Friday, June 6, 2014

The Kingdom and 'D-Day + 70'

Today marks the 70th anniversary of that remarkable event called D-Day.  Those whom we have affectionately called 'The Greatest Generation' were willing to sacrifice all for the next generation, and the next, and the next. They waded into enemy territory, willing to put aside all of their desires, hopes, dreams--for those not even born yet--to achieve that which they may never experience the benefits of.

Isn't that what having a kingdom perspective is also about? Being willing to put aside ourselves, our comfort, our wants--to build into the next generation of followers of Christ? 

We've all heard it said that 'Christianity is only one generation from extinction.'  Yet, I have to question myself as to how diligent I really am in preparing and building the church with the next generation in mind.

Virtually every church I've ever been involved with had leadership that had been leading for many years, even decades. Leaders that became involved when they were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are still the same leaders 10 or 20 years later (or longer!).  In other words, the dedicated folks who were a part of providing momentum in earlier years by diligent service are still the same people doing it decades later.  No wonder churches naturally get older and grayer.

You see this happening in virtually every area of ministry: children, youth, praise teams, ushers, deacons, Sunday school teachers...the list goes on and on.  Often, there are good reasons (or at least they're good in our minds) why we allow this to happen: 'We can't find as dedicated of people as we are.' 'This is my ministry--I enjoy it too much to let it go.'  'Not using all of our experience and what we've learned is a waste.'

As we are slowly implementing a discipleship approach in our church which looks at every individual growing into becoming a 'spiritual parent' of others, our responsibility in making disciple-making disciples (i.e., fulfilling the Great Commission) will force us to confront this tendency to 'age-in-place' in church.

I recently read a challenge for pastors to compare the average age in their church to the average age of their community. The wider the disparity, the farther down the road is the gentrification of their church. And this means that the church is that much closer to being a 'dying church.'

We need a new 'greatest generation' made up of those who are especially in their 50s and older. This generation needs to ask the question: "What will it take to reach our children and grandchildren?"  What programs, ministries, traditions and practices that worked at one time, but no longer seem to be effective, need to change?

Can we become the next 'Kingdom Greatest Generation'--willing to sacrifice all for the next generation, and the next, and the next? Ones not afraid to wade into enemy territory, willing to put aside all of our desires, hopes, dreams--for those maybe not even born yet--to achieve that which we may never experience the benefits of?  May it be done all done for the glory of God and God alone.

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