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To Inspire the Next Generation, We Need to Do More Than Just Teach Them How to Survive

At Operation Mobilisation (OM) the call to live out the love of Jesus personifies our DNA. Our founder George Verwer literally wrote a book on it! The command to love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself is at the centre of Jesus’ teaching. It’s a love that is seen most clearly at the cross. But the call to live out Jesus’ love is not always an easy one. It is costly and increasingly at odds with the culture around us.

According to a recent study, the average millennial will spend 38 hours this year taking selfies. It’s an interesting bit of trivia but it also betrays the culture that the younger generations are growing up in – a culture that revolves around ‘self’. It is all about ‘self-care’, ‘self-love’, your identity and your truth. I’m not saying that these things are bad in and of themselves, but as they have become the prevailing message they are in danger of drowning out Jesus’ call to a missional life of radically loving others.

Last year we commissioned some research that revealed that 2.1 billion people around the world had no gospel witness, yet only one per cent of Christians were engaged in global mission. Engaging the next generation in mission is central to changing this statistic. So how can we inspire a younger generation to live a missional lifestyle motivated by the love of Jesus?

In a society that is increasingly hostile to the gospel, it is easy for Christian youth work and CU events to become focused on navigating the challenges of society. We teach young people to survive. We focus on questions like ‘how to remain a faithful Christian on social media’ or ‘how to be content in a world of overwhelming consumerism’. We focus on preparing and protecting young people for life in the world. But this isn’t how we thrive as Christians. If we are going to prepare the next generations to look up, step out and live out Jesus’ love we don’t need a new message – we need a revolutionary return to an old one.

Inspiring younger generations, or indeed anyone, begins by engaging them with the love you have received. It is when we are overwhelmed by the magnitude of God’s love, revealed at the cross, that this love begins to flow out of us. It is when Isaiah glimpses the holiness of God in Isaiah 6 that he falls to his knees and cries “Here am I. Send me!”

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