CNLP 417: Simon Sinek on Why the Church is Losing Ground, the Importance of Existential Flex and How Deep, Personal Crisis Spawned Start With Why

Simon Sinek unpacks his back story, including how his grandfather shaped him, how ADHD impacted his leadership and how a deep, personal crisis led to him developing the ideas behind Start With Why.

Simon also talks about how existential flex is so important in a post-pandemic world, and why the church keeps losing ground.

Welcome to Episode 417 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 talks about what the Church needs to do to stay relevant.

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Pro Media Fire

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World Vision

This has been an incredibly difficult season for those pastoring church congregations. Many of you—church leaders—are caring for the souls of struggling congregants only to find yourselves burnt out and in need of your own soul care.

Our partner, World Vision, is called to serve the most vulnerable around the world, but also feels called to serve the Bride of Christ. And that includes caring for YOU—shepherds of the flock.

So, World Vision has partnered with Danielle Strickland to provide a practical resource called Soul Care Prayer Postures.

In this FREE web series, Danielle will share rhythms and practices to help create space for God to tend to YOUR soul, and get tools you can use as you lead others.

The Church is a force for good in the world, and World Vision’s heart is for the Bride of Christ to be healthy and mobilized to be the church outside the four walls!

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Conversation Links

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

Together is Better by Simon Sinek

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe – TED Talk by Simon Sinek

How to Discover Your “Why” in Difficult Times – TED Talk by Simon Sinek

How Great Leaders Inspire Action – TED Talk by Simon Sinek

Church Attendance is Dying. Here’s What’s Next by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Simon

1. True success comes from the combination of 3 things: 

When asked what led to his success, Simon outlined an interesting framework about what causes true, repeatable success. He’s found that it’s a combination of 3 things: Talent, Hard Work, and Luck. When those 3 things meet, you’re setting yourself up for repeatable success throughout your life.

2. When approaching your work, start with your why.

So many businesses and organizations focus on what they’re doing, and how they’re doing it, but they don’t focus on “why” enough. In his book, Start With Why Simon takes a deep dive into why your “why” is so important, and how to find what you or your business’ “why” is.

3. The Church’s inability to change is causing its own irrelevance.

Simon points out that a large portion of the church is behaving similar to how the music industry behaved as iTunes disrupted them. People didn’t stop listening to music, they just changed how they listened. Similarly, It’s not that people are losing their spirituality, it’s that they just aren’t turning to the Church for answers.

Quotes from Episode 417

It's not that people are losing their spirituality, it's that the church is losing its relevance. @simonsinek Click To Tweet The responsibility of a church is not to get people in the pews. The responsibility of the church is to spread the gospel. @simonsinek Click To Tweet People are spiritual and in search of community, in search of belief, in search of belonging, in search of hope, and in search of vision. They're not getting it, and so they're looking for it in other places. @simonsinek Click To Tweet The church, as an industry, unfortunately looks a lot like a lot of other old-fashioned industries which is, ‘This is the way we've always done it.’ @simonsinek Click To Tweet The solutions we find to the challenges we have when we're children become our strengths as adults. @simonsinek Click To Tweet There's a formula for success, this zero-sum formula, which is talent, something innate, hard work, and then luck. @simonsinek Click To Tweet We all have innate things in us, like the strengths we build when we're kids, and if we invest in building on those talents, they become even stronger. @simonsinek Click To Tweet We see the world through different lenses because of our childhoods and our upbringings. @simonsinek Click To Tweet I am living proof that in adversity comes opportunity, and in hardship comes renewal and rebirth. @simonsinek Click To Tweet I didn't set out to tell anybody anything. I set out to share something that had profoundly changed my life and my view of the world. @simonsinek Click To Tweet As a species, we are constantly searching for explanation. The most confounding things are things that seem to lack explanation. @simonsinek Click To Tweet A why comes from the past. It's where we come from, it is objective, and it never changes your whole life. @simonsinek Click To Tweet I imagine a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single morning inspired, feel safe wherever they are and end the day fulfilled by the work that they do. @simonsinek Click To Tweet The obsession with the finite game means we see more and are more short term-ism. @simonsinek Click To Tweet Finite-mindedness dominates business theory and political theory of the day. @simonsinek Click To Tweet Wall Street breaks economies because they are making decisions for the good of themselves in a finite manner, rather than allowing companies and allowing executives to make decisions that are for the good of the whole. @simonsinek Click To Tweet Existential flexibility is the capacity to make a 180 degree strategic shift in order to better advance your cause. @simonsinek Click To Tweet If you don't have the just cause and you don't have the trusting teams, that existential flex will probably fail. @simonsinek Click To Tweet In the future church, the church is going to meet anytime, anywhere, sometimes. Click To Tweet Consumer Christianity isn't about what you bring to the mission, it's about what you squeeze out of it. Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 417

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Thank you for being so awesome.

Next Episode: Tony Morgan

Tony Morgan returns to the podcast to share the latest data on church attendance trends, best and worst practices for creating a digital strategy, and how to track online metrics that actually matter so you can connect with people who find you online.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 418.

CNLP 417: Simon Sinek on Why the Church is Losing Ground, the Importance of Existential Flex and How Deep, Personal Crisis Spawned Start With Why


  1. Jerry Naville on May 19, 2021 at 7:18 am

    Carey, thank you for all the content you provide! It is super helpful to me inside and outside of ministry. As things start opening back up I’m looking for some good leadership conference options for me and my team. I’m open to virtual options but prefer in-person if possible.

    Any direction you can provide would be appreciated. Thanks!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 19, 2021 at 8:25 am

      Hey Jerry!

      Thanks for the question. My team and I are talking through this as an option for the fall, but nothing is set in stone yet.

      If you’re getting my daily emails, you should be among the first to know if we do move forward with one!

  2. Chuck Hollandbeck on May 18, 2021 at 1:32 pm


    Simon Sinek nailed it on a lot of issues involving not just the church, but the current condition of the world. I was a pastor in the Church up until two years ago. I decided to take a step back to recover from hurt experienced by people in the Church.

    I hope to return to the Church in a leadership position soon, but until then I’m learning and growing in God’s Word and listening to podcasts like this one.

    I’m just a small voice in a sea of many who are bigger and more influential than I am. I want to say thank you for allowing authenticity to flow through this podcast. You are making a difference in my life.

  3. Tony Taylor on May 18, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Such a great post. first time I visit your website and I am glad to pray here and read this wonderful post.
    I have read a few articles on your website and I really like your article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on May 19, 2021 at 8:27 am


  4. John Moore on May 18, 2021 at 5:27 am


    I have written a book, to my grandchildren titled A Letter To Dabjebrosato. It is subtitled ‘Are you an ‘Intelligent Animal’ or a ‘Created Human Being’? Find the answer to this question and you will find love, peace and security.

    Barna (USA) in their research looking at how the faith of young people who grow up in the Church, is challenged when they leave home. Found that 64% of those young people lose their faith. This is an important reason for me to write my book.

    I believe that if young people (it actually applies to everyone) can be taught to understand that they are ‘created human beings’, then they can come to understand that they have a ‘Creator Father’, who is also their spiritual father. He has uniquely created them with purpose and will assist them to find and live out that purpose. They also come to know that their spiritual life, will continue after death, with a responsibility for how they have lived their life.

    I believe that this knowledge will have a direct effect on how they will value themselves, and how they will live out the rest of their lives.

    In my book I first explain the different beliefs required to believe that we are either ‘intelligent animals’ or ‘created human beings’.

    I then invite the reader to research with me, ‘The Theory of Evolution’, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and ‘The Primordial Soup Theory’. As we do the research it equips the reader, to have the skills to completely expose the theories as being impossible to ever have happened. And we come to the conclusion that we are not ‘Intelligent Animals’.

    We then turn our attention to the possibility of an “Omnipotent Creator God’ being responsible for creating us as ‘Created Human Beings’. We get a positive response. The focus is then put on who is this Creator God? I select the God of Christians as the most likely candidate. We then look at the evidence for the historical and archaeological accuracy of the Bible. With other chapters looking at evidence that supports the fact that Jesus actually lived, he was crucified, he rose from the dead. Why he was crucified and what it means for us today.

    The second part provides the reader with the knowledge to develop and defend a strong Christian faith, including how they can book a place in Heaven and giving them the password to enter.

    Carey, I would value you reviewing my book., as a resource for young people today.
    Paperback and eBook copies are available from and most online bookstores
    J A Moore

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