Imagine a group gathered for fellowship, comprised of:
5 baby boomers, and
How affective do you think their time would be? Is it possible to gather this generationally diverse group together and actually have genuine, transparent sharing and fellowship? I’m here to tell you that it is possible! I have just described for you the small group that meets in my home twice a month. Yes, it is possible to achieve genuine biblical fellowship in such a group; but it takes work on the part of all involved to look past what could divide us and focus on what is most important. Why is this such a challenge for us?
We live in a day and age that is characterized by disunity and division among the generations more than ever before. Evidence of this disunity lurks around almost every corner. Every time I login to Facebook I see another article or video that has been shared telling us about how terrible millennials are, or how clueless the older generation is. This is just one of the enemy’s ways of causing chaos and destruction. It is what characterizes our culture.
Sadly, it isn’t only our culture that is effected by this lack of unity. This division is often what characterizes the church. The younger generation complains that the older generation is out of touch, that they don’t know how to be transparent, and that they aren’t accessable. The older generation complains that the younger generation is unteachable, thinks they know everything, and is disinterested in connecting. We often stand on opposite ends of the church, observing each other from a distance, only seeing each other through the lens of our perception. If you read the scriptures, this disunity doesn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the scriptures tell us that this disunity will be characteristic of the end of the age.
“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” 2 Timothy 3:1-4
I hate that the enemy is using this generational divide, in the church and in families, to discredit the name of Christ. Our goal as members of His body should be to know and love Him above all else. In the midst of the world’s increasing complexity, we must never forget the Gospel’s simplicity. Focusing on the gospel will cause our generational differences to fade into the background as we find ourselves sitting beside each other at the foot of the cross.
Finding this unity requires us to make concentrated efforts to die to ourselves, saturate our minds with God’s Word, repent of any contributions we have made to the disunity, listen to each other, and seek Gods face. We must die to any cultural loyalty that causes us to look at another person in a negative light and we must die to ourselves, so that Christ and His image might be formed in us. Loving each other from a distance is not an option. Ephesians 4:1-3 shows us that God’s desire is that we facilitate peace:
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3
How Can This Be Lived Out?
“It’s easy to criticize ‘that other generation’, but venting, criticizing, and generational slander won’t honor the name of Christ, bring glory to God, or help us connect with each other.” Barbara Neumann
“Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” Psalm 71:18
“One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts.” Psalm 145:4
One of the greatest privileges given to the older generation is to declare the glory of God to the next generation. But how will we have the opportunity to do this if we only focus on the perceived negatives of the younger generation? We must purpose not to judge a lifestyle or appearance we do not relate to and to extend grace to those younger than us, trusting God to “grow them up” in His time and in His way. Our attitudes toward and interactions with them should be guided by our love for God and His people, so that – in turn – God can use our example to stir up this love within them as well.
We cannot expect automatic maturity from the younger generation. It has taken us many years to reach our current maturity, and we still have much to learn. By humbly admitting that we don’t know it all, are in a process of growth, and want to join them on the journey, we are offering the younger generation an example of a loving, accepting, grace-filled walk with God, a walk that is willing to live life with them and help them in their growth and learning process.
“We need to realize that most young people don’t want a ‘Bible-answer-person.’ Instead they want an honest person with whom they can process life.” Sue Edwards
“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity“. 1 Timothy 4:12
“Think of meeting as a fellow patient in the same hospital, who having been admitted a little earlier , could give you some advice.” C.S. Lewis
“Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of the evil.” Proverbs 4:1-27
We need each other to complete the work that God has created us to do. Rather than discounting the former generation’s methods, you can ask God to help you understand how to build on their foundation. Only as you learn to humbly hunger for truth will you be able to see and receive any wisdom that the older generation can offer. When one clings to their own views, labeling anything else as “generational” or “old school”, they are missing out on wisdom and experience that may actually help them to process life better.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus...” Phil 2:3-5
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10
Scripture tells us that the Body of Christ is one generation, no matter the age span of its members! We are the generation that seeks His face. As we purpose to never forget this truth, and strive to facilitate unity, we are viewing each other through the Holy Spirit’s power.
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light…” 1 Peter 2:9
God’s desire is to use many age groups who are united in purpose. When we are focused on God and the amazing things He is doing in each other’s lives, the generational lines disappear and we become one generation, the generation that seeks His face!