Content with Discontentment

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We millennials are not a very content lot. We’re the kind that like to stage protests each weekend because we don’t get our way. We’re known as world travelers and major-switchers and job-hoppers who have trouble settling down.

But then again, the older generations aren’t terribly content either. They get upset if any bad press comes out about a person they like or if their views are not held by everyone else. They never can get their “dream house” or “dream job.”

Let’s face it – humans are not very content creatures. I’ve always known this is an area I especially struggle with, but recently the Lord seems to be bringing it back to the forefront of my mind.

In my short life, I’ve moved all over this country to all sorts of towns in all sorts of houses, but I’ve never been fully satisfied with any place.

I’ve been in all sorts of churches, had all sorts of jobs, been friends with all sorts of people…and yet I’ve never been content!

I think I get to a place where the grass is green but every time I get there, it looks greener somewhere else.

Such is life…a series of moves toward fields of green and yet always finding myself in a field of brown.

Why do we humans always find things so unsatisfying? Why do the people who seem to have everything they could have always want still desire more – and ruin their lives to get it? Why are the magazines at the grocery store check-out full of celebrities who gained the world and yet don’t have enough?

The world understands this discontentment. In a song from the hit musical Wicked, Glinda laments that she has gotten everything she’s always wanted…but still isn’t happy.

“…Getting your dreams,
It’s strange, but it seems
A little – well – complicated.
…that joy, that thrill
Doesn’t thrill you like you think it will…
Because happy is what happens
When all your dreams come true –
Well, isn’t it?”

It’s not just Glinda who speaks to common human discontentment. C.S. Lewis wisely observes what may be causing this universal syndrome –

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

That’s it, isn’t it? That’s why we’re all so discontent. That’s why no matter where I go, I’m not content. That’s why no matter how many friends I have, I don’t have enough. That’s why no matter how much food I eat, I always want more (or maybe I just need to go on a diet).

Nothing in this world ultimately satisfies. No amount of fame or money or power fills us up. That’s the problem with our human dreams – they either get crushed or they get fulfilled…and we still feel crushed!

Over coffee with a friend of mine of late (a millennial), he rehearsed how a really healthy dream of his was crushed by someone else. And then stomped further into the ground by another friend, leaving him hurt, bitter, and angry.

But the Lord worked in him so that he actually approached these people and apologized for his bitterness. After recounting this to me, he sat back in his chair – I’ll never forget it – and said simply, “And now…I am content.”

Content? Dude, you were just betrayed. Stabbed in the back. Had your heart crushed! How can you be content?

I thought long and hard and tried my very best to do the same – sit back in my chair and look at my life and say, “I am content.” And I thought I was doing pretty well – until the Lord revealed a key area where I’ve been complaining! Oops…

But how can any of us humans sit back and say that we’re content, when so many of our dreams get crushed or end up being unsatisfying?

I think it’s because we see the truth in Colossians 3:1-4:

“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Look to where Christ is. Look beyond this world. Look to Heaven. Why? Because you died – and your life is now hidden with Christ. In fact, HE IS YOUR LIFE. If He is your life, you won’t long for things in this world. You will find in Him all you need.

He ultimately satisfies. No one else does. It’s a simple concept – but oh, so true and comforting!

Millennials, getting your Master’s and getting a nice-paying job in a big city will NOT satisfy you. Xers, getting that promotion and having seventy grandchildren will NOT satisfy you. Boomers, retiring early and playing golf will NOT satisfy you.

But Jesus will.

It’s not wrong to wish life turned out differently. It’s not wrong to be discontent from time to time with the futility and “vanity” of this world (see Ecclesiastes).

In fact, you’re guaranteed to be discontent in this world. But instead of letting that discontentment drive you to complain, let it drive you to seek something beyond this world that can make you content even with your discontentment.

His name is Jesus.

Take the advice of John Piper as recorded in a recent blog post (that nearly brought me to tears):

“Occasionally, weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

Embrace the life you have. Sit daily with Jesus. Lean back in your chair and say, “I am content…with You.”

-M@

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.

A Tradition Even Millennials Can Love

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Millennials are not fond of traditions. We hate it when old people get stuck in the ruts of a certain color of pew, singing out of hymnbooks, or having a certain order of service.

But sometimes our witch-hunt to destroy traditions can take us too far.

In a conversation with a millennial friend, we debated whether or not the whole Christmas season was even biblical. American Christianity seems to have embraced the culture of covetousness, materialism, and empty rituals inherited from the Catholics and pagans.

Why do we need to dedicate a whole month (or two or three) to an account found in only a couple Gospel chapters? Why don’t we do the same for the holiday celebrating the death and resurrection? Why don’t we dedicate times to reflect on His earthly life or various other aspects of salvation?

Would God really have wanted us to spend so much time focusing on Christ’s birth and use it as an opportunity to indulge in gluttony and greed?

I was sincerely curious. For years, I have been one of the most Christmassy people around. My room was always the most decorated, and I was always the first to start listening to Christmas music (I waited till October this year!). But was my obsession with the season really motivated by an ethnocentric, Westernized materialism?

Certainly, the overspending and overeating are issues we must repent of. We should find a balance between Black Friday hordes and Scrooge-ness. But I don’t think we should throw Santa out with the sleigh on this issue (though getting rid of Santa may not be a bad idea)…

God obviously enjoys holidays. In Israel’s Law, He instituted several feasts throughout the year to celebrate certain events – Passover for the Exodus, Booths for the wilderness journey, and the Day of Atonement to confess sin. What about these feasts today? Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 14 and declared that we have Christian liberty on the matter of holidays (vs. 5).

Must Christians celebrate Christmas? No. But if we are to be redeemers of our culture and have a witness in our community, embracing the positive aspects of Christmas is a great idea. Like what?

Celebrating the birth of Christ for an entire month is not too much of a focus on a small matter of Scripture. If properly studied, the birth of Christ – more accurately, the Incarnation of the God-Man – spans many, many passages.

There are countless Old Testament passages that speak of Christ’s coming. John 1 and 1 John 1 are as much Christmas passages as Luke 2! Reflect on those passages and stand in awe at the fact that “the Word became flesh.” Study the Pauline epistles for references to His Incarnation (Philippians 2 is a great place to start).

The Bible cannot help but speak about the fact that the God of the Universe became a man. And why not? It’s an earth-shattering concept! He forsook Heaven to suffer as a little baby! We could celebrate that all year round for all eternity and never fully exhaust the wonders of that truth.

I thought I knew the Christmas story after ten years of studying it. I’ve written stories about the night Christ was born and countless poems and blog posts. But every year, I still come away with something new.

This year, I was struck by how often the characters in the story are drawn to worship God because of the news of Christ’s birth. Literally, everyone is drawn to praise!

Why doesn’t the Christmas story compel us to do the same? It’s no empty tradition. It’s a time to worship Christ! If we truly celebrate the Incarnation as we should, we will come away calling, “Oh come, let us adore Him!”

It’ll also cause us to give gifts, not out of materialism, but out of genuine selflessness. Gifts that cost us something, like the Magi. Or better yet, like God who gave up His Son.

It’ll cause us not to be focused on our American traditions but on the world in need of the Gospel, from a Jewish priest to Gentile sages. The shepherd’s encounter with baby Jesus led them to want to “make known” to all what the angels had “made known” to them.

It will cause us to reach out to the poor and needy, since our Savior was born in poverty, without even any room in a guest house for Him.

Christmas can be a time of great spiritual growth and evangelistic drive to the needy. Or it can be a time of empty traditions and ethnocentric materialism. You decide.

I call on millennials to spend less time wanting to disregard a good tradition and more time in redeeming it for the glory of God and the worship of the One born King of the Jews!

Merry Christmas from The Church Accords!

Growing Together

I’m excited to have this be our first guest writer post. I’m even more excited that it happens to be my mother. Both Matt and myself have a desire to incorporate perspectives from both ends of a generational spectrum into the blog, and what better way to start than have some who has raised four of her own. Hope you all enjoy.


I am not a millennial, but I have experience with them. I birthed four of them. I read an occasional article about millennials and have a couple of real frustrations with them. First is the criticism heaped on this generation for characteristics that were developed by those in older generations—the ones writing the blogs complaining about them! The other is the blanket categorization of all millennials being “this way.” Setting these soapboxes aside however, let me share a little on what I have learned from living with millennials.

Listen. James implores us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath—basically to hurry up and listen. One of the hardest thing for parents or anyone working with kids is really listening. We too quickly assume we understand the issue and want to jump in with the answer, solution, or critique. I am learning to just shut up and listen. It’s amazing the conversations that open up when you do this … and for some reason around my house the golden hour for these conversations seem to be 11 p.m. I have also learned not to push my agenda. There have been times that I’ve really wanted to address an issue on my mind, but I know if I just dive in with it, it will probably not be received well. So I pray for God’s wisdom in the timing to broach a subject and amazingly enough, as I listen during a conversation, the door opens wide, and my concerns and opinions are voiced. The other struggle is to shut up once it’s out there. Still struggle with that one, but we’re working it. Overall, I’ve found that if I listen, I am listened to.

Think. As I listen to the ideas, frustrations, and hopes, there are many times I’ve had to just sit back and think about what they are saying. I am very fortunate that in my experience, we are all looking at life from a Biblical worldview. As ideas are shared, there is always a scriptural basis for the thinking and an overall agreement that Scripture is truth. I believe one of the hardest realizations for my generation is that many of us have lived our lives according to Biblically-based traditions ingrained in us as Biblical truth. Our children’s “why?” or “the Bible doesn’t say …,” posed inquisitively not rebelliously, has caused me to think through a lot of things. It’s hard to admit that for one’s whole life you felt that a certain wardrobe choice, entertainment choice, music choice was sin when according to God’s Word, that prohibition is actually a person’s or movement’s interpretation and application of a scriptural principle. Clearly, as issues come up with anyone of any age group that question something clearly defined in the Bible—lying, killing, adultery/immorality—Biblical truth rules firmly and clearly; however, I believe too much of the generational and church-body conflicts stem from traditions and personal preferences being raise to the level of Scripture and being held too tightly. There is the danger for millennials to move forward with a spirit of arrogance, sort of a “Ha! I CAN do this!” and for the older generation to judge them as unspiritual or rebellious. Balance is very important. We are commanded to love one another, server one another, defer to one another, and we must remember that “one another” goes two ways. Paul addresses this in several epistles—all things are lawful, but all things are not expedient. Discernment. This is where we, the older generations can assist. Rather than judging the youngers as just wanting an excuse to “sin,” take a step back, acknowledge their interpretation and application of the Biblical principle, and have a dialogue. Share why you have concerns about that viewpoint; however, if it is not a violation of sound Biblical truth, agree to respect each other’s positions—mutual respect—and move on serving God together as two parts of the body of Christ, because if both parties are saved by the grace of God through the finished work of Jesus Christ, that’s what you are, whether you sit in church with a coat and tie or blue jeans!

Pray. In every epistle Paul wrote, he expresses he is praying for believers near and far. Perhaps if we’re praying for one another rather than criticizing, our love and unity would grow a bit faster.

“… we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.” Colossians 1:9-10

I am richly blessed in my relationships with the millennials in my life. God has recently moved me into a position where I will have interaction regularly with more of this age group. I have no idea what the background or baseline of thought and discernment is for some of these young people, but my desire is that I can listen to them, think about their views and ideas, talk with them and pray for them in a way that will benefit each of us in our walk with Christ and our journey to be more like Jesus.

 

 

Why I Stayed (Even Though All the Cool People Left)

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I’m a statistical anomaly. I’m a rare breed.

I’m a millennial who has not left Christianity.

In fact, I haven’t even left my parents’ church! Not only that, I’m not even going to leave the university I went to as an undergrad.

Statistically, that’s a very strange thing to do. Don’t millennials like change? Don’t we like to sow our wild oats and get out there? Aren’t we abandoning Christianity in droves? Or at the very least going to more contemporary churches?

I’m sorry, but you’re stuck with me. I’m not leaving – even though all the cool people already left.

Why?

Why I Stayed at BJU

Many people have criticized my decision for staying at Bob Jones University for seminary. And they’ve had many good reasons – diversifying education for a resume, getting beyond my comfort zone, getting out of Greenville.

I value their advice. But I’m still going to stay. Why?

It’s simple. One word in fact – relationships.

The people were what convinced me to stay. Not the academics or the comfort or even finances. No, it was the relationships I formed with the faculty/staff that convinced me – and many of my classmates – to stay on for grad school at BJU.

In nearly every meeting I’ve been to at BJU (I’ve been to far too many of them), the emphasis has been on building relationships with millennials. Getting our input on things. Meeting our needs. Understanding us and genuinely caring for us.

The student life staff at BJU is constantly striving to build a “culture of mentoring” with every meal in the Dining Common and coffee at Cuppa Jones. The faculty genuinely care about our needs, stopping us in the hall to ask for an update and inviting us to their homes or favorite restaurants. Even the administration takes time out of their busy schedule to spend time with students– to laugh with us, to pray with us, to just be there for us.

The people at BJU are not perfect. They know they’ve made many mistakes. And I don’t agree with them on every issue.

But as I’ve observed various ministries, I’m convinced that no one gets my generation better than BJU.

Why I Stayed at Calvary Baptist Church

My church is not perfect – after all, I attend there.

And we are going through some tough times of late – looking for a pastor, financial issues, etc.

But I decided to stay at Calvary. Even though a lot of my friends, a lot of millennials, decided to leave.

I don’t blame them. Calvary has had many problems reaching the millennial generation. So much so that I nearly left the church earlier this year.

So why did I stay, in the midst of all these problems? The same reason I stayed at BJU – relationships.

It wasn’t the great preaching, an awesome facility, or nice programs. It was the moments sitting across the coffee shop table that convinced me to stay. It was the texts that said, “Praying for you” that changed my mind. It was the people who stopped me after church and asked how I was doing that made me settle.

And Calvary has seen some great progress over the past couple of months with millennials. I’m extremely encouraged at the direction we’re going and look forward to serving here for as many years as the Lord allows.

Why I Stayed in Christianity

I think every millennial reaches a point in their life when they consider leaving the faith. I know I considered it a time or two – not ever seriously, but enough for me to imagine the freedom and fun I could experience outside the bounds of religion.

But I never did. Why?

Maybe I seem like a broken record-player at this point, but the answer is the same – relationships.

I knew if I left, I would be breaking the hearts of people who had invested so much into me. My parents, first and foremost. But even beyond them, mentors, pastors, and friends who spent hours investing in me. Who I knew genuinely cared for me.

The research backs up my claim. Barna’s study proves that millennials who don’t have a non-family mentor are more likely to leave the faith.

So the solution to this millennial exodus from Christianity is rather simple – take them to Starbucks!

Listen to their problems. Pray for them – and tell them you’re praying. Genuinely love on them with the love Jesus showed you. Spend and be spent for their souls.

Some will still leave – this isn’t a guaranteed solution. But if they leave, they’ll have to walk over you to get out. They’ll have to push past someone they know loves them.

So why did I stay? Many cool people have left.

In fact, the people I’m stuck with are kinda weird, the farthest thing from hip, and a bit old-school. But that’s okay, because I know they love me. They may be a bit traditional, but I know they care. I don’t agree with them on some practical areas, but I agree with them on the thing that matters – the Gospel.

And because of the relationships I have with these “old fogies,” these lesser things – like music, translation, standards, entertainment, and on and on – don’t quite matter so much.

The key to getting millennials to stay is not a praise band or a really hipster PowerPoint or video – although those things aren’t bad.

But the best way is to simply pick up your cell phone and text them a simple message –

“Wanna get coffee with me tonight?”

A Generation of Jerks

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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!”