Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Inter-generational Rift

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 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

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Head & Heart

In North Carolina this week we had to vote on an amendment that would add to our state constitution that the only domestic union we would recognize would be a marriage between one man & one woman. Wow - I had no idea this was going to be such a huge deal (on my facebook newsfeed!).   This 'issue' really turned into something much bigger than a vote for legal matters in our state.   It opened up a lot of people to really confront what it is they believe and what is important to them.   I learned many lessons this week.

First,  a logistical lesson that I learned about 4 years ago (during election 2008)... which I apparently forgot....

Self: do not process out politics/theology on open forums - including facebook!  Even though you are sending the message/comments to your 'friends'... you forget that anybody/everybody can see them and those people don't know you or your heart.  Process out political/theological issues with your Church & brothers and sisters in your community!  I KNOW it's frustrating to only see one side and the 'other side' always seems so vocal and you'd like to engage in the conversations simply just so it's NOT one sided..... you don't even want to debate or argue - or convince others --- but you just want BOTH sides heard for the onlookers if nothing else!!  Even if it's a good motive -- resist that temptation!  Private message your believing friend online if you can not resist the urge to comment.

Second, don't forget that you definitely speak different and send a different message to a believer and a non believer about the Bible, sin, God, etc..... don't forget who you are talking to!   Nonbelievers resist the Word & Truth....even if it's coming from a 'friend'... don't forget there is nothing you can say to them to open their heart. They especially are not open to your words when they are already on the defense because they have a viewpoint *they* are trying to convince others of.  This is for sure one of those times when love stays silent.

In my quest for knowledge (sound doctrine even?)..... I must always remember that there is a balance in everything.  (Yes God, I hear you..... AGAIN --- balance balance balance.)  YES knowledge is important.  God gave us brains and we must use them.  We must not be scared to open our minds to new thoughts or viewpoints.... but let's always make sure as much as we are reading other's thoughts and viewpoints.... we are reading the Bible for ourselves that much more - and allowing Him to speak to our spirit directly.   So what that we don't know the greek/hebrew and are probably missing so much..... even though we don't have the 72 inch plasma high definition --- we still have the little tv with rabbit years --- we might not be getting everything and seeing it for exactly what it is --- but we ARE getting the story line & bigger picture of what is going on!

Using our brains to understand more about God, more about His attributes & how He views us and the world is so important.   So we must dig in, study, look at different interpretations, seek knowledge.... but let's just be honest here, Randi Jo, you are not an intellectual Bible scholar... that isn't how God lead you to the cross and that isn't the role He has you in, praise the Lord!! :)

As a Wife, Mommy & sister in Christ.... I don't have to be a theologian to have Christ dwell in me, do a great work in me and through me.  Help me God not resent the place you have me.... and not to take it too lightly either.... In this beautiful season of life I am in, I have been stretched, molded and have grown more than any of my years of studying & seeking.  When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that there are many things that can not be learned until they are lived out....  and LOVE is one of those.   So many people can feel/seem so spiritual as they sit at home and read and write about all these things they are learning..... but it's worthless and they haven't grown at all until it's lived out in community!

I find it so encouraging that Jesus himself had things to learn.  I found this profound scripture in Hebrews 5 that said, "Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered".   Pretty awesome if you ask me.  It doesn't mean He believed *wrong* things.... He was perfect & had perfect thinking.... but it means that there are some things that we can only learn through experience/suffering/obedience.   That means that perfect doesn't mean you have NOTHING to learn -- how cool is that!?  Jesus was perfect and Jesus Himself had things to learn... so this proves to me there are some things that can only be learned through experience!!! Love that.  I must trust that God IS my shepherd and since I don't have the time (nor resources or brains!!!) to be a theologian right now --- I can trust that He is teaching me through my experiences, through life and my simple time with Him as I surrender to Him all throughout the day!  I KNOW He is doing a great work in me, I see it, others see it --- I praise you God that you care more about changing my heart than you do filling my brain!! :)

I can so easily get bogged down & consumed in my search for truth.  I can search and search and pray for God to give me enough knowledge in my brain to answer some question, "right".... but then at the end of it all.... there are many times where I just have to make a choice with that I believe - because it's not black & white.   Many times I come to the end of all the information I can find.... and He has not revealed anything specific to me....and I am back to a realization He had taught me years ago - and that is simply that HE is the Truth. John 14:6.   He doesn't ask me to figure out the answer to every moral & theological question presented to me - or even those that may be presented someday so that I can follow what He wants....  He asks me to follow HIM.  Oh how quickly I forget, God.  In my original Bible study I did with you when my journey really started, "what pleases you God?" ---- remember, the answer was not in my brain, my knowledge or even my morality.... the answer every time was Christ... and my surrender to/dependence on/devotion to Him!!! :)

What happened this week in all my crunching for answers and wanting so badly for things to be black & white.... was that I came to the profound thought that WOW --- if God wanted all of us to be really clear on everything and be totally unified in knowledge/brain..... then He wouldn't have given us the Bible in the form it is in.   One day we will "see fully" but right now we only see in part.... and that is God's doing.   Not only is all this disunity in interpretation.....(and all these grey areas) accepted by Him.... it was PLANNED by Him... This is exactly what we need to learn to LOVE others.  This is exactly what we need to learn to find unity in HIM.  To be unified in Spirit when not unified in brain/intellect.  

If there were NO disagreements... there would be so need to work on unity.  When there are disagreements.... it helps us focus on what we can all agree on - Christ, Christ crucified, Christ risen!! :)

And finally, my last take away from all of this comes from Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity that I've been reading through with my Friday night girlfriends.  Apparently, I have an issue with wanting to be like God.  I want to know everything He knows, I want to know all the answers that a human can have... even if the answer is, "we don't know"... apparently I'm a know it all and I didn't even know it!!

I have found that knowledge is an idol to me. It's a 'false positive'.... it's one of those things that I look for when I am feeling insecure.... and it's one of those things that can send me quickly on the road to insecurity when I feel I'm lacking it.   When I'm anxious, when there's a grey area, when I feel I might be 'wrong' on an issue I'm standing for ---  that can send me into a tunnel toward insecurity like very few things can.   This fear to be 'wrong' is not from God.   and I don't know why I fear being wrong.  Do I really think that a loving Father would punish me because I don't understand something fully?  He absolutely would not!  As a good Father, Counselor & Shepherd, He will simply help me learn.   God does not expect me to be perfect.  Which means He does not expect me to know everything!! Hello!  Which means He has grace for the things I *don't* understand since He is the one that reveals to me what I DO understand.

Please let this be a lesson that truly sinks into my soul this time, Lord.   That my security is found in you alone, Christ.  You alone are my security.  My brain is not my security.  My doctrinal accuracy is not my security.  I am not saved because of my knowledge.  I am saved because of my faith in you.  I must remember that knowledge is great -- to support my heart --because the heart is central.  And the heart is relationship.  You can so easily change my knowledge...I've had major paradigm shifts in my knowledge after one reading...but I have found that changing my heart is what takes time.  The heart is what is important.  

Help me remember God that you created a beautiful balance in everything - including our search for Truth.  Help me seek out knowledge in a healthy way.  Help me process information better and more efficiently.  Help me study the Bible better.  But also help me remember that you didn't ask me to follow The Bible.  You asked me to follow YOU.  Help me focus on that relationship/your Spirit in me.... and trust that you will give me the knowledge/wisdom as I can handle it and as I need it.   Help me not push through at my own pace but let me be patient with your pace.   Remind me that I am learning all of the time as I walk with you.  As I learn to surrender and yield to your Spirit more and more - the more I will learn and the biblical knowledge will come.  I can't resent the pace you have set for my life right now.  For now I must be okay with saying that I believe in the Bible and that every word is True whether I understand it or not.....I believe that I don't understand it and I have wrong thoughts about it.....and that's okay........and most of all, I believe in you!