BY DAVID SHIBLEY
The thrilling saga of the Christian world movement is essentially a story of how God uses young people. Each day new chapters of heroism are being written. Now, with the finish line in sight—”a church for
every people and the gospel for every person”—God once again is looking for His “first choice” runners—young men and women who have a passion to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ among the nations.
God calls people of every age to His service, but He always has His eye especially on youth. Throughout the Bible, when God had a big job to do He often called on a young person. When it was time to silence a blaspheming giant, God chose David. When God wanted to literally cut idolatry off at the knees, He chose Gideon, though he had to be convinced by an angel that he was a mighty man of valor.
When a nation needed prophetic wisdom, God tapped Daniel. When it was time for God to invade planet Earth, He chose a willing young virgin named Mary. God reserves big jobs for young people. Here are the
1. Young people often possess gargantuan faith. The venom of unbelief has not yet poisoned their spiritual bloodstreams.
2. Youth have always been more than willing to defy the status quo. Young Hudson Taylor met stiff opposition from seasoned missionaries when he courageously chose to adopt Chinese habits of dress and diet. Yet his far-sighted strategy was decades ahead of his time, and it allowed Taylor to identify with the culture to a degree no other missionary had enjoyed.
3. Youth enjoy taking risks. One key reason why God so greatly uses teen-agers is that they simply don’t know what the parameters are. If there’s a big assignment to complete, they finish it first and find out it was “impossible” later.
4. Young people hew a great ability to empathize. Violence, fractured families and jaded hopes have left today’s teens all too familiar with intense pain. Because the majority of the world’s population is young, this makes teenagers the natural evangelists to their peers. Perhaps the most effective youth ministry on any campus is by teen-agers themselves. Adult ministers serve primarily as coaches.
5. Young people hew a keen sense of injustice. When I was 16, the great missionary evangelist T.L. Osborn gave me a copy of Oswald J. Smith’s missions classic, The Passion for Souls. I’ll never forget Smith’s polemic against the Western church’s indifference: “Why should anyone hear the gospel twice until everyone has heard it once?” It is this deeply felt inequity coupled with the unbridled evangelistic
passion of youth that has always produced great harvests.
6. Teen-agers have their whole lives ahead of them. The impact they make while they’re young can be built upon for the rest of their lives. Further, the major choices of life are usually made by the time a person is in his or her mid-20s. Someone has well said that any evangelism targeting those beyond high school is more salvage than evangelism!
God has not overlooked Generation X. This precious generation, so battered and victimized by the sins of adults, is being raised up by God to seize the ripe harvest of humanity.
PASSING THE TORCH
Many of us in ministry today are products of the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But we are in our mid-40s and beyond. Now the Holy Spirit has His eye on the young. It seems much more than mere coincidence that the campus of Teen Mania sits on the very property where musician Keith Green and his ministry touched an earlier generation of youth for Jesus and missions.
In Green’s last year of ministry, he continually pressed American young people to deal with the Great Commission. His final message was a challenge to hands-on missionary involvement. I believe it is a perfect “torch pass” orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
What a privilege to pass the torch of missions passion into a new millennium! But how do we ignite a fire for missions in today’s youth?
1. Affirm them. We should be their most ardent cheerleaders. John R. Mott believed the only hope of continually revitalizing ministries was to place youth in the highest levels of decision-making.
When he was well over 70 he observed: “We must be constantly weaving into our organization the new generation. My work the world over and across the many years has shown me that young people can be
trusted with great loads and great responsibilities. Youth have never disappointed me when I have put heavy burdens on them.”
2. Stretch them. The self-destructive philosophies rampant even among many Christian teens should not go unchallenged. Today’s teenagers are used to in-your-face confrontations. Teen Mania’s Day One and
Acquire the Fire weekends are major wake-up calls to a total life reorientation—away from a placid, self-serving pseudo-Christianity to the radical discipleship Jesus has always required.
3. Inspire them. Today’s teens need to hear the story of how—and why—Jim Elliot never saw his 30th birthday. He was barely out of his teens when he penned some of the most profound spiritual musings of
this century, including, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
We need to remind our teens that Mary Slessor was changing the entire social and spiritual landscape of west Africa when she was still in her 20s. They need to know that Chinese teenagers are leading congregations of thousands and that in the last few years almost 100,000 Indian and Korean students have committed their lives for missionary service in the 10/40 Windowan imaginary rectangle between
the 10th and 40th parallels north, stretching from Africa to Japan—where 95 percent of the world’s unreached people live.
Around the world, a new generation of young people is fully committed to Jesus and to world harvest. They refuse to tolerate half-hearted commitment in themselves, and they cannot understand it in others. Anything less than absolute abandon to Jesus is too flaccid to impress them.
As Ron Luce has said about today’s teens: “We must show them a Christianity that will answer their cry for a meaningful life. It is time to call them to give their lives away for a cause greater than themselves. We need to let them know there is a Christ to live for and a cause worth dying for.”
Too often, we have been guilty of robbing youth of a world vision large enough to sink their teeth into for the rest of their lives. We should extend the same missionary challenge to today’s youth that 16th
century Spanish missionary St. Francis Xavier issued to the youth of his day. He urged students to “give up their small ambitions and come eastward to preach the gospel of Christ.”
THE GRAND PRIZE
Several months ago the Lord began to speak to my heart about today’s young people. He assured me again that there would be another sweep of His Spirit that would usher hundreds of thousands of American
young people into the family of God. And God gave me an unexpected, thrilling assignment—He told me to invest this year back in youth ministry!
The Lord has given me a mandate to pass the torch of missions passion to today’s young people—the church’s leaders for the 21st century! In response, I’m giving a significant portion of the pivotal year 1999 to a world tour of Bible schools, where many of the church’s future leaders are currently tucked away.
Once again I’m ministering to youth groups, much as I did more than 30 years ago as a teen-age preacher. I’m finding enormous receptivity in a generation hungry for God and hungry for fathers. As I meet with thousands of young people worldwide who are called to ministry, I’ve discovered that God is fashioning a new breed of Christian leader for the new millennium. The new kind of Christian leader will possess anointing without arrogance, boldness without arrogance, boldness without brashness and power without pride.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MINISTRIES TODAY, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 1999, PAGES 77, 78. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.