What does it mean to reach this generation? It does not mean every single person in this generation will be saved. It doesn’t mean that all our problems will be fixed and we can somehow magically enter a utopian society. It does mean that a large percentage of this current generation will meet Jesus and be radically changed by Him. It means that the Light of the Church will be brighter and the salty truth we share will be scattered more. It means, Church, that a much higher percentage of believers will be around to reach the next generation.
What is required to step toward this goal? The fire of the Spirit of God. Nothing less than a move of God will leave us ready and motivated for the task. I don’t have to tell you some of these things, but I am going to anyway because we need to know where we are apart from the Lord. According to Pew Research, in the last decade almost every single measureable group of Christians saw decline in America. There are less of each generation now identifying as believers, including the War and Baby Boomer generations, who for years we have relied on for a steady hand in the Church. As we move to the younger generations, the numbers drop more drastically, until we get to the Millennial generation who saw a 16% drop in those who attend Church and a 13% rise in those who refuse to go. Those who identify with no religious affiliation at all, we call them “nones”, have added nearly 30 million people to their ranks. When we look at the Protestant population that describes itself as “born again” only (which is the only group we would feel comfortable identifying with), we constitute just 25% of the population and the lion’s share of this group lives in the southern 15 states. George Barna, a more conservative, biblically minded research group reported in 2006 that only 8% of Americans were born again. They used basic questions like: “”Have you made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in your life today?” and “Do you believe that when you die you will go to Heaven because you have confessed your sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?” to determine their answers. I don’t say these things to discourage you or to act as a doomsday prophet. I say them first because they are true and second to drive home the urgency of reaching THIS GENERATION.
There is no way possible for us to pull up our bootstraps and get this job done. Not only is it too big…if we were conceivably able to ‘convince’ a large portion of the 64% of Millennials who refuse to be a regular part of the Body (not evangelical, just any Church attendance at all), our efforts would be in vain. Our goal is not just to up Church attendance. Our goal is to introduce people to the living God of Heaven, the One who has the ability to change hearts and save souls…and lead them to follow Him! This goal, not just in size but in nature, is one that can only be accomplished by the work of the Spirit through the Church. We are dead in the water without Him. All our efforts combined equal no—zero—positive growth in the Kingdom. The growth we are looking for in THIS GENERATION comes from the filling work of the Spirit in the context of the Church AND His enabling the Church to accomplish His Mission of reaching the nations.
We witness a story similar to ours in the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. Jesus feeds a huge crowd that was following Him because of all the work He was doing with the sick. When Jesus miraculously fed all of them, they were ready to crown Him as their King. Jesus resisted all of this talk. He quickly told them they just wanted more bread, but He was the bread that had come down from Heaven. They didn’t like this talk, grumbling amongst themselves that He was the son of Joseph and Mary. Jesus persisted, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger and whoever believes in me shall never thirst…unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” These words proved too much for the hungry followers and they left. It turns out Jesus was not the King they were looking for.
Desire for God and questions about Him are at an all-time high. People are willing to go to great lengths to find answers. Satisfactory answers from the Church as a whole are at an all-time low. Some of this turning away is due to the same reason the people walked away from Jesus, the teaching is too hard and they believe they can satisfy themselves in some other way. Most of the walking away we see today is due to poor answers on the part of the Church. We are not reaching them. We are not demonstrating a Kingdom mindset when it comes to a world dying in rebellion to God. We aren’t showing them sacrificial love. It appears to the world the kingdom we are most concerned with is our own and the people we are most in love with is ourselves. What can change this trend? The fire of the Spirit of God; a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the people who number themselves as a part of the Church.
We know God’s heart is for the Church to walk in the Spirit and for the lost to be saved. Will you join me in praying daily for just such a revival? THIS GENERATION hangs in the balance.