One Generation Must Tell the Next Generation
By Bishop Scott Hampton
It is with great excitement and expectation that we enter 2018 focusing on the fifth Core Value of the IPHC which is, “We Prayerfully Value All Generations.” We define this Core Value of our movement by stating that, “We celebrate all generations and acknowledge that each is essential in the Body of Christ. We honor those who have gone before us and empower those who are following. The contribution of each generation is welcomed and encouraged as we pursue our God given destiny.” I believe that discipleship is born in that culture of honor for those on whose shoulders we stand and in the empowerment of the generation of those who will stand on our shoulders in the future. To produce active Christ followers in every generation requires replicating this culture of honoring and empowering time and again. This becomes part of our mission. However, for years in my journey of being involved in discipleship ministries on the local church, conference, and national levels there has always been this question that brings tension to the mission, how do we effectively disciple multiple generations in one church?
In sections from his book, “From Generation to Generation: Reaching, Raising Up, and Releasing Every Next Generation” Bayless Conley states, “God chose Abraham to become the father of His chosen people, and the one through whose lineage the Savior would one day come…. God gives only one reason for choosing Abraham, saying in Genesis 18:19, “I have singled him out so that he will direct his sons and their families to keep the way of the LORD…” (NLT). God selected Abraham because He knew Abraham would think and act generationally—that he would take the things he had learned from God and pass them on to his children and grandchildren.” (Conley, 2016) What a powerful and illuminating thought! God is intentional in His selection of Abraham because he knew that Abraham would act generationally. We see this theme continuously supported throughout scripture as we read about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Generational thinking brings new life to our reading and understanding of the Word. One ultimate purpose carried from one generation to the next until the arrival of Christ our King. What if you and I took such a view of the generational importance of our assignment?
As we learn and grow we are embracing a conviction that, when possible, the Church’s role should be supportive of the family being the primary place for discipleship. One generation passing their faith to the next. We also realize that in many ministry contexts the idea of “family” is extended beyond traditional flesh and blood and the Church becomes a family for men, women, youth, and children that don’t have a traditional family structure that supports their journey to become mature followers of Jesus Christ. Understanding the context of what our “family ministry” looks like as a Church is an incredibly important piece to the puzzle. We must keep in mind that the preferred delivery mechanism of this united vision will always be relationships. Those relationships can be the family model or may look more like a mentorship model for those with out the benefit of the traditional family setting. Generational ministry is always relational ministry. Regardless of the setting we are dealing with, I believe there are some things that apply universally.
Psalm 78:5-7 reads, “5 For He established a testimony in Jacob, And appointed a law in Israel, Which He commanded our fathers, That they should make them known to their children; 6 That the generation to come might know them, The children who would be born, That they may arise and declare them to their children, 7 That they may set their hope in God, And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments;”
Verse 5 speaks of “a testimony” and “a law” that became the foundation of what the Lord desired to pass on from one generation to the next. There were not a plethora of options made available for the people to choose from. The desired goal was a singular focus on a testimony and a law that pointed to God. In our effort to unite generations in the discipleship journey of the local Church we must have a focused and united vision. I’ve seen this take many forms in various Churches. From an emphasis on the Apostles Creed to a fixed set of values using words such as Reach, Connect, Grow, and Serve. It may seem too simplistic to some but for our particular faith family we have a set of Core Values and Articles of Faith that serve us very well for guideposts along the discipleship journey.
We see in verse 7 of Psalm 78 that what was produced in the generation receiving the united vision was 1) a hope in the Lord, 2) a remembrance and understanding of His works, and 3) a commitment to obedience to His commands. These are the “fruit” of a united vision being passed down generationally. In my days as a Student Pastor and Lead Pastor these markers of growth were all I ever hoped for God’s people. I continue to long to see these produced in generations to come as we communicate a united purpose. These signs of Christian maturity can be the indicators of our effectiveness in seeing generations in a Church connecting with each other in relationships and growing. Is there a life changing hope that people are finding on their journey? Is there an understanding of the Lord’s work? Are they becoming committed to obedience? If we are answering, “yes” to these questions then we are seeing discipleship take place in the lives of our people.
A shift towards a united vision and the fruit it will produce will help answer the question of how to disciple multiple generations in one Church. Picture your place of ministry full of life as the “Abrahams” share the testimony of God’s goodness to the “Isaacs” that are coming behind them. Now replicate the picture with the “Isaacs” and the “Jacobs” of your Church. The young and old alike celebrating the hope they have in the Lord, remembering His mighty works in their lives, and living obediently to his call. This picture of Church-wide discipleship isn’t just a dream it’s possible.