Let’s start here. You’re leading in one of the most complex moments in generations. It’s not easy. Right now, nothing is easy.

And with the Presidential election results of 2020 still undecided, things are only likely to become more complicated, not simpler.

It’s hard to even know what to say or do.

I find that when I find myself in a situation where there are so many things I don’t know,  it’s good to anchor myself in a few things I do know.

While the situation is so much more complex and nuanced than a 1,000 word blog post can address, as the Presidential election hangs in the balance, here are three things we do know that can help you move forward as a church leader.

As a Canadian who majored in US history and politics, who has spent a lot of time in the US over the years and whose audience is largely American, I have more than a passing interest in what happens south of the border because I have so much affection for our US friends and neighbours.

I also have many American friends. In fact, some of my very closest friends are American. I simply love the drive, positive attitude and relentless determination to make things better that so many Americans exude and the heart of so many US church leaders.

So I’m coming at this as a fan…and, I hope, a friend.

With that in mind, here are three things the culture needs right now that the church can give.

1. A blaming culture needs a confessing church

How much of the negativity we’re swimming in can you own… personally?

I know when I see a problem, I would rather assign blame than assume responsibility. And I also know there’s zero progress when that happens.

Confession bridges the gap between blame and responsibility.

If the church got better at confessing and not blaming, we’d have a better church.

What can you confess today? What part of this do you own? Who have you hurt? Who do you hate? Have you mistreated  anyone? Even if it’s the neighbour on your side of the street, start there.

You’re worried about your kids watching politicians and mimicking them. I promise you that your kids are watching you more closely than they’re watching any politician. So, take your personal sins seriously.

Confess them. Repent. Change.

You’ll never address what you don’t confess.

When I confess my sins (as a husband, father, leader and friend), everyone around me begins to heal.

Imagine if that happened 10,000 times over today in families, churches and communities.

Not sure how to do that, or resist the urge to post something designed to undermine someone who thinks differently than you do?

Here’s the best thing I know how to do: Process privately. Help publicly.

Processing privately can be as simple as praying about it and waiting 24 hours before you do a thing. Often, that’s enough. Sometimes, you’ll need to talk to a friend. Other times, you may need to go see a counsellor. I highly recommend that.

The gravitational pull is toward hate, not health. (Here are 5 reasons anger is the new epidemic.) Healthy doesn’t happen on its own. You and I need help.

When the church starts to confess more and accuse less, we’ll make more progress.

2. A divided nation needs a united church

As a Christian, you already know that one of Jesus’ most important prayers was for unity, and that the early church was marked (in its best moments) by a completely counter-cultural unity.

A divided nation needs a united church.

First, if your church plays the political game, you’ve already alienated half the people you’re trying to reach.

Second, you’re alienating entire generations looking for an alternative. David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyon’s book UnChristian both explained and predicted a world in which younger generations would reject Christianity based on, among other things, our closed-mindedness and division.

Written over a decade ago, that book was eerily prophetic. As Gen Z leaders emerge into leadership, some feel the need to lead with an apology for how badly the church has behaved.

We’re living in that reality now. The oldest Millennials are turning 40 and fewer than ever are showing interest in turning to the church.

Unity would be an exceptional show of strength to a divided nation.

Election Day on social media, at least for the leaders I follow, showed (for the most part) remarkable unity and restraint. Carry that into the future, and the church may pick up momentum.

Cave to the deepening divisions and partisanship that are bound to come, and the church will lose more ground more quickly than ever.

Become a unifying force around an alternative mission (the Kingdom of God) and the culture may come running.

3. An exhausted culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself

There’s little doubt you’re probably exhausted by the division, tribalization and anger that characterizes culture today.

It’s pretty clear that the culture is tired of itself too, but it doesn’t quite know how to escape.

That’s where the church can help.

That’s the perfect opportunity for the church to simply be the church.

An exhausted culture needs an alternative to itself, not an echo of itself.

Authentic, grace-filled, hope-bearing, truthful people are what our friends and neighbours need.

A generation tired of hate, yet caught in its grip, will only be released from it if there’s a clear alternative.

Hope counters hate better than hate counters hate. And hope is what the church, at its best, offers.

Not hope in a candidate. Not hope in a political party. Hope in Christ, someone in the world who also transcends the world.

If you echo the culture, you get more of the culture.

How do you know whether you’ve given in to merely echoing the culture? If God has all the same opinions you do, you’re probably not worshipping God.

Imagine, if in the next few months in your church:

Love surged.

Hope got fueled.

You could disagree but not be disagreeable.

You focused on what united people, not on what divided people.

In a divided culture, Christians should be the help and the hope, not the hate.

You might feel too overwhelmed to help right now. Let’s change that…

Ok, after the uncertainty of last night’s US election, it’s perfectly normal for you to be overwhelmed.

Often overwhelm isn’t a temporary thing, it’s a product of how we live day to day.

I learned that the hard way…Years ago, when I burned out, I completely restructured how I approach my calendar, and it has resulted in the most productive years of my life.

Since moving to this new calendar system, I have

  • Spent more quality time with my wife and kids
  • Written 5 bestselling books
  • Produced and launched 4 (almost 5) online courses that thousands of leaders have taken
  • Started a highly successful leadership podcast
  • Started a top leadership blog that releases content 6 days a week
  • Led our church to over 1,000+ weekly attenders
  • Started my own company

How was I able to do all of that?

It’s all in how I structured my calendar.

I would love to share that calendar template with you for free—you can customize it to fit your needs and tasks. And once you download it, there’s a free video explaining how I use it.

Download your FREE calendar template here.

What’s Helping You?

I know this is a highly divided and uncertain time, and I realize this is only a very partial answer to a very big problem.

All that said, I’d love to know what’s helping you process all this and be a force for good, moving the mission forward?

Play nice in the comments. Scroll down and share what’s helping you.

In the midst of so much uncertainty after the US election, here are three things the culture needs right now that the church can give.

22 Comments

  1. Jeannie on November 5, 2020 at 6:48 pm

    “A blaming culture needs a confessing church.” Oh yes! Not long after George Floyd’s death we attended a prayer rally in a downtown park. We sang, we prayed, we heard from diverse church leaders from across the city. My 28 year old son-in-law (who has withdrawn from church, but not from the Lord) commented, “What was missing was confession and a call to repentance.” And I had to agree. While we stood in solidarity, we did not bow to confess to our merciful God that we have not loved Him with our whole heart or loved others as ourselves, and have sinned by what we have done and what we have left undone. Nor did we ask God to reveal what we need to recognize and own in our attitudes, thoughts and actions. His comment jarred me, helping me to examine my own heart in the Lord’s presence in the days and months since, and to receive gracious forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2020 at 5:37 am

      Jeannie this is the path to a better future. To confess not loving God and not loving, seeing or embracing our neighbour and people who are different from us. Thanks for your honesty and humility.

  2. Malcolm Deall on November 5, 2020 at 5:45 am

    Your three points are absolutely excellent Carey! I’m sure we would do well to spend the longest reflection on point one. We can fool others, who only see the outside, but God knows our hearts and daily we need to ask him with David, to ‘search our hearts’.
    So far as I recall, Jesus’ interaction with and comments about the prevailing political and military power he lived under, were limited to paying his taxes, commending Roman individuals who showed faith in him and challenging Pilate to consider his kingship and the nature of truth. John the Baptist encouraged the Roman soldiers coming to him to act justly and without corruption. In a culture, where it appears truth and justice have been in short supply, it seems that in humility, vulnerability and love, a united church rises above party politics to point to the truth, justice and love of our King. I always thought Jesus called us to be countercultural – not as you say an echo of our culture, ensnared by its values. Thank you for your timely encouragements.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2020 at 5:37 am

      Thanks Malcolm!

  3. Bernie Federmann on November 4, 2020 at 6:46 pm

    Carey,
    Thanks for this and all your efforts (and that of your team) for the past 8 months to assist the church in being the best it can be. Your work here and on your podcasts and Church Pulse has not gone unnoticed and has been helpful to many. May God keep blessing you and your family and team. Peace!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2020 at 5:36 am

      Bernie thanks so much for the encouragement! And thanks for leading! These are strange and hard times indeed.

  4. Barbara D on November 4, 2020 at 3:03 pm

    Helpful, insightful, powerful…until it wasn’t. I wanted to share this article with my fellow teachers and church leaders, but the wind blew out of my sails when you abruptly switched from what the church can give to our culture to “what can you do? – manage your time better by using my resource.” It seemed like a plug and really diminished the power of the article. It is certainly appropriate for you to promote your helpful tools, but to me this was not the time or place for that. What is more important, especially for those of us in the States, is to reflect on and consider a thoughtful response to your three points. I don’t feel comfortable sharing the article when the impact was lost at the end – your focus shifted away from excellent Scripture-based insights to a time-management tip. I do appreciate reading your articles and am very grateful for your efforts to train and equip church leaders for greater impact for the Kingdom.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2020 at 4:00 pm

      Thank you Barbara. I appreciate your comments and it was intended to be a gift to help leaders through a really tough season. I know as my bandwidth grew using things like the calendar, my ability to handle tough seasons and decisions grew. Sorry it offended you. Glad you appreciated the article.

  5. eric johnson on November 4, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    I went to my office this morning and wept over the decision I have to make as a result of the election. Must be nice to be you Carey. I should have organized my calendar better so I could be ‘successful’ like you. Not helpful.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Really sorry about the weight you’re carrying right now Eric. I feel for you.

    • Sonia on November 5, 2020 at 7:47 am

      Blessings I really did enjoy reading your article it has bought me to think about Sunday and the sermon more. I think all three points are very important and useful for all leaders to look into.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on November 6, 2020 at 5:36 am

        Thanks Sonia!

  6. Earl on November 4, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    Does anyone realize that there are a lot of things that we can’t unify with and be faithful to God and His Word? Just read 1 Cor. 5:11, for starters.

    • Sylvia on November 4, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      1 Cor 5 is about people claiming to be Christian but behaving badly – worse than the world.
      What unites the church as the universal body of Christ, made up of believers in Jesus, is far greater than the secondary doctrines that divide us.
      As Christians we are NOT called to judge the world. And during an election it is helpful to remember that God’s kingdom is not of this earth.
      What we are called to is to love our neighbours and our enemies.

  7. Nathaniel Hudson on November 4, 2020 at 11:06 am

    Fantastic!!! This is going to our leadership team right now. READ!!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks Nathaniel.

  8. Bobby on November 4, 2020 at 10:57 am

    Regardless of the outcome there’s still a lot of work to be done while there’s still light. We’re blessed to have dual citizenship here and in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  9. Lyn Thomas on November 4, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Carey, please work on assisting you readers in thinking about, serving and leading in the face of the aggressions of woke culture and politics that is clearly anti-Christian at its core.

  10. Jeremy Harper on November 4, 2020 at 10:42 am

    As always, a good word.
    Preaching on Unity this Sunday!

    God Bless you

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      That’s a great topic Jeremy!

  11. Aaron B on November 4, 2020 at 10:36 am

    Well said Carey.

    My prayer is that the Church will not gloat in victory nor blame in defeat but instead inspire hope no matter what the outcome is.
    Hope & healing should always be our main priority to give away.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on November 4, 2020 at 4:01 pm

      Thank you Aaron!

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