Cultural Challenges and NextGen Ministry : Eli Bonilla Jr
In our society, which is filled with competing and mixed allegiances, how can we best minister across all generations, and especially our younger generations? In this week’s conversation on FrontStage BackStage, host Jason Daye is joined by Eli Bonilla Jr. Eli is a leader in the next-gen space, serving in a variety of capacities on national ministry networks. Eli also serves as the global next-gen pastor at Bethany Church in Louisiana. He has recently released his first book entitled Mixed. Together, Eli and Jason examine some current cultural challenges, including a hyper-elevated sense of self and identity, what it looks like to minister in a post-Christendom society, and even some technologies, including AI. Eli helps drive us back to the heart of Christ, as he shares what they are seeing as most effective in ministry today.
Looking to dig more deeply into this topic and conversation? Every week we go the extra mile and create a free toolkit so you and your ministry team can dive deeper into the topic that is discussed. Find your Weekly Toolkit below… Love well, Live well, Lead well!
- Video links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Audio links to this week’s episode – easily share with the ministry leaders in your church
- Additional resource links from this week’s conversation – so you and your team can easily find what is mentioned or referenced
- Ministry Leaders Growth Guide – key insights and concepts from this week’s conversation as well as engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process
- Full-text transcript of this week’s episode – review something you heard, pass along snippets, post tweets, create presentations to share, or use in whatever way you find most helpful in developing your ministry leaders
- Shareable Social Graphics – Feel free to post them on your church social accounts, your personal accounts, or use them as graphics in your communications
Share the video with your ministry leaders >> YouTube
Share the audio podcast with your ministry leaders…
Additional Resource Links
www.elibonillajr.com – Visit Eli’s website today, where you will find his book, blog, and other valuable tools and resources that will help you in your personal life and ministry journey.
Mixed: Embracing Complexity by Uncovering Your God-led Identity – In Eli’s book, he questions the basis of unity and inclusion and explores the multiple components of our identity, discovering how they can all be reconciled for God’s purpose as we reflect His image. This book will lead you to: find peace with the complexity within yourself, understand yourself more deeply so you can relate to others, experience more human connection through a God-led identity, and develop greater empathy, celebrate cultures without creating division, and fight for people in the margins.
Feeling overwhelmed, burned out, or just want to talk? Complimentary Coaching Session for Pastors http://PastorServe.org/freesession
Ministry Leaders Growth Guide
Key Insights and Concepts
- There are more areas and ways of being “mixed” than there have been before – racially, ethnically, socio-economically, culturally, and more.
- Even though diversity is at the forefront of our society right now, diversity has existed since the beginning of Creation.
- Biblically, the end goal of Christianity is unity, not diversity.
- The local church should reflect the diversity of its surrounding community.
- There is a danger in over-simplifying and elevating one’s own identity because it can lead to pride and a lack of appreciation of each person’s God-given intricacies.
- A focus on self has become predominant in our culture, even more so in younger generations, which can lead to a self-help religion that has self at the center, rather than Jesus.
- Face-to-face ministry is especially important in ministering to the next generation since they are bombarded with digital and surface-level relationships. Studies indicate younger generations are hungry for face-to-face relationships.
- The rise of AI in our society is contributing, and will likely continue to contribute in even greater degrees, to a loss of authentic relational intimacy in the next generation. This is an opportunity to introduce people to the beauty of Jesus, as the gospel prioritizes close relationships and community.
- Research shows that Gen Z still looks to their parents first for worldview, most likely because they are in a deep-rooted face-to-face relationship with them as opposed to online friends or social media influences.
- Pastors and ministry leaders who are working directly with younger generations should make sure they are addressing issues that this generation is actually facing while living in “Babylon”.
- Only 8% of Gen Z has a biblical worldview, thus it is vital for pastors and ministry leaders to focus on the basics of faith, because many have never been exposed to the basics.
- The core of it all is Jesus, no matter how nuanced or complicated people try to make it.
Questions for Reflection
- How can I balance the biblical call for unity with the importance of recognizing and celebrating the unique diversity of individuals within our church?
- Reflecting on the demographics of our local community, would I say it mirrors what I see in our congregation. How can our ministry better reflect and connect with the people in your immediate context?
- How do I guard against the dangers of over-simplifying my own identity or elevating certain aspects of my background over others? In what ways am I fostering an environment of genuine appreciation for everyone’s uniqueness?
- In what ways can I address the prevailing self-centered tendencies in the younger generations? How can our ministry promote a focus on Christ-likeness and service instead?
- Considering the prevalence of digital relationships, how can we prioritize and emphasize face-to-face ministry to effectively reach and connect with the next generation?
- As AI continues to impact society, how do I foresee its influence on authentic relational intimacy? What steps can I take to counteract any negative effects on your ministry?
- How can I strengthen my relationship with the parents of Gen Z members in our church, understanding the influential role they play in shaping their children’s worldview? What resources and support can we, as a church, provide to parents?
- When ministering to younger generations, how can I ensure that we are addressing the specific issues and challenges they are facing in their daily lives, both within and outside the church?
- Considering the low percentage of Gen Z with a biblical worldview, what practical approaches can we employ to teach and reinforce the foundational truths of Christianity?
- How can I ensure that, amid the complexities and nuances of modern life, my ministry remains centered on the person of Jesus Christ and His teachings?
- How can I better equip myself and our ministry team to navigate the intricacies of today’s diverse society while staying true to biblical principles and the teachings of Jesus?
- What steps can I take to actively listen to the concerns, questions, and struggles of the younger generations, allowing their input to shape the direction and focus of my ministry?
In our society, which is filled with competing and mixed allegiances, how can we best minister across all generations, and especially our younger generations?
In this episode, I’m joined by Eli Bonilla Jr. Eli is a leader in the next-gen space, serving in a variety of capacities on national ministry networks. Eli also serves as the global next-gen pastor at Bethany Church in Louisiana. He has recently released his first book entitled Mixed. Together, Eli and I examine some current cultural challenges, including a hyper-elevated sense of self and identity, what it looks like to minister in a post-Christendom society, and even some technologies, including AI. Eli helps drive us back to the heart of Christ, as he shares what they are seeing as most effective in ministry today. Are you ready? Let’s go.
Hello, friends, and welcome to another insightful episode of FrontStage BackStage. I am your host, Jason Daye. And as always, each and every week, I have the privilege and the honor of sitting down with a trusted ministry leader. And we dive into a conversation in an effort to help you and pastors and ministry leaders just like you embrace a healthy rhythm for both life and ministry. We are proud to be a part of the Pastor Serve Network. And not only do we have these conversations every week, but our team creates an entire toolkit available to you to help you and the team at your local church dig more deeply into the conversation at hand. So you can find that at PastorServe.org/network. There, you’ll find insights, you’ll find reflection questions, and you’ll find a growth guide for ministry leaders. And again, you can take your ministry leaders and staff at your local church through this. And again, just learn more and grow deeper in our lives as ministers of the gospel. So be sure to avail yourself of that and check that out. And then also, our team at Pastor Serve loves to come alongside of pastors and ministry leaders. This is what we do week in and week out. And so if you would like to learn more about how you can receive a complimentary coaching session, we encourage you to check out PastorServe.org/freesession to learn more about that. Now, if you’re joining us on YouTube, thanks for coming along, give us a thumbs up. And in the comments below if you could just take a moment to drop your name and the name of your church, we love getting to know our audience better. And we will be praying for you and for your ministry. And whether you’re joining us on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform, please be sure to subscribe or to follow so you do not miss out on any of these great conversations. And we have a great conversation for you today. At this time, I would like to welcome Eli Bonilla Jr to FrontStage BackStage. Eli, welcome!
Hey, thanks for having me. I’m super excited to be on.
Yeah, excited to have you. So good to have you with us and really looking forward to hearing your insights as they relate to ministering in a world that is growing more and more mixed. But before we get there, Eli, I would love to have you give us some context for this conversation. You’ve recently written a new book entitled Mixed and can you share with us, really, what do you mean by the term mixed?
Yeah, you know, the beginning of this conversation, what I began with in terms of an anchoring for that term was racially and ethnically mixed. You know, given my background and for those listening I am, my mother is from the Dominican Republic. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. And my dad is from Nogales, Mexico. But I was born here in the United States. I was born in California, raised in Texas, went to school in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and lived in Florida, I’m as American as you can get. So I had a lot of cultural mixes, as well as ethnic mixes. And in trying to reconcile this mixture, and especially through the lens of my Christian perspective, I found that it was at its root, an identity conversation and that ethnicity and race were not the only things that contributed to sort of the confusion on identity I was facing personally. And so as that began to unravel, “mixed” got a multi-dimensional meaning. And what I say at the beginning of the book is you don’t have to be mixed racially and ethnically to read a book like this because I also talk about mixed in your experiences, mixed in social background, socio-economic status, you know, coming from this neighborhood, but not looking like people from that neighborhood or having money when people assume you shouldn’t have money because of this, that, or the other thing. And so, there are so many dynamics that I learned from that, but at the core, it’s what mixed is, and if you’ve ever blended anything, the moment you blend it, the moment you mix it, it’s inseparable. And so if I have to live with these things, how can I live at peace as one whole person, even if I’m mixed with a million things?
Yeah, that’s super helpful, Eli. And as you share, you share your story, your own personal experiences. But one of the things, kind of the context of your ministry now, you are really in kind of next-gen ministry. You’re a voice in next-gen ministry, I know you’re involved in a lot of large international kind of ministries that are really focusing on encouraging young people in the next generation and leading them to Christ, discipling them, all those beautiful things. But it’s interesting, Eli, because in our world today mixed seems to be the norm. All the ways that you talk about mixed, right? Not only racially and culturally, but just mixed experiences. Because, you know, people aren’t just staying where they’re born and you know, growing up in that same little town or wherever it is, or the same urban center forever, right? So people are experiencing a lot more of the world. Because of that, there is a blend, right? There is a mix of cultures, there is a racial mix, and there is, like you said, the experiential mix. All of those things. So, talk to us a little bit about this idea of why, in the world in which we live now, why is an understanding for us as pastors and ministry leaders of an increasingly mixed society, why does that impact our ministry and why do we need to pay attention to that?
For sure. Well, I think number one, it may even be I think a fair statement to say statistically that we are more mixed racially and ethnically than we’ve ever been before, just because of historical context. And people weren’t intermarrying and now they are. And, you know, diversity is at the forefront of everything. But in terms of the spectrum of the world, right, the world has always been diverse, right? There have always been a plethora of cultures, and geopolitical situations that have happened. What we have not always been is aware of what’s happening at all times. And so with the advent of social media and the internet, our exposure and our awareness to the fact that people have different opinions, world views, look different, act different, different ideas, that’s passing very quickly. And so I think, two things are happening simultaneously, I think that society is catching up to an awareness that the internet is giving us. And then I think, also, for us to reconcile that because we have an awareness now that diversity has always been the reality. The end goal in the Bible, I believe is clear on this, is not diversity. It’s implied. Diversity is implied in the Bible, that people are different, you know, and that you are going to run into people that are different than yourselves. You’re going to run into the sojourner, the other, the enemy, and Jesus really does lay out, how do you interact with your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? You know, the Good Samaritan, the Gentiles, how do they lead? And how should Jews lead and that whole thing? I think, at the core of what my book is talking about, and what we should understand as leaders, is as our awareness of diversity grows, the depth of our theology around a Christ-centered unity, should deepen. And that’s what my book seeks to do on a personal level first. Where yes, I have all these beautiful intricacies on how God formed me and distinctions, but I should not make those my personality, I should not make those my identity that my identity is solely in Christ. And so a pursuit to accepting myself is not necessarily trying to find out more about myself, which sounds counterintuitive, because you would assume that that would be how you would get there. But the more I dove into how different I was than people, the more isolated I felt. The more misunderstood I felt and I quickly realized that what I was looking for was for people to accept me for my differences and not understanding that I was beautifully designed by a Creator. And that’s where I needed to begin. Like that reconciliation. Like I needed to reconcile the fact that I was divinely designed and that in finding that wholeness, then when I look up to the diversity around me, I don’t become an agent of finding who is like myself or trying to fill the gaps of who is not like me that I can add, but I just become a conduit of unity. Because I have unity of all the complexity within me. And so I think for pastors, it is very easy to get swept up into nuance and the complexity and it’s this person is different than that person. And how many different styles should we implement in our worship set in order to cater to all these different cultures? I just think that that’s a faulty place to begin with. I think it is, how deeply rooted are we in Christ, how much of Jesus is in my ministry? How much of Jesus is in my methodology? You know, how much because Jesus is translatable cross-culturally. And so if I can answer that question of how much Jesus is there, and how much Jesus is in me, then I think from that launching place, we can handle more of allowing people’s distinctions to exist because the anchor is not us being different and getting along. Our anchor is that our unity is found in Christ alone, he’s unchanging, he’s transcendent, and everything of who he is addresses everything that we are. And so I think that would be my starting place for context of a diversifying world, if you will.
Yeah. That’s very helpful, Eli. And in that, it sounds like there are a couple of warnings that, you know, you kind of expressed in that. And you can kind of help walk us through these a little bit if I miss them or if you think there’s something a little more direct. But it seems like one warning is for us not to get overly caught up in this idea of diversity as some sort of goal, but actually understand that diversity is just the reality of God’s multifaceted creation. And so sometimes we can, again, that’s going back to God as creator and the diversity and beauty he’s created, as opposed to pushing forward and really trying to figure out how do we make diversity work, we need to step back to the Creator. Right? But then the other piece that you mentioned, I think is prevalent as well, this is the idea of our identity, our personal identity, our racial identity, ethnic identity, it could be our political identity, it could be our socio-economic, I mean, there are lots of different identities, right? But somehow elevating that identity above our identity in Christ. And we see this happen sometimes, right? We see this happen where people push that forward. And that’s almost what the story is about, instead of the story being about Jesus. Are those two fair dangers, I guess, as you see it in looking at this conversation?
Yeah, I definitely believe so. I think the inevitability of diversity is found in Revelation 7:9. You know, when we get to Revelation, it says before the throne room of God, it’s every nation, tribe, and tongue. And it does pose an interesting question that we, I think don’t either know to ask, or are not even aware of, is when we get to eternity, what do we get to keep? And Revelation answers that. It’s like, you get to keep your ethnicity, you get to keep the tribe, you get to keep your language. I don’t think that’s happenstance why it’s saying that. And so, if that is important enough for John or God to reveal to John in his revelation, then when we talk about things surrounding ethnicity, tribes, and languages, I think that’s a huge thing. So diversity is implied. Diversity will be at the end. Our job is to take the awareness of the diversity around us and work as bridge builders, as unifiers. How are we uniting? So it’s not necessarily like, how can I get more people of a different nationality or different ethnic group into my church? Relate with people that are different than myself in my community that is like, and that’s for every church planter. That’s kind of like the basics of church planting, it’s like, reflect your community. Right? Healthy planning is the reflection of the community, right? We don’t expect your church to be 50% African American, 50% White, if it’s 98% within a 20-mile radius of your church, Anglo, right? You know, reflect your community. And so, if we take it upon ourselves to be unifiers, right? Love our neighbors as ourselves. And continually asking the question, just as the Pharisees, like, Who is my neighbor, who is my neighbor, who is my neighbor? And that we should become the neighbors everyone is looking for. You kind of get the byproduct that lifestyle is diversity. So that’s number one. I don’t want to mess up on number two, you asked a second question. What was your second question?
That was kind of the elevating our, you know, some other identity above our identity in Christ as a danger.
It is easy, I mean, I think that that stems from as old as you can go back to just the pride of life, right? Like, it’s elevating who I believe myself to be, and creating a god in my image, right, and creating myself as God. And I think there has been a fight, for those that don’t have an anchor in Christ there will always be a fight for significance and purpose. And if you don’t find it in Christ, you’ll find it in an artificial thing. That’s where we get statements like the right and wrong side of history, right? In popular culture where people are choosing, but it is a very much innate human longing. It’s like there’s purpose and eternity in the heart of men, that there’s something bigger than me, there’s something more to all of this. And so I want to seek that out. And so when culture delineates that in a very over-simplistic way, and the barrier to entry to significance is your skin color your haircut, or where you grew up, then it is very enticing, especially if you are either not aware of other alternatives or if the alternative is Christianity, which is asking you actually for your life, your preferences, your comfort, then it is a bit enticing. And so I think there is a danger of oversimplifying yourself, which is why I invite people into the work of finding out the intricacies of how God navigated your life and put certain things in place. That’s why I have that Jesus, I put Jesus chapter in here to say, Guys, it’s not happenstance, the way he grew up, right, like the fact that his earthly father had this job or that the time period the geopolitical issues at the time, the religious tension at the time. He grew up in a place that had an accent, right, like, he had an accent, they could tell by Peter and you know, Nazareth had a bad reputation, like all of these things interplay into the mixture of the Messiah that had nothing to do necessarily with his deity and humanity as we make it over-simplistic. He’s 100%, man, 100% God. But those little things that are shuffled in there that you realize tackle very real issues that we all have to walk through, and we watch Jesus masterfully walk through that, as he talks about Caesar, as he talks about Samaria, as he talks about the synagogue, as he talks about Rome. And he’s so masterfully walking through that. And if we understand that his context he knew and he guided us in how to not allow our context to define our character, then we won’t allow our identities to rise up as our number one ammunition for how we navigate culture in the period that we’re in. And so I hope that that lands well.
Yeah, yeah. I love that, Eli. And the answer to questions as you’re talking, you know, questions are popping up in my mind. And you really hit on that because this idea that we don’t dismiss the uniqueness that is us, right? Whenever you say, we don’t get wrapped up in our self-identity, we’re getting wrapped up in the identity of Jesus. But that does not mean we dismiss or we negate the uniqueness of who we are. You have to have a balance.
Yes. What I’m trying to swing the pendulum back from is an unhealthy relationship with the self. And, you know, I mean, next-gen ministry and pastors are watching this. And so you have your youth pastors, maybe a young adult pastor, people that are working with young people. And maybe what you’re running into is a lot of hyper-individualism mixed in with, what I would call, almost like a self-help self-care religion. Where, if it feels good, then I’m on the right track. You know, if it gives me pleasure, it is good. That’s why it’s hard to have volunteer teams of young people. You know, I really do believe that really, in the zeitgeist of culture, is this pervasive, what is in it for me? What is in it for me? You know, is this going to be good for me? And by good do I mean, will this prosper me in not just the ways of the long term, but in short term prospering, as in, Am I going to feel good today, am I going to have energy, and all those things. Now, that is healthy, for sure, you should seek the help that you need. If you need therapy, counseling, you know, a mentor, or community. Take your Sabbath, that’s a command. Right? There’s someone that cares about your health, God put it in his top 10. And the example of Jesus is, and I think I mentioned in the book is, Jesus never ran anywhere. He walked everywhere. He walked everywhere. So there’s something about that, the rhythm of life. But what I am trying to do is trying to say anything in excess is bad. And so an overemphasis on how I feel, an overemphasis on me, anything that has an overemphasis on me, regardless of how it sounds and how noble the approach is, any overemphasis on me is dangerous. And so that’s why my book is hyper-focused on always bringing it back to Jesus. Hey, like, you will not get confused in this book. This is a book that will touch on sociological things and cultural issues, but it’s gonna be like Jesus, and it’s gonna feel like a cop-out and a scapegoat. But He is the core and the only way we make it out of this. And so I’m actually thinking about writing a second book. Man, I haven’t said this anywhere.
It’s out now. Breaking news!
Maybe breaking news here. But this book is definitely a journey of self-acceptance for myself, at least that’s where the genesis was. And I think my second book really wants to tackle, what does healthy self-denial look like? You know, and are they gonna put that into Self-Help section? Right? Just because that is what I believe we’re navigating as a younger generation is, man, the era of the martyr. Right? How do we grapple with that? Both of my grandfathers, they were ministers in their countries. And they both were on the verge of being martyred several times, one of my grandfathers by stones, and the other one by machetes. I’m talking about like, scars on their bodies from these encounters. And I thought about this and I hope this is not too off track. There are points in this book that deal with this and I say this as an emphasis on why anchoring in Christ. But it’s like, Man, how is it that my grandfather could withstand feeling the cold-cutting blade of a machete? And I get nervous about the cold-cutting comments on my Instagram when I am to express my convictions about Christ. You know, I feel like there is a bit of incongruency, and it’s not to make those completely comparable. But at the same time, it does beg the question, how much of me am I allowing in myself to keep me from serving Him with everything? From putting my Isaac on an altar if he asked me for an Isaac, in other words? Sorry, I guess I was breaking the responses, but the book does attempt a healthy way to grabble with that.
Yeah, no, I appreciate that, Eli. And that kind of leads me to this next question as we are looking at ministering especially, maybe to younger generations. And there is a bit of an emphasis in younger generations. And some of it, I think, is some course correction, much-needed course correction, like you said, and taking care of ourselves. And looking at the emotional health, the mental health, those types of issues, which are important. Like you said, God says this is important, right? And maybe we ignored it for some generations. But the danger, as you’ve said, as you’ve shared is that we can overemphasize the self to a degree where that becomes the most important above all else, including Christ. And a lot of times, we may not recognize that, really, because we’re thinking, Oh, and we’re getting a lot of other affirmation, outside affirmation, about ourselves. So Eli, in your ministry, in the work that you do with other ministers that are ministering to younger generations, and as you’re encouraging, and coaching, and equipping them as well, what are some of the ways that you’re leaning into this tension? And some practical ways of ministering in the midst of this tension with anyone, but specifically younger generations, but anyone can have the same tendencies, right? So what are some of the things that you guys are experiencing that is effective in serving and ministering?
Yeah, a hyper-emphasis on face-to-face ministry, in small settings, small intimate settings. You know, I was listening to a podcast around artificial intelligence, right? Because we’re gonna hit the spectrum of things I’m going to try to, you know…
This is good, I like it. I like it, Eli.
What was mentioned by some of these industry leaders in this talk was, I mean, it was a scathing talk to AI developers that are just haphazardly, just introducing things into the populace. It’s kind of a warning piece. And really the consensus around if social media, the attempt of social media, we could boil it down to one word was to get your attention, then the word that they’re boiling down for AI, and the way that it can be used in the digital space for people is a race, not for attention, but a race towards intimacy. And it’s, can I replace a relationship in your life? Can AI replace a relationship? And it’s not just a romantic one. You know, they introduced one to Snapchat, and essentially, someone called it the friend that never sleeps. So what happens when you have a friend you can just always talk to, you know? And so, I say that, in that the generation we’re leading right now, is in a fight for true authentic relational intimacy. And I want to make it clear, I’m not alluding to only romantic. You know, for sure, intimacy has that connotation. But we’re talking about relationship, like deep, meaningful, slow, arduous, getting in the weeds with people, relationships. And I don’t believe this generation has the language for it. But I have seen they have the longing for it. And I love the technology. Trust me. I’ve subscribed to so many accounts that sent me so many emails on what’s the newest thing that’s popped out. And, you know, Chat GPT can do the what for me, oh, my second book? You just give him the prompt, he’ll write the whole thing. That’s a lot easier. So, I don’t disagree with technology and it being used for a lot of great things. But what I do think, like, mankind, there’s nothing new under the sun. Devices are all the same. They have different flavors. And so as you’re leading students, I think you need to become wise to what are the things? What is the need of this generation? It is not going to be vastly different than the need of your generation. But the players at play are hyper-focused in on certain components that will affect your young people. And so things like that race towards intimacy, I mean, children have been the central point of conversation and culture as of late. Whether that’s with the conversations around Sound of Freedom, or the conversations around sexuality in schools. And so when we talk about young people, how can you safeguard and lead the next generation effectively, you need to ask yourself, how often are we having conversations with young people, and how much of my ministry is dedicated to deep-formed relationships with them and partnering with their parental figures? Right? Because research has come out, One Hope Ministry released, it’s called the Global Youth Culture Research Initiative, and it was the largest Gen Z research done of this nature. And they found that still, even with the deterioration of the family, still in large percent, students look to their parents for worldview. I was surprised when I saw that statistic because I was like, it has to be, you know, Mr. Beast on YouTube, like it has to, right? But I do think that that is proof that whoever has that face-to-face relationship still has the equity to speak into and influence. And so, as you’re creating ministry, ask yourself, how much face-to-face am I creating, am I guiding my youth pastor to do? How many small groups are we doing? We do small groups, for example, as an emphasis every week, there’s not a week that we don’t do small groups, that we don’t have conversations with our students about certain biblical topics, whether that’s walking through the Bible, or cultural topics through a Christian lens. But that would be my number one is, you cannot beat face-to-face. Screens are here to stay. We are living in Babylon. But the good thing is, as God told Jeremiah, hey, while you’re in Babylon, build houses, have gardens, get married, get your kids married, like God is so like, He’s not afraid of how dark the world gets. He tells us, Don’t stop doing your work, build your houses, have kids, give your kids into marriage, gardens, pray for them, even the peace and prosperity of the place that you live, for as it prospers, you shall prosper. You know, I think there’s a component of that when we’re talking about these issues with young people where we’re like, Okay, well, then let’s not try to convince them they live in Jerusalem. Let’s really have deep meaningful conversations for the world they actually live in. And so I hope that helps somebody with conversations around that because that’s what we’re experiencing in real-time.
Yeah, Eli, I love that. Thank you so much for helping us understand because that proximity, that relational proximity is so key, that’s one of the things that doesn’t go out of date, regardless of what technology or anything else in culture says. That reminder, I think, is so important because oftentimes we can honestly look at like, Okay, well, let’s see, what is the next greatest thing that we can utilize as a tool? And they can be tools, but also coming down to, you know, the basics of relationship. That’s key, absolutely key, that drives us all back to Christ, right?
And here’s the thing, so for us that have been in church, and we have years in ministry, this is one of the first generations that I mean, not only is it erring on the side of Christianity being the minority, we’re barely the majority in Gen Z, barely, like 51%. But out of the 51%, only 8% of them have a biblical worldview, right? And so things that we are saying, it’s like, Hey, we’re going back to the basics. It’s the basics for us, but to them, it’s revolutionary. It is revolutionary. It’s completely countercultural and so I think, to tell leaders this, like your next innovation is to do what has always worked through church history because your students have no clue. So as a matter of fact, we recently did a conference and you know, I’m in a church that we’re able to bring some people in of influence from the Christian world and I’ll tell you, none of my kids know any of these people’s names. They could care less to be honest. And to them, it’s kind of almost weird even to intermix the celebrity-ism if they’re not actually celebrities. Now if I brought Steph Curry people go bananas for sure. But in terms of, you know, I think that sometimes we believe that the next form of ministry is some kind of innovation that makes ministry look foreign to what we’re doing now. And I think that there are superficial things that we will change for sure, models and strategies. But I think those core basics, like you said, are transcendent. And that’s what I tried to allude to in the book is that the more nuanced I tried to get, the more basic it became. I was trying to I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m gonna read all these books. And I did. And I read a lot of books. Books I agreed with, books I disagreed with. But at the core of it, it almost felt like, it’s just Jesus. And I’m like, wait, no, it can’t be. I read too many books and it can’t just be Jesus. And it’s almost like, yeah, God gave us the answer. And so yeah, in all things, I think, you know, pastors not to get swept up in nuance and new verbiage. I think at the end of the day, there are transcendent things. Let’s stick to those.
Yeah, I love that. I love that Eli. It’s been a fantastic conversation. Love the direction God took it in. We got to touch on a lot of things but incredibly helpful brother, like incredibly helpful. Thank you for putting together this book, Mixed. Incredibly helpful. I enjoyed it. I shared with you before we jumped on some of the stories in there that really spoke to me. I encourage those of you who are watching or listening along to check out Eli’s book Mixed. And, brother, we’re gonna be looking forward to that next book, right? Now the pressure’s on, pressure’s on. Real quick, Eli, before we jump off, share a little bit with our audience, if they wanted to connect with you more, connect with you, your ministry, or the book, what are some ways you might be able to do that?
Yeah, for sure, on all platforms. Eli Bonilla Jr. So, E-L-I-B-O-N-I-L-L-A-J-R. You can find me on Instagram, if you’re a Tik Tok-er, I’m on Tik Tok and preach the gospel there. You can also, my website is EliBonillaJr.com. There you can find my book, sermons, I preach at universities, other churches, and things of that nature. And so if you want to find me, type in my name in Google, and I’m sure I’ll pop up.
That’s awesome, brother, certainly appreciate that. And for those of you who are watching or listening along and you can’t get all that jotted down, know that we’ll have links to all of Eli’s stuff in the toolkit for this episode. And again, you can find that at PastorServe.org/network. So we’ll have all that, including links to your book Mixed. Again, thank you for putting pen to paper, thank you for getting this out, sharing your story, your experiences, and driving us back to Jesus. And I love that. I love that in the end all of your work, or whatever, all of your energy, you know, it came back to Jesus, which is so awesome. But you share that in such an eloquent way and I absolutely love it. So thank you again, Eli, for making time to hang out with us on FrontStage BackStage.
Oh, thank you for having me.
Now, before you go, I want to remind you of an incredible free resource that our team puts together every single week to help you and your team dig more deeply and maximize the conversation that we just had. This is the weekly toolkit that we provide. And we understand that it’s one thing to listen or watch an episode, but it’s something entirely different to actually take what you’ve heard, what you’ve watched, what you’ve seen, and apply it to your life and to your ministry. You see, FrontStage BackStage is more than just a podcast or YouTube show about ministry leadership, we are a complete resource to help train you and your entire ministry team as you seek to grow and develop in life in ministry. Every single week, we provide a weekly toolkit which has all types of tools in it to help you do just that. Now you can find this at PastorServe.org/network. That’s PastorServe.org/network. And there you will find all of our shows, all of our episodes and all of our weekly toolkits. Now inside the toolkit are several tools including video links and audio links for you to share with your team. There are resource links to different resources and tools that were mentioned in the conversation, and several other tools, but the greatest thing is the ministry leaders growth guide. Our team pulls key insights and concepts from every conversation with our amazing guests. And then we also create engaging questions for you and your team to consider and process, providing space for you to reflect on how that episode’s topic relates to your unique context, at your local church, in your ministry and in your life. Now you can use these questions in your regular staff meetings to guide your conversation as you invest in the growth of your ministry leaders. You can find the weekly toolkit at PastorServe.org/network We encourage you to check out that free resource. Until next time, I’m Jason Daye encouraging you to love well, live well, and lead well. God bless.
Shareable Social Graphics
Strengthen Your Church
Strengthening your church, for us, begins by serving you, the pastor!