The effective discipleship of our kids means they have to listen to and trust us. Pastor or parent, relational equity is non-negotiable. Creating that relationship starts with understanding how current cultural trends affect our kids and how they affect our ability to disciple them. It sure seems like a lot is spiraling out of control these days, but I wanted to drill down to just five. These, I believe, are the most significant drivers and contain the most considerable amount of influence.
Deconstruction of History
If you’re like me, you might be wondering why in the world are we suddenly obsessed with the removal of statues with almost no regard for who these individuals were, what they did, and what the statues represent.
In part, it is a complete misunderstanding of history. But it’s also an attempt to deconstruct history. But the old adage is true, that if you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it. Yet so many young Americans feel it is fundamentally necessary to not only tear down our history but actively forget it—all because they feel moving forward into the future requires the removal of the past. History is not just important. It’s critical. Even if it is ugly and we would rather forget it. That’s how we move forward.
What does this mean for discipleship? The story of the gospel is written as a part of history. Read the Old Testament, and it won’t take long to get lost in the countless failures of God’s chosen people. The sins of the people are recorded right along with moments of perfect righteousness. Why? Because history reminds us of our victories and our failures. But most of all, it reminds us of our need for Jesus and his saving grace.
The Obsession with Socialism
Everyone on equal footing, free stuff for everyone, the elimination of unfair wealth, and the government taking care of us. Sounds like a good idea. I even hear many Christian students refer to Jesus as a socialist. Well, that’s just not even close to true—for a variety of reasons. And I think a plain and honest reading of the Bible ought to make that clear.
But what sounds like a good idea, quickly leaps off a cliff to its own doom. Students believe that socialism represents some kind of utopic ideal. I dare you to name one country or culture, run by socialism, that is somehow the perfect utopia. Exactly. Not one. We should all applaud students in their desire for things like economic equality and the right to be equally educated–it shows they care about the wellbeing of others. Wouldn’t that be great? Everyone on equal footing with an equal chance to succeed. Maybe they started reading The Giver, but never got to the end. What they neglect to realize and take into consideration is that people are inherently sinful. The only utopic system is the literal kingdom of heaven. That, of course, won’t happen until Jesus comes back.
What does this mean for discipleship? Our missional mandate is not to try and attach Jesus to our idealistic notion of how culture ought to be—according to us. Instead, Jesus calls us to create a culture that best represents his kingdom.
The Conversation Surrounding Racism
One of the things I love most about GenZ is their demand for diversity. It’s expected. Anything less is to be rejected. But it’s how we strive for that kind of diversity and equality that matters. I am always amazed at how many young Christians demand a fix for the world’s racism, but their fix never seems to include the gospel.
We need to remind students that until Jesus returns, hate will always exist. Meaning racism will exist. No, that doesn’t mean we do nothing and just accept the status quo. It means that no policy, legislation, protest, or reform will ever be enough without the power of the gospel driving it. The only thing that removes hate is love—the love that is rooted in the gospel.
What does this mean for discipleship? The conversation surrounding racism is critical and entirely worth engaging in. But ending racism must start with Jesus. He is our picture of love, and the only way we can truly remove the hate people can have for one another.
Our Inability to Disagree
Growing up, I was taught how to disagree. Many of those lessons came as a result of me being wrong, thinking I was right—only to discover otherwise. It required recurring tests of humility to learn those lessons. We had to learn not only to articulate our position well but also to listen carefully to others’ positions. It was one thing to just disagree, but an entirely different thing to understand a position we disagreed with.
This is no longer the case. Instead of disagreeing respectfully, we just call for the “canceling” of another. It’s not disagreement, it’s disrespectfully dismissive. Our job as parents and pastors is to develop the necessary relational equity that sets the tone for constructive disagreement in your homes and churches. Because the reality is, we will disagree with our kids—a lot. The older they get, the more they begin to form their own opinions. Which is precisely what we want them to do—think on their own. But listening to and respecting the views of those we disagree with helps to better inform and form our opinions.
The bottom line: being challenged in what we believe is a good thing. But the cultural trend of canceling another because they don’t fit in our worldview is shortsighted and, in the end, destructive.
What does this mean for discipleship? Jesus reminds us to pray for our enemies. Paul works hard to understand and connect with the Gentiles, and Peter tells us to be completely above reproach no matter how people treat us. It’s pretty simple—following Jesus means treating others the way he would. Jesus would never have canceled anyone.
The Virtue of Hyperbolic Positioning
Here are some of the things I have heard recently that speak to one of the more disturbing cultural trends.
“All cops are terrible and should be killed or at least fired.”
“All the rioters should be killed and burned.”
“No one should celebrate the 4th of July or anything American stands for.”
Not only are these statements absolutely terrible things to say, but they are ridiculous. But these are real things that real people say. Just in recent days, there have been multiple TikTok videos featuring rhetoric along these lines. They get millions of views, drawing attention to these individuals, and giving others permission to behave in a similar fashion. We have made it a virtue to speak outlandishly for or against what we believe with little to no regard to its consequences. After all, that’s how we get the all-important likes, comments, and shares.
This is why conversations with our kids are so meaningful. Ask them questions. Without reacting, take some time to shift through the outlandish comment, and work to get to the root of not just what they are thinking but why.
What does this mean for discipleship? Faithful Jews in the first-century sincerely believed that Gentiles—all Gentiles, were dirty. Meaning Jews took drastic steps to avoid being defiled by them. It wasn’t until Peter received a vision that such a belief among Jewish Christians was corrected. Peter learned that all of God’s creation was to be cherished. What an incredible statement our kids can make among their peers by having a supernatural love for those that stand in complete opposition.
The bad news. You’re not going to change the course of these trends overnight—or even at all. But there is good news. You can teach your kids to see the world differently. To view it through the eyes of Jesus. When we add a biblical filter to our current cultural conditions, you will quickly see how progressive lopsided idealism quickly disintegrates.
As followers of Christ, we have a decision to make. Either we compromise and bend a knee to culture and its demands, or we stand firm and as church body create a better culture that represents our King and his kingdom.