Working with teens in the urban context of downtown Little Rock for many years now, I have seen various paths that young people take, specifically in going from not following Christ, to following Christ. Just as Jesus taught in the parable of the sower, the gospel (seed) has varying success rates in terms of yielding fruit. The task seems to be, from the parable, cultivating soil.
How we understand and practice mission is at the center of all of our questions about how we talk about the church and how we perceive our relationship with our neighbors. Our confusion about worship practices, our ambivalence about authority, our problems with reading scripture, our malaise about the competing moralities of our cultures, our fear of suffering, our surprising incertitude about what it means to be a church member and our ongoing struggle with nominal Christianity—none of these (or any other currently critical issue) will find their resolution without surer grounding in the practice and understanding of mission.