Summary: A principle for how to close the generation gap and application of that principle to one specific group in the church.
Every generation throughout human history has struggled with its own version of the generation gap between the young and the old. I can picture Adam and Eve complaining about the next generation, predicting the demise of the human race because of the values of their children and grandchildren. I can almost hear Adam complaining to Eve, "The problem with kids today is that they have no respect, no sense of sacrifice or responsibility." I can picture Adam and Eve’s kids rolling their eyes, and whispering to each other, "Mom and dad need to get with the times."
It seems like every generation thinks that the next generation is worse than its own. Older people can tend to look at younger people with suspicion and concern. Younger people look differently, they dress differently, they embrace new technologies, they’re filled with dreams and new ideas. Let’s be honest: it’s hard to take someone seriously who only has to shave once a week.
And younger people pick up on this; they feel as if older people don’t take them seriously. It’s like the old Who song "My Generation":
"People try to put us down.
Just because we get around.
The things they do look awfully cold.
I hope I die before I get old. "
Younger people fear older people will always look at them as kids, even after they reach adulthood.
And younger people tend to disregard the wisdom of older people. They figure older people just don’t understand. As a result, older people tend to feel unappreciated by younger people.
I think Mark Twain’s comments about his father best sum up the generation gap:
"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."
The generation gap exists in churches as well. Many of the power struggles churches go through result from tensions between different age groups. It’s no wonder that older Christians start to get nervous when younger Christians start rising to positions of authority and responsibility in the church.
And it’s also no wonder that many younger people simply give up on the established church and start their own thing. Before you’re too quick to condemn that kind of thing, remember that’s how Life Bible Fellowship Church started back in 1971. Our church founders were a group of idealistic young Christians in their late teens and early twenties who were distrustful of the older, more established way of doing church. So we did it our own way, making sure we did it differently than our elders did it. But here we are thirty years later, and guess what? We are the established, traditional church!
When you’re young as a Christian, you tend to not be taken seriously by others. I think back ten years ago, when I first became the pastor of teaching here at Life Bible Fellowship Church. I was 28 years old at the time, fairly young for a pastor of teaching. Our youth pastor at the time was a guy named Dave, and he was in his mid-30s, seven years my senior. Dave and I once we met with a seminary placement director to talk about hiring some of the seminary students as ministry interns to work with our jr. high and high school students. The placement director was in his mid-40s, and he assumed because of my age that I was the youth pastor and Dave was the teaching pastor. So this placement director totally ignored me throughout the meeting, focusing all of his eye contact and attention on Dave. I’d ask a question, and he’d either ignore the question or he’d direct his answer to Dave. Half way through the meeting he realized his mistake, but by then he’d already communicated what he really thought with his body language.