The book Didn’t See It Coming by Carey Nieuwhof (leadership writer, podcaster & pastor) is thoughtfully written for people of many backgrounds in Western society: from CEO to young shift manager to pastor to everyday “Joe Blow” hitting mid-life crisis. It addresses seven challenges that “no one expects and everyone experiences”: cynicism, compromise, disconnection, irrelevance, pride, burnout, and emptiness.
While decidedly from a Christian worldview, Carey makes a point to phrase things in a way that those from any (or no) religious background can also connect with. Carey’s voice in the book is true to his voice in his podcasts, blog, other books, and conference speaking.
As a pastor and of an age to fear a mid-life crisis coming, I found the book particularly impactful. The section on irrelevance helped me put to bed fears about nearing 40. He shows that irrelevance is a state of choice, not of age and gives ideas for how to stay engaged with contemporary culture while still being true to yourself. The section on cynicism was mind-blowing both in terms of seeing some danger signs in myself as well as having ideas on how to talk to those around me. The section on burnout is very personal about Carey’s own story. I believe it will hit home for many people in many areas of life. He does a great job of bringing to light the reality of situational depression in terms that don’t feel so stark and normalize inviting in help.
Across the book, Carey speaks truth in a way that will apply to people in a variety of fields but will slap you in the face until tears come to your eyes if you are a pastor. And that is a good thing. He gets the tension of living out of passion every day in a job that brings unrealistic expectations from everyone (including yourself) and that bears the unique honor and burden of being called into crisis alongside people more than you are called into celebration with them. Pastoring is a beautiful and hard job, and Carey’s words encompass both sides of that dynamic while still being applicable to those from other backgrounds.
My only (small) gripe about this book is that there are a few places where the ideas are fixed in a rather comfortable station of life. For example, keeping the phone on “do not disturb” all day trusting someone will put effort into tracking him down in an emergency (83) and the idea that “70% of discipleship is a good night’s sleep” (160). In a book that otherwise nails addressing a broad audience, ideas like that miss the mark in regards to the realities of life for hand-to-mouth workers, bi-vocational pastors, and parents of young kids where checking out simply isn’t an option.
Near-and-dear to my own WesleyanHoliness approach to theology, in several places in the book Carey takes a freshly-phrased look at sanctification (“the process of being made holy”) (167). His words emphasize that holiness happens to real people living in the real world rather than the insulated “holy huddle” or “holier-than-though” approach that seeps in so easily with some theologians. It was refreshing to hear sanctification a) named in a fairly mainstream book and b) described in an understandable, attainable way.
This is a book that I will come back to for myself, for sermons, and to refer other people to. It is an excellent, needed addition to leadership and life books! While I will recommend it to people of many backgrounds, I will whole-heartedly recommend it to every pastor and church-staffer I know, especially those who are weary or feeling burned.
This review is based on the pre-release Uncorrected Proof version of the books. I was delighted to be on the Launch Team for this book! All opinions are my own.