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Asking Five Whys

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Monday, September 6, 2021

Asking Five Whys

Jim Collins – one of the best thinkers on all things business, organization and leadership – has suggested that to really get to the heart of your purpose, you should ask at least five sequential “why” questions.

In other words, posit what it is you do, such as, “I own and operate a gas station.” Then ask yourself “why?” And then, with each and every answer, ask yourself “why” again… and again. At least five times. 

Or as Collins suggests, “... start with the statement, ‘We make X products’ and then ask ‘why’ five times… After five whys, you’ll find that you’re getting to the fundamental purpose of the business.”

Have you ever done this with the church?

Let’s give it a try.

Instead of “We make X products,” let’s start off with “We are building a church.”

1. Why?

To engage the cause of Christ.

2. Why?

The world needs Jesus.

3. Why?

People are dead in their sin and face an eternity in hell.

4. Why?

They have not entered into a relationship with God through the cross work of Jesus.

5. Why?

They haven’t been told or they don’t know how.

So the purpose of the church?

There are many answers, and the most theologically rounded would be the five-fold answer of worship, ministry, evangelism, community and discipleship.

But if you want to keep drilling down through the five whys and move from answering purpose to getting laser sharp on mission?

It’s telling them.

James Emery White


Jim Collins and Bill Lazier, BE 2.0: Turning Your Business into an Enduring Great Company.

About the Author

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 latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, 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 TwitterFacebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.