We face three great challenges today. First, after nearly 2,000 years of the Church’s existence, 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, 264 languages with over 100,000 native speakers have no one even committed to reaching them much less actually in action on the scene!
Second, about 1/3 of the world’s population is under 18 years old, 1/2 of the world is under 30, and nearly 90% of the world’s children are in developing nations. It is estimated that about 85% of people who make a decision for Christ do so between the ages of four and fourteen. Yet, most 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. A new spirit is sweeping the world regarding all three of these challenges. The Holy 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 students 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. [i] 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” is emerging focused on those in the early, formative years acknowledging that a disproportionate percentage of all who make commitments to Christ do so at an early age. [ii] There is a growing number of regional and international networks where younger leaders committed to world evangelization are gathering. [iii]
My primary objective, 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 younger leaders in the global church can play.
A New Vision Sweeping the World
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 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 20+ years, in country after country, God’s people have begun to re-experience the beauty, power, and hope that new forms of partnership can bring.
An informal survey of major language groups with over one million native speakers 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.
I believe God’s heart is to see God’s people working together in partnership to restore relationships, lives, communities, and nations!
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.
“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.” (Ephesians 2:14-17) Through the power of the finished work of Christ, we are His ambassadors of reconciliation and messengers of hope. (2 Cor 5:17-19)
The Hostilities Begin, Broken Relationships The Result
But, if all this is true, why is there such brokenness in the Body of Christ? Why are long-term effective partnerships of believers working together so rare? 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.
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. 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 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.”(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. (John 13:34-35)
These open, honest, and loving transformed relationships are the basis for all lasting partnership. 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.
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 younger generation also often has a greater concern about the world around them, and greater belief in their ability to change that world.
These qualities are tremendously encouraging in that they suggest that student leaders and other young people have the potential of truly transforming how the Church globally does ministry!
There is a challenge though. While many young 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.
The good news is that there is an emerging coalition of ministries coming together to help the younger leaders get those skills and to coach and mentor them. The potential is a new generation of countless Kingdom partnerships and other forms of collaboration to touch local communities and reach the unreached. [iv]
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.
Hope Drives Us On
“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.” (Romans 15:4-6, 13 emphasis added)
Think about the part you can play. 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.
[i] 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 comprehensive view of the challenge and current information visit www.joshuaproject.net. You or your student group can become knowledgeable about the needs; identify key prayer points; and begin to plan strategies based on the information found on these sites.
[ii] Updates on this initiative can be found at the www.transformworld.net web site.
[iii] A modest but growing list of these networks and relevant contact information is available on the web site, www.powerofconnecting.net. Just click the “younger leaders” link on the front page.
[iv] Whether you are on a campus, just fresh to the working marketplace, or possibly a bit farther along in leadership, you can start helping God’s people come together. The web site, www.powerofconnecting.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.