Friday Fives: The Top Five Google Searches in 2013

If you’ve been spending any time with leaderhelps, you know I think that Biblical preaching and teaching should grip tightly to the pure uncompromised Truth of Scripture (challenging or not) and should be relevant to the people to whom it is preached. The implication is that an understanding of culture should inform the message without being allowed to in any way twist the Biblical canon in the interest of tolerance, seeker sensitivity or entertainment.

That cultural relevance is the reason for the December 27, 2013 Friday Fives.

Want Biblical text?

2 Timothy 3:1-4

You must understand this: In the last days there will be violent periods of time. People will be selfish and love money. They will brag, be arrogant, and use abusive language. They will curse their parents, show no gratitude, have no respect for what is holy, and lack normal affection for their families. They will refuse to make peace with anyone. They will be slanderous, lack self-control, be brutal, and have no love for what is good. They will be traitors. They will be reckless and conceited. They will love pleasure rather than God…

Paul’s resolution to this scenario, which sounds strikingly familiar?

Teach the Truth.

So, this Friday Fives presents a resource for understanding something about our culture by looking at the most searched terms on Google (according to Google) in 2013. The focus is on those terms searched in the United States rather than internationally. If you’re curious, the top five international searches appear at the end of the post.

#5 The Royal Baby

July 22 of this year, George Alexander Louis was born to The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, and her husband, Prince Williams. Baby George is third in line to the British throne behind his grandfather, Prince Charles, and his dad.

What’s noteworthy for me is the clash of tradition and contemporary culture.

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It is traditional for the announcement of a royal pregnancy of such stature to be given to the Queen first, followed by an extended period before a public pronouncement. (Princess Diana’s first pregnancy wasn’t announced until more than a month after the Queen was informed.)

But the media explosion has changed all that. Buckingham Palace knew that the public’s ravenous hunger for celebrity information combined with the power and lightening-like immediacy of the Internet would force a change in long held tradition.

So, William and Kate announced the pregnancy on their website not long after the Queen was informed.

But that wasn’t the only break with tradition related to the pregnancy, as CNN noted.

Catherine’s pregnancy could turn out to be one of the most significant in the history of the British royal family, for the child will accede to the throne even if she is a girl. The child will not be subject to the centuries old law of primogeniture, which puts male heirs ahead of women. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron has agreed a deal to change the rules on the royal line of succession, which means male heirs will no longer be given priority.

#4 Moore, Oklahoma Tornado

If there are two themes that are most prevalent in Internet searches they are, 1) Tragedy and, 2) Celebrity. I imagine volumes have and will be written about what that says about the culture in which we are teaching, preaching and leading.

On May 20, an F5 (the strongest classification) tornado, part of a unstable weather system that covered the Midwest, struck Moore, Oklahoma. The mile-wide twister had winds over 200 miles per hour and was responsible for killing 24 people and injuring 377 more.

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Tragedies such as this call church leaders into action on two fronts. First, our churches must be among the first responders to help those in need. The church our family attends is always quick to send people and help to impacted areas and always engages with denominational efforts.

We as leaders must also have a ready response to the question: If there is a loving God, why does he allow these natural disasters? We are not called to answer the question, but to respond, ready to help people work through pain and confusion with Biblical truth. I hope seminary apologetics classes are training students faithful to be ready.

See texts such as this for more exploration.

#3 Miley Cyrus at the 2013 Video Music Awards

It’s too easy to thumb our noses at Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke’s performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. Cyrus’ “twerking” that caused such a stir is both disgusting and sad. (I won’t link to the video here, but you can imagine it’s very easy to access.) It’s a nausea-inducing symptom of what our culture has become.

So, what are we going to do about it?

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show

That’s the question.

For even if you believe Cyrus and Thicke are beyond salvation – and I certainly hope you don’t – it matters how the church is prepared to understand, love and lead the 12-24 year-olds watching that night (and then over and over again on YouTube). What is it about that audience that drives MTV to provide that kind of entertainment – knowing it’s good business – and how should the church be reaching that same audience with the Gospel?

I’m old, but I don’t ever want to be guilty of dismissing an entire generation and shaking my head, lamenting, “these kids today.”

Are you “mature” enough to remember how parents viewed Elvis’ gyrations or the Beatles’ rebellious spirit? I think we as leaders and preachers should work to understand this trend and address it with uncompromising strength and clarity. Ultimately, address it with Jesus.

This cultural battle calls for a two-edged sword.

#2 Government Shutdown

One distinctive difference between those in the Baby Boom Generation and their Millennial Generation children and grandchildren is that the latter have largely lost trust in the institutions that purport to lead and care for them. One such institution is the government (and, before we get too confident, another is the church).

That mistrust was no doubt exacerbated from October 1 through 16, when the federal government slowed many operations and shut down some when Congress didn’t pass funding (or, more accurately, borrowing) legislation or, at least, some interim action.

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The 15-day period provided a focal point of discussion for all that is seen as wrong with our government, from the swirling issues concerning health care to what some see as repressive levels of taxation to a lack of effective leadership government-wide. It isn’t just our president who is receiving historically low approval ratings.

The issues are multiple, of course for church leaders, starting with the New Testament presence of Romans 13 and the challenge church leaders face regarding just how “political” to be from their pulpits. Pastors and lay leaders who are vocal conservative Republicans run the risk of alienating parts of their congregations while those who are open liberal Democrats are faced with a conflict as it regards social issues such as abortion and the legal recognition of homosexual unions.

No matter what the government does or doesn’t do, however, church leaders are called to be pastoral before they are political, loving Jesus passionately, as my pastor says, and leading the way even in, especially in hard times.

#1 Boston Marathon Bombing

April 15 two bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two suspects were identified as brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The men later killed an MIT police officer. They initiated an exchange of gunfire with the police in Watertown, Massachusetts. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot by police, run over by his brother, and died. Dzhokhar was captured hiding in a boat 4 days later.

The bombs killed 3 people and injured 300 others.

Dzhokhar told the FBI that his brother had planned the terrorist act and that they were motivated by Islamic beliefs and learned to build the pressure cooker bombs online from an al-Qaeda cell in Yemen.

The Boston Marathon Bombing helped fuel the fire of fear in our nation, which had been initially set by the 9/11 terrorists attacks and has been smoldering ever since. It also reinforced the importance of church leaders reminding their congregations that God (and only God) is supremely trustworthy, skillfully teaching such texts as 2 Timothy 1:7, Proverbs 3:5-7, Matthew 8:23-27, etc..


The top five searches internationally were:

5. Harlem Shake
4. Cory Monteith
3. iPhone 5S
2. Paul Walker
1. Nelson Mandela