Winds of Social Change

I am extremely thankful for these past several weeks. Already in my new position I have gathered much data and feedback from recent bible college graduates who are beginning a life in ministry or who have been in ministry now for several years. Sadly, some are struggling. Really struggling. Why? I’ve not dug deep into answers, but as we catch up, chat, and begin to discuss what we see God doing in the world around us, I’ve noticed something. The path they thought they would follow and discover is not what they found. Some have switched from several jobs. Some are out of ministry. Some cannot believe the dysfunction that exists within the churches they work in. Some are in great situations. Some are really seeing God move. Some are even experiencing what they had hoped for.

Wherever they are, or are not, it seems there is one constant. Ministry is changing. It looks different. It’s not as it once was. People are no longer showing up to the church. As it relates to my current position, churches are not seeing students to bible colleges any more. Honestly, this is confusing and a shocking to many who work in church and university leadership. They cannot fathom the disconnect. Often, blame is placed on the local churches for not sending. Or, churches blame the universities for not putting out ministers and preachers and abandoning the historic traditions. Sometimes churches blame culture or youth sports. The buck is always passed and blame is always shifted. History details that technology always improves and there is advancement. Progress is progress because it moves forward, not backward.

Here’s the reality: we live in a digital society. New media values are already ingrained into this new generation. It takes a minute for a three year old to figure out when they touch a tv why it won’t respond to their touch. Everything is a tap away on a computer, smartphone, or voice command. No one needs to show up to church to listen to a sermon anymore. It’s available via podcast. No one needs to attend bible college to get practical ministry tools and training. It’s available for free via YouTube. Available via the internet allows for innovation, experimentation, and participation. But, there is still need for churches and bible colleges even with all the present accessibility. However, because their is so much information, churches must transform and universities must transform. People want a church and university where they are participating members of a flexible community that has a deep abiding cause. In reality, isn’t that the hope and prayer of every human’s heart? Isn’t that why the church is so vitally important? It was originally designed as a flexible adapting loving transformative community with a deep cause and purpose.

Frank Underwood in House of Cards on Netflix is a captivating character. I find the show so riveting because he understands people; therefore, he knows how to manipulate them. Challenge them. Rule them. I don’t advocate for the methods or his reasoning. But, one thing I think his character understands more than anything is the culture, or at least he did. The new season specifically shows the tension between what was effective and what will be effective and how a digital age can either strengthen someone or cripple them. I suppose that’s what successful and effective politicians know how to do–take advantage of the cultural changes. They adapt. Look at today’s real life politicians. Trump is playing on people’s emotions. Sanders is playing on people’s dreams. Cruz is playing on people’s fears. Still, they are capturing the social winds and using them to their advantage. I have always found its easier to use sails to capture the power of the wind and harness the direction it blows, rather than row against it. Some politicians understand adapt and survive. Let’s hope the our churches and bible colleges start getting it too. Not for the sake of personal gain or as a result of fear. Instead, driven by a mission to effectively send transformed kingdom disciples into the world who can adapt to the winds of social and technological change for the sake of the gospel.

Practically speaking, missionaries adapt to their culture and context. They do not sacrifice the gospel. They simply indigenize, not compromise. They become one with their surrounding to communicate the most valuable truth to all–that the God of the universe is on a mission to rescue and renew all of creation, specifically mankind, through the person and work of Jesus. That’s the good news. Salvation. Restoration. Redemption. For individual people. For families. For communities. For this world.

“Good missionaries understand the culture they’re called to serve. If you’re reading this [blog post], you are called to serve a digital culture. This culture operates differently than the one you might have grown up in. It’s different from the one of just a few short years ago. This culture thinks, believes, buys, behaves, and speaks differently than any other culture you may be familiar with. This cannot be overstated. We need to rethink the way we interact with this digital culture. Sharing is a new way of life. There are no more one way streets. Everything is participatory. A new media culture is not content to sit idly by.” – Justin Wise, The Social Church

My hope and prayer is that the church no longer be reactionary, rather get ahead of the social change, or at least in stride. With no compromise of the gospel, but for its sake. Too much is at stake.

Our Next Step

Friends and Family,

Thank you for your prayers and support during this time of transition in our life! Words cannot describe how encouraging you have been to our family. We have some exciting news to share with you! After much time, patience, prayer, and seeking God’s direction and wise counsel, we have taken a next step in our journey.

I (Kyle) have accepted a position at Kentucky Christian University in the Admissions Department. The role that I have accepted is Church Admission Counselor. The goal of the position is to recruit students to come to KCU while connecting and networking directly with churches and youth ministers. I am very excited about this position: 1) because I deeply care about KCU and its success, 2) it is the best opportunity to sharpen skills outlined in our Stadia growth plan, and 3) this position taps deep into my passion for strategically equipping ministers and churches, while allowing me to create and build something new. For the past several months Ruth and I have asked for your prayers as we considered the next step in our faith journey. God has been faithful during this time, provided for us in many ways; know your prayers on behalf of us have been answered.

After leaving CenterPointe, we transitioned to Grayson, KY and resumed ministry, while seeking out avenues of church planting. We started out with a few options to quickly enter into church planting hoping one of those would easily pan out, which I’ve blogged about here. However, contrary to our call away from Lexington, the clarity of our next step has not gone so smoothly. Therefore we had to relearn a few lessons. Over the past couple months God has opened and closed many doors and possibilities, whether it was Las Vegas, Ashland, San Diego, or Chicago, it seemed none of those opportunities were what God had in mind. When we are able to connect in person I’d love to share more of the detailed story and the emotional ups and downs. Nevertheless, since Ruth and I have been married, we have continually said we will follow God’s direction “wherever and whenever,”attempting to not rule out anything.

Our next stop is KCU and for a period of time that will allow us to develop in areas directly related to church planting. I’ll outline a couple of growth areas below, but let me clarify that we still intend to be faithful and pursue church planting even though I am taking this position at KCU. In giving full credit to God, this was not something that was anticipated or that we could foresee, and we believe that this opportunity only arose because we stepped aside from church ministry to follow God’s leading. We still feel God’s direction long term West and to church planting, but as we continue to seek God, we see this as a step in the larger journey. We are not sure when we will become part of a church plant team or plant a church, however, we feel that this is the next step for us as a family. I just want to thank you again for your prayer and support!

In Christ,
Kyle, Ruth, X, and Mia

For those who have invested in our church plant journey here’s how this opportunity directly connects to our development as a church planting family.

  1. Because I will networking with churches and youth ministers, our relational connections will increase, thus potentially expanding our financial base when we do decide its time to plant.
  2. Ruth and I will continue to grow in our intentional disciple making capacity because of the people God has placed in our lives right here in Grayson.
  3. I will be regularly speaking in front of groups, which will improve my vision casting ability, sharpen my preaching skill, while growing my connecting ability.
  4. I will be attempting to persuade students to come to KCU by connecting with them quickly and passionately. These student may be interested in KCU, may be antagonistic to a bible college, or indifferent. Therefore, I see a direct connection to improving evangelistic skill—sharing the gospel with people who may not be interested, or simply willing to listen.