Listening In: Carey Nieuwhof


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith and today you’ll be listening in on my conversation with pastor and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof.

Carey Nieuwhof didn’t follow a straight line into pastoral ministry. He began a radio career when he was still in high school. His first pivot was to college and law school and then a job as a lawyer. But even in college, he sensed that God may be calling him to the ministry. And after a year of practicing law, he completed a seminary degree and at almost 30 years of age, finally had his first pastoral position. The tiny churches he pastored then eventually grew into Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential evangelical churches in Canada. But in 2015, Nieuwhof transitioned out of full time daily pastoral ministry to focus more of his attention on writing and podcasting. His podcast on leadership is consistently rated one of the most listened to podcasts by both iTunes and Stitcher. Today we’re discussing his new book, Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects, but Everyone Experiences. We had this conversation at the Orange Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Carey Nieuwhof, welcome to the program. And I just want to tell you that I found your book Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the Seven Greatest Challenges That No One Expects, but Everyone Experiences very nourishing, very helpful in part because, you know, in a sort of a spirit of confession here… Carey, you can be my confessor and my counselor today. You know, I mean, a lot of these I have experienced, or at least some of them have the temptation to compromise. I like to think that I’m not a person who compromises but the temptation of compromise is ever present. A disconnection. It’s amazing to me, you know, because I interview a lot of guys in leadership, not just sort of in ministry, but in leadership. I mean, you, you know, if I may say it this way, you don’t get to be on my program unless you’ve done something. And I find it amazing how many people are there that don’t have close friends and her lonely are are even willing to confess that. So, so anyway, uh, burnout and um, you know, and of course spiritual pride, which is one of the, so I don’t mean to jump in here, but as I’m reading through the book and the table of contents, even, I’m saying, yeah, yeah, check, check, check. I’ve experienced all of these. Is that why you wanted to write this book?

CAREY NIEUWHOF, GUEST: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, when you write something you have no idea, Warren, how it’s going to go. And so I kinda got into my head and I’ve served in a leadership space for quite a few years. So I’ve met like hundreds, thousands of leaders and had personal conversations. And you know, I write a blog and podcast so we hear from literally tens of thousands of leaders regularly and I thought, you know what? I think these seven issues we’ll have universal enough relevance that they’ll work. The publisher like the idea. But in the couple of months since the book’s been out, I can’t tell you the number of people who are like, what are you doing in my head? Like you live in my head, like how you’ve read all my email, you’ve lived with me my whole life. How do you know?

SMITH: Well, that was my experience and so I appreciate you sort of articulating it in that way. And I want to get in deeper into some of these. We can’t do them all. I mean, you know, read the book if you want to get up and get it all and we can’t do that in the amount of time that we got here.

NIEUWHOF: We don’t have 55,000 words? Are you telling me that?

SMITH: That’s right. We know not, not, not in this podcast. But before we do that, I want you to tell a little bit about your story because you haven’t always been a podcaster and a blogger and a pastor and a writer of books. Uh, you started out as a lawyer.

NIEUWHOF: I did, yeah. When I was 8 years old, I came home one day from, I think it was cub scouts and told my mom and dad, I can still see myself at that age saying I want to be a lawyer. And I don’t know why I wanted to be a lawyer, like I have no idea. But I just wanted it to be a lawyer and pursued that. Did a bunch of other stuff in between. Went into radio when I was 16. That had lots of career options for me. I did well in that, but I thought at the time, it’s so funny now looking back on it, I didn’t know anybody over 40 still in broadcasting, TV or radio. That was a different age. And like when you were 35, you were done. They just threw out onto the street and onto the next young person. It’s not that way anymore. So I thought, well that’s not it. So I’ll go to law school. So I did an undergrad already in, in history and political science. But then I went to law school. And, uh, became a lawyer and there I discerned a call to ministry. So we can come back to that if you want to, but long story short, I finished law because I thought, you know, I’d grown up in the church. But I thought if I had to criticize pastors it would be like, you don’t know what it’s like to live in the real world. So I’ll go live in the real world of downtown Toronto law for a year, just to say I earned a paycheck for 365 days. Not that you don’t in ministry. I mean, but you know what I mean? Right. I want to live in the real world, so I’m a better pastor. And that was, that was fun. But I was surrounded by cynical people. I was an optimist, and I kinda knew I was going into seminary. But then, um, anyway, I finished up law went into seminary out of obedience. But by that point I was pushing 30 because I had, that was my third degree. I wasn’t planning on doing life that way, but that’s how call… Call gets in the way of your life sometimes. You know that? Ended up in seminary and, uh, really like had no idea what to do. Because I thought I do not have the typical gift mix for a pastor. I knew that about myself. Mercy, compassion, helps at the bottom of my gift list. And so I thought, well, I’m going to teach. I’ll just teach because I’ll probably be harmless there. And I was always interested in academics. And uh, we thought, well, maybe we should rule out congregational ministry. They had these things called student charges where, um, churches that couldn’t afford a real pastor would just hire a student at half price. So we did one of those things in a place called Oro about an hour north of Toronto. Twenty three years later, we’re still there, uh, serving with the same people. It’s taken many iterations. Those were very tiny churches at the beginning.

SMITH: Say something more about that. But I want to come back to some of the things that you’ve glossed over because I think in God’s providence, you can see today how a lot of that stuff works together. I mean, your radio stuff has now transformed into a podcast ministry and other communication ministries. You can see how being a lawyer helps you make an argument, helps you write concisely and cogently. Sometimes lawyers don’t write all that, you know, interesting.

NIEUWHOF: We get pay by the word. Come on, gotta be more wordy.

SMITH: That’s right. So, I mean, I think you can see in God’s providence, uh, at least I can from this vantage point how it all works together. But I do want to ask you to sort of talk about what it was like being in all of that messiness, not being able to look at it from the perspective we have today. So for example, when you started this small church, I mean, you and you talk about a little bit in the book. I mean, it was really small, right? How many people?

NIEUWHOF: Six people. Yeah. Like we’re around a boardroom. The whole church can sit right here. And then I did the circuit on Sunday morning. So it was six people at the smallest church. Fourteen at the second one. And the mega church had 23 people. So that’s where we started. And this wasn’t like a church plant, that was week three, these were century-old churches that had dwindled down and they had been stuck at those levels for decades. So it was basically send this kid in, see if he can do anything and if it doesn’t work, we’re just going to shut it down.

SMITH: So at what point though, did you… because like you say, you know, you, you started writing, you mentioned that you wanted to be a lawyer when you’re 8. If I remember from your book, you jumped, you walked into a radio station when you were a teenager with no experience and said hire me. And they did, right?

NIEUWHOF: They were crazy. I just did that. I knew a guy who worked there and I’m like, I don’t know why. Again, you know, providence by the grace of God. When I was 12 years old, Warren, radio was big back then. There were no smartphones, blah, blah, blah. You know, it was the 80s or whatever, 70s I guess for me. Um, and I remember we were turning left onto the highway toward our house, and I was listening to the radio as we did all the time when we were in the car, and for the first time it dawned on me, wait, that’s an actual person. Wow, that’s a real person. There’s a real human being on the other end of that microphone. And then I started thinking, how do I become that guy? So I walked into the local radio station, 1000 watts, AM dial, and like, hire me. And they did. So I got a weeknight show, like weekend show every Saturday night from six till midnight every Sunday night from six till midnight. Became the number one rated show on the station. And then when I moved to Toronto I had another friend I knew from that station who got a job at a really good station in Toronto. And I got a job there. And that’s where, you know, I got a ridiculous amount of money for doing that. It was crazy. See, radio’s feaster famine. It’s like you’re, you’re making lots of money or you know, you’re going to get food stamps. So, uh, I was at a good station. They paid me well. But I quit because by the time I was in my early twenties, mid twenties, I was getting married and I’m like, I don’t want to spend my day driving to a radio station. So…

SMITH: Yeah, you can hear that Harry Chapin song, Ride W-O-R… What was that song where he’s a young hot disk jockey. And then he, he was driving a taxi cab…

NIEUWHOF: I don’t know whether I know that one.

SMITH: I asked you that. Or I want to just take that little detour into radio to ask you this. You’ve got all these vocations sorta roiling around, right? I mean, you know, you’ve got the lawyer, you’ve got the radio career that probably could have become something.

NIEUWHOF: It’s a sign of confusion.

SMITH: And then you go to seminary, you felt God’s call to ministry and you go to seminary, but eh, maybe not pastoral ministry. You’ll do it for a year and see what happens. Or you get, you know… At what point do you, did … and what was the process that you went through to finally say, okay, I think this is the path that God has for me and I really am discerning a calling here and I’m gonna, I’m gonna pursue that?

NIEUWHOF: Warren, it’s so confusing at the time. And to quote the great theologian Joe Walsh from the Eagles… If you ever watched that documentary, it’s fascinating.

SMITH: I have. I’m a big Eagles fan. So you just struck a chord with me.

NIEUWHOF: So Joe has had his share of illegal substances. And with the five brain cells that still function, he said something really profound. He said, when you look… because they were asking the Eagles the same question, like the rise to fame. And he said at the time, your life seems like confusion and a big mess. But he says, looking back on it, it looks like a beautifully constructed poem. Now that’s actually good theology. Because when you look at it like, you know, clearly God’s hand was on me. But when I walked into radio station when I was 16, I would not have told you at that time, probably until recently that that was even a prompting of the Holy Spirit. Or that that was, you know, God at work. Of course it was God at work. You know, Joseph finds himself in prison. Guess what that is. That’s God at work, right? Jesus gets born where he’s born. Guess what that is. That’s God at work. So now I look back on it. I remember listening to a podcast a few years ago and I think it was Peter Thiel or one of the Silicon Valley, you know, big capital investors.

SMITH: Peter Thiel, PayPal founder, you know, sort of libertarian, high-tech guy.

NIEUWHOF: Exactly. And he just said, the thing that has always worked for me is I’m a communicator. If you look at the trajectory of my life, I’m a communicator. I went… Suddenly it crystallized. What do I do? I communicate. I wrote a column for the local newspaper. Communication. Walked into radio station. Communication. My favorite part of law, I was in court every day for a year. Communication. What kind of teaching would I have done at seminary? Homiletics. Communication. Um, what was my favorite part of being the lead pastor? Communication. How did I lead? Through communication. So God has wired me as a communicator. Now I write books, now I podcast. I didn’t go through that going, I’m a communicator, therefore I will. It was just, I found myself drawn to these things again and again wherever I showed up. And God has used them really powerfully. So it’s a really interesting kind of thing. You know, people, I think Todd Wilson from Exponential would say, you know, there’s almost a venn diagram. It’s like, what do you love doing? What are you gifted to do? And what can you actually earn a paycheck at? If you can get those three circles converging, that’s your area of passion and gifting. And so I think God probably because I’m not a great manager, like there was a lot of… Like you look at the long list of things I’m not good at, it’s pretty big. But those things have have have governed the course of my life. And then three years ago I stepped out of the lead pastor role at what became Connexus Church where we still are. I still teach there, but gave it to a younger guy. And now I’m writing books, speaking to leaders around the world and again, it’s that communication gifts that God seems to keep affirming. So you know, I have other friends who are just great architects. I have other friends who are amazing at medical diagnosis. I have other people who just love solving problems, and you know, there’s a few renaissance people out there, but not a lot. Some of us are really good and my staff gets on me and they’re like, hey Carey, stick to preaching. Stay in your lane. So that, that’s sort of the, the short version.

SMITH: Well, Carey, I’d like to finally transition into talking about your book.

NIEUWHOF: We can talk about that.

SMITH: Yeah, after the fascinating introduction. And I wanted to spend a little bit of time on your biography because I do think, I mean, it relates to book. You, you recount some of your biography in the book. And also you, um, some of your, when you talk about these seven challenges that, that, that people face, um, that’s also a part of your biography. You faced some of those challenges. And just real quickly, I’m just going to name on cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and emptiness. And we, we can’t unpack all of these, but I’m in, but because you did talk about being a lawyer and you talked about the fact that you are something of an optimist and you ran into a lot of cynics in the profession and the practice of law. Let’s start with cynicism because that’s where you start in the book. What is cynicism? What causes it and how can we move beyond it?

NIEUWHOF: Yeah, cynicism, to me is a loss of hope. Um, I, I’m very naturally, I think God wired me as an optimist. I think the majority of people are optimistic, particularly when they’re young. But what happened to me, it wasn’t law that made me cynical. It happened to me in the context of ministry. And I think theologically, cynicism routes itself in knowledge. King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes chapter 1, it’s really fascinating because he’s like the smartest guy in the world, according to the scripture and the story as we understand it. And he says something really profound at the end of Chapter 1 of Ecclesiastes. He says, the greater my wisdom, the greater my sorrow. The greater my knowledge, the greater my grief. And it’s like, Whoa, what is that? But when you live a little longer, like you get past your 18th birthday, you get into like life and you begin to realize, oh, that’s what he’s talking about. So in the book I tell the story of Roger and Mary, not their real names, who came to our church. And again, when you have six people at your church, you are thankful for anybody showing up at your church. And there were some of the first people to show up at our church. So long story short, they, they walk in, Roger and Mary. And I can tell almost from day one that they are like, they’re from the other side of town. Do you know what I mean? They don’t have a lot. And uh, along with not having a lot of money, they had all the sort of life problems that sometimes accompany that. But like first church, come on, let’s go like this is what the church is about, this is the book of Acts, let’s help these people. And so I really got to know them. I used to visit them at their house all the time. We didn’t have a lot of money. We were a young couple, you know, working at student wages. And the church was poor because that it’s six people. But we pooled our money and we would buy them like grocery cards, gas cards. I think we even paid their heat bill one year because it was, they couldn’t do it. And we just really built into them. So fast forward four or five years into my tenure there, and the church has now a lot bigger. We got 100, 150 people at this event. And they get up in the middle of the event while we’re having a meal and Roger grabs Mary by the hand, grabs the grandkids, and goes, makes a scene in public and says, we’re leaving this church. You don’t care about us anymore. Bolts for the door. I’m like, oh my gosh, what do I do? So I follow them out into the parking lot, and I’m like, Roger, I’m like, what’s going on? Like, help me understand. He says, you used to care, you don’t care anymore. And I’m like, you shouldn’t defend yourself. But like I felt, I gotta I gotta say something here. And what I said to him, I believe to be true. I just said Roger, like, no offense, but I don’t think there’s anyone I’ve invested more time in personally. I’ve been to your house again and again and again. We’ve tried to help you as much as we can possibly help you with some of the issues that you’ve had, financial and otherwise. Like I don’t get it. And he said, you don’t care anymore. He got into his car. He slammed the door and he drove off. And that’s the end of the story.

There’s no happy ending. And you know, that’s the way life is sometimes. And something in my heart died that day. Like there was something that just went, what? This is, how that ends. And then the next time, because we had lots of new people come into the church. The next time, because you know how this goes, right? You see a couple that are new but they remind you of Roger and Mary and there for the first in my life, I’m like, wait a minute. I know how this ends. I didn’t even know their names. I didn’t even know their names. And that’s the beginning of cynicism. That’s when you allow past failures and you project them onto current and future situations. And most of us have not one Roger and Mary. We’ve got four or six.

SMITH: Yeah. Well that’s a great story and it in it. Is it like you said, getting in somebody’s head. You got in my head with that story because you know that that is what we do, right? We project our past failures onto the current situation, and we say we know how it’s going to end. We, we, um, and, and so we don’t bother to engage and possibly help produce a different ending for that story. And the thing that also resonated with me about that chapter and about that story, Carey, is that you said one of the antidotes to cynicism is curiosity. It’s just maybe maybe being open to the possibility that that past failure would end differently this time. And being curious about that and sort of joyfully entering into that possibility.

NIEUWHOF: Yeah. I remember one day just flipping through the channels on a Saturday afternoon, and I’m sure it was PBS. I just passed the local public station and there’s this professor and he’s probably around 80 years old. He’s got like a tweed jacket. He’s got spectacles, not glasses, bow tie, like classic professor. And he’s sitting up straight in his chair being interviewed, and I hear him. I tune in as he says, well, what we’re currently studying and what we’re looking at an emerging theory is Dah, Dah, Dah. And I’m like, dude, you’re 80 years old. You don’t need to be studying anymore, right? Like you, but he looks so bright-eyed and so happy and I thought there’s, there’s a guy who’s 80 years old and he’s so curious, and then I started to look around and I realized, you know, what, the curious are never cynical and the cynical or never curious. Cause cynics know, they know exactly. Oh, you’re going to start a church? Oh good for you. You know, let me tell you how that’s going to end. Right? Or Oh, where are you going? Don’t go there. That’s some blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, that’s the cynic. And cynics know everything. And the curious… So what I’ve discovered, I think the ultimate antidote to cynicism is the gospel itself. Because the gospel itself, I mean, you give me death, I’ll show you resurrection. You show me hate, I’m going to show you love. Like that is the gospel. So the gospel is the opposite of cynicism. And it’s really hard. You got to hope again, you’ve got to trust again. You got to believe again. But the daily hack that I’ve tried to to cultivate in my life is just being a curious person. Because if I’m curious, I find it kills my cynicism. So rather than just like, oh, another interview, I want to be interested, tell me about your audience. Tell me about you. Tell me about this, which, you lear a lot.

SMITH: And for the record, for our listeners, those are exactly the questions that you asked me before we started this interview, which just indicated your curiosity.

NIEUWHOF: Well and isn’t that a better way to live, Warren? Like to be curious? Because otherwise you’re going to see your grandchildren one day. I don’t have any, but if you had grandchildren it’ll be like, oh, I know what five year olds are like. No, you don’t. You’ve never met this, this five-year-old before. Like be open and, and are you going to close yourself to all the possibilities God wants to do in your life? Could you imagine how different the news would read if we had curious, open uncynical people? And I’m not talking about fake news or real news or anything. I’m just talking about politics. I’m talking about public discourse. I’m talking about like I’ve left comments, I write a blog that gets accessed by millions of people every year. I’m one of the few people who keep comments on. Now they’re not fun all the time and we do band trolls if they show up, but it’s like, can we please have one place on the Internet where people who don’t shout in all caps talk to each other, even if they disagree? Can we, can we disagree without being disagreeable? Can we just be that way? Can we be open? So I, I just, I want to live that way.

SMITH: Yeah. Yeah. Well, you know, it’s funny, Carey, I, I, um, resonated with that in part because I occasionally teach journalism because I’ve been doing this for a long time. And we’re here in Charlotte, North Carolina, where you and I are visiting. There’s a college here, UNC,. University of North Carolina at Charlotte. So fairly large school. I was an adjunct professor there for about six years teaching the introduction to journalism class, and I would always tell my students, first day, I can teach you how to write a good sentence, write a good paragraph, write a good story. I can teach you how to write a lead, how to do an interview. You know, some of the technical aspects. There’s one thing I can’t teach you and that’s curiosity. If you are not curious about the world, you will never be a great journalist. And if you are curious about the world, that’s the essential ingredient. I can teach you everything else. And it resonated with me whenever you said that curiosity was one of the antidotes to two cynicism. I will say that it is ironic to me that I’ve seen a whole lot of cynical journalists in addition to cynical lawyers that you encountered. And I do wonder sometimes though is that, is that that also is a reflection of what has happened to journalism. That too often even journalists have stopped being curious, that they have become ideologues and their reporting, in ways that reinforce a particular worldview rather than really trying to find out what’s going on in the world. But that’s kind of an unrelated topic.

NIEUWHOF: It’s really interesting though, and this gets to curiosity and it gets to openness as well, Warren, but you know, I do a podcast as well and it’s an interview format like this. And it’s interesting because I become a student interviews. And if you watch a lot of broad media like mainstream media still, when a famous person goes up for an interview, it’s not actually an interview. What the interviewer will often do these days is make statements that put the guest on the defensive that they have to respond to. Or they’ll ask very narrow, accusing. I was trained in this as a lawyer. I know how to cross examine. I know how to make you really uncomfortable, so you shut down to a yes or a no. But if you really want to get to know people, start asking them just short, open ended questions. And that’s what I’ve done on my leadership podcast that I do. And it’s amazing because I get to interview some of the top leaders in the Christian world today. And often after they’ll say, you know, I’ve never said that out loud before. And I always give them editing rights because I’m not out for the scoop. I’m not out for, oh, I got you, I got the headline. I actually want you to come back and be my guest. Like I want us to be friends that if I see you in a green room down the hall, you’re not like, oh that guy. I want you, I want you to be friends. And often people will tell you more if they trust you. And then at the end, you know, there’ve been times where a couple of guests were crying or a couple of guests were like, oh, I think I went over the line. I’m like, listen, you call it. No, if you think it’ll be helpful, leave it in. I’ll leave it in. And that’s what people resonate with. So you know, if you’re worried, because cynicism gives you a reward, right? What is the reward? Well you get to be right? You have to be that guy who says, I told you so. Well good luck with that. And um, you also, you also say, I got him. Okay, but, but that’s not, is that how you really want to live? But often people will tell you more and they’ll open up if you are just open and you ask open ended questions and you go to the why or why not, or how did that make you feel? And, and you emerge out of it friends, not enemies.

SMITH: Carey, we spent, wasted, so much time on cynicism that I’m not going to be able to get to a lot of them, but I did want to talk about one that comes later in the, in your book. And that is disconnection. Because I’ve, you know, as, as you said, you interview a lot of guys that are men and women who are in leadership roles. And I do as well. Regular listeners to this program will remember that, uh, a few weeks ago I interviewed a congressman, Mark Sanford, who is the former governor of South Carolina, who famously had an affair that busted his marriage and created a huge scandal. When I asked him about that, he said that loneliness was a major… He wasn’t making any excuses for himself. At least I didn’t think he was. I didn’t, it didn’t come across to me that way. But he said loneliness was a major contributor to his scandal and downfall. You devote a whole chapter to that idea. What are the causes and what are the solutions.

NIEUWHOF: I think leadership has inherently been isolating and lonely for decades, maybe centuries. And I think there are good reasons for that. You know, when everybody works for you or reports to you and you hold the power to hire or fire, and don’t, don’t think negatively of that if you’re listening right now. Because that’s just the reality of leadership. That’s what you do. You know, if you’re a parent, you’re the one who holds the discipline in your family for better or worse, whether you’re going to be too lax or too strict or whatever, but you are that person. Same with leaders. So not a lot of people can understand that. Everyone else in your organization, you know, are they going to tell you the truth? So it’s, it’s inherently isolating. But I, I’m a fan of technology. This is the very latest iPhone. I’ve got an iPad on its way over. You know, that kind of thing. But I think technology has really, it’s like creating isolation on steroids. And research is now coming out that shows that the more connected technically you are, the more lonely and alone you feel. So we live in this strange universe where we’ve never been better connected and we’ve never felt more alone. And it’s weird because you have 500 friends on Facebook. You’ve got, you know, 10,000 followers on Twitter, whatever, whatever your numbers are. You know, you got 20,000 on Instagram, who knows. So maybe you’re a big deal, but you feel so alone and so isolated. And there’s growing research, I’m actually talking to our church about it this weekend. I’ve got a week. And I’m a big social media guy, but like I’m calling it social misery, um, that, that the longer you are on, the more miserable you feel subjectively. So there’s a growing body of research that is saying this isn’t necessarily good.

SMITH: Well, give it. I mean, first of all, let’s stipulate for the record that what you’re saying really resonates with me and I, you know, absolutely don’t have any trouble believing and trusting that that’s true. Seen some of the same data that you have. But as you said, you love technology. You’ve got, you know, so what do we do? We can’t just say, you know, we can’t just say no to some of those technologies.

NIEUWHOF I mean, even even the Amish have cell phones.

SMITH: Maybe some of it we can. And, and I, you know, I’ve heard families, uh, or experts talk about having, you know, having sacred zones where, for example, at the dinner table, don’t bring your cell phones to the dinner table or a certain hour at night. But I think it’s got to be more than just drawing lines in your life, right?

NIEUWHOF: So those are very good practices and I would agree with that. My phone is on do not disturb 99 percent of the time. So I haven’t got constant buzzing and vibrating in my pocket even on my smartwatch. So there’s that. We’ve never had, even pre internet days, we never had a televisions on our main floor or in our kitchen because we want those to be about relationships. We’ve never put one in the bedroom because we want that to be about us. So, you know, we’ve done things like that, but it’s deeper than that. So if we have time for a quick story, when I was writing the book, uh, you know, when you’re writing something you’re just kind of, I need to veg out tonight. So I sat down, started flipping through iTunes on TV and all of a sudden the algorithm gods or whatever, give me Little House on the Prairie.

I’m like, what? I haven’t seen this in 40 years. And I didn’t even like the series when I was a kid because my sisters liked it, so it’s like I automatically don’t like it as the boy in the house. And you know, if you know, the series at all, it was set in the 1870s in Minnesota. It was filmed in the 1970s in Hollywood, California. So, it’s 50 years old or 150 years old depending on how you look at it in multiple layers. Anyway, I don’t know what was wrong with me that day. I bought the entire series, just click, bought. Binge purchase. What am I doing? Anyway. So I watched the pilot.

SMITH: One more reason technology is bad for you, right?

NIEUWHOF: It’s bad for you! How do you spend $40 in like, impulse buy? Done. Yeah. So anyway, I watched the pilot that night. And it is slow. Like peanut butter and molasses have a baby slow. There’s no plot. And the plot is, oh, I think there’s a squirrel, for two hours. And in Hollywood today, I mean even if you’re on a plane some time or next time you’re watching someone watch a movie and you’re not really in it. Look at how quick all the shots cut. It’s like new shot, new shot, new shot, boom, explosion. Jumpshot. Reaction shot. Jumpshot. Reaction shot. Like, that is the way we cut movies today. Little House on the Prairie, it’s so slow. And like the actors speaking and then the actors finished but the camera doesn’t move. And you’re sitting there going, move the camera guys, move the camera guys. But there is just. And what I drew from that was that something’s changed. A lot has changed in some of our lifetime and certainly if you’re young listener in the life of your parents. there is something fundamentally different about life today. Now I’m entrepreneurial. I’m driven. I’m ambitious. I still am all these years later, but love has a speed and it’s slower than I am. And hurry is the enemy of intimacy. If you try to have a date night and you’re like, honey, we have 15 minutes. Come on, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat. That’s not much of a date night like, come on, you know, you’ve got to slow down. And so what I have to do, Dallas Willard gave this advice to John Ortberg years ago when Dallas was still alive and John asked him for advice. And Dallas said, you must must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life if you want to know God. So I’m working on that. And it is hard. It’s harder than turning your phone off or leaving it at the door. And it’s just like I need to slow down. Because you know what I think in our speed that we do Warren? I think, I think we play God. And we’re bad at playing God. It’s that knowledge of the tree of good and evil. We bit into the apple and Satan says, oh, now you’ll see as God. Well, I don’t think we fully see as God. But what we do see, we don’t even know what to do with. We don’t have the wisdom to handle it. And so I’m, I’m just in a place where I am constantly… I start the first hour of my day, including today when I’m on the road and changing time zones and you know, got a full day of speaking and interviews, where I’m like, I need you God. And I’m going to be distracted in this window, but this morning at 6:00 AM, I spent some time with God in prayer, reflecting. And I think back to what you said, having people who actually know you–real authentic relationships.

When I used to counsel, when our church was smaller and I was terrible counselor, but I would inevitably ask the people who had come to see me, who else are you talking to about this? Because the church was big enough that I didn’t know everyone’s name anymore. And you know what the answer was every single time because they come to me, stranger dude to go talk about their problems. Nobody. And I’m like, well, what about your wife? Can you talk to your wife about this? No, we don’t have that kind of relationship. I’m like, aaahhhh. And really, you know, if you’re like, well, isn’t that like just psychobabble? Let’s go back to the root of Christianity. When Jesus defined it, he said, love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Guess what? All of that is about relationship.

What is your… Does God really know you? Do you really know God? Do you really know people? Do they really know you? And it was John Calvin who started the Institutes of Christian Religion, uh, with the famous line: without knowledge of self, there is no knowledge of God. And without knowledge of God, there is no knowledge of self. Now, I think classically in the church we’re way more likely to quote, “Without knowledge of God, there is no knowledge of self.” But Calvin actually also says, “Without knowledge of self, you can’t know God.” And the only way you get… You know, if you’re running here, there and everywhere, you never get to know yourself. And really, Didn’t See It Coming is a book about self knowledge and self awareness, where you’re like, oh. You know, the divide in America doesn’t just cut through political lines. It cuts through every human heart. It does. And, and sin cuts through my heart. And if you will take the time to just process that with God and with other people and with a good Christian counselor and with your small group or whatever. And you really… Because you know, when I was in my 30s, I couldn’t have written that book. And every time it got quiet, I got nervous. And what it was were there was, there was stuff I, I had to deal with in my life. I was a performance addict. Not in like scandal. I wasn’t taking substances or anything. It was just like nothing was ever good enough. Attendance was never high enough. Giving was never good enough. I never preached well enough. And God through the use of Christian counselors got through to the bottom of it. He’s like, Carey, what is that about? You know, performance does not equal love. And that was a lie I had bought, made up somewhere along in my life. And it is, I just love you. You going to be the biggest failure in the world and I still love you. And I had that, that that’s a very short summary of a very long journey, but it was as God unrooted a lot of that in my life, I got comfortable with being alone. And now I crave it. And I got comfortable with being quiet and I got comfortable with intimacy. And comfortable with real relationships and people knowing me. And one of the greatest predictors of a public figures fall is isolation. Solitude is a gift from God. Isolation is a tool of the enemy. So you know, for all those reasons, I think it’s really important to know yourself and slow down because love has a speed. It’s slower than you are.


(Photo/Connexus Church)


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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