In a rapidly changing world, the task of discipling the next generation takes on new dimensions and challenges. The younger generation of today is growing up in a post-truth era, where absolutes seem scarce, and the inclination of the older generation is often to dive headfirst into trying to convince them otherwise. This approach is often born out of fear, fear that stems from both older and younger leaders.
During a recent gathering of church leaders, it became evident that both older and younger leaders harbored fear. The younger leaders feared that their voices weren’t being heard and that they wouldn’t be given the opportunity to address cultural issues in a way that resonated with their generation. On the other hand, the older generation was anxious that the younger leaders might veer too far from the path of Biblical orthodoxy, making theological and doctrinal compromises. Both generations are operating out of this spirit of fear rather than from love, power, and soundness of mind.
Though I understand both sides of this generational divide, perhaps what we’ve been missing is how God Himself takes a different approach. The Book of Genesis, for instance, doesn’t commence with the fall in Genesis 3; it begins in Genesis 1 with the majestic act of creation. Isaiah’s transformation doesn’t initiate with his acknowledgment of his unclean lips; it starts with the overwhelming presence of God’s glory. Therefore, our approach to discipling the next generation should emulate how God has always led us: by showcasing His awe-inspiring nature and glory first.
In times of great disruption and social upheaval, older generations tend to preserve the truth by confronting younger generations with strong doctrine, but they never show them the awe, glory, and wonder of God. The undoing of the current culture is the belief that each person can self-determine who they are and that no one can tell them otherwise. That expressive individualism can only come apart once they understand how small they are in respect to God’s glory.
It is in the radiance of God’s love and majesty that conviction takes root. This generation must recognize the greatness of God first, which then leads them to acknowledge their own smallness and need for His grace. In other words, effective discipleship today begins with the understanding of God’s awe and glory.
The second component of effective discipleship involves presenting truth dynamically, addressing the questions unique to this generation rather than regurgitating answers to questions posed by earlier generations. While it’s crucial to tackle issues like pluralism and relativism in a postmodern world, we have to be intentional in answering their current questions in a relevant and dynamic way.
The third aspect revolves around a missional perspective. The next generation is intensely cause-oriented, desiring to make a tangible difference in the world. They ponder questions like, “How do we transform society? How do we solve global problems such as poverty and human trafficking?” Biblical discipleship should guide them to realize that our mission to the world must spring from our relationship with God. It’s not about our own efforts but our proximity to Him, which informs our response to the world’s issues.
The youth of today should experience the following sequence in the Church: “I understand the glory and awe of God, I’m undone before His presence, and I repent before him, realizing that all my rights come from Him. Lord, send me, not in my own power, but under the power of your Spirit.” God is the only one who can confront, convert, and transform any individual, family, or community.
Finally, the Body of Christ should champion intragenerational discipleship. Intragenerational means running the race together, not passing a baton from one generation to the next. That’s not how the Body of Christ should work; we shouldn’t wait until the older generation finishes the race before allowing the younger generation to run. Instead, let’s run alongside each other, offering support, wisdom, and guidance. It’s a staggered, long-distance race where we function as a community, ensuring continuity, love, and service across generations.
In my own journey, my father didn’t just pass the baton and leave me to run the race of leading OneHope on my own. He continued to love, guide, and serve me. He still brings wisdom to my knowledge. I hope to do the same for the next leader at OneHope, embodying intragenerational leadership and discipleship, where roles evolve but the commitment to the mission remains steadfast.
Discipleship in today’s world might look different than it used to, but as the Church we have to run the race together, as a united family, ensuring that the next generation is equipped to continue the journey.