One generation shall declare his works to another (Ps. 145:4)
The heart of this article is not only directed at our parents or parents-to-be, it is an “all hands on deck” call to everyone in the body of Christ who desires to be a part of what the Lord is doing across the earth today. One of the great strengths of our prophetic history is the manner in which it has given us a “big picture view” of what the Holy Spirit is doing across the earth in our day as well as real clarity about our small part as a family in the larger story of God’s plan.
For many years now, the Lord has spoken to many groups across the earth that He is raising up a youth movement marked by the values of intercession, happy holiness, offerings to the poor, and prevailing faith – and that this youth movement would touch the ends of the earth. At the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, our little part in this story is to keep a 24/7 prayer and worship sanctuary as we give ourselves to the work of the Great Commission with the body of Christ in this city and across the nations of the earth.
Ministry to youth is not our unique role by any means; ministries across the earth have embraced a calling to serve the next generation. However, ministry to young people is a core element of our identity as a spiritual family. It is a dynamic part of the “family business” that we do together here. My desire is to recapture and re-engage that element of the grace of God for my spiritual family as we labor to strengthen our families, raise godly leaders and worshippers in our homes, and love young people as the Lord sends them to us to serve, nurture, and empower to do works of justice.
All of us have been entrusted to do our small part in a big story faithfully; we play our little note in a global symphony and song (Isa. 42). The Lord is going to change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation, and it will involve both the maturity of the Church and the rage of the nations. A mature, lovesick Church will unify in a global song across the globe as movements and peoples engage the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Our “note” includes faithful service and a bold declaration of the works of the Lord to another generation (Ps. 145:4). In an hour in which young people are increasingly distressed, experiencing unprecedented waves of moral confusion, spiritual barrenness, fatherlessness, and a lack of vision and connection to the storyline of God, we have a stewardship that we must take seriously about serving the youth of this family, city and nation and from around the nations of the earth.
Unique challenges to parenting and mentoring youth today
The Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) took over 150 years to fundamentally transform society: economics, military advancements and global war, and the transformation of the family unit. From ancient times, young people stayed connected to their core family unit until marriage – living with, working with, and growing up near to their fathers and mothers. The Great Depression and the First World War created a new fatherlessness (either literal or through vocational and economic pressures) that caused, “adolescent runaways [and] transient youth,” which “forced adult society to focus on teenage problems”
In 1900 only six percent of America’s 17-year olds earned high school diplomas. By 1939, close to 75 percent of 14-17-year olds were high school students. The goal, according to FDR’s National Youth Administration, was to provide training and job opportunities for America’s youth in a safe, disciplined environment so that they could go on to become productive citizens. A youth subculture quickly formed within high schools as “teenagers” emerged with a sense of independence and a separate identity from their parents—prior to marriage—for the first time in history.
“One could make a strong argument that the American school system and the institution of Sunday School were both early prototypes of youth ministry, as were the YMCA, Christian Endeavor, Epworth League, Word of Life, and scores of independent local and regional outreaches to young people…“modern” youth ministry probably began in the 1940s with the rise of…Young Life (YL), founded by Jim Rayburn; Youth For Christ (YFC), founded by Torrey Johnson with Billy Graham as the first employee; and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), founded by Don McClanen…God raised up these ministries, and later many others like them, in order to reach a generation rendered spiritually, emotionally and/or physically fatherless by World War II, modern industrialization, the myth of the American Dream, and the erosion of disciple-making as a foundational pillar of the faith.” – Mike Higgs
Parents of that era were not necessarily equipped to deal with the rapid changes to society and the family unit, nor were they clear on how to engage the emerging teenage sub-culture of that day. However, while the changes of the Industrial Revolution were immense and wide reaching, one could argue that they cannot compare to the incredible societal, cultural, and economic changes brought about by the Technological Revolution of the past decade. Whereas the Industrial Revolution brought dramatic changes to American society over a century, the Technological Revolution has brought unprecedented change within a mere ten years.
The changes to society, culture, economics, and beyond are happening faster than modern research is able to study. It is not clear what impact social media is having on the next generation, as researchers have not had enough time to analyze the data. By the time the data can be sufficiently collected, more rapid and systemic changes shift culture further.
Similar to the Industrial Revolution, the economic changes and access to information empowers and emboldens young people in ways that are unique to this era of history. There is a new democratization of ideas and a destabilization of authority structures as young people are able to acquire knowledge, wealth, and skill at younger and younger ages – without possessing the maturity to deal with new information, new knowledge, new abilities, and new possibilities. Books and articles abound detailing this new restless, narcissistic, idealistic emerging generation that has little use for conventional thinking related to work, recreation, and the new American Dream.
Daniel and Paul both spoke of a time like this in Dan. 12:4 and 2 Tim. 3:1-7. “Knowledge will increase” as men “run to and fro.” Men will be “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Our young people—our own, our city’s, our nation’s—are in the midst of a historic moral, spiritual, and familial crisis that has no precedent in human history. We need biblical wisdom and spiritual breakthrough in the power of the Holy Spirit to effectively serve our own children and the young people that the Lord is sending here for us to steward.
This is too difficult an assignment to take on alone – and we cannot “sub-contract” this assignment to the “youth specialist.” This is an assignment that takes the entire spiritual family operating in unity and humility to carry out as we engage together in our mandate to be part of a youth movement that will touch the ends of the earth.
One of the strengths of IHOPKC for me as a parent is the team: CEC, Student Ministries, godly, safe families that model love for Jesus, the prayer room, etc. Team ministry that expresses healthy family dynamics is a powerful weapon in the hands of the Lord to mark a generation for His purposes. We go farther together in the “commanded blessing of unity” (Ps. 133) than we can alone or in isolation. God has an answer to the emerging crisis of lawlessness and love of self – young people who pray, love the Word of God, and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit as they give, love, and live extravagantly for the Lord even as deep darkness covers the earth.
Fathers, do not exasperate your children… (Eph. 6:4a)
Paul speaks in this passage directly to fathers, which makes this passage difficult to preach in our modern context. One of the keys to effectively parenting the children in this hour of history is engaged, spiritually mature, emotionally connected fathers. I have seen godly women and amazing mothers do much for the kingdom of God in discipling great kids. However, in all my years of youth ministry it has been clear to me that fathers who fear the Lord and love their kids well produce incredible fruit.
If you are a single mom (we have many in our spiritual family), an orphan, or in a home with an unsaved, disconnected dad, I believe that the Lord wants to rally “reinforcements” to love, serve, and call you or your young people to greatness in the heart of God. If there is not a father in the home, there must be fathers in the “House” who are willing to engage. As young people descend on this House throughout the summer, fathers (young and old), who are willing to get into the trenches and prophesy, pray, and love the ones the Lord is sending, can mark someone for life.
“Exasperation” or “provoke to anger” happens for two reasons: first, “rules without relationship equals rebellion” (James Dobson). Secondly, the reason that this is true is because of what relationship does. It provides a context for vision and purpose for the boundaries and structures necessary to propel a young person into their destiny. Children, as they grow into teenagers, need to know why, not just what. Teenagers crave vision and a sense of purpose and meaning. “Exasperation” happens when one becomes disconnected from identity and purpose, which renders the difficulties of life as meaningless. Wisdom, morality, and purity feel futile if they are not connected to the person of Christ and His larger storyline. Life cannot be merely about abstaining from wicked things. Holiness must be the reach for relationship, vision, and purpose.
Exasperation also happens when young people see either compartmentalization or inconsistency. In other words, if we say that something is true, we must live it and display it even when we don’t know they are looking. Is the Word real to us? Is it true? Then the knowledge of God and the worship of Him must permeate all of our lives, which helps the next generation embrace authentic, vibrant faith in a real and beautiful God.
We will not do this perfectly or well. We must be those who acknowledge our weakness, confess, and apologize when we come up short. I by no means display amazing Christianity to my children; the faith I express is weak, broken, and constantly coming up short. However, my desire is to be radical in apologizing and owning what is true and where I come up short in the truth. I do this with my wife and with my children often. In the same way, my desire as a father is to love them loyally and fiercely in their weakness and brokenness. I never want my children to feel the “exasperation” of rejection when they come up short. I want to train my kids to be great repenters as we reach in weakness for the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit together.
As such, I don’t want to exasperate my kids by creating an impossible standard or subjecting them to unrealistic expectations. I want to call them to greatness, while giving them room to grow and thrive. I want to train them to “fail well” into the love, mercy, and tenderness of Christ. The same heart of the gospel that empowers me to run to Christ for grace and help in my time of need is the same heart I want to impart to my children (and to the next generation). As a family, I want to reach together for the grace of God with joy, as a brother in the Lord as well as a father in the faith. I take who they are and what they are called to be seriously and want to serve them in laying hold of it, recognizing the dignity and worth they have in Christ.
…bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the lord (Eph. 6:4b)
There is real power in “declaring the works of the Lord” to my children and to young people. Young people thrive when they hear the stories of the power of God, when they hear testimonies, and when they hear about the possibilities of grace and the life of the Holy Spirit. We want to fill our children with a vision for how far grace can take us and how much of God we can experience. The “discipline of the Lord” must be dynamically connected to a vision for breakthrough and glory or else we are simply training our children to perform for approval or acceptance.
Our children’s greatest needs include: need for acceptance without earning it (security); power to overcome deficiencies in their character (wholeness); and desire to impact people and circumstances (significance). The issue of free acceptance in love is that it meets their need for it from God and from us. Our kids cannot be helpful or useful without healthy relationships from family or godly friends who love us freely without striving to earn it. The absence of free acceptance—from God and other believers—leaves them fundamentally broken on the inside and incapable of relating in a healthy way with others. One of the rarest things teenagers have today is confidence: in sovereignty, in love, and in the grace of God.
Security in grace and union with Jesus is the only way to fully and confidently walk in the Spirit. When the revelation of the free acceptance of God produces security in the depths of their hearts, our kids will allow Jesus to come as near as He wants to and they can be truly filled with the Spirit. They become fearless in love—and thus trusting, voluntary bond-slaves who will follow Jesus wherever He leads.
Attempting to get our children to be committed as servants of God before they are secure in love almost always produces some form of fear-of-man-based performance or external holiness. True holiness flows out of passion, which begins with the free acceptance of the love of God. Passionate holiness (a red-hot heart with fiery gratitude) has life, joy, and compassion versus religious holiness, which has fear, judgment, criticism, insecurity, and condemnation with no passion or joy as they try to conform outwardly to principles without power.
One of our primary goals and constant battles to fight as parents is for true confidence in the love of Christ to fill the hearts of our children, all the days of their lives.
 Teenagers: An American History. Palladino, Grace. (New York: Basic Books, 1997), 37.
 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Studies of the United States, Bicentennial Edition, Part I (U.S. Government Printing Office, 1975) 380, 379