By David Shibley
David is the president and founder of Global Advance, based in Texas, which provides ministry training and resources for thousands of pastoral leaders in over 50 nations.
What do Mary Slessor, Hudson Taylor and Cameron Townsend share in common? They were all impacting nations and changing missions paradigms before they were thirty years old.
The advance of the gospel throughout church history has generally been on the backs (and backpacks) of twenty-somethings. On-fire young people today are following in a train of faith that is centuries long.
A “golden chain” of young mavericks for Jesus stretches from the days of the Moravians to the present.
A Baptist pastor in his twenties, William Carey dared Christians to embrace world evangelization. Carey did not know at the time that God was using him as a catalyst to launch the modern missions movement.
Hudson Taylor (barely out of his teens), David Livingstone, Mary Slessor, Cameron Townsend, Donald McGavran – all of them were young, fresh thinkers and high-risk believers who changed the course of missions in the early decades of their lives.
Charles Simeon (arguably the first “youth pastor”) challenged Cambridge students to missions in the 1790s. The reverberations of his ministry continue to the present and helped forge the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.
Across the Atlantic, the impromptu Haystack Payer Meeting at Williams College in 1806 launched the American missions movement. Half a century later evangelist D.L. Moody’s summer retreat for student leaders would help birth the original Student Volunteer Movement.
The “golden chain” continued as the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship formed in the 1930s and SVM2 is now the heir of a rich history.
Add to this the fact that more North American young people have been on mission trips in the last decade than any other ten-year span in the church’s history. Something historic is happening.
The high level devotion of young radicals is in stark contrast to the painless Christianity espoused by many adults. Today’s SVM2 generation are forcing a tougher (and more biblical) faith walk on the church.
They are calling us back to “mere Christianity.” My generation owes these young people an all-consuming passion: a passion for God’s glory in their lives and in the lives of every people group on earth. These young missions addicts will take nothing less.
No one doubts the amazing strength and selfless sacrifice of the World War II generation, those Tom Brokaw calls the greatest generation the United States ever produced. But with all due respect (and much is due them), Brokaw may be wrong.
For, hidden behind the piercing and tattoos, behind the headlines of the dopers and the spotlights on the rage-filled rappers and self-absorbed princesses, there is another emerging generation.
Hidden from our view in classrooms where they daily take the jeers of teachers and students, tucked away in upstairs bedrooms where they are carving out a private history with God, a generation is being fashioned the likes of which we’ve never seen. God is constructing Missions’ Greatest Generation.
I am convinced that God is going to give this generation the grand prize for which twenty centuries of believers have prayed, worked, dreamed and died for – the fulfillment of Christ’s Great Commission.
(Taken with permission by Charisma House publishers)