I recently reread an old letter that stopped me in my tracks. The author’s passion was evident, and I could imagine the anguished expression on his face. I’m sure tears streamed down his cheeks and into his beard as he wrote.
“With Christ as my witness,” he penned. “I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.”
Wow. Are you and I willing to agonize over the spiritual desperation of others and then do something about it?
We face a spiritual reality in North America that brings me to the point of anguish. Researchers report our youngest generation, GenZ – those born since 2000 – are in a spiritual death spiral, with only one out of ever 10 of these youngsters eventually coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Said another way: Nine in 10 will spend eternity in hell separated from God.
Let that sink in. That should shock our sensibilities. This is the largest generation ever – larger than Baby Boomers and Millennials – and the oldest of these children are 15 this year. If present trends continue, we could be looking at unprecedented spiritual lostness across America within 20 years and the greatest spiritually lost generation in American history if we don’t do something. I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t want apathy to be the spiritual legacy I leave to my grandchildren’s generation.
Frankly, nine out of 10 of these precious children slipping into eternity without Jesus should break our hearts in agony. When Paul agonized over his spiritually lost kinsman, he didn’t sit around and lamented the fact as inevitable. He was moved to action. He established a pattern of preaching first to the Jews in every context he entered even though there was an established pattern of Jewish rejection to the gospel.
So here is my challenge. No guilt trips, but I am trying to stir you – stir all of us – from the apathy for the lost that pervades us individually and our churches collectively.
First, evaluate how distressed you are over the spiritual lostness of these children specifically and for those around you generally. If you are truly pursuing Christ then you should care about the things He cares about, and He cares deeply for the lost souls that drift in and out of your sphere of influence. If there are no pangs of agony over lost people, then it is a strong indicator you and the Holy Spirit have some business to take care of.
Second, evaluate how financially generous you are toward making sure people hear the gospel. Broken, passionate hearts are the wellspring of generous financial support. The North American Mission Board is launching its Annie Armstrong Easter Offering. I am extremely encouraged with what I see happening across North America under the leadership of Kevin Ezell. There was a five percent increase in church plants in 2014 over the previous year and many of these plants are in areas like Boston, Canada, Ohio, New York and the Northwest. Giving to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering is a temporal investment that is reaping an eternal reward. Give generously.
Closely related, help you church establish a pattern of missions giving through the Cooperative Program. Your Cooperative Program giving is making a spiritual difference here in Tennessee and around the world. In Tennessee last year we saw more than 170 church plants or new groups started and your Cooperative Program giving enabled much of that.
And finally, evaluate what you and your church can do beyond giving. Will you share the gospel personally with at least one person this year? Or start at least one Bible study group beyond your church walls this year? Or step out and host at least one Back Yard Kids Club this year? If each of us committed to each of these, millions more in Tennessee would hear the gospel – many for the first time – and thousands of new churches or Bible study groups would be started.
Drastic measures? Yes, you could say that, but I’d say it is simply doing whatever it takes to see as many people as possible come to Christ and set on the road to discipleship. Truth is, we can’t merely do a little better than we have done in the past. If we are to avert the tsunami of spiritual lostness gaining momentum among our youngest generation, we must have a massive game changing moment of glorious interruption of that trend. These are our kids, our time and our task. Will we do whatever it takes to reach them now for our Lord?
It is a joy to be on this challenging, but rewarding, journey with you.