Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

NEW! Culture and news content from ChristianHeadlines.com is moving to a new home at Crosswalk - check it out!

First Things First

  • Dr. James Emery White

    The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of CrosswalkHeadlines.

    James Emery Whiteis the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and…

  • Published Oct 06, 2013

Have you heard what Brown University is asking applicants for the Class of 2017 as an essay prompt?

French novelist Anatole France wrote: "An education isn't how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don't." What don't you know?

The University of Chicago would like high-school seniors to tell them:

How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared? Possible answers involve, but are not limited to, statistics, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and philosophy.

Tufts would simply like to know:

What makes you happy?

In response, Julia Ryan penned an insightful short essay for The Atlantic on how applying to college should not involve answering life’s great questions.  Her point was simple: application essay prompts seem to want high-school seniors to have it all figured out. 

She rightly asks, “But isn’t that why you go to college?”

Churches can make a similar mistake.

For example, in a recent message related to homosexuality, I made the following declaration:

If you are gay, the ultimate issue is not the gay lifestyle.

It is your relationship with Christ. 

The first and most important issue is not that you straighten yourself out in this area and then come to Christ, but that you come to Christ and then see how He applies to your sexuality and sexual choices. 

Does this shock you?

If so, you have fallen prey to the deception that people are to first clean up their act, and then – and only then – come to Christ.  The misguided idea is that the process is transformation first, salvation second.

That is not the Bible’s message.

The gospel is salvation first, transformation second.

So save the detailed essay prompts you might want answered before baptism for a later date.  Start off with the only thing that matters:

Are you willing and wanting to come to Jesus as your Forgiver and Leader?

If the answer is “Yes,” then tell them their application has been accepted.

Because it has.

Then let the college education begin.

James Emery White



“Applying to College Shouldn't Require Answering Life's Great Questions,” Julia Ryan, The Atlantic, October 4, 2013, read online.

Editor’s Note

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, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.