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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

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Dr. James Emery White

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

Gen Z Ready to Tell Us How to Live

  • 2024Feb 29

Upon first hearing the results, it might make you want to roll your eyes: according to a survey conducted by the market research company OnePoll, 81% of Gen Z believe they can write self-help books.

It takes a certain audacity to feel you can write a self-help book. As Alfred Lubano, writing on the results in The Philadelphia Inquirer, put it, “What you’re proclaiming, page after page, is not only that you have a better take on what’s plaguing the human condition than everyone else, you’re also saying that you’re enlightened enough to fix it.” That, he adds, is “chutzpah.”

Let’s remind ourselves that most bracket off Generation Z to include those currently between the ages of 12 and 27. 

When broadened out to all Americans, only 47% have that level of self-confidence and sense of having arrived in life. Only 48% of Millennials would dare to take on such a task (ages 28-43), and just 28% of Boomers (ages 60 to 78).

Let’s make the obvious observation: The longer you live, the less you think you know what nobody else seems to know. The less wisdom you feel you may have to impart on others. And even if you feel you have gained some traction in the wisdom category, the less likely you are to take it upon yourself to be its bearer. As one woman who wrote a book at the age of 82 on conquering an eating disorder offered, “I couldn’t write the book until I’d gotten into the topic sufficiently to convince myself it wasn’t just sheer ego powering me to write.”

May her tribe increase.

On the other hand, the younger you are, the more you feel you have much to say about how to live life, and therefore are the one to tell others.

This may be the result of being raised on social media, where “influencers” are the new rockstars, and offering up advice and opinion is central to the appeal. An example would be Texas writer Keila Shaheen who has published a best-selling mental health guide at the ripe old age of 24.

There is also the eternal hubris of youth, feeling like you are the first generation to understand anything about everything. It seems everywhere you turn on Instagram or TikTok, you find another post on what you should eat, how you should exercise, how to decorate, and almost always from someone who is on the younger side of things.

Yet it can be comical hearing twentysomethings opining on all things parenting, finance, health and, yes, spirituality, as if they were the first to ever experience or ponder such matters. At least to those who have lived long enough to know just how little you really understand about such things while in your twenties.

This isn’t meant to be condescending. 

But it is concerning that those who actually do have wisdom born of experience are hesitant to share it, and those who do not are guileless about offering it. Further, that those who are younger feel more comfortable taking advice from peers instead of those who are older and more seasoned (put another way: from someone who has actually done something, over time, with success). That kind of generational separation is debilitating on so many fronts, not the least of which is spiritually.

Perhaps we don’t need self-help books at all. As one psychologist offered, “I don’t think self-help books are all that helpful, because if they were, I’d be out of business.”

So to all you Gen Zers out there, maybe what you need isn’t some help from a peer, or to take it upon yourself to offer help to others. Yes, you have access to almost unlimited information. But what you don’t have access to (and it’s not your fault) is wisdom. But you can get it through some good old-fashioned intergenerational mentoring.

James Emery White

Sources

Alfred Lubrano, “81% of Gen Z Believe They Can Write Self-Help Books,” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 20, 2024, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

Image credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/PeopleImages

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

We All Need to Be Hybrid Now

  • 2024Feb 26

According to the 2024 State of the Church Technology report from Pushpay, 91% of all churches are livestreaming their worship services. 90% are going further and employing a hybrid model of ministry which combines both in-person and virtual elements.

Equally telling is that the number of churches considering a move to in-person-only services has decreased by 21% when compared to the previous year. This would seem to reflect the finding that 62% of churches believe their livestreaming will play a key role for their church in the coming years (representing a 42% increase from the previous year).

This is good.

It shows that the vast majority of churches have embraced some aspect of a hybrid approach to ministry. It also shows that the church is realizing that a hybrid model, for the world in which we live, is here to stay.

But it isn't good enough.

A hybrid approach to ministry is so much more than simply livestreaming a service. It involves a comprehensive approach that embraces the physical and the digital. Molly Matthews, CEO of Pushpay, commented on the findings, noting that churches must continually evolve their use of technology to enhance the church experience and make ministry content and connection available 24/7. She adds that this adaptability and innovation are essential as churches seek to engage with their congregants in new and meaningful ways.

As I wrote in Hybrid Church:

I am contending for thoughtful engagement of digital tools for the sake of the evangelistic cause. Moving forward, most of the church’s initial contact with a lost world will be digital. We must use digital mediums to connect with our world in order to call people back to God.... There is a difference between being a thoughtless adopter and a cultural missionary. And make no mistake, our mission field has changed dramatically....

The goal is not to transform the church into a solely digital form but to transform the church’s thinking and methods and strategies in order to reach a post-Christian world. Accomplishing this goal will necessarily include taking full advantage of the digital revolution. We must embrace a hybrid model of ministry that involves the digital and the physical because that is the reality of our world.

So, I welcome the embrace of a hybrid model knowing it will look different for every church, which is fine. What is critical (and hopeful) is that 95% of all church leaders believe that technology is important to their mission.

They are right.

It is.

James Emery White 

Sources

“State of Church Tech 2024,” Pushpay, read online.

Tushar Aggarwal, “Pushpay’s 2024 State of Church Technology Report Reveals 91% of US Churches Livestream Worship Services,” Business Upturn, February 15, 2024, read online.

James Emery White, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church in a Post-Christian Digital Age (Zondervan), order from Amazon.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

Image credit: ©Clint Patterson/Unsplash

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

Life After Prison

  • 2024Feb 22

In His famed parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus speaks directly about our lives being held to account on a number of issues:

I was hungry and you gave me no meal.
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink.
I was homeless and you gave me no bed.
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes.

Most people resonate with those and feel compassion. But Jesus wasn’t done.

I was sick and in prison, and you never visited.

Some write this off as speaking only to those who may have been wrongly imprisoned or imprisoned for their faith. Sorry, there’s a word for that: eisegesis, which means you are reading that into the text, as opposed to exegesis, which is getting it from the text.

Jesus said what He said. We are to care for those in prison. Visit them. Minister to them.

The point of Jesus’ teaching is to care for those who are in need. Those in prison may be the hardest to care for. We find ourselves conflicted: Aren’t they being punished? Aren’t they getting what they deserve?

But if I am personally convicted by the words of Jesus for my lack of compassion and attention to those in prison, I recently found myself just as stricken with guilt for another dynamic of incarceration: when they are released.

No matter what your feelings may be about those in prison, why is there so little concern for those who have been released? 

The University of Alabama, along with the U.S. Attorney’s office, recently held a reentry simulation as part of a nationwide effort to increase empathy for people leaving prison. (By the way, 95% of the people who are incarcerated are going to eventually come out. Many are released after 15, maybe 20 years, with $10 and a bus ticket.)

The simulation begins with the participants receiving a list of tasks to complete at stations around the gym, such as to visit the probation office, pay outstanding fines at the courthouse, and find work at the employment office.

Most have little idea what to expect. They soon find out that they begin the activity with a felony record, no job and no state identification. To add to the challenge is that they need a “transportation card” to get to each station, meaning they will need a bus ticket or car ride. Which costs money.

The bottom line is that the average person who is released from prison has no resources, no support, and not much of a plan. No wonder so many end up returning to a cell.

It doesn’t have to be that way. They could have been visited in prison, like Jesus challenged, and through the relationships built there, served once they get out.

One of my dear friends in life, Chuck Colson, gave himself to this after his conversion to Christ. One of the reasons is because he spent time in prison as a result of the Watergate scandal. During his life, Chuck challenged Christians to care for those in prisons, founding the ministry Prison Fellowship.

As they say on their website: “Even the most broken lives and situations can be restored and made whole when we respond to God’s call to serve men and women behind bars.”

I think that’s what Jesus had in mind.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Mary Scott Hodgin, “How Hard Is Life After Prison? This Simulation in Birmingham Offers a Taste,” WBHM, June 30, 2023, read online.

Visit the Prison Fellowship website HERE.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on X, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Hybrid Church: Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age, is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit churchandculture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram at @JamesEmeryWhite.