…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 much of the conflict we face in congregations centers around generation gaps and the very different values within those generations. It seems that our culture is moving and changing so quickly now that there are huge differences between the various (most agree, at least 4) adult generations in our culture. The two largest adult generations are Baby Boomers and Millennials. No disrespect to the Greatest Generation nor to Gen X, but Boomers and Millennials are just so large in number, they come with their own cultural gravity force. Much has been written about both generations.
What we are seeing now in our culture is a passing of the mantle of leadership from an older generation to a younger one. That, of course, is not new. It has forever been so and it has forever been wrought with challenges. But I’m pretty certain the differences between entire generations has never been so big. So, in walking with them through conflict, we often find ourselves wading knee-deep in those differences. But here’s an interesting observation: in that work, I have also learned that they have both been lied to. Considerably. The enemy (i.e., spiritual forces of evil) has tailor-made some lies for each of these generations of Christ followers. Here are some examples…
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 “needing” one another as a weakness, not a strength.
The lie to Millennials: You need community, but you don’t need church.
Millennials gave us social media. O.K., the truth is Generation X gave us social media, but Millennials have taken it to a whole new level. They feel the need for community. They group date, they “meet up”, they collect friends like my parents collected Green Stamps (Millennials, you will just have to Google that). Community, in at least a superficial form, is a natural bent for them. But deep, spiritual community such as New Testament church community? Not so much. To learn “unity” Boomers must be convinced that they were created for community. For Millennials to learn unity, they must embrace that Biblical community is considerably deeper and more profound than their most intimate Facebook posts or Instagram images.
2. Lies about Truth
The lie to Boomers: It is more important to be right than to be in right relationship.
Being right is what is most important to us. A lot of really hurtful stuff has been done by my generation under the banner of “just speaking the truth”. Because we do not value community or relationships (we set all our goals around becoming totally independent, so that we do not need anyone), we have no problem damaging or even destroying them in the name of being right. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have seen this play out in church conflicts.
The lie to Millennials: There is no “right”…no absolute truth. Not really.
There is a prevailing “everyone does what is right in his/her own eyes.” There is “your truth” and “my truth”. Truth is relative and, in many cases, unknowable. Just be honest with yourself and “you do you”. But “do you” without hurting anyone, because community is valued. There are only two absolute rules: (1) Be authentic; (2) Don’t hurt anyone. No other real absolutes. Biblical messaging to this generation of church will have to disavow them from this lie and will have to reteach them that there really is absolute truth in the ways of God.
3. The lies about Leadership
The lie to Boomers: A leader must have a clear vision. Without that, there is no leadership.
This goes nicely with the “secular success” models. We learned a lot of our leadership from the Corporate world and the athletic world. And to a much smaller extent than our parents, from the military world. Note that all of these leadership models rely heavily on clear leadership vision…competency. “Follow me because I have a compelling vision and I know exactly how to make it come about.” Think Steve Jobs or Bill Gates or Pat Riley or Colin Powell. But the truth is, there are examples of “collaborative” leaders who derive vision from the people they are leading. Lots of successful pastors fit this model.
The lie to Millennials: All that really matters is transparency/authenticity. Without that, there is no leadership.
According to most of what has been observed and written about the emerging generation of adult leaders, their generation follows authenticity foremost. There can be incompetency, there can be immorality, there can be confusion and chaos surrounding the leader, but if he or she is “authentic” he/she can lead this generation. If you think about that, it is a little bit encouraging, and a whole lot discouraging. Charisma also plays a big role for this generation, but morality or accountability to some objective standard outside of themselves, not so much. Therefore, shepherding this generation will require transparency and authenticity FIRST, but those leaders who move beyond this to demonstrate genuine competency and faithfulness to God’s Word will begin to stand out.
In short, the church as we Boomers know it is changing pretty radically. That train, as it is said, has left the station. And that is not a bad thing. And it is not all a good thing. But it is a certain thing. And we can learn these differences and find ways to help one another succeed.
We all just have to set our goals and objectives accordingly. 🙂