Can a twenty-five year old shake up a political action organization that results in a cut in federal funding and a cancelled contract with the U.S. Census? You bet he can. James O'Keefe blew the lid off corruption within a national community organizing group called ACORN in September of 2009. He and his female assistant exposed corruption through videos taped with a hidden camera, then went to the media with the very damaging footage. In the videos, he posed as a pimp and his female assistant posed as a prostitute, and successfully showed ACORN employees in four of the agency's offices condoning a series of illicit actions as the couple sought advice on setting up a brothel with underage women from El Salvador. O'Keefe documented these on YouTube as well.
Fallout from the publicity prompted the U.S. Senate to vote 83-7 to block Housing and Urban Development grants to ACORN.270 O'Keefe is a conservative undercover reporter who simply wanted to make a difference by exposing corruption. Consider the irony of two young people with little funding that broke open a story that no network had been investigating. Age and money have nothing to do with being a change agent in culture, especially in this media age where anyone can post text or video images onto the internet.
I first met Jon Mitchell at a weekend conference in 2007. I was immediately impressed by his passion for Christ, his commitment to his marketplace call, and his clear understanding that his work was a holy calling. This was not a combination I often saw in a twenty-something young man. I inquired more, and learned that he was a real seeker of truth and God. A few months after our 7-mountain conference, I received a detailed email testimony from Jon about how God was working in his life. In it he described what he had done to adopt the goal of impacting the mountains of culture. Jon indicated that he had been "called into the business world" while in college, but it wasn't until the conference that he was "awakened to the incredible opportunity to live out my calling in the workplace."
After the conference, he and his cousin began asking God to "write His story through us," just as He had done through my life, and the lives of Gunnar Olson, Chuck Ripka and others. They had a friend who had a chiropractic business, and they began praying that God would make it a place of spiritual and physical healing in their city. Jon wrote: "Within two weeks my friend had the highest volume of patients in one week he had ever had, and the next week he broke his single day volume record. Not only that, but God has been giving him insight into peoples lives, and he prays over them as he adjusts them. One lady was relieved of chronic pain within two visits...totally abnormal for the types of problems she was experiencing."
Jon went on to describe how God was "making a move" in his own business. He had a magazine he had been publishing for more than thirty-five years. About five years ago, he bought some new mailing equipment-which had been giving the company trouble for the entire five years. Jon was really convicted about his attitude toward that machine, so he took the staff into the warehouse, where they repented of cursing that machine, laid hands on it, and asked God to bless it during our next mailing cycle. He reported: "Do you know we did not have one problem with that machine? Not only that, but we finished our processing in record time with two brand new guys running the equipment."
Not only that, but God led his father and he to call a local mission to see if they had any men needing work. He wrote: "Now, usually this would not be the first place to look because of the situation a lot of these guys are coming out of (homelessness, drugs, etc). But God was in control, and the two guys He sent us were so impacted by working for us that they said it was the best two weeks they've had in recent memory." Each morning they prayed together, and Jon says, "God got a hold of them."
Jon was so excited with these ventures that he and his wife decided to go and pray over his wife's classroom before her school year started. She teaches in a lower income area in the public school system, and there were real issues of racism, poverty, and neglect. He reported on what happened in this venture: "Needless to say, God showed up. My wife called me at the end of her first day to tell me she was on her way home. No surprise except that it was 3:30-that has never happened because usually the first day is overwhelming. She said it was amazing, and so smooth. So I said, that's great, but it's not enough. I told God I wanted to hear the principal say that it was the smoothest start the school has had. Guess what? My wife brought home a letter from the principal a few days later declaring that it was the smoothest start to a school year they have had in years."
Impacting the Next Generation
If we are going to impact future cultures we will need young people like James and Jon who have a vision for what can happen when they enter into their destinies with a motive to solve problems and be used of God.
Many of today's next generation operate from no moral absolutes. In a 2009 Barna Group survey, George Barna defined those born between 1984 and 2002 as the Mosaic Generation, because they're "very mosaic in every aspect of their life. There's no attribute that really dominates like you might have seen with prior generations."[i]They are comprised of nonlinear thinkers who cut and paste their beliefs and values from a variety of sources. Barna describes the next generation like this: "Mosaics and Busters have come to expect experiences that appear unscripted and interactive, that allow them to be open and honest with their questions, that are technologically stimulating, that are done alongside peers and within trusted relationships, and that give them the chance to be creative and visual." He believes that connecting with young people has always been a challenge, but today that struggle is at a much deeper level.
It's a completely different set of values based upon a very varied interpretation of the meaning of life and how to achieve success or significance in one's life," said Barna in an interview. "They want spirituality; they want faith experiences; they want a taste of religion; but they don't want to have to go through all of the stuff that they see the adults doing at the typical church. But, because the Internet fits with their schedule-it's a 24/7 opportunity-they're using it to explore things they might not have access to otherwise." [ii]
Employing the Next Generation Worker
Debbie Farah is a first-generation Palestinian Christian founder and CEO of Bajalia Trading Company, an import business that uses trade, training, and other forms of community development to alleviate poverty and empower low-income people in third world nations. Debbie's professional background reads like a who's who in corporate Fortune 500 marketing and retail. She has worked with high-profile clients like Nieman Marcus, Ritz Carlton, Coca-Cola, and even the US Army in her career as creative director in large ad agencies. Debbie saw the plight of the poor in these third-world nations and decided to do something about it. She is a change agent who is using her professional career knowledge and expertise to help the poor use their skills to earn a living by creating products for Debbie's important business. Debbie's nine-person company employs only under-thirty next gens. She has learned that there are unique characteristics of this next generation that must be recognized if we are to help them become change agents. She has also learned that the older generation must learn from this generation as well.
Some key differences that she sees in the work habits of this next generation are as follows:
·They are much more aware of the world as an international playing field and see the web as the place to equalize big and small players.
·They are comfortable with diversity and generationally more cross-culturally sensitive.
·They place a high value on relationships and social networking and do not follow the 9 to 5 structure of corporate America. They operate more like tribes. They desire flexibility in their working hours and are willing to work late hours if they can accommodate their social agendas at the same time they achieve their working goals.
·They prefer flexibility in order to maintain relationships while exercising creativity to accomplish measureable goals.
·They often need more mentoring and coaching with a hands-on approach. They ask lots of questions and do not accept the status quo just because something was done before. They will challenge long-held ideas and want their opinions and ideas valued.
·They tend to be risk-takers and see that as part of the adventure.
·They want meaning and purpose in the kind of work they do. They want to make a difference in society.
·They want to achieve things quicker and often do not want to wait until they can afford to impact culture, unlike the baby-boomers. They want to have an impact now, not when they get to their "half-time" stage of life. They do not feel money is always the requirement to have impact.
·They are not comfortable working in segmented cubicles, but prefer more open environments where they can better interact with associates.
·They often view the older generation as using words that are superficial. They want to see action, not just words.
·They look for genuine relationships and meaning in what and how they do it.
·They are creative and use the various technology mediums to accomplish their goals - such as web marketing, social networking, blogging, email, and text messaging.
·They are often more drawn to start-up companies versus well established companies because they feel they can use their creativity and entrepreneurial gifts to a greater degree. They believe they will be valued more in a startup environment than a well-established corporate environment that may hinder their creativity.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a young man who wanted to influence his culture. When He began to lead the civil rights movement, he was only twenty-six years old. There are change agents in the making in this generation, but it is going to require the older generation to relate differently to them in order to raise up a generation with a restored biblical worldview that will change the way they relate to and impact their world. It is also going to require the next generation to learn what it means to live as sons and daughters, which is a challenge since so many have not had physical and spiritual fathers.
[i]"New Research Explores How Different Generations View and Use the Bible," October 19, 2009, Barna Group, accessed at http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/12-faithspirituality/317-new-research-explores-how-different-generations-view-and-use-the-bible, May 19, 2010.
[ii]Jon Walker, "Youngest generation comfortable with contradictions, Barna says," Baptist Press, February 4, 2002, accessed at http://baptistpress.org/bpnews.asp?ID=12664, May 19, 2010.
(Click on bookstore banner to the right to order this and other resources)
Empowering the Next Generation Teleseminar - Mp3 Download, with Os Hillman
Throughout the Bible, God talks about passing the baton to the next generation - from Elijah and Elisha, to the book of Psalms, to Paul and Timothy in the book of Acts. But with church attendance rapidly declining and little to no signs of revival in sight, how are we going to ignite today's young leaders with a powerful message of Christ that is relevant to them today? And how are we doing this in the marketplace, the place that has a significant influence on culture? Join us as we seek to understand the challenges facing this generation, and to empower them to take their place of influence.