Friday, June 6, 2014

In new book, Charlotte pastor calls for reaching out to 'nones'

By now, you’ve probably heard of the “nones,” that 20 percent of the U.S. population – and a third of adults under 30 – who have no religious affiliation.

It’s a rapidly growing group that has zoomed past the Baptists (about 17 percent of the population) and is nipping at the heels of the Catholics (23 percent).

The faith community’s reaction to this trend? Some are alarmed, others are in denial, and still others see it as an opportunity.

Pastor James Emery White of Mecklenburg Community Church is in that third category. He argues in a new book – his 20th – that Christian churches committed to following Jesus’ call to spread the Gospel must connect with these nones.

He said he’s been doing it for years: “Meck,” which he founded in 1992, has been a kind of “living laboratory” on how to woo the unchurched.

His non-denominational evangelical church and its satellite sites – all in north Mecklenburg – have about 10,000 active attendees. And 70 percent of its growth, he said, comes from people who had not been active in another church.

In his book – “The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated” – White urges churches to step outside the “Christian subculture.”

“The mission cannot be simply to keep Christians happy and growing,” he writes. “Nor can it be about attempting to lure believers from other churches by having glitzier services and better programs. Our mission will actually have to target the nones.”

White acknowledges that this will not be easy because most nones don’t really want to be targeted by churches.

White compares most churches to airlines trying to get fliers to switch from, say, USAir to Southwest Airlines with a cheaper fare. But with the nones, he told me, “we’re trying to get people who don’t want to fly. And that’s hard.”

So how does White propose to turn them into church-going followers of Christ?

First, understand who they are. Drilling down into the data, White found that the typical none is not atheist or agnostic. Two-thirds believe in God. They just think churches are too focused on money, power, rules and politics.

“They’re the classic ‘I’m spiritual, but not religious’ person,” said White, 52, who didn’t become a Christian until he was 20. “They love to hear things explained. They have great questions (about religion) that are so legitimate. And for whatever reason, they’ve never been answered.”

White’s next step: Try to answer those questions. Not by watering down the Bible’s vision, but by making a positive case for it.

Finally, he said, focus on love, not condemnation. “It’s how you say what you say. It’s being able to enter into dialogue, where people feel talked with, not talked at.”

-- Tim Funk


Anonymous said...

Or perhaps I was 'of a religious faith' and walked away because of the hypocrisy, lies and outright discrimination against anyone who doesn't share your particular superstition.

Don't come visit, 'reach-out', preach or anything else to me. I got enough of your mental and emotional abuse years ago.

Anonymous said...

There's a very good reason we're nones and why we're really, really not interested in your proselytizing here in Charlotte "where do y'all go to church?" N.C.

You're a disgrace with your megacampusmultisatellite hokum and your membership that bundles up guns, gays and gummint in a seething cauldron of hate-all the while snagging tax-exempt status from the gummint for all your megachurchmultisatellitecampus blather.

Religion is what's wrong with planet earth. It is the scourge of humanity. You are its mongers.

So go away, stay away and take that furtive fellow and that gay-hating, blow-dried buffoon on Davidson Street with you.

Marconi Polonius said...

Well,we know where the two commenters above are going after they die.....

Anonymous said...

Personally I am a none because I cannot find in the bible anywhere that it says I need to be affiliated with a church building. We all need to get out of the building and into the kingdom. Jesus was not in a building, he lived his life in the street. Teaching people how to live life with an awareness of Christ at the forefront of all that you do and all that ou are. Being led by the Spirit to me does not mean get up on Sunday morning and go to a building for 2 hours, maybe attend a life study home group during the week and the rest of the time enjoy my life, irrespective of what others around me are really delaing with on a regular basis. That is how I see church and I was raised in one all of my life. It did nothing for me but teach me discipine to a "man" in the pulpit and a culture where we were so "happy" to see each other every Sunday, hug hug kiss kiss, great to see you, listen to the word and every body go their merry way until next week. I saw no change in peoples lives, just fakeness, no body even knew if the person beside them was suffering and neither did they care. In order to reach the "nones" in my opinion, you will need ot begin to see people, church and life from the perspective of Jesus who had no where to lay his head, lived in the streets, hung out with the unlovely and unlucky and was not building bigger satelites to get more money and a bigger house and car. The reason you cant reach these kids is because they watched this process NOT work for their parents who went to "church" every sunday, followed that culture and still struggled, and are struggling, no change came about by spending all those years catering to that building or that man or that religion. These kids now a days are realist. If it don't work, they aint doin it. They don't have time to waste. When they see you out in the street, livin like they live, workin like they work, lovin like they love and keepin it real, caring for them, despite where they are or where they have been, not judging, but accepting in spite of, opening up your home and your heart for their needs and not your own...That is when you will see the "nones" as you call them turn to Christ. What you want is the "nones" to turn to you and your church culture. I don't care how many books you write about it, until your eyes are opened to the reality of Christs perspective on people and awareness of where these people really are and what they need, you will NEVER see a change....Listen to the words of the song "Jesus, friend of Sinners" I mean really listen to the words and begin to live like that. That is what the "nones" need to see and hear and until that happens, you will not reach them....SELAH

par said...

For the "NONES" above. True Christianity is a relationship with God, not rules and regulations of a denomination. That is the reason for the growth of the evangelical Non-denominational Church. Before you criticize, give it a try. The bible is explicit about congregating as a church body, for encouragement, support and faith building.

Anonymous said...

I am proudly a "None". Why must the church label everyone. I tried Meck Comm Church under White and it convinced me to forever be a "None". Thank you for the lesson.

Anonymous said...

"Churchfolk" need to understand that "nones" see them as solicitors who call at dinner. I know where you are (hard to miss some of these 'temples') and what you're about and I don't want it. When (if) I do, I'll come to you. Otherwise, keep your cult to yourself.

Oh, and please spare us the self-righteous "Well, we know where you're going when you die" prattle. You don't KNOW what happens after someone dies, you just HOPE you do.

Anonymous said...

As a none, I have to admit that in a place like Charlotte it would easier to not be a none where people name drop their god all the time as if they somehow get credit in a heaven ledger of sorts for name dropping.

There could be a lot of armchair commentating on why I am a none. I was an active person in my faith from early school through adulthood so perhaps I just am a none as a fad?

I witnessed a lot of abuse by religion in my life (some personal) so maybe I am a none because of misguided resentment?

I consider myself pretty intelligent so maybe I am a none because I am embarrassed to be a follower of something that seems on the surface anti-intellectual?

I am a liberal democrat so maybe I am a none because I dislike how the conservative moment has co-opted religion for political purposes?

All of these things could be a factor I suppose. But none of them are the reason.

In the end - the real reason I am a none is simply because I believe. I believe that there is no omnipotent being. I believe there is no heaven or hell. I believe there is no god and there is no devil.

Last thing? I believe even the term "none" is misnomer meant to minimize all the vast amount of beliefs that I, and others like me, have and treasure.

Anonymous said...

Just have a quick question? Who calls somebody a "None" and then expects that person to want to be a part of anything that you have to offer, Im just wondering if anyone else sees anything wrong with this? Are we that way off as a society and as "christians" especially that we don't even see anything wrong with that "Title". The definition of "NONE" according to the Webster dictionary is: Nothing, Not any such thing or person, Nobody, No One. Soooo let me just ask, if someone labeled you as that, would you necessarily rush to be a part of anything that person had to offer. Yes I am a None, Yes I have visited this church a few times before as well as Furticks megaopolis. However if that is the definition of what being a "Someone" looks like and feels like, I choose to remain a NONE. Thanks for the offer. And by the way...I am Somebody to the Christ that I serve and HE would Never Label me as a NONE....IJS

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Wow...really taken aback by the bitterness present in many of these posts. I just don't think the article warranted it. To have over 70% your growth from the unchurched tells me they must be doing something right. And as for why call them the "nones" is because that's the self-designation used in all the surveys. He didn't create it, he's reporting on it. Finally, as for the house, really, a $400K listing for a house that was built back in the 80's or 90's and clearly got to its current value through market appreciation isn't a scandal. You get that range in mainstream neighborhoods from Highland Creek to Skybrook. This isn't a "mansion", or even grandiose, by any stretch of the imagination. So, I think some people need to take a deep breath and chill.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

As an obserever of the church scene in Charlotte for a while, whether it's your cup of tea or not, Meck and its leadership are class acts and a model of integrity and passion for the unchurched for many churches. I grieve over the comment or two made by those who say that Meck did not make a dent in their spiritual life. I hope and pray someone, or some church, will. But perhaps the greater story is the (obvious) thousands who would say that it changed their life completely. Keep it up, Meck!

Archiguy said...

There are many people who are "nones" because they're rightly horrified at how Big Christianity has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the Republican Party, complete with all the virulent anti-gay, anti-immigrant, anti-science, anti-choice, anti-poor, anti-government rubbish that the GOP stands for these days.

When a young person looks at religion these days, that's what he sees. Just look at Rev. Mark Harris or Franklin Graham and all the regressive political garbage they stand for. It's about as far from the teachings of Christ as you can get, yet they call themselves men of God. I'm pretty sure God would differ.

Good grief, who would want to join a movement that has guys like that as it's leaders?

When Christianity purges itself of the homophobes, bigots, and self-righteous hypocrites that populate its ranks, and stops being a willing platform for every nasty, anti-populist, regressive position that oozes out of the national Republican Party, perhaps more young people will find it an attractive alternative to sane and rational secularism. I'm not holding my breath.

Anonymous said...

Such anger and vitriol coming from the "nones" on here. I've lived next to Christians and next to "nones" and I'll always choose to have a Christian for a neighbor. The "nones" like to claim it is about tolerance and politics and so on, but they are far more intolerant, far more committed to Democrat liberalism, far angrier than in Christian I've ever met. Perhaps there's a co-relation between the angry/intolerance and being a "none"?

Anonymous said...

As someone who has selected "none" as my religious affiliation for years I find no fault in this article. I appreciate Whites sincerity whether I agree or not.

Anonymous said...

I would be classified as a “none.” I am also a gay man. I am attending Meck and recently asked to meet with Dr. White one-on-one, and it was immediately arranged (mega-church that!). I cannot begin to tell you how refreshing my time with him was. No, he did not condone my lifestyle, but I felt radically accepted and understood. I am attending and exploring, and at Meck, that is legal. Not just legal, but endorsed. My sexual orientation does not seem as important, at least now, as my relationship with Christ. Thank you! Afterward, it seems, we can sort out the sexual side of things. I’m okay with that. My life is more than an orgasm. But I will say this: Meck is an amazing place that allows someone like me to attend and home. I despise the vitriol in many of the comments above, particularly those that take aim at Dr. White (who doesn’t deserve it) as they do not reflect my experience. Even more, I hate the seeming “ignorance” displayed of what happens at Meck week-in, and week-out. It’s pure grace and truth. I’m dealing with the truth side of things, but I’m getting it. As a card-carrying (for now) “none,” not to mention a gay man, I can only tell you that Meck is great and is helping me sort out what Jesus can mean to my life.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of the 70%. I couldn't be more grateful for the authentic pursuit of Christianity that I've found at Meck or the integrity of its leadership, beginning with Jim White. I know my previous church experiences used to result in the same kind of negativity as posted in some of the comments above. But I am grateful that my anger, disillusionment and questions led me to Meck under the teaching Of Jim White. I'm grateful for the patience, safety and sincere concern for my spiritual life that has resulted in radical life change for me and many of my friends.

Anonymous said...

I have attended Meck for years. While no place is perfect, Jim White leads wih passion and integrity and the church is a safe place to explore spiritual things for your life. That's what I did and it changed my life in ways I didn't think it needed changing. Thank you Meck and Jim White - this former "none" will
Never be the same and I'm grateful.

David Wooten said...

To all the "nones," I'd like to apologize and ask your forgiveness for our ham-fisted and awkward attempts to drag you into the Kingdom. Too often, our pushy proselytizing is based on guilt or pride; guilt because we've kept it to ourselves, pride because we're such great people, how could you not want to join us? Here's the deal: my life has been permanently, radically altered by a relationship with the Creator of the universe. He loves you more than you can imagine, and He knows everything about you. He wants you to get to know Him so you can share this life on Earth and what comes after. "Then why do bad things happen to good people," you ask? "Your God is incompetent or uncaring to allow this suffering," you say. God does not wave His magic wand and make my troubles vanish. He loves me too much, knowing that would create a spiritual brat of a child. What He does promise is to go with me through this life, to be the dad in a fatherless household, the comforter at every graveside. He wants to do this for you, if you will open your heart to Him. I urge you to consider Jesus and His love. Thanks for reading.

Anonymous said...

To Meck Church and Jim White - thank you! My life has been changed because of the way you are reaching out with the message of Christ. I didn't think I needed that & I only came to Meck because a friend invited me. I found a safe place to explore & a Christian leader with brains, heart and integrity - how refreshing! Keep it up Meck - this "none" is very grateful you do what you do!

Samuel Chapman, Jr said...

There are "Nones" because the fog is lifting over the human population and the youth are seeing more clearly now. They're seeing that the emperor has no clothes--that there is no god. Some of the Nones are farther along the path than others but it's a fairly one-way direction that leads to reality. Religion has played a significant part in the evolution of human kind, but like the appendix, it's shriveling up into a useless worm-shaped organ that can cause significant damage when at it's worst.

Anonymous said...

Very sad. I heard the same thing from a friend tonight. Hope you find a loving place to worship God. Keep looking and know that He is always there in the midst of all of the above! Peace be with you.

Anonymous said...

" But with the nones, he told me, “we’re trying to get people who don’t want to fly. And that’s hard.”

The religious folks among us can't HELP but be condescending twits, can they?

Even when they are supposedly trying to "dialogue" with the "unchurched".

As a proud "none", adding religion to my life would be like trading in my Ferrari for a horse and buggy, bud.