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Generation Change: Designing the Future
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By Samuel E. Reyes
 
 Last week we took a look at the challenges that lead many youth to leave the church. This week we want to explore strategies to reach and hold the emerging generation.  While biblical principles will always guide our approaches, we must find new ways to apply those principles in ways that will help our youth discover and cement their Christian convictions, and to stay connected to the church.  As we rethink how we do ministry, we need to redefine our approaches in evangelism, discipleship, leadership, and worship.
 
Redefining Evangelism
God created us with a need for community.  Even God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is a community. The human race, created in the image of God, is also a community.  Effective evangelism, therefore, must be pursued through relational means.  In His life and ministry, Jesus provides the perfect model for relational evangelism.  He created friendships.  He interacted with sinners by sitting and eating at their tables.  He demonstrated an interest in their lives.  He provided for their needs.  And then, He invited them to follow Him.
 
The early Christian church followed the same model.  They shared their lives together.  They provided for each other’s needs.  As Paul puts it in 1 Thessalonians 2:8, “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God, but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”[1]
 
A new generation of believers is rising; a generation that wants to make a difference in the lives of those around them.  Relational evangelism is the key to reaching people for Christ.  Youthful disciples today not only want to bring people to Christ, they want to walk with them in their own discipleship journey, praying with and helping them along the way.  This is essential to our commission to not only baptize, but to teach and disciple new followers for Christ.
 
Redefining Discipleship
Jesus has given us only one plan for church growth:  Multiplication through disciples.  Jesus did not say, “Go and make more church members.”  He said, “Go and make more disciples.”  Simply sitting in church for two hours on Sabbath morning is not going to make disciples.  We must find new and effective ways to disciple our youth from the inside out.  In their book, A Passionate Church, Mike Breen and Walt Kallestad recommend the three following strategies:[2]
 
1.   Study the Culture:  Find ways to become relevant to the culture of your surrounding community and church members.
2.   Read the Bible:  Let it become a roadmap for developing an essential relationship with God.
3.   Build the Church: In order to grow the church, we must change over time.  While our biblical principles are constant, fresh, Spirit-led applications of those principles will enable us to experience a daily upgrade in our faith experience.
 
Redefining Leadership
Today’s youth do not respond well to authoritarian leadership approaches.  They respond better to relational approaches.  They recognize and respect authenticity and transparency.  They want to follow real leaders who authentically “walk the talk.”  They aspire to this kind of leadership in their own spheres of influence.
 
Redefining Worship
The prophet Isaiah invites us to a vibrant kind of worship – Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah!  “The multitude of your sacrifices—what are they to me?” says the Lord. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats. When you come to appear before me, who has asked this of you, this trampling of my courts? Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me.
New moons, Sabbaths and convocations—I cannot bear your worthless assemblies. Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals I hate with all my being.  They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them.  When you spread out your hands in prayer, I hide my eyes from you; even when you offer many prayers, I am not listening.  Wash and make yourselves clean.  Take your evil deeds out of my sight; stop doing wrong.  Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  Isaiah 1:10-18
 
Today’s generation is looking for a worship that goes beyond tradition and routine.  They seek to worship God in every aspect of their lives.  In this life of worship they aspire to do that which is right, to seek justice and defend the oppressed.  Thus our lives will become a reflection of He whom we worship.
 
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1
 
Samuel E. Reyes is the youth and young adult pastor for the Forest City Seventh-day Adventist Church in Altamonte Springs, Florida

[1] All Bible passages in this article have been taken from the New International Version
[2]Breen, M. & Kallestad, W. (2005). The Passionate Church - The Art of Life Changing Discipleship. Chicago, IL. Cook Communications Ministries.