A Task Unfinished: Millennials and Missions

facing a task unfinished

We stood on the top-floor veranda, eight stories above the busy streets of the Uskudar neighborhood of Istanbul, looking out on barreling ferries on the even busier Bosphorus. Across the strip of blue on the European side stood the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Sultan’s palaces, and more minarets than one could count – a tribute to the vice-grip that Islam has on this part of the world.

Staring out on this beautiful cityscape as the sun disappeared and the mosques’ Ramadan lights came on, my friend – a veteran in the area of missions– turned to me and said something shocking:

“The number one hindrance to missions today is not that young people aren’t willing to go. It’s that their parents don’t want them to go…”

“They don’t want them to go and die for the Gospel.”

We’re witnessing a rebirth of the missions movement – not that it was ever dead. But there seems to be an awakening of interest in cross-cultural Gospel advance, particularly in the hard places of the world – like the empire of Islam.

People like David Platt and ministries like Frontline Missions have compelled a new generation to take up the mantle of Taylor and Borden and go into the uttermost with the Good News. I’m so encouraged to see so many of my generation getting passionate about communicating the Gospel message. Yes, there are plenty of apathetic millennials with no heart for any of this. And yes, there are others who are passionate but compromise doctrine and theology in their passion for evangelism.

But no one can deny that there are many, many millennials taking up the torch and following Christ to North Africa, Southeast Asia, Communist China, or Central Asia.

But we must give credit where credit is due. It was the older generations – the Boomers now in their 70s – who inspired us to face this Gospel task.

These people went, no matter the cost, to the most dangerous parts of the world, warring against colonialism in Africa and communism in China.

During the 1920s and ’30s, one of those older missionaries wanted to write a hymn to compel 200 new missionaries to come to China during a time of persecution. That song has been updated by the Getty’s, who just released it as the title track of their new album Facing a Task Unfinished. Read the powerful words:

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known

This song so moved that generation of young people that over two hundred of them heeded the call to come to China. Soon after, many of them were dead.

But that sort of movement is not dead. The testimony of these aging Gospel-bearers has compelled a new generation to face the task unfinished.

But one of the biggest obstacles is the generation in between – the Xers. These are the parents of the millennials who tremble to think of their children going and being beheaded by ISIS vigilantes in Syria or deported by communists in China.

The American “virtue” of sheltering children from all harm in the world has put a shackle on many millennials. Their parents don’t want them to face the task unfinished because it’s also a task unsafe.

But when has God ever called us to safety? Of course, there’s a God-given desire to protect children. But this is never a desire to protect children from the call of God.

And it isn’t just the parents. In my experience traveling to the Middle East and taking friends, I’ve heard of pastors and church members who wouldn’t support our trips because it was “foolish.” Why go and get yourself killed in reckless waste? Especially for the no-good Muslims (who, by the way, are apparently trying to “take over our country”). Many would rather be sharing vitriolic posts on Facebook about barring Muslims from America than sharing the Gospel with them – or letting their children do such.

Last time I checked, that’s exactly what Jesus called us to do! But don’t take my words for it. Listen to His very words from Luke 14:26-27:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Christ’s disciples and danger are always connected.

You CANNOT be His disciple and want a comfortable life. It’s like joining the military and expecting to have a life sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade. Not gonna happen.

When we choose to follow Christ, IT MEANS WAR. For you – and for your children.

Jesus even says you have to “hate” your kids to follow Him – in other words, love Him so much that it looks like you hate them. I think this speaks to being willing to let go of your kids for God’s service. Or, for millennials, being willing to face the rejection of parents because you’re following Christ to a dangerous missions field. I don’t want to advocate for going against the wishes of parents, and it would be much easier if parents would actually encourage their kids to take risks for the kingdom’s sake.

I don’t know what it’s like to have kids, and I won’t pretend to know how you feel letting go of a child. But I do know that Jesus is far better than anything this world can offer. He’s better than safety and comfort. And if God is truly calling your child to serve in a dangerous country and boldly face a task unfinished, I strongly urge you not to impede them!

My own parents struggled with their fears when I took my trips. They are the best parents in the world and love me more than I deserve. But they’re not perfect. They had their worries. They were hesitant to let me face danger – for that matter, so was I! But they never stopped me. I knew my Mom was worried (my Dad told me), but she did a great job concealing it. She put on a brave face and helped me prepare for trips to dangerous places. I love her for it.

It’s hard. But that’s just part of the Christian life.

So let them go! God can protect them better than you can anyway.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you go and join them on the missions field!

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