10 September 2014
Where are all the history-makers?
by Dave Griffiths
I was a teenager in the 90s and, like many of my generation, was deeply inspired by the faith and escapades of some leaders that were younger than our parents, but older than us. They were visionaries who shifted the culture of the Church and touched the world around them.
In particular I am thinking of Martin Smith (and his cohorts in Delirious), Pete Greig of 24/7, Mike Pilavachi of Soul Survivor and Andy Hawthorne of The Message Trust. All four are still active in leadership today, continuing to inspire and bear fruit for the kingdom.
The enterprises that they spearheaded were almost instrumental in rejuvenating enthusiasm for worship, prayer, youth ministry and mission in the UK Church community. They helped us as a generation wake up and take our faith and lifestyle seriously. We were told we were historymakers, and I believed it.
Fast-forward to today. I am now in my early 30s. I look around and wonder, where are the pioneers of my peer group? Is it just me that wonders whether we really are that 'historymaking' generation? I could easily list cynical reasons why we are not producing the kind of leaders that blaze a trail like those I mentioned earlier. It seems a lot of people have come in the wake of the pioneers –for every Martin Smith there is a Tim Hughes;Mike Pilavachi an Andy Croft, and so on.
Looking across the pond you can see there's something different in the water. The likes of Shaine Clayborne, Jeff Bethke and the whole Jesus Culture movement have caught the imagination of many young evangelicals. It's hard to see the same level of fresh thinking among young leaders in the UK. However, just because it's hard to see, doesn't mean it's not happening. There are some amazing people of our generation who have found more niche places to excel.
I'm thinking of what Josh Stannard and his team at Doxa are doing with Christ Centred Fashion –it's totally inspiring and unlike anything else I've seen. The same can be said of how Andy Baker and Resound Media have built amazing links with the mainstream music scene, and Christian musicians are touring with some of the biggest artists in the world.
Talking to Martin Smith recently was eyeopening on the whole movement in the 1990s. He reflected how no one set out to be a 'pioneer' at the time –but that they were innocently pursuing God with no agenda.
It was only later people looked back at the journey and decided to put labels on things. Martin wondered whether today people set out to do something 'pioneering', which almost never truly achieves the intended goal.
Are we guilty of being both too intentional and ambitious as a generation, and also suffering from a lethargy and cynicism that kills off passion? We mustn't kid ourselves, we are in a different landscape than 20 years ago. We've never had so much access to information, literally in the palm of our hands. We are almost paralysed by choice and suffocated by a slew of opinions on every topic under the sun. It's hard to think clearly in this noisy, digital world. We expect everything to happen so quickly –I know I'm guilty of this. Do we have the diligence, patience and innocence that marks out the leaders of our younger days? Are we prepared to sacrifice comfort and allow God to mess with our plans? Are we, the 'selfie' generation, capable of working together and seeing past our little universes we are busily furnishing?
Believe it or not, I am actually a relentless optimist. I believe that we, as a generation, are yet to have our finest hour. But, there is still much to celebrate. I believe that the fences surrounding the Church culture cul-de-sac are being pulled down. We are leading and pioneering, but not in the obvious, almost celebrity way it was done by our big brothers and sisters. Maybe we are happier just getting on with it, quietly –not needing a stage or publishing deal to prove it? I meet a lot of people who are most definitely pioneering, but would be embarrassed to be put in the spotlight. We don't have to do it the same way it was done in the past –and for that reason I think we should take the pressure off ourselves and just keep going after that which God has put on our hearts.
Dave lives in Bournemouth with his wife Jess and three children. A musician for a living, Dave is doing his bit with Chaos Curb, a network of young adults passionate about generous and creative evangelism.