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The VantagePoint3 Pathway

  • 30 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

In September 1999, Randy Reese and I joined 450 other church leaders from 54 countries in Eastbourne, England for the First International Consultation on Discipleship. Throughout the conference, there was a resounding consensus that the Church's "zeal to go wider has not been matched by a commitment to go deeper." John Stott set the tone in his keynote address.  

I wonder how you would sum up the Christian situation in the world today. For me, it's a strange, rather tragic, and disturbing paradox. On the one hand, in many parts of the world the Church is growing by leaps and bounds. But on the other hand, throughout the church, superficiality is everywhere. That's the paradox. Growth without depth. 

No doubt God is not pleased with superficial discipleship. The apostolic writers of the New Testament declare with one voice that God wants his people to grow up and grow into maturity in Christ.

One is hard pressed to find a time in history when the Church has gone more places, has activated more efforts, and has proclaimed the gospel more widely then over the past several decades. Yet there continues to rise from amidst all this activity a growing realization that we are skimming across the surface. God wants his people to grow up and grow into maturity in Christ (Ephesians 4:1-16).  

To this end, we have developed a VantagePoint3 pathway of processes that invite a deeper discipleship and development: three 6-9 month processes (The Journey, A Way of Life, Walking with Others), delivered in a small group format, designed to help men and women develop in Christ. More details will be explaining during the Equip Conference, but let me briefly mention four ingredients that are in "the mix" of helping people sustain a lifelong apprenticeship with Jesus (Matthew 11:29). 

1. Friendship is essential - friendship is not "a cherry on top" of the Christian life; it is an essential condition for a maturing life in Christ. As we make space for a common sharing, honouring, and enjoying of life, something of the Spirit's nurturing grace is imparted to us. 

2. Double knowledge - early church fathers and mothers pointed out that true wisdom in the life of faith is always "a double knowledge". That is, knowledge of God and knowledge of self are inextricably linked together. 

Preaching to Millennials

  • 24 October 2017
  • Randy Wollf

When we first moved to Thailand, I would sometimes get frustrated when trying to purchase items in local shops. I didn't know Thai and the shop-keepers usually didn't know English. Invariably, I would speak my language louder and slower so they would surely get it. Most of the time, they didn't understand and I would get more and more frustrated. The problem—we spoke different languages.

Millennials represent an age grouping of 16-34-year-olds (give or take a few years, depending on who you read). Their preferred language of communication is often different than what the rest of the population uses. Yet, those of us not in the millennial age grouping often continue to preach in a "language" that millennials struggle to fully understand or relate to. Just like in my Thailand example, both sides get frustrated because of the language difference.

Millennials hold many values, but seven core values that are common to many millennials are diversity, collaboration, authenticity, entrepreneurship, holistic integration, community, and open-source (I recommend that you watch Geoff Kullman's excellent presentation of these values here – MinistryLift members can access this resource for free).

Considering these seven core values, how can we effectively preach to millennials? Let me offer ten suggestions related to sermon preparation and delivery (most of these apply to other generations as well). 

1. Walk closely with Jesus

Whether it's millennials or anyone else, people notice and respond to preachers who are connected to Christ. It's one thing to speak about something we're vaguely familiar with; it's quite another to speak about something that flows from a renovated life. Millennials are particularly good at spotting the real goods. 

2. Collaborate with millennials and others to discern sermon topics and content

Millennials love to be a part of setting direction for virtually anything. Capitalize on this desire by enlisting their help to discern sermon topics and content. Even if you or the church leadership team chooses a series focus (e.g. discerning your God-given calling), seek the input of millennials as to the questions/concerns they have related to the main topic. Millennials are more likely to engage with a sermon when they have contributed to it in some way. 

3. Acknowledge and explore diverse perspectives

A Christ-Centred Approach to Youth Ministry

  • 23 October 2017
  • MinistryLift blogger

I can picture it vividly. It's Friday night, the lights are dim, and the music leader is picking his guitar in the background as he sings about God's love. Meanwhile, the speaker stands up and talks in a loud voice: "Do you know how much God loves you? He loves you so much he sent his Son to die for you! Who wants to accept that love tonight?" Crying, hands start to go up. A few stragglers look around, see who else raised their hands, and decide to raise their own hands too. The leaders anxiously go around the room helping the youth say a prayer for salvation. The night concludes, everyone cries and says goodbye. Later, we all go home. 

On the following Sunday, some of the youth and leaders go to their home church and share with the congregation. "It was an amazing time at youth/camp/mission trip/retreat. We had 15 kids accept Jesus into their lives." Everyone cheers, some people cry tears of joy. Mission accomplished. 

This is often the Canadian church’s mindset; it’s about numbers. How many were there, how many got saved. 

But are these the right questions to be asking?  

Months after these types of experiences, how many of these kids who made a decision for Christ are involved in a local church, serving, and being transformed into Christ-likeness? The impetus of youth ministry can often be placed on making a personal decision for Jesus, but unless these decisions are followed by discipleship, the decisions can end up being meaningless.

So what's the remedy? I believe it's having a discipleship-focused, Christ-centred ministry. A ministry that does not just mention Jesus during an altar call, but a ministry that places Christ and his gospel at the centre; a ministry not focused solely on numbers and entertainment, but a ministry that is focused on relationships and encouraging a life that is holistically centred on him. 

Here are some practical ways you can accomplish this:

First, teach the gospel. This may sound like a no-brainer, but sadly, it's not. In many cases, youth ministries are about making morally and socially acceptable youth, not disciples. Morality is important, but it must always be taught in light of the gospel. Thus, it is important to teach about Christ, our sin, and our need to put faith in Christ for all things. 

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