The Washington Post reported this week that abstinence programs work in helping young people set themselves apart from our sex-craved culture. The study, that was conducted in four different schools in a Northeastern city, among 662 African Americans found that about 33% of the students who went through the abstinence program started having sex, compared with about 52% who were taught only safe sex. The findings were published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
This is good news for True Love Waits advocates, for our kids–and in my estimation–indicates that God is doing a good work in this generation for a very special purpose. Maybe the youth of today are being prepared for an assignment much bigger than the purity of their sexual lives.
Young people receive many messages about life. They are told to “be themselves,” “have fun,” “care about the planet,” and look and act like the rich and famous. In our youth groups we also send them messages such as “know Christ,” “come to the latest concert, pizza party, or summer bash”—or “be a good person.” But do we really connect today’s kids with the reason they are here?
Today’s students were born for a purpose. Rick Warren is right when he says that it’s not about them. It’s about living for God’s glory and accomplishing his mission. That mission is Christ’s Great Commission which remains uncompleted. He said, “Go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). Today’s young generation was born to complete that task. This has been the goal in every generation, but this generation is uniquely poised to do it because 1) Others have set the stage, 2) Technology has made the world reachable, 3) The final global strongholds are falling, and, 4) Just possibly they were born for “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Others have set the stage. Let’s look at how Jesus is winning the global war for peoples’ hearts. For the past two thousand years the Church has been progressively expanding. According to the US Center for World Missions, in AD100, the ratio of non-believers to professing Christians was 360:1. Even after the fall of the Roman Empire and the chaos of the Middle Ages, by AD1000 the ratio of non-Christians to believers had fallen to 220:1. By the Reformation (and great moves of God in Europe), the ratio had dropped to 69:1. After the era of exploration and missionary expansion, by 1900, the ratio was at 27:1.
By 1950 the ratio was down to 21:1. Powerful evangelism and missions thrusts brought the 1980 ratio to 11:1. By 1990 the ratio was down to 4:1. And today, after the fall of the Iron Curtain and amazing movements of God’s Spirit worldwide, the ratio today of non-Christians to professing Christians stands at 2:1. What does that mean? Jesus is winning the war for people’s hearts.
To summarize the playing field in 2010: Over two billion people around the world call themselves Christians, two billion have heard of Jesus, and another two billion have never heard. God wants to reach them all—and it’s happening. In the China, the greatest ingathering of souls in the history of a nation took place in the past fifty years when the Church grew from three million to 100 million. The largest Muslim nation in the world—Indonesia– is approaching 20% Christian. In 1980, there were no known believers in the nation of Mongolia. Today there are 30,000 in 150 churches. Korea, which was devastated after WWII, is poised to become the first Protestant Christian nation in Asia.
The advance of the Great Commission is no less dramatic elsewhere. In Latin America there were 50,000 Protestants in 1900. Today there are sixty million. One hundred years ago, Christians were only 4% of Africa. Today, they number a staggering 300 million (despite great poverty and human need). Some African nations, such as Uganda, have openly Christian political leaders who are calling their nations to Christ to deal with social problems. More evangelicals are serving Jesus today in Brazil than in all of Europe. It is an amazing time to be alive as the Good News sweeps across the global arena. Others paved the way. Now it’s their turn.
Technology has made the world reachable. I stepped onto an airplane a few months ago and flew from central Asia into Korea, through Japan, landed in San Francisco and then hopped up to Seattle. It all took less than a day. It’s difficult to grasp that people have been flying commercially for only fifty years! This ability to move easily around the globe is a blip in history that most human beings never imagined. Add to that advantage the ease of telephone communication, e-mail, video-conferencing, radio and television, and the vast opportunities of the Internet, and you have a unique time in history where the earth has become truly reachable for Christ.
If Roman roads and the Greek language were a blessing to missionaries of the early centuries, imagine what a technically savvy generation can do in this era to communicate God’s love. They can jet to every nation on earth in a matter of hours or days. They can take short-term missions trips (now exploding worldwide), do two-to five year assignments, or live in a foreign nation for a lifetime. It doesn’t take a year to sail around the Horn, and there are vaccinations to prevent disease. Languages can be translated more quickly with advanced software, and the Gospel can be preached by cassette or video to oral-based tribes. Even without travel, they can beam the Gospel by radio and television into 237 nations, or set up web-sites where they can chat with their counterparts in most countries (often in English). There has never been a better time or generation to communicate the love of God.
Satan’s strongholds are falling down. The WWII generation brought the defeat of Fascism. The Boomers saw the fall of Communism and worldwide global outreach. The final Satanic “Alamo” is the Islamic world—and the dominoes seem to be falling into place for a massive turning of Muslims to Christ. Of the fifty-five Muslim nations, two are now free—Afghanistan and Iraq—and the Church is growing in those nations. Iran is now the only remaining model of Islamic radicalism, and according to some reports, 90% of its people desire freedom. Is the crumbling of the Islamic Veil the final major hurdle in the evangelization of the world? Is the War on Terror simply Satan’s last desperate attempt to hang onto power in a world that is moving toward Jesus?
The largest missions movement of all time was the Student Volunteer Movement which sent 100,000 young missionaries into many nations from the 1880’s to the 1930’s. Their cry was “the evangelization of the world in this generation.” They overcame the ravages of the Civil War and WWI to make a huge contribution to world evangelism. Today’s Christian youth are a generation that has been delivered from the clutches of abortion (40 million of their peers were killed in the US since 1972). They have been rescued from the agony of divorce and the hedonism of modern culture.
In past history, God’s major deliverances were preceded by Satan attacks on youth. Prior to Moses’ leading the nation of Israel out of Egypt, Pharoah tried to kill off the Exodus generation. Before Jesus came to save the world, Herod moved to kill the children in Bethlehem (including Jesus and others who might lead the Early Church). Satan has tried to kill off this generation through abortion and attrition because another Great Event is coming—the Return of Christ. If Satan can’t kill this generation, he’ll lure them into an SUV-lifestyle that stops them from launching the greatest student volunteer movement the world has ever seen.
For such a time as this. Yet, many of us believe this generation has been rescued by God to complete the Great Commission. Thousands went before. Millions are being called to go today—from every nation to every nation. It will not be easy—but today’s kids have been prepared for it. Let’s help them take their eyes off self, money, pleasure and other trivial pursuits.
Let’s call them to their reason for being—to complete the task! It’s their destiny.