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Most of Christian ministry remains the same. For thousands of years, we’ve struggled with similar issues. Cultural trends come and go, but the same sins and temptations persist in every age.

That’s one reason why Scripture is so useful. Although the world has changed since the Scriptures were written, much hasn’t.

But some things have changed. To serve well, we must disciple people through the particular issues of our day.

Here are five.

1. The Pursuit of Authenticity

We’re told that our ultimate purpose is to remain true to ourselves. Resist external pressures, especially from anyone in authority. Look deep within and be true to yourself. Pursue what’s true for you, and don’t let anyone stand in your way. In our age of expressive individualism, the highest goal is to fully express who we really are.

This message is communicated everywhere from Disney to self-help books to podcasts. It’s easy for this message to seep into the church, and to try to make Christianity another tool to help us become our best selves.

But this message runs counter to Scripture. We don’t look within to find ultimate meaning; we look to God. We don’t resist authority and define truth for ourselves; we submit to what God has revealed. We don’t find joy in expressing ourselves; we find joy by losing our lives for Jesus’ sake.

We must help people see how the pursuit of authenticity enslaves, and how the counterintuitive message of the gospel that invites us to die to ourselves leads to true life and meaning.

2. Sexual Ethics and Gender Identity

I remember swimming in Cape Cod. The signs warned of strong currents. I swam, thinking I was staying close to where I’d entered the water, but the tides carried me far from where I’d started.

Some of us are scared to talk about sexuality and gender within the church, but the cultural tides are so strong that if we don’t, we’ll find that our people have been swept away. Issues of sexual ethics and gender identity have moved to become the central issues of our day.

We must disciple our people about what it means to be embodied, gendered humans, and how to submit our sexuality to God. We must help our people learn how to relate to those with complicated histories, and how to live in a world that will prosecute you if you hold divergent views.

We may not want to address such difficult and divisive issues, but can’t and shouldn’t avoid them.

3. Technology

Technology isn’t new, but the pace of technological change is accelerating. Most people in the church I pastor have never lived without smartphones and social media. New technologies like large language models in Artificial Intelligence are raising existential questions.

How do we live faithfully as followers of Jesus in our social media habits? How do we avoid living in a state of constant digital distraction? How can we develop analogue habits that have been central to Christians for two millennia? And how should we respond to some of the questions about newer technologies like large language models as leading scientists, like Geoffrey Hinton, raise concerns?

These are new questions, and we can’t avoid them. Technology has been advancing for thousands of years, but new technologies force us to ask new questions.

4. End of Life Issues

M.A.I.D. (Medical Assistance in Dying) is not just a cultural issue; it’s coming home to church. Many pastors I know are facing the issue within their own congregations, or are being asked to preside over funerals of someone who’s chosen to die with medical assistance.

Anecdotally, I suspect that many Christians have no objection to some forms of medically assisted dying. We’re not starting on the same page as we address this issue.

We must help people think through their own beliefs in this area, and how to interact to others who are considering or choosing this option.

5. Being the Bad Guys

In the past, Christianity was viewed by many as moral or benign. Increasingly, Christianity is viewed as dangerous. We challenge some of society’s most cherished views. We’re now, as Stephen McAlpine writes, the bad guys.

“10-15 years ago, if your neighbor knew you were a Christian, they may not agree or even like your beliefs but they at least assumed you to be ‘more moral’ than them because of your beliefs,” writes John Starke, a pastor in New York City. “Now there’s been a shift (at least in many of our contexts): if your neighbor knows you are a Christian, it may be they actually assume you are less moral and bigoted because of your beliefs (specifically on issues related to sexuality and gender).”

Some of us grew up in times when Christianity was viewed favourably. We’re going to have to learn lessons from other parts of the world and from other times about how to live when we’re viewed as being the problem.

Discipleship is always a challenge. But it may be especially challenging right now as we disciple people through the particular issues of our day. But we must disciple our people in these areas if we’re going to grow faithful followers of Christ.

As we preach and disciple, we must address the same issues that Christians of every age have addressed. But we must be intentional about thinking through and addressing the issues I described as well, showing how to follow God faithfully in these five areas.

I regularly think of John Stott’s prayer at the end of Your Mind Matters:

I pray earnestly that God will raise up today a new generation of Christian apologists or Christian communicators, who will combine an absolute loyalty to the biblical gospel and an unwavering confidence in the power of the Spirit with a deep and sensitive understanding of the contemporary alternatives to the gospel; who will relate the one to the other with freshness, authority, and relevance; and who will use their minds to reach other minds for Christ.

In our challenging days, I can’t think of a better prayer. May God graciously answer.