September 1, 2023

Future Church Trends with Carey Nieuwhof – Bonus Episode | The Unstuck Church Podcast

future church trends carey nieuwhof

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If you’ve been listening to/reading my content for awhile, you’ve probably noticed that I love data. In fact, every quarter, my team at The Unstuck Group collects fresh data from churches and I get to organize and analyze it into a comprehensive report.

Data helps us understand what’s going on now or in the past. On the other hand, as many of us have learned in the last few years, even with data, predicting the future is hard.

But what if current events could help us better understand where we’re headed? 


In this bonus episode, I sat down with my friend Carey Nieuwhof for a conversation on current and future church trends. As Carey quotes, “The best way to predict the future of the church is simply to look at the present.”

Carey and I share a passion for equipping the local church, and that’s why we both believe it’s important that pastors understand where we’re headed in order to lead the church into the future. In our conversation, we discussed:

  • The ministry implications of generational trends
  • The role of a digital ministry strategy for churches
  • Prioritizing engagement over attendance online
  • Shifting sermons from an attraction to an anchor
“A lot of pastors still think of Boomers as the heart of the church. And if you've got a declining church, that's probably still true.” @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet “If you want to kill the front door of your church, pull back your online presence.” @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet “Discipleship used to start when people walked into the front door of your building. Now it starts on the internet.”  @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet “Through their teaching, pastors have the opportunity to be an anchor to people in a sea of information and misinformation.”  @cnieuwhof Click To Tweet

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Sean (00:02):

Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. As many of us have learned in the last few years, predicting the future is hard. But what if current events could help us better understand where we’re headed? On today’s bonus episode, Tony is joined by Carey Nieuwhof for a conversation on future church trends and what pastors need to understand to be prepared for where we’re headed. If you’re new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, before you listen, stop and go to and subscribe to get our episode show notes. When you do, each week you’re gonna get resources to support that week’s episode, including our Leader Conversation Guide, as well as access to all of our podcast resources. That’s to subscribe. Now, let’s get into this bonus conversation with Tony and Carey Nieuwhof.

Tony (00:56):

So, we’re going to talk about trends for the future of church today, but before we get to that, Carey, I’ve never claimed to be good at forecasting the future. I think you seem to dabble in that maybe a little bit more than I do. So, for those of us that may not be good forecasters of the future, do you think it’s possible to improve that ability to predict the future? And if so, how, how would we do that?

Carey (01:20):

There’s a very fine line between prophecy, fallacy and inerrancy, and I’m not sure when I cross it. Or errancy, I should say. I’m not sure when I cross it very often, Tony. I’m sure I do. But you know what, to me, it’s a question of connecting the dots. It’s like, you know, you and I have talked about this before. You can walk into a church given decades of experience and, within three to five minutes, have a pretty good sense of what the issues are.

Tony (01:48):

That’s right.

Carey (01:48):

Oh, these guys are overstaffed, or they’re understaffed. Or the culture here feels stagnant, or this is really vibrant. Like you just, you pick up on that. You’ve got spidey senses. And I mean, if you look at my Strength Finders, Future is among the top five, depending on when I take it. It’s always in that top five. And I think what it is, it’s connecting the dots. It’s just looking at what’s happening in culture, trying to read what’s happening right now and then making extrapolations. And one of my favorite ways to think about it is, Erwin McManus told me a few years ago, he said, “The best way to predict the future of the church is simply to look at the present.” You know, you don’t need to be a futurist. Like, you know, if you can see the present clearly, you can see the future. And I think he’s right. There, there are trends that are happening, like AI, the adoption rate is slow in the church. Or, you know, this whole idea of monologue or driving attendance. There’s very few organizations that have been as fixated on that as the church. And suddenly, you know, it’s taken us a while; we’re now thinking about engagement. We’re now thinking about, “Oh, don’t just get views, actually connect with people.”

Tony (02:59):


Carey (02:59):

So we tend to be a little behind the culture on that. So what I’m trying to do is trying to connect the dots: what’s happening in the culture, what’s happening in the church And then how can we extrapolate it. And sometimes, honestly, I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve, I’ve, you know, done church trends now for maybe seven, eight years. I’ve multiple additions. Sometimes, it’s just stating the obvious clearly. It’s not that I’m really out there a decade in advance. It’s just like leaders are so busy. And they have a read through something. Or they watch a video, and they go, “Well, of course.” And if I can bring a little bit of clarity to like this is the direction you should point the ship, then I’m really grateful.

Tony (03:40):

Well, I, I think I, I have strength when it looks at, when we were looking at how is the church doing today? But I’m gonna continue to rely on you to help me think about the future, if that’s okay, Carrie.

Carey (03:50):

Well, it’s a lot of fun for me. And you know, it’s, it’s funny because I have been doing them probably since the mid-2010s. And I look back on it, and, you know, I haven’t got like a scorecard or anything. But most of ’em are like, “Oh, yeah, that was, that was a good call.”

Tony (04:03):

That actually happened.

Carey (04:03):

And you can see it happening.

Tony (04:05):

Well, this conversation that we’re about ready to dive into is really prompted by an article that you wrote on trends in recent months. And so I’m, I’d, I’d like to begin talking about generational trends. When our team engages with the church, Carey, we study the demographic data to help the church focus on who they’re trying to reach in their mission field. And in most cases right now, millennials and Gen Z make up more than half of the population of the community for many of the churches that we’re working with. Interestingly enough, a lot of those churches are still being led by a pastor who’s from the boomer generation. So, what are the implications of those generational trends for churches, especially as it relates to reaching young adults and young families?

Carey (04:55):

Well, I think you’ve hinted at it in the way you phrased the question. And so my big church trend for this year, the one that I’m really paying attention to, is that boomer church is dead. So, a couple of things: it doesn’t mean dead dead. That’s a bit of hyperbole, but, you know, follow the argument for a minute. What a lot of church leaders struggled with is boomers were often the last to return to church. And we assumed for a little while that that was probably COVID. And if you look at it, they, they have historically been some of our best volunteers and our best givers, and a lot of boomers tapped out. They’re like, “Yeah, we’re gonna come back. But rather than being on the guest services team every week, we’ll do once a month,” or we’re just not back at the same level that we were. So you could look at that as COVID-related, but COVID, in many ways, was a really big reset for a lot of people. What happened during COVID is the boomer got a year or two older. I won’t have the math exactly right, but I think the youngest boomer this year is 59, and the oldest is now pushing into his or her seventies. Like it will not be long until boomers are now in their eighties. The silent generation is getting older and older. So you think about that. Well, historically, what happens when people are in their 60s, 70s and 80s? They tend to get a little less active. You know, my, my financial planner says retirement, which I have no plans on doing, has three stages: go-go, slow-go and no-go. And I think he’s right if you look at how a lot of people retire, right? There’s a, “We’re gonna travel around the world!” And then there’s, “Oh, we’re gonna do one big trip,” and then there’s, “Yeah, I’m not venturing outside of my kitchen.” And boomers are now just demographically, like life stage, getting into that place. And a lot of pastors still think of boomers as the heart of the church. And if you’ve got a declining church, that’s probably still true. If you have a growing church, you’re probably thinking, well, they’re our key donors. I would encourage leaders to examine the data on donations because what happens when, you know, your prime income years where the trajectory is still up, are your 30s, 40s and 50s. You’ve got momentum. You hit your 60s: a lot of early retirements. A lot of like, yeah, it doesn’t, not gonna get a lot better than this. And then for a lot of people, there’s a switch that flips, and you move from earning income to whatever you happen to save over the course of your life. And perhaps, if you’re lucky, a pension plan, and that’s it. Then you’re stuck with your 401ks, your Roth IRAs, and you move to a fixed income. So, what typically happens is that giving declines. Maybe they are in Florida for a few months of the year or somewhere else or visiting their kids. Volunteering declines. So it’s not that boomer church is dead overnight, but as far as being the backbone generation, there’s a massive shift happening right now. And surprise, surprise, guess who gets left out, Tony? Gen X. We’re sort of around. I’m barely Gen X; I was born in 65. You’re Gen X.

Tony (07:54):

Carey, I like, I like to refer to our generation as the Greatest Generation.

Carey (07:59):

There you go. Well, no one’s listening, so it doesn’t—not to this podcast—I mean, to us. Ask Rich Birch. I know mutual friend, right? Rich is like, “Yeah, we always get ignored. We always get ignored.” He’s Gen X. So Gen X is sort of around, and they’re sort of the church leadership. But if you really look at it, it’s shifting to millennials. And there’s growing evidence, I’ve seen a couple of studies this year, that millennials are already more generous than boomers, and they’re going to receive the inheritance from the boomers. So there’s like, I think it’s $3 trillion, I always forget the stat, that’s being transferred in the next decade from boomers to their children, probably not going to churches. It’s going to their kids. So, all of a sudden, you’re gonna have this, these millennials who are now, by the way, edging into their 40s. Think about that.

Tony (08:47):


Carey (08:48):

Who have more money, more time, prime of life, massive inheritance. And they were also first back to church. Surprise, surprise, the millennials stream back. They’ve got kids. They’re excited. They’re invested. They’re moving forward. And then Gen Z, we can talk about them a little bit more. They’re coming along, too. So I think that’s the biggest shift, and it’s really like a, a massive pivot from where we were even a couple of years ago.

Tony (09:16):

Yeah. Yeah. So I think you’re spot on, related to, it’s the giving conversation that typically comes up with the churches that we’re engaged with. And churches who are more mature a lot of giving is still coming from the boomer generation. That’s not an indication that boomers are more generous. That’s an indication that that church has not reached young adults. They’re they’re not reaching Gen X.

Carey (09:41):


Tony (09:41):

They’re not reaching millennials. Actually, Carey, fascinating information, this is fresh data that we’ve collected. Any guess on the generation that is over most overrepresented on church staff teams right now?

Carey (09:59):

I’m going to guess Gen X.

Tony (10:03):

Actually, it is boomers. So boomers are, it’s not the largest percentage of staff, but they’re the most. . .

Carey (10:11):

Boomers still. That’s 59. They’re 59 and older.

Tony (10:13):

That’s right. They’re the one, they’re, that’s the generation that’s most overrepresented when you compare to the percentage of the population, the working-age population. And then the most underrepresented, any guess on what generation is the most underrepresented in terms of church staff teams?

Carey (10:28):

Whoa. Well, I’m O for one. Let me, lemme guess Gen Z.

Tony (10:31):

You’re correct. Yeah. And some of that I think is stands to reason because the 18 year olds, a lot of, a lot of the Gen Z are still hopefully in school or pursuing kind of whatever their future path forward is. And because of that, they may not be on church staff teams yet at this point. But just some fascinating information to look at. Speaking of Gen Z, though, I think we’re talking, I actually think I have two Gen Zs in my house and two millennials in my house. I, I can’t remember the exact age range. Do you, do you recall what, how?

Carey (11:05):

Yeah, I do actually. I did some research preparing for this. So it does vary. Mileage will vary depending on how you drive. But most of the reports would say 97 to 2012.

Tony (11:16):


Carey (11:16):

So that would be, 97, 26 to right on down to 2012, 11. Okay. So, you’re really middle school through to just barely working.

Tony (11:29):


Carey (11:29):

Now that said, the Pew Research Center just announced it was handling generations entirely differently today. I gotta do a deep dive into that. And they’re like, sometimes, it’s stage-related, right? Like when you’re, who was it who said, if you’re not a revolutionary in your 20s and a conservative in your 50s, don’t, I can’t trust you. I forget who said that.

Tony (11:49):

I don’t know.

Carey (11:50):

There’s, there’s some truth to that, right?

Tony (11:51):

Yes, there is.

Carey (11:52):

You tend be more radical when you’re younger. It’s like, I’m never gonna have a house. I’m never gonna settle down. I’m never gonna have a career. You look at millennials. They have houses. They have kids. They’ve settled down. A lot of them live in the suburbs. Now, there’s some really meaningful differences. Some of them are living out of their van and climbing in Yosemite every day, but that’s a, a substrata of the population. A lot of it is age and stage, but yeah, generally that’s Gen Z: 1997 to 2012.

Tony (12:22):

So, I think the data would indicate that this generation, Gen Z, is largely unchurched at this point. And I think the biggest reason is because their parents weren’t connected to a church. But I guess the, the question I have is, do we have hope that we can continue to engage this generation and, and help this, this Gen Z generation take steps towards Jesus and the church?

Carey (12:47):

Well, I think as long as the Gospel’s involved, there’s always hope. And so I’m gonna, I’m gonna start with that broad overview. Yeah, there’s definitely reasons for hope, so you’re right. They’re the most broadly unchurched, spiritually fluid generation that we’ve ever seen in our culture. However, they’re spiritually open. They’re more spiritually open after the pandemic than they were before the pandemic. Something like 68% consider themselves religious but don’t think that translates into church attendance. It’s almost like I’m spiritual, but I’m not sure about your congregation. Or if I believe Jesus, that’s great, but my beliefs might be a little bit fluid, a little I might define orthodoxy a little bit different than you do. And I may not be at church on a regular basis, but sure, yeah, I’m open. So it’s not like you see atheism making this huge upsurge. We are, we are spiritual people. We’re spiritual beings. But that’s expressing itself differently. And boomers, in the silent generations, it meant you just went to church. That’s just what you did. Gen X started to question that, kick the tires. Millennials were like, yeah, I really don’t know. There’s a lot of hypocrisy, a lot of problems in the church. Gen Z comes along, and they’re now four generations into this rethink.

Tony (14:07):


Carey (14:07):

And they’re not necessarily in. However, if they’re in, they’re locked in. So if you’ve got Gen Z in your church and they seem to be committed, they really are committed. They would be on fire. What you saw, you know, flickers of in Asbury in the winter of 2023 is probably the closest thing to a preview of Gen Z church we’ve had on a national scale. And so I think that tiny percentage that’s still around is engaged, wants to be discipled, is on board. And although we can talk about evangelism, it’s, it’s a double-edged sword with the next generation, probably is open to sharing their faith with their friends under the right conditions. So there’s an asterisk beside evangelism with Gen Z because they think it’s wrong to convert someone over from another belief system. So they may be very devotedly following Jesus, but because truth has been redefined first by liberals and now by conservatives as relative in our generation, think about that for a minute, just hit rewind on that for a while. The liberals started saying truth is relative. And now the conservatives say, well, we’ll just make up our own truth. It’s like, whoa, wait a minute. But because truth is, is relative, they’re a little bit hesitant in sharing their faith unless they come across as judgy or, you know, oppressive or colonialist, et cetera, et cetera. But, yeah, there is hope for sure.

Tony (15:39):

Carey, when we start to talk about next generations, it does raise questions about technology, digital strategy for churches especially. And for a moment, COVID forced every church online. Now, I mean, just to be honest, I think many pastors that I’m, I’m talking with in, in recent months, they would prefer to kind of shut down all of their online content, hoping that might force people back to physical gatherings, especially their Sunday services. Of course, our data suggests that would be, that would be a poor decision because what we see in the data is that more churches, the churches that have more online engagement are actually seeing higher attendance growth in this season. So what are your current thoughts regarding online ministry strategy, digital strategy and how that might impact physical in-person ministry for churches?

Carey (16:35):

I’m getting the same DMs, often not from the senior leaders because they think it’s a great idea. But it’s from their staff who are like my senior pastor is thinking about throttling back online so that we can grow in-person attendance. I’m like, great, you know? So, so is Walmart. So is Amazon. So, it’s like, come on. Like I, I, I get it. Nobody likes to speak to an empty room, but if, if, you know, I really believe this. Everybody you wanna reach is online. Everybody you wanna reach is online. And I, I did some recent research for some writing I’m doing; it’s a ridiculous amount, like 98% of Gen Z have a smartphone. And what people do, the way we behave these days, and this is probably true of virtually everybody listening to this episode, Tony, let’s say a friend says, “Hey, let’s do a vacation together this summer.” You’re like, great, I’m in. And we’re gonna go to pick a destination: Virginia Beach. Okay. Never been to Virginia Beach. Awesome. But we said yes ’cause we love the Morgans, and they’re great people. What are, what are my wife and I gonna do before you go to Virginia Beach? We’re not gonna just blindly trust the Morgans. We’re gonna go and explore. We’re gonna find the best Airbnb.

Tony (17:44):

Of course, you’re not.

Carey (17:45):

No, of course, we’re not.

Tony (17:46):

Right. You’re never gonna blindly trust Morgans.

Carey (17:48):

And even, even if we did, even if we did, and you and Emily sent us the agenda, I’d wanna see the Airbnb. I’d wanna see the beach. I’d wanna know the restaurants we’re gonna go to. I’d wanna check out the menu. You know, my wife is dairy-free. I wanna make sure that we can accommodate that. So we’re checking everything else out online first. And if you restrict your digital presence, you’re basically saying to the world we don’t care very much about you. What you’re really asking people to do is just roll the dice and hope it’s a good in-person experience or trust your social media, which is harder and harder to find. Thank you, algorithm. And if you make it really hard for people to find you, good luck. ‘Cause most people are gonna give up or they’re gonna find another church. Because if they’re spiritually open and they’re searching online and you show up, I mean, they wanna try before they buy. Very few of us, except for a year during the pandemic, would ever purchase a vehicle, particularly a used vehicle, without first test-driving it or having it assessed by a mechanic. We kind of bypassed our brains for a year while everybody went crazy buying homes without home inspections. And people are like, “Oh no, we got termites. Oh no, this thing leaks.” Right? You are gonna check it out online. You’re gonna inspect before you show up. And that’s what you’re doing. So if you wanna kill your front door, if you wanna lock your front door and make it really difficult for people to find you, great, throttle back your online presence. Shut down that live stream. And the five people you’re hoping will shut down their laptop, two will come back, maybe. Three are gonna move on and find some other church. And you know, there’s probably one or two in the mix who won’t even notice and go, “Oh, I don’t know what happened to them. But they’ll go on with their lives,” like, and you’re not gonna reach the rest. So I could go on for days. I think it’s the dumbest way to grow church attendance. I’ll be that bold. I’ll use that phrase, but it’s a really bad strategy. So change it. Repent. Do something different. Like boot that thing back up because you’re shutting your front door. You’re slamming it shut.

Tony (19:47):

Yeah. So, related to this, Carey, I think one of the problems with how most churches are engaging their digital strategy is they’re defining the wrong win. So, currently, I think the win for most churches when it comes to online is to get more people watching the service and to get the pastor’s messages online everywhere they can: YouTube, Facebook, church online platforms and so on. And I say that because I’m convinced that I, I’m, I’m wrestling with this because I think the right win has more to do with how we view online as opposed to how we help people take, take their next steps towards Jesus once they’re connected to church and connected to the faith. And related to that, I just think when it comes to discipleship, as an example, it has to be highly relational. I think God designed us for community with other people. And related to that, then, leveraging online strategies to help people take their first steps towards faith in church—I think that’s a great thing. But then after that, the goal, I think, should actually be connecting people relationally, helping them actually have those face-to-face connections and conversations with other believers. So, it’s almost as if online, we play to its strengths through the front, for the front door stuff. But then, we, I don’t know how much online’s gonna help us when we actually get to the real discipleship and spiritual formation and actually helping believers take their next steps towards Christ and thinking that might need to be really focused more on connecting face-to-face in person. So, that’s just my general thinking on all that related to what is the real win for churches online. And I just wanna know, do you think I’m acting like a boomer in a Gen X body again or is there something to that?

Carey (21:43):

I agree with you, and I want to take it a little bit further. You said something where you said, you know, I feel like we’re leveraging the potential of online for front door. I partially agree with that, but I want to challenge it because I think the way a lot of pastors think about their online ministry, whether that’s social media streaming, their YouTube channel, their website, it’s free advertising. I know it’s not free. ‘Cause you have staff or you have an agency or whatever, it’s not free. But they think of it as free advertising, so we’re just gonna put these digital moving billboards, right? These clips online, everyone’s gonna find us. I’m gonna blow up. I’m gonna go viral, and then everyone’s gonna come into our church. It just doesn’t work that way. Even if you get, in fact, I would argue, a hundred views on YouTube where you actually have engagement is better than a thousand views on YouTube where you have no engagement. Let me explain. Last viral video anybody listening to this podcast watched: who did it? Chances are we have no idea who it was. It was funny. We watched it for 15 seconds. I was like, “Oh, that was cool.” Or, you know, let’s say you were playing handy person on Saturday, and you had to figure out how to change a lawnmower blade. You know, you just Googled how to change a lawnmower blade. Typed in your model number. Found this guy working in his garage, going,” This is how you do it. Make sure you disconnect the spark plug.” Did you follow him? Did you give him money? Did you? No, you didn’t do any of that. You’re like, now, I know how to fix my, that’s how people are accessing your online content. And what you need to do is you gotta stop the scroll, and you’ve gotta figure out engagement. You gotta have someone, when someone leaves you a comment, have somebody following up with them, going, “Tony, I’m so glad this is a super helpful email. Hey, do you have any other challenges around the garage or the backyard that we can help with?” And you’re like, “Well, actually, yeah, I’ve, I’ve gotta fix a shower head. Can you guys help with that?” It’s like, “Yeah, totally. Check out this YouTube channel. We’ll help you out with that.” You’re like, okay, now I know this guy. I like this guy. I’m gonna follow him. I’m gonna subscribe because I gotta fix that shower head next weekend. So, I know that’s a really simple example, but that’s how engagement works. So you gotta run, and having someone follow you isn’t enough. It’s starting to build that relationship with them. So what you wanna do is figure out a way, and there are easy ways to do this (it’s digital marketing) is you wanna capture their contact information. This is voluntary, not spammy, but if some, if there’s enough value in what someone saw you provide them online, they’ll be like, “Yeah, let me give you my email address. Let me give you my cell number.” At that point, you have what Seth Godin calls Permission Marketing. You have permission to message them. You don’t wanna blow that. But then you start to build a relationship with them. And as you do that, they’re like, you know, I really like Tony. I wanna check it out. Oh, he is got a podcast. Oh, he actually leads church services. Oh, their church is in my neighborhood. Alright, I think I’m gonna go check it out. But you’re walking them down the path. And I think what if, if there’s four or five steps in the digital marketing funnel, pastors stop at step one, which is, I got a thousand views, I got a hundred likes, I got. No, no, no. You don’t even know who those people are. They could be bots like, but some of them are real people. You gotta connect with them. Then, you have to have some kind of relationship. You have them opt in; Permission Marketing begins. You start to build a relationship. You get to know them. That’s how discipleship starts. That’s where you invite them into things you’re doing. Then, maybe they make a decision for Christ. Then they get baptized. Then they get…but it’s a process. And it used to start in the front door of the building. Now, it starts on the internet.

Tony (25:22):

All right, Carey, this is tough because we could go on and on and on on a variety of different topics related to trends in the church. But let’s, let’s wrap up with this topic because I know there are a lot of senior teaching pastors listening into the conversation. I’ve heard you talk about sermon shifting from being an attraction to being an anchor. Can you unpack that a little bit for us?

Carey (25:47):

Yeah. This is a, a, a very fluid thought. And I almost didn’t include it in my church trends post, but I thought, no, there’s something shifting here, and I don’t know what it is. So, let’s revisit this in a year or two, and we’ll see if it’s right. But there was a sense in which, and I think it’s still true, that the majority of people select a church according to the teaching and the preaching. So it’s really important. But what happened was scarcity drives value. So go back. If a lot of boomer senior pastors are listening, you’ll remember this. In the nineties, ’cause that’s when I started, you know, you were sort of the only show in town. If you wanted a really good understanding of the scripture and an interpretation for your life, you really had to attend a local church or subscribe to a cassette ministry or CD ministry, which nobody practically did. And the internet wasn’t really much at the time. So you kind of had a quote monopoly on the market except for, you know, the half dozen or dozen or 20 other churches within reasonable driving distance of where you were. Then what happened was Web 2.0 showed up with Facebook and social media. You could start to share clips. And this whole idea of blowing up and going viral beyond the New York Times bestselling list, it got democratized. And suddenly, the local church for pennies on the dollar could start to have a presence on social media. The 2010s hit, and people really started to figure out how to do this. And they started doing a very good job of it. And then, there was, you know, I wanna be the next Mike Todd. I want to go viral with relationship goals and blow this church up from 200 to, you know, 20,000 or two million online or whatever. And, of course, those are the unicorns. Those are the very rare confluences of grace and circumstance and everything. It’s probably not gonna happen to you and to me. But we kinda live in this world where that’s what we think it is, and we’re behaving, we’re programming as though every Sunday, every series is gonna be our big breakthrough, right? Like, don’t miss this Sunday. Don’t miss this Sunday. Hey, after Easter, hey, after Christmas, hey, now that school’s back, you know, da da da da. Off we go. And of course, for the most part, it doesn’t happen. The same people show up and maybe a few more, or you hit a little bit of momentum. So you can play that game forever, but you get on this treadmill, this hamster wheel of constantly thinking you’re moments away from going viral. So take the late Tim Keller as an example. I, I interviewed Tim a few times. Wonderful, wonderful man. I’m not sure Tim Keller spent a lot of time thinking about how to go viral. In fact, I could be corrected, but I’m, I’m sure that thought never entered his mind. So how did he go viral? It, it wasn’t like he built a platform hoping that people would hear his message. He worked on his message, and the platform built itself. And I think there’s truth to that. So what does, what does, now and remember, too, okay, so this is why it’s a thought in transition. Your congregation has access to all the messages that you do. And some of them have two or three preachers, and some of the stuff out there, believe it or not, I know this is gonna be shocking, Tony, it’s not orthodox, believe it or not. There, there are false teachers out there. There’s like internet quacks. There’s people who don’t know what they’re talking about. So, you know, your, your sermon could be an attraction. That’s great. And if it is, awesome. Good for you. I’m glad you were the unicorn. That’s fantastic. But increasingly, probably what it’s gonna be is an anchor. There’s a lot of online weirdness out there. People can go down rabbit holes, and end up with very, like, we are always worried about the people who are too into revelation, you know, at our churches, there’s a lot of channels that just subscribe to that. So what you’re doing now, yes, it’s an attraction, and hopefully, you’re a good communicator. But you’re also an anchor to your people because they are in a sea of information and misinformation. And to use Keller as an example, I think that’s what he was for so many of us. Is in a world that was going increasingly crazy, Keller would go to the scriptures, would go to a historic orthodox understanding of Christianity, you know, test, is this mic working? Okay, here we go, here comes the sermon. And it wasn’t anything flashy. It wasn’t anything crazy, but it was an anchor for my soul. And so I am thinking that that is what’s gonna happen to a lot of pastors. And occasionally, you’ll have somebody go viral, but for the most part, we’re gonna anchor our people in where we’re heading, where the Gospel is pointing. And I think that can be very refreshing because it takes the pressure off of you. It takes the pressure off your social media team, and you can preach what you were called to preach. Does that make sense?

Tony (30:32):

It sure does. By the way, one of my first questions when I get to heaven is why in the world did you include the book of Revelation. It’s just, it’s just confusing to me. My second, my second question is gonna be, why did you allow for the creation of Saran Wrap? Because that stuff is just annoying.

Carey (30:53):

That’s great.

Tony (30:54):

All right. Well, Carey, it’s, it’s, it’s been, it’s always fun to talk with you.

Carey (30:58):

Aw, it’s always a good one, Tony.

Tony (31:00):

Love, love your heart for Jesus and the church and church leaders. And the fact that you do spend some time investing, thinking about the future of church is so helpful to me, and I think it’s helpful to a lot of church leaders. So thanks for joining us today.

Carey (31:14):

Thank you. And I really appreciate you, Tony, you and your team. I mean, I’m a podcast listener. I also avidly read what you write and can’t wait for The Quarterly Unstuck Church Report. So you have so formed my thinking, and I’m really glad over these last 10 or 15 years we’ve become friends. And really thankful for you and your contribution. So keep doing what you do, and I will keep taking notes.

Sean (31:37):

Well, thanks for joining us on this bonus episode. If you like what you’re hearing on the podcast and it’s been helpful to you in some way, we’d love your help in getting the word out farther. And you can do that by subscribing on your favorite podcasting platform, giving us a review and telling somebody else about the podcast. Next week, again, we’re back with another brand new episode. Until then, we hope you have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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