Over half of the world’s population is under 25 years old – that’s a staggering 3 billion plus people. The critical mass of teenagers is over 1.5 billion – more than ever before. With more access to the Internet, money, technology, and other advancements, they could be the most powerful engines in the merging global cultures. They have the greatest opportunities to shape cultures and worldviews. This is not just a global phenomenon but a reality in India as well. Although much of India is in a rural state, the mega trends in India raise various missiological implications for the Church today – especially in urban settings. Think of the spread of connectivity and awareness, the growth of the youth population, the increasing size of the middle class, the effect of globalization, and India’s openness to the world. Of all these mega trends, the rise of the dominance of young people poses the greatest level of crisis and opportunity. The last two decades have witnessed tremendous economic growth in India. The next two decades may witness exponential growth along with its share of challenges to our society and the Church. Our young people will be the most impacted both in the urban and rural setting. How are we planning to face the future and lead our young people? Another important question we need to wrestle with is, how are we going to create room for young people to lead us forward in missions?
Consider the following:
Growing Options and Choices
We live in a world full of options and choices, whether it is news channels, brands, music, career, or even spiritual experiences. This is a generation that is chasing experiences through travel, spirituality, or whatever. We believe only the Gospel offers an authentic experience that appeals to the mind and the heart. How are we going to present it so that they see it not as an option but as the only option? How can we keep the purity of the Gospel clear in our lifestyles, making sure we are not merely urbanising youth but discipling them? We as leaders today need to wrestle together with the world of choices our young people face in order to serve them in making life-affirming choice.
Growing Issues of Boredom and Suicide
The Times of India carried an article on the 9th August 2009, which discussed research showing that young people drink when they’re bored. The survey claimed that almost 1 in 10 teenagers aged 16 and 17 drank alcohol at least once a week because they had nothing else to do.
It would seem that with the world full of entertainment we would not need to worry about boredom. Unfortunately this isn’t true. We are now surrounded by one of the most bored generations of all times. Boredom can be the result of many things. One key reason is a lack of purpose and meaning in life. Nothing can fill the vacuum that meaninglessness produces. Young people are living with holes in their hearts that they are unable to fill. That is perhaps one of the major reasons why depression is on the rise and suicide is now the fourth largest killer among teens. Today, more adolescents die of suicide than AIDS. More and more teenagers feel alone. At a time when all is set for happiness, deep within there is emptiness. How are we going to meet this need? There are many opportunities in the areas of counseling and hospitality, rebuilding lives, and offering hope. Young people today are looking for adventure – there’s really nothing wrong with this. In fact, we need to ask ourselves, how can we break away from status quo and the predictable – How can we model a life that’s authentic, courageous and passionate?
Growing interests about a Cause and a vibrant community
Global young people get passionate about a cause. They are angry at corruption, double standards, sex trafficking, and bio-ethical concerns, ready to fight for just causes. Unfortunately they don’t see the Church doing much in these areas. Young people are also attracted to community that is vibrant, real and passionate – a community that values innovation, ethnic cultures, and ideas. Young people are tired of being a part of a big Church that does not care for them or others. They are not impressed by clean and nice linear teachings. We need to re-look at the Mission of God and grapple with the meaning of what ‘integral mission’ is all about. We need to work toward developing sound youth theology and developing a sacred community in every secular city – a community that doesn’t just look inward, but engages the world with a very clear biblical life perspective. We need to be a community that disciples nations and takes on issues of injustice.
Louis Luzbetak says it right, “The undeniable truth is that the Gospel will not be accepted by any society unless the ‘wares’ offered by the church be presented as missing in the culture, as the preferable solution actually demanded by the existing lifeway itself.”
We need to pray that God will raise cutting-edge leaders who will understand the times and be prophetic voices to our young people in leading them to the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The new leader must be willing to let go of old paradigms of positional influence and instead become an expert in emotional intelligence and excel in the art of relationships. We need leaders who will impact their generation.
Billy Graham did it by his simple and anointed sermons.
Steve Jobs does it by creating excellent products.
Narayan Murthy by creating employment opportunities.
Azim Premzi by educating children.
Bill Gates & Warren Buffet by being great philanthropists.
Loren Cunningham by championing young people to co-create with God.
How will our next generation of leaders accomplish the dreams of God?
There are several ways we can attempt to champion our next generation leaders to accomplish the dreams of God. Some of them could be:
Help young people hear the voice of God and obey Him.
If our theology says that God is both Powerful and Personal then hearing God should not be a strange concept. These lessons are best modeled than taught. Do we do things only on the basis of research and boardroom discussions or do we do things based on hearing God’s voice? Young people can make out the difference between jobs done as a mere duty versus jobs done out of our passion for Jesus. The latter comes more naturally when we hear the voice of God. YWAM in India was born not with a few people sitting in a boardroom grappling missions on a cerebral level. Rather it was when young people heard the voice of God to go on a ‘hippie trail.’ These young people were convinced that the Lord had told them to journey the hippie trail reaching to many other young people that were turning East for metaphysical quests. They drove two Volkswagen vans and drove from Lausanne to Turkey to Afghanistan and into Delhi. That’s how the first YWAM team came to India…all in the ages of 18-22. To teach hearing God should not be an exaggerated emotional phenomenon and neither it should contained to rationalizing every step of missions. These values are to be modeled as we walk with the next generation.
Creating room for young people in Leadership
The secret to creating room for young people in leadership is first creating room for them in our hearts. Young people are full of potential. We all know this but it seems like young people have to really wait long to get a platform to lead us. The corporate culture is full of young people. Some CEO’s are in their early 30’s while many who
are leading the way are under the age twenty. We are not saying taking the position of older leaders and giving it away to younger people but rather, can we create more room for young people so that leadership gets younger, energetic and innovative?
Mastering the basics – Modelling Unity
If there is one thing different about young people today it is the fact that they think global. Globalisation has impacted youth more than others. Identity today is no longer defined by geography or ethnicity but by interest groups, passion points & hobbies. A software expert from UK may have more in common with another young software professional in Bangalore than his own English neighbour. We will see a rise in multi-cultural expressions everywhere. This should challenge us to think in terms unity more seriously. Unity is an unanswered prayer of Jesus today. Young people are watching our disunity. This distracts many youth from pursuing missions. Let us make a commitment to master the basics. The basics are to love one another. The NT letters are full of ‘one another’ verses. Its not just to love those that look and think like us but everyone regardless of their age, opinion, personality or gifting. We need to learn to go beyond tolerating our differences but rather we should do all we can to celebrate our diversity.
May the Lord help us to make room for Generation next…