Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

In the first ever “State of Theology” survey conducted in the UK, adults were asked what they believed about God, Jesus Christ and more. The headline? A third of all surveyed responded “I don’t know” to many of the questions.

For example, to the statement “There is one true God in three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,” 29% agreed, 39% disagreed and 32% replied “don’t know.”

Or consider this: “Biblical accounts of the physical (bodily) resurrection of Jesus are completely accurate. This event actually occurred.” Only 20% agreed, 46% disagreed and, again, 34% didn’t know.

Even more, 36%, didn’t know whether to agree or disagree with the statement “God counts a person as righteous not because of one’s own works, but only because of one’s faith in Jesus Christ.”

In fact, an article on the study concluded that “‘I don’t know’ was the top response to numerous questions about Jesus, sin, the Bible, salvation and other rudimentary theological concepts.”

“It’s actually tragic when you look at the survey and you see so many saying ‘I don’t know,’” Stephen Nichols, chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries and president of Reformation Bible College, told Premier Christian Radio. “These aren’t just matters of life and death; these are matters of eternal life and eternal death. There can’t be any more consequential questions than the questions on this survey and so these ‘I don’t knows’ are really troubling.”

Yes, they are.

There are several responses that could be made to the seeming shrug of the shoulders toward theology. The most hopeful is, “Well, if they don’t know, let’s go tell them!” Yes, that would be the place to start. But it might be helpful to realize that there is more than mere ignorance at play. What if their “I don’t know” actually betrays a lack of interest, and not simply a lack of certainty?  My sense is this would be the more accurate assessment.

There was an article in the Atlantic Monthly in which the author was describing his spiritual condition. Someone asked him about his religion. He was about to say “Atheist” when it dawned on him that this wasn’t quite accurate. 

“I used to call myself an atheist,” he ended up responding, “and I still don’t believe in God, but the larger truth is that it has been years since I really cared one way or another. I’m (and this was when it hit him) an... apatheist!” 

He then went on to describe his state as a “disinclination to care all that much about one’s own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people’s.” 

But it’s what he wrote next that haunted me.

“I have Christian friends who organize their lives around an intense and personal relationship with God, but who betray no sign of caring that I am an unrepentantly atheistic Jewish homosexual. They are exponents, at least, of the second, more important part of apatheism: the part that doesn’t mind what other people think about God.”

And sadly, this seems an accurate reflection of our day. In a U.S. version of the same “State of Theology” study, to the statement, “It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior,” a mere 38% of American evangelicals strongly agreed.

So while there was widespread lament to the “I don’t know” headline of the survey, the greater lament should surround the greater headline, true of believers and non-believers alike:

“I don’t care.”

James Emery White

 

Sources

“The State of Theology,” TheStateofTheology.com, read online.

Griffin Paul Jackson, “Brits’ Top Response to Theology Questions? ‘Don’t Know.’” Christianity Today, November 23, 2018, read online.

Jonathan Rauch, “Let It Be,” The Atlantic Monthly, May 2003 Issue, 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.

The start of a new year is always a time of reflection and recalibration, particularly in the life of a leader. Beyond our own personal lives, we have a team, an organization or a company we are responsible for leading.

So how do you approach that role at the start of a new year?

I put myself through the “ABCs.” I will present these in the context of leading a church, but they apply to any leadership role.

A – Advance

First, I think through what will advance the church. By this I mean raw numerical growth from the unchurched and the expansion of ministry impact. The goal is to move the ball down the field, to advance the cause of Christ… so what can be done to achieve that?  

B – Better

Next, I try to evaluate how we can simply do better at what we’re already doing in terms of efficiency (doing things right) and effectiveness (doing the right things). These are reflections on quality and performance.

C – Control

Finally, though I’m sure we could come up with leadership explorations for every letter of the alphabet, I think about control. This is about maintaining appropriate control of your vision and values, culture and DNA—not to mention the more obvious control of output and decision making. Leaders provide order instead of anarchy, unity instead of division, missional focus instead of a handful of tactics in search of a strategy.

These ABCs should be pursued ruthlessly. By that I mean with bloodless calm and collected emotion. Here’s why: You will find areas where you need to change. You may even be entering an era where this annual exercise leads you to a massive change, say, in strategic emphasis or methodology.

That’s when the ABCs get scary, but also when they bring the most helpful organizational change. But leaders must work steadfastly, pray diligently and seek counsel humbly to know when it’s time to…

… quit something,
… start something,
… fix something,
… end something,
… move something,
… try something,
… transition something,
… change something, or
… redirect something.

And they must do it with their organization’s best future in mind. Not their ego, not whether it will mean more work for them, not whether it will stir the pot of controversy… but whether it is best.

I’m in the thick of my New Year’s ABCs right now, and I can honestly tell you that I’m not sure I’ve ever had the Holy Spirit prompt me to consider more draconian steps in my 30-plus years of ministry. Steps that would be revolutionary for the church I lead. I am not sure if the prompting to “consider” will result in the prompting to execute. But that’s the benefit of the exercise—to force any and all considerations so that I can spell out next steps.

And that’s why you learn your ABCs, isn’t it? To spell things out?

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.

Lifestyle Brands

A burrito isn’t a burrito. Not if you’re Chipotle. 

It’s a lifestyle brand.

“Our ultimate marketing mission is to make Chipotle not just a food brand but a purpose-driven lifestyle brand,” says Christopher Brandt, the company’s chief marketing executive. “Chipotle will become a brand that people will want to know about, want to be a part of and want to wear as a badge.”

Add in Godiva, which has publicly noted the company’s desire “to be seen as a lifestyle brand by leveraging their culinary expertise to expand beyond chocolates.”

Who else has jumped onto the intentional “lifestyle brand” bandwagon? 

Pizza Hut, Blue Apron, IHOP… need I go on?

All to say, burn the phrase “lifestyle brand” into your psyche. Companies are trying the strategy “of using emotion and shared values to build relationships with consumers—and sell them more stuff.” To many, it brings to mind the 1971 jingle that if you wanted “to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” you bought a Coke.

But back to Chipotle.

“You kind of make an evolution from having fans of your brand to people being friends with the brand and inviting the brand in, wanting to see the brand do different things and talking to the brand in a different light,” Brandt said. “Not just — ‘I went to Chipotle.’”

That said, trying to equate a fondness for burritos with something greater may cause more than a few eye rolls.

“When I hear people talk about ‘lifestyle brands’ or ‘societal brands’ or ‘purpose-driven brands’ or what have you, it’s all marketing spin to me,” said David B. Srere, chief strategy officer at Siegel+Gale, a brand consultancy. “Any good brand should do all of those things.”

Still, there is a value to the “mumbo jumbo,” Mr. Srere said, adding, “If calling it a lifestyle brand begins to move them and get the company to think differently about the brand and move to a more meaningful role, then that’s fine.”

The rise of “lifestyle” marketing ploys are largely the result of companies worrying about their brands fading into the background or losing customers in a crowded marketplace. Brands are playing the long game as they aim for hearts and minds.

“It’s not an overnight thing to be a lifestyle brand,” said Brandt. “You have to be consistent and find the messages that resonate with people and you have to do it over a period of time.” He pointed to Chipotle’s recent initiatives to run ads on shows that generate chatter like “Real Housewives” and a sponsorship tied to Fortnite players.

“The journey’s begun, but there’s no finish line,” he said. “We’ll keep telling our message and championing what we think makes us special.”

It goes without saying that if there should be anyone in the “lifestyle brand” business, it should be the church.

But are we intentionally trying even half as much as people selling burritos?

James Emery White

 

Sources

Sapna Maheshwari, “When Is a Burrito More Than Just a Burrito? When It’s a Lifestyle,” The New York Times, July 29, 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.

Follow Crosswalk.com