Tag Archives: generations

Prayer Prompts for Unity Between Generations

And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the Lord had done for Israel…And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. Judges 2:7, 10

If I were to even begin a list of the men and women who poured into me spiritually as a child and as a teenager and as a college student and as a young adult, I would probably inadvertently leave out more names than the hundred or so that I can remember! It is one of the many blessings of having grown up in the church. I was given many, many stories and opportunities to learn about the work of God in the generation(s) before mine. Those stories have no doubt colored my understanding of and thirst for unity among God’s people.

Unity is all about relationships. And relationships are all about communication. And few obstacles to meaningful communication can be more perplexing than the very different cultural frameworks developed within generations. But doesn’t a Biblical worldview impose upon us a responsibility to communicate well across generational lines, so that God’s story is told seamlessly across time and His people continue to grow in their faith?

So, as I study and contemplate the plight of the nation of Israel in Judges 2, and then begin to draw applications to my own life, I am prompted to pray this way…

Lord, show me your ways and your hand in my life today, and then help me tell those stories to the next generation. Bolster my testimony of when I have seen you……

The Lies of a Generation

…the devil… He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. John 8:44

At Christian Unity Ministries we are beginning to ask ourselves some hard questions about the Millennial generation (currently ages 15-35 according to the President’s Council of Economic Advisors) and how it will receive the Biblical message of unity upon which our ministry is founded.  I had the privilege of spending last weekend in Dallas, Texas “retreating” with a group of church leaders from that generation and a handful of us “Baby Boomer” leaders from our ministry. We had the most wonderful time discussing differences between our generations and how we interpret the Biblical principles of unity.

There was interesting discussion around all of the principles, but some of the quickest and easiest observations came in answer to one question: What lies has the enemy told your generation? Just to make it easier for them, I shared some lies the enemy has told my (Baby Boomer) generation. Here are some of the results…

1. Lies About Community and Church 

The lie to Boomers: You need church, but you don’t need community.

My generation largely still respected the idea of church; so much so, in fact, that we invested quite a bit of our time totally reinventing it to mimic the “success” of the secular world around us (thus, the megachurch is born). Not only do we do church, but we do it really really big. But “church” for us has been a lot of big gatherings, like a concert or a sporting event, but not a lot of genuine community. In fact, we would view …

The Church in the Hands of Millennials

“See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold and silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, for work in every skilled craft. And he has inspired him to teach, both him and Oholiab the son of Ahisamach of the tribe of Dan. He has filled them with skill to do every sort of work done by an engraver or by a designer or by an embroiderer in blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen, or by a weaver—by any sort of workman or skilled designer. Exodus 35:30-35

I’ve got Millennials on my mind this week. I will be spending this next weekend in Dallas at Christian Unity Ministries’ first annual “Five Principles of Unity” Retreat for the Next Church Generation…where I expect to sit and learn how Millennials interpret and apply some of the Biblical principles which form the core of our ministry’s message. So, I am thinking about Millennials and the church.

millennial crowd

First, I admit right up front that my only “expertise” when it comes to the Millennial generation (those who are now roughly ages 15-35) is that both my adult daughters are in that generation…and I have studied my kids for a while now. Therefore, “Millennials” are important to me. I am, nevertheless, as ignorant as the next Baby Boomer when it comes to understanding them. So, rather than hold myself out as an expert on that generation, I am going to rely on the “facts” about Millennials as presented by the President’s Council of Economic Advisors in October, and …

Investing in a Sure Thing

For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. Jeremiah 32:15

“I’m not religious…but I’m spiritual.” It is the mantra of an entire young adult generation who has left the church. They would say they have not given up on God, but they have had quite enough of God’s people. To them, the church is seen as a failing institution, no longer worthy of our investment. There’s a story about that in the Bible.

Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, was either such an amazing salesman he could have sold snow cones to Eskimoes, or he was literally filled with the Spirit of God so as to make his sales offer to Jeremiah miraculously irresistible. At a time when Jerusalem was about to finally fall to a Chaldean occupation and life as Israel knew it was about to end, Hanamel says to Jeremiah, “Hey, you wanna buy my field?” If it were not God’s doing, it would have been a laughable moment. Jeremiah made the investment.

old churchWhy in the world would anyone want to invest in Jerusalem at that point? It was ending…going down the toilet. Generations of wrong decisions had finally caught up to it and it was literally crumbling from the inside out. It had ample reason and opportunity to change in order to better fit God’s design, but it would not. The consequences of all those wrong choices were here…it was over. There was, quite literally, nothing left in which to invest.

In all these ways, it sounds remarkably like the church, doesn’t it? At least the church as it is perceived by an awful lot of people. They think of it as an irrelevant, rickety, out of date, embarrassingly stuffy institution whose time has come …

Bridging the Generation Gap in the Church

Tuesday Re-mix – 

So much of the conflict I see in churches today falls into a general category I call “Generational Issues”.  I don’t hold myself out as an expert in the social changes ushered in by each of the last few generations, but I think any of you would agree that the various generations represented in the American church today are radically different from one to the next in terms of how they communicate, how they form and maintain relationships, and how they worship.  Obviously, there are no clear, bright lines of division.  Moreover, there are plenty of obvious exceptions to the prevailing preferences of generations (i.e., not all senior citizens prefer traditional church music to contemporary, etc.).  But the youngest adult generations in the church are approaching God and the church so very differently than their grandparents did that it is bound to raise some difficult issues for us all to work through.

But the problem is never as simple as sitting down and figuring out who is right and who is wrong.  Oh how much easier my job would be if it were that simple!  No, the bigger challenge by far is getting each side of a generational issue to even care much about the other side.  The problem in many (most?) of our churches, it seems to me, is the lack of relationship between and among the generations.

I see it often.  A church begins to have serious worship style conflict, so they call someone (me) in to help them work through it.  When I ask one side to articulate the fears and motives of the other side, they cannot even come close.  They cannot do that, because they are not even trying to understand the fears and motives of the other side.  All they can …

Transparency for an Older Generation

Tuesday Re-mix –

“The peace of mind one experiences on one’s own, one’s certainty of self in the serenity of solitude, are nothing in comparison to the release and openness and fluency one shares with another, in close companionship.” Muriel Barbery

“Everything in moderation, including moderation.” Oscar Wilde

One of the trends I believe we will see in the church over the next 20 years is its people growing increasingly comfortable with genuine transparency in their relationships…knowing each other more fully and having fewer and fewer deep dark secrets. I believe this because our younger generations (generation X and millennials) just seem to hold genuine community as a much higher value than those of us who are baby boomers and older. If you don’t believe this, spend about 30 minutes on your college student’s social media pages. OMG…LOL! On the other hand, go to their respective grandparents’ facebook pages (if they have a page at all) and you’ll find an utter vacuum of any personal information. These older generations, after all, are the generations who brought us firewalls and the right to privacy and LifeLock and gated communities. For our generation, the walls are up and the shades are drawn! Transparency, it seems, is just difficult for those of us over 40.

If I am right about this trend, then that means we still have about 20 years or so of having to teach the importance of being transparent…the significance of truly knowing each other and of being truly known. Being the New Testament church demands that we live in relationships of accountability and that we learn to be involved in one another’s lives. I suspect I will spend the rest of my ministry life finding creative ways to teach this to my generation of church leaders. Then, by the …

The Fabric of Your Church

Tuesday Re-mix –

Your church is not just comprised of people.  It is comprised of relationships among those people.  That’s an important distinction.  It is the difference between a pile of bricks and a building made with those bricks.  It is the difference between a jumbled wad of thread and a fabric woven with that thread.  It is not just the people who make up the church…it is the specific ways in which those people relate to one another that either make them a New Testament church or not.  More specifically, it is the Spirit of God living in those people and moving them into relationships with each other which make them a church.

I often describe the church as a fabric.  Each of us is a single thread in that fabric.  Every place my “thread” touches another “thread” is a relationship.  And all of those relationships, together, form my local congregation.

There are always things putting pressure on that fabric…weighty objects (“issues”) which God permits to fall into the fabric of your church.  Some of those issues are heavy and others are pretty light.  But when one of those issues tears the fabric, it is not just a function of the weight of the issue.  It is a function of the strength of the fabric. Churches which teach and practice Biblical interpersonal relationships constitute strong fabrics.  They can handle lots of challenges.  But churches who do not teach good relationships will eventually become littered with broken or damaged relationships, i.e., weak fabric.  And where the fabric is weak enough, it doesn’t take much to tear it wide open.

Another metaphor that works here is thinking of your “fabric” as a latex balloon.  When you inflate it and then hold it up to the light, you can actually see where …

Cultivate ’09: The Power (and Responsibility) of Church Communication

This is the third in a series of posts about Cultivate ’09, a one-day conversation held at Park Community Church in Chicago about church communication.  Born out of conversations among some  respected consultants in this field (Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Tim Schraeder, Kem Meyer, among others), Cultivate was the first of what I hope will be many similar gatherings.

In my mind, there is an obvious connection between church unity (my calling) and church communication. Church unity is all about relationships.  Relationships, in turn, are all about communication.  You can do the logic from here.

There is an element to church communications which is not so much about PR or marketing or branding or logos.  A critical part of the ministry of church communications is how a church communicates within the body of believers. The ministry of church communications necessarily must include some strategies about how to facilitate conversation among the church itself.  Sitting and talking with Cultivate participants, it was clear to me that many of these communications professionals at least have a glimpse of what this means (actually, some have much more than just a glimpse).  There is power in formatting how a story is told.  More importantly, there is responsibility in using that power to bring about God-honoring results.

In a session with Kent Shaffer (of Bombay Creative and churchrelevance.com), he said it this way: “Communication [in churches] is more than just sending the right message…it is evoking the right response.” When we begin to take seriously our objective of “evoking the right response”, we begin to see that we can actually empower how people see each other.  We can facilitate conversation among them, strengthening relationships.  We can help bridge communication gaps within a church body, and thereby “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond …