The Year (2014) in Review

As we did last year, this is the time to recap the year that was.

There are a number of ways to do it, all of which are interesting. You can look at a year in terms of notable deaths, viral events, political rises and falls…

But how do you really get a twelve-month snapshot of a culture's zeitgeist?

I would argue for two words: "Google searches."

I'm not saying that this will be what historians will mark in 10, much less 100 years…even less what is most significant. But I will say that it may be the clearest window into our current soul.

So here we go with a few peeks into our inner world, courtesy of Google itself:

Top 10 "What" questions from 2014:

1. What is ALS?
2. What is Ebola?
3. What is ISIS?
4. What is Bitcoin?
5. What is Asphyxia?
6. What is Gamergate?
7. What is WhatsApp?
8. What is MERS?
9. What is Hamas?
10.What is Airdrop?

Top trending searches in 2014 from around the world:

1. Robin Williams
2. World Cup
3. Ebola
4. Malaysia Airlines
5. Flappy Bird
6. ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
7. ISIS
8. Ferguson
9. Frozen
10.Ukraine

Top 10 "life advice" searches from 2014:

1. How to Airdrop
2. How to Contour
3. How to Vote
4. How to Kiss
5. How to Craft
6. How to Colorblock
7. How to Wakeboard
8. How to Refurbish
9. How to Delegate
10.How to DIY

And finally, the top 10 people of 2014 we were interested in:

1. Jennifer Lawrence
2. Kim Kardashian
3. Tracy Morgan
4. Ray Rice
5. Tony Stewart
6. Iggy Azalea
7. Donald Sterling
8. Adrian Peterson
9. Renee Zellweger
10.Jared Leto

Welcome to our world.

James Emery White

 

Sources

"What did the world search for in 2014?", Google.com, read online.

Generation X-Mas

* Editor's Note: This blog has been updated from its original version published in 2007. The team at ChurchandCulture.org thought you would enjoy reading it again as we approach Christmas.

A couple of years ago a film crew from our church hit the streets of Charlotte to produce a "man on the street" video asking people, "What comes to your mind when you think of the Christmas story?"

Number one answer?

"The movie."

Yep, the 1983 "You'll shoot your eye out, kid" tale from 1940's Indiana of a nine-year-old boy's desire for a Red-Ryder Carbon-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle BB Gun (and, lest we forget, with a compass in the stock).

An intriguing editorial in Time magazine at around the same time chronicled how A Christmas Story has become the quintessential American film for Christmas, replacing It's a Wonderful Life. Titled "Generation X-Mas," it chronicled how an "upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set."

As for George Bailey?

"Not so into him anymore."

In a 2006 Harris poll (and I haven't found one more recent), those from older generations picked Bedford Falls, along with Macy's (Miracle on 34th Street) as their favorite film destinations.

But respondents a bit younger, from 18 to 41 years old, granted the "major award" to Scott Fargas, Flick and the Bumpus' dogs - hence this season marking the 17th year (with steadily rising ratings) of the 24-hour marathon on TBS (and before that on TNT) come December 24-25.

This is one of the "pop-cultural shifts," suggested Time - such as football overtaking baseball, salsa defeating ketchup – that "signal bigger changes."Perhaps because it's everything It's a Wonderful Life is not – "satiric and myth-deflating, down to the cranky store Santa kicking Ralphie down a slide."

Or, as Time noted, perhaps it is because of the changing relationship between the community and the individual. Whereas the older films position Christmas as that which "uplifts the suicidal, raises every voice in Whoville, [and] renders peace between Macy and Gimbel," A Christmas Story "inverts the moral."

Now it's the individual Christmas experience that matters. Getting the BB gun, instead of protecting the local Savings and Loan for the poor, is the point. Or as Time put it, "It's the individual Christmas that matters. Bedford Falls can take a hike…[it's not about] angels' getting their wings. Christmas is about the kids' getting their due."

But perhaps we can go where Time could not.

The great divide between It's a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story is more than just the radical individualism that marks our day, but what has spawned such individualism.

The real divide between the two films is that one retains the idea that Christmas is about the birth of the Jesus, and one does not. Unless I have missed it, A Christmas Story does not have a single reference, symbol, picture or event that would suggest Christmas is about the birth of Christ, or has religious significance of any kind.

It's a Wonderful Life, on the other hand, was rich in Christian idea and ethos, from traditional Christmas songs celebrating the birth of Christ (the climax of the movie is marked by the spontaneous outburst of "Hark the Herald Angels Sing") to the central character of an angel.

A Christmas Story is marked by the complete and total absence of anything religious at all, much less Christian. No nativity scenes, no church services, no Christian music – even the department store, Higbees, honors the season not with shepherds or wise men, but with characters from The Wizard of Oz.

Yet this reflects more than the choice of one movie over another. An analysis of 48,000 hours of programming by the NRB (National Religious Broadcasters) in December of 2002 (again, a study I have not found repeated) found that 90 percent of programming did not have a significant spiritual theme. 7 percent had a religious or spiritual theme, but did not refer to Jesus or the biblical story of His birth.

Jesus was the focus of only 3 percent of all Christmas programming.

Yet I confess that A Christmas Story has become one of my favorite movies. The nostalgia of the time, and the way it reveals how Christmas often "works," runs deep and familiar. But when I watch it this season, along with millions of others, I will remind myself that while it is a Christmas story, it is not the Christmas story.

For that I would need to return to Bedford Falls.

Or better yet, the little town of Bethlehem.

James Emery White
 

Sources

"Generation X-Mas: How an upstart film became a holiday icon for the post-boomer set," James Poniewozik, Time, December 10, 2007, p. 90. Read the article online.

National Religious Broadcasters analysis can be found in the Winter 2004 edition of Enrichment, and also on the website of Preaching Today (a service of Christianity Today magazine). The website for the NRB is nrb.org.

"I Can't Breathe"

There would be few reading this unaware of the events in Ferguson, Missouri, regarding the shooting death by a police officer of Michael Brown. This was quickly followed by the asphyxiation of Eric Garner in New York as a result of a chokehold during an arrest.

Neither case resulted in a grand jury indicting the officer involved.

Many lumped the two together, but I did not. To my thinking, they were very, very different. Apparently I'm not alone. A USA Today poll found that most Americans supported the Brown decision, but not the Garner decision.

I don't want to get into the racial elements.

I don't want to get into the pros and cons of grand jury indictments.

I don't want to get into the perils of resisting arrest.

I don't want to get into the difficulties and challenges of police work.

I only want to get into one thing:

"I can't breathe."

It's said a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, a video must be worth ten thousand. Or in this case, an extremely potent three. If you saw it, you know that those three words were repeated eight times. And after he was on the ground, held down by multiple other men, and being handcuffed.

"I can't breathe."

I don't care if he resisted arrest.

I don't care if he weighed 300 or more pounds.

I don't care if he had a criminal history.

At the time of the arrest, all I care about are those three words.

"I can't breathe."

Why?

Because I am a follower of Christ. I am a follower of Christ before I am a member of a political party, before I am a cultural "conservative" or "liberal," and certainly before I am either "black" or "white."

And as a follower of Christ, I understand every human being to be someone made in the very image of God and of immeasurable worth to their Father.

The color of their skin does not matter.

Their arrest record does not matter.

Their non-lethal resistance to arrest does not matter.

What matters is their "imago dei." The image of God reflected in their very soul. And no human being should have been handled that way, much less in that situation.

Period.

And this includes the breaking news of the extent of torture carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency. [I couldn't help but think of the connection between water-boarding and a chokehold – both are acts on another that keep them from breathing.] It doesn't matter whether such acts fell short of a legal definition of torture, or whether they were effective.

Torture is simply wrong. Why? Because no human being, made in the image of God, should be treated that way.

Period.

As I watched the video of Eric Garner's arrest, I could only imagine one of my sons, resisting arrest for whatever stupid or miscalculated reason, who then found himself thrown to the ground and fighting for air.

And dying.

Dear God. I can barely sustain the thought.

So whatever needs to happen to address racism in our land,

...and the great evil is that it does thrive;

...whatever needs to happen to uphold justice,

...and only a naïve observer would assume it flows freely;

…whatever needs to happen to support police in their responsibilities, not to mention rid police forces of rogue elements,

…and both must be pursued;

…whatever needs to happen to end all affronts to the worth and dignity of human beings as made in the image of God;

Whatever needs to happen, until it does,

…for Christ's sake,

…let them breathe.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Susan Page, "Poll: Americans back charges in Eric Garner death," December 8, 2014, USA Today, read online

Translation vs. Transformation

There are many things that confront leaders regarding the interplay of church and culture, but perhaps none is more pressing than the dynamic between translation and transformation.

Theologian Millard Erickson, building on the insights of William E. Hordern, notes that every generation must translate the gospel into its unique cultural context. But this is very different from transforming the message of the gospel into something that was never intended by the biblical witness.

Transformation of the message must be avoided at all costs.

Translation, however, is essential for a winsome and compelling presentation of the gospel of Christ.

And it is precisely this interplay between translation and transformation that must be navigated by every leader in regard to culture.

If transformation takes place, then we have simply abandoned orthodoxy for the hopeful sake of warm bodies. The tickling of ears does not exactly have a welcome spot in the biblical materials.

If translation takes place, we intentionally build bridges of cultural understanding, but retain our prophetic voice in the marketplace of ideas.

Transformation is heresy.

Translation is the heart of our mission.

Knowing the difference is the crucible of leadership, and the difference between being in the world,

…and of it.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Millard Erickson, Christian Theology

How Not to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations about Religion

There was an intriguing, but not unexpected, article on WikiHow titled "How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations about Religion."

The eight pointers, just in time for the holidays, went as follows:

1. Resist the urge to argue. Instead, just smile and say, "Interesting."

2. Meet it head on with honesty. Say, "I'm not comfortable talking about that and I'm just not willing to have this conversation."

3. Ask them why they brought it up. If it seems trivial, or even trolling, it gets exposed and often ends.

4. Redirect the conversation. Ask about their job, children or health. Or go for the joke and say, "No thanks. I haven't been able to talk about religion since the last time the Cubs won the World Series."

5. Suggest a better time. This will allow you to control the environment, length of time, involved parties and other factors.

6. Excuse yourself. Go to the bathroom or greet someone else nearby.

7. Bring in another conversationalist. Ideally, one that would like to engage the conversation – then excuse yourself as they delve in.

8. Be straightforward. Tell them this is neither the time nor place for such a dialogue. Or, if you would prefer, say "I have a strict policy never to discuss religion."

Such guidelines would no doubt be welcomed by most people including, sadly, those who follow Christ. But it is precisely having such a conversation that lies at the heart of our mission.

So what if we turned this around a bit?

As in, "How Not to Avoid Comfortable Conversations about Religion."

Perhaps the list would run like this:

1. Don't argue, just contend. There is a difference between debating and contending. Debating can quickly become a game of winning; contending is trying to make points and plant seeds in a winsome and compelling way.

2. Be honest about the role of faith in your life. If you are a Christian, then be one, and let them deal with the weight of it. It's actually the most attractive and intriguing thing about you.

3. Ask them why they have rejected it. If someone dismisses something like Christianity, simply ask them "why?" Let them share, and let the conversation take the natural route their sharing leads.

4. Redirect the conversation away from trite, flippant, dismissals of Christianity. For example, if they bring up hypocrisy, simply say you agree with the repugnant nature of it, and so did Jesus – and that the heart of the Christian faith is Jesus, not those who pretend to follow Him.

5. Suggest a time to talk more about it. It's so easy to say, "I'd love to hear more about your thinking. Would you be game for a coffee so that I could hear more about your beliefs?"

6. Excuse yourself from fringe and inflammatory expressions of Christianity. Many will want to try and tie you to one or another "pop-culture" denigrations of faith (think Westboro Baptist "God Hates Fags" signs at funerals). Don't let them.

7. Bring in someone with the spiritual gift of evangelism. There is nothing more strategic than tag-teaming with someone at a party who has the gift of evangelism and can carry forward a strategic conversation. It's called a "Matthew Party" (based on Matthew throwing a party, inviting all his very lost friends, but also inviting Jesus).

8. Be straightforward. If the WikiHow list suggests you tell them this is neither the time nor place for such a dialogue, or "I have a strict policy never to discuss religion," consider being equally straightforward. Such as, "If you know anything about the Christian faith, and our belief in not only heaven but hell, how much would I have to hate you not to proselytize?"

The point is that conversations about Jesus lie at the heart of everything we are trying to do on this planet. Yes, we pursue social justice, compassion for the poor, care for the widow and the orphan, and more.

But where someone spends eternity is everything. Which means it's worth a conversation or two.

Comfortable or not.

James Emery White

 

Sources

"How to Avoid Uncomfortable Conversations about Religion," WikiHow, read online.

Clever and True

P.D. James, one of the true masters of crime fiction, died this past Thursday at her home in Oxford, England. She was 94.

Best known for her fourteen Adam Dalgleish mysteries, she also saw her dystopian novel The Children of Men become a major motion picture.

I met Baroness James while studying at Oxford in 2005. She was invited to be a guest lecturer to a select group of students, and I was fortunate enough to be included. She was even gracious enough to inscribe my copy of Death in Holy Orders, one of my favorite Dalgleish tales.

That night she offered an exceptionally engaging commentary on the interplay between her Christian theology and her mysteries. She said she was often asked how she could write about murder as a Christian. Her answer was that she was writing about the human condition, including sin, and murder brought that condition into the clearest of lights.

I recall her saying that she also liked separating fact from fiction. She then added that the world needs such clear thinking, rooted in reflection, and then she went on to say "For there is much in our world that is clever, yet is not true."

In his fourteenth encyclical, Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason), Pope John Paul II expressed dismay that philosophers no longer wrestle with the big questions of life, the questions that most define who we are. What does it all mean? Does life have a purpose? Is death the end? Is there a God? If it is increasingly rare among philosophers, one can only imagine the degree of scarcity among the rest of us.

To reflect means to give thought to something to such a degree that it brings some kind of realization – an "a ha" moment. It takes an idea and lives with it until it is burned deep within. It takes a question and, like Jacob wrestling with the angel, does not let that question go until some form of answer emerges. Christian reflection takes what is read, taught, suggested, announced, and brings it into confrontation with a biblical worldview.

It is thinking Christianly.

It is significant that the Latin word schola, from which we get our words scholar and scholarship, means "free time," joining the importance of fallow time given over to reflection for true intellectual development.

Most think this means time devoted to study; in truth, it means the time to study coupled with the time needed to reflect on what we have studied.

Henri Nouwen insightfully wondered if the fact that so many people ask support, advice and counsel from so many other people is not, in large part, due to their having lost contact with the practice of such reflection. Sometimes one feels, wrote Nouwen, "as if one half of the world is asking advice of the other half while both sides are sitting in the same darkness."

Reflection does more, though, than bring insight. It brings a sensitivity, an awareness of things. It provides penetrating insight, an intuitive assessment of the world that cannot come any other way.

And this is what we lost last week.

Not simply the "Queen of Crime," as she was sometimes called, but one of the great Christian "reflectors." Thankfully, for the rest of us, she then wrote from the overflow of her mind.

Words and ideas that were not only clever,

…but true.

James Emery White

 

Sources

Anita Singh, "PD James, acclaimed detective novelist, dies aged 94," The Telegraph, November 27, 2014, read online.

James Emery White, A Mind for God (InterVarsity Press).

Ralph M. McInerny, A Student's Guide to Philosophy.

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life.

Sinful Leaders

There is only one kind of leader.

"Sinful."

I've often told folks at Meck that a sinner has to lead the church, so I might as well be honest about it, and to make sure they know that's what they've got. To fail to do so would only add "deceit" to my list of sins.

Now, by "sinful" I don't mean disqualifying patterns of public sin. Yet non-disqualifying sin abounds.

Don't get me wrong.

The vast majority of pastors are good people.

Very good people.

They have deep consciences and wrestle with their sins and inadequacies more than anyone needs to point out for their benefit.

But yes, they are sinful.

Which means sinful people have to lead the church. Not formerly sinful, but currently sinful.

So what does that mean for the health and well-being of the church?

Four things come to mind:

1 – You need to be a sinful leader who is continually seeking forgiveness and striving for repentance. The Bible is full of habitual sinners, often in the same areas over and over again, but what marked God's ability to use them tended to be their equally habitual contrition.

2 – You need to be a sinful leader who does not boast about things you have neither achieved nor maintained. Notice my language. Every leader will have to teach biblical truth about virtues they do not maintain. What is key is that there is not the heartbeat of hypocrisy which boasts as if you are above the fray.

3 – You need to be a sinful leader who works diligently to protect your life from the kinds of public sins that would shame the church and hurt her witness. Ask the family of any pastor to name that pastor's sins, and they could. And no pastor would ask that such sins be excused. But what is essential is that the sins of that pastor are not the kind that will find their way into the news. I'm not talking about a cover-up, I'm talking about a wise-up. To be "above reproach" does not mean to be "above sin." It means to live in such a way that you fight the hardest, and are disciplined the most, against the sins that are most prone for public display. And you do it not for the sake of your reputation, but for the sake of the church.

4 – You need to be a sinful leader who knows that it is only by the grace of God you are able to sustain another day of leadership. So you lean on God, depend on God, drink deeply from God. You know you are a sin-stained, sin-soaked person, so you pray like a drowning man to God for rescue. In other words, your sin leaves a deep mark of humility.

So let's recap:

You have a sinful leader.

Pray they are the kind of sinful leader God wants.

James Emery White

Family or Store?

On Halloween, a member of our church's staff came to our door to trick-or-treat with her three kids.

It was their 17th straight year.

Her oldest son is taller than me and stopped dressing up long ago. In fact, he drove the family to our house.

The daughter is probably on her last year (she dressed as Katniss Everdeen – that should be a hint).

The youngest may have a couple more years in him. Tops.

Their mother has been a part of the church for even longer – twenty-two years, to be exact. She was actually at Meck's very first service on October 4, 1992, and was the very first person to become a Christian through our services.

For whatever reason, it made me think of two different ways of viewing a church: a family or a store.

If church is a family, then you relate to it as a son or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister. Deeply biblical ideas, I might add. When the Bible talks about Christian community, these are the metaphors it falls back on.

If a church is a store, then you are nothing more than a consumer. There is a retail outlet and a customer, a provider and a receiver.

It strikes me that these are the two ways that people can view a church.

Family...or store.

If it's a family, they stick with it. Work through it. Stay in it. There are deep blood ties. It's not about what you get, but what you give.

If it's a store, then it's a consumer decision. Who has the best prices? Most convenience? Quickest access?

The great danger, of course, is when churches intentionally posture themselves as "stores" in competition with other "stores". This is not only biblically misguided, it is theologically heretical.

And will not serve in the long run.

Open the front door wide, to be sure, but never fail to remember that who you are at your most foundational level is "family."

And make sure you help people become that family.

James Emery White

Counsel from Thirty Years

Today marks the thirtieth anniversary of my wedding to Susan.

Thirty years.

Long by some counts, short by others.

But a milestone.

So what would someone who has been married thirty years tell others who are more on the front end of things?

Five things came quickly to mind:

1. Marry an authentic follower of Christ. An authentic follower of Christ is not perfect, they are just in a relationship where they are intimate with God through Christ, and Christ is continually being formed in them. I don't ever have to concern myself with Susan's values, much less her truth-source. Most important of all, the deepest parts of our lives – the spiritual parts – are shared. It truly allows two to become one.

2. Marry your best friend. I'll be brutally honest. I don't have many friends. Lots of acquaintances, but few real friends. Susan is my best friend, and there is no one I would rather be with, travel with, talk to…you get the point. Why is this important? As the years go by, it is the friendship that will matter the most.

3. Cherish her. That means you appreciate her, care for her, prioritize her, and make it clear that she is the love of your life. I've seen the failure to do this lead to the demise of countless marriages. It is also at the heart of developing your heart for her. As is often said, you don't feel your way into acting, you act your way into feeling.

4. It's the little things. I'm a morning person. So, every day, I bring coffee to her bedside when I wake her up. Then I go to the gym for my workout. She has an omelette waiting for me when I come back. This.Is.Every.Day. It's special to us both. And over the years, you learn that it's the little things in a relationship that often matter the most.

5. Pray for her. I can't remember when, but one day it came to me: who will pray for Susan if I don't? Lots of people love her, but I am her husband.It's my responsibility to pray for her…daily. So I do. I don't know that I've ever told her that (now she knows). But it's a privilege. When you pray for someone – faithfully, regularly – it makes a difference when you then rise from your knees and (in my case) bring her coffee. You interact with someone differently when you just prayed for them.

There's a lot more I could say.

My wife is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and ever will see.

(She's pretty on the outside, too.)

My wife is the wisest woman I've ever listened to. She is salient and clear, insightful and direct, challenging and gracious. Her intellect stuns me. She doesn't think this of herself, but it's true.

My wife is the kindest woman I've ever met. Genuinely, sincerely, kind. Particularly to me.

My wife is the most child-friendly, child-loving person on the planet. Hands down. It's her sweet-spot, gift, and calling.

And last, but not least, my wife is the most grace-giving person to her husband that I can imagine. I'm a sin-stained, sin-soaked, sinner. No one sees it more than her. Yet she loves me, encourages me, prays for me, forgives me, protects me, defends me, accepts me…

All to say, I married a saint.

My only sadness is that when we get to heaven, I may not see her much. She will be so close to the throne of Jesus that people like me may never get close enough to catch a glimpse.

But I thank God for thirty up-close years on earth.

(Happy anniversary, honeybabe).

James Emery White

Blind Spots

Every organization has them. Even ones that pride themselves on how intentionally they try to avoid them.

Like Meck.

When such areas are exposed, it's a little embarrassing, but also very appreciated.

Our latest expose happened just last week. A friend of mine, Thom Rainer, wrote an article about an informal Twitter survey he conducted on what drove people away as first-time guests.

The number one answer – yes, the number one answer (prepare yourself) – was "stand-and-greet" times.

I kid you not. I'm still shaking my head.

Now granted, as Thom himself notes, it was not a very scientific survey.

But…

Meck is all about first-time guests. And we do a pretty good job at it (over seventy percent of our growth comes from the previously unchurched).

And every week we have a "stand-and-greet" moment! (We actually have called them "seat-and-greet" times because it was done right before sitting down after a time of standing.)

We've done it for years. And to be honest, for as much innovation as we've continually, ruthlessly brought to the weekend services through careful cultural study in terms of missional effectiveness, this one has never been evaluated. It's just seemed such a short and innocuous moment.

But hating it came up more frequently than unsafe/unclean children's areas, a bad website, a bad or boring service…even unfriendly members!

(Which tells you that stand-and-greet has nothing to do with elevating a church's perceived friendliness.)

Here were some of the reasons given for the intense dislike:

1. Many guests are introverts. "I would rather have a root canal than be subjected to a stand and greet time."

2. Some guests perceive the members are not sincere during the time of greeting. "In most of the churches it should be called a stand and fake it time. The members weren't friendly at all except for ninety seconds."

3. Many guests don't like the lack of hygiene that takes place during this time. "Look, I'm not a germaphobe, but that guy wiped his nose right before he shook my hand."

4. Many times the members only greet other members. "I went to one church where no one spoke to me the entire time of greeting. I could tell they were speaking to people they already knew."

5. Both members and guests at some churches perceive the entire exercise as awkward. "Nowhere except churches do we have times that are so awkward and artificial. If members are going to be friendly, they would be friendly at other times as well. They're not."

6. In some churches, the people in the congregation are told to say something silly to one another. "So the pastor told us to tell someone near us that they are good looking. I couldn't find anyone who fit that description, so I left and didn't go back."

7. Not only do some guests dread the stand and greet time, so do some members. "I visited the church and went through the ritual of standing and greeting, but many of the members looked just as uncomfortable as I was. We were all doing a required activity that none of us liked."

Wait. It gets worse. At least for me.

I had never, ever heard even a whisper of discomfort with this part of our service. Not a single first-time guest response card over Meck's twenty-two years of existence had ever conveyed a dislike for those few moments.

So I sent out a quick email to a relatively diverse eight or ten of our staff – just a little sample survey of my own – to get their thoughts on the matter.

Wow.

Every one of them said they hated it.

They all said it was awkward, uncomfortable, and had nothing to do with what makes Meck have such a friendly atmosphere. One even wrote, "I am a complete extrovert and I still find [doing] this odd."

Another wrote, "When I first attended Meck, despite the fact that I had a relationship with Christ, I did not want to approach anyone. I did not want the attention. I wanted to fly under the radar. I intentionally sat in the back, in the furthest corner from other people."

And another added, "I completely agree with this article. It's awkward, artificial, and breaks the flow of the service. I've always dreaded this part of the service when I visited churches…it just seems to make new guests feel like outsiders."

Why hadn't this surfaced before?

Well, isn't that what a "blind spot" is about? Something you don't see? And if you don't sense something, you don't even think about asking about it.

That's why a wide range of reading, continual learning, and an open, humble spirit is critical to the ongoing health and vitality of any enterprise.

So yes, it's official.

No more "stand-and-greet" times at Meck.

Now I'm off to find the next area where I've been near-sighted.

I just hope it's not with the message.

James Emery White

 

Sources

"Should churches have stand-and-greet times?," Thom Rainer, Baptist Press, Tuesday, November 4, 2014, read online