Intro: They may be called the next generation, but they’re the church of today. Reach, disciple and mobilize students to share the hope of the Gospel. This is Next Gen on Mission with Shane Pruitt.
Shane Pruitt: Hi, friends. Shane Pruitt here. Welcome to another episode of Next Gen On Mission. Thank you for taking the time to hang out with us. Today, we have a very special guest with us, J.D. Greear. J.D. Greear is the lead pastor of Summit Church in North Carolina, an author, podcaster and current president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus, husband and father. Today, we’re going to talk about turning the next generation into missionaries. So J.D., thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with us today.
J.D. Greear: My pleasure, Shane. Thanks for having me on.
Shane Pruitt: Absolutely. Hey, before we get too spiritual, what’s one fun fact we should know about you that we probably don’t already know?
J.D. Greear: My great, great, great, great, great uncle is Davy Crockett.
Shane Pruitt: Are you serious?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, I’m totally serious. My grandmother years ago was showing me a family Bible. And in it, if you go straight up the family tree and take a left, like the sister of one of my grandmothers was Davy Crockett.
Shane Pruitt: Come on.
J.D. Greear: So, anyway. Any listeners from Texas, you’re welcome. That’s all I got to say. From my family to all of you, you’re welcome.
Shane Pruitt: Hey, well, I am recording you right now from Texas. So man, that just made my heart stir with the affection there. I think I would open with that if I were you.
J.D. Greear: Yeah. I will say that a couple of times when I’m in Texas, I usually, if I feel like I need to win the audience, I just tell them that. I’m like, “Hey, I may not be from here,” because people from Texas only like to hear from other people from Texas and so not being from there I’m like, “Well, I’m North Carolina, but I got some connection here. I’ve got some street cred.”
Shane Pruitt: I love it. Hey, it has been said multiple times, “Texas is the greatest nation in the world.”
J.D. Greear: Yeah, that’s right.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Hey, awesome. Well J.D., I always ask every guest this, and it’s so fun to hear the different responses, briefly share with our listeners, what do we need to know about the next generation? What do we need to know about Gen Z that’s coming up and young millennials?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, it’s funny, it’s kind of like when somebody asked me afterwards, like a young college student, “Tell me about marriage,” and they give me 30 seconds. I’m like, “All right, well, you know.”
J.D. Greear: So, two things come into mind, Shane, that I think stand out that have been a little bit surprising to me. One is that if you rewind the clock even 20 years ago, we were a lot of things in the, when it came to preaching and Christian ministry or a little bit like, don’t ask, don’t tell with things that were controversial. Like, hey, let’s just not talk about homosexuality. I won’t bring it up if you won’t because I know that we, I, it might unpopular, the other things.
J.D. Greear: Now, it’s like they expect that of us and they’ve actually been told a very false narrative about why we believe what we believe. Like, we’re homophobic, we don’t like gay people or it’s, and I’m only using homosexuality as an example. There are multiple issues-
Shane Pruitt: Sure.
J.D. Greear: … that this would be like. What you’ve got to do is, you can’t really avoid it. You’ve got to get ahead of it and tell a better narrative.
J.D. Greear: And then the second component of that is, it means that you’ve got to kind of unpack a whole Christian worldview. You can’t just do topical series on marriage because as helpful as those are, they’ve got to understand that what you’re presenting is a whole radically different way of looking at the world. Simply trying to show them that your principles on marriage are better than their principles on marriage, that’s not going to be compelling to them. You got to give them the whole ball of crazy. I’d just say, “Yeah, I believe that a man showed up 2,000 years ago who was the Son of God. And one day He’s going to come back riding in the clouds on a white horse. I believe that.” And if that’s true, it redefines everything. So, I’d say that’s the first thing.
J.D. Greear: The second thing is more on a missional component. And that is that this generation is kind of pre-mobilized. I mean, they’re ready to go, whether they’re Christians or not. It used to be called the Bono effect because that’s when it first started. I was like, I care about what’s going on in Africa and injustice and Central America or something like that. And so, it’s very easy to mobilize them to, after they become Christians, to do it for the gospel. It’s like, you don’t have to convince them. Like, “Hey, don’t just choose a little comfortable life. You should try to do something that impacts the world.” This generation is already like, we’re ready to impact. Now, we just got to give them a better mission than simply, than some of the things that they’re currently thinking they want to give their lives to.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. That’s so good. I agree 100% and that’s a great segue into Go2. Go2 sounds like an amazing opportunity and a beautiful challenge. What is Go2? What’s the vision behind it?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, well it started in our church, which most of the things I feel like I lead out on now came from seeing them unfold in our church.
Shane Pruitt: Sure.
J.D. Greear: We realized years ago that because we had a lot of college students that we weren’t going to have a lot of money, but we did have a lot of potential missionaries. They’re all looking, especially after they really get serious about Jesus, they’re looking for what does God want me to do with my life?
J.D. Greear: And so, we’d begin to tell them, “Look, you need to get rid of this idea that calling into ministry or leveraging your life for the Great Commission is something that happens to a select few people in a sacred experience. You know, it’s like mystical.” The call to follow Jesus, the call to leverage your life for mission was included in the call to follow Jesus. He said, “Follow me, and I’ll make you a fisher of man.” And so therefore, instead of asking, “Am I called to ministry,” the question is where and how?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: We tell them, “Really what it means to follow Jesus, whether you’re, whatever you’re skilled at, is, so whatever you’re good at, whatever you’re skilled at, do it well to the glory of God, but also do it somewhere strategic for the mission of God.”
J.D. Greear: And so, we tell our college students one of the easiest ways to apply that is why not where for your first two years after you graduate, why not spend those first two years on one of our church planting teams?” We send out, it’s probably about 100 people a year. We just sent out our, I think 12, 13th person who has left our church to go be a part of… About half of them have gone to domestic church planting teams, so these are like Denver, Orlando, Atlanta, other places like that and about half of them have gone overseas on church planting teams.
J.D. Greear: We just challenged all our students, give at least the first two years. The 12, 13 that I mentioned, they’re not exclusively college students, but man, I bet you 75% of them, or it was 60% of them are college students who’ve just said, the way we phrase it is, “Put your yes on the table, like God put it on the map.” We challenge them to put their yes on their table after they graduate.
J.D. Greear: And then we have a conversation with them about where they can be a part of a church planting team. Most of these are not going full time in any kind of full time ministry capacity, some are, but a lot of them are just saying, “Hey, if I’m going to be a public school teacher, why don’t I do it in Denver instead of just where my family is from?” And nothing wrong with where your family is wrong, but why not let the mission of God be the largest factor in where you choose to pursue your career?
J.D. Greear: It’s not supposed to stop with two years, but two years is simply a way to give the first and the best to God. So, that’s where this idea came from is what if every evangelical college students began to think about the mission of God first when they chose their career? I say tongue in cheek that, “If the Mormons can do it for a workspace gospel or a false gospel, then certainly those of us who know the true gospel ought to be willing to give God the first and best of our lives too.”
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I love that. I wrote that quote down you said a while ago, “Put your yes on the table, but let God put it on the map.” I love that. So, I actually shared-
J.D. Greear: Right. Well, good.
Shane Pruitt: … about that with the, I was preaching chapel on Monday of this week of Dallas Baptist University and during a ministry luncheon, I cast Go2 vision to the college students there and you just see the light coming on for them and the excitement.
J.D. Greear: Yeah, yep.
Shane Pruitt: So, where can you find out more information? If you’re a Next Gen leader or a student yourself, where can you find out more information on Go2 and some of those next steps?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, yeah. If you just go to go2years.net is probably the easiest place where there is an international component, like a plug and a national one. We’re still building out everything, but there is already enough stuff on there for you to start the conversation. Particularly, if you’re in a Southern Baptist church and I know a lot of your listeners are, it’s going to be very easy because they’re going to be able to match you up with teams, church planting teams.
J.D. Greear: It’s cool because you’re, honestly, you get to be with a lot of people your age. I mean, how cool is it to move to a new city either overseas or here and be a part on the ground level of seeing a new church get started? It’s one of the sweetest experiences of your life, go2years.net.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, completely. For the college students listening or the seniors in high school preparing for college-
J.D. Greear: By the way, go2years, you got to use the number 2.
Shane Pruitt: Oh, yeah.
J.D. Greear: Don’t write T-W-O out.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s right.
J.D. Greear: G-O and the number 2 years.net.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: All right, go ahead.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah and also, let me throw this in there as well too, this is a good time, is the North American Mission Board has partnered in this and caught the vision of it. Also, if you’re on your phone, you can just text, “Students” to 888111,” Students” to 888111 and you’ll get a reply back of where to go for next steps as well, so that’s great.
J.D. Greear: Yeah, yeah.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Hey, for the college students, Pastor, that are listening or those that are about to go into college, what are some core values they should focus on while they’re at university or in college?
J.D. Greear: While they’re at university or college?
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I think a part of it I would say is the idea of what comes first in your life. I think what happens is not that people ever want to walk away from Jesus, He’s just not first. Career is first, fun is first and whatever, sports, academics. These are all great, but at every point in our life and every chapter, the kingdom of God really ought to be first because in Matthew 6:33, “If you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness then all these things will be added to you.” C.S. Lewis had a great way of summarizing that. He said, “My first things are first. God throws in second things.”
Shane Pruitt: Oh, wow!
J.D. Greear: Based on Matthew 6:33. But when you put second things first, Lewis said, “Not only do you lose contact with first things, God, you also eventually will lose the second things too.”
J.D. Greear: When you go into your university making sure that not only is your walk with God right, but you’re in the right Christian communities, that your relationship with your local church is that you’re a substantial part of it because those things have a large formative effect on you and they’ll shape you not just for your college years, but literally for the rest of your life. That’s one of the values that’s there.
J.D. Greear: Secondly, is that you’re there to be a witness and in order to do that you got to get trained and you really need to take advantage of some of the great resources that North American Mission Board and others provide. How do you learn to share your faith? How do you learn to defend your faith?
J.D. Greear: One of the things we do at our church is we have several hundred college students every summer that come on a 10 week, we call it City Project, and they just come for 10 weeks and they learn how to be disciple makers. They learn how to share the gospel, go on mission trips. That’s helping them get prepared. It’s one of the ways, by the way, of applying that, putting God first is in it. So, those are just a couple of things that would come to mind right away. I could probably talk for another hour on the importance of purity…
Shane Pruitt: Sure.
J.D. Greear: … the importance of, I mean all of these things. Developing a servant attitude, that’s a huge one. A servant attitude toward the world and asking, how has God made, what has made you good at and how can you use that to serve others and the Great Commission. But, I’ll limit it to that.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. That’s great. For the pastor that’s listening or pastoring a church close to a college campus, but they have zero college students in their ministry, but they feel called to reach the college campus, what would you give them as some next first steps of what they should do to reach that campus?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, a really good question. I mean obviously, pray. That’s what this church did, the church I was a part of. Pray would be one. Go take people out there to the college campus and pray. I would find you a couple of campus ministries that are on the campus and ask. Just say, “Hey, we want to be here to serve. You know, we just want to come and let us, let our church provide a meal for your students. What can we do on move in day that would help them?”
J.D. Greear: The way that Jesus, I hate to say it this way, but the way He made Himself relevant to people is He provided, He met their needs in ways nobody else could.
Shane Pruitt: Sure.
J.D. Greear: I think we can still do that and I think you can do it with a college campus. You ought to ask questions, hard questions about is there anything about our church that is not attractive to a student, like in a bad way? That’s not always the case. It’s not like every church that’s doing it right is going to have college students because sometimes they just don’t have the relationships there, or they don’t know about it, or it’s too far away or something. But I think that, we ought to, a lot of our churches ought to be willing to ask is the style of my preaching, the tone, the way I talk about things, is our music, what is there that is not, that is turning them away? We ought to make it easy for college students to hear the gospel. And so, those would be some practical things.
J.D. Greear: I’ll warn you that campus ministries can be kind of wary of churches that try to come in and sort of take over. Like, “Hey, we’ll provide a meal, but we expect you to get to talk about how awesome our church is and why your students should come.” They’re not going to do that. You just got to be out there and serve. Students love to have opportunities to meet needs in the community. And if your church could provide that, like, hey, here is ways that we can help you serve underprivileged. That’s been very successful for us too.
Shane Pruitt: Absolutely. I feel like, Summit, you all are doing it really well. The Lord is working through you, obviously to reach a next generation. You brought up the preaching aspect and that really, I think hit home with me. What are some things maybe in preaching wanting to reach college students, what are some things to maybe avoid and some things to run to in your preaching?
J.D. Greear: Yep. Well, drive-bys, you got to avoid drive-bys.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: If I’m ever going to talk about same sex attraction, homosexuality, you don’t just like, even if you’re pure-hearted in it, I’m just, I just, I don’t usually mention it in just a list of sins because of the questions that it raises. I will talk about it and I talk about it fairly frequently now, but I always make sure that I have time to set out what I mean, what I don’t mean, trying to get past what they assume I mean when I say that homosexuality is a sin. I need to be able to explain that on my terms, the Bible’s terms. Same thing with abortion. That sort of thing is just drive-by. It should feel easy. It feels like a valid application, but, it’s not.
J.D. Greear: I try to tell people in preaching that this guy named, Michael Green wrote a book called Evangelism in the First Century. He talks about the difference between what he calls, “a missionary and a defender of orthodoxy.” He said, “A defender of orthodoxy is concerned to show how distinct the Christian message is from the world. The missionary is trying to bridge the gap trying to find common ground.” He said, “The two should never really contradict because they’re both teaching the same faith, but they approach questions differently.”
J.D. Greear: A lot of pastors only know how to preach like defenders of orthodoxy. You’re standing up there showing… And that’s great, we need that. But more often than not, I’m trying to preach like a missionary. And that is, I’m trying to bridge that gap to, man, to just say, “I understand the questions you’re asking. I know the assumptions you have. And some of them are not fair that you have, but I at least want to meet you on common ground.”
J.D. Greear: I want to talk to them the way that I’m talking to somebody if I’m sitting across the table from them at a coffee shop not if I’m at the SBC Pastors Conference lambasting the decay of the world.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: You may say the same things, you, but you say it a lot differently in your tone.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: So yeah, those would be a couple of preaching things. That and just the need to really preach and the full biblical picture of, like I said, “the whole ball of crazy.”
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, no doubt. Yeah, and one advice I’ve been given lately as well to leaders and churches is, “Don’t shy away from preaching the truth in preaching doctrine and theology.” And even with teenagers, I’m like, “Hey, if they can handle pre-cal, they can handle it with doctrine and theology.”
J.D. Greear: Right. Right, right, right. Yeah, exactly right. Hey, put it this way, if they can order drinks at Starbucks, they can handle words like redemption and propitiation.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s right. No doubt, no doubt. Hey Pastor, if you could go back in time and visit yourself in college, what would you tell the college J.D. Greear?
J.D. Greear: I would tell him two things. One is, and realize that the best things come when you’re not in a hurry and you’re just letting God unfold His work in your life. At every point in my life, I’ve always been anxious to get to the next point. I just realized, I short circuited some of the lessons, like the character God was trying to build in me. Every person that God calls and uses mightily, He puts them in a time of training. That’s true of Moses, that’s true of Paul, it’s true of King David.
J.D. Greear: Paul, we don’t realize this, but there was 17 years between the when God called him in Acts 9 and when he was commissioned by the church in Acts 13.
Shane Pruitt: Wow!
J.D. Greear: 17 years is a long time to wait. We kind of feel like, Hey God, why aren’t you doing more? So I wish I’d, you had told him to take some more time.
J.D. Greear: Plus, the things that you think you’re good at when you’re in college, the things that, especially if you’re going in the ministry, you probably aren’t. You need some, about a decade of, I don’t want to say trial and error, but honing some of those gifts. And then you’ll start to discover the ones that are really your divine sweet spot that He’s given. When you can find that sweet spot and hone in on that, that’s when we’re like, you start to really feel effective and life in the ministry start to really feel, not only feel good, but feel like you’re really being effective. That would be one.
J.D. Greear: Second one would probably be, watch out for Julie. You’re going to meet a girl named, Julie and just bad news.
Shane Pruitt: She’s going to capture your heart.
J.D. Greear: Don’t return that phone call.
Shane Pruitt: There you go. I love it.
J.D. Greear: Right, just yeah, turn, just go ahead.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Hey, well Pastor, we always close with the same omission charge. The heart behind this podcast is to see the next generation realize that they’re now a generation. That they’re not just the future of the church, but they’re also the church right now and have a mission now, on purpose now, got a Great Commission on their life now. So, give us one closing thought on this and one practical next step.
J.D. Greear: Yeah. The closing thought on that is the most fruitful mission field in America is the millennial and college student generation. You’ll never get this time back. You’ll never get this ability to have people openness of the gospel. They make the best disciples. We know historically that almost every major mission’s movement and awakening has come through that generation. So, man, you’re in the best possible time of ministry. Some of my most fruitful times of ministry myself was in that college and right at post college-age.
J.D. Greear: Practical step is start praying big things. Start looking for what God is doing now and tell somebody about Jesus.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah.
J.D. Greear: Just walk across the hall and just share with somebody because you’re going to regret it later if you didn’t leverage every moment for what it could be worth.
Shane Pruitt: That’s so good. Well, Pastor J.D., thank you so much for your time. The Lord speaks through you and blesses me and I know bless his so many who will hear this, so thank you so much for your time, my friend. How can people connect with you-
J.D. Greear: My pleasure, man. Thank you.
Shane Pruitt: … and find you on social media? How can people find you on social media?
J.D. Greear: Yeah, the easiest thing, I’d say my main social media outlet is Twitter, jdgreear.com or just, sorry, no.com, @J.D.G-R-E-E-A-R. I have a ministry website. We have a podcast Ask Me Anything, which is basically seven to eight minute answers to tough questions that college students and other people ask just about Christianity, about faith, about life and so you can find information there. Of course, message podcast, and they call it Summit Life. All that’s accessible through jdgreear.com. There is Instagram, [inaudible 00:21:06]. That’s probably the easiest way to get to it is just go to jdgreear.com and link to it from there.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, great. Man, I’d follow you, obviously. You’re a great follow. Also, if one day you’re just down and need a laugh, Fake J.D. Greear is a fun follow as well.
J.D. Greear: That’s right. Just type into YouTube, Sissy Britches and my name, and see what comes up.
Shane Pruitt: That’s right, Sissy.
J.D. Greear: You’ll be blessed.
Shane Pruitt: That’s true. One thing I left out of your bio is you’re the recent recipient of a major award, so congratulations on that.
J.D. Greear: Worst Christian of 2019.
Shane Pruitt: Congrats.
J.D. Greear: Worst Christian of 2019, absolutely. Yeah, it’s an honor just to be nominated.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for your time, Pastor. I truly appreciate it.
J.D. Greear: All right, man.
Shane Pruitt: Thank you all for listening to the Next Gen On Mission Podcast. If you have questions on reaching the next generation, please email us at [email protected], N-A-M-B.net. We’ll try to address those on a future podcast. Also, don’t forget to text “Students” to 888111 to get more information on Go2. Have a great rest of your day and tell somebody about Jesus.