Leaderhelps Five: What 2015’s Top Five Google Searches Might Teach Church Leaders

This edition of Leaderhelps Five presents the top five Google searches for 2015. I thought pastors, lay leaders or small group leaders might use the list for possible work on sermon illustrations or perhaps in your research for writing or speaking on cultural context. I do think the list is very telling about the culture into which the Gospel is being preached.

#5 Ronda Rousey

The Story: Did you know that Rousey, who is a mixed martial artist and former Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight champion, was named in an ESPN poll as the greatest female athlete ever? Ever. Seriously. Better than Serena Williams, better than Florence Griffith Joyner. Better than Babe Didrikson Zaharias for goodness sake. While I think ESPN is probably jumping the gun a tad, it does reflect Rousey’s very successful marketing and promotional team, as does her presence on this list. She is taking full advantage of America’s rampant culture of celebrity and the unwritten rule that we believe what we’re sold. (See also items #4 and #1 on this list.) She also claims to be the highest paid UFC athlete, male or female.


#4 Bruce Jenner

The Story: I asked a group of pastors recently the word they use to describe former Olympic decathlete Bruce Jenner’s gender switch. The word that came up most often was “sad.” But describe the change as you will, Bruce’s change to Caitlyn (The search term that came in at #4 was “Caitlyn Jenner.”) certainly grabbed attention in America and was the 4th most searched term on Google in 2015. It was searched more often than “Paris” or “Pope,” “Barack Obama,” “Princess Charlotte” or “Donald Trump.” I’m not certain exactly what it says about our culture, but, whatever it is, it says it loudly.

Jul 1976: Bruce Jenner of the USA celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Mandatory Credit: Tony Duffy /Allsport

July 1976: Bruce Jenner of the USA celebrates during his record setting performance in the decathlon in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Canada. Tony Duffy /Allsport

 #3 American Sniper

The Story: The third most searched term in 2015 is also the most successful war movie in history, and the number one movie of in the United States in 2014, grossing $350 million in America. It’s the movie that tells the story of Chris Kyle and is based on the 2012 book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. Think about what it might mean that both Bruce “Caitlyn” Jenner and American Sniper appear on this particular list. Now there’s a picture of the complex and varied nature of American culture and the idea of celebrity.

#2 Jurassic World

The Story: Another film finds it’s way on the list, this time in second place. The fourth in the Jurassic Park series, Jurassic World was the number one movie of 2015 (and third highest-grossing film in history), at least prior to the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which you may have heard of. That movie is doing OK for itself and may actually make this list next year.

#1 Lamar Odom

The Story: Sadly, Lamar Odom, the most searched term in 2015, seems to represent the worst of American celebrity. Odom started as a legitimate athlete. He was the 4th overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 1999 NBA Draft out of the University of Rhode Island. He had a solid, if not stellar 14-year NBA career with multiple teams. But along the way, Odom got hitched to the Kardashian bandwagon, marrying Khloe Kardashian and becoming a reality television fixture. So, one journalist said it was almost predictable that, on October 13, 2015, Odom was discovered unconscious at a house of prostitution in Nevada. After awaking from a coma, his recovery has been reported as “slow”.


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