Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace have teamed up to give us a book that ought to be required reading for anyone leading youth.
Every time a student goes online, leaves the house, is at school, hanging with friends—in fact, every time they pull out their cell phone, western culture is working overtime to shape and influence their lives on every level. No matter how many shelters or training camps we create, we can't prevent it—even if for a time. So what we know about culture and how we teach students is more important than ever.
Discipling our students requires us to be keenly aware of the digital self that lies behind that student who sits every week in the third row, second seat on the left, the student in the front row who has all the answers, or the quiet kid in back row you see once a month. There is a deeper story to our students than most of us ever imagined possible. But the story is told in places some of us never venture to.
This generation has a greater sense of urgency to reach out and seek justice for the poor, broken, and marginalized. Embrace it. Not only will your students have a better grasp on the gospel and their culture, they will be people with truly changed lives seeking to change lives.
The rising generation is not the future of the church, they are the church. Right now.
Which is better: creating a space where thousands can show up, or space where real authentic discipleship can happen?
It is easy to think of a new generation as somehow being less than the generations before. It is easy to look at students and label them as lazy, unconcerned with the future, unmotivated, not as smart, soft, etc. And over the last year or so, I have read countless articles and plenty of books raising concern about today’s students. Much of it valid and informative about the state of our youth in light of the gospel and the future of Christianity. But I often think it is far too easy to focus in on the negative that we forget about the positive. I sincerely believe there is an incredible hope with the rising generation. Here’s why.
I constantly battle my tendency to carefully wrap my kids in bubble wrap, packing peanuts, and clearly mark the package fragile. It is a trend that is setting our students up for failure. We are preparing the road for our children rather than preparing our children for the road ahead. As a result, we are raising a generation obsessed with safety.
I love my technology. I am often told that I am on my phone far too much. I love the reminders, dings, and notifications. If I see a little red dot with a number, I have to check it and clear it. But if I—a late GenX’er has become another victim of the sensual allure of the latest and greatest slick tech, then what fighting chance do my children or the students I lead have? Friends, the struggle is real, and it has an impact that goes far beyond just being addicted to the dings and red dots.
If you are leading anyone, you need to read. It doesn’t matter if you are leading your own kids in your family, a few students, or hundreds of employees. Leaders read — a lot. What if I read non-Christians thoughts about culture, youth, even the church, took their insights and applied it my ministry?
Loving another person in our modern western culture no longer means throwing them a lifeline to save them from a destructive life of sin and an eternity without God. Instead, it implies affirmation and celebration of any lifestyle one chooses. The moral high ground now belongs to the one who lives and let lives, puts feelings before facts, and places all worldviews on equal footing.