By Robert Neely
We live in a world that loves its causes – whether you’re having a tea party or occupying something.
The longing for a cause is especially pronounced among the millennial generation – those under 30. This generation is constantly pushing for social justice. If you don’t believe it, hang around some millenials and see how long it takes you to spot a pair of Toms.
The passion for causes in this generation is a great opportunity for those of us who lead students and young adults. It’s natural to help Christ followers funnel the desire to have a cause into a missional lifestyle. Obviously, leading millennials toward Kingdom mission is a great thing to do.
But it is not enough – and therein lies the challenge of leading a cause-driven generation. The challenge arises because it’s possible to have a cause without having a clue.
This happens in the church when we separate mission from discipleship. Mike Breen of 3DM writes about the why it’s a problem to have a missional cause without having a clue.
“Mission is under the umbrella of discipleship. It is one of the many things that Jesus taught his disciples to do well. But it wasn’t done in a vacuum. It didn’t happen outside of knowing Jesus and being shaped by that relationship in which a constant refinement of their character happened alongside of their continued skill development (which included mission).”
After reading this, you may be patting yourself on the back, because you are a leader with a clue. If that’s the case, celebrate it – but make sure that you haven’t lost all causes in the process.
Let’s use a matrix to help us better understand what happens when you have a cause or a clue but not both.
Obviously, if you have no cause and no clue, then you have a huge problem. But we also need to consider the problems that come when you have either a cause or a clue but not both. Let’s use Mike Breen’s descriptions (from the upcoming book Multiplying Missional Leaders) to explain what happens in each quadrant.
Cause but no clue: High mission/low discipleship church cultures have issues with Biblical literacy, theological reflection and deficiencies in character and creed that, in the end, sabotage the very mission they’re about. Critics are rightly concerned that these kinds of churches are a hair’s breath away from heresy, with people largely not experiencing the depth and transformation of heart and mind into which Jesus invites us.
Clue but no cause: High discipleship/low mission church cultures lack the adventurous spirit and heart of compassion and Kingdom compulsion that so stirred the Father into action that he sent his only Son to a world he so loved. Their transformation isn’t leading to the place God is taking them. Critics are rightly concerned that these kinds of churches will turn into Christian ghettos, creating people who lob truth bombs and create an “us vs. them” mentality.
A cause and a clue: A true discipling culture (as Jesus envisioned it) must have both discipleship and mission. It cannot live in either ditch. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and. We should never choose between depth and breadth; instead, we must embrace the tension of having and shaping both discipleship and mission in our communities and in our leaders.
This year, as we lead, let’s seek to become leaders who disciple followers to have both a cause and a clue.
As we do, we will see a generation’s love of a cause leveraged for mission as they get a clue by following the King.
For more on the tension between having a cause and having a clue, check out the upcoming Multiplying Missional Leaders book by Mike Breen and Doug Paul. 3DM will release Multiplying Missional Leaders later this spring. You can go here to find out how to be on the list when the book is released.