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Thankful for Multi-Generations

multigenerationalchurch

There are so many unique distinctive members of the body of Christ. We are certainly a diverse collection of people. Churches are full of people who never would have done anything together or even have been in the same building together if they had not become followers of Christ. One writer says, “It is through the gospel’s mysterious joining—the joining of Jews and Gentiles; antithetical ethnic groups—that the church is built; and this church, built from scraps of seemingly irreconcilable backgrounds, is primary for displaying His manifold wisdom to ‘the rulers and authorities in heavenly places.’”

It is a beautiful thing to see people who have nothing in common decide to work and live on mission together for Jesus. When you look at Eph. 3:14-21 you see how Paul celebrates the “dividing-wall-annihilating” gospel. This message is also reinforced in Gal. 3:28, “There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” It has been said many times that the ground at the foot of the cross is level. This diversity when seen in His church is His masterpiece of redemption.

The church today should be a present picture of the worship that will be occurring in heaven as described in Rev. 7:9 of every nation, kindred, people, and tongue. God loves diversity! This should be seen in ethnicities, socioeconomic status, education, gender, and also generationally. Every church must remember to respect the past while embracing the future. It should not be either/or! We must reach younger generations for our churches to thrive in the future but have we must also minister to our older members.

Committing to be a multi-generational church is not about compromise or coddling but rather a gospel issue just like multi-ethnic or any other multi! It is not easy but it is well worth it. We live in a culture that is all about youth and almost seems to have a disdain for old age while the Bible shows us the blessing and wisdom of looking to those who have spent time growing in the Lord. II Tim. 2:2 challenges men to commit what they have learned to faithful men. Titus 2 gives an admonition for older women to encourage the younger women.

Believing that being a multi-generational church is a gospel issue, here are some things to consider. First, focus on all age groups within your church not just one. We should not be committed to bringing one generation in to the church at the expense of driving the other generations away. No, everyone will not like the way you do things but your goal should never be to purposely create a divide between generations. Isn’t a multi-generational church a better display of the gospel than a single-generational church?

Second, a multi-generational church displays the fruits of a true gospel community. There is a spirit of cooperation apparent because the focus is on the furtherance of the gospel and not personal tastes. When forgiveness, patience, and brotherly love are regularly practiced between generations it has a powerful testimony. Quoting one author, “The beauty of God’s holy temple, the church, is found precisely in the fact that it is made of seemingly irreconcilable materials!”

Third, this can only happen by displaying a self-denying humility. Actually, it will not work any other way. Without it everyone has their own personal agenda and believes that they have the answer for how things should be done. With humility you will see members preferring one another’s needs above their own. If you struggle with this concept please check out Phil. 2:3, “Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”

Fourth, embrace the truth of being one in Christ. Listen to this truth, “It’s (your church) built with people who should be divided, but are nonetheless united by the gospel. It’s (your church) not natural for people who have nothing in common to voluntarily die to self in order to live in thriving community. Yet this is exactly what the gospel accomplishes in its building of the church—and this is particularly true of multi-generational congregations.” Well said!

Fifth, it is good for you, the younger and older generations, to worship together. Think of the impact it can have on a young boy who sees an older gentleman in the altar weeping and crying out to God. Image the lasting impression upon a young girl who watches as an elderly lady lift her hands toward heaven as she worships her Lord. Maybe our children are missing out on interacting with the godly older people of our church because of the way we have structured our services. There are definitely times for age appropriate activities or gatherings but we also need to facilitate multi-generation interaction.

Sixth, everyone needs to be patient and understanding of one another. Older generations tend to be very skeptical and hesitant about change even if that change is healthy and God-honoring. The younger generations tend to think that they are the only ones who know what needs to be changed to fix everything. We must teach patience to the younger believers without quenching their God-glorifying zeal, and we must challenge the older believers to tweak their traditions in such a way that shows we honor and respect them.

Seventh, commit to ministering to all generations and their ability to minister to one another. We must resist the temptation for us to please our own personal preferences. Ed Stetzer writes, “Too many churches love their traditions more than their children.” He continues, “How can you tell? They persist in using methods that are not relevant to their own children and grandchildren. Far too often, church leaders, in an effort to protect the traditions of their congregations, draw lines in the sand on nonessential issues.”

Healthy churches are focused on reaching the next 100 people with the gospel more than they are focused on satisfying the present 100.

Where Did We Go Wrong?

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     It was a dream come true to recently visit Providence, RI. This is where the first Baptist church in America was started over 375 years ago. This is also where the pursuit for religious liberty was forged. From these humble beginnings, Baptist churches were planted at an exponential manner and speed. In DCPI’s Churches Planting Churches materials Mark Williams says, “in 1750 there were approximately 200 Baptist churches but by 1950 there were over 77,000 with membership growing from 100,000 members to twenty million. It is likely that 12 to 16 million came to Christ through these new churches.” The history of our heritage is both exciting and bothersome!

     In a recent study about Evangelicals in North America, JD Payne reported that, “missiologists have labeled people groups ‘unreached’ or ‘least-reached’ when the evangelical percentage among the particular people examined is less than or equal to 2% AND when the total Christian Adherent population is less than or equal to 5%. Others have simply defined an unreached people group as one ‘in which less than 2% of the population are Evangelical Christians.'” In using this metric there are now seven states that qualify as unreached; Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Utah, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island!

     Where did we go wrong? What happened to our influence and legacy from where we began on American soil? The Providence metropolitan area is reported as 1.7% evangelical and qualifies as one of the most unreached urban areas in the United States. Since being exposed to these sobering statistics it has been a burden of my heart to do something about equipping and empowering someone to reach this city. The greatness of the need and the lostness of this area did not resolve the problem of who could go and effectively reach these people with the gospel. It would require the right person (called), in the right place (contextualization), and at the right time (connection).  

     First, God hears and answers prayers! The book of James reminds us that we have not because we ask not and that the urgent requests of God’s people are very powerful in their effect. God heard our cry as we asked him to raise up someone we could help to reach this unreached unevangelized area. God orchestrated a connection through a missionary in Thailand who had gone to seminary with a friend who had planted in Providence. It was a great day when we received an email asking if we would be interested in contacting his friend and see what might be done to begin building a relationship. We really are better together.

     Second, God is always way ahead of us! God never ceases to amaze me because long before we were praying about Providence, RI, the Lord was working in the heart of a man to prepare himself for the ministry. He accepted the call on his life to preach the gospel, plant a church, and begin evangelizing people who are far from God. Our first phone call was over an hour as he shared his journey and stated, “And I can tell you brother, the Northeast needs all the prayer you can send our way.” Deut. 31:8 says, “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

     Third, begin faithfully serving the Lord right where you are! We must begin serving the Lord right where we are and do it right now. Thankfully, He and his family have not waited on us to obediently follow the Lord. Many are waiting for an opportunity to serve and the Lord wants to know what you are doing with the talents He has already given you. We talk about serving the Lord “over there” but what are we doing right where we are? Adrian Rogers said, “A change of scenery never guarantees a change of character!” This church planting pastor shared with me the challenges of reaching people in this unreached area and said, “This is fun!”

     Fourth, God is able and He is doing amazing things! The testimonies of how God is moving through the ministries of church plants and established churches are exciting to hear. He still is not willing that any should perish. Our vision statement for our church planting efforts is, “raising up a generation of church planters to transform their communities with the gospel!” As we obey His command to go He has promised, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” While in Providence, in a meeting with NAMB church catalyst, Shaun Pillay, he said, “Let’s stop talking about how hard the soil is and start talking about how great our God is!”

     Healthy churches do not wait to begin evangelizing their communites and are actively obeying the Great Commission. Having a building full of people who say they love God but do not love the people God loves, the lost, is unacceptable to a healthy church!