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Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Dr. James Emery White

Dr. James Emery White's weblog

Let’s talk porn, shall we?

It dominates the lives of too many men (and not a few women), sabotaging the sexual lives they share with their spouses. It degrades and objectifies women. It injects spiritual Novocain into their souls, deadening them spiritually.

I have two sons.

Years ago, we agreed to load accountability software onto our various mobile devices and computers in such a way that if we were to visit a sketchy site, the others would know.

To this day, every week I get reports about their online activity and they, I assume, get mine. They are not middle schoolers, high schoolers or even college-age men any more. 

They are both married with children.

Yet we still do it.

Does this seem extreme to you?

It shouldn’t.

First, I hope it speaks volumes about the kind of relationship that exists between my sons and me. We are honest and open with each other, authentic and vulnerable, and willing to be real about our temptations. We need each other, want each other, and welcome each other. Men need this with other men. Ideally, it should be between fathers and sons, but at the very least, it should exist between Christian men who are bound as spiritual brothers.

Second, I hope it speaks volumes about what it means to be a man. It’s not about maintaining a façade of having it all together, but being real about needing support and accountability. For me, when I feel tempted to visit a site I have no business visiting, the thought of my two sons knowing about it stops me dead in my tracks. And rightfully so. And for them? Knowing that their father would know stops them dead in their tracks, too. Real men know they need to be stopped dead in their tracks from time to time. It’s part of the stewardship of our strength. The Bible says that men should interact as “iron against iron” sharpening one another. 

When did we lose that?

Finally, I hope it speaks volumes about how women should be viewed and treated. They are to be cherished, valued, respected and revered. They are not to be objectified, much less preyed upon. The #metoo movement has been devastating and demoralizing. Surely we can see the connection between the ubiquitous nature of porn and sexual abuse? 

All to say, I am so proud of my sons.

They are guarding their lives, sheltering their children and honoring their wives. And doing it in ways that many might deem extreme.

I don’t.

I just think they are doing what real men do.

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 @JamesEmeryWhite.

I had the privilege of speaking last week to a gathering of the entire faculty and staff at Colorado Christian University (a terrific school with an on-target new president) on the importance of developing a mind for God. 

I ended with what might seem like a surprising challenge: don’t be academics! Or, more to the point, don’t just be academics.

In his seminal book The Last Intellectuals, Russell Jacoby coined the term “public intellectual.” He used the term to lament the lack of such individuals—how younger intellectuals had given themselves over to professionalization and academization. Unlike earlier intellectuals who tended to write for the educated public, Jacoby observed that thinkers in his day flocked to the universities where “the politics of tenure loom larger than the politics of culture.” Jacoby contended that younger intellectuals became professors who geared their work toward their colleagues and specialized journals. 

In an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, reflecting on the heart of his original thesis on its 20th anniversary, Jacoby wrote that, “The new thinkers became academic – not public – intellectuals, with little purchase outside professional circles.” Or, as he wrote in his original work, “Campuses are their homes; colleagues their audience; monographs and specialized journals their media.”

His conclusion? 

“Big brains, small impact.”

Now, Jacoby had then – as now – his fair share of critics, mostly coming from academia (not surprising). He has been accused of prizing an anti-intellectual simplicity.

But as I told my fellow academics, I think he has a very important point to make. We need public intellectuals! Men and women who are neither anti-academic nor purely commercial. Scholars who engage the rigors of the academy, but refuse to bow down before its altar and become academics alone. 

My concern is that evangelicals are increasingly polarizing between a populist camp or a purely academic camp. The populist camp is atheological and devoid of any semblance of a Christian mind, often led by charismatic speakers who enter their pulpits armed with a few out-of-context verses slapped on to a manuscript that could have been copied from the musings of Oprah. 

This has been widely condemned, and rightly so. 

But less critiqued are those in the purely academic camp. I remember attending an annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, and writing down the names of some of the papers that were presented, such as:

“The 16th Century Basel City Council”

“Isaiah’s Leviathan in His Near Eastern Context”

“The Story of the Bulgarian Bible

“Aristotelian Anthropology and Melanchthon’s Shift on Free Will”

“The Sixth Century Debate over the Shape of the Earth”

… and…

Jesus and Jewish Menstruation Traditions.”

Yes, there were many good and noteworthy addresses. But let the point at least be entertained: academization can be as vacuous as commodification. We need the middle-ground of the public intellectual.

Consider the greatest apologist for the Christian faith of the 20th century and its most influential intellectual. He was an academic, but it wasn’t the academy that gave him influence. In fact, C.S. Lewis was discounted by his fellow academicians first for his less than serious focus of study. As Alan Jacobs has noted, when Lewis began his career as an English literature don he was entering a field that was quite popular among students but highly suspect among other dons, almost like pop culture programs in today’s universities. Not to mention his effort to write popularly for mass consumption. 

It didn’t help that what he was attempting to popularize was Christianity. 

Jacobs writes that it began to be “said regularly that Lewis was wasting his time on cheap popular sermonizing and science fiction, time that would have been better spent on scholarship.” It is not that Lewis was not an able academic—just read his book Poetry and Prose in the Sixteenth Century. But in many ways, that is the point. How many people know that this work, considered by many the greatest of all of Lewis’ academic writings, even exists? 

Lewis’ brilliance lay in the popular communication of ideas, which can be argued is the work of the academy at its most impactful. And this was very intentional on his part. In one of his letters, this one to a priest who wanted Lewis to write a book commending Christianity to the “workers,” Lewis offers the following:

“People praise me as a ‘translator,’ but what I want is to be the founder of a school of ‘translation.’ I am nearly forty-seven. Where are my successors? Anyone can learn to do it if they wish... I feel I’m talking rather like a tutor—forgive me. But it is just a technique and I’m desperately anxious to see it widely learned.”

We need more translators, which means we need more public intellectuals. This doesn’t mean fewer academics,

… but it might mean fewer who are academics alone.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals.

Alan Jacobs, The Narnian.


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 @JamesEmeryWhite.

I was recently briefed on a church situation that left me shaking my head in complete disbelief. The details aren’t important. Suffice it to say that the attempt to accomplish a strategic goal was being severely mishandled, and it was resulting in complete failure. As I listened, it was as if every elementary understanding of effective leadership was at best lost in ignorance, or at worst being purposefully ignored. This wasn’t a case of immorality, just folly, which is the more typical form of spiritual malpractice.

It feels like I hear about a different case like this a week, but with this latest occurrence dancing around my mind, here are five quick principles I wish I could breathe into those leaders that may apply to many others:

1.  Whenever possible, give authority along with responsibility. One of the most frustrating (and ineffective) ways to manage people is to give the responsibility to do something, but not authority to make decisions. The truth is that the people closest to something—the ones actually doing it—are usually able to make the best decisions about it.

2.  Include the people most affected and most knowledgeable in the decision-making process. If you are going to build an auditorium, include the arts team in the planning process. If you are going to build a new children’s ministry wing, have children’s ministry staff and leaders on the front lines of development. This should just be common sense. 

3.  The one who casts the vision has to be the one who funds the vision, and the one who is attempting to fund the vision must cast the vision. You cannot cast the vision for something and not follow through with the leadership work of raising the resources necessary for its fulfillment. And, conversely, if you’re trying to raise resources for something, you must cast a compelling vision for why it is strategic.

4.  If you try and promote everything, you end up promoting nothing. I once heard it said that if you have five priorities, you have no priorities. The point was that you can only prioritize so many things, and if everything is a priority, nothing is. This is also true for promotion. If are entering a season where you are trying to raise money for three things at once, promote four key events at once, and raise awareness for two areas at once, it will all fall on deaf ears. Need to raise money for a specific challenge or campaign? Only talk about that one challenge. Need to promote a key church-wide event? Only promote that event. If your response is that you have to promote and raise money for multiple things because of the calendar and scheduling and what had already been initiated, then there is another leadership mistake. Poor planning, and the need to simplify.

5.  Align your resources and efforts along strategic growth paths. There is no end to the good that can be done, but there are very few things that actually result in advancing your mission. Most churches allocate time and money in an “inch deep, mile wide” manner. What would serve churches better is to have an “inch wide, mile deep” approach where they do significantly less, but with significantly better results. For example, if your mission is to reach the unchurched, what will make that increasingly happen? For most churches, it’s simple: they should invest in what gets people there (which is being invited by a friend) and what gets people to come back (friendliness, weekend messages and children’s ministry). Yet few churches invest significantly in serving the invitational process on the front end or in children’s ministry on the back end.

Okay, maybe not the most “electric” of leadership lessons,

… but they sure are ones that will keep the power on.

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 @JamesEmeryWhite.