CNLP 334: Mark Sayers on Leading Through the COVID Crisis, the Deconstruction of Consumer Christianity and Secular Salvation, and What the New World Might Look Like

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Mark Sayers is one of the most profound thinkers and cultural commentators today.

In this interview, Mark explains how the current pandemic almost instantly deconstructed and threatened both consumer Christianity and secular salvation, he shares principles on how to lead through the COVID crisis, and offers some insight into what the new post-pandemic church and world might look like.

Welcome to Episode 334 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.

Plus, in this episode’s What I’m Thinking About segment, Carey gives his latest thoughts on the COVID-19 crisis and how to respond as leaders.



So about a month ago, guess what? You started leading a remote team, right? Everybody did. In business, in church world, and I’ve done it for a while. But you know who’s done it for a long time is BELAY. For over a decade now. As everybody flexes with staff, BELAY can come alongside you.

They also have a special offer for you in light of the current crisis. BELAY is offering a free download of 13 Ways to Build a High Performing Remote Team to keep your remote team performing as if they’re all in the office together. This is absolutely free, and I have learned so much about leading a remote team from BELAY.

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by texting CAREY to 31996


According to the data that David Kinnaman and I work on at ChurchPulse Weekly, a vast majority of churches have not seen a growth in giving. They’ve seen a decline. So if you haven’t created a culture of generosity before the COVID crisis, you’re probably feeling the effects in a big way right now.

Well, Generis would love to come alongside you and help, because building a culture of generosity isn’t really about short-term tactics that create a big burst of giving. It requires patience, persistence, and a focus on discipleship. They have a super practical online course called Fund the Vision featuring Generis Principal, Jim Sheppard. He walks you through the implementation of six key principles that will help you weather this storm and thrive when it passes.

Start building a solid foundation now that will increase giving in your church by going to

ChurchPulse Weekly podcast

Text CRISIS to 33777 to get access to Carey’s How to Lead Through Crisis online course

This Cultural Moment podcast

Rebuilders podcast

Reuters Apps


1. The Western doctrine of “more freedom = more happiness” has become an emptier than ever promise

As humans, we need some level of freedom. But too much freedom can actually be damaging. Mark used the illustration of 3 options for toothpaste are better than 1 option of toothpaste at the store, but 30 options isn’t better than 3. When we have too many options we actually begin to get “choice anxiety.”

The gospel of secular salvation promises that you can find meaning by exercising your ultimate freedom and doing exactly what you want whenever you want. Our Western culture has chased this message for years, but Coronavirus is showing that we need a social fabric and structure to live in more than we need ultimate unlimited freedom.

2. The crisis demands a new approach to problem solving

The West approaches problem solving very differently that Eastern countries. Western countries set a goal, see it on the horizon, and do everything they can to reach that goal. They look for what exactly they will need, and they find it. This approach works until something gets in the way of your strategy.

Eastern cultures take a very different approach that we can learn from. They look at the field of play ahead of them, and they ask themselves how they can take advantage of what is already out on the field. Mark thinks that Christians are going to have to adopt this adaptable mindset in the months and years to come.

3. Personal renewal will become the key to corporate change

Mark thinks that the question that every leader needs to be asking right now but isn’t is, “What does God want to do inside of me during this crisis?” When you look throughout history, almost every single major spiritual event was preceded by a leader’s personal internal revival.

Mark has learned from one of his mentors that, “Personal renewal precedes corporate change.” So, we as leaders can respond to this crisis practically all we want, but he doubts that we will truly see world-change unless we sit with God and hear what he truly has to say to us about what he is calling us to do.

Quotes from Episode 334

Renewal always springs from people who go through personal crisis. @sayersmark Click To Tweet In a crisis, it's better to panic a little early than panicking when you realize that you didn't panic early enough. @nntaleb Click To Tweet Wartime leadership is completely different to peacetime leadership. @sayersmark Click To Tweet The question not many leaders are asking is, what does God want to do inside of you at this time? @sayersmark Click To Tweet Personal renewal precedes corporate change. @sayersmark Click To Tweet What we're missing as a culture is meaning. @sayersmark Click To Tweet Here's this once in a century disruption, the biggest disruption since World War II, and you are leading through it. @sayersmark Click To Tweet We're seeing this really interesting thing where the decisions of our local government now are life and death for us. @sayersmark Click To Tweet All it takes is one virus to shut everything down, and we're now living in the consequences of that. @sayersmark Click To Tweet There's some predictions that we might not see international travel come back like it was for two to three years. @sayersmark Click To Tweet Christians in the West who are experiencing this don't realize these pandemics are a normal part of human history. @profntwright Click To Tweet When the dawn finally breaks, the pandemic is broken, and we gather in that room, we must come back stronger. @sayersmark Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 334

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

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Scott Beck was the first franchise owner of Blockbuster video, scaling that company to 5,000 stores before moving on. He’s also scaled Boston Market, Einsten Bros. Bagels and, among others. More recently, he founded a new company called Gloo to help churches use data to do more effective ministry. Scott joins David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group, to talk about how local pastors can use data to make better leadership decisions. Plus, they share how they’ve led through past crisis, how each company has pivoted in light of the current crisis, and what they think the new normal will look like.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 335.

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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.