Aug 9, 2021

ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Jon Tyson on Fatherhood, Evangelism & Prayer

In a recent two-part interview on Church Pulse Weekly, Jon Tyson (Lead Pastor at Church of the City New York) joins hosts Carey Nieuwhof and David Kinnaman to talk about redefining biblical manhood, the future of online evangelism and cultivating a culture of prayer within local churches. 

On Redefining Fatherhood
Tyson’s motivation for writing The Intentional Father was born out of his personal story, as well as observations he made about how other faith traditions approached the formation of young people. “In the Western Christian tradition [we’ve lost] any rites of passage or formational pathway to help our young people grow to adulthood in a healthy way,” notes Tyson. “I realized I would have to find that, and if I couldn’t find it, make it.”

As Tyson has researched and put together this collection of resources, he defines biblical manhood as “an image bearer and son of God, entrusted with power and responsibility to create, cultivate, care and guard the life that they’ve been given. This is for their joy and the good of others.” 

In their conversation, Nieuwhof, Kinnaman and Tyson share from their own experiences molded by the unique challenges of being both pastors and dads who are raising boys. Tyson says, “All young people are wrestling with the various energies they have to steward; they’re trying to figure out their morality, sexuality, their vocation. [These things are] confusing, they take time to navigate, they take good relationships, a lot of patience and a lot of grace.” 

There is a significant amount of pressure that the sons of pastors face, and Tyson believes it’s important for church leaders to acknowledge this and extend their sons the grace others might withhold. “It’s our responsibility as pastors and leaders to push some of that pressure off,” he says. “Normalize struggle and sanctification and be really honest about it. If you build a culture of grace in your church, that should bleed into how people treat your family as well.”

On Contextualizing Online Evangelism
Data from a recent Barna Cities survey show that two in five practicing Christians (38%) agree that it’s wrong to share one’s personal beliefs with someone of a different faith in hopes that they will one day share the same faith.

Tyson expresses his grief at the resistance held against Christian evangelism, adding, “Everybody is evangelizing. It’s not like the world is completely neutral, nobody is trying to persuade, and the Christians are coming to oppress others. […] We live in a world of coercion and contested space, so [I would challenge the implication] that Christians shouldn’t proselytize while everyone else on earth is proselytizing.”

At the same time, he believes there needs to be a necessary shift in how evangelism is practiced in order to speak to the modern cultural moment. “I think we need to move away from traditional apologetics and evangelism to cultural apologetics and evangelism,” Tyson shares. “Traditional apologetics exist to make Christianity reasonable or logical, but cultural apologetics exist to make Jesus beautiful.”

Tyson is hopeful for what the future of digital evangelism could look like, noting, “There’s a real danger that online church services get co-opted and create Christian consumers, but when it comes to online evangelism, there is almost no downside as far as I’m concerned.”

In drawing comparisons with the 1960s Jesus movement, Tyson sees the shift to online evangelism as the next step in going out to where the lost are. He says, “Let’s go insert the story of Jesus in the middle of that lostness […] The lost of today are in social media and online platforms.”

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On Developing a Culture of Prayer
Over the past year, many churches have adapted how they run prayer ministry to fit an increasingly digital and hybrid context. Still, recent data from the State of Digital Church study found that two in five churched adults (38%) report they did not engage in a digital or in-person prayer experience with their church over the course of the pandemic.

Even before the pandemic, prayer has been a central part of Tyson’s church culture. In considering how leaders can implement prayer as a central priority in their churches, Tyson shares, “The senior pastor has to commit to it. You can’t [desire] a praying church without being a praying leader.” He continues, “You have to prioritize it in terms of attention, funding and programmatic emphasis.” 

Tyson sees the value of prayer as a means to a greater good rather than an end in itself, sharing, “I don’t love prayer for prayer’s own sake. Prayer, like anything, can be abused […] I love prayer because prayer is how I get to Jesus. It’s the presence of God and communion with God that I’m after.”

Tyson concludes by reframing the question about becoming a praying church. “How do you get people to access the absolute life-staggering wonder of intimacy with God?” he asks. “The answer would be: You have to be a praying church.”

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About the Research
Cities Research: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.

State of Digital Church: The research for this study consisted of one online study conducted September 1–15, 2020 with 1,302 U.S. adults ages 18-75. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 2.5 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.

Featured image by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash.

About Barna
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2021

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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