Nearly 40 percent of Assemblies of God adherents are under the age of 25, according to annual church reports. Out of a constituency of 2.9 million members, that means nearly 1.1 million are children and youth.
In light of these statistics, the AG is dedicated to equipping, mentoring and guiding young people in their faith by focusing on strategically investing in the next generation as one of its five core values.
Influence Resources, one of the AG's newest publishing imprints, has released a new title called The Live|Dead Journal, a 30-day devotional challenge taken from scriptural principles, calling believers to die to self and to live joyfully for Christ. The journal highlights personal accounts of 26 missionaries working with unreached people groups in East Africa who are dedicated to taking the church where it does not exist.
Since its release, The Live|Dead Journal has caught the attention of thousands of AG young people, looking to rise up as leaders of their generation by reaching the lost and impacting their world for Christ.
Several Assemblies of God universities, including Evangel University, Northwest University and Southwestern Assemblies of God University have completed the Live|Dead Challenge this past academic year. The challenges were student-initiated and student-led by those who stepped out as leaders on their campus and had a heart to share a more passionate faith with their peers.
More than 900 copies of The Live|Dead Journal were distributed to Evangel University students in February 2012 for a campus-wide challenge to "live dead" for God. For 30 days, Evangel students read a new passage in the journal and followed the challenges provided.
Emileigh Morton, current junior and international/multicultural studies major at Evangel, located in Springfield, Missouri, says the Live|Dead Challenge came to the campus at a great time. "We've had a lot of prayer groups coming up that were student-led, so the challenge was good since it brought people together and provided something for them to pray about," she says. "It was able to open student's eyes to missions and expand the vision of reaching the world."
Morton, who is part of the leadership team of World Changers club on campus, was able to help plan the event, set up the campus blog and work through logistics of putting the pieces together to hold the challenge on campus.
Since her parents are missionaries to Africa, Morton says she was able to connect to the stories from missionaries in the journal. "I was reading about people I knew, places I've been to," she says. "I was able to take the experiences I had and share the calling I have for missions with people around me who were participating in the challenge. It really reminded me of what's important and kept my priorities straight."
For those young people that have a heart for reaching the lost, Morton says the journal can help them understand what they are getting into and can help them prepare spiritually to be a missionary. "I liked how the book was deep and encouraging, not just surface material, and how the stories were serious and needy. It presented people with what they need to know about missions - it's not just light and fun all the time. It reminded me of the real deal and why I'm still involved in missions."
One principle of the journal that really stood out to Morton was the idea of sacrifice on the fourth day. "We can choose what to give up to give to God, but when we truly sacrifice ourselves, we don't have any control left ... we give it all to God. This was special to me as a college student," she says. "It provided me with spiritual insight and I was willing to relinquish control. It makes it scary, but it's also a big leap of faith."
According to Morton, through the practical stories in the journal, students were taught timeless principles that can apply to all majors and occupations. "Young people can reach others strategically even if they are not directly involved in ministry or missions," she says. "The idea of strategically reaching is clearly displayed in the journal. It's not exactly a missions strategy, but a real-life Christian living strategy that can apply to every generation."
Northwest University, located in Kirkville, Washington, brought the Live|Dead Challenge to its students in January and February 2012. Student Alyssa Brooks led the challenge on campus, where nearly 550 students participated campus-wide.
Brooks, who is currently interning with the World Missions Summit, is a junior international studies major with an emphasis in cross-cultural studies at Northwest. She heard of the Live|Dead concept from a friend, who had contact with missionaries in Africa. After the journal was mentioned to Brooks, she went through the 30-day challenge with a team, and then brought it to the campus pastor.
"It just fit with everything we were doing and what was in our hearts for the student body," Brooks says. "With nearly half of the campus population participating and spending extravagant time with the Lord and committing to the challenge, it changes the whole atmosphere. You could see people reading their Bibles and really engaged in the Lord's presence ... you could see and physically feel the change it brought to campus and it affected everything."
Brooks says that during the challenge, students' spirits were changed as they made themselves available to God's calling on their lives. "You could sense how the Lord was working, tearing and breaking apart boundaries, and you could see the Spirit moving in students' hearts," she says. "Students were broken and a lot were opened up to a whole new concept [of living dead]. It made people think, shook them up and brought healing."
When Brooks went through the 30-day challenge for the first time with her team, her eyes were really opened to the concept of sacrifice, just like Morton. For her, the term sacrifice was associated with a negative connotation, due to the fact that something was given up - but God did a work in her heart. "He really just burdened me with the fact that I get to sacrifice. I get to be part of this whole other way of living and chasing prosperity, chasing my dreams and not fearing what could happen," she says. "I get to sacrifice all of that and be open to the millions of possibilities and things that he has for my life. So that sacrifice was no longer being willful to the things that I wanted to see, but letting go of all of that and continually be willing to do whatever God has for me."
There were definitely a lot of people that were called to serve and made more passionate about missions as a result of the challenge, Brooks says. Even a few contacted missionaries or signed up to go on short-term missions trips in the near future. Although it has been months since the challenge was completed, the mindset of the students on campus has changed and the principles learned are evident in their daily living.
"This directly hits this generation's heart. It calls us out of passive faith and living instead of making everything about us," Brooks says. "It was like God was saying to us, ‘It's not about you, it's about Me. I rescued you, I restore you and I have a purpose for you and a greater plan that is beyond what you can really see.' It really calls this generation out of that passive living and places an urgency and stirring in our hearts to want to step out and serve, pushing us to dig deeper and unite as one generation in all of the gifts God has given us, and to use the power we've been given to change the world."