So the Next Generation Will Know: Understanding the Task

by Pastor Billy Chidester

I’ve been preaching through a series called, “So the Next Generation Will Know.” My desire for the series is that the Lord would set a fire in our hearts to make Christ known to the next generation so that they and future generations will be sold out followers of Jesus Christ until He returns. The idea for the series came from the book with the same title, written by Sean McDowell and J. Warner Wallace. I encourage you to read it. There is no greater mission for you to embark on in your personal life than to fulfill the Great Commission and this book will give some help. I want to share with you some thoughts from the book to get you going.
This book is focused on reaching Generation Z (those born from 1999ish to the present). As I preach this series my focus isn’t merely on Generation Z, which would be those included in our kids and student ministry, but also the generation prior (the Millennials, 1981-1999). Reaching different generations is much like reaching people in other cultures with the gospel. If we plan on going on a mission trip to India we will do well to learn about their culture, religion, and ways of life. We should do the same as we try to reach people of different cultures in our own community. We would do well to learn more about those people of the generation we are trying to reach with the gospel. We cannot assume that they understand things the same way that we do. Their experiences are different. Their worldviews are different. Next, I want to help us understand more about these generations.
First, Millennials. Here are some key characteristics: They are multi-taskers, connected (through social media), tech savvy, and they are curious (continual learners). They often want instant gratification and recognition, flexibility in their schedules, and they value collaboration and authenticity. They are also very transparent (which probably means openness to say things on social media they may need to remain quiet.) Millennials have a large portion of their generation who are known as the “Nones.” This means they have no connection or affiliation with any faith or religion. And Millennials are also diverse. They value diversity because they grew up in a very diverse world. It’s interesting to note that this diversity is a reversal of what happened at the Tower of Babel in Genesis 10 when God scattered people throughout the earth. What we see in our world isn’t the final fulfillment of this, but it points to what Christ came to do—to reconcile the whole world back to God and create a new people consisting of all nations, tribes and tongues.
Now, how about Generation Z? They are digital natives and they are researchers. They are also, like the Millennials, multi-taskers. They are impatient as they have been raised in a day in which speed and convenience rule the day. They are also racially diverse. They are also fluid. “Categories that were seemingly fixed and distinct for previous generations are now considered blurry, ambiguous and fluid (McDowell and Wallace).” They are social justice oriented, often lonely and overwhelmed because there is no escape from their problems and the problems of this world. Like Millennials they are transparent. They seek real relationships and they struggle to know who they can trust. And Generation Z is “Post Christian.” Like the Millennials many describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. The Bible doesn’t hold authority with them as it did for previous generations. They have largely secular worldviews.
How should these realities effect the way we minister to and think about these two generations? First, we should pray. We should pray for the Lord to break our hearts for them and we should pray for the Lord to open their hearts to the truth of the gospel. Secondly, we should spend time with them. Regardless of your age—Builder, Boomer, or Gen Xer—we should spend time with them. Discipleship happens in relationship. Third, we need to focus on what we have in common. We are different in many ways and that often builds barriers between us. But remember what we have in common. We are all made in God’s image, we all know right from wrong, and we all yearn for eternal life. We all desire relationships, to belong and to be loved. And Jesus Christ suffered on the cross for each of us, regardless of our generation. Fourth, we need to stay positive and not be pessimistic. Fifth, we need to meet them where they are in many ways so that we can lead them to where Christ is calling them. We need to meet them
where they are in worship (don’t divide worship because of our preferences), to meet them in their Sunday school classes and small groups. Sixth, we need to invest in their families, in kids ministry and in student and young adult ministry. We need to invest both financially and in time and energy.
We need to set our eyes on making Christ known to the next generation. Build bridges to have relationship with them. We need to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 14:11. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Make investments today and the Lord will reward us in due time. God has put each of us here for such a time as this. Join with me in understanding and seeking the Lord help the next generation to know the Lord!

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