CNLP 017: Your Excuses are Gone—How to Grow a Big Church Anywhere (Even In New England). An Interview with Josh Gagnon

It’s easy to use your context as an excuse (it’s SO tough to grow a church here…).

There are some areas in which you just can’t grow a church, right?

Maybe not.

Lead Pastor Josh Gagnon shares the strategy behind Next Level Church in New Hampshire—a church that grew to 4 locations and 2000 people in 6 years in a region where churches pretty much never grow: New England.

So how did that happen you ask?

Welcome to Episode 17 of the Podcast.


Guest Links

Josh Gagnon

The Joshua Gagnon Leadership Podcast

Josh on Facebook

Josh on Twitter

Next Level Church

Next Level Church on Facebook

Next Level Church on Twitter

Links Mentioned in this Episode


Andy Stanley

Craig Groeschel 

3 Things You Can Do Right Away

When you take a look at reasons why your church is seeing little to no growth, are you making excuses or making changes? Here are three things you can do to turn things around at your church:

  1. Be willing to change anything. Change what you need to change. Put everything on the table. Do what it takes to reach your audience and be willing to try new things. Josh said he visited churches in the South to see what worked with those congregations, and he was able to take new concepts and implement them into his strategy for growth. Look continually for what’s resonating and what’s not, and make changes accordingly. The goal is what’s effective, not what you think is effective.
  2. Define yourself by what you’re for, not what you’re against. Josh said that people have found it freeing that his messages aren’t focused around major political topics. Statistically, only 3% of people in New England go to church, and to reach unchurched people, he says to focus on what you stand for, not what you’re against. A lot of people have felt rejected by the church, and a church should never be unaccepting of a person. If people don’t feel like the church is for them, it can do more damage than good.
  3. Implement the 3:1 rule. For every minute you spent talking about a problem spend 3 minutes discussing a solution. Insist your entire team do this. Your culture (and mindset) will change.

Quotes From Josh

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Next Episode: Brian Orme

How do you get people to share the content you create? Can you make something go viral? I this epsiode, we answer those questions and much more as we talk to a leader who’s had experience getting 100 million unique visitors a year on his website — Brian Orme, Editor at FaithIt, SermonCentral, and Outreach Magazine.

Subscribe now, and you won’t miss Episode 18. Plus next week’s episode comes with a free download with tips and tricks from Brian on how to make your content more shareable.

Got a question?

Scroll down and leave a comment! I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Zachary Verbracken on April 15, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Wow, so much great stuff in this podcast. It really leaves me with a lot of different things to ponder.

    One perspective that I love is that he wasn’t anti-traditional if certain traditions would help further the mission and make things more effective in his church.

    I’m 23, and I feel like A lot of what I hear is that young people automatically don’t like traditions that we would usually see in a “traditional” church.
    But Josh helped bring things into a different perspective. I work at a church in the Bible belt, and I feel the pressure to want to help bring a fresher more “cutting edge” mentality. But Josh mentioned some really interesting things about how sometimes we get too far ahead of culture, and I should probably be willing to embrace some of the more traditional aspects if they help connect people to God where we are at right now.

    I don’t remember the phrase he used exactly, but it was something like: don’t move people a mile outside of their comfort zone at once. Instead, move them a little bit at a time to help bridge the gap.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 15, 2015 at 7:13 pm

      Thanks Zachary. I’m really appreciating your interaction on the blog. I think you’re right…we have to be careful about generational assumptions. I love Josh’s filter. Whatever works!

  2. […] I did an interview I did with Josh Gagnon, founder of Next Level Church, which grew from 0 to over 2000 people in four […]

  3. Chris Shumate on January 9, 2015 at 7:58 am

    Carey – I loved this podcast. It reveals that what works in the Bible Belt with large churches doesn’t work everywhere. I also like that their churches are much smaller and grounded in communities. Finding elements that work in NLC such as what they do with crosses, candles and other things is a brilliant idea. It’s is truly about changing the culture of the NE for Jesus.

    It reminded me of an old Perry Noble podcast where he was talking about people criticizing his church as having a consumer mindset. He reminded people that all churches have a consumer mindset. He used the example of air conditioning in churches for comfort. People want to be comfortable, right? If these worship elements give people comfort and help them connect with Jesus, it HAS to be done.

    I think it’s awesome that NLC has tried to implement things from other successful churches and then pulled back when it didn’t work, especially the music/worship changes they made along the way.

    It’s also a great business lesson for the business leaders that read your blog and listen to the podcast. Do your market research. Thanks to this church seeking how best to reach its customers (people without Jesus) those same customers are receiving the best product any company can market, JESUS.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on January 12, 2015 at 4:06 pm

      Chris…Great summary of some of the sharp insights Josh brought. I agree 100%. Well said.

  4. Guest on January 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

    Hey David Lindner,
    I am one of the location pastors at NLC and would love to give you a call regarding your question. My email is:
    Looking forward to connecting

  5. David Lindner on January 7, 2015 at 1:51 am

    Great episode! I love the no matter what approach. We need more of that! I was wondering if Josh has shared with you about what they’ve done to fill the gap for those who don’t want to get involved in small groups. I’m in the Pacific Northwest, which has a very similar climate to the Northeast, though not quite as un-Christian. We have not been able to gain traction with small groups. But, we are looking for places that the pruning & iron sharpening can happen in a trusting community.

    • Allen Robbins on January 7, 2015 at 7:22 am

      Hey David,
      I am one of the location pastors at NLC and would love to give you a call regarding your question. My email is:
      Looking forward to connecting

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