Knocking on Your Own Digital Front Door

Several years ago, I wrote a book titled Opening the Front Door: Worship and Church Growth. It was a simple book, but rather controversial at the time. I made the case that weekend worship services had eclipsed Sunday School in attendance since 1971, and therefore, Sunday School was not the “front door” of the church in terms of outreach; rather, the large group weekend service was.

Further, I argued that this meant rethinking how to “open” that front door as effectively as possible to reach people, which could potentially involve rethinking dress codes, musical style and much more.

Today?

Tame.

Then?

Oh my.

Today, I am arguing that there is still a front door to the church, only that instead of it being physical it is digital. And it can be handled in a way that is just as alienating as when churches used to sing nothing but hymns, play organs, sit in pews and pray in King James English.

Fifteen seconds on your Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter feed, or webpage – 15 seconds into listening to your message or watching your service online – and they may have already clicked off because of what they’ve seen, heard or experienced.

Actually, 15 seconds is generous.

According to the research of the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8.25 seconds in 2015. That’s approximately a 25% drop in a little more than decade. To put that into perspective, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. No, I did not make that up. We’re .75 seconds less attentive than “Mr. Bubbles.”

But what are really operating are highly evolved “eight-second filters.” People today have learned to sort through information quickly because there’s so much of it to sort through.

Now, once you do get their attention, they’ll stay with you.

They can become intensely committed and focused.

But you only have eight seconds to break through.

That’s why one New York marketing consultant tells his advertising partners that “if they don’t communicate in five words and a big picture, they will not reach this generation.” All to say, today is the day of crafting a digital message to a post-Christian world that captures their attention – or at least doesn’t lose it – as instantaneously as possible.

That’s the barrier we need to break through.

The bottom line is that today, the typical first-time guest to your church is coming at the end of a long process. It may be their first time through the physical front door, but the actual front door of the church – the first one they entered – was digital.

So ask yourself some basic questions, and they are more significant than you might think:

Who is your website designed to serve? For most churches, it is designed for the members and active attenders of the church.

What about your Facebook page? Is it for the community of your church or for those who might be exploring your church?

What about your Instagram account? Twitter feed? It’s not that there can’t be posts for your church – of course there can be member-specific posts and should be – and it’s not that your website can’t serve up information needed and necessary for your church community. The real issue has to do with thinking about it as the front door.

Is your main splash page for the first-time guest?

Are the easiest, primary links designed to serve someone exploring you digitally?

Is your Facebook page winsome, compelling and inviting?

Is what you have on Instagram going to make someone want to go higher up and deeper in?

How well does it pass the eight-second filter?

Think everything through digitally the way we have been thinking through everything physically for the unchurched. We’ve always been about opening the front door. It’s just that now,

… that door is digital.

> Read more from James Emery White


 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Foundational Questions Church Leaders Need to Ask

A recent article in the Atlantic cited 17 questions every college should be asking. The point was that “we need a serious conversation about the future of America’s universities.”

They’re right.

We do.

And the questions they posed were good ones, including:

  • What is quality, and how should it be measured?

  • If we were building from scratch, would we make almost every program the same four-year duration?

  • We are witnessing the emergence of high quality, low-cost ways of learning online. How should we think about hybrid curricular options—that is, the mixing of new forms of pedagogy with old—that might be available to us? How will this affect the residential model?

  • Will most extant institutions survive the coming ed-tech disruptions in roughly their current form?

In the same spirit, what questions should every church be asking if there were to be a serious conversation about its future?

There are so many that could be asked that would reflect bleeding-edge issues in culture, but for the church, it has to begin with the most foundational questions.

Five come to mind, along with what I would argue the answers should entail:

1. What is the purpose of the church?

To use marketplace terminology, understanding our purpose is understanding what business we are in. What is the business, or purpose, of the church?

From the earliest biblical portraits of the church in Acts, in light of the settled teaching of the New Testament, it is clear that there is a five-fold purpose for the church: evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community (e.g., Acts 2:42-27). Put more actively, we are to evangelize the lost, assimilate the evangelized, disciple the assimilated, and unleash the discipled for ministry and evangelism. This is what the church does.

Of course, churches too often lose sight of this. Rather than worship or evangelism, a church can fall prey to thinking that its purpose is keeping up a tradition, holding a particular event, meeting a budget, or maintaining a building. These activities may flow out of a purpose, but they do not make up the purpose of the church itself.

As a result, the foundational purposes of a church must reign supreme. When they do, renewal flows. According to a study of faith communities in the Executive Summary of a Report on Religion in the United States Today, congregations with a clear sense of purpose feel vital and alive. A purpose-driven mentality is able to look to the future, as opposed to clinging to feelings of unity based on heritage (the past).

2. What is the church’s mission?

Think of the church’s mission in military terms. It is one thing to know the purpose of a particular military unit, such as being an infantry division. It is another to know the specific “hill” the unit is trying to take as that infantry division. This has to do with mission. A church might understand its purposes but not know what it is trying to accomplish through those purposes. If the biblical purpose of the church involves evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community, then the mission question is simple but profound: What specific objective is the church devoted to accomplishing through those purposes? In other words, what is the church trying to do through evangelism, discipleship, ministry, worship and community?

Jesus made many statements that spoke to how He desired the various purposes of the church to come together in a singular mission. The most well-known is often called the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). According to this passage, the mission of the church is to reach out to nonbelievers and develop them, along with existing believers, into committed followers of Christ. This is the mission that the purposes of the church are intending to accomplish.

Yet I am not the first to observe that many churches have other missions in mind for those who walk through their doors, such as wanting people to “believe like us” doctrinally, to “behave like us” morally, to “have an experience like ours” emotionally, to “become like us” culturally, to “support the church like us” institutionally through time and money, or to “participate with us” sacramentally through baptism, confirmation or communion. These goals are not in and of themselves wrong. The problem is it would be possible to realize most of these goals within a life and still not be a Christian. In other words, they have little to do with the actual mission of the church.

Even more disturbing are those surveys that find that the vast majority of church members believe that the mission of the church exists to take care of their needs—as opposed to win the world to Christ.

3. Whom are we trying to reach for Christ?

The most common answer to this question is “everyone.”  That is not a good answer.

In truth, no single church can possibly reach out with equal effectiveness to every conceivable person. The more focused a church is on whom it is trying to reach, the more effective it will be at reaching them. So no surprise that from the earliest days of the church, as recorded in the New Testament, it has seemed to please the Holy Spirit to birth a wide variety of churches in order to reach a wide variety of people. Churches, therefore, are wise to examine such issues as geographic location, demographics and culture.

The implications of such an understanding are far-reaching. Once a church knows whom it is trying to reach, it gains enormous insight into how to go about achieving its purposes and mission. As anyone in the marketplace will tell you, once you know who your customer is, you know what it is you are offering, whom you are offering it to, how you should go about offering it, and where you should offer it to them. Knowing whom it is you are trying to reach affects not only what you do but also how you do it.

But there is one demographic from which we are to begin our segmentation. If the mission of the church is to turn nonbelievers into fully devoted followers of Christ, then the primary target of a church should be those who are nonchurched nonbelievers.

4. What determines whether the church is alive and growing?

Once a church recognizes its purpose, its mission, and whom it is trying to reach, the next foundational question—one that is notoriously overlooked in the life of many churches yet is essential for rethinking—relates to the definition of success.

You say, “We are not called to be successful, but faithful.”

Yes and no. Faithfulness is not always rewarded with what might be deemed “success” in the eyes of the world, but God is always wanting a church to strive and reach its full redemptive potential.

So here is a definition of success worth wrestling with: Success for a church involves fulfilling its purposes in such a way as to reach its target and complete its mission. In other words, are you reaching lost people and turning them into fully devoted followers of Christ? Most churches, at best, are successful at the back half of the Great Commission (discipleship), but in terms of the front half (evangelism) are failing miserably, growing solely from transfer growth or biological growth.

5. How will we accomplish the mission God has given to us?

As a younger man, I played organized basketball for years. After my playing days were over, I had the opportunity to coach part time while completing seminary. Both as a player and a coach, I learned that the key to success in a game was having a strategy based on what we knew about the opposing team. The game plan was not just getting together before a game and saying, “All right, boys, let’s go get ’em!” If that had been the extent of our strategy, we would have lost virtually every game.

One of the most important questions a church needs to wrestle with has to do with strategy. How will we accomplish the mission God has given us and reach success?

Unfortunately, this is one question I cannot venture a simple, concise answer. It lies at the cutting edge of much of my blogging and writing, conferencing and personal thinking/experimentation.

Yet it is through answering the first four questions that a church can begin to engage in the fifth. The church has a five-fold purpose, a unique and compelling mission that those purposes are to achieve, and the means by which to know whether it is being successful. Now we must develop a strategy for our day in light of those timeless, foundational anchors.

Then, and only then, can we say, “Now, let’s go get ’em!”

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Download PDF

Tags: , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

When You Need to Rebuild Trust

First, the good news: Religious leaders are seen as more caring, more likely to be truthful, and can be relied upon to handle resources more responsibly than members of Congress or leaders of tech companies.

Now for the bad news:

Religious leaders are seen as less caring, less truthful and less likely to handle resources responsibly than K-12 public school principals, police officers, or members of the military. Even more damning is that religious leaders fare their worst when it comes to truth-telling, falling also below journalists and local, elected officials.

Ouch.

Nothing against the members of those professions, but religious leaders should lead the way in those categories due to the nature of their role.

Of course, the larger issue is why this perception exists.

One answer is that there is a built-in mistrust toward anyone in a position of power or responsibility. But why do religious leaders fare worse than others in that position? Of particular concern is when it comes to areas of empathy, openness, integrity and accountability.

Take integrity.

Pew found that 69% of people believe that religious leaders act unethically some, if not all, of the time.

Again, ouch.

Another answer is because of the way media often presents religious leaders. Case in point: Name a positive portrayal. Having a hard time?

Exactly.

But another reason is because the media has covered legitimate stories of religious leaders who are pedophiles, embezzlers, adulterers, spouse abusers and more. A minority, to be sure, but the stain persists.

So while those on the faith side of things can pat themselves on the back that they rank higher than members of Congress or tech leaders,

… there is some serious rebuilding of trust at hand.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Update: When MultiSite Works Against the Mission

There have been many queries as to how things have been going at Meck since we made the strategic decision to end our multi-site approach in order to pursue other methods for ongoing growth and the pursuit of our mission to the unchurched.

You can read about that decision and our reasons for making it HERE.

I will confess that this update is not what I expected. I have been completely blindsided by it.

Since we have closed our sites, we’ve grown faster and become larger than at any other time in recent memory. I know, go figure. But from the very first weekend after closing our sites, our overall attendance has grown—and grown rapidly. We closed our sites at the end of May; currently, attendance in August 2019 is running 27% more than August 2018.

I have to reread that myself. We close multiple campuses, and grow by 27%, which for a church our size is stunning. We’re rushing to add services and fast-tracking building plans.

Why is this happening?

It’s early to venture too many conclusions, but here are a couple that seem apparent:

First, when you take the collective energies of a church and its staff and its volunteer base, and focus it on one site, it creates an incredible amount of energy. Think about light. Light that is diffused doesn’t make much of an impact, but focus that light through a magnifying glass and you can set something on fire. Focus it even more, and you have a laser than can cut through sheet metal.

Closing our sites has made us a laser.

Second, it was brisk reminder to all of us about the nature of our mission. A reminder that reaching out to our friends and family, neighbors and coworkers, is central to who we are. That we will make whatever decisions needed to reach our full redemptive potential. People at Meck knew why we closed the sites, what we were trying to achieve… and it renewed the fire within them for the mission and their participation with the mission.

So they’ve been inviting like never before because they were reminded – again – exactly what we are trying to collectively do as a Church. And just how much it matters.

These seem like intangibles, I know, but they are still very real. Yes, we have put fresh attention on all things digital, as we intended, but in truth that has yet to be fully realized. Yes, when you are focused on one campus, it makes for greater attention to detail from guest services to children’s ministry. Yes, the arts team is consolidated, allowing for its collective talents and energies to be invested in a single set of services.

All positive, all helpful, all productive. But the larger dynamic just seems to be renewed energy and focus and passion. It was such a pure missional decision, made from a position of already existing health and growth, that it poured even more fuel on the fire.

So our expected dip in attendance never came. The people we expected to lose by closing sites kept coming. From the very first weekend, we entered into the most accelerated growth stage in recent memory.

I was on a conference call with some other pastors who asked me about this, and when I told them what was happening, they said, “Wait until word gets out what’s happening at Meck—it’s going to make a lot of churches rethink things.” Another added, “It’s so hard to do multi-site—if we didn’t feel like we had to, I don’t think we would.”

I don’t want to say “Stop multi-site and you’ll grow.” I just know that it was true for us. And I will say that there are probably other churches just like us that would be served by rethinking their strategies, including the multi-site approach. Particularly if the only reason you are continuing to do it is because you fear you will decline (as we’ve proven that doesn’t have to be the case),

… or because you fear the optics of it.

On that last point, please don’t let that be your reason. I fear that many pastors and churches pursue the multi-site approach as a vanity project. They want to say they have multiple campuses, they want to appear large and successful, so they start sites. But for many, it’s a drain on their volunteer pool, their resources and more. It’s hurting more than it’s helping.

All to say, if vanity dictates your decision-making, you will make very bad decisions.

> Read more from James Emery White here.


 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Digitized: Five Ways Living Online Is Changing You

There are few things more fascinating – and more pressing – to social scientists than to discover what our new digital world is doing to us, particularly the new online world. From an assortment of new surveys and studies, I’ve drawn together five key findings. Some you may have suspected, some may come as a surprise, but all are based on the most recent findings.

1. It’s Hurting Our Kids

According to a new major study of nearly 10,000 teenagers by University College London and Imperial College London, social media damages children’s mental health by “ruining sleep, reducing their exercise levels and exposing them to cyberbullies in their homes.” In fact, “using sites multiple times a day increases the risk of psychological distress by around 40%, compared to logging on weekly or less.”

2. It’s Changing How We View and Have Sex

A survey from the U.K.’s The Times finds that pornography is leading to sex where women getting hurt is the new normal, specifically the causing of pain and humiliation. BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) “is now ordinary.” Slapping, choking, anal intercourse… internet pornography has made those who view it expect it. For Generation Z, “rough sex” (hair-pulling, biting, slapping, choking and other aggressive behavior) is now the second-most popular porn category searched, and nearly half say online porn is the source of their sex education. It’s also changing our experience with sex, creating distance with our sexual partners—both emotionally and physically. Those who watch porn often find themselves unable to be sexually aroused by their actual (flesh and blood) partner.

3. It’s Costing Us Community

Singles today complain about the pitfalls and disappointments of online dating, as if it is the only kind of dating there is. In truth, it represents a radical cultural departure from what had been the norm. Online dating is radically individualistic, as opposed to the more communally based dating of the recent past. Instead of friends and family making suggestions and introductions, it is now an “algorithm and two rightward swipes.” As an article in the Atlantic put it: “Robots are not yet replacing our jobs. But they’re supplanting the role of matchmaker once held by friends and family…. [For] centuries, most couples met the same way: They relied on their families and friends to set them up. In sociology-speak, our relationships were ‘mediated.’ In human-speak, your wingman was your dad.” Translation: Tinder, OKCupid and Bumble have taken the place of community. No longer are those most intimate with us serving and guiding and counseling; “now… we’re getting by with a little help from our robots.” And even those most involved lament “the spiritual bankruptcy of modern love.” Or as one person put it in the article, the rise of online dating reflects “heightened isolation and a diminished sense of belonging within communities.”

4. It’s Making Us Angrier

Polling reveals two things we all seem to agree on: people are more likely to express anger on social media than in person (nearly nine in 10), and we are angrier today compared to a generation ago (84%). According to a new NPR-IBM Watson Health poll, the more we go online to check the news or use social media, the angrier we become. The reasons are not hard to diagnose: news outlets are often openly biased toward a particular view (thus inciting emotions), and there is a cottage industry of trolling on social media. In other words, we’ve created a context for anger to be incited and expressed. And it’s working.

5. It’s Fueling the Rapid Change of Culture

There are few changes that have swept the cultural landscape more swiftly than the West flipping its views on all things related to homosexuality. As recently as 2004, polls conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that the majority of Americans (60%) opposed same-sex marriage. Today, 61% support it. But how did minds change so quickly? In a telling study, Harvard University psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji investigated long-term changes in attitudes. He found that between 2007 and 2016, bias toward gays decreased dramatically. There are many dynamics that could be associated with this, such as the growing visibility of gay people in popular culture (Ellen DeGeneres, the show Will and Grace), but why did the landslide toward cultural acceptance begin in 2007?

Because as Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has noted, this was the year the iPhone was released. And not just the iPhone, but when Facebook left the campus and entered the wider world, Twitter was spun off, Google bought YouTube and launched Android, Amazon released the Kindle, and the internet crossed one billion users worldwide, which was the tipping point to it becoming the fabric of our world—all in 2007. And as a result, it began to facilitate cultural change in ways previously unimagined.

Alarmed? You should be.

It’s the new normal.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Download PDF

Tags: , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Speaking to Your Church on Race and Racism

If you are a teaching pastor of a church, or in leadership of a church, this blog is for you.

Everyone else can eavesdrop.

You need to do a series on race and racism. And you need to do it soon—as soon as you can.

Racial division is our culture’s most pressing concern, and it is a deeply biblical and spiritual issue. To not address it would be overlooking the largest elephant in the cultural room. And, I might add, the Christian room.

The church is the hope of the world and, in this particular matter, the only hope for modeling racial unity. We have been called into the new community, with Christ as its center. If we can achieve racial unity in our churches, it truly would be offering the world something it does not already have and could never achieve on its own.

It would also be the most arresting picture imaginable of God’s salvific work, and would draw people in as few other things would. In fact, in John 17, didn’t Jesus Himself pray that we would be unified, and that unity would capture the attention of the world as nothing else would?

We just haven’t thought of that prayer in racial terms.

At Mecklenburg Community Church, we just finished a three-week series titled “Woke.” You can get mp3s and/or pdfs here.

We began with a theology of race: What is race? Where did the races come from in terms of creation and Adam and Eve? What is God’s vision when it comes to ethnicity?

The second week tackled racism itself as a distortion of God’s vision and a great stench in His nostrils.

The third week was on the need for civility in our very uncivil world.

Multiple videos were used strategically throughout the series. We ended the entire series with a 6+ minute song (yes, you read that right) that was nothing less than anointed and sealed the series to our hearts in a way that we are still talking about. (The video links and the links to the songs can be found in the .pdfs)

Still have fears? You should also know that along the way we broke every attendance record on the books. Three straight weeks, three straight records. All to say, our world and our people are hungering for us to speak to this.

And in personal terms, I received nothing but gratitude for the series.

Many church leaders are afraid to broach this subject. Don’t be. But do your work. I would take advantage of using our series as a resource, along with the books listed below. I also met with a group of our church members – black, African, Hispanic – for nearly two hours over a lunch to ask them questions like, “What do you hope I’ll say in this series?” and “What do you fear I will say?” I asked about the language I should use, the questions white people secretly ask, the balance I should strike, and so much more. The series benefited greatly from the education and insight they graciously bestowed.

I would gently urge that you should do the same.

I write all this because I am deeply burdened by this issue—and by the silence of most churches. Nine out of 10 churches are predominantly one color, whether it be black or white.

That isn’t right.

It isn’t good.

And it isn’t God’s vision.

We are the only ones who have the voice and vision to address this imbalance.

Actually, that’s not strong enough. The truth is that Christ compels us to address it. If we don’t, we will be held accountable as His under-shepherds. I believe we will be judged as to whether we spoke to this issue as His leaders.

So please, take advantage of our resources as well as so many others at your disposal, and speak to this issue. God will show up, your people will be served,

… and the world just may start to change.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Prayers of Active Listening

I could take you to where God told me to marry my wife, Susan; where God told me to give up music and pursue a life of speaking and writing; where God told me to start a church.

These were nothing less than shouts from God.

What I mean is that He spoke so clearly and so strongly impressed Himself and His will on my spirit, it was as if He had thundered from Sinai. There was no doubt in my mind what I was to do. His finger had written it on the tablets of my heart.

God will do that from time to time. For Moses, the first of many shouts to his heart from God was a burning bush. The story is worth a close look:

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:1-4)

A familiar passage to you, perhaps. But did you notice the chain of events? First, we have Moses doing life the way he had been doing it for years. It was a day like any other, a good reminder that we can seldom anticipate God’s communications.

Second, God appeared to him through a burning bush. A strange sight, as it burned without burning up. It wasn’t the bush that was significant; it was the fact that God brought something into Moses’ life that demanded attention. It could have been a crisis or traumatic event; it could have been a moment of helplessness or of feeling overwhelmed. Anything that invades your life and demands your attention can be an opening salvo from God.

Third, Moses decided to pay attention to the event. He went over to it, determined to explore what it might hold for his life. This, too, is key. The events in our life are experienced, but few are explored for what they might mean on the deepest levels of who we are and what God might want to say to us.

Fourth (and this is critical), did you notice the following words: “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look…?” God did not speak, nor does it appear that He was going to speak, unless and until Moses approached the bush. When Moses went to look, then God spoke. If you want to hear a word from God, a good step is to demonstrate your willingness and desire to hear it.

I’ll never forget reading a challenge from an address given by Norton Sterrett in 1948 to a group of college students. All he said was, “How many of you who are so interested in finding out the will of God for your life spend even five minutes a day praying for Him to show it to you?” And it is precisely that five minutes a day that equates to going over to look at the bush.

A life led by God is a life that hungers for a word from God. It is a life that will be relentless in pursuit of that word.

Let me get very specific:

How fervently have you prayed?

How passionately have you searched the Scriptures?

How intently have you sought counsel?

How purposefully have you launched out in ways that afford God the opportunity to direct your steps?

Remember, hearing a word from God is anything but a passive enterprise.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Let’s talk! Connect with an Auxano Navigator.

Download PDF

Tags: , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The Social Media Paradigm Shift

There are few things more fascinating – and more pressing – to social scientists than to discover what our new digital world is doing to us, particularly the new online world. From an assortment of new surveys and studies, I’ve drawn together five key findings. Some you may have suspected, some may come as a surprise, but all are based on the most recent findings.

1. It’s Hurting Our Kids

According to a new major study of nearly 10,000 teenagers by University College London and Imperial College London, social media damages children’s mental health by “ruining sleep, reducing their exercise levels and exposing them to cyberbullies in their homes.” In fact, “using sites multiple times a day increases the risk of psychological distress by around 40%, compared to logging on weekly or less.”

2. It’s Changing How We View and Have Sex

A survey from the U.K.’s The Times finds that pornography is leading to sex where women getting hurt is the new normal, specifically the causing of pain and humiliation. BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) “is now ordinary.” Slapping, choking, anal intercourse… internet pornography has made those who view it expect it. For Generation Z, “rough sex” (hair-pulling, biting, slapping, choking and other aggressive behavior) is now the second-most popular porn category searched, and nearly half say online porn is the source of their sex education. It’s also changing our experience with sex, creating distance with our sexual partners—both emotionally and physically. Those who watch porn often find themselves unable to be sexually aroused by their actual (flesh and blood) partner.

3. It’s Costing Us Community

Singles today complain about the pitfalls and disappointments of online dating, as if it is the only kind of dating there is. In truth, it represents a radical cultural departure from what had been the norm. Online dating is radically individualistic, as opposed to the more communally based dating of the recent past. Instead of friends and family making suggestions and introductions, it is now an “algorithm and two rightward swipes.” As an article in the Atlantic put it: “Robots are not yet replacing our jobs. But they’re supplanting the role of matchmaker once held by friends and family…. [For] centuries, most couples met the same way: They relied on their families and friends to set them up. In sociology-speak, our relationships were ‘mediated.’ In human-speak, your wingman was your dad.” Translation: Tinder, OKCupid and Bumble have taken the place of community. No longer are those most intimate with us serving and guiding and counseling; “now… we’re getting by with a little help from our robots.” And even those most involved lament “the spiritual bankruptcy of modern love.” Or as one person put it in the article, the rise of online dating reflects “heightened isolation and a diminished sense of belonging within communities.”

4. It’s Making Us Angrier

Polling reveals two things we all seem to agree on: people are more likely to express anger on social media than in person (nearly nine in 10), and we are angrier today compared to a generation ago (84%). According to a new NPR-IBM Watson Health poll, the more we go online to check the news or use social media, the angrier we become. The reasons are not hard to diagnose: news outlets are often openly biased toward a particular view (thus inciting emotions), and there is a cottage industry of trolling on social media. In other words, we’ve created a context for anger to be incited and expressed. And it’s working.

5. It’s Fueling the Rapid Change of Culture

There are few changes that have swept the cultural landscape more swiftly than the West flipping its views on all things related to homosexuality. As recently as 2004, polls conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that the majority of Americans (60%) opposed same-sex marriage. Today, 61% support it. But how did minds change so quickly? In a telling study, Harvard University psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji investigated long-term changes in attitudes. He found that between 2007 and 2016, bias toward gays decreased dramatically. There are many dynamics that could be associated with this, such as the growing visibility of gay people in popular culture (Ellen DeGeneres, the show Will and Grace), but why did the landslide toward cultural acceptance begin in 2007?

Because as Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has noted, this was the year the iPhone was released. And not just the iPhone, but when Facebook left the campus and entered the wider world, Twitter was spun off, Google bought YouTube and launched Android, Amazon released the Kindle, and the internet crossed one billion users worldwide, which was the tipping point to it becoming the fabric of our world—all in 2007. And as a result, it began to facilitate cultural change in ways previously unimagined.

Alarmed? You should be.

It’s the new normal.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Let’s talk! Connect with an Auxano Navigator.

 

 

Download PDF

Tags: ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Vision >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The 5 Non-negotiables of Leadership

What does a leader do? The answers (and books) are endless. But there are five things every leader must do for the organization they lead, not least of which when it comes to the church.

1. Uphold Core Values

Every organization has a set of core values (At least, I hope they do). It is the leader’s job to uphold those values. To make sure they are followed, honored and embraced. If a core value is “excellence,” then that value is only as real and formative as a leader makes it by upholding it throughout the organization.

At Meck we have 10:

  • The Bible is true and the catalyst for life change.
  • Lost people matter to God and, therefore, they should matter to us.
  • We aim to be culturally relevant while remaining doctrinally pure.
  • It is normal to manifest authenticity and to grow spiritually.
  • We want to be a unified community of servants stewarding their spiritual gifts.
  • Loving relationships should permeate the life of the church.
  • Life change happens best through relationships.
  • Excellence honors God and inspires people.
  • We are to be led by leaders and structured biblically.
  • Full devotion to Christ is normal.

My job is to uphold all 10; celebrating when one is fleshed out, admonishing when one is not.

2. Cast Missional Vision

If there was one task almost universally affirmed for a leader, it is casting vision. But not just any vision – it must be the casting of missional vision. If we’re taking a hill, you need to define where the hill is and why it is worth taking.

Meaning: “Here’s the target on the wall. Here’s what we’re trying to do.”

On a more personal level, casting missional vision is helping individuals see how they are contributing to the vision in ways that expand their own vision about their investment.

It’s walking up to a person serving in the nursery and saying: “I’m so glad you’re serving. Thank you. Because of you, there’s a young couple in the service able to explore what Christ can mean for their lives. That’s what you’re doing.”

3. Create Unity

The Bible teaches that the number one requirement for becoming a pastor is leading your own personal family well. Why? Because the church is a family. Almost every organization would be served by being led as if it were a family. The question is whether it is a functional family or a dysfunctional family. The answer lies in whether the “parent” does the hard work of keeping everyone unified relationally.

A good leader works to bring parties together, work through conflict, and create open lines of communication. I’ll never forget a time when my two daughters were at a relational impasse at the tender ages of 8 and 6. Susan sat them down, brought them together and helped them talk it through. It ended, if I recall, in a time of prayer.

My wife is a good leader. My daughters are close friends to this day.

That is the goal organizationally.

4. Give Permission

Only a leader can give permission. This isn’t about control, but the privilege of turning people loose. A leader enables people to develop their gifts, chase ministry dreams, take risks and explore new ventures. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament letter of Ephesians that the job of a church leader is to equip people for ministry. A leader clears the way for people to follow paths of God’s design and leading.

Going further, a good leader sees things in people and encourages them to explore things they never dreamed of for themselves. So it’s not simply permission, but provocation. It’s putting your arm around someone’s shoulders and saying, “I see you doing this,” or “I think you could make a difference here.”

5. Develop Other Leaders

I don’t know if I have ever read this statement (I can’t believe it would be original to me), but I believe it to the core of my being: “Only a leader can develop another leader.”

Which means that developing other leaders is one of the indispensable things a leader must do. At Meck, we’ve developed an entire Leadership Development Program through which we take 100 burgeoning leaders annually. It’s a one-year program that requires reading six books, attending three seminars (on leadership, mission and values, and the personal life of the leader), attending a three-day retreat (covering a course on systematic theology), cohort gatherings, engaging the annual Church & Culture Conference, and more.

Sound robust? It is.

It’s also one of the most important things I do.

So there are five things a leader must do. There are many more, of course, but these five?

All are musts.


Talk with an Auxano Navigator about leadership in your church.


> Read more from James Emery White.

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Leadership >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Is Giving to a Cause, Not the Church, Even Biblical?

“Millennials want to give to a cause.”

Heard that one? Of course you have. And it’s true. Just not the whole truth.

Here’s all of it:

EVERYBODY wants to give to a cause.

It’s just Millennials who are holding the church accountable to having one (which, I might add, is a good thing). So how have many responded in a knee-jerk fashion? By creating “boutique” giving options that offer channeled, specific giving to direct “causes” that bypass the general operating budget of a church or nonprofit.

So instead of giving to a general operating budget that might result in, say, a desk or a laptop or a 401K for field workers (no “cause” there, right? Just that damnable, wicked, evil “overhead.”), you can give to drilling a specific water well outside of Lusaka, Zambia that will serve 112 AIDS orphans.

Pure, unadulterated “cause” giving.

So quick, which one do you want to give to—the “overhead” desk or the water well?

And all God’s people said, “Water well.”

Here’s the problem. That water well won’t be dug without a desk. Meaning a person on the field, in that area, serving as a liaison between your money and the actual completion of digging that well. Not to mention identifying the AIDS orphans who will be served.

The desk IS the water well.

How do I know?

To carry our example out, I personally traveled to Lusaka, Zambia. Our church had just sponsored hundreds of AIDS orphans through a relief organization, and I wanted to see where our money went.

Yes, it dug water wells. Yes, it gave blankets.

But I walked away with a deep, deep realization that none of it would have been possible without the staff and infrastructure of the organization on the ground making it happen. They were the ones living with and serving those orphans. Funding them was every bit as important as anything else. Maybe more than anything else.

We simply must grow in our maturity in understanding that we can’t just “give to the cause” as if only the water well – or blanket, or goat, or meal, or roof – is the cause. The “cause” is everything that serves the cause, enables the cause, funds the cause.

So what’s the real problem with Millennials – or anyone else – who want to give to a cause?

Casting the vision.

If the people in your church do not feel like your church represents the cause of Christ in this world, the solution is not to offer alternate causes to gain their attention. It’s to cast the vision of the church as THE cause of Christ (which, I might add, it is) and how it IS on the front lines of engaging those in need around the world.

If people do not think giving to your church is giving to a cause, they need cause-lessons.

And you need vision-casting lessons.

As for my tithe, I am happy for it to go to the general operating budget. I am equally as happy if it pays the light bill, funds a retirement for a staffer, or yes, buys a desk, as I am if somehow that particular set of dollars gets to an AIDS orphan in Zambia.

Why?

Because in one way or another, it all gets to that AIDS orphan.

And maybe that’s what all of us – Millennial or not – need to understand.

> Read more from James Emery White.


 

Download PDF

Tags: , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Resourcing >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

James Emery White

James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. He is the founder of Serious Times and this blog was originally posted at his website www.churchandculture.org.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> It is a good idea to to know how christians should be good leaders. Thanks
 
— Okello.moses
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.