As we consider how to reach a lost generation of youth, it is important to examine our assumptions. The false assumption that often underlies this question is that systematic, age-segregated youth ministry, as defined in this book, is actually effective in reaching lost youth. People who maintain this assumption often believe that there are two ways to engage a lost generation: an effective way, through age-segregated youth ministry, and an ineffective way, through the obedience of individuals and the ministry of biblically ordered families and churches. This false assumption asserts that if the church gathers all the generations together, it is going to be ineffective in reaching the rising generation.
It is important to begin with biblical assumptions and practices. The primary principle we should embrace is that the best results in reaching youth will always come from obeying biblical commands and honoring explicitly biblical principles. If we are faithful to obey biblical commands in the church and the home, live out the great commission, and devote our life to that of “the watchman” (Ezek. 33:6-7), we will be living a lifestyle of biblical faithfulness that will be effective in reaching a lost generation. In this sense, faithfulness to God’s Word is success. If we can agree on this principle, then we can take the next step of debating which methods are biblical and which ones are not.
Where Is This Lost Generation?
We must be careful to identify accurately where these lost youth are. This unevangelized generation can be found in two places: inside the church and outside the church.
We should not forget that many of today’s lost generation are in families that are already in the church. They are lost in their sins and remain unconverted until God regenerates them and they repent and believe the gospel.
On the other hand, the lost youth outside the church may have no Christian parents. They may not have a father who is “bring[ing] them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4), and they are not involved in any church. They are scattered in neighborhoods, apartment complexes, workplaces, coffee shops, and other places. Scripture shows us at least four major ways that a lost generation like this can be engaged.
First, we need to follow the ministry pattern of Christ and the apostles, which is the best pattern to follow for reaching any subgroup. The Lord Jesus ministered to people as they passed by. To reach the lost, we need to live like Christ did and take the opportunities that God gives us. We see the same pattern with the apostles. They ministered to the people on the streets, in the synagogues, and from house to house. Wherever they were, they did not shrink back from delivering the message of the gospel.
Second, we must be involved in fulfilling the Great Commission. This is the responsibility of every Christian. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus Christ charged believers to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Believers are also commanded to preach the gospel to all men, both “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). This personal ministry is critical for youth discipleship.
Third, fathers should take responsibility for the fatherless. God gave fathers the responsibility to care for the fatherless. We need more men like Job who took responsibility for a lost generation. The fatherless were in his house and at his table (Job 31:16-22). James says that this is “pure and undefiled religion” (Jas. 1:27). No new program needs to be created for the care of the fatherless. God has already told us how to reach them.
Fourth, we need to have biblically functioning households. Psalm 68:5-6 states that God is “a father to the fatherless, a defender of widows is God in His holy habitation. God sets the solitary in families.” Open homes are able to fulfill this divine purpose regarding a lost generation of fatherless children. When a home is used for hospitality, ministry opportunities to a lost generation are increased. God, who designed the resources of a household for ministry, has called His people to use those resources for His glory, not only for the saints, but also for a lost generation.
These means of reaching the lost are all a natural outworking of obedience, and they expose a lost generation to the love of Jesus. When we put children in a youth group, we give them a skewed vision of life. Scripture suggests that putting youth with youth multiplies foolishness among them. When we segregate youth from other ages, we are giving them peers, instead of placing them with the rest of Christ’s body, which is what they need. Churches with biblically ordered meetings and relationships are far better at reaching a lost generation than an alternative that does not reflect the structure that God has ordained.
Can you imagine a more unstable subgroup in which to put youth than with a group of peers? In contrast, can you imagine a more stable or life-giving subgroup than a well-functioning church?
Think of the impact of a God-centered home in which a husband and wife are functioning biblically. The relationships there depict the gospel: husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the Church; wives submitting to their husbands as the church submits to Christ; and children, who have a genuine love for Christ, displaying honor and obedience to their parents. A God-centered home is a powerful force for evangelism.
God has delivered to us a pattern for reaching youth who have no parents. It is to preach the gospel to them when we go about the community, fold them into individual families, connect them with diverse relationships in the body of Christ, and gather them into the corporate meetings of the church. In order to effectively reach the lost, we must obey the scriptural commands for personal evangelism, church life, and family life.
When we consider how to reach a lost generation, should we invent something alien to Scripture? On the contrary, we should approach lost and broken people in the same ways that Jesus and His apostles did. Scripture does not suggest that we use a systematic, age-segregated method to reach lost youth, but rather an integrated method of bringing them into the body of Christ. – from A Weed in the Church, 215-219.