You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses.
Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.
(2 Timothy 2:2, NLT)
According to CBS News, 86% of today’s young people want to become social media influencers (see https://www.cbsnews.com/news/social-media-influencers-86-of-young-americans-want-to-become-one/). The wild part is that this wasn’t even a thing a decade or two ago. However, wanting to influence people has been around for centuries. We want to inform, educate, and affect others, especially if we are selling or teaching something.
Another interesting fact is that in past generations, the family was the biggest influence in most people’s lives, especially young people and children. However, with the beginning of public schooling, the influence shifted in school-aged children’s lives to the school and children’s peers. The family and church still had influence, but the daily influence of school culture began to really shape students’ lives.
Then, as more women entered the workforce in the 70’s and 80’s, the influence outside the nuclear family began even earlier as children attended preschools beginning even in infancy for some.
At the same time, with smart phones, computers, and 24-7 television, today we are often bombarded weekly with ideas and belief systems outside of the Judeo-Christian worldview at a rate that it beyond what anyone could have even imagined 50 years ago.
According to Barna’s research, “only 17 percent of Christians who consider their faith important and attend church regularly actually have a biblical worldview” (https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/). Something is terribly wrong. In the article from Barna, the writer discusses some of the beliefs accepted by those who profess to follow Christ such as believing everyone who prays is praying to the same god, believing something isn’t true unless science says it’s true, and believing that “God helps those who help themselves” is a biblical teaching. (Just a side-note: I’ve personally never met a Muslim or Buddhist who believes we are worshipping the same god. They know we aren’t. But I’ve met quite a few Christians who think we are all praying to the same god, but we’re just using a different name for him. Why are Christians confused about this? I think it is because we have a very real enemy who is a deceiver, and Christians are the ones he is deceiving in this way.)
If we find any of this a bit disturbing, we need to take seriously the role we have as disciple-makers. As a disciple-maker, we influence the next generation of Christians as well as this generation of Christians. We affect the church environment and church decision-making. We are influencing others in their walk with God, helping them navigate the Word of God, and showing them how to follow Christ. We are helping them become ministers alongside us in the work of Christ.
I want to challenge every believer out there, if you truly love Jesus and want to follow Him, become an influencer. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Be bold, but be bold in your love for others and for Christ. Be bold in this generation so we can all influence the next generation.
We’ve had some missteps along the way as the Church. When I was growing up, in our denomination, the focus was on evangelism. Now, granted, evangelism is very much a part of discipleship, but we didn’t see it that way. We were so focused on sharing the Gospel of salvation, we forgot the rest of it, which is the “taking up your cross daily” part of it.
Some talk about abuse in the church both physical, sexual, and spiritual, but wolves in sheep’s clothing have been in the Church since the beginning. God told us His plan, and we ignored it. He said to confront sin so that healing and reconciliation might take place. However, too often, we’ve refused to follow His guidelines. God told us to discern whether someone was teaching correctly or not. God told us to be alert, to be wise, and to humble ourselves. We are sinful people who fail often. And we all need accountability.
That brings us back to, you guessed it, discipleship. Discipleship naturally has accountability built into it. If we want to see the Church become what it is meant to be, and we want to see believers following Christ as we are supposed to be, we need discipleship. We need to take this commission from Christ seriously, today.