Soon after I became General Overseer, Jeremiah 1:4-10 exploded in my spirit. The familiar passage describes God’s call to Jeremiah and then Jeremiah’s response.
The Scripture points out that from his mother’s womb, Jeremiah was known of God, and then called by God to be a prophet to the nations. Following Jeremiah’s excuse of being “too young,” God responded by saying, “Do not say, ‘I am too young. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.” (NIV)
“Do not say, ‘I am too young. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
After studying this passage, I was especially moved by the specificity of the Lord’s direction to Jeremiah: “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” What an overwhelming and significant job description to give a young man!
In reading these verses over and over, I became convinced that a similar calling was upon the sons and daughters of the Church of God. At that moment, I believe the Lord instructed me to Embrace, Engage, Empower and Employ a young generation with a calling and purpose, similar to the one placed upon Jeremiah. In other words, a calling to a “Jeremiah Generation.”
It has not been my desire to place a specific age limit on the Jeremiah Generation, but for the purpose of focus, I have typically identified this group as being those already identified as millennials and Generation Z. Basically, all those born since 1980.
To be overly clear, please allow me to state again what I hopefully made clear at the General Assembly. The emphasis on the Jeremiah Generation is not at all to the exclusion of any other generation or age group. It is simply an intentional effort to bring along our sons and daughters to stand side-by-side the rest of us in ministry.
After developing this dream and focus, I held multiple meetings with other leaders, including the Executive Committee, State Overseers, Youth and Discipleship Directors and others. In these meetings, I emphasized that the Jeremiah Generation initiative could not be a program or a short-lived “feel good” attempt to satisfy a segment of the church who was looking for just a place to serve and belong. It had to be more.
To make it meaningful, numerous qualitative and quantitative goals were set:
1. The Jeremiah Generation focus had to connect strongly with the FINISH Commitment.
In keeping with the FINISH Commitment, the Jeremiah Generation project encases four of the six FINISH initiatives, including FIND (finding and pursuing the Jeremiah generation), NETWORK (networking with the next generation through discussion groups, personal engagement, and strategic conferences), and INVEST (investing in the lives of next generation leaders to model, mentor, and train). Ultimately, the purpose of this project is to identify and SEND this amazing and resourceful army out to win the HARVEST.
2. The Jeremiah Generation initiative could not be run by a group of older men at Church of God headquarters - of which I am one.
While the wisdom and support of mature leaders is vital, the Jeremiah Generation must have the handprint of young leaders in order to reach more young leaders. That’s why I sat down early with the leaders of the Youth and Discipleship department. In them, I invested trust, funding and support – and said, “loose your student leaders and the students themselves to run with this vision.” Because of that critical early decision, the Jeremiah Generation emphasis is soaring.
In a supplement to this article, you can read a report from Dr. David Blair, International Youth and Discipleship Director, on the Jeremiah Generation initiative.
3. The Jeremiah Generation had to have a cutting-edge training element for current and future pastors and leaders.
This training component wasn’t about making an unhappy group of millennials and Gen Z-ers feel better about the Church of God. It was about the Church of God investing in a generation who will lead this movement, sooner rather than later, and they need to know the best methods available.
As a part of this process, the Church of God was able to secure the training available through Dr. Fred Garmon and LeaderLabs. To focus the LeaderLab training on the Jeremiah Generation, scholarship opportunities were made available to leaders 29 years of age and under.
Dr. Garmon recently shared a report about LeaderLabs and the impact on the Jeremiah Generation. You can read his report in the supplement to this article as well.
4. For the Jeremiah Generation initiative to be successful, there must also be a higher education opportunity attached to it.
Dr. Mike Baker, President of Pentecostal Theological Seminary, is currently making five partial scholarships available to the Seminary each semester to interested and potential Jeremiah Generation students. Since the inception of the Jeremiah Generation initiative, fifteen individuals have taken advantage of this generous opportunity.
5. The voices of the Jeremiah Generation had to be introduced to the Church of God.
The social media video series, “Voices of the Jeremiah Generation,” was launched by the Church of God to give a platform to the ministries of this incredible group of young pastors, evangelist and teachers. To date, almost 100 different young women and men have been featured on these brief video vignettes.
Further, the Friday night service at the 2018 General Assembly service has been most talked about and will long be remembered. In that anointed service, four Jeremiah Generation representatives preached and set the Orlando/Orange County Convention Center ablaze with fervent spiritual fire. Adrian Franklin, Ashley Ramsey, Daniel Pinero and Eric Petree preached solid theology, focused on the Spirit and Power of Pentecost. I was never more proud and thankful for a group of young people.
Again, not to the exclusion of other generations, but it is good to see more and more state and regional conferences including opportunities for the Jeremiah Generation to share their ministry gifts. Each of these opportunities have revealed that the Jeremiah Generation is well-studied, prayed up and passionate about the gospel of Jesus Christ. They also have an obvious love and appreciation for the Church of God.
6. The Jeremiah Generation and the leadership of the Church of God must become better acquainted.
Paula and I are Baby-boomers who reared three millennials and have four grandchildren who are Gen Z-ers. However, we are not experts and never were on the younger generations. Most of my days are spent with others of my own age or older. If I don’t intentionally place myself in the vicinity of younger generations, I’ll never know or understand them, nor will they know and understand me.
With this in mind, I decided to go back to Youth Camp. I rode horses and ate camp food. I held discussions with students and let them grill me on topics of interest. And I plan to do it again. In the meantime, the Executive Committee has partnered with Lee University in the establishment of mentoring groups with students. Each Executive Committee member meets with 10 to 15 Lee University students throughout the semester for a meal and discussion. Collectively, we meet at least once each semester with about 120 students from the Lee University School of Religion to discuss the ministry of the Church of God and how students can be more engaged. These gatherings have proven to be most enlightening and energizing.
7. The Jeremiah Generation must have a place at the table.
I have determined that representatives of the Jeremiah Generation need a voice and a place at the table of decision, study and influence. Just think about the impact of blending the wisdom of mature generations with the insight, energy and eagerness of the Jeremiah Generation.
Almost every appointed board at international offices now has at least one representative of the Jeremiah Generation assigned to it. In all, some 33 individuals representing the Jeremiah Generation currently serve on leadership and departmental boards. And I encourage state/regional leadership to follow this example as well.
The bottom line is that every generation brings great value to the discussion and impact of the ministries of the Church of God around the globe. Just as David “served his own generation” (Acts 13:36), we are called to impact our own generation.
Likewise, the Jeremiah Generation is serving the Church of God with impact, distinction and honor to their generation. May those of us with years of experience on our side, encourage the Jeremiah Generation and wave them on with great enthusiasm and expectation for what is to come.