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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

In My Dream

From the Church & Culture Team: Readers of Dr. White’s blog will surely know of the events that have been taking place in Charlotte, N.C., over the past week. We thought offering an email Dr. White sent out to the church he serves – Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte – would serve others as it served us.

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Friends:

If you're like me, you're experiencing both grief and frustration over our city's current crisis.

Grief that another human life ended through the barrel of a gun. It doesn't matter how a life is lost, or why; every life is sacred and is to be deeply mourned. 

Grief that beyond that loss of life, police officers are in hospitals.

Frustration that protests turn from expressing heartfelt concern to violence and lawlessness - from looting Walmarts to burning trucks. As one protester shouted out to those breaking bottles in the street: “Stop! That’s not what this is about!”

She’s right. It shouldn’t be.

None of it is.

This entire fallen world is not the way it was meant to be.

As followers of Christ, we have one mission: To be salt and light to this deeply fallen and darkened world.

That means we join the cause for justice wherever it is needed.

That means we work for racial reconciliation with every fiber of our being.

That means that while we hold them accountable, we also support our law enforcement officers and government officials as they seek to do their jobs.

And most of all...

...that means holding on to the vision of Christ's Kingdom coming to bear on the world around us.

I am reminded of the words to an old Pat Terry song:

I saw it in a dream last night
The world was acting strangely right
Black and white, left and right
Living in perfect harmony

There was no violence in the streets
The smoke had cleared and the air smelled sweet
And drums of truth, beat loud and clear
The rhythm for our feet

In my dream

There was a policeman on the corner
Who had laid his badge aside
Because the law lived in the hearts of men
Instead of fear and pride

And the parents loved their children
And the husbands loved their wives
And the ones worn down, kicked around
Saw the value in their lives

In my dream

And the spires atop the churches
Shone like spaceships in the sun
With altars for their launchpads
And room for everyone

And the earth bowed down in unison
Christ was on His throne

In my dream…

James Emery White


About the Author

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, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite

Two of the most pivotal aspects of effective communication are also two of the most overlooked: credibility and authenticity. One of the reasons they are overlooked is because many people don’t know what they represent.

Here’s a primer:

Be Credible
Being credible reflects one big idea: you have to be believed to be heard. So how do you gain credibility?

First you have to start with accuracy. Nothing blows your credibility faster than to engage in what I have come to call the “misses” – mispronouncing a word, misquoting a source, or misrepresenting a perspective. 

Early on in my ministry at Meck, I gave an illustration that referenced the Mackinac bridge in Michigan. I had never crossed the bridge myself, but I read a great story about it. When I told it, I pronounced it the way it is written – with a hard “c” at the end. That is not how it is pronounced. It’s actually pronounced “Mackinaw.” Immediately after our Saturday night service, a first-time guest who had just moved from Michigan came up and corrected me. And then, when they had finished, a second person (also from Michigan) stopped to correct me. 

Once is helpful; twice is annoying.

But I really was glad. Particularly that it happened on a Saturday night and protected me from repeating it throughout the Sunday morning schedule of services.

It also taught me a valuable lesson to double-check everything. Because when you are accurate, enormous credibility can be developed. 

After a talk on homosexuality, a woman who was a lesbian and who had been attending our church stopped me and said, “I knew what you were going to say, I just didn’t know how you were going to say it. It was fair, and you gave me something to think about.” In fact, she bought several copies of the message to give to her friends. Her line of thinking intrigued me, because the starting point for her was accuracy: “Is he going to distort homosexuality and the homosexual life?” By avoiding stereotypes and caricature, I earned the right to speak to her about my understanding of the Bible's perspective on homosexuality. 

Attention to accuracy will serve you well beyond the immediate topic, because when that same woman listens to me talk about other subjects – such as the issue of salvation and eternity – she will probably have greater trust in me. I was found to be accurate in an area where she had firsthand knowledge, which is a good sign that I will do my homework on other topics and can be trusted there as well. 

Another important area that is crucial in regard to building and maintaining credibility is the practice of personal integrity. No speaker can effectively model the entire body of Christian truth with perfection, but if the gulf is too wide between word and deed, then credibility is at risk.

If people know that I am committed to my family, and that I have raised my kids in a way that has produced godliness and character, they listen to me more intently about parenting. If they know that I live within my means and have managed my money well, they listen to me talk about money with more openness.

Credibility is found in doing what we say we’re going to do and be. There’s an old line that says, “Who you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.” We could adjust it a bit to read, “Who you aren’t speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you say.”

Be Authentic
Authenticity is no more - and no less - than being a person who can be believed, accepted, trusted, and relied upon to be that which is as presented

I talked with a woman in our church who had been unchurched for seventeen years before coming to Meck. I asked her what it was about our team of communicators that had impacted her. I was surprised that she did not even have to pause. She said, “I never felt preached to. Instead I felt talked to. I could identify with you as people. You shared your struggles - your life experiences - in a way that I could relate to. You didn’t come pretending to have your act together, talking down to everybody.”    

Authenticity is when a speaker is willing to share who they really are, without masks or pretension. I’m not talking about being maudlin, or having little or no discretion in terms of revealing your personal life. The key is to be authentic, which means to be real.

People in your audience know that you have junk in your life – they’re just waiting to see if you’ll own up to it. Many of us were taught to withhold our true selves from those we serve. The idea was that if the realities of our life became known, we would lose our moral influence and ability to provide spiritual leadership. 

In reality, the opposite is true.

A mother who has lost her child to a drunk driver has a greater ability to speak to the subject of drinking and driving than the average police officer. A person who has struggled in a difficult marriage and remained committed is much more winsome and compelling than someone who proclaims, “We never argue with each other.” 

So share when you have screwed up more than when you were the hero. And share where you have life-long struggles. I know, this is tough, but it can be so helpful to others. Most folks at Meck know that I’ve struggled with relationships and community. I never had much of either growing up; and my personality reflects my struggles with intimacy and openness beyond my family and a close circle of friends. Knowing that this is one of my “areas” brings an honesty to my speaking.

Authenticity does something else, too: It gives the listener permission to be authentic. When we are open and authentic about our lives, it allows those to whom we minister to be open and honest about their lives. Ministry begins when you can create a context where people can stand up and say, “My name is John, and I'm addicted to porn; My name is Betty, and I have breast cancer; My name is Steve, and my marriage is falling apart; My name is Bill, and I have AIDS; My name is Carol, and I just lost my job; My name is Alice, and I’m lonely.”

When this happens, we open the door to the giving and receiving of both grace and truth.

And isn’t that what we’re trying to accomplish as communicators?

James Emery White

 

Sources

For more on effective communication, see James Emery White’s, What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker).

About the Author

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, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite

Racism is very, very real to those on its receiving end. The dilemma is how distant it can “feel” to those who are not on its receiving end and, thus, not confronted as vigorously as it should be.

This was laid bare in a social experiment where a man (who spoke English) asked strangers in Lithuania to translate a Facebook message he received from Lithuanian to English. 

At the start of each encounter, the man says he has been in the country for two weeks and wants each Lithuanian to translate a stranger’s message he cannot understand.

He asks: “Please, can you translate this for me? On my Facebook page someone wrote it to me. I don’t know the person.”

Handing the Lithuanians his tablet they eagerly begin reading the post.

But then, as they read the message, they realize its content.

It’s a racist message.

The ensuing reaction of the various translators, including that of a child, was arresting; captured in a short YouTube video, viewed nearly 4 million times.

Suddenly, for the translators the hate is real.

The empathy flows.

The heart melts.

But this is precisely what is missing from most of our lives. Racism is a concept, a hypothetical, a category.

It’s not an experience.

And until it is, we may never rise up against it the way we should.

So maybe watch the video again.

And start feeling it.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Click here to watch the experiment.

Francis Scott, “Heartbreaking video shows man asking strangers to translate a racist Facebook message he’s received but they struggle to get the words out,” DailyMail, July 21, 2016, read online.

About the Author

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, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite

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