Talking to People Where they Are
We had a young teenager come to live with us because he was having some difficulties in life. He was from a significantly different background than our family, but needed a home. We live in a very rural setting, a 200 acre farm, miles from the nearest city. He was not from a farm and as a matter of fact rarely went outside let alone go for a walk in the silence and open spaces of a farm.
To help familiarize him with the property, he and I went for a walk through the rolling hills and bean fields that he would be calling home. As we topped a small roll in the landscape at the edge of a dark green soybean field, a fairly sizable buck rustled to his feet and then bounded off into the woods. My pride swelled at the picture of our farm with abundant wildlife and such a picturesque site of the multi-pointed deer hopping through the field. I turned to the young man and said, "Well...what do you think of that?"
He quickly replied, "I think we should get out of here before he comes back."
I suddenly became acutely aware of the societal differences between he and I.
Our churches have the same problem of societal differences and speaking to a new, younger generation is difficult at best. But, we are not to ignore the next generation or people in it that are different than us and the best example of that is Jesus himself.
Think about how Jesus grew up. Nazareth was not mentioned in the Old Testament and it was not even a foot note in writings of Josephus or Philo. Also, archaeological artifacts are scant in the area leading to the right conclusion that Nazareth was a very small town or community. Yet Jesus knew his message had to travel outside of his small town and possibly beyond even his comfort zone.
But, Jesus did not let social factors or his small town roots get in the way of his message and we can all list some of the various cultures and people he was in contact with. The Samaritan woman at the well, Zaccheaus the reviled tax collector, the unclean lepers and the big city folks of Jerusalem were all touched by the small town man with the message of hope.
We too are called to go outside of our comfort zone and speak to the various cultures that surround us and we don't have to travel far to do so. Regardless, of where your church is at physically, you are surrounded by a new mission field, a generation that is hard to talk to and very difficult to understand. This mission field is the Millennial and younger generations. They are in constant communication, find answers to every question on small plastic boxes, and have more information available to them than in any other time in history, but are lost. I feel they are ready for the message of Jesus, but we have lost the ability to communicate with them. If you doubt me try to read one of their texts.
To go where they are, we need to start engaging in a planned social media campaign. We need to invite Millennials currently in our churches to help in this new mission field and more broadly get our church speaking in a way that this younger generation will understand and respond to. This does not mean that we alter the message! It does mean that we should think more deeply about how we convey that message. Don't delay. A new mission field awaits.
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