1967. Baby Boomer journalists coin the term, “generation gap,” setting off a seismic shift in the way we think and talk about generations. Monolithic. Segregated. Struggling for relevance.
2015. Some assembly believers are asking how one assembly can accommodate all of the living adult generations.
Is there really friction between generations in our assemblies? Should there be? Who is at fault? What can we do about it? Frankly, there’s too much here to deal with in one blog post. But here are three thoughts (thought starters, really) that may be encouraging as we take up this hard subject within our own assemblies.
1. Teach it forward
“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2
What a privilege! The Lord has invited us to participate with Him in His work – and, better yet, He has equipped us to do so.
We have the Word, which fully furnishes us for the work. We have His Spirit, living with and in us—enabling us to read and understand the Bible, and gifting us to do supernatural things on the Lord’s behalf—for His people, for the world around us, and for the spread of His good news.
None of this is given with respect to age, race, or gender. But there are degrees of maturity. A young believer may need to grow into his gifting, with the guidance of older, more mature believers. That’s why Paul gave Timothy the above instruction. Healthy assemblies are concerned with the future and with equipping future generations.
The instruction carries a couple of significant implications:
- Brethren (regardless of their age) with understanding of the things of the Lord are to pass that understanding along to others.
- This should be done with specific attention to sound and proven doctrine.
- Teaching the next generation should focus on doctrines that were taught by Paul and are proven by the presence of witnesses.
- These “things” are to be passed along with the intentional purpose of perpetuating the assembly—“… commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
The system is self-perpetuating and self-correcting. In a healthy assembly, older generations are intentional about the business of equipping the younger. There is urgency about the future of the Lord’s work, and about bringing younger people into the work as quickly as is prudent. And younger generations, seeing both a need and an opportunity, are serious about preparing themselves to step up.
2. Stick with the Word
“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” 2 Timothy 4: 2
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” 2 Timothy 3: 16-17
With increasing secular encroachment into the things of the Lord, it’s tempting to adopt practices (and even teaching) from sources other than the Bible. This temptation may come from the legitimate desire to make our assemblies (and the Bible) relevant to the young, the lost, and the un-churched. Nothing is more powerful, relevant, or authentic than the assembly founded on the Word of God.
For young people seeking to grow into their gifts, there is no more worthwhile pursuit than intensive, systematic, daily Bible study. In apologetics, evangelism, teaching, encouragement, worship, or devotional settings, there is nothing more useful for a young Christian than a working knowledge of the Word.
If you are a young man or woman, your commitment to knowing and expounding the Bible will be a source of credibility, as you endeavor to “let no man despise your youth.”
For older believers who want to engage younger people, your knowledge and experience with the Word will be a great resource to those you most desire to encourage.
3. One accord
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, …” Acts 2:46
“One accord” appears eight times in the New Testament, seven in Acts. Five describe the unity of local assemblies. Two describe the unity of those opposing the spread of the Gospel. Local assemblies of the early Church were strong because they were not divided.
The temptation to segregate by generations can put us at cross-purposes with the example given in Acts. Once again, there seem to be some good reasons, and the fear of losing our young people is real. But segregating the assembly in order to serve the needs and tastes of younger believers can be counterproductive.
Of course, there are practical issues:
- the need to provide a strong foundation for young people
- the need to lead children to Christ
- the need for an “on ramp” for believers coming into fellowship
Youth focused activities
Activities such as Sunday School and youth groups are best focused on developing believers into functioning men and women in assembly fellowship—with the future of the assembly in mind.
If we systematically shunt our youth (from preschool through high school) out of meetings, through segregated programming, it should not surprise us when they grow up, go away to college, leave the assembly and never look back. They are not actually leaving the assembly; they were never in the assembly.
A unified enemy
As in the first century, those who oppose us are in one accord. The forces of secularism stand unified. If the Lord’s enemies are in one accord, His people should be too.
There’s a lot to discuss about roles, responsibilities, blessings, and challenges of assembly generations. But as we consider these things, it’s good to remember that what separates us doesn’t add up to a hill of beans compared to what unites us.