Communion and Coleslaw
Dr. James Emery WhiteJames Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture (www.serioustimes.org); and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. Dr. White holds the B.S., M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees, along with additional work at Vanderbilt University and Oxford University. He is the author of over a dozen books.
- 2010 Oct 18
Every week we encourage people attending our church to turn in a "Connection Card" to get information about the church or to explore "next steps."
A staff person then contacts them and attempts to serve in any way needed.
One of our staff members recently received an email from a woman following their "Connection Card" response.
This is what she wrote:
"Thanks for the informative email. I have been going to Meck for about a month now and I love it! I have even talked my two friends into joining. We are all thankful to be part of an awesome church with great values. I do have one question. I remember hearing about the first Wednesday of every month being a service with in-depth Bible teachings and a celebration of the Lords Supper. What does that mean? I understand the part about the Bible teachings but what is a celebration of the Lords Supper? Does that mean we all bring some kind of food to share? I am planning on going tonight but I wanted to make sure I bring something if need be. Any information you can provide with would be greatly appreciated!"
Soak that in.
An announcement about the celebration of the Lord's Supper made someone wonder if they needed to bring coleslaw.
I don't know about you, but I think Jesus is really, really fond of this person and loves all that they don't know and is excited about their journey. And as a pastor, I am overwhelmed that God would trust me with such people. In fact, our church is currently experiencing over 70% of our total growth from the unchurched, and I thank God for that ridiculous percentage daily. It makes everything just raw fun.
But in truth, this is not a situation unique to a church that is reaching the unchurched, because this woman is far from alone. You may be aware of the recent study that found an alarming spiritual illiteracy in our nation.
What was revealed? That when it comes to religion, people don't know much. Only 19% of all Protestants knew that salvation comes through faith alone, not works. 45% could not name the four gospels. Only 55% knew that the Golden Rule was not one of the Ten Commandments.
And to add insult to injury, atheists scored better on the test than people of faith.
It made me reflect how those who teach and lead in Christian settings tend to assume that people know a great deal more than they actually do. Specifically, I find that the typical Christian speaker assumes a level of knowledge that is only found in a very small sub-culture within the Christian community - namely the group that can rattle off memorized verses and marriage/family "Dobsonisms", know about L'abri and the Eagle and Child Pub, subscribe to Christianity Today magazine, and listen to the local Christian radio station.
Or if a younger clientele is at hand, the group that can cite Donald Millerisms, comment on the latest Catalyst conference, play you the latest David Crowder Band song on their iPod, and….well, you get my point.
In other words, less than 1% of the Christian population. [I made that percentage up, but I doubt I'm far off].
When Christian pastors and leaders speak to this group, they fail to realize that it is a very small strata of "informed" people that do not represent the mainstream. And I don't mean the secular mainstream, I mean the Christian mainstream - a mainstream that does not read "Books and Culture," does not genuflect toward Wheaton, does not pre-order the latest Yancey book and - shock - does not really know who Billy Graham is.
So who are the mainstream we are attempting to reach?
Increasingly, it's the same for those who consider themselves Christian and those who would not.
It's the people who want to bring a covered dish to communion.
James Emery White
"Most Americans believe in God but don't know religious tenets," USA Today, September 29, 2010. Online at http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-09-28-pew28_ST_N.htm?loc=interstitialskip