God is stirring in the hearts of leaders a vision to see a generation that is passionately ablaze for Jesus and His cause. I am not talking about a mere spark that eventually fizzles, but an all-consuming fire, which continues to burn through one’s entire life.
As leaders, we must build with this goal in mind. We are not called to just bear fruit, but to produce that which remains (John 15). I personally don’t believe I have fulfilled my role effectively as a leader of the younger generation if their passion and commitment to Jesus fades somewhere in their 20s or 30s. We must see a generation whose light burns even brighter with their age. So the question then must be: “How do we as leaders create a culture that releases young people into a life of not only sustained fire but a fire that is ever increasing?”
Three Components of Fire
It is one thing to ignite a flame, or occasionally stoke an ember, but altogether another to sustain a fire that is ever advancing and magnifying. A fire requires three things to continue: fuel, heat and oxygen. As we call a generation to give their lives fully to Jesus—to present themselves as a living sacrifice (fuel) and encounter the passionate love in the gaze of Jesus (heat)—we must also be intentional in creating an atmosphere where oxygen is abundant.
Anyone who is familiar with the elementary school science experiment, where a lit candle is placed inside a jar, knows what happens when oxygen is removed from the equation. The flame extinguishes, and all that remains is smoke. Fire simply cannot survive in a vacuum. It requires oxygen, and the more it draws on fresh air, the more dazzling, pervasive and powerful it becomes.
In Matthew 5, Jesus tells His disciples that they are the light of the world and slips in a word of common sense. “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house” (v. 15).
That statement seems rather obvious, but is profound. A light is not designed to be hidden. It is made to transmit its radiance and only diminishes when concealed. Jesus was addressing a tendency we have to hide who we really are, and is teaching us a key to see the light in our lives sustained and increased. His illustration does not refer to an electric lamp but a flame, one that needs oxygen to survive and intensify.
So how does this apply to us as leaders running with a generation called to illuminate the world? Believers, at any age, need oxygen to burn. We must release our young people now. We cannot afford to wait until they are more mature or have it all together. It would be remiss of us to urge them to be the light of the world and then not empower them to be the light of the world. It is as we empower and release young people into a life of ministry and leadership for Jesus that they experience the oxygen needed to burn brightly.
A Burning Passion to Minister
Years ago at our Jesus Culture conferences, we started sending everyone into the city. Thousands of young people would venture out to lay hands on the sick, prophesy, pray for people and show them the extravagant love of Jesus. We knew we could not just tell this generation they are revivalists, but had to give them opportunity to go and be revivalists.
As we did this, not only were there profound testimonies of salvations, healings and deliverances, but the impact it had on the young people ministering was immediately apparent. Their worship went to another level and their commitment to Jesus was strengthened at an even greater depth. We would hear testimonies for months and years to come about how the passion that was ignited at the conference and solidified by stepping out to minister was still burning.
As we continue to call a generation to complete abandonment and create an atmosphere where they encounter God, we must send them to radiate their light. Jesus called His disciples to first be with Him, but this always resulted in them being sent.
There is a rhythm we find with the leadership of Jesus, where His disciples would be with Him and then be sent by Him. His discipleship method was a powerful cadence: breathing in ... and breathing out. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. As they were trained and activated, the fire they received in being with Jesus extracted the oxygen it needed to gather momentum. And this cyclical demonstrative affair between the Lord and His followers continued on through Acts and into today.
Recently, I was speaking at a conference in Orlando, Fla., where we empowered the youth to pray for each other. In that meeting, hundreds of their peers received healing. The following week, I received a testimony from a youth pastor whose students had not only prayed for others to be healed, but had also received healing.
That Sunday, their group got up and shared all that God did at the conference and the healings that occurred. The youth then moved into words of knowledge and prayed for people in the congregation who also received healing.
Due to these young people having opportunity to witness the anointing of God in and through them, the impact from their encounters and activation at the conference reverberated beyond the meetings and blessed their church community.
No Age Limit to Be Heaven’s Ambassadors
Perhaps without even realizing, many leaders have communicated to a generation that they are not yet ready. A high proportion of Christians believe in order to be used by God, they should become more educated or experienced. However, Jesus didn’t place an age limit on His commission to be heaven’s ambassadors. If fact, the moment someone gets saved, they are the light of the world.
As leaders, we must believe and empower this reality. We need to deliberately create opportunities for the those the Lord has given us to take risks, lead and display the life of Jesus in our churches, schools and cities.
I recently received a report from a youth pastor who told me of the impact his students were having as they were activated. Testimonies of brain tumors and scoliosis being healed, cancer not being found when the doctors operated, complete freedom from asthma, and students prophesying over strangers in public. The youth pastor went on to say that this had all happened in the last five weeks, and up to this point, they had never seen anything like it in their “charismatic” church.
It is important not to limit God. Young people don’t have a junior Holy Spirit. The exact same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead resides in them. And they must have a chance to allow Him to minister through them, despite their inexperience and immaturity.
It is in this posture of releasing His presence and power that we get the oxygen we need to not only sustain the fire in us, but see it increase. In intimacy, we inhale His breath and then exhale it through ministering. Our job as leaders is to empower them to minister.
Release Brings Results
Sandra was a student determined to put her love for the Lord into action. Encouraged by her leadership, she met up with three friends and discussed how they could ignite change. Praying and fasting, they believed God would have favor on their event to tell others about the love of Jesus.
Throughout the week more and more students showed up, until Friday when she closed by sharing her own story. Seventy-five people gave their hearts to the Lord that week, and 467 in the following year! Sandra reported that the thing God did most was help her realize the change she was begging to see had to begin in her.
Release brings results. As we walk with young people on a journey of discipleship and call them to a life of holiness, discipline and character, we must give their flame a chance to absorb oxygen and allow them to be burn brightly!
Banning Liebscher and his wife, SeaJay, have been on staff at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., for more than 10 years. Banning is the director of Jesus Culture conferences. Banning’s heart is to ignite a prayer movement, raising up and releasing healing revivalists in cities around the world. He is the author of Jesus Culture: Living a Life That Transforms the World (Destiny Image).