James Emery White
Baker Books, 2014, paper, 221 pp., $12.68

In a nation where religious affiliation has been a pervasive element of the culture for many years, a disturbing trend is taking place: The fastest-growing response in national surveys of religious preference is “none.” In fact, one out of every five persons in the United States now claims no religious affiliation or church connection.

James Emery White is founding pastor of a church which has grown dramatically through reaching young adults who are unchurched. In fact, 70 percent of his attendees previously were unchurched. In Rise of the Nones, White examines the reasons this group is growing rapidly, and he offers sound counsel to church leaders with a heart to reach them.

In the first part of the book, White explores the nones—who they are and why their numbers are exploding. In the process, he describes the cultural shifts that have taken place in contemporary American life and the actual views held by the religiously unaffiliated. For example: “the unaffiliated tend to believe there is a lot of truth to go around. There isn’t just one truth out there, there are multiple truths.” The result is “that actual facts don’t matter. What matters is how you feel, for you as an individual are the final arbiter of truth…We are not only to discern truth for ourselves from the facts at hand, but also to create truth for ourselves despite the facts at hand.”

In the second part of the book, White describes the “new mentality and approach” that is going to be required if churches are to reach the nones for Christ and involve them in the life of the church. One major concern, he explains, is that churches tend to aim at the wrong target when they think about growth. Most are satisfied with biological growth (having babies) and transfer growth (shifting churches), even prodigal growth (re-engaging someone who had been in the church but left for a time), when the urgent need is conversion growth (reaching those who never have had a commitment to Christ).

If this is to happen, White insists, “existing Christians must die to themselves for the sake of the cause. No longer can the mission be about us—it must be about those who have yet to darken our doorsteps.” That means rethinking how most of us do church: “The mission cannot be simply to keep Christians happy and growing [or] about attempting to lure believers from other churches by having glitzier services and better programs. Our mission will actually have to target the nones.”

Reaching them won’t mean simply offering better music and a cup of Starbucks—they already can have those on their own terms. White points out that, “The vast majority of those who are unchurched are not actively seeking a church home. Further, they are divorced from seeing it as a need in their lives, even when they are open to and interested in spiritual things…If anything, they are anti-church.”

Reaching the nones, White argues, will require us to rethink evangelism, recognize the power of cause in the lives of emerging generations, understand the power of grace, and re-evaluate how we think about apologetics. He helps us understand ways that our churches must adapt if they are to connect with the nones by adopting an atmosphere of acceptance.

Rise of the Nones is packed with insights that can help churches reach and connect with unchurched people—if they are willing to step out of their own comfort zones. If you are a pastor or church leader, this is a book you need to read.

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About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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In a nation where religious affiliation has been a pervasive element of the culture for many years, a disturbing trend is taking place: The fastest-growing response in national surveys of religious preference is none. In fact, one out of every five persons in the United States now claims no religious affiliation or church connection. James Emery White is founding pastor of a church that has grown dramatically through reaching young adults who are unchurched. In fact, 70 percent of his attendees previously were unchurched. In Rise of the Nones (Baker Books), White examines the reasons this group is growing rapidly and offers sound counsel to church leaders with hearts to reach them.

Share This On:

About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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