If your social feed is like mine, it looks like people are losing their minds.

Christians too.

As the world has become more fragile than it has been in my lifetime, my feed has gotten more and more polarized, partisan, angry, bizarre and downright weird in 2020.

What’s a little alarming is we haven’t even had the U.S. election yet.

I wish I could tell you Christians were the healing part of my feed, but that’s not the case.

Christians have been sucked into the nastiness, division and partisanship along with everyone else. Often Christians aren’t providing an alternative to the anger and outrage online, they’re fueling it.

At some point, we have to stop blaming 2020 for everything and take a bit of responsibility. There are definitely important matters at stake right now. Racial equality, climate change, economic dislocation and deep divisions (just to name a few) are pressing issues that have implications for generations to come.

I understand how hard it is. Some days, I’ve been upset, frustrated and tempted to lash out at people with my words and viewpoints too.

But public discourse should be different than private emotions.

Social media has moved us all into public discourse. And the world is watching. Your friends are watching and listening, and so are unchurched people.

Here’s what’s at stake: When Christians lose their minds, people lose their faith.

I shudder to think how many people are losing faith right now because Christians are losing their minds and loosing opinions online.

Christians should be fueling the solution, not fueling the problem. In a season where the church should be gaining ground, by many measures, we’re losing.

Here are three reasons why this matters more than we think, and five things you and I can do to hopefully make our online presence, personally and organizationally,  much better.

1. Influence Takes Years to Build and Seconds to Lose

John Maxwell is right. While leadership is complex, at its heart, leadership is influence.

The hardest part about influence is that it takes years to build and seconds to lose.

While you can ask anyone who’s had to resign in scandal how true that is, it’s actually more insidious than you think.

With every post, rant, video, text, sermon or link to some weird website spouting the latest theory, you’re either building influence or diminishing it. People either trust you more or trust you less.

If you’re a follower of Christ, you believe the influence you’ve been given is a trust.

You’re not leveraging influence for your sake, but for the sake of a cause much bigger than yourself.

You’ll never even know you lost influence with the people you’re called to love and reach.

They’ll roll their eyes,  unfollow and decide that once again, Christians have lost credibility.

Lose your influence with enough unchurched people and you’ve lost your mission.

2. Despite What You Think, God Isn’t a Republican, Democrat or Independent

By definition, your church should include people who are different than you, economically, racially, socially and ideologically.

Which means it should include people who vote differently than you. Five minutes in the New Testament will show you that has always been a characteristic of the church.

God is not a Republican, a Democrat, a conservative, a liberal or a socialist. He transcends all our political categories, however important they might be to us.

Politics matters, but it will never change the world the way the Gospel can (or has).

Tim Keller has a simple and profound answer on how Christians fit into a two-party system: they don’t. The Gospel can’t be reduced to a political platform. I talk to Tim Keller about how to be a Christian in post-Christian America in this interview.

The church doesn’t exist to elect or defeat politicians. It exists to glorify Christ and grow his Kingdom (which is an alt Kingdom) in the world.

As I remind myself again and again (because I have convictions too), if God has all the same opinions your political party does, you’re probably not worshipping God.

3. The Church is an Alternative to Culture, Not a Reflection of It

People don’t just want to know what you think is right, they want to know what’s real. As a Christian leader, you’re not pointing to yourself. You’re pointing people to Jesus.

What’s real is deeper than just your opinion—you’re pointing people to an alternative Kingdom.

If your church is just a reflection of some liberal or conservative ideology, you’ll lose the next generation.

They’re not looking for a reflection of culture. They’re looking for an alternative to it.

Nobody finds life in your kingdom. They find life in Christ’s Kingdom.

Talking about yourself or your viewpoint on the world in a loud voice isn’t cutting in. And getting louder will likely only further erode your influence.

The Dividing Line is Through Your Heart and Mine

If only the problem was simple enough that other people were to blame. But of course, the problem lies in each of us.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote:

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. 

I think about that quote a lot.

I realize that I am the problem as much as anyone.

With some restraint, humility, sobriety and wisdom, perhaps you and I can be part of the solution, too.

Here are five things that, when I get them right, help me.

1. Focus on Timeless Truths More than Temporary Viewpoints

Viewpoints change. Truth doesn’t.

The key to bringing a timely word is to anchor yourself in timeless truths.

Christians in this generation are called to speak into what’s happening in culture. But if you look at voices that endure over the centuries, they tend not to belong to hotheads, knee jerk reactionaries, people caught up in the latest ‘truth’ they stumbled on or those who hold deeply partisan positions.

Voices that have endured in the last century like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Deitrich Bonhoeffer are voices that spoke into the violence and injustices of their day with a timeless word. Their positions tapped into deep biblical frameworks at a level few voices on social media do today.

To some extent, Eugene Peterson did this in the 1960’s when he decided to respond to the turbulence by beginning a deep work that eventually became The Message (I talked to Eugene Peterson about it before he died in 2017 and write about Peterson’s approach here).

The more deeply anchored your viewpoint is in timeless truth, the more deeply it will resonate. Mere opinions never carry that kind of weight.

2. Sleep on It. Pray About It.

A lot of what’s being shared these days is emotional.

You see something, read something and feel you have to respond.  Your heart starts beating faster. You feel upset, even crushed depending on what happened. And sometimes you get really angry.

When you’re triggered, your emotions derail your brain. At least, they derail mine.

I learned years ago that almost nothing good happens when I’m upset.

In an attempt to address the situation, I almost always make it worse. Even if I convince myself I’ll make it better, I usually don’t. Not when I’m upset.

So I made a rule.  

When you feel an emotional reaction to something, don’t respond for 24 hours.

Sleep on it. Pray about it.

Don’t respond. As tempted as you are, just don’t.

After 24 hours elapses, something amazing usually happens. You get your brain back.

You’ve lost nothing.

And you’ve gained so much.

Even if it’s still something worth speaking about emotionally, you can do it with far more grace, integrity, balance and dignity.

So wait. Just wait.

If Christians prayed as much as they talked, we’d have a different church.

3. Start Confessing. Stop Shaming and Blaming

Christians have a centuries-old practice called confession.

The New Testament even talks about confessing your sins to each other.  Today, not only do we not confess our sins, we blame other people for theirs.

I noticed a really disturbing trend in my own prayer life a few years ago. I really didn’t spend much time confessing my sins. It’s not that I wasn’t sinning (ask my family or my team, they know my faults). I had just not taken the discipline as seriously as I used to.

Then I noticed almost nobody apologizes, takes responsibility and confesses anymore.

Jesus never asked us to confess the sins of our enemies. He told us to confess ours.

Before you’re quick to shame and blame others, confess your own sins. Better, confess them to someone else.

It creates a humility and an awareness of how far we’ve all fallen.

Then, perhaps, you’ll be a position not to shame your brother or sister, but to help him.  Jesus said something about that.

4. Start Real-Life Relationships with People Who are Different Than You

In this cultural moment, most of us are surrounded by people who will tell you you’re right, that others are wrong.

The algorithm that runs social media fuels that. It automatically finds you more content that agrees with you, so you can convince yourself you’re right.

Here’s the irony: In an online culture run by algorithms, you don’t actually get more choices, you get fewer.

The best way become more thoughtful, understanding and empathetic is to get around real people who are different than you: Who vote differently than you, think differently than you, look differently than you.

This fall, my wife and I are exploring how to start (or join) a Be the Bridge group (something started by Latasha Morrison), a movement to help foster racial unity.  It’s a small but important step.

If you’re a Republican, take a Democrat out for lunch and really listen. If you’re a Democrat, ask a Republican over for dinner.

I’m listening to atheists, trying to meet people hurt by the church and spend time with people in a very different reality than me. And if you’re a white male like me, hang around some non-white males (Danielle Strickland’s thoughts on this are so helpful).

If that fuels more empathy, understanding and bridge-building, the world will become a better place.

5. Ask Yourself, Five Years from Now, What Will I Wish I had Done?

I love this question: Five years from now, what will I wish I had done? 

Life and leadership are deeply complicated. And your emotions don’t always tell you the truth.

In addition to seeking the wise counsel of other people, I keep this question in my back pocket to pull out when I don’t know what to do.

For some reason, it’s so clarifying.

Often, the way I’m wired, the answer to the question is, “You’ll wish you hadn’t said that/done that.” And sometimes that’s enough.

Because the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice though, sometimes it means I have to do something that stretches me, challenges my preconceived notions or makes me uncomfortable.

When I remember to ask the question, it always means I’ll have to take the high road. The high road isn’t the easy road, but it’s the best road.

Just asking it often tells you exactly what you need to do, as much as you may not feel like doing it.

So, keep the question in your back pocket. Five years from now, you’ll be glad you did.

The Crisis Continues….A Free Course For You

The crisis you’re leading and living through doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon. 

If you want some practical, free help, I‘ve got an online, on-demand course, called How To Lead Through Crisisthat can help you lead your team, your church and yourself through the massive disruption.

The course is the gift from me and my team to you and leaders everywhere. In light of everything that’s going on, we decided to make it available 100% free.

Inside How To Lead Through Crisis, you’ll learn how to: 

  • Cultivate a non-anxious presence that inspires confidence and trust.
  • Care for yourself so the crisis doesn’t break you.
  • Master the art of fast-paced, clear decision making. 
  • Gather and interpret the most reliable data that will advance your mission
  • Advance digitally to scale past physical barriers and grow your outreach.
  • Lead your team and congregation remotely

While no one has all the answers in a crisis this big, in the course, I share the mindsets, habits, tools and strategies that I believe will help you lead through crisis to get you and the people you lead to a new (and better) future. 

You can enroll and get instant access for you and your team here.

What Helps You Keep Your Mind, Not Lose It?

I’ve shared five ways I see to make your presence online better. After all, this should be a time the church is gaining ground, not losing ground.

What do you see? What approaches or strategies do you use to make your online feed a place people gather for good?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

When Christians Lose Their Minds, People Lose Their Faith

32 Comments

  1. Jason on November 10, 2020 at 4:49 am

    New World Order is taking shape very quickly, the young are brainwashed, they confused misguided & easily manupilated.
    The mark of the beast is almost upon us, in the form of convenience, people will embrase the mark of the beast to do everything with ease & effort. Laziness is a very dangerous state, the young are finding it too difficult to find God

    And you seek me & find me,
    When you search for me with all your heart

    Amen

  2. SONE EPIE SYLVANUS on September 22, 2020 at 3:15 am

    Thanks for the article. It’s very important to note that as leadership is influence, so can it be lorded on those that are being led. Once leadership is misinterpreted as rule over people rather than service over people it becomes negative influence. This is what cause so many Christians today to lose their minds on those they follow and therefore their faith in God. Living a life by example in the light of God’s word’s is a mind as well as faith stimulus.

  3. Jill on September 18, 2020 at 7:29 am

    Several years ago I starting posting a verse of the day. I got tired of seeing so much negative and wanted to at least put one thing positive on people’s feed. It was one small step, but one that I think and hopes makes a difference.

  4. Caroline DePalatis on September 16, 2020 at 1:00 pm

    This was a very level-headed article. Thank you! Learned a lot, and I will keep on referring to it. I also plan to go through your course. THANK YOU for your generosity in creating and providing it. So needed during this time. Just watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix and realize how much awareness – which I believe is a gift from God – is important as we go through these challenging times.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 18, 2020 at 5:59 am

      Caroline…great to hear from you! I hear what you’re saying about The Social Dilemma. We’re trying to be a force for good here on the internet. Glad you are too!

  5. Mick Sheldon on September 15, 2020 at 1:40 pm

    Right on in many ways , Cal Thomas wrote a book on this called Blinded by Might  .  But your cocern for the falling away seems somewhat centered on only one aspect and not those linked to this . Why have Christians attempted to link their efforts in a political process.   

    Christians sounding like the world is true , some of your blog entries reflect that unfortunately also . Embracing the white privilege , systemic racism snick that BLM has used for instance . Its been distorted by them and means completely different to a Christian world view . Suggesting an entire race is complicit in racism , we have seen secular social justice beliefs claim one race is inherently racist . Even seeing this explode recently with random killings and destruction of private property being rationalized .  Judging by the race is so counter to the concept to Christianity . One time Christians led this culture  for advancing equality   based on pigment or gender , we led in the abolitionist movement and women’s right to vote . You seem to being led now my friend . Hopefully you realize some of your blog entries have countered Christian world views based on the Bible ? All these concepts have been distorted by secular political ideologies on the left and right today . That have embraced sexual perversions, hatred to the principles of this country , along with using racist views speaking against those based on the pigment of their skin that have enshrined themselves in BLM . They secularized concepts  have distorted the creation and all of us being made in the image of God and all of us falling short. Your  blog even supported the new feminist secular view that speaks against what was  called Billy Grahams rule of women and men  that should not be in a meeting alone . Seen the political voices ridiculing VP Pence on this also , as if its Billy Grahams rule ? Obviously the attemt to malign Christian principles is not all based on the fault of Christians .  The concept is Bibi Cal and not giving those who would use the appearance of evil to discredit your Christian voice. From my view Pence has been one the few honorable leaders we have regardless of politics. Him and Biden the other day touching each other elbows is something I wish we see as the norm in this culture . . Also seeing church leadership address local school board meetings  and the curriculum that has become accepted , they need to get involved in this culture , sexual matters with in the church , we resemble the world here also , , and other issues that have neglected in the attemt to increase church membership and not make waves . 

  6. Eileen Lindeman on September 15, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    Thanks all for our common devotion to this bldg of the kingdom. I will not get the quote exactly right but when someone said to Abraham Lincoln” At least God is on our side..
    Lincoln responded,”God is on the side of truth…pray that we are on THAT side”.
    How ironic that our desire to do good can seduce us as heartily as more obvious temptations into words and attitudes that do not come from humility and our better angels.
    Paradox is challenging and black and white thinking is like Mark Twain quipped the result of someone with only a hammer seeing all problems look like nails.

  7. Brian on September 15, 2020 at 8:46 am

    As a missionary in Peru, my heart and mind are broken seeing the anger and divisiveness of the church in the US. I just recently posted my “see you later” Facebook post, basically saying I need to take a break for my own mind and heart to continue to love people and show patience and mercy.

    Not sure if it is the algorithm at work again, but this sure hits home just one day after my post. Thank you.

    I just finished your book Didn’t See That Coming and realized I am burned out as well. So a break is needed

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 18, 2020 at 5:59 am

      Brian…it’s heartbreaking to see for sure. I hope and pray you find rest.

  8. Geoffrey on September 15, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Thank you Carey for writing this article. As a follower of Jesus and pastor in the local church, I have been grieved by social media in recent days. I feel like it is such an important space to be in, because that is where non-Jesus followers are, but it is often the professing Jesus-followers who have made social media so difficult. I really appreciate your candor and challenge in this article.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 15, 2020 at 8:26 am

      Thanks so much Geoffrey!

  9. Barry Wong on September 14, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Thanks for writing on this, Carey.

    A practical note: When one tries to view the article on a phone (iphone and android), a pop-up appears shortly into the article asking the reader to sign up for a class. It’s a great course (I’ve taken it), but there is no way to close the pop-up, rendering the article unreadable by phone. I was able to access the content on my laptop but not the phone.

    • Deacon Mac on September 14, 2020 at 8:52 pm

      I had the exact same issue on PC, however it was when I had to answer the phone and change windows (that were already opened…just switching) and it kicked up the sign up sheet and would NOT let me back into the article to finish without starting all over again. Quite frustrating, although I DID finish the article, AND sign up for the course as well. Just very frustrating whilst attempting to mulit-task ! Very Good article and was worth the inconvenience. Thought ya should know THAT too! . Thanks for another applicable article.

      • Dillon Smith on September 15, 2020 at 6:49 am

        Hey Deacon Mac and Barry Wong,

        Dillon here from Carey’s team. Thanks so much for reaching out about this. We recently have tried a new software, but have now disabled it.

        I am so sorry for the inconvenience and irritation that it has caused.

        I hope our blog can continue to be helpful in the future.

        Dillon

  10. Benjamin Block on September 14, 2020 at 7:23 pm

    Great post! Thank you!

  11. Justin on September 14, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Carey,
    Let me give you a little tip for your racial unity group, as a Christian who has been exposed to quite a few “racial unity” discussions. Every “courageous conversation” about “racial unity” I’ve been a part of has been little more than a Woke echo chamber, in which a bunch of Woke people talk about how “racial unity” means everyone else coming to agree with their Woke ideology. While I haven’t read Morrison’s book, a brief review of her work suggests she shares such Woke ideology. So I’ll operate under that presumption. This causes me to fear that the “racial unity” group you’re considering will be little more than such a Woke echo chamber.
    So here’s the tip: if you really want to promote racial unity, if you really want to have a courageous conversation, if you really want to stand by what said about having relationships with people different than you, then invite several people into your unity group who are prepared to articulate their dissenting views against Woke ideology. Bonus points if they’re black. (Yes, they exist.) Then take all those people with their sharply differing views and try to be the bridge. If you succeed…well…kindly hit me up right away. That would be something gets my attention. If you can bring unity and healing to people who stand on opposite sides of the Woke divide, you would be doing the Lord’s work. And just in case you don’t know, Christians like me, who have examined Woke ideology and rejected it as false and harmful, hurt too. We’ve sought the truth and spoken what we believe to be the truth out of concern for our neighbors and the harm inflicted on them by falsehood. And for that we’ve been rejected, mocked, maligned, and cursed…sometimes by those professing to be our brothers and sisters in Christ. If you can actually take all that hurt and disagreement from both sides and bring unity and healing to it…well…that’s something I’d like to be a part of. But know that the Woke echo chamber is the coward’s way out of real unity.
    God’s blessing on your ministry,
    Justin

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 14, 2020 at 7:10 pm

      Justin,

      Thanks for your comments. That has not been my experience at all.

      I have numerous African American friends I’ve been tracking with thoughout the crisis (no names, but you’d know them I think if I named them) and they have been very kind, open, passionate and the dynamic has been super healthy.

      I had a few meals and some shared conversations with Latasha a few years ago and found her to be bright, open and really inquisitive.

      I’ve had a really positive experience, and I’d encourage other people to keep trying. Change has to come from all sides, and I’m open.

      Carey

  12. Jeremy on September 14, 2020 at 6:06 pm

    thanks for reinforcing what’s important, the kingdom that’s like no other. I want to be and lead to be the solution not the problem.

    • James on September 14, 2020 at 7:02 pm

      Thank you, Sir. My pastor shared this with us. This information is so relevant. It really blessed me.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on September 14, 2020 at 7:11 pm

        Thanks James. Great to meet you.

  13. Richard Dawson on September 14, 2020 at 5:04 pm

    A brilliant post Carey. We are just killing the reputation of the Church with our extreme and ill considered views and the way we express ourselves. It is so frustrating trying to lead in this context.

  14. Kenneth Jenkins on September 14, 2020 at 1:24 pm

    I’m BIDEN my time until love will TRUMP all. There is another King. His name is JESUS.

    • Arlene Hoffman on September 14, 2020 at 1:36 pm

      Love it!! Love does conquer all. We just need to know the God who is Love! I’m hopeful – I do have the audacity to Hope!

      • Kenneth Jenkins on September 14, 2020 at 2:32 pm

        And my heart is so encouraged by your audacious hope my dear sister … Christ in you, the hope of glory!

  15. John Hansen on September 14, 2020 at 12:54 pm

    Carey – this is such a great post. In particular – the headline: “When Christians lose their minds, people lose their faith” !!! It could also be said that when Christians lose their minds, pastors can lose their passion… It is so disheartening to see people I have pastored for years resorting to public shaming and name calling. The childlike faith has been exchanged for a childish mean-spiritedness… As a pastor, my prayer lately is for sustaining strength to persevere. I want to see God’s people do better in every wy – but especially in this season! I want to see the people I lead demonstrate that ‘alternative to culture’ you wrote about!

    I felt prompted to do a sermon series this fall on the fruit of the Spirit for this very reason. I almost never do a 9 week series – but I felt I needed a way to call God’s people to ‘our better angels’, so to speak. This series covers the nine weeks between now and the election – and I feel strongly that believers need a call back to the basics which are expressed in the fruit of the Spirit.

    I’m trying to remind people that we don’t have to settle for so much strife. To quote Abraham Lincoln’s line from his first inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

    Of course – my language is from the scriptures – and it is the glorious high calling of keeping in step with the Spirit!

    Thank you for this insightful, thought provoking post!

  16. LindaBeth on September 14, 2020 at 11:01 am

    So good… our call is to seek His Kingdom and live it out … so simple. Yet so challenging at times!

  17. Sanford Levings on September 14, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Carey: I’m really enjoying your blog posts. Keep doing what you’re doing, God bless you old friend, Sanford

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 14, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Sanford…it’s been too long. GREAT to hear from you and I hope you’re well. Say hi to McD for me next time you see him.

  18. Dr. Jennifer L. Baker on September 14, 2020 at 10:03 am

    Thank you Carey. As a clinical psychologist who spend a lot of time calming people down–Christians and nonChristians–this is well stated and so important. I appreciate your willingness to say it.

  19. Janet on September 14, 2020 at 10:02 am

    A statement you made caught my attention …“ Because the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice” …
    can you explain the underlying truth that is based on?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on September 14, 2020 at 10:09 am

      Thanks Janet. Appreciate your question. It’s a call back to something Martin Luther King Jr said, which he took from abolitionist minister Theodore Parker in the 1850s. It’s a reference to the biblical reality that God (and history) is moving toward a more just world, not a less just one. And a reminder that it’s best for us in this moment to side with justice. That’s where the Kingdom and history is heading. Hope this helps.

  20. James Hert on September 14, 2020 at 9:56 am

    Thank y. Will share in hopes of others reading. Can’t tell you how many times I have been offended in SS class and social media by fellow Christians comments.

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