We are not unlike first century Romans in the Old Testament, Darren Whitehead, founder and lead pastor of Church of the City said, referring to Romans 12:2 during his session at the recent Child Discipleship Forum. “Culture is conforming and discipling Christians more than the Church.” So much so, that 42 million kids in our congregations today are predicted to leave the Church by 2050. “That’s roughly the population of the 30 largest cities in the U.S.!”
Imploring the audience like the apostle Paul did with the Romans, Darren reminded us: Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2).
The key to changing that projection, said Darren, has to do with how well we understand the impact of our culture and the steps we take to counteract that impact.
5 Ways Culture Disciples Christians
Faith to Doubt
“There are more resources to lead kids away from the faith than ever before.” And these are all leading to cynicism, sarcasm and suspicion regarding the Bible.”
Love to Insecurity
“Social media has seeped its way into our lives, impacting kids so that they judge themselves based on what they see. They compare what they do know about their life with what they don’t know about someone else’s life.” This creates sadness and insecurity.”
Communal to Individual
We are discipled by our culture to be thinking of ourselves as individuals, “what is best for me.” We all belong to various people groups. But “this is the first time in history that people in these groups don’t actually think of themselves as the group they belong to. They think of themselves as individuals. And this is brought into the church.”
Contribution to Consumption
“Our lives are now defined by getting our preferences – the way we read news, the way we shop, our entertainment. It’s all been curated by algorithms of choice architecture that actually direct us toward our preferences and away from the things we don’t want to see. And that has seeped into the church.”
Rest to Exhaustion
“There is a fatigue that has descended upon our culture that God never intended for His people.” Families are more exhausted and their kids’ lives are so cluttered. It’s become difficult to find time for discipleship.
3 Ways Churches Can Counteract Culture
“A church’s strategy must not be just formation; it must be counter-formation … counter-forming people away from doubt toward faith, insecurity to love, individual to communal, consumption to contribution and away from exhaustion and toward rest. To do this, be in the business of renewing minds with biblical discipleship.”
“Generally our discipleship strategies are not incorrect, they are incomplete. And it is no secret now that the modern student and children ministry strategies have underemphasized the role of parents.” Parents, said Darren, shape the value system of their children, reproducing who they are – their convictions, lifestyles, thoughts and attitudes. “If we want to make disciples of kids, we must make disciples of parents.”
One way Church of the City disciples parents is to put them at the center of spiritual milestone moments with their kids. When a child is getting ready for their first Bible, the salvation prayer, baptism, communion, and church membership, the parents are the ones who lead their children into these experiences. “We take that which typically may have been the role of a children’s pastor, a youth pastor or a small group leader and replace it with the parents.”
The Church needs to drastically increase a family’s exposure to God’s Word by providing parents with the tools and information. Church of the City is doing this with a study journal on the four Gospels that the entire family can use.
The outcome of being in God’s word, says Darren, is having a renewed mind, which brings clarity and mental strategy. “It’s a mind-renewal strategy on what is good, what is acceptable and what is perfect.”
The Future is Up to Us
For churches of the twenty-first century, the mission is clear.
“The prediction that 42 million could leave the church by 2050 is just that, a prediction. Not a foregone conclusion,” Darren concluded. “Let’s understand the present so we can embrace the future and can contend to make disciples of the next generation.”
To hear the entire session with Darren Whitehead and other speakers at the recent Child Discipleship Forum, order your access now.