One of the privileges of being a mission educator is to prepare and equip the students of the next generation to reach the world for Jesus Christ. Perhaps the greatest challenge is not training them for the ministry that I had, but for the ministry to which God is calling them. I believe that the Spirit of God leads each generation in a unique way and one of the challenges is being sensitive to that calling. As we prepare students we need to be aware of the changing conditions of the field, which I will discuss in later posts; but we also need to equip them for the unique calling to which God has called them.
One of the trends I have seen among our students is an increased concern to address vast human global needs: poverty, AIDS, prostitution, human trafficking, child soldiers, etc. I saw a glimmer of this trend when I first taught an integration seminar in 2002. Our class reading revolved around “God’s heart for the poor, the marginalized, and the helpless.” I was surprised at the response of the students. They not only were interested in the topic, but had already confronted these issues on mission trips. They urgently needed an avenue through which they could process their experience and build upon it in a constructive way. I continue to see this interest grow among young people on our campus and beyond.
My generation tends to react when we hear the phrase ‘social justice’. We often envision liberalism, liberation theology, and socialism, which were associated with the term when we were in college (redistributive justice). Or we think of justice as it has been used recently, “Justice has been done” (retributive justice). But before we react to this growing interest in social justice among our students we should understand what they mean by justice. This generation understands justice as transformative justice. Transformative justice is relational; it is restoring people’s relationships with God, with each other in community, and with the broader structures of society. This generation does not separate “good news” and “good works”. These are inseparable in the hearts of today young people.
God has given this generation a heart to serve the most marginalized and hurting of the world and to bring them the good news that Jesus can transform their hearts and lives. It is important to realize that many of the most impoverished countries of the world are also the least evangelized. Has this generation lost its way by seeking to be involved in global issues such as AIDS, human trafficking, poverty, etc.? I don’t think so. I believe that the Sprit of God is moving this generation to address these issues in order to bring His love and compassion to those who need it the most.