We’ve seen the description of a Christian change over the last several decades. It’s gone from a “church goer” to a “Jesus follower” to a “Conservative”. Now, though, I think we’re seeing a swing again to another definition.
There’s a growing faction of young Christians who aren’t satisfied with the last 10 years of Christian discipleship. They’re upset that identity politics has kidnapped their faith and made it a voting block based on economic and foreign policy. They’re tired of the weak oversimplification of discipleship as nothing more than loving your neighbor. And they’re wary of the old style of discipleship as nothing more than gaining a lot of Bible knowledge.
This generation, my generation, understands that there has to be a balance, a blend of knowledge and action. Without both belief and obedience, we’re relegated to an incomplete Christian experience in this life.
With more and more churches being planted and led by millennials, we’re seeing a swing back to the center in discipleship. Churches are helping young people understand the Bible. They’re creating opportunities for believers to serve their communities in tangible ways, together as a spiritual family. And they’re working hard to tie the three things together: Bible + Service + Community.
If you’re reading this and feeling like your church might be behind the curve, it’s not too late. Here are 5 things you can do to help your church catch up.
Preach a balanced Christian life
Preaching and teaching is one of the most powerful tools you have. The Bible makes it clear that preaching carries weight, both because of its practical ability to keep people’s attention (if you’re not boring) and because the Holy Spirit empowers biblical preaching and teaching.
Preaching a balanced Christian life means telling people that the Christian life isn’t all about one thing and only one thing. Tell people plainly that being a disciple of Jesus requires learning the Bible, serving other people, and embracing a Christ-centered community. Make it clear that you can’t live a full Christian life without all three pieces.
Don’t let people off the hook
Most people have a preference for what they enjoy about the Christian life. Some folks love studying and “going deep” in the Bible. Other people love serving their community and the sense of good that they get. Others cherish quality time spent with other Christians.
But just because they enjoy one aspect of the Christian life, it’s not healthy to let them only participate in that area. So don’t let them do so without clear instructions to seek a balance. It’s easy to let people slump into their comfort zone “as long as they’re connected,” but you’re not helping them grow in a way that produces a well-made disciple. You’re hitting the easy button.
Build follow-up actions into every sermon series
Most preachers and pastors structure their sermons into series or themes. You have an opportunity with each series to help people take a step in their faith in a direction that will help them grow.
Use those sermon series to build momentum. Momentum is only built with movement and action. So give your people something to act upon. Let them take their newfound Bible knowledge and put it into practice. Let them act out the balanced Christian life.
Create opportunities for your church to serve your community together
Preaching about loving your neighbor is one thing. Giving people a chance to do it is another. Making it hard to say no, thanks to positive peer pressure, is a real tool to help people put their faith into practice.
When you create an opportunity for people to serve their community, the people that live in their neighborhoods, and do it with the people they call their church body, you create the perfect chance for people to connect in community while moving their belief toward obedience.
Stop treating Sunday morning like the super bowl
This is a big one. I put it last because, honestly, I’m afraid it’ll tick some pastors off. But, truthfully, when you put so much emphasis on the 60 minutes people spend together facing the same direction, you’re telling them that church attendance is the most important thing.
If you lower the profile of your Sunday morning and raise the profile of Group participation, personal Bible study, and serving one another, you might find that your church body becomes less like spectators and more like players in the game.
Give your people the chance and accountability to live a balanced Christian life, where they experience the depth and richness of God’s Word, the fulfilling experience of serving others, and the encouragement of a community of believers.
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