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Engaging Gen Z in the Great Commission (Bonus Episode)

Engaging Gen Z in the Great Commission (Bonus Episode)

SEPTEMBER 6, 2022  |  33 MINUTE LISTEN
HOSTS: CONNOR OWEN & JOHN RINEHIMER
GUESTS: DAVE JACOB FROM WGM AND THE CENTER FOR MISSIONARY MOBILIZATION AND RETENTION

Listen on SpotifyApple, and Google

Episode Overview

How do you share the Great Commission with a generation that is largely unfamiliar with it? It takes intentionality, exposure, and prayer.

On today’s episode of The Approach, we’re joined by Dave Jacob, the founder of The Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention and the Director of Mobilization at World Gospel Mission. Dave also hosts a podcast called The Missionary Mobilization Podcast where he discusses various topics and resources regarding missions and missions mobilization. In this episode, Dave offers wise insights into Generation Z and practical ways to engage the next generation with the Great Commission!


Show Notes

Read the Script

Connor:

Welcome to The Approach, a microcast where we help you walk with and pray for the next generation. My name's Connor Owen and I serve on staff at World Gospel Mission. Today is another bonus episode. John and I had a chance to sit down with Dave Jacob recently. And Dave is the director of the center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention, which is a resource missions mobilizers all over the country use. Dave is also an innovative person who dreams up ways to engage the next generation as they seek to live out the Great Commission. He has a podcast called the Missionary Mobilization Podcast, and most recently he joined John and I at WGM as the director of mobilization. Dave brings a wealth of knowledge and wisdom to the team, and I think you will love hearing his perspective on missions as we sit down with him. Enjoy today's bonus episode.

Thanks for joining us today on The Approach as we talk about the future of missions and engaging the next generation and the Great Commission. I'm Connor Owen and I'm joined by my co-host John Rinehimer.

John:

Hey.

Connor:

Oh, he's going to go. Okay.

John:

Yep. That's what I'm doing.

Connor:

All right. Thanks. And our guest today is Dave Jacob. He's somebody that John and I are so thankful for to be on the same team with, and we can't wait to see what the future holds as we continue to work with Dave. And I don't want to steal Dave's thunder here. So I'm going to let him introduce himself, talk a little bit about his background, the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention, his podcast, his PhD. The list kind of goes on here for a while, Dave, but anything else you want to throw in there. But Dave, welcome to the show.

Dave:

Well, thanks guys. It's just great to be with you today and to have this conversation and to work together. It's a ton of fun. So yeah, I'm coming from... I spent several years as a missionary in a sensitive country in Northern Asia. And so did that for many years. I've served also prior to that as a youth pastor. I've worked for the Billy Graham Association and Samaritan's Purse. Most recently I've been the chair of the intercultural studies department at Trinity Bible College and graduate school in North Dakota. And now so blessed to be here at WGM on staff as the director of mobilization.

And so on the side, I kind of founded and direct the Center for Missionary Mobilization and Retention, which resources mission mobilizers, mission agencies, missions pastors on how can we kind of curate, how can we gather and produce resources that will equip mobilizers to do their jobs better. A lot of mobilizers feel maybe alone or that there's not a lot of resources. I mean, where do you go to school to get a degree in mobilization? There really isn't any, right? So we're hoping to fill that gap a little bit. And so that's kind of a fun hobby of mine that I get to do. And so part of that is the Missionary Mobilization Podcast that I host, and I interview experts all around the world on missions mobilization. So it's a ton of fun.

John:

So what I hear you saying is you're a big deal.

Connor:

No, that's what I heard too. Yeah.

Dave:

No, I just like to have fun. This is fun for me.

John:

Dave is super humble. He would never say this. I'll brag on him for him. So we are really excited that Jesus brought him to WGM and it's a great fit. And we're so excited to have you on the show and have you at WGM. And so now I know you've got any missionary, any global worker, you've got probably some fun experiences or stories. So can you share with us maybe one of your unique cross-cultural moments when you were serving overseas?

Dave:

Sure. So I had taken one semester of a really difficult language and my teacher asked me. It was like a week after the semester was over and it was summertime. And she said, "Do you want to come do this camp? I'm going to hold like a... We're a day camp, and so you can come and help plan games and all this stuff." And so I said, "Sure, but my language isn't that great." She's like, "You'll be fine."

So the first day was orientation and everybody was sitting in a circle. And I was pretty much the only Western person there. And they said, "Well, let's go around the circle and introduce ourselves. Why don't we start here," and pointed to me. Well, again, one semester of language study, thank you. So I said, "Hi," instead of what I was supposed to say is, "Hi everyone or hello everybody." Right? I said, "Hi, my name is Dave." And this is how it came across in the language of course. And so next I'm like, "What do I do? Do I ask where the bathroom is?" Well, that wouldn't be appropriate. Right? So I don't know anything else. And then I remembered, "Oh, this is my Chinese teacher. And she is the reason why I speak Chinese so poorly."

And the whole place was quiet. Right? I mean, they just shut down. And then there was a split second where I realized what I had just said. Instead of, "She's the reason I speak Chinese so well," which obviously not. Right? And so the whole place busted up in laughter and it was a great time.

Connor:

I mean, in your defense, I guess the word being that the two opposite words being that close together. You know? That's rough.

Dave:

Yeah. It was tough.

Connor:

That's rough.

Dave:

It was a rough one.

John:

I feel like I may have called, when I was a missionary, I think I may have called someone's mom cow by accident one time. So I feel your pain.

Dave:

Yeah, yeah.

Connor:

Well done.

Dave:

Some of those language faux pas get us into trouble, but man, they make for great stories. Don't they?

Connor:

Years later of course.

Dave:

Yeah, of course.

John:

If you're outside of the culture.

Dave:

Right.

Connor:

So along those lines, as you've worked with the next generation in a university setting, in mobilization settings, have you had any interesting or maybe even funny interactions with the next generation?

Dave:

So I was sitting in the cafeteria having lunch with some of my students and was just talking about missions. And so I turned to one student and I said, "So what are some of your passions? How do you want to change the world?" And she said, "I don't really know. I'm not really sure." And I'm like, "Well, your intercultural studies major. So obviously there's something, I'm like, I got to dig here. Right? Because there's something there. Like, why are you studying intercultural studies? What is your passion? If time, money, resource is not an option, what would you change and impact around the world?

And she went, "Yeah, I just don't know." And I thought, "What?" I was like, "This is weird." You know? And so a few days later she came to my office and said, "I think I want to change my major." And normally, you want to talk the student out of that, right? You would say, "No, let's talk about this, and maybe pray about this some more." Right? But actually I said, "I think that's a good idea, because if you can't give me an answer about what your passion is and how you want to change the world, you might want to change your major."

John:

You're like, "I already filled the paperwork out."

Dave:

Just sign here. But I think though that really leads into how some members of Gen Z are how they think about missions and how they process missions. And it really starts with a confusion on what missions even is. You know? And so we really have to start there when we're talking about mobilizing Gen Z towards their role in the Great Commission, is because, let's face it, a lot of times everybody's a missionary and everything we do is missions. Right? So if everybody's a missionary, then where does that leave cross cultural missions? Right? So it hurts it actually. And so we know in Ephesians 4 that there are different roles, there are different functions of the church. Some are apostles. That is the missionary role. The sending, crossing cultures. That's apostle.

But there's prophet, there's teacher. We don't call everybody a pastor. Why not? Right? But at times we call everybody a missionary and we call everything we do locally and globally missions. And so I think we need to maybe start there and really help Gen Z understand is you sharing the gospel with your classmate is that missions. It's really just Christianity. You know? And so we need to make this distinction if we're going to reach the world for Christ, otherwise everything just becomes mission.

Also when some think about missions, they hear the word colonization. You know? Which was a mistake and we need to work to make sure it never happens again, but it shouldn't limit us from sharing the gospel with people who have never heard it before. So these are some conversations that is important that we have with the younger generations about the past mistakes in missions history. We shouldn't shy away from these discussions, but admit, yes, these were mistakes, but how do we work to make sure that they don't right happen again?

So a couple other things just in how Gen Z thinks about missions, they're very entrepreneurial. So business as mission is an up and coming, if we can say, missions trend right now that a lot of Gen Z, they want to go overseas and start a coffee shop. I mean, for a lot of them, that's their dream. Right? And so they're also really passionate about social justice issues. And so these are some things that we can bring together that you can do these things in a cross cultural setting and help people come to know him and transform people and transform communities through these various endeavors. So that's just a little picture maybe of how... Again, we're speaking in general terms. We're not saying everybody and Gen Z thinks this way, but that is kind of, if we're speaking in general terms, some of the main points in how they view missions.

John:

And maybe just one clarification too. Not all of our listeners maybe are familiar with even the term mobilization and how that connects to the Great Commission. And I love your definition. We've talked about this. Can you just give a quick definition of what we mean by mobilization?

Dave:

Yeah, very good point. So when I talk about mobilization, because when I tell people I'm the director of mobilization, they're like, "What? What does that mean?" You know? Is that-

Connor:

Do you work with cars or something? I'm confused. Yeah.

Dave:

Yeah. Like, what? Yeah. So really we're defining mobilization as activating God's people towards their important role in the Great Commission. So if you consider yourself a disciple of Christ, you have an important role in getting the gospel to the ends of the earth. It doesn't mean you are the one that goes, although that could be. Right? But maybe you're the one who finances, or you're the one who sends, or you're the one who educates, or you're the one... I read a story of a lady who intentionally... This may mess with your theology. She intentionally raised her daughter to become a missionary. She intentionally did things so that when the daughter grew up, she would have a very positive bent towards becoming a missionary. Daughter went to college, studied missions, and is now on the mission field.

So that's mobilization as a parent. Right? So we're not talking about manipulating people here though. I want to make that distinction. But we are helping to educate and activate it and say, "Every believer has a role in the Great Commission and we are here as mobilizers to help them discover that role."

John:

Yeah. I like that activating concept for sure. I think that's really inviting for the next generation is it's... I mean, want to be experienced, experiential oriented, want to participate. So knowing you've got a place in God's mission, God's story, God's heart for the world, I think is critical. And then you just give some great ideas of how that could go together and how to be intentional with that.

Dave:

Yeah.

Connor:

You talked a little bit about educating or maybe dispelling some myths with the next generation when it comes to missions. Why do you think we have to be so intentional in the ways we're talking to the next generation about missions or how we interact with them when it comes to missions?

Dave:

Yeah. So it's really part of discipleship. If we're going to make disciples, part of that is teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. Well, what did Jesus just command us collectively? It's just to go and make disciples of all nations. Right? So being involved in missions is part of discipleship. And like I mentioned, everyone has a role to play in the Great Commission. And so we need to be intentional about this. We've got some incredible churches that are outward focused and we have, frankly, if we're being honest, we have some that are focused inward.

And so as we make disciples here locally, it will help the church to focus outward. And so if you just take the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 and following, it is to make disciples of all people, of all nations is what some versions say. That word nations, the root there is ethne. And so that's where we get our term ethnicity in the English language. So we are to make disciples of every ethnicity in the world. And we've never done that. In 2000 years, Jesus has not been obeyed because the church collectively has not made disciples of every ethnicity. In order to get that done, it's going to take all of us. It's going to take the whole church, the whole body of Christ, each playing their important roles in the Great Commission.

Connor:

Yeah. I love the way you described it. The other day to me was often we're talking to the next generation, we're assuming they're thinking missions already or they're exposed to it. Often though, they either have a negative perception or no exposure at all because maybe churches aren't talking about it, or if they are, maybe it's a real quick blurb. It's not a full Sunday or it's maybe you just have no exposure to it, you don't know a missionary at all. So we're assuming they may know some stuff that they don't know yet.

Dave:

Yeah, exactly. And we saw that distinction with a couple different stories here in the '50s when Nate Saint and Jim Elliot were martyred in Ecuador. They were heroes in our country. I mean, they were cover of Time Magazine, and these five missionaries were killed trying to bring the gospel to this remote unreached people group. And now who's going to go to replace them? Right? That was kind of the atmosphere within Christian circles and even in the general public.

But a few years ago, you had John Chau, a US missionary who went to the North Sentinel Islands to attempt to bring the gospel to that unreached people group. And he was killed and he was martyred. And the Christian community started saying, "Why was he there? He had no business messing with that culture. And what did he think he was trying to do? Convert them?" This is not okay. The Christian community in America. So we are definitely not only in a post-Christian culture, but we're in a post-missions culture. And so when we talk about mobilizing or helping to send Gen Z to the mission field, we've got to start earlier. What is missions? Why is it important? And bring in that grand narrative of scripture, that big story of the Bible.

John:

I think that's how I love the concept of connecting mobilization with activation, with participating. The Great Commission isn't just for missionaries, which is, I feel like, common just to think about. And so, I mean, we have all read this study a couple years ago now from Barna about not even 50% of churches in the US are familiar with what is the Great Commission. And so I think there's a great opportunity for us to engage in next generation early on with stories of what God's doing and how this is actually a normal part of, as you said, being a disciple of Jesus. This is what it means to follow him.

So, I mean, we've talked pretty big concepts and ethereal stuff here. You know? Just jumping in the deep end, if you will, but bring it down to maybe just some practicality here. When I think about next gen of my own kids even, or my small group that I'm leading, I've got thoughts in mind, but I'd love to hear your thoughts on how could we practically get Gen Z? What tips would you have or practical ways to get them involved to thinking about, "Hey, I've got a part to play. What does God want me to do? I want to start catching his heart for the world? Or why does that even matter?" What would be some of your thoughts around how to practically do that?

Dave:

Well, I want to start with the scriptures. And there is a big story of the Bible. The Bible's made up of a lot of different stories of course, but there is one common thread from Genesis to Revelation. And that is God being famous all over the earth, all over the world. In order for that to happen, we have to have this concept of what we call missions today. Right? Some people say, "Well, the word missions isn't in the Bible." That's true. The word Trinity's not in the Bible either, but we believe in the concept. Right? So we start with Genesis 1:28 where God commanded Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth. Sounds a lot like missions to me. Right? Then you go to Genesis 9 and the flood. When Noah and his family came out of the flood, guess what God said? "Be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth."

Whoa. Okay. Now we're hearing again, we're starting over, we're hitting reset here. And so this is just in Genesis. So all throughout the scriptures, and we could spend hours and hours and hours talking about nearly every book of the Bible and this mission's theme that is prominent. And so that is really important that we help educate ourselves and educate our kids and our young people and our congregation members that the big story of the Bible, the grand narrative of scripture is what we call missions and it's getting God's name famous. So that would be the first thing from Genesis to Revelation is helping us to understand that concept.

John:

And what a cool concept because he's both the missionary sending God and the missionary.

Dave:

Yeah, yeah.

John:

Right? Jesus comes and he's arguably the missionary. Right? You know?

Dave:

Right. Right.

John:

And so a neat thing with our own kids trying to wrap our minds around that a little bit, which I kind of hear you're saying in this grand meta narrative of scripture from cover to cover. So that's really helpful for sure. How about just some other, I don't know, just some other practical things. I think that obviously starting with scripture is huge in your conversations, whether with your family or your small group or your sports team even that you're coaching. That's a lot of our audience, fits into those categories there. But are there some other just tangible, I don't know, resources or things or ideas you might have for us?

Dave:

Yeah. So as parents, one of the things that we have done in the past is we like to read missionary biographies to our kids. We have a time in the evening before we put them to bed that we pray together and have devotions together. And so there's a lot of different series of books that you can do read alouds with your kids. One's called Hero Tales. There's several different volumes where you can read a short story about a missionary in the past. And then there's a Q&A afterwards to test their comprehension and get them talking a little bit about that person and what they did in history. And so that's one thing. Another easy one is to have a missionary over to your home for a meal, or maybe a missionaries come in through to speak at your church and you can host them. You know? You can give them a place to crash on that Saturday night before they speak.

And so it's those conversations around the dinner table with the missionary. In the past, where our kids have been, "Whoa, what? You were in... A gorilla did what?" You know? All these amazing stories. Right? So that's another way to just help keep missions in front of our kids. And when we were on the field, we had people and families in a Sunday school class send us a care package. And it was really simple and easy thing. Meant the world to us. You know? They actually sent us a soccer ball that they had deflated and they put a pump with a needle. Those are important details. They put it in the box. And so when we got this box, we inflated the ball, and here all the kids from the Sunday school class had signed it and put their favorite scripture verse. And 10 minutes later, my kids are out playing with the locals with that soccer ball. And so that's just a really easy, tangible way that we can involve our kids in missions, the missions endeavor.

John:

Yeah. That's so funny. My parents must have read your biography or some of your notes or something because we would have missionary stay with us. I remember early on, he was a missionary pilot friend. And I just remember as a kid thinking, "That guy's the coolest ever." You know? Like, "That's your job? God calls people to do stuff like that?"

Connor:

I could use my talents in that way? What?

John:

Yeah. Clearly I'm not a pilot. You know?

Connor:

No. We don't want that.

John:

They won't let me do that. No, nobody wants that.

Connor:

But it is important, I think, to talk about... Most of the folks who are missionaries with us, all of them, they know a missionary before they became a missionary. And if you maybe want your child to be interested in missions, exposing them to people who are missionaries is important, helping them realize these are people just like you and me who followed God's call in their life.

Dave:

Exactly. Sometimes we put missionaries on a pedestal as being super spiritual. And they're not. You know? They're just ordinary folks who are just being obedient to what God's asking them to do, just like we are.

Connor:

Yeah.

John:

Yeah. I think there's so many little things, again, like whether it's with your small group you're leading or your team you're coaching, or even around the dinner table with a friend or with your kids or whatever it may be, working these into conversations where our alarm goes off and it's 10:02. They pray Luke 10:2 pray to the Lord of the harvest. And our kids know. It's like, okay. And then who are we going to pray for? And there's apps you can use for unreached people groups. Or I was telling them last night. They were getting a little whiny, complainy. And of course good dad moment here. You know? It's like, "Be thankful you have a house, food." You know? But instead of just going that route, I was like, "Hey, have you ever heard of A Third of Us?" They're like doing math. They're like, "We just had school all day. What? What are we talking about?" You know? You're cutting a third of us from the family? What's going on?

Yeah. But instead, I took the opportunity to talk about A Third of Us, the movement, which maybe you could speak more to about how a third of the globe still has never had an opportunity to hear the name Jesus. And they just were like, "What?" My mouth's open. You can't see that, but you can [inaudible 00:24:54] hear that. And even I know in my small group of like 13-year-old guys, it's like, "Hey, how many Bibles do you guys have in your house or on your phone?" They're like, "Oh, it's almost annoying. They're always in the way. I'm tripping over them. There are so many." You know? And it's like there's places in the world that they can't even have that. And they're like, "You serious?" So little moments like that I don't know if you found it to be true or other things you might add to that.

Dave:

Yeah, definitely. A Third of Us movement is an incredible resource for organizations and families alike to bring awareness that a third of humanity is still without access to the gospel. So if someone living in that part of the world or in a people group who doesn't have access and they wanted to find out about Christianity, there's no way for them to find out about Christianity. There's no church, there's no Bible, there's no Christian friend. There's no access to the internet to Google it. Right? So a third of the world is without the gospel. And I mean, in these parts of Northern Asia, I would talk about [foreign language 00:26:03], Jesus in the local language. And people had no... They're like, "The foreigner doesn't know what he is talking about." They'd never heard that name before in their language. You know?

So yeah, that's a big one. You can Google that. A Third of Us. And you can go big like taking a mission trip with your family. You know? As we're ramping up out of COVID a little bit here, I know we've still got some things to work through and there's still people sick and we need to be in prayer for them, but the world is opening up. And now it's time to get back on those planes and go with your family on these short term trips.

And then I think as leaders, as parents, as maybe pastors, or like you mentioned, coaches, we can mentor the younger generations. Gen Z wants older people to be an influence and to show care for them. And so we have this opportunity to mentor them on the path as they help to discern God's calling. And then finally, another resource is a book that just came out a little bit ago called Mobilizing Gen Z by Jolene Erlacher and Katy White. It's a great resource for Christian leaders on how to mobilize the next generation to the mission field. And so those are just a few of the thoughts off the top of my head as far as mobilizing next gen.

Connor:

Thanks, Dave. I mean, I think there's some of these that are a little, those are going to take a ton of intentionality. There's some of these though that are low hanging fruit. I think things that all of us can incorporate into our... If that's parenting, coaching, maybe you lead a youth group. I think all of us can incorporate all of those things or some of those things.

Well, Dave, our customary thing here is to have our guest prey over the next generation. So we'd love to have you lead us in prayer because we know that, sure, we can have a lot of tools like you've given us, a lot of resources, but without prayer first we will find ourselves probably giving from a well that is dry. So we'd love to have you lead us today in that prayer, Dave.

Dave:

Yeah. Thanks ,Connor. I'd be happy to let's pray together.

Father, we thank you for those that you are calling from Gen Z and the other generations, but we specifically pray for those you're calling from the next generations, Lord. And we know that it's not you're not calling. It's that some are not hearing well. And so, God, we ask that as we journey with Gen Z, that you would help us to position them so that they can better hear your voice, that we would create environments where your voice can be heard better. And so, Father, we just pray that you would send many from Gen Z to the harvest fields. Your word tells us in Luke 10:2 that we should pray for laborers to work. And so we do pray that those you're calling, God, that they would have the courage and the deep love for you to take that next step today. We pray right now, God, that you had move in their hearts, and maybe that we can pick up the phone and encourage someone of Gen Z today to take that next step.

But Lord, that you would just prompt them to fill out that application or to talk to that mentor or their pastor or their parent about what you are doing in their lives. And so would you prepare the way for Gen Z to go to the mission field that your name might be glorified amongst all people? And we thank you that you are Lord of the harvest and that you use people like us to help walk with and encourage and navigate the missionary call. And we ultimately just want you to be worshipped by all peoples. And so give us wisdom as we journey with Gen Z. Give us insight and the right words and posture and attitudes. Help us to love them well and to care for them, God, as we walk with them, navigating this call to missions.

Whatever their role is, whether it's giving, or going, sending, or encouraging, or teaching, or mobilizing, Lord, you are in control. And we thank you that we can trust you. And so we commit this generation, this next generation of missionaries, we commit them to you. Would you sustain them as they journey to the field, remove those stumbling blocks? God, we know there's lots of hazards and sometimes seems like unscalable walls. We pray that you break those down, that you clear the way for this generation to get to the mission field and to stay there healthy and thriving, that you might be worshiped by more people. We ask all these things in Jesus' name. Amen.

Connor:

Thanks for joining us, Dave. We're really happy to have you on board at WGM. We're excited to let you probably keep John and I focused. That's the biggest thing. I think that was-

John:

That's why you're really here.

Connor:

Yeah. Points 1 through 10 were just that in your job description, make those two stay on task.

Dave:

Well, it's great to be here, guys. And thanks so much for having me on the show today.

Connor:

Yeah. Thanks for joining us. And thanks to all of you listeners for joining us on another episode of The Approach, a microcast where we help you walk with and pray for the next generation.

As crazy as this is, we are celebrating our one-year anniversary of The Approach. John, I can't believe they've let us stay doing podcasts and staying on the year this long, but somehow they have. But we're thankful to all of you for the ways that you have supported us through listening, your comments, your feedback, and telling others about us. To celebrate this milestone, we're going to replay some of your top rated episodes in the last year. We're also going to take some time to pray and do some strategic thinking about future content. And we're going to show you some of Dave's episodes from his podcast, the Missionary Mobilization Podcast. And then after the first of the year, we're going to come back with new content to help you as you journey with the next generation as they journey with Jesus.

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