Home Pastors Articles for Pastors The Hidden Danger of the “Next New Thing”

The Hidden Danger of the “Next New Thing”

The iPhone is so last month.

Which means, observed the New York Times, that “it’s been downgraded from the next big thing to merely new.” And these days, “New can seem so yesterday. What matters is what’s next.”

The article then noted how “next” is the go-to buzzword of our day. 

Newsweek’s annual “Who’s Next” issue, intended to run against Time’s Person of the Year issue, prompted Time to start a regular “What’s Next” feature of its own. 

New York magazine had a cover article on home design titled “The Next Next Things,” an update on the title of Michael Lewis’ 1999 book, The New New Thing.

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There are even stores specializing in the “next” through “fast fashion,” such as H & M and Zara, which replace their entire line of clothing every few weeks.

Our preoccupation with “next” has replaced our earlier fascination with “new.” The difference? New is what something is; next suggests a special insight.

Christians can be captivated by “next” as much as anyone.

I know of pastors who joke about a “migratory flow pattern” among Christians in their community who are constantly church hopping to the “next” thing in church life. They move from one church to another, looking for the next hot singles group, the next hot church plant, the next hot speaker, the next hot youth group. Many times, they end up full circle where they began because their original church suddenly became “next.”

Church leaders can succumb to the same temptation, only in terms of church model.

First, it was Willow Creek. Then Saddleback. Then came Hillsong, North Point, and Fellowship. Or perhaps instead of doing it by church name, it was by type: first came seeker-targeted, then purpose-driven, then postmodern, then ancient-future, then emergent, then “simple.” For some, the allure of the next “next” is programmatic, moving from Alpha to KidStuff to…well, you get the picture.

And then there is the latest “youth culture” report that boldly proclaims how radically different the next generation is going to be, and how massive the changes will need to be, if churches will stand a chance at reaching them.

But is the next really “next”?

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.