I still remember an airport encounter many years ago and the woman’s surprised question: “Do missionaries still exist?” She may actually have been questioning what relevance they have in this day and age, especially if she was linking imperialism and colonialism with missionaries.
Yet we know that the truth of the gospel never dates; it is relevant to every age and society. Our God—the same yesterday, today and tomorrow—is the one who calls his people from every age to the same task (Matthew 28:20). Just as he raised up his people to take the gospel to ‘deepest, darkest Africa’ last century, he is raising up people today who will take the gospel to those who have not yet heard. The context and even the outward tools may have changed, but not much else.
We are products of our times. Missionaries no longer set sail for Africa ready to die there, we go by plane; instead of carrying a coffin, we take our medical insurance; instead of letters, we connect online. They battled disease, we battle visas, bureaucracy and cyber security. Some of their practices were a product of their colonial times. Yet like them, we too trust God to provide, motivated by love so that all might have the opportunity to hear and be saved.
Just as each generation has been equipped for the task God gives, so too I expect that God has equipped Millennials “for such as time as this” (Esther 4:14).
Today, we seek to share the good news in the context of:
- increasing globalisation and migration of people(s)
- accelerating leaps in technology, with more immediate global awareness and contact though media, new levels of cyber possibilities and crime, and ethics not keeping pace with these advances
- growing inclination toward localisation and nationalism, even tribalism
- greater awareness of and willingness to advocate for human rights in all areas of society
- growing unease in society, politically, economically and socially, including threats of terrorism, pandemics and wars
- rapidly changing demographics, with aging, lower fertility rates and challenges to the traditional family unit
- pursuit of happiness through spiritualism and personalisation
- deep desire for authenticity, with integrity in relationships.
Are Millennials prepared for this?
Millennials have a global mindset and knowledge which gives them confidence for crossing cultural barriers, even where those boundaries are politically complex. Because Millennials are innately in tune with changing technology, they are able to adapt quickly and are adept at using technology to interact with and effect change. Couple this with a desire to make a difference and Millennials are willing to challenge the status quo, asking “why”, thinking outside the box to achieve old purposes in new ways.
Like many generations before them, they have a thirst for significance and purpose. In general, Millennials are interested in host-culture leadership, which will enable sustainable transformation. They desire to see wholistic change and transformation, concerned for social justice as well the spiritual state.
Millennials desire a balanced work/social family/ministry and authenticity, and need to share challenges without judgment. This accountability is also part of what makes them lifelong learners, eager to engage and be part of the team’s decisions.
Coincidentally, many Millennials already share our Interserve values: Dependence on God, Community, Oneness in Christ, Partnership, Integrity, Wholistic ministry and Servanthood. Perhaps God has prepared this generation of wholistic, global technophiles, who are willing to think differently about challenges, for just such a time as this? Aren’t these the kinds of On Trackers and Partners we want to partner with so that the good news of Jesus can keep being shared?
Carolyn has served cross-culturally for more than 25 years. In her current role, she helps short-term workers to serve well.
Names have been changed.