Churches are notoriously bad about unintentionally putting up roadblocks for people to get connected to the church, and then the church workers get frustrated because of a lack of response. The church didn’t list where and what it was; the church didn’t preach on relevant topics or spiritual issues; the church used weird language that no one understands; or the church didn’t take on the nuance of the culture surrounding the church in its ministry approach.

Church people get frustrated and wring their hands, when in reality, they are ultimately responsible for the results they are seeing. Sure, people are fickle. Heck, I’m fickle. My mind wanders to Facebook while I type this, but we can’t only blame people if it isn’t working for them.

If you’re not in the market for a car, you’re not interested in buying a car. Car commercial mean nothing to you, until, that is, your car breaks down. Then you are very interested.   (Some car commercials, like this one, are always interesting, however.)

If people become more aware of their intrinsic, felt spiritual needs (the need of grace, worship, spiritual vitality, God’s love, forgiveness, sacraments – needs that everyone has, mind you), the appeal of church would grow. You might be in the market for something new once you realize your old way is broken. You might realize how much you need a doctor when you realize you’re sick. You might be in the market for some grace of God when you see how impossible it is to actually be good.

This is why we have always worked so hard to make our ministry accessible to as many people as possible. We communicate in every electronic medium. We offer events that are affordable and relevant to today’s young people. We choose curriculum and teaching that is biblically grounded and is geared toward the spiritual needs of this generation. We are sensitive to teenagers and seek to make them feel at ease, because its nerve-wracking to walk into any new place for the first time. And most importantly, we don’t take ourselves too seriously and we have a lot of fun.

You could say that, per my friend Talbot Davis, we have used a “high touch, low threat” approach to ministry that has been successful these past 6 years. Hundreds of teenagers have attended our events, trips and meetings designed for maximum impact but (hopefully) little negative repercussions.

The low threat approach, though, can also allow people to fade away, out the back door, without anyone really noticing. You get a new job, a new girlfriend, you choose partying over spiritual growth, and before you know it, you’re in a place you didn’t think you’d be a few months prior.

Sometimes this is unavoidable in ministry. People have free will and will do as they please. Indeed, people will do what is most important to them. Every time.

But as a minister and a leader of a ministry, I feel responsible in some ways. I want everyone to feel included, to be excited about Jesus, and to be growing in a real relationship with Him. I realize that I am ultimately responsible for the results we are seeing.

This is why I feel we need to be moving away from a culture of convenience, to more of a culture of discipleship. We need more teenagers to be meeting weekly for prayer and spiritual support. We need teenagers (and adult leaders) to be holding each other accountable, weekly, in their walk with Christ. If we’re honest, we’re a mess. We don’t always have our “stuff” together. We do things we know we ought not to do. We know what we should do, but we always don’t. We all fall into that category, which is why we need each other, and God’s grace, on a daily basis.

The admission, of not just putting God “first”, but God as the center and source of who you are, is key.

Without a consistent and renewed importance on personal discipleship, the church just becomes a place of personal convenience that you attend when you can, when you’re shamed into it, or when your circumstances allow it.

I’m sorry, but thats not good enough. Not only is it not good enough, I don’t believe its what God wants for our lives. When Romans 3:23 says that “all have fallen short”, we do a great job of fulfilling that word, but with the help of the Spirit, we can fulfill the rest of that verse, to know the fullness of “being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

God wants to overflow our lives with living water, radical love, and God’s divine Spirit, but as it is with any gift, you have to be in a place in which to receive it.

Jesus calls us to more and to do more with our faith in Him, and not to operate out of a place of guilt, but out of loving obedience to Him, who gave it all on our behalf.

I don’t want to live up to low discipleship standards. How can I expect anyone else to do the same?

Join me in praying for all youth ministries that we might continue to move toward a culture of personal holiness and discipleship, and that many others would see the value of making Jesus the center of our lives.

How have you grown a discipleship culture in your church? What tips can you share?


Post by Clark Chilton