate The World You Grew Up In No Longer Exists


  1. Deborah F. on April 11, 2021 at 10:28 pm

    In John 22 Jesus tells his deciples to wait on the Holy Spirit. Then to go
    And tell others.yo all make it has if the Holy Spirit , part of the Trinity
    Is not capable!
    I will not write again as zi feel your minds are closed.

  2. Deborah D. Thomax on April 11, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    You need to forget the jargons and preach redemption. Ask the Holy Spirit
    To lead you, do not get caught up in jargons, weare God’s people that need Jesus.

  3. Doug Fields on April 1, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Very interesting concept concerning “God is generic and Jesus is specific.” I have found that you have to be very careful when you are teaching this concept. When Philip asked to see God, Jesus replied, “When you have seen Me you have seen the Father.” We are told in John Chapter 1, “In the beginning [before all time] was the Word (Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself.” Then later we are told, “The Word became flesh…” Then we are told that the “Word (Christ) dwelt among us.” Most people think on a physical plain, but how do you teach on a spiritual realm. This can be a bit difficult of a task to accomplish, but it can be done. The key here is patience!!! Very important to be patient in your teaching and not be in a hurry and frustrated. Because if you are not careful, you will hit a wall and all your efforts will come crashing down. Thanks for listening to me. I really like this article. Excellent points to think about.

  4. Graham Spruill on April 1, 2021 at 9:22 am

    I’m currently in next gen ministry at my church with Gen Z and #4, #5, and #8 are SO STINKING TRUE. Another thought that might correlate with those 3 things: Theological clarity will be of supreme importance as Gen Z continues to rise to positions of influence in culture and society.

    Appreciate you, Carey!

  5. Trevor Allin on April 1, 2021 at 4:59 am

    When we work we work. When we pray God works. Pray, pray, pray and work.

  6. rkbrewer on May 28, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Great insights. I regularly try to encourge people to download a free Bible app; aside from sparing them the embarrassment of trying to look up a passage it seems to make it a lot easier to find a passage. Secondly, make sure you have your facts right. People are on their phones and will regularly fact check any stats you use i.e. “surveys say..”. = which one and when was it done? Thanks for doing the grunt work to keep us in the loop.

  7. ELMER BATTUNG on May 28, 2019 at 4:04 am

    So true! We just need to continue seeking God to enlighten us what we are currently in and how we can reach out to people without leaving the pure gospel message. Thanks Carey!

  8. Mark Bell on May 27, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Thanks, Carey for pointing out the obvious to us. No really! Sometimes the hardest things to see, deal with and start making headway on are right in front of us we just choose not to see them. I think we all have said to our children or friends, “The world I grew up in was so different, so much easier to live in.” But what did we do with that information? Most of us just internalized it and kept doing church as it has always been done (as you point out). Our desire is to reach those around us in our communities and must understand those we seek to reach respond in different ways than we may have at their age. I don’t mean we don’t want to reach anyone except the younger generation, but we have the tools to reach the generation we grew up in but we need to re-train to reach the younger generation. If we want multi-generational churches we need to know how each generation responds to the Gospel, Jesus, and “church”. I’m 62 but my heart seeks God’s wisdom in dealing with each generation. We are not irrelevant, we are God’s chosen vessels and His ministers of reconciliation to all ages. Keep writing, I will keep learning. God is using you, Carey, don’t listen to the naysayers. God bless your ministry. Thank you for staying true to the inspired word of God.

  9. Tom on May 27, 2019 at 11:59 am

    At 82 I find this really insightful.

  10. Shauna Pilgreen on May 27, 2019 at 10:00 am

    So insightful, Carey!

  11. Wendy Burton on April 17, 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Carey, this is excellent… do you have Canadian Stats ? Wendy Burton …

    • Bruce Muirhead on April 23, 2019 at 2:55 pm

      CREDIBLE 101 Should be on Amazon, Kindle, etc in early May

      The novel is aimed at bringing our Millennials into a conversation with their unbelieving peers and to equip them to get their foot in the door and then to move forward. They will likely wish to share the novel with that peer group and to discuss its content.

  12. Brucec Muirhead on March 31, 2019 at 8:20 pm

    The only people that will make the church grow are disciples. That is how Jesus did it. 12 disciples to 10,000,000 in 67 years. They shared, they preached; they laid down their lives; they used the sword of the Spirit. They were all millennials. That is when old people today bore fruit “Back then1”
    Our own millennials are doing nothing. We haven’t taught them anything. It’s our fault.

  13. […] And as I’ve said before, too many church leaders are perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists. […]

  14. Franklin Dumond on August 25, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I am looking for permission to repost/reprint the 10 Things That Demonstrate The World You Grew Up In No Longer Exists.

    I would like to include it in our fall communication to our General Baptist leaders through the free communication piece we send to them in The General Baptist Messenger.

  15. Alana Wanny on August 12, 2017 at 8:06 am

    I went to my Doctor and said I was feeling a bit down. She said that’s because at your age (45) you become invisible to the World and insignificant. WTF how sad is that! I have maybe another 40 years of being invisible.

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    […] Too many church leaders are perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists. […]

  17. 6 Disruptive Church Trends That Will Rule 2017 on January 9, 2017 at 1:00 am

    […] Too many church leaders are perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists. […]

  18. […] Too many church leaders are perfectly equipped to reach a world that no longer exists. […]

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    […] 10 Things That Demonstrate The World You Grew Up In No Longer Exists – Carey Nieuhof […]

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