Pastoral Perspectives

Cannot Lose a Generation – Who will go for U

It is always a challenge whenever I am asked to write. Maybe let me first re-introduce myself. Having stepped down as the Senior Pastor, I have constantly asked myself, what role will best fit in my last phase of ministry after 16 years in the Pastorate. I recollected the day in 1975 when the Lord found me (John 15:16), I knew that I’m cut for missionary service. I began Full-time ministry in 1980 and looking back, God had not failed to bring me back to His calling. Prior to coming to True Way, I had served as Missionary Director in Hong Kong with Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) and then returned in 1997 as the Regional Director of CEF Asia Pacific, doubling my role in the AP region and pastoring True Way.

February 2016, the Church leadership recognized my call to missions and had accepted me as the Church Non-Resident Missionary. Many still asked what this means. In missiological terms, it means I am a Missionary but does not reside in the host country. I travel back and forth to equip and train the locals to do ministries. Wow, how time flies and I’m now 9 months in the ministry. My first term is 3 years and will expire February 2018. Unwritten but expected in the Ministry scope is the intention to raise another generation of missionaries. This brings me to the BIG question: “Who will go for Us?” echoed in Isaiah 6:8.

I belong to the Generation of Baby Boomers, born after WW2. We are a hardworking, workaholic generation and grew up in an era of reform, believing we can change the world. We are achievement-oriented, dedicated, and equate work and position with self worth. Now can you appreciate, my coming from a modernist era, trying to win over a generation of Post modernist – the millennial. Some call them Gen Y or iY.

So, who are the Gen Y? I have four in my family, they were born between 1980 and 2000, or thereabouts. They were the ones growing up over the millennium. As with any generation, the time in which we were raised has had a massive impact on who we are. Gen Y were born into a world that was supposed to be safe.  According to experts, Gen Y has a mistrust of authority, they are the most highly educated generation and experience delayed adulthood or extended adolescence. They marry late, are financially dependent on their parents far longer, postpone embarking on a specific career and seem less concerned about financial stability than their previous generations. The greater issue is that Gen Y is underrepresented in the Church – there are so few of them that they’ve actually been described as the lost generation. And they are, in turn, underrepresented on the mission field. It’s easy to put that down to the negative stereotypes. But there are many other legitimate reasons why young Christians are held back from full-time ministry abroad.

Most of the baby-boomer’s generations like me, are returning or had returned home from mission now – either retiring or returning because their children are going to university – they own a house, so they’ve got somewhere to live. The Gen Y are not able to buy a house before they leave. That’s just impossible. So what are they going to do in the future? That’s a very legitimate worry for our young potential missionary. On top of lacking the security of property, many millennial are debt-ridden. The Gen Ys who have gone to university generally find themselves continuing in education in their early 20s, as there are not enough jobs for everyone to have. Those who haven’t been to university often don’t yet have the skills or experience needed for the mission roles. Because it’s not just people who have changed with our changing world – mission has changed too.

 Mission agencies said: “We don’t send the 20-something pioneers like we used to. Mission in this postmodern era looks different from 50, 30 or even ten years ago. Mission agencies are often looking to send capacity builders – people with specific skill sets who can train and equip local people to do the work long term. Sometimes when mission agencies talk about wanting to have more Gen Ys overseas, what they actually want is 30 year-olds with 20 years’ experience, and they wonder why they can’t get it!”

So, should mission agencies and the Church just give up on this comfort-seeking, commitment-phobic, cash-poor generation? I don’t think so. Missiologist said: “Mission agencies may be able to survive for twenty years or thirty years without the involvement of millennial, depending on how big our reserves are, but we can’t skip a generation of the Church. We would be doing the Body of Christ a disservice if we did.”

Someone said: “The role of the Church here is absolutely huge and if churches take on board this challenge of bringing Gen Y back, that will have repercussions for the whole kingdom of God.” So please pray – Pray for the Gen Ys who are skint, searching and wondering whether there is more to life. And, if you can, get to know some of them. Encourage them. Share your wisdom with them because, while we might be the Church of tomorrow, we’re also part of the Church today.  The question would still remain “Who will go for us?”  Allow me to share this prayer from the article: “The Church and mission can’t afford to lose a generation – we need millennial.”

The Millennial Prayer:
Our Father in heaven,
We thank you for millennial,
For their enthusiasm, their creativity
and their ability to embrace the now.
We pray for those who are struggling:
with debt, with adulthood, with commitment,
and we ask you to help us to help them.
May our churches be welcoming families
for all generations,
May we find ways to include and encourage
our young members, and give them
opportunities to serve – at home
and overseas.
Help us to see and draw out the very
good gifts in generation Y we pray.

Rev Tan Cheng Huat

January 29, 2017