Worked my way through The Rise of the Nones this week. New from James Emery White, the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church, this is a must read in my opinion. White is an insightful observer of culture and culture shifts and the implications of this particular shift ought to be a front burner conversation for all of us. This is why I included The Rise of the Nones on my 2014 Summer Reading List.
The title refers to the dramatic increase in the percentage of Americans indicating “none” when asked about their religion (A 2012 Pew Forum study titled “Nones on the Rise” indicates that one in five Americans (19.3%) claim no religious identity at all (up from 15% in 2008 and 8% in 1990)). As White points out, “the ‘nones’ are now the fastest growing religious group in America.”
The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated is divided into two parts. The first part “will give you the cultural analysis needed to understand the who, what and why of the rise of the nones.” Part two “is an overview of the new mentality and approach that is needed to connect” with the nones and “not only reach them for Christ but involved them in the life of the church.”
The Rise of the Nones is packed with insights. There is so much here that will play a part in how our ministry approach must be retooled if we want to reach this growing demographic. My copy is pretty marked up as I noticed one insight after another that needs to inform our approach. For example, White notes from the ARIS study, “the largest group, the religiously indifferent, ‘neither care to practice religion or oppose it. They are simply not invested in religion either way.'”
Along with being jam packed with insights, every chapter includes a set of questions that can be used by groups seeking a better understanding of the implications.
I can see The Rise of the Nones being read by church staffs as well as ministry teams within a staff. In all honesty, I don’t think these findings can be ignored. This book ought to be next up on your reading list. It will probably alarm you…but it will also prompt you to set in motion a plan to reach this rapidly growing demographic slice. I came away with many valuable insights that will shape the way my ministry operates. I think The Rise of the Nones will have that influence on you too.