CNLP 226: Adam Hamilton on How To Reach Thinking People, Planting one of the Largest Mainline Churches in the World, And How Tradition and Innovation Can Co-Exist

Share This Post

Adam Hamilton planted a mainline church 28 years ago. The goal was to reach thinking people who are skeptical of Christianity. His church quickly became one of the largest and fastest growing mainline churches in the world.

In a wide-ranging interview, Adam talks about the strategy behind Church of the Resurrection, how tradition and modern expressions of worship can live together in the same church, and how he’s stayed fresh over almost 3 decades of leadership.

Welcome to Episode 226 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Adam Hamilton | @RevAdamHamilton | Books | Church of the Resurrection

A Story of Three Gardens – Stained Glass Window

Great stories keep rolling in from Didn’t See It Coming readers. You guys are amazing and I am thrilled to see how this book is resonating with you. Don’t have your copy yet? Grab one here.

Find a healthcare solution that is more affordable for you as an employer and for your staff at Receive a free quote and buying guide just for checking them out.

Maximize giving at your church. Visit and discover why churches see an increase in giving by using Pushpay’s digital mobile strategy.

CNLP 152: Eugene Peterson on Why He Wrote The Message, the Rhythms of a Reflective Life + Mark Batterson and Adam Weber on Peterson’s Legacy

Young Leaders: Who Will Replace Eugene Peterson and Other Giants We’ve Lost?

CNLP 221: Max Lucado on How He’s Written Over 120 Books, Why He Never Uses Ghostwriters, How to Stay Fresh in Leadership, and His Favorite Book

3 Insights from Adam

1.  The gospel never changes, but the church’s delivery should

Adam collects computers. His prized Macintosh 512 is thirty-three years old and serves as a reminder to him of how important it is for the church to minister to a constantly changing society.

Apple created an incredible product three decades ago, but had the company decided to stop there, it wouldn’t be in business today. Apple is constantly looking at change. The average church hasn’t been remodeled in 30 years. The average church’s worship hasn’t changed in thirty years. The message of the gospel will never change, but, like Apple, the church should continuously look for ways to improve how to deliver this message in an ever changing world.

2. First-time visitor follow up goes further than many churches realize

Many churches stay away from following up with a first-time visitor. We live in a culture where people cling to privacy, so I get where the fear of coming on too strong and repelling guests who could one day become regulars comes from.

But the fact is when you have a someone new attend your church you need to follow up with them and you need to have great plan in place so that it’s done with excellence. I had another great conversation about this topic with Christine Birch if you want to take a listen to CCLP 013.

Adam describes his church’s personal approach and although it certainly doesn’t seem like a go-to 2018 method, it’s one they’ve used for years and still works today. A few hours after morning services, a first-time guest will receive a personal knock on the door. When the door opens, a volunteer from Church of the Resurrection is holding a coffee mug, a sincere message thanking them for coming that morning and an invitation to come back. Now, that’s making quite an effort to let people know they matter. And guess what, they receive NO pushback. Amazing.

3. Use art and architecture as tools to show the transcendence of God

When Church of the Resurrection built their permanent sanctuary in 2017, they wanted a building that preached a sermon, architecturally, to everyone entering the room before a word was ever spoken – A place for people to be in awe and feel the transcendence of God. 

Adam is observing within his community that people are longing for an encounter with the holy, transcendent God, while at the same time experiencing the nearness and the connection with the God who is personal, who cares and knows them by name. Art and architecture are two ways his church intentionally explores this need. Pictured above is a magnificent example, The Resurrection Window. You can read more about it here.

Quotes from Episode 226

I want to figure out how to influence people, not just irritate them. It's easy to irritate; it's harder to influence.. @revadamhamilton Click To Tweet

People don't become Christians primarily because of our superior theological arguments. They become Christians because we took the time to care. @revadamhamilton Click To Tweet

If your worship is like a snack then people probably don't need to come very often. If your worship is nourishing to the soul then people will grow by virtue of being there. @revadamhamilton Click To Tweet

I found the strategy for bringing change wasn't criticizing other people, it was getting involved. @revadamhamilton Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 226

Looking for a key quote? More of a reader?

Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Subscribed Yet? 

Subscribe for free and never miss out on wisdom from world-class leaders like Brian Houston, Andy Stanley, Craig Groeschel, Nancy Duarte, Henry Cloud, Patrick Lencioni, Francis Chan, Ann Voskamp, Erwin McManus and many others.

Subscribe using your favorite podcast app via

Apple Podcasts


Google Play



Spread the Word. Leave a Rating and Review

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

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

Your ratings and reviews help us place the podcast in front of new leaders and listeners. Your feedback also lets me know how I can better serve you.

Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Terry Smith 

Terry Smith was speaking at an event on a principle that Jack Welch felt was so compelling, he asked Terry to teach him more. Terry tells the story of how he became friends with Jack and Suzy Welch, and unpacks that idea for you along with his other teachings on how to become a hospitable leader and how that can transform your entire church, company or organization.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 227.

Lead With Confidence and Clarity. Grow Your Church.

As leaders, we tend to see the challenges and roadblocks before other people do.

We've all been there before...

  • You need to refresh your vision for the future but know that change will be an issue for that person.
  • You're overstaffed (or missing a key role) and can't find the right person to fill the role.
  • You aren't reaching enough new people even though you've tried everything that's working for other churches.
  • You can see the issue but aren't confident in what to do about it.

And with another Sunday morning coming up, it'll just have to wait until next week when you have a few minutes to figure it out.

Now ask yourself this:

What would it feel like to have those answers at your fingertips 24/7?

Whether it's reaching new people, improving your preaching, increasing volunteers, refreshing your vision, engaging your staff, or any of the countless challenges we face as church leaders, The Art of Leadership Academy will equip you to lead your church with confidence and clarity.

Between comprehensive church leadership courses, live coaching calls, staff and volunteer training resources, and direct access to an online community of senior-level church leaders, you'll get the exact insights and answers that fuel your church for growth.

Share This Post
Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney, and church planter. He hosts one of today’s most influential leadership podcasts, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. He speaks to leaders around the world about leadership, change, and personal growth.