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Original Content at
January 7, 2020
Analyzing the NAR Leadership Church Trend Worries for 2020
By Anthony Wade
NAR church leadership guru reveals trends for 2020, ugh
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. -- Acts 2:42-47 (ESV)
I have highlighted Carey Nieuwhof before. Carey is someone who has carved out a nice living as an alleged expert in church growth that was born out of the purpose driven takeover of the church. His ideas are firmly rooted in the carnal leadership principles of this world with some Rick Warren thrown in for the appearance of piety. He firmly believes the purpose driven lie that healthy churches are only those that show numerical growth. This asinine conclusion stems from the Warren teaching that says the pastor is a CEO and is responsible for the horizontal growth of the church, which is biblically inaccurate if one just reads to key verses. The Lord adds to the number as He sees fit. If you want to know why so many pastors fall each year it is because they grow weary trying to do God's job. The above link is to the latest from Nieuwhof, where he outlines six disruptive church trends that he thinks will rule in 2020. This is a fascinating insight into the NAR vision through the purpose driven mind. For the sake of space, I will try to focus on the main points he is making; first from the introduction:
"Industries are being disrupted or obliterated in years, not decades, and once-dominant companies are falling fast (just ask Polaroid, Blockbuster or Compaq computers). And leading in the church is even a little more complex than leading in the marketplace for numerous reasons. Here's one of them: America is moving from a Christian to post-Christian culture faster than most people imagined, and will soon match the level of secularization found in places like Europe, Australia, Canada, and other Western nations. The nones, or those claiming no religious affiliation, have now emerged as the largest religious demographic in the US--a larger group than evangelicals or Roman Catholics. Leading people to Jesus in a world that's moving away from Jesus is an increasingly difficult challenge. -- Carey Nieuwhof
This is how little regard the purpose driven industry experts have for the church. Polaroid failed because of the advent of camera technology on phones. Blockbuster died because of the Internet. They were secular companies based upon carnal ideas. They are not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is how the NAR, purpose driven mind thinks though. That church is marketable and a product that can decline if not somehow spruced up, repackaged, or offered with some enticements. What the Carey Nieuwhof's of the world never consider is that the reason America is moving away from Christ to a post Christian culture is because of the failure of the NAR led mega church model. What makes the Gospel unique is that it is not like what we hear in the world. The purpose driven church however has spent decades seeking relevance with the fallen world and now it has it. So much so that the lost are not attracted to it anymore. Carey Nieuwhof's fundamental error is in thinking he leads people to Jesus. He does not. He leads people to a false christ through a false doctrine, that saves nobody. Let's see what the NAR mind thinks are the six church trends to watch for this coming year.
"1. CONTENT-BASED ATTENDANCE WILL DECLINE. MOVEMENTS, MOMENTS AND MISSIONS WILL GROW. It's no secret that most churches are plateaued or declining, and that even models of church that were effective a decade ago--like attractional church--are struggling now. Attendance at live events isn't dying, but it is changing. A lot. The church, of course, at our authentic best, has all of these characteristics: a movement on a mission characterized by some very profound moments. Too often, though, we ignore or simply miss those critical elements because so much of the current church model for Sunday morning has been based on content delivery. But content alone no longer fills a room in an age where content fills the internet. Content used to fill a room because content was scarce. You had to attend to hear a message. But podcasts, YouTube and social media have changed that dramatically and permanently from all we can tell. As a result, you no longer have to be in the room to listen. So what does this mean? People are hungering for an experience of God, not just information about God. Emphasizing moments and movements and mission are more critical than ever. People don't just want to know what's true, they want to know what's real. And what's real is deeper than just an idea--it's an experience. But churches that ignore an encounter with God and simply hope a decent message will fill a room will likely continue to be shocked by how it no longer does." -- Carey Nieuwhof
The reason why the purpose driven models are failing is that they stripped out the Gospel. Without that you are left with man-made attractions, lofty speech craft and entertainment. None of that can change a life however. That is the point. The problem goes back to expecting attendance numbers to be the arbiter of church health. I know local pastors who have served their congregation faithfully with the Gospel for 20 years and attendance has never eclipsed 200. Those 200 though are saved and heaven bound and the pastor will hear well done my good and faithful servant. That church is a rousing success! Heaven rejoices when one person repents! Narrow is the way and FEW are those who find it! The problem is not that the church is content driven but rather driven by what content? If people go to church and hear a five-part series on their own significance and never hear the transformational Gospel message then it is no wonder they eventually leave and consider themselves a "none." This notion of experiential Christianity is straight up NAR nonsense. If you want to experience God -- read His word! If you REALLY want to experience God -- obey His word! By the way, switching content back to the Gospel may not result in higher attendance numbers but it will increase the numbers saved for the kingdom. Never lose sight that that Carey Nieuwhof is trying to save is his model of the apostate church.
"2. GROWING CHURCHES WILL BE LED BY YOUNGER LEADERS. There's data that also points to a trend I'm also sensing through first-hand observation: growing churches tend to be led by younger leaders. Aging pastors lead congregations with a greater percentage of older members. Younger clergy are oriented more to goals than older pastors who tend to be service and people-oriented. So what's going on? Well, it's harder to keep innovating as you get older as a leader, in part because you've used a lot of your creative energy to craft what you've created (your creative energy has a shelf-life and cycle to it) and it's easy to fall prey to sunk cost bias (I've built this whole thing this way"we simply have to keep it going). I'm not talking about innovations around mission--just methods. When the methods atrophy, the mission dies.So many leaders talk about reaching the next generation but never include the next generation. It's becoming increasingly clear that it's going to take the leadership of the next generation to reach the next generation." -- Carey Nieuwhof
Let me see if I have this right. Older pastors have older members and younger pastors have younger members? Be still my heart. What is at issue here is the infatuation the purpose driven mindset has with innovation. To Carey, when Hillsong sends out their youth pastor naked to their women's convention, they are just innovating. Pastors who preach sermons about carnal movies are just being innovative. Pastors who turn their sanctuaries into motocross or monster truck rallies are just innovating. Meanwhile the "older" pastor who refuses to compromise the Gospel has fallen prey to sunk cost bias? How pathetically absurd. The vast majority of carnal purpose driven methods need to not only atrophy -- they need to be taken out back and shot. The young reaching the young without the Gospel will only result in generations lost to Satan.
"3. THE SUCCESSION CRISIS WILL BECOME MORE OF A CRISIS. I believe we'll see two things in 2020 when it comes to succession. More older leaders who realize it's time for them to move on but who don't know how. More younger leaders leaving because older leaders won't move on when they should move on. I hear almost every day from frustrated younger leaders who complain about how stuck, uninspired and stubborn the senior leadership in their church is. And talking to older leaders, it's equally clear many (not all, but many) have run out of vision, energy and fresh ideas for the seasons ahead while they hang onto leaders. When most churches are plateaued or declining, younger leaders know what many are loathe to admit: it's unlikely that the leader who led a church into decline is going to be the leader who gets it growing. Every year the church is led by a leader who's lost vision, lost passion and lost focus, the mission suffers. However, the succession crisis is only a crisis if you make it one. Great leadership renews. Other leadership hangs on." -- Carey Nieuwhof
I may not have heard a more carnal minded conclusion than this foolish idea of a "succession crisis." The pastoral call does not have a shelf life. Younger leaders should not be eying how to get rid of their pastors. That is not the model Jesus set up. Whatever happened to the servant mentality? If God wants to promote you and give you more responsibility there is nothing any man can do about it. Carey paints a picture of a very inept or incapable God here. While we are here let us deal with the 800-pound vision gorilla in the room. There is only one vision beloved and that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It does not need to be watered down, sugared up, modified, made relevant, massaged or marketed in any way shape or form. It just needs to be preached. The only time a pastor "runs out of vision" is when he stops preaching the Gospel. Any pastor, young or old, that has a different vision needs to get back in their lane, back on message and stop representing the enemy. Great leadership renews is a worldly concept. The world discards their wisdom for what they think is the hot new trend. The church and the Gospel do no such thing.
"4. PREACHING WILL CONTINUE TO MOVE TO HIGHER QUALITY, LOWER REPS. In almost all growing churches there seems to be a move by preachers to higher quality and lower reps. Higher quality means spending more time working on each message. Lower reps means preaching fewer messages each year. That's a big shift. What's changed, of course, is that content is now everywhere. I informally polled (via text) half a dozen preachers under age 45 I know who lead rapidly growing mega-churches. I asked them how many times a year they preached. The answer was eerily similar: 33-39 Sundays a year. Which means they're not teaching between 15-19 Sundays a year. And most of that is not because they're on vacation or teaching somewhere else. As Aaron Brockett from Trader's Point told me: Preaching reps work a little like dog years"they age you. I want to develop other communicators and expose our people to other voices and styles as well." -- Carey Nieuwhof
Wow, the inner workings of the carnally reprobate mind. The shepherd is called to shepherd. They are not called to pass along that responsibility 37% of the time. Yet Nieuwhof wonders why church is in decline. There is nothing wrong with a guest speaker from time to time but the pastor is called to pastor, which means to preach. Nieuwhof's conclusion here is to focus more on the quality of the message rather than the quantity. I understand that from his perspective, where the growth is the responsibility of the preacher and he believes they can determine eternal matters through their temporal skills. That is just not how it works. If the church truly moves to this 63% work rate than the church will decline even more.
"5. THE MEDIOCRE MIDDLE WILL FRUSTRATE MORE CHURCHES. As I outlined in my Leadership Trends for 2020 post, the middle is disappearing from our culture. It's also disappearing from our church. This middle is where average lives. The middle is trying to reach everybody. And in the church context, in particular, the middle involves imitation. If you look at many churches, the last few decades have involved a lot of imitation. Find a big church you admire and emulate. However (and this is a big however), many smaller to mid-sized churches don't have the people, money or gifting to pull off what larger churches pull off, or at least they lack the ability to do it well.
As a result, mediocrity wins.
The Band is trying to do Hillsong/Elevation/Bethel, but it's really not that great.
The pastor is trying to be relevant and funny, but, um, well".
Your church is trying to offer great programs, but you're really stretching yourself thin--too thin.
As a result, you end up in the middle. And the middle is disappearing. That can be a really frustrating place to be when you realize you are hundreds/thousands of people and thousands/millions of dollars from doing what you want to be able to do. So what do you do? First, rethink imitation. As I've shared before, imitation kills innovation. Leaders who imitate rarely innovate, and while you can learn from others, trying to be someone else can end up stifling your voice and squelching your gift. Maybe you don't really have the talent to put together a quality full band. But you have an amazing keyboard player or guitarist. So go with them for a season, and hope and pray for the day when you can add highly gifted musicians back into the mix." -- Carey Nieuwhof
The middle is trying to reach everybody? Isn't that where we should aspire to be? Carey seems to be mixing some generally good ideas with bad. I agree with him that imitation is not a good idea for churches. I agree that not having comparable resources can lead your smaller church to not sound anything like what you are trying to copy. The larger point however is again about content. The issue is not how competently your band performs heretical music such as Bethel, Hillsong or Elevation but rather teaching why you will never allow such music in your church to begin with. Get back to the basics. Make sure your worship music is biblical. Make sure your preaching is biblical. Let God deal with the rest. Sure maybe some folks do not come back because they are looking to be entertained and not convicted. Still you stayed true to the vision of the Gospel and planted the seeds. Let God be God and give the increase as He sees fit.
"6. YOUR POLITICS WILL ALIENATE THE VERY PEOPLE YOU'RE TRYING TO REACH. I saved the most controversial till last. Maybe you won't read it. But I hope you do. This one's been really tugging on my heart and I've hesitated to say much because things are so divisive and explosive right now. I've been through numerous drafts trying to say it well. So with some fear and trepidation, here are my thoughts. 2020 is an election year. And that means and more and more church leaders will be tempted to take to social media, platforms and pulpits to preach partisan politics. Don't. Just don't. Aligning yourself specifically with a position or party overshadows your connection to Jesus. People no longer see Jesus, they see a Republican or Democrat or whatever position they imagine you to be. When you become partisan or political in your preaching or platform, by definition, in this culture, you alienate about half the people you're supposed to be reaching. And you alienate them over issues that have nothing to do with Jesus. If your theology is all about God, guns, the Supreme Court, and why the left is so bad; or Climate change, sexual identity, taxing the rich and why the right is horrible"you have to ask yourself whether that's really your faith speaking or your partisanship speaking. 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. And (gut check) if God has all the same opinions your political party does, you're probably not worshipping God." -- Carey Nieuwhof
I have to say amen to this one. His points here are spot on even if his motivation for these opinions are not. You see, to Carey, everyone is a potential customer for the church he is selling. It is not a wise business model to start out by eliminating half of your potential customers. You can tell that by his horrible attempt to split the bill. This issue only exists in one direction. The NAR dominionists all sell the Republican Party as the savior for this country and the church is too quick to agree. Nieuwhof, while NAR, is so only from a business perspective. He is not an ideologue by any means. He believes what he believes because it is how he makes money. His six disruptive church trends for 2020 was a revealing look into the NAR purpose driven mind. How it takes utterly carnal leadership themes and tries to apply it to a church he is recreating in man's own image. It is a hip church where the older folks are thanked and led out back to be put down. It is a relevant church where we want some existential experience of God instead of all that doctrinal doo-doo. At the end of the day however it remains the apostate church leading people down the path to entertainment, relevance, and hell.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- January 7, 2019