5 Reasons Charismatic Churches Are Growing (And Attractional Churches Are Past Peak)

Neo-charismaticsThink about how churches were just before the pandemic hit.

Notice this?

If you looked at almost any growing church led by younger leaders, it definitely tended toward the charismatic—expressive worship, more emotional delivery in preaching, an openness to the work and activity of the Holy Spirit, and generally a warmer, more enthusiastic and expressive gathering.

And…a lot of the churches that leaned toward a more charismatic expression of their faith were filled with young adults and Millennials.

Meanwhile,  many leaders in attractional churches were finding it harder and harder to reach new people. While not universally true, some had stopped growing, or at least seen a slower growth rate than say 5 or 10 years ago.

Post-pandemic, that trend may be even more accelerated.

Please hear me. This is not “we’re right you’re wrong”. This is a learning together post. Actually, both the charismatic and attractional movements have contributed massively to reaching millions of people. There is much to learn from each other.

Critics have no place here, but learners do.

So what’s happening? Well, culture changes, and what people respond to changes, too. The church should change with it.  While you should never change the mission of a church (it’s eternal), you should definitely adapt the method.

Churches who love the method more than the mission will die. It happened in the 1950s, in the 1970s, in the 1990s and it’s happening today. What was effective a decade ago isn’t always effective today. Leaders who live in the past end up dying to the future.

While you could argue that there’s a major difference in theology between charismatic and non-charismatic churches, I don’t think the differences are that big for the purposes of this blog post anyway.

The big shift is happening in how churches express themselves on the weekend and conduct their weekend experiences, moving from:

  • anonymity to a sense of belonging
  • engagement of the heart, not just the head.
  • more variety of services than three songs and a message
  • more passionate expressions of worship
  • additional space during the service for prayer
  • more thought in the service to the engagement of emotions beyond “hey we’re excited you’re here” (welcome and upbeat music) and “here’s something to think about” (the message).

As I outline here, churches that miss cultural change become irrelevant. After all, the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly culture changes is called irrelevance.

Personally, I’m behind any church that’s doing a great job leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

So, in the interests of learning and growing together, here are 5 reasons more charismatic churches are growing, and attractional churches are moving past peak in the current culture.

1. The Foyer Moved

One of the great (and helpful) assumptions behind creating attractional churches is that Sunday morning is the first experience with church.

Guess what? That’s no longer true.

Now, almost everyone who attends your church for the first time has already been to your church…online.

That’s the case whether you have a completely amazing online experience, a killer website and an on-point social media presence, or whether you have a website from 2008.

Trust me, people who are interested in Christianity or your church have already checked you out long before they visited you. And if you have an online service, they’ve been with you for at least a week, and sometimes months or beyond.

Not convinced they’re checking out your channels? Well, there is the internet. Trust me: if they have spiritual questions, they’ve googled their way to spiritual answers (good or bad answers) long before they set foot in your door.

The pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

All of which means…the foyer moved.

I had a great discussion about this with the senior leadership team at CrossPoint Nashville. We talked about how attractional church isn’t as effective as it used to be (both CrossPoint and Connexus, where I serve, have been changing along the lines of this post for a few years now), when CrossPoint’s Creative Arts Director,  Drew Powell,  simply stated that the foyer had moved. That completely crystallized something I was trying to put my finger on for years now. Thanks, Drew, for the clarity.

So yep, that’s it: the foyer moved.

The implication? When someone shows up at your church now, they’re likely to want a little more than they did a decade or two ago when their first visit was truly their first exposure to your church or to Christianity. They’re ready to go a little further somewhat faster because they’ve already taken their first step.

Will you still end up with some people at the back with the arms crossed wanting to hide out in the dark? Of course.

But you likely have more who want to sample something real, who want to experience something different, who are ready to engage faster.

That doesn’t mean you should bring them into a complete insider experience that’s impossible to understand or access. But it does mean they’re likely hungrier for more than they were a decade ago.

2. People Want Transformation, Not Information

Attractional church has seen thousands, probably millions, of people move into an authentic relationship with Jesus. Please hear that.

But sometimes what we’ve done (I say “we” because I’ve done this) is we tend to share information about Jesus or Christianity when we preach or host services. There was a day when that was really helpful, and that’s still not an entirely bad instinct. Who, after all, wants to lose people completely?

But remember, we now have the full-on internet that swallows daily life whole. We are drowning in a sea of information.

Fast forward to church, and guess what? People aren’t looking for information. They’re looking for transformation.

When people come to your church these days, fewer are looking for information about God; they’re looking for an experience with God.

Today, information is everywhere. Transformation is scarce.

Too many people who have been to church know about God. Not enough know God.

3. Transcendent is Connecting More Than Immanent Right Now

Both the digital explosion and the cynicism of our age have left people hungering for a transcendent touch. Think about the explosive rise of porn. People are looking for intimacy, but of course, in porn, get just the opposite. They’re looking for more.

People are hungry for true community, deeper experiences, and authentic transcendence.

Which is why churches that are growing are focusing more and more on creating experiences that engage more than just the head on a Sunday…but also engage the heart and relationship.

In short, people don’t just want to know what’s true, they want to know what’s real. And what’s real is deeper than just an idea—it’s an experience.

They come looking for something bigger than themselves, and something frankly, bigger than us. They come looking for God.

It’s a shame when people come to church looking for God and only find us.

God, in his nature, is both immanent and transcendent. A few decades ago as the culture slipped away from church, focusing on the imminence of God brought many back.

But the cultural shifts of the last decade and a half have left people (especially younger people) longing for the transcendent.

This should be no surprise because of course the heart naturally longs for God. Sometimes we just long for God a bit differently than our parents.

I think the best future churches will have content that leans toward the immanent—practical, helpful and digestible. Again, being completely obtuse and incomprehensible or insider-focused helps no one. And future churches will also offer experiences that feel transcendent…a sense that you had to be there to experience what happened.

The best churches will offer both because that reflects the character and nature of God and the character of the Christian church at its best. 

4. Downloadable Experiences Have Become Resistible Experiences

Church online is new, so we’re all trying to figure it out. Understood.

I think online provides a HUGE front door to everyone you’re trying to reach. Everyone you’re trying to reach with the love of Christ is online.

So how do you navigate that tension of having everything you do available online and in-person? Why would people bother to come at all, is the question.

Fundamentally, the consumption of content is also leaving people hungering for greater community, greater experience and greater transcendence.

So here’s what many growing churches are doing: offering experiences that, when watched online, leave you longing for the real, in-person thing.

How? Running through that list we started with, growing churches design their in-person experience to:

  • move people quickly from anonymity to a sense of belonging
  • focus on the engagement of the heart, not just the head, both in the message and the music and overall experience.
  • offer more variety of services than three songs and a message
  • facilitate more passionate expressions of worship
  • create moments and additional space during the service for prayer
  • put more thought in the service to engaging a variety of emotions.

If everything your church does in the future feels downloadable, probably all you’ll get is a lot of downloads, not a lot of gathered people.

If what your church does touches the soul, people will continue to gather.

People are coming to church expecting to meet God. Don’t let them settle for meeting you or something they could have half-listened to while working out.

To put it simply, if people feel like they missed nothing when they missed church, they’ll keep missing church.

5. Passion’s beating polish

If you’ve been around church world for the last few decades, it’s easy to think that you need polish to pull off effective ministry. Another $50,000 for lights or sound and you’ll be good.

To be sure, charismatic churches have some amazing production.

But if you’re sitting there thinking that you need a better soundboard, some new LEDs and a much better band to reach people, think again.

Passion is free. And passion beats polish.

The effective churches I’ve visited and seen recently by no means had the best lights, stage or production. Some had almost no stage and no lights, while others had a pretty decent setup, but not nearly the level you see at some churches.

What did they all have in common? Passion.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

It’s not that polish is bad (I’m all for great environments and seeing people fully use their gifts to create amazing experiences) but I think polish falls flat unless accompanied by a raw passion that exudes from leaders who love connecting people with God.

In some of the growing churches I’ve personally visited, smaller facilities and stage sets were more than compensated for by preachers, worship leaders, and team members who exuded passion for the mission.

One caveat: don’t fake passion—people can smell fake from a mile away. And don’t exaggerate it. Different people have different levels of passion.

But if yours has faded, rekindle it. Pray about. Evoke what’s in there, and bring it to church.

In an age where nothing seems real anymore, people are looking for authenticity. Church, we have it.

A Few Reminders

A few notes before we finish up.

Weird Is Still Weird

The attractional movement has done a great job reminding all of us that we have guests in the room. And while the foyer may have moved, someone’s first Sunday is still a huge deal.

So that’s no excuse to be self-indulgently weird. Authentic doesn’t mean weird.

Emotionalism Won’t Win the Day

Another trend I’ve seen is that the next generation of preachers (under 40s) seem to preach more than they teach.

It’s always hard to define the exact difference between the two but simply put, preaching speaks more to the heart, teaching speaks more to the head.

Preachers facilitate an experience. Teachers convey information.

I think the best pastors do both well.

Preaching without solid teaching can become emotionalism. Teaching without preaching can become intellectualism.

Preaching leads people to say ‘That’s right. I need to change.” Teaching can lead people to say “He’s right. That’s a good point.”

I default toward teaching so this is a challenge for me.

Remember The People You’re Trying to Reach

The church is still one of the few organizations that exists for the sake of its non-members.

Doubt that? Well, aren’t you glad someone didn’t decide the church was done before you were introduced to the love of Jesus.

For sure you need to care for the people you have, but never to the exclusion of the people you’re called to reach.

Churches that over-focus on the needs of insiders will eventually only have insiders. And when that happens, you missed the mission.


What are you seeing in terms of churches that are reaching people and those that aren’t?

Play nice in the comments. I want this blog to be a place for thoughtful people to interact.

This is a place for learning, and if you’re a student, not a critic, I’d love to hear from you.

Scroll down and leave a comment.

5 Reasons Charismatic Churches Are Growing (And Attractional Churches Are Past Peak)


  1. maji on September 1, 2021 at 7:13 am


    • Tayla on November 12, 2021 at 8:42 am

      Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them. And what does the presence of the Lord do? It moves mountains. Not literal mountains, but giant, “I don’t see a way out or through” kind of mountains. In essence “I need you and you need me” and when we make partnerships like that, with people that spend time in God’s word, and genuinely have the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) – you have a rock to stand on when life gets difficult and that partnership, with God and other Godly people – then you can move mountains. Not by might, not by strength, but by His spirit. The thing I guess that I’ve come to understand about God is that he’s a spirit that works though people, and just like the trinity – he’s relational. As much as you can get a wonderful experience in listening to an awesome sermon, or having a spine tingling crowd Music experience, (and don’t worry, I sermon binge sometimes, just like the next person) but I think it’s important not to be so concerned with “feeling something at worship” when ultimately this has not much to do with your personal and ongoing relationship with the Word of God in the flesh “ aka Jesus” It’s like getting a chocolate bar for Christmas, versus a push bike that you might need to assemble. One is an instant endorphin rush, the other takes a bit of time to put together, but once you get it going – it will give you lasting joy and memories – it will take you places – with a bit of work, and a clear road in front of you – it will carry you there. Is anyone getting this analogy? A sermon can’t help you move house, and after your ‘awesome worship experience’ what’s really in your heart, what’s your character and what type of person are you. Are you the type of person that’s still going to treat me with love and respect – what about if my life wasn’t perfect. Would you still have my back even when I’ve got nothing valuable? Because those are the sorts of friendships that give deep rewarding emotional connections, not the superficial “we all gather together but I know nothing about you past the shell” type of relationships that are so common at church. Maybe churches are just trying to compete with the entertainment industry – you can get addicted to church worship. The word disciple has connotations with a Greek word mathematical…(sorry my Greek is absolutely terrible) – but it’s a root word of mathematics, and means to see and to do. Surface level relationships in which you connect for a single ‘experience’ either online or once a week might be a thrilling rush – just like the chocolate bar – but is it going to sustain you when you need mentorship, someone to help you set patterns of waking up in the morning and learning how to do a daily worship, especially when you weren’t brought up in the church “Therefore go out and as you are going, and teaching, and baptising, – make disciples of all nations. The great commission, have a personal relationship with Jesus that extends beyond the worship service (as important as this can sometimes be it’s not the point of Christianity) make friends, build relationships, invite people into your messy life, be there when they need some advice, help to fix the car or paint a bedroom. Do “life” together. We all have different gifts, but God says what he honours and what he doesn’t- and in truth we can’t come close to showing even a fraction of His love and care for one another. Not inside and outside the church – may I suggest reading widely, studying the word, putting it into action, praying for wisdom, and asking for the Holy Spirit, which will lead you into all truth and understanding. May the Lord shine his face towards you and be gracious to you. In the name of Jesus I ask for anyone who reads these words.

  2. Aimee on June 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

    The most fun I’ve ever had in my life is intimately connecting with the Holy Spirit as He moved through me to minister to other people. My focus was entirely on Him and blessing flowed into and out of me as a result.

    Then I found out our pastors were not being honest with us and they didn’t want to talk with us about it, so we had to find a new church.

    What I’m looking for in a church community is a place where I can connect with the Holy Spirit in that way again and with other people who also minister that way, out of the overflow of intimacy with Him (the most beautiful One). I’m not looking for a sermon at all. I’m not looking for a consumer experience either. I will engage with those media wholeheartedly, but for me, the proof of true passion is in the action. When someone walks in on crutches, I want to see them being prayed for, or for the opportunity to pray for them myself – even as a first timer. I want to see people healed, delivered, intimately connected with their maker, displaying the fruits of the Spirit as He Lives fully within them. That is church to me, and it’s not really focused on a Sunday morning service (performance?) at all.

    • Melissa on June 12, 2021 at 7:56 am

      Amen! Me too. ❤️

    • Linda Robinson on June 25, 2021 at 12:57 am

      I’m not young anymore but I want a preacher/leader to spend as long as they can before a service giving themselves to God, in prayer and receiving Him and finding His plan for the upcoming service. Then they should give the Holy Spirit a free reign, our desire for controlling everything will see Him heading for the door. God knows who’s attending any service and what they are looking for. The question everyone has is, is God real? It’s God we want not anything else, I’ve been blessed with experiencing God like this in my own church in the past. It’s God Himself whose the attraction reviving or raising the dead is God’s job especially when the lifeless is the church itself. When God turns up He’s truly universal when it comes to the attraction of people you don’t need to advertise either God takes care of that too.

  3. Heather on May 20, 2021 at 4:10 pm

    I think that both are good. Teaching without love is just words, experiential. Services only become transformational when they are founded in the word AND expressed through the lense of extreme love ie passion. This is what is being said i believe

  4. John B on May 18, 2021 at 3:11 pm

    Good article, however, I didn’t any see scripture reference in the article. Passion, transformation and experience are nice, but can they withstand to or compare to the word of God? Will they or can they last? Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart., Matthew 4:4 “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”, Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path., 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work., Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. and on and on and on. Take it from an evangelical charismatic kid of the 70’s and 80’s.

  5. Dawesi on May 18, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Not seeing what you’re seeing. Then again the USA is different to the rest of the world.

    For instance most AU churches went online 10 years ago – evidenced by the fact that 3 of the top 4 current top Church management systems worldwide came out of AU (Elvanto is now Tithly)…

    There are two things you need : 1) Community (in person/online) and 2) fellowship – activities for people get get to know each other (this is not after church chats – that’s not fellowship). You don’t need sermons or services to have a great church on 2021, there are plenty of great preaching online and other sources, focus on community instead.

  6. Libbie Hall on May 17, 2021 at 6:59 am

    My 19 year old daughter and I were up late last night having this exact conversation! I love that this hit my timeline today. I agree with your assessment, but I would add that we (church leaders) have taken on the responsibility of getting people saved and it’s not ours to take. It belongs to the Holy Spirit alone. So while it is good to create and plan and execute…we need to spend more time praying, worshiping and listening. We need to let HIM lead us. Post pandemic, I have seen people trying to fit the church back into the prepandemic box and it will never fit there again. My ministry started two months before the pandemic hit. And now we are asking God how we meet the needs of His people. My first church was charasmatic, and then I was on staff at seeker churches for years. Neither will do for this generation. God is doing something new. We need to sit at His feet, take one step at a time, and let it unfold. I am so excited that we get to be a part of what He is doing in this generation!

    • maji on September 1, 2021 at 7:13 am


  7. Chuck on May 16, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    Ever notice that the trends you describe here, as accurate as they are, are very similar if not situationally identical to the transformation that occurred when traditional experiences like Sunday School and Bible studies began giving way to Small Gtoup experiences?

  8. crisbaj on May 16, 2021 at 6:02 pm

    One way to look at this situation in thru the lens of ‘historic roots and praxis (what you actually DO’… there are the EVANGELICALS, there are the CHARISMATIC/PENTECOSTALS and there are the LITURGICALS. Evangelicals are huge on ‘preaching the Word’, and most of the focus is on ‘the Message’. Charismatic/Pentecostals are historically more Experiential (‘a touch from the Holy Spirit’. seeking signs/wonders/miracles], and the Liturgicals are alot about Form, Liturgy and heirarchy.
    The really funny thing is how ONE movement sees itself based on style elements. Many Evangelical churches see themselves as ‘really progressive and experiential’ because they have a kickin’ worship band playing pop-rock and encouraging singing and clapping. Many Charismatic/Pentecostals see themselves as ‘more adaptive’ because they are using high-tekk, and messages have shifted from ’emotional’ focus to deeper scholarship. Liturgical churches see themselves as more progressive, because they have incorporated. The new ORGANIC movement that is sprung up, kinda a re-boot of the EMERGING church season, is now fighting the thought-wars of being labeled ‘post-modern Christianity’, with it’s take on many social issues… Carey, nice job on parsing ‘information’ from ‘transcendant’ in the ethos of a church…

  9. Bryce Reed on May 16, 2021 at 9:41 am

    The key to these healthy communities of young believers is extremely intentional discipleship from emotionally and spiritually healthy leaders being led by the Holy Spirit!

    My wife and I work as campus missionaries with a student ministry called Chi Alpha at Indiana University. Everything we do is centered around 1on1 and small group discipleship through the influence and leading of the Holy Spirit. That’s what my generation and those younger are desiring; authentic community and real interaction/encounters with the Spirit of God.

    The attractional model is failing to reach the younger generation because its all about being entertained. Younger people are not so easily entertained…everything in our culture is trying to entertain us. And most of those things are just plain fake. When the church does the same thing and it fails to hook people by entertaining them, they just move on to something else that will.

    But authentic community and genuine encounters with the Spirit of God are not something that are a part of our culture. And when our students experience it, it doesn’t matter if they are believers in that present moment or not, they become hooked on the community because of its authentic expression of Jesus’ love for them. They begin to realize that there’s something real there. It’s not my job to attract guys to my core group and entertain them. Rather, it’s my job to pursue them by loving them extremely well, build love and trust with them and share the good news of Jesus on a personal level.

    Thank you for posting this! Love your podcast and blog, sir! 😄

  10. Steven on May 13, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    Hey Carey – you say:

    “But the cultural shifts of the last decade and a half have left people (especially younger people) longing for the transcendent.”

    And then you say:

    “I think the best future churches will have content that leans toward the immanent—practical, helpful and digestible. ”

    Those seem to be contradictory. What am I missing?

    • Libbie on September 29, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      I don’t see the contradiction. Can you expound?

  11. Mona Johns on May 10, 2021 at 7:59 am

    Our Pastors are not buying in to the virtual online church and discipleship. They truly believe in person is where it is at. Not sure how to get their buy in? Ironic because our capital campaign we just did in 2020 was titled One Church. Every Generation. and we are not meeting every generation where they are. I am not a pastor, perhaps I am the one who doesn’t get it? IDK but it is very challenging to work with a group who is resistant to doing anything worldly and they look at social media as being secular. We have an entire new generation who have never lived without it, shouldn’t we meet them there and invite them to church?

  12. Mandla Luphondvo on May 9, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    I took note of several points to challenge myself. Most of the arguments raised address both ends of the spectrum in the issue under discussion.

    Having read the article, I feel challenged to make sure that our church provides a Godly experience, one that will draw people to Him, and in turn, enable them to connect with God. Please do pray with me on this point.

    Impeccable writing skills too.

  13. Kat on April 2, 2021 at 7:55 am

    Disenchanted because culture matters. I’ve been in church all of my life it is the most segregated place that there is and I’m not talking about preferred musical genres. If I want affluent social aspects I must go to a predominantly Caucasian church. The price? My culture is abandoned and nullified. There is a push for a political affiliation that is the opposite of Jesus inclusionary teachings. It becomes the “haves vs. the have nots”. We complete ministry with a twist. The community service pours into projects while ignoring poor communities. If and when we double down to helping the poor it is missions in another country overlooking the issues less than 50 miles from our community. It assumes our issues are infertility, networking, a child with autism or sacrificing by having a staycation for example.

    If I go to church surrounded by culture. It assumes that there is a constant struggle of money, single women with family and a lack of education.

    Neither of the churches will accept non-heterosexual people (which is increasing in gen x by the way), a bipartisan position, and people that don’t look the same because we are racially divided (I’m not speaking of the 3 percent of others who are allowed to blend in). The church is for traditional American families and I’m no longer one of them. Actually I’m no longer stressed once I figured out that there is more to life than being married. The church let’s me know every day that I’m single and less than married couples.

    I love God and he loves me but the churched folks love me when I play a character in the narrative that meets their needs. In summary, I feel bound in church.

    Thanks for allowing me to share.

    • Charles Barton on September 22, 2021 at 4:49 am

      Dear Kat, You are a child of God – and every bit as beloved as the next person. I salute your courage in writing your post. It is a tender thing to share deep feelings in a vulnerable way. Every group makes choices about that upon which they will focus. And there are a thousand different ways to divide ourselves. But a radical welcome in the name of Christ says “Come share in the love and grace we have discovered, let us seek intimacy with God together.” While I don’t know where you are on a map, I do know that proximity doesn’t matter as much as intention. So let me be intentional, come visit us online at http://www.christchurcheaston.org check out our YouTube channel to see who we are and what we offer. If it feels like it could be home, we’d love to have you walking with us learning and growing along with the rest of us. Peace and all good, Rev. Charlie Barton

  14. Sarah on March 18, 2021 at 12:15 am

    I love the heart of this article! It is willing to listen to the voice of humanity as a whole. We so often separate unchurched and churched people, but I think that major assumptions are made when doing that. People are far more complex than that. They are intelligent and they are seeking God, answers, community, meaningful relationships, mobilization to share their passions and callings to further the kingdom. I think we need to shift from the authoritarian model, to a collaborative approach. What I see with the attractional model, is that pastors have stopped putting the spiritual needs and growth of the flock as a priority. It’s all about the new person ( it’s funny because they seem to assume they are all unable to understand complexities and have never read a thing about it (maybe the havent?) But we have a staff full of people who grew up in church and as pastors kids and some of whom have never worked a day outside a church, or even were educated outside Christian colleges.

    I think people want buy in. They want transformation. They want to benefit from practicing Christianity, but not in an entitled way, in a very authentic way. They want real. They want love. They want people who speak life into them and call out their gifts and passions, and mobilize them to serve and love people.

    When was the last time a church did an audit and asked the congregation what they are seeing and experiencing, and compare it to what the staff view as reality. Maybe that would be a good tool? Not so they can pander, but so that we are able to change our methods for how God is trying to reach people.

    We can find info and content online. We want changed lives and to help change lives.

  15. Esther on March 17, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Very educative and inspiring.
    Thanks for not being selfish with your wisdom.
    Looking forward for more.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 17, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Glad to help!

  16. Mark Vanderhoof on February 14, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    Much of this page is about “what” and not about “how”, that is how does the human soul encounter the Real Living Yahweh (God) Jesus. I encourage everyone to visit immanuel approach.com All of us have overwhelming moments in our lives that are still bugging us in various, and often undetected, ways that are affecting our own souls and ways that are spilling out into our relationships and communities in negative ways, especially if we are “influencers” (leaders). Check out this website and it’s links.

  17. Ed Boschman on August 28, 2020 at 10:36 am

    With all due respect, the more things change the more they stay the same. Effective authentic churches were expressing themselves in pretty much exactly these ways back in the 80s.

  18. Nancy Nelson on August 15, 2020 at 3:50 pm

    I’m sure you are a wonderful pastor. Passion can manifest as quiet, steady, consistent, caring determination too.

  19. Helen Burns on August 15, 2020 at 10:33 am

    As always, your posts are so insightful and helpful. They’ve been such a gift in this season. Thanks for all the work you do and hope you offer to leaders everywhere.

    Just letting you know that Hillsong Church has had an online campus for quite a while now, long before Covid – all their globals campuses are online as well.

  20. Rick Q on August 14, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    Quick question: my style is pastoral with a calming presence and is a teaching style. I would not say my style to be passionate. Is there much of place for this style in reaching people today? (No agenda to the question)

    • Nancy Nelson on August 15, 2020 at 3:47 pm

      I’m sure you are a wonderful pastor. Passion can manifest as quiet, steady, consistent, caring determination too.

    • Jennifer on October 1, 2020 at 10:55 am

      I most definitely do not equate passion with being loud, extravagant, excited, etc. Those qualities don’t always mean that passion is there. Like the author said, you can smell fake a mile away. Empty hype is utterly repellant to me. I think of passion more as intense enthusiasm, interest, eagerness, and being compelled by desire. An intense love for people that compels you to minister to them may be just as acutely evident in the most calm of interactions. Everyone has different personalities. Calm and quiet doesn’t mean apathetic, bored, or timid (though it can). Boisterous and energetic doesn’t always mean authentic or loving (though it can). But God desires all of us to be overcome with love for Him and for one another. We are His image bearers and witnesses. He created us to enjoy and reflect His passionate love and intense eager desire that compels Him. And He masterfully crafted each of us to reflect that love in wondrously diverse ways.

    • Maria Colon on October 21, 2020 at 7:23 am

      Serve in a small church in Florida many have left due to cv19, but with less than 25 members, small worship team, few on instruments, a church that looks like back in the 90s not polished at all, the pastor still brings the word on point every sunday. So passion or polish?

  21. Rhonda Wilson on June 2, 2020 at 3:58 pm

    Thank you for this and other linked articles. I have found the information to be very enlightening as I search for information on growing the church and attempt to especially reach young families. I will prayerfully consider all this information and then act on and share it in the future.
    Thank you again!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on June 3, 2020 at 8:25 pm

      Glad to help!

  22. R AM on March 24, 2020 at 10:59 am

    I don’t want to take away from your observations, but I will share one observation of my own from your article: not a single scripture shared. Ultimately, the word of God speaks to guide us in all matters, “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬). And with that in mind, please allow me to share how we see, in Acts 2, the family of Christ followers treating each other with love, supporting each other as only a family might. This is what appears to have caught the attention of outsiders: “… and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” ‭‭(Acts‬ ‭2:47‬). This itself is a fulfilment of Jesus’ promise: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (‭‭John‬ ‭13:35‬ ). Wouldn’t we surmise that if the people of Jesus aren’t treating each other as family, this isn’t likely to attract outsiders to the family? Time and space in this comment don’t adequately allow for more of the much needed scriptural exploration on the topic. But these scriptures alone suggest to me that you’re right when you allude to the fact that the last thing a viable body of believers needs is an amped up system of sound and lights (not to mention adding smoke and mirrors)…

    • Mark Holman on June 2, 2020 at 8:54 pm

      Some people get bogged down on technical rules I’ve watched churches split up over trival stuff so explain to me why two things happened One a child contracted menegitis both bacteria and viral, the Doctors did all they can and then gave up why their medical training and Luke was a Doctor himself and his training he didn’t have a MRI scanner moving forward some a woman I knew she was a Methodist cane to the ICU she put her hand on the glass said the prayer of faith and went home today that young child is healed and she’s married with three healthy children and two can you explain why toe was full of infection was healed the Dr said in shocked said improvement

      I’m believing that you are not exposed to the Pentecostal movement as well Chairsmatic movement go rent the movie Breakthrough about the child who drowned and see what happens I won’t do a Spoiler Alert .

      I’ve dealt with people who doubt like Thomas worst case was a toothpick operator whereas a beam made him lose a Fiancé with his Personality Disorder

      • Laurel Hurst on August 14, 2020 at 11:46 am

        Good article , I found the message conveyed the WordGod, the very meaning of scripture, thank you

    • Erica on August 24, 2020 at 10:01 am

      I’m in agreement … faith without works is dead. When one walks in strong faith there is a certain strong walk with the Lord as Moses and Daniel and Dave did to name a few. All have different Personalities all had passion for God. I say this to say… passion and information need to go hand in hand… I don’t know about y’all but when I pray for wisdom and God gives it, I’m exited about it! The Bible speaks about being zealous for the Lord. That zeal is being passionate about your walk brings growth. People want to know that scripture is true, that God is real and Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit is in us and stirs up something in us that makes us want to shout for joy! I don’t know about y’all but just the thought of the Power of the Lord manifesting in us and stirring up strength and joy on a daily basis because I know that when I even think about a question he answers it! It tells me He’s right there communicating with me constantly! When I’m obedient to His word and His direction, He’s a rewarded of those who diligently seek Him. It’s not the reward I’m after it’s that I get to draw closer to Him… the closer I get the freer I feel. James 4:5 5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us

      He Longs for the spirit He caused to dwell in us .

      The fact the He jealously longs shows me the God is passionate ! If God has given us His best… why can’t we be passionate about giving Him our best?

      There is much to be said about A joyful heart …
      a joyful heart is passionate about something.
      The joy of a child’s birth, a wedding day, a vacation, a graduation, …. ask yourself …. if there are things that God has blessed us with that being us excitement and Joy…. those gifts that God has blessed us with them why can’t our joy, passion, longing, for HIM be more that the gifts we receive?

      I can tell you this… the greater the trials I faced… oh greater was the joy from the freedom and grace I embraced!!!
      People have chains of bondage they need to be broken from. They are looking for an experience with God but they need to know that God sees greater worth in them than man…. so passion and information must go hand in hand

    • Guerry Driggers on August 25, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you for your comments. I agree with them completely.

    • Guerry Driggers on August 25, 2020 at 2:53 pm

      I agree

    • Guerry Driggers on August 25, 2020 at 2:55 pm


    • David Farwell on May 16, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      I truly wish for a better platform for discussion on these matters, and so please hear my desire for this question to be received in a posture of love, curiosity, and humility. Why do so many Christian leaders have a tendency of reading the above Scriptures you mentioned only through the context of the local church gathering? What would it look like for some of our biblical mandates for discipleship to extend beyond the walls into every day life to allow the gathering to be free for its intended purposes? Thoughts anyone?

      • Jacob Craft on June 23, 2021 at 7:32 pm

        I would say its because the role of said church leaders is mainly to tend the flock. Oftentimes the pastor himself is focused upon the flock themselves, his job is typically to admonish and strengthen the faith of his church’s faith. Since many do not work outside of pastoral work(and work is one of the places one most meets those not of the faith and forms meaningful relationships), it can be difficult for them to connect with people and bring them into the church, since there tends to be a stigma associated with ministers, pastors, priests, etc.

        I have always viewed it as being more our job to help be a missionary to the direct world outside of us, while a pastors vocation more involves the church he belongs at. Especially at large churches, there’s so many people I doubt the pastor will even have the time to do other things to the same degree. I think we should bring people to the church, and their job is to welcome them, as well as minister to the church itself and encourage us to live our faith. Perhaps I am mistaken though.

        Therefore, they might be focusing solely on things in the context of the physical church since that is their role in the world.

  23. Malaika on November 7, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Well said and i got a lot of information. My concern is the skill into the global church in reaching out to other people, we have become more of taking care of the people inside and less of the people outside. Yes it is God’s power and duty to add people to the church but that should not means we should compromise the mission of the church” to carry out the great commission of God by winning soul , develop,equip and sending out believers that are grounded in the Word of God,believers that are mature in Christ”; so we basically need to go and win these souls, just as Christ commissioned His disciples.

    Amen Thank you so much

    • Mark Holman on January 23, 2020 at 11:34 am

      If anyone missed the Bible verses of GOD POURING OUT HIS SPIRIT on his people, in fact people are leaving spiritually dead churches for Charismatic and Full Gospel Churches. And I do know as an example one Church I’ve attended was so BORING that it closed up. I’ve heard that the Minister was having an affair, as well another denomination minister was same thing.

      Ours is small but one of the Donors passed away. We taken on a Co-Pastor team, and as soon as I’ve taken ministry credentials, I’ve added Psychology.

      And another thought I’ve known some individuals instead of tithes the money is spent at a Casino, Lottery Tickets, Bingo Halls with the deluded misconceptions that they will win it big, then no food ask for benevolence. Rethinking is needed here, I could tell more things but it would be a long post.

      • Larry Turpin on May 17, 2021 at 10:10 am

        for sure wisdom in dealing with people who come to the front door is always needed.

  24. Joseoh on October 18, 2019 at 6:16 am

    This is great, I love to have more of this in no distance time thanks so much.

    • Christine Smith on March 1, 2020 at 11:59 pm

      I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years but I found church to be great in my 20’s because there was a place for me but as I have gotten older, now 40’s it’s so much harder because I don’t have something to fit into. I’m currently not married nor do I have kids nor am I divorced so I find it so much harder for people at church to want to engage with me because it seems I have not much to offer which is sad. I made it a point for 6 months to stay after service and have coffee and try to connect, it was so incredibly painful and finally after 7 months I introduced myself to the pastor who never said hello to me. I’m not mad at this church but truth be told religious institutions are mostly for families because there is a bigger return for the church in terms of tithing, programs, service etc… churches mostly center their programs around families, even divorced families or young groups to help create families…I love God but I always feel like that song “ Sunday mornin comin down” by Kris Kristofferson… life’s too short to not just spend Sunday morning with God instead of a place one doesn’t fit in!

      • R AM on March 24, 2020 at 11:04 am

        Exactly. As per the comment and scriptures I just shared…

      • Rhonda Wilson on June 2, 2020 at 3:53 pm

        That is so sad that you were made to feel that way. I certainly would not want anyone at the church that I attend to feel that way. I understand that families and groups of friends often tend to communicate more freely within their group. However, for example, I always try to personally invite others within the church to join meetings, activities, etc. (either personally or with a printed flyer/invite) so that they knew I wanted them to know they were welcomed. Our minister greets everyone as they leave. I know that trend is not the “norm” anymore. However, even if he didn’t do that, he mingles with us all and converses with us prior to Sunday school and church time.
        I hope you find another, more welcoming, and engaging church to be a part of. PLEASE don’t give up!

      • Mark Holman on June 2, 2020 at 9:15 pm

        I’ve recently had conversations with some of the presbyters and one wants a Pastor Like yesterday and another said something to the effect for change I’ve watched a church hopper came infor less than a year and decided to go somewhere else to be honest I’ve seen more than one go in and out not anchored at all.

        I’ve left one was involved in some questionable activity that was a public exposure even Christian magazines as well news media did B-Cast as well iLL say in my morning prayer Ponzi Scheme not to have anything to do with this. I’ve even was at a so called religious outfit probably fell apart after a few people left also I’ve known a situation where a Assistant Pastor wanted to talk to a person about something was said I felt that it was neccessary

      • Jeff on August 14, 2020 at 9:36 am

        Sorry that you found it difficult to engage. Here is what I recommend. Take it or leave it from a random guy on the internet. What if you made yourself the hospitality person? Meaning you sought out new people and disenfranchised people and did everything in your power to make them feel welcome. We need people like you who feel you don’t fit to make a home for others who don’t fit. In fact, the way you notice the pain in being disconnected tells me that you would be a great catalyst for making meaningful community. Don’t give up.

      • Sue Dumbill on November 21, 2021 at 1:03 am

        Hi Christine, how I can relate to what you have shared. I’m 59 and still single, and left a church a year ago because I found I was on the outer fringe, not fitting in with the other social groups, families etc. I’d go home after a service and cry for around an hour then go to bed and sleep to try to give my body and mind some rest. After a long time if that I decided, for my own health, to leave that church. I haven’t missed it at all. Why would you miss where you’re not really wanted or included, despite all your efforts over years, hosting at your home, much prayer and generally trying really hard to make it all happen. I visit other churches at moment, and keep in touch with other singles from the previous church who are struggling like I was, and who have been trying really hard as I did. Were developing a good thing though – we meet every month or so, two social groups of us – for meals etc, and support each other. It’s working v well, easily, naturally. We’re not exclusive; if married people would like to join us they’re v welcome, all are. I’m in a better place. I can’t go to a church where I feel suicidal any more, but I have found these like- minded people with whom I can enjoy time. I’ve also started hosting at home again.

        I think we need to be aware that this is a real dilemma for many people in many churches. Older singles just slip through the net. Charismatic churches generally are very family oriented, and cliquish. It’s a reality we need to face. But God knows that, and if we can share our troubles about this with people who understand and who can help it’s good to. The way I see church is changing greatly because of my experience. It’s not good if I tell my pastor I’ve been feeling suicidal – and he just says he’ll pray for me, them smiles sympathetically – then just walks away. We had 4 Lockdowns here in Liverpool UK, and I haven’t known loneliness and isolation like it for a v long time. One Saturday morning what stopped me from thinking even more deeply about suicide was a non Christian support website – then some v kind words from my non Christian hair stylist. I’m sorry, but until the church is prepared to notice us, and really make the effort to include us (esp those if us who do all we can to do right) then something is radically wrong. The Bible says God puts the lonely in families. Here were building a family of our own. I do much wish it were different.

        And for those among you who may be judging me – please let me assure you I am a serious Christian, and I have spent whole nights up praying about all this. I have been through much at the hands of the church, good and very, very bad.

        God help us all

      • Charlie Barton on November 21, 2021 at 4:32 am

        Dear Christine, I realize that your post is almost 2 years old – and I can’t explain why it showed up in my feed this morning- but I’ve learned to pay attention when such “coincidences” happen. Every faith community has a personality, just like people. Some faith communities are prickly and cliquish. Some are not just welcoming, but outgoing and making an effort to reach those looking to be in community. I believe we are in that latter category. We’ve been producing music video, online services and opportunities for willing people of all ages to gather in faith, on site and online. We are singles, married, and divorced. Our community includes babies, teens, people at the height of their career, and those long retired. We pray for and converse with people around the world. I look for ways to include those who are near and those who are far. This weekend the church hears a greeting from a member in North Carolina. In the past a member from Australia read the lesson. You would be welcomed and included n a manner that matches your gifts with the life of the community and the needs of the world.

        If it is indeed the Spirit prompting this connection, you’ll know. If you would like to have a conversation via messenger or email reach out via our website http://www.christchurcheaston.org

  25. Lloyd Bronson on August 8, 2019 at 10:16 am

    I am glad this article mentioned that people want transformation over information. I wish to join a church that can implement this effectively. I think that a church focused less on information that all attendees know and instead focuses its efforts into the transformation of the people attending would be a church that I would enjoy going to.

  26. Edward Qaser on May 13, 2019 at 1:11 am

    Dear Brother/ Sister in Christ ,

    Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ,

    It’s my privilege to have an email with you. I am Edward Qaser from Lahore , Pakistan.

    I am serving the Lord Jesus Christ with Christian based Humanitarian Organization, to glorify His name . Our main focus is reach to unreached with Love of Christ.

    Millions of Non- believer need of knowing about the truth and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ especially the poor people are deprived one. EGM Pakistan is a Humanity base organization and working for the development of the human beings, its major object is to mitigate the effects of poverty, disease , illiteracy and disasters.
    We accomplish this mission by implementing various community based programs ( Projects ) like Empowerment projects , Computer Centers, Sewing Centers, Relief in disasters, Provide food to Poor , Orphan Center, Scholarship for Poor and Needy Students .we have 85 pastors in around Pakistan who are serving in remote and rural areas of Pakistan . we are sharing the word of God in every part of Pakistan ;

    I want to invite you with great love and encouraging words to come to Pakistan , and bring the Good News of Lord Jesus with people of Pakistan.

    May Lord lay burden on your heart for your Pakistani brethren .

    Hope to hear from you as soon as….

    God Bless you

    Edward Qaser ( Executive Director )

    Cell :- +92-300-843-7639

    Office :- +92-423-596-5371


  27. Cindy Jacobs on March 20, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    The Free Methodist Church is very conservative. I have no problem with contemporary music but Hymns are just as important. I don’t think you need loud music blaring. I have been to contemporary services and the music is so loud that you can’t enjoy it. There is nothing wrong with a band so long as they don’t try to blow you out of your seat. I enjoy piano and organ because when you come in the sanctuary you can enjoy the music and get yourself ready to worship. We do say Praise the Lord, Amen, clap our hands with songs and raise our hands. We do need young people but isn’t there some way to satisfy both traditional and contemporary and still bring young people in?

  28. james brackett on December 3, 2018 at 1:59 pm

    Interesting article. Methods come and go. The Word of God changes people. The baptism of the Holy Spirit will give you passion for the lost. Churches don’t have to have hundreds of people to reach the lost.

    • Theophilus on January 26, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Methods are many. Principles are few. Methods often change. Principles never do. Great article. It will be extensively shared.

    • Obed on February 24, 2019 at 9:57 pm

      Thank you for this very well written article. As a non-denominational, evangelical, four months old ,GCC church plant, operating in Jamaica where every conceivable brand of the pentecostal/charismatic/word of faith/NAR/ prosperity gospel is thriving – there is much here to think about.
      May we never lose our first love in pursuit of numerical growth, people approval and relevance or be insensitive or inflexible to operations of Spirit. Contextualize without compromise.
      Building on Christ by Christ for the glory of Christ. He brings the increase.

    • Luke on April 11, 2019 at 5:27 pm

      My church had the greatest revival its ever seen, and the number of people when from 150 to 60

  29. Doug Abbey on November 20, 2018 at 8:35 pm

    I appreciate your article, but I would like to know if you are talking about churches in a big city?
    I am a pastor in a small town and we are charismatic and full of the Holy Spirit but people are
    not coming to church like they were 6 or 7 years ago. I just think that what you are saying is a real one
    sided story and I can only pray that it will happen here again soon.

  30. Wes on November 19, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    What a fantastic read! Thank you for your insight.

    • Darnell Cockram on August 14, 2020 at 8:39 am

      I agree with your comments,Carey. Keep up the good articles. I think if most pastors would look at a video of their services and do a critical analysis or just pretend they are attending the service for the first time. They would be appalled. And to see the same thing or same ritual each week is not very exciting! Digital may have made us more aware and we don’t want ritual but a real spiritual experience!
      Also, we or the church needs to do what Jesus did. He taught everywhere he went. He was authentic and he cared. He wanted people to know God in a personal way! Churches need to reinvent themselves and do God’s Will!

  31. gary hay on November 12, 2018 at 9:59 pm

    Very insightful and full of the kinds of things our guests have been telling us caused them to “stick” for years! Words to the wise!

  32. Rick White on November 12, 2018 at 10:06 am

    As a pastor of a Charismatic non-denominational church I tell people on a regular basis, “We want the fullness of the Spirit without the foolishness of the flesh.” I think I heard that from Jack Hayford.

    • Ray Goolsby on February 4, 2019 at 1:24 am

      That sounds great Rick. It’s rare that you would get 100% of one or the other. Many are partially in the spirit and partially in the flesh. Who can really know?A lot of times what ever you are uncomfortable with is what you call the flesh. Even if you could rightly judge, if someone is 20% in the spirit and 80% in the flesh, why can’t we celebrate the 20% in the spirit? We can probably reduce the 80% through encouragement and teaching but if we are afraid of it or think we can control it, we will squash the 20% . What do we do with the person who is 80% in the spirit and 20% in the flesh? Are they any different? Should we celebrate the 80% then love them, encourage them and instruct them about the 20%? Revival Is not supposed to be controlled, but it can be managed!

  33. A.M. on November 10, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Just a great article all around. We are all creatures of comfort whether that’s in teaching/preaching style, worship, programming, etc….

    Who wants change? We all raise our hands
    Who wants To change? …….(insert cricket chirp)

    The bottom line is how do we reach those who are far from Christ and connect them into a body of believers?

    Are we willing to sacrifice our personal preferences for Gods mission? Many of us of say, “Of course,” but when the church actually moves towards the change that affects our personal preference suddenly we don’t like it and argue the church is changing too fast. Our world is also changing fast and we will lose all relevance in our community of those who are hurt, broken, and far from God if we don’t have a healthy church to connect them in to.

    Thank you Carey for putting this out there. We all need a little soul searching after reading this article.

  34. Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

    Lots of great thoughts and wisdom here. I’d disagree, however, with the comment that churches will become irrelevant if they don’t keep up with cultural changes (paraphrasing). In a time when cultural changes leave no choice but compromise the Word of God on key issues (ie sexual immorality with no repentance; adultery and divorce), it’s a huge mistake to behave as if those sins are no longer sins for which repentance is required in order to work out our salvation in Christ. Rather, those who are willing to pay the price spiritually and emotionally and financially to stand with the truth of God’s Word become like blazing beacons of His holiness in an increasingly dark world. This is needed more now than ever, regardless of cultural changes. I’m seeing that culturally relevant churches are great to introduce believers to Christ but unless the whole Word of God is being preached, especially the part about taking up the cross to follow Christ and sharing in His suffering in order to truly share in His glory (Romans 8:15), then we will inadvertently lead believers astray from the truth that would otherwise sanctify them. The result is sometimes that we end up ‘commanding the glory’ to manifest, naming and claiming what we think is best instead of truly seeking the will of Almighty God, and risking coming under powerful delusions sent to those who refuse to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:9-12). Great article with many great points, thanks for taking the time to write it.

    • Pam Washburn on November 11, 2018 at 8:07 am

      I don’t think cultural relevancy here is saying we compromise truth. I think it means we embrace how people are learning and engaging in real relationships over time. Every generation has been impacted by something (ie: information overload and empty “connectivity”) and consequently this changes how people engage and acquire information. Before the written word became accessible to everyone, we were an oral culture, passing truths along through stories and memorization. That was no longer the main vehicle once people could access the bible for themselves at any time. This changed the way the brain actually took information in. This changed how people learned and connected. We are now a full on digital culture where anyone can become an ‘expert’ in anything online. This has fundamentally changed how kids learn and connect with others. I’ve learned to help my own kids navigate some of the info overload so they are wiser about discerning information and sources of that information because I know it is not going away. The bible is still the plumb line. Our propensity as fallen humans is to move away from God. I think the post is saying, as a church that is grounded on biblical truth, we will always be what people need but how we share it and engage with them is key because it determines whether or not those people will see it as a need. The most dangerous place to live on earth is in a state of “peace” apart from God. People search and search for that “peace” in all kinds of ways and in all kinds of things. Unless the church pays attention to the way people learn and connect from one generation to the next we never really will get the opportunity to share the great news, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Being culturally relevant just means we pay attention to what is impacting the hearts and minds of people today, how they learn and connect, and letting this inform us as to the best way to get the truth across.

      • Dee on November 11, 2018 at 8:44 am


        “The May Synods had just held their sessions and had been discussing the decrease [in growth] which for another year had disappointed us all. Naturally, this subject came up and Dr Pope observed that all the ministers had been lamenting their failures which in his judgement were due to their adherence to obsolete methods. He did not pursue the matter………Shortly before his death (he said) that repeated decreases are the result of our persistent use of worn out evangelistic methods……..

        Someone has said that the Churches have an excellent article to offer but they are perfect fools at getting it on the market!…”

        Dr Pope, senior English Methodist minister, died around 1906

        So in 2018 how have matters improved? As far as I can see we have lots of ‘ologies and Grrek-root words that confirm the theofluency of the inner circle but not much that really works reliably to connect with a naive modern enquirer in terms of presenting the Bible message in away that makes “sense”.

        Coca Cola had a successful “reasons to believe” campaign. https://www.coca-cola.co.uk/stories/reasons-to-believe
        Has the church got something similar (on YouTube)?

    • Candace Sims on September 9, 2019 at 6:26 am

      I agree, and may I ask what happened to, and the Lord added daily such as should be saved. Why don’t we stay faithful and labor (most definitely) and allow God to add such as should be saved. He hasn’t changed even in this changing world.

  35. Kurt Bubna on November 8, 2018 at 9:50 pm

    Carey, without a doubt, this is the best thing I’ve ever read from you! Seriously. SO good. I’ve read it three times (and I’ll read it again). Thank you!

  36. Gone, but not Done on November 6, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    These days, I keep trying to imagine what those early Roman Christians were thinking/doing when they met in the Catacombs. Somehow, I don’t think they’d recognize ‘church’ today. No one was passing out flyers– For a really great Experience, join our next meeting three streets down, just past the Baths, and take a left into the dark tunnel. Torches will be passed out to each attendee as they enter…

    Question to ponder: So what REALLY went on in those early churches…..? They grew, but they sure weren’t (could NOT be) very public about their meetings….Say what??? There must have been another ‘secret sauce’. It may even have been an experience, but it wasn’t choreographed during the week previous…

    • Elizabeth Jones on November 7, 2018 at 10:30 am

      Excellent points. What did the early churches have going for them? (Really. Sincerely.)

      I would like someone to take this seriously and engage with this question. I am a student of history and can tell you lots of information about the early church, but how did the early church replicate? Is there any lesson to be found for us today?

      • Gone, but not Done on November 7, 2018 at 3:07 pm


        The early church:
        was not a business
        nor a Not-for-Profit entity
        had no tradition to follow
        had a dynamic passion to love one another as the Master had loved them
        (they focused on loving, not 3 songs and a talk )
        kept Jesus as the Head, not the pastor nor the board
        Sought to live and walk by the Spirit in obedience to the Master

        The early church:
        Served others
        and most of all,
        Loved each other and those in the world around them no matter what
        since their faith and singleminded focus was the Master, not simply going through the motions for an hour and a half each week (or less than each week)

        The early church:
        Made the rest of their lives subservient to the sole goal of knowing Jesus rather than ‘trying’ to fit their faith into the rest of their lives

        The good news is that there are many who still live this way today.
        The sad part is that there are many who have forgotten and have focused on distractions such as structures, music, power, yes, and money too. These all have their place but Jesus said,

        Seek First, the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these (other) things will be added unto you. The danger is in reversing the order…

        • Harry Court on November 12, 2018 at 3:52 pm

          I understand your comments – seeking purity and simplicity of the Church of the Book of Acts.

          But one main aspect of the early church was the acceptance of the Gentiles into something that was Jewish in nature. Different culture – different times – message and relationship important – different methods unless you do envangelism in sandals as commanded by Christ. But I do understand you sentiment. But I would also say the Day of Pentecost – and evrything that entails – should be the focus if you are going to look backwards

          • Gone, but not Done on November 14, 2018 at 3:39 pm

            Let me state the crux of my comment more clearly perhaps…

            We seem to do ‘church’ today with the hope that once folks get in the door, meet some people, hear some good preaching/teaching, then maybe they’ll have a better chance of meeting Jesus.

            My point was that if the ‘Church’ (you, me, fellow believers, not an organization) had the understanding that the best way to show Jesus to folks was by the way we live, love act and speak and conducted our own relationships with one another, then the Attract and Hope (oh, yes, pray too) methodology would be almost irrelevant. It’s a second-rate, fall-back way to do evangelism that breeds it’s own pathologies, not the least amongst the Body who misunderstand that it is they, not the organization who make the difference. Problem is, too many actually believe that our own lives are an ‘inefficient’ way to do it. Worse yet, too many are not, by their own admission, even coming close to living in such a way whereby we can say as did Paul and Jesus, “…what you have seen in me….”

            My frustration and disappointment is the vast energy and resources we put into the secondary and less efficient approach (though not without some seeming success–mostly because God makes all things work together for good–even the imperfect. Which should NOT be a justification.) My reference to the early church is this, they grew far more because they practiced what they preached, so to speak, with their lives instead of trying to ‘convince’ the world thru logic, teaching, etc.

            The reality of the state of ‘church’ in N. America leads me to believe that we’re fighting a rear-guard action ineffectively instead of focusing on the main thing– that is that we each ‘know Him more’. Everything truly flows from this.

      • Dee on November 7, 2018 at 5:24 pm

        They were a persecuted minority with a revolutionary agenda…….sound familiar? They got lucky with Emperor Constantine and then again with Theodosius I, Gratian, and Valentinian II in 380AD.

      • Robin Vogsland on January 15, 2019 at 7:14 pm

        Lacking actual historical accounts, I think we can guess at the basics from what the Holy Spirit does now in the best situations. If you have a group of Christians together who know each other and are studying the word together to share and address the problems in their lives, it is intensely relevant and intimate (~immanent).

        And if Christ’s and the other Bible writer’s stress on love rather than judgement for the brethren and for the lost becomes the modus operandi, then those Christians will easily be reminded to look back to when they (or their friends) were lost (or immature in faith)–trapped in error and without hope, and they will readily plot and plan how to bring the lost in–and will do it by personally taking the initiative. [Many will have this gift and those that do not will provide support.] When you realize your survival as a church and as a person depends on Christ, you will pray a lot and depend on prayer to God vigorously.

        Those who are mature will lead those who are less mature, and (hopefully) show the immature that growing strong in faith and knowledge is the best possible life-goal. Back in the days, overseers (bishops) were selected based on their great faith that could not be shaken by trouble, not just on their management skill.

    • Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:33 am

      The early Church was just as you described, but it was ‘the beginning’ so-to-speak of the fullness of the Kingdom of God manifesting on earth as He is in heaven. From then until now, we’ve witnessed the gospel message taken through-out the whole earth and great nations raised up on the foundation of Judeo-Christian precepts. The governing authorities have changed so that some governments actually base their constitution on Biblical principles. That’s why they have the Bible as the set standard of truth in their courts of law and scriptures engraved on government buildings. The fullness of the Kingdom is not about the early Church starting all over again but about reaping great harvests of souls ready to meet the end of this world as we know it. Kingdom sons are born for such a time as this, for whom all of creation is waiting to see because then creation itself will be delivered from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:17-21). Christ isn’t leaving after being crucified and resurrected so His Holy Spirit could be poured out on all flesh; He’s coming back to celebrate the results with all who belong to Him. Believers are going to rise up from their graves to join those of us who are still alive and are left waiting, and we’re all going to meet Him in the air (1 Thess. 4). Trying to recreate the early Church in the midst of all that is going backward, not forward.

  37. Mark McDonald on November 6, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    What a great post!
    In Melbourne, Australia, the traditional evangelical churches are in decline as they seem to be about the head rather than the head and heart. Liturgical churches are not that popular because they seem outdated and impersonal. Churches like Hillsong, and those like them, have become the growing churches because of the issues you mention in the post. People in Australia want to come to church for an experience of God rather than knowledge about God.
    I’m in an Anglican setting so I’ve been studying the efforts of Holy Trinity Brompton in the UK which is planting resourcing churches all across the UK. They discovered people want prayer time in the service but also things like Alpha courses to invite people to. Alpha is about knowing Jesus and experiencing the Holy Spirit. HTB have also discovered is that you can’t do “dated” 1990’s style charismatic church anymore either, no more happy clapping church. Holy Trinity Brompton seem to have picked up from Hillsong how to be contemporary yet be charismatic Anglicans rather than Pentecostal (theologically speaking). Look at a HTB off shoot, such as St Johns Hackney, which is very contemporary and charismatic.
    The challenge for my church here in Melbourne is how to engage people with the truth of the Gospel with love and grace so that people will experience God, not just learn about the bible text of the sermon topic. Also we have smaller resources which is a challenge but we can offer a good non-downloadable experience. So we are hopeful about growing in the next few years.

    • Harry Court on November 12, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Very good. I have been to Lyon, France walked into Cathedrals built 300 years ago – dirty, cold dark – served its generation and empty that Sunday except for a 8 elderly (1000 seats inside) – then walked around the corner down the alley to the Comedy Club hired by Hillsong filled with young people! Filled to capacity with 120 people.

  38. Mel Bladek on November 6, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    Hey Carey, great post! It was interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

    So, theoretical question more than anything, but you said, “Authentic doesn’t mean weird.” Now I know what you’re going for, but what about when authentic does mean weird? The Bible is full of super weird experiences when God does things, and meets people, and speaks…

    How do you balance giving the Holy Spirit freedom to do what he wants to do, but only if it’s not weird? I feel like there’s a tension between moving in a more spirit led, charismatic direction, and still maintaining very tight control over production/appearances.


    • Maxine Heckbert on November 9, 2018 at 9:38 am

      Mel Bladek: Some need to have the spiritual gifts of discernment, of distinguishing between spirits, words of knowledge, and so on. Then when things get weird and it’s truly the result of the Holy Spirit working, those people will be able to say why and what to do about it to remain in the will of God, and for the edification of the whole Church. I believe there’s a point where it becomes counter-productive to try to attract so many people into the building that the weirdness increases to the point where what’s NOT from God over-rules what IS from God. There should also be small group fellowships to facilitate individual growth in a relationship with Christ to offset that. When it becomes a big show to the point where holiness is an inconvenience, it should be a sign that everything’s about to go off the rails.

  39. Michael on November 6, 2018 at 12:16 pm


    Thanks for sharing this great post. Our church seems to be walking through this dynamic now. We are an older church that is moving quickly to reaching younger families. I can’t deny that our greatest response has come from intentionally allowing the Holy Spirit to bring fresh life, which, in our services means more energy, operation of spiritual gifts, and passionate worship that doesn’t follow a 15 minute time barrier. I wouldn’t call myself a dynamic preaching, but a passionate teacher. And this passionate direction from our team is drawing more people and their spiritual hunger is absolutely refreshing! I guess the biggest challenge seems to be that our older generation struggles to understand how the new method applies to their experiences from days gone by. Any thoughts on how to bridge that growing divide? We want to move forward with connecting unbelievers to the gospel by whatever means necessary (short of sin), but we know that God wants to reignite spiritual passion in the generation that has given so much to see it continue for so many generations. My pastor’s heart doesn’t want to leave anyone behind, but I see the Lord moving us quickly towards something new.

  40. Anthony Costa on November 6, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Thanks for the reply Carey and all the great things you do for the body of Christ! Yeah, I heard Peyton Jones say recently that we often forget that the majority of the book of Acts occurs outside in public spaces. May the Lord help us all be creative and bold in bring the Gospel to where people are at

  41. KP on November 6, 2018 at 10:24 am

    One of the best articles I’ve read in a while! I wish MORE church leaders understood this!!!

  42. Ryan on November 6, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Thank you for this post! I have observed these trends here in my ministry context, in South Florida. A very inspiring and challenging word!

    Where do you think the younger generation’s value of media excellence fits in the picture of passion beating polish? I fully agree with the idea that heartfelt, authentic worship is more important to the younger generation than its outward dressing (What a relief!). But there are some who would argue that the language of Millennials is so conditioned by highly-produced audio/visual media that we must keep up with that level of production/technology if we hope to communicate the gospel effectively to them. I don’t think any in that camp, of those I know, would argue that it’s absolutely NECESSARY. But I do think they would say it’s prudent, and that our younger people will find what they’re looking for down the street, at a church whose leadership has put their money where their mouth is (“If worship is as important as you say it is, then why does your stage look like a nursing home and the images on the screen are equivalent to 1990’s clip art on an overhead projector? Have you heard of UHD?”).

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!

  43. Stephen Canfield on November 6, 2018 at 10:04 am

    Excellent post Carey, we are seeing this play out almost to a “T” at our church. Can you explain this statement a bit more:

    “The attractional movement has done a great job reminding all of us that we have guests in the room. And while the foyer may have moved, someone’s first Sunday is still a huge deal. So that’s no excuse to be self-indulgently weird. Authentic doesn’t mean weird.”

    Can you think of any examples of where weird is just, well, weird? What is authentic (or maybe even quirky) and what is off-putting (awkward?)?

  44. Jake on November 5, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    It’s amazing the new ways people come up with that continually make money off the church. if your passion is really seeing people come to know Christ then I think that you should offer your advice free of charge. to make money off of getting people passed their attendance barrier to me is making the church more of a business.

  45. Donald Andrews on November 5, 2018 at 4:56 pm

    Great post and answers some questions I have had on the subject. But I would like to know what you mean by “more passionate expressions of worship”? Can you give some examples?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      Sure. Just watch Elevation Worship, Central Online (Las Vegas), Hillsong or LifeChurch. Hope this helps!

  46. Blake on November 5, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Would you say this is true for unchurched lost people? Seems like the lost I work with are weirded out by emotionalism. It’s the “Christians” (that background) that want the emotional experiences more. Just wondering.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:21 pm

      We minister in a highly unchurches area, and as we’ve worked through this, I’m surprised to say yes. You have to be careful not to overwhelm people…keep things accessible. But yeah, they’re looking for more earlier than they did a few years ago. Surprising.

  47. Craig on November 5, 2018 at 3:15 pm


    Great stuff here. One of your best posts! I’ve never been a fan of the “attractional” label or Seeker model for a variety of substantive reasons, and we are not charismatic in theology. But your examples of what you intend by these labels (i.e pursuit of authentic engagement, etc.) is the center of what we want to be about. And it is what has been missing in many churches that kind of “do church” for you. YES, people want to need to be there and matter. We are recently finding our front center 6 rows filled with collegiate! Wow, what a difference that makes for our worship vibrancy. And they represent everything you are writing about.

    Hey, I do have one critique. It is of your distinction between “teaching” and “preaching”. It’s a common view, but I think it’s demonstrably flawed. In the New Testament, there are three consistent distinctions between the words used for teaching and preaching. And none have anything to do with energy, passion, dynamism, etc. in one’s speaking. The issues are: Content, Audience, and Purpose.

    It’s really this simple:
    “Preaching” is Gospel Content (proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom) to as yet non/pre-believers, for the purpose of conversion.
    “Teaching” is Edification Content (explaining, exhorting, clarifying, persuading, motivating, etc.) to already believers, for the purpose of spiritual growth and godly living.

    In both arenas, there are places for careful explanation and reasoning. And there are appropriate moments for urgent, passionate calls to action and change. “Repent!” “Obey!”

    So, we’re on much better (biblical) ground urging speakers to both PREACH (to non-believers in the room and especially in the public square) and TEACH (to believers in the room and elsewhere) with clarity and with passion, and whatever dynamism is most effective as an authentic communicator.

    (I just don’t think it’s helpful to preaching or teaching to misuse both terms by redefining preaching/teaching as you do; even as commonly as this mistake is perpetuated. This audience is for leaders. They too should know better.)

    Thanks for the opportunity to speak in.
    Thank you for your consistent awareness of trends that affect ministry effectiveness.

  48. Brian on November 5, 2018 at 2:03 pm

    Any clarification on the term “attractional”? I’ve only ever heard the term “missional” held in contrast to attractional, in that attractional is about “getting people here” (i.e. attraction) whereas missional is about “sending people there.” In this way, I’ve always seen charismatic as something that can be an attribute of any church, whether attractional or missional. In fact, some of the most charismatic churches I see are keenly attractional.

    I’m assuming you’re using the term a little different, perhaps as a third category? A little clarity would help me as I’m processing this… Thanks Carey!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 2:25 pm

      Great question Brian. Attractional to my mind is a more recent version of the seeker movement of the 90s where churches designed their weekend experiences with the unchurched guest in mind.

      Often (but not always) that takes the form of less worship, hosting that explicitly welcomes unchurched people into the room, running everything through a filter with the guest in mind and often (but not always) topical preaching.

      Hope this helps!

      • Brian on November 5, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        VERY helpful. Thanks for responding!

  49. scotthaus on November 5, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Great post! having grown up a charismatic, moved into an expositional environment, then in the attractional last couple of years, I love some charismatic coming back it! And just FYI … Hillsong does put their services on their YouTube channel. I watch them almost every week!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 5, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks. I think some of their local churches don’t though, right. But good point!

  50. Josephine-Africa on November 5, 2018 at 12:14 pm

    Great message,am.pastoring a small church of 30-40 congregant fr a year now,am blessed by this message…..I desire to see the church beat 100 soon.However,QN what role can the congrents play to bring more people…Josephine from Africa

  51. Fred Middel on November 5, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    Charismatic in expression, not charismatic in theology? The headline is a little misleading…

  52. Brian Cunnington on November 5, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Another great post Carey. Biblically-informed preaching and life-relevant teaching are both necessary for individual and corporate transformation.

  53. Jason Lieberg on November 5, 2018 at 11:06 am

    Excellent! And very challenging! What are people doing that break up the 3 songs and a message – what kinds of additions are made to the weekend experience?

  54. Dee on November 5, 2018 at 11:05 am

    Too many really weird words! Transcendent …. Immanent???????????????

    Agreed that the foyer has moved, so the “handshake welcome” has happened some days before arrival, exposing the next step – to belonging – more rapidly. But then what?

    If you hit me with a lot of happy clappy, then farewell. Others will be offended if there is no happy clappy. Check out almost anything on personality types and it will encourage at least four different interaction patterns. See

    What are the belonging “hooks” ? Things to join? An assigned buddy? Class group? Your own pew (probably not!!) Sunday service…….easiest but not a good hook if it is a waste of time or generating negatives.

    What then is the pathway from belonging to faith and “membership”? The equivalent secular models would include moving to black-belt or improved handicap, or a league table.

    As noted also by Anthony, in our case 70% of the pop is in a fuzzy “believing-not-belonging” category who probably have unhappy memories of “gathered” settings and vote with their feet. But they may respond to a social media relationship with a more concert-like gathered offering. If the foyer is online, how much longer before we extend it into a proper working space? What form should that take?

  55. Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 10:15 am

    I am pastor of a small UCC church in the northwest Chicago suburb of Morton Grove. With the booming Willow Creek North Shore in the suburb to the north (Glenview) and the evangelical powerhouse Harvest Bible Chapel in the suburb to the south (Niles), it seems sometimes that they suck all the oxygen out of the neighborhood. I often take my laptop and have informal office hours at a nearby coffee shop, and I hear about these two mega-churches often from people I encounter there. I get discouraged, and think “How can little St. Luke’s Church possibly compete?”
    Feeling discouraged,
    Elizabeth Jones

    • Chaplain Mike on November 5, 2018 at 12:10 pm

      Chaplain Elizabeth,

      I was once a member of a small church in the San Diego area where megachurches are more of the norm than the exception. The pastor was quite depressed about the fact that the church never really grew past 25 members and usually 15 in attendance on a Sunday morning. No worship band, no screens, just a home feel to the sanctuary.

      The church was warm and accepting of everyone who walked in the door. The pastor thought about calling it quits. However, the Lord showed my wife and I that they had a “niche” ministry that was providing a valuable service to hurting Christians who had been burned by other churches and Christians. The pastor agreed that was a strength that they had and he is keeping the course. The church may never “grow” as healed people leave as new hurting people come through.

      Maybe you could pray to find your niche in the midst of megachurch city as well. As you know, its just not numbers, it is the quality of the church and its members that really make it capable to minister. I will keep you in prayer.

      Chaplain Mike

      • Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        Thanks so much, Chaplain Mike. Yes, I was a happy hospital chaplain for almost ten years until God called me (suddenly) to minister to this dear group of believers who had a traumatic leadership situation happen, four and a half years ago. They needed a chaplain then. I guess the Lord has seen fit to keep me in this small church, since the congregation extended an official call about a year later. 🙂
        I love being a small-church pastor, too. I find my pastoral care gifting so much needed in both my congregation and the local neighborhood, which is quite diverse in terms of ethnicity, faith tradition, and every other way. I am now a known community figure in our suburb, on the local Farmers’ Market board, and participating in the interfaith network in our area. I love what I’m doing for my dear congregation and for the neighborhood, and thank God for it regularly. Except…it does get discouraging, sometimes.
        Thanks so much for your prayers. I really appreciate them. Sending prayers for you and your ministry.
        Pastor Elizabeth/@chaplaineliza

        • Cam Dunson on November 5, 2018 at 5:51 pm

          I’ll be praying for you as well, Pastor Elizabeth

          • Elizabeth Jones on November 5, 2018 at 11:41 pm

            Thanks so much, Cam. I do appreciate prayers. Sending some to God for you, too.

  56. Anthony Costa on November 5, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Great post Carey! I am glad to see things shifting to help reach the unchurched and lost. However, I would say that this is still an attractional model since we are still adjusting the service and programs in hope that people will be more like to come to the church building. This is not bad but I believe that it certainly has the natural trend toward insiders. The reality that we are all seeing is that there is a huge segment of the population that will not attend a service no matter what we change. Many families are second generation unchurched so attending any type of religious service is extremely foreign to them. My hope is that more ministers and churches will seek ways to be truly missional in that they look for ways take the church and gospel to the people, meeting them right where they are already at: homes, neighborhoods, parks, coffee shops and businesses. If we don’t get serious about thinking like this the next decade is sure to mark a dismissal of likely half of our communities.

    • KP on November 6, 2018 at 10:43 am

      Great point! I think as Christians, we should go to where the people are, maybe go to ballgames on Sundays between games and offer services, or have a praise team go out and do some music on Saturday in a park. We don’t have to be at church to share the gospel. We definitely have to get out of those four walls. Jesus didn’t hang out at the synagogues all the time and expect everyone to come there seeking Him, and as Christians, I don’t think we should expect people to do that now, either. Thanks for reminding us of that!

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