Reaching America’s Least Religious Generation | Shane Pruitt

Bart Blair Leave a Comment

Shane Pruitt shares how they present God to the next generation in a way that helps them find hope in a real relationship with Jesus.

Podcast Transcription

SHOW TRANSCRIPT

Welcome to the Church Growth Interviews podcast. My name is Bart Blair, and I’m here with my friend and colleague, the CEO of Missional Marketing, Jason Hamrock. Good day to you, Jason.

Good day to you, Bart. How are you today?

I’m doing well. I’m doing well, I’m enjoying spring weather here in Texas, and enjoy kind of getting to the end of my workdays these days and sitting out on the patio with my wife and just having a little quiet time in the evenings when we’re not having winter or spring storms. We’ve got these weird storms that have been coming through here lately, when we’re not having storms, we have some beautiful evenings. And the weekend that is coming up here looks like it’s going to be awesome, so, yeah, I’m doing well.

Well, I’m in Phoenix and so this is our nice time of the year, but it’s going to be right around the corner when it’s like one hundred and ten degrees. So I’m enjoying the cooler weather today, and knowing that I wish I could bottle up. If I could bottle it up, I’d be a wealthy man because I could sell that. But anyway, it’s nice here and I’m enjoying it.

Yeah, enough about the weather, we can talk about the weather all the time. Something we have, you and I have been talking about, though, is because it is springtime, we both have high school students, sons, that are getting ready to graduate here within a couple of months. And so I’m interested in hearing the interview that we’re going to be introducing today, because I didn’t get to participate in this one with you, and I didn’t get to hear it. But Shane Pruitt, who’s our guest, and I’ll let you fill our audience in on a little bit of information about him in just a moment. But he leads a ministry, he works in evangelism with young people, young adults or Generation Y, Gen Y. And so I’m really interested in hearing what he had to share, because we’re kind of living in that space as as dads of teenagers.

You know, yeah. I’m excited about this interview with Shane, because here’s the reality, churches, we have to be growing younger, and that’s a hard thing to do these days. And if you think about a lot of churches we talk to that our smaller churches, and tend to be smaller churches in size, doesn’t mean they’re smaller in what they’re accomplishing for the Lord. It’s just they’ve got to have a mindset of we’ve got to grow younger, we’ve got to constantly grow younger, and how do we reach younger people? It’s something that we always talk about at Missional Marketing, even though our goal is to help you use digital tools to reach more people. if you break that down, it is how can you connect with younger people? How can you connect with a generation, that for the first time in America, never went to church. A lot of kids have never even stepped foot in church, because mom and dad didn’t have an interest in taking them to church. So you’re going to hear Shane talk about, he was at lunch the other day and he literally had a conversation with the waiter who’s in his early 20s, who has never stepped foot in a church, and who has never had a Bible in his hands. In Texas, in Texas, the Bible Belt, so it’s a new day.

No, it is the buckle of the Bible belt buckle. Now, I think multiple states, I think multiple states kind of argue over that title, but here in Texas, that is odd. I grew up in Texas and I have a friend that I, a good friend that’s part of my church, part of my men’s group, who moved… He actually grew up in Texas as well, but lived out on the East Coast for a number of years, began following Jesus when he was out in Maryland, and then moved back to Texas. And I can remember having a conversation with him a couple of years ago, right before Easter, and we talked about people that we were going to be inviting to our church’s Easter service. And he said, the hardest thing in the world around here is that everybody that you talk to goes to church somewhere. Which is is kind of an overstatement, but it’s really not, at least with our generation. If the person’s like thirty five and up, there’s a very good chance that they’ve got some kind of connection with church. Now, we have more people moving to Texas from outside of Texas, which changes that. More people from the Northeast, from the Pacific Northwest, half of California is moving to Texas. And so, yeah, that definitely, that definitely is an interesting thing that he shared with you.

I’ll say this, to kind of piggyback on what you’re saying there, is that churches, by and large, are led by guys my age, guys in their 50s, and or all the way up into their 60s. And as we lead churches, one of the most complicated things for us is really understanding the needs of students today, because their needs, and their challenges, and the obstacles that they’re facing in life, are so completely different than what you and I faced when we were teenagers. I remember when my son, who’s now 18, was 12 or 13, and we got him his first cell phone. And I remember putting that phone in his hand and thinking to myself, he will never not have a phone in his hand ever again. Like it’s just once this generation has had that phone, they’ll never not have a phone. And the challenges that they face as a result of social media, and just the fast paced change of communication, and the way that media is distributed and all this stuff, it just changes, it changes the challenges that they face. And with that, obviously, comes a need for us to change our strategies and our methodology for reaching these young people with the pure, unadulterated message of Jesus and about how God loves them, wants to have a relationship with them. And that their lives can actually be transformed in a positive way, not because God is this big angry ogre in the sky with a bunch of rules, which is what most teenagers think, that what I thought when I was a teenager. But that he actually has a loving Father, who is actually even if, I mean you’re a pretty good dad with your kids, I think my kids would say I’m a pretty good dad, but God’s an even better dad. And so how do we present God to this next generation of young people in a way that helps them really see hope, find hope, in a real relationship with Jesus?

So Shane speaks to that, and I’m excited about that, because when I relate that to what we’re trying to accomplish here at Missional Marketing, we’re totally in sync. We’re so focused on helping to connect with all people, but specifically younger people, that are dealing with felt needs. And so one of the fun things that we get to do, you get to do this every day, I get to do this every day, is coach churches on how to do this effectively.

Yeah.

And so, yeah, I’m really excited about what you’re going to hear with Shane.

Is there anything else that we need to know about Shane before we roll into the interview?

Oh yeah, he’s a dad. He’s got young kids, so he’s got bunches of kids running around. And he’s so funny, because he said if it’s quiet in our house, something’s wrong. But he lives in Rockwall, Texas, which is just a suburb there of Dallas. His wife’s on staff at LakePoint, great church there. And he travels around, all around the country, and he loves his job. And he’s got a lot of experience in the church world as a pastor, obviously volunteering, and all kinds of stuff that he’s doing. But when he was called to serve at the North American Mission Board, and that’s what he does, he’s the National Next Generation Evangelism Director. Say that fast ten times.

For the North American Mission Board. I’m going to say it one more time just because it’s fun to say, the National Next Gen Evangel…I can’t do it.

You can’t even say it.

No, I’m going to try to get it. The National Next Gen Evangelism Director for North American Mission Board. Wow, that is quite a title, you can’t get that on a business card. But then again, since he’s ministering to next gen, who’s going to use a business card?

Nope, not Shane, so…

Awesome.

Let’s listen into Shane.

All right, thanks, Jason.

 

Well, hey, Shane, thank you for jumping on the podcast, glad to have you. How have you been?

I’m good man. Thank you so much for having me on, I’m truly honored. So let me just say, your background’s a lot cooler than mine today I’ve got the white wall, you’ve got like this nice wood.

Ok, now you’ve got to share the reason why you have that backdrop.

Yes, well yeah. So at home today, but our kids are at home. We have six kids that are 14 and under, that is a prayer request. So I’m actually in my daughter’s room using her white back wall here, and it’s quiet. Yeah, otherwise you just hear kids playing and running, on screen and off screen. So yeah, so I’ve just got the plain white wall background. You’ve got a cool background.

So break it down, you’ve got some biological and some adopted kids.

We do, yeah. So we have two biological daughters, fourteen and nine, and then we have an eight year old son adopted from Uganda, a seven year old son adopted from Liberia, and then a five year old son and a three year old daughter adopted from Texas.

Wow. Wow. Yeah, we’ll lift you up in prayer.

Thank you. And praise the Lord for my wife, Casey. I married way, way, way, over my head. She’s my hero.

We all did.

Yeah.

Yeah, and she serves at a really great church in in the Dallas Fort Worth area, LifePoint Church, and she runs the Adoption Ministry there, huh?

Yeah, yeah, very much so. Yeah, they were like, hey, you know what, this is your life, so help us at the church do it.

Amen.

And so she’s, yeah, she’s awesome.

Yeah. Well we could probably talk about her for an hour, but let’s talk a little bit about you and your background. Tell us about your ministry and what you’ve got going on.

Yeah, so I currently serve as the National Next Gen Director for the North American Mission Board. Which the North American Mission Board is basically the national entity for the Southern Baptist Convention, so we work with forty eight thousand churches across the nation. And so I get to oversee all of our next gen ministries, which is young adults, college students, high school students, junior high students. And I get to travel across the nation, and really I get to live my dream and get to speak and preach in front of the next generation coming up. But I also getting to partner with churches and ministries and networks on reaching, currently Gen Z with the gospel, and to mobilize those students with the gospel to go tell the world about King Jesus. Yes, so I love it.

Wow, you have some pretty big challenges ahead of you. You know, nothing that can’t get overcome, right. But I get to talk with churches all the time around the country, and it seems like their biggest struggle is figuring out how to grow younger. You know, and it’s kind of easy to identify when you go, well, do you have any staff that’s younger, or do you have a ministry, or are you doing an event that’s younger, that kind of a thing? But tell me some of the biggest obstacles that you think the church is facing in growing up the next generation?

Yeah, I think they’re initially obstacles, but they can be very exciting opportunities. And so one thing we know about Generation Z now that they’re in, the older part of that generation is in, college or postgrad. We’re getting a lot more data on them, especially when it comes to church, spirituality, religion. According to a Wall Street Journal article, less than 30 percent says religion is important to them. So not even Christianity, just religion. So statistically speaking, you could say generations is the least religious generation we’ve ever seen, almost like they’re truly a product of a post-Christian culture. They’re really a post-Christian generation.

So that’s an obstacle, meaning that for the most part, many of them did not grow up in church, going to vacation Bible school with fake Oreo cookies and Tang. Do remember Tang?

That stuff was awesome.

I don’t know, is that even a thing? I don’t even know that a thing.

It is, and I love it.

Okay, yeah. But they didn’t grow up going to church, you know, for the most part they don’t just wake up one day and go, oh, I think I should go to church. And we know this culturally, that cultural Christianity is disappearing. Even those states who have been able to kind of guide them, you know, on some momentum of cultural Christianity by being in the Bible Belt. You know, I don’t mean it cliché, but it’s true, the Bible Belt really is busted with lostness, the Bible Belt disappearing. You know, I live in Dallas, Texas, and I just told a story even two weeks ago, me and another pastor were at lunch in Dallas, Texas, where there’s almost a megachurch on every corner.

Like Walgreens.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, so we’re at church, I mean, we’re at lunch and we get in this conversation with our waiter who’s twenty years old. His name is Zach. and Zach grew up in Dallas his whole life and has never been in a church building, has. never even held a Bible. I even asked him, I go, have you ever even held the Bible? He was like, no. He literally did not know anything about God. So all that to say, cultural Christianity is disappearing.

Now, here’s where there’s the opportunity. I would say sometimes in the past, cultural Christianity has been one of the biggest barriers to sharing the gospel with someone. Because almost you had to convince somebody they were lost before you could tell them about Jesus.

Right.

I think with Generation Z, they know they’re either in or out. They know they’re either Christian or not. they’re either in a church or they’re not. There’s no kind of in between foot in both worlds, they’re either in or out. And so I’ve seen more young people come to know Jesus, make a profession of faith, and probably the last year and a half to two years than the previous 15 years of ministry combined. Meaning just flat out get saved, come to know Jesus. And here’s what I know about that generation, is they know it’s probably going to cost them something to follow Jesus, meaning they’re going to have friends make fun of them, their family make fun of them. They know navigating, if they’re in a university or a public school, it’s going to be hard to navigate following Jesus in those settings. And so when they make a decision to follow Jesus on some level, they go all in, and they’re radical with it.

And so I think one of the biggest barriers as the church, is to know you’re trying to reach the least religious generation we’ve ever seen. And so some of it, you can’t just sit back and wait for them to come to you, to go, hey, one day they’re just going to wake up and have an epiphany that they should go to a church, or a religious service, or worship service. Chances are they’re not, so they’re going to come if a trusted friend invites them, or if their life has just blown up and they’re looking for answers and they go, I’ll try the church, or the church was already out in their context, living on mission. And so big hurdles, but big opportunities.

I think the second one that churches are trying to navigate right now, too, is diversity. Generation Z, Pew Research just put this out a couple of months ago, Generation Z, those currently in college, high school, junior high, older pre-teens, are forty-eight percent non-Anglo, so that makes them by far the most diverse generation. Millennials were around thirty-three percent, so one generation it jumped from thirty-three percent non-Anglo to forty-eight percent non-Anglo. So I must say this, as ministries, if we’re going to reach a generation of diversity that looks like heaven, and then by default, us as ministries, will become more diverse if we’re reaching the most diverse generation there is. So I think the question we got to ask ourselves, what are some bridges in our ministry that we can put in place to reach an extremely diverse generation, to reach an extremely diverse culture around us? And here’s the tougher question I think we have to ask, what are some current barriers in place that’s keeping us from doing that, if we’re not doing it already?

Oh, wow. Okay, so you just dropped a bunch right there in the last few minutes, I’m like where do I start? You know, in working and talking to so many churches, I always say that the best way to grow your church is your own people. Right? And it’s not like you’re trying to reach everybody, your trying to reach somebody, and that somebody can reach somebody, and that’s somebody can reach somebody. And so it’s like this upside down funnel, right, you can grow it by using your people to connect. So I think that’s always, we’ve been doing it for two thousand years, Jesus started that, so we didn’t invent it.

I think it works. I think it works.

I think it works. So that’s the, like, that’s the first approach. But you, boy, you dropped something that’s pretty big there, where this next generation, if half of them have never even, or more, have never even stepped foot in a church, ever even held a Bible, that could be kind of daunting and a little bit overwhelming. However, maybe it’s super fresh because they haven’t experienced like…I’ve talked to a lot of people that go, you know what, I don’t really like the church, because I don’t like the people in the church. I don’t like you Christians, Jesus, you know, whatever with Jesus. But if they’ve been burned, it makes it a harder hurdle. But if they’ve never had any kind of experience, then maybe it’s another opportunity.

You also said something else that caught my attention, and that is, if they’re not going to just show up, probably. We know they’re dealing with some kind of an issue, an addiction, they’re sad, their grief, you know, they’ve lost something, lost a loved one, might be a marriage failure, parenting failure, that kind of stuff. And so they may be looking for answers, right, and the church would have those answers, but don’t expect them to show up to church. That model is kind of going away, if not almost gone away. Maybe that’ll…Covid pretty much put that on steroids, where it’s not going to happen. But there might be where people are attracted to church, of course, that’s always a thing. But I think it is one of those lanes where you’ve got to go. So how do you how do churches go?

Yes, I love that. Yeah, I mean, and you see that model all throughout the New Testament, right? And I love where you said, hey, we don’t have to overthink it, what has worked for two thousand years, will still work today. To know that there are people who are made in the image of God, that God loved them so much, he sent his only begotten son. They desperately need Jesus, the gospel, and then they’re looking for community and life. And they want to live beyond something that they can do on their own, they want to live for something bigger than themselves. So we know all those things are true, they’ve been true for two thousand years. so we stick to what we know is true.

But like, how do we do that? That’s the big question. So I think in the New Testament, you saw the models of come and see, and you see the model of go and tell. I think as the church, we have to do both, because I think for a long time we’ve really coasted on the come and see model. Right? Hey, when visitors come, or kind of a language we’ve used for the last couple of decades, when seeker come, we want to create the best environment, hospitality, we want it to be a great experience for those seekers when they come. The question is, is now, okay, if that’d be true, how are they going to come? Because I don’t think we can just rely on having the prettiest building in town, or the best new sign, or the coolest t-shirts. Like how are we going to get people into the community? Well, it’s got to be back on the focus of the go and tell. So I really think it’s got to be helping people truly see themselves, if they’re followers of Jesus and they have the Holy Spirit of God, that they truly see themselves as missionaries, that they’re called to live on mission.

Because honestly, we never admit this, but this is how we operate, right? Typically, especially in the Western church in America, we operate like this, but we would never admit it. But this is how we operate right, you get saved, you get dunked in water, then you sit on your blessed assurances. Right? Going to a bunch of events, or potluck dinners, watching all the professional Christians do the ministry. And who’s the professional Christians, right, it’s the pastor and the paid staff. And the moment they do ministry in a way we don’t like, we write them a little email in Jesus name. Right?

That’s right.

But that’s not the New Testament church, the New Testament church is our leaders are there to equip the saints for ministry. Why? If you’re a saint, meaning you’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus and you have the Holy Spirit of God, then you are called to ministry. And our job as leaders is to equip the saints for ministry. So we really have to empower our church members, our congregants, are attenders, whatever language we’re going to use. To go, hey, your job is a mission field, your school is a mission field, your family, your neighborhood, the nations. And we equip, and we empower, people to live our mission. To go, hey, not only do we want to equip you and empower you to invite people to church, yes, still do that. But we want to equip and empower you to be able to show the gospel yourself. Because think of the beautiful model, like if you’re able to share the gospel with your co-worker, they come to know Jesus, then you go, hey, I’ve got a great church you need to be a part of, because that’s the next step, you need to get into a community. And so I think we’re going to have to start relying a lot more heavily on that go and tell model, then the come and see model only.

Yeah, boy. And do you, you know, when you, so you travel around, talk to churches, and you obviously know a lot about this next generation, you’ve studied it. Where do you see, or do you have any churches that are doing this effectively, and really ministering to this next generation, and seeing a lot of progress been made? And if so, what is it they’re doing?

Yeah, yeah. I mean, so many, God is doing so many things. I think it’s so easy to like, focus on the negative, you know, like the stats and stuff. But, man, there’s so many things that has taken place. I always love to say this, like we’re part of a big picture. And I love what you said, two thousand years things have been working. You know, so we don’t start something and end something, it’s just our turn to be a part of the story, and to be faithful with our part of the story of reaching the next generation, so that generation can rise up and reach the next generation. And that’s how the church has been going for two thousand years.

So two that I can think of is. Long Hollow in Tennessee, in Hendersonville. They’re multi campus church, and I tell you, they’re experiencing revival. And it’s so fun, it’s almost like what we would consider almost like old school type of way. Like they’re doing by prayer meetings, and they’re doing spontaneous baptism, and sharing the gospel. But they’re equipping their people to go live on mission, and so they’ve seen tons of baptisms this year already, even during COVID, continuing to grow, just so many stories of miracles and life change. When I say miracles, this is a Baptist church, you know what I mean? So a lot of times we don’t throw around the word miracles in Baptist churches, like I say that as a Southern Baptist. We don’t really, you know, we don’t really throw around that word a whole lot, but they’re seeing a movement of God.

And I think it’s primarily because what we’re talking about, don’t even say things like this. I think of Will More, their lead student pastor, he’ll do this in all of their campuses. And they just set this is a culture, and these are with teenagers. He’ll tell them all the time, hey, listen, you’re not the future of the church. According to the New Testament, if you’ve been bought by the blood of Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit of God, you are the church right now, you have a calling on your life. Now you’ve got the great commission on your life, now, hey, if you can drive a motor vehicle, if you think about this, even in culture, if you drive a motor vehicle, you can have a job at 18, you can hold a weapon serving in the military, serving around the world, you can serve the church, be the church, you can be trained to share your faith. And so he’ll ask this question and he’ll say, who are the student pastors of Long Hollow students? And then you’ll have hundreds of students go, we are. Like they own it, you know, and so they see themselves as the church ministry. They have ownership in it, they have a stake in it, they have partnership in it, and so I love that, I love that. I’ve shared that all over the place since I heard it. He’ll go, who are the student pastors of Long Hallow. And you’ll have, you know, five hundred six hundred teenagers go, we are. You know, it’s overwhelming, I love it. So I actually spoke there several weeks ago and I said, I want to do it. I go, who are the student pastors here? And they go, we are, so I love that. But what he’s doing is given ownership of the ministry to the people to go, hey, this isn’t something for you to sit, and spectate, and consume. Like you’re the ministry, you’re the church, own it, go win the world for Jesus, and he’s been doing that with teenagers, I love that. And that’s really the culture of the whole church.

Another one I think of, and I’m using kind of next gen examples, is a great collegiate ministry in Denton called Overflow. It’s a Tuesday night ministry, as a gathering, it’s hosted by church, but it’s really for the Campus of the University of North Texas, and Texas Woman’s University, and some other campuses there. But it’s a ministry with about four or five hundred college students in it, they have a college pastor who is a guy, you know, in his early forties that oversees the whole movement. But the whole ministry is ran by college students, small group teachers are college students. I speak there once or twice a semester for them, so if I preach and give an invitation or a response time, those response counselors, all college students. They even do like apologetics training because they’re all on the campus of secular universities, all taught led by college students. So it’s truly a ministry, a collegiate ministry, led by college students, and kind of overseen by a guy who’s pouring into those collegiate leaders as they pour into their own generation. So I think it’s those models of raising up, raising the expectation. I think with the next generation, we may have to explain all the terms, we’ve got to be careful of our spiritual jargon because they didn’t go to church, a lot of them. But we really don’t have to dumb it down, just disciple them up, give them ownership. And it’s amazing at the innovation and creativity they’ll come up with to reach their own generation with the gospel.

That’s really hopeful because, you know, we’re not relying on the lead pastor to save this generation. No, no, no, it’s peer to peer.

Yeah.

Let that generation, save their generation, and get excited about that.

Yeah, I love it because if you think about it, say even Generation Z, like when we talk about reaching, say, Gen Z, what typically takes place, right? You usually get an older millennial, or Gen Xer, or boomer, trying to tell other boomers, millennials, and Gen Xers, how to reach Gen Z, but they’re never a part of the conversation, right? And so we know the most effective person at reaching another student with the gospel, is a student that has a heart that beats with passion for Jesus, but that same heart is broken over the spiritual lostness of their own generation. They’re always going to be most effective. So I think the best thing we can do is to pour into a generation, let them be the church, let them own it, and then really just set them free to be the church.

Wow! So as church leaders, because this is who tends to listen to this podcast, is church pastors, the communication directors, and everybody in between, I think the takeaway is get out of the way. Get out of the way and pour resources and equip this generation to help grow your church.

Yeah, I love it. So the lead pastor of Long Hollow, we mentioned that a while ago, is a guy by the name of Robby Gallaty, which I’m sure a lot of the pastors in a sense would recognize that name. He’s written a lot of books, and he’s heavy on discipleship, and they’re seen in evangelism movement, and he’s heavy on discipleship. But the number one thing he says right now, and his whole staff, they all echo it, they’re all saying the exact same thing is, we want to keep seeking the Lord, and we want to stay out of his way and not mess anything up. And I’m like, that’s a good strategy. That’s what my mentor, my mentor used to tell me that. And being in ministry, he guys love Jesus, love your wife, and don’t do anything stupid. That’s pretty good advice.

Happy wife, happy life. I mean, that’s really just the ministry of it, it’s a good marriage.

Yeah. Echoing what you’re saying is just like, yeah, we don’t want to be in the way. Like, I think God, like catch the wave of the movement of God, jump on the wave and just ride it, and not try to be in the way of it. Yeah.

Well, my pastor one time, recently, said that if you think about all religions in the world, they have some prophet that’s pointing them to God, or pointing them to what they think is the next life. Not Christianity, God came down to us, he came to us. Right? And that’s the huge difference between Christianity and every other religion. And that got me thinking, going, you know, we can’t just sit there and expect, and we said this earlier, for people to show up to church. Y That’s going to happen a little bit, but that’s dying. We have to go, but that means we can be really creative in how we do the actual equipping younger people, or using digital tools to connect with somebody where they are, with their felt need. Right, and meet them in their space, on their time, on their Apple device. We were joking about, we’re all Apple here.

Yeah.

But using stories, you know, through changed lives to connect with, you know, if there’s a twenty two year old who’s struggling with stress and is contemplating suicide, if he or she hears a story of somebody their own age who’s done that, and came through that because of the hope of Jesus. That’s inspiring, I mean that, that’s the answer right there.

I love it.

And they see that, and they connect, and they take that next step, that’s all you can ask for.

Yeah. I love it. You know, If you think about it too, typically the two times in people’s lives when they do come to know Jesus, or they do join a church, is usually in transition and trouble, transition and trouble. And so I think as the church, if we can be ready to help minister through transitions, and help minister in times of trouble, that’s when we can really be the church. So trouble, you know, like a loss of a loved one, their marriage is falling apart, they lost a job, addictions. So I think that’s a space, trouble spots, the church can step in there and really be a help to the community that God’s placed them in. And then transition, you know, usually a transition of like high school to college, they go to a college campus, they don’t know anybody. They’re looking for a hope, they’re looking for a community, that’s a way for the church to step in. Getting married, a lot of times you get married and you’re like, oh okay, I feel a little more settled in my life. So, man, and then you start thinking about eternal things or kids. Transition, you start having kids, I want my kids to grow up knowing the Lord. And even, it’s weird, sometimes even people who don’t know the Lord themselves, they have a desire for their kids to know Him.

I know, isn’t that weird?

Yeah, yeah. So I always say, like, I think transition’s and trouble. If the church can step in there, I think those are great ways for people to come to know the Lord and get into community.

Yeah, that’s really said. Wow. So in your role of, you’re just, you’re equipping and educating churches, hey, this next wave’s here, and this is what you need to do to equip. Is that pretty much what your what your role is.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, very much so. And we really approach it, yeah you know, discipleship, we care deeply about that, all those things. But really kind with college students, high school students, [inaudible] we really lean in heavily on the evangelism side of things, and then mobilizing the next generation to share the gospel with their friends. And primarily the reason for that is, statistically speaking, according to statistics of all Christians in the United States who are followers of Jesus. They surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior, seventy-seven percent of them surrender to Jesus as Lord and Savior before the age of 18. So wrap your mind… You know, and then if you bump it up to young adult years, ninety-five percent before the age of thirty. So, I mean, that’s crazy when you think of all followers of Jesus, seventy-seven percent of them surrender to Jesus before the age of 18, ninety-five percent before the age of 30.

So even if you think about that in realms of evangelism, or reaching, typically when we talk about that, it’s usually we’re trying to figure out how to equip adults with how to share their faith with other adults. Hey, very important, we should do that. But if you think about that, if ninety-five percent come to Jesus before the age of 30, then if we’re only focusing on equipping adults how to show their faith with other adults, that’s like fishing in five percent of the lake.

Oh, yeah.

Yeah. So if you really want to see a movement of God, don’t forget about adult, I’m not saying that, but unapologetically figure out how to reach the next generation because that’s where the harvest is. And so we know God can save whom he wants whenever he wants, but statistically speaking, if you don’t reach somebody by the time they’re 18, and especially their young adult years, the chance of reaching them with the gospel goes way, way, way down. And so we just say if we’re leaning into the next gen space on a heavy level, then we want to do it evangelistically, because that’s the time in their life where they come to know Jesus.

I get wrecked every time I see kids baptizing their mom or dad, I’m just like, oh, you know, it’s like the kids came to know Jesus first, and then they brought their father and mother to Christ.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean yeah. I mean, nothing’s going to grab the heart of a mom or dad more than a 13 year old that goes, I’m in love with Jesus, I know where my eternity lies, I want you there with me. Do you know what I mean? That nothing’s going to grab the attention of a parent, I think more than that.

Right, right. If they do, it’s like, who are you if you’re going to get mad at that?

Yeah, right.

Okay, so you wrote a book, The Nine Common Lies Christians Believe. Tell us a little bit about that book, why did you write it and break it down a little.

Yeah, yeah, awesome. Yeah, yeah, thank you. Yeah, Nine Common Lies Christians Believe. The ten thousand foot view of that book is basically there are some cultural clichés, some one liners, that we as the church for a lack of a better term have adopted, brought them into our faith, baptized down, made them a part of our vernacular, but they’re not biblically true. You know, like statements like we’ve all heard, like God won’t give you more than you can handle. You know, like, hey, how did 2020 work out for you, right? You know, follow your heart, believe in yourself. If a loved one dies, God gains another angel. And so I always say, you know, mostly we hear those by well-meaning people as sentiments. Or we heard those, so we kind of share those with others.

But what if those are more than sentiments? What if they’re actually lies that will hold us back in our faith? Because if you think about it, we typically share those with people who are going through a difficult time. Those troubled times, like we talked about a while ago. Right? I mean, you don’t say God won’t give you more you can handle, to someone who’s having the best day of their life. Usually, you share that with someone who’s struggling. And here’s what we know, what’s going to get us so through dark nights of the soul is God’s holy word. His infinite truth is always going to be a lot more effective than some little cultural cliché that’s not even biblically true.

So each chapter takes one of those kind of clichés like that, and gives a biblical truth, that’s a better truth to move forward with than that cliché. And the response has been awesome, all glory to God. It’s been cool, a lot of churches have used it as a sermon series the way it lays out, or a small group study. Man has been a fun, fun work.

And the way that came about is, I mentioned our kids earlier, our eight year old son, Titus, who’s adopted from Uganda, he’s got a rare seizure disorder called Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which means he suffers from multiple forms of seizures, and so every day. And so he’s in a wheelchair, he doesn’t communicate like you and I do, he’s fed through a G-tube. And just, he’s been with us for eight years, and multiple surgeries, in and out of the hospital, therapies, all of those kind of things. And through that journey early on, well-meaning people once again would say things like, well, you know what the Bible says, God won’t give you more than can handle. And you’re like, the Bible doesn’t teach that.

Yeah, no, I’m overwhelmed right now.

It’s a little bit more than I can handle. Yeah, definitely more than I can handle. Or when God calls you home, he’ll gain another angel. You’re like, the Bible doesn’t teach that, you know. And so we just kind of made a list of some of those statements, and it was fun. I write a lot of blogs and articles, and so I’d actually written that one as an article for Relevant, Relevant Magazine. And we named it, Seven Unbiblical Statements Christians Believe. And it was kind of those things, you know, God helps those who help themselves. And remember what my grandma used to tell me, cleanliness is next to godliness, and all those things. So we’re like, hey, what are some statements that we all say that aren’t even in the Bible? And so I made it like that in an article, and it was their most read article of the year, so I had some publishers reach out to me about turning that into a book. And we found the right partner, the right publisher. And yeah, that’s kind of how it happened, and it’s been cool to watch it.

Yeah. Yeah, that’s really cool. Yeah, that’s awesome. What a what a great read, right, and we say things, but are they really true? My kids called me at one time to say, why do we have to wait 30 minutes after we eat to go swim, you know?

Yeah. Yeah, you just always hear that, yeah.

We say it all the time.

Yeah, is that a thing? I mean, I’ve been told that my whole life.

I don’t think so. It’s just because mom wants to keep you out of the pool for like a half hour, you know.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I think I’ve even told my kids that. But see, I think, like that’s a perfect example of these clichés. Because like someone told you, and in no way do I want to seem snarky with these at all. You know, because I think yeah, somebody told us, those sounded nice. So in a moment, where we’re trying to help somebody, we don’t really know what to say. And so we just kind of, we just for lack of a better term, regurgitate whatever’s been told to us. And I just want to just maybe change the narrative, the dialogue a little bit, to go, hey, there’s actually some better, biblically true, things that will really help us. You know, and I always tell people, you know, in this book is like you don’t want to get in a theological debate with someone who is struggling really, really bad. You know, I think in those moments, listen, pray. But when emotions are set to the side, cooler heads prevail, those are great opportunities to talk about eternal truths and what scripture actually teaches.

You know, for example, I’ve been in ministry long enough where I’ve done a ton of funerals where the casket is a lot smaller than a casket should ever be, right? And so if you’re doing that funeral, and you’re talking to a mom and dad that just buried their five year old, and they say something like, well, I guess God needed another angel, or I know he got his angel wings today. That’s not the right setting to go, well, actually…You know what I mean, that’s not the right setting.

Right.

But when emotions are set to the side, cooler heads prevail, we’re walking, doing life together. Those are great opportunities to teach real biblical truths, and not some kind of cultural cliché that was seen on a coffee mug or on a Twitter statement.

Yeah, well said. Well, as we wind this up, like what’s a, just if there’s one thing you could share with every pastor in the US, in . So we’re. Yeah. Lord willing, we’re kind of coming out of COVID. I don’t know what the, everyone says this new normal, I don’t even know what that means.

Yeah, right.

It gets defined and shaped every day. But what’s one thing that you would share with a pastor, and maybe is get out of the way, but you know, to be effective in reaching the next generation, like what’s one thing they could do?

Yeah, I want to just say first of all, pastors and Christian leaders are my heroes. I just want you know, I’m in it with you. I’m in the race with you, locking arms with you, so thank you so much for what you’re doing. I just want to remind you of the calling of God on your life. You know, first of all, in salvation, to know, hey, way before God ever gave you a title, or a position, or put your name on a website or a business card, he just called you to follow his son, Jesus. So, hey, just lead, and preach, and teach, and serve, out of the overflow of your own worship of Jesus. And I know it’s difficult at times, but to know that God saved you, and your identity is in Christ, and not on any kind of platform or what you do for God, like your identity is in Christ.

And then the second thing I also want to say too, is remember your calling. To know that when God called you to ministry, he also equipped you for such a time as this. You know, 2020, the pandemic, 2021, it surprised us or caught us off guard, but it didn’t surprise or catch the God who called us to ministry off guard. You know, like Jesus on his throne, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, he never does the facepalm, he never like slaps his head and goes, oh, I didn’t see that one coming, never once has he done that, you know. And so just to be reminded, like when God called you to ministry, he already saw 2020, he already saw 2021, he’s not trapped by time and space like we are. And so if he called you, then he’s equipped you for now. And then, so with that as the bedrock, I just want to encourage you this, hey, stick to the Bible, stick to the word. It is living and breathing, it’s active, all of those are present tense words. So know this, the Bible is still relevant, it’s been relevant for two thousand years, it’s still relevant to today. And an ever changing world is desperate for an ever changing truth, whether they realize it or not, so stick to the word, Genesis to Revelation.

And I even would encourage you with this in closing, when it comes to Generation Z and the Bible. To know this, that you know I just want encourage you, and please hear my heart in this, hey, stick to the word, preach the eternal truth, preach it with clarity, preach it with understanding, yes. But stick to the word, because I just want to encourage you with this, if Generation Z does come into our worship services because they’re invited by trusted friend or their life is just blown up and they’re looking for hope and answers. If they come into our services or our bible studies, and basically all they really hear is a self-help pep talk with Bible verses sprinkled out of context, and for a lack of a better term, that’s just white noise to them because it doesn’t sound any different than what they hear everywhere else. Think about it, they’re going to school, and up and down the hallways are posters that say believe in yourself, and follow your heart, it’s your life, do with it what you want. It’s what they’re reading on social media, it’s the books that are out there, it’s probably what is being told by their friends or family. So if they come to our services and all they hear is basically a self-help pep talk with Bible verses sprinkled out of context, then it doesn’t sound any different than what they hear anywhere else. However, if they come to our services and with grace, and kindness, and clarity, they hear things like, hey, the world is messed up, we’re messed up, everybody in here, no one’s holier than thou. But there is a Jesus, there is a hope, and he is the answer that we’ve been looking for, he is the one. Like, whether they agree with it or not, whether they even like what they’re hearing or not at first, please know a message like that will cut through the white noise, because they literally will not hear that anywhere else. If they hear the Bible being taught in your worship services, in your Bible studies, now, that cuts through the white noise because they don’t hear that anywhere else. So stick to the word, it is relevant, it has worked for two thousand years, and if the Lord tarries, it will continue to work for another two thousand years. So stick to the word, trust the word, know this, it doesn’t return void.

Yeah, yeah, well said. Yeah, I mean, you stop and think about that, that they don’t hear those words. But they do hear the words of encouragement all around them, in school, everywhere, right?

Yeah, yep, yeah.

And so, I think we take that for granted, because as lifelong Christians we always hear that.

Yep.

But if you’ve never heard that before, how mind blowing would that be, you know?

Yeah.

Yeah, and then our job is just to kind of plant that seed and then God’s job is to bring them home and he does an amazing job at that.

Yeah. I can give you an even example of that just recently. Last weekend I was speaking at a student event, and I did three sessions with them. And afterwards this girl comes up with a group of friends and she’s probably, I would say, a sophomore or a junior in high school. And I’ll never forget what she said, and she really represents the same thing I’ve heard dozens of times over the last year or so. She said this, I’ll never forget, she goes, Shane, thank you for preaching the Bible this week, and being willing to talk about hard things, and not just on a bunch of goofy stories the whole time. And I was like, well, it really jarred me, because really, if you think about it, sometimes next gen communicators can get the bad rap of starting a sermon with a Bible verse, usually out of context. Then they sit their Bible down, and then they just tell funny stories for forty minutes. And so here’s a generation that was hungry, they’re hungry for truth, they’re hungry for answers, because they’re having to navigate some very difficult cultural waters right now. And if the church is silent, but culture is screaming about these things, then they only ever hear one world view. And I’d rather them be able to know what the Bible has to say, so they can navigate it with the word of God. And so I just, man, it really jarred me. She said, hey, thanks for preaching the Bible this week, and not just on a bunch of goofy stories the whole time,

You know, because they’re just bombarded with, you know, everybody’s has one of these things right here.

Yeah.

And information is just seconds away. Where, when we were growing up, it was like, what? You know that..

Yeah.

It just didn’t exist. And so I think you’re absolutely right, and they’re…We have to remember they are constantly bombarded with stuff. So when you speak truth, Biblical truth, it cuts right through because that stuff isn’t communicated all.

Nowhere, yeah, nowhere.

Wow.

Yeah.

Well thanks for your time. How does somebody get connected with you if they’ve got questions and they want to reach out to you.

Yeah, absolutely. Hey, I would love to hear from you. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram just @Shane_Pruitt P R U I T T 78. So just shane_pruitt78, that’s Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is just Shane Pruitt. Tik Tok is the same, shane_pruitt78. And then, yeah, you can shoot me an email, hey I’ll give you my email, shoot me an email is just contact@ShanePruitt.com, I would love to hear from you.

Yeah, right on. Man, I appreciate your ministry, and what you’re doing, it’s highly needed, I’m telling you. Because we have so many conversations with churches, I said this earlier, that are trying to figure out how to reach the, you know, the next generation, or they’re trying to grow younger, reach younger families and whatnot.

Yeah.

And, yeah, what you’re saying speaks right to the heart of the issue. So, yeah, thank you for your time, I appreciate it.

It’s an honor, it’s a blast, I could talk to you about this all day, I love it. So thank you so much, I had a blast with you. And anything I could ever do to serve you, or any other listeners, please let me know, I’m here to serve.

Thank you, Shane. All right, take care.

Thank you.

 

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