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. Thank you so much again for hanging out with us on the Next Gen on Mission podcast today. I have a very dear friend joining us, Matt Brown. Matt Brown is an evangelist and author, the founder of Think Eternity, a ministry dedicated to amplifying the gospel every day through podcast devotionals, videos, live events, and more. Matt is a social media influencer and guru. Matt and his wife Michelle have three children and live in Minnesota. Today we’re going to talk about Next Gen and social media. Matt, thank you so much, my friend for joining us.
Matt Brown: Oh yeah, it’s an honor, Shane, thanks for having me, buddy.
Shane Pruitt: Absolutely, man. Hey, well, before we jump in too far and get too spiritual, hey, what is one thing or one fun fact that we should know about Matt Brown that we probably don’t already know?
Matt Brown: Yes. Well, here’s one that I would love to share, but I’m thinking of Nashville this week and some of the challenges that they’ve faced. Years ago I was in Nashville, and I was at something that we were kind of having at LifeWay back then at the old building, and my wife and I swung by this coffee shop called Barista Parlor. And we loved all the different coffees they had. We actually went I think a couple of different times. But anyways, one of the last visits that we did to that coffee shop, they had these really weird coffee drinks, and this is probably, I would say this is four years ago probably, and one of them was like sparkling water with citrus fruit and espresso over ice.
Matt Brown: And every day since then I have typically a coffee in the morning, normal coffee, and then throughout the rest of the day when I’ll have more espresso, because I have more than one a day, I will do ice sparkling water espresso and some lime lemon and mandarin orange squeezed in. So that’s a very strange drink that I just encourage everyone to try because it’s so refreshing. It’s wonderful. And somehow I learned about in Nashville years ago.
Shane Pruitt: And it impacted your life for the rest of your life.
Matt Brown: It’s important for everyone to know this, you know? And so thank you for giving me the opportunity, no one else asks me these questions.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And you know what, I try to be a coffee drinker. I really do. Because I have so many friends that are honestly coffee snobs, and I feel left out of their club and their conversations, and I’ve tried, I just cannot develop a taste for coffee.
Matt Brown: Well, let me tell you that story, because how I originally started to like coffee was in my first years of Bible college in Minneapolis, and I would go out and travel as an evangelist, and I’d preach at churches, anytime there was breaks through the summers and whatever. And I’d take my a friend with me, and so I’d take one of my buddies with me and we’d take turns preaching and doing a lot of stuff. Well, one of my friends I took with me several of those years, he had grown up drinking coffee after church since he was a kid. So he was starving after church and so he’d just take some of the coffee. Well, by the time he was in college he just liked his coffee black, like he was extreme already.
Matt Brown: And so he would always want to stop up here in the Midwest and the North, it’s like Caribou Coffee and obviously we have Starbucks too, and he’d get a coffee, and we were sharing our money out of the same preaching funds, so we’d preach and then just split whatever was left over after our costs. And so he’d get a coffee, go spend a dollar on just a black coffee. And I didn’t like coffee, but I would get a mocha and add extra chocolate in it, which it’s already like super sugary by the way. And then there’s obviously some expresso there, but you can barely taste the coffee or taste of it. And that’s how I got addicted slowly to coffee. You’ve just got to start with all the sugar and then eventually you’re like, I don’t like the sugar anymore, I just want coffee.
Shane Pruitt: I love it. I love it. And I love that y’all used y’all’s honorarium for coffee, man. So it’s all like, my name is Matt Brown, have a Bible, will travel, will preach for coffee. Love it. All right.
Matt Brown: Will preach for… Yes, exactly.
Shane Pruitt: So I always love to ask this question to every guest we have on, and it’s so fun to hear the different responses, but next generation, what do we need to know about reaching the next generation?
Matt Brown: Yeah, well, I would just say probably, off the top of my head that reaching the next generation, that we’re such a digital generation, we’re the first generation in history that is all online, since the ’90s now, but now we have social media. And so there’s a mission field. And I know people know this, but there’s a mission field like there’s never been before online because of digital.
Matt Brown: And so I’d just say, every minister and every church and every young person even has an opportunity that we’ve never had before to be able to just share Jesus easier than we ever have. And we have just these more simple, quick, powerful opportunities to have moments online through what our ministry, our team loves called “digital missions”, by the way. So there’s a lot of terms for it, online evangelism, internet events, we like to call it digital missions because it truly is a mission field. And that includes both our friends who we’re friends with on Facebook or wherever, but also includes, through ads you can reach people all over the world by different targeting. So there’s just an amazing moment for all of us right now that everyone can be a part of.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. And I love that term, digital missions. You know, whenever I’ve spoken a lot on living missionally, that’s an element that we’ve added, we always used to say, “Hey, your mission field is the ground between your two feet at any point in today.” And now there’s a new aspect of where you have digital footprints. And so anytime you’re online, you have the opportunity to be a missionary online. I love that.
Matt Brown: Yeah, we do.
Shane Pruitt: Hey, so what are some dangers, do you think?
Matt Brown: Yeah, the dangers, of course, is just that it can become about us. You know, it can feed our ego or our pride, because you know, there was a study done that said more than 50% of the next generation thinks they’re going to be famous someday. So our priorities have changed. I think that we’ve seen that it’s easier than ever to become Insta-famous. And so I think that’s almost, I mean, I don’t know if I want to say it’s wrong that we crave influence or that we crave popularity, but we just have to be really careful with that stuff because that’s not necessarily, that’s not healthy. That’s not going to satisfy our soul in the long-term.
Matt Brown: And so there’s nothing wrong with wanting to have an impact on people. Every minister that is out there wants to have a greater influence on the people in their community, in their city, and their church. But we’ve just got to be careful with that, we’ve got to know that there is some pitfalls to that, and just try to make it about being more of an encourager, about being a more of a giver than a taker, about caring for others more than we’re trying to focus on ourselves, and about lifting up the Lord more than we lift up ourselves. It’s about Jesus, that’s what’s ultimately going to satisfy our hearts walking, in that purpose, and not focusing too much on ourselves.
Shane Pruitt: No doubt. Yeah. That’s such a good word. Okay, so on the flip side of that, what are some positive things, and you kind of alluded to it while ago, but the opportunities that we have today with online resources, social media, to advance the gospel, great commission, what are some positive light of that?
Matt Brown: Yeah, well, I want to share something that I don’t know that most people have noticed, but I see it, it feels like every day, that on Twitter and on TikTok, which is a new video platform, that young people are getting kind of boosted in the algorithms far more than older people. And I’m not 100% sure why that is, but you can just see it when you see a young person tweet and get retweeted like 300 times, and you’re like, what is going on? I think that the platforms right now, and I don’t know if they’ll do this forever, are highlighting young people to try to make it a place where young people want to go. So they’re giving them an opportunity for an unusual amount of influence.
Matt Brown: And so I just want to say to every young person, and maybe you’re a leader and you can tell this to your students, that you have an opportunity to speak into your friends’ lives, that maybe your pastor doesn’t even have, literally simply, even just because of the algorithms.
Matt Brown: And so again, there’s just this amazing opportunity. Like I was talking to this young influencer literally last week, because probably every week, Shane, I’m talking to one or two or three young leaders, and I’m just hearing their stories, because I’m just fascinated and curious and excited about what God’s doing in the next generation. So I just want to be a supporter and encourager of young leaders all around me, and just be like a cheerleader to them, and excited about what God wants to do in their lives and stuff like that. And of course be a mentor to discipler anytime I can too.
Matt Brown: I was just talking to this young guy named Elijah Lamb, and he literally got saved, man, in the last year or two. He has a little bit of a church history in his family, but he has also some challenges. He shared with me his testimony. Well, he just was doing funny videos on TikTok and it went crazy. And then there came a point, I think, after like a year where he was speaking into something that was going on in culture, and he was giving some apologetic answers to questions people were having about faith and about Jesus. And he started to through that become very vocal about his faith. And he literally started every week holding the TikTok church. And it’s not that it’s replaced to the church in any way, but he’s basically doing like an outreach basically, if you want to think of it that way, to point people to church. But he’s an outreach to people who are on TikTok, on his platform, and he has thousands of young people coming in, hundreds accepting faith in Christ and making the decision to follow Jesus every single week.
Matt Brown: And literally, I talked to another guy who has another TikTok church on a different angle. So just all that to say that each of us has different opportunities and things that we can do. And I remember when I was in high school, there was different things I felt led to try to share my faith with in my public high school. And I remember writing notes with one of my fellow students, it was around the holiday season, one year in school, and just through passing notes in between classes and things, I was able to share my faith with that person. And they ended up making the decision of faith in Christ. And I think in a similar way we can send social media messages to different people, or an encouragement, or offer to pray, but we just never had that opportunity before. So easily, so powerfully, and all of us have that opportunity.
Shane Pruitt: No doubt. It truly is such a time as this, to where I think, even 100 years ago or 150 years ago, if we wanted to reach someone in another country with the gospel, we had to get on a boat. If we made the trek there, it would take years to establish ourselves, to learn the language, to gain trust. And to now know that you literally can share the gospel across the world with the push of a button. It truly can happen, I think in this generation, to see all nations, all tongues hear the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Matt Brown: Yeah, Shane, I was telling some of our team in the last few days, that in the last 30 days, we have gospel videos and gospel ads will run on social media targeting different countries around the world, as well as the U.S. and Canada and different countries, but we literally had 152,000 people heard a message of the gospel through video, through a gospel video that I did in the last 30 days. Most of our team doesn’t even always see those stats. But it was like, guys, in the last 30 days, we shared the gospel to 152,000 people, and more than 10,000 of them clicked through to our gospel landing page to hear more about Jesus. And it was reaching people that, some of the countries are even closed to the gospel, and reaching people all over the world that are English speaking.
Matt Brown: So it’s just crazy. Right? And our budget for that, if I told you, it’s so small, because we don’t have an enormous amount of resources. So this was such little money, we were able to reach so many people, and see them engaging, and see them responding, to see them being moved towards Christ. And so I just agree. I think every church and every leader should have a plan and a strategy at least. I don’t want to burden anyone. If you don’t feel like you should, then you don’t have to. But I think every leader in church should consider if they should have a strategy at least to make digital missions a part of what they do. And not just missions missions.
Matt Brown: Because, I don’t want to be mean, but tell me a missionary who’s preached to 152,000 people in the last 30 days. And you can do that with like a shoe string. It should be a part, it should be a part. It’s not the only solution, by the way. God still mainly uses people, he still uses preachers, he still uses the proclamation of the gospel. But I think that we can do that in one way through digital missions as well.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I agree 100%. So Matt, I mean, you have a massive following on social media, and I know a lot of that is the favor of the Lord, you are one of the most connected people I know, but you’re also one of the most humble, encouraging, celebrating others and not yourself. And so I think the Lord’s given you a lot of favor. But for the leader, the ministry leader, the pastor, or the next gen leader, or the young person themselves to say, “Okay, hey, yeah, set it to the side, we don’t want a large following to make much of ourselves, but we do want to have a following and an influence, an impact to get the gospel out.” What are some practical ways, and I know, and so if you’re listening, Matt actually gets paid to give this advice to ministry leaders and to companies of how to grow their social media, so Matt, without giving away too much of the secret sauce, is there some practical things you can share with us of how to grow our social media following to get that gospel out?
Matt Brown: Oh, thank you, buddy. Well, I’d love to be a resource to anybody, and of course I’m happy to share anything I can. And it has been a privilege and a blessing to be able to serve some ministries over the last 11 years more intentionally through a plan together. But I just freely would just say yes, again, keep your motives right, but it’s good to grow your influence in your community, in your city, and around the country and the world, for pointing people to Christ, being an encouragement to people. And thank you so much too, by the way, for your kind words, that’s so kind. I mean, I just feel like God has been faithful over the years, and that there’s…
Matt Brown: You think about John Piper, I mean, we’re all so impacted by Dr. Piper and his influence and his message of Christian hedonism, of the fact that God wants you to be happy and joyful, but for the long-term and in him, and it’s going to be fleeting in the, in the pleasures of sin. It’s going to cause destruction rather than happiness over the long-term. But holiness will create a long-term joy in your life. God wants you to be happy as your good Father in heaven. But it’s not like necessarily the world’s definition of happiness. Right? But it’s better, better honestly, Shane, like it’s incredible.
Matt Brown: And so in the sense I just feel like God’s hidden joy in trying to be an encourager and to be a blessing to others, being generous and serving your family, for instance, in the little things. And I’m not always perfect at it, but I long for that because I just feel like I’ve found so much satisfaction and joy in that, because I think that’s where God has planned it. And so I think for every leader and for every young person, the more we serve our parents, serve our spouse, serve our kids, serve our family, the more we try to be an encourager and a door opener for other people, I feel like you’re going to have more joy in your life. And I don’t think it’s just me, I just think, it’s almost like a pursuit of joy to be a servant and to try to be an encourager. And so I just hope everyone will think about doing that in greater ways as well, because I think you’ll be blessed by it.
Matt Brown: But I would just say, yeah, for growing influence, that a couple of things, first of all, find people that you love, that you like their content, and watch and learn. One of the biggest things you can do in any area of your life that you want to grow in is either read a good book or watch people who you feel like are inspiring to you in it. And that’s the first step. So it’s just this constant attitude of growth, to watch the people you feel like are doing it well and see if you can learn things from them.
Matt Brown: But number two, share content that isn’t just an invite to a church event or, I mean, you can do that sometimes, but don’t just keep your content to like, “Hey, come here to get the ministry.” Bring your ministry to the platform. Which means, what Scriptures encourage you today? What quote has just spoken to your soul today? What motivational quote or encouraging thought can you just speak into the people around you and the people that follow you already? And basically kind of just begin to make your platform a place that people just feel encouraged, they feel stirred, they feel connected in a good way and called towards more of God in their life. So that’s a step two is just the content.
Matt Brown: And I mean, you could have a ton of followers but not actually be benefiting their lives. Right? So it’s kind of like, the cart before the horse. So it’s important to do that. And then, when it comes to growing your influence, I think you’ll naturally see some of that happening from that. But there’s other things you can do. Ads is one of them, learning how to spend a little money on the ads to minister to people through your content or your church’s content. And so that’s definitely an area, I think, all ministries should consider putting some of their focus or their resources to make an impact, again, through this mission field. So it really is a place that I don’t think people should forget about. And then other things like that.
Matt Brown: But I would just say it kind of starts with this attitude of growing and it becomes like, “Hey, let’s share great content. Let’s share content that will really help people, really point people towards the Lord.” And make it about others, not yourself. And then, of course, there’s some strategies like ads and other things where you can try to be strategic about growth. And again, I think growing your influence can be a really good thing, because we want to make it about Jesus.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I love that. And that was, man, that is such solid gold advice, each one of those. And that one really resonated with me on, don’t just use social media to share invites to your event or come to you, bring the content to the platform. I love that. That is so helpful. Hey, well, Matt, we always close with this same on mission charge. The heart behind this podcast is to see the next generation realize they are the now generation, not just the future of the church, but they are also the church right now. They have a mission now. Would you give us one closing thought on this? So maybe one practical next step of this in light of social media?
Matt Brown: Yeah, well we’ve just, in the last, the beginning of the roaring ’20s, I’ll call it, some friends and I felt this burden to call 1 million young people to fast and pray as we entered the roaring ’20s. And I’ll just tell you, Shane, I mean you’d think calling people to fast, it’d be like pulling teeth normally. And you’d think if you did a big call like that to fast, like 10 people would respond. And I was blown away by the many thousands of people all over the country that responded to this call. And it seemed that there was this hunger for it. So I’d just say, as much as we hear about the negativity sometimes in the next generation, and of course every generation has their problems and challenges, and I’m probably not the expert to speak into all of that, there might be some better guys to on, but I would just say this, that I just see so much encouragement, and just even just very recently, I’m so moved by what God is doing right now with young people and across our nation and churches.
Matt Brown: I just heard from another friend who’s a worship pastor, and he’s been sharing his testimony of being saved from drug addiction on the road, and every church he’s going through, there’s so many people getting saved that he just asked me for help. He’s like, “Can you equip and train these pastors in following up? Because there’s so many people they can’t even keep up on this. So much of an influx of souls being saved, the church can’t even keep up.” And I was like, what is going on right now? So I just want to say, hey, for all of us, I think God’s about to do some greater, greater things in our lives and our churches and our nations. Let’s just keep praying together. Let’s just keep encouraging each other and stirring each other up. Because I just really do believe there’s some really extraordinary things happening right now.
Shane Pruitt: I completely agree. Matt, this has been so beneficial, my friend. Thank you so much. I’ve got a page full of notes over here. If you’re driving and listening to this, I hope you hadn’t been trying to take notes as you drive, but go back and listen to this again. Write these down. Super helpful. Will be helpful for your ministry and influence. Matt, how can people find you and stay connected with you after this podcast?
Matt Brown: Yeah, thank you, Shane. Well, @EvangelistMatt is my handle on social media, I’d love to hear from you. And then thinke.org for Think Eternity. We’re sharing regular devotional articles from different leaders including Pastor Shane and others. And we also have regular podcasts as well. We just hope all of that’s an encouragement and a blessing to your faith, and along with this Next Gen on Mission podcast, and I’m just, again, so honored to be on. My newest book is “Truth Plus Love”, that’s also available now from Zondervan and Harper Collins, and that’s just this call to have both truth and love in our Christian lives, and how that makes us more influential as well, as we share this amazing good news of Jesus.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, it is, and it’s a great book. So leaders, do yourself a favor, everyone who is listening, get the book “Truth Plus Love”. Go check out thinke.org. It is a great resource, and I’ve had the privilege to write some articles on that outlet. And then, yes, follow Matt on social media, you will not regret it.
Shane Pruitt: Well, thank you so much for hanging out with is and listening to the Next Gen on Mission podcast. If you have questions on reaching the next generation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, that’s N-A-M-B.net, and we’ll try to address those on a future podcast. Have a great rest of your day, and tell somebody about Jesus.