Consider this a two-part post. This post will focus on what the next generation needs from the church. Naturally, part two will focus on what the church needs from the next generation. I am passionate about the next generation. This is a passion God has given me. I know the struggles. I feel the pain of so many who are tired of meaningless arguments and traditions. I sense the optimism of so many in the next generation who believe God is stirring up something great among his people.
So, here are 8 things the next generation needs from the church.
1.) Pray for their faith.
The next generation is struggling. The statistics prove it. They need you to stop bashing them and pray for them. Pray God will raise up men and women to lead the church. Pray God will ignite the hearts of the next generation to follow Jesus passionately. Pray the increasing hostility and apathy towards God will not pull more young people away from Him. The next generation needs the prayers of God’s people.
I know there is tension. I know the next generation handles situations differently. But this is bigger than tension or handling of situations. The church is losing the next generation. They need you to pray for their faith. Ask God for a revival in their hearts. In this country. Across this world. This my plea to you, church.
2.) Give them a seat.
No, the next generation is not equipped with the years of experience and wisdom. But when did age become a pre-requisite for God to work? Godly wisdom and age are not always connected. What the next generation needs from the church is for you to give them a seat. Allow them space to express their thoughts. Their concerns. They are not asking to take over the table. But they want a seat at the table. And not as a concession or a formality. They need to be given a voice.
The next generation of Christians has valuable thoughts and insights. They understand the culture. They have a firm grasp on technology and social media. They realize the urgency. Let the next generation have a place. Do not look down on them because of their youth. The next generation has much to learn from those who have been involved in the life of the church for years. We want to learn. But we also want those who have been in the church for years to listen. Maybe the church can learn from the next generation as well.
3.) Encourage their walk.
The beauty of the Christian journey is all roads are not the same. Like a math problem. There might be only one answer…His name is Jesus. But there are different ways to find Jesus. Different paths…same answer. This is the case with Christianity and the gospel.
The next generation is finding Jesus. But they are doing it differently than generations past. Please do not develop animosity towards them because their journey towards Jesus looks different. Encourage their walk. Rejoice that people are finding Jesus. Do not force the next generation to conform to a previous way of doing things. Just point them to Jesus. Wherever they are in life. Help them remain grounded in the truth of God’s word. But do not make the Christian journey a “one size fits all” approach. God is bigger than that.
4.) Extend them grace.
As the next generation moves along in the journey, they will stumble. They will make mistakes. And when this happens, they need the church to be there. To pick them up. To dust them off. Encourage them to keep moving. Not to tell them, “I told you so.”
No person is perfect. But it is one many people struggle to accept. The next generation needs the church to show them grace and compassion. I believe most who follow Jesus are doing so with a humble and sincere heart. Even so, many of them will make mistakes. Some “big” mistakes. When this happens, the next generation need you to extend them grace.
5.) Understand their struggles.
I am saddened to hear other Christians say the struggles today are no different than previous generations. The next generation is facing a unique set of struggles. Relativism. Post-modernism. Individualism. Yes, these were present in other generations. But not to this degree. This is the cultural norm for the next generation. We need the church to understand this. The culture is different today than in generations past.
It requires intentionality. It requires the work of the Spirit. It also requires community and prayer. Please do not quickly dismiss our struggles and our issues. Navigating culture for the glory of God is hard. Many young Christians are trying to live for Jesus in this culture. But the next generation understands reaching people for Jesus requires stepping into the culture. Engaging. Befriending. Loving. The world is no longer running to the church for help. Most are burnt out on religion. The church is seen as hypocritical, judgmental, and close-minded.
The next generation wants desperately to see those labels broken down. But sitting on the sidelines will only build the wall higher. The church must engage with culture. This looks different for every person. But understand the desire of the next generation is to love others like Jesus. This generation is not content with yelling at the darkness from the outside. They want to infect the darkness with love by infiltrating it for the glory of God. Might they run the risk of accusations? Being too accepting? Being too much like the world? Maybe, but they accept this risk. The cause of Christ is too important to the world.
6.) Take the first step.
I understand it is easy to say the younger generation doesn’t get it. “They are selfish. They are too accepting. They are standoffish.” Even if this is true, I want to encourage you to take the first step. Most in the next generation are longing for older mentors. Men and women who will reveal to them new layers of Christianity. I know this is the case for me. I greatly respect the journey of those who have come before me.
The next generation needs to hear your stories of faith. Your experiences with Jesus. There is much they can learn from the work the Lord has done through you.
The culture might tell you that the younger generation is prideful. That they do not want advice or counsel from others. We are lost without counsel from older, wiser men and women. We need you. But you must take the first step. Reach out to us. Lay down any pride that may exist. Reach out your hand to us. The future of the church might just depend on it.
7.) Point them to Jesus.
More than anything, this is what the next generation needs from the church. They need to see you pursuing Jesus with passion and zeal. They need to see a counter-cultural life. They need to see people not controlled by fear and human opinions. The next generation doesn’t need to see a new approach to imitating Jesus. They need to see a real one. One that is not hindered by human traditions. One that is founded and controlled by love.
The next generation needs to see the struggle. They need to see that Jesus is enough. Through suffering. Through persecution. When times are good. And when times are incredibly difficult.
The next generation needs to see the ground is level at the foot of the cross. And this ground is where we all run. Because we know there is no other name in heaven or on earth by which we are saved. Or by which we live.
The next generation needs to see Jesus as your Savior. But they also need to see Jesus as your Lord. The next generation needs to see that the gospel informs issues such as politics and government, not the other way around. This is what the next generation needs. The Lordship of Jesus as the controlling power. I know I need to see that. Every decision. Every action. Every thought. Point the next generation to Jesus.
As Paul says in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Imitate me, as I imitate Christ.” Let this be your declaration to the next generation. Run to Jesus. I promise the next generation will run with you.
8.) Be OK with different.
The next generation is different. No doubt about that. There are differences in personality. Differences in ideology. Different ways to look at the world. Different ways to look at ministry and drawing people to Jesus. But this is not bad. We must all be OK with different. Different is not wrong…it is different.
So, what is important? Jesus. Love. Trust the next generation as they go into the world. Trust that the love of Jesus Christ will prevail in their hearts. And in the hearts of the people they encounter.
What do you think? How does the church unify and move closer to together as we all move together towards Jesus? The next post will cover what the church needs from the next generation. If you think I have left out something, comment below.
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!