Author Dennis Allen is targeting the faith crisis many believe to be afoot in America, pointing to a lack of discipleship as a core problem driving devotional declines.
Allen, author of “The Disciple Dilemma: Rethinking and Reforming How the Church Does Discipleship,” believes it’s essential for Christian institutions to rethink how to properly train the next generation.
One of the issues at the center of the discussion, he says, is how “discipleship” is defined.
“If you look statistically, a lot of people in the pews in Christianity define discipleship as membership, activityship, experiential things,” he recently told “Higher Ground With Billy Hallowell.” “And all those are good and they’re interesting, but if you really get biblical about it, I think the argument stands very strongly that we are pursuers of Christ, followers of Christ who are … becoming people different than our natural selves.”
Allen said discipleship points to a process in which people become a “very different human being” as they cling closer to Jesus.
With so many studies indicating young people are either falling away from or failing to embrace faith, some have called on the church to find new and innovative ways to reach hearts and minds.
Listen to Allen explain what he believes is driving chaos in the church:
As for why he believes so many young people have left the pews, Allen was candid.
“We have lost salt and light, and a lot of people in the Millennial, Gen Z generations are looking at this and they’re saying, ‘You’re no different than a political cause, you’re kind of a tribal event, you’re nothing more than a screed that’s against everything … so I don’t like what you’re doing, therefore, I cancel, I walk out, or I’m just embarrassed and I have to leave.’”
Interestingly, Allen said a lot of people leaving Christian churches today are not doing so due to some sort of “intellectual collapse,” but are exiting for another reason: “Because there’s simply no discipleship underneath them helping them to be that transformed person.”
And fostering the needed solution can be even more difficult within the confines of larger organizations.
Megachurches — large houses of worship that have over the years attracted both praise and critique — often draw a mixture of reactions in Christian realms. Regardless of views on large churches, Allen said big organizations like this can be “complex,” especially when it comes to growing authentic disciples.
“If you want mission to really flow into the people in large organizations, it’s a very different dynamic than if you’re looking at an organization of one, two, or 10, or 100,” he said. “Megachurches, you need to be thinking about the fact that it’s incredibly difficult for you as a single pastor in a pulpit or your staff to delegate discipleship out if they don’t see it modeled.”
Allen said this is an important consideration to the broader conversation, as megachurches comprise 52% of people attending churches today.
The author said he’s hoping “The Disciple Dilemma” helps lead churches in this endeavor, noting it’s a “book about leadership” that helps people take a biblical path forward.
For any pastor struggling or worried about current trends, Allen offered some pertinent and powerful advice.
“Please do not despair,” he said. “The Lord God Almighty reigns.”
Allen said pastors and church leaders need to “stop managing” and have to “start leading.”
Rather than obsessing over organizational leadership, he said there’s a “bigger mission” Jesus gave in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations.”