A family has all generations

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My values of church health and church growth were shaped at the apex of the church growth movement.  I became an informed proponent of the homogeneous reality of church planting and church growth.

I remain convinced that when our Lord instructed us to make disciples of all ta ethne He was instructing us to penetrate every people group with the Gospel.

People are in the main not wired up to be alone. People group together with people like them or with people who share common interest. That is a fact.   It is also a fact that planting the gospel in those identifiable groups of people is a productive evangelism strategy.  The scriptures have many examples of people group evangelism.  Consider that after his healing the Gadarene demonaic desired to go with Jesus in the boat.  Jesus instructed him to leave the boat and return to his ta ethne, his people group with the Good News of redemption.

Recently I have begun to separate an evangelism strategy of penetrating people groups with the gospel and planting churches.  I have come to understand that a purely homogeneous church is not at all a picture of the kingdom.  A purely homogeneous church reflects our human nature to hang with those who are like us and to shun those who are different.  Hardly a value to be found in the kingdom of God.

Much to my joy I am discovering a core value among young pastors/planters to strategically plant multi cultural churches.  The planting of multi cultural churches is a great witness to the community.  When a non believer encounters a gospel community that is diverse in ethnicity they realize there is something different about this group.  This is not the normal way people group together.  These people are motivated by different values. This is a glimpse of heaven.

Chief among the many things we can identify about the first century church recorded in the New Testament is the fact that they were a multi generational church.  Paul instructs Timothy concerning his youth and his leadership.  He guides young Timothy in the process of correcting the older men. Instructions are given to young women and older women, to young men and older men.   Yet in most churches today, especially in most church plants there are very few older people.  In most dying churches there are very few younger people.  If the church is a family and like all families it should contain many generations.

A church made of many generations is uncommon and difficult because Satan fully knows the powerful testimony a multi generational church will have upon a self centered world. Satan uses all of the weakness of our flesh to work against us as we seek to embrace generations unlike ours.  In our human and sinful nature we grow weary with people who see the world, understand technology, make decisions and process information different than we do.  It takes work to love and understand each other.  It requires that people of all generations have to subordinate their desires  for the Glory of God and the advancement of His kingdom.  It means we have to think less of ourselves and much more of God and the Gospel.  It means we have to live the gospel not just sing about, talk about and read about it.  It means that when we battle our flesh and embrace the joy of self sacrifice for the Kingdom we discover a joy that is far deeper then the joy of having things our own way.  But it requires an ongoing battle of our human nature.

Even in a  church with a variety of generations there is a pull toward separating the generations even within the gathered church. Various generations need to worship and serve together.  Growing up in a very program based church the only time my family spent together Sunday morning was the time in car arriving and leaving the gathered church.  As soon as we hit the door of the church we were all funneled into our own environments of age graded Bible study and worship.  Often churches which have multiple worship services will design one for the older members and another for the younger ones.  All of this generational segregation tends to reinforce our desire to consider our particular age group as the one that matters most.  While there is a place for age appropriate learning within the church there is also much to be learned as young children observe older children and adults worshiping and serving.   It is good for adults to rejoice when small children and infants are with their parents in worship and activities of the church.  The noise of children in worship is cause for rejoicing.  When we make accommodations for the needs of generations other then our own it serves to remind us that we are not the focus of attention.  God alone is the desire of our heart and we can more fully embrace and enjoy Him when we think less of our selves.  The disciples tried generational segregation and Jesus would have none of it.  ”Let the little Children come to me”.

The struggle to embrace a different generation cuts both ways.  Older people must find their joy in passing off leadership to the next generation.  They must learn to find their joy in witnessing the next generation incarnating the gospel into their context.  The must let go of the idol of the past, their need to control and most importantly their need to be made much of for all the work they have put in over the years.  They need to rejoice in all the work Jesus has done for them through the years.  And the younger people need to identify the real and meaningful struggle that older people endure.  The constant sense of loss.  The loss of a career, the loss of loved ones, the loss of mobility, the loss of understanding how things work, like smart phones.  The loss of control of their lives, knowing that they face an ever declining future of less independence and more reliance on others.  Young people need to show an overwhelming amount of compassion to older people and walk with them through this difficult stage in life.   As we focus more and more on the beauty, perfection and complete satisfaction that is our bride groom we will embrace the reality that all of us who are in this church are His bride.  The very young to the very old, all our His bride.

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2 Responses to A family has all generations

  1. Joe Ledford says:

    Good words Mark. In terms of church as multigenerational family, I would be interested in hearing what others think about how the common practice of separating children and/or youth from congregational worship affects the health of a church?

  2. Shara says:

    “A church made of many generations is uncommon and difficult because Satan fully knows the powerful testimony a multigenerational church will have upon a self centered world.” Absolutely well said and insightful. We must work together to rebuild the once common multi-generational church. We stand to lose much if we do not tap into the ministry talents and passions of adults over 50. (See Baby Boomers and Beyond by Amy Hanson)
    The sense of constant loss you speak of that so many experience (beginning as early as their 50s) can be greatly relieved if replaced with a sense of still “being needed” both by Christ and others. Earnest Becker, an author, wrote: “Man wants to know that his life has somehow counted, if not for himself, then at least in the larger scheme of things, that his life has left a trace, a trace that has meaning.” Some will take the time to record what they’ve learned in life to pass along to their children and grandchildren so that their faith story and those practical applications of Scripture found in ‘life lessons’ are not lost after they’ve gone Home. People of all ages will find immense inner joy in self-sacrifice, service to others, and doing the work Jesus puts in our path. The older generation brings many untapped resources to the church, especially the often desperately needed resource of time: time to help a busy young church planter & his family (childcare, meal prep), time to serve within the church & community (where there are countless opportunities), and, perhaps most important, time to pray.
    As you said, our culture encourages a self-focus; it is important that we equip ourselves with the right mindset well before our retirement years. We’re not Levite priests; Scripture doesn’t tell us that we deserve 25 or more years of rest, relaxation, and travel at life’s end. If that is what some are preparing for, they will miss many of life’s greatest treasures & gifts; they are not well equipped. You alluded to some aspects of that preparation in your post. At Equipped For Your Walk, we offer classes specifically for those who want to be equipped & ready to reap the best God offers us in this life stage. You are so right when you say that this “means that when we battle our flesh and embrace the joy of self sacrifice for the Kingdom we discover a joy that is far deeper then the joy of having things our own way. But it requires an ongoing battle of our human nature.” Great piece, John Mark! Thanks! May I have permission to quote you on our website?

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