Exponential Webinar with Carey Nieuwhof

On Tuesday, January 15, Exponential hosted a free webinar with Carey Nieuwhof. Over the last few years Carey has written about disruptive trends that he believes the church will face in the upcoming year. He says churches should stay on top of current trends and change with them.

As soon as I write that what some churches and church leaders hear is, “Well, someone is asking us to water down the Gospel to change with the times.” That is definitely not the point Carey was trying to make. The encouragement is not to change the Gospel or shift biblical thinking to be more progressive. His point is simply to understand what is actually happening all around us and how quickly the world is changing. Specifically in regards to technology and how people are engaging socially.

You can read the original post here. Much of the webinar reflected back on his disruptive trends from 2016-2018 before diving in to 2019. What follows are simply some of what I heard in this webinar and some of the tweets I sent out during that event.

Why Should Churches Pay Attention to Cultural Trends?

Carey was asked the “why” question about churches staying up on current trends. He answered with this…

irrelevance gap.png

As the gap between the world and the church continues to grow, so does our irrelevance. I do not believe that the church’s goal is to be relevant with the times, the goal is to be faithful in making disciples and sharing the Gospel until Jesus returns. That said, we have a responsibility to be aware of what the culture around us is up to.

  • How is the culture around us changing?

  • How does that impact our outreach?

  • How do we do disciple making well in our context?

  • What are some of our best options for getting in front of people and engaging them in mission based on how the world has changed?

It’s not about giving up on the Gospel or being progressive. It’s about using what is happening around us to be more effective with the Gospel and to make disciples. In fact, Carey said this about the trends and the Gospel.

the Gospel.png

Cute Slogans Do Not Produce Disciples!

In what I thought was a really interesting part of the conversation, Carey shared that the church for a long time has done a good job at preaching cute slogans. Things like…

  • 5 Steps for a Great Marriage

  • 6 Ways to Live a Life of Purpose

  • 3 Steps to Financial Security

I, like many other preachers, learned a lot about how to preach these types of sermons. They can be very helpful, but as the culture grows more cynical of the church, these slogan type messages don’t have the impact we hope they will. I think for many these aren’t seen as “real.” They are viewed more as contrived ideas to either get them to come back again or to put more money in the plate.

That doesn’t mean these types of sermons can’t be effective, but relying on them as your only tool in the toolbox is not going to produce the disciples you might be looking for.

If you’re struggling to be more creative with your sermon writing and delivery, you might consider Sticky Sermons Academy.

Consumer Approach to Church is Losing Momentum!

And honestly, that’s a good thing.

While we live in a consumer culture, the idea of a church built around a consumer’s needs isn’t really a biblical approach to church. Although, the consumer-driven approach of the 80’s did produce some authentic disciples of Jesus. Still, this approach is quickly losing momentum. What is replacing it?


People fully engaged on mission are replacing people who went to church because they had a favorite part of it that they consumed. The future of the church is to those who are engaged in the mission of the church to make disciples and not to those who are only there when the music, preaching and kid’s ministry is in high quality.

The church must rethink how it engages people on mission. Rather than hoping in an enticing sermon series that brings them back to write another check the next week, we must engage them. The mission is to make disciples of all nations, not come back to church next week so I can tell you another story.

Your Lobby isn’t your lobby!

It is safe to say that the internet isn’t going anywhere.

Think back to how you might look for a church before there was an internet. Maybe you were visiting town and you would grab a phone book. Do you remember those? Look up a church name and give them a call to find out service times.

Maybe you grabbed a local newspaper. Inside is what I call the “Jesus Section.” This is where all the churches in town compete for your attention with some ad space showing what they have available, service times, etc.

So you found your church in these archaic ways and you showed up on Sunday. You had no idea what to expect outside of what your assumption was based on a church name.

That has completely changed. Your lobby is no longer your lobby. Your website is your lobby. The likelihood that someone has walked through your doors without first visiting your website is next to nothing. They went to your website, I promise.

And if they can’t find your website, they won’t work too hard to find your church building either. It’s a safe assumption that anyone walking through your doors has been to your website.

That said, how does your website look?

  • Up to date?

  • Correct information?

  • Critical information is easy to find?

  • What to expect when people visit your church is readily available?

  • Glitter-cat .gif rocking on a side bar somewhere because your secretary thinks cats are cute?

Before people see what you have to offer on Sunday morning, they will already have made a decision by seeing what you have to offer online. If you budget to make Sunday morning great, you had better budget to make sure your website is great.

If You Were Starting a Church Today…

This to me might have been one of the most interesting things said in the webinar. Host, Todd Wilson, asked Carey if he were starting a church today, in 2019, what would his “non-negotiables” be for that church. This was his reply.

The top 4, must-haves, for starting a church in 2019 are…

Worship leader

At one point Carey said that early in his ministry, he just wanted someone who could play guitar and sing. Now he looks for someone who can lead worship. Even in worship leading, it’s about connecting primarily to God and to like-minded believers. It’s more than a show, churches need worship leaders who are pointing people to God.

Human connection

In our day and age of sex and porn addiction, negative news and social media feeds, many of us are desensitized to human intimacy. We don't know what it looks like to have genuine human connections anymore. If there is any place that needs to be the experts on human connections, it’s the church. People are looking for something real. We need to give that to them.

Killer online presence

This goes back to the previous point. You have so much to consider when it comes to your online presence.

  • Website

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Twitter

  • Email

  • Livestream

  • Rebroadcasts

  • Videos

  • Pictures

If you don’t know if your online presence is “killer,” then it probably isn’t. It is wise to invest in a branding or marketing consultant who can help you with your online presence.

Keep it simple

So much of what the church has become is ten million programs and a blaze of glory. Try killing off programs that have zero impact on your church or community. Programs or ministries that haven’t seen or helped lives transform and disciples to be made.

Pastors, stop keeping programs alive simply to satisfy a personality while the mission of the church is on life support.

Move away from things that aren’t accomplishing the mission. Simplify your church to one, simple mission and a few really clear steps that will help people to engage and accomplish the mission.

You can find out more about future Exponential webinars, events and conferences on their website at Exponential.org.

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