We face three great challenges today:
First, that after nearly 2,000 years of the church, over a third of the world still has not even heard of Jesus much less become His followers – knowing and living with Him daily. As of this writing, over 200 languages over 100,000 in size have no one even committed to reaching them much less actually in action on the scene!
Then, nearly 30% of the world’s population is under 18 years old, 50% of the world is under 30, and in the Middle East and Africa, those under 30 are 89% of the population. Yet the highest percentage of global Kingdom strategies still focus on adults.
Finally, the Church is deeply divided and, as a result, lacks the capacity and the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence to address the “unfinished task.” The desire that Jesus shared in His great prayer of John 17:21-23 and the blessings promised in Psalm 133 are still unrealized.
But all is not lost. In fact, there is great hope. Fresh perspectives are spreading globally regarding all three of these challenges. That Spirit is bringing His family access to freedom, reconciliation, salvation, and hope. Hope not just for eternity but hope for a changed life, changed relationships, changed communities, changed society, and a changed witness — now! And younger leaders globally are poised to play a vital, possibly disproportionately influential role.
Regarding the unreached, there is good news as a growing number of individuals, churches, and mission agencies are responding to the challenge. For an up to date view of the status including which languages are at what stage of being reached, visit www.finishingthetask.com . For a really comprehensive view of the challenge and current information visit www.joshuaproject.net . If you are involved with a student or younger leader group can you help them become knowledgeable about the needs; identify key prayer points; and begin to plan strategies based on the information found on these sites.
There is a fresh awareness of the critical importance of reaching younger people with the message of Jesus’ love and life-changing power. Among the very young, a global movement called “The 4-14 Initiative” has been focused on those in those early, formative years acknowledging that a disproportionate percentage of all who make commitments to Christ do so at an early age. Regarding younger, emerging leaders committed to world evangelization, there is a growing number of regional and international networks where these people are gathering. A remarkable list of these networks and relevant contact information is available on the web site, https://linkingglobalvoices.com/ .
My primary objective in this article, though, is addressing the third of these great challenges in more detail: the fact that the Church is deeply divided and, as a result, lacks the capacity and the power of the Holy Spirit’s presence to address the “unfinished task.” And to suggest the remarkable role that the emerging younger leaders in the global church can play.
A New Perspective Is Emerging Globally
The good news is that around the world, followers of Jesus have begun to recapture the power of God’s promises rooted in John 17, Psalm 133 and so many other passages. A new, global movement of partnership is releasing spiritual power, new effectiveness in ministry, restored relationships inside the Body of Christ, an acceleration of evangelism and establishment of the Church in many of the least-reached areas, and is brining new hope — for long-time believers and new converts alike.
For example, in the church’s initiatives at the frontiers — in dozens of language groups where, for nearly 2000 years, there has been no church, no light, no salvation, and no hope — tens of thousands of men, women, and children are being swept into the Kingdom and hundreds of churches are being established. Over the last 30+ years, in country after country, God’s people have begun to re-experience the beauty, power, and hope that working together in new forms of partnership can bring.
An informal survey of major language groups over one million in size where large numbers of people are coming to Christ shows that in almost every case it is where God’s people are intentionally working together in partnerships. The global church is a reality. And today representatives of that church are meeting in the field.
God has that vision for ministry in each of our communities and nations! God’s people working together in partnership to restore relationships, lives, and communities. And, He has a vision for the role of younger leaders in this transforming work.
We Proclaim a Gospel of Restored Relationships
The central truth we proclaim is a Gospel of restored relationship. And at the heart of all lasting, effective ministry partnership is a community of believers demonstrating that kind of relationship.
Restoration of that community was set in motion in His plan for our redemption. And, a restored community of God’s people working together is at the heart of the New Testament vision of the church.
For Christ himself has brought us peace by making Jews and Gentiles one people. With his own body he broke down the wall that separated them and kept them enemies. He abolished the Jewish law with its commandments and rules, in order to create out of the two races one new people in union with himself, in this way making peace. By his death on the cross Christ destroyed their hostility; by means of the cross he united both races and brought them back to God. Then Christ came and preached the Good News of peace to all…. Ephesians 2:14-17.
Through the power of the finished work of Christ, we are His ambassadors of reconciliation and messengers of hope. Through Christ, the hostilities can be ended and we can be messengers of that Good News. (II Cor 5:17-19) This is a message that has particular appeal to younger leaders.
The Hostilities Begin, Broken Relationships The Result
Still, if all this is true, why is there still such brokenness in the Body of Christ? Why are long-term, effective partnerships of believers working together the exception rather than the rule? God’s plan from the beginning was for us to work together under His lordship. Made in His image, He wanted us to live and work in community. But sin intervened.
Outside of time, in eternity, God has always lived in community — in relationship. A survey of passages such as the early chapters of Job, Daniel’s visions, the third chapter of the letter to the Ephesians, and Jesus’ many references to His relationship with the Father make clear that God does not dwell in isolation. His nature is to dwell in relationships of trust, transparency, respect, and mutuality. So, it is not surprising that when He said “let us make man in our image,” that we, by our God-given nature, are also designed to live in relationship.
Younger leaders need to understand why we are where we are and that there is something that can be done about it. Man chose to listen to the awful deception of Satan rather than trust God’s love. It was a step into the complete darkness, isolation, and loss of hope. All that was beautiful was distorted.
The consequences of man’s choice meant —
- A broken relationship with God (Gen 3:8)
- A broken relationship with himself (Gen 3:10)
- A broken relationship with others, (Gen 3:12/4:9)
- A broken relationship with the created order (Gen 4:16-19), and
- A broken relationship with eternity (Gen 3:22-24)
For centuries we have allowed Satan to build on our fear, selfishness, egos, cultural and theological differences. We have allowed him to divide and conquer us. We have mirrored the divisions of secular society. In his strategy, Satan has neutralized the power of the Gospel in millions of lives. Broken relationships, alienation, heartache, loss of credibility, duplication of effort, lack of influence on society around us, and diminished power and effectiveness have haunted the church for centuries.
Jesus Is The Good News
The good news is that even as man made his fatal choice in the garden, God was already at work to bring man back into a restored relationship with Himself. God’s love was the motivation and Jesus was the sacrifice that made the restoration possible.
Because of his love, God had already decided that through Jesus Christ he would make us his sons — this was his pleasure and purpose. Let us praise God for his glorious grace, for the free gift he gave us in his dear Son! For by the sacrificial death of Christ we are set free…. Ephesians 1:5-7.
And as God shares His love for us (John 3:16), so, as transformed men and women, He wants to share that love, through us, for others.
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. If you have love for one another, then everyone will know that you are my disciples. John 13:34-35.
These transformed relationships that are open, honest, and loving — are the basis for all lasting partnership. The hopes and dreams of younger leaders for stronger relationships, for greater community, and for advancing Jesus’ Kingdom are linked to their understanding of these realities – and the positive steps we can take. If there is any real hope of our effectively reaching our neighbors with the Good News of Jesus love, we must first demonstrate His love among ourselves! And, remember Jesus’ words, “You may not believe what you hear me saying, but you cannot deny my works.” (John 10:37-38) The world around us is watching to see if what we say can be believed because we demonstrate it in our lives.
The Younger Leaders & Their Strategic Role
Today’s younger generation has a desire to connect and places high value on relationships. Countless articles, research, and personal experience demonstrates this. The whole ‘social networking’ phenomena is just one indicator of this – powered, of course, by the younger generation’s sense of ease with internet and social media technology. The younger generation also has a greater concern about the environment and world around them.
These qualities are tremendously encouraging in that they suggest that younger leaders have the potential of truly transformational element in how the Church globally does ministry!
There is a challenge though. While many emerging leaders may have a concern for the world and a desire to reach out by joining hands with others, they lack the life experience of knowing how to form and sustain effective partnerships.
Whether you are a younger leader yourself — on a campus, just fresh to the working marketplace, or possibly a bit farther along in that next generation of leadership, you can start helping God’s people come together. It may be that you are a layperson, in a church, or engaged in your community in some other way and have a vision for the role of the next generation. Consider becoming pro-active – helping the younger leaders form collaborative groups and take action
You’ll find the website www.synergycommons.net is a rich resource of information, practical helps, and case studies in the “hands on, how to” of Kingdom collaboration. And, on that web site you will find the link mentioned above that is specifically designed for younger leaders.
Everyone Plays An Important Part
One of the most powerful elements of real Kingdom partnership is that all elements of the Body of Christ are valued and given a role in the work. Jesus gives us access to freedom, a commandment to love one another, and makes possible the lasting partnerships that grow out of restored relationships. Here is an image of how this all works in practice.
For the body itself is not made up of only one part, but of many parts. As it is, God put every different part in the body just as he wanted it to be. There would not be a body if it were all only one part! As it is, there are many parts but one body.
So, there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praised, all the other parts share its happiness. I Corinthians 12:14, 18-20, 25-26.
Hope Drives Us On
Everything written in the Scriptures was written…in order that we might have hope…. And may God, the source of patience and encouragement, enable you to have the same point of view among yourselves by following the example of Jesus Christ, so that all of you together may praise with one voice the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May God, the source of all hope, fill you with all joy and peace by means of your faith in him, so that your hope will continue to grow by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:4-6, 13 (emphasis added)
Here are just a few ideas of action you might take. The range of collaboration options are endless —
- Get a group of students to work together on a a high school or college campus project — demonstrating the commitment of believers.
- Help student or younger leaders connect with someone already who is involved in some way overseas and explore ways the younger leaders could help — could be involved — particularly in the field.
- Identify Christian social service agencies in your town or city that are addressing key issues like street kids, drug addiction, homelessness, single mothers, tutorial of kids in public and private schools, etc. Get a group of students or younger leaders to agree to collaborate on one of these projects.
- Talk to local churches about a specific initiative to have their members provide hospitality to international students if there is a nearby college or university campus. Develop a group of students or younger leaders who will facilitate the promotion, communication with the churches, transportation for the international students, etc.
- If there is a nearby college or university, talk with leaders of other Christian ministries on the campus about cooperation for greater impact on special projects or events.
Through the power of Jesus love shared though effective partnerships, relationships will be restored, communities transformed, salvation realized, and hope released. God has promised it, He has a vision for it, and God will help us to carry out this vision He has held for so long. Working together may we experience a powerful new joy and confidence as we move forward in His name.