Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Knowing When to Care

  • Dr. James Emery White

    James Emery Whiteis 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…

  • 2014 Jan 16

One of the more important personal disciplines as a leader is to be able to know what you don’t care about.  Or more to the point, what you shouldn’t care about.

For example, I don’t care about:

…transfer growth from other churches

(we're after the unchurched)

…whether another church in town is bigger or faster-growing

(we’re not in competition with other churches)

…people who leave the church because they disagree with: our belief in the Bible as the Word of God, our policy of conducting criminal background checks on all children's ministry volunteers, our belief that lost people matter to God, or...

(some things are simply non-negotiable)

…refusing money from someone who wants to use it to impose their will

(no amount of money is worth that)

…denominational politics

(haven’t for many years)

…petty disagreements on historically disputable matters

(in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity)

…dress codes

(come as you are; it’s how you leave that matters)

I’m continually surprised at how many leaders spend enormous amounts of energy – and emotion – on things that simply don’t matter.  I could add to this list, almost effortlessly, with scores of other examples – and could give testimony to seeing how each one consumed a person or church.

But then, equally stunning, is how lax these same leaders are on things that DO matter.

For example, not caring about:

…people knowing and embracing the vision, values, mission and doctrine of the church

(these are kind of the big four)

…the continued presence and practice of contentious, divisive behavior in the church

(if you haven’t learned to confront this at once, you haven’t learned much)

…whether you’re reaching the unchurched

(it’s called the Great Commission – translation: it’s why you exist)

…the poorest of the poor and those suffering injustice in the world

(it’s what separates the sheep from the goats)

There’s an old line about “majoring on the majors,” because the temptation is to major on the minors.  For most leaders, this means how they spend their time, or choosing what to take a stand for.  But somehow, the wind seems to have gone out of our sails on this one.  So let’s up it a notch:  the real issue behind what to major in is what you should care about, and what you should care about is simple:

What hills do you need to be willing to die on?

James Emery White



For a listing of “hills to die on,” see James Emery White, What They Didn’t Teach You In Seminary (Baker).

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, visit www.churchandculture.org, where you view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world.  Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

Read More Dr. James Emery White