'We are in an urgent time,' says NAMB's next gen evangelism leader

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ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- Shane Pruitt, an evangelist, Bible teacher and director of evangelism for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, has been named director of next gen (generation) evangelism for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

"My prayer is to see a movement of God and a revival among students," Pruitt said. "I want to continue to preach to the next generation and help churches think through how to reach them."

Johnny Hunt, NAMB’s senior vice president for evangelism and leadership, called Pruitt an exceptional communicator who is blessed with a gift for relating to students.

"Shane has connected with this younger generation in a way that few others have," Hunt said. "He tells them the truth of God’s Word and is literally seeing thousands respond. We need that, and I am thrilled that Shane will be joining our team."

Pruitt begins his role in November. He will continue speaking at evangelism and outreach events and also focus on serving and resourcing Southern Baptist churches as they seek to more effectively reach students.

"We want to help Southern Baptists elevate the priority of reaching students for Christ," said Kevin Ezell, NAMB’s president. "Shane’s passion and burden for the next generation are contagious. He is a voice crying out for this generation. We want to help expand his platform, and we hope thousands of churches will respond."

Pruitt said the overall drop in baptism numbers Southern Baptists have seen in recent decades is concerning, but the drop in student baptisms should set off even more alarms. A recent Wall Street Journal poll found that among Americans age 18-38, only 30 percent listed religion or belief in God as "very important" compared with 50 percent overall, and two-thirds of those age 55 and older.

"But similar polls show that 80 percent of young people place a high value on self-fulfillment," Pruitt said. "The only way toward that is setting aside self and living for something bigger. To me that is a door wide open for the gospel."

Pruitt said he hopes to show churches that there is not a secret code to reaching students.

"I try to help churches see that they have a lot more in common with the next generation than they might realize," he said. "There are some unique things about this group. They have known technology all their lives, and the reality of family breakdown is a dominant theme for them. But just like everyone else they need to know they are sinners, that there is a Savior. They can know Him, and they can be discipled."

In some ways the current generation is a blank slate spiritually, Pruitt said.

"They have grown up without church. They are the least religious generation we have ever seen," he said. "But they know they are lost, and they know they are broken."

Pruitt and his wife, Kasi, have five children -- two biological and three adopted. He says his life and faith has been greatly impacted by the decision he and Kasi made to adopt.

"I tell people that besides salvation itself there have been three major life shifts for me that have shown me different impacts of the gospel: becoming a husband, becoming a father and becoming an adoptive father."

Seven-year-old son Titus has cerebral palsy and has had 13 surgeries over the course of his life.

"The Lord has taught us so much through him," Pruitt said. "We pray for his healing every day and we believe God can do that. But we are also amazed at how much the Lord has used Titus to heal us and to teach us about areas of life that we are holding onto too tightly."

With his oldest daughter now age 13, Pruitt lives out generational dynamics every day.

"If we don’t reach this age group, the one after them will be even more difficult to reach," he said. "We are in an urgent time, and we could lose a generation."

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