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A Call for 21st Century Christians

Here are three principles from the life of Joshua to help you prepare for your role as a 21st Century Christian.┬áIn the spring of 1988, a funny thing happened in my community. Maybe the same thing happened in your area. Kindergarten teachers held unusually festive public rites of passage for five year olds–and hailed them as the graduating class of 2000!

I asked myself, “Why would we be celebrating the graduation of five year olds–12 years early?” The one and only reason: they are the class which will cross over and inherit the 21st Century.

The Scriptures have much to say about how God helps a new generation cross over and enter a new land. After the death of Moses, the LORD said to Joshua, “Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give them” (Joshua 1:2).

Like these kindergarten students and Joshua’s generation, the Lausanne movement is keenly interested in encouraging a new generation to prepare to cross over and enter a new land as we approach a new century. We are living in an age of transition–an age which will witness the changing of the guard. As a host of post-World War II leaders finish their course, a surge of new leaders are just starting theirs.

If you consider yourself a world Christian, you are probably part of this new generation. The awesome responsibility of leading the church into the 21st Century will fall on your shoulders. I would like to share with you three principles from the life of Joshua that I pray you would take to heart as you prepare for your role as a 21st Century Christian.

* Start your day at the Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 33:9-11).

This passage records how God would come down and speak with Moses. As the cloud rested before the tent, the people stood and worshipped, each at their tent. But note that after Moses returned to camp, young Joshua “did not leave the tent.”

Have you learned to daily linger in the presence of God? That became the growing mark of distinction between Joshua and others. When others were content to worship as long as “church was open,” Joshua developed the habit of lingering before the presence of the LORD. As 21st Century Christians we must do as Joshua did. Though Joshua did not see God as Moses did, he tarried at the tent, with the hope that perhaps the curtains might too part for him.

As 4,000 Christians gathered at the “Lausanne II” Congress in Manila on the eve of this “Decade of Opportunity” before the 21st Century, the call went out for Christians to rise at dawn and pray for world evangelization. Thousands have already enlisted as part of this vanguard of prayer–which meets at the tent at dawn and circles the globe, sweeping from time zone to time zone. If you feel led to be apart of this vanguard–please write and ask for our “Global Prayer Strategy.” Since 1989, this prayer guide has been translated in 19 different languages, including Russian and Chinese!

* Join hands with others possessing the land” (Joshua 1:14-15).

After the death of Moses, we see Joshua preparing the people to cross over into the land. In doing so he reminds three of the twelve tribes, whose land was east of the Jordan River, to “help your brothers until the LORD gives them rest, as He has done for you.” Today the direction is reversed. We Christians in the West have largely taken possession of the land. Our countries are well on the way to being evangelized. It is the Christians in the Eastern hemisphere who have yet to possess the land that God has promised to them. They need our help.

I am referring here to the emerging church in North Africa, in Eastern Europe, in Soviet Central Asia, in Western China, in Southeast Asia, in North India, and in the Middle East. We must not rest until they can rest.

In 1989, the revolutions for democracy in Eastern Europe took the world by storm. In just a few short months the Iron Curtain was down. Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union were opened to religious freedom. Everybody was surprised–taken off guard. Nobody was ready for it–because nobody had expected it.

It was then the Christians in the Soviet Union asked for help. “Could the Lausanne movement help us convene a national congress and bring in key representatives from the West?” In October of 1990, more than 1,000 Soviet leaders met in Moscow, along with ministry leaders from the Americas, Africa and Asia to consider how to evangelize the Soviet Union and how to best channel help from abroad.

Due to the incredible fruit from that gathering, the Lausanne movement has launched a ten-year plan to hold “Regional Summits” of Christian leaders in Eastern Europe, Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East. These bi-annual meetings will examine the possibilities, overcome the obstacles, and grasp the opportunities to take the whole gospel to each region.

The Moscow Congress happened only because people prayed and supported Lausanne with gifts. If you would like to keep abreast of the work of these Summits and the Lausanne movement, we would like to send you “The Lausanne Letter,” a bi-monthly publication. A new generation cannot possess all the land that has been promised unless we do it together!

* “Re-consecrate your life to the LORD’s service” (Joshua 5:2-8).

The third principle from the generation of Joshua I believe we need to take to heart is that of consecration. After crossing the Jordan, God commanded Joshua to “make flint knives and circumcise” the new generation. I imagine there was much pain in the camp that day at Gilgal, as a whole generation which had been born in the wilderness came under the covenant.

If we are to be a generation that will possess all the land that God has promised, we first must let God possess us. That will require some cutting away from our lives. Before God uses a generation in power to pull down strongholds, He always sends forth a work of holiness. Only when we allow God to cut away the unnecessary things in our life, can He then fill us with the Spirit. When others say we will just see more of the same in our day, I say that as we approach the 21st Century we will witness something much more– filled with more praise, filled with more purity, filled with more power, and filled with the glory of God himself!

When people talk about the history of the Lausanne movement, they usually think of its birth in 1974. At the invitation of Billy Graham, more than 2,700 Christian leaders gathered in Lausanne, Switzerland. But really, the Lausanne movement had its roots during one of these Gilgal seasons of reaffirmation and recommitment twenty-six years earlier. At that time, the world was undergoing wrenching changes. World War II left Germany divided. Russia-once a comrade in battle–hissed at the free world in a cold war over ideology. And a growing roster of nations added the horror of atomic weaponry to their arsenals. These dramatic events demanded a new vision from God’s people as they faced an overwhelming challenge.

In this time of transition, God began to anoint a new generation, as he did in Joshua’s day. Committed servants like Bob Evans, Bob Pierce, and Dawson Troutman formed such worldchanging groups as Greater Europe Mission, World Vision and The Navigators. And a sparking young preacher named Billy Graham launched a worldwide outreach for the gospel.

The Spirit which brought about the Lausanne movement is still alive today! God is raising up a new generation of leaders as we approach a new century–a generation much more diverse than the one at mid-century. If this generation is to be a vital force in the 21st Century, it must offer the Church a vision, a calling and a direction.

One contribution which the Lausanne movement can make to this generation is the “Lausanne Covenant”–considered by many to be the most influential document ever drafted on the mission of the church in the modern world. If you would like to get together with others in your church or ministry and study the “Covenant”-we would love to send you a copy. Some groups have spent an entire quarter, meeting once a week to study its 15 paragraphs.

IN LESS THAN A DECADE, we will enter a new world beyond 2000. Along with the “class of 2000”, you and I will cross over into the 21st Century. May we, like the Joshua Generation be prepared and possess all that God has promised.

This article appeared in the Lausanne magazine, fall 1991.

Dr. Jay Gary is president of PeakFutures.com, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.

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