by Wesley C. Parker
“If I teach someone to preach better, that’s great because preaching is a great passion of mine; and yet, that only has impact on Sunday. But if I teach someone to organize their time, life, and priorities better, that has impact on their ability to be a better preacher, but also to be a better pastor, husband, dad, and Christian.”
I talked calling, church leadership, podcasting, as well as his new online “High Impact Leader” training course last week with pastor, author, and Canadian leadership expert Carey Nieuwhof from Connexus church in Barrie, ON. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
1. Tell me about your calling to ministry?
Although Carey grew up in a Christian family, he still found his call to vocational ministry a surprise after his 8-year-old stated desire to become a lawyer. He did some study in radio and journalism, but eventually fulfilled his desire and pursued a law career at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, ONT., graduating from that program, articling, and being called to the bar. Yet, while he was studying at Osgoode, Carey felt a clear call from God to vocational ministry and was obedient; pursuing a seminary degree after completing his time at Osgoode. From there, Carey went on to bring together a group of three churches into one of the fastest growing Presbyterian churches in Canada. Then 12 years ago, Carey felt called to plant Connexus church, a non-denominational church, of which he is the founding pastor and which now serves over 1,200 people on a Sunday between two campuses. Yet in 2015, after a summer of prayer and discernment, Carey transitioned from Lead pastor to founding/ teaching pastor at Connexus church, handing over the lead-reigns to pastor Jeff Brodie.
2. What motivated you to make that leadership change?
“At 55, I didn’t want to be the lead pastor of the church anymore, even if I wanted to be.” said Carey. “I didn’t want what started with me to end with me.” And so, as God perfectly orchestrated a succession plan, and Carey moved into this new role at Connexus church five years before hitting 55, it then provided a number of different opportunities he hadn’t had before, including the opportunity to build into the wider church. Carey describes this new opportunity as a “second calling” on his life: to continue to build into Connexus church, but now, to also lead leaders who lead churches; a calling that was both internally and externally confirmed for him. Carey describes it this way, “If I speak to a church of 1000 that's not my home church, I have impact on 1000 people. But if I lead 100 leaders who lead churches of 1000 people, the impact becomes exponential.” In the last seven years, Carey has written three books, started two new podcasts, written two online leadership courses, speaks all over North America, and is now working on a new book to be released at a future date by a major publisher.
3. Why did you start the Canadian church leaders podcast on top of your regular podcast?
“I want to bring conversations to leaders in churches,” said Carey, “and in Canada, my own experience is that we don’t talk to each other very much across the country.” In fact, Carey said he sees much more connectedness North-South than East-West in Canada, and this podcast is about doing what he can to bring about a greater connectedness across our country.
4. One way you’re pursuing this second calling to lead leaders is through the “High Impact Leader” course you launched in December of 2016. With the second launch phase coming out this week, can you tell me about what led you to develop this course?
“I really stumbled upon this,” said Carey. “The number one question I consistently had people asking me – with a full-time job, strong family and kids, writing books, a blog, hosting two podcasts, all while leading a healthy church - was, ‘How do you do it all?’” When Carey was called to speak at National Community church in Washington, DC last March, to present his successful strategy, the response from Mark Batterson and his staff and volunteers was tremendous. So, from there, Carey felt led to combine this material into an online format that was accessible to a wide range of leaders, in order to continue this exponential impact even further. Carey states, “Following these principles I my own life has enabled me to increase my capacity both at work as well as at home. This just seemed like the best way to share those principles with a wider audience.” “We all get the same amount of time in a day; I’m just trying to be an excellent steward of that time, as well as my energy and priorities, and then teaching other leaders to do the same.”
5. Lastly, tell me about the church you planted in Barrie, ON. How much does your context affect the way you minister to people there as opposed to someone here in Vancouver, or further East in Montreal?
“There are differences in nuance and application for sure,” said Carey, “but I’ve found that there aren’t as many differences as people claim. When I speak to the sameness we all share in the human experience, I find the gospel translates in any context.” “I’m a city boy from Toronto preaching to farmers in the countryside north of Barrie who talk about thing like ‘haying season’, barns, and cattle – I know nothing about that stuff! Sure, they think I’m a bit odd and that I dress funny, but I find that when I just talk about Jesus and the common questions we all have as human beings, it still reaches people all the same.” “Sometime, we use context as an excuse. We say things like, ‘That could never happen here because this is Canada and not the USA’ or ‘The soil is harder here than there.’ I hear those as excuses. You can either make excuses or progress, but you can’t make both. God hasn’t called you to minister in any other context than the context you’re in, so why not seek to make as much Kingdom progress as possible while you’re in leadership in that context, and leave the results to God?”
I’m so thankful for my time with Carey, and particularly, for the way he is seeking to initiate the conversation among church leaders across Canada. Let’s keep that conversation going and reach out to our fellow pastors and ministry leaders across this great country. If we’re ever going to see our nation truly transformed by the gospel, I believe it will begin as we stop protecting our “turf” and start partnering together with our fellow gospel laborers for the greatest Kingdom impact possible.
You can access many of Carey’s leadership resources – books, blog and podcasts - as well as get plugged into the High Impact Leader course, here at http://careynieuwhof.com I’ve been working through the High Impact Leader course myself, and have already benefitted greatly from the insights there. Additionally, online registration for the first Canadian church leaders conference – hosted by Carey at Connexus church in Barrie - begins in one week. You can find ticket/conference info here http://canadianchurchleadersconference.com