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Digital Babylon – Part Three

digital babylon sara thomas

 I’ve shared stories and statistics about Gen Z in Part 1 and Part 2. The question that now emerges is, how can we respond? What follows are five broad suggestions for engaging Gen Z. Because we are living in Digital Babylon, don’t be surprised if you find these suggestions appealing to every generation.

How can we respond?

1. A Missional Approach to Disciple-Making

For the reasons above (and many more) we must take a missional approach to disciple-making – meeting people in their every day, ordinary life and modeling the way Jesus is showing up and showing off. A missional approach involves getting out of our church buildings and into the community, to be the hands and feet of Jesus. It will also mean refusing to stay in holy huddles.

Instead, we will welcome people who have doubts, questions, and curiosities about faith to approach us with candor. A missional approach to disciple-making means being people who love others not because of what they offer – but simply because we have experienced the love of God. But most of all, a missional approach to disciple-making means we will be missionaries in our local context, not passive participants in a club experience one hour a week.

digital babylon sara thomas

2. Claim our Vocation as Jesus Followers

If following Jesus has meant showing up for committee meetings and one hour of worship on Sunday, you’ve likely fallen into being a club instead of being every day disciples. Living as disciples every day means helping people claim their vocation as followers of Jesus. Our identity as Jesus followers is not a tag on our keychain with a barcode that gives us discounts and fuel points. Our identity as Jesus followers encompasses who we are and how we live – every moment of every day.
From banks and boardrooms to grocery stores and garbage dumps, from seaside villages to mountaintop retreats, we are followers of Jesus. We don’t go to church. We are the church.

One-hour attendance in worship doesn’t make us faithful. If we’re not careful, it could make us hypocrites. So choose to live differently, carrying your faith into the world. Letting Jesus guide who you are in your daily life.

3. Practice Focusing on God’s Abiding, Daily Presence

And if the first two responses seem foreign, it’s exactly why we are focusing on God’s presence: reading Scripture, reflecting on a focus word, and responding to a question that helps us name God’s presence. We need the practice. I know I do. We need to practice together paying attention and looking for God in the ordinary.

Jesus is with you already. The question is, do you notice? Does Jesus matter in your daily life?
If you’re not sure where to start and if you’re not ready to jump into daily scripture readings, reflection and responding to God, start simply by being thankful. Can you name something you’re grateful for today? How about tomorrow? Do it every day for a week. Then try another week. Then maybe you’ll start talking with others about the source of your gratitude.

4. Live as AND People

I have said many times in many places, Wesleyan theology makes faith relevant today. When we embody the best of our Wesleyan theology, personal piety AND social holiness, we begin to embody ways of being faithful that are not filled with dichotomies. When we embody the best of our Wesleyan theology we are people of faithful integrity.

I’ve already told you I was not raised attending church with my family. I went on occasion with my Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Baptist friends. And while I joke about it, it truly IS the reason I am United Methodist.

We hold together the best of what I experienced as a child visiting sanctuaries that cultivated wonder and awe in the depths of my soul. Because we hold together personal piety and social holiness, the disciplines of the inward life and the practices of an outward life, because we engage our head and hold it in close proximity to our heart, we are people of AND.

I maintain we have an opportunity to recognize Digital Babylon surrounding us. Who will hold together personal piety and social holiness with depth, integrity, and Spirit if it is not the people called Methodist?

5. Live Faithfully in Babylon

While I never wanted to visit Babylon, it has come to me. It’s also come to you. It may be disguised in smartphones and Snapchat. But it is where we now live. The question is NOT, “When will we leave this place?” The question is, “How will our faith guide us to live in this place?”

Go ahead. Google that question.

I know someone who already has. She’s a part of a generation of 69 million people called Generation Z.

Data shared here is from an online presentation by Barna and Impact 360 on Tuesday, January 23, 2018.

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