Shift: Engaging Culture for Effective Ministry

General Session 3 features David Kinnaman and Mark Matlock on the theme of engaging culture for effective ministry.

Mark Matlock is the VP of Events and Content at Youth Specialties, author of a number of YS titles, and the heart behind Real World Parents. David Kinnaman of Barna Research and is the author of UnChristian. They are presenting together.

Mark is talking about the various books and movies that have been recently published regarding post-Christian America, including the most recent Newsweek cover article.  They are representing Christian America, self-reported, about 81%.  They are describing the different defining questions Barna uses to drill down into the results that go to what is meant by the “decline of Christian America”.  This shift about a post-Christian America is happening among about 75% of the self-reported Christian group.

Mark to David: did your research really say that 2/3rds of young people are leaving the faith when they graduate from high school.  David: Let me set the record straight, our data has been abused on that subject.  Some students do leave. But what those 2/3rd are largely saying is that the faith doesn’t make a difference, it doesn’t make sense for therm.  They are rejecting Christianity because it doesn’t make them a better doctor or teach them to better engage the world’s issues.  They aren’t necessarily rejecting Jesus, they are rejecting organized religion.

Mark asks, what do we need to be teaching to help them better engage culture (or abstain from it), and be like Joseph, Esther and see tangible results of faith in their lives.  David: we’re studying this generation, we call them Globals, and seeing them wanting to engage in different places, different cultures. We see the Gospel “busting out of the usual containers” and America is no longer, if it ever was, the center of spiritual change.  This means that people who are non-Christians, and non-American Christians, are refining us, and sensing something much bigger in a move of God.  At the heart of this is the next generation.

Mark asks, could we as Americans, miss out on this new thing that God is doing because we can’t see it? (like the Pharisees missed who Jesus was when he was right there among them)  David responds that if kids are missing it, whose responsibility is that considering we are their leaders, pastors, parents? 

What are some ways we can shift the mentality of the mission trip – could we, Mark proposes, shift the “we’re bringing something” to another country on a mission trip, to “we’re here to see what God is doing here” – an entirely different posture.

David is talking about fatherlessness – it is 4x as likely today than in 1960 – in terms of how we minister to this generation.  Our goal is for them to see God as Father, and that God is in the business, still, of restoring people.  What is different is the path to understanding that realization, and becoming part of the solution and participating in restoring what’s broken.

Note – because this conversation is pretty rapid fire, these really are just notes, and not necessarily direct quotes.

David is back to the idea of helping students understand how their faith affects who they are supposed to be – he calls this vocational discipleship.  (my thought, is this like what Bob Briner’s book Roaring Lambs proposed, a whole life faith that lets your faith infiltrate every part of life, in a non-compartmentalized way.)

Mark is talking about moving away from youth ministry as a commodity, and getting back to the roots of pioneers who went to the dark places to be about transforming culture.  Recapture the essence of what God has called us to, it’s not about a box of curriculum, but being truly missional and sharing the transformational power of Jesus Christ.”

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