Christ & Cascadia Conference a few weeks back, I had the chance to present a paper on my working view of discipleship and young adults. Here's the abstract from the paper:
“From Consumption to Engagement: Discipleship and Millennials in Cascadia”
Much has been written and researched outlining the hasty exit of millennials from the church in recent years. Cascadia is no exception. Within the cultural pluralism of Cascadia, religious commitment is but one choice among many, and one that is decreasing in popularity. Cascadia churches that are intentional about engaging millennials do so in a variety of different ways. From a surging New Calvinism, to thriving experientially-based worship events, to a growing emphasis on gap-year discipleship education, to cultural adaptations for belief and practice, many sectors of the Cascadian church are attempting to alter the trends of millennials leaving the church. But is it working?
The focus of this paper is twofold: 1) I will briefly outline several approaches to discipleship with millennials in Cascadia, suggesting a propensity to adopt consumeristic tendencies; 2) I will provide an alternative approach to discipleship with millennials drawing on James Davison Hunter’s model for “faithful presence” as a way to avoid the common consumeristic tendencies (in To Change the World). I will suggest that faithful presence requires churches to emphasize local relationships rooted in a theology of covenant and participatory leadership with a view of culture that explores faith in Christ in the midst of the tension between challenge and collaboration. In a culture as diverse as Cascadia and to a demographic as religiously complex as millennials, I will argue that discipleship centered on “faithful presence” can provide a sustaining faith and set millennials on a trajectory for a lifetime of authentic discipleship.