Meet the millennials. They are 33 and younger. They are all on Twitter. And they are bringing innovation to the wide-ranging work of the kingdom. Behold, they are doing a new thing.
Ever since Paul began training Timothy in the faith, every generation has had to look to the next to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth. Today, as American Christianity faces declining affiliation, intense public debates over religious freedom, changes in the family structure, and technological advances, millennial Christians have already picked up the baton.
For this story, CT set out to find young believers who we think are leading today's church in key ways—and who embody what it will look like in the years to come. We consulted ministry leaders, highly connected social media mavens, and millennials themselves to create the following list of 33 Christians 33 and younger to watch. The age cutoff corresponds with the start of the millennial generation in 1980.
Born in the '80s and '90s, millennials have grown up as digital natives. Most of them seamlessly incorporate technology into their lives, careers, and ministries. They also come from the most racially diverse generation in American history: More than 4 out of 10 U.S. millennials are non-white.
The following influencers span sectors of work, uniquely contributing in business and nonprofits, media organizations and ministries, academia and the arts. Some are up-and-coming in familiar institutions; others are venturing out with projects of their own. Plenty of names on our list will likely be unfamiliar—we wanted this project to introduce readers to all kinds of young, committed Christians, to put stories and faces to the millennial generation.
The Hip-Hop Theologian
Trip Lee, 26
@TripLee | Washington, D.C.
Trip Lee has five rap albums, a book, and a seminary background, so when he takes the stage, he could be there to perform or to preach. Either way, he gets to brag about God. Lately, Lee has been doing more of the latter, shifting to pastoral ministry after years on the Christian and hip-hop charts.
A protégé and label mate of Lecrae, Lee grew popular in the late 2000s, endorsed by Reformed church leaders—most prominently John Piper. Anthony Carter, author of On Being Black and Reformed, called Lee a "clear, biblical, and prophetic" voice.
"I have great hope for this generation, not because of hip-hop but because of the gospel. Music can't change hearts any more than good public speaking can. Only the gospel can do that," said Lee, now a senior pastoral assistant to Mark Dever at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. "I want to write, preach, and do whatever I can to tell people about the goodness of Jesus."
The People-Before-Profits Entrepreneur
Dale Partridge, 29
@DalePartridge | Bend, Oregon
When Dale Partridge has a new business idea, he asks himself, If Jesus started a company, what would it look like? And then he tries to create it.
Take Sevenly, for example. It sells apparel to raise awareness and funds for charities. Each week, the company creates a T-shirt or hoodie with a design inspired by the work of a different nonprofit. For seven days, Sevenly promotes and sells the gear, mostly through Facebook, giving $7 of each purchase straight to a cause—orphan care, autism research, and clean water, among others. Since launching in 2011, they've given away $3.6 million. (The number seven echoes the biblical symbol of fullness and completion.)
Partridge's success has earned the attention of the broader business community, with a feature in Forbes, his face on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine, and speeches at Facebook and Adobe. Now, he says, it's time to shift capitalism and consumerism with more businesses that value people over profit. "Like our God," said Partridge, "entrepreneurs are great creators."
Christena Cleveland, 33
@CSCleve | Minneapolis
Christena Cleveland is a social psychologist who writes, advises, and speaks on racial reconciliation. She finds that fellow millennials in particular relate to her message, because her generation "has little patience for disunity and division."
Raised in a multiethnic neighborhood and church planted by her parents in Fremont, California, Cleveland grew up with Filipino, Mexican, black, Korean, white, and biracial friends. "It never occurred to me that this cross-cultural contact was unusual," she said. "Nor was I savvy enough to know that our motley crew would make for a great photo shoot for a cheesy diversity brochure."
As a kid, she began to see her community in a gospel context, asking what it would mean for them to unite as a church. Cleveland went on to study psychology at Dartmouth College and the University of California–Santa Barbara, where she earned her PhD.
"Both the Pentecost narrative and the metaphor of the interdependent body of Christ shape my work," said Cleveland, who teaches at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. "In order to fully embrace the kingdom of God...we must keep searching for it, calling for it, and fighting to embody it in our churches, neighborhoods, and lives."
Last year, Cleveland published Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces That Keep Us Apart (InterVarsity Press), which prompts Christians to name dysfunction caused by division in the church and to respond to the gospel's unifying call—across racial, political, and theological positions. Cleveland brings a psychologist's eye to examine our perceptions of ourselves, our friends, and others, and research on group dynamics and group process to reveal sources of division. Thabiti Anyabwile, who pastors a church in the Bahamas with over 30 nationalities, calls the book an "insightful analysis of why we all say we want unity but find it so difficult to gain."
But the church is making progress, says Cleveland. Without as much cultural and theological baggage that kept earlier leaders in silos, today's young Christians give her hope for "an Acts 2 world."
Matthew Lee Anderson, 32
@mattleeanderson | Oxford, England
As the 21st century pushes young people to embrace all things new, Matthew Lee Anderson looks back to the century prior, namely to the thoughts of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. Anderson combined Mere Christianity and Orthodoxy for the title of the site he launched a decade ago, Mere Orthodoxy, now a popular go-to for probing cultural analysis rooted in the Christian tradition.
"There aren't many people among the living who can think and write with the depth that previous generations of Christians had," he said from Lewis's old stomping grounds at the University of Oxford, where Anderson studies Christian ethics. "If my only legacy is introducing a few people to that tradition, then I'll be a relatively happy man."
Anderson has already done more than that, unafraid to raise tough philosophical questions in his books—The End of Our Exploring (Moody Publishers), on doubt, and Earthen Vessels (Bethany House), on physical embodiment—as well as in his writing for The Gospel Coalition, The City (of Houston Baptist University), and CT. "We have a faith that takes the same shape as our Savior's life," he said. "It is new in every generation, yet still—and must be—the 'same old thing.'"
The Ex-Muslim Evangelist
Nabeel Qureshi, 31
@NAQureshi | Atlanta
As more and more immigrants call the United States home, American Christians get to evangelize cross-culturally without leaving the country. Nabeel Qureshi has been on both sides of that exchange.
Raised in a Pakistani American Muslim family, Qureshi came to Christ in medical school after reading the Bible in order to debate a Christian friend. Now, he shares his testimony as a speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and in his recent book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (Zondervan). He clarifies the Islamic worldview (and debunks stereotypes) in lectures and debates, encouraging Christians to love, serve, and ultimately share the gospel with Muslim neighbors—of whom about 2.6 million live in the United States. According to Pew Research projections, that number is expected to double by 2030.
"We don't have to go overseas to introduce people to Christ. We can do it by loving our neighbors as ourselves while we love Jesus with all our hearts and minds," said Qureshi. "This generation has heart and compassion like no other, and God is the root of all such love. He is closer to them than we might think."
The Values Voter
Eric Teetsel, 30
@EricTeetsel | Washington, D.C.
Eric Teetsel never set out to become a Christian voice, or a conservative voice, or a millennial voice, in the contentious debates over gay marriage and religious freedom. But here he is, leading a movement centered on those very issues, speaking with bold conviction in op-eds, sound bites, and ongoing campaigns.
Following Chuck Colson's death in 2012, Teetsel became executive director of Colson's Manhattan Declaration, convening Orthodox, Catholic, and evangelical Christians to defend the sanctity of life, traditional marriage, and religious liberty.
It's an overwhelming task, "but my life is not my own.... Jesus promises that whoever loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it. I believe him, and so far, that's been quite an adventure," said Teetsel, who previously worked for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Barna Research reported last year that support for gay marriage increased in the past decade across faith traditions and age groups. "It is easy to become despondent in response to polling about religious participation and viewpoints on foundational issues like marriage, but God is the wildcard," he said. "As it has always done, the gospel will bring hope and healing and compel believers to fight for the good of their neighbor."
The Pop Singer
Francesca Battistelli, 29
@francescamusic | Nashville
Francesca Battistelli is contemporary Christian music's top-selling new artist in a decade, and the first woman to win the Dove Award for Artist of the Year since Amy Grant in 1992.
In a recent interview after performing on Good Morning America, the singer listed Sara Groves and Sara Bareilles among her inspirations, and Battistelli fits well between the two—a Christian artist with a catchy pop sound. Her Grammy-nominated "Free to Be Me" has sold more than a half-million copies with the hook, "Cause I got a couple dents in my fender, got a couple rips in my jeans / Try to fit the pieces together, but perfection is my enemy."
"A lot of my songs are autobiographical, and I think that's why people relate to my music . . . it reflects real-life experiences from a God-honoring perspective," she said. The title of her third album, If We're Honest, which released in April, captures that theme well.
"The biggest trend I've seen since I started seven years ago is the rise of female artists in Christian music," said Battistelli. "As the mom of a daughter, I'm excited I will be able to introduce her to so many role models as she gets older."
The Water Activist
Jena Lee Nardella, 32
@JenaNardella | Nashville
Jena Lee Nardella cofounded Blood:Water Mission alongside Jars of Clay and began working as its executive director at age 22, straight out of Whitworth University. The band was eager to lend their influence to the clean-water cause, and Nardella—who met them on tour at her campus—impressed them with her initiative as she quickly drafted a plan for what would become Blood:Water.
"Being so young, I was fueled by idealism and had yet to experience the disillusionment of the three-steps-forward, two-steps-back nature of addressing something as complex as the HIV/AIDS and water crises in Africa," said Nardella. "My greatest personal challenge has been choosing to stay in the work, even after the idealism has crumbled."
Through the years, their efforts have worked. Between 2005 and 2011, Blood:Water completed its 1,000 Wells Project, delivering water to 1,000 communities. Early on, Nardella was intimidated by this number, but Jars frontman Dan Haseltine told her, "A thousand is a number that only God is comfortable with, so if we reach that one day, we'll know it is of God and not ourselves."
In total, the organization has raised more than $22 million. It partners with existing grassroots organizations in Africa to fund and establish new wells, filters, latrines, and advocacy campaigns in 11 countries.
In the new LifeWay documentary Unconditional Love, Haseltine says of Nardella's 10 years, "She's always willing to learn." This posture and sense of humility has helped the organization grow and serve others with dignity, he said.
"Through Blood:Water, I get to be in the broken places where suffering and joy meet," Nardella said. "Because of this work, my faith tends to be an active, broken, and constantly winding journey of simply trying to follow Jesus' example of love."
The 'Freak' Creator
Salomon Ligthelm, 28
@salomonligthelm | Sydney
Salomon Ligthelm may not be a household name, but millions of Christians know his work through the music, film, and design projects of Hillsong Church, based in Sydney. He helped write the lyrics to "Oceans," which has spent months at No. 1 on the Christian Billboard charts.
"A few years back, a pastor friend told me, 'Your work will possibly minister to and reach a lot more people than my sermons would.' I was struck by that," said Ligthelm, who grew up in charismatic churches in South Africa and Dubai.
Ligthelm resists the impulse to borrow from others rather than to create something new. He's unafraid of the stylistic, conceptual, and experimental—the Hillsong Film team refers to him as "a freak of creative nature." He's currently working on his first longer-form narrative film, a Kickstarter-funded project called ANOMOLY, a retelling of the Christmas story set in the 1960s space race.
Ligthelm regularly runs into fellow Christians in the film industry: "That is one of the most exciting things to see—believers who are excellent and diligent in their field and are promoted because of their commitment to the craft."
The Washington Liaison
Joshua DuBois, 31
@joshuadubois | Washington, D.C.
As President Barack Obama's faith adviser during his 2008 campaign and first term in office, Joshua DuBois has spent his career at the intersection of faith and public policy. His work for Obama was both personal and political, as he prayed with the President and texted him Bible verses (becoming DuBois's first book, The President's Devotional, HarperOne). A former Pentecostal pastor, he led the administration's Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and launched the Easter Prayer Breakfast, which convenes faith leaders at the White House each year.
In 2013, DuBois left to start Values Partnerships, which connects faith communities with businesses and government groups. "There's far too much kingdom work to do for individual sectors of our society to tackle big challenges on their own," he said. "There are believers in each of these institutions—foundations, nonprofits, the church, business, and, yes, government—who can do powerful things collaborating."
DuBois also writes on race and religion for The Daily Beast and Newsweek. His 2013 Newsweek cover story explored the effects of racism, incarceration, and poverty on African American men. "The historical burdens that our parents and grandparents carried are beginning to lighten, and more and more young people are starting to see each other simply as children
of God," he told CT.
The Pro-Life Headline Maker
Lila Rose, 25
@LilaGraceRose | Washington, D.C.
Lila Rose embodies the pro-life movement's growth beyond signs and marches to become a 21st-century multimedia force. She started Live Action ten years ago (yes, at age 15) to involve fellow youth in the fight against abortion.
Starting in 2007, Rose and other activists posed as teenagers seeking abortions in dozens of undercover videos to expose illegal or cruel practices at Planned Parenthood clinics. Live Action disseminates headline after headline of abortion news to rally support.
"Using online platforms, especially social media, has been a powerful way for Live Action to bypass traditional media structures that won't talk about abortion and human dignity," said Rose, a UCLA graduate and convert to Catholicism. Even though Live Action's stealth strategies have stirred controversy, "These tools have allowed us to reach millions on a monthly basis with the truth about human life."
Live Action has celebrated the abortion restrictions passed in states such as Texas and the recent wave of regional clinic closures. "As more young people join the movement, we get closer to a day when every life is protected, by love and by law," she said.
The Tweeter for Good
Claire Díaz-Ortiz, 32
@Claire | Atlanta
The title of Claire Díaz-Ortiz's first book sums up her job well: Twitter for Good: Change the World One Tweet at a Time (Jossey-Bass). Díaz-Ortiz manages philanthropic, social good, and cause marketing initiatives for Twitter, which currently has some 260 million active users worldwide. Inspired by Twitter's ability to connect people, @Claire has reached Christian leaders through events like Catalyst and consulted some of the site's best-known people of faith, including Pope Francis, AKA @Pontifex. She trains churches and nonprofits to use social media. Top Christian tweeters have enjoyed deeper levels of engagement—replies, retweets, and hashtag virality among their followers—than celebrity accounts.
Díaz-Ortiz knows how to leverage Twitter for social good because in its earliest days, she did so herself, using the platform to build awareness for orphans in Kenya. She went on to found Hope Runs, a charity that supports orphanages there.
"My greatest hope for my generation is that we will harness our collective power to make positive change in the homes, communities, and worlds we live in," said Díaz-Ortiz, who is a foster mom to a Kenyan boy and had her first baby this spring.
The Friendly Professor
Wesley Hill, 33
@wesleyhill | Ambridge, Pennsylvania
With a background in biblical studies and a commitment to live as a celibate gay Christian, Wesley Hill offers a unique perspective on relationships and sexuality. On the website Spiritual Friendship, Hill and fellow writers articulate a "traditionally Christian sexual ethic," but shift their approach to the positive, avoiding contentious political debates or suggestions of reparative therapy.
"I see a renewed awareness of the fact that you can't build a sense of calling around saying 'no' to certain sinful forms of sexual behavior. You have to embrace a positive 'yes,'" said Hill, who traced his coming-out story and decision to live chastely in his 2010 book, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality (Zondervan). "You have to learn to think about your sexuality in terms of stewardship and vocation, not just sacrifice and renunciation."
An Anglican who teaches New Testament at Trinity School for Ministry, Hill sees a great opportunity to reintroduce young people, even skeptics and cynics, to Truth. "We have the opportunity to say, 'The faith you think you already know and have rejected is actually more interesting, more compelling, and more hopeful than you imagined,'" said Hill.
The Sports Storyteller
Thomas Lake, 33
@thomaslake | Atlanta
With all the talk about our role as "storytellers" and the gospel as "the greatest story ever told," these phrases slowly become clichés. But when it comes to Thomas Lake's work in Sports Illustrated—the kind of long-form journalism that makes people read more, and feel more, than they expected—you recognize the power of a masterfully told story.
The youngest senior writer at one of the most acclaimed magazines, Lake is a Christian—of the homeschooled, pastor's kid, Gordon College–alum variety—which means he gets religion. "When I write about people of faith, I take that faith seriously," he said. That goes for high-school football coaches, college basketball players, and big names like Tim Tebow, the subject of a 15,000-word story Lake wrote in 2013, offering a deeper look at his faith and career long after Tebowmania had faded.
Lake puts words to the heart and humanity of sports. "[Sports] can inspire us to achieve more than we thought we could: to go above our abilities, work together, love our brothers, succeed against all probability," he said. "Sometimes it feels as if humankind is going for it on fourth-and-26, and the pocket is collapsing, and the quarterback is scrambling, and then—well, who knows. But at least we have a chance."
Nick Vujicic, 31
@nickvujicic | Agoura Hills, California
Australian Nick Vujicic was born without arms or legs—an unexpected medical condition doctors could never explain. He spent years focusing on what he couldn't do and doubting his purpose before finding a deep faith that engenders gratitude, despite limitations.
"I know that God didn't give me this pain, but what the Enemy tried to use for bad, [God] turned into good," Vujicic said alongside Rick Warren and Oprah Winfrey on the media mogul's network. Winfrey called him a "symbol of triumph."
Vujicic taught himself to swim, dive, surf, play soccer, and do most everyday tasks around the house, with accommodations for him to use his mouth and his single foot. He lives in California with his wife and son, traveling globally to speak with his ministry, Life Without Limbs. Vujicic has been allowed to speak in places unfriendly to Christians, including two visits to Vietnam.
In churches, schools, and hospitals, he tells audiences they are fearfully and wonderfully made. He reminds them God has a purpose for them. His recent antibullying message, and the core of his 2014 book Stand Strong (WaterBrook), addresses the taunting and thoughts of suicide he faced growing up.
The Urban Apologist
D. A. Horton, 33
@da_horton | Atlanta
Even as evangelicals grow attuned to seeking "the welfare of the city," sending church planters and service trips, city-dwellers like D. A. Horton long for indigenous leaders: Christians who share the upbringing, culture, and language of the streets.
Their mission field is just two blocks over from hipsters' city territory, where many Christians flock. Instead of evangelizing in coffee shops and cocktail lounges, Horton wants to bring the gospel to the barbecue joints, barbershops, and parks of the hood.
A former Southern Baptist church planter and Bible college lecturer, Horton teaches apologetics to address theological strains common among African Americans and Latinos, including the prosperity gospel and liberation theology. His unique preaching style flows out of his familiarity with urban and hip-hop culture from living and serving in Atlanta and Kansas City, Missouri. Also a rapper performing under the name Azriel, Horton speaks in the cadence of hip-hop and employs gospel illustrations specific to his setting, such as likening the offense of sin to wearing the wrong gang colors.
Horton serves as the executive director for ReachLife Ministries, the outreach of Christian hip-hop label Reach Records. He's also the national coordinator for urban student missions for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board. In both roles, he trains fellow young Christians to live on mission.
"We...have to be authentic to the context that raised us," he told students in a promo video for ReachLife. "We have to understand and appreciate the value of where we came from. Praise God that of all the places in the world, he allowed us to be born and raised in the neighborhoods that he desired for us to come from."
At ReachLife concerts and conferences, youth rally by the thousands. But when the music stops, Horton wants to make sure they follow through "both online and on the frontline," helping the church grow to reflect the kingdom.
Esther Havens, 30
@EstherHavens | Dallas
How can you love others through photography? How can you serve people from behind the camera? In an age of selfies, Esther Havens looks outward, past herself and comfortable Western borders. Her photography skews toward the selfless, honoring in bold imagery the triumphant spirit of each subject: beaming schoolchildren in Rwanda, proud artisans in India, energetic female entrepreneurs in Nicaragua.
"God opened my eyes and challenged me to capture the beauty he sees in all people, no matter their circumstance," said Havens, a Dallas native who has traveled to more than 45 countries in the past decade on behalf of TOMS Shoes, charity: water, and Noonday Collection, among other nonprofits. "Photography is the tool God has given me...to live out the gospel."
Havens's nomadic lifestyle forced her to rely on God to guide her career, through unpredictable freelance projects and solo trips to remote regions. She calls her work "humanitarian," capturing images that put people first. "My hope is that we become a generation focused on promoting others over ourselves."
Eddie Lee, 28
@theeddielee | Los Angeles
By the time he reached his mid-20s, Eddie Lee had given up on the American dream. "I always lived under this belief that the harder I worked, the more I could achieve and the happier I could become," said Lee. After graduating from Harvard University, he scored a job at the White House as director of Asian American outreach.
But what followed was a period of severe depression. Lee, who had grown up in the church, ultimately discovered a renewed passion for the kingdom. He left the Obama administration in 2012 to team up full-time with his brother and a friend to start the Jubilee Project. Named for the Year of Jubilee—and a nod to their shared last names—the production company makes short films about charitable causes, the gospel, and their motto that doing good is contagious.
Now drawing more than 100,000 YouTube subscribers, the project has created work for the Jeremy Lin Foundation (Lin, a well-known NBA star, was a classmate at Harvard), Alzheimer's Association, American Society for Deaf Children, and other nonprofits. Lee calls himself an idealist, confident that the message in their videos, which are shown on tour in schools and churches, will inspire others to do good as well.
The Megachurch Pastor
Chris Galanos, 32
@chrisgalanos | Lubbock, Texas
Chris Galanos is currently the youngest megachurch lead pastor in the United States. According to the Leadership Network, the average age for a pastor leading a church the size of his—2,000 or more worshipers—is 51. While Experience Life Church, the Lubbock, Texas, congregation Galanos founded in 2007, works to draw young churchgoers, he tries to avoid getting mistaken for one. "Okay, some of y'all are like, 'I thought you were 18?'" he joked at the start of a sermon this year.
Since he founded the nondenominational church, it's ballooned to more than 3,500 congregants—appearing repeatedly on lists of the country's fastest-growing churches. They broadcast services on a regional tv station, worship to original music and flashing stage lights, and baptize by the hundreds.
The church also holds a popular weekly gathering for the college crowd downtown near Texas Tech University, Galanos's alma mater. "It's more difficult for people in their 20s and 30s to connect with a pastoral staff in their 50s and 60s," said the married dad of two. "We present the Bible in a way that's engaging to young people."
Daniel Kolenda, 33
@danielkolenda | Orlando, Florida
Daniel Kolenda is a Pentecostal preacher. Just like his father. And his grandfather. And his grandfather's father and grandfather before him. In his family, he's a fifth-generation pastor. He's also the successor to Reinhard Bonnke, the German-born founder of the evangelistic crusade organization Christ for All Nations.
As Bonnke's administrative assistant, he carried the evangelist's briefcase. Before long, Kolenda was tapped to preach alongside Bonnke as co-evangelist, then named president and CEO in 2011. Before masses, Kolenda has followed Bonnke's mode of charismatic preaching and healing. "The God of Reinhard Bonnke is the God of Daniel Kolenda," he said on Europe's Revelation TV. "If it was all up to my talent, ability, personality, I'd be afraid, but the Holy Spirit has never let us down."
Kolenda claims to have led more than 10 million to Christ, mostly through campaigns in Africa. The 40-year-old group says hundreds of thousands at each gathering submit decision cards indicating new faith in Christ.
The YouTube Evangelist
Jefferson Bethke, 25
@JeffersonBethke | Tacoma, Washington
Jefferson Bethke's spoken word poem "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus" went viral on YouTube in early 2012, launching his career as a young voice speaking out—rhythmically, biblically, and rapid-fire—for the gospel. After a second viral poem about sex, his channel now totals 54 million views and features spoken-word poetry, Q&As, and conversations with his wife, Alyssa.
His YouTube videos inspired his bestselling 2013 book Jesus > Religion (Thomas Nelson). In his early 20s, Bethke worried he was too young for the exposure of his work. Then he realized, "There's no special age that makes you more able to worship Jesus."
"I think this generation is grasping the fact that all of life is worship. They can worship by giving thanks in every domain of life as good image bearers," he said. "That will provide a very powerful witness, because you will have people in all walks of life making disciples."
The Extreme Skier
David Wise, 24
@mrDavidWise | Reno, Nevada
Freestyle skier David Wise took home a gold medal in halfpipe at the 2014 Winter Olympics, adding to his stack of golds from a three-year winning streak at the Winter X Games. The coverage of his Sochi performance was dotted with the descriptors "alternative," "unusual," "uncool," and "weird." What's so strange about Wise? His faith and family.
A married Christian with one kid and another on the way, Wise bypasses the endless travel and partying that marks the extreme sports scene. He's sponsored by Monster Energy Drink—and Pampers diapers. He brings the family along to events when he can. At home, he and his wife, Alexandra, whom he met at church camp, lead the youth group at their Pentecostal church in Reno.
But don't picture Wise as a skiing Tim Tebow. "I don't tell my Christian friends I'm a pro skier. I don't tell my skier friends I'm a Christian," Wise told the magazine Sports Spectrum. "But you're going to find out if you spend enough time with me either way."
The Super-Frugal Mom
Crystal Paine, 32
@MoneySavingMom | Nashville
Crystal Paine is best known, at least to savvy shoppers, as the Money Saving Mom. Her website is among the most popular personal finance blogs and mommy blogs of all time, fueling the extreme couponing craze. Paine doles out tips for scoring discounts, meal-planning, homeschooling, and managing money—all to help readers make more effective use of their resources. In between freebie offers and coupon codes, Paine recommends Christian devotionals, discusses favorite Bible verses, and lays out her plans to be "intentional" with her family and finances.
"Through Money Saving Mom, I not only get to share Christ in quiet ways with thousands of nonbelievers, I also get to challenge Christians to be intentional with their finances so they can become generous givers," said Paine. She gives her ad proceeds to Compassion International and orphan-care charity Show Hope.
A mom of three, her budgeting skills are impressive: Their family stayed out of debt while her husband went through law school by keeping their grocery bills down to $35 a week, saving enough to pay cash for their first home.
In Say Goodbye to Survival Mode (HarperCollins), she advises readers to realign priorities and address stress before taking on major financial obstacles.
The Eclectic Choreographer
Preston Miller, 26
@iampreston | Chicago
On stage, choreographer Preston Miller turns the seemingly mismatched into the bold and unconventional. One example: C. S. Lewis and electronic music.
Miller created a dance piece last year inspired by heaven and hell as depicted in Lewis's The Great Divorce and performed to the pulsing beats of Grammy-nominated hit DJ deadmau5 (pronounced "dead mouse"), with the Grand Rapids Ballet Company. "The younger, more energetic music played into the idea of speaking about Christ in a different context," he said.
His current project joins artists from different genres, including a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and YouTube's most popular dub-stepper. As the executive director of the United Artists Initiative, Miller wants to usher in a wave of collaboration and innovation in dance to get audiences to rethink fine art as relevant to them.
Miller comes from a family of ministers: his grandfathers, parents, and sister are all ordained in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), his dad leading an AME congregation in the Chicago suburbs. Following God gives meaning to art and dance beyond "some egotistic brain dump from a creative person," said Miller, a Fordham University graduate. His first dance film, Enemy Within, released in June.
The Ivy League Editor
Peter Blair, 24
@PeterBlairAI | Washington, D.C.
As editor-in-chief of the two-year-old Christian journal Fare Forward, Peter Blair adopts the approach of "thinking well, living well." The publication and its website are filled with sharp commentary on significant books, trends, and cultural touchstones. Fare Forward analyzes movies and TV shows, spiritual disciplines, and big questions about identity, place, and relationships.
A government and philosophy major, Blair began the project at the end of his senior year at Dartmouth College, where he wrote for the student newspaper and the campus's biannual Christian publication, The Dartmouth Apologia. To launch Fare Forward, he teamed up with editors and writers through the Augustine Collective, a network of Christian journals on primarily Ivy League campuses.
Many of the current staffers are recent graduates of elite schools, carrying the academic and intellectual rigor of a university out into the Christian mainstream. Each topic offers an opportunity for deep discussion—whether incorporating Søren Kierkegaard into an analysis of Cinco de Mayo or exploring Alexis de Tocqueville's views on mortality.
The name Fare Forward comes from the T. S. Eliot poem "The Dry Salvages," chosen to reflect their place between the rich history and the ongoing creativity of the Christian faith.
"In one sense the challenges facing the Christian are the same today as ever: living the gospel in the era between the Resurrection and the Last Judgment, with all that entails," said Blair. "In another sense, the biggest challenge today is the popular assumption that faith and reason aren't compatible but are in conflict. Christians are stereotyped as ignorant know-nothings who have to turn off their brains to believe."
In the pages of their quarterly publication and posts on their Patheos blog, Fare Forward has defied that stereotype and drawn in a subset of highbrow readers excited to see a new title in the print landscape.
"As a Catholic who loves Marilynne Robinson more than most any other living writer, I find the prospect of ecumenical rapprochement between Protestants and Catholics very encouraging," said Blair, who works in Washington for conservative foreign-policy journal The American Interest. "A lot of what we've seen at Fare Forward is this sharing of the resources of our traditions."
Zakiya Jackson, 31
@ZakiyaNaemaJack | Grand Rapids, Michigan
The call for churches to defend the disenfranchised, fight poverty, and improve their communities can be daunting. But Zakiya Jackson—with an MBA, years of nonprofit experience, and a full-time job in urban ministry—starts simple: Love Jesus, love your neighbor.
"In getting to know Jesus and my neighbors, it has been impossible for me not to be passionate about justice for the marginalized and poor," said the Vanderbilt and Willamette University graduate. For nearly a decade, Jackson has offered her experience to the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), an evangelical network that works to bring economic flourishing and racial reconciliation to under-resourced communities. She currently serves as a financial adviser and member of the CCDA's national leadership cohort.
The Nashville native also writes the curriculum and training program at the Grand Rapids–based DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative, which supports youth workers in more than 30 cities in the United States.
The Relationship Maven
Joy Eggerichs, 32
@joyeggerichs | Portland, Oregon
Joy Eggerichs talks breakups, online dating, commitment-phobia, and more through her organization Love and Respect Now. She's goofy, conversational, and practical: no prescriptive edicts, Christian catchphrases, or aspirational lists (e.g., "10 ways to be a better spouse"). Rather, Eggerichs frankly addresses common hang-ups for men and women, single or dating, married or separated.
You could say that Love and Respect Now is "not your parents' relationship ministry," but for her, it kind of is. Eggerichs extends the work of her mom and dad—Sarah and Emerson Eggerichs, authors of the enormously popular marriage book Love and Respect and founders of Love and Respect Ministries—to the next generation of relationships.
"With all the divorce statistics and horror stories that people latch onto, my hope is that fear will not take root but actually become a catalyst for us to reevaluate what marriage really means, what the purpose of these partnerships can be, and where we look to for fulfillment in both singleness and marriage," said Eggerichs. She recently teamed up with her dad in Portland for a live event called the Illumination Project, designed to bring wisdom into millennials' relationships. It's now available as a video series.
The Gospel Entertainer
Jaeson Ma, 33
@jaesonma | Hollywood
Like most kids, Jaeson Ma had big dreams of what he'd grow up to be: a businessman, an artist, and a preacher. He considers himself blessed to get to be all three. Ma is a jet-setting manager and producer for Asian artists in the entertainment industry while continuing to spread the gospel as a hip-hop performer and evangelist.
Ma has a powerful testimony of leaving shoplifting, drugs, and gang life as a California teenager to follow Christ. He spent his early 20s planting churches and preaching at crusades through organizations such as the International House of Prayer. A Chinese American, his ministry focused on the church's surge in Asia, where Ma supported a movement to start house churches and student prayer groups.
"Christianity is not just a Western Christianity," said Ma. His 2010 documentary, 1040, tracked churches across the continent, focusing on China, where he says tens of thousands come to Christ each day; Indonesia, where a growing Christian population is gaining influence in the world's biggest Muslim nation; and South Korea, where megachurches are mega-megachurches.
Earlier this year, Ma sang and prayed at a gathering of 50,000 students in Taiwan for World Vision's 30 Hour Famine. He repeatedly shares one verse with young people: "Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (Ps. 2:8).
Ma's 2011 album, Glory, features a collaboration with Grammy-winning pop artist Bruno Mars. Last year, he released a follow-up called Confession + Resurrection. As a teenager, Ma had connected with rapper MC Hammer, who mentored him in producing music. Hammer (Stanley Kirk Burrell) also appears in Ma's documentary and has joined him on trips to Asia.
"There's a widespread reception, connection, availability, and accessibility to God's Word, and that excites me about this generation," said Ma. "This is a generation in which the gospel can be preached to the nations."
The 'Missional Minority' Blogger
Trevin Wax, 33
@TrevinWax | Nashville
To borrow the wording from his daily link roundup, Trevin Wax is "worth a look." On his popular blog hosted at The Gospel Coalition, Wax points readers to articles, books, and church trends he observes as a young Southern Baptist, seminary graduate, former pastor, and editor at LifeWay Christian Resources.
"Technological innovation is speeding up cultural changes, providing new opportunities for spreading the gospel as well as new challenges," said Wax, who sees evangelicals as a "missional minority" in the United States, echoing the language of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leader Russell Moore.
While other young Christians may be casting off denominational identity, Wax celebrates the legacy of the SBC with his blog series Know Your Southern Baptists, featuring the church's pastors, authors, and musicians. He oversees The Gospel Project, an all-ages Bible study from LifeWay, and has written four books, including a novel.
"I love providing resources that serve churches in their mission of making disciples," he said. "I also love the opportunities I get to interact with church leaders who love God and their neighbors and are passionate about seeing people come to faith in Christ."
The Music Connector
Brannon McAllister, 33
@brannonmc | Brooklyn, New York
A designer and music lover, Brannon McAllister cofounded the site NoiseTrade alongside singer-songwriter Derek Webb and others in 2007. On NoiseTrade, independent musicians (and now authors on NoiseTrade Books) offer free downloads in exchange for e-mails and zip codes of their fan base. "We're putting them transparently and directly in touch with their audience. Neither stores like iTunes and Amazon nor streaming platforms like Spotify are doing this," McAllister explained.
The site now boasts more than 1.3 million e-mail subscribers and 25,000-plus artists—spanning musical genres, Christian and not. McAllister still gets excited watching fans discover and fall for rising bands and writers he and his team love. And he's optimistic fellow believers will maximize today's technology in innovative ways.
"This generation of Christian creators has the same democratized tools that are available to anyone else," said McAllister. "When combined with a vibrant theology of risk, we can take on massive entrepreneurial and missional problems that even 15 to 20 years ago would have been nearly impossible to tackle."
Saira Blair, 17
@ElectSairaBlair | Martinsburg, West Virginia
Before she graduated high school, or was even old enough to vote, politician Saira Blair had beat out an incumbent state legislator in a primary election. In May, the teenager campaigned on pro-life, pro-family issues to become her district's Republican candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates.
The night before the primary, "I prayed that win or lose, I would be going down the right path," said Blair, who believes God will use her campaign to inspire and influence others.
After her win, Blair drew attention that she never expected, making headlines across the country and appearing on Fox and Friends to talk about her campaign and the need for fresh faces in politics. Her father, Craig Blair, is a state senator who previously held the spot she's seeking.
For the past few years, Blair has been involved at the Church at Martinsburg, a Southern Baptist church plant she describes as a close-knit community and "really supportive" of her campaign.
Blair begins her freshman year at West Virginia University this fall, majoring in economics and Spanish. If she wins the November election, she will become the youngest state legislator in West Virginia history.
The Knight for Modern Slaves
Zach Hunter, 22
@zachjhunter | Colorado Springs
According to Zach Hunter, "painfully normal" people can change the world—he says he would know. When he was 12, Hunter's school and youth group charity drive grew into a student-led campaign to fight slavery. He founded Loose Change to Loosen Chains, a youth program to raise funds for organizations such as International Justice Mission.
Throughout high school and college, Hunter spoke to churches to encourage students to take action and fight for justice. He was featured on CNN, interviewed on The 700 Club, and visited the White House. Journalists and human rights activists Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn named Hunter "a brilliant social entrepreneur" within a new generation of abolitionists.
Even after the novelty of being a 12-year-old abolitionist wore off, the attention has lingered. "Because I've had opportunities to do so much in my short life—none of which I'm qualified for—people now tend to listen to me because I've had experience disproportionate to my years," said Hunter, the author of three books by age 18. His fourth, Chivalry (Tyndale), takes teachings of ancient knights and connects them to Jesus' teachings about justice.
The Bilingual Preacher
Josue Urrutia, 24
@JosueUrrutiaDC | Arlington, Virginia
About one in six Americans is Hispanic, and a growing number of those, particularly young people, either identify as evangelical or have no affiliation at all, according to Pew Research. Leading the outreach to this demographic is Josue Urrutia—the youngest member of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference's (NHCLC) board of directors and pastor of a vibrant bilingual congregation.
"Urrutia speaks the language of young Latino Christ followers while understanding the angst in Hispanics who . . . self-identify as nones," said NHCLC president Samuel Rodriguez.
A Nicaraguan American, he founded Ministerio Mizpa in 2009. Its worship band displays lyrics in Spanish and English, alternating between singing "Consuming Fire" and "Fuego de Dios." When the sharply dressed pastor preaches—pacing, pointing, and shouting—a translator follows him, echoing in English for the 250 congregants.
"I consider myself to be a young pastor with an old soul, so my challenge is always to be the bridge between two generations," Urrutia said. "My age engages the younger generation, but as they bring their parents, it's the heart of our message that keeps them here."
Our list is by no means exhaustive, and we look forward to learning about more pioneering millennial leaders. If you know young believers leading the church in key ways, tweet us using the hashtag #under33 or send us a quick email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be compiling your suggestions through July 25.
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