You Want to Talk About That?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:8-14)

 

I had the privilege of speaking on this passage in my church’s youth group a couple weeks ago. It was hard to speak on a couple specific verses before these because they were just…well…uncomfortable. But it led to good conversations and I was able to touch on this passage.

Every time I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher generally will like to stay with the whole we are child of light part. Which, don’t get me wrong, is truly awesome! I am literally eternally grateful for the fact that I am a child of light through the work of Christ. But I don’t remember ever hearing a good explanation of what exposing the unfruitful works of darkness looks like.

My mind automatically goes down three trails of thought when I read this. First, I think of Scooby and gang pulling of the mask of the villain as they reveal his plan and him saying, “I would have gotten away with it too. If it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Next I think of this tattle-tale kid telling his dad that his brother or sister did something wrong. Or last, to a legalistic-type preacher naming off a list of things he doesn’t like in the world and labeling them as wicked, and thus he exposed the darkness of the world. But this passage isn’t any of those and it’s what so many mentoring relationships need.

So what is it?

We as the redeem children of God were in darkness (sin) and have made light through the blood of Christ. So we should have a desire to live life in a matter pleasing to Him and that’s found in all things that are good, right, and true. So as we live here on earth and have the light of Christ shine through us into other’s lives we see things they might not. Those dark places are exposed by the light of Christ and they become visible.

In summary, it is us being an imitator of Christ as a dear child and letting His light shine through us. And as we do life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His light shining through us exposes the dark areas in our lives.

That kind of sounds like mentoring. Two or three people pursuing Christ with the help of each other and in that relationship having the light of Christ show them where they need to grow and change to be like Jesus.

Applications

Here’s a couple of ideas to help us get started into harder conversation that could come from this:

  1. Make sure you have the relationship to do this. I’ve seen someone who doesn’t have deep relationship with someone come out of nowhere and say that someone is sinning because of x, y, and z. Generally, the response is not the accused becoming more like Jesus (even if the accusation has merit), in fact I’ve seen it backfire more often than not and the accusation does more damage than good. If you want to know, be proactive and have the conversation of, “if I saw something in your life that I thought was Biblically wrong, would you be willing to talk about?” before you start down this road. That conversation is the starting point.
  2. Come with a Bible. If there’s one thing I know about my generation is we’ll do the research if we don’t like what was said or we can’t follow the logical flow from point A to B. Information is at our fingertips and we’re very good at finding it. And an older generation is well versed in Scripture. So come with the Bible (in context) and let the Word of God “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word carries more weight than ours.

Mentoring relationships aren’t just “let me give you advice on life.” They include hard conversations about sinners being sinners and how the light of Christ can and should change us.

When Your Kids Don’t Agree

feet-legs-standing-waiting-55801

It’s no secret that young people have trouble respecting authority. Any parent knows this to be true.

Maybe your hair is frazzled right now from your toddler’s amazing impersonation of a tornado. Maybe the bags under your eyes feel like a thousand pounds because your baby decided to pull an all-nighter (and not for prayer and fasting).

For others, perhaps the weight is a little heavier than loud cries or rowdy behavior. Maybe for you, it’s a child who’s left the home to sow “wild oats” and broken hearts. Maybe it’s a millennial college student who comes home from Thanksgiving with a significant other of the same gender and a new atheistic faith to match.

Those sorts of things are incredibly hard – and far too incredibly frequent.

Open Relationships

I’ll admit it – we millennials are leaving the faith at a quicker rate than ever before. And Generation Z after us looks to continue that trend.

I don’t pretend to know how to stop that flow. Only the Spirit of God can change hearts. Even the best parents have encountered this sad reality. However, I do think that if more parents read carefully the words that Caleb posted last week, this would be a less frequent occurrence.

Being open to discussing beliefs and current issues is absolutely crucial to building inter-generational relationships, especially with your children.

I have no right to advise parents on how to raise their millennials and Generation Z, but I am deeply concerned about a trend I have noticed with some friends.

It’s one thing for millennials to not be able to discuss doctrinal issues with their parents. But it is quite another thing when millennials cannot even discuss the debatable issues with their parents for fear that their parents will get upset or angry.

Music

For instance, I know many millennials who hold different beliefs about music than their parents. But most are too afraid to tell their parents that. Their views are not unbiblical in the least, and most have really thought it through prayerfully and with the advice of older mentors.

And yet, they must keep their views on music hidden from their parents.

Politics

Millennials cannot tell their parents who they are voting for – or if they are voting at all. I hate to bring up such a controversial subject – okay, I actually enjoy it. But many millennials absolutely dread when older people bring it up. They cringe when they see a “Lock it up” status from their parents on Facebook. In this election in particular, millennials are discovering that many of the principles their parents raised them to hold to – such as standing for morality, respecting those of different nationalities, refraining from foul language – only apply outside the realm of politics.

This is not just anecdotal among my friends. Research shows that evangelical millennials are much more likely to oppose the Republican nominee – and his numbers are abysmal with millennials as a whole. This truly is an inter-generational conflict this election cycle.

But to confess to their parents or grandparents that they are considering not voting for the Republican nominee – or not voting at all – would be just as hard as confessing some heinous crime.

A Plea

Parents, I plead with you – on both these issues and many more – do not let your child feel like they cannot disagree with you! On matters that are eternal and founded in the Word of God, do not budge an inch. But be open for your children to come and ask you about the “debatable matters.”

If they cannot come to you to discuss those issues, why would they come to you to discuss their doubts about key doctrines? Many parents are in the dark about what their kids believe until it is too late.

I am so blessed to have parents who are open to discussion. We do not agree on all points, but I know that I can discuss the political race with my Dad – and believe me, we do OFTEN! There’s nothing better in the world than knowing that I can have an open discussion with my father and mother about politics and music and so many other issues. Will we always agree? Hardly. Will I respect their position even if it goes against mine? Yes, because they gave clear scriptural principles – and so did I.

We simply choose to live in the confusing land that is Romans 14. That’s the best place to land on these issues. That’s the place where open discussions can happen about these issues.

That’s the place where the Spirit works to make the faith of my fathers the faith of me.

Can We Talk About This?

I’ve found, in my relatively short life span, that the best way to carry on a conversation is to come to an understanding of terms. It keeps both parties honest in how they use them and they will come to a mutual understanding of each other’s statements. Matt and I have thrown this term around a few times and I’ve heard it come up in conversation as I’ve discussed our blog with people in the community around me and my church. The term I’m referring to is “open relationship.”

What does that mean? How can we have them in our churches if we can’t put a definition on the term? Here we go, let’s try to define a very trendy, but very important phrase in our churches.

Let’s start with a definition that I got from a medical journal article that a friend sent me.

“An ‘open’ relationship system is one in which an individual is free to communicate a high percentage of inner thoughts, feelings, and fantasies to another who can reciprocate.”1

To my knowledge the author of this article is not a Christian, but this doctor was able to capture in a sentence what I know many in our churches very desperately need and want.

We need relationships that will allow us to share our inner thoughts. What are the questions that are plaguing our minds at night? What are the “issues” that we are trying to come to an understanding of? The church is facing many cultural issues now that it didn’t have or didn’t talk about 20 years ago and we need to be able to have conversations about them. Like what do I do when my professor is flagrantly anti-Christian? How do I treat my sibling or close friend that just came out as gay or transgender? How can I feel like I live in a community, when I don’t understand what true community is because I’ve never seen it in my own family? How can I believe God is good, when my entire childhood is riddled with sexual abuse? Realities that need Bible answers.

We need relationships that let us ask Bible questions. The church was the center for learning theology at the beginning of Christianity. They didn’t have Christian colleges to send kids to in order for them to learn the fundamentals of their faith. Doctrine was taught in the church and by their members. The church needs relationships that let those in them ask the hard doctrine and Bible questions. They need to be able to ask what does it mean to “be all things to all men in order that I might win some” in our culture today? How was Jesus both completely God and completely man? How can what I read in my Bible and what read in my science textbook be so different? Which is right? If God were love, then how can He condemn someone to hell? How did we arrive at this standard on (insert standard here) Biblically? Where does the Bible say that?

We need relationships that let us share our feelings. That felt so weird typing that. I’m a guy that takes a while for me to be willing to share how I really feel about something, but once I know you a bit be prepared for an outpouring (my brother-in-law will attest to this). Our church members need someone to be able to share our sorrows, frustrations, joys, and victories. It’s only in these types of relationships that we can truly share our feelings and fulfill Romans 12 and “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.”

We need relationships that allow us to dream both spiritually and personally. I know I’ve enjoyed a mentoring relationship that where my mentor supports me in my dreams both spiritually and professionally. He gives me guidance in my professional career, but also helps me grow in my spiritual walk as well. I have a close friend that knows where I want to be in the future spiritually and prays that I will someday be there if God directs and permits. Our churches need to be filled with relationships that will help push each other to our next goal and next step toward Jesus.

Doesn’t that sound amazing. Hopefully you can see the need for this type of relationship and maybe you’ve experienced it. How different would your spiritual walk be if you had that type of relationship? I know my walk with Jesus would have been much different than it was in college and high school if I had someone that I felt I could have been completely open with.

I want to give just three ideas that can help you start these types of relationships with someone in your church. These are ideas that I’ve come to cherish in a couple of my mentoring relationships.

Listen.

Don’t listen to answer. Listen to hear what’s really being said. Let them vent. Let them talk, and eventually they’ll really say what’s on their heart. You’ll be amazed at what someone can work out on their own if someone were to just listen in silence. Listen to hear and understand, not to answer.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13)

Share Bible. Not preference.

If there is one thing I’ve had the privilege of having is a mentor that shares more Bible than opinion. I’m pretty sure this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” to Timothy. After you’ve listened to hear and understand within the next minute whatever you say should have SCRIPTURE in it, not your opinions on the matter. God’s Word will not return void, I can’t say the same about our opinions.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.” (Col. 3:16)

Point to Jesus.

When Paul addressed the church at Corinth he could have made his knowledge of Scripture known. Instead he pointed to Jesus. He preached Jesus to them, and let the Spirit do the rest.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2)

 

I hope that I’m a person that can have an open relationship with those in my congregation. I want to be able to talk about the hard things and point to Scripture and Christ. I pray the Church can start having more open relationships and conversations and grow closer together by asking the hard questions.

 

1 Bowen, Murray. “Family Reaction to Death.” 335–336. Print.

Doors Open – Windows Down

 

mafe

This is another guest blog post – this time from Mafe Quijano of Mentor, Ohio – a likeminded millennial passionate about intergenerational relationships in the church. Enjoy!


I’m back home in the suburbs of the nice, and posh Mentor, Ohio. I’m out in the driveway packing my car to leave for school. I see my neighbor outside walking his dog, and he notices me. Oh no! Now I have to say hi!

I have two options: I can wave and go back inside quickly or I can actually say, “Hi” and have a conversation with him. For many years, I waved, smiled, and went back inside. One day, I chose to actually stop and have a conversation with him. My neighbor is not a Christian, but we became friends and have had many conversations about life. The fact that we chose to actually get to know each other has given me many opportunities to share what I believe with him and actually built a friendship between us!

If that can happen with someone who doesn’t believe what I believe just because I stopped and took the time to get to know him, imagine what it could do for the local church. What would happen if we had a culture of windows rolled down, open doors, and honesty? A culture where we encourage one another as long as it is called today (Hebrews 3:13)? A culture of discipleship?

The truth is, we are not like that naturally.

We are used to being individualistic and independent. “Me, myself and I”

The problem with isolation is that it hides the darkest parts about you. The problem with isolation is that it keeps sin from being exposed.

And what is the biggest excuse that we make for not being vulnerable with one another?

Well…it’s just awkward.

We, the people who have been given all things for life and godliness through the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:3); the people who have received power from the Holy Spirit to speak God’s testimony (Acts 1:8); we, the people who have been called to fear God and not man (Matthew 10:28); we cringe at the idea of vulnerability because we think is AWKWARD. Both introverts and extroverts alike struggle with this.

Let me propose an idea to you. I agree with you. It’s very awkward. It’s not easy to get to know someone. It’s not easy to invest. It’s not easy to let them see the real parts of us. It’s not easy to show our faults. It’s not easy to be selfless and be there for someone who is as messed up as we are.

So yes, it’s awkward. But how about instead of running away from the awkwardness, we embrace it? Most people run away from the awkward and difficult. Let’s do something hard and embrace it.

We need to know, love, and make an effort to pursue other believers, even though being vulnerable may be hard.  Even if investing in them takes us out of our comfort zone. Even though we might get rejected.

Why?

  1. God wants us to. Just look up “one another” and see how many verses God uses to encourage us to invest in each other. (Colossians 3:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:11;  Ephesians 5:19 to name a few)
  2. God sacrificed His only Son for other believers too (Romans 5:8, John 3:16). That’s how valuable they are to Him. That’s how valuable they should be to us.
  3. Every Christian, no matter their age, their social status or personality has the potential to serve God (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Being vulnerable is hard and awkward sometimes. But it doesn’t matter. I am called to have my windows rolled down and my door open.

Regardless of what others may think.

Regardless of how they look,

Regardless of my opinion about them,

Regardless of their opinion about me,

Regardless of my fears or insecurities,

And regardless of my assumptions.

Because it’s worth it. Because God’s glory is worth it. Because the local church is worth it. Because discipleship is worth it.

God gives you opportunities to get to know and to pursue other Christians every day. Are you going to do the comfortable thing? or are you going to embrace the blessedness that comes with fellowship with Christians?

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16a ESV)

Beneath the cross of Jesus, His family is my own

Once strangers chasing selfish dreams

Now one through grace alone

How could I now dishonor The ones that You have loved?

Beneath the cross of Jesus, see the children called by God.

Theology of Community

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me”.

John 17:20-21

I find myself praying over and over again that God would allow me to grow in my sanctification. I’ve prayed so often that He would allow me to reflect the image of His Son through my words and actions that day. But what does that even mean? What are ways we reflect the image of God on a day to day basis?

In John 17, Jesus prays for us. That’s in verse 20, when he prays for “those who will believe in me through their word.” Here’s what Jesus prayed for you and for me: that we would be unified, just like Jesus and His Father are, with the purpose that the world would believe that Jesus sent us.

Communal Nature

Our God is a communal God. He is three-in-one. He is triune. The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God. So when God created man in His image, He created us with a need to have community. He made us communal beings, after Himself. It explains why we have an intense desire to fit into a group or community, why the thoughts of spending a lifetime alone scares most of us, why isolation is viewed as a form of punishment, and why most of us feel happy when we are in community with others of a like mind. Our need for community is an attribute of God that is in our nature because He created us in His own image.

God-like Community

Since we are created in the image of God and God is a communal being, when we live in community with each other we are best reflecting the image of God. When we fulfill one of our most base desires, having community, within the church we have an opportunity to show the world what God is like. This is what Jesus prayed for. He prayed that we would be unified like He and the Father are, and because of our community the gospel would be spread.

Living It Out

We all know the person. He or she is the one that bounces around from boyfriend to boyfriend or girlfriend to girlfriend for about a year. Then after that year, they’re single for a really long stretch. And we all think what? “Well, I’m glad they’re single for a bit, because they just need to find themselves before they go date somebody else.” You can’t deny it. We’ve all thought it. The problem is we’ve let this thinking into how we choose our relationships within the church.

Either we jump from community to community looking for whatever it is that day, don’t find it, and move on. And then when we get tired of searching we think we need figure ourselves out before we can enjoy community within the church. Or we’re the ones that let those people suffer alone and a way from community as they find themselves or we’re the reason they felt like they weren’t welcome in our community. Neither of those options are a reflection of the image of Christ.

So what about your community? How are you reflecting the image of God? How are we enjoying being together like the Son, the Father, and the Holy Spirit? Do our relationships lead the world to think that God sent us?

Relationships and community are what Jesus prayed for. It’s a desire instilled in us from the very beginning of time when man was created in the image of God. But are our relationships and community within the church a reflection of the unity of God Himself? And are they a reason the world knows that God sent us?

A Generation of Jerks

people-apple-iphone-writing

Millennials could be called the “Jerk Generation.” Always finding something wrong with everything (sorry, Rio Olympics). Always criticizing one group or another. Always insisting that our way is best.

With that in mind…come invest in us! Come mentor us and take us out to coffee every week and pour your lives into us! Doesn’t it sound exciting? Aren’t you pumped?

No one ever said mentoring millennials would be easy. Human beings are very messy creatures. And when you make the determination to invest in someone, you’re setting yourself up for a whole lot of disappointment.

Some Warnings

So you make the decision to develop an inter-generational relationship with someone younger than you. Awesome! Let me offer you some warnings:

  1. We will be ungrateful. This is one of the most disheartening things about investing in people – never getting recognized for your hard work…not even by the person you’re investing in! In fact, oftentimes I’ve found that the “mentee” is the very last person to recognize all you’re doing for them. Millennials are quick to complain, particularly about the older generation, but not quick to appreciate when the older generation takes steps to help them. If you’re deciding to invest in someone because you want to boost your self-esteem, you’re in the wrong business.
  1. We will show very little progress. People don’t change – at least very quickly! You can throw everything and the kitchen sink at a certain sin problem you see this young person facing. You can fight against it for years, with delicate prodding and compassionate pleas. And still, nothing happens. Many people talk about the stubbornness of old fogies – when in actuality, millennials can be just as stubborn. Or worse. If you’re looking for something to use as a success story on your resume, don’t waste your time mentoring millennials.
  1. We will break your heart. Every Paul has a Demas. Though relationship-building has been proven to help address the problem of millennials leaving the church, it does not fully solve the problem. You will have traitors among your Timothy’s. You will open your heart to this guy – be extremely transparent – only to have him gossip to the world about your sin problems. As CS Lewis so wisely stated, “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” If you want a line of work that is low-risk and high-reward, consider the business world – NOT the relationship world.

The Jerks of Corinth

Now that I have you sufficiently depressed, let me offer you some small level of comfort – you’re not the only one who’s experienced pain in relationship-building!

The mentor-in-chief himself, the Apostle Paul, experienced it to the greatest extent in his ministry. And there was no church more of a jerk to Paul than the one in Corinth. Read 2 Corinthians in its entirety if you’re feeling discouraged in mentoring. You’ll find common cause in Paul.

At the end of that letter to a church full of jerks, Paul writes, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?” (2 Cor. 12:15)

Hang that verse on your wall if you’re going to be a mentor. You will pour out of your emotional bank account, with very little return on investment. You’ll get tired. You’ll get discouraged. You’ll feel like giving up.

But don’t.

Some Blessings

Lest I totally defeat the entire purpose of this blog – to develop inter-generational relationships – I want to end by sharing just a few of the many blessings of investing in the next generation:

  1. Eventually, they will recognize what you’ve done. And it’ll mean more than anything. As I look back on my short life-span, I’d say the biggest blessings have come when someone says, “Thanks for all you’ve done for me. I probably don’t say it enough…” I’m not guaranteeing it will come – and it will likely take months and months and years and years of investing to even get one thank-you. But when it does come, it will mean the world.
  1. Occasionally, you will have the joy of seeing God change someone. There is nothing more amazing in this world than watching God do a work in someone’s life. It’s the greatest miracle in the world. Darkness to light. Sin to freedom. Problems to grace. Is this guaranteed to happen if you spend a certain amount of time with someone? No. God moves in mysterious ways – we don’t know how He will use our investment in others. Maybe it will mean radical repentance before your very eyes. Maybe it will mean years down the road, getting an email from a changed mentee. Or maybe it will mean a meeting on gold streets to talk about what an influence you were on them.
  1. For every Demas, there could be a Timothy and Titus. You don’t know how their story is going to turn out. And it’s not for you to try to find out! Your job is to simply give your all for the people God’s placed in your life. Yes, Corinth had a lot of jerks. But it also gave Paul Aquila and Priscilla, who would become lifelong friends and partners in ministry.

Stay in the fight. Don’t quit. Yes, millennials are often jerks. Yes, people are messy – but as Tripp says, they’re a “mess worth making.”

Restorative Relationships

I walk into my room. The same room I’ve lived in for years. It was the same maroon carpet that had been there since we moved into the house 12 years prior, and fortunately the pink walls had been painted a light yellow since I had moved into the room. I had memories stored in the look and smell of the room, but it was time for a change. My room needed a makeover, and it needed it soon.

I ripped up the carpets and exposed the original hardwoods underneath. They simply needed a little TLC to get them back to their former glory (by little I mean hours of sanding, stripping, and sealing). With the help of a friend we patched the hole in my ceiling. My mom and dad helped me paint the walls a nice gray and brighten up the room. By the end of my project I had what looked like a new room, but was really what the room looked like when the house was originally built. I hadn’t renovated my room, I restored my room. I restored it back to its original glory.

I love being able to restore older items back to its former brilliance and purpose. For a house, it’s taking what is considered old, ugly, and uninhabitable, and turning that into something beautiful and a home for someone to make memories in. I also love it because it’s an amazing picture of our relationship with Christ and what our relationships with each other should look like.

Restoration vs. Renovation

There’s a big difference between those two words. Restoration takes something old or broken-down and makes it like new. Nothing is changed about it. It’s like taking that one item and sending it back in time to when it was originally made, to when it was new. Renovation is taking what is broken-down and making it your own. For a house it’s putting the latest styles in, opposed to the styles common in the time the house was built. It’s taking “now” and putting it in the place of “back then”. They have the same purpose, making something useful again, but they have two different ways of accomplishing it. Restoration is taking something back to its original state. Renovation strips everything away and rebuilds it to your specifications.

A Common State

You see, we’re all run down with sin. We have our ugly spots. We have our uninhabitable sections of our lives because we struggle with our sin nature. Romans 8 gives a picture of all creation groaning because of the futility of earthly life. Verse 23 describes us as heirs with Christ and the firstfruits of the Spirit groaning inwardly until our bodies are redeemed with Jesus. The truth is, we are redeemed and washed by the blood of Jesus, but we still are not completely free of our earthly, sinful nature.

A Common Goal

Since we find ourselves in the same state, we should have the same goal. Our goal should be restoration. We should be restored to our original purpose and state. At the beginning of time man was created in the perfect image of God.

 

“So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him;”

Genesis 1:27

 

Man had a perfect relationship with God. Adam and Eve walked with God. They talked with Him in the garden. Until after the fall there was no barriers between them.

The purpose of sanctification is to make us like Jesus, or to restore us to our original design and purpose. That’s you and me being the perfect image of God and in a barrier-free relationship with Him.

Restorative Relationships

As believers and followers of Christ we need to be restored, not renovated. We need to be taken back to the original state of man: the perfect image of God. We don’t need to be renovated. We don’t need to take what we think is correct or better and shape ourselves into that image. We need to look at Scripture and be restored to the image of Christ.

So here’s the point. What are we doing within the church? Are we trying to restore our brothers and sisters in Christ back to man’s original state: the perfect image of God? Or are we trying to renovate them? Are we trying to put a touch of us into their lives?

Instead of focusing on renovating each other’s lives, let’s take it upon ourselves to have restorative relationships. What would the church look like if we focused on helping each other be restored into the image of Christ? And how different would our cross-generational relationship be if we stopped renovating each other, and focused on helping each other be restored to the image of God?

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.

Sanctified Nosiness

pexels-photo-41135-largeA typical conversation at church:

Me: “How are you?”

Person: “Great! And you?”

Me: “Great! How’s work?”

Person: “Great! How’s school?”

Me: “Great! How’s the wife?”

Person: “Great! How’s the fiancé?”

Me: “Great! It’s been great talking to you!”

Little do I realize…that person is not really doing great – his youngest threw a temper-tantrum in the restaurant last night and his oldest won’t even speak to him. He and his wife are having marriage problems, and his job is not looking that secure.

And little does he realize what I’m going through. He doesn’t know that I’ve had a rough week fighting sin and stress. That I’m struggling with a long-distance relationship or that there aren’t a lot of people my age to hang out with this summer. That I’m confused about my future direction and unsure of how I’m going to provide when I get married. That I’m burdened for the kids I’m ministering to and wondering how in the world to invest in them.

Behind the many “Great!”s lie many problems, heartaches, burdens, and maybe even secret struggles.

Perhaps all we need to do is add one little word:

“How are you really?”

“But I don’t want to be nosy!”

Fiddlesticks! A little nosiness never killed anybody. But shallow relationships in the church – sin being covered up, hiding things, not confessing faults, ignoring the problems we see others having – that kind of “respectable distance” among church members has led to great suffering.

What we need more of in our church – particularly between generations – is a little of what I like to call “sanctified nosiness.”

Where we purposely try to enter people’s lives, develop trust with them, and go down to the deepest level we possibly can with them. You can call it discipling, mentoring, iron-sharpening-iron, investing in others – pick your word or make up a new one!

It looks like one man sitting down for coffee (or tea, if you prefer) with another man and telling him his struggles – all his problems, pain, temptations, failures, and dreams. It looks like coffee and confession mixing together. It looks like a little spilled mocha and a lot of spilled heart. And it looks like every week over a long period of time with the same drink order, same Bible, same problems, and same God.

It may look like a daily text message: “How did you do today? Did you maintain purity? Did you talk to your wife? Did you share Jesus with that coworker? Did you ask for forgiveness from your parents? Did you delete that app?”

Above all, it looks like Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

I love that word “exhort” – parakaleo in Greek. It means to “call to one’s side.” It speaks of the idea of calling someone to walk with you down the path of godliness. Paul uses it frequently in his letters to “exhort” or “encourage” his readers to love Jesus and hate sin. It can have the idea of “comforting” – used as a name for the Holy Spirit (Paraclete, our Comforter). It can also have the idea of “urging” – in this verse, urging fellow believers not to be hardened by deceitful and dangerous sin.

And we’re to do this every day. There doesn’t seem to be much room in Scripture for the whole come-on-Sunday, live-however-you-want-Monday-to-Friday Christianity. Scripture calls for believers to hang out regularly – to communicate beyond the confines of the church’s building and parakalize one another (I need to copyright that word).

Every. Single. Stinking. Day.

We have no excuse in an age when we can communicate with anyone around the world with the click of the “Send” button. Texting or messaging is no replacement for face-to-face contact, but it is a great supplementary tool to keep in contact with fellow believers. To get updates on their lives. To get prayer requests (and actually pray for them). Or, best yet, to set up a time to meet for coffee and conversation.

Not for shallow conversation. Deep conversation.

It may not happen at first, but as you get to know one another week-by-week, you’ll start to develop trust. And gradually, you’ll open up more and more. It may take some awkwardness – the best parts of life always do. But don’t shy away. Don’t hide. Don’t put on a mask of piety in church when you know good and well that your life is in shambles.

Most of our lives are. And you never know – by opening up, you may find a fellow sufferer who has good advice for your struggle. Or, you may find someone you can encourage with what God’s taught you in your messy life.

Maybe your conversation at church can look more like this:

“How are you?”

“To be honest, I’m struggling. It’s been a rough week…but God is good!”

“Amen. You wanna catch some coffee this afternoon and talk about it? I have some issues I’d like to run by you as well.”

“I’d love to!”