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 the Next Gen on Mission podcast. Thank you so much for taking the time to hang out with us again.
Shane Pruitt: Today, we have some very incredible guests, D.A. and Elicia Horton. D.A. and Elicia have been married for 17 years this June and have three wonderful kids. They are currently serving together in the Long Beach, California area as church planters. They are also authors, communicators, speakers, and God is just doing amazing things through D.A. and Elicia Horton. Today, we’re also going to be talking about next gen and relationships. So D.A. and Elicia, thank you all so much for taking the time to be on the Next Gen on Mission Podcast.
Elicia Horton: Yeah, thank you so much.
D.A. Horton: Thanks for letting us be a part of it.
Shane Pruitt: Absolutely. Truly honored. All right, before we get too spiritual, what is one fun fact that we should know about each of you that we probably don’t already know?
Elicia Horton: Oh.
D.A. Horton: Man.
Elicia Horton: One fun fact.
D.A. Horton: I guess for me, in all honesty man, I can be an extreme introvert, but I have to act. And the ministry that God has called me in kind of forces me to be extrovertish. But in all honesty, to do this, the extreme introvert, I’d rather be at the house maybe playing Fortnite with the kids or reading books in a room by myself, man.
Shane Pruitt: I love it. All right, so Fortnite with the kids. Be honest, who wins? Who wins those?
D.A. Horton: I don’t like to brag, but let’s just say I help guide and disciple my children in doing well.
Elicia Horton: He teaches them humbleness, humbleness and humility.
Shane Pruitt: I love it.
Elicia Horton: Since we’re bragging kind of, I would say a fun fact is probably majority of times that him and I travel and we get to kind of steal away or go on dates and we do something fun, you know that basketball game that you can play? I don’t even know what-
D.A. Horton: Pop-A-Shot.
Elicia Horton: Pop shot or hot shot, something like that.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Elicia Horton: I would say the majority time, I win.
Shane Pruitt: Come on, girl.
Elicia Horton: Fun fact.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I love it.
Elicia Horton: I teach him humility too.
D.A. Horton: Yeah, so we’re a family that’s dedicated to humbling each other.
Shane Pruitt: That’s good. That’s good. Well, thank you all. Hey. All right. So for the husband and wife listeners that are serving together in ministry, what practical ministry tips would you give to them about doing ministry together? Because when I look at your life, just as an outsider looking in, you all are really effective at serving together. So what tips do you all have that you would give other couples, or just some insights, some life hacks that you all practice yourselves that you could share with others?
D.A. Horton: I think first off, it took us a while to understand that it was a family call that God had put on our hearts. So often, early on in ministry, I just assumed God was leading in my life, calling me, and everyone in the family including Elicia had to kind of just tag along. But then over the course of time, through very intentional and, dare I say, Spirit-filled conversations, me and Elicia began to recognize that this was a familial call, and there were gifts and talents and passions and dreams that God had given to Elicia as well as myself, and then now inclusive of our children.
D.A. Horton: So as we engage together to seek to live on mission, it’s always a corporate time of praying, discussing, planning out, and then also just laying requests before the Lord together. And as he opens and closes doors, our hearts are massaged to kind of seek this level of oneness and togetherness to know that, hey, this is definitely what the Lord is wanting us to do together. So that way there’s traces and fingerprints of oneness and togetherness in anything we do, whether it’s Elicia going out to speak or teach or write, or whether it’s me, or whether it’s the both of us, there’s this rhythm of togetherness.
Elicia Horton: I would just add three practical tips, because I like to be the one that keeps things organized. So mine would be having weekly discussions about what’s coming up for the next few months, and then also having monthly meetings where we kind of look at what we did for the month. Again, what we have lying ahead of us, but also just remembering that the most important thing is, in ministry our family does come first. So that as long as we keep that at the forefront of all of our decision making, then it’s easier to say no to more things than to say yes to things. That’s something that Damon and I really fight for, because the family is our ministry, and it’s the most important one that we’ll want to say yes to more often than no.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, I love that. So Elicia, you’re the organized one of the couple. Is that right?
Elicia Horton: Yeah, it’s safe to say that.
D.A. Horton: Yeah, Elicia is there, man. I play the disorganized one.
Elicia Horton: But we have to find balance somewhere.
Shane Pruitt: There you go. Hey D.A., I’m right with you. I’m right with you. My wife, Casey, is the organized one to the T, and praise God for that gift of grace in my life that I have her. That’s awesome. All right, so share about the most difficult time in ministry together and what the Lord taught you through that.
D.A. Horton: Honestly, I think it’s been since we’ve been here in Long Beach planting. There’s been a lot of different experiences that we’ve had. I’ve been blessed to be ordained in ministry for almost 13 years now, and these last four years by far have been the most challenging. We’ve had just some very tough seasons in regards to the leadership team not panning out the way that we had prayed and sought and desired for this church plant.
D.A. Horton: At the same time, Elicia, she has multiple sclerosis, and so we have had more times of flareups and relapses due to stress-related issues going on. Our son has definitely some nuances and some needs unlike any other time that we’ve ever had in the ministry. Then recently, I myself have been diagnosed with multiple mental illnesses, and at the same time just struggling with burnout and what this looks like and processing through the pain, through enduring times of gossip and slander, people that we’ve invested in that have just kind of abandoned the relationship when challenges came up.
D.A. Horton: Having all these stresses have been ways that we have found new layers of togetherness, even shepherding our children through confusions. I think we really have honestly learned what it means to honor others. Even in the midst of pain, even in the midst of trial, as we dive more deeply into our love for Christ, and even the love for the local church, we’ve really learned how to personify Romans 12 in ways that have been unlike any other time in life.
Elicia Horton: Yeah, and just to tack on there, in fact, I feel like Damon and I had to fight for each other to find rest. We really were not understanding what it meant to Sabbath and what it meant to really just step away from things. Because in a church plant, it’s so easy to get caught up in saying, okay … Basically, it’s like starting a business from ground up. You have to be involved in almost every aspect until you can find people and delegate and all that good stuff. Yeah, when leadership didn’t pan out, it then fell back on our shoulders, and there was a lot that we carried that we just didn’t realize. That really lets you burn out really quickly.
Elicia Horton: So I feel like Sabbathing and finding what it means to rest and say no, we feel like that’s been so valuable for us in this season, as well as fighting for and fighting against the isolation, the running back and just reclusing and just not live in a community. So we’ve been teaching each other to lean into the tensions of what we’re facing, but by being really dependent and interdependent on community life. That’s been something I would say has been very practical for us; because in our times of need, community has been there to love us, to shepherd us, and to just be there for us in our difficult times.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah. That’s rich. Thank you so much for being so transparent and honest with it. You all are so effective at reaching the next generation. Obviously, a lot of people look up to you all, follow you all. For the next gen leaders that are listening, whether it’s young adult leaders or college pastors or student pastors that are feeling on the edge of burnout or they just … I mean, because when you’re working with the next generation, on some levels, you’re on the front line of evangelism efforts, when 80% of people surrender to Jesus before the age of 18, 95% before the age of 30. So they’re on the front lines of that spiritual warfare attack. What is some advice that you would give to the listener that maybe they just feel burned out, exhausted, wore out? What would you tell them?
D.A. Horton: I would say the first thing is understanding that it’s always the wisest move to make a decision with stakeholders involved and stakeholders in your life. That could be other church leaders, that could be church pastors, that could be a part of your local church that are pouring into you, they’re living in relationship with you.
D.A. Horton: So often what we are tempted to do is when we’re burned out, we’re tired, we’re viewing ministry and life and even marriage through a lens of weariness. Often, we can make decisions in that space that is unhealthy, and the consequences of that decision can be detrimental to even other people. We’re not even modeling well for those under us and even those older than us what it looks like to be patient and to be inclusive of strong, solid counsel while we’re in those spaces.
D.A. Horton: So I would say before you even think about, “Oh man, here’s my resignation, here’s this,” bring leadership into the decision-making process, and then come to a conclusion together. I received great counsel from one of my brothers named Wendell Cole. He goes by Deacon Cole. Years ago, he was a senior pastor in Kansas City, and he said, “Damon, before you make a decision, it’s probably best to make sure that your wife and the pastors of your church and the leaders in your church are all on the same page. And that would give you safe protection in your heart to know that godly counsel of people that genuinely know you affirm God’s leading in this decision-making process.”
Elicia Horton: Yeah, that’s good. That was where I was headed, so he spoke for both of us. That’s great.
Shane Pruitt: Thank you so much for that. Switching gears a little bit, always love to ask this question in every episode. I love the answers, and they’re so interesting. Everyone’s saying the same thing, but maybe different aspects of it. D.A., Elicia, what do we need to know about the next generation coming up, young millennials or Gen Z coming up? What do we need to know about reaching the next generation with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Elicia Horton: I would say this. I regularly have conversations with a close family member of ours, and they’re in this generation. It’s very troubling as to what everyday conversations look like for this generation. We just started talking about value, worth, and things like that. For whatever reason, there was a conversation that they were kind of entertaining that had to do with some guys comparing girls, right? They were just going back and forth. All of a sudden, I don’t know if this was the Holy Spirit or just wisdom. I don’t know what it was, but I was just like, “It kind of sounds like to me why they’re so easily having this conversation, they may have an addiction to porn.” And this girl responded, they know that, “Yeah, they do.” They casually talk about it. I was just so just taken back by the casual conversations of having porn addictions in this generation, as if it’s so normalized that it’s not anything new. You shouldn’t be caught off guard by that.
Elicia Horton: So I really feel like leaders really need to understand what that looks like, the extent and damage that it can do on one’s brain, one’s health, and just all the things that come along with having this type of addiction. I feel like they need to be educated, they need to be aware. They also need to find accountability so as they’re engaged in these conversations, they don’t fall into temptation as they’re trying to restore it and love people.
Elicia Horton: But it’s not just guys, it’s girls too. It’s like we have to make sure that we are engaging these conversations, not running away from them but being compassion filled, versus being so judgmental as we can come off. Because I know myself, and first thing in my mind, like I’m a mom, like wait a minute. I don’t like how these conversations can go in this generation, because we have daughters in this generation. So I feel like it’s just important for us to be aware and educate ourselves and knowing how to be Spirit-led when we have to have these conversations, these tough conversations with this generation.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s such a good word. I think that’s some of the common misconceptions that leaders make is think that pornography is only a guy problem.
Elicia Horton: Exactly.
Shane Pruitt: I saw a statistic not too long ago that said the fastest growing consumer of internet pornography are girls between the ages of 15 and 40 now.
Elicia Horton: Yep.
Shane Pruitt: D.A., what would you tell young, single Christian guys that are listening that desperately want to be in a healthy, godly relationship, but the Lord has not seen fit for that to happen yet? So what would you tell a young, single Christian guy?
D.A. Horton: Well, number one, I would definitely affirm their identity first as a son in the family of God. It’s not dependent on their status, whether they’re in a relationship or not. Even those that have tried their hand at various relationships, and they just kind of fell apart, now there’s scars on their heart and in their mind as it relates to that. I would just definitely affirm first and foremost kingdom citizenship. Like that’s your identity, let that shape your perspective.
D.A. Horton: Then I would say, wise counsel that I received early on in life and in ministry is that if you pursue purity in three specific areas, man, the Lord will just flourish your relationship with him so that when he aligns your heart with the individual that he wants you to be with, there’s going to be a stronger propensity for intimacy, for honesty, for authenticity. But at the same time, flourishing in that relationship, marriage, and then parenting. I think three areas that they should pursue purity, as well as even someone who’s been married for 17 years like myself, I need to keep pursuing purity in these three areas.
D.A. Horton: The first is your doctrine. Make sure that you understand the truthfulness of God’s Word and what it looks like in applying it in our day to day.
D.A. Horton: In addition to that, I would say purity in your finances, making sure that you have other people’s eyes of accountability, helping you steward your finances. Again, if somebody is looking at where you’re spending your money, there’s less likelihood of these types of secret addictions that will consistently be the sins that cling to us. That’s what the author of Hebrews was saying.
D.A. Horton: Then finally, I would say purity in your sexuality. Make sure that you are pursuing God. Make sure you’re understanding what it means to not let your sex drive be your god. Don’t let your sex drive or your identity of your sexuality be something that replaces Christ on the throne of your heart. Make sure you submit the whole of who you are to the Lordship of Christ.
D.A. Horton: As you are growing and flourishing and pursuing doctrinal purity, financial purity, and sexual purity, your walk with God will be so much more meaningful. That you’ll be prepared to lead, you’ll be prepared to listen, you’ll be prepared to grow with whoever God is going to align your heart with.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s rich.
Elicia Horton: You really are preaching a sermon now.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s rich. I love it. I’m over here writing down as fast as I can. If you’re listening to this and you’re driving in your car, hey, don’t try to write. Pull over and write this down. Rewind. That was rich. Elicia-
Elicia Horton: And don’t text and drive.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Elicia, what would you tell young Christian single girls who are listening that desperately want to be in a relationship, but God hasn’t seen fit for that to happen right now? What would you tell them?
Elicia Horton: I would say, thank you Damon for kind of setting that up for me, because I would say that almost the very similar things is that I feel like we try to identify ourselves as who we’re in relationships with. I feel like our identity in Christ and our allegiance to Christ first is supreme over all things.
Elicia Horton: It’s so beautiful that, for me, when I was in my later teenage years going into adulthood, once I realized that my allegiance was to Christ first … It took me a while, many broken relationships, many heartaches. It took me a while, but when I realized that Jesus does deserve everything of who I am, from my sexuality to personality and everything in between, I had like this inner peace to say, “Okay, I’m going to be okay. I know my worth, I know my value, so let me just make sure I’m focusing on those things and my identity in Christ. Then Lord, if you tell me that all things will be added unto me if I’m seeking first your kingdom, then I need to trust you in that.”
Elicia Horton: Once that happened, I’m not even joking, within a matter of months, here comes Damon Horton around the corner. I’m just like, wow. And I didn’t know it, I just realized that, again, placing God first and making sure that I’m not trying to find value in the things around me in my inner circle and in people who pay compliments or people that pay attention, as long as I’m finding my worth and my value in Jesus, all things will fall into place, in time.
Shane Pruitt: All right, let me lob another one out. What about for the couple, whether they’re in high school, college, not married, but are dating? What advice you give them?
D.A. Horton: We’re kind of walking through that even with one of our own children. One of the things that we constantly make them aware of is the fact that let’s keep open and honest communication between the teenager and the parents. We want to be deeply involved, because this is discipleship. These are discipleship rhythms that me and Elicia recognize we’re not going to pawn off to the youth leader in our church. Their work in the youth ministry is supplemental to what’s going on in the home. So we lead with forthright conversations.
D.A. Horton: So just to be honest, there was a situation where we’ve communicated, “Hey, you cannot date, you cannot be in an exclusive relationship. You can have friends. But at the same time, we want to be involved in this process. Because it’s natural to be attracted to somebody, it’s natural to want to pursue them, but we’re trying to give you guardrails on what this looks like, because we don’t want you to make the same mistakes we did and give all these heart investments into a relationship that is not going to last, and then you repeat this mistake over and over. By the time you align with who Christ has you to be with, you’ve got all this baggage and unnecessary scars on your heart, because you didn’t listen to the good counsel of walking in purity relationally.”
D.A. Horton: We walked through that with her; and obviously, we’re still walking through that in those nuances and what that looks like with her in regards to that.
Elicia Horton: I would say also, in addition, if the person that you’re seeking to be in a relationship with doesn’t want your parents to be involved, that should be a red flag immediately. If that person doesn’t want to have conversations with your parents, who want to be involved, that should be a red flag. That’s not a yellow flag. That’s like, “Oh yeah, let’s laugh that off.” No, that should be a red flag. Because again, it’s about welcoming wisdom and counsel into that blossoming relationship.
Elicia Horton: But I also ask hard questions of, “Where is this going? Help me understand. What’s the purpose of this relationship?” Because friendships are more valuable right now, of being able to build those first, and then seeing is there potential? Do I see characteristics and qualities that I like in this person? Am I able to just kind of step back and maintain healthy boundaries and not overstepping boundaries by just building a friendship? Can we just do that? But if they’re wanting to push those boundaries, that they’re wanting to progress the relationship only for maybe a personal benefit, then again, that should be a red flag.
D.A. Horton: Hey, if I could add one more thing. Just speaking to the teenagers, because listen, I know exactly what … They’re like, “Aw man, you all don’t even understand. We’re in love.”
D.A. Horton: Listen, I totally get that. So let me just break you off with some practical wisdom that my homie Jason gave me. He heard it from a pastor somewhere in the San Diego area. Basically, what he said is that this pastor approached his daughter and said, “Okay, this is who you are interested in being with. Cool. Well then for six months, invite him to every family function we got. Invite him to everything, barbecues, weddings, baptisms, church, you name it. Like every family function, let him be around us.” Because he was like, “Then you’ll be able to see if he’s genuinely the same person around different-
D.A. Horton: … family members, around friends.” That’s the stuff that we would incorporate. When Jason told me that, I’m like, “Oh man.” So I told Elicia, and I was like, “Yo, listen. Let’s invite the young dude over. Let’s talk. Let’s see how he is.” Because then we need our daughter to be actively involved in that, because we can give … And young person, trust me. I get it. You hear counsel from your parents, you’re like, “Man, whatever.” But then somebody else tells you the same thing, and you’re like, “Oh man, that’s so wise.”
Elicia Horton: Isn’t that the truth.
D.A. Horton: So we get it. But the reality is, you got to develop your own critical thinking skills.
Elicia Horton: Exactly.
D.A. Horton: You got to begin to recognize, dang, this person acts this way when we’re alone. They put on this front around this group of people, they put this front on … “Man, there’s six different people. I’m dating six different people.” That cannot lead to a healthy conclusion, because if you’re dating a person that has different faces, different shapes, and different characters, trust me, you’re only seeing one perspective, and how do you know that person ain’t dating five other people with their five other perspectives?
D.A. Horton: So that’s just some practical advice-
Elicia Horton: You’re preaching again.
D.A. Horton: … to save your heart for real, because …
Shane Pruitt: I love it.
D.A. Horton: I’ll just leave it at that.
Shane Pruitt: This is so rich. We need to turn this episode into two, three parts. This is so good. That is awesome. I love that.
Shane Pruitt: That is such good advice from both of you. I’m over here writing this down. I have a 13 year old, and so I know that it’s coming down the road. I’m like, “Lord. Jesus, if you want to come back now, just come on back before she gets in those dating ages.” Oh, Lord. All right. We always close Next Gen on Mission Podcast with the same on mission charge. The heart behind this podcast is to see the next generation realize they’re the now generation. They’re not necessarily the future of the church, but they’re the church right now. Give us some closing thoughts on that.
Elicia Horton: I would say, listen, the burdens that you’re carrying, they can be dealt with now. Don’t allow them to dictate your future, but allow Christ to carry those, to lay them at his feet and to know that you’re not alone in whatever you’re facing. There’s so many challenges that all of us are facing these days, but it’s more freeing to be able to lay those down and to pursue Jesus wholeheartedly versus carrying all these burdens that weigh us down and easily entangle us and feeling like we are nothing. But with Jesus, trust us, you can be everything and even more.
D.A. Horton: Hey man, what I would add to that is when you embrace Jesus, you have the same job description that I do, and that is to make disciples of every ethnicity, to teach those that you are living life with how to observe the spiritual and social commands of Christ.
D.A. Horton: I’ll be honest, my heart is to invest in the next generation simply because every major revival that has taken place in American history, on American soil has always been inclusive of three factors. Number one, a serious commitment to prayer. Number two, a serious commitment to evangelism. And number three, young people. So when those three things intersect, and even though I’m technically not a young person anymore, I want to give everything that I have from every ounce of wisdom, every moment of struggle, every life tension that I’m enduring at approaching the age of 40. Man, if I can arm somebody that’s 16 to 24 years old with the scars and the wisdom and the insight that I have at 40, by the time they’ll be 40, they’ll be twice as wise and seasoned in the faith that I am. So my life is dedicated to pouring into this generation.
D.A. Horton: We’re with you, we believe in you, and I don’t want you following in footsteps, I want you walking alongside me. So I think that that generation needs to understand that, yeah, living on Jesus’s mission is now. It’s now and then for the rest of your life.
D.A. Horton: When God called me to faith, I was almost 16 years old. I been walking with Jesus for almost 24 years right now. The reality is, I’m still passionately loving Jesus as much as I am about to be 40 as I did when I first came to faith at 15. So it is possible to pursue Christ with all you have for the remainder of your teenage years, through your twenties, and through your thirties. Me and my wife are living testimonies of that. So you can do it, and we believe in you. That’s why we want to equip you and live life with you to show you, yeah, it’s possible.
Shane Pruitt: D.A., Elicia, so, so good. This has been so rich. Thank you so much for your time. Hey, where can people find you all? Where can they follow you, stay connected with you?
D.A. Horton: Instagram, Elicia Horton, Damon Horton or D.A. Horton, Facebook, Twitter, all the little Googles you can do. YouTube.
Elicia Horton: They know how to find us.
Shane Pruitt: Well, this has been great.
D.A. Horton: For any young person out there that’s praying about going to college, hey, come holler at us at Cal Baptist University. I’m a professor there, intercultural studies. Come hang with me. Let’s spend four years together.
Shane Pruitt: Yeah, that’s right. And NAMB is launching a great initiative with J.D. Greear of Go2. Hey, so if you’re about to graduate college, go serve in D.A. and Elicia’s church for two years and give up two years of your life for the kingdom, and serve with them over there in Cali and reach people with the gospel.
Shane Pruitt: Thank you so much 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 future podcasts. If you enjoy what you’re listening to, hey, give us a rating, subscribe to us. Tell your friends about the podcast. That really, really helps this project moving forward. Have a great rest of your day, and tell somebody about Jesus.