How to lose a generation – or not
I preached a sermon on the existence of absolute truth Sunday morning at a Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated church. Afterwards a young lady – about to begin her freshman year in college – approached to thank me for the message. She said it helped strengthen her faith at an important juncture in her life. She knows she is about to enter a thoroughly secular environment when she steps on campus for the first time.
I was impressed with her discernment and commitment. Unlike too many in the generations immediately preceding hers, she rejects moral relativism and acknowledges that truth exists. This ought to be a source of encouragement to all of us who look for openings to present the Gospel to unbelievers. Since we agree truth exists, we have a great starting point in which to share.
With all the promise this newest generation brings (I call them The Millennials, ages 5-24), we would be remiss not to thank God for the new, young ministers in their preceding generation (Generation X, ages 25-44) that He has called. Their commitment to preaching the entire counsel of God’s Word, their zeal for world evangelization and their desire to help the sick, the poor and the ridiculed is a blessing to behold. They are authentic and are bringing honor and glory to our Lord Jesus and I thank God for their witness.
God has recently convicted me about not expressing my love to them. I have not always shown or articulated my appreciation to our Generation X pastors. Their labor is not in vain, though difficult.
There has been considerable concern expressed by a good many of us older Southern Baptist brethren about the lack of participation by the Generation X pastors when it comes to denominational business. They do not seem interested to attend the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) annual meeting. This, I hope, is but a temporary malady. Without them the SBC will not exist in the future. Do not misunderstand. The SBC is not the most important thing. Having Gospel-centered, Christ-honoring churches is the main thing and if we do that, then the SBC will survive and thrive as a Gospel-centered, Christ-honoring denomination. The SBC will be recognized as an effective means in which churches can work together to do far more than they ever could alone.
I was challenged recently by a devotional written by my friend, T.M. Moore, whom I affectionately refer to as chief theologian for Chuck Colson’s BreakPoint Ministries. His topic was titled, “How to lose a generation – or not” and took its Scriptural basis from Judges 2:6-10. Is there a more depressing book? Yet, everytime I go through it I learn something new about how the people of God cannot sustain their commitment to Him for more than a generation. They stumble into disobedience and fall under repression for one or two generations before God raises up a judge to deliver yet again. As Moore points out, the pattern is established from the beginning where we see that it can take just four things to lose a generation.
1. Fail to provide commanding leadership. This is what my generation must do with Generation X and The Millennials. We must lead by preparing them to fill our shoes. This is precisely what Joshua failed to do in not following Moses’ example. The people were left to find their leaders, not all it seems were ready or up to the task. We must be mentoring the next generation so there is no leadership void. Without leaders, we lose the next generation.
2. Fail to ensure that people down the line carry out their duties as disciples. The heads of households and the heads of cities and towns throughout Israel were responsible for teaching God’s Word. They too often failed in carrying out this task and Moses and Joshua did not provide the necessary accountability. “Since people don’t do what you expect but what you inspect, there was no ongoing teaching at the local level, leaving everyone vulnerable to the pagan influences around them,” Moore writes. Entrust specific responsibilities to be carried out. Then check to make sure they are doing it.
3. Let the people you teach take your teaching with a grain of salt, says Moore. The Israelites had no love for God. They couldn’t even remember Him from one generation to the next. We must respond to complacency and lack of commitment on the part of those we teach. We must not regard instruction of God’s Word and Biblical worldview as something people can take or leave. We must teach with passion and conviction. “If we don’t take our teaching seriously, neither will those we teach, and we will definitely lose a generation when complacency toward God’s Word becomes the order of the day,” Moore warns.
4. Fail to lead your people to be filled with and walk in the Spirit. Israel did not possess the Spirit of God. It would not be until Pentecost before the availability of the Spirit was widespread. But even now, in the days of the Spirit’s outpouring, we still must seek Him in prayer, to be filled with Him and to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh. “Do you understand what that entails?” Moore asks. “Do you include that as a regular part of your teaching? Do you pray for those you teach, that they may know the power of God’s Spirit to lead them into the righteousness, peace, and joy of His kingdom? If not, if we don’t keep this focus on the Spirit in our teaching, then we’re simply planning to lose a generation somewhere along the line.”