How can we begin to build better bridges between the generations?
We’re at a pivotal place in history. God has given us the tools we need for kingdom building, He’s stepped in to create a reset in our nation after decades of the enemy rewriting our moral, social and cultural constructs. All of this is exciting, but it has also exposed a lack of unity between races, genders and generations, both in society and within the church.
If we are going to create lasting change, this is something that must be addressed, because building His kingdom is going to take a multi-generational effort. Abraham was given a promise, but it took four generations to move from promise to nation.
It’s important to understand this: If you are building His kingdom, you won’t finish the job.
You are standing on the shoulders of the people who came before you and someone else will build on what you have created. God gives each of us a piece of the puzzle. Each generation has a role to play, a perspective to offer. If we ignore each other, we are destined for failure.
Learning A Lesson From The Joshua Generation
When you think about redefining the culture of a region, you won’t find a better example than the Joshua Generation. But when you look at what happened to the generation that followed them, you find one of the saddest, most frustrating stories in scripture:
After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel. Judges 2:10
One generation after perhaps the greatest generation that the Bible records, you find a young people who the Bible says didn’t know the Lord or what He had done.
How did this happen?
Were they so busy warring that they didn’t have time to train their kids how to fight?
Or were they like today’s helicopter parents, afraid of exposing their kids to the ugliness of warfare?
Or maybe they just assumed that because they had spent their whole lives warring the kids knew how to war, too.
Whatever the case, the Bible tells us the next generation wasn’t prepared to take the baton and the promise was delayed.
The Joshua generation had warred so that their kids could establish a kingdom. They set them up to be able to move in, occupy and shift the culture of the region to a kingdom culture. But it didn’t happen.
It’s important that we learn from this, because we’re in the same boat.
The Emerging Generation Is Key To God’s Kingdom Plan
There is no doubt that our kids are under attack. The level of identity warfare they are experiencing on a daily basis is astounding. This tells us that they are important. Their compassion, their perspective on justice… all of it has been hard-wired into them by God so that they can bring His justice and establish the kingdom. They are truly designed to be kingdom builders.
So the enemy is hitting them hard to alter their understanding of what true justice is. If we wait until they’re adults to engage with them, we’ll be too late, because the warfare over their identity is happening at 9, 10, 12 years old.
If we are going to build better bridges, we’ve got to step in and train them when they’re young about who they are and the gifts they possess and the role that they play in the kingdom. And we need to provide opportunities for them to understand warfare.
Some Modern Day Bridge Builders
Norma Sarvis a kingdom-minded leader from Jerusalem, recently shared a great example of this. Speaking of the need to train the younger generation with a mindset for war, she said that in Israel, young people are raised to see themselves as warriors. They know that they are headed to the military, so they prepare for it, everything is focused on preparing for life as a soldier.
She went on to describe how they are carrying that mindset into what they do with the children at their church. At their ministry, the children have developed their own worship teams, where young children are leading in worship and intercession. They’re finding their identity as worshippers and warriors. They’re engaging in the spirit realm.
Similarly, Klancy Cunningham of Glory of Zion Ministries has developed a program called Wake Up Gad, where children from as young as three are being trained how to hear the voice of Holy Spirit and prophesy. These children have experienced rapid growth in their skills, delivering words as a team with startling accuracy. As they grow in their gifts, they’re developing an understanding of who God has created them to be.
In my own life, I look back on the experiences that I had in my twenties, leading mission’s trips, training Bible school students and developing a deliverance ministry. It was through those experiences that I began to understand who God created me to be. I didn’t always get it right, but I was learning how to make an impact. I learned how to war, not by watching someone else do it for me, but by being put in the middle of the conflict.
Today, I recognize what a privilege it was to have those opportunities, both to succeed and to fail. We need to extend that same privilege to the young people around us.
Gifts develop through opportunity.
So, how do we build better bridges between the generations?
- Create opportunities:
Turn them loose to make an impact in the world around them. Create opportunities for them to minister side-by-side with you, outside the walls of the church. If you see gifts, find ways to nurture and activate them now. Put them in the fire, but be there to help if they get burned.
But realize that they probably aren’t going to be interested in the same things you are. And they may not war the same way that you do. The sounds that call you to war aren’t the sounds that will call them to war.
Our job as leaders isn’t to create clones. It’s to speak life into the unique purposes God has put within them.
- When you disagree, lead with engagement:
To speak to this, I want to look at a hot button cultural issue, not to take sides, but to look at how the church may be tearing down bridges rather than building them.
Colin Kaepernick and the American flag
When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, it set off a firestorm of opinion that has fallen predominantly along generational lines. Things amplified even more, when Nike announced in September of 2018 that they were launching a new ad campaign with Kaepernick – tagline, “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”
The response was as expected. But what was disappointing to me was this:
One day later, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw this headline: Over 4,500 evangelicals and organizations endorse statement challenging social justice warriors. The timing wasn’t coincidental.
Over 9,000 now, have signed this statement saying among other things that “God doesn’t like all this social justice nonsense the kids have been caught up in.”
The point is not whether Mr. Kaepernick is right or wrong. There’s a lot that is going on in the current social justice movement that is wrong. I’m more concerned with how the church is responding to a generational cry for justice. We won’t build bridges when we put our right to be offended before our responsibility to engagement with the younger generation.
Too often, we lead with our right to be offended by positions we disagree with, and miss the opportunity to engage and lead people toward kingdom solutions. This has resulted in a vacuum of leadership that the enemy has been only too happy to fill. And to make matters worse, when we make a blanket dismissal of social justice, we’re signaling our agreement with the enemy’s definition of what social justice means.
If we’re going to bridge the gap with the next generation, we have to realize that the passion they have for justice is a God thing. It’s about establishing His kingdom. If we dismiss this, we’re dismissing the key to the things we’ve been fighting for. Social justice is something the church should be taking the lead in.
The truth is, we can’t get angry when the younger generation is passionate about issues that we’ve never said anything about. For far too long, we have allowed the enemy to define the narrative on his terms. It is time to stand up and redefine what God says about justice. We need to celebrate the younger generation’s passion for justice and work together with them to speak into social justice issues with compassion and grace that doesn’t compromise truth. Instead of agreeing with a false narrative, we need to take the narrative back.
Trust me, the younger generations are looking to see how we respond to these things. Colin Kaepernick may not represent their issue, but they are passionate about something and they respect a guy standing up for what he believes in. If we lead with “grumpy”, we’ll shut off any opportunity to present an alternative perspective on the issues that they’re passionate about.
So we have to realize that they are watching… our sermons, our Facebook posts, our conversation at Chik-fil-a, and they’re deciding if we have anything of value to add to the conversation.
We need each other. Each perspective is important. As mothers and fathers, our job isn’t to quench their passions. It’s to help give their passions a direction. Listen to their insights. Really hear them. They see from a different perspective, but it’s a necessary perspective. And don’t forget, building the kingdom is going to take a multi-generational effort.
Questions To Consider:
- In what ways are you intentional in engaging with the younger generation in kingdom building? Are you creating opportunities for them to lead, create, activate their gifts?
- Do you know what they passionate about? Are you creating a place to activate the kingdom purpose behind that passion? Can you see the kingdom purpose behind that passion?
- What environment/opportunities will teach them the things that they need?
Adapted from a talk given by Shelley Ozment at the Gathering of Breakers hosted by Barbara Wentroble – October 2018.