Years ago, the church began to go through a process of ‘industrialization’. Churches streamlined everything: Bible studies, Sunday school, and so on. Everything was packaged to simplify the process and make it more “accessible”. Sunday school classes have their curriculum all written out. Bible studies used catchy slogans to be easily memorable (WWJD is a great example of this).
It makes sense. We live in an industrial country, so why not industrialize the church. It makes everything simpler and easer. Teachers are less intimidated by leading. Students can walk away with a catchy phrase or saying to remember the point of the lesson. Win-win.
Here’s the problem:
Disciples aren’t mass produced:
They’re hand crafted.
If you think about ‘disciples’ as you would, say, a bookshelf, it makes sense. You can buy a bookshelf from WalMart fairly cheaply. It’s easy to assemble, and holds books up. It also falls apart fairly easily. The joints loosen over time, and it develops that nice ‘lean’.
If you want a bookshelf to last a lifetime, you need to craft it. You need to know the wood you’re working with, and how to properly mill it into the right dimensions. You need to know how to fit everything together. It’s a process that takes time and effort. You will make mistakes. Sometimes costly ones, most times not so costly.
The church tried, for decades (and still does in many cases) to make “socially engineered Christians”: people who look, act, and sound Christian, but ultimately lack the faith that only comes through true discipleship.
And now the church is paying for it.
Thom Rainer defined evangelical Christianity using the following criteria:
- The Bible is the accurate word of God
- Christians are responsible for sharing their faith
- Faith is important to their lives
- God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and controls the universe
- Salvation is from grace alone
- Christ was sinless
- Satan is a real being
From inside the church, these sound like fairly common and assumed beliefs, don’t they?
Only 6% of Millennials agreed with these.
The industrialized-only method of discipleship my generation went through has failed. There are a lot of potential solutions, but above all, there is one the church needs to gravitate back towards: Mentoring.
I went through all of the prepackaged discipleship as the rest of my generation, but there was one thing that kept me in the faith above all else. And his name is Wayne Botkin.
Wayne was my youth pastor when I went through the most formative and trying times in my teenage years. Parents divorce, break ups, following God into my call into ministry. He was not the only one (Trey, Shannon, John, and numerous others). But Wayne was the one who met with me for lunch during school, met with me at 6am for a Bible study before school, and came to watch my tennis matches.
He’s also the same one who challenged me and my simple answers, and pushed me to better understand who Jesus was/is in my life. He didn’t always answer my questions. Sometimes he would shrug his should and say “I don’t know”, and other times he would challenge me to find the answer.
My mentors helped handcraft my faith into something sturdy and beautiful. Much like a craftsman who handcrafts a bookshelf, mistakes were made. But the end result was a faith that has withstood.
Do you agree with me? Do you think the church has failed to truly mentor and disciple people? Or is there something else that has been a bigger problem for the church?
And who mentored you? Tell me about them.
Remember, I love you and there’s nothing you can do about it.