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Reaching the Next Generation Using the Methods of Jesus

Photo of Kerry CoxKerry Cox | Bio

Kerry Cox

Kerry has been doing ministry since he was 18, all the way back in 1996. In 2004 he and 30 others planted a church in Wentzville, MO. The Crossings Church has grown to be a very young, diverse, and unchurched group of disciples committed to making disciples. The Crossings has since planted three other churches and partners with a fourth church plant. He has been married to Hannah for 20+ years and they have 3 kiddos who are all actively engaged in College, High School, and Children’s ministries!

One can read hundreds of articles on why the Church is losing the young. Through statistics and studies, we can point to psychological reasons, cultural reasonings, and more.

Too many churches have believed the lie that the key to reaching the young is “figuring out” this generation.

We change worship styles, hire hipster ministers, and plan culturally appropriate events. While some of these methods can be helpful, they are not the answer. Many articles theorize on how to reach the young while mainly ignoring the definitive solution to the problem.

God has already given us a generation-proof method of reaching people, but we have largely abandoned his design.

You cannot have the results of Jesus while ignoring the methods of Jesus. Here are 3 generation-proof methods of Jesus:

#1 – Relational Discipleship & Disciple Making

You cannot look at Jesus’ life without recognizing his deep love and emphasis on relationships.

Would relational be the word that comes to mind when you think of your Church? This is not a matter of whether the people “love” each other, but whether they are intimately involved in one another’s lives outside of Sunday mornings. Of course, members in most churches would say they love their brothers and sisters, but does it show up?

Jesus was with his followers doing life daily.

He loved them in a way that forced him to spend time with them, eat with them, travel with them, laugh with them, cry with them, sacrifice for them, and teach them. We see this same style replicated in the Church in the book of Acts.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God, and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts‬ 2:42-47‬ NIV‬‬

Discipleship, in many cases, is a foreign concept amongst our churches. Sure, we might know the meaning of the word. But in practice, if we are honest, we largely do not “get it.” The majority of our memberships do not appear to be truly committed to the Great Commission.

Is it a key focus of their lives to go into the world and make disciples? How well are we doing at baptizing the lost–not just our church kids, but those outside of our church? Do we disciple them to obedient faith in Christ? Do we ensure these baby disciples, in turn, go out and make disciples in the same way?

Do we have the kind of relationships with one another that truly promote this kind of multiplication?

#2 – A Life-Changing Message

Jesus’ message and methods changed people’s lives. It changed their perspectives, attitudes, and way of life. His teachings brought healing and helped people to break cycles of hurt and brokenness.

I fear that many of our churches have become so caught up in history, tradition, and law that we have abandoned the real power of the Gospel. We are great at diagnosing the problems of people in the world but often fall short on giving them a remedy for their diagnosis.

Our youth need more than just Bible education; they need to experience the power of God’s Word in their lives.

Of course, we should always teach the truth, both doctrinally and in practice, but we also must give people something they can “do” with the Word of God. His Word was designed to bring about life change. If kids are coming to our churches but never being shown how God’s Word could be applied to their lives, we are robbing them and the Kingdom.

#3 – An Invitation To Change The World

People long to be involved in something bigger than themselves. I believe God put this desire within us.

The first-century Church grew in spite of great persecution. They had found something that changed their lives and wanted to ensure the rest of the world had an opportunity to experience the power of God in their lives.

Every generation longs to be the one that changes the world. They have different causes and ways of affecting change, but they all want to do something great. We have the most significant message and life ever offered.

We have the only thing that can truly change the world and bless future generations, but we have largely kept it to ourselves for far too long. In doing so, we have never had the kind of impact the Church of the first century did. We need to show every generation that we have the only answer to truly changing this world.

If you read my previous article “Thank God We Took Our Youth Seriously,” you understand why I believe reaching the young is a must. Out of 102 people who have gone on church plants sent by the Crossings, 90% became disciples of Jesus in student ministry.

This trend did not take place because we learned some new insight into their generation. This happens by holding to the tried and true methods of Jesus!

How well are we doing at baptizing the lost–not just our church kids, but those outside of our church? Do we disciple them to obedient faith in Christ?