7 Cultural Challenges to Biblical Discipleship

Every generation faces cultural challenges to biblical Christianity. Today’s generation has some of the most significant challenges to faith in human history. Christianity will not survive without a remnant of its adherents becoming disciples of Christ. Hence, the church must focus on biblical discipleship to continue as a positive force for the world until Christ returns. The following are seven cultural challenges to biblical discipleship:

  1. Family fragmentation

Today’s society has been moving away from the nuclear family unit of having children supported by one man and one woman as parents committed together in a traditional marriage. The nuclear family has declined in prevalence since the late 20th century due to increased divorce rates, cohabitation, single-parent households, and same-sex marriage. Consequently, children raised in fragmented family structures may have a more challenging time viewing the church as a family of families. They may have difficulty relating to a male pastor (if a single mom raised them and vice versa). However, God is bigger than any nuclear structure, and many great leaders have been raised by heroic single parents who loved the Lord (2 Timothy 1:4). Also, in the context of the church family, we have spiritual leaders such as Paul, the apostle, who stepped in to give his spiritual son Timothy (raised in the faith by his mother and grandmother) what he was missing in his biological family and empowered him to be a great apostolic leader (2 Timothy 1:1-7-13).

  1. Human sexuality frameworks

Now at least 47 terms categorically describe a person’s sexual attraction, behavior, and orientation. With all these extraneous categories, young people are confused regarding the biblical view of binary gender (there are only two biological genders according to Genesis 1:27) and human sexuality. Hence, to disciple a young person in today’s culture, it is not enough to get them to receive Christ and attend church; their worldview has to be totally reframed regarding identity, gender, and the biblical view and purpose of human families (Genesis 1:28).

  1. Impersonal interface (social media)

Young people have been brought up spending hours daily interacting with others impersonally via text and social media. This is a social crisis, with many young people not understanding how to navigate through interpersonal relationships because of their physical detachment, isolation, and exaggerated ways people depict themselves on social media. This problem of social detachment and mental health challenges related to social media overuse make it even harder to connect and disciple this generation of Christians personally.

  1. Ideological framing in public schools

The progressive state primarily uses many public schools as its public indoctrination center. Since most Christian parents send their children to public schools, it is harder to biblically influence their children, who spend 35-40 hours per week being inculcated with secular humanistic ideology. This makes it even harder for the Church to reach and discipline young people, as they only have these kids 2-3 hours per week between youth groups and congregational meetings.

  1. Diluted pulpit preaching

Unfortunately, much of the preaching today in Evangelical churches reflects the American cultural dream of success; hence it is more like “Christianity lite” than the biblical gospel. It is usually a sermon meant to make people feel good, self-empowered, and self-actualized, with the name of Jesus and some biblical principles attached to the message. This lack of scripture-saturated, biblically dense preaching will leave believers in a continual state of immaturity. Most people cannot mature as Christ’s followers without a steady diet of sound biblical teaching. Those who depend merely upon “self-help” preachers to feed them the word will lack the understanding necessary to discern the difference between right and wrong, good and evil (1 Corinthians 3:1-3; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 5:12-6:3). Consequently, churches that only deliver this kind of preaching will fail to nurture biblical disciples. 

  1. Attacks against executive authority

Since the 1960s “sexual revolution,” a spirit of rebellion against all forms of authority, has been pervasive in the USA and worldwide. With this mindset, people have lost trust in executive leadership, including political and spiritual leaders. The Vietnam War of the 60s and 70s, as well as the plethora of sex abuse scandals in the church in the past decade, has only worsened this lack of trust in leadership. Such mistrust also breeds contempt towards submission, making it challenging for the church to make disciples since submission to spiritual authority is necessary to grow in the Lord (Hebrews 13:7-17).

  1. Institutional education instead of cultivating organic relational discipleship

Jesus’ way of making disciples was always informal and organic. This method is evident as we read the Gospels, in which men had to follow and live with Jesus to be His disciple. This is a far cry from the standard institutional method of discipleship that the body of Christ has attempted to utilize to nurture spiritual leadership for hundreds of years. While I am a proponent of formal, ordered learning of the Scriptures (whether through a seminar or local church), I have learned that nothing is as potent as mature Christians pouring into people consistently in the context of the local church via relationally-driven small groups.

For more on this, I invite you to read my book, The Jesus Principles.

In conclusion, may the Lord give wisdom and conviction to the body of Christ to prioritize making disciples more than any other program or method of the church. After all, if Jesus used discipleship to transform the world, why should we attempt another’s means to fulfill the Great Commission? (Matthew 28:19-20)

Please check out the latest book from Joseph Mattera here!

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