Carey Nieuwhof: Didn’t See It Coming

Didn’t See It Coming
Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences
(WaterBrook, 2018)

WHO: Carey Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church.

HE SAYS: “Cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, emptiness—none of these need to be your final story.”

THE BIG IDEA: There are seven critical life issues that you can see coming. This book describes how to alter their outcomes.

This book is divided into seven sections, each one discussing one of the seven challenges the author says we all will face. In each section, he explores the issue in one chapter and in the next he offers suggestions on how to step into the situation with confidence, strength and integrity.

“These warning signs, if recognized and heeded, are gifts from God to spare us from the self-inflicted sadness and heartbreak that mark too many lives these days.”

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A 2019 Outreach Also Recommended Resource of the Year—Spiritual Growth Category

“Carey Nieuwhof is candid and vulnerable in the chapter that diagnoses each problem, and very helpful and practical in the prescription chapter that follows.”

Evaluated by Knute Larson, an Outreach magazine consulting editor and a pastoral coach and teacher.


Why do you say “the best years for leaders to contribute well to the culture are between the ages of 45 and 75”?

Surprisingly, a lot of leaders think they’re finished by age 45 or 50, when the opposite can be true. Growing old does not necessarily mean growing irrelevant, not if you embrace change and learn how to communicate with a culture that is always changing.

I’m over 50, and there are things I understand now that I didn’t (or couldn’t) understand when I was in my twenties or thirties. Life comes at you so fast when you’re young, and while you may be smart, you don’t yet have enough reps to see patterns and connections as clearly as you do when you get older.

When I hit my forties, it’s like new sequences started firing in my brain, aligning insights in a way that suddenly began to make sense of things previously mysterious to me. I was able to take a few decades of experiences and connect the dots in a way I just couldn’t before…not just for my benefit, but for the benefit of many others through my preaching, writing and speaking.

Do this well and repeatedly and no one cares how old you are any more. For example, Dallas Willard produced his best work in his final 20 years.

You discuss the journey of how King David’s heart had become hard. What should we watch out for to protect our hearts from becoming too proud?

David’s story is so disappointing to me. Like most people, I’m cheering him on when he’s a king-in-waiting, showing incredible restraint, wisdom and humility while he waits for God to deal with Saul.

But as he takes power, something shifts. He should have been at war, but he stayed home. He could take anything (or anyone) he wanted, and, sadly, he did. He used power not to benefit others, but to benefit him.

It’s easy to judge David, but I think it’s a trap that’s so easy to fall into.

Think about church life. Sometimes as a senior pastor, there’s a really good reason you need a reserved parking spot. But often there’s not.

You just want it. Or worse, you think you deserve it. So you take it, and make everybody else walk.

Jesus came to serve, not to be served. The more I claim privilege, the less I’m like Jesus.

I’ve learned that to beat down that kind of pride in my own life (which wells up regularly) I need to share what I have with others. When I stop taking the benefits all for myself, I’m a better person.

When you’re in a position of power, taking the low place and serving alongside others (even symbolically) can make a big difference, even if after it’s over, you retreat to an office to write your message in silence.

I think C.S. Lewis gives us one of the best definitions of humility that we have: that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but rather thinking of yourself less often.

That day on the roof, David was 100 percent about himself. And if I’m not careful, most days so am I.

You have talked about your own journey through burnout at events before. What has surprised you as far as who has resonated with this message?

I honestly thought that burnout was something that hit people who were over 40 and people who were weak. That statement is equally bad for its arrogance and its inaccuracy.

First, one of the reasons I called my book Didn’t See It Coming is because I thought I was the last person who would burn out. I am an A-type, driven leader and I thought people with my wiring were unstoppable. That was 100 percent accurate, until it wasn’t. I completely tanked and I didn’t see it coming. Ugh.

After my recovery, I decided to speak to leaders about burnout, and I remember prefacing my first talk with a line that went like this: “This will likely only make sense to you if you’re over 40. If you’re younger, just take notes and maybe one day this will come in handy.”

I’ll never forget that after that talk there was a long line of 20-something leaders who came up to talk to me, many with tears in their eyes, saying burnout was happening to them too. I was devastated for them.

It seems that this isn’t an age issue. It’s a life issue. So I really hope the message in the book helps leaders avoid burnout and get through it.

It’s been 12 years since I burned out, and I’ve never felt more alive. I just want people to know there’s hope.

Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is a best-selling leadership author, speaker, podcaster, former attorney and church planter. He writes one of today’s most influential leadership blogs, and his online content is accessed by leaders over 1.5 million times a month. His most recent book, At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy and Priorities Working in Your Favor, is designed to help you liv