In the past 5 years, I have studied, explored & experienced (as much as a 28 year old stay-at-home mom can) different ways to relate to the Church – perhaps it would be better explained - different ways to relate as a church with my brothers & sisters. I still don’t know much, but I have learned some things. As more and more people in my generation are doing, I have moved toward a more ‘free’ non-traditional expression of Church rather than the customary Sunday morning scene. Through this journey the past 5 years, I have continued to praise & thank God for the courage & freedom He has given me to follow Him, despite expectations put on me by others or by the church institution. For a people pleaser (in my flesh) this has been no small feat.
In this last year in particular, I have become aware of a very precious gift and that is an open heart toward my brothers & sisters. I know this is a gift from Him – because I’m a rebel in my flesh and love to throw the baby (people) out with the bath water (their way of doing things that I don’t feel called to). Instead of allowing me to journey too far one way, God has brought me back into balance by gifting me with an open heart to give people a chance. He has helped me not depersonalize people and simply throw them into a category & stereotype that I can then critique or argue (or rail) against…. but instead has continually asked me to step toward people that are different from me. Because of my willingness to look at the heart of my brothers & sisters and not their behavior or traditions, I have met some of the most beautiful, genuine, loving women (and men!).
Fall 2010, I was asked to join a Bible Study. I confess I was very judgemental in my opinion that ladies in this study would be judgemental. J I very much resisted being apart of this (very traditional and structured) group and dragged my feet wanting to NOT like it – but the richness of the teaching & love for Jesus & His Word won me over. When this group asked me to come into leadership after that first year, I again did everything I could to resist it but God continued to impress on my heart – don’t judge, keep your heart open. What do you know, as soon as I walked into that room for our first meeting (as the youngest in the group by 20 years at least), I saw Jesus was there. Journeying with these women the past 2 years has humbled me. They have continued to show me that who they are - is not how they do Church. How much they love structure & routine is not WHO they are. J And they have shown me that just because they are different than me, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to teach me. Quite opposite, really. I am SO thankful that I was open enough to go into what I feared would be a lion’s den.
I write all this down to call out an issue in our Church. The perfect storm is happening right now to cause an intergenerational rift in the American Church. Families do not stay geographically together. We are mobile & we are taking full advantage of it. So many in my generation will move hundreds of miles away from ‘home’ and not ever return. They enter new cities and enter the world with all it’s enticing temptations & ideologies, many without strong support systems close to them. Praise God that some will stay connected to a church – but it’s more rare than it is common for our college students. Almost every.single.one of those in my generation who somehow endured & persevered through atheist professors & worldly pleasures and returned back to a church (many times after they have gotten married & started a family) --- choose a church full of people - just like them. They meet once a week with their church, enjoy the rock concert worship performance together, hear some very relevant non threatening sermon from a 30 or 40-something year old - and that’s that. Their “leadership” teams are chosen based more on business/marketing/finance/public speaking/organization skills than anything I am finding in the Bible that constitutes an ‘elder’. I am concerned.
We don’t realize how much we were made for community with each other. We have let our ways of ‘doing’ church be more important than our love for each other. I am so thankful when I hear of Generation Y honoring BabyBoomers enough to realize they actually deserve our respect and our ears and have a lot to teach. I am soo encouraged when I see Baby Boomers trying their best to ‘be relevant’ and enter the new ‘non- denominational’ denomination of churches (although most don’t return after a few visits because their ears won’t stop stinging after the extremely loud rock concert feel of worship). But I am discouraged that there does not appear to be any true, genuine beyond surface interaction between the generations. I am discouraged that when we look at each other – we have begun to believe the lie that we are just too different to find common ground - and that “they” just do not understand us.
If I could “holla” at my generation, I’d beg them (us) to surrender! Surrender our egos that make us think anything we are doing is actually ‘new’ and that we have an edge on Truth. Surrender our pride that tells us nobody understands us and we have to link arms with only each other and do it our way, not caring what others think. Repent of our sin of not putting others above ourselves. Repent of our sins of judgement on others that are ‘too religious’ or ‘too traditional’. We must acknowledge that we don’t know it all --- and that there is a LOT to learn from our brothers & sisters that have been journeying with the Lord for longer than we have been alive! Yes, even those who still have their “Sunday Best”!
In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…I Peter 5:5
If I could encourage the baby boomers & silent generation, I would tell them - don’t be silent! Though so many of you were taught that faith is private & not something to be talked about – please talk about Jesus to us! Please tell us what you have learned. Don’t be ashamed of us and communicate that in the way you treat us. More importantly, be willing to walk alongside & encourage us. Build relationships with us so when we do trust you enough to ask your opinion you will be able to give us biblically sound Truth we are craving. Ask God to help you look past what we DO and see our hearts. Push through the awkwardness of asking a younger brother & sister to have coffee & get to know each other. Don’t believe the lie that you don’t have anything to offer and that it takes a pastor to walk alongside/serve every member of a church. Forgive and show grace to your younger brothers & sisters that have had to endure a culture and worldly lies and pressures unlike you have experienced (and many times they have had to persevere with only Christ by their side in public squares full of nonbelievers). Please don’t make us change what we DO before you will accept us. Don’t make us behave (as you want us to) before you will love us. Acknowledge that many of us are very close to the Lord and that we have been captivated by His love – and you could use some of our excitement & simplicity that comes with a young faith.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35.
The older generations need the excitement, freedom & relationship-focus that our younger generation have in their walk with the Lord. The younger generation is desperate for biblical knowledge, for examples of faith through storms, and discipline that many in the older generation possess! So MUCH of life & Truth can only be learned through experience – we need people walking alongside us to encourage us in our marriage, in our faith in our parenting….not to try to pass ALL knowledge to us – but to plant seeds, to be there for us when we are ready to ask for help, to serve & walk alongside – disciple!
I would LIKE to call ALL generations to surrender our worship of our church practices & traditions – that get in the way of us honoring & respecting & submitting to our brothers and sisters….to get rid of it ALL….but I won’t do that. I will simply challenge each of us if we aren’t willing to surrender our way of doing church – that we would be intentional with the other 166 hours in our week and get around brothers & sisters that do things different from us!
The reality is – there is a balance in all God created, isn’t there? Balance should definitely be a curse word. As soon as we feel we got something “right” - God shows us once again we have drifted too far and it’s time to balance. We won’t ever get it fully right. I think the same is true of the Church. In a world full of extreme thinkers & extreme doers, the ‘best’ path is usually right there in the middle of it all. We need each other. I do believe God designed us with different passions, ways of relating as a Church, different revelations – for a purpose – and that purpose is not to argue & move away from anybody that differs from us. If God wanted us to be totally unified in knowledge/brain/action/passions – He would have made things a lot more black & white, right? And the truth is – there’s a heck of a lot of grey. He desires for us to be unified in Spirit. (Eph 4:3) To be submissive to & considerate of each other. Not just to the ones we agree with and really understand.
One day we will see fully – for now we see in part – and if we refuse to walk alongside people who are different from us – this rift between our generations will be a canyon… and I believe it will be detrimental to the health of the American Church. Our disunity in interpretations, traditions and Church practices are not only okay with God ---- they are planned & designed by God. Those differences are exactly what we need to learn to love others, to stop majoring in the minors and instead find our unity & focus in Him.
I pray that we will not have un-christlike embarrassment of each other, but we will open our hearts to each other. There is a beautiful opportunity here to bring LOVE, respect & honor back into our worlds.There is nothing wrong in The Church that a massive surrendering to Christ will not fix. I am standing on the hope that my job is to surrender (submit) to Him & to others – and He will present Her, [The Church] to Himself as radiant, without stain & wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy & blameless. Eph 5:27