‘These men who have upset the world have come here also.’ — Acts 17:6
How do we motivate the millennial generation to take up the challenge of world evangelization? Many define the millennial generation as those born between 1980 and 2000. In the United States, roughly 75 million millennials were born between 1980 and 1997, which is the largest living generation in American history. By 2020 millennials will make up 50% of the U.S. workforce and by 2025, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials. So it does not take a rocket scientist to see the clear implications for the future of world missions. The millennial generation must ‘step up.’
I suggest that older people like me should find a few millennials and disciple them. Offer to spend time with them and give them a vision for the world. Challenge them with something bigger than themselves, which, of course, is what Jesus and his apostles did in equipping people for ministry. Paul told younger Timothy that he was poured out as a drink offering, which means there was nothing left. Model it for them. Let them see you burn with holy zeal for the blessed gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take them with you to evangelize.
To go further, motivating millennials to missions begins, as always, in the local church where the preacher is to preach Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:18-2:5). To preach Christ crucified entails a vision for a big God, an awareness that every unbeliever is addicted to big sin, that God has provided a big Christ, and that the result of Christ’s death and resurrection is a big atonement for big sin.
The prevailing talk in the church today is our ‘brokenness’ or our ‘woundedness’. Have you noticed how rarely we hear preaching on sin, the eternal consequences of sin, and the need to repent of sin? The origin today of being broken or wounded is largely from the field of psychotherapy and not the Scriptures. I have known plenty of people who were sexually abused or came from fatherless homes, whom some would call broken due to their circumstances. They, however, are not necessarily broken in the Biblical sense, for they can still be prideful, rebellious, recalcitrant, and unwilling to repent of their sin, feeling justified to wallow in defeat and misery, rather than believing God can and will give them a growing victory over their sinful propensities. A Biblically broken person, however, according to Scripture, is one who has come to see that he has sinned against God, and God alone (Psalm 51:4). Brokenness has nothing to do with one’s emotional trauma from life’s hardships. David said, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise,’ (Psalm 51:17). God looks to, shows favor to the humble and contrite of spirit, those who tremble at his word (Isaiah 66:2).
Millennials need to hear preaching which stresses the utter sinfulness of sin before a holy God, who will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. They need a clear, precise, and memorable declaration of Christ’s propitiating death (God poured out his wrath on his Son), his expiating death (God washed away the guilt and filth of our sin by Christ’s death at Calvary), his redeeming blood (which pays the ransom price to bring us back to God), and his reconciling death (God’s enmity toward us and ours toward him has been removed).
Millennials are often wandering in the wilderness of social justice, political correctness, critical theory, intersectionality, and identity politics, which are a distraction from the gospel. Have you noticed how the word missions has been replaced by missional? Historically, we have spoken of world missions or doing missions, which has always had the idea of leading with evangelism and church planting, followed by establishing Christian schools, hospitals, and other mercy ministry needs. Today, however, the buzzword is missional, which seems to connote reweaving the culture, making the world a better place, and human flourishing (a word, by the way, right out of the play book of the Frankfurt School). Being missional rarely, if ever, leads with intentional direct evangelistic work.
Millennials also need a challenge. They need a greater awareness of what God is doing around the world and how they might fit into that great work. One of the best ways to gain this awareness is to be exposed to the work of the gospel in developing nations of the world. Find a few millennials you can disciple and challenge them to go on an extended mission trip with some really hard core guys like PEF evangelist Ben Cohen who goes several times a year to Sudan. Or contact Bob McNabb of Launch Global who is preparing teams to target unreached people groups in the world. Or, challenge a student just graduating from college or who has not yet settled into a career to spend one year in a great missionary internship with Frontline Fellowship in Cape Town, South Africa. The training by Dr. Peter Hammond and the overland trips to various countries in Africa will stretch a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Urge those with whom you are working to read daily from Operation World by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk, and pray for the nations and peoples who need the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And millennials need to develop Biblical convictions on the use of their time, money, and talent. Have you ever noticed how little we hear preachers and church leaders speak of worldliness? We so seldom speak of it because we are so worldly. We are like fish in water which do not notice the water because that is all they have ever known. And parents often are no help in this regard either, reminding their children that they need to get a job which pays lots of money and can purchase the things the world offers. It seems that many parents are embarrassed if their children even entertain the notion of ‘throwing their lives away’ on the mission field. Forget the American Dream. As the great missionary C. T. Studd said, ‘Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop, within a yard of hell.’
Finally, challenge millennials to hard things. You know all about ‘helicopter parents’ who have coddled their children, who fight their fights for them, who lavish them with stuff which further softens them, leaving them generally unprepared to face the hardships which are sure to come, sooner or later. Urge them to get out of their comfort zones, to come with me to Africa in January to learn how to evangelize and work really hard for a couple of weeks in an unfamiliar and challenging culture. Even if they remain in a secular job in the United States, they will be far better off for putting themselves in a self-denying, faith building context.
– Al Baker