Ingredient Three: Vocational Discipleship
Last month I met with David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, to discuss our new books. He wanted to talk about how the themes in my book With: Reimagining The Way You Relate To God fit with the research he lays out in You Lost Me: Why Young People Are Leaving Church...And Rethinking Faith. Central on David's mind was rediscovering a theology of vocation. Here's a quote from his book that articulates the problem:
For me, frankly, the most heartbreaking aspect of our findings is the utter lack of clarity that many young people have regarding what God is asking them to do with their lives. It is a modern tragedy. Despite years of church-based experiences and countless hours of Bible-centered teaching, millions of next-generation Christians have no idea that their faith connects to their life's work. They have access to information, ideas, and people from around the world, but no clear vision for a life of meaning that makes sense of all that input (You Lost Me, page 207).
If Church is going to be intentional about engaging all 8 elements of the culture, then it must find a way of linking vocation and discipleship–the maturing of a follower of Christ with Christ's particular call for that person. In other words, if a 20-year-old is called to a career in the financial markets, her curriculum for discipleship must focus on how to be a financial analyst with Christ. A cookie-cutter, off the shelf discipleship program isn't going to cut it.
Likewise, young people in the church will need a vision of life with God that is far larger than the one often presented. It must go far beyond serving the church and vocally sharing the message. It must include their work and how it connects to God's purposes in the world.
What will this look like? I'm not entirely sure, but in my conversation with David Kinnaman we both agreed it's going to be highly relational. It's going to require an older believer in finance to mentor a younger one. It's going to require church leaders to function as match-makers linking people of similar callings together for support, encouragement, and equipping, rather than imposing their pastoral calling upon all of the sheep.
It also means seeing local businesses, clinics, schools, parks, and studios as discipleship outposts of the church. Consider my friend Walter in Phoenix. Walter works in real estate development, and his heart is to help young Christians who are called into the marketplace to engage their work with Christ. He's created opportunities over the years to mentor younger business leaders in his office. Walter's business is a discipleship outpost.
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