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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

I’m curious.

I’m going to reprint a letter a mother sent to her 15-year-old son. I’ve redacted their names to guard their privacy. 

Here’s why I’m curious: Should this letter have been sent? Do you think it will prove helpful or harmful?

Here it is:

“Dearest __________,

“… I have much to say to you, I’m afraid not of a pleasant nature. You know, darling, how I hate to find fault with you, but I can’t help myself this time… Your report which I enclose is as you will see a very bad one. You work in such a fitful, inharmonious way, that you are bound to come out last – look at your place in the form! Your father and I are both more disappointed than we can say, that you are not able to go up for your preliminary exam: I daresay you have 1000 excuses for not doing so – but there the fact remains…

“Dearest __________ you make me very unhappy – I had built up such hopes about you and felt so proud of you – and now all is gone. My only consolation is that your conduct is good and you are an affectionate son – but your work is an insult to your intelligence. If you would only trace out a plan of action for yourself and carry it out and be determined to do so – I am sure you could accomplish anything you wished. It is that thoughtlessness of yours which is your greatest enemy…

“I will say no more now – but __________ you are old enough to see how serious this is to you – and how the next year or two and the use you make of them, will affect your whole life – stop and think it out for yourself and take a good pull before it is too late. You know dearest boy that I will always help you all I can.

“Your loving but distressed,

Mother”

So…

What’s your vote? A letter well sent, or a case of unnecessary emotional discouragement that could scar for life? Should parents work at encouraging their children at every turn, or at times give them the facts of life in a way that refuses a trophy for every effort?

Okay, it’s time I came clean. This isn’t a recent letter, but one taken from history. It was from London, June 12, 1890, to be exact. And I’ll give you the mother’s name. It was Jennie. Jennie Churchill. And her 15-year-old boy’s name was,

… Winston.

Yes, the reveal probably sways you that this letter had a positive and formative influence on the future world leader. And you would be right. Her call for Winston to be “determined” was apparently the key. Indeed, it would be the greatest single characterization of his leadership and lasting influence.

And he knew it. Take his adult address to the boys of Harrow, the very school he attended at age 15, on October 29, 1941. Memorably, he said: 

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

So when reflecting on Winston’s life, don’t forget his mother’s influence. And maybe whisper a prayer that there will continue to be moms taking up pen and paper – or text and email – to say precisely what their sons need to hear.

James Emery White

 

Sources

David Lough, “A Letter From Winston Churchill’s Disappointed Mother,” The Atlantic, October 2018, read online.

Winston Churchill, “Never Give In, Never, Never, Never, 1941,” National Churchill Museum, 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, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & 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 and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

I did not become a Christ follower until I was 20 years old. My growth trajectory was pretty rapid following that event. I was recently asked during a Q&A what was most strategic in my early discipleship. 

First, there were the people who led me to Christ. I was reached through a campus ministry – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship – and the men and women involved in leading that ministry were nothing less than pivotal. They met with me, prayed with me, invested in me, opened doors for me, invited me… I am a life that was changed.

Second, there was an exceptional local church I quickly aligned with that took me under its wing.

But finally, there were the books. I had always been a reader, but after coming to Christ my early reading proved significant. Some things I read were not particularly helpful. Others were… anointed. Particularly those that helped me begin to knit together what it meant to live life following Christ, both in practice and in thought.

When I mentioned this in that Q&A, I was asked to share some of the book titles. I said, “I’ll give you a few for now, but I promise I’ll blog the top 10. I may not offer much commentary on them because I wouldn’t know where to stop, but I promise I’ll put them out there for whatever it might be worth. And for me, they were worth a lot.”

Consider the promise met. Here are the top 10 in no particular order:

The Fight by John White

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

Improving Your Serve by Charles Swindoll

Knowing God by J.I. Packer

Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald

Loving God by Charles Colson

The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

How Should We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer

Basic Christianity by John R.W. Stott

The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin

To be sure, there were many, many more. If I were to make a list of “honorable mentions” it would number in the scores. But if you were to read these 10 as I did, I can make you one very confident promise:

You would be profoundly transformed.

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, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & 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 and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

Dunkin’ Donuts has made a very astute move. They’ve dropped the “Donuts” from their name. From now on, they will simply be known as “Dunkin’.”

Why was this a strategic move? Because, as a business, they are more than donuts. In fact, much more. Most of their business comes from beverages and by dropping the “Donuts” from their name, they can now freely pursue being “beverage-led.”

And in just being Dunkin’, they leave their pivot foot in place for if/when they aren’t beverage-led anymore. Who knows what the future will hold? Right now, 58% of their sales are beverages. In years to come, 58% of their sales could be bagels. They just don’t know.

They are not alone in following this branding strategy. In 2011, Starbucks Coffee became just Starbucks. Then-CEO Howard Schultz noted, “It’s possible we’ll have other products with our name on it and no coffee in it.”

Precisely.

Even Weight Watchers is becoming “WW,” opening up a new mission that is less focused on dieting and more focused on health and wellness.

It reminds me of a historical lesson. In the late 1800s, no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains ruled the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country.

Then a new discovery came along – the car – but incredibly, the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to participate in this transportation development. The automotive revolution was happening all around them and they did not use their industry dominance to take hold of the opportunity.

In his video The Search for Excellence, Tom Peters pointed out the reason: the railroad barons didn’t understand what business they were in. Peters observes that: “… they thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. Time passed them by, as did opportunity. They couldn’t see what their real purpose was.”

So if Dunkin’ isn’t in the donut business but the food and beverage business, and Weight Watchers isn’t in the diet business but the health and wellness business, what about the church?

Well, you’re not in the Sunday School business, the Awana business, the Upward Sports business, the Men’s Fraternity business, the Catalyst business, or any other programmatic business. 

Let’s go further: you’re not in the small group business, women’s ministry business, men’s ministry business or any other sub-ministry business. All of these may be well and good and helpful, but they are not your business and should not be treated as such.

Do you know what business you’re in? 

You are in the business of evangelizing the lost, assimilating the evangelized, discipling the assimilated and unleashing the discipled. It’s been that way for nearly 2,000 years. 

Everything else is just donuts.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Vanessa Romo, “Dunkin’ Deletes Donuts from Its Name,” NPR, September 26, 2018, 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, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & 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 and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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