The awesome account of the advance of Christianity is essentially the story of how God used sold-out young men and women – His best and brightest.
Each day heaven’s new heroes are writing new chapters of bravery. Now, with the finish line in sight of “a church for every people group and the gospel for every person,” God once again is looking for His “first choice” runners – young men and women with a passion for the honor of Jesus Christ among the nations.
God is scanning the earth right now looking for those whose hearts will beat with His. “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chr. 16:9). This very day God has His eye on you. The torch is being passed to you. Are you ready to run with the gospel?
God is looking for the best and brightest of this generation for the grand prize of fulfilling the Great Commission. Youth enjoy taking risks. One key reason why God so greatly uses younger men and women is that they often don’t know what the limits are! If there’s a huge assignment, they just do it and find out it was “impossible” later!
Another reason God uses young people is because so many have broken hearts. Violence, fractured families and demolished dreams have left many of today’s students familiar with lots of pain. You may put on a brave front but if people could see inside, would they find a wounded heart? God can take your hurts and use them redemptively. The Christian band, delirious?, sing,
Is it true today, that when people stand
with the fire of God and the truth in hand,
we’ll see miracles, we’ll see angels sing,
we’ll see broken hearts making history?
Yes, it’s true.
Recently I was with three other presidents of missions organizations. As we shared our backgrounds, we discovered that each of us had experienced a major family tragedy when we were teenagers. God uses broken-hearted people because they feel the pain of a fractured world that is separated from God. That’s why missions leader Bob Pierce prayed, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” The broken hearted, in the hands of Jesus, can become His best and brightest.
Standing on Their Shoulders
As a part of the twenty-first century Student Volunteer Movement, you are following in a noble train of faith that is centuries long. Young people have always led the charge in the global march of the Church.
The Moravians were so moved by the sacrifice of Christ for the world that they began a prayer meeting for world missions that went non-stop for 100 years! Many of those present on day one of that prayer gathering were in their teens and twenties.
In the first era of missionary advance, God sent William Carey, not yet 30 years old, to defy a complacent Church and challenge Christians to see a bigger world. This young pastor dared the Christians of his day to “attempt great things for God and expect great things from God!” God is putting that same impassioned faith in the hearts of His young firebrands today. That’s why I’m sharing this message with you. I believe you can light a missions fire that can become a global blaze! You can expect great things from God and you can attempt great things for God!
In the second era it was again young men and women, including Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone and Mary Slessor who made the difference in their generation. As the third era of missions dawned, young, innovative thinkers such as Cameron Townsend and Donald McGavran again changed the course of missions.
The golden chain of the gospel’s advance has always been forged by young people. Nikolaus von Zinzendorf was 10 years old when he determined his lifelong purpose would be to preach Christ to the world. When he was 16 Zinzendorf joined with five other teenagers to form a school prayer group in Germany in the 1720s. It grew into a revival prayer movement that swept Europe! Youthful Baptist pastor Charles Simeon challenged Cambridge students in the 1790s toward missions and launched a student movement that has impacted that campus to the present day.
The Haystack Prayer Meeting at Williams College in 1806 was the spark that lit the missions movement in the United States. Samuel Mills, one of the students at that prayer gathering, galvanized a student missions movement that reached 70 colleges. Mills died at age 35 off the coast of Liberia, but not before he had helped form America’s first missionary agency and theAmerican Bible Society.
David Livingstone was a teenager when he heard missionary to Africa, Robert Moffat, say that at dusk he could look inland and “see the smoke of a thousand villages” without the gospel. Livingstone changed his life’s focus and determined to get the gospel to those villages.
In 1850 teenager Hudson Taylor committed his life to serve Christ in China. In 1854 Taylor left England and would later found the China Inland Mission. The influence of Taylor’s life continues to be felt throughout China today. In the same decade David Livingstone preached at Cambridge, touching off another blaze of missions passion there. In 1858, InterVarsity began at Cambridge, tracing its roots to Livingstone’s missions challenge.
A missions fire once again hit Cambridge when D.L. Moody preached there in 1882. Among those who committed their lives to Christ at Moody’s meetings was a young athlete named C.T. Studd. He gave up his huge inherited fortune to finance his missions work and later began the World Evangelization Crusade.
In 1885, Luther Wishard suggested a summer conference for students to evangelist D.L. Moody. Wishard’s sister prophesied that there would be 100 missionary volunteers from the conference. The next year the first-ever student missions conference convened at Mount Hermon, Massachusetts. After missionary A.T. Pierson’s challenge to “the evangelization of the world in this generation,” exactly 100 students pledged their lives to become missionaries. That conference was the match that lit the flame of the Student Volunteer Movement, which would eventually see over 20,000 American young people go as missionaries.
New missions embers were lit in 1936 by students at a summer retreat in North Carolina, resulting in the Student Foreign Missions Fellowship. A decade later Jim Elliot would head the SFMF chapter at Wheaton College. In 1956, 29-year-old Elliot and four other young missionaries would die face down with poison-tipped spears in their backs in an attempt to plant the gospel among the remote Waodoni people of Ecuador. The cover story of their martyrdom in Life magazine resulted in hundreds of young people volunteering to take their place. Also from that North Carolina meeting, student missions gatherings began that spawned the far-reaching Urbana Missions Conferences, attracting some 20,000 students every three years.
Youth-lit fires for missions continued to spread. Billy Graham and Torrey Johnson, a young evangelist and a young pastor, formed Youth for Christ in 1944. Campus Crusade grew out of a 24-hour prayer vigil at UCLA led by a young seminary student, Bill Bright. Dawson Trotman got his vision for the Navigators from prayer times with other young people. Operation Mobilization was born out of all-night prayer meetings at Moody Bible Institute. Youth With a Mission began as afire in the heart of Loren Cunningham, a youth pastor in his early twenties. The Jesus Movement of the early 1970s swept thousands into the kingdom. Many of the “Jesus people” were already committed to radical living – and today many of them continue to radically serve Jesus world-wide.
Ron and Katie Luce, young married students at Oral Roberts University in the 1980s, dreamed of igniting a fire for missions in a whole generation of youth. The result is Teen Mania.
And now SVM 2, spearheaded by Ryan Shaw, has fanned the smoldering embers of the original Student Volunteer Movement into a new, blazing fire focused on the yet unreached peoples. Around the world a new company of the committed are totally devoted to Jesus and to His commission. They aren’t perfect but they are on fire! They refuse to tolerate halfhearted commitment in themselves and they cannot understand it in others. Anything less than absolute abandon to Jesus is too boring to impress them.
As I open my heart to your generation, I’m finding enormous receptivity in a generation hungry for God and hungry for fathers. As I meet with thousands of young men and women God is calling, I”m discovering young Christian leaders-in-training who are marked for the new millennium. God is fashioning new leaders who possess anointing without arrogance, boldness without brashness and power without pride. I’m honored to stand by your side in the battle to make Jesus Christ known, loved and worshiped in the twenty-first century.
One hundred years ago the visionary missions statesman, John R. Mott, made a prophetic declaration about today’s young volunteers. He wrote, “The worldwide proclamation of the gospel awaits accomplishment by a generation which will have the obedience, courage and determination to attempt the task.” With all my heart, I believe he foresaw today’s young generation. You have the obedience, courage and determination demanded to break open the final frontiers.
It All Comes Down to You
When the leaders of the church at Antioch confirmed and commissioned Saul and Barnabas to go to the unreached, they were sending their best and brightest. In the same way, God is calling the best and brightest to the unreached today. That’s why He is calling you.
It is Kingdom missiology to send the best and brightest to the areas some would consider the least and darkest. So don’t croak on trivial pursuits. Don’t twitter away your life! What really matters is the worship of the Son of God to the ends of the earth. Crave His honor and glory to be shown to the nations. Live for what matters!
You are truly a chosen generation! For almost two thousand years Christians have dreamed of finally fulfilling the Great Commission. And God has ordained that your generation run the last lap! Yours is the high calling to take the gospel to the unreached.
When I was eight years old our gym coach picked four of us boys to run a relay race. He looked at me first and said, “David, you’re not very fast, so you run first.” Then he said to the others, “Brian, you’re a little faster, so you run second. Brad, you’re even faster, so you run third. And John – you’re the fastest of all, you get to run last! You are the one who can actually win the race! When you get the baton, don’t worry about whether you’re ahead or behind. Don’t be distracted by anything around you; just fix your eyes on the finish line and run with all the speed you have!”
In the very same way, God has honored you with the prime slot in the race. You get to run the last lap! You have been chosen for history’s highest assignment – to finally fulfill Christ’s mandate to get the gospel to every person and make disciples of every nation!
When God called Jim Elliot in four other gallant young men to take the gospel to the unreached, He was calling the brightest and best. When I was in college, a missionary recruitment poster showed a picture of Jim Elliot navigating a jungle river. The words on the poster struck me like a club to my stomach:
1927 – 1956
Poor Jim. He could have been a success.
Long before Elliot laid down his life in the jungles of Ecuador, he built an altar of consecration in his dorm room one night at Wheaton College. On that altar he offered the carcass of “success.” Journaling what he felt that night in 1948, 21 year old Jim Elliot wrote these words:
“God, light these idle sticks of my life and may I burn for Thee. Consume my life, my God, for it is Thine. I seek not a long life, but a full one, like You, Lord Jesus.”
Elliot’s passionate, prophetic prayer was answered. He was one of the brightest and the best. He became part of God’s army of young volunteers. Will you build the altar? Will you volunteer your abilities as part of God’s young volunteer army?
If you will build the altar, God will bring the fire.