Four Essentials To Equip This Generation To Walk In Their Calling

April 8, 2024

“Why am I here?” 

This is the number one question I hear from 18 to 25-year-olds. What they usually mean by this is, “What am I supposed to do (for my career/profession) for the rest of my life?” 

Younger generations are ready and eager to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they have been called, but frequently point their lives towards a call that is mislabeled. The question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” has plagued young adults for as long as they can remember. 

As a result, it has conflated purpose and calling with living, prestige, compensation, and the recognition it brings with it. The problem with this is that while God created us to work (Genesis, 2:15), vocation is simply one vehicle through which calling is walked out.

If you have ever been tempted to label 18 to 25-year-olds as “soft,” “snowflakes,” or “lazy,” let me encourage you to look again. While you may not love some of their external expressions, this age group is comprised of highly collaborative, hungry to belong, missional young adults who are not afraid to ask, answer, and wrestle with hard questions. 

They see the brokenness in the world around them and they want to do something about it. They long to live lives of purpose for a cause that makes a difference while linking arms with others on a common mission. The questions they ask and the answers they seek go far beyond what they want to do for a career, delving into who they want to be and how they can make a lasting impact in the world around them.

In a season of life where 18-25-year-olds are looking for a place to belong and a purpose to live out, they must first understand that they have been called. God calls unto himself, not because of who they are, but because of who he is. 

Their call and their salvation is about his glory, and when they answer that call, their lives become about glorifying God (the Great Commandment) and connecting others to him (the Great Commission). 

Our job, as brothers and sisters in the church, is to help equip them with humility, authenticity, discipleship, and endurance, empowering them to walk out their life’s true calling.

Humility 

Truth is under siege and the lens 18 to 25-year-olds have been given through which to view the world places self at the center. They live in a world that says, “What is true for you does not have to be true for me,” and truth appears to be a moving target. This generation is hungry for truth.

Eighteen to 25-year-olds need environments where they can discover and deepen relationships with Christ. Gospel proclamation and biblical exegesis are crucial because this is where they find truth. To walk in their calling, they must first humbly acknowledge that Jesus is truth. 

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity called pride “the great sin.” Pride stiff arms God and says, “I’ve got this.” To walk in their calling, 18 to 25-year-olds must first answer God’s call upon their lives. This isn’t simply a moment of “inviting Jesus into their heart,” but full surrender to make Jesus the Lord of all things in their lives. 

It requires individuals to place themselves under the lordship of Christ and humbly admit they can’t save or change themselves into who they are called to be. Surrendering requires them, and us, to lay down pride in exchange for God’s ways, humbly acknowledging they are sinners in need of a savior, daily.

For most 18 to 25-year-olds, surrender is a new concept. They’ve spent years striving to achieve the next grade, the next relationship, the next accolade, the next new thing. 

Everywhere they look they see highlight reels of success and buy into the lie that they are the only one struggling. Pride keeps them under the illusion that there are areas in life that are beyond God’s reach and that should not be brought to light within the church. This belief leads to one of two possible responses:

1. “You can have this area, God, but I’m just going to keep my sexuality/my vape/my course language/my online viewing/my career/my relationships/my anger over here” 

OR

2. “Try harder, do better” mindset for sin management. Humble surrender acknowledges it all belongs to God and invites him into all areas of life.

Authenticity

As the key to unlocking humility, authenticity lies near the top of the younger generation’s list of values. Eighteen to 25-year-olds are equipped to walk in humility and surrender to Jesus as the Lord of their lives when they experience authenticity. Authenticity acknowledges who we are rather than who we think we should be. However, authenticity only works in the correct order, first with Jesus (vertical authenticity), second with ourselves (internal authenticity), and third with others (horizontal authenticity).

Not only do they need to surrender to Christ in humility and authenticity as sinners in need of a savior, 18 to 25-year-olds need to be known, more than merely welcomed, and freed to ask questions and authentically answer them. Each person has a story and each story impacts how they will walk out their calling. 

James 5:16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” 

Traditionally, confession might be pictured as the list of deeds someone has done wrong. However, confession goes beyond behavior to include thoughts, or what someone may be believing incorrectly about the Lord and about themselves. Authentic communities invite confession, not for judgment or condemnation, but for freedom and healing.

A phrase I often use with young adults is “I can only love you as much as I know you.” Granted, I can love every single young adult that crosses my path as an image bearer of God without ever knowing what lies below the surface, but gross things grow in the dark, and when we cultivate biblical communities that value authenticity, we create space for confession. 

Confession brings things into the light to be covered by truth. Therefore, to walk in their calling, 18 to 25-year-olds need to see God rightly and see themselves in light of that truth. Authentic biblical community frees individuals from striving and invites them into intimacy with Christ and his body of believers.

John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” The call of the Great Commandment is to love God with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our mind. God uses humble and authentic confession to bring 18 to 25-year-olds into intimacy with him, which rightly, leads to his glory. 

Discipleship

1 Thessalonians 2:8 says, “Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” In order to walk in their calling, 18 to 25-year-olds need to be in discipleship relationships that share not only the gospel but are connected through experiences in life.

The voices around 18 to 25-year-olds are loud and abundant. Content and influencers abound, but connection is dwindling. As connection brings with it the feelings of being seen, known, and wanted, it primes the pump for authenticity. This generation is created for connection and longs to be in relationship with others. When connected with others, 18 to 25-year-olds can receive discipleship, and therefore experience the mission field in which to walk out their call.

Connection through discipleship equips young adults to walk out the call of the great commission to “Go and make disciples of all nations” Discipleship is what distinguishes the church from the rest of the world.  

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”  Discipleship says, “Come follow me while I follow Christ.” This generation wants to know God, but they also want to do something with that knowledge. 

Discipleship that says “Let’s get out of rows and experience life as a follower of Christ” will require authenticity and humility. Eighteen to 25-year-olds need to witness and experience what it means to live on mission in all areas of life. They need men and women ahead in their walk with Christ to look back and invite them into the journey. They need to see what it looks like to glorify God outside of the church walls and what it looks like to be conduits of the gospel wherever they go. They need to bear witness to both victories and defeat, as followers of Christ. 

The call to discipleship is to connect others to Christ, his glory, and his mission. Eighteen to 25-year-olds need to understand that their mission field is wherever their feet are, and that their vocation is simply the vehicle through which they get there. Eighteen to 25-year-olds need to be asked not merely what they will do in life, but where/how they will do it strategically for the glory of God. The Great Commission is a call to discipleship and the mission field. 

Humble surrender and authenticity modeled through discipleship equips 18 to 25-year-olds to walk in their call to be disciples who make disciples, and it requires endurance.

Endurance

The call is simple: Surrender, glorify, and connect. Walking it out is not. It will take a lifetime to walk out the call to be followers of Christ.

Eighteen to 25-year-olds have grown up in a world full of constant change and uncertainty. When faced with a question, the answer is as close as Google. Don’t like your school, job, community? Try a new one. Instant gratification and the opportunity for change around every corner implies that if something is hard, simply change your circumstances.

To walk in their calling, 18 to 25-year-olds need to understand the concept of a calling, not as an achievement, but rather as a continuous commitment and way of life that applies at all times and in all circumstances. A life surrendered to the call of Jesus is one of obedience. It is easy to walk in obedience when there is no resistance, but skyrocketing levels of anxiety indicate that resistance is on the rise. 

Endurance is the ability to withstand through hardships, weariness, and persecution. It is steadfastness in the face of difficulties. To walk out a calling, people need endurance. To understand endurance, people need it modeled.

Endurance is birthed in suffering. According to Romans 5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” 

However, it doesn’t stop there. Paul goes on to say that endurance produces Christ-like character, which produces hope, defined as the confident assurance that God will do what he has promised. 

When Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” he promised that his disciples would not go alone. The strength needed for endurance is found in the presence of Christ. Endurance is required for 18 to 25-year-olds to walk in their calling because the call will not be complete until they stand face-to-face with Jesus. 

Walking in their calling with humility, authenticity, and endurance connected through discipleship brings 18 to 25-year-olds to the foot of the cross over and over again. 

As leaders, let’s stop asking the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Instead, let’s start asking the bigger question of, “Where will you go to walk out your calling for the glory of God?”

Tonya Annis

Tonya Annis

Tonya Annis and her husband, Ben, have been married for more than 20 years and have the privilege of raising three incredible sons, now 20, 18, and 14. With more than two decades in ministry leading the next generation, she currently serves as the 1825 Ministry Director at The Church of Eleven22 in Jacksonville, Florida. In 2019, Tonya was invited to build and lead this ministry for 18 to 25-year-olds, helping to shepherd a quickly growing segment of their congregation and raising up generations of believers, leaders, and missionaries around the world.
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