“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. Matthew 5:13
I just returned from my first mission trip with a church group from Valles, Mexico. I went with four other men, each representing another decade of life, starting with one in their 20’s and all the way up to my age.
I was asked to do a session on discipleship. It was not my chosen topic. I started by saying that there are three words in common use in Christianity that aren’t in the bible: discipleship, missions and mentoring. Yet they are in the Bible, albeit it not explicitly.
Intuitively, we understand the meaning discipleship and missions, but less so mentoring. A disciple is a follower of Christ, and in Matthew 28, we are commanded to “go and make disciples of all nations.”
Unfortunately, the modern church has altered that command. They are more interested in gaining members than making disciples. The result, unfortunately, is predictable.
The church in Europe is a fraction of its size in just two generations. The author of one study said: “Christianity as a default [in Europe], as a norm, is gone, and probably gone for good – or at least for the next 100 years.”
South Korea is suffering the same fate today. They have huge churches, some with over 100,000 members. They have lost their salt. “They have failed to raise disciples who can live the life of Jesus in Korean society” according to an article in www.lausanne.org
They have focused on numerical growth, not qualitative growth. Their membership is in a free-fall and predicted to drop from 8.7 million to 3 or 4 million by 2050.
Thom Rainer, a noted church consultant for Lifeway, recently predicted over half of the churches in America will die in the next 20 years. Sadly, churches are evaluated on how many members they have, not how many disiples they have made. I suggest it is the wrong measurement.
Churches attempt to teach discipleship through sermons and programs. Those approaches are aimed at the head, not the heart. There is no transformation involved. The result is a watered-down believer who often is invisible to those around them because their lives don’t reflect their beliefs.
Content transfer creating head knowledge is of little help. Discipleship is caught, not taught. It usually takes place outside the four walls of a church. That was the consensus of 5 pastors from around the world when we discussed it on Skype during a recent MentorLink Institute session.
The local church in Valles is trying to figure out how to connect with the millennials and the next generation. They are not alone. I spoke to a pastor in Cameroon who lamented that it is a problem in the African church. I have concluded that the issue is universal.
Millennials in Africa is similar to millennials in Mexico, Asia or the United States. That’s been my observation in interacting with people all over the globe. The common denominator of all millennials is digital communication. It has been a game changer.
In Valles, I used two episodes from the Spanish version of 40 Days with Jesus. It’s a tool that provides a gateway to a generation that watches videos but doesn’t read.
Pastors everywhere are trying to figure out how to connect with and tap in to the millennials in their midst. It takes some creativity. One idea is what is called WJM in South Korea.WJM stands for the Walking with Jesus Movement. It is aimed at helping people sense “the presence of God and enjoy the intimacy of the Lord in their daily lives”.
The WJM app permits group discussions on-line with others using the app. It has improved the quality of small group meetings, because people connect on a daily basis instead of once a week or less often. In 8 years, 70,000 people now use the app in 137 countries.
Today, millennials overwhelming want to have mentors, but the pool of mentors is sadly lacking. Mentoring can produce disciples relationally. Jesus invested in his Disciples as a mentor. He didn’t sit them down in a classroom and lecture them.
Mentoring is available to all churches everywhere as they seek ways to reach the next generation. Too often, churches ignore relational mentoring as a means of creating disciples. It is the Biblical model Jesus used with the Disciples.
The challenge is to find creative ways to connect with and be salt to the next generation. Mentoring is one tool, and WJM and other apps may provide other tools that harnesses the cyber world to connect with digital natives.
We owe it to the next generation to make them disciples of Christ, not just passive members of a church.
MENTOR TAKEAWAY: As a mentor, you can be the salt in a younger person’s life. You role is not make them a follower of you, but a follower of Jesus.
A site by a millennial called recklesslyalivehas a list of 15 popular bible apps.
FURTHER STUDY: Since my post on EQ, Tim Elmore at Growing Leaders has released a new Habitutde Curriculum for Social and Emotional Learning.
WORSHIP: Listen to “From the Inside Out” which reminds us that real transformation starts with our heart, not our head.
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