When Different Means More

Through the enormous changes and challenges of the year 2020 I believe God was powerfully at work and teaching us some very important lessons. Among those lessons is this: all times require the same Good News, but different times call for different ways of getting that Good News out.

This isn’t true only for 2020, but also for 2021 and beyond, until all peoples everywhere have heard
that Good News. Reaching the unreached in today’s world requires the same kind of passion, commitment, sacrifice and prayer that was embraced by the young adults who founded the World Mission Prayer League over 80 years ago, but it also requires something different, “something more.” Thankfully, but not surprisingly, God is providing that “something more.”

Just two months ago, I shared with you that we believe God is inspiring mission vision in Christian young adults who are much the same as those he gathered together at the beginning of the WMPL story. I was happy to share with you that this “is a very good thing!” Also good, however, are many of the significant differences we are learning to see and appreciate in them. I want to share some of those with you here. As you read through the list, please pray that the Holy Spirit would inspire, call and equip young adults for his global work, using these “differences” in places and among peoples that are increasingly difficult to reach, where “something more” may very well be required.

These Christian young adults are more accustomed to living as a Christian minority. Having grown up in a largely post-Christian, and at times anti-Christian, North America, they understand the way of Jesus to be counter-cultural. They derive their Christian ideals from Scripture rather than culture, and thus may be better prepared for living and discipling in societies unaware of, or antagonistic toward, the gospel.

They’re more globally informed and world aware. They live with a robust wealth of information about world events, conditions, peoples and cultures. Advances in media and travel have made the world a “smaller” place for them than it was for our predecessors.

They’re more diverse. They are considerably more familiar with and practiced at interethnic and intercultural relationships than were previous generations. Indeed, for many of them, diversity is their norm, preparing them to serve with fewer unseen prejudices and greater cultural tolerance.

They’re more “connected” and tech-savvy. This matters! Contrary to the impressions some have, they are highly relational, make new acquaintances readily, and are very capable of employing advanced media technology in engaging with others. In a time where young adults around the world are doing the same thing, this can powerfully serve the cause of the gospel.

The mission-minded Christians of this generation are also more skeptical. I see this as a good thing. They readily and thoughtfully question and scrutinize the assumptions and practices of the global workers who have gone before them, able to acknowledge, consider, and hopefully avoid the unfortunate mistakes of previous mission eras and enterprises.

Today’s young adults, including those who are Christians, are more concerned for matters of justice and poverty. Certainly, previous generations worked to better the lives of the oppressed and the poor, and WMPL has contributed significantly in these ways over the years. This generation, however, is especially committed to seeing people’s lives improved not only for eternity, but here and now, and they desire to see humanitarian and Good News endeavors intertwined.

These young adults with interest in mission are also more flexible with regard to the kinds of positions
they envision as harvest workers. They tend not to see themselves as preachers or church-planters, which have been important roles in times past, but more readily see themselves befriending and discipling others as they serve in development projects, run businesses, or even work as artists. WMPL has pursued mission in these ways nearly since our inception, and in today’s world such avenues are often the only means for gaining access to the unreached.

Finally, these Christian young adults are more willing (even eager) to talk about money. They want to practice and grow in dependence upon God and his provision as an essential part of commissioned living, but they also believe that more open and transparent communication about finances is necessary to build organizational trust with donors, and individual capacity for godly management of resources.

I hope you can see promise in these differences! I hope you can see how much we can learn from the young followers of Jesus that God is bringing and will bring into the WMPL “sequel” that he is preparing to write. This, of course, is not to say that God doesn’t also have in mind that we who are older have important things to share with them. God is at work in their lives, guiding them into commissioned living and calling them to his mission purposes. Consequently, they themselves have some ideas regarding what they need from us in order to see this Kingdom work accomplished in and through them. You see, the future of missions might just require something more from us, too. That’s fine with me. I can’t imagine anything better. More about that next month.

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