A full house of church leaders, academic thinkers, and students from across the nation are taking a look at the serious times of the church and culture as they are today. The first annual Serious Times Church and Culture Conference opened Thursday in North Carolina to help Christians understand the time and become a change-agent in outreach.
Based off of the 2004 publication Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day by Dr. James Emery White, senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., the conference takes a unique approach beyond church leadership and growth to offer the latest analysis on culture and the mergence of faith and life.
"We are, in [an] unprecedented way, already in a truly secular culture," said White in an interview with Breakpoint a program of The Wilberforce Forum, a division of Prison Fellowship. "I think we are also at that stage that Christians seem to have lost their voice.
"...and culture has not changed."
While many books stop at just a look at culture, Serious Times attempts to also engage Christians not only in the time but also in the serious life that should flow from it.
Glynn Goble with Serious Times said the culture today is without God or Christian influence.
"It's about going out into the world instead of waiting for them to come to us," she commented.
A critical part of becoming a change-agent of culture is aligning with the Church, which White noted has probably been the weakest among evangelicals. A recent survey by The Barna Group found a large group of unchurched Christians. The study reported that 34 percent of the adult population has not attended church yet a majority of them say they are committed to the Christian faith.
White, however, called the local church the "outpost" for Christians to change the world and aligning with the Church is one factor Evangelicals need to focus on in order to understand the times.
The inaugural three-day conference, which ends Saturday, is featuring such speakers as Charles Colson, founder and chairman of Prison Fellowship; Kelly Monroe Kullberg, founder and director of project development of The Veritas Forum; and the author himself.
Serious Times Church and Culture Conference is sponsored by Intervarsity Press, publisher of White's book, and Mecklenburg Community Church. A special concert will be held Friday night with guest artist Jill Phillips.