CNLP 469: Mark Sayers on Future Church Trends, How to Lead Through Profoundly Disorienting Change, and What to Expect in 2022

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Mark Sayers joins us for a wide-ranging conversation about the profoundly disorienting change leaders have been experiencing over the last two years, future church trends and what to expect in 2022 and beyond.

We cover supply chain disruptions, critical race theory, the revenge of nature, deconstruction and the challenge of control. This is part one of a six part Future series on the podcast.

Welcome to Episode 469 of the podcast. Listen 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.

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Insights From Mark

1. We’re shifting from a “complicated” world to a “complex” world

Mark Sayers opens the podcast with a fascinating distinction between “complicated” and “complex” systems. In a complicated system, events come at us in a relatively linear fashion—we encounter a problem, discover a solution and let that innovation guide our expectations for the future. However, in a complex system—which is where our world is heading—events don’t proceed in a linear fashion. Everything is interconnected now, and it’s difficult to discern how certain crises will affect the larger system (take, for example, the supply chain issues we experienced in late 2021).

This shift opens the door for more destabilization and disruption. It’s possible that what we’ve accepted as “normal”—a stable, smooth existence where everything “works”—is actually abnormal in the grand scope of human history. And, we may be returning to an era of unpredictability.

2. “Nature” is making a comeback, and we’re not ready for it

Humans used to live at the mercy of natural forces outside of our control—weather, disasters, pandemics, etc.—and the modern world lulled us into thinking that we’d conquered nature. But now we know that’s not true at all. Our interlinked “complex” world is now more vulnerable to nature’s influence. From heatwaves and wildfires to hurricanes and blizzards, the impact of “local” weather events extends beyond their immediate scope. And just like we learned we can’t conquer nature, we’ve also become painfully aware that we haven’t tamed human nature.

In the past few years, we’ve witnessed the best and worst of humanity, and social media amplifies all of that beyond what we normally see and experience. In the Western world, we tend to romanticize “the frontier” as a place where we discover our rugged individualism; but that’s not reality—the wilderness should be a place where we discover that we’re just a small part of a larger system.

3. Leaders will need to learn to lead through social fragmentation

Most of the issues dividing congregations today have nothing to do with theology—they’re political issues masquerading as theology. From conversations around Critical Theory, climate change and racial injustice, the “buckets” of Left and Right political ideology are fracturing and becoming increasingly untenable.

Leaders need to learn to adapt to our increasingly polarized cultural climate without contributing to further fragmentation. Instead, leaders—especially in the Church—will need to offer an alternative way of living that stands in opposition to ideological polarization. In short, “crisis leadership”—especially in an era where disruption occurs more frequently in culture and nature—will cease to become a mere aspect of leadership and will become the primary core of leadership in the near future.

Quotes from Episode 469

Disruption is normal. @SayersMark Click To Tweet The frontier is not this place where we discover that we're actually individualistic. Actually nature says, ‘You're part of a bigger system.’ @SayersMark Click To Tweet You don't find yourself by being disconnected from everything. @SayersMark Click To Tweet There are people in the contemporary church scene now who have no leadership responsibility. They may have a blog or a Twitter page and have tremendous voice and podcasts reach more people than in the Sunday sermon. @SayersMark Click To Tweet There’s a huge evangelistic and discipleship opportunity as we all begin to realize that we’re not as free as we think we are. @SayersMark Click To Tweet Humans are built for bigger things. So part of the hunger we see around these political things is actually because the culture is desiring something bigger to live for. It's a God-shaped hole. @SayersMark Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 469

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Next Episode: D.J. Soto and Nona Jones

D.J. Soto, Founder of VR Church, and Nona Jones of Meta/Facebook give a primer on the metaverse, how Web3 will be different from Web2 and Web1, VR church, NFTs, DAOs, blockchain and more as we explore what’s next online and in real life. This is part 2 of a 6-part Future series.

Subscribe for free now so you won’t miss Episode 470.

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.

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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.