The 10/30 Window: A New Unreached People Group

Recently World Magazine ran a very interesting and important article entitled, “The Other Unreached People Group.” (January 14, 2012, pg. 30). It points out that in addition to the geographical window of the 10/40 people group, a geographical region that represents billions of lost Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhist, there is now a new generational people group that is unreached. This is persons between the ages of 10 and 30. The article points out that today there are 2.4 billion people in the world between the ages of 10 and 30. Jonathan Taylor of Global Youth and Family Ministries notes that this constitutes, “the largest unreached people group in human history, larger than the 100 largest geographically defined unreached people groups combined.” It also pointed out that over 50% of people around the globe are now under the age of 25. This is an amazing and startling fact.

However, the article goes on to say that this emerging global youth culture has more in common with one another than it does with the adults of their own culture. It notes that, “theirs is a world shaped by media, by technology, and by the predominance of English as the language of the internet.” That later fact is especially significant, and one that we can rejoice in. However, that there seems to be a genuine disconnect between an older and younger generation is troubling. Many of us have talked about this within the SBC, but this article argues that it is a worldwide phenomenon. Today’s youth learn primarily from social media websites, not the dinner table. They go to YouTube and they Google. Whereas parents once were a primary source for information and guidance, tragically this often is no longer the case. Eric Larson, also of Global Youth and Family Ministries, makes a most sobering observation: “we used to guide our children into the pool and teach them how to swim. But this is the generation of parents who walked away. We’ve pushed our children into the pool and we aren’t in the water with them.”

Is there a solution to this dilemma? Larson and Taylor think so. They issue a simple and direct plea: “We are calling on an entire adult population to turn its hearts to the young.” This plea is significant for evangelicals as we think about how we reach our own children, our nation and the world. I think it has significance for how we strategize in terms of missions in the days ahead. There must be a laser beam focus on the young in terms of evangelism and discipleship. We must prioritize time, energy and resources to reach this massive unreached people group with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God has provided a covenant community with a mandate to address this wonderful opportunity for the advancement of the gospel. It is the Church. We, as His Body, dare not hesitate. We must not sit on the sideline. The challenge is plain. The question is, will we rise to the occasion? I pray that we will. I know we should.racer download

For Future Generations

Over the past decade my passion to see people know Christ has pushed me repeatedly to the younger generation. Part of that stems from the simple truth that the overwhelming majority of people who become Christ followers do so under age 20. But it is also because the years I have spent studying, teaching about, and praying for spiritual awakening brings me again and again to the realization that God uses young adults often in a new work. We need the wisdom of the aged (hint: if you are aged, be wise, not just opinionated); we also need the zeal of youth (hint: excitement in a “youth group” is not enough in church, we need to focus the passion of students on things that matter).

For whatever reason, a love for students has led me to spend most of my speaking ministry to do events focused on young adults. And, the seminary I am so honored to serve has recognized this by making me professor of evangelism and student ministry, a combination that makes a lot of sense given this is the largest generation of youth in U.S. history (See Thom Rainer’s blog on the Millennials at http://www.thomrainer.com/2009/05/the-millennials-are-coming.php).

Over the past year I have been asked to speak about “reaching the coming generation” at conferences in churches from young church plants to First Baptist Jacksonville, Florida, to apologetics meetings, to several state Baptist convention meetings from Oklahoma to Georgia. I am certainly no expert at this, but I am interested in learning more. I believe the generation before us, the Millennials–those roughly mid-twenties and younger (roughly those born about 1982 or later), hold a great opportunity for a movement of God. And with that comes the real possibility that we could fail to see that happen. Many, including me, would submit we missed much of the work of God among students in the early 1970s and the Jesus Movement. Too many seemed more focused on the long hair and outward appearance of young people then than the hunger for God in their hearts. I met Christ then, and I want my children and their peers not to miss such a movement should it come again.

I recall in the early days of the Conservative Resurgence a time when we really did not know which direction the convention would head–toward a more unambiguous commitment to an inerrant Bible, or down a continuous slide in the path paved by mainline denominations. As a younger 20something I remember hearing men joke that if the convention split, they were going with the Annuity Board (which controlled their retirement funds). I have a pretty good sense of humor, but I honestly never thought that was funny. I thought then that we as a people were more obsessed with money over the gospel that the New Testament teaches. I still think that, by the way. Michelle and I decided that no matter how things turned out, we were going to stand on the Word of God without apology, and not be led by the opinions of man, or financial opportunity.

We would not side with the Annuity Board back then (no offense for the AB!). But today, we ARE going with the coming generation. I will stake my claim with those much, much younger than me. Much rhetoric today is given to generations. I am more interested in those still in high school and college than any other.

In the Scripture God often used a new generation to shake off the dust of distractions keeping His people from following Him. In particular one can see this when the institutions got in the way of God’s movement. In Samuel’s day when the priest Eli’s own sons were reprobate, Samuel heard God speak even as a lad. In David’s time, when the king himself cared more about self-preservation than true worship (I will resist the urge to make application), David as a youth killed a giant. He took a risk. I like people like that. I could talk about Josiah (when they actually had lost the Word of God in their time!), or Jeremiah, or Esther, or others. I could describe spiritual movements in history from Pietism to the Great Awakening to the Jesus Movement. I could even give examples from culture at large of young adults risking much for a cause.

I fight daily with a temptation to coast, to dwell more on my legacy than on the gospel and the future. I love history and want to learn from the past. But I work to resist the urge to settle, to drift toward mediocrity, to become cautious, but it is hard given how blessed I am to serve in a convention that is extremely middle class in its constituency. Comfort is a wonderfully seductive enemy of the gospel.

So to help in keeping me focused on what matters I am giving my life for those yet to come into their own. I see such passion in students today and such hunger. These young adults long for a cause worth giving their life to more than a path of least resistance. It is amazing that being 50, a PhD, and a professor is actually an aid in communicating with this generation. They respect people who have actually done things for the glory of God. Ten years ago as I began speaking regularly to students being a seminary prof was more of a liability. Not now. This is a fatherless generation looking for more than a few jokes or pithy sayings from a young guy who has lived very little. They hunger for truth and want to get it from people who have labored in the Word of God and lived for Christ for some time. They want to learn from those who have sold out for what they believe in.

I am not sure what the future holds. But I know this, the call for a Great Commission Resurgence in my tradition (see greatcommissionresurgence.com) is nothing less than a call to embrace the future, to boldly step forward with a desire to do something that matters for Christ. A generation is coming. They are ready. Let us lead them well.