Tim Smiley and I just got back from the Q Event in Chicago, April 28 – 30 where we heard founder Gabe Lyons speak hopefully, even expectantly about the next generation of Christians. I’d like to share five characteristics of the emerging movement the Spirit is shaping through young leaders like Gabe.
First, the next generation of Christians will be provoked. Not in the sense of being offended at the sinful world, circling the wagons in disgust and working to create an alternative Christian society. But rather in the sense that Jesus was provoked by Zacchaeus, the Samaritan woman by the well, lepers and the Roman centurion with a sick son. Provoked in the sense of being stirred up enough to become compassionately involved.
Which leads to the second characteristic: the next generation of Christ followers will be provoked not into being judgmental, but into being creative. Instead of being offended, they will be motivated to do whatever they can to make a Kingdom difference, alleviating suffering and promoting justice. They will be partners in God’s redemptive mission, giving feet to the prayer, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Their imaginations will be set free not only to be “agents of reconciliation” for individual salvation, but also for what has traditionally be called “common grace.” (“The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Psalm 145:9. See also vs. 17.)
These provoked and creative Christians will recover a sense of being called. Lyons talks about the seven channels of cultural influence: media, business, arts & entertainments, education, government, church and the social sector. Every week, Christ followers from each of these areas of culture gather in worship. As they regain a sense of personal vocation, they will see themselves as sent out into the culture bringing the Gospel to bear wherever they are, not ashamed of being Christian. They will invest their talent, time, energy, strengths and opportunities for Christ in every channel of culture as salt and light.
But in order to do this, the next generation of Christians will need to be deeply grounded in Christ. They will be formed in the apostolic faith, in the Scriptures, and in the ancient practices (disciplines) the Church has discovered shapes persons in Christ and renews the image of God in each of us.
Finally, this next generation of Christians will only be able to do all of this from within the community of faith: the Body of Christ. The church may look different than it did in past generations, but the Christian faith still – as always – is best caught and encouraged and nurtured in a community gathered in worship, sharing life together around our risen Lord. This community of faith will not withdraw into a cultural ghetto, but will engage in the world in which they live as an alternative culture. And when the world sees this, they will think, “This is certainly different!” For instead of antagonistically attacking or withdrawing from the world, the next generation will show up in all aspects of the world listening and caring and getting involved: a counter culture for the common good.
I don’t know about you, but I would very much like to be part of that next generation of Christians. By the way, of the 600 people at the Q Event only 10% were my age: 50 and older. It is indeed hopeful. If you would like to find out more about Q, go to http://www.qideas.org/.
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Dr. Jeff Stiggins