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Discipleship in Digital Babylon

Last summer I attended a breakfast at our National Cru Conference that featured a speaker who was talking about the value of coaching. He made an interesting statement that stuck with me. He said, “Growing up in the church I was discipled by events.” He followed by saying he wasn’t against events
but that event-oriented discipleship wears out the leaders AND the participants.

Recently, I’ve been reading Faith For Exiles by David Kinnaman.

It’s a fascinating peek into current research regarding Young Adults and their relationship to the church. One of the main points of the book, which we highlighted in our last blog, is that we’re living in “Digital Babylon.” The idea of Digital Babylon is that people are so connected to their screens that we’re slowly being indoctrinated to the culture’s values by the content we’re immersed in through our phones and other digital devices. I was struck by the statement that “Screens demand our attention. Screens disciple.”

 

 

The question we’ve been trying to answer as we seek to resource and equip Young Professionals is how do we disciple this generation? Kinnaman seeks to answer this question as well, pointing out that “in a previous era, we had some semblance of success mass-producing disciples.”

Our focus has traditionally been on using events to reach and disciple people, just as the speaker at my summer breakfast had mentioned. But the dropout rate of Young Adults who have left the church demonstrates that this method and approach doesn’t work in today’s culture. We need a different approach if we’re going to develop disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

My experience with Young Professionals over the past few years has led me to the conclusion that many Young Adults have been so immersed in event-oriented discipleship through Youth groups and campus ministries that they cannot envision another way to grow in their faith and be connected to a Christ community.

It seems as if many Young adults bounce around from place to place looking for an event-oriented community for people in their age group. Finding this kind of community has proven to be as elusive for many Young adults as spotting a unicorn. As a result, many Young Adults we know get discouraged and some give up on church altogether.

But what if Young Professionals learned to lead themselves, instead of looking for the elusive event-oriented Young Adult community that is so hard to find?

Kinnaman’s research shows that only 10% of Young Adults who grew up in a church are Resilient Disciples. People in this category are engaged with their church and have a strong desire to see communities transformed as a result of their faith.

Our hope is to work with these resilient disciples and unleash them to create Christ communities among their peers where they currently don’t exist. We can provide “discipleship”, not through highly organized
events, but through coaching, Leadership Development opportunities and connecting them to
other like-minded, missionally-driven individuals.

David Lowe