Some of the staff at Central is reading James Emery White’s book The Rise of the Nones. It’s referring to the growing number of people in America who claim no religious affiliation, and not the group of ladies who take a vow of celibacy and commit themselves to the Catholic church. Specifically, White says that “The real mark of a none is not the rejection of God but the rejection of any specific religion.” This book is similar in content to my previously reviewed book The Great Evangelical Recession. The spiritual landscape in America is changing dramatically. We need to see it for what it is and realize that something new is now called for. We must realize that the kingdom of God is emerging in profound new ways and that we need to see ourselves as missionaries to the people in America from this point on.
Here are some of my favorite parts of the book:
To put this in perspective, consider that the number of nones in the 1930s and â€™40s hovered around 5 percent. By 1990 that number had only risen to 8 percent, a mere 3 percent rise in over half a century. Between 1990 and 2008â€”just eighteen yearsâ€”the number of nones leaped from 8.1 percent to 15 percent. Then, in just four short years, it climbed to 20 percent, representing one of every five Americans.
Types of Church Growth
- Biological Growth: when a child of existing believers with ties to a church comes to faith in Christ through his or her involvement in the church; aka winning your own
- Transfer Growth: when a Christian moves into an area and chooses to join a church, or when a locally churched Christian decides to move to another church home; aka sheep swapping
- Prodigal Growth: when someone who previously embraced Christian beliefs but then lived their life outside of Christâ€™s leadership, returns to the church
- Conversion Growth: when the church grows by reaching a person who has not entered into a life-changing, personal relationship with Christ as Savior and Lord
Three Tasks of a Good Missionary
- Learn the language: educate yourself on how to talk in a way that people can understand and to which they can relate and eventually respond
- Study the culture: become so sensitized to that culture that you can operate effectively within it
- Translate the gospel: translate it into its own cultural context so that it can be heard, understood, and appropriated
As a guy who feels uniquely called to personally invest in the American church (while also supporting the global church), it was eye opening to read that,
One dynamic that clearly tempers the results is that this trend is only an American phenomenon, not a global one. After a century-long decline, global religious affiliation is now on the rise, with Africa and China experiencing the most dramatic religious change.
To any of us serving and pouring ourselves out for the church in America this book is yet another reminder that more of the same won’t bring the Kingdom of God as it’s needed. It’s time for a new conversation.