As I have walked through this journey with Jesus for the past 18 years things have changed immensely!
Firstly, the pilgrimage to align my life with the Will of my Father in Heaven has been very challenging. I am thankful He uses everything for the good even though we sometimes loose sight of this in the midst of the storms of life. Jesus paved the way for me to succeed! If I had not responded to Jesus’s invitation, the sobering reality is my life would look very different. He is the one I have my sights on and I am not alone on this journey! This is good news!
Secondly, communication has changed. When I was in high school mobile phones were extremely primitive and still attached to vehicles if you could even afford one! Land lines and email were jocking for position as the most used method! Of course today most people carry around cellular devices that are basically pocket computers and even more versatile than a desk top in a lot of ways.
Lastly, culture has changed incredibly! In some ways intelligently and other ways despairingly. I won’t go any further on this statement and leave the good, the bad, and the ugly of our culture on the table for another blog. So I ask how did Jesus reach the next generation over 2000 years ago? You will be pleasantly surprised and hopefully inspired to know how effectively He was able reach the next generation in the midst of similar adversities that we also face. I will briefly explain four ways Jesus did this and challenge us to do the same!
1.) Jesus came down to others.
Jesus had more knowledge and power than any person on earth. Yet he used the power to serve others. He used the knowledge to reach those who were powerless. He didn’t expect others to come up to his level. We must acquire power and knowledge and use them to affirm and encourage those who need it. Jesus came down (Philippians 2:5-11). He emptied Himself. He doesn’t tell the apostles to come up to His level. He comes down to them. He came down from His Kingdom to connect with us and show us the way. We must engage the next generation the same way. They are looking for what is authentic. Our attitude towards this generation must be Christ-centered. They need a genuine, mature expression of Christ to be revealed to them in the way He intended! With Love!
2.) Jesus communicated effectively.
Jesus believed strongly in effective communication. This is why he spoke in parables. He didn’t use large “churchy,” academic words when speaking to crowds. He could have, but he chose not to. Why? He wanted to effectively communicate. That is why he used stories. Stories connected. Stories are one of the most effective ways to communicate God’s message.
Text messages and social media are the most effective forms of communication today. Presently, it’s ridiculous to use a dial phone to do business, and it is ridiculous to not embrace the most effective ways to communicate. We simply must embrace this. The next generation is growing up in the technology age and embracing it fully! We can as well and use this medium to efficiently reach them for Christ! I am not saying abandon other methods, but this form should be one of our primary strategies. The gospel accomplishes its purpose in every form of communication, but even Jesus used the primary method of the times!
3.) Jesus didn’t lecture or criticize. He loved.
It’s time to admit lecturing the next generation does little to change them. What the next generation needs to know is we are FOR them. They need to know we love them. They will struggle. They will fail. But when they know they are affirmed and loved, they will be compelled to get back up and keep moving. They will run to the cross and not away from it.
When the next generation constantly hears what they did wrong, what message are we sending to them? I know what message was sent to me: You better not mess up or God will be mad at you. Unless you do things the “right way,” you aren’t accepted around here.
It’s weird. Jesus seemed to understand lecturing didn’t serve the ultimate goal of transforming people. The only ones Jesus lectured were the Pharisees. But that’s because they were gluttons of knowledge and power. They did the very opposite of Jesus. The Pharisees expected others to come up to their level. You won’t find an example of Jesus lecturing those aware of their sin. Instead, you will find Jesus loving them and embracing them. You will find Jesus speaking life to them. He didn’t excuse their sin, but he didn’t lecturing them either.
There is a way to push the next generation towards God without lecturing them. Just look at Jesus.
4.) Jesus prepared the way for the church after his departure.
Jesus not only came down to those with less power, he invested in them. He spent his time preparing a group of men to take over after he left. Jesus knew his time on earth was short, and he knew his mission was larger than his time on earth. Jesus didn’t come to earth seeking to build an earthly kingdom that wouldn’t sustain after his departure. He came to build God’s kingdom that would last forever. Jesus came to prepare people, not allow people to feed him.
A major challenge we face is preparing the next generation to carry vision forward. There will always be a next generation and we must prepare that way as Jesus did. He poured into others. The goal was for everyone to cross the finish line. Not just him. Not just those alive during his earthly ministry. Everyone. Jesus came to earth with a future-focus. He came to earth with a selfless focus. Jesus knew if the message terminated on him, his mission failed. The same is true for the church today.
We must create an environment that is sustainable for the next generation. The church is larger than us. The church is more than the here and now.
Again, the next generation must be passion. We must never give up on them. We must vow to spend more time affirming and loving them than condemning them. Jesus clearly demonstrates in scripture the principles for reaching the next generation. I pray we take this teaching seriously and we allow Holy Spirit to fuel a passion for the next generation.