I was seven years old when Jesus captured my heart. My grandson experienced this when he was three. Now at 20 years old, he can still recall that choice clearly.
I’ve seen thousands of teenagers and twenty-somethings choose Jesus all over our country and the world. Mothers and fathers realize they cannot be what their children need them to be without supernatural help. Grandmothers and grandfathers – often after a lifetime of “do it yourself” living—are now facing eternity.
We all come from different backgrounds. We all come for different reasons. We all come with different burdens. But we all come to the same destination. To that middle cross on a hill outside of Jerusalem.
My whole adult life has been about proclaiming the Gospel. I’ve shared it thousands of times. But today I am more amazed by its power than ever. In Paul’s words, “The power of God for salvation” (Romans 1:16). “Dunamis” is the Greek word that morphed into our word “dynamite.” The Gospel is God’s dynamite in a human heart!
At a time when generations seem to be more “tribal” and more different from one another, it is exciting to know that the Message we carry is a magnet for every generation. The Gospel is powerful for every person, whether they’re on Snapchat or Social Security or dealing with pimples, Pampers, or pensions.
Every generation asks, “Why am I here?” and every generation weeps at the funerals of people they loved. We are lost when we experience a situation in life that we can’t fix or control. Every generation has “eternity in their heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11) and yet a hole in their heart that nothing outside of Jesus can ever fill. Jesus is the One the Bible says we were made by and made for (Colossians 1:16). In a sense, the “product” we’re selling – the life-saving Message of Jesus – is ever the same, whether the buyers are Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials or Gen Z.
The challenge for us as His messengers is the “package.” To break through to every generation, we need a package that will have them interested in the “product” on which their eternity depends. It is the time-honored rescue strategy of the Apostle Paul: Becoming “all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (I Corinthians 9:22). His message never changed – but his package constantly did. The Gospel can captivate and transform a lost heart in any generation. But two factors in its “packaging” can determine if they’re listening.
An Engaging Starting Point
The story of Jesus and the Samaritan “woman at the well” is a model for bridging a massive cultural divide. Between Jesus and the woman loomed a yawning gender gap, racial gap, lifestyle gap, and religious gap. Not unlike the growing disinterest, suspicion, and even hostility today toward the only Message that can save a human soul.
Jesus could’ve started with her sin, her religion, His Messiah-ship. He didn’t. Rather, Jesus understood that He needed to start by building a bridge, not a wall. In this case, Jesus landed on an experience they had in common– thirst. That day she traded in “never-lasting” for “everlasting!”
Jesus calls us by His example in loving His people by starting with the symptoms of sin and not their disease. A symptom makes people willing to reach beyond themselves for a doctor. Which leads to the diagnosis of the disease, then ultimately leads to a desire for a cure.
A wise evangelist asks the question, “What are the needs of each generation, especially when they don’t know Jesus?” Here are some examples:
- Teenagers feel worthless. Teenagers believe they are “never good enough.” By the names they’ve been called, parental comparisons, bullying, rejection, putdowns, body-shaming, being “deleted” as a friend— teenagers are left feeling like they don’t matter. This is the moment to introduce a Savior who created them as divine masterpieces and who are worth the price of His life.
- Millennials feel the brokenness of the world they live in and carry the burden to change or fix it. Their empathy for what’s wrong in this world can position us to introduce the Savior who came to “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives…To comfort all who mourn” and to bring beauty from people’s ashes. Jesus came, not just to treat the symptoms, but to cure the disease that causes a world of hurt. He became broken on the Cross so that we could be healed.
- To a parent’s generation, they’re painfully aware of the gap between who their kids need them to be and who they are. But the Gospel offers supernatural power to change – because of a Cross and an empty tomb. The Gospel also offers amazing grace for these weary parents.
- To seniors, we must open our hearts to them by entering in their grief of losing people they love, their insecurity about the future, their loneliness and disillusionment over being forgotten, and the apprehension of having to face their own mortality.
A Story Wrapped in Hope
The most powerful “package” of the Gospel is a story of hope of someone in every generation and life situation. An example is Jesus sending a Samaritan to open the hearts of Samaritans. When I speak for business leaders, I encourage the hosts to start the time with a business person’s story of hope. I ask for the same in women’s gatherings and youth gatherings. Having a “person like me” for someone who is hopeless, embeds Jesus’ story of hope into their story, which is the proof of a gracious and caring Savior.
Scripture calls on those gifted in evangelism to “equip His people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). It is not enough for us as evangelists to simply be messengers of the Gospel. We should be preparing God’s people to be His primary messengers as well— biographically credentialed to be heard by people like them. While it is important to build the bridge of relevance as a starting point and sharing stories of hope, neither of those can change a life or an eternity. It is only the Message of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (I Corinthians 2:2).
Wherever I have gone in the world, there is one magnet that has drawn people from every culture and every belief. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ.
His incomparable love, in Spurgeon’s words, “steals their hearts away.” As we adapt our approach for engaging different generations, we must never lose sight of our non-negotiable destination. That cross on Golgotha hill. God’s magnificent magnet.
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