THE RISE OF A NEW WORLD
As you read through the following material, you will discover why we have added it to a book on this subject. What will be discussed is becoming a generation throughout the world that is being cultured with a world view that is in many ways opposed to the Christian’s world view, but at the same time, produces an opportunity for the spread of Islam. Not only is the world view of Islam contrary to that which we see in the Bible, the new immerging generation that is arising in the developed world is in many ways also in conflict with Christianity. The selfless example that we see nailed to the cross of Calvary runs contrary to a narcissistic non-religious generation that has itself at heart and the world as its final destination. It is a generation that has forgotten that all we are is a clod of dirt invested with a spirit from God. The concept expressed in the words, “I have been crucified with Christ” (Gl 2:20), is on the other end of the spiritual continuum of a vast majority of this generation. It is imperative, therefore, that leaders of God’s people understand this new generation in order to influence its direction by the message of sacrifice that comes from the cross. Therefore, do not read lightly over this material. It is by no means complete, but it will give you some idea of how this immerging world generation can easily lead to the fall of Christianity, and thus open the door for every religious invention possible to man, and possibly move the world closer to the Genesis 6:5 scenario. This religious scenario happened with the world prior to Noah. It happened with the cities of Sodom, Gomaoorah, Admah and Zeboiim (Gn 11:19; 13). It happened with the nation of Israel (Hs 4:6). And it can happen today to any society that claims to be “Christian.”
We include these thoughts primarily for our audience outside America who have a romantic view of the West that is rapidly passing away. As the faith of European nations vanished, who first went into all the world with the gospel in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, so it is the case today with twenty-first century America. The “Christian nation” is rapidly becoming a faithless nation with little desire for anything that is religious.
Some of the recent statistics on this matter are shocking. They are shocking to the extent that it is time now that the rest of the world must take ownership of the future evangelization of the world, for the Western church is fast pulling out of world missions. As the American church brings its soldiers home from foreign nations, so the rest of us in the world must assume the responsibility of engaging Satan in our own backyards. We see the work of God throughout the world in all this cultural transformation. God is simply turning the work of Satan against himself. God removes the influence of foreign mission sources in order that local disciples take ownership of the evangelization of their own countries. Therefore, as fellow world citizens, we must get on with that which we are supposed to be doing without focusing on the financial crutch and leadership of the West. We must assume our responsibility to take Jesus into all the world. In order to do this, we must listen to what this new immerging generation is saying.
I. “We are changing.”
All societies go through generational changes. Though traditions and customs may minimize these changes from one generation to another, there are still changes that take place as the next generation wants to do things differently, and often better. Such changes continually take place in every culture of the world. It significant, however, that there seems to be a most dynamic worldwide change going on at this time that is affecting worldwide cultures in the same way. It is not a sociological change that is unique with one particular world culture. Though this change is significant in the Western societies of America and Europe, we bear witness that the new Millennial Generation is not unique with the West only. It is worldwide.
We have traveled to many places of the world where we have witnessed the core nature of this new generation that is growing stronger on the world scene. It is a generation that has changed the Arab world through what was called the “Arab Spring.” The rapidity of this generational change will answer some questions as to why some Muslims feel that Islam is under attack. It is this worldwide generation that seeks to be educated and informed as the rest of the world. No youth of the world wants to be left out, for young people know enough in the most remote places of Pakistan or Afghanistan that if they are left out of this new world citizenship they are doomed to live among the relics of the past and under the control of uneducated leaders or authoritarian clerics. The Muslim youth of this generation, therefore, no longer want to be uneducated recluses in caves, jungles or deserts, and subdued by ignorant leaders who find self-esteem by oppressing others into the subjection to self-imposed legal religious codes. Young girls throughout the Muslim world want to be freed through education, something that Islamists as the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab simply cannot allow among the people over which they seek to dominate. The youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai (17 years old), who recovered from a gun shot to the head by the Taliban, once said, “They only shot a body but they cannot shoot a dream.” These are brave young Muslim girls who want to be educated, and also show the world that Islam is not the twisted religiosity that is often reported on the nightly news.
For the Islamists, the Muslim youth of the world made the mistake of buying a smart phone. These youth then discovered themselves joining in with the Millennials worldwide who seek to take this world into a new and better world order for themselves. They have discovered, however, that ignorance among clerical leaders has a hard time giving way to a better way, a life of freedom to think.
It is unfortunate that the Millennials who are culturally formed to work as a team find it difficult to produce the type of leaders who are necessary to take an Arab Spring into a truly democratic government. The young Google employee who inspired the Egyptian Spring simply said after all the changes that were made in Egypt, he wanted nothing to do with leading the country as a politician. The team culture of the Millennials is so strong that it has a difficult time producing the type of leadership that is necessary to stand alone and lead the way for the masses.
No book on a subject of world views would be complete without some thoughts on the rise and affect of the Millennial Generation on the world as it is and is to come. More books have been written on this generation than any other generation of civilization. Sociologists know that the Millennial Generation will change the world as it is. And for this reason, studies have been made and numerous books written in order to prepare the world for some interesting surprises that are coming.
In the context of our ministry of the word of God, it is important that church leaders understand some of the basic principles of the Millennial Generation in order that the gospel can be communicated effectively to those of this culture. Simply standing back and begrudging changes that one does not understand and cannot control is not an option for a church leader. He must understand and engage those to whom he is to preach the gospel.
The Millennial Generation is composed of those who were generally born between 1980 and 2000. In America, this generation is 80 million strong. It is a generation that will eventually change America forever as it moves into being the leadership of the nation. Therefore, we write these words in order to prepare all of us who reside outside the continental United States and Europe to understand the nature of a changing West.
Every country of the world has its Millennials. Because of globalization and communication, no country of the world that has come online can escape the affects of this generation. Because Western cultures have been exported worldwide, the Millennials in countries throughout the world have more in common with one another than any previous generation of history. The Millennials have moved us from a world of national citizenship, to a borderless world of global citizens. There are no borders on the Internet, and thus, the Millennial Generation electronically travels freely throughout the world for information and relationships. If one were an imam in a cave in northern Afghanistan, then certainly he should be on guard against his adherents acquiring smart phones that would connect them to a worldwide citizenship. Once cave dwellers are connected, they realize how backward and underdeveloped they are. We can understand why the North Korean government is terrified about allowing the citizens of the country to have access to the Internet.
The 14th wealthiest man in the world, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has made it his goal to bring the world online through Internet connections. Facebook presently (2014) has 1.35 billion user connected, and it is his goal to connect the entire world. The present world population of the world is about 7.2 billion. Of this number, 2.9 billion people are using the Internet (Time Magazine, Dec. 25, 2014). This means that there are about 4.3 billion people who are not online. It is Zuckerberg’s goal to get these people online and connected to the information that is available on the Internet. Education brings freedom, and thus Zuckerberg is a “digital pioneer” who will lead the world to be better by being connected. The world will thus continue to change rapidly in the decades to come. This change has already started and will accelerate as more people connect to information highway of the Internet.
A few years ago one of our brethren in South Africa said, “Brother Dickson, they are different.” (He was speaking of Millennials who had visited South Africa.) The brother continued, “You can see it in their eyes!” So this was our impetus several years ago to do some research to see what the folks in Africa saw in the eyes of this new and different Millennial Generation that was going to reshape the sociological structure of world society. We have since learned some good things, and some not-so-good things in reference to spiritual orientation of this generation. Therefore, these words are written to our older generation who seem somewhat unsettled about these new digital thinkers who have come onto the world stage of sociological drama.
In speaking to an older generation that does not know the difference between megabytes and bug bites, we thought it necessary to aid somewhat in understanding this generation to whom we are to take the gospel. Instead of scaring Millennials away with our archaic ways, we need to separate Bible from tradition in approaching a generation that is educated and moving on into the future. If a church leader does not do as Paul said below, then he will be left in his empty cave (pew), complaining that the world has all gone wrong:
I have made myself a bondservant to all, so that I might gain the more. So to the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win the Jews. To those who are under law I became as one under law (though I myself am not under law), so that I might win those who are under law. To those who are without law, as without law, though not being without God’s law but under Christ’s law, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became as weak so that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the sake of the gospel so that I might be a partaker of it (1 Co 9:19-23).
Get the point?
II. “We are digitally connected.”
In reference to what we have seen throughout the world, one common thread runs through this generation that will redefine the new world culture of the future. President George W. Bush once said many years ago that we were moving into “a new world order.” He said this in reference to the change of the guard of several governments. But he may have miscalculated what the new world would actually be. Certainly, governments change, for they are the reflection of the people, whether a dictatorship or democracy, depending on what government the people first placed in control. But the new world order in reference to government is yet to arise to reflect the worldwide phenomena of the digital generation.
We would name this new generation after that which gave it birth and binds its citizenship together. It is the “Digital Generation.” Digital communication gave birth to this generation through communication devices. They have exchanged person communication for worldwide connection. Cellphones, smart phones, Ipads, notebooks and an assortment of computers and electronic gadgets have opened the door for a worldwide connection with information and other people. This generation would not continue to exist without these digital devices. In fact, none of us would now be able to function in the developed world without some digital device. Wherever we have traveled in the world, this digital generation exists, whether on the off beaten roads of Africa or main street Beijing. It is a generation that is obsessed with their communication devices. It is a generation of which the digital communication devices are the very center of its culture.
Digital communication devices have changed the way the people of this generation relate to one another. If there were no digital or virtual communication devices, then this generation would culturally collapse. It would collapse because the relational part of the culture of this generation depends on the communication devices, not personal contact with others in communication. The devices are its heartbeat, because through the communication devices, the citizens of this generation stay in contact with one another. Instant worldwide communication now defines the world as it is. And we presume that this communication mania will intensify in the world to come. We cannot think that it is a bad thing for the world to become smaller through digital communication relationships.
III. “Everything is about us.”
The letter “I” is worn off the computer keyboard of the Millennial Generation. If he had a computer, this would be the case with the narcissistic Diotrephes about whom John wrote, “… but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not receive us” (3 Jn 9).
A narcissist is one who is focused on himself. He seeks to be noticed, to be first, to have no competition, and the “winner” in all things. Narcissism is a personality disorder with which one is not born, but is trained to be from childhood. The present Millennial Generation is three times more narcissistic than the generation that is 65 and older in America. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, among college students, 58% of those in their twenties scored higher on the narcissism scale than the same age group of college students in 1982.
This is a generation of people who are obsessed with themselves. They have grown up in a society where there are no losers and everyone is “the man.” Some sports games of schools in America no longer keep score because they do not want the children to feel like they can lose. Every player on the field is “a winner” because he simply played in the game. Everybody is trained to be a winner, and a “good job” statement is made after every activity in which one involves himself.
Unfortunately, when this generation encounters the real world where there are losers, suicide is high, and riots on the street are easy when all these “winners” confront a police force that tells them that there are limits to what they can do in society. Since this generation is convinced of their own greatness, their social development is stunted, and thus, they simply have a hard time “growing up.”
When one has obsessed over his or her self with countless “selfies” (self-taken pictures), both by parents and one’s self in the developing years, what would we expect? When one’s personal room is filled with countless trophies and award ribbons as to what a winner is, then we can understand why such communication mediums as “I”phones, and “You”tube (broadcast yourself), and “I”pads have been so financially successful. Tweeter is based on the social norm that one supposes that everyone is interested in one’s every moment of life. Millennials broadcast their daily activities on FitBit, their whereabouts on PlaceMe, and everything else on 23 and Me. This is narcissism refined.
Many single people in Sweden do not seek to be married. In fact, 26% of the people of Sweden do not intend to marry. The same is true in America, for 26% of the Millennial Generation in America also do not intend to marry. Someone once asked why this is. The answer is simple. It is just too difficult to take two “I’s” and make a “we” relationship. When one has lived a life of 25 years or so focusing on one’s self, it is certainly difficult to change course to focus on someone else first.
The West trained their children to be this way because they were paranoid about rearing up losers, and in reference to family, those who would end in divorce. Parents wanted their children to have great self-esteem, for in having such they could find good jobs. Unfortunately, being obsessed with one’s self may help to get the job, but not keep the job. Sean Lyons, coeditor of Managing the New Workforce: International Perspectives on the Millennial Generation, wrote,
This generation has the highest likelihood of having unmet expectations with respect to their careers and the lowest levels of satisfaction with their careers at the state that they’re at.
Instilling self-esteem within our youth is great. But we must keep in mind that self-esteem is only one step away from the mental disorder of narcissism. Only a fine mental line separates the two. It is as the psychologist Jean Twenge said,
When they’re little it seems cute to tell them they’re special or a princess or a rock star or whatever their T-shirt says. When they’re 14 it’s no longer cute.
Twenge’s advice was, “Just tell your kids you love them. It’s a better message” (See Twenge’s books, Generation Me and The Narcissism Epidemic). We believe the Bible says something similar.
But do not conclude that narcissism is a plague that is sweeping across the Western world only. We have experienced the same overconfident and self-obsessed Millennials everywhere we have traveled in the world. This is not a social problem for the rich and famous of the West. There are “poor” Millennials throughout the world who have been self-glamorized by the communication of themselves and desire for a materialistic way of life. Their focus on themselves has often been their escape from poverty.
However, the West has been particularly fruitful in producing the self-oriented generation of the Millennials. After all, it was the Baby Boomer parent generation of the West that was “me” oriented, and thus gave birth to and reared a generation of children who were obsessively focused on themselves. The “Me” Generation produced the “Me, Me, Me” Generation. For those of you who live outside the American society, consider the fact that you have in your house a picture of your wedding, and maybe a few other pictures of yourself. Now compare this with the average American Millennial who has surrounded himself with an average of 85 pictures of himself throughout his house (Time Magazine, May 20,2013). They are both the stars and audience of their lives.
IV. “We are entitled.”
A personality characteristic that is contrary to the spirit of Christianity is entitlement. This is the attitude that “I” have a right to a piece of the pie, to enjoy the pleasures of the things that this world has to offer because one believes he deserves to consume all things upon his own lusts. This is an attitude that is basically worldly, since the very drive of the individual who has been stricken with this earthly mentality is focused on those things that are of this world. The Holy Spirit dealt with this thinking in Colossians 3:1,2:
If you then were raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set you mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
Any thinking that moves the Christian’s mind from the heavenly to the earthly is simply worldly. This is the spirit of entitlement. Since those of the Millennial Generation are self-oriented, then they think they are entitled to that which surrounds them. They climb the mountain in order to have others see them, not in order to see the world. In order to be seen successful by their peers, they must give the presentation of being successful. This is not a generation that has grown up with worn shoes, or walked to school in knee-deep snow, up hill both ways. It is not a generation that had to put together a bicycle out of junk parts from a junkyard. They simply bypassed the new bicycle generation of their fathers and went straight for the new cars in their teens. It is a generation where parents have lavished the material world upon them, and now, they believe they are the center of their world, and thus entitled to everything that this world has to offer. It is a generation that finds it very difficult to follow the One who said, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Mt 8:20).
The character of the Millennial Generation has never traveled through life with a lack of this world’s goods. It is a generation whose thinking was developed by having everything, and thus having everything is their way of life. They know no other way to live. In fact, they believe that their materialistic way of life is what defines life. This is the “American dream,” the “American way of life.” Everyone in the world who does not live this way is “underdeveloped.”
It is the goal of the West, therefore, to “develop” the rest of the world. The Western definition of the “developed world” is that the rest of the world must surround themselves with possession in which they too can consume upon their own desires (lusts). If a nation has not “developed” to where every citizen can walk into a Walmart shopping center for a tube of toothpaste and come out with a trolley full of consumer goods, then they are living in a “developing” nation. The apostle Paul wrote, “If we have food and clothing, with these let us be content” (1 Tm 6:8). We have always considered that if Paul walked into Walmart for a tub of toothpaste, he would walk out with only a tub of toothpaste.
What has developed the psychological problem among those of this “developed” generation is also the digital means of communication by which one can embellish himself with all sorts of media to broadcast his personal social status to his friends. When one starts broadcasting himself on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter, the “likes” and “followers” start inflating one’s ego to the point of believing that he is some type of celebrity. When others start “liking” our broadcasted parties, pictures, vacations, and job promotions, then we start to believe that we are in the middle of a micro-universe where we are entitled to be popular.
Such digital means of broadcasting one’s life becomes an obsession. Everything and every event in our celebrity lives is thus “posted” in order to retain our personal cheerleading “friends.” We are obsessed with how many “likes” we receive when we post a picture of ourselves involved in some sort of activity. But when this means of self-glamorization goes wrong for young people, worlds collapse and suicide happens. When the self-glamorized are electronically bullied, it is just too much. When one who thinks he or she is always a winner, it is a traumatic experience when others digitally communicate that he or she is a loser.
But before we are too hard on the Millennials for being a self-oriented and entitled generation, it may be that they have simply adapted better to their environment. In the West, they have grown up in a very affluent economic environment. It is an environment in which every need has been satisfied with abundant options. Food markets do not have just one or two choices of breakfast cereal, but one or two isles of options from which to make selections. Their’s is a consumer society in which every citizen is innundated with choices.
Millennials unconsciously feel that they are entitled to a host of choices simply because they have lived no other way. They are like the young Millennial who came with a group on a “vacationary” mission to an African country. This young group of vacationaries were teamed up with the locals to go out into the surrounding community. With one team, a local young Christian was horrified when his Millennial partner from the West threw in the trash a US$150 pair of Nike tennis shoes. The Millennial was just disgusted with the shoes because they had worn blisters on his feet.
V. “We are not religious.”
In his release in the Time Magazine of his study of the Millennial Generation, Joel Klein wrote of this generation,
[The Millennials are] not into going to church, even though they believe in God, because they don’t identify with big institutions; one-third of adults under 30, the highest percentage ever [of America], are religiously unaffiliated (Time Magazine, May 20, 2013).
This brings us to the major “threat” that this generation throughout the world would pose to Christianity. In their book, The Millennials, Thom and Jess Rainer reported on their comprehensive survey of this generation, one of the first surveys that was conducted concerning the Millennial Generation. They reported initially in their book, “In many ways this generation is the most diverse generation in American’s history” (The Millennials, p. 1). It is diverse in that it reflects a great deal about the multiplicity of influences that led to its creation, and thus, the various identities the generation offers to produce a new world culture. This is particularly true in reference to the “spiritual” nature of the Millennials. Rainer & Rainer wrote,
The shocking reality for us is that only 13 percent of the Millennials considered any type of spirituality to be important in their lives…. Most of the Millennials don’t think about religious matters at all” (Emphasis mine, R.E.D., Ibid., p. 22).
“This generation is not just agnostic to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. They are agnostic toward all matters religious” (Ibid., p. 23). Now here is something interesting that Rainer & Rainer discovered in their survey of over 1,200 Millennials.
Millennials are the least religious of any generation in modern American history. Millennials are still spiritual. Three out of four Millennials say that they are spiritual but not religious. If you state you are spiritual, most people will take that at face value. If you state that you are religious, you will have to define what you believe. Most Millennials are unable to define their beliefs (Emphasis mine, R.E.D., ibid., p. 47).
Rainer & Rainer found that most Millennials “are no longer choosing to identify themselves with religion” (Ibid., p. 47). The percentages speak volumes concerning the spiritual nature of this generation. For example, only 6% of the 13% who claimed to be “spiritual,” stated that they were “evangelical,” or “Christian.” Of this 6%, only 18% of these stated that their religion was of any importance to them. This is definitely not a religious-oriented generation. And it is 80 million strong in America and is growing up to shape the future of America. America is not only becoming non-Christian, it is becoming “nonspiritual” with no religious affiliation. Keep in mind that America is only 20-30 years away from this identity as a nonreligious culture.
One might say that the future for faith in the West is going to be greatly challenged by the onslaught of unbelief that is characteristic of the Millennial Generation. This is revealed in the thinking concerning where Millennials seek to find authority for their religious faith. One Millennial stated, “I really don’t think we can say that any one person or any book is a real authority. You really have to examine what people say and then decide. You could find some truth in the Bible and maybe the Koran (sp)” (Ibid., pp. 228,229). Now consider this statement in the context of a non-committed “Christian” (religionists) who is living in the same society with a very committed Muslim. If the non-committed Christian has little regard for the authority of his faith, then certainly he will be overcome by the Muslim who has a firm conviction in the Qur’an which is the foundation of his faith. Does this give you any idea of where America could be headed?
Some of the Western Millennials, who still have some faith, are now establishing authority for their faith as many in Africa have done for centuries. Some in Africa have taken beliefs from past and present pagan religious beliefs, and brought them together into a syncretistic faith that they claim to be “Christian.” It is not a Bible-defined faith, but one that is defined by the culture in which the African lives. It is as bad as what some Catholic priests did when they first went to Brazil in the footsteps of the conquistadors three centuries ago. In order to keep the money coming from Rome, they simply put Catholic names on the spiritualistic practices and ideas of the local pagan rituals of the tribal groups.
One of the amazing discoveries that Rainer & Rainer found in their survey of the American Millennial Generation was that in the top ten priorities of the lives of the Millennials, faith or religion was not mentioned (See ibid., p. 229). As previously stated, this is the most nonreligious generation that America has produced in its history. The institutional church failed this generation, since 70% of this generation feel that church is irrelevant to their needs. The “faithful” 6% who still cling to some of their Christian roots, have also presented to the church their “me” culture. The Millennials are more concerned about their needs at home, than they are about the nations of the world. This generation will vote a president into office who promises “to bring our troops home,” and then make him promise that there will be “no boots on the ground” of a foreign nation in the future.
This thinking of the Millennials has spilled over into the mission efforts of many churches of the West. And for this reason, the mission ministries of many churches throughout the West have been greatly diminished in the last two decades. We assume worldwide missions and missionaries from the West will continue to diminish and be a thing of the past once the “withdrawn” remnant of the religious Millennials grows into the leadership of the Western church. We do not know of one missionary on the field who has not been affected by the Millennial mentality in the mission departments of supporting churches.
But in all the negative doom and gloom that we have thus written, there is indeed some great things that the Millennial Generation will produce in the future. Many of the 6% remnant are very committed. It may be that we have to go back to Jerusalem to an upper room wherein are again gathered only 120 faithful “Millennials” in the midst of an unbelieving world of the first century. But what those 120 did two thousand years ago in their lifetimes was truly phenomenal. They turned the world upside down. We believe the present faithful Millennials can do the same.
We see in the faithful of the Millennials today those of this fanatical conviction. One of these “fanaticals” visited us a few years ago. He said, “There is in our generation those who claim to be Christians, and those who are Christians. Some of us [Millennials] do not take our faith seriously, but those of us who do will die for Jesus!” And he was serious. We have friends who are Millennials who are men and women of tremendous conviction. They are truly those who will give their lives for Jesus. Maybe we have been uniquely blessed by some of these who have passed our way, but we can truly give our testimony that there are some “Timothys” out there among the Millennials who will take that remaining 120 faithfuls of this generation from an upper room into a revival of spirit and preaching of the gospel to the world. We pray for these truly committed and convicted Millennial faithfuls. It is truly an inspiration to be around them. Rainer and Rainer made their optimistic conclusion of this generation known in the following statement at the end of their book:
Some churches in America will likely continue to decline and weaken because their leaders and members refuse to get out of their comfort zones. These churches will continue to have mediocre Bible study groups and anemic preaching. Not only will these churches fail to attract the non-Christian Millennials; they will forfeit the opportunity to reach Millennial Christians. Christians who are members of America’s largest generation will not embrace churches where the Bible is not taught and preached with depth and convictions (Emphasis mine, R.E.D., ibid., p. 264).
Thank you France for the example in leadership against social tyranny.
JE SUIS CHARLIE