Churches are shrinking and the Nones are rising, so claims James Emery White in The Rise of the Nones. What kind of evangelism will close some of this gap? Maybe this is the best question: How has the church lost contact with the current young adults so that there is such a concentration of Nones today?
White proposes the old-time evangelism of declaration or even community is giving way to cause. But is there more than joining in concern about causes? He proposes a new grid of emphases:
Grace and truth, but with a tilt always toward grace.
The development of a Christian mind in the tradition of CS Lewis’ mere Christianity.
The importance of unity — but he proposes that unity needs to be understood because many think churches have too many problems. So what about unity? The problem is that many understand unity as:
Uniformity: everyone looking and thinking alike.
Unanimity: when everyone has complete agreement on all sorts of things.
Unity is designed to be relational unity: kind to one another, gracious, forgiving … to love one another well is to dwell in the kind of unity God wants for us.
Products have low love, low respect; Brands have low love and high respect; Fads have high love and low respect; while Lovemarks have high love and high respect (he’s using Kevin Roberts here).
So White proposes churches need an open front door (and my friend Randy Frazee [ask him about golf sometime] proposed this at one time), but he sees the following elements as important for those who want to minister to Nones: friendliness, concern for children, music, building matters, and the importance of the visual. There will be some cynics asserting themselves here, but White is concerned with both evangelizing the Nones and creating a flourishing church, and that means from first meeting to discipleship and beyond. I know of no flourishing, growing, dynamic churches that do not concern themselves with these or similar things.
I’d like to see more emphasis on fellowship and diversity and instruction — and worship and formation. But I’ve appreciated the concerns of White and the need for the church to repent from its distance from the Nones and an intentional commitment to love the Nones.