CNLP 426: Ed Stetzer on the Evangelical Reckoning, QAnon, Conspiracy Theories and Why Extremes are Not the Norm

Ed Stetzer talks about the moment in history we’re seeing as being a cultural convulsion that’s making it exceptionally challenging to lead.

In this wide-ranging interview, Ed talks about QAnon, Trump-ism, why evangelicals gravitate to conspiracy theories and what he sees as an evangelical reckoning. Surprisingly, it’s a potentially healing conversation many reasonable leaders will find encouraging.

Welcome to Episode 426 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 shares five principles that will help you lead with love.

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Conversation Links

Evangelicals face a reckoning by Ed Stetzer

Evangelicals need to address the QAnoners in our midst by Ed Stetzer

Wheaton College Billy Graham Center

Why Hillary Clinton Bombed with White Evangelical Voters by Ruth Graham

The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark A. Noll

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

The Storm Before the Calm by George Friedman

America is Having a Moral Convulsion by David Brooks

Waking Up in 2030 – The New York Times

Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and Yours Can, Too by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson

Stetzer Leadership Podcast – Carey and Toni Nieuwhof: Marriage

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

CNLP 297: Gordon MacDonald Shares 8 Decades fo Wisdom and Life Lessons, Father Wounds, The Dangers of Driveness, Counselling a U.S. President, and What Leaders Struggle With Between Ages 32-42 and at Age 48 and Age 62

CNLP 373: Andy Stanley on Why he Hasn’t Reopened North Point for In-Person Services, His Methodology for Finding Clarity, and What He’s Learning About Preaching to a Camera

Quote from Chuck Colson:
When I served under President Nixon, one of my jobs was to work with special interest groups including religious leaders. We would invite them to the White House, wine and dine them, take them on cruises aboard the presidential yacht. Ironically, few people were more easily impressed than religious leaders. The very people who should have been immune to the worldly pomp seemed the most vulnerable.”

The One Thing That Should Characterize Every Christian Leader by Carey Nieuwhof

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Insights From Ed

1. Church leaders should expect an abnormally high amount of conflict over the next 5 years

In studying history, Ed realized that America has gone through 5-6 year periods of deep cultural change once every 60 years, and he thinks that the pandemic and other crises of the last year have started that period again.

During the last period, in the 1960s, America was a deeply divided place where church leaders took a lot of criticism. Ed expects it to be that way again for the next few years. As a church leader, you’ll need resilience, courage and a healthy filter to survive.

2. Much of the white Evangelical Church in America is now more driven by ideology than theology

One of Ed’s biggest concerns about the Western Evangelical Church is that, as the world around it has drifted deeper and deeper into Nationalism, ideology, and either extreme of the political spectrum, the Church has gone right along with it. Ed submits that our people are being formed by political ideology more than they are by theology.

3. Social media will be the “Roman lead pipes” of our day

2,000 years ago, the Romans had running hot and cold water. It was amazing technology for their time, but there was one flaw—the pipes were made out of lead because of how bendable of a metal it was. Obviously, that had an unexpected impact on the health of the Roman citizens.

Ed thinks that, in the future, historians will look back and see that social media was the “lead pipes” of our time. It will have helped us advance into the future but will have caused a lot of damage along the way.

Quotes from Episode 426

The last decade hasn't just made evangelicals into something else, it's revealed who evangelicals are, and there's some real issues that need to be addressed for that. @edstetzer Click To Tweet If 5% of your church isn't mad at you, you're probably not doing anything significant. But if 70% of your church is mad at you, you need to slow it down. @edstetzer Click To Tweet You're not going to make it the next two or three years if you're not going to be willing to have some people unhappy about you taking stands on the right things. @edstetzer Click To Tweet Evangelicals have an inferiority complex because culture has sort of pushed us aside. @edstetzer Click To Tweet 50 years from now, maybe two years from now, people are going to look back at the social media age as the lead pipes of the Romans, that it was simultaneously feeding and killing us at the same time. @edstetzer Click To Tweet People right now are afraid. They're unsure and they're isolated. And when you're afraid and unsure and isolated, conspiracy theories just escalate. @edstetzer Click To Tweet People can't grow as disciples if that discipleship is other-worldly and doesn't address the issues of the world that are around us. @edstetzer Click To Tweet We are being fooled into thinking that the extremes are the norm. @edstetzer Click To Tweet I think the pandemic is going to feel like a building program to a lot of pastors. I think they're going to get the church to the other side, and I think a lot of people are going to step away from the ministry. @edstetzer Click To Tweet Most people are not having good faith conversation on social media anymore. And if that's the case, it's not my responsibility to answer every question asked in bad faith. @edstetzer Click To Tweet We're going into a season where we're going to have to build up, as leaders, greater reservoirs of resilience to face a higher level of conflict that's going to be ongoing. @edstetzer Click To Tweet I'm on the same team as everyone who names the name of Jesus and wants to change the world for him. @edstetzer Click To Tweet We've entered into a season of tumult and turbulence that will probably last three to four years. This is not dissimilar to what we saw in 1968. It's a cultural convulsion. @edstetzer Click To Tweet One of the natural responses to the chaos that we're seeing is cynicism. - Yuval Harari Click To Tweet Truth people think the grace people have no spine. And the grace people think the truth people have no heart. But the reality is that Jesus came full of grace and truth. Click To Tweet Truth isn't truth without grace and grace isn't grace without truth, so they have to be tethered together. Click To Tweet Think more of others than you think of yourself. Click To Tweet Humility isn't thinking less of yourself. It's just thinking of yourself less often. - C. S. Lewis Click To Tweet Speak well of people publicly, and deal with disagreements privately and directly. Click To Tweet You can disagree without being disagreeable. Click To Tweet The high road is never the easy road, but it is the best road. Click To Tweet

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Next Episode: Allison Fallon

Author, speaker and CEO Allison Fallon has helped CEOs, Olympic gold medalists, politicians and many others unlock their brains and leadership by learning how to write things down. Allison has seen leaders get freed from anxiety, depression and past trauma by learning a specific form of writing for just 20 minutes a day, four days in a row.

In this interview, she unpacks exactly what that can do for you.

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CNLP 426: Ed Stetzer on the Evangelical Reckoning, QAnon, Conspiracy Theories and Why Extremes are Not the Norm


  1. Paul Robie on July 14, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    I wonder if we are going to get an apology from Ed regarding his mocking of those Pastors who are not willing to promote the Covid vaccines. Obviously, there is way less enthusiasm regarding the vaccine now than when he made those comments. when I’m not sure why he was so positive that the vaccines were a good thing when less than 50% of those working at the CDC have taken the vaccine. He recommended that Pastor’s take a selfie of themselves getting a vaccine. If I had done this and then later found out what we now know now, I think I would have offer an apology to my congregation. I was struck by the arrogance of Ed when talking about Covid; something that he and anyone other than epidemiologists should not have a strong opinion about. After listening to the podcast I’m more convinced than ever that he needs to take to heart his own warning: “Be driven by theology not ideology.”

  2. Rick Flores on June 29, 2021 at 3:56 pm

    Carey, I’ve enjoyed the leadership instruction I’ve received from your blog and podcast. Ed Stetzer’s interview presented a different position on Trump and his candidacy. Yes, President Trump’s personal life was questionable, but Stetzer failed to mention the advances achieved by the US under his watch. Economically, in our stance vs abortion, a strong leadership demonstrated in the Middle East, not to mention on an array of global issues. The Church was fairly represented by Trump as well. I know that there is no story without controversy, but Stetzer did not even handly recount all the good that Trump accomplished in just a short period. He even restored our friendship with Israel, not to mention the Abrahamic Accord—I believe that is what it was dubbed. In any event, keep inspiring leaders. Your influence is priceless!

  3. Marshall Eizenga on June 29, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    I sure enjoyed Carey’s questions and Ed’s answers and insight! This was indeed a thoughtful dialogue!!!!

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