In article in a 1972 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, the Rev. Billy Graham was quoted as saying, “The vast majority of American young people are still alienated, uncommitted, and uninvolved. There is a deep vacuum within them. They are searching for individual identity. They are searching for a challenge and a faith. Whoever captures the imagination of the youth of our generation will change the world. Youth movement of the past have been perverted and led by dictators and demagogues. Perhaps the American young people will be captured by Christ.”
Rev. Graham hit it on the head. He did not go into great detail about the symptoms of the youth crisis. He did not detail the issues of pornography, suicide, depression, self-injury and hopelessness, but he did highlight the core issue. He reminded us that their problems are spiritual in nature.
They are not simply social, financial, emotional or educational. At the very center of their need is their (often unknown) desperation for a relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Our society (and oftentimes our churches) has not grown cold to the plight of the youth culture. Everywhere you look, there are organizations that are working to educate about substance abuse, self-injury, parenting issues that lead to lost young people and emotional crises that create broken teenagers.
And although I endorse those organizations and encourage them in pursuit of meeting these needs, it is imperative that we cut to the quick and stop putting Band-Aids on gushing wounds. If we offer them help without offering them hope, we have not done much good. If we take care of them emotionally while ignoring their spiritual need, we may help them have a better life, but we have left them unprepared for eternity.
Rev. Graham knew that whoever wins the youth wins the world; we must take the charge seriously. If Jesus came to seek and save the lost, our obsession must be to rescue the lost and to introduce the hurting to the One who understands them perfectly and can make them whole.
I am not talking about simply introducing them to the rules of our religion. I am emphasizing that we must share with them the rewards of having a relationship with the Creator of the universe. He holds the keys to eternity. Although He knows them perfectly, He loves them unconditionally and offers redemption … not based on what they have or what they have done, but based on His grace alone.
We must help them see that He is the answer to every meaningful question. He is the One who understands their value and purpose. He sees their scars and has the ability to heal every wound.
The God of the Bible is desperate for a relationship with the young people who wander aimlessly and struggle daily. They need Him, and He longs to draw them close, speak forgiveness for their sins and call them His child.
In 1972, Billy Graham knew that there was a generation just waiting to be won, and he knew that only through Jesus would heaven’s plans intersect earth’s need. In 2013, the answer remains the same. A generation needs to see Jesus as He truly is, and it is our job as passionate Christ-followers to make that happen.
As we commit ourselves to this great cause (is there any one greater?), may we see a distracted and distraught generation captured by Jesus Christ … and through them (and Him) may we see the world changed.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).
Sean Dunn is a speaker, author and the founder of Groundwire, an organization that exists to broadcast hope to anyone who may be struggling or in crisis. Operating 24 hours a day, hundreds of volunteers man Groundwire's chat platform, which is available to anyone at anytime who may need help, encouragement or affirmation. Sean and his four children live outside of Denver, Colo.