I grew up in a Christian home. Every week my mom and dad would dress us up in our Sunday’s best and bring us to Cross View Lutheran. We would sit in our pews engaging worship, listening to the sermon, singing the hymns, and enjoying great teaching from God’s Word. After church we would head out to grandma and grandpa’s house in the country where a full Sunday dinner was enjoyed by all. Hmm, I can still taste my grandmother’s homemade dinner rolls. What I wouldn’t give to enjoy one of those meals once again. Sundays were, and still are, my favorite day of the week. I cannot imagine a life without God, Jesus, and church.
Fast forward to today.
I think often of the church experiences my children have been a part of and I hope and pray daily that they continue in the faith as they grow up. As a Christian parent, it is an intimidating world in which to raise children. How do we impress the importance of faith development upon younger generations? How can we help our sons and daughters stay connected to the larger Body? These are mission critical questions we must wrestle with as the Church. The world can be a rough place to live out our faith alone. We need each other! When a person cuts themselves off from being a part of a local church that is exactly what they are doing, whether they realize it or not they are amputating themselves from the Bridegroom Himself. The Church, after all, is the Bride of Christ, His beloved, blemishes and all. Yes, the Church is not perfect, it is filled with sinners (I am public enemy sinner-number one, 1 Timothy 1:15-16). Yet, it is God’s chosen means of communicating the Gospel to a watching world.
In some ways, the struggle of generations disconnecting from church is not a new phenomenon. What is new, however, is the speed, rate, and depth of cultural change. Listen to the encouragement the writer of Hebrews gives:
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25)
The bottom line, it all comes down to discipleship.
Mission and discipleship are more about movement than about recruitment. Too often the mistake is made to try and create a bigger, better discipleship machine to pump out Christian after Christian that fit within a particular mold. Life, however, is not that clean and tidy. It is messy! The cross is messy. What is needed are life-on-life relationships that deal individually and intentionally with people in an intimate way. The Church must seek to explore a type of apprenticeship where a seasoned person of faith invests themselves into the next generation and the next generation investing back into the seasoned person of faith. This type of discipleship happens best within the context of a relationship grounded upon GATHERing, GROWing, and GOing “together”, spurring one another on toward love and living out a life of Christ-centered faith (Matthew 28:18-20). I am excited about the possibility that underlies mentorship-style outreach and discipleship. You will be hearing more about this exciting missional opportunity in the coming months as we begin to unroll a plan to nurture these types of relationships.
Yes, the Church faces stark challenges ahead as it seeks to engage a seemingly disinterested culture. I am not without hope! I firmly believe that, as one of my seminary professors put it, “The local church is the hope of the world.” He is absolutely correct! The chosen instrument God purposefully selected is us, the Body of Christ, to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those the Lord places in our path. If you cannot already tell, I am passionate about missions and sharing the Gospel with the next generation. Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim state the present challenge and opportunity of the Church succinctly:
Can you imagine Jesus not pioneering new frontiers and innovating new ways of being on mission together? Can you imagine him not speaking truth to power or questioning the religious status quo? Can you imagine him not calling new people into the kingdom? Yet those elements are largely missing from churches’ understanding and practice of ministry in the body of Christ. (Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, The Permanent Revolution, 50)
If we truly desire to live out Hebrews 10, the question becomes, how are you “spurring” others on to keep growing in their faith? Maybe you need some spurring yourself. Either way, the Church as the Body of believers is the place of growth, the place the Lord desires to stretch you from this world into the next. When it comes to missions, our potential is limitless! We are only as strong as our fears allow. Take comfort in knowing the perfect love of Christ whose sacrificial death has paid the price for our fears, insecurities, doubts, and worries, casting them out once and for all (1 John 4:18-19). At its heart, faith means stepping into the unknown without having all the answers, putting our trust and hope in something outside ourselves. The One True, Living God has moved mountains for us, all for the purpose of creating a path that bridges us through a cross and empty tomb, back unto Himself. Through the power and work of the Holy Spirit, we have the supreme joy and honored privilege of pointing people toward this same path that we once crossed. Jesus Himself encourages, everything is possible for those who believe (Mark 9:23; Matthew 7:7-8; Ephesians 3:20). So let us cast aside those things which entangle to grasp onto life-giving, fruit-bearing, growth-enhancing items of faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Again, all of life comes down to discipleship and how we are “spurring” others on in their faith journey with Jesus. In the meantime, I continue to pray daily for my son and daughters, that their faith in God continues to grow and flourish through the years, all the way to heaven itself.
Sundays were, and still are, my favorite day of the week. They have taken on a whole new meaning now that I have become a dad and am raising children of my own. I cannot imagine a life without God, Jesus, and church. Can you? So with gentle boldness, let us spur one another on toward movement in Him, to be the children of God we were made to be from the beginning of time: loved, forgiven, and drenched in the sacrificial blood of Jesus, the Lamb.
Celebrating the mess!