I beg of you, don’t go after the next generation with mere moralism, either on the right (don’t have sex, go to church, share your faith, stay off drugs) or on the left (recycle, dig a well, feed the homeless, buy a wristband). The gospel is not a message about what we need to do for God, but about what God has done for us. So get them with the good news about who God is and what he has done for us.
Some of us, it seems, are almost scared to tell people about God. Perhaps because we don’t truly know him. Maybe because we prefer living in triviality. Or maybe because we don’t consider knowing God to be very helpful in real life. I have to fight against this unbelief in my own life. If only I would trust God that God is enough to win the hearts and minds of the next generation. It’s his work much more than it is mine or yours. So make him front and center. Don’t preach your doubts as mystery. And don’t reduce God to your own level. If ever people were starving for a God the size of God, surely it is now.
Give them a God who is holy, independent, and unlike us, a God who is good, just, full of wrath and full of mercy. Give them a God who is sovereign, powerful, tender, and true. Give them a God with edges. Give them an undiluted God who makes them feel cherished and safe, and small and uncomfortable too. Give them a God who works all things after the counsel of his will and for the glory of his name. Give them a God whose love is lavish and free. Give them a God worthy of wonder and fear, a God big enough for all our faith, hope, and love.
Do your friends, your church, your family, your children know that God is the center of the universe? Can they see that he is at the center of your life?
Imagine you had a dream of someone sitting on a throne. In your dream a rainbow encircled the throne. Twenty-four men surrounded the throne. Lighting and thunder issued from the throne. Seven lamps stood blazing at the foot of the throne. A sea of glass lay before the throne. Four strange creatures were around the throne, giving thanks to him who sits on the throne. And twenty-four old dudes were falling down before the one who sits on the throne. You wouldn’t have to get Joseph out of prison to figure out the point of this dream. The throne is the figurative and literal center of the vision. The meaning of the dream is God.
This, of course, is no ordinary dream. It is John’s vision from Revelation 4. And it is reality, right now. More substantial and more lasting and more influential than your pain, or fear, or temptation, or opposition, or make-up, or clothes, or boyfriends, or video games, or iPods, or whatever else our culture says should be important to young people is God. What matters now and for eternity is the unceasing worship of him who sits on the throne.
As you try to reach the next generation for Christ, you can amaze them with your cleverness, your humor, or your looks. Or you can amaze them with God. I need a lot of things in my life. There are schedules and details and a long to-do list. I need food and water and shelter. I need sleep. I need more exercise and I need to eat better. But this is my greatest need and yours: to know God, love God, delight in God, and make much of God.
We have an incredible opportunity before us. Most people live weightless, ephemeral lives. We can give them substance instead of style. We can show them a big God to help make sense of their shrinking lives. We can point them to transcendence instead of triviality. We can reach them with something more lasting and more powerful than gimmicks, gadgets, and games. We can reach them with God.
Imagine that. Reaching the next generation for God by showing them more of God. That’s just crazy enough to work.