Whose privilege and responsibility is it to shape this generation? Are we, the church, connected enough to know and understand them? Are we observing and listening to their hearts and what God is saying to them?
These were some of the questions ruminating inside me as I read about traits of this incredible generation described as Gen Z. Though there are varying perspectives on generational studies, and there are certainly outliers to the described traits of each cohort of an age group, there are common characteristics as a whole that must be considered, understood and respected. They have been shaped by their parents, peers, predecessors and culture. Where does the church fit in their formation?
While writing a research project last year, I read a passage that riveted my soul and has continued to weigh on my mind and heart. The context is the generation led by Joshua who had entered the Promised Land, with each tribe receiving their allotted portion. God made a very clear statement about the necessity for them to not make agreements with the people of the land in regard to their idol worship, as they would be lured away from wholehearted devotion to God.
Judges 2:7: “The people worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime and as long as the elderly men who outlived him remained alive. These men had witnessed all the great things the Lord had done for Israel” (NET Bible). Judges 2:10 is the verse that has caught my attention: “That entire generation passed away; a new generation grew up that had not personally experienced the Lord’s presence or seen what He had done for Israel.”
How could a generation of children grow up among those who “worshiped the Lord throughout Joshua’s lifetime” and not know the Lord’s presence? Even if they hadn’t personally seen the intervention of God as their elders had, how could they have not been impacted by the stories if they were told them?
As I read this passage, something began to rise inside me of concern and passion—this cannot happen on our watch! This can never be said of us. We must ensure that every generation experiences the presence of God and hears the stories of God’s faithfulness to every generation in such a way that captivates their hearts and minds. We must recognize that a generation is shaped by the previous one, they are where we’ve led them, and they are destined for purposes set by God alone.
Verse seven makes it clear that it was not just Joshua’s leadership that kept the worship of God alive but all the elderly. This is not just the responsibility of the youth pastors, children’s pastors or senior pastors; it is the church’s responsibility as spiritual mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, not of just bloodline, but spiritual heritage.
Do the children, youth and young adults know our stories of the goodness of God? Have they experienced the presence and power of the Holy Spirit at work in our homes, worship services and ministry in the community? While we are living a life of worship, are they among us encountering the grace and love of Christ?
As you read the Fall 2018 issue of Foursquare Leader magazine, my prayer is that you will hear the call of God to turn your eyes, ears and heart to the children around you, whether in your family, your church or your community. If you want to change a nation, reach its children with the Good News of Jesus Christ!