Growing Together

I’m excited to have this be our first guest writer post. I’m even more excited that it happens to be my mother. Both Matt and myself have a desire to incorporate perspectives from both ends of a generational spectrum into the blog, and what better way to start than have some who has raised four of her own. Hope you all enjoy.


I am not a millennial, but I have experience with them. I birthed four of them. I read an occasional article about millennials and have a couple of real frustrations with them. First is the criticism heaped on this generation for characteristics that were developed by those in older generations—the ones writing the blogs complaining about them! The other is the blanket categorization of all millennials being “this way.” Setting these soapboxes aside however, let me share a little on what I have learned from living with millennials.

Listen. James implores us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath—basically to hurry up and listen. One of the hardest thing for parents or anyone working with kids is really listening. We too quickly assume we understand the issue and want to jump in with the answer, solution, or critique. I am learning to just shut up and listen. It’s amazing the conversations that open up when you do this … and for some reason around my house the golden hour for these conversations seem to be 11 p.m. I have also learned not to push my agenda. There have been times that I’ve really wanted to address an issue on my mind, but I know if I just dive in with it, it will probably not be received well. So I pray for God’s wisdom in the timing to broach a subject and amazingly enough, as I listen during a conversation, the door opens wide, and my concerns and opinions are voiced. The other struggle is to shut up once it’s out there. Still struggle with that one, but we’re working it. Overall, I’ve found that if I listen, I am listened to.

Think. As I listen to the ideas, frustrations, and hopes, there are many times I’ve had to just sit back and think about what they are saying. I am very fortunate that in my experience, we are all looking at life from a Biblical worldview. As ideas are shared, there is always a scriptural basis for the thinking and an overall agreement that Scripture is truth. I believe one of the hardest realizations for my generation is that many of us have lived our lives according to Biblically-based traditions ingrained in us as Biblical truth. Our children’s “why?” or “the Bible doesn’t say …,” posed inquisitively not rebelliously, has caused me to think through a lot of things. It’s hard to admit that for one’s whole life you felt that a certain wardrobe choice, entertainment choice, music choice was sin when according to God’s Word, that prohibition is actually a person’s or movement’s interpretation and application of a scriptural principle. Clearly, as issues come up with anyone of any age group that question something clearly defined in the Bible—lying, killing, adultery/immorality—Biblical truth rules firmly and clearly; however, I believe too much of the generational and church-body conflicts stem from traditions and personal preferences being raise to the level of Scripture and being held too tightly. There is the danger for millennials to move forward with a spirit of arrogance, sort of a “Ha! I CAN do this!” and for the older generation to judge them as unspiritual or rebellious. Balance is very important. We are commanded to love one another, server one another, defer to one another, and we must remember that “one another” goes two ways. Paul addresses this in several epistles—all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. Discernment. This is where we, the older generations can assist. Rather than judging the youngers as just wanting an excuse to “sin,” take a step back, acknowledge their interpretation and application of the Biblical principle, and have a dialogue. Share why you have concerns about that viewpoint; however, if it is not a violation of sound Biblical truth, agree to respect each other’s positions—mutual respect—and move on serving God together as two parts of the body of Christ, because if both parties are saved by the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, that’s what you are, whether you sit in church with a coat and tie or blue jeans!

Pray. In every epistle Paul wrote, he expresses he is praying for believers near and far. Perhaps if we’re praying for one another rather than criticizing, our love and unity would grow a bit faster.

“… we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10

I am richly blessed in my relationships with the millennials in my life. God has recently moved me into a position where I will have interaction regularly with more of this age group. I have no idea what the background or baseline of thought and discernment is for some of these young people, but my desire is that I can listen to them, think about their views and ideas, talk with them and pray for them in a way that will benefit each of us in our walk with Christ and our journey to be more like Jesus.

 

 

You Really Get Me

black-and-white-restaurant-eating-sitting

“That’s so heavy.”

“That’s on fleek.”

“My darling sweetie…”

“Hey bae…”

“You catch my drift?”

“You really get me.”

The generations are very different from each other. We think differently, we dress differently (hopefully), we relax differently – we even talk differently, as demonstrated above.

Sometimes it’s like we’re speaking different languages.

But don’t let that discourage you! There are a lot of differences – and that’s okay! Because the beauty of the church is that we’re a bunch of different people all united by Christ. It doesn’t bring God any glory if we’re all the same. Any manufacturer can build a bunch of robots who all get along and move in sync, with no differences at all.

But when the world looks at the church and sees such crazy differences among its members – older people and younger people, millennials and boomers – and yet still sees unity, that brings God glory. Because only God could do that.

How do we achieve that unity between generations in our church? I think the best way is simply to have intergenerational conversations. Yes, we could achieve some level of “unity” if we just ignore each other – if millennials only hang out with millennials at church, and Xers only with Xers. But that isn’t real unity – that’s building a clique, not a church.

No, the way to achieve true unity is to have honest, open, intergenerational conversations. For a seventy-something to take a twenty-something out for coffee. For a young married man to talk to a father of teens about life’s many problems. For a single to hang out with a middle-aged man and share life together.

Here are some tips for those conversations, with some help from my Gen X father.

Millennials:

  1. Be on time to whatever meeting you set up with an older person. This communicates respect.
  2. Offer to pay if you’re having a conversation at a restaurant or coffee shop – another sign of respect.
  3. Be extremely grateful. In a society where thank-you-notes can be sent at any moment by text, there’s no excuse.

Older people (sorry, I can’t come up with a better name!):

  1. Specify what you want the millennial to call you. Nothing is more awkward than trying to figure out whether to call someone “Mr. Smith” or “Joe.” Be up front with them. I’d suggest just telling them to address you by your first name.
  2. Step out of your past and your culture. Don’t be stuck in your ways. Be willing to abandon any view that is traditional but not biblical.
  3. Listen – don’t preach. Don’t come in with both guns blazing. Gently guide them away from sin and toward the Savior. The best way to build respect with them is to simply listen to their story. My Dad says, “Mankind’s greatest need (after salvation) is to be listened to. It reaches to the deepest part of their being. More respect is earned by listening than speaking.”

Both generations:

  1. Ask questions. Dad says, “People always like to talk about themselves more than anything else. If you look at Christ’s life, He had the ability to ask the right question without accusing somebody of something. Asking clarifying questions – not yes-no questions – is the best way to get people to open up.”
  2. Don’t rush to judgment. Always tell yourself: “Everyone has a story.” We millennials tend to rush to judge all old people as hypocritical and legalistic. Older people tend to rush to judge millennials as unwise and rebellious. Both may be true – but not for everyone! Seek to get to know the person at a deep level.
  3. Be persistent. “Life’s busy. Having time to reach out to one another should be a priority. Sometimes being persistent means saying no to a bigger ministry in front of people so you can have time for a smaller ministry with one person at a coffee shop.”

“I used to think of millennials as just kids that have a lot to learn. Yet now, by spending time with them, I’ve realized that I’m the one who has a lot to learn. And yet I have experiences and life lessons that can help them on their path to be the greatest generation to reach this world for Christ.”

And that all starts with simple, honest conversations. That’s not my opinion. Or my Dad’s. It’s the Bible’s.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Heb. 10:24-25

How are you going to “stir up” someone outside your generation this week? How are you going to encourage a millennial or meet together with a boomer?

The unity of the church depends on it.

A Starting Point

Mine started in March of 1991. It’s formed how I view the world, people, geographical regions, economics, relationships, and theology. It the lens that colors my world, and makes my views different than yours. It’s my story. How I got from point A to point B. Yeah, our stories may be similar, but they aren’t identical. My twists, turns, valleys, and mountains have had a hand in forming my view of theology, just like your journey has helped form yours. It’s the reason why I may really cling to an attribute of God more closely than you and vice versa.

Last week Matt wrote an amazing post about transparency and how our church seems to be the one place that we should find it, but don’t. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, well click here and take a look. It was a call to be real, not a perfect Christian, but a real one. And for Christians to have transparent conversations and speak Christ into each other’s lives. But I’m sure some have had the question, “But how? How do I get to that point with someone? Where do I start?”

This is not a step by step guide, but a suggestion that I think could help.

In I Corinthians 6 we see this list of sinners that will not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but when we come to verse 11 we see an amazing verse about personal stories and works of grace.

“And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

This church in Corinth was filled with liars, adulterers, drunkards, and swindlers, but they had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and justified in the eyes of their Savior. They had a story that shaped their view of God. I’m sure the adulterer’s view of the purity of Christ was much more personal than the drunkards. His story shaped his view of purity. The swindler’s view of truth is much more precious to him than we could imagine. The freedom we experience through Christ may be more excellent to some one that was enslaved by alcohol. Those life experiences and stories are why each one of us may cling to a different attribute of God. Even if you haven’t been saved from specific sins listed in I Corinthians your history has still had a hand in forming your view of your Savior.

So how do you start having real, transparent conversations? Start with learning each other’s story. Find out why this person is the way they are. There are reasons why we believe what we believe and why we hold some truths so tightly while others we are more open to discussing. It’s our story. And until we make an attempt to understanding the why of each generation’s thinking and how they got there, a church accord may stay a thing of legend.

The point of understanding someone else’s story is not to hold it against them or have our view of them change for the worse. Christ’s blood has made each one of us as white as snow and as pure as Christ. Our list of ordinances against us have been taken away and nailed to the cross, with Christ gloriously triumphing over them, putting to open shame those that would hold it against us. The point is to find the common ground. It’s understanding each person at their most basic part and building open, transparent relationships from there.

So here’s how you start. It’s simple questions. “Why? Why do you think this way about _________? How did you get to there?” Then listen. Learn. And try to understand.

3 Relationships We All Need

I was sitting in church last week and I’m pretty sure the speaker read my ideas list of blog posts and then decided to speak on one of them, then mention the rest. As I’m sitting and listening to his sermon he mentions in passing three relationships that everyone should have (the list from this post). They caused me to think and research a little bit more than what he presented. It started with Barnabas and ended with Paul.

Paul is probably the more well-known of the two. He was led by God to help found the church in the known world. He led four mission trips to spread the gospel, had a miraculous conversion, survived a shipwreck, snake bite, stoning, and threats. He was the epitome of a cross-cultural missionary, and was a multiplier within the church. But he wouldn’t have been able to start without a risk taken by Barnabas.

1. Paul and Barnabas

We often think of Paul and Barnabas as the missionary companions that eventually split apart because of some young, immature missionary name John Mark. Well yes, that’s part of their story. But their story actually started right at the beginning of Paul’s Christian life. See Barnabas was the reason Paul got an audience with the Apostles. The Apostles knew Paul as Saul and how he persecuted the church and was killing Christians because of their faith. They also knew that he had been “converted” and now wanted to preach the gospel. So they had good reason to be extremely hesitant to bring him into their fold. Well, Barnabas took the risk. He welcomed Paul into his company and presented him to the Apostles and trained him. He equipped Paul by doing ministry with him. Barnabas was the older, more experienced companion to Paul. He was Paul’s “in” when it came to ministry. Barnabas was able to look passed the history and differences, and see the potential for the advancement of the kingdom. And guess what? When Paul and Barnabas decided to part ways, Barnabas did the same thing he did with Paul with that young, immature missionary named John Mark. It appears that this was a habit of Barnabas.

The church needs this type of relationship. We need to be either the older generation willing to take a risk on the younger despite our differences of opinion, methods of accomplishing ministry, or personal history. Or we are the younger generation and need to be willing to learn from the older, even if their methods, opinions, and person history are different than ours. That generation has been doing ministry longer than us, so yes we can learn from them. But the goal on both sides, like Paul and Barnabas, is to encourage Christlikeness, unity, and advance the gospel, not create another you or change a generation to be like another.

2. Paul and Silas

Everybody needs a Silas. Paul’s relationship with Silas is best described by a scenario. I have a very unique relationship with one of my brothers-in-law. We try to go grab coffee once every other week or so. And our conversations generally entail deep life questions and concerns. Like the struggles and joys of work, church, home, and personal lives. They’re filled with transparent answers and questions and both of us leave with burdens lifted off our shoulders and hearts because of the encouragement of the other. I feel like this is the kind of relationship Paul and Silas had. They spent three years traveling together on their missionary journey, doing ministry with each other. They did life together and shared each other’s pain, burdens, and joys. They endured jail, earthquakes, and death threats together. They had this life on life relationship that we all need. It was the two of them encouraging each other as they both worked to advance Christ’s kingdom here on earth. It was not necessarily one mentoring the other, it was iron sharpening iron.

3. Paul and Timothy

Timothy was the project child. He was the kid that Paul saw had a gift and just grabbed hold of him and mentored. He encouraged him to use his gifts even though he was young and told him don’t let anybody despise you because of your age. He put him in positions that he was forced to grow spiritually and make decision that were well beyond his years while being discipled by Paul.

This is a prime example of mentoring. This was a cross-generational, transparent, gospel-focused relationship. From what I’ve seen in Scripture, Paul wasn’t trying to make a little Paul out of Timothy, he was trying to encourage a little Christ. He gave principles drawn from Scripture to guide Timothy. He helped draw doctrine-related lines, but encouraged practical conversations (think eating meat offered to idols). He guided, was supportive of wise decisions, and gave advice when needed. I’m pretty sure Paul and Timothy didn’t do everything the same way, because they weren’t the same person. But they were both striving for the same goal and that’s what they focused on.

A Task Unfinished: Millennials and Missions

facing a task unfinished

We stood on the top-floor veranda, eight stories above the busy streets of the Uskudar neighborhood of Istanbul, looking out on barreling ferries on the even busier Bosphorus. Across the strip of blue on the European side stood the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, the Sultan’s palaces, and more minarets than one could count – a tribute to the vice-grip that Islam has on this part of the world.

Staring out on this beautiful cityscape as the sun disappeared and the mosques’ Ramadan lights came on, my friend – a veteran in the area of missions– turned to me and said something shocking:

“The number one hindrance to missions today is not that young people aren’t willing to go. It’s that their parents don’t want them to go…”

“They don’t want them to go and die for the Gospel.”

We’re witnessing a rebirth of the missions movement – not that it was ever dead. But there seems to be an awakening of interest in cross-cultural Gospel advance, particularly in the hard places of the world – like the empire of Islam.

People like David Platt and ministries like Frontline Missions have compelled a new generation to take up the mantle of Taylor and Borden and go into the uttermost with the Good News. I’m so encouraged to see so many of my generation getting passionate about communicating the Gospel message. Yes, there are plenty of apathetic millennials with no heart for any of this. And yes, there are others who are passionate but compromise doctrine and theology in their passion for evangelism.

But no one can deny that there are many, many millennials taking up the torch and following Christ to North Africa, Southeast Asia, Communist China, or Central Asia.

But we must give credit where credit is due. It was the older generations – the Boomers now in their 70s – who inspired us to face this Gospel task.

These people went, no matter the cost, to the most dangerous parts of the world, warring against colonialism in Africa and communism in China.

During the 1920s and ’30s, one of those older missionaries wanted to write a hymn to compel 200 new missionaries to come to China during a time of persecution. That song has been updated by the Getty’s, who just released it as the title track of their new album Facing a Task Unfinished. Read the powerful words:

Facing a task unfinished
That drives us to our knees
A need that, undiminished
Rebukes our slothful ease
We, who rejoice to know Thee
Renew before Thy throne
The solemn pledge we owe Thee
To go and make Thee known

This song so moved that generation of young people that over two hundred of them heeded the call to come to China. Soon after, many of them were dead.

But that sort of movement is not dead. The testimony of these aging Gospel-bearers has compelled a new generation to face the task unfinished.

But one of the biggest obstacles is the generation in between – the Xers. These are the parents of the millennials who tremble to think of their children going and being beheaded by ISIS vigilantes in Syria or deported by communists in China.

The American “virtue” of sheltering children from all harm in the world has put a shackle on many millennials. Their parents don’t want them to face the task unfinished because it’s also a task unsafe.

But when has God ever called us to safety? Of course, there’s a God-given desire to protect children. But this is never a desire to protect children from the call of God.

And it isn’t just the parents. In my experience traveling to the Middle East and taking friends, I’ve heard of pastors and church members who wouldn’t support our trips because it was “foolish.” Why go and get yourself killed in reckless waste? Especially for the no-good Muslims (who, by the way, are apparently trying to “take over our country”). Many would rather be sharing vitriolic posts on Facebook about barring Muslims from America than sharing the Gospel with them – or letting their children do such.

Last time I checked, that’s exactly what Jesus called us to do! But don’t take my words for it. Listen to His very words from Luke 14:26-27:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Christ’s disciples and danger are always connected.

You CANNOT be His disciple and want a comfortable life. It’s like joining the military and expecting to have a life sitting in a lawn chair sipping lemonade. Not gonna happen.

When we choose to follow Christ, IT MEANS WAR. For you – and for your children.

Jesus even says you have to “hate” your kids to follow Him – in other words, love Him so much that it looks like you hate them. I think this speaks to being willing to let go of your kids for God’s service. Or, for millennials, being willing to face the rejection of parents because you’re following Christ to a dangerous missions field. I don’t want to advocate for going against the wishes of parents, and it would be much easier if parents would actually encourage their kids to take risks for the kingdom’s sake.

I don’t know what it’s like to have kids, and I won’t pretend to know how you feel letting go of a child. But I do know that Jesus is far better than anything this world can offer. He’s better than safety and comfort. And if God is truly calling your child to serve in a dangerous country and boldly face a task unfinished, I strongly urge you not to impede them!

My own parents struggled with their fears when I took my trips. They are the best parents in the world and love me more than I deserve. But they’re not perfect. They had their worries. They were hesitant to let me face danger – for that matter, so was I! But they never stopped me. I knew my Mom was worried (my Dad told me), but she did a great job concealing it. She put on a brave face and helped me prepare for trips to dangerous places. I love her for it.

It’s hard. But that’s just part of the Christian life.

So let them go! God can protect them better than you can anyway.

And while you’re at it, why don’t you go and join them on the missions field!

The Accords: An Introduction

No, this blog has nothing to do with Honda – although, if they’d like to sponsor us, they’re welcome to send a check.

An “accord” is not something you hear about very often. It’s a fancier – and cooler – word for a peace treaty. Maybe you’ve heard of a “peace accord” – like the Camp David Accords or the Oslo Accords. Or more likely, you’ve heard of the Sokovia Accords: an agreement signed by 117 nations after the destruction of the nation of Sokovia to rein in the actions of unrestrained vigilantes.

It sounds pretty great – unless you’re on #TeamCap and believe in freedom (‘Merica!). Go see Captain America: Civil War to find out what I’m talking about.

Well, the accords we’ll be talking about will not involve 117 nations or even Tony Stark (although Caleb sometimes acts like him). Instead, we want to address the need for “accords” within the body of Christ.

There’s been a split in the church that’s been growing wider over the years. We’ve noticed it in our home church, and I’m sure you’ve seen it in yours.

Historically, this shouldn’t be surprising. The church has always struggled with unity. From the days of #TeamPaul vs. #TeamPeter at Corinth, the people of God have always tended to form factions.

If you’re a church history nerd like myself, you can study the various church councils and see major splits on points of doctrine. Then you get into the Middle Ages with bishops and popes excommunicating one another until Luther came around and made it even worse by starting a Reformation. Yet even the Reformation saw its divisions, with Luther vs. Calvin and later Arminians vs. Calvinists.

Lincoln was right: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Oh wait, Jesus said that. And His words ring true to this very day.

The reason divisions happen so often among believers is because Satan knows this is a great way to distract the church. He can make a church ineffective simply by stirring up controversy over this or that.

Now, some divisions are good. I’m all about separating from heretics. But unfortunately in the era of church-splits or church-hopping, many divisions are not over vital doctrines but over personalities and preferences.

In our modern era, the split in the church is not between Peter-fanboys and Paul-lovers, or between Arius and Athanasius.

Rather it’s a generational battle – old vs. young. Millennials vs. Boomers/Xers.

And it’s developed into outright war. We even call it the “worship war.” But the battles are beyond just music – the old and young seem divided on practically every issue.

Our goal is not to say who’s right. God’s Word has plenty to say if people read it, and many of the issues that divide us are trivial at best and downright ridiculous at worst.

Our goal instead is to attempt to bridge this widening gap and speak to both sides. To do that, we’ll need writers from all different ages (if you have a two-year-old who’s good at writing, please let us know). At first, Caleb and I (Matt) will write back-and-forth each week. But we’d like to start including different voices to speak to this subject.

What will it take to end the inter-generational struggle? What do we need to do to address this growing divide between millennials and the “old people”? How can we seek to understand each other? How can we develop inter-generational relationships? Can we be as Paul exhorts the Philippians – “in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:2)? It’s these questions we hope to address on this blog.

And hopefully, by the end, we can have the “Church Accords,” signed and ready to go. Without any need for a Civil War.

Lay down your electric guitars and hymnals. It’s time to come to terms. Come to the negotiations table.

It’s time to embrace a God who knows no age.