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Equipping the Church to Reach Today's Youth

From the series Not Beyond Reach

Young people today are often unfairly stereotyped as rebellious, selfish, and overly harsh. But as we wrap up this series, Not Beyond Reach, guest teacher Aaron Pierce peels back those generalities to reveal the hopeless feelings plaguing this generation. Hear what the body of Christ can do to better engage unbelievers and skillfully share the Gospel in this post-Christian culture.

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Message Transcript

KITTY: Well, Aaron, welcome! Thank you so much for joining us today!

AARON: Thanks, Kitty! It’s a real privilege to be part of this. I’m excited what God is doing.

KITTY: Well, Aaron, I have to say, your teaching series that we have just aired has been super impactful for me personally. And we have also heard from so many people just how helpful, informative, as well as how challenging some of your messages have been regarding how can we reach and disciple young people in our lives, especially in today’s super challenging culture.

AARON: Yeah. Yeah, it’s my hope that this book and the series that it’s not just challenging, but it’s also a source of hope, especially for parents and grandparents who are struggling with kids who have walked away from the Lord or pastors who are saying, “How do I, how do I pastor a church in an increasingly post-Christian context?” So, my prayer is that this is a source of hope, but also a source of practical tools and next steps that people can use to make a difference in their world.

KITTY: Amen. Well, and that’s part of the beauty of our partnership, by God’s grace, Aaron, is at Living on the Edge we are committed to doing all that God is leading us to, to reach and disciple the next generation. And, gosh, every time I read through Scripture, especially in passages like Deuteronomy 6 or 2 Timothy 2, God clearly calls us to pass on our faith, the preciousness of our faith in Christ, to our children, our grandchildren, our colleagues, every generation. It simply is not optional.

So, as you mentioned, we published your book this month, Not Beyond Reach, and it’s the first step in our partnership, which we are just so thrilled to be able to release and feature this new resource to help believers better understand these challenges and the opportunities to share the gospel. So, Aaron, let’s dive in and let’s talk about the next resource that we are developing in partnership with you, which is a church-based course designed to equip believers. Can you give us a little bit more of your big vision for this resource and why it’s so needed?

AARON: Yeah, I am really excited. We are going to be taking the content from this book and producing an eight-week video-based evangelism training series that will equip followers of Jesus to reach people in their lives who maybe wouldn’t walk into a church today. And the idea of this series is that it’ll be very practical, very action oriented, and in the end our heart is that this series will be a blessing to the local church.

The vision is that it can be incorporated into your annual church discipleship curriculum and used as a lead up to major invitational weekends like Christmas, Easter, fall launch. And this idea that we have these opportunities where people can come and to our church and encounter a community and hear the gospel, but this can complement that by sending our people out to engage the world and to develop these friendships and spiritual conversations that walk people into a place where maybe they will come to a Christmas service for the first time in years or something like that. So, I think this is going to be an incredible tool that churches can use to reach their communities.

KITTY: Aaron, the first time I met you, I was really struck by how passionate and committed you are to the local church. Can you tell us a little bit more what's behind that?

AARON: Well, I think that it’s our desire to see the Church thrive, to see the Church being all that the Church is intended to be and to be salt and light in our world and so, I think we are all part of the Church and our desire is to see the local church thrive and to see the local church reaching the culture around them, especially the culture that is becoming increasingly hostile in, especially in our post-Christian context.

And I feel a lot of pastors that I talk to, they feel that pressure, they feel the challenge of our culture and I believe that we can put wind in their sails, we can resource them, we can help equip their people to engage, again, people in your own families but people in our neighborhoods and our communities that are far from God and that the Church can grow, the kingdom of God can grow, that people today who would want nothing to do with Christianity will encounter Jesus and be part of a local church community. That’s the desire. And so, I am just excited to see that become a reality more and more.

KITTY: Amen. A cause that is near and dear to the heart of the Lord Himself, Well, Aaron, I know that you have, already had some reps in this training some different groups and different churches just to kind of test out. And you’ve got some amazing stories of people who are believers who have now got some great conversation starters, some practical tools in their back pocket to be able to connect with a disaffected youth culture. And so, can you share some of these stories with us today?

AARON: Yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s important to share stories because as a mission we truly are missionaries and we tend to draw a lot of young, creative types to be part of our mission. But this content that we are developing together is really for anyone of any generation in any vocation to engage the culture around them.

And so, yeah, I have taught this material in various churches and recently I was teaching at a church that was bringing together and older group. And one of the first assignments in the course is to have people go out and interview two to three people in their life that they know who are not followers of Jesus. So, it could be family, friends, co-workers, And then to ask them four worldview questions around origin, morality, purpose, and destiny. And the whole idea is to get people to interact and to engage with people who are different than they are, who see the world differently and ask good questions and to listen and understand how they see the world. And it’s an amazing way to have deep, spiritual conversations, to grow in empathy and compassion, and to start meaningful friendships with people who are far from God.

And so, recently I taught this at a church here in Minneapolis where I live and after challenging everyone to go out and do this, the following week, a sweet eighty-year-old woman came up to me and she was super excited because the previous week she had gone out and she had asked different people these questions, including a barista at a Starbucks.

Now, picture this. The barista had piercings and colorful hair and seemed like the kind of person who wouldn’t want anything to do with this conservative, old church grandma, right? Like, think of the differences there. But even though this older woman was feeling a little nervous, she bravely approached this kind of edgy, cool-looking barista and she told her that she was taking a class and wondered if she might be open to answering a few questions. this barista was, like, super and nice and invited the woman to sit down and a few minutes later they were having these deep conversations about spiritual things and talking about God and this sweet eighty-year-old woman and this edgy-looking barista from Starbucks having this powerful conversation about God and it was so encouraging for this older woman. It showed her that God was not done with her. And she still had influence in people’s lives, that she could reach this younger generation no matter how different or unreachable they may have seemed at first. So, that to me was a perfect illustration. This is for everyone.

I have another story of a friend of mine. He’s a business leader and he was on a business trip. He lives in Houston, Texas but he was on a business trip to the Bay Area and he was part of this high tech conference gathering all these high tech business leaders. And he ended up befriending this young, really sharp guy, twenty-one-year-old guy that was part of a software company and they started to have a conversation and my friend told me how he was able to use the friendship spiritual gospel conversation framework to engage with this guy who you would have thought would want nothing to do with Christianity. And they had a powerful series of conversations during that conference and this guy was open for prayer and learning more about following Jesus and they connected and shared contact information.

So the idea here is you don’t have to be a vocational minister or you don’t have to be a younger person to reach another younger person. This is something that all of us can be a part of. And that’s my encouragement to all of you listening.

KITTY: That is so encouraging, Aaron, and just really inspirational for me to hear as I care deeply about not only my beloved Millennials but the next generation as well. And that’s super encouraging to hear about those key ambassadors. The Holy Spirit is on the move and it’s so wonderful to hear those stories. So, thank you for that.

Well, as we know, we are focusing on developing the church course, that’s our next big project that, for our listeners I want to let you know that it’s going to be in development over the next few months. But, Aaron, in fact, you have about ten churches that have volunteered to help pilot test this. And I wonder if you could, you could speak to that. Like, there must be a hunger, there must be a real felt need. And so, I’d love to hear from your perspective in these conversations with pastors what they are looking for.

AARON: Yeah. In my interactions with church leaders and pastors around the country, I just sense there’s, a holy dissatisfaction. I had a friend of mine, just a faithful pastor, had been serving for decades. And he’s like, “Aaron, I just don’t want to play church. I want to see, I want to see the world reached. I want to see people in my community reached. And I’m hungry for something.”

And so, there is, I think there is – God is doing something, right? Where I am not just content to do what I’ve always done. I want to see this culture reached. There is – we see, we read about the statistics and the rise of the religiously unaffiliated and all the challenges. But, yet, God is moving and yet He has, He has not forgotten this generation.

And so, I think there’s a hunger for hope, to see this generation reached. I think that there is pastors that are willing to say, “Okay, what I have done in the past, maybe that served its season, but I am ready for something new. How can I mobilize my, the people that God has entrusted me to go out and to reach a culture that is different than it was in past.”

And so, I don’t know, I sense a sense of, there’s this sense of hunger, a sense of humility, a sense of – you know, like I said – holy dissatisfaction and because of that, this is resonating. And I wonder if God is up to something here, that He’s beginning to, I believe a lot of times before He moves, He stirs in our heart a sense of, like, God, I need more. I need more of You. I need more of Your power in the world. My words, my strategies, my efforts are not enough.

And so, that, I say that because that is my prayer too, right? We don’t need another small group curriculum. We don’t need more content. We need God to move. And so, my prayer is that God would take this and other things that He is using to fuel a movement, that we truly would see the Church awaken, we would see people that are far from Him encountering the living God, and that all that we have, all the challenges that we have experienced would really drive us to our knees in prayer and God would move again like He has done so many times in the past.

KITTY: Amen, Aaron. I just love the passion and also the sense of humility that pastors are like, “Please, we need some help.” It’s – especially the last few years pre/post COVID for pastors it has been a real, real struggle. And so, Chip and the Living on the Edge family, we are very passionate about serving pastors and giving them practical resources as well to mobilize the body of Christ. So, that’s super encouraging to hear that we have already got some connection there.

Aaron just a moment ago, you mentioned that this new course that we are partnering together on is not just another small group study. So could you please take a moment and just share from your perspective how is this church-based course going to help challenge us and push believers out of our comfort zone? Perhaps even challenge the status quo of how churches do what they do to disciple and reach people. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.

AARON: Yeah, I think when you think about the challenges that we face in our country and most of us are aware of it, right? We have read the articles, we have heard about the statistics. And there’s a lot of challenges that we are facing in a changing culture. And if you look at how the Church has responded to those challenges, often it has tended to be one of two ways.

On one hand it’s that whole idea of I’m going to assimilate for the sake of being relevant. I want to maybe change or adopt or compromise my views, my morality, my theology in order to connect better with the changing culture. That’s been one response.

And then the other response maybe is to isolate ourselves, to separate ourselves, to become so holy that we disconnect and we have no engagement or interaction with the world because we are afraid of being contaminated or we want to separate ourselves from what is going on in the world.

And my challenge and my vision for the Church is that we could enter into the world, not compromise, not change, but to influence, to shape the world by bringing in the power of the gospel, which the power of the gospel is no different today than ever before. It is still as powerful as ever and it’s still the thing that the world is looking for, even if they don’t realize it.

And so, can we see a vision in which we are both relevant and holy? Where we go into the world, uncompromised but not isolating ourselves and bringing truth in a way that connects and bringing truth in a loving way that people will hear what we have to say and that, and rather than seeing Christians as the enemy or it’s us versus them or antagonistic, we could enter into their world like Jesus did, And I think that is the vision for the Church in America. Yeah, we don’t live in a nominal Christian nation anymore, but we have an opportunity maybe more than ever, because the light shines brightest in dark places to bring the truth to a world that is desperate for it.

KITTY: Amen. Amen, Aaron. From your lips to God’s ears. And for our audience I would simply ask that you would please pray for God to work powerfully through our partnership with Aaron and with Steiger International. It will take a movement of prayer warriors to be able to have this cultural impact to reach and disciple young people over the coming years, to create an even bigger movement of discipleship that will have impact, of course, both this side of heaven and throughout eternity. So, thank you in advance for your prayers and your commitment to the ministry of Living on the Edge.

Well, Aaron, thanks so much again for joining us today. As we wrap up today’s program, would you close us in prayer and pray for our audience and pray for our ministries for God to be glorified through all of this?

AARON: Yeah, absolutely. Lord, we just come before You thankful for who You are and what You have done. And, Lord, we know that even though we face challenges, this is a generation that is not beyond reach. This is a generation that Your heart yearns for, that You love, that You are pursuing. And, Lord, we desire to be part of what You are doing in pursuing this generation, Lord.

So, I pray that You would equip us first and foremost by giving us that broken heart that we need that will fuel and motivate us and then drive us to our knees in prayer, Lord. Because we need You. We don’t have enough wisdom or persuasive words or strategies that we can conjure up on our own, Lord. We need Your power. So, Lord, would You guide everyone here?

Lord, I pray especially for the parents and grandparents who are, who are mourning their son or daughter who has walked away from the Lord. Lord, I just want to pray a prayer that You would provide hope and encouragement. Their story is not yet done, Lord. I pray that You would bring hope, I pray that You would bring opportunities to these lost children who have walked away, but You love and You are pursuing, Lord. I pray that You would bring about people and circumstances that would draw them back to You, Jesus.

And, Lord, I pray for pastors and Church leaders that are asking You, Lord, “How do You want me to live in a time such as this?” Give them the wisdom, give them the courage, give them the insight to know how to do all of this, Lord. But I pray that these tools and these resources that You have given us, that they would be an encouragement, that they would really move people out into the world to be winsome witnesses for You, Jesus.

And that many people who today, who are far from You, who have misconceptions about who You are and what it means to follow You, that many of these people would encounter the true, living God. They would see that You are real, that You are not just religious activities but that You are real and You have the power to transform lives.

So, Lord, would You do a move in our country? Would You do a move in our own hearts? And would You reach this next generation? Because, Lord, we desire that and we want to be part of that. And so, we praise You, Lord, for Your goodness and all that You are doing and all that You will do. And praise You in Jesus’ name, amen.