|Publisher:||Group Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.04(w) x 9.18(h) x 0.52(d)|
Read an Excerpt
Loston Harris is an artist, an award-winning jazz pianist. He's played with some of the best jazzers of our day, most notably the great Wynton Marsalis. He's been praised by critics for the maturity of his sound, the deep understanding he brings to his interpretation of jazz standards, and the creativity of his own compositions and arrangements.
In 1999, while still in his twenties, Loston had hit a wall professionally and personally. He'd just finished several years on the road and a stint in Las Vegas. Having been raised in the church, with a dad in ministry, he'd been taught to live life a certain way and knew his life on the road had not matched up to his parents' expectations. With the kind of weariness that years living out of a suitcase can engender, he headed for home in northern Virginia unsure of his next move.
Loston sensed his life needed grounding and was even vaguely aware his life needed God; he just didn't know how to make the connection. He thought about visiting his parents' church, but he remembered how uncomfortable he'd felt there as a teenager. Like many in his generation, Loston felt the church didn't understand the things that were important to him. To Loston and his friends, art, music, and self-expression were highly valued. In his parents' church, these were either ignored or criticized. As he now thought about returning to his parents' church, he envisioned being scolded for his casual dress or facing the question of when he was going to settle down with a "real" job.
Driving around suburban Washington, D.C. one day, he vaguely remembered a church a friend had mentioned years ago. The friend had spoken enthusiastically about the crowds of young adults at this church, the warm atmosphere, and the sermons built around videotaped movie clips. Loston remembered wondering if his friend was talking about some kind of cult; the church he was describing sounded nothing like the church where he'd been raised.
Loston did some checking and learned the church service, called Frontline, was still meeting on Sunday nights at McLean Bible Church. He decided to check it out for himself.
"Immediately after arriving I knew this was something I was going to like," Loston recalls. "The people were so down-to-earth and welcoming. Immediately I sensed real community there. I loved it that people were just wearing casual clothes and hanging around together. Church for me in the past had been about dressing up and behaving very properly. Everyone wanted to check up on you and make sure you were doing the expected thing. Here, people didn't care what I did with my life, how important I was, or what I could do for them. They just wanted to be kind to me, regardless of who I was. In the music industry, there is so much pressure from people who want something from you. This was such a nice break from that."
Loston began attending Frontline regularly. He began to hear the gospel presented in ways that made sense to him as a young adult and as an artist. He began to want to study more on his own and really plumb the depths of the Bible. His dad saw what was happening and was grateful. After many futile years of trying to guide Loston toward a deep relationship with Jesus, his dad saw something had finally sparked Loston's imagination. Loston was beginning for the first time to envision his own life in Christ. The relationships Loston had formed with other musicians and artists at Frontline, the weekly sermons based on contemporary themes, and the acceptance of Loston's individuality were all working together to create the right environment to incubate faith in Christ.
In October 2000 at his dad's side, Loston prayed and asked Christ to take over his life. Although he'd been raised in the church, God had used the ministry of Frontline to connect with Loston in a way that hadn't been possible until then. Loston continued to worship at Frontline and the other McLean services, using his musical gifts in the worship services and content to think that God might want him to spend his days playing music in church. But God had other plans, and after a year or so Loston moved to New York where he headlines nightly at the Carlisle Hotel, a jazz musician's dream come true.
While our churches should be full of young adults like Loston, it is the unfortunate fact that churches are devoid of them because the Lostons out there don't come to church. Church doesn't make sense to many young adults; it doesn't address things that are important to them.
So what? Why should we care? Why can't young adults just get with the program and fit into our way of doing things? Why do we have to cater to their whims?
The answer is obvious of course. The Great Commission tells us to "go and make disciples." It doesn't tell us to invite people to come to us; it tells us to go. It doesn't tell us to make converts; it tells us to make disciples. Unfortunately when it comes to this generation, that's no easy task. You'll see in this book that today's young adults don't respond to the traditional methods of disciple making. Tried and true programs seem to have no impact on the hearts and minds of young adults like Loston.
Better Systems, Better Results
As the opening quote reminds us, the results we're getting (fewer sold-out disciples of Christ in this generation) are due to the inadequate systems we've designed.
We believe that you'll see better results when you create better systems for discipling young adults. We have learned that developing young-adult disciples in this postmodern age requires a radical shift from the way we have historically ministered to and discipled people. In this book we'll explain how culture changes necessitate changes in discipleship and we'll describe what a new generation-friendly church looks like.
This book is based on six assumptions about discipleship:
1. Many discipleship programs are built on old models of content-based discipleship that will fail to transform a person in today's world.
2. Churches don't need discipleship programs that teach transformation as much they need to create environments where transformation naturally occurs.
3. Postmodern discipleship is not about doing disciple-making within a certain generation as much as it is about disciple-making within a certain mindset.
4. Many, but not all, young adults see the world from a postmodern perspective. This generation is heterogeneous, not homogeneous.
5. You cannot begin an effective discipleship ministry by creating programs and handing them over to young adults. They must create their own ministries and feel ownership.
6. Disciple-making among postmoderns does not mean abandoning or altering the message of the gospel.
A Word About Terms Used in This Book
The terms we use in this book will be familiar to you. The context in which we use them may not be. To avoid confusion let's quickly discuss our use of these familiar terms.
Disciple: When we use the word disciple, we're referring to someone who has decided to become a follower of Jesus Christ, not just a "Christian." A disciple is an individual who has committed to being a lifelong student of the Master; someone learning to master life through imitating the Lord. We are not referring to the casual believer in Jesus; we are talking about someone who is intentional in his or her lifestyle and faith journey.
"Aren't all Christians disciples by default?" you might ask. No, they are not. See page 195 for a look at several Scriptures that bear this out.
Many writers have grappled with what constitutes an effective disciple and what makes for an effective ministry. It would be safe to say that faithfulness to the Lord, living a fruitful life of service, and having a passion for one's calling in life have historically been three general characteristics of a disciple.
Discipleship: We use the term discipleship in two ways. One way is the process every Christian undertakes to become more like Christ. Our own discipleship is the process of our being transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus (Romans 12:2). Throughout this book we frequently use the term Christ formation to describe this process. Secondly, we use the term discipleship to describe the systems, methods, and environments we create to guide another along his or her journey of Christ formation.
Postmodernism: When we use the term postmodernism, we refer to a recent cultural shift which has made an impact in the arts, philosophy, technology, and the rest of society. The easiest way to understand postmodernism is to put it in the context of modernism, the cultural movement that precedes it.
A timetable is helpful here.
Prior to the modern period, during the Middle Ages, God was the center of life. Everything was looked at from a perspective that God was the creator and author of all life.
Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in about 1450 marks the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern age. The modern age is characterized by the assumption that it is man, not God, who discovers and creates. Man becomes the author of life. For the next five hundred years, philosophers, scientists, and explorers all provide substance to the argument that humans are central and God is peripheral.
Finally, in the late twentieth century, there began to be a shift in thinking. Globalization, brought on by the invention of the Internet, worldwide airplane travel, and multinational corporations, to name just a few factors, has ushered in the period of postmodernism.
The differences between the modern age and postmodernism are clearly shown in the realm of knowledge acquisition, a subject that bears heavily on any discussion of discipleship. In modern societies knowledge is equated with science, and is contrasted with story. Science produces reliable knowledge, while story is considered unreliable and therefore not a source for knowledge. To the modernist, knowledge has its own intrinsic merit. One gains knowledge through education, experimentation, and exploration in order to be knowledgeable in general and to add to the world's catalog of things known.
To the postmodern mind, however, knowledge is important only in so far as it can be applied to an end. Knowledge must be useful, and it is acquired through experience. Emotion, imagination, and story are all valid means by which the postmodern person seeks knowledge.
The difference in how postmoderns acquire knowledge is just one example of the seismic shift in thinking that is characteristic of many young adults and the church leaders who hope to train them as disciples of Christ. Since the church in America is primarily an institution steeped in modernism, most church leaders have little idea how to connect with young adults in America.
In this book we'll look at the ways that postmodernism has affected today's young adults, especially in the area of spiritual development. We'll help the reader understand the essential components of true discipleship, the elements of any effective discipleship system, and we'll introduce the reader to a number of programs that have worked effectively with today's young adults.
About This Book
This book is divided into three parts:
Part One: Preparations includes a chapter that sets up our metaphor for discipleship and a chapter that introduces a new paradigm for discipleship.
Part Two: Signs Along the Way includes eight chapters that discuss the signposts our travelers in the quest for Christ will pass along the way. As long as they arrive at each signpost, the travelers will know they're on track in their quest.
Part Three: Travel Tips provides many ideas for how to put into practice the things you'll learn in the preceding chapters.
About the Authors
It might help to know a little about us as you begin.
Ken is an Xer (born in the sixties); Rich is not (born in the fifties). Ken is from a broken home; Rich is not. Ken became a Christian as an adult; Rich became a Christian as a child. Rich's involvement in young-adult discipleship has lasted more than twenty-five years; Ken's is more recent. We went to very different seminaries and yet our paths crossed, and we discovered we had the same passion to reach, train, and equip young adults.
Together we have come to understand the impact of postmodernism on this generation. Our journey together and the things we've learned about effective discipleship with this generation form the basis of this book. We hope you find lots here to encourage and enlighten you as you guide young adults in their quest for Christ.
How to Use This Book
As you use this book, remember that it's about transformation, not information. The following steps will help you do this.
Step 1: Gather a group of interested people.
Step 2: Read through this book together.
Step 3: Answer the questions and do the exercises that are shown in the margins of each chapter.
Step 4: Divide and do these steps again with another group of people. For example, if there are two of you in the first group, then start two new groups; if there are four of you, start four new groups.
Here's a question to get you started thinking about discipleship and Christ formation:
How would you summarize the goals and the hope of your Christian life?
Table of Contents
|The Destination: A Life of Love||35|
|Part 2||Signs Along the Way|
|Signpost 2||Grace and Truth||67|
|Part 3||Travel Tips|
|Ministry Guidelines and Ideas||169|
|Frequently Asked Questions||191|