I remember when Megan and I were approved as second-generation World Baptist Fellowship missionaries 23 years ago. At the time, we were “the next generation,” passionate to reach the world, but also challenging the status quo in many ways. This was not in a spirit of rebellion, but in a zeal to do whatever was necessary to reach our generation with the Gospel, and the generations to come. I remember being one of the first to move away from slides and slide projectors to a professionally edited video (on a VHS tape, of course!). We carried around a massive, bulky projector into churches that were not equipped to display it or to handle the sound format. Others at the time were challenging some of the expectations and requirements of wearing ties and dressing as formally as had been the custom and tradition. Now, I look back at those “changes” and smile, because things have changed so much since then, and I am now the one watching the next generations come of age and enter vocational ministry, church planting and world missions.
Over the past years I have had a growing burden to challenge and equip the next generation of God’s servants, but that burden has only grown stronger now that it is my children who are stepping into vocational ministry and world missions. It is thrilling to experience, but I admit that it is also challenging. I have been forced to evaluate my assumptions, traditions, preferences and convictions to discern what truly is a Scriptural mandate or model, and what is personal judgment and discernment. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world!
As I watch next generation missions unfolding in my own family and ministry, I have observed a few truths:
Without the next generation, the work cannot continue. It has often been said that Christianity is always one generation away from extinction. The same is true of every local church and of the cause of world missions. If we fail to engage and mobilize the next generation, we fail in our mission. The Great Commission is all about multiplication, reaching every generation, culture and community with the Gospel. I believe God is still calling the next generation, but it is up to those of us in leadership to effectively engage them and equip them to reach their world.
Each generation challenges the status quo. This is where things can get unpleasant. We all have personal, cultural and historical perspectives, views and convictions. When we are young, it drives us crazy when we ask questions and the answer we get is, “Because that’s the way it’s always been done.” And yet, we often find ourselves giving the same answer to the next generation when they challenge our ways. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” right? Sadly, much of what we do in ministry today is broken and failing to accomplish our true mission in this generation. But if we allow the questions and challenges to honestly drive us back to the timeless, unchanging, and cross-cultural truths of God’s Word, it will give us a solid foundation that can be passed on to the generations to come.
The next generation has much to teach us. I am fascinated to see how the next generation has adapted to a world that is constantly changing. Their world is changing much faster than ours did, and yet, for the most part, they are able to keep up and adjust to the latest trends and technology. Even though the next generation is the largest generation in human history, and is far more unreached (in America) than any before, those in this generation who are committed to the Gospel are finding creative ways to use these changes as opportunities for evangelism, discipleship and world missions. Yes, it often looks far different than how we have been trained to do ministry and missions, but I believe they have much to teach us. When it comes to communicating with their generation and world, they “get it.” My desire is to learn everything I can from the next generation (always filtered through the principles of God’s Word), so that I can be as effective as possible in the years that I have left to serve the Lord.
Next generation missions is exciting and challenging. Not only do I look forward to what God is going to do through my own children, but I also look forward to seeing what God is doing to do through the next generation in the church that I pastor and in the churches of World Baptist Fellowship.