Thursday, July 21, 2011

Generational Discipleship

Periodically I have the opportunity to teach during our Wednesday night service.  Last night was one of those opportunities.  I think the hardest part about leading the service is deciding what I want to teach about.  So after seeking God for a little while He directed me to a topic that is quickly becoming one of my strongest passions - generational discipleship.  My passion is rooted primarily in my stage of life.  As a father of two sons I am very cognizant of the role I play in shaping their faith.  Another reason I have developed a passion for generational discipleship is my job.  As the Minister of Discipleship I oversee the discipleship programs at every level within our church.  This has led me to staggering statistics that suggest that what we're doing as a church isn't working.  We aren't producing Christ followers.  When the children that grow up in our churches graduate from high school they leave.  Not only do they leave church but a large majority of them become indifferent to or completely abandon the Christian faith.  So lots of people have theories about why that is and what we need to do to fix it. 
I am convinced that the key to reaching the next generation for Christ is a combination of forces; the family and the church.  I must admit that I am not the first to come to this conclusion.  God is using some very gifted men and women to start a movement in this direction.  Reggie Joiner has started Orange.  Brian Haynes has started Legacy Milestones.  Mark Holmen has started the Faith@Home movement.  All of these organizations are helping the church to make great strides in the area of generational discipleship.  And there are countless others who champion this cause in their local churches.  
I pray that God would use this movement to awaken the church and the parents within our churches to embrace their roles and work together to impact the next generation of Christ followers.  Much of this movement focuses on the need for parents to, as Brian Haynes puts it; "serve as the primary faith influencers of their children." Meaning that parents can't simply outsource their responsibility to disciple their children to the church.  And the church's job is to come alongside these parents to train and equip them so that they will be successful in their efforts to disciple their kids.   
I wholeheartedly agree with what these men are teaching and I strive to personally practice these principles in my own life as well as within the church I lead.  But lately, something has been eating at me, and it wasn't until I was preparing to teach this past Wednesday that God revealed it to me.  (Praise God for His willingness to reveal Himself to those who seek Him).  There is another piece to this puzzle.  I believe that the family is only one of the contexts where we need to be practicing generational discipleship.  The other is the church.  Titus 2:1-8 clearly teaches us about the role of older men and older women in discipling the next generation.  Generational discipleship doesn't stop once your kids leave the home.  Empty-nesters aren't exempt or precluded from participating just because their kids have left home.  The church desperately needs older men and women to awaken to their value and embrace the call to disciple young men and young women.  Can you imagine the impact if throughout the church empty-nesters started mentoring high school students? Or if our senior adults were intentionally investing into the lives of young married couples?  The church would be transformed!
May God move our hearts to participate in a lifetime of generational discipleship.