In the past, young people have played a decisive role in social and political reform in many nations. However, did you know that young people have also had a profound influence on several of the great moves of the Holy Spirit?
John Calvin was 26 years old when he completed his first draft of ‘Institutes of the Christian Religion’. Philipp Melanchthon was 21 when he joined Martin Luther as they lectured together at universities all over Europe in the early days of the Reformation. George Whitefield began to preach at age 21 and was one of the greatest orators of the 1700s, preaching with John Wesley to crowds of up to 30,000 people at a time.
Evan Roberts was the key figure in what became the Welsh Revival. In 1904, when Evan was 26, he said to his college principal, “I keep hearing a voice that tells me I must go home to speak to our young people in my home church.” So began a time of revival during which over 100,000 people all over Wales were converted in just five months. A key feature of the Welsh Revival was the involvement of young people and children.
The Jesus People emerged from the young hippy culture in the late 1960’s and many of today’s senior church leaders came to faith in this counter-cultural movement. The Charismatic movement of the 1960’s started when a small group of Catholic college students were baptised in the Holy Spirit at the ‘Duquesne Weekend’. This movement soon swept through the mainline protestant denominations and its influence is still strongly felt in the church today.
Of course, the greatest move of the Holy Spirit this world has ever seen was when the Lord Jesus sent out eleven men to change the world in His name. Jesus was in His early thirties, but how old do you suppose His disciples were? Art and movies usually depict them as mature men, but the evidence of scripture paints a different picture. Consider the following:
- Eighteen was the common marrying age for a Jewish man in those times yet only Peter appears to have been married (Matthew 8:14-15).
- According to Exodus 30:14-15 all men over 20 years of age were obligated to pay the temple tax yet Jesus instructed Peter to pay this tax only for the two of them (Matthew 17:24-27).
- Formal schooling for Jewish boys ended at age 13 and after that, they usually became apprentices in the family trade or linked up with a rabbi for further religious instruction. James and John were working for their father when Jesus called them (Matthew 4:21-22). Two disciples, possibly Andrew and Phillip were John the Baptist’s trainees when Jesus called them to follow Him (John 1:37-39).
- James and John’s mother tried to persuade Jesus to grant her sons special favours and this would have been very out of place and embarrassing had they been mature men.
If the example of Jesus is to guide us, and if past revivals are to inform us, then should we not be encouraging our young people to rise up, not in revolution but in revival! Who better to engage the hearts and minds of the youthful millions than on-fire-for-Jesus young people? Who are more filled with energy and enthusiasm than young people? Who more open to the influence of the Holy Spirit than the young?
Come young people – arise! But know this, that in order to arise in the power of the Spirit you must first bend the knee before Jesus and commit to the ways of the Father. And we, the older generation in the faith can help you do just this. Together, young and old, we could reach this nation the way the first disciples reached the world of their day.