Dr. James Emery White

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Death by iPhone Syndrome

The world waited breathlessly last week for the announcement of the latest iPhone. Turns out there were several announcements—not simply the iPhone 8, but the iPhone X, not to mention a new Apple watch.

It was a big day for tech-geeks.

It all circulated around the tenth anniversary of the iPhone, which is a big milestone for more than Appleites. Few things have transformed our world more than the smartphone. And not simply by what it has created, but by what it has ended.

Let’s call it the “death by iPhone” syndrome.

Think of the things that the iPhone has killed. Okay… maybe not completely killed, but dramatically removed from the cultural scene.

For example, think of all things maps: as in world atlases, guide books, globes and the old foldable paper maps of cities, states and countries. 

No longer needed thanks to Google Maps.

Then think about point-and-shoot cameras.

Now used only in the domain of dedicated photographers.

Or how about more contemporary products such as hand-held game consoles and mp3 players (even Apple’s own iPod). 

Now completely unnecessary, if not irrelevant.

Next up? Your phone can become your wallet. Whether it’s through Apple Pay or some other program, we will undoubtedly be paying for goods and services with our phone instead of a physical credit card in a matter of cultural seconds.

So was there any hope for mapmakers? Of course. If they were smart, they led the way for map apps. If they weren’t, they kept their store and sold paper maps until they finally went out of business.

There is a huge lesson here for the church, and it’s knowing what business you are in.

Really in.

As I wrote in Rethinking the Church, in the late 1800s no business matched the financial and political dominance of the railroad. Trains dominated the transportation industry of the United States, moving both people and goods throughout the country.

Then a new discovery came along—the car—and incredibly, the leaders of the railroad industry did not take advantage of their unique position to participate in this transportation development. The automotive revolution was happening all around them, and they did not use their industry dominance to take hold of the opportunity.

In his videotape The Search for Excellence, Tom Peters points out the reason: the railroad barons didn’t understand what business they were in. Peters observes that “they thought they were in the train business. But, they were in fact in the transportation business. Time passed them by, as did opportunity. They couldn’t see what their real purpose was.”

One of the most foundational lessons for church leaders in a fast-moving, ever-changing world is to remind yourself what business you are actually in. 

You are not in the Sunday school business. 

You are not in the traditional (or contemporary) music business.

You are not in the door-to-door visitation business.

You are not in the… well, plug in whatever method or program you like.

You are in the worship business.

You are in the discipleship business.

You are in the community business.

You are in the ministry business.

You are in the evangelism business.

And as the world changes, and programs and methods must necessarily change with them, it’s good to remember what business you really are in.

That way when the iPhones of the world come around, you are simply leading the way with apps,

... rather than becoming a casualty in their wake.

James Emery White


Sources

Heather Kelly, “Things the iPhone Killed,” CNN, June 29, 2017, read online.

James Emery White, Rethinking the Church (Baker).


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.

Three Blunt Interpretations

In a study just released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the verdict is clear: “The American religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation.” In my last blog I detailed the 14 statistical headlines. 

Here are three necessarily blunt interpretations:

1.  White Christians are not America.

Today, only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30% as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in ten (81%) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55%) were white Protestants.

What does this mean?

A lot. Not only does it mean that fewer “whites” identify as Christian – which is to be expected with the rise of the “nones” – but also that white Christians as a whole have become a minority group in American culture. The future of the American church lies not only in regaining its evangelistic edge, but in embracing diversity. In fact, apart from embracing diversity, there can be no evangelistic edge. It’s not simply that America is no longer about “white Christians,” but that Christianity is not about white Americans. Of course, it goes without saying that this diversity is also what will help the church regain its moral standing when speaking out against many of the ills of our day. If the church is going to be the church in the face of racism and hate, bigotry and prejudice, it will need to address its own lack of inclusion.

2.  Evangelicals are no longer immune from decline.

White evangelical Protestants were once thought to be bucking a longer trend, but over the past decade their numbers have dropped substantially. Fewer than one in five (17%) Americans are white evangelical Protestant, but they accounted for nearly one-quarter (23%) in 2006.

What does this mean?

Evangelicals have long prided themselves that, despite national drops in church attendance, it was the mainlines taking the hit. Further, it was believed that what protected evangelicals from the mainline decline was their robust embrace of biblical orthodoxy. Now that evangelicals are experiencing decline as well, there will be some who will say it’s because evangelicals are selling out like the mainlines did, and there must be renewed attention to biblical fidelity. There might be some truth to that, but I would argue that what has protected evangelicals until recently was their embrace of evangelicalism, which not only includes biblical orthodoxy but a commitment to evangelism. Even when a commitment to orthodoxy remains steadfast, if a joint commitment to evangelism is not present, then decline will be inevitable.

3.  The “nones” really are nothing.

Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person.”

What does this mean?

I’ve long argued that the principal challenge to the Christian faith is not philosophical atheism, but functional atheism. When it comes to the Christian faith, it’s not that people are thinking about it and rejecting it; they aren’t thinking about it at all. So we are not combating atheism, but apatheism. All the more reason to remind ourselves that we are no longer speaking to the God-fearing Jews of Jerusalem (Acts 2) but more to those standing on Mars Hill (Acts 17), and we must change tactics accordingly. 

James Emery White

 

Sources

Daniel Cox and Robert P. Jones, “America’s Changing Religious Identity,” PRRI, September 6, 2017, read online.

Kimberly Winston, “‘Christian America’ Dwindling, Including White Evangelicals, Study Shows,” Religion News Service, September 6, 2017, read online.

Emma Green, “The Non-Religious States of America,” CityLab, September 6, 2017, 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 @JamesEmeryWhite.

America's Changing Religious Identity

In a study just released by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), the verdict is clear: “The American religious landscape is undergoing a dramatic transformation.”

Some headlines:

  • White Christians, once the dominant religious group in the U.S., now account for fewer than half of all adults living in the country.
  • Today, fewer than half of all states are majority white Christian. As recently as 2007, 39 states had majority white Christian populations.

These are just two of the major findings from PRRI’s American Values Atlas, the single largest survey of American religious and denominational identity ever conducted.

Here are the 14 top findings:

1.   White Christians now account for fewer than half of the public. Today, only 43% of Americans identify as white and Christian, and only 30% as white and Protestant. In 1976, roughly eight in ten (81%) Americans identified as white and identified with a Christian denomination, and a majority (55%) were white Protestants.

2.   White evangelical Protestants are in decline—along with white mainline Protestants and white Catholics. White evangelical Protestants were once thought to be bucking a longer trend, but over the past decade their numbers have dropped substantially. Fewer than one in five (17%) Americans are white evangelical Protestants, but they accounted for nearly one-quarter (23%) in 2006. Over the same period, white Catholics dropped five percentage points from 16% to 11%, as have white mainline Protestants, from 18% to 13%.

3.   Non-Christian religious groups are growing, but they still represent less than one in ten Americans combined. Jewish Americans constitute 2% of the public while Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus each constitute only 1% of the public. All other non-Christian religions constitute an additional 1%.

4.   America’s youngest religious groups are all non-Christian. Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists are all far younger than white Christian groups. At least one-third of Muslims (42%), Hindus (36%) and Buddhists (35%) are under the age of 30. Roughly one-third (34%) of religiously unaffiliated Americans are also under 30. In contrast, white Christian groups are aging. Slightly more than one in ten white Catholics (11%), white evangelical Protestants (11%) and white mainline Protestants (14%) are under 30. Approximately six in ten white evangelical Protestants (62%), white Catholics (62%) and white mainline Protestants (59%) are at least 50 years old.

5.   The Catholic Church is experiencing an ethnic transformation. Twenty-five years ago, nearly nine in ten (87%) Catholics were white, non-Hispanic, compared to 55% today. Fewer than four in ten (36%) Catholics under the age of 30 are white, non-Hispanic; 52% are Hispanic.

6.   Atheists and agnostics account for a minority of all religiously unaffiliated. Most are secular. Atheists and agnostics account for only about one-quarter (27%) of all religiously unaffiliated Americans. Nearly six in ten (58%) religiously unaffiliated Americans identify as secular, someone who is not religious; 16% of religiously unaffiliated Americans nonetheless report that they identify as a “religious person.”

7.   There are 20 states where no religious group comprises a greater share of residents than the religiously unaffiliated. These states tend to be concentrated in the Western U.S., although they include a couple of New England states, as well. More than four in ten (41%) residents of Vermont and approximately one-third of Americans in Oregon (36%), Washington (35%), Hawaii (34%), Colorado (33%) and New Hampshire (33%) are religiously unaffiliated.

8.   No state is less religiously diverse than Mississippi. The state is heavily Protestant and dominated by a single denomination: Baptist. Six in ten (60%) Protestants in Mississippi are Baptist. No state has a greater degree of religious diversity than New York. 

9.   The cultural center of the Catholic Church is shifting south. The Northeast is no longer the epicenter of American Catholicism—although at 41% Catholic, Rhode Island remains the most Catholic state in the country. Immigration from predominantly Catholic countries in Latin America means new Catholic populations are settling in the Southwest. In 1972, roughly seven in ten Catholics lived in either the Northeast (41%) or the Midwest (28%). Only about one-third of Catholics lived in the South (13%) or West (18%). Today, a majority of Catholics now reside in the South (29%) or West (25%). Currently, only about one-quarter (26%) of the U.S. Catholic population lives in the Northeast, and 20% live in the Midwest.

10.   Jews, Hindus and Unitarian-Universalists stand out as the most educated groups in the American religious landscape. More than one-third of Jews (34%), Hindus (38%) and Unitarian-Universalists (43%) hold post-graduate degrees. Notably, Muslims are significantly more likely than white evangelical Protestants to have at least a four-year college degree (33% vs. 25%, respectively).

11.   Asian or Pacific-Islander Americans have a significantly different religious profile than other racial or ethnic groups. There are as many Asian or Pacific-Islander Americans affiliated with non-Christian religions as with Christian religious groups. And one-third (34%) are religiously unaffiliated.

12.   Nearly half of LGBT Americans are religiously unaffiliated. Nearly half (46%) of Americans who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) are religiously unaffiliated. This is roughly twice the number of Americans overall (24%) who are religiously unaffiliated.

13.   White Christians have become a minority in the Democratic Party. Fewer than one in three (29%) Democrats today are white Christian, compared to half (50%) one decade earlier. Only 14% of young Democrats (age 18 to 29) identify as white Christian. Forty percent identify as religiously unaffiliated.

14.   White evangelical Protestants remain the dominant religious force in the GOP. More than one-third (35%) of all Republicans identify as white evangelical Protestant, a proportion that has remained roughly stable over the past decade. Roughly three-quarters (73%) of Republicans belong to a white Christian religious group.

Consider yourself informed. And yes, my next blog will dissect what this means for the church.     

James Emery White

 

Sources

Daniel Cox and Robert P. Jones, “America’s Changing Religious Identity,” PRRI, September 6, 2017, read online.

Kimberly Winston, “‘Christian America’ Dwindling, Including White Evangelicals, Study Shows,” Religion News Service, September 6, 2017, read online.

Emma Green, “The Non-Religious States of America,” CityLab, September 6, 2017, 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 @JamesEmeryWhite.

Becoming Bilingual (Learning "Teen Talk")

If there’s one parental principle for the teen years hammered home by almost everyone, it’s the importance of communication. The challenge is that today, that means becoming bilingual.

Translation: learning “teen talk.”

Netsanity, drawing from multiple sources, has outlined three types of word groups to master beginning with the more harmless and funny expressions, such as:

  • Bruh – A casual nickname for “bro”
  • Fam – Their closest friends
  • GOAT – Acronym for “Greatest of all time”
  • TBH – Acronym for “To be honest”
  • It’s lit – Short for “It’s cool or awesome”
  • I’m weak – Short for “That was funny”
  • Hundo P – Short for 100% sure or certain
  • Gucci – Something is good or cool
  • Squad – Term for their friend group

For more on this, watch the TODAY Show feature.

Then there are those words that may not need direct intervention, but you’ll want to keep your eye on because of what your teen may be experiencing, such as:

  • Bae – Short for “baby” it’s used as a term of endearment for a significant other such as a girlfriend or boyfriend; as an acronym, it stands for “Before anyone else”
  • Curve – To reject someone romantically
  • Low key – A warning that what they’re saying isn’t something they want everyone to know
  • Salty – To be bitter about something or someone
  • Skurt – To go away or leave
  • Throw shade – To give someone a nasty look or say something unpleasant about them
  • Straight fire – Something is hot or trendy
  • Sip tea – To mind your own business

Finally, there are the words that should send up warning flags. Using these can be the means for hiding things or engaging in secret behavior. For more on this read not only the Netsanity article, but a piece by CNN that lists 28 internet acronyms every parent should know. But for now, here are some to be concerned about:

  • Thirsty – Being desperate for something
  • Down in the DM – Short for plans in their social media or texts for an oncoming sexual hook-up
  • Smash – To have casual sex
  • Netflix ‘n Chill – To meet under the pretense of watching Netflix/TV together when actually planning to meet for “making out” or sex
  • NIFOC – Acronym for “Naked in front of their computer”
  • CU46 – Acronym for “See you for sex”
  • 9 – Short for “A parent is watching”
  • GNOC – Acronym for “Get naked on camera”

And what about words you’ve heard but still don’t know about? A good resource for parents is Urban Dictionary.  

Even better? 

Get busy talking to your teen.

James Emery White


Sources

“Netsanity Parent Guide: Decoding Teen Slang,” Netsanity, read online.

Brenda Breslauer, “Teens Tell All: Your Guide to Teen Slang, From Bae to Woke,” TODAY, December 1, 2016, watch online.

Kelly Wallace, “28 Internet Acronyms Every Parent Should Know,” CNN, January 9, 2015, read online.

Click HERE for Urban Dictionary.


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.

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