When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”
“I will do as you say,” he said. Genesis 47:29-30
I believe it was Will Rogers who came up with these four stages of life: First we are our parents’ child, then we are our child’s parent, then we are our parents’ parent, then we are our child’s child. Right in the middle of those stages, there is a life stage, a generation (if you will), referred to as the “sandwich generation”. It is that life stage where you find yourself not only still parenting your children, but also being a caregiver to aging parents. That is where Joseph found himself in Genesis 47-50. He was a father to two sons born to him in Egypt, while at the same time being called upon to honor his dying father’s heritage. I am grateful to God that I have two healthy parents and have not quite arrived at that sandwich stage (and I’m not sure either of my parents would ever permit me to), but I can only imagine it is wrought with difficulties and tensions.
It seems that having our focus divided between raising a new generation into adulthood and, at the same, honoring an older generation is a real challenge. Then again, as a church leader you already know that. The sandwich illustration, you see, is a perpetual life stage for every local church…always raising up new leaders and …
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.Ezekiel 18:20
I have good news and bad news for your church and for mine. The good news: no matter how many wrong choices your church may have made in the past, God is still willing to work through you today, if you will humble yourselves and seek after Him. The bad news: you get little credit for the amazing things in your church’s past…it is your current testimony that matters. This generation of your church will stand alone in its effectiveness.
Ezekiel was dealing with the first group of Hebrews exiled to Babylon. They were the young, best and brightest of the Hebrew society. They were the intelligent, creative, young leaders. Before the exile, they had their whole productive lives in front of them. But now, it was all for naught. For all practical purposes, their productive lives were over. They would now spend the rest of those lives in exile. No surprise, then, they felt “robbed”…and they blamed their parents. They blamed the stiff-necked, rebellious nature of the generations before them for their current sad state.
The irony is that, for generations now, those very Hebrew people had been living off of the “favored” status of their own forefathers before the Lord. They had all the stories of a mighty God who had faught their forefather’s battles and who had miraculously saved them time and time again. They were living off the very spotty righteousness of their forefathers. “God promised our father, Abraham…we are his favored people.”
If you’re reading a blog (and you are, by the way), then you probably already understand that this youngest adult generation in the church, the “social media generation”, is learning to do relationships a little differently than relationships have ever been done before (and I should add here that social media has now made huge inroads into all the generations and no longer “belongs” just to the 18-35 crowd–the “social media generation”, therefore is not an age-label, but rather an era label for our time). Between Twitter, Facebook, My Space, Linked In, and a host of other social networking worlds, this generation is more connected with one another than any generation before it. Reportedly, more than 95% of American college students today are actively connected in one or more of these social networks. Their culture has them receiving massive amounts of information about one another all day and night through steady streams of photos, videos, and text. Never before has an entire generation been more “connected” with one another. Tony Steward of church.tv observes, for example, that the concept of a class reunion will be completely foreign to this generation, who will have stayed “connected” with each other throughout the years following their graduation so that a “reunion” will seem superfluous.
An older generation of Christians has stood back and observed all of this “interconnectedness” with varying responses. While some of us have worked to embrace it and participate, others are more wary, calling into question the long-term ramifications. The concerns range from “what does this do to intimacy in relationships?” to “what does this fast-paced, fire-hydrant delivery of information do to the brain?” For purposes of my point here, I will not engage that debate. But I will say it is more …
This is the second in a series of posts on my impressions from Cultivate ’09, a church communications conference at Chicago’s Park Community Church.
The gathering place for registrants of Cultivate ’09 was the coffee bar in Park Community Church. It was where we all relaxed while we waited for the doors to the auditorium to open. It was a spacious room with several couches and tables and nice chairs, and a full service coffee bar. It was a fitting room for this crowd of communications professionals, most of whom were of the gen-x variety (when I walked into the room, the median age went up a good 10 years). I felt like one of the few who was not carrying a Macbook in a shoulder bag or backpack and wearing thick-rimmed narrow glasses and shirt-tail out over jeans…all marks of a generation younger than I.
This type of atmosphere is where an entire generation of Christians gather to tell their stories. And they do tell their stories differently than my generation does. I suppose my generation (and the one before mine) enjoy telling their stories by standing and talking, such as in a pulpit or on a platform. Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, etc. are all masters of telling stories in this way. I suppose when my generation gets really creative, it tells a great story through a feature-length movie (insert the name of your favorite movie producer here–chances are he/she is a Boomer or older).
But as you transition from Boomers into Gen-x’ers (now in their 30’s) and then into the millennials (now in their 20’s), the story-telling changes dramatically. Their are now two young adult generations who present and receive “story” completely differently from the rest of us and even from one another. Their …