the shape of leadership

Let’s Call Them “Gen V”

College students are taking a courageous stand for Christ

Mike Rakes on July 8, 2024

What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders; they disobey their parents. They ignore the laws. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”

You might be surprised to know these words are not clipped from recent cable news but were attributed to Plato, the Greek philosopher, who lived approximately 2,400 years ago.

Scholars get more than a little grumpy when you try to nail down the parameters of what defines a generation. However, generational units typically range from 15 to 24 years of age with varying overlap periods.

This generational “typing” is a way to classify or identify a certain mindset, or, in our circles, a “spirit of the age” that reveals how people within that defined age range typically think and view life.

Lately, I have become more and more optimistic about some of the things I’ve seen related to current college students  — “Gen Z”  — that contradict the evening news. In every generation, one could take a Polaroid snapshot, make some generalizations, and think one sees the whole story.

However, I think it is time to recognize that “Gen Z” could be more aptly labeled “Gen V”  — that is, the “Generation of Valor,” who are defined more by what prompts their hearts and inspires their minds than any diluted list of bulleted characteristics you may find on a web search.

The current context of this generation mirrors the situation young Jewish captives found themselves while growing up in Babylon. They were uprooted and raised in an unfamiliar world by their parents, who were suddenly disoriented and forced to try and bring up their children within a Jewish context in a strange culture.

We see that somehow, by God's grace and mercy, amidst great pressure and ungodly paganistic thinking, specific values emerged, brought to the surface by the foreign pressures of Babylon.

We see across our AG university campuses characteristics like virtue and valor that power students from the inside to do right in the face of adversity and to have courage to stand for Christ and for biblical values in a divided world.

Greater than pure economic survival, the Jews knew they did not want to lose the songs of old and their heart for Yahweh. They fought for their identity and the values that characterized it.

In a similar fashion, the heart of what Assemblies of God universities are focused on is not just job preparation, although that's of upmost importance. Our universities are unapologetically calling out the values that the Spirit of God has placed deep inside them. We construct and manage transformational environments for students to not protest but to praise!

Most certainly, Barna Group is correct in classifying the backdrop for this generation's assignment as living in Digital Babylon. In its latest work, The Open Generation, Barna reports that 87% of teenagers surveyed at least somewhat agree, “My generation has the ability to make a positive and meaningful impact on the world.”

My point is that specific character traits, which emerged from key biblical heroes impacted by Babylonian captivity, are showing up in this generation of wholly devoted kids. We see across our AG university campuses characteristics like virtue and valor that power students from the inside to do right in the face of adversity and to have courage to stand for Christ and for biblical values in a divided world.

The Babylonian captivity produced champions like Daniel, who were wise and learned to serve in the courts of Babylonian and Persian kings. Who can forget Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, inside a fiery furnace commissioned by King Nebuchadnezzar, showing valor and not bowing to an idol?

There was Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel who led the first group of Jewish exiles back home to restore worship. Who can forget Esther, as Queen of Persia, showing both virtue and valor to preserve her people?

Today’s Gen V members are in your homes and churches right now, and the same God who saw His people through great times of dryness and distance from their homeland is the same God who is calling this generation to arise from the broadly cast labels of “Gen Z” and be all God has created them to be — Generation Valor!

I believe we are seeing the Holy Spirit move graduates into spaces of influence so that they might carry His love to a broken, angry, and divided world. He does this not by education alone but through His Divine Habitation in their hearts.

It’s becoming clearer to me that God is in the process of embedding within Gen V members the things they need to carry His presence into every space.

Galatians 6:4 encourages this generation of world changers, “Let everyone be devoted to fulfill the work God has given them to do with excellence and their joy will be in doing what’s right and being themselves, and not in being affirmed by others” (The Passion Translation).

Lord, grant us a prophetic excitement in our vision for this generation! I pray that you would instill virtue and courageous valor into the hearts of students and deploy them into every vocation around the world as Christ’s ambassadors. Amen.

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