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10 Things We Need to Hear From Young Leaders

Learning is a two-way street.

Learning is a two-way street.

I have the privilege of spending much of my life with young church leaders. As a seminary dean and missionary trainer, I hang out with people younger than I am.

I’m the teacher, but I learn from the young generation as much as—if not more than—I teach them. Sometimes they teach me something new, as with technology and social media. In other cases, they simply remind me of something I’ve forgotten or have taken for granted.

Of course, all young church leaders have room to grow, and nothing I say here can be applied to every young leader.

With that understanding in mind, here are some of those general reminders that I, and perhaps other older leaders, need to hear from young church leaders.

1. The Bible is still our guide.

My own denomination spent several decades affirming the inerrancy and authority of the Word of God.

Today’s young church leaders were not part of that struggle, but they are the recipients of that teaching.

They may at times differ with us in interpreting and applying the Word, but it is not because they doubt the Bible’s veracity. They read it, study it, believe it and teach it with passion.

2. Christianity is intended to be life-on-life.

This generation understands that no Christian is to live in isolation. Accountability is non-negotiable. Small groups are centers of life transformation rather than only weekly fellowship gatherings.

To young leaders, calling someone “brother” or “sister” means much more than, “I’m sorry, friend, but I don’t remember your name”; it is recognition of members of the family of God.

3. Authenticity is critical.

Young church leaders have watched other leaders fall. They have been raised in a culture of political games.

For many, even their families of origin have been marked by duplicity. They want to trust other church leaders, but, frankly, they have seen too much.

Anyone whose life models authenticity will catch their attention.

4. Mentoring matters.

The most common request I hear from young church leaders is, “I want someone to mentor me. I need someone to walk with me through ministry.”

Given that Jesus and Paul discipled others primarily through mentoring, we older leaders cannot ignore this request. If we do, we share the blame if those following in our steps fail.

5. Christianity is a “doing” faith.

For my generation, Christian commitment has sometimes been limited to church attendance and monetary support, with little attention to service and ministry.

Young leaders, though, assume a “hands on” personal faith. Christianity without action is at best an incomplete faith, at worst a false one.

6. We cannot ignore social ministry.

We older leaders have often neglected social ministry, for fear we would lose our focus on evangelism.

The young generation, though, is striving to correct our omission. Their faith is a Great Commission faith (Matt. 28:18-20) that does not miss the hurting and disenfranchised (Matt. 25:31-46).

7. Church discipline is biblical.

Leaders of my generation have largely ignored church discipline.

Not so with young leaders today. They may at times lead too quickly into discipline, but they are willing to tackle this biblical responsibility. They understand that ignoring this need is neither loving nor godly.

8. The local church is the missions sending agency.

We older leaders often delegated this responsibility to other agencies and organizations.

Young church leaders recognize the church’s mandate to raise up missionaries and church planters, send them out, and then care for them while they are on the field.

The wise missions agency will invite these leaders into the conversation and seek to work alongside them.

9. Denominational loyalty must be earned.

Many in my generation have invested in a single denomination. Young leaders, though, do not share this loyalty.

We must take some responsibility for this reality, for we have not adequately convinced them of the value of cooperative work. Rather than judge them, we must hear them, teach them … and be willing to adjust if needed.

10. If faith requires death, that’s OK.

This commitment is perhaps the one that most grabs my attention.

Young church leaders are often less concerned about big church buildings and earthly recognition; they are most burdened about getting the gospel to the 1.7 billion people who have little access to the gospel. If doing that work requires moving their families to the most dangerous places in the world, they are ready to go.

That kind of faith often puts mine to shame.

What other insights have you gained from young church leaders? What else do we need to hear?  

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.
 
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Publicado por em 12/05/2015 em POIMENIA

 

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Culture: Enemy or Friend?

Steve Rabey

Pop culture has always accentuated differences between younger and older generations. For example, people who during the sixties rebelled against their parents by listening to artists like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones now look on with horror as their own children listen to artists like Limp Bizkit and Outkast.

But during the last quarter of the 20th century, pop culture illustrated differences of another kind. For much of this period, some conservative Christians saw culture as the enemy of the church in a vast “culture war,” while other believers saw culture as a symptom—but not a major cause—of the often confusing mix of faith and faithlessness that characterized the age.

Two important episodes from the period illustrate these divergent approaches.

In 1988, filmmaker Martin Scorsese released his movie, The Last Temptation of Christ, which he described as a “deeply religious film.” But some evangelicals didn’t see it that way. Across America, theaters that showed the film faced pickets from believers who thought that the film was critical of orthodox Christianity. And Campus Crusade for Christ president Bill Bright offered to buy the original print of the film for $10 million so he could destroy it.

In 1999, Gen X filmmaker Kevin Smith, a self-confessed Catholic whose youthful imagination was steeped in comic books and videos, released a movie he called Dogma, which he described as a comedic love letter to the church and the sacred mysteries of life.

As with The Last Temptation of Christ, there were many angry believers who tried to halt the film’s release. This time, it was the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Donald Wildmon’s American Family Association, and the Southern Baptist Convention who declared the film blasphemous.

But Dogma, which is certainly controversial, generated a different kind of response from many members of the emerging generations who embraced the film’s unusual mix of piety and profanity.

The film stars Matt Damon as Loki and Ben Affleck as Bartleby, two fallen angels with bad attitudes who were banished by God to the wasteland of Wisconsin. Now they’ll do anything to get back home to heaven, exploiting a loophole in Roman Catholic canon law which threatens the sovereignty of God and the very existence of the cosmos.

The film’s wacky cast of characters includes the glitzy angel Metatron (Alan Rickman), a woman named Bethany (Linda Fiorentino) who works in a Pittsburgh abortion clinic, a muse who works in a strip bar to make ends meet (Salma Hayek), Rufus, a previously unknown 13th disciple of Jesus who was allegedly edited out of the Bible because he was black (comedian Chris Rock), and Cardinal Glick (George Carlin), whose program to reinvigorate the church uses contemporary advertising and marketing techniques to replace the “depressing” image of the crucifix with a statue called “Buddy Christ,” which features a smiling Jesus with upraised thumbs.

Smith, a film school dropout and former video store clerk, used credit cards to make his 1994 debut, Clerks, an acclaimed “slacker opus.” In that film’s closing credits, Smith thanks God, “without whom this couldn’t have been done.” His later films included 1995’s Mallrats and 1997’s Chasing Amy.

Dogma explores Smith’s strong, but often ambivalent, feelings about religion. Although he has repeatedly affirmed his belief in God and in Jesus Christ, Smith is much less certain about the church. Like Bethany, a central character in Dogma, he goes to church but isn’t always sure why and is usually bored. “It’s called the Celebration of the Mass, but it’s no party,” he said in an Internet interview. “No one’s having a good time.”

Critics liked Dogma almost as much as many conservative Christians hated it. But it was Catholic priest and author Andrew Greeley who may have best summarized the film’s mix of the silly and the sublime.

“Is God offended by the movie?” Greeley asked in a column he wrote for Religion News Service. “Unlike those religious fanatics who are trying to ban the film, I claim no special access to the mind of the deity. I suspect, however, that God understands that the humor of the film is a prelude to making some very serious, and funny, theological points.”

Out of the cocoon

Few members of the emerging generations boycotted the film. Many went to see it, some more than once. And some even used the film’s release as an opportunity to talk to unbelievers about contemporary perceptions of Christianity. One of these is a friend of mine named Patton Dodd, who works as a full-time writer for a Colorado Springs mega-church and in his spare time directs “The Colorado Springs Film Society,” an informal group of film fans who meet once a month to share their love of movies.

You may have seen an article Patton wrote for issue 6.2 of the magazine Re:Generation Quarterly. The article, entitled, “Can Colorado Springs Save Itself?” describes the confusion some local evangelicals experience when Patton tells them that the film society isn’t an evangelistic outreach to unbelievers, but merely a gathering place for film buffs. This in a city that is home to dozens of evangelical parachurch organizations that have spawned a never-ending series of city-wide evangelistic efforts. “No one in the group knows that we are Christians,” Patton says, “and we don’t plan on doing anything to show that we are other than forming relationships with people and letting the Gospel speak through our lives.”

Responses like this show that, unlike older generations of Christian “culture warriors,” many younger believers focus less on battling pop culture and spend more time decoding its metaphysical messages. They prefer to see pop culture as both a barometer and influencer of mainstream tastes and beliefs; and instead of seeking to silence or suppress it, they seek to understand it and utilize it in their ministries.

Throughout the 90s, spiritual themes increasingly found their way into pop culture products like books, musical recordings, and films. Often, these pop culture artifacts raised deep and probing questions about the practice of Christianity (such as Robert Duvall’s The Apostle) or showed positive portrayals of non-Christian faiths such as Tibettan Buddhism (Kundun, or Seven Years in Tibet).

Gen X authors Todd Hahn and David Verhaagen described the new approach in their book, GenXers after God.

“On the surface we appear to be concerned with promoting godliness. However, a sharper analysis suggests that these skirmishes are more often motivated by fear. We are fearful that as Christians we are losing our place at the head of the table as the dominant molders and shapers of culture’s mindset…

In our culture, we were comfortable with being the leaders of the consensus worldview. This is no longer true and it frightens us. In response we have lashed out. We have fought and adopted the language of war. The problem is that we have savaged the very ones that need the gospel. We have demonized them and turned them into our enemies.”

Perhaps as young new leaders begin charting a course for the church in the new millennium, they will guide us to an approach toward pop culture that learns from the failures of the “culture war” approach.

Steve Rabey is a Colorado writer. His most recent book is Milestones: 50 Events that Shaped American Evangelicals in the 20th Century(Broadman & Holman).

Fonte: YOUTH SPECIALTIES

 
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Publicado por em 11/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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