With the teens and millennial generation of today prioritizing “voice be heard” activism like our country hasn’t seen since the Vietnam War of the 1960s, it’s not a stretch to say that at the beginning of this current spiritual awakening in America, young people will be at the forefront of God’s army, marching in with a blaring battle cry against the enemy as the driving force of another “Jesus People” movement. This awakening has every potential of being just as powerful and historically important as the one driven by the “love all” mentality of that era…but it also has the potential of being just as counterculture, based on the radical rallies, parades, marches, and events making headlines at this moment.
What we may be facing, then, is not another “revival.” It may not even be another “Great Awakening.” With the fearlessness, passion, zeal, and “I refuse to be silenced no matter the cost” mantra we are observing from today’s young people, this movement could perhaps be a Church Reformation like the world hasn’t witnessed in five hundred years since the “95 Theses” were nailed on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg by radicals of equal zeal, sparking what we know now as the Protestant Reformation. Such a movement today could usher us into a bright era of interdenominational or post-denominational peace and unity toward—finally—a common goal of the real Great Commission.
But is that much change a good thing? Do we all feel comfortable leaving the fate of our Church in the hands of such “radicals”? Does this concept spark inspiration toward a new Church ripe with true-Gospel adherence, or fear that we’ll get even further off the mark than the Body has been in the last several generations?
Personally, I feel both excitement and trepidation. Let me explain…
So much of today’s Church Body emphasizes “this generation.” That’s certainly not a new thing, as every preacher and teacher of repute since Martin Luther seems to continue steering focus back to the question of how to reach “today’s youth,” regardless of what era that sermon belonged to. The youth of Luther’s day have long since passed away from this earth, and the young people alive right now will someday meet the same fate. And I do believe it’s important to reach the lost in that group because they are the Church of tomorrow, but one day their role will be as the mentors of even a later and possibly greater generation, so it is crucial that we stop and consider how the youth of today will be reached, what they will be taught, and by whom, in order for the longevity of this movement to produce the correct teachings for tomorrow. A great move of God is only a great move—of God—if the theology being spread reflects the intent of His Word in the first place.
Therefore, equally important to the zeal of the teens and millennials is the mentorship of the elders who have gone before us to study with exegetical precision.
I recently attended a Christian conference in Arizona. I had the privilege of observing intense outpourings of the Holy Spirit upon a very hungry people. Hour after hour for all four days I was there, lives were being changed forever, and every single speaker seemed to be preaching the same message:
God is doing a NEW THING. He is raising up a NEW PEOPLE for His name from among the Gentiles (see Acts 15:14).
But for as sincerely touching as this message was (and I believe it was spot on), I observed a very disturbing underlying theme that week. The focus of this “NEW THING” was so prevalent that the “old thing” of orthodox Christianity was left at the wayside in exchange for human excitement and emotional phenomena. And this is certainly not the first time I have observed this.
God revealed enough to me in that week in Arizona that I came home with two new book outlines that I will be working on in the coming year. One of those messages was the following, and it came to be as crystal clear and powerful as a gong in an echoing cave:
Youthful zeal and passion is wonderful. But youthful zeal and passion without discernment is dangerous.
Elders and parents, we need you. The “out of the mouth of babes” concept is an inspiring one, no doubt, but without the proper training that only the elders can lend, it is a dangerous one. So many youth today are blind in their understanding of Scripture, and if this is allowed to go unchecked, this movement has the capacity of becoming a “blind leading the blind” movement that will end in pure chaos and a great spreading of misinformation. Never believe that just because your mantle may have passed, that your calling has also. Never believe that just because your mantle may have passed, that your usefulness went away with it. We cannot do this properly without you! The role of each young, passionate person is key, certainly, but the role of the elders who led, mold, and shape them for a Kingdom use is vital.
This incoming Great Awakening and possible Reformation is not for any specific generation. It is an “all generation” movement that requires even the elders to be radical.
However, some of these radicals will crush the cookie-cutter expectations that the elders have regarding what “clean church leadership” ought to look like. There will be people from every corner of the world and from every walk of life—gothics, Muslims, New Agers, drug dealers, prostitutes, criminals, even homosexuals—who will catch wind of this “Jesus Christ” fellow and they will never be the same again. They will be “radically saved” through the timeless power of the Gospel message. But without being shown love from someone in the Body of Christ, the discipleship process necessary for them to reach fruition and touch others in their circle of influence is fantastically stunted. Therefore, elders and parents, we not only need your advice, we need your love.
A Christ-ian love.
Love to every man, woman, millennial, teen, and child within that blessed “whosoever will” spoken of in John 3:16, regardless of whether or not their current life offends you. If they are to come to know the Lord in the first place, it will be through love, not through a wagging finger. And if they are to continue growing in the Lord, it will be a process requiring steadfast patience and continual mentorship while overcoming the ripples of a former lifestyle—not an instant, emergency conversion that grows stagnant when the honeymoon phase is over.
Calling ALL generations: Your time is now.
- Young people: Take the passion you’re channeling into the unfulfilling pride parades, rallies, and social activism, and redirect it into the spreading of the Gospel. Nothing else will fill the void you’re feeling. Humans were designed by the Creator with a yearning for Him that nothing else will satisfy.
- Parents: Show your children what real men and women of God look like. Treat your spouse with respect and support. Be good models of femininity and masculinity. Teach the Bible from home so you are never solely leaving your child’s scriptural understanding in someone else’s hands, and when you arrive at a verse you don’t understand, research it. Show your kiddos that salvation can be an “as for me and my house” (Joshua 24:15) family experience so they don’t grow up believing God is an emergency-only action plan when tragedy befalls. God desires relationship, not just belief.
- Elders: Open your minds to those in your path that may not flatter you. Even James, the half-brother of Christ, in his epistle honored the prostitute Rahab, referring to her as “justified” (some translations say “righteous”) by her works in the ancient city of Jericho because she saw the error of her ways and turned from them. Today, that same name is celebrated as one of history’s most incredible redemption stories. Don’t write off the people you meet and assume that they are beyond the Gospel’s reach. The power of the true Gospel knows no bounds, but it is only through love that the true Gospel will penetrate. That next “offensive” or “sinful” person you meet might just be the next Rahab reformed. Don’t try to correct the sin (treating the symptoms) before you love the individual (treating the condition).
Jesus was the Radical of all radicals. He was the Reformer of all reformers. He unabashedly crumbled the apathetic and Pharisaic walls of tradition. Don’t fear those who have been sent by God to shatter today’s apathetic walls of modern church tradition. Love them, teach them, and share the movement with them so it can be done correctly.