Today I had the opportunity to sit in on our Senior's luncheon at the church. I listened to stories, music and laughter and thought to myself how much value this age group has a part of our larger congregation. During a break between the program & lunch, I slipped into the washroom only to be stopped by an older-gentlemen, one of my senior friends. While exchanging pleasantries, our conversation quickly drifted towards a shared passion of ours...ministry. This man's grandson had grown up in the youth ministry I was a part of, and he was now in ministry role as a worship pastor in BC. We shared a little bit about how we were praying for his success and joy in ministry, and then my old friend shared a piece of insight with me that has really got me thinking today. He shared with me that his grandson was recently given some encouragement by his Sr. Pastor in which this pastor admitted to my friend's grandson that as a church they didn't realize that quality of character they were getting in him as a pastor because of his age (he's only in his 20s). My older friend beamed with pride and uttered, "sometimes us old guys don't give you young guys enough credit."
That simple statement has hit me like a ton of bricks. The trend of the church in recent history has been to compartmentalize ourselves from one another due to age, affinity or status of some kind. In doing so, I think we've weakened the body of Christ unintentionally. When you think about a herd of zebras roaming the African plains, it's those animals on the fringe of the community (the lame, the sick, the weak, the young or the old) that are often attacked and killed by predators. As a body of believers, we've created these silos and rigid structure that have allowed us to do some wonderful things, but I'm left asking myself this question of at what cost?
With this younger generation rising up to lead the world around us and the church itself, have we created an organism in which they are now questioning their fit? If you look back at the history of the church in general, you will find defining moments in our history that have become pillars in the process of spiritual formation for the church at large (Luther's 95 theses, the Reformation, etc.). I think we are entering into one of these defining moments as a church and I believe that it is the younger generation (the teens and young adults of today) that are leading this charge. This emerging generation is the first generation that views Christianity in a negative light, not because of who Jesus is or what the Bible says about truth, but because of what Christians have chosen to be known for over the last 40-50 years.
I can't help but think that segregation has brought us to this point. We have yet to learn that discriminating others due to race, age, culture or preference is not the language of love, and quite frankly is not the language of Christ. Instead we seem compelled to continue the cycle of repackaging old shoes and trying to pass them off as new ones.
If companies do not hire people with the same birth year, why do we believe that doing ministry in this way would be any more civilized or powerful than that ridiculous notion? We have got to find the common ground, meet each other there and learn to celebrate our differences with mutual respect, love and mercy.
I don't know what the answer to the multi-generational question is, but I wonder if it simply begins with all of us getting together and figuring out how we are going to move forward together.