Matthew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)
The famous evangelist Hudson Taylor once stated “The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” Matthew 28: 19-20 is Jesus’s charge to the local body of believers (the church) to spread the gospel. Jesus wants us to carry the good news of salvation with us wherever we go, and to equip more people to have a deep, personal, passionate relationship with Him.
And we get it. We totally understand the meaning and message of the Great Commission. According to it’s website, the SBC (Southern Baptist Convention) reports that “almost 97 cents of every dollar given to the SBC executive committee goes directly to national or international missions and ministry.” The Annie Armstrong Easter Offering (which supports north american missions) reports to have raised $58 million during 2015. IMB (the International Mission Board) reports that in 2015, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering raised $165.8 million.
We, Southern Baptist, get the Great Commission. But in Acts 1:8, Jesus elaborates the church’s mission saying “but you [his disciples] will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth” (NLT). Obviously we’re excited about the remotest part of the earth factor.
But where is our Jerusalem? Our Judea? Our Samaria? And have we reached them?
Randy C. Davis, the executive director of the TN Baptist Convention, in his sermon preached to First Baptist Morristown on September 18, 2016, reports that only about 15% millennials claim to have an active, personal relationship with God. He goes onto to discuss how if trends continue, less than 5% of Generation Z, the generation after millennials, will have an active, personal relationship with God.
But before you become completely appalled by these numbers, you should know that Southern Baptist churches know about these statistics. In fact, we have programs and organizations who’s missions are to better equip us to serve our communities and win our friends and neighbors for Christ.
One of these organizations is the WMU, the Women’s Missionary Union. In 1888, a group of women decided that it was time for southern women to pave the way for church missions. Since then they have established partnerships with NAMB and IMB, created third world ministries such as WorldCrafts, and they are a leading provider for educational material centered around missions for all age groups of Southern Baptist (and really, all denominations). Every individual SBC church has their own WMU, which not only supports the missions efforts put forth by the WMU nationally, but inspires local ministries that help their own church members reach their community.
Growing up, I had the incredibly opportunity to be apart of GA’s (Girls in Action). This is WMU educational ministry for girls in grades 1-6. My GA leaders were passionate members of my church’s WMU, and they inspired a passion for church missions in my heart. The year after I graduated from GA’s, my father was called to pastor a SBC church in a different state. Our new church loves missions almost, if not more, than our last one. However, my heart was broken when I realized there was no GA’s or Acteens ( WMU educational ministry for girls grades 7-12) to be apart of. In fact, there weren’t many WMU sponsored educational programs offered at this new church.
Don’t get me wrong! I’m not saying that WMU is the only way to be involved in church missions. It totally isn’t! Instead of GA’s and RA’s and other educational programs offered by the WMU, our new church reaches its community in other innovated ways led by passionate mission-minded individuals.
But as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that many of my friends don’t know what WMU is or how influential it has been. I’ve observed the WMU at my church, and other churches around us, and notice only God-fearing older women are involved. Where did all the young women go? I see them in church, but not many of them are actively involved in church outreach.
I realize there is comparison between WMU participation decrease and church membership decrease. Whereas my mom’s generation grew up with family life centered around the church, my generation did not. It makes no sense to run WMU programs aimed at young girls if you don’t have young women to lead the programs or young girls to participate in them.
With this in mind, and the information presented by Mr. Davis, the church needs to make a crucial effort to reach millennials. And not only reach them, inspire and encourage them to become leaders.
Now I’ve heard all the complaints about my generation. Crissy Hahn, in a February 9, 2016 post for thoughtcatoloug.com, listed 6 complaints about millennials including that we’re lazy, that we’re demanding and impatient, and that we have no respect. I can hear your concerns. How do you reach a generation that doesn’t want to listen?
The answer is easier than you think. One spark starts a fire. To change the world, you have to change a heart. To change a generation, you have to use members of that generation to reach their peers. Millennials will listen to individuals of their own peer group.
Over the next two months, through this blog, I will be exploring the problem of the decreasing amount of young women involved in church missions. I will talking with WMU volunteers and directors to find out their thoughts and feelings about millennials and what they are doing to reach out to this group. I’m going to present ways to inspire my generation to be excited about missions.
To the church, millennials are in your congregation. We’re in youth group, we’re in your college ministry, and we’re the parents of your young children. We recognize the Great Commission as the call of the church. We just aren’t as inspired or as educated about missions as the generations before us were. But we have potential. We just need a little encouragement.
To my peers, our time is now. Our local churches know that we are the future. They pray for us everyday because of the world we are exposed to. Our generation is more lost and confused than ever. We are the leaders of today and tomorrow, and it’s time we stepped up and lead. As Paul writes to Timothy in his first letter, chapter 4 verse 12, don’t let your youth be an excuse. If anyone can be an example, if anyone can change the world, it’s us.